This is a guest post by Raine Parker

We’ve all been there. Credit card companies or banks make an enticing offer with a low introductory interest rate and a credit limit that’s half your annual income. Before you know it, you’re in debt for thousands of dollars with no idea how to get out of the hole you’ve dug for yourself. I won’t lie: It’s going to take some hard work. But don’t panic. If your debt feels like too much to handle, here’s what to do.

First, stop adding debt. This might seem obvious, but some people continue to use their credit cards for minor purchases, despite owing a mountain of cash to creditors. It doesn’t matter how small the amount; more debt is more debt, and that’s a bad thing. Cut up the cards right away.

Next, you’ll need to set up a plan to manage and pay down the debt. Just because you’ve destroyed the card doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. One method that’s helped me out is the snowball method, which works well if you’re dealing with revolving debt like credit cards across multiple accounts. The basic plan is to pay off the smallest debt first and then roll that payment over — like a snowball rolling downhill — onto the next-smallest payment, moving on until you’re debt-free.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you have debt racked up on three credit cards, with balances of $1,000, $2,000, and $6,000. In addition to paying the minimum monthly required amount on each one, commit to putting as much extra cash as possible toward the smallest debt owed, in this case, the $1,000 amount. If your required payment on the small debt is $100 and you pay $200 a month, that’s great. When the debt is gone, you add that $200 to the monthly payment on the next-highest debt amount (in this instance, the card that began with a $2,000 balance). You’ll be paying much more than the required amount, and you’ll be using the cash you’ve already budgeted for debt reduction so you won’t feel like you’re sacrificing essentials or going broke trying to get out of debt. Don’t be discouraged if this takes time. The point isn’t to get out of debt overnight, but to do it responsibly and with a method that’s shown results.

However, that might be too much for some people. Maybe the debt is too high, income is too low, or there are just too many problems. If that’s the case, you might want to consider contacting Consumer Credit Counseling to help you get your debt under control. Always do your research on debt counseling organizations, though. Some of them are just scams designed to put you in deeper than before.

The important thing to remember is that it’s never too late to recover. Stop accruing debt and start making smart decisions to reduce it, and you’ll be able to breathe easy once again.

This guest post is contributed by Raine Parker, who writes on the topic of accounting degrees. She welcomes your comments at her email address,