You can negotiate your own debt relief plan with your creditors if you want, just follow the steps below: • In a fresh spiral bound notebook, make a list of your total household income. Include everything. Your pay (and your partner's if you have one). Child support if you get it. Disability payments—anything and everything that you receive on a regular basis. • Make a list of your reasonable living expenses (for example, rent or mortgage, food, utilities, clothes, personal hygiene, insurance). The difference between your total income and your total expenses, excluding your debt, is what you have available to devote to paying off your debt. • Make a list of all your debts, including the total amount owed, the minimum payment, the interest rate, and the contact information. • Figure out how much you can realistically pay each creditor each month and call the company to see if they will agree to the plan. Ask to speak to a supervisor. • Tell the supervisor that you are having difficulty paying your debt, that you would like to pay the debt but on different terms, and that if you are unable to negotiate an agreement, you may be forced to consider bankruptcy (in which case the creditor may get nothing). • Request that the company agree to stop charging late fees, that it stop charging interest, and that it agree to accept the proposed amount as payment each month. • Get the name, e-mail, telephone number and address of the individual with whom you are speaking. • After you have reached agreement, immediately send a written confirmation of the conversation detailing the terms of the agreement—and then stick to it. If this sounds like more than you are up to, contact a credit counselor to help you. You can reach the Consumer Credit Counseling Service by calling 1-800-388-2227.
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