• Dumping your debt: Start with a plan
    March 10,2014

    While your income can play a role in your debt, itís really about how you spend money.

    There are ways to get out of debt and remain on financial terra firma.

    Itís best to start with a plan. No time like the present to get realistic with your financial situation and your goals for the future.

    List all your debts, income you can devote to paying them off and the disposable income expenditures you can live without at least until your debt is more manageable.

    Now that you have a list, pay off the most expensive debt first. Use more income to pay off the higher-priced credit cards first, making your minimum payment on the lower cost cards if you canít afford more.

    Give a call to the lower-cost card companies and inquire about transferring your higher-cost card balances. Usually consolidating your debt can be a plus for many reasons, including lowering your payments and building good credit along the way.

    Speaking of building credit, I canít stress how important good credit is and how expensive it is to recover from having bad credit. This is where your financial personality comes in.

    The top reasons why people fall into debt are a desire to keep up with the neighbors down the street, or the co-worker who buys a new car every other year, or some parents at school who take a winter vacation to the sunny South every February.

    Another reason is the lack of discipline and losing sight of your true desire to be financially secure. Itís like being on a diet and the temptation isnít a candy bar but a much bigger-ticket item.

    If you canít control your impulse to spend, leave your credit and ATM cards at home. Start paying with cash.

    I used to do this when I was younger and learning to spend money. When the cash in my wallet was gone, well, it was gone and I was done.

    Thereís nothing overly complicated about all this; developing discipline, focusing on the greater picture and planning for tomorrow will help to rein in your spending.

    I have met with people barely able to keep their home, people drowning in debt. And I have seen people dig themselves out of debt. It can be done.

    Getting real about your situation and beginning to pay it off will give you the confidence to avoid your former monetary habits. Turn the corner on your debt and you will be rewarded for your efforts down the road.

    Karen Paul is a financial services consultant in Burlington.

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