If you feel like you are swimming in a sea of credit card debt, you are not alone. This fact probably will not make you feel any better, but the fact that you have lots of company means that there are a variety of debt management program strategies and debt reduction services you can use to get back on solid financial ground.

There is a thriving industry full of companies that do nothing but help consumers get a handle on their debt problems. These debt reduction firms run the gamut from non-profit community based organizations to national chains to huge mega companies with a branch in every major city. Finding the right company to entrust with your debt reduction can be difficult and challenging.

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Before turning to an outside company for help, however, there are steps consumers can take on their own to reduce their debt load. Of course the easiest strategy is to put extra cash toward retiring your debt. Every extra dollar you put toward your credit card balance is one more dollar on which you will not owe interest or penalties.

Of course, finding that extra money can be a challenge. Most Americans are lucky to have a few dollars left over between paydays, and many consumers find themselves out of cash before they are out of month. This is where a good budget program can come in handy. Budgeting is not a skill that is taught in school, and it is often not taught at home either. Learning how to make a budget and stick to it can be the most important aspect of your financial life.

Try this little exercise and see if you can’t shake loose some extra cash each month. Write down every expense you incur for at least a week. That’s every expense – every cup of coffee, every meal, every trip to the grocery store, every trip to the mall, every tank of gas. Be scrupulous about recording every penny you spend and what you spend it on. At the end of the week, add it all up and give it close scrutiny. Ask yourself if every item was a necessity. Are there places you can cut back on your daily living expenses? Even a dollar or two a day can add up quickly – try cutting back for a couple months and putting that extra money toward your debt.

Of course, this strategy may be only part of the solution for serious debts. If you owe more than you can afford to pay, try negotiating directly with your creditors. Consumers are often pleasantly surprised at how flexible their credit card companies, banks and other lenders are when renegotiating the terms of their debt. For instance, your credit card company may be willing to give you a lower annual percentage rate, waive certain fees, or even accept a lesser amount than what you owe.

Of course, the bank is not just doing this to be nice to you. It is in the best interest of your creditors that you be in a position to repay what you owe. After all, if you are forced into bankruptcy, the lender will most likely be unable to recover what they are owed. And as you know, bankruptcy is no panacea for the consumer either. That black mark will follow you for at least seven years, and it is no longer so easy to use bankruptcy to shield yourself from debt.

It can be difficult to reduce debt, but by carefully following a budget and negotiating with your creditors, you can get a handle on your debt and your spending. You will need to learn how to handle debt on your own. There is no course on their important skill, but the skills you teach yourself can help ensure your financial future and keep you debt free.

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