"Holidays bills still coming in - 17 steps to take to reduce your debts"

San Diego, CA - Many Americans talked about their wonderful holiday season, however some are not so gleeful now, because the credit card bills just keep coming. Money is still very tight for an alarmingly high number of American families. Many of the money shortages are due, in part, to poor spending decisions, often credit-based, made over the recent holiday season.

Dealing with creditors and getting out from under a mountain of debt are two situations many Americans are also finding themselves in for the first time. Taking action early and not delaying communications with creditors or others involved is essential for survival and long term financial recovery. Establishing a written plan of action for both household spending and debt reduction is crucial to financial survival and recovery.

Take positive steps in order to reduce the negative impact of adjusting to a pay-as-you-go life-style. Developing new spending priorities and techniques to make less income go farther is an acquired skill. Achieving greater value for your spendable dollars, especially in household and grocery spending (because that is where 30 cents of every take-home dollar of income goes) makes coupon and rebate use even more essential than ever.

Working directly with creditors, will help you avoid making the same mistakes again. Letting credit and debt counselors do the work with creditors for you can be less stressful, but it also may be expensive due to fraud and other scams. Many so-called debt management agencies are fronts for lawyers who just try to sell people on filing for bankruptcy. If you select a credit counseling agency, make certain they are an accredited, nonprofit agency with a long and successful track record of helping consumers reduce their debt.

The three basic ground rules when dealing with creditors are: be honest, be humble and be in touch. Take the first step by contacting all creditors, preferably ahead of time if you know an income reduction is pending. Explain what's happening and lay the groundwork for a temporary reduction of payments. Have your plan ready. Tell them how much you can afford to pay and how often you can pay it. Then be ready to negotiate.

Getting out of debt (and rebuilding credit) is a somewhat slower, step by step process. Avoid more borrowing just to pay someone else off. Sometimes a consolidation loan improves cash flow, but ultimately it is added debt and that may have a negative impact on credit files, especially if paying off new charges in addition to a consolidation loan.

What your credit files might say about you in future years is your responsibility. Taking positive action with all creditors early usually stops negative reports from being sent to credit reporting agencies.

Here are 17 positive steps to take to reduce debts.

1. Begin immediately. (Getting started can be the most difficult.) 2. Make up a written plan of action 3. Take on no new debt including a consolidation loan. 4. Close accounts by returning credit cards to issuers. 5. Maintain written accounting of all income and outgo. 6. Begin collecting receipts to raise spending awareness. 7. Examine all expenses looking to increase value, getting the same or more for less. 8. Put all extra income towards paying off debts. 9. Start doing things yourself and do not pay for services. 10 Make all necessary sacrifices to eliminate debt. 11 Sell items losing value especially ones' with debt owed 12 Make getting out of debt a family affair. 13 Write creditors to keep them informed of your plans and progress. 14 If necessary, ask for temporary reductions in payments. 15 Utilize cents-off coupons/rebates wherever possible. 16 Critically review spending practices and habits, 17 Make comparison shopping a habit.

For information about "Mending Spending, or monthly budgeting guidelines, visit the ICFE's Web page at: http://www.icfe.info. The site also includes helpful sections on increasing savings, using credit wisely, plus "How to set up and implement a spending-plan" (with a one page work sheet) for personal and/or family finances. To receive the same information by mail, please send $1 and a self-addressed, 60 cent stamped envelope to: ICFE Money Helps - PO Box 34070 San Diego, CA 92163-4070.