Know What You Owe – Ready, Set, Get Outta Debt!

(This article courtesy of Feed the Pig. Copyright 2011 American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.)

Get Out of Debt

There’s no time like the present to start on the path to get out of debt. Set aside some time to create an attack plan for lessening and eliminating your debt. Here are some tips to get you started.

Know what you owe. A major downfall in managing debt is not knowing exactly how much you owe. You may have a vague idea, and know approximately when your bills are due, but without knowing specifics you are more likely to run into trouble. Make a list or chart of all your current debt balances—all credit cards, loans, etc.—and note the date each payment is due every month. Keep it somewhere you will see it on a regular basis. Set up reminders for each bill due date on your phone or email to help ensure you make each payment on time.

Consider consolidating. Like many Americans, you may be carrying more than one form of debt, which can make it hard to manage, especially with multiple payment due dates. Consider debt consolidation, which allows you to combine your smaller loans into one larger loan, usually with a longer term and lower interest rate, resulting in one monthly payment. Consolidation has advantages and disadvantages depending on your individual situation, so talk to a financial professional, like a CPA, to see if consolidating your debt is right for you.

Reduce, reduce, reduce. A key strategy to managing and lessening your debt is to always reduce, never increase. It can be tempting to open another credit card when one is maxed out, but doing so will only make debt management more difficult. Instead, look for ways to adjust your spending habits to pay down the debt you already have. Make a goal to always pay more than the minimum payment due.

Don’t hide. If you feel like your debt is spinning out of control and you don’t know what to do, talk to a financial professional who can help get you back on track. You may also want to contact your creditors. Creditors will often work with you to come up with an alternate payment plan if you take the time to explain your situation.

Do you have a success story of how you managed your debt? Share it with us on the Feed the Pig Discussion Board. For more information on managing debt, click here.

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