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Financial Literacy - Debt management
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Money management 101

2. Track spending

"The only way to plug the leak is to know where the leak is," says Gail Cunningham, senior director of public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Take some time to try to follow every cent spent: the rent payment, the $3.32 latte, the 50-cent newspaper, the 79-cent pack of gum -- everything. Don't judge yourself now or feel angst over purchases.

Almost everyone can usually account for most of their spending with a cursory overview of their finances, says Bucci. "Most people can get to 90 (percent), but the last 10 percent is a killer.

"It disappears ... lattes, tips, food at work, allowances for the kids. Just write it down and by the end of the month you'll have most of the 10 percent and know where almost all of your money goes," he says.

Continue to take notes on spending after the first month. "Keep up with the balance in your checkbook, each time you make a deposit or withdrawal, reconcile or balance your checkbook and also reconcile your statement when it arrives," Cunningham says. "No one wants to do it, but it is important."


"Even if you use a debit card, you have to write that down in your checkbook -- you should carry something around that is going to keep up with your balance."

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