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How to Deal With Your Debt and Still Have a Life

Updated on October 23, 2014
AudreyHowitt profile image

Audrey is a poet, classical singer and voice teacher, recovering attorney and licensed psychotherapist.

The Common Cerulean (Jamides celeno) is a small butterfly found in India belonging to the Lycaenids or Blues family. For me, a butterfly is a symbol of beauty and freedom--to be felt--despite the burden of debt.
The Common Cerulean (Jamides celeno) is a small butterfly found in India belonging to the Lycaenids or Blues family. For me, a butterfly is a symbol of beauty and freedom--to be felt--despite the burden of debt. | Source






Debt can be overwhelming, causing sleepless nights, even panic. It can feel like a mountain of worry, huge and immovable. Regardless of how deeply in debt you are, there are ways to manage your debt and to still have a life along the way. This brief article describes some tools that may be used to help alleviate debt and live a happier life.

In order to manage your debt, you need to stop ignoring it. Get to know it. Know why and how you got into debt. Understand what causes you stress and emotional pain about it. Is it the high interest rate that causes you stress, or the total amount owed that is so stressful? Is it the telephone calls that you receive from creditors that causes you stress? Is it that you feel badly about owing so much? Is it that you feel uncertain about your ability to pay it off? Is it that the debt itself, or the lack of money makes you feel poor? Whatever the situation, it is time to stop ignoring it. Get to know your feelings about it.

Handling your debt will involve taking a good look at your spending patterns, as well as the emotions that drive them. It will require that you confront those patterns and change them. It is not an easy task, but with discipline, it can be done. Then it is important to look realistically at what you can to do to pay it off and become debt free.

The rules to halting the hemorrhage are simple, the execution, more difficult.

First, and foremost: stop incurring debt, with the possible exceptions of a home and/or cars. No more charging anything. If you don’t have the cash, do not buy it. Sounds simple, but in this plasticized monetary economy, it can be difficult to do.

Second: determine a budget that allows you to live below your means. This may mean that means must increase, costs decrease, or some combination of both.

Third: apply the difference to your debt, in a systematic and disciplined fashion.

Write down all your debt. List the debt, the amount owed, the interest rate, and the minimum payment owed each month. Add up the total minimum amount owed each month for all your debt. Write down the amount you pay each month.

If your debt exceeds your means, consider calling your creditors and negotiating either a lower interest rate, or a lower total amount. People often fail to do this, primarily because they believe that creditors will not negotiate. Most creditors will however, especially once they realize that the debtor is in earnest.

We all hate to budget, but a good working budget is essential. There are online tools that you can use for free such as Mint.com, or YNAB (You need a budget). Once you set these up, they can be handy to use and the graphics make it easy to tell whether you are on target or overspending.

Or keep track of your finances the old-fashioned way—with a notebook or ledger. Track every expenditure: debt, savings, fixed costs and variable costs. However you choose to do it, it must be done.

Even though your focus may be on the elimination of debt, it is important to save money. At the very least, you must have an emergency fund that you contribute to so that unexpected financial obligations do not necessitate incurring further debt. In addition, you may decide to allocate savings to retirement vehicles and/or other goals. You may consider keeping an envelope system for smaller goals such as new shoes or a new computer. For larger goals, like vacations and such, consider using a separate account in which money is automatically deposited each month. Small, but steady use of savings tools helps enormously. Again, a systematic approach is best. Save consistently, even if you have little to no extra money.

Once you have these tools in place, decide how you want to order your debt for payoff. Some prefer to pay off the debt with the highest interest first. Others prefer to pay off the debt with the smallest balances first. Whichever method you choose, be consistent, be on time, and be aggressive. Once a debt is paid, apply that money to the next debt in order. And cheer yourself on a job well done each time a debt is paid.

Finally, continue to have a life in the face of debt. Debt is a factor in your life right now, but it need not be so in the future. Develop a hobby outside of work if you can. Hobbies can make life more fulfilling, and often lead to passions that can become income generating tools later. Discover your local library, join a book club, exercise. Whatever you choose, choose something or a set of things that make you feel good about yourself and your life. Life is short.


Copyright/All rights reserved Audrey Howitt 2012. Do not use or copy without the express written permission of the author.

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    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      Thank you for coming back to this one tillsontitan!!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      What seems to simple to some of us is so difficult for others. This hub should be reposted periodically because there are so many people it needs to reach. Well done.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      So true Write Fox!

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      Very good advice. It's so easy to fall into debt with so many credit card offers in the mail!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much cam8510. Good luck!! You sound like you are doing all the right things!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much moonlanke!

