Q: Is there anywhere an honest person can go to consolidate credit card debt? My score is 530. Don’t bother suggesting Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Their debt management program is one of the contributing factors to my low score.

In the meantime, I’m paying 13.5 percent on my car loan and have numerous credit accounts with interest rates in the 20 percent range.

Am I destined to just crash and burn for my obvious stupidity? I’m willing to pay higher interest temporarily to get my debts under control, but I’d like to make some headway.

A: Unfortunately, you’re in a tight position. Your credit score is being hurt by your outstanding credit accounts, and by your apparent one-time participation in a CCCS program.

You’re in a tight bind because you spent too much. The answer now is to earn more and spend a lot less. Use the difference to pay off your loans as quickly as possible.

Take a look at your budget. Make whatever cuts you can. Then, consider taking a second job and using all of the income this second job generates to pay down debt. You can look into getting a home equity loan to pay off some of the debt, but with your outstanding debt, you might not make the numbers.

Start paying down your highest, non-deductible debt first and work your way through your lower-rate credit card debt. While this method is time-consuming and personally painful, it’s probably your only way out at this point.

Oct. 21, 2004.