If you use the convenience checks from one credit card company to pay your bill to another or for daily expenses such as groceries or your utilities, you are digging yourself ever deeper into debt. It is fairly common for consumers to avoid facing the reality of their credit card debt; but if you're ready for a real solution, then you need to take steps to develop a plan to eliminate your debt problems.

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One potential solution for debt relief is a debt-consolidation loan. Debt-consolidation loans offer the benefit of wrapping multiple credit card payments into one loan, usually at a lower interest rate. However, you need to be careful that you can afford the payment on your debt-consolidation loan and that you won't end up paying too much in interest over time. Many debt-consolidation loans are home-equity loans. So you are borrowing against the value of your home. If you are unable to pay off the loan, you could lose your home -- which is obviously a much more dire consequence than being unable to pay your credit card bill.

Four steps help you prepare

Before you apply for a debt-consolidation loan, you need to carefully evaluate your finances and determine whether you need a new loan.

1.Gather your bills. This is probably the most painful yet necessary step of all: Make a list of all your debts and include the amount owed, the interest rate, the minimum payment and the amount you typically pay each month.

2.Evaluate your income. Write down your monthly income from all sources.

3.Make a list of all your regular expenses. You need to make sure you have cash to cover your daily living expenses, your rent or mortgage, utility bills, insurance, childcare and car payment.

4.Estimate how much you can pay toward your debt. Once you have all the numbers in place, you can realistically look at what you have available for debt reduction.

If you have the discipline, you may be able to reduce your credit card debt on your own by systematically paying down each credit card balance. If you don't have the discipline or are paying exorbitant credit card interest rates, you should complete the form on this page to get debt relief with a debt-consolidation loan.

No matter how you choose to eliminate your credit card debt, you need to make sure you don't slip into bad habits and begin using credit again.