New 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 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 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 payments, and
    • create a healthy financial plan that you can live with.

    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 loss mitigation program
    • respond to an action if you get sued, and
    • decide if it’s time to wipe the slate clean by filing for bankruptcy.

    In addition to up-to-date legal information, you’ll find practical tools, such as sample creditor letters and budgeting worksheets.

    “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


    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 · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

      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 · University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

      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. Create a Budget and Control Spending

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

    3. Prioritizing Your Debts

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

    4. Finding Money to Pay Your Debts

    • Reduce 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

    5. Negotiating With Your Creditors

    • Prepare a Negotiating Plan
    • Communicate With Your Creditors
    • Tips for Negotiating With Creditors
    • Rent Payments
    • Mortgage Payments
    • Utility and Phone 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

    6. What to Expect When You Can’t Pay Your Debts

    • Eviction
    • Repossession
    • Tying Up Property Before a Lawsuit
    • Lawsuits
    • Seizing Other Assets
    • Liens on Your Property
    • Jail
    • Bank Setoff
    • Intercepting Your Tax Refund
    • Loss of Insurance Coverage
    • Loss of Utility Service

    7. 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 Loss Mitigation Options
    • Refinancing
    • Selling Your House
    • Short Sales and Deeds in Lieu of Foreclosure
    • Finding Other Programs to Help Homeowners

    8. 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

    9. Understanding Loan and Other Credit Documents

    • Credit Disclosures
    • Common Terms in Credit Agreements

    10. 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

    11. 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
    • How to Stop Judgment Collection Efforts

    12. 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

    13. Property Creditors Can’t Take

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

    14. Rebuilding Your Credit

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

    15. 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

    16. 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
  • How Much Do You Owe?

    successfully plan strategies with your creditors, you need to come to terms with how much you owe. Before making changes, you’ll want to develop a realistic financial picture—even if you find this uncomfortable—because it’s an important step. Getting precise numbers allows you to prioritize your debts and decide the best way to solve your money troubles.

    You’ll start by comparing how much you earn each month to your monthly expenses for food, housing, utilities, credit cards, and student loans.

    But you don’t have to do this on your own. We’ll help you determine how much you earn and what you owe. Follow the instructions on the next pages and use the online worksheets. If you’re married or pay bills with someone, fill out the worksheets together.

    Warning Signs of Debt Trouble

    If you’re reading this book, it’s likely that you’re ready to tackle your debt. (If you find yourself getting anxious when determining your total debt burden, consider coming back to this chapter later.) You’ll start by asking yourself the following questions, and any “yes” answer will verify what you already know—that you’re likely in trouble and it’s time to make some changes.

    • 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 of your accounts?
    • Have you taken out a debt consolidation loan or 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 recently?
    • Are debt collectors calling or writing you?


    How Much Do You Earn?

    You’ll start by determining how much income you make each month using the first online worksheet—Worksheet 1. After getting a calculator and your paycheck stubs, unemployment stubs, and other earning statements, you’ll be ready to enter the monthly amount from each source. If you are paid more often than monthly, use the instructions on Worksheet 1 to convert your earnings to a monthly amount. If you have income that doesn’t fit into one of the categories, list it as “other.”

    How Much Do You Owe?

    The next step is listing your debts on Worksheet 2. Prepare by gathering all your bills, payments, payment books, and other documents showing your monthly obligations and the total amount you owe. Don’t forget past-due notices and added interest or fees because it’s essential to be as thorough and complete as possible. Once finished, Worksheet 2 will reveal how far behind you are on your debts and how much you must pay each month to remain current. Here’s how to fill it out.

    Column 1: Debts and other monthly living expenses. Enter each debt once. For example, if you listed child support as a paycheck deduction on Worksheet 1, don’t list it again here.

    If you’re married, you might not know which debts are yours and which belong to your spouse. If your marriage is intact and you have joint financial problems, enter all obligations in Column 1. (If you’re separated or divorcing, consult with a family law attorney to determine which debts you’re obligated to pay.) If you share a household with someone else, consider combining incomes and paying all debts with joint funds (although sometimes this can cause more problems). Enter both partners’ debts in Column 1.

    Column 2: Outstanding balance. In Column 2, enter the entire outstanding debt balance. For example, if you borrowed $350,000 for a mortgage and still owe $125,000, enter $125,000. Your latest account statement should list your outstanding debt balance. If not, the creditor’s automated phone system or online account information will provide the necessary information. Use your best guess if you can’t get the balance and prefer not to talk to the creditor.

    Columns 3 and 4: Monthly payment and total past due amount. In Columns 3 and 4, enter the amount currently owed on the debt. If the lender hasn’t established set monthly payments—for example, for a doctor’s bill— enter the entire balance due in Column 4 and leave Column 3 blank. For debts you regularly pay—like a car loan or mortgage— enter the monthly payment in Column 3 and the past-due amount (missed monthly payments plus added fees) in Column 4.

    For credit cards, department stores, and similar debts, enter the monthly minimum payment in Column 3 and your entire balance in Column 4. But keep in mind that you’ll want to make more than the minimum payments on your credit cards in the future. (Chapter 9 discusses the danger of paying only the monthly amount required.)

    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”) guaran- tees payment. The most common type of secured debt occurs when you sign a credit or security agreement allowing the creditor to take property under certain conditions without suing you. For example, the creditor might be able to take your property if you don’t make a payment or fail to maintain property insurance.

    Typically, you sign a credit agreement giving the creditor a security interest in the property purchased when you finance a car or take out a first or junior mortgage. Security interests might also apply when you buy an appliance, furniture, jewelry, or a computer with store credit.

    However, a creditor doesn’t always need your permission to secure a debt. In two circumstances, a creditor can secure its debt without your agreement by filing a lien against your property. First, the creditor can file a lien if the law allows it. For instance, a mechanic’s lien lets a worker or material supplier file a lien against your real property if you or the contractor fail to pay. Second, a creditor can file a judgment lien against your property after suing you and obtaining a money judgment for the amount you owe.

    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 significant and costly, like your car or house. Because the creditor can quickly take the collateral property without filing a lawsuit in many cases, secured debts typically have a high payment priority. If you want to keep the property, make the payment.

    You’ll want to list the collateral the creditor is entitled to take if you default on the debt—it’s usually the property you purchased with the loan. (After reading more about secured debts in Chapter 3, you can come back and review whether you need to make changes to Column 5.)

    Column 6: What priority is the debt? Leave Column 6 blank until you read Chapter 3. It will help you determine which debts are more important to pay than others.

    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 those not due now. Column 3 represents your monthly payments, and Column 4 is the amount you need 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. Chapter 2 covers these expenses, but now might be a good time to review that information. Listing monthly living expenses will give you a complete picture of your finances and help you determine how much you have left to repay debts.

    We hope you enjoyed this sample. The complete book is available for sale here at


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By Cliff M.

Great Deal of Knowledge

Posted on 7/25/2023

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 7/25/2023

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 7/25/2023

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