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.
Bankruptcy and debt settlement can reduce or eliminate debts, but they severely impact your credit. However, continuing to struggle may actually be a slower, less effective way to get rid of the debt. Debt management doesn’t reduce debts, but its effect on your credit is less severe. And be aware that some types of debts typically can’t be erased or reduced: federal student loans, child support, and secured loans on cars and homes.
Those who are overwhelmed by debt often turn to credit counseling agencies to find help. They offer a variety of services, such as workshops, one-on-one coaching and debt management plans, all with a common objective. "The No. 1 goal is to leave people in a better financial situation," says Julie Kalkowski, executive director of the Financial Hope Collaborative at Creighton University. The Financial Hope Collaborative is a financial education and counseling program for low- to moderate-income families living in Omaha, Nebraska.
In some cases, credit card companies allow you to use balance-transfer checks. Essentially, you'll be able to deposit money in your bank account and get the special promotional balance transfer rate of 0% interest for a designated time. If you take advantage of this offer, you'd still pay whatever fee the card imposes for balance transfers, if any. This approach allows you to use a balance transfer to refinance even non-credit card debt to the 0% promotional rate. Just be careful not to confuse balance-transfer checks with a cash advance, which involves having your credit card lend you cash at a very high interest rate. 
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a nonprofit debt relief agency offering consolidated credit counseling and consumer debt solutions. If you have debt to consolidate, we can help you consolidate credit without taking a loan or paying high fees like some debt management companies charge. A fair, effective debt reduction service, our debt management program simplifies your payment responsibilities and often results in reduced interest rates from your creditors. As a leading national debt consolidation firm, ACCC has also been approved by the Department of Justice to provide credit counseling for bankruptcy both the pre-bankruptcy credit counseling certificate and the post-bankruptcy debtor education.
DISCLAIMER - Debt.com does not provide direct debt adjustment services, but, upon request, acts as a locator service for BBB registered companies. It is ultimately up to you to determine whether the companies that we may introduce you to are appropriate for your situation. For debt consolidation programs, where permissible by law, companies may charge a one-time enrollment fee typically from $25 up to $75 for account establishment and for debt relief proposals submitted on your behalf to each of your creditors. Monthly program administration fees will vary from $5 but no greater than $75 depending on your state of residence and/or the number of creditors who agree to accept proposals and become enrolled in the program. Fees subject to change if permissible by law. For debt settlement programs, by law, you may not be charged any fee until a debt settlement is arranged on your behalf, you approve the settlement, and at least one payment is made towards the settlement. Each program offered by independent financial service providers is unique so ask them for their complete details of the program and fees.
Personal loans:Personal loans are for a fixed amount of money from banks, credit unions, and online sources. Average personal loan rates range from 10% to 28%, depending on credit. When rates are very high, early and aggressive debt payoff is important. If rates are reasonable, you may wish to prioritize other money goals before putting extra money toward repaying early. 
Make sure you are working with an NFCC-member nonprofit credit counseling agency like InCharge Debt Solutions. Nonprofit credit counselors provide impartial financial advice that has your best interest in mind. A nonprofit debt management program will have low fees and work to secure interest rate reductions on your credit card debt, so that you are able to pay off your debt by making consistent affordable payments.
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. 
Make sure the company requires complete information from current statements before giving you a quote. The debt counselor will need you to provide all your current credit card and loan statements before they can tell you how much your monthly payments will be or how long it will take to complete the program. Beware of anyone who gives you a quote without thoroughly researching the following first:

Reducing the term of your loans, even with a lower interest rate, will likely increase your current monthly payment. But with fewer years of payments to handle, you can save a bundle over time. SoFi, a top student loan refinancing provider, offers one such service. With no prepayment penalties and no hidden fees, it’s an easy way to save thousands of dollars in interest payments over the life of your loan.
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.
I will tell you about how to get out of debt from my perspective, the way that typically works best for people, and I’ll describe how to avoid common pitfalls along the way. As I do so, I promise not to call names, make fun of you, or mix in other messages at the same time. I will also be honest, passionate, and fairly blunt, if that wasn’t apparent already.

