By Eleanore D. Sanchez

“If your debts are getting out of control or you are struggling to make ends meet, it's important to act quickly. Help is available,” the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said on its financial planning website, Money Smart.

The first step, according to ASIC, is to deal with the problem head on. Talk to your credit provider to discuss how you can address the situation in a mutually beneficial manner.

“Taking action straight away can stop a small problem from becoming a big one. Many companies have hardship officers who can assess your situation and work out what help is available. Whether they can help you will depend on why you are having difficulty making payments and how long you think your will financial problems will continue,” the report said.

Some options include: extending your loan period; suspending repayments for a mutually agreed upon period of time; or both extending and postponing loan repayments.

“When negotiating a repayment plan, make sure you can afford it. There is no point agreeing to an amount that is too high for you to pay. If you find you can't stick to the new arrangement, tell your credit provider straight away. Keep paying as much as you can afford, even if it is not as much as the credit provider is asking for,” ASIC advised.

You can also go to community organizations, community legal centres and other government agencies for financial counselling. Legal Aid also offers free advice in dealing with the legal consequences of debt trouble.