Many people fail to recognize that there are many instances where you can negotiate and in turn, lower your debt. Take medical bills, for example. “It can really help to negotiate with the medical provider,” said McClanahan. “If you’re willing to pay them real money over time, you can end up paying pennies on the dollar of what you own,” she said. In addition to negotiating, McClanahan suggested asking hospitals or health centers whether they have any financial assistance programs that you might qualify for.
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. 

Chapter 13 is typically more expensive than Chapter 7 but I can’t give you a specific total cost for either. It will vary. Your best bet is to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney. If you can’t afford to file now, the attorney should be able to help you figure out other options. Keep in mind that they are used to seeing consumers who are at the end of their rope financially, so it’s not something you should be embarrassed about.
High-interest credit card debt: Credit card debt is revolving debt; you charge as much as you want up to your credit limits and make monthly payments. The average interest rate on credit cards was close to 17% as of July 2018. Because credit card debt provides no benefit and rates are substantially higher than investments typically produce, aggressive early payoff is smart. 
Financial education. You'll have access to a wide variety of educational resources for help getting out of debt. These include newsletters, articles and tools on our website that can help you manage credit card debt, budget your finances more effectively, learn about how to stay out of debt, and get answers to questions like "How can I improve my credit score?" and "What is debt consolidation?"
This is where it helps to talk to a professional. Consumer credit counselors understand all the options available to pay off credit card debt. They can impartially evaluate your debt, credit and budget to help you identify the best solution for your needs. You get an unbiased, expert opinion on your best course of action so you can move forward with confidence.

If you are working with a credit counselor and think you’ll miss a payment, they can take proactive steps to mitigate consequences and create a plan to get you back on track. They can even negotiate to have additional late payments or late fees reduced or waived if you miss a payment. The key to making this work is being completely open and honest about your situation and speaking with your credit counselor as soon as you realize your payment will be late.
Howard – The problem with Chapter 7s is that you must meet minimum income requirements (based on the minimum income threshold in your state). This means there’s a possibility that you may not qualify for a Chapter 7, so it may not be an option for wiping out credit card debt. Before you decide to go the bankruptcy route, have you considered a Debt Management Program? I know 45k is an huge burden and it’s stressful, but there are other options that may help. Before you decide on bankruptcy, we’d advise exploring all of your options. It’s worth contacting a consumer credit counseling service. They’ll be able to review your individual personal financial situation and debt load to determine whether or not you’d be a good candidate for a DMP. If you are a good fit, they’ll work with your creditors to lower you interest rate and lower your monthly payments to one monthly payment you can afford. If a DMP isn’t a good fit, and bankruptcy is your best option — they’ll be able to tell you that as well. A consultation is free, but make sure you choose a consumer credit counseling service that is accredited by the National Foundation for Consumer Credit Counseling.

First, if you want to avoid late marks on your credit report, you will need to make at least one month, possibly two months, of “double payments”: one payment to the debt management service and your regular payments directly to your creditors. Since most people cannot afford this, you must be prepared for the possibility of getting a late mark on your credit report.

Man, I’m in trouble! Just calculated my DTI ratio and it’s not pretty! A year ago I started taking charge of my credit problem and decided to do a debt consolidation. The problem is, now that I had this loan in the exact amount of what I owed in credit card and line of credit I figured I would pay most of it and then keep a little money to get stuff I needed (a new mattress and some furniture). Stupidest move I ever did! Now, a year later, I’ve maxed out my credit card once again (I should have lowered the limit after I had paid it off a year prior…..but I thought I was good), I still owe over $5000 on my line of credit and now, I also have to pay that consolidation loan! Within a year, my debt amount went from $14,500 to $33,500! And the worst part? I don’t even know how I managed that! I don’t think I spend a lot of money on trivial things………but clearly I’m spending somewhere. So according to your calculator, I’m at a 0.62 DTI ratio. I mean I make over 50K a year, if I cut down on…..everything, I should be able to pay this off. My car loan is at 0% interest so I’m not too concern with that one. I do put money away every month in an RRSP (it’s the Canadian equivalent of a 401(K)) which cuts down my income tax payment at the end of the year. I’m also a federal employee so I have a pension plan at work with a lot of good benefits so I’m set on the pension plan side. But I can’t manage to save enough money to cover even one month of my income. I mean I’ll be 30 in 3 months and I’ve always been a pretty smart girl……..but I can’t get a hold on my finances! Anyway, I’ve been going through your site and checking out all your tools. It’s giving me a hope.

