CREDIT CENTER: Get Out of Debt

Got Debt? Here's Help

Getting out of debt and staying out is simple: Spend less money than you make. So why is something so simple so hard to do?

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By Dayana Yochim

Is debt nibbling at your heels? Welcome to the club. Whether it's credit card, a mortgage, a loaner for lunch, or a plane ticket home, most everyone has a debt or two they need to repay.

As a nation, we're charged up, maxed out, and otherwise treading water with five-pound weights velcroed to our ankles.

The truth is, it doesn't take much to start sinking in the first place. Consider two simple examples, starting with a positive one.

Let's say you begin setting aside $75 every month in savings, earning 5% interest. If you can pull this off for five years, you'll end up with a comforting $5,100 in emergency savings.

Now, let's turn this picture on its head and assume you come up short by the same $75 per month, on average, over the same five years. Further, assume you routinely patch over this difference with a credit card. Note that we're talking about less than $20 per week here -- hardly a symptom of reckless "retail therapy." Nonetheless, at the end of five years, you'll be looking at more than $7,200 in debt, assuming an 18% credit card interest rate.

That's an extra $2,100 in debt, beyond the $5,100 earned by saving $75 per month. This is the difference between saving and paying down debt. Saving is hard enough, but paying down