Too much debt


I’ve had a few people lately ask what to do if you are in too much debt in order to get out from under.

I am usually very frugal and don’t like to be in debt – though it snuck up on me a couple times when we didn’t have enough in savings to pay for some unexpected expenses like medical bills and dying appliances. I am actually working through an instance right now.

Here are my suggestions:

1. First, get out a piece of paper or your financial program like Quicken. Enter each debt you have and next to them each interest rate and minimum payments. Now add up the total debt at the bottom. In order to fix your debt problem, you need to face it. You’ll probably be shocked at the amount. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You know your mistake now – look to the future. And if you are in a partnership – come clean. Admit you were wrong and ask for help. Work out a plan together.

2. Next, find out how much money you have to work with. Create a simple spending plan. The automatic savings plan is the most important. Unless you have savings, any time an emergency arises you will end up back in debt.

3. Decide how to get some extra money to make a big initial payment for your debt. You can sell a second car, cut digital cable, stop various monthly subscriptions, sell your clutter, work extra hours for a couple months. Being in a lot of debt lacks financial integrity – so we want to get that back as fast as possible. And it may require some sacrifice of time and things for awhile.

4. Decide what you are going to quit buying in order to save money. Do you really need anymore clothes for a season? How about books that you can get from the library? DVD rentals? Going out to eat? Magazines at the checkout? Designer coffee? Most of us have plenty of stuff. We don’t need more.

5. How much money do you have each month to put against the debt? You can find out using your spending plan and what you have decided to save on.

6. Now put your information into the Quicken Debt Reduction Planner. It will show you exactly what you need to pay to get out of debt the fastest. Put this plan with your bills. And use it every time you pay bills.

7. Freeze your credit cards and vow not to use them again until you are debt free. If you are using them monthly and not paying them off, you are spending beyond what you make. And we know where that leads. If you can’t make your bills without using a credit card – then it’s time for some serious changes. Whether that means downsizing your house, getting a part time job, selling a car or whatever it takes. Too many people think they can get out of serious debt without making any major changes. But, that just doesn’t happen.

8. Get in a good mind set. Every day say an intention/affirmation, “I live in financial integrity. I am on the way to living debt free. I will feel freer, lighter and happier.” Put it on a card in your wallet so you will see it before you spend. Visit frugal messageboards for inspiration and see how many people make a game out of living frugally. Every evening write down your triumphs in your journal. “Today, I put the magazine back down.” “Instead of going out for lunch, my friend and I decided to take a walk.” Remember you are rich. Quit comparing yourself to others. See yourself as someone who is frugal and responsible with money.

9. If you continuously overspend, examine your feelings. Where are you really feeling lack in your life? Where are your needs not being met? If you make a plan to take care of yourself and your needs you won’t have to do your recreational shopping. Maybe you need to find some new friendships, get a hobby, start exercising. Maybe you need to work through something you have been ignoring by shopping. You might want to make an appointment with your pastor or a counselor.

10. Remind yourself that you will not feel better when you find the “perfect thing.” While you are on the hunt you may feel that adrenaline rush. But, once it is in the bag and you are holding the receipt it’s not fun anymore.

Know that you are not alone. Many people are right where you are. But, it we work together and hold each other accountable we can rise above the debt.


  • Andrea Q says:

    Thank you so much for the link to Quicken’s Debt Reduction Planner! We have two car payments and one student loan. Using their tool made it so easy to make a plan of action for paying these off quickly.

  • Ginger says:

    Just this Saturday, we put a check for the payoff on a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the mail. It’s an incredible feeling to know that we got terribly behind, admitted our mistakes, paid off our debt and now we’re debt free. It took an extreme mess to get us to understand it, but after 5 years of living cash only (nobody would give us credit), we learned that we can live on a cash basis and we’ll NEVER let ourselves get into a situation like that again.

    I don’t think your message would have changed a lot 5 years ago, but, I want to reinforce the value in what you said. You HAVE to admit where you are, make a plan and stick with it to get out of debt, or you’ll end up sliding in deeper and deeper.

    Thank you! 🙂

  • Marcia says:

    Excellent post, Beth. I love reading about getting out of debt.

    We haven’t spoken about it before but I HATE debt with a passion. We only have the house and then my car (DIon’s is paid off) for another 19 months – I elected to pay off my car over 24 months so it’s over and done with quickly!

    And funny, I just posted a money-saving tip on the blog today!


  • Beth Dargis says:

    This seems to be a big issue with people. Thanks for the inspiration Marcia and Ginger.

    You are very welcome Andrea.

  • Moneymonk says:

    Most important, do not rack up new debt, once you paid off your old debts

  • Vedis Teh says:

    Very informative. I like reading tips about eliminating credit card debts.
    Yes, I ‘m deeply in DEBTS now.
    I have started my debt elimination program as you can see at my blog
    I am going to out you on my blog so that I can get updated information from you.
    By the way, I like your blog very much..sooo soothing.. 😉

  • Beth Dargis says:

    Hi Vedis,

    Thanks for writing. I just visited your site as well. I really like your prayer generator. I will be visiting more.


