Credit counseling. Most businesses in the debt-relief industry offer free credit counseling services. Certified credit counselors help consumers build an affordable budget and learn how to live with it. Counselors teach them the debt-relief options available and offer advice on which one best suits their situation. This is an overlooked aspect of many debt-relief services. It increases the financial literacy of consumers by leaps and bounds.

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.


Put extra money toward the credit card or debt with the smallest balance. You'll be able to pay it off quickly, reducing the total number of accounts you have to deal with, and giving yourself the mental boost of successfully eliminating part of your debt (though you'll pay more interest in the long run than if you were to pay off debt with the highest interest rate first.)
Those who enroll make monthly deposits with a credit counseling organization, which then is used to pay the debts according to a predetermined payment schedule developed by the counselor and creditors. Your monthly payment is tailored to what the customer can afford, and you know before agreeing to take part in the program what that monthly amount is. An analysis of household income vs. expenditures determines the monthly payment.
This only happens in the first month of the program. After that, your payments are made on time according to the new schedule. As a result, most people see their scores improve because they have low credit scores starting out. That one month of “missed” payments is usually a drop in the bucket compared to all the other payments that might have been late or missed while you were struggling.
Of course, $800 a month in credit-card bills is a lot to handle, which is where debt management comes in. One of the companies I profile further down, InCharge, can help reduce interest rates by an average of 6% to 9%. Assuming the best scenario (a 9% interest rate drop) and a four-year plan, your monthly payment could shrink to $576 (this includes a monthly fee of $49, which could be lower or dropped completely, depending on your situation) and your total interest paid would shrink to $5,276.

You cannot use your existing credit cards while you’re on a debt management plan, nor can you open new accounts. McClary also said that if you do manage to open new credit card accounts during your debt management plan, existing creditors who find out may stop participating in your debt management plan and reset your account to its original terms and interest rate.
Guy who signed me up was professional BUT dealing with the company afterwards was a complete run-around. Transferred 5 times and not given an honest answer. Had to call back and confirm my exit from the program. Then asked personal questions in a resell attempt. Mailing address given to submit cancellation request to is NOT a valid mailing address. Percentage higher than advertised – 23%. Customer service transfers you immediately somewhere else – couldn’t even finish my sentence. Very shady.
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.
While your credit score may suffer if you’re falling behind on monthly payments before you get your debt management plan set up, starting your plan should provide some relief. Your credit score should increase as you begin making regular monthly payments and your debt balances drop. Experian does note that you may see some negative side effects when accounts are closed, usually due to changes with your credit utilization rate or credit mix.
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.

Hi. We have about $45k in debt , 10 of which is a trailer loan. Daughter is in first year of college. If I decide to see a credit counselor would it hurt her chances of getting fafsa ??? Loans in her name I believe because she is over 18, but we don’t want her owing a lot just coming out of college either, and we have a son graduating in a year as well. This has stressed me out to even thinking of claiming bankruptcy but I’m not going to go to that extreme…..help!! Suggestions? Owe $300k on house, own all cars.


Generally my view is if you can afford to pay your debt through a DMP, go for it. But if the payment plan they are proposing is a stretch and you’re not sure that you can keep up with those monthly payments, then consider settlement or bankruptcy. Of course, it’s impossible for me to say exactly what you should do since I don’t know your entire financial situation, but I wouldn’t rule it out for fear of the impact on your credit.
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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