April is Financial Literacy Month

Americans carry more than $2 trillion in consumer debt, and 30 percent of consumers report having no extra cash, making it impossible to escape the burden of living paycheck to paycheck. Because too many Americans are insufficiently educated about their personal finances, April is devoted to helping everyone get a fresh start on taking control of their money. Go to the Money Management International website for more information.

Get out of debt one step at a time

Debt can feel like a load of bricks on your chest, slowly crushing you. You can’t throw it off in one big shove – you’ve got to dismantle it brick by brick. Take these steps to reduce your debt burden and start breathing easily again:

  • Figure out where you stand. Debt can seem overwhelming unless you cut it down to size. Make a list or spreadsheet of your creditors, and note how much you owe each one. You’ll find it easier to deal with smaller sums of money one at a time.
  • Set some priorities. Identify which debts need to be paid off, or at least paid down first. Pay attention to debts with the highest interest rate – they’ll cost you more in the long run if you delay taking care of them.
  • Cut back on spending. Select one spending item, such as buying new clothes or eating in restaurants, and eliminate it for a specific period of time. Use the money you save to pay down your debt. You’ll start reestablishing smart spending habits at the same time.
  • Get tough with credit cards. It may be impossible to cut up your credit cards these days, but make an effort to limit their use unless you have a real emergency. Make yourself wait at least 24 hours before buying anything; most of the time you’ll realize that your “need” was really just an impulse that you can ignore.
  • Start a plan for saving. Get into the habit of putting a little money away each week. Even a small amount will add up over time, giving you more flexibility and easing your anxiety about financial worries.