Acceptable Debt-to-Income Ratio

by Chris Newton ; Updated July 27, 2017
Excessive credit card debt raises your debt-to-income ratio.

A debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your debt compared to your income. Your debt-to-income ratio has an effect on your credit score and your ability to borrow money for things such as a house or car or to obtain other personal loans. Many banks and financial institutions have established what debt-to-income ratio is acceptable for a loan to be approved.

Acceptable Debt-to-Income Percentage

Most banks and lenders require a debt-to-income percentage no higher than 36 percent, according to Lending Tree. The lower your debt-to-income ratio is, the better your chances of getting approved for a loan and the lower the interest rate for that loan is likely to be. If your debt-to-income ratio is slightly above 36 percent, you might be able to obtain loans, but you should try to eliminate some of your debt to bring the ratio down. If your debt-to-income ratio is above 50 percent, you should take aggressive action as soon as possible.

Calculate Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

A variety of tools and calculators are available online to help you determine your debt-to-income ratio. You also can do the math yourself if you prefer. To calculate your debt-to-income ratio, add up all your monthly debt and expenses, including rent or mortgage payments, credit card payments, car payments, car and home insurance premiums and other loans. Divide that number by your monthly gross salary, including wages from all jobs, child support received or bonuses. Multiply the answer by 100 to get your percentage. For example, if your monthly expenses are $1,000, and your monthly gross income is $4,000, your debt-to-income ratio is 25 percent (1,000 divided by 4,000, times 100).

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Reduce Your Debt

There are two primary ways to improve or reduce your debt-to-income ratio. One is to reduce your monthly living expenses and use the savings toward paying down your debt. Examine your monthly budget to determine whether you are spending regularly on things you can eliminate. The Hamilton Debt Relief website suggests walking or taking public transportation instead of paying for gas, parking and car maintenance, or set up a car pool. A December report on the Bukisa website recommends talking to your creditors to try to negotiate lower interest rates or reduce the amount you owe. To avoid overspending, try using the envelope system recommended by analyst Dave Ramsey on his website. Designate one envelope for each living expense, such as groceries, clothing, dining out or entertainment. Put a set amount of cash in each envelope each time you are paid or each month. When the cash runs out in a particular envelope, do not spend in that category until you get paid again.

Increase Your Income

The other way to improve your debt-to-income ratio is to increase your income . Besides the obvious means of improving income, such as finding a second job, asking for a raise or working overtime, the Hamilton Debt Relief website suggests a few other options, such as conducting a sale of items you no longer need, renting out a room in your house or taking on odd jobs around your neighborhood, such as mowing lawns, babysitting, gardening or walking dogs. Do not increase your spending habits while increasing your monthly income. Use that money to pay down debts, thus reducing your debt-to-income ratio further.

About the Author

Chris Newton has worked as a professional writer since 2001. He spent two years writing software specifications then spent three years as a technical writer for Microsoft before turning to copywriting for software and e-commerce companies. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of Colorado.

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