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So you’re in debt – now what?

The reasons people fall into the debt trap are varied and complex – from a simple lack of financial education or poor budgeting, unemployment, gambling problems or an unexpected illness that wipes out your savings, or just plain overspending! Cultural values also play their part, with some countries just seeming to instill a belief in the importance of saving and living within your means more than others.

Whatever the underlying reason, debt is a growing issue that more and more people find themselves facing, and sitting down and crunching the numbers can create an almost paralyzing sense that you just won’t be able to get out from under the beast. Because of this, many people try desperately to ignore the reality of their circumstances, ducking and diving and living in constant anxiety. In some cases, this type of lingering stress can even make you lose focus at work and become a threat to your career [1], which certainly isn’t going to help the situation!

The answer is obvious, but you have to be willing to accept it. If you ever want to get out of debt, you’re going to have to face some possibly awkward conversations, man up to your mistakes, and yes, your lifestyle may have to change, possibly drastically. But facing the problem is the only way it’s ever going to go away – and with a little bit of help and some discipline – it can.

Get help!

Contacting a professional firm to investigate your debt review [2] or credit counseling options is a great place to start. One thing’s for sure, you certainly won’t be the first person to face this problem, and you’re sure to receive solid and nonjudgmental advice. Debt review firms and credit counselors can help you in a variety of ways, from helping consolidate all your debts into one manageable monthly payment, helping you come up with a realistic budget, negotiating better interest rates on repayments and even protecting your assets from repossession.

Many lenders will even offer a lower total repayment on your outstanding account when they see that you are serious about paying them back – it makes financial sense for them to recoup a smaller amount rather than run the risk of you not being able to pay anything at all. This will depend on your personal situation of course, so you will need to be completely upfront and honest about what your income and expenses are. Taking the first step is the hardest, but the relief you get from knowing the journey back to financial freedom is actually underway is more than worth it!

Getting out of debt for good

If you have several debts to pay off, it may make sense to harness the power of the snowball effect. This concept revolves around starting with your smallest debt, and paying that off first, which offers two benefits. The first, and perhaps most important if you’re at the beginning of your journey, is the psychological boost you get from ticking one debt off the list for good. And secondly, not only are you now used to getting by without that money each month, but your overall debt has shrunk too.

Really evaluate your spending habits. It’s so obvious that people underestimate just how important it is to have an accurate idea of where your money is actually going each month. This doesn’t mean scribbling down what you estimate you spend on groceries, fuel, fees and contracts – this means actually getting the real figures. Commit to either keeping your receipts (if you tend to draw cash) or only using your card so you can track payments on your monthly statement. Draw up a spreadsheet, use an online tool or whip out your calculator, whatever works for you. The important thing here is creating an accurate picture (maybe even a pie chart if you’re so inclined) of where your hard earned cash is going. Prepare for some shocking truths! Once you have the data in front of you, seeing where and how much you can cut back becomes simple.

Once you’ve committed to making payments each month, have them set to come off your bank account automatically via debit order or automatic deduction. If you have a good relationship with your employer, ask them to deduct the money from your salary each month on your behalf. This means you’re less likely to find an excuse not to make a payment because it would mean having to explain yourself to them too!

Getting out of debt entirely really is possible – and even better, once your debts are cleared, you’ve learned an even more valuable lesson. Don’t go back to your old habits and spend that money you were setting aside each month. Keep the trend going, and set the same amount each aside to save and invest each month. The lessons you’ve learned in getting out of debt can now serve you in saving up for retirement or a reward you’ve truly earned!

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