The Smart Way to Dig Yourself Out of Debt
By Herb Weisbaum, The ConsumerMan
It’s scary to find yourself unable to pay your bills.
There’s no need to be embarrassed. You are not alone. Millions of Americans
are still deep in debt; trying to deal
with family budgets that are
stretched to the breaking point.
Help is available. In many cases, it’s free. You just need
to know where to go to make sure you don’t get ripped off by an unscrupulous
debt relief company that
charges a big upfront fee and can make your
situation even worse.
(Related ConsumerMan story: Be wary of promises from debt
“You owe it to yourself not to delay,” says Gail Cunningham,
vice president of public relations with the National Foundation for Credit
Counseling (NFCC). “Delay only digs a deeper
financial hole. Reach out for help and reach out now.”
The NFCC and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit
Counseling Agencies (AICCCA) are the two largest organizations representing
non-profit consumer counseling services across the country.
“Our goal is to get somebody restored to financial
well-being, so they can manage their own personal finances successfully,”
And here's the best part: NFCC and AICCCA member agencies
provide debt repayment plans at no-cost or low-cost.
“We never turn anybody away,” says David Jones, president of
AICCCA. “Services are based on what people can afford and if they can’t
afford to pay, it’s free.”
At AICCCA and NFCC member agencies, if there is a fee, it's
usually about $20 a month or less.
How does credit counseling work? You’ll talk with a trained
and certified credit counselor who is on your side. They’ll look at your
income and living expenses. They’ll find out about your short-term and
long-term goals. They’ll help you create a budget and teach you how to
prioritize your payments.
“There is no cookie cutter approach. No drive-through
counseling,” Cunningham says. “The counselor will take as much time with you
as you need.”
They can negotiate with your creditors to get monthly
payments lowered. They can also get late fees dropped or reduced. This can
add up to significant savings which allows you to handle all of your
obligations and still pay your debt.
If you think you need financial help but aren’t quite sure
where to start, go to one of these two sites and find a member agency near
National Federation for Credit Counseling
Independent Consumer Credit Counseling agencies