If you're like many Americans, you may be carrying a considerable amount of credit card debt. And the current economic climate is serving as a kind of wake-up call for many consumers, with credit card companies increasing minimum required monthly payment amounts, and offers for balance transfers at lower-interest rates drying up. So the timing couldn't be better to take the first step out from under your credit card debt, by making a monthly budget.
Don't Fear the "B" Word. Budget. The word alone makes most people cringe and feel an invisible collar tightening around their necks. But by creating a monthly plan based on your income and expenses, you'll get a clear picture of your financial situation, identify areas of spending where you can cut back, and set aside money to start taking larger chunks out of your credit card balance each month.
Get Started. The first thing you need to do is get everything down on paper related to your income and your expenses: how much money are you earning each month, and where is it going? Your expenses will fall into categories, and you should make them as detailed and as realistic as possible. If you need to cut your spending, this is where the difficult -- but absolutely necessary -- decisions are made. Get more instructions on getting your budget together: How to Make a Budget and Stick To It.
Avoid Budgeting Pitfalls. Remember that your budget isn't cast in stone, so you'll need to make changes to it when your circumstances change, in order to be successful. Don't be too rigid in your planning, or so flexible that you're not really being disciplined with your spending. Learn more about budgeting pitfalls: Do's and Don'ts: Making a Budget
When a Budget Isn't Enough. For some people, no amount of budgeting will help make a dent in credit card debt if set monthly expenses dwarf the amount of money that's coming in. If you find yourself in these more dire financial straits, credit counseling or a debt management plan may be a good option. Learn more: Credit Counseling and Debt Management.