The debt settlement process involves hard-core, long term debt collection attempts by your creditors, and serious credit score damage that will last for many years. Debt consolidation companies like National Debt Relief and Freedom Debt Relief offer to help you through the process for a fee (eating into your savings). They will instruct you to stop paying your bills, which leaves you open to lawsuits by your creditors.
In 2008, American households carried $280 billion in debt. While debt dwindled in the following years, in 2017 the country hit another record – $13 trillion in household debt, including mortgages, car loans, credit card debt and student loans, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. If you, too, are struggling with debt and you're looking for some strategies to reduce what you owe, try implementing these smart money-management habits.

Of course, those situations aren't the norm, and most of us with credit card bills looking to get rid of them aren't in that position. That's not to say there aren't situations where debt consolidation loans can offer people who really need them the breathing room to get out of debt and organize their finances. ReadyForZero has a great post on this topic, and showcases some examples of when debt consolidation can be a good choice—and even save you money on interest while getting you out of debt faster.
Closing out delinquent accounts or those with a history of late payments can also help, as long as you've paid them off in full. Because history is important, if you do decide to close a few more accounts, close the newest ones first. The length of your credit history is 15% of your score, so even after you've paid down your balances, keep your oldest cards open. Be sure use these cards to make occasional purchases (then pay the bills in full), so the card company won't close your account for inactivity.

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.

Each time you apply for credit is listed on your credit report as a “hard inquiry” and if you have too many within two years, your credit score will suffer. In general, a consumer with good credit can apply for credit a few times each year before it begins to affect their credit score. If you’re already starting with below-average credit, however, these inquiries may have more of an impact on your score and delay your ultimate goal of watching your credit score climb.

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