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There’s no such thing as a quick way out of debt, but there are realistic steps you can take to get debt under control.

3 Steps You Can Take to Get Debt Under Control

There is no such thing as a quick and easy way to get out of debt, but there are realistic steps you can take to get debt under control.

Develop a budget: Assess how much money you make and how much you spend. Writing down all your expenses is an easy way to get a realistic picture of where your money goes. Your goal should be to make sure you can pay for the essentials, like food and shelter, with enough left over to tackle your bills.

Contact your creditors: If you’re having trouble making payments, you may be able to work out a modified payment plan with your creditors. Let them know right away if you’re struggling before the accounts get turned over to debt collectors. If your accounts do get turned over to debt collectors, this video from the Federal Trade Commission can help you understand your rights.

Look into debt relief services: Credit counseling could help you set up a plan to pay off your debts. Even though many credit counseling groups are nonprofits, their services aren’t necessarily free.

Get more tips for managing your debt.

To learn about other free resources to help you no matter what your financial situation, sign up for our e-mail list or visit our page.

Asked by Anonymous

How do I find forgiveness for my student loan. I will never be able to pay it off. I am on disability now.

It’s possible to have your student loan debt discharged (canceled) or reduced, but only under certain specific circumstances:

  • You die or become totally and permanently disabled.
  • Your school closed before you could complete your program.
  • For FFEL℠ and Direct Stafford Loans only: Your school owes your lender a refund, forged your signature on a promissory note, or certified your loan even though you didn’t have the ability to benefit from the coursework.
  • You work in certain designated public school service professions (including teaching in a low-income school).
  • You file for bankruptcy. (This cancellation is rare and occurs only if a bankruptcy court rules that repayment would cause undue hardship.)

If you are unable to work and earn money because of an injury or illness that is expected to continue indefinitely or result in death, you may apply for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge of your FFEL Loans, Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Direct Loans, or TEACH Grant service obligation. Disabilitydischarge.com has more information on qualifying and to apply for a TPD discharge.

Visit the Department of Education for more information on student loan cancellation.

If you are not sure what kind of loan you have, you can get information on your loan from the National Student Loan Data System.

If you would like to file a complaint about your student loans, you can do so through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This week is National Consumer Protection Week. Today we are answering your consumer questions. You can join us for a live social media chat at 2 p.m. EST. Learn more about the chat and how to submit your questions.

Asked by Anonymous

What is the United States national debt

On February 29, 2012, the total public debt of the United States was $15,488,891,296,248.02.

Search for the amount of debt on any date from 1993 to present.

How to Get out of Debt and Avoid Fraud

More than one and a half million people file for bankruptcy every year. Many people fall behind on their bills because they’ve lost their jobs, suffered from a long-term illness, or because they were unable to manage their personal finances properly.

Fortunately, there are many resources out there that can help you put together a plan to pay off your debt, including credit counseling agencies.

Signs Your Finances Are in Trouble

You don’t have to be close to filing for bankruptcy to realize that you are in financial trouble. These are some signs that you might have too much debt:

  • You are frequently late on your payments
  • You are close to your credit limit on your credit cards
  • You use your credit cards to make payments on other cards
  • You find it difficult to save money
  • You’ve been denied credit recently

How to Get out of Debt

To get out of debt and set your finances straight, carefully analyze your income and expenses. Make sure you:

  • Make a budget and stay within its limits.
  • Figure out your total debt and also what you owe to each creditor, your monthly payments, interest and payment due dates.
  • Prioritize repayments, focusing first on things such as your mortgage, rent, and utilities.
  • Make a repayment plan for each creditor and determine how long it will take you to pay off the debt. Make sure to review your credit card statements, as they will include information about how long it will take to pay off your balance, per new credit card laws that went into effect in 2010.
  • Don’t incur any additional debt.

How to Choose a Credit Counseling Agency

Consider a credit counseling agency if your debt is too much to handle. These companies offer workshops on how to manage your money and advice on how to administer your debt. They can also help you create a budget and even negotiate your debt with creditors.

Many of these companies are nonprofit organizations, however be careful, as some charge excessive fees for their services and others might not even deliver what they promise. Consider these important suggestions before choosing a credit counseling agency:

  • Pick a counseling agency that offers several services. This will help you avoid organizations that promote only certain services.
  • Avoid credit counseling agencies that charge you for simply providing information, or agencies that demand a percentage of the amount that you are supposedly saving. Ideally, you should request the cost of their services in advance and in writing.
  • Stay away from agencies that ask you to stop making payments on your debt or ask you not to contact creditors.

The Department of Justice has a list of credit counseling agencies that are approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling.