starNew Edition!

Solve Your Money Troubles

Strategies to Get Out of Debt and Stay That Way

Struggling with Debt? Find solutions here.

Get out of debt and rebuild your credit.  With the step-by-step guidance in this book, you can regain financial freedom by:

  • stopping debt collector harassment cold
  • negotiating down your debt with creditors
  • reducing your student loan payments
  • creating a healthy financial plan
  • wiping the slate clean with bankruptcy

Take the first steps toward living debt-free!

  Available as part of the Nolo's Credit Repair Bundle

  • Product Details
  • Conquering overwhelming debt starts with understanding your options. Solve Your Money Troubles gives you the tools you need to get your finances back on track. Learn how to:

    • stop debt collector harassment cold
    • negotiate down your debt with creditors
    • reduce your student loan repayments, and
    • create a healthy financial plan that you can live with.

    But that's not all.  Solve Your Money Troubles helps you handle the big issues, too.  Find out how to:

    • stop a wage garnishment from leaving you penniless
    • get your car back after a repossession
    • prevent a foreclosure by applying for a workout program
    • respond to a action if you get sued, and
    • decide if it's time to wipe the slate clean by filing for bankruptcy.

    Most importantly, you can count on getting the support you need. In addition to up-to-date legal information, you’ll find practical tools, such as sample creditor letters and budgeting worksheets. And, if the law changes, you won’t be left out of the loop. You’ll have online access to all of the latest debt, credit, and bankruptcy developments.

    “This book is a must-have, even for people who don’t have debt problems.”
    -Los Angeles Times

    “One of the best books you can buy on all aspects of personal debt.”
    -Michael Pellecchia, Nationally Syndicated Columnist

    “This book will give you strength and the skills needed to respond to bill collectors and to rebuild your credit….”
    -New Orleans Times-Picayune

    Number of Pages
    Included Forms
    • Worksheet 1: Monthly Income
    • Worksheet 2: Your Debts
    • Worksheet 3: Property Checklist
    • Worksheet 4: Property Exemptions
    • Worksheet 5: Daily Expenses
    • Worksheet 6: Monthly Budget
  • About the Author
    • Amy Loftsgordon, Attorney

      Amy Loftsgordon is a legal editor at Nolo, focusing on foreclosure, debt management, and personal finance. She writes for and and has been quoted by news outlets that include U.S. News & World Report and Bankrate.

      Amy received a B.A. from the University of Southern California and a law degree from the University of Denver. She is licensed to practice law in Colorado.

      Working at Nolo. In 2012, Amy started writing for Nolo as a freelancer. Since that time she has written hundreds of articles covering foreclosure, credit issues, consumer protection matters, and more. In 2017, Amy became a full-time legal editor with Nolo. Her favorite part of the job is researching and analyzing dry, complicated materials—like state statutes, federal regulations, and court cases—and then explaining that information in a way that makes it palatable and engaging for the everyday reader.

      Early legal career. Amy began her writing career while still in law school, producing case summaries for Wickstrom Legal, a small publishing company. After graduating from law school in 2001, Amy started working in foreclosure and related areas, first in her own law practice and then at a law firm where she was responsible for ensuring compliance with foreclosure and collections laws.

      Foreclosure experience. Amy has drafted foreclosure-related training programs and loan servicing compliance procedures for various law firms, as well as written training manuals for collections operations in Panama. (She takes pride in the fact that she drove to and from Panama—around 7,000 miles roundtrip.) Amy also performed compliance reviews of foreclosures in multiple states as part of the national Independent Foreclosure Review.

      Bank litigation support. In 2016, Amy began working for Investors Consulting Group (ICG), a firm that provides subject matter expert services in fields such as loan origination, credit underwriting, securitization, and mortgage servicing. She was instrumental in the preparation and writing of expert reports that were used in several lawsuits against banks and servicers accused of mishandling preforeclosure, loss mitigation, foreclosure, and REO processes. At ICG, Amy also conducted loan-level audits to assess servicer compliance with federal mortgage servicing laws, RESPA, TILA, SCRA, state foreclosure laws, and UDAAP/UDAP laws, as well as Making Home Affordable and FHA loss mitigation procedures.

