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.

If you've already fallen behind on your monthly payments or can no longer afford your minimum payments, we want to talk to you. If can't see any way to improve your financial situation without taking a drastic step like declaring bankruptcy, we may be able to help. What's more, we have years of experience with clients who face exacerbating circumstances like divorce, death in the family, unemployment, long-term medical issues and other problems.


For example, let’s say Credit Card A has a balance of $1,000 and a 12% interest rate, and Credit Card B has $1,500 at 6% interest. You put down $150 total every month, paying the minimum payment (3%) on one and whatever’s left on the other. You’re going to save more money by eliminating Credit Card A first ($147 in total interest) vs Card B ($188).
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) offers consumer credit solutions ranging from debt counseling and debt consolidation relief, to pre-bankruptcy counseling and post-bankruptcy debtor education. If you are seeking debt consolidation options, ACCC offers a simple and effective consolidation program that's more prudent and beneficial than a debt settlement solution or taking out loans for debt consolidation. For personalized credit counseling advice and to learn about the best way to consolidate debt, contact an ACCC credit advisor today.
Negotiating a debt relief plan. Trying to work with creditors should come first before bankruptcy. Let the lenders know you aren't able to pay your bills and are thinking about filing for bankruptcy protection unless they're willing to work with you. The creditors may allow you to repay a portion of your debt -- either in a lump sum or over time -- and forgive the rest. 
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.

Look for a licensed, accredited, non-profit agency, and be sure to verify that they are currently licensed in your state (unless you're in a state that doesn't require licensing), have current accreditation and that they do indeed have non-profit status. Understand, however, that while these measures can help establish a firm's legitimacy, they are no guarantee, and you still need to research the agency. Note also that a non-profit company does not mean that they do not charge for their services, it only means that the company will distribute all profits to the corporate officers at the fiscal year end, thereby zeroing their profit.


It’s crucial that you monitor the statements received from your creditors each month (The creditors will not disclose this information directly to us). You should compare that information to what’s in our monthly progress report and ensure that everything matches. If anything is different between the creditor statement and what we show in our paperwork, give us a call.
You might be wondering, “Why is having an emergency fund important”? Well, if you don’t have any money in the bank and an emergency does happen, how are you going to pay for it? For most people, credit cards become the funding source for those emergencies. If you are trying to get out of debt then you need to put a buffer between you and debt; that is exactly what an emergency fund does.
Another obstacle that trip up so many is thinking you'll make progress on debt repayment by making your minimum payments. Yes, it minimizes inconvenience and will seem easier than other strategies, but it's costly. Imagine, for example, you owe $20,000 on your credit card(s) and that you're being charged a 25% interest rate. If your minimum payments are 3% of your balance, you'll be starting out paying a whopping $600 per month, meaning you'll have to come up with $150 per week. If you can't, your balance will be growing, digging you deeper in debt. In that situation, it can take more than 30 years to pay the debt off, with your total payments exceeding $63,000 -- all for a $20,000 balance owed.
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Debt negotiation: If you choose this option, National Debt Relief will negotiate with your lenders in order to either lessen your debt or make it easier for you to make payments without incurring a lot of fees and interest. Since National Debt Relief has been around so long, they have a good track record with various lenders and have the relationships built for good negotiations.

