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Handled properly, debt consolidation can get you out from under crushing debt. But handled poorly, it will just dig you into a black hole.

In this Guide to Consolidating Your Debt, we've attempted to spotlight a path that will lead you to solving your financial woes. And we've started with the basics.

Before you can hope to find your way out of debt, you first must understand if you have a problem and how you got there. Many Americans haven't a clue. Our In too deep section may provide the answers.

Next, in our First response section we focus on a first-aid approach to the problem -- how to stop the bleeding.

The Winning out section outlines several options that spell out exactly how to consolidate your debt without making matters worse, and the Life after debt section provides expert insight into how to live happily and comfortably without debt and how to avoid slipping back down the slippery slope.

To assist you in this entire process, we've provided a number of interactive Calculators, as well as other articles in our See also section to inform and, perhaps, amuse you about debt and how to defy it.

2004 Debt Guide
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In too deep

Debt load analyzer -- Unless you're debt-free, it can be difficult to determine if your debt is a minor or major problem. Take this interactive quiz to get a handle on your situation.

Top 10 hidden dangers of credit cards -- You can avoid getting squeezed by your credit card company if you're aware of these money-grabbing tricks.

Top 10 causes of debt -- You know you're in debt, but do you know exactly how you got there?

More In too deep stories

First response

Are you self-destructive with spending? -- Are you unwittingly putting yourself in financial jeopardy by committing self-destructive acts?

5 ways to stretch your paycheck -- Hang on to more of your salary with these tips.

331 ways to slash family expenses -- Discover new ways to cut costs on everything from insurance to energy to travel to financing.

More First response stories

Winning out

8 ways to consolidate your debts -- Always worried about the debt you're carrying? Consider these eight ways to dig yourself out of that hole.

The dangers of debt consolidation -- Are you tempted to take out one big loan to pay off all those other nagging debts? Before you bundle your bills, check out the pros and cons of these consolidation options.

10 biggest debt consolidation lies -- Much of what is said about the debt consolidation process is untrue. These 10 debt consolidation myths can get you in worse trouble.

More Winning out stories

Life after debt

Shopping online for budget aid -- Before you can get out of debt, you have to know how you got there. Budget programs can help, and looking for a system via the Internet is a good place to start.
Plus: Experts review budget software

Free interactive tool to create your own household budget -- Here's a simple spreadsheet you can use -- for free -- to get you started on your personal family spending plan.

Is no. 13 your best bet? -- True, Chapter 13 bankruptcy doesn't get rid of all your debts, but it does have its good features.

More Life after debt stories


Debt pay down adviser -- Find the fastest and cheapest way to pay off your debts with this tool that gives you personalized, expert advice.

The true cost of paying the minimum -- Find out the difference in interest between a fixed payment and the minimum credit card payment with's financial calculator.

What it takes to pay off your credit card -- Find out how long your payment will take to pay off your credit card balance with's financial calculator.

More Calculators

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