While big corporations may have good reasons for carrying a lot of debt, the average person does not. The sad truth is that debt is a growing problem, and people are having a hard time getting out of it. If this sounds familiar, then you are not alone. What you need is an effective debt reduction strategy.
One quick thing before we get started: being in debt isn't your fault, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. The financial industry has, for years, done everything in its power to put people deeper into debt. It may be legal and buried in the fine print, but it certainly isn't ethical. The purpose of what follows is not to be judgmental in any way, but rather to offer you a way to get out of debt for good.
You need to know exactly where you stand financially. List all of your income, all of your expenses, and all of your debt. Be specific, and be honest; you need to account for every penny. When listing your debts, be sure to include the amount of principal, interest rates and any penalties that have been added on as this will help you with the next step in your debt reduction strategy.
Negotiating your debt may take some time, but it can help a lot. Call all of your creditors individually, and see if they can lower the amount you owe. Credit card companies will often forgive a late payment, or lower your interest rate, for nothing more than a simple request. This will work better if you have had a good payment history, even if you have missed a few recent payments. Not all of the companies you owe money to will agree, but every one that does will put a dent in what you owe.
Once you have negotiated a lower debt, your next step is to set up a payment plan. Almost all creditors are willing to do this, and most will be able to set up a plan that fits into your budget. If you are facing financial problems, be sure to let them know. A lot of companies have hardship programs they can offer you. These programs can drastically lower your interest rate, forgive penalties, or even freeze your account. You won't be able to use the account during this time, and the hardship program may only last 6 to 12 months, but it can often give you the breathing room you need to get back on your feet.
Consolidating your debt is a solid debt reduction strategy, but it's not for everybody. You have to be disciplined enough to not go further into debt because of it. What you do is combine all of your debts into one big loan, but at a much lower interest rate. The problem a lot of people have is that they pay so much less per month that they start running up their debt again. This is a vicious cycle, and they eventually end up in a situation they can't get out of. Don't make that same mistake. If you get a debt consolidation loan, then either save the extra money you now have, or apply it to your debt.