Put a Leash on It! Top Five Tips for Controlling Your Debt

Americans are facing an unprecedented level of debt. From credit cards to second mortgages, the majority of the country is in over its head. Here are five ways to get a handle on your debt and keep it under control.

Understand Good Debt vs. Bad Debt

There is such a thing as good debt. Investing in a mortgage or purchasing a car are ways that you can increase your credit rating and purchase expensive items that you need. Make sure you research the best rate options before you sign on for a large loan. Bad debt that should be avoided is usually in the form of high interest rates from credit cards. Try to pay for daily items with cash, and never buy anything with a credit card that you won’t be able to pay for by the end of the month.

Organize Spending Habits

Have a plan for your money. All of those small items that you pick up during the week are inexpensive one at a time, but they add up quickly. Make a realistic budget that includes all of the things you expect to purchase on a regular basis – including that danish with your coffee on Friday mornings.

Always Pay More than the Minimum

If you are carrying a revolving balance on your credit cards, always pay more than the minimum every month. Usually the minimum will only cover your interest payment on the balance. In order to make some headway into the principle balance, you will need to pay more than the minimum requirement.

Be Ready for Emergencies

It is important to be prepared for unexpected emergencies. Most financial planners recommend that you keep a savings account that is large enough to cover your expenses for three months. This safety net will provide you with the money you need in an emergency without having to resort to credit cards or other financial pitfalls.

Pay Debt Down in the Proper Order

How you pay your debt off is important. Begin by paying off the loans or credit cards that have the highest interest rate. Your debt will drop much faster as you reduce the balances on those loans because the interest that you are paying will be reduced right away. A good strategy is to make larger payments on one high interest loan and at least the minimum on your other loans. As you pay one off, you can start on the next one in the list.