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When you're drowning in debt and find no way out of financial mess, you may consider getting help from debt consolidation services. It's true that a consolidation program does make your finances a lot more manageable. But it may have an adverse effect on your finances, if not chosen wisely. Thus, it's important you know the 6 things before you consolidate your bills.

1. Programs are more or less the same
Though different companies offering consolidation services make various promises, their programs remain the same. They negotiate with your creditors to have the interest rates reduced and make your monthly payments affordable. They distribute the monthly payment to the creditors and help you pay off the debts. Thus, the basic purpose and structure of a consolidation program remains same.
2. Quality of service does vary
Just because the basic purpose and structure of a consolidation program remains the same, it doesn't mean you can enroll with any consolidation company. The quality of service does vary and you can't compromise on that. Company accreditation, consumer feedback, etc. are all important factors that let you know about the credibility of a company.
3. Counseling is a must before enrollment
If you've decided to go for a consolidation program, you'll have to go through a debt counseling session. A consultant will review your entire financial situation to suggest you an appropriate debt relief option. In case you can't even make the minimum monthly payments on your bills, a consolidation program will not help you. The best way to find out the right option for you is to go for a free counseling with a debt relief company. However, you should avoid companies that don't quite review your situation properly during the counseling session, and are more eager to enroll you for their services.
4. Your financial responsibility doesn't end
While you enroll in a consolidation service, you must know that your responsibility doesn't end there. Once you've decided to go ahead with consolidation, you will have to stick to a monthly budget and cut down your expenses. Consolidation reduces your monthly expenses, but it is up to you whether you use the savings to spend on unnecessary items or you utilize it to get out of debt faster. It is also important that you use your credit cards sensibly and do not charge them frequently, once your debts are paid off.
5. Consolidation helps protect your credit
The fact that you've enrolled in a consolidation program does not affect your credit score calculation. Unlike debt settlement, you do not stop paying your creditors in a consolidation program. This protects your credit from any damage. However, some lenders may be wary while reviewing your loan application in future when they find that you paid off the debts through a third party.
6. Consolidation not same as bankruptcy
It's important to know that consolidating your debts is not same as filing bankruptcy. Much of your debts get discharged through bankruptcy. But in a consolidation program, your debts are not eliminated; rather they are rolled over into a single payment so that you can pay them off comfortably. Bankruptcy affects your credit to a great extent and stays on your credit report for about 7 long years. Conversely, consolidation does not damage your credit as it helps you pay off debt without wiping them off.

When you decide to go for a consolidation service, you must have a clear idea about what it is and what to expect from it. Otherwise, if you're not aware of what exactly you want and you make a hasty decision, you'll be in for a bigger financial trouble.