8 Signs that Your Debt is Spiraling Out of Control

Having a little debt is considered normal in our modern personal financial lives. Borrowing money and deferring payments is also fine if you can keep tabs on everything you owe and continue to honor your obligations. Unfortunately, not all people can stay disciplined with their spending habits. Some folks think of their credit cards as extensions of their wallets and that’s where their troubles begin.

The best weapon against debt traps is being completely honest with yourself at all times. Dismissing the facts and lulling yourself into a false sense of financial security is a surefire way to financial ruin. Here are eight signs that you’re losing your grip on your financial situation and some advice on how to deal with it:

1.You don’t know how much you owe.Financially savvy individuals always know how much they owe, and they make sure that they budget their expenses. If you have no idea what your balance is because you don’t keep track of what you spend, you may be in trouble. In some cases, the debt becomes so hefty that people avoid looking at their credit statement.

2.You’re only meeting the minimum payment or worse, not even paying the minimum. Paying the lowest amount possible allows the creditor to charge interest fees and penalties. It may take months or even years to pay the debt this way. If you can only meet the minimum, the interest accrued can become so high that you actually pay a total amount that’s double your principal debt.

3.You use your credit card to pay for everything.When you find yourself paying for food, gas, and bills on your credit card because you don’t have enough cash to cover them, it means you’re living beyond your means. Also, using a credit card for small purchases because there’s no cash on hand may lead to debt getting out of control. Only use the card if you know you can pay for it in full when it is due.

4.Your debt is constantly increasing.If the amount you owe grows each month, not only because of added purchases but also due to late payment charges and interest, you’re heading in the wrong direction. Someone who is mindful of his expenses will make sure that the debt gets smaller and smaller each month, in order to stabilize his finances. If you’re only paying the minimum and still using the card, your total debt will never recede.

5.You have zero savings.Ideally, you should be setting aside a portion of your salary for emergency or even retirement. You never know what situations may come up–unexpected illness, home that needs repair, car accident. If you owe creditors, chances are you have zero savings, and if something were to happen, you might be taking out another loan to cover it, plunging you deeper into debt.

6.You are spending more than you can afford.This might seem obvious but when you don’t budget and stay conscious of your debt-to-income ratio, you’re likely overextending yourself. If bills are left unpaid, debt may become so unmanageable that your income isn’t enough to cover them every month. To stay financially healthy, experts recommend that only 8% of your income should be used for debt repayment. If this isn’t possible, a maximum of 20% as debt-to-income ratio can keep you in the green.

7.You have taken out a loan or using another credit card to pay for the debt.Taking out a salary loan, getting a cash advance from another credit card, withdrawing from your retirement fund, or using a home equity loan are big red flags. Being able to pay your debt by borrowing money from other institutions gives you a false sense of security. Sure, you’ve paid off one debt, but at what cost? This will only make the problem worse because now your retirement fund will be less, your house ownership is in danger, or you owe another credit card a larger amount.

8.You have become extremely stressed or depressed.It’s normal to worry about money from time to time but if you find yourself living in fear of creditors hounding you and you’re constantly anxious about where to get money to pay off your debt, you know your financial situation is in dire straits. Not answering collection phone calls, arguing with your partner over finances, or not being able to eat or function because of debilitating debt are signs you’ve lost control over money matters. This may be the time you would need to seek professional help to sort things out and find a way to be free of money troubles.

These eight signs are just some of the symptoms of an even bigger problem–the inability to secure your finances and living a lifestyle beyond your capabilities. If you see yourself exhibiting one or two of the signs mentioned, then you may need to rethink your spending, and immediately course correct. It could spell the difference between financial success and a life of debt.

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