Getting the Upper Hand over Debt

It starts simply enough. A bill or two falls a little behind schedule, but you don't consider it to be a big deal. Then a few more linger that you can't completely eliminate each month. Suddenly, it seems as if bills are piling up on every side and the creditors are on the phone. You become buried under the debt and start to wonder how you're ever going to dig yourself back out of it.

Don't be dismayed; you're not alone. But it's important that you get a handle on the situation as quickly as possible. Here are some tips to help you regain control of your finances:

Get organized! You need to be able to clearly see and understand the debt that you have to control if you ever want to get your arms around it. Find every bill and statement you can and make a list of what you owe. But be forewarned: you may well be shocked to discover the total amount that you owe. Keep your composure. While seeing the total may initially be intimidating, it's only by figuring out the extent of your debt that you can begin to formulate a plan to effectively deal with it.

Rein in your spending. In order to get rid of old debt you must put an end to creating new debt. Make a habit of paying attention to where every dollar of your income goes. Curtail meals out, movie nights, and other non-necessities. You're going to have to tighten your financial belt in order to use the extra money you have available to pay down your debt. You may not even realize where much of your money is going. Try carrying a small notebook with you to jot down all the places that you've been spending money, even for items like gum or a cup of coffee. Keep a running list for a month or two; the totals could surprise you. This process can be summed up in one easy-to-remember little word: budget!

Talk to your creditors. People often panic and deal with mounting debt by choosing simply to not deal with it. Unfortunately, the creditors who are calling aren't going to just forget about it. You owe them money, and they're not going to leave you alone any time soon. Instead, they're going to tack on finance charges, collections charges and any other charges that they legally can, which will only serve to add to your debt. You can largely avoid this line of activity by simply talking to your creditors and showing them that you're at least trying to do what you can to fulfill your responsibilities. Many lenders will work with you to come up with a manageable payment plan. Maintaining contact with them will go a long way toward protecting your credit report, as well.

Get help if you need it. Some folks just can't do these things alone. They need assistance in overcoming their debt, and that's okay. There are numerous consumer credit counseling services available. These organizations will help you get to organized and create a plan for tackling your debt. But be careful; scammers abound in this industry, so be sure to do your homework on any company that you choose to do business with.

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