The debt relief company has had minor legal issues in the past, but it has overcome those obstacles to become one of the most popular accredited debt relief companies online. Despite negative reviews, it’s clear that Freedom Debt Relief isn’t a scam. In fact, many Freedom Debt Relief clients credit the company for getting them out of debt and teaching them how to avoid future debt. You should always compare several companies before choosing a debt relief option, but this one stands out as one of the top debt management companies.
For most people who are struggling with debt, non-profit credit counseling is the better option. You pay  fewer out-of-pocket costs, which can be helpful. That last thing you need as you get out of debt is a big bill. If you’re looking for non-profit counseling services, fill out the form at the top of this page. Debt.com only refers you to the best accredited non-profit consumer credit counseling services.
NerdWallet recommends the 50/30/20 budget: Keep essential expenses, like housing, to 50% of your income. Then allocate 30% for wants, and use 20% for savings and debt pay-down. Since you’re focused on paying off your debt, you may decide to use money from your wants category to make extra debt payments. That will wipe out debt faster and help you save on interest.
Bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy has serious consequences, including lowering your credit score, but credit counselors and other experts say that in some cases, it may make the most sense. Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 allows people with a steady income to keep property, like a mortgaged house or a car, that they might otherwise lose through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to pay off your debts over a three to five year period, without surrendering any property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, your debts are discharged. As part of the Chapter 13 process, you will have to pay a lawyer, and you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief.
Settlement has big risks, though, including steep fees (15% to 20% of what the company is able to save you is typical). You may also sustain damage to your credit score and receive harassing calls from creditors while you’re saving up for the program. You’ll also have to pay taxes on forgiven debt. Most debt settlement companies are for-profit companies, while most debt management companies are nonprofits.
Credit score takes a beating. This definitely will happen with either debt settlement or bankruptcy. Even if you eventually reach a debt settlement with a lender, there will be a note on your credit report for seven years that says you missed payments and settled for less than what was owed. Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on a credit report for 10 years and Chapter 13 bankruptcy is there for seven years. This will make it difficult to get a loan for a home or car at an affordable rate.
“When someone meets with a certified credit counselor, they get expert advice for overcoming their most urgent financial challenges,” Bruce McClary, Vice President of Communications at the NFCC said. “Consumers benefit from a comprehensive review of their entire financial situation. Every counseling session is completely confidential with advice that is uniquely designed for each individual.”
Each week when you make a payment, subtract the amount, so you have a new balance. The point of this is to see those numbers getting smaller each week. It’s motivating. We also didn’t list dates for the second debt on the list because as we get to the end of each debt, we might reach just a little further so we can pay it off a week or two earlier.
Auto loans: Auto loans are secured debt guaranteed by your vehicle. For 60-month auto loans, the national average interest rate was 4.21% as of July 2018. Rates are low, so early payoff doesn't always make sense. However, it's a bad idea to continually have a car loan, so paying off the debt early and saving your car payment to buy your next car in cash is smart. 

In today’s challenging and still weak economy, banks and credit card companies are more likely than ever to forgive or cancel credit card debt free of charge. They offer customers a number of assistance programs and related counseling services. They really do this selfishly, as they would rather settle with the consumer vs. see them file bankruptcy, as in that case they receive nothing. More on credit card assistance programs.
Pay more than the minimum on your accounts. See examples of how you can save thousands of dollars in interest costs and potentially late fees by paying more than the minimum balance on your credit cards. This is arguably one of the best ways to reduce your debts over a reasonable period of time, and it works for credit cards, medical bills, car loans, and really anything. You need to start with your higher interest rate commitments first. Find the benefits of making more than minimum payments.
Rachel Kampersal said debt management plans require you to change your habits dramatically since you will have to stop using credit. “Per requirements from creditors, any card that is entered into a debt management plan will be closed, meaning you can no longer make charges to these cards. While difficult, it’s important to stop incurring new debt.”

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).
The creditors don’t have the time or manpower to negotiate with every one of their customers individually. They work with credit counseling agencies like us to create a set of standard concessions that we may offer to clients when appropriate. The creditors also understand that we provide counseling and education, which makes our clients more likely to succeed in repaying their debts.
If you decide to start a debt management plan, there will likely be a one time set-up charge and a monthly fee for the cost of administering the plan. These fees are determined in part by your state of residence and will be calculated by your counselor during your credit counseling session. If you feel that a fee will be too much of a burden for you to pay, talk to your counselor.  If you qualify under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines, you may be eligible to a fee waiver.
A chance to start over. The anxiety of dealing with debt everyday crushes people’s spirits. Choosing the debt-relief option that gives you a way out of debt is a life-changing experience. Nothing feels better than second chance, an opportunity to right the wrongs and prove you’ve learned from experience. Bankruptcy, despite its reputation, will do that. A successful Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy breathes life back into consumers. It brings hope that the lessons you’ve learned about finances can take the stress out of your life.
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Free advice from credit counseling agencies is available. Several different organizations, all of which are non-profits, operate across the country. A number of agencies operate regionally as well. They provide a number of low cost or free debt reduction programs, offer ways to improve credit scores, can advise on filing for bankruptcy, offer budgeting services, and in general provide information on ways to gain control of your bills. Find a listing of non-profit credit counseling agencies.
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For example, when you initiate a debt management plan, you may be asked to close credit card accounts. Doing so changes your credit utilization ratio — the comparison between the total amount of credit you have available versus the amount you're actually using. Closing accounts lowers the amount of credit you have available (your credit limit), which increases your credit utilization rate and negatively impacts your credit score.

