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Debt can be a means to an end. Borrowing money for a more reliable car can improve your job prospects; investing in a home can save what you’re spending on rent. However, some forms of debt are a complete waste of your money and the time you spend earning it. To better control your debt, consider these tools:

Save Something

No matter how bad things are, tuck away a bit of money. Even stashing $10.00 a paycheck in your bank account can be a comfort when money is extremely tight. Make it a habit to put away a portion of every paycheck first. If your check is direct deposited, ask your bank to split part of it into savings. If you’re payment arrives on a debit card, immediately head to the ATM at your bank, pull cash out and store it in your savings account. This is a gift of security to your future self, and your future self deserves it!

Review Your Credit Report

You can get a free credit report every 12 months without applying for a loan. Review this document for errors. It’s important to note that many loans are based off of personal numbers such as your social security number. Anyone keying in a loan can transpose these numbers, and these errors can impact your credit report, keeping things on your report that should be discharged.

Find A Great Rate

Taking out a debt consolidation loan may be unnecessary, and having too many loans on your credit report can limit how much more you can borrow. With help from a credit counseling service you may be able to renegotiate your current debt at a lower level. If you decide to roll debt to a credit card with favorable loan terms for a limited amount of time, calculate the payments so you can pay the loan off within the promotional interest rate deadline.

Don’t Take On More Debt

One of the dangers of consolidating debt is that you don’t realize you’re spending more than you make. Living within your means can be difficult, particularly in a culture where more is always better and credit is easily available. To reduce the risk of building an uncontrollable amount of debt,

Build a Budget For Your Means and Needs

If you’ve ever put hours into a budget worksheet only to realize you missed a regular expense, it can be tempting to toss your hands in the air and give up. To avoid this frustration, start small.

For example, you can use your bank statements or credit card statement to find the average of your weekly grocery and sundries expense. If possible, determine the eight week average. Now can you subtract $5.00 per week from these purchases? For 8 weeks, pay with this reduced amount. Take the $40 you saved and purchase non-perishable items such as cleaning supplies, laundry soap and bathroom tissue from a Dollar General, Dollar Tree or some other deep discount store. Consider subtracting $5.00 more from each of your next grocery trips. Take the $80 you saved and put it in savings or increase a payment to reduce your debt.

Watch Your Expenses!

Meals out, a daily coffee, drinks with friends and other activities can really sap your cash reserves. Do you need a great cable package to nap in front of your television? Carefully assess where you spend your money. Is the event worth the expense? If not, decline the invite or cancel the service until you’re financial ship is headed in the right direction.

Don’t Lower Your Payment Amount

If you have 3 credit cards or student loans with a payment total of $200 per month, you’re making a $600 payment. Once you consolidate, you may only be required to make a $300 payment. Make $600, or as close to that amount as you possibly can. If your bank will allow, set up the payment to automatically withdraw from your bank account, and have your check split between the account you live on and the loan-paying account so you don’t have to schedule the payment.

Be Patient!

Building savings and paying down debt is a skill. It takes time to change your spending habits and time for the money to build up. Don’t berate yourself! You’re on the right path and headed in a great direction. Keep going!