Tips for dealing with debt

If the amount you owe others is at an uncomfortable level, here are some powerful tips for decreasing your debt.

How to reduce your debt

Instructions: Click each tip to learn more.

Ask for help

  • Set up an appointment with a financial advisor on your base or post— most installations provide this service for you.
  • Many nonprofit debt counseling centers across the country will advise you for a low fee or at no charge.
  • Some lenders will recommend debt counselors to you. Contact a customer service representative at your lender for referrals.
  • Or, contact the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in your area. They can often help you work out a repayment plan with your creditors.

 

A young woman looking serious.

Research options for military service members

Research military-specific legislation, such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), to see if you are protected from any of your debt obligations. For example, you may be eligible to terminate a lease if you are deployed.
 
Contact the Judge Advocate General (JAG) office on your base or post to get more information about SCRA.

Make a written plan

Make a list of all your bills and their amounts. Figure out when each bill can be paid.

Contact your creditors

Contact your credit card company or other creditors to try to get your rate lowered or a different payment plan worked out.

Pay more than the minimum

Make more than the minimum monthly payment on credit cards. You will save lots of money on interest and reduce or eliminate your debt much sooner.

Don’t take on any new debt

Stop using your credit cards. Say no to offers for credit cards, debt consolidation, and second mortgages. Only get a cash advance when it’s absolutely necessary. The interest rates are usually higher (than for card purchases), and the rates are put into effect immediately, without a thirty-day grace period. Most banks also charge a service fee based on how much cash you’re withdrawing. The same applies to personalized “checks” some credit card companies may send you.

Minimize rates and fees

Educate yourself about the annual fees, current interest rates, finance charges, cash-advance fees, and any other fees tied to your card. This can help you make better decisions about which card to use and how to manage your credit.
 
Transfer balances to cards with lower interest rates or to cards offering the same (or lower) interest rates that also offer the benefit of a low introductory rate (usually for six months).

Don’t give up

Reducing your debt is challenging, but don’t stop trying. It’s one of the most important things you can do for a better financial future.

Read more about debt warning signs and tips and managing your credit.

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