We do not have a minimum debt requirement for the debt management program. Our goal is to create a payment plan that is affordable and enables you to pay off your debt within a three to five year period. Our clients have, on average, credit card debt of $15,000. Though we have enrolled clients with as little as $1000 in debt, and more than $100,000 in debt. Our clients have an average annual income of $36,000.


Settlement has big risks, though, including steep fees (15% to 20% of what the company is able to save you is typical). You may also sustain damage to your credit score and receive harassing calls from creditors while you’re saving up for the program. You’ll also have to pay taxes on forgiven debt. Most debt settlement companies are for-profit companies, while most debt management companies are nonprofits.
Debt settlement: This is what National Debt Relief is best at. National Debt Relief has been doing debt settlements for years and knows the ins and outs of the laws around debt settlements. While debt settlement is a good option for people who are drowning in debt, it does have some downsides, including wrecking your credit score. Be sure to know the risks surrounding debt settlement before you start the process. National Debt Relief has all the information you need to know about debt settlement on its website.

Debt education: National Debt Relief has one of the best collections of debt relief information available to anyone on its site. National Debt Relief has common FAQs about debt, a detailed explanation of every debt relief option from consolidation to settlement to bankruptcy, and gives you tips to help you manage and deal with your debt all by yourself, for free. Most debt relief programs only offer this information if you sign up for their service. However, National Debt Relief makes it all available to anyone who is interested.
If you want to get out of debt fast, you have to stop using debt to fund your lifestyle. This means no more financing furniture, no more signing up for credit cards, no more test driving brand new cars that you don’t have the cash to pay for. This will help you focus solely on the debt that you currently do have so that you can develop a game plan to pay it off quickly.
Many times, a credit counselor can offer insights into your financial situation that you may not see on your own. They may see obvious ways you can cut your spending that you may have overlooked, for example. Their extensive knowledge of debt relief options also makes them ideal mentors for consumers who need professional help when it comes to assessing their debts and figuring out a plan that will work.
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.

There are several steps you can take yourself to repair your credit scores, even if they are very low. Having a higher credit rating can lower the amount of interest you need to pay on your debts, it allows you to get approved to borrow money and improves the ability to take out more loans, such as an auto or mortgage. There are also other benefits. For example, a better credit score can even help you land a job. Find how to repair credit scores.


Don’t be afraid to have many budget categories. It will help you have a greater understanding of where things are going. Some regular expenses include internet, cell phone, household goods, medical costs, pets, haircuts, car repair, and home repair. Not every item will have an expense every month, but by setting some money aside for those irregular expenses, you’ll be ready when they hit.
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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.

Balance-transfer cards can help when trying to pay off credit card debt, because you can transfer thousands of dollars owed to a new card that offers a very low initial interest rate -- often 0%. That interest rate will be in effect for between six and 21 months, after which a more standard interest rate will apply. That standard rate will not necessarily be a great one, so you should seek cards that will charge you relatively low interest rate ranges following your teaser-rate period. Your credit score is likely to influence the interest rate you're given after the 0% rate expires, so this is another reason to get your score as high as you can.
It depends on how much debt you have and how successful National Debt Relief is in negotiating with your creditors. However, there are quite a few examples of how much past customers have saved in reviews on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website. One customer claimed enrolling in the program helped them cut down their payments by almost 70%, while another said they were able to shave two years and $3,000 off their debt repayments.
On the plus side, if you pay off a card balance that’s close to the credit limit, you may improve your “utilization ratio”—the ratio that compares your credit limits with the balances you currently have—provided you leave the card open after paying it off. But simply moving balances from one card to another is unlikely to do a whole lot for your scores.
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.

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For example, a person with three or four credit cards, might owe a combined $20,000 on the cards and be paying something like 24 percent interest. The credit counseling agency representing him could go to a bank and negotiate a loan at half that rate and save quite a bit of money in interest. The loan money would be used to pay off the credit cards, creating a zero balance on each card. Instead of making three or four payments every month, the person would have only one payment.
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