McClary says the best time to go to creditors for help is before the situation is out of control. Don’t wait until an account is about to be closed because you’ve had several months of late or missed payments. Tell the creditor you’d like to pay down your balance faster and want to know what services are available to help you manage your debt better.

National Debt Relief uses debt settlement as a way to lower its clients’ debt. Settlement lets the company’s debt lawyers negotiate lower outstanding balances with creditors. Settlements can also lead to lower interest rates and waived fees. National Debt Relief, however, acknowledges that some debtors will not negotiate in good faith, which makes it difficult or impossible for settlements to work.
If your expensive habit is smoking or drinking, that’s an easy one — quit. Alcohol and tobacco do nothing for you except stand between you and your long-term goals. If your expensive habit is slightly less incendiary – like a daily latte, restaurant lunches during work hours, or fast food — the best plan of attack is usually cutting way down with the goal of eliminating these behaviors or replacing them with something less expensive.
To get out of debt using the ladder method, start by attacking the balance on the account that charges the highest interest rate, McClary says. While you’re ramping up payments on that account, you make minimum payments on the others. When your highest-interest balance is gone, you move down a rung of the ladder and apply all your extra payments to the account with the next highest rate. You repeat the process until all your debt is eliminated.
If debt management doesn’t seem quite right for your situation, there are several other debt relief options. I start with the least drastic option, credit counseling, and end with what most may agree is the most drastic: bankruptcy. Of course, all of these methods have their own pros and cons, and only you can decide whether they are better or worse for your situation.
Yes, but this is a real commitment of time and resources. Here is how it works. List all your debts (except your mortgage) from smallest to largest. Pay the minimum due on all debts, but the smallest. Attack the smallest debt with as much money as you have available — $100 a month, for example – until it is paid off.  When that is paid off, take the $100 a month, plus whatever the minimum you were paying on the second smallest debt, combine them and go after the second debt. Keep repeating until you have gone through each debt. The idea is to gain momentum in your bill paying by having success.

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.
Many approved credit counseling agencies provide counseling services in languages other than English. For a list of agencies and the languages that they offer, select the language from the drop down list below and click "Go". If you are looking for a language that is not found on the drop down list, please contact the Credit Counseling Unit at the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees at ust.cc.help@usdoj.gov.
This should really only be explored a last resort for debt relief before you file for bankruptcy. If you’ve tried everything else and haven’t had any success, then you can consider a debt settlement plan where you settle your debts for less than the full amount owed. This can cause significant damage to your credit score and results may vary, but it may be your best option if your situation is truly critical.
A debt management program is different from debt consolidation in that it consolidates your payments but not your loan (you are not taking out a new loan as you would in debt consolidation). These programs enable debtors to work one-on-one with a financial professional to get your financial obligations under control and are created for consumers by nonprofit credit counseling agencies.
Credit card programs from various banks and card companies - Find a comprehensive list of credit card issuers and the assistance programs they offer their customers. Locate their contact information and phone numbers. While not everyone will qualify for the solutions they offer, there is no harm in applying and at least trying. It just takes a little of your time and a phone call. Between the programs they offer and the other resources you will find on this site, your chances of getting out of debt in a fairly reasonable timeframe are improved. Find programs that provide credit card help.
The debt management plan consolidates your debt into a single payment. Each payday, you automatically deposit money into your GreenPath account, and we use that money to pay on your behalf. We may be able to arrange lower interest rates and monthly payments with your creditors, so you can pay off debt faster and save money. Once creditors agree to the program, collection calls stop and you see your balances start to go down.
Who’s it best for? Face-to-face counseling isn’t an option with all debt management companies, but it is with GreenPath. The company has offices in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. If you want a personal touch, the company could be worth a look. It’s also willing to include some secured debt in the debt management program.
Home equity. Another way to refinance your debt is to tap into your home equity to repay what you owe. If you have equity in your home -- that is, you owe less than your mortgage balance -- you can get money out of your home using a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit. You could also refinance your entire mortgage and do a cash-out refi wherein you get a new loan to repay your old mortgage and give you extra cash in the process.
While the steps above may seem lengthy and cumbersome, debt management plans exist because some consumers are simply unable to get out of debt on their own. Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), said that an array of circumstances can lead to situations where families need outside help. Job loss, chronic overspending, reduction in work hours, loss of income and unexpected major expenses are often the biggest culprits when consumers spiral into debt they cannot control.
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.
There are four other popular options that you could discuss with your creditors. The first is to have your interest rates reduced. If you have high interest debts of, say, 15% or higher and could get them reduced to maybe 12%, you would end up with much lower monthly payments, which could make it possible for you to meet your obligations. A second option worth discussing would be a timeout period of two or three months during which you would no longer be required to make any payments. This would give you time to get your finances reorganized and to save money that might allow you to catch up on your payments. A third possibility would be to have some or all of your credit card debts converted into repayment programs. You would likely be required to give up your credit cards but in turn you would have fixed payments for a fixed amount of time after which you would be completely debt-free.

