It happens to the best of people. Through no fault of your own, you suddenly discover that you are living way beyond your means. Whether it's unexpected car or house expenses, braces for the kids, or other medical emergencies, sometimes life will toss a few financial hurdles in your direction. And sometimes, before you know it, those hurdles have mounted up and suddenly are no longer manageable.
Of course, the wisest thing to do is to learn how to live within your means: don't spend more than you make by charging everything from dinners out at your favorite restaurant to a vacation in Spain. It doesn't mean that you can't splurge every once in a while, but just don't go overboard.
But if you do discover that your debt is getting out of hand, you have two choices. Eliminate your spending as much as you can, and find additional sources of cash to help pay down those debts.
Some ways you can cut back on your spending include:
- Evaluate your transportation needs. Some households have three or four cars and are paying unnecessary car payments, maintenance costs, and car insurance. See if you can eliminate a car from your collection, and you will save money on your monthly expenses.
- Eat out less frequently. If you have a habit of eating meals out on a regular basis, start weaning yourself away from this costly habit. Brown bag you lunch as often as you can, and create meals at home that you enjoy.
- Start comparing prices when you shop. Too many people fall into the habit of going to the same store and never pay attention to prices. Learn to compare value for value, and you will shop wiser and pay less.
Some ways to find additional sources of cash include:
- Sell items you no longer use or need. Many people are now using online auctions, such as E-bay, to sell items and raise cash.
- Cash in any savings bonds that have reached their maturity dates.
- Borrow against your life-insurance policy. (Financial experts sometimes disagree on this, so think carefully before doing so.)
You always have the option of getting a second job, but if you do, just make sure that the money you earn from it goes toward reducing your debt.
If you still need assistance, you might contact a local office of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service.
See also: Managing Debt, Home Budgeting, and Home Equity Loan