4. MAKE A BUDGET, FOLLOW IT
Make a budget of your fixed household expenses, such as your mortgage or rent, utilities, car loan, insurance, and so on. Carve out a realistic amount of money for more variable costs, such as gas, groceries and entertainment.
Once you figure out a monthly plan that allows you to pay down your card debt, even if it means scrimping here and there, stick with it. The key to doing that is to remain on top of expenses.
Computer and mobile phone apps designed for tracking expenses abound. Your bank likely already has an app that can help you to keep up with charges on your accounts.
Some of the most popular apps include Mint.com and Pageonce, which draw data from bank, credit card and other accounts to give users a comprehensive view of their finances and spending. They also help organize and track expenses, sending e-mail alerts when bills are due, among other features.
Both are available for iPhones and smartphones running Google’s Android operating system.
Garcia suggests one way to remove temptation from ill-advised impulse spending is to open a separate bank account without debit card privileges and have a portion of your paycheck directly deposited there. Then, you use that account to pay down your cards.
5. USE CREDIT, DON'T ABUSE IT
The best way to get back on the right financial track is to get in the habit of paying off any charges on cards right away. It helps to reframe one’s understanding of what credit is, Garcia says.
‘‘When you use a credit card, you’re tapping into a deficit — unless you plan to pay for it — rather than a reservoir of savings,’’ she says. ‘‘The person should ask themselves, ‘Can I pay off that balance every month?’ and if I can't, what’s that going to cost me?’’
6. GET HELP
Feeling overwhelmed by debt? Counseling agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offer free credit counseling, advice on making a personal budget and dealing with creditors. They can be found on www.hud.gov .