  • Pamela Morrison says:

    I am a shop alcoholic and I appreciate your suggestion to talk to pastor or counselor. We are always short each month and I have to go into savings to cover bills and expenses for food and gas etc. each month. I have $15,000 savings and own a home with $300,000 of equity. And we owe 25,000 in cars and credit card debt. How should we structure ourselves out of debt. Our home is worth $500,000 and we owe $125.000 on our home. Our home is on 2 acres and it is to much land and home for us to take care of. Should we sell? I am 58 and my husband is 66. We would like to travel and see grandchildren in other states. We have six children and they are scattered in four states. Please help and advise. I recently lost a lot of weight and got caught up in shopping for new and used clothes. I go to goodwill and buy shoes and clothes very cheap but that shopping experience is out of control. I am a thrifty shopper. I paid $125.00 for our couch and love seat from a friend who needed the money I always buy used and from garage sales. But we eat out to much and have cell phones cable and junk. Please advise, sorry for the long story. Thank you, Pamela

  • Vedis Teh says:

    Thanks, I like the words “prayer generator”..mmm.. 🙂

  • Amy Morren says:

    Thanks for all of the advice and opinions!! I just received our Income Tax Refund and we took the time to sit down and look at the debts that can be eliminated the quickest and went into action to get that done. Have paid off 5 ” little” bills that have been haunting us for some time and it feels so good to have things finally caught up. I realize that we shouldn’t really be receiving a refund check, that just means that we aren’t able to make us of the money throughout the year but it sure feels good to be able to pay things off with it.

  • Beth Dargis says:

    Way to go, using your tax refund to pay off debts. You are doing great!

  • Beth Dargis says:


    Getting a smaller house when your goals are to travel sounds like an excellent plan. You could pay for a new home in full or very close to full and still pay off your debts. Make sure you pay off your debts then you can pay what you can of your new mortgage.

    You will most likely need to sell things or give them away as you move to a smaller house.

    You know what you want and that is the first step in getting your act together. You may be shopping because you miss your kids and grandkids and are trying to fill a void. When you get closer to your goal and think about them more you will have less desire to shop.

  • Its great to see people who don’t procrastinate on their debt issues and actually taking action. Being in the debt reduction business I speak with so many people who are so stuck in debt and one of the reasons they stay there is due to procrastination. It makes me smile to see that people out there on the internet are not only taking action, but blogging about it to help others in their situation. Oh and by the way great post.

  • I work for a debt relief company, and I really appreciate your approach to debt reduction. Number 9 is of particular importance (examining your feelings), but is the most overlooked step to helping yourself become financially free. Ultimately the causes of overspending have an emotional or psychological basis, and in order to fully correct a debt problem, you must attack the root issue—whether that’s insecurity or a materialistic philosophy.

  • Reducing debt requires a lot of discipline.
    A very good article on reducing debt and keeping it that way.


  • TooMuchDebt says:

    Excellent posting – I wish I had found it years ago. My wife and I have let our spending get outrageously out of control. As of right now, we owe around $125,000 for our first mortgage, $26,000 for our second mortgage, $24,000 on a personal loan, $22,000 on an auto loan, $15000 on a credit card, and around $18000 for student loans. We have no savings since all of our monthly income is used for paying off our debt. The most disturbing bit is the $26000 second mortgage and $24000 personal loan went to pay off credit card and recently, I discovered we had maxed out our credit card. Is there any hope for us or are we too far in debt?

  • Beth Dargis says:

    You are definitely not too far in debt. But, it is time to handle it. And in a big way. I’d start by selling what you can and getting a part time job in addition to your main job(s). You can sell things through ebay or Craigs List.

    Next cut most of the non-necessary spending – dinners out, stuff for the house, new clothes, whatever is eating up your money.

    I suggest using cash for as much as possible.

    A great book to help you out of debt is the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (you can get it from your library 🙂

    You can do it!

  • My husband and I had a serious credit card problem after the birth of our son. We was so far over our heads we had to get assistance from My blog explains how it works and how fast and easy it was for us to become debt free. Provanta helped us from a potential bankruptcy and i will refer anyone i can to them they helped us out tremendously.

  • I have recently changed my Provanta review to a squidoo page so if your interested in this program my review on how Provanta worked for me has been relocated there. Once again this settlement company worked wonders for me and I will refer it to anyone.

  • Pepper Dittinger says:

    I saw something about Day 12 – No Spending Fast.
    What is this? I couldn’t find any info on your blog and I am interested in seeing if this would work for me. Thanks for your 5 weekly tips and for your decluttering calendar. This year will be the year that it works for me. I also want to pay down/off my credit card bill and think the no spending month (if that’s what this is) is a great way to start using the “not-spent” $$$ on getting the bill paid off.

  • Beth says:

    Hi Pepper, This is the info on the spending fast: you can find the rest of the fast by searching for spending fast in my search in the sidebar. Hope this works for you!

  • I agree with the plan, however, Quicken makers actually purchased a free personal finance tool that is available online and it is amazing. it’s called

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