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Very helpful and encouraging article. I have payed off $12, 000 of debt in the last four months. I have about $7, 000 to go.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      Lots of great advice. Voted up and shared.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Well Thank you so much the girls!!

    • the girls profile image

      the girls 4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Couldn't agree any less, everybody needs to learn YNAB. Voted up and the buttons beside it.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much LongTimeMother!

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      Nice hub, Audrey. I wish schools would teach their students about important issues like avoiding debt. :) Voted up.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Anna!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you for reading this one truthfornow--we are all dealing with it to some extent or another. hang in there

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you torrilynn!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Good luck wheelinallover--it can be tough sledding sometimes.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Informative and sadly so relevant to the society we all live in today. Helpful advice for everyone.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      AudreyHowitt,

      really amazing hub that you have here

      I currently have debt from school and learning to deal with it

      it's hard but I will manage

      thanks for the tips and the overall advice

      Voted up and sharing.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I have a lot of debt, so some useful advice. It is hard to get out of debt, but one day I may be free.

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 4 years ago from Central United States

      Do without for a while or do without for life. Lets see? I chose do without for a while. At one point I was totally debt free, had money and assets.

      Then I started a social cause, went broke and in debt fast. The premise of the social cause is a hand up not a hand out. We don't accept money donations because it defeats the purpose.

      Came out of retirement and opened a business to catch up. I have kept the business debt free however am still working on paying off the other debt.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Mary--I think we all of us--get ourselves in hot water from time to time--we live in a consumerist society and told we should want more--so we do--

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      This Hub is very informative. We Americans (and I certainly include myself) make a big mistake buying things we know we can't afford. My Daddy always said if you don't have the money to pay for something, save until you do. I wish I had listened to him.

      Voted UP, etc.etc. and shared.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you rasta! I think that is a great strategy!

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      The strategy I use is to avoid debt and save money for the things I want to buy.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much point2make!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Cyndi! I am a budget freak as well!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much stephanie!

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 4 years ago

      Some very sound and excellent advice...well done. Getting out of debt is the best investment any of us can make both financially and emotionally. Here's wishing everyone a debt free 2013. Excellent hub...voted up.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      I'm a budget freak and hate debt - though I'm not always without it. I definitely try to pay it down in chunks and get rid of it quickly. Awesome hub!

    • stephanieb27 profile image

      stephanieb27 4 years ago from United States

      Great hub!! I used this same approach to pay off our debt!! Voted up and useful! :)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Mary! Happy holidays to you!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you jenbeaach21!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      It's SO easy to get into debt, but SO hard to get out of it. Credit has become too easy to obtain, and sometimes we just can't refuse to take it on.

      I voted this UP, etc.

    • jenbeach21 profile image

      jenbeach21 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Useful tips especially after holiday spending.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Hi vespawoolf! Thank you!!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      I also had to learn to stay on a budget when we were in debt. It's not fun, but little by little the debt can be paid off. Thanks for these inspirational suggestions!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Louisa! It is a huge problem here in this country. Our attitudes toward money dictate so much regarding spending and/or saving

    • Louisa Rogers profile image

      Louisa Rogers 4 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

      This was excellent, Audrey. A number of friends of mine have major debt problems and one declared bankruptcy. They don't talk about it much with me, because I am solvent and in fact, have no money worries. I imagine they are embarrassed, though my friend did tell me about the bankruptcy. Another friend became part of a Debtors Anon group and did negotiate w/ her landlord about a rent increase, successfully. She offered several options to the landlord, which I thought was a great idea. I agree this is helpful to anyone as debt can happen to all of us. Voted up, useful.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Don'tcha think Terrye Tombs??? Thannk you!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Audrey, now that we're into the biggest shopping time of the year, time to dust this off as a good reminder not to blow our budgets buying gifts. :)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Crystal--I so appreciate the read and kind comments

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Suzie HQ!!!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      A very practical, thorough and well-written guide on how to deal with debt. Voted up and shared!

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Audrey,

      Spot on advice which so many of us need to adhere to today. Thanks for sharing this great article which all should read! VU, interesting, useful and shared :-)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Terrye Tombs!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Hi Leslie! Thank you for reading--I so appreciate your kind words

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Great information. I think the hard part is the discipline. Voted up and shared.

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 5 years ago

      Love that you tackled this hot-button issue, Audrey! People can blame the government or the economy or the banks - or whatever - but - far too many are in debt of their own making!

      The steps that you've outlined are helpful advice to get started paying it down and maybe having a tiny little life at the same time - cause if ya can't afford 'the big life' - you shouldn't be living it!

