Many people make statements such as the following (how many of them are statements you might make?):
- There's never any money left over at the end of the month.
- I don't have a budget.
- I am not sure how much I spend on basic items like food or clothing.
- I don't have nearly enough money in savings.
- I charge more on my credit cards than I pay off each month.
- My spouse and I fight about money all the time.
- I delay or avoid paying bills because there's no money.
- I worry about money constantly.
- If I could just hit the lottery, all my problems would be solved.
- I don't know how everybody else does it.
If four or more of these statements ring true, then your spending habits may need some serious scrutiny.
The first step is to take a look at your debt as a whole. Fill out the Debt Worksheet. It will help you put together a list of all the money you owe, and is your best starting point for the calculations and strategies that are necessary. Put down every item, no matter how small. For credit cards, put down the outstanding balance, not the amount you pay off each month. Then use your totals to calculate your consumer debt ratio and your total debt ratio. You might also want to look at the section Why Have I Gotten into Debt?