Debt Management in Tough Times

Debt management involves developing one or more strategies to help a debtor get that debt under control.


Should you shop for a lower interest rate on your debt?

• This can be a good option, if it substantially reduces your monthly payments and the refinancing is not too costly. Inquire whether other higher cost debts can be rolled into the lower cost loan.

What if you can’t pay your bills

• Prioritize your debt. Keeping a roof over your head is most critical. Keeping up with car payments may be next in line, if that transportation is needed to keep a job.

• Maintain payments to as many creditors as possible.

• If you have to make a late payment or miss a payment, contact the creditor as soon as possible to work out a plan for getting back on track.

• Contact the National Foundation of Credit Counseling ( or 1-800-388-2227) for help finding a reputable credit counseling service. These organizations can work with you to develop a repayment plan and also provide financial management education.

Use your credit

• Access to credit may be helpful in tight times, allowing you to manage unforeseen expenses such an emergency home or car repair.

Just be sure to evaluate how using credit now will affect your budget in the future.

• With a good credit history, you may be able to work with existing lenders to lower your interest rate and negotiate better terms for existing loans.

• When you receive gifts of money, get a bonus or pay off a debt, use the extra money as “powerpayments” to pay down your remaining debt. (see PowerPay)

• Make certain you are getting any available perks associated with your credit cards, such as credit toward payments, points toward frequent flyer miles or gifts that could be used for upcoming occasions.

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