Smart Change: how to effectively manage your personal debt

One indicator that your debt is a problem is if your credit card balances keep rising. It’s best to pay credit cards in full every month. Next best is paying enough to whittle down balances over time.

‌Sometimes the first sign of debt trouble is that you ignore the signs: You don’t know what your credit card balances are, for example, or you just don’t open statements.

Your subconscious usually tells you when you’re in a danger zone, says Beverly Harzog, author of “The Debt Escape Plan.”

It may whisper at first, with headaches or sleepless nights. Other times it hollers. You can’t stretch your paycheck to cover all your bills, or you avoid money discussions with your partner.

But facing your debt is the first step toward mastering it. “I remember having a lot of headaches, even nausea, when I sat down and faced the music,” Harzog says.  But she went on to wipe out more than $20,000 in debt in two years.

You can combine any payoff strategy with debt consolidation, which rolls several credit card balances into one debt at a lower interest rate.  If you qualify for a personal loan, it could help you pay off the debt sooner and for less money overall.

Track your progress and celebrate milestones: Rewarding yourself can help you stay motivated to pay down the debt, but don’t go overboard.  Think picnic in the park rather than five-star restaurant meal.

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