It may seem attractive to just take out a nice big loan, pay everyone off, and only deal with that one monthly loan payment—one you can even have automatically taken from your checking account every month—but all you're really doing is paying a financial institution to do something for you that you can do on your own. It feels great not to get a bunch of bills in the mail or fret over who you pay when and how much, but you can do the same thing on your own:
Your credit score can be affected by consolidating credit card debt — but the overall effect on your credit score should be positive, as long as you pay off your debt. If you open a new credit product like a credit card and consolidate your credit card debt, your credit score may temporarily decrease due to the inquiry and opening of a new account, but it’ll bounce back soon. Your score can actually benefit from the increased line of credit you’ll receive from the new card, as long as you keep your other credit cards open. And if you are consolidating credit card debt with a personal loan, you should see a boost to your score because you are paying off revolving lines of credit. Also, by taking out a fixed-rate installment loan, your mix of credit may improve, which is one of the factors that make up your credit score.
Some lenders might be open to renegotiating terms with you to reduce interest rates, create payment plans that get you caught up, remove fees and maybe even forgive portions of balances. Just remember that if this happens, you may have tax consequences since forgiven and canceled debts may be taxable. Additionally, according to Albaugh, sometimes settling with creditors on your own requires a lump-sum payment, whereas bankruptcy allows for installment payments on a lowered amount.
Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gas, groceries and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. For example, if you tend to spend $400 a month on groceries, try to stick to $300 a month on groceries by making changes like buying generic brands, using coupons, and resisting impulse purchases.