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With the Cost of Everything Going Up, Can You Get Out of Debt?

Jun 7, 2008
It seems like everything is getting more expensive right now. That's no surprise, since the cost of fuel has gone up so much, and anything that has to be transported to you is going to be impacted by that increase.

Sure seems to make it harder to manage your debts, doesn't it?

When you're already in debt and prices start spiraling upward your situation can seem just about hopeless. It's harder to pay extra on your debts when it's harder to just scrape by. The overall situation just isn't pretty. You can still work on it, however.

Step 1: Take a good look at the problem

Where do your money troubles come from? They could be a result of medical bills, job loss, poor spending habits or other reasons. You need to understand where your problem comes from and what is keeping it going if you're going to get anywhere with this.

That's doubly important, of course, if the issue is ongoing and you can do something about it. You don't want to trap yourself with guilt about your debts, but you do want to acknowledge how they happened or are continuing to happen.

Step 2: Rethink how you spend your money

Few of us are so good with money that we already know where all of it goes. There are lots of little things that really add up fast that may be a part of your problem. Or it could be regular big things that you decide to treat yourself to. Or it might just be something that you have to deal with no matter what.

Get and keep receipts for all your spending for at least a month. The more detailed the better, as little purchases can hide in some of your more practical shopping. Go over them and see where your habits are going wrong.

This can help you to target the areas that you should be cutting back on. All those trips out for coffee, for example, can really add up when you could be making coffee at home. You can even add flavors at home for far less than you would at the coffee shop.

Don't forget to consider bigger things too, of course. If you're really serious about cutting back look at things like your cable and telephone bills to see about monthly bills that could be smaller.

Step 3: Limit yourself to one credit card

But only if you can use that one card wisely. You may need to get rid of them all if that's the only thing that will keep your spending habits under control.

Credit cards are a highly convenient way to pay for many things. Even some monthly bills may be paid on them, which you need to consider if you're cancelling accounts. You will want to be sure to change how those are paid.

Your credit card usage should be limited to things you need to buy and will pay off that same billing period. Pick the best credit card you have or get a better one if you need to. Go for low interest, no annual fees and cash back.

If you can't control yourself with a credit card, use only cash. This is much harder for a lot of purchases, as you have to go to the ATM every time you run out, but if you control how much you withdraw it is much harder to overspend.

Step 4: Pick a debt to target

There are a few theories about which debt to target first. Some say to go for the lowest balance; others the highest interest rate. But whichever you choose, put any extra money you have towards payments on that debt, and do the minimum on the rest. This will allow you to rid yourself of your debts one at a time and make faster progress as you go.

Step 5: Increase your income

In many ways this is the most important step when prices are going up as they have. There's only so much you can do with the previous steps if you're stuck at the same income level, especially if it has been barely sufficient for your vital monthly expenses.

There are a few ways to do this. One of the simplest can be to ask for a raise at your current job. You'll need to show that you deserve it, of course, and depending on your job it may or may not be easy to get one.

You can also consider taking on a second job. Yes, you will lose out on free time. But sometimes that is the only way to earn enough money to get out of a pile of debt. If you're up for working in a restaurant, tips can add up quite nicely.

Step 6: Don't give up

It may take a long time to get your debts paid down if they've been a major problem for you. Depending on how you go at it, it could take years. But some people manage to pay down significant debts in a matter of months. It all depends on your own situation.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster blogs at http://credit-blog.findcreditonline.com/ about using your credit wisely. Get more tips on controlling your debt at her site.
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