If you're mired in credit card debt, you're far from alone. It's a critical problem in America, with millions struggling to dig themselves out. Don't despair, though. You can rid your life of this albatross. You don't have to develop ulcers watching your debt grow by double digits each year.

Our Credit Cards and Consumer Debt discussion board (you can gain free access to our discussion boards for 30 days here) frequently has posts dealing with debt. Some ask for advice while others share stories about paying off big piles of debt. It's inspiring and instructional to hear them explain how they did it and answer questions. Here's part of just one sample post, from "Lubbockdave." He titled it "Big time happy dance naked around the house!!!"

Sorry for the visual, but as of today my wife and I have paid off $37,000 in consumer debt ... wait for it ... wait ... in 17 months! When we started in September of 2004, we had $6,000 owed on her car, $6,000 on my car and $25,000 in credit card debt. We paid the cars off first, since they had the lower balances and freeing up that payment we were making would allow us to attack the credit card debt better. We also shopped, and shopped, and shopped for a credit card company that would allow us to consolidate our three cards into one and give us the best interest rate. That was A LOT of fun, let me tell you! Threatening to move the balance and close the account will really MOTIVATE the folks on the phone. We finally twisted their arms enough to get a 3% balance transfer rate until the balance was paid off. That day we SWORE we would not charge [on our cards] again! Now I know some of you would say "why would you pay off a 3% loan when you could get a better return ... blah, blah, blah" but let me tell you, the feeling we have owing only on our house is FANTASTIC. And now everything we earn is ours, except of course the house payment, taxes, etc., but no more payments on JUNK!

See? Proof that it can be done, and without having to wear sackcloth and eat ramen noodles for the rest of your life.

One step to paying off this kind of debt, as Dave mentioned, is shopping around for a better deal. Consider calling up major credit card issuers such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, American Express, or Capital One Financial, to see which one will offer you a good deal on consolidating your debt under a reasonable interest rate. Check with your current card company, too -- and make repeat calls, once you get some offers. If Bank of America is offering a decent deal, call Capital One and see if they'll beat it.

Learn more in the Get Out of Debt section of our Credit Center, which features some great tips on reducing debt. Being smart about credit can potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars. You can also get information about checking and using your credit report (did you know you could assess your credit report for free?). These are just a few of the things that you can read up on in our Credit Center.

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Foolish research associate Katrina Chan updated this article, which was originally published by Selena Maranjian on April 13, 2006. Katrina does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. The Motley Fool has a full disclosure policy.