PiggyBob's advice to debt consolidation and reduction:
1. Face to face: Free debt consolidation counselors talk directly with you, helping find ways for you to pay off your debt while saving you money.
2. Pay later: Remember, while debt consolidation quotes may be free, the costs for these services often aren't mentioned until the cash is practically in hand.
3. You have options: Three top strategies for debt consolidation: consolidate to a single low-or-no-interest card, get a low-interest loan, or tap into home equity.
4. Use home equity: Consider consolidating debt by getting online quotes for a Home Equity Line of Credit-which often feature lower rates than other debts.
5. Sleep better: Avoid collection calls, liens and lawsuits by consulting a professional debt reduction company; they can often eliminate debt for pennies on the dollar.
6. Read the fine print: The term "debt consolidation" may be used interchangeably by several companies offering very, very different types of services and end results.
7. Consolidate carefully: 70% of Americans taking a consolidation loan to pay off debt end up with the same or higher debt load within two years.
8. Notify lenders: The single most important thing to do if you find yourself struggling with debt is to notify your creditors as soon as possible.
9. Caveat emptor: Even if a particular credit counseling organization claims nonprofit status, there's no guarantee that its services are free, affordable, or even legitimate.
10. Check certifications: To help ensure you're working with a reputable debt consolidation firm, search for one certified by the National Institute for Financial Counseling Education.
11. Proceed with caution: Debt consolidation loans encourage tendencies already leading to financial challenges. By taking on yet another creditor, you're adding fuel to the fire.
12. Last resort: Considering signing up for a debt consolidation program ONLY after a certified credit counselor has spent time carefully reviewing your financial situation.
13. Easy quotes: Debt consolidation quotes are simple online; most sites just require filling out a few fields before matching you with a debt-relief firm.
14. Research firms: Check out any company offering debt consolidation services with your local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau in the company's location.
15. Think long-term: Paying debts can improve your credit report, but delinquent and charged off accounts can still be reported for up to seven years.
16. Why consolidate? Unless you're offered a compelling, lower interest rate for consolidating multiple credit cards, the savings might not justify the effort and hassle.
17. Get going: One primary key to consolidating debt is to have a clear plan of action for making payments and reducing monthly interest charges.
18. Choose wisely: Some reputable debt-settlement firms (search several online) can often reduce your debt as much as 75% or more-without a credit check.