Many unsuspecting homeowners do not fully understand the terms of the agreement and find themselves in more trouble after debt consolidation than before. In essence, you agree to a second mortgage of your home. The debt consolidation company pays off your bills (depending on how much you owe, equity and credit) and you make one monthly payment. Typically, this payment is several hundred dollars less than the amount you paid to the original creditors. Debt consolidation can be a useful tool for managing your debt. No one doubts that it is easier and less stressful to make one small payment than it is to make several payments that take a bigger bite out of your budget. In addition to paying off your bills, many debt consolidation plans offer a cash back option. Many homeowners use this money for vacation, home improvement, etc. If you are considering debt consolidation examine your reasons and your readiness. How did you come to find yourself in your current situation? What are you prepared to do differently when the slate is clean? If you are not prepared to change your spending habits you may find yourself repaying the debt consolidation loan on top of newly generated debts. Failure to change your habits and reorder your priorities could result in the loss of your home. Also, weigh the long-term impact. What is the interest rate and how much will the loan cost you? Make sure that you read the entire contract very carefully. Is there a penalty for early payment? How much is the minimum payment? Can you change your mind within 24 hours? What happens if you have an emergency and need to miss a payment? It is critical that you have an intimate understanding of what you are committing to before you sigh anything. Don't allow yourself to be rushed. Take your time and ask whatever questions occur to you. Debt consolidation should provide relief not headaches. You can avoid the latter with planning, research, budgeting and lifestyle adjustments.