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Getting help when you need it

Needing a short-term loan to help you through an emergency is understandable. Things go wrong, and sometimes you need a little extra. But if you need to take out loans just to cover regular bills, or you find yourself taking out loans on a regular basis, then you’ve got a bigger problem you need to address. When you have serious financial problems, it’s often best to ask for help from a debt counselor: there may be options you don’t know about, or there may be different ways to look at your situation.

The hardest part is usually that very first step. It can feel embarrassing and humiliating to have to go to someone and let them go through your personal finances in detail. Most of us want to believe that we can deal with our problems on our own, and we resist making that call. But the reality is that the longer you leave it, the bigger your problems will grow, and the longer it will take to get out of debt.

Debt counselors won’t judge you, and they won’t ask for information they don’t need. Their role is simply to help you get back on your feet. Most people who ask for help say that the feeling of relief is indescribable – for the first time in months or years they have a plan to get out of debt and they have hope.

What can they do for you?

The options available to you will depend on your individual situation and the debt counselor you’re talking to. They will negotiate on your behalf with your creditors, and these are some of the things they may be able to arrange:

  • Lowering your payments: if you can get your weekly or monthly loan repayments reduced, this will give you more money for other things. However, if your interest rate is unchanged, you’ll be paying off your loan for longer.
  • Adjusting or freezing your interest rates: if your interest rate is lowered, you’ll pay your debts off quicker. In some cases, they may be able to get your rates lowered to zero, so your debts won’t keep growing.
  • Wiping out debts: sometimes, if your financial situation is really bad, they can persuade your creditors to write off the debt completely, or to take a much lower amount than you actually owe. If you’ve been hit with fines and penalties, they may be able to get those reversed.
  • Debt consolidation: if you owe money to a lot of people, they may recommend taking out a single loan at a lower rate and paying off all your creditors. This will make your financial situation much simpler and you’re less likely to lose track of what you owe.
  • Bankruptcy: if you really can’t repay your debts, it may be best to declare bankruptcy and start over.
  • Spending advice: they won’t just help you by reducing your debts. They will also go through your finances and recommend ways to save money by reducing what you’re spending. They’ll help you create a spending plan so that you know how much you need for essentials, how much to save for emergencies, and how much you can spend on extras.

Whatever they arrange for you, it’s your responsibility to stick to the new agreement. You’ll find it harder to get loans in the future, and creditors won’t be so forgiving next time if you get yourself into financial trouble again. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it’s a great opportunity to make things right and get yourself back on track.

So if you’re constantly struggling with money, make that call right away, and get help.