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Financial Literacy - Debt management
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Money management 101

5. Change behavior

Ideally everyone would have plenty of money leftover at the end of the month. But if necessities leave you tapped out by the 20th of the month, it may be time to take drastic steps such as getting a roommate or finding a second job.

Sometimes a change could be as easy as not eating out twice a week. "If someone is spending $100 a month on pizza, then they might decide they want to look at that and say, 'Well it's fine to order pizza in, but we're only going to do it once a week instead of two times a week,'" says Gail Cunningham, senior director of public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

"I have found that it is more successful if a person cuts back rather than cutting out," she says. "So back to our pizza example, don't say, 'OK, no more pizza.' Just say, 'OK, let's be more judicious.'"

Curtailing credit card usage -- especially on impulse -- might be the best behavioral change you can make, particularly if you already have a large amount of credit card debt.

Another thing to do: "Get organized," says Cunningham. "You're not going to believe it, but people walk into our centers carrying grocery sacks full of unopened bills. And in that grocery sack are unopened letters from their mortgage lenders."


Use a filing cabinet or a simple box to keep financial documents in order. Bills should be kept handy in a designated box or basket. The important thing is to set up a system that works for you. "It will save you time and you won't have to look for misplaced documents," she says.

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