The other method is called laddering, which is Clark’s preferred method because it will save you the most money over time. The way it works is you list your debts, starting with the highest interest rate card first and end with the debt with the lowest interest rate. This method makes the most mathematical sense, because you will save the most money in interest over time.  Regardless of which process you choose, the key is to stick with it.
Many banks and credit card issuers, such as Bank of America, HSBC, Wells Fargo, and Capital One offer consumers their own debt management plans (DMP) as part of the Call to Action. This is a government supported debt assistance program that will reduce interest rates, eliminate fees, and help in other ways. It often involves some form of payment plan as well. Continue.
I started today while reading this article by putting 5 dollars into my savings account. I feel like I’m drowning in debt and living from emergency to emergency. I know they key for me to getting out is establishing savings…and I’ve procrastinated. No more! Today I started, next pay check I’ll put in 50, next 100, maybe I’ll get to 200 in a few months. I want to see $2000 in there so I can afford things like car maintenance and medical co-pays!

Afterward, a National Debt Relief specialist will contact you to discuss options and require that you provide proof of your debt balance, income, assets and basic necessity expenses. Any proof that you are struggling with financial hardship needs to be provided during the initial financial review to assess whether a debt settlement program is right for you.

You may be able to lower your cost of credit by consolidating your debt through a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. With a home equity loan, the lender advances you the total loan amount upfront, while a home equity credit line provides a source of funds that you can draw on as needed. But keep in mind, these are secured loans that require you to put up your home as collateral. If you are unable to make payments on time, you could lose your home.  
Cons: Specific to National Debt Relief, it is not available in all states, so if you are one of the 16 states it doesn’t operate in, you can’t use it. In generally, there are always risks to debt relief. If you choose debt settlement or bankruptcy, it can affect your credit score. Know the risks before you decide to go forward with any debt relief program.

Debt consolidation: This is a safer option to lower your debt costs. While debt settlement forces your lenders to settle your debts for a lower cost, debt consolidation does just what it says: it consolidates your debts into one loan with a lower interest rate. That helps you stop paying high interest. While debt consolidation might not save you as much money, it can keep your credit score intact and is less risky than debt settlement or bankruptcy.
A DMP is a payment plan that helps you repay your debts. Under the plan, you deposit funds with us each month, which we disburse to your creditors. We also handle calls from your creditors to ensure everything is going smoothly. The vast majority of our payment processing is electronic, so funds are transferred directly to the creditors without delay. Creditors may also offer to reduce or waive fees, finances charges, or interest rates to help lower your DMP payments and ensure your success on the plan. Learn More
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.
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)
Start online credit counseling to see if you qualify for our debt consolidation alternative. During your free counseling session, we’ll help you identify the root cause of your financial problems. We’ll also help you develop a budget that minimizes your monthly expenses. Finally, based on your income, assets and budgets, we’ll recommend a debt relief solution tailored to your personal situation. This solution may be the debt management plan which consolidates your monthly payments. Other solutions include bankruptcy and referrals to other nonprofit organizations who can help you save money and eliminate debt. If you’d prefer to speak with a live counselor, call the number on the right.
This can be especially helpful for someone with serious debt (generally $7,500 or more), who is struggling to make minimum payments and who have suffered a financial hardship, such as job loss, medical expense and divorce. Regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, debt settlement companies work on a consumer’s behalf to lower the principal balances owed. It usually takes two to five years and is best for those who would otherwise need to consider bankruptcy. Check the American Fair Credit Council for reputable providers.
A debt management program is different from debt consolidation in that it consolidates your payments but not your loan (you are not taking out a new loan as you would in debt consolidation). These programs enable debtors to work one-on-one with a financial professional to get your financial obligations under control and are created for consumers by nonprofit credit counseling agencies.
It is difficult, if not impossible to gain control of your finances unless you have a budget. People think it’s too much work … until they get $20,000 in credit card debt and wonder how in the world that happened! Remedy: Develop a realistic budget that addresses financial needs like housing, food, health care, insurance and education, but still creates room to make payments on debt. Put away the credit cards and only pay with cash. That might mean reducing (or eliminating) things like dining out, entertainment, shopping for new clothes, cars or electronics, but if you’re serious about eliminating debt, operating with a budget and paying cash is a great start.
Not all consumers are able to complete debt relief programs for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. The use of debt resolution services could negatively impact your credit and may result in legal action on the part of creditors or collectors for unpaid balances. Consumers enrolled in debt consolidation programs who fail to adhere to the terms of their debt management plan (DMP) may forfeit the benefits of debt relief and revert to the terms of their original creditor agreements. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment. Please contact a debt relief specialist for complete program details.
I am in my mid 50’s and am considering early retirement. It is very rewarding to be debt free. There were a couple rules I lived by. I would not charge something that would be gone before I got the bill. Such as meals, drinks, vacations, If I could not pay cash I waited until I could. I still refuse to to pay interest on anything that depreciates. Which is almost everything except a house. Why pay more (interest) for something that is going to be worth less? I am very fortunate that I have been able to pay off my home, have zero debt, and have enough in investments and savings that I will be able to retire about 10 years early. Keep up the work, it does pay off in the long run.
It couldn’t hurt to talk to a credit counselor, particularly because this is affecting your health. Here’s how to find a counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Depending on your amount of debt and income, it may or may not be the right answer for you. From your question, it’s hard to know whether you should be talking with a bankruptcy attorney, credit counselor or simply someone who can help you with a realistic budget you can stick to. But we hope a counselor, with more information about your specific situation, can offer guidance.

