What to know if you're considering debt consolidation as a New Year's resolution

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- If one of your New Year's resolutions is to get your finances in order, you might consider debt consolidation.

Many are struggling right now, so dealing with debt could very well be an issue for months to come.

Debt consolidation is just that, a company you hire takes your debts and condenses them down to one bill.

If you have high interest debt or need to lower your monthly payments, this could be of interest.

However, you need to make sure you understand the fees and penalties a debt consolidation company will charge you, how long the contract term will last, and what happens if you can't make the payments.

If you already have bad credit, you may be facing higher fees. One credit consultant we spoke with said a better starting point is to make a direct call to the places you owe money to see if you can negotiate lower interest and minimum payments on your own.

"What I suggest is get a piece of paper, write down all the bills you have, the name, the amount, the phone numbers and make phone calls to the individual companies, and tell them you have a hardship and you need some help," Robert Pfister, who has a 755 credit score said.

Pfister says companies are more willing to help right now because so many folks are having serious financial troubles. But if you choose debt consolidation, be sure to research the companies to find one with a good reputation.

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