Freedom Debt Relief Disclosure: Clients who make all their monthly program deposits pay approximately 50 percent of their enrolled balance before fees, or 65 percent to 85 percent including fees, over 24 to 48 months (some programs lengths can go higher). Not all clients are able to complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Our estimates are based on prior results, which will vary depending on your specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be resolved for a specific amount or percentage or within a specific period of time. We do not assume your debts, make monthly payments to creditors or provide tax, bankruptcy, accounting or legal advice or credit repair services. Our service is not available in all states and our fees may vary from state to state. Please contact a tax professional to discuss potential tax consequences of less than full balance debt resolution. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment. The use of debt settlement services will likely adversely affect your creditworthiness, may result in you being subject to collections or being sued by creditors or collectors and may increase the outstanding balances of your enrolled accounts due to the accrual of fees and interest. However, negotiated settlements we obtain on your behalf resolve the entire account, including all accrued fees and interest. C.P.D. Reg. No. T.S. 12-03825. 


Both Freedom Debt Relief and National Debt Relief are well-established companies that have been debt settlement providers for several years. Freedom Debt Relief was founded in 2002, and National Debt Relief was founded in 2009. This is important because there’s potential for scams in the debt settlement business. Some companies claim to be debt settlement companies but are really just fronts for collecting debtors’ money and putting it in the company operative’s pockets. The longer a company has been in business, the more likely it is that it is legitimate.

If you’re not sure where to start, track your spending for at least a day to see if you’re getting enough value from the things you buy. Just write it down as you spend and see how you feel. You’ll probably be amazed that you begin making changes immediately, cutting out the things that don’t really matter to you and getting more of the things that do instead.


Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to discharge most debts, which means the debt disappears after bankruptcy proceedings. But there are strict income limits to be eligible -- generally your income must be below the median in your state -- and you might have to turn over some of assets to be sold so proceeds can be used to repay creditors. Your house, a very low-value automobile, and tools used for business are usually exempt from being sold. 
Unlike traditional debt consolidation loans, a nonprofit debt management program can help you lower your interest rates and consolidate debt with bad credit. That is because a debt management program isn’t extending new credit or a loan to you. They are simply helping you bundle your payments and make them on-time, and helping you lower your interest rates, despite a poor credit history. Why? Creditors may see you as a bankruptcy risk. By giving helping make your payment more affordable with lower rates, and supporting nonprofit debt consolidation programs, the creditors are attempting to prevent you from defaulting on your debt.
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Learn about other types of assistance programs from credit card companies. While it is true that many are increasing fees and in general turning up the pressure on credit card holders, there are also an increasing number of companies that are creating assistance programs to take a more pro-active approach in an effort to truly help people. They are more willing to reduce and cancel unpaid debt, reduce interest rates, allow payment plans, and offer other assistance.
Thrivent: Partnered with Thrivent Federal Credit Union, Thrivent Student Loan Resources offers variable rates starting at 4.13% APR and fixed rates starting at 3.99% APR. It is important to note that in order to qualify for refinancing through Thrivent, you must be a member of the Thrivent Federal Credit Union. If not already a member, borrowers can apply for membership during the student refinance application process.
There's also an important caveat: You need to determine if the lender you're thinking about repaying charges a prepayment penalty for early payoff. Some personal loans, auto loans, and mortgages charge if you pay off your debt before the designated time. If so, you may not want to put that debt on your early payoff list, as any money saved on interest might be lost to the penalty.
Great article. We are in the process of paying down debt, and the freedom we feel in watching that number decrease is a beautiful thing! Doing something RIGHT AWAY is key because, as your chart above shows, the greater the amount of money going into paying debt, the less you have to spend (even on the things you truly need!), so the debt pile increases and you never get out from under it. Everyone can do something NOW to see a shift in that picture. It all starts with an earnest desire to confront and change. Thanks for sharing.
Negotiating with creditors can take a lot of time and effort. Many people decide to let companies like National Debt Relief do the work for them. If you take this option, National Debt Relief will contact your creditors to discuss ways to lower your debt. Some companies will agree to lower the amount that you owe. Others will agree to lower their interest rates and waive fees.
I’m about 70k in debt (which includes a car loan and student loans). I was very naive in thinking that earning a Bachelor’s degree would award me with a high paying job and I would be able to take care of this mountain of debt no problem. Of course, that’s not reality, and I make 25k a year. I’ve been working at this job for about a year and a half now, and I have FINALLY found a better paying job after a year of active searching. Although it’s not much, I’ll be moving up to 29k a year. While I pay off my 10k car loan at 250 a month, I’ve been completely avoiding my student loan debt, I don’t even look at it. Right now my loans are in deferment but I owe my first payment in August. I’m really starting to panick. I appreciated your article and found a lot of useful advice in it. I think my first step to paying off my loans will be to work as hard as possible at my new job so maybe after another year or so I can increase my salary more substantially…. Other than that I’m really at a loss for what to do. Any specific advice regarding such a high amount of student loans? (That honestly, I’m almost too embarassed to admit to in this post)
The good news is that, by choosing a nonprofit credit counseling agency, you can end up with an affordable option that will leave you better off. Despite the monthly fees these plans charge, debt management can help you save thousands of dollars through reduced interest rates and creditor concessions. Plus, you get valuable advice and financial guidance all along the way when you choose to work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency versus a for-profit agency who is “not directed to provide coaching or advice,” said McClary.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC)[8] advises Canadians to do their research and find a trustworthy organization and a qualified counsellor. They suggest making sure an agency is in good standing with a provincial or national association. They recommend looking carefully at the agency's advertising to see if it sounds too good to be true. Claims or misrepresentations to look out for can include repaying only a fraction of your debt, quickly fixing your credit score, or claiming to be part of a government program. They also suggest consumers inquire about an agency's services, costs, and counsellor qualifications.[9] The FCAC has also warns Canadians to be careful of companies offering to help them pay off their debt or repair their credit. Things to watch out for include guarantees to solve debt problems and using high interest loans to pay off debt. Some of these companies also claim that they can file a consumer proposal on behalf of a consumer. However, the FCAC points out that only a qualified licensed insolvency trustee can help someone with a consumer proposal or bankruptcy.[10]
According to research, more than half of American consumers (57%) don’t have enough cash to cover an unexpected expense of $500 or more. Remedy: It’s impossible to predict unemployment, car accidents or busted plumbing, which is why every home needs an emergency fund. Experts say put 3-6 months of expenses aside for emergencies. It might take a while to get there if you’re focused on paying off debt, but again, it has to be part of your monthly budget. Set aside at least 5% of your income in an emergency fund, at least until you have three months of expenses covered.
Some of these debt reductions solutions as well as assistance programs are offered by credit card issuers, private companies, non-profit counselors, banks and other organizations. Banks, medical providers, credit card companies as well as other lenders are more willing than ever to help a household get their finances under control. They would rather be able to collect some of the outstanding debt from the borrower rather than see them file bankruptcy or somehow contest it, in which case the lender gets nothing.
Advantage Credit Counseling Service (CCS) is a Non-Profit Credit Counseling agency that educates consumers about debt management, bankruptcy, and how to properly manage credit. We’ve been helping people take control of their finances since 1968. As a 501(c)3 organization, our agency provides professional, meaningful and confidential consumer education, credit counseling, and develops effective debt reduction programs. We are specialists in teaching individuals about wise money management and the responsible use of credit.
As you read through each item, you'll probably think "This will only save me $5 or $10 a month." If you can cut back on 10 different things and save even $100 a month, that's an extra $100 you can put towards your debt. Not all of these will apply to you and that's ok. Adopt as many as you can, even if it means making a small sacrifice. The more of these you can adopt, the more money you'll have to accomplish your goal.
You could consolidate your debts by getting a loan from a bank, credit union or some other source of funds. If you own your home and have some equity you could most probably get a home equity loan or homeowner equity line of credit (HELOC) and use the funds to pay off all of your other debts. These are called secured loans because you’re required to secure them by using the equity in your home as collateral. In fact, home equity loans are often called second mortgages. Whichever you choose you should end up with a much lower monthly payment than the sum of the payments you been making.
Freedom Debt Relief charges customers an average of 20 percent of their total enrolled debt. If you owe enroll $20,000 in debt, Freedom Debt Relief could cut your debt in half. Add on the 20 percent average fees and you could save between $5,000 and $6,000 (25-30 percent average savings AFTER fees). So with a $20,000 debt, you end up paying only $14,000 or $15,000 of your original debt.
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.
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