When over your head in debt, the first solution that may come to your mind is filing for bankruptcy. Doing so can protect your property, stop creditor harassment and help you start over. However, it is not the only option available.

Depending on the type of debt you owe, creditors can lose a lot if you file for bankruptcy. It may be in their best interest to cooperate with you in formulating a plan that satisfies both your needs. Therefore, it does not hurt to try negotiations first.

1. Be calm and clear

Often, the reason for the accumulation of debt is an emergency, such as losing your job or developing a medical condition. Explain to creditors what happened and what you are doing about it without resorting to emotional drama. Always tell the truth, and be consistent in your story to avoid accusations of lying. Creditors may threaten you, but do not lose your temper.

2. Know your rights

It is important to know your rights and protections in dealing with creditors. For example, some threats are illegal, and creditors may use them to scare you. You can report them to the Federal Trade Commission. Keeping, writing down and recording all interactions can help.

3. Determine a realistic payment amount

The more you are willing to pay, the better, but not at the risk of putting you in more financial trouble. Make sure you can come up with the amount you offer to repay. If you can afford it, a lump sum can end up being more cost-effective than a payment plan. Once you reach an agreement, put it in writing.

Another approach is to request a smaller minimum monthly payment, lower interest rate or waived late fees. You can also ask creditors if they offer a hardship plan. Be persistent, but always polite, until you reach a negotiation.