Instead of diving into debt settlement, a better option might be to talk to a nonprofit credit counselor. Credit counseling organizations can help you better understand tactics for managing and reducing your debt, including creating and following a budget. Credit counseling may not have the negative impact of debt settlement (though if you choose a Debt Management Plan, it could appear on your credit report).
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A debt management plan can also reduce the number of payments you have to remember each month. A credit counselor will negotiate with your creditors to see if they'll accept reduced interest rates or monthly payments, waive fees or reduce the amount you owe. Then, you pay the credit counseling agency once a month and the organization distributes the funds to your creditors per their agreement. If you enroll in a Debt Management Plan, it could be noted on your credit report.
If you're not able to secure a lower interest rate from your current credit card company, you may be able to transfer outstanding credit card balances to a card with a lower or zero interest rate (called a balance transfer credit card). Credit card companies often offer promotional rates for a limited period in exchange for you transferring a balance from an existing card to a new one. You'll need to meet the balance transfer card company's qualifications, and will probably need to pay a transfer fee that equals about 3 percent of the balance you're transferring.

Because we are a non-profit counseling agency, Advantage Credit Counseling Service (CCS) is 100% focused on helping you achieve debt relief. With more than 50 years of experience and the industry’s best Online Credit Counseling system, you can rest assured that not only will our certified counselors understand what you’re going through, they’ll also know how to help you uncover truly personalized solutions to improve your financial future.

Getting out of debt goes beyond making monthly payments, it takes discipline and self-control to avoid taking on new debt. Stop using a credit card to fund your lifestyle. Make a conscious decision to stop borrowing money, whether it be from a credit line or credit cards. By putting a stop to borrowing money you don’t have, you can focus solely on your existing debt and avoid any new debt from forming.

If a consumer’s financial problems resulted from too much debt or inability to repay their debts, a credit counseling agency might recommend enrollment in a debt management plan (DMP). A certified credit counselor will review a consumer's overall financial situation and offer customized money management advice. This advice may include a DMP designed for the client's unique circumstances. 
Kalkowski recommends finding a nonprofit rather than a for-profit agency. Reputable companies may be accredited or certified by one of three organizations: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the Financial Counseling Association of America or the Council on Accreditation. Consumers can also check the Better Business Bureau for company ratings and reviews or discuss the matter with trusted friends and family members who may be able to make a recommendation.

Debt consolidation loans can help you pay off bills as well. They are a type of personal loan in which you can consolidate all types of outstanding debts as well as other expenses, including credit cards, other higher priced borrowing, and medical bills. The individual will take out a new loan, at a lower interest rate, and use that money to pay off other accounts. This will reduce your monthly payment, and therefore will save you money. Debt consolidation loans are just one option available to help consumers get better control of their finances.

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.
Nobody wants to declare bankruptcy, and it is true debt management provides a viable alternative to becoming legally destitute. However, enrolling in debt management or credit counseling is actually a prerequisite to filing bankruptcy. So even if you find yourself still unable to pay all of your creditors, bankruptcy is then an option for you after you have tried debt management.

After the initial credit counseling session, if you need additional assistance to eliminate debt, your counselor will develop a customized debt management plan (DMP) for you. With the Union Plus Debt Management Plan (DMP) grant, you don't need to pay any of the DMP set-up fees. Union members who complete one year on a DMP are also eligible to apply for reimbursement of the monthly fees.

Another survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) showed that 56% of Americans with debt admitted that it negatively impacted their lives. Twenty-eight percent of the 1,004 American adults surveyed said their debt caused stress about their everyday financial decisions, and 21% said it caused tension with their partner.
Debt Settlement is making a deal with creditors to pay less than the total balance owed. As attractive as that sounds, there are some severe penalties, notably to your credit score and tax liabilities. Debt settlement costs include attorney fees (typically 10-20% of amount settled) and taxes owed on forgiven debt. Debt settlement negatively impacts credit for several years.
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.
Tip: If you are having trouble making payments on your debts, a credit counselor may be able to help you with advice or by organizing a “debt management plan” for all your debts. Typically, under a debt management plan you make a single payment to the credit counseling organization each month or pay period and the credit counseling organization makes monthly payments to each of your creditors. Under debt management plans, credit counselors usually do not negotiate any reduction in the amounts you owe–instead, they can lower your overall monthly payment. They do so by negotiating extensions of the periods over which you can repay a loan and by asking creditors to lower the interest rates  and waive certain fees.
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.
After the initial credit counseling session, if you need additional assistance to eliminate debt, your counselor will develop a customized debt management plan (DMP) for you. With the Union Plus Debt Management Plan (DMP) grant, you don't need to pay any of the DMP set-up fees. Union members who complete one year on a DMP are also eligible to apply for reimbursement of the monthly fees.

InCharge Debt Solutions boasts one of the most polished websites of the companies I evaluated. The company’s debt management FAQs and financial education resources are very thorough. They are clear about fees ($50 to enroll and $49 monthly). They are also among the few companies that give you an idea of how much your interest rates might drop under a debt management plan (6% to 9%). InCharge is accredited by the BBB with A+ rating; other certifications include the NFCC and COA.

Gerri Detweiler focuses on helping people understand their credit and debt, and writes about those issues, as well as financial legislation, budgeting, debt recovery and savings strategies. She is also the co-author of Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights, and Reduce Stress: Real-Life Solutions for Solving Your Credit Crisis as well as host of TalkCreditRadio.com.
Everyone with even a little bit of debt has to manage their debt. If you just have a little debt, you have to keep up your payments and make sure it doesn’t get out of control. On the other hand, when you have a large amount of debt, you have to put more effort into paying off your debt while juggling payments on the debts you’re not currently paying.
There are big benefits to this approach. You don't have to go through an approval process -- the amount you can borrow is determined by your policy's value. You can use the money to repay any debt you want, because there's no explanation required for what you plan to do with it. And while you need to pay back the policy with interest, you're borrowing from yourself so you aren't fattening the pockets of a creditor. Furthermore, there's typically no mandatory minimum monthly payment, and interest rates are low. 
As you begin to work this system, keep in mind that it’s not easy. Just like losing weight, losing your debt takes work, but if you genuinely want to slough of that stressful debt, your perseverance can make it happen. And don’t fret if you need to make adjustments along the way. This isn’t about a quick fix, it’s about changing your habits and behaviors so you can achieve your financial goals.
Debt management programs serve the dual role of helping you repay your debts while creditors receive the money owed to them. These debt management plans are a systematic way to pay down your outstanding debt through monthly payments to your credit counseling agency. Your creditor accounts will always be credited with 100 percent of the amount you pay through an NFCC agency. By participating in this type of debt management program, you may benefit from reduced or waived finance charges or fees, and experience fewer collection calls. When you have completed your payments-which typically takes 36-60 months- it may help you reestablish credit.
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