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.
Credit card hardship programs are also more widely available. Citibank, Bank of America, Discover Card, JP Morgan Chase, Capital One, GE Money Bank, and others offer consumers assistance with paying bills and their debts. There are many different versions of these credit card hardship programs, and each bank has their own take on it. They do not advertise these plans to customers, and there are certain steps that individuals need to take in order to apply for help. Find how to get help with paying credit card debt from a hardship program.

Home equity loans involve borrowing a fixed amount of money based on the equity in your home. As a simplified example, if your home is worth $100,000 and you owe $50,000 on it, you might be able to borrow between $30,000 and $40,000 in equity. Most home equity loan lenders won't allow you to borrow so much that you owe more than 80% to 90% of the value of the home.
Pros: National Debt Relief is one of the most affordable debt relief programs. It has a plethora of options to choose from, depending on your debt. National Debt Relief also is offered in 34 states, which is more than most debt relief programs. National Debt Relief also has one of the best reputations in the debt relief world. And the obvious pro, National Debt Relief can help you pay down your mountain of debt.
Take one more look around the house. Do you really need a $100 a month worth of cable TV? Does paying $50-$75 for a round of golf make sense? Can you mow the yard and clean the house yourself? How about exercising without a gym membership? All those things are nice to have … if you’re not in debt. Dump them until you’ve paid off the last of your credit cards.
Even outside of the holidays, plenty of seasonal jobs may be available. Springtime brings the need for seasonal greenhouse workers and farm jobs, while summer calls for tour operators and all types of outdoor, temporary workers from lifeguards to landscapers. Fall brings seasonal work for haunted house attractions, pumpkin patches, and fall harvest.
You’ll pay a nonprofit credit counseling agency to consolidate your debts into one monthly payment, while also reducing your interest rate, in an effort to pay off your debt faster. This is a good option for consumers in credit card debt who have a steady income to repay the debt within three to five years. Unlike debt settlement, a debt management plan should help improve your credit score.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies lists affiliated legitimate credit counseling services across the United States. Also, consumers can check with their state's attorney general’s office and the local consumer protection agency to determine if consumers have filed complaints about a credit counseling organization. As another resource, the United States Trustee Program keeps a list of credit counseling agencies approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. Bankruptcy law mandates that anyone filing for bankruptcy must first undergo credit counseling.
McClary advises following the 50-20-30 rule of budgeting: Allocate up to 50 percent of your budget to fixed expenses like mortgage, rent and car payments; 20 percent to savings; and 30 percent to variable expenses, especially discretionary spending for things like hobbies, recreation and dining out. That 30 percent zone is the first area to target for cutting back, McClary says.
Get the answers to the most common questions on credit card bill and debt consolidation. This can be one solution to use, especially when the interest rates are lower. The process can help you decide whether taking the approach of credit card consolidation is right for you as just maybe it can help you in your personal and financial situation. Find a list of questions about credit card consolidation.
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.
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