If debt has you worried and anxious, then you need a debt management program that will be both realistic and effective.
When Debt Becomes a Burden
The symptoms of burdensome debt are easy to discern. Generally, a consumer finds that little to nothing is left once the monthly bills are paid. Credit cards are reaching their high limit; payments are made late or are missed entirely, and a general feeling of unease, stress and anxiety become common. An inordinate amount of time is spent worrying about letters and calls from creditors who want their money. Clearly, things are getting out of control, and debt management must begin.
Establishing a Debt Management Program
Debt management is a basically a plan for reducing and/or eliminating debt as effectively and as quickly as possible. You can establish this plan yourself if you are willing to follow the outlined steps. If you lack self-control, however, the better strategy is to consult with a debt management professional, also known as a credit counselor who will assist in the development and implementation.
The following steps must be taken:
- A realistic budget must be established. This cannot happen until you know exactly how much is coming in and how much is going out each month. This will entail writing down literally every expenditure during a month, down to the penny. These can then be prioritized into those that are necessary (rent or mortgage, car payment, credit card payments, groceries, gas, etc.) and non-essentials (any luxuries, entertainment, meals out, etc.).
- Look at your list of non-essentials and make a decision to cut them enough in order to meet your necessary obligations. If at all possible, cut them even more, so that there is additional money to apply to at least one credit card debt.
- Choose a credit card to attack. This should reasonably be the one with the lowest balance. Cut up the card. Pay as much as possible on this account until paid off. Apply any “windfall” to this account, including income tax refunds.
- Attack the next credit card. Take all of the money formerly paid on the first account and add it to the minimum payment until this account is paid off.
- Continue this procedure until all credit cards are paid off.
The net result will be a systematic sequential paying off of all “bad” debt. Eventually, you will have excess funds each month, which you should divide between non-essentials and savings. No major purchases should be made until the money is saved for them. Also, credit cards should be reserved for emergencies. You will then be well on your way toward financial responsibility, a bright future and good sleep at night.