      Publications. Amy has updated several Nolo books, including The Foreclosure Survival Guide, Credit Repair, and Solve Your Money Troubles, and edited several others, like The Essential Guide to Handling Workplace Harassment & Discrimination, Working for Yourself, Starting & Building a Nonprofit, and the Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business.

    • Cara O'Neill, Attorney

      Cara O'Neill is a legal editor at Nolo, focusing on bankruptcy and small claims. She also maintains a bankruptcy practice at the Law Office of Cara O’Neill and teaches criminal law and legal ethics as an adjunct professor. Cara has been quoted in bankruptcy, finance, small claims, and litigation articles by news outlets that include USA Today, CNBC, U.S. News & World Report, Nerd Wallet, and Yahoo Finance.

      Cara received her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, where she graduated a member of the Order of the Barristers—a highly-selective honor society that gives national recognition to top law school graduates demonstrating excellent skills in trial advocacy, oral advocacy, and brief writing.

      Working at Nolo. Cara started writing for Nolo as a freelancer in 2014 and became a full-time legal editor in 2016. She has authored a number of Nolo self-help legal books, including How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, The New Bankruptcy, Everybody's Guide to Small Claims (national version), and Everybody's Guide to Small Claims in California. She also co-authors and edits Solve Your Money Troubles and Credit Repair and has written hundreds of articles for,,, and

      Early legal career. Before joining Nolo, Cara spent 20 years working as a trial attorney litigating criminal and civil cases. She also served as an administrative law judge mediating disputes between auto manufacturers and dealerships and began teaching law as an adjunct professor in 2004. She added bankruptcy to her practice after the 2008 financial downturn.

      Origins of litigation and writing career. Thanks to her mother, Cara’s advocacy training began early and involuntarily. In junior high school, she took second place two years running in the local Optimist Club speaking competition. She also successfully competed on her high school speech and debate team for several years, eventually serving as president of the same. During law school, she competed on a nationally ranked ABA moot court team for two years (and was recruited for a third, but declined) and served as a law journal editor.

  • Table of Contents
  • Your Legal Companion to Solving Your Money Troubles

    1: How Much Do You Owe?

    • How Much Do You Earn?
    • How Much Do You Owe?

    2: If You're Married, Divorced, or Separated

    • Community Property States
    • Equitable Distribution States
    • Rules for Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions

    3: Create a Budget and Control Spending

    • Figure Out Where Your Money Goes
    • Make a Spending Plan
    • Create Good Spending Habits and Avoid Financial Pitfalls

    4: Prioritizing Your Debts

    • Secured and Unsecured Debts
    • High-Priority Debts
    • Medium-Priority Debts
    • Low-Priority Debts
    • Review Your Worksheets

    5: Finding Money to Pay Your Debts

    • Cut Your Expenses
    • Increase Your Income
    • Get Some of Your Tax Refund Early
    • Get Your Tax Refund Fast
    • Sell a Major Asset
    • Sell Smaller Items
    • Withdraw Money From a Tax-Deferred Account
    • Apply for Government and Agency Help
    • Consider a Home Equity Loan
    • Use the Equity in Your Home If You Are 62 or Older
    • Borrow the Money
    • What to Avoid When You Need Money
    • Avoid Payday Lender Prepaid Cards

    6: Negotiating With Your Creditors

    • Prepare a Negotiating Plan
    • Communicate With Your Creditors
    • Tips for Negotiating With Creditors
    • Rent Payments
    • Mortgage Payments
    • Utility and Telephone Bills
    • Car Payments
    • Secured Loan Payments
    • Insurance Payments
    • Medical, Legal, and Other Service Bills
    • Child Support and Alimony Payments
    • Income Taxes
    • Student Loan Payments
    • Credit Card Payments
    • Negotiating When the Creditor Has a Judgment Against You
    • Pay Off a Debt for Less Than the Full Amount
    • Don't Write Postdated Checks
    • Beware of the IRS If You Settle a Debt

