For some, reducing debt to a manageable level seems like a dream. With the typically high rates that credit cards carry, paying off those loans could take decades if you are only able to pay the minimum amount due each month.  

For some, reducing debt to a manageable level seems like a dream. With the typically high rates that credit cards carry, paying off those loans could take decades if you are only able to pay the minimum amount due each month.  

Add the home mortgage, a car loan and perhaps some college loans and you have a situation that becomes very difficult. So where do you start? The obvious answer is to throw extra money toward debt reduction each month. If you are not able to pay down extra or even pay on time, you need to take stronger measures. The first solution is to examine your budget to see where you can trim expenses. Spend less, and when it comes to buying things you need, consider a less expensive alternative.    


After you've trimmed your expenses to the point where you can't trim any more, it's time to see if there are ways to make more money. Can you get a second job for a few nights a week or weekends? Don't say no until you try. Even if you only make an extra $500 or $1,000 per month, it would help reduce your debt.   


Try calling your lenders and tell them you are having trouble making the payments on time. Ask them if help is available and whether they will lower the interest rate on your loan. If you can get a rate lowered from the 18 percent range down to the 10 percent range, it would make a big difference. Take that savings and use it to pay extra principal on the loan.   


Consider calling one of the nonprofit consumer credit agencies. Some don't do much except take even more of your money. But there are some that have helped consumers consolidate and pay down their debts. 


If you are trying to pay down credit card debt, do not use them. Know the difference between needs and wants. Until this situation is under control, spend for needs only, and defer the wants until you reduce your debt.    


Buying a want every now and then may be good reinforcement for your new behavior.   


John P. Napolitano is the CEO of U.S. Wealth Management in Braintree, Mass. He may be reached at jnap@uswealthcompanies.com. For online discussion and more information, go to www.makingcentsblog.com.