      It's like addiction - admitting it is the first step to healing..lol

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much bdegiulio!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read this Rajan! Best to you!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great advice Audrey. This is something everyone needs to be aware of. Anyone out there struggling with debt should read this. There is a way out of debt with persistence and sacrifice. Great job

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Audrey, a very important issue that concerns all of us to some degree at some point of time in our lives. You have tackled this subject comprehensively. It is very important we do stay positive during debt times to help us think clearly about ways to get rid of it.

      Voting it up, useful and sharing it.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Denise!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Vinaya!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you agaglia!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      This is a gem, Audrey. The advice here is sound and positive. It can benefit many people...I'm sharing it. :)

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Audrey, I agree with the views you have expressed here. Thanks for sharing your opinions on a grave matter.

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 5 years ago

      nice hub - informative and down-to-earth.

      I was reminded of some financial acumen.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Hi Eddy--hope all is well in your world--thank you!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Hi John--thank you so much!!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      What a great hub which I know will benefit so many .

      Eddy.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Audrey, what an exceptional hub this one is. Additionally, it's not a hub I'd have associated you with writing. You're so right - debt can take its toll on people! I was impressed seeing you wearing a different hat!... - voted up and away on this well written hub!

      Take care of yourself

      John

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much nylarej!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Jackie!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much ChristyWrites!!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you thelyricwriter! I so appreciate your visit!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Dancing Water!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much IntegrityYes!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much-- I am so glad you think it valuable!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much Senoritaa!! I am so glad that you can validate this--but I am sorry that you have had to deal with debt--Take care

    • nylarej profile image

      nylarej 5 years ago from Ph

      Nice debt tips! Thanks for sharing and this is a must-share hub!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Vinaya! How are you????

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Me too Audrey, me too! Thank you so much for the read and visit

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Hi Michelle--thank you so much! It is such work to dig yourself out of debt and yet, dig we must!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Hi Tammy--thank you! No need to worry--I love poetry and I can't see not writing it

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Sueswan--debt is always a scary thing--but it sounds as though you ended up ok at the end---

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much Kashmir56!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Crack me up Ruby!!! Cut them up first is right--thank you so much--always a pleasure to see you!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much for reading Lady_E--Take care--and cheers to you!

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      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      My mom and dad taught me at a very young age if you can't afford it you can't have it. I know that is hard for many since they are gonna have what they want regardless, but I can't imagine anyone really enjoys their nice things with a mountain of debt. When you pay cash you often decide you don't want something so bad after all. lol

      Great hub.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you stessily!!

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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Theresa!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much Audrey!!

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      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Being on time with payments is so important. You are right that regardless of which strategy is chosen there needs to be consistency to it. Well done Audrey!

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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much tipstoretireearly!

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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Ruby!!

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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you for the read and comments btrbell! Hope all is well in your world

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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Hi barbergirl28! Thank you so much for reading this---a different write for me!

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      Richard Ricky Hale 5 years ago from West Virginia

      Audrey, very good points and advice. This is very valuable and useful information. Debt can cause many issues for a family, even beyond the normal money issues as you have stated. Very sound advice Audrey. Voted up and useful.

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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Susan! So appreciate the read and comments!

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      Dancing Water 5 years ago

      A very useful__and yes, inspiring__hub! You make the reader feel that "Yes, I can do this!" Exceptionally well organized, minimally verbose, and straight forward, solid writing! Thank you so much, Audrey!

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      IntegrityYes 5 years ago

      I definitely voted up.

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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much Ruchira!!!

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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you unknown spy!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Martin for reading it!

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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you mcbirdbks! Hope all is well in your world!

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      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Faith Reaper! So glad that you liked this very different write from me--

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      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Your advice is all "spot on". Credit card debt was my specialty when I worked for a debt settlement company. Most people don't realize that they can talk to their creditors and most will work with them. If a persons credit is still good, they need to try this on their own. If a persons credit has already been been damaged by late payments, they may want to consider a debt settlement company that has a good reputation working with the credit card companies and let them do the negotiating for them.

      A good debt settlement company can get their balance reduced to half of the amount and pay no more interest or fees. It will hurt their credit however, there are also credit restoration companies that really with a little time, really can restore their credit.

      This is a wonderful hub that I wish everyone would read. Voting up and socially sharing. Have a wonderful day! :)

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      Senoritaa 5 years ago

      Good article Audrey. From personal experience I can tell you that the points you listed are valid and works.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Audrey, thanks for installing positive vibes. Sharing this socially.

      Cheers