Accept a plan only if you can fulfill your requirements. If you can't make the monthly payment the program requires, don't enroll. Ask if they can get it any lower, contact your creditors yourself, and/or check with another debt management agency. Again, be aware that many debt management plans require you to avoid taking on any additional debt or at least any additional revolving credit debt (i.e. credit cards, store charge accounts). Understand the terms and conditions, and make sure you can follow through on them.
Mortgage debt: Banks, credit unions, and online lenders provide secured loans to buy properties, which act as collateral. Mortgage debt is low-interest debt that comes with the ability to deduct interest on mortgages up to $1 million if you purchase your home before December 2018 or up to $750,000 if you purchased your home after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed.  
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.
As a debt junkie for almost ten years, I ran up credit card after credit card living like my salary was about four times its actual size. Stupid things I bought on credit included flying lessons, weekends in Las Vegas, and a brand new pickup truck. Hey, I never said I wasn’t having fun. (Remember, I’m on the other side of 25 now, so I started college pre-recession… during the dot-com boom. Back then, I actually thought I could graduate with a sociology major and find a $75k a year job—because I knew people who did!)
My husband & I have a massive credit card debt now, due to us taking my sister’s 4 children in for 6 yrs + having our 2 girls graduating & college. I want to pay back what we owe because it’s the responsible thing to do, would consolidation be the best way for us to go or should we talk to a counsler first? We aren’t late on our payments, but scratching to get by each month after all the payments.
When it comes to paying off credit card debt, many consumers take the path of least resistance: the so-called "minimum payment plan." By law, credit card issuers are required to set a minimum monthly payment amount for each cardholder. These payments are calculated on the basis of the cardholder's total balance, interest rate and certain other factors.
The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).
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.
People are reluctant to ask relatives or friends for help dealing with debt. Remedy: Call a nonprofit credit counseling agency and get free help from experts. Credit counselors are trained and certified by national organizations like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. They can suggest debt-relief solutions like debt management programs, credit consolidation, debt settlement or, if things are way over the edge, bankruptcy. The credit counselors advise you on creating budgets and recommend a solution that you can take or leave. And, it’s free! Take advantage of that.
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.
This is a very important first step before trying to start retiring debt. Having an emergency fund will help keep you from getting deeper into debt when unexpected events happen. If, for example, you have $1,000 in cash set aside and your car or house needs a sudden repair, you do not have to put that repair on a credit card. Ideally, you will want to get to the point where you have an emergency fund worth three to six months of expenses so you can support yourself temporarily if you suddenly lose your job, but the $1,000 is a great start.

Tax man awaits. If you have debt forgiven, that probably will count as taxable income and should be reported on your federal income taxes. The lender who forgives the debt should send you a 1099-C tax form detailing how much the original debt was and how much was forgiven. For example, if you owed $25,000 and had $10,000 forgiven, you would have to claim the $10,000 as income on your taxes.
Who’s it best for? If you can’t part with your smartphone, InCharge has a mobile app that lets you manage your account on the go. You can add creditors, change payment due dates, and even see whether creditors have accepted proposals regarding reduced monthly payments or interest rates. They even have a fully online credit counseling option if you prefer that over phone or in-person counseling.
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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.
Hi, I’m 28 and made a lot of bad decisions with credit cards when I was younger. I’ve been able to make at least the minimum payment on time until the 4 months or so, I’ve been late on a few bills trying to adjust to a new job and pay periods. I still have about $16k in debt, and am starting to really struggle to get by each month. Last year my score was around a 740, and I’d like to salvage as much as possible, but the payments are just getting too high now that they have raises my interest rates. What is my best option to resolve this without destroying my credit score?

It may not be the right option if you would have to give up property you want to keep. The rules vary by state. Typically, certain kinds of property are exempt from bankruptcy, such as motor vehicles up to a given value and part of the equity in your home, but you usually have to give up a second car or truck, family heirlooms, vacation homes and any valuable collections.


Customer reviewers are mainly impressed with National Debt Relief’s quality customer service, which most report is helpful and patient, considering the situation. At least one customer was even able to start repairing their credit score. Negative reviews tend to have less to do with the drawbacks of National Debt Relief than debt settlement itself.
The non-profits are a great place to call for access to various services, including credit, budget, debt, and general financial counseling. After applying, a certified, highly trained counselor will explore with you all of the options available that can help you get back on track with paying various bills you may be responsible for making. Assistance will be offered in various languages, including Spanish. They help with home loans, credit card, and medical debts among other needs. Also receive assistance in eliminating or consolidating payday loans.
Veteran journalist/blogger Tom Jackson has worked for newspapers in Washington D.C., Sacramento, Calif., and Tampa, Fla., racking up state and national awards for writing, editing and design along the way. Tom also has been published in assorted sports magazines, and his work has been included in several annual “Best Sports Stories” collections. Most recently, his blogging for various websites on the 2016 election won a pair of top honors from the Florida Press Club. A University of Florida alumnus, St. Louis Cardinals fan and eager-if-haphazard golfer, Tom splits time between Tampa and Cashiers, N.C., with his wife of 40 years, college-age son, and Spencer, a yappy Shetland sheepdog.
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