Be Specific

Exactly how much debt do you have, and how much money can you put toward paying it down each month? Add up your credit card balances, then track your expenses for about a month,  taking stock of every dollar that goes out of your wallet. It will be easier to see what can be eliminated. 

Put extra money toward the card with the highest interest rate while paying the minimums on the others. 

When to Seek Help
It's possible your debt load is so large, you just can't manage it. Your monthly income won't allow you to make payments while keeping up with other expenses and putting food on the table. If that's the case, don't just tread water. 

"There isn't one solution that fits everyone. Credit counseling agencies will recommend credit counseling; bankruptcy attorneys will recommend bankruptcy. It's important to understand what your options are," Gerri says. 

My suggestion? Start with a credit counseling agency, which you can find through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. A savvy counselor should be able to put you on a debt management plan that will have you out of debt in three to five years. 

If a credit counselor can't help—they can't if your income won't support repayment in less than five years—consider bankruptcy or a debt settlement. But be cautious. If you have just one or two credit cards, it's possible to settle on your own and avoid the high fees charged by debt settlement firms.


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