According to CHANGING TIMES magazine, consumer credit counselors are getting busier. Here's some advice for consumers who are burdened by debt.

- Don't avoid your creditors and skip payments.Contact your creditors and explain why you can't pay.

Tom Hufford, executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northeastern Indiana, says creditors "will fall off their chairs if you contact them first.

"They have a lot of latitude early on to temporarily waive or reduce payments."

- Beware of consolidation loans.

Many debtors hope to stretch out their payments over a longer period of time through a consolidation loan.

Finance companies that offer those kinds of loans typically charge high interest rates.

Using a home-equity loan for this purpose may seem an ideal solution. Interest rates are relatively low and interest on up to $100,000 is tax-deductible. But your home is collateral and you risk losing it if you fall behind, warns Hufford.

"You start again with zero balances on your credit cards and old habits die hard."

- Work out your own plan.

Unsecured creditors may be receptive to a revised payment plan.

Figure out how much you can pay monthly toward all your debts and prorate the payments based on how much you owe each creditor.

Tell your creditors that they're being treated equally and that you won't take on new debt until the old ones are paid off.

Ask them to re-age your account. That means they would report your account to credit bureaus as current as long as you make the new, lower payment on time.

For more advice, consult the book "Conquer Your Debt," Prentice Hall, $9.95, by William Kent Brunette.

- Seek credit counseling.

Consumer Credit Counseling Services are nonprofit agencies that can serve as a buffer between you and anxious creditors and can help set up a repayment plan.

For a local referral check your local telephone directory or call 1-800-388-2227.