When a debt collector calls, you know you're probably about to have a bad day. While your instinct may be to ignore the call, don't. Instead, use it as an opportunity to start negotiating.
Picture: Christian Schnettelker
Most of us are raised to believe that when a company gives you a dollar figure that you have to pay for whatever reason, that this number is non-negotiable. That's why debt collector calls are so terrifying. You expect that you're going to be told you owe some amount of money that you can't pay (and probably already know about), so you avoid the call to put it off. This is obviously bad for your credit, but it's also a missed opportunity. As personal finance blog The Financial Diet explains, you can often negotiate with debt collectors to lower the amount you owe, or at least create a more manageable payment plan:
Here's a secret I have learned in my (sadly) extensive experience with debt: Something is always better than nothing. If you can only pay a certain amount, hold firm (but kind) with the person on the phone and explain your situation. Say you want to pay, and give the amount you can realistically commit to (because a lot of times their automated estimates are way, way off), and don't waver until they meet it. Pretty much without exception, I have done this for my debts, and I've always paid once we met the right number. Sometimes it takes a few phone calls, and a bit of time, but once it's clear to the organisation that you are not going to do more, they will take what they can get. They just want to get that money, and they will eventually work with you.
It may not be a pleasant conversation, but getting an account settled is going to be better for you in the long run than ignoring a debt collector. Even if you can't pay, answer the phone and discuss with the collector what you can pay. You may not be able to agree on a number right away, and it may take multiple calls to come to an agreement, but the fact that you're willing to have the discussion will count in your favour.
7 Things I Learned About Credit From Ruining My Own [The Financial Diet via Rockstar Finance]