Don’t be afraid to have many budget categories. It will help you have a greater understanding of where things are going. Some regular expenses include internet, cell phone, household goods, medical costs, pets, haircuts, car repair, and home repair. Not every item will have an expense every month, but by setting some money aside for those irregular expenses, you’ll be ready when they hit.
Don’t refinance Federal loans unless you are very comfortable with your ability to repay. Think hard about the chances you won’t be able to make payments for a few months. Once you refinance student loans, you may lose flexible Federal payment options that can help you if you genuinely can’t afford the payments you have today. Check the Federal loan repayment estimator to make sure you see all the Federal options you have right now.
As far as options go, I’d recommend you start by talking with a reputable credit counseling agency – one of the options I mentioned in the story. That will give you a baseline to start with. If they can help you with DMP, it’s likely to do the least damage to your credit (with the exception of just paying the debt off) over the long run. If you/they determine a DMP isn’t feasible then you’ll know you have to look at more drastic options like negotiation or bankruptcy.

Debt settlement companies also charge a fee for their "service." Most of the time, settlement fees cost between $1,500 to $3,500. Fraudulent debt settlement companies often tell customers to stop making payments on their debts and instead pay the company. Once their fee is accounted for, they promise to negotiate with your creditors and settle your debts. Sounds great, right? Well, the debt settlement companies usually don’t deliver on helping you with your debt after they take your money. They’ll leave you on the hook for late fees and additional interest payments on debt they promised to help you pay!
If your finances have taken a turn for the worse and you find yourself drowning in debt, a debt management program may help you keep your head above water. These programs, also known as debt management plans or DMPs, are a form of debt relief in which a counseling agency works with your creditors to reduce your monthly payment to a level more suitable to your current situation.[1] A DMP may be able to help you negotiate lower interest rates, get late fees waived, work out a payment schedule that's acceptable to you and your creditors, and consolidate your monthly payments into one. However, keep in mind that all DMPs charge fees, and some can be excessively expensive or even fraudulent.
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Some people take out home equity loans to get the money to pay off various debts. That can be effective if the home equity loan features a lower interest rate. This can be a powerful strategy, as it tends to feature lower interest rates and often-deductible interest, but  it does reduce your home equity and put your home at risk, so don't do it unless you will have the discipline to pay off the home equity loan. If you use the money to pay off credit card debt but then proceed to rack up more credit card debt, it may not have been worth it.
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The debt management program itself is not reported to credit bureaus and does not factor into credit scores. The largest % of anyone’s credit score is payment history and with a debt management program, our goal is to make on time payments to liquidate your debt in a reasonable amount of time. Initially, your score may dip when lines of credit are closed, however, people on a debt management program typically see their scores increase over time as they make on-time payments each month.
You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at the U.S. Trustee Program, the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees. Also, before you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you must satisfy a "means test." This test requires you to confirm that your income does not exceed a certain amount. The amount varies by state and is publicized by the U.S. Trustee Program.
Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. They discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to deal with your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.

InCharge is the only national credit counseling service that offers online counseling: enter your income, assets and debts and you’ll receive a personalized debt relief solution – all without having to talk to a person. Other reasons to choose InCharge for consumer credit counseling services: A+ rating from the BBB and we are certified by the NFCC.
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.
It sounds like you have done what you can to protect yourself (credit freeze, law enforcement etc.) I am not sure what your bank will do but I can’t imagine they will pursue you for a crime committed against you. Have you changed the bank account you deposit your Social Security check into? If not, talk with your bank. It would seem to be a reasonable precaution.
If you're unsure of all the accounts you may have open, especially those that might be in collections, you can check your free credit report. It will show what creditors are currently reporting to the credit bureau, including your most-recently reported balances and contact information for the accounts. (Your banks and credit card issuers will have the most up-to-date information.)
Although a debt settlement company may be able to settle one or more of your debts, these programs can be very risky and have serious negative financial consequences for consumers. Additionally, some debt settlement companies deceive consumers by making promises they do not keep and engaging in other illegal conduct (like charging fees before obtaining any settlements, in violation of the TSR). For information, read Coping with Debt and Settling Credit Card Debts.
Personal loans. Personal loans are another solution to refinance debt. You can take out a personal loan to repay credit card debt, medical debt, payday loans, or other types of high-interest debt. Many personal lenders do forbid you from using the proceeds of your loan to repay student debt, but otherwise you have almost endless flexibility in what you can use the borrowed money for. 
A debt collector generally is a person or company that regularly collects debts owed to others, usually when those debts are past-due. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts as part of their business, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.