    7: What to Expect When You Can't Pay Your Debts

    • Eviction
    • Repossession
    • Tying Up Property Before a Lawsuit
    • Lawsuits
    • Lawsuits Against Third Parties Who Hold Your Assets
    • Liens on Your Property
    • Jail
    • Bank Setoff
    • Intercepting Your Tax Refund
    • Loss of Insurance Coverage
    • Loss of Utility Service

    8: Reducing Mortgage Payments and Dealing With Foreclosure

    • Foreclosure
    • Nonjudicial Foreclosure
    • Judicial Foreclosures
    • Right to Cure Default
    • Right of Redemption
    • The Sale
    • Defenses to Foreclosure
    • Watch Out for Deficiency Balances
    • Alternatives to Foreclosure
    • Federal Programs for Homeowners Facing Possible Foreclosure
    • Other Mortgage Workouts
    • Refinancing
    • Selling Your House 
    • Short Sales and Deeds in Lieu of Foreclosure
    • Finding Other Programs to Help Homeowners

    9: Dealing With Debt Collectors

    • Creditor or Debt Collector?
    • Negotiating Secured Debts
    • Before Your Debt Is Sent to a Debt Collector
    • When Your Debt Is Sent to a Debt Collector
    • Illegal Debt Collection Practices
    • How to Fight Back If a Debt Collector Violates the Law

    10: Understanding Loan and Other Credit Documents

    • Credit Disclosures
    • Common Terms in Credit Agreements

    11: Student Loans

    • What Kind of Loan Do You Have?
    • Figuring Out Who Holds or Services Your Student Loan
    • Canceling Your Loan
    • Postponing Payments
    • Changing Your Repayment Plan
    • Getting Out of Default
    • Filing for Bankruptcy When You Can't Pay
    • Consequences of Ignoring Student Loan Debt
    • Private Student Loans

    12: Child Support and Alimony

    • How Child Support Is Determined
    • Modifying the Amount of Child Support
    • If Paternity Is Disputed
    • Enforcement of Child Support Obligations
    • Alimony
    • Bankruptcy and Child Support or Alimony Debt
    • Taxes, Child Support, and Alimony

    13: Lawsuits and Collection of Judgements

    • How a Lawsuit Begins
    • Negotiate a Deal
    • Alternative Dispute Resolution
    • Defenses and Claims
    • What to Expect While the Case Is in Court
    • When the Creditor Gets a Judgment Against You
    • How Creditors Collect Judgements
    • Stopping Judgment Collection Efforts

    14: Bankruptcy: The Ultimate Weapon

    • Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
    • Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
    • The Automatic Stay
    • Bankruptcy Exemptions
    • Will Bankruptcy Solve Your Debt Problems?
    • Getting Help With Bankruptcy

    15: Property Creditors Can't Take

    • Property Subject to Collection
    • Types of Exemptions
    • Is Your Property Exempt?
    • Claiming Exemptions

    16: Rebuilding Your Credit

    • Credit Scores and Credit Reports: What's the Difference?
    • Credit Reports
    • Cleaning Up Your Credit Report
    • Your Credit Score
    • Rebuilding Credit Without Getting New Credit
    • Rebuilding Credit by Getting New Credit
    • Don't Use a Credit Repair Organization

    17: Choosing and Managing Credit Cards

    • Avoiding Credit Card Traps
    • Consumer Credit Card Rights
    • Use Credit Card Disclosure Forms to Identify Traps
    • Trouble Paying Your Bill
    • Should You Get Rid of Unnecessary Credit Cards?
    • How to Close a Credit Card Account
    • Shopping for a New Card
    • Using Credit Cards Wisely
    • Cards You Didn't Request
    • Rejected and Blocked Cards
    • Liability If Your Credit Card is Lost or Stolen
    • Unauthorized Use of Your Card by an Acquaintance
    • To Dispute a Credit Card Bill
    • Debit Cards
    • Prepaid Cards

    18. Help Beyond This Book

    • Looking Up the Law
    • Lawyers
    • Debt and Credit Counseling Agencies



    • A: Where to Complain
    • B: Contact Information for Useful Agencies, Organizations, and Other Entities
    • C: Worksheets


  • Sample Chapter
  • Chapter 1: How Much Do You Owe?

