The first thing that happens, unfortunately, when you start falling behind on your bills is that the people you owe money (i.e. your creditors and, oftentimes, debt collectors) start calling you nonstop.

If you’re like most consumers, you probably put off talking to them and even avoid picking up the phone when you see a number that you don’t recognize. The problem is, that won’t solve your problem. In many cases it’s actually a better idea to talk with your creditors and try to work something out. You’d be surprised how willing some of them are to help you. Below are some excellent Tips that will also help you to negotiate something fair, before things get out of hand completely. Enjoy.

Tip 1: Pick a story and stick to it. What you have to keep in mind is that the person calling about your debt is calling hundreds of people a day about their debts, and the quicker you explain why you couldn’t pay on time, the quicker you’ll be able to work something out. What that means is having a set, specific story that you can tell them in a sentence or two, one that’s easy to remember and as close to the truth as possible.

Something along the lines of “I was laid off for six weeks and, now that I’m back at work, I’m trying to get caught up on my bills,” will work just fine. whatever you do, use the same (hopefully truthful) story with every creditor so you don’t get confused or caught in a lie.

Tip 2: Do your best to stay calm. Frankly, losing your cool won’t get you anywhere and, in most cases these days, the person on the other end of the line will simply hang up. If they are being rude or obnoxious, ask to record the phone conversation. That usually gets them back to being polite.

Tip 3: Take copious amounts of notes. No matter how you usually take notes, even with a pen and paper, your tablet or on your smart phone, take down names, numbers, days of the week and the time of day that you talked to the creditor, what was discussed, and as much detail as possible. This will keep you from having to remember everything off the top of your head, as well as having a bit of proof if the creditor actually did something illegal.

Tip 4: On any agreement that you make, make sure it’s in writing before you start sending any money. This is incredibly important because, if you start paying and don’t have a specific, set agreement in writing, anything that you negotiated on the phone is practically worthless.

Tip 5: When possible, work with creditors and not debt collectors. If it’s already too late, you might be forced to work with debt collectors but, if the financial problems you’re having are relatively recent, it’s much better to work with creditors. First, they’re much easier to deal with and, second, once an overdue bill is sent to collections, the damage it will do to your credit is much greater.

Tip 6: Don’t agree to anything you can’t afford. Let’s face it, even the best negotiations and the nicest terms won’t help you if the dollar amount you agree to is a number you still can’t afford to pay. What that means is, before you agree to any sort of repayment plan, make darn sure that you’ll be able to pay it off the way you’ve agreed.

Listen, we know that dealing with creditors and collection agencies is not pleasant, buy any means. On the other hand, dealing with them now instead of later might save you a good bit of money and stress. Hopefully these Tips will help you to do just that.