There are some downsides though that you have to weigh, our credit scores did drop down to 630-680’s and some creditors list our payments as “late” for some reason. But CareOne said that the late status should change after about 3 months of consistent payments. Some creditors also list that your payments are being made by debt management program which I can assume does not look very good on your credit report.
Avoid outrageous upfront fees. A small initial fee (up to $50 or, in rare cases, as much as $100 if you have a lot of debt or high income) is normal, but large upfront fees are out of line. If any agency asks for a fee (or donation) make sure that you know what it will cover, and get it in writing. Find out if you'll have to pay any additional fees to start the program. Don't get tricked into paying one "consultation fee," and then an "application fee" or "an enrollment fee." If you're truly unable to pay, look for an agency that is willing to waive the fee or spread it out (without charging additional fees for doing so).
Credit counselors at nonprofit credit counseling agencies operate under strict state and organizational guidelines designed to insure they act in their client’s best interests. Non-profits are frequently audited by states to insure they comply with all of that state’s regulations, and they must demonstrate that they are acting in the best interests of all of their clients. For example, InCharge offers clients monthly newsletters with money-saving tips and stories of people who have gotten out of debt to help motivate clients to do the same.
Find information on credit counseling agencies in Texas near you. Numerous non-profit organizations operate in the state and can provide mortgage, debt, and various other forms of assistance to consumers and homeowners. The agencies deal with issues ranging from credit repair to debt management plans, bankruptcy filing, and other financial matters in Texas, and most services are free of charge. More information is below, including how to get help by county.
If you are looking for an alternative to a debt consolidation loan, then Tally may be an option for you (a credit score of 660 will be needed to qualify). Tally helps save consumers money and stress by managing their credit cards and paying down balances faster with a line of credit. Simply link up all of your credit cards in either the iOS or Android app and Tally will do the hard work for you.
I’ve only been in the program a few weeks. I’m rather disappointed with their csr. At first they treat you like you’re golden and give the impression that they actually care. Once I signed up I tried reaching out to the lady who originally helped me,she completely ignored me and has not replied to any of my emails. It just feels awful being tossed to the side like garbage after initially being treat with attention and support.
The creditors don’t have the time or manpower to negotiate with every one of their customers individually. They work with credit counseling agencies like us to create a set of standard concessions that we may offer to clients when appropriate. The creditors also understand that we provide counseling and education, which makes our clients more likely to succeed in repaying their debts.
If your credit card interest rates are so high it feels almost impossible to make headway on your balances, it’s worth calling your card issuer to negotiate. Believe it or not, asking for lower interest rates is actually quite commonplace. And if you have a solid history of paying your bills on time, there’s a good possibility of getting a lower interest rate.
The most important message is to DO SOMETHING. I would encourage folks to do the reverse of taking on the larger balances first and paying more on them. Pick a smaller balance, high interest card and pay it off. This gives motivation to get the next one up the ladder in your payoff plans. For the sake of your credit score, remember length of history and pay history go together to determine your score so closing that account may actually lower your score over time. If you cannot trust yourself not to use it, close it anyway.
However, carrying a large amount of debt that is difficult to repay also negatively impacts your credit score. For example, debt from student loans can accumulate and increase over many years of nonpayment. So, you have two choices in such desperate situations: pay off your debt from student loans slowly, missing minimum payments and taking damage to your credit score or hire a debt relief company, settling the debt from your student loans faster while taking a hit to your credit score.
Consolidate with a home equity loan. If your total debt load, including credit card, medical, and other unsecured borrowing seem insurmountable for you to pay off, then you can use a home equity loan to consolidate and even pay off these bills. While there are some potentially major risks if you do not do this correctly, the approach is an option. A home equity loan can help you eliminate your higher interest, unsecured debt and improve your financial situation.

Bankruptcy lets you resolve your debt under protection from a federal court. Chapter 7 bankruptcy erases most debts in three to six months and wipes the slate clean, and you may get to keep certain assets. It’ll stop calls from collectors and prevent lawsuits against you. Like debt settlement, your credit will suffer, but research shows credit scores rebound quickly.
This really depends on the agency you work with and what they offer. In some cases, a company pairs credit counseling and credit repair. To do this legally, that means that they have both certified credit counselors and state-licensed credit repair attorneys on staff. In this case, they help you eliminate your debt, and then help you dispute any lingering mistakes in your report.
In fact, certain aspects of a debt management plan will have a positive impact on your credit score. These aspects are the amounts owed, payment history, and inquiries for new credit.  Your payment history, which makes up 35% of the FICO credit score, will have a positive impact assuming your payments are made every month. In terms of amounts owed, which makes up  30% of the Fico score, this aspect will be positively impacted as the accounts are paid down.
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