How Can I Handle my Personal Loans Properly?

Personal loans can be a useful tool for financing important purchases or helping you handle emergency expenses, but they can also be a source of stress if not managed properly. Here are some tips for properly managing your personal loans.

1. Know your Budget

Knowing your budget is the foundation of properly managing your personal loans. It involves taking a hard look at your finances to determine what you can realistically afford to borrow and repay. Here are some steps you can take to get a clear picture of your budget.

Person writing in a calendar.

a. Track your Income

Begin by determining your total monthly income. This includes your salary, any freelance or side gig income, and any other sources of money that you receive on a regular basis.

b. Calculate your Expenses

Next, calculate your monthly expenses. This can include things like your rent or mortgage payment, utilities, groceries, transportation costs, insurance, and any other regular expenses that you have. Be sure to include variable expenses like entertainment and dining out as well.

c. Determine your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is a factor that lenders may use to determine whether you can afford to repay a loan. To calculate your DTI ratio, add up your monthly debt payments, including credit card payments, car loans, student loans, and any other debt you have, and divide that by your gross monthly income. Ideally, you should try to keep your DTI as low as possible.

d. Determine your Disposable Income

Your disposable income is the amount of money you have left over each month after you've paid all of your bills and expenses. This is the money you can use to pay for a personal loan, if you consider applying for a new one. Subtract your monthly expenses and debt payments from your monthly income to determine your disposable income.

e. Determine What You Can Afford

Use your disposable income to determine how much you can afford to pay each month for a personal loan, if you apply for a new loan. Be sure to do your research and understand how much a specific loan will cost you. It’s important to factor in the interest rate and any fees associated with the loan.

By following these steps, you can get a better idea of how much you can afford to borrow and repay each month, and make sure that your personal loan payments fit comfortably within your overall budget.

It's important to be honest with yourself about your finances and to resist the temptation to borrow more than you can realistically afford to repay. By knowing your budget, you can make sure that your personal loans are a helpful tool for achieving your financial goals, rather than a source of stress and financial strain.

2. Do Your Research

As we touched on above, when you're ready to apply for a personal loan, it's important to do your research to find a loan that works for your situation. Different lenders may offer different interest rates, fees, and repayment terms, so it pays to compare the different types of loans. You can check with different types of lenders such as banks, credit unions or online lenders. You may be able to come across different borrowing options that may be suitable for your needs.

3. Read the Fine Print

Once you've found a financial institution that you're interested in applying with, it's important to carefully read the loan agreement before signing on the dotted line. Make sure you understand the interest rate, fees, and repayment terms, and ask questions if anything is unclear. Some institutions may charge prepayment penalties if you pay off your loan early, so make sure you're aware of any such fees before signing the loan agreement.

4. Make your Payments on Time

Making your payments on time is critical when managing your personal loans. Late or missed payments can have serious consequences, including late fees, penalty interest rates, damage to your credit score, and even default.

Here are some tips to help you make your payments on time.

a. Set up Automatic Payments

One of the easiest ways to ensure that you make your payments on time is to set up automatic payments through your financial institution. This way, your payments will be deducted from your bank account each month, so you won't have to worry about remembering to make the payment yourself.

b. Keep Track of your Due Dates

If you choose not to set up automatic payments, it's important to keep track of your payment due dates. Consider setting up reminders on your phone or computer to make sure you don't forget.

c. Create a Budget

As mentioned earlier, creating a budget can help you manage your personal loan payments. Be sure to include your loan payments in your budget, and make sure you have enough funds to cover them each month.

d. Contact your Lender if you Can't Make a Payment

If you're having trouble making a payment, don't just ignore it. Contact your lender as soon as possible to explain your situation and see if they can work out a payment plan.

By making your payments on time, you can avoid the negative consequences of late or missed payments and ensure that your personal loan works for you rather than against you.

Person looking at personal loan on their laptop while on the phone.

5. Avoid Taking on too Much Debt

While personal loans can be a useful tool for financing important purchases, it's important to avoid taking on too much debt. This can lead to financial stress and may even make it difficult to meet your monthly obligations. Before trying to get a personal loan, ask yourself if you really need the money and whether you can afford to repay it.

6. Build an Emergency Fund

Building an emergency fund is an important aspect of managing your personal loans. An emergency fund is money that you set aside to cover unexpected expenses, such as a medical emergency, job loss, or car repair. By having an emergency fund, you can avoid having to rely on credit cards or personal loans to cover these expenses, which can lead to further debt. Here are some tips for building an emergency fund.

a. Determine How Much you Need

The general rule of thumb is to have three to six months' worth of living expenses saved in your emergency fund. However, your specific needs may vary depending on your situation, so take some time to figure out what makes sense for you.

b. Set a Savings Goal

Once you've determined how much you need to save, set a goal for how much you want to save each month. You may need to adjust your budget to make room for these savings.

c. Open a Separate Savings Account

To keep your emergency fund separate from your other accounts, consider opening a separate savings account. This can make it easier to track your progress and to avoid the temptation to dip into the funds for non-emergency expenses.

d. Start Small

If you're not used to saving, it can be overwhelming to try to save a large amount of money all at once. Start small by setting aside a portion of your income each month, and gradually increase the amount as you become more comfortable with saving.

e. Use Windfalls

If you receive unexpected income, like a tax refund or work bonus, consider using some or all of it to build your emergency fund.

f. Make it a Priority

Building an emergency fund can take time, but it's an important investment in your financial future. Make it a priority and stick to your savings plan, even if it means making some sacrifices in the short term.

By building an emergency fund, you can help ensure that you're prepared for unexpected expenses, and you can avoid having to rely on personal loans or credit cards to cover them. This can help you manage your debt and achieve your financial goals more effectively.

7. Don't Hesitate to Seek Help

If you're struggling to make your loan payments, don't hesitate to seek help. Your lender may be willing to work with you to modify your repayment terms or offer other solutions to help you get back on track. You can also reach out to a credit counselor or financial advisor for guidance on managing your personal loans and overall finances. These professionals can help you develop a budget, create a debt repayment plan, and provide advice on impacting your credit score.

8. Stay Vigilant Against Fraud

Finally, it's important to stay vigilant against fraud when managing your personal loans. Scammers may try to trick you into giving them money or personal information, so be cautious when receiving unsolicited offers or requests. Only work with reputable lenders and never give out your personal or financial information to someone you don't know and trust.

A person sitting at a table with a computer looking at personal loans.

Handle your Loans Carefully

In the end, managing your personal loans properly requires a combination of budgeting, researching for the right type of loan for your situation, making payments on time, avoiding taking on too much debt, building an emergency fund, and more. By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your personal loans are a useful tool for achieving your financial goals rather than a source of stress and worry.

Posted in: Personal Loans