    To successfully plan your strategies with your creditors, you need to come to terms with your total amount of debt. You might find this uncomfortable, but most credit counselors will tell you that people tend to overestimate their debt burdens.

    You’ll start by comparing what you bring in each month with what you owe on your monthly expenses (such as food, housing, and utilities) and your other debts (for example, student loan payments).

    However, having a ballpark idea of the amount of your income and debt burden is not enough to tackle your debt problem. Getting precise numbers is a crucial part of the process, so you won’t want to skip it. This process will help you prioritize your debts and help you decide which strategies to use to solve your money troubles.

    To figure out how much you earn and how much you owe, follow the instructions on the next pages and use the online worksheets. If you are married or have jointly incurred most of your debts with someone, fill out the worksheets together. (You’ll find the worksheets mentioned throughout this book in Appendix C.)

    Warning Signs of Debt Trouble

    If you have panic attacks when you try to figure out your total debt burden, you’ll feel better if you skip this chapter and come back to it when you are better able to confront the information. Before doing that, however, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer “yes” to any one of them, you are probably in—or headed for—serious debt trouble:

    • Are your credit cards charged to the maximum?
    • Do you use one credit card to pay another?
    • Are you making only minimum pay­ments on your credit cards while continuing to incur charges?
    • Do you skip paying certain bills each month?
    • Have creditors closed any accounts on you?
    • Have you taken out a debt consoli­da­tion loan? Are you considering doing so?
    • Have you borrowed money or used your credit cards to pay for groceries, utilities, or other necessities (for reasons other than convenience or to get perks on a credit card)?
    • Have you bounced any checks?
    • Are debt collectors calling and writing you?


    How Much Do You Earn?

    Start by figuring out how much you earn each month. You’ll need a calculator and your pay stubs to complete the first online worksheet—Worksheet 1 (see Appendix C). You’ll enter your monthly income from each source. If you are paid more often than monthly, use the instructions on Worksheet 1 to convert your pay to a monthly amount. If you have income that doesn’t fit into one of these categories, list it as “other.”

    How Much Do You Owe?

    On Worksheet 2, you list your debts. Gather the documents that show payments on all your debts, the total amount owed on each debt, and any amount past due, including any interest or fees that have been added. Be as thorough and complete as possible. Once complete, Worksheet 2 will tell you exactly how much you should be paying each month to remain current on your debts, as well as how far behind you are. Here’s how to fill it out.

    Column 1: Debts and other monthly living expenses. In Column 1, enter the type of debt. Don’t enter a debt more than once. So, for example, if you already deducted from your income in Worksheet 1 a debt that is paid out of your paycheck, such as child support, don’t deduct that same debt again here.

    If you are married, you may not be certain which debts are yours and which belong to your spouse. If your marriage is intact and you’re having mutual financial problems, enter all your debts in Column 1. If, however, you are separated or recently divorced, or are married but having financial problems of your own, see Chapter 2 for help on figuring out which debts you are obligated to pay. If you generally share expenses and maintain a household with someone else, consider combining your income and paying all of your debts with joint funds, regardless of who actually incurred the debt. Enter both partners’ debts in Column 1.

    Column 2: Outstanding balance. In Column 2, enter the entire outstanding balance on the debt. For example, if you borrowed $150,000 for a mortgage and still owe $125,000, enter $125,000. Your latest account statement might list the entire outstanding balance. If not, the creditor’s automated telephone system or online account information might provide the information you need. If you can’t get the balance and you prefer not to talk to the creditor, use your best guess for now.

