3 rules for debt management

Debt management, like dieting, shouldn't be hard. You simply spend less and save more. But like dieting, debt management has always seemed more complicated than it needs to be. Still, if your finances are spiraling out of control and you're determined to achieve some sort of debt management nirvana, there are three simple rules to follow.

Start organizing your finances now

It's not that hard, but it takes some time. Write down every single payment you have to make each month, like a mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance and so on. Then take a look at some of the purchases you make that fluctuate -- like gas and groceries -- and write those down, too. You'll also need to include purchases that you make on a more irregular basis, like clothing or going to the movies. In other words, if you can't figure out why your finances aren't adding up, get out the calculator and create a budget. If you realize you're spending more than you're making every month, that's a problem, but at least you now know why you're in trouble.

Stop spending so much

This might be obvious advice, but without that aforementioned budget, it's impossible to know how much you have to slow down on your spending.

If you can't stop spending, then get help

If you're wealthy, a money manager could do the job. If you're not so wealthy, there are online sites, free and paid, that exist solely to help you manage your money and/or pay off your debts. One to try is's debt consolidation calculator.

Or, you could go to a credit counseling agency if your debt problems involve too much credit card debt. Look for one recommended by the nonprofit National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC. Whatever you do, take action to gain control of your spending now, before you wind up too deep in debt.

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