    Columns 3 and 4: Monthly payment and ­total past due amount. In Columns 3 and 4, enter the amount you currently owe on the debt. If the lender has not established set monthly payments—for example, for a doctor’s bill—enter the entire amount of the debt in Column 4 and leave Column 3 blank. If the debt is one for which you make regular monthly payments—such as your car loan or mortgage—enter the amount of the monthly payment in Column 3 and the full amount you are behind (monthly payment multiplied by the number of missed months, plus any fees or charges that have been added, like over-limit fees or late payment charges) in Column 4.

    For credit card, department store, and similar debts, enter the monthly minimum payment in Column 3 and your entire balance in Column 4. But keep in mind that eventually you should make more than the minimum payment on your credit cards. (Chapter 10 discusses the danger of making only minimum payments each month.)

    Column 5: Is the debt secured? In Column 5, indicate whether the debt is secured or unsecured. A secured debt is one for which a specific item of property (called “collateral” or “security”) guarantees payment. The most common type of secured debt occurs when you sign a credit agreement (sometimes called a security agreement) that allows the creditor to take a particular item of property under certain specified conditions—without suing you first. Examples of conditions that might allow the creditor to take your property include your failure to make a payment, your failure to maintain insurance on the property, or your failure to comply with the payment agreement in some other way. Typically, you sign a credit agreement giving the creditor a security interest in your property when you finance a car purchase, get a mortgage, get a second, third, or additional loan on your home, or buy an appliance or a piece of furniture with store credit.

    A creditor might also be able to secure its debt without your agreement by filing a lien against your property. This can happen in two circumstances. First, the creditor can file a lien if the law specifically allows for it. An example is a mechanic’s lien—the law specifically states that a worker or material supplier can file a lien against your real property if you or the contractor fail to pay them. Second, a creditor can file a lien against your property if it has sued you and obtained a judgment against you. This is called a judgment lien.

    Unsecured debts are typically bank credit card debt; bills owed for utilities, medical, or legal services; student loans; and spousal or child support.

    Secured property is usually something very important, like your car or house. Because such property can be taken quickly, without the delay of a lawsuit, secured debts are usually a high priority for you to pay.

    Specify the collateral the creditor is entitled to take if you default on the debt. (After you have read more about whether a debt is secured or not in Chapter 4, you can come back and review Column 5 to see if you need to make any changes.)

    Column 6: What priority is the debt? Leave Column 6 blank until you read Chapter 4. It will help you prioritize the debts.

    Add it up. When you’ve entered all your debts in the worksheet, total up Columns 2, 3, and 4. Column 2 represents the total balance of all your debts, even though some of it may not be due now; Column 3 represents the amount you are obligated to pay each month; and Column 4 shows the amount you would have to come up with to get current on all your debts.

    Don’t forget your other expenses. None of us have monthly expenses consisting entirely of loan or credit payments. We also have to pay rent and buy groceries, pay for movies and restaurants, buy clothing and household goods, and so on. These other expenses are covered in Chapter 3, and now might be a good time to review that information. By listing your non-debt-payment expenditures, you will get a more complete picture of your finances to help you determine how much you have left to repay debts.

  • Downloads and Updates
  • Purchase this book and access its' dedicated webpage to:

    • Download forms, worksheets, and checklists. Print these important documents to complete your DIY legal endeavor.
    • Access legal updates. Changes to the law and updates to the book will be posted to this webpage so that you can stay current.
    • Read blogs. Get trending info from the authors' blogs.
    • Listen to Podcasts. Listen to authors discuss timely issues on topics that interest you.
    • Watch Videos. Get a quick introduction to a legal topic with our short videos.


3 Reviews
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Thanks a bunch!!!

By Anonymous

The book and PDF came through with no problems. The book is uses plain English and very helpful tips.

Posted on 7/18/2019

Invaluable epic!

By Anonymous

The book enabled me to mount a profound debt collection defense, which was not available from any attorney; in other words, an invaluable and compelling epic!

Posted on 7/18/2019


By Cliff M.

Great Deal of Knowledge

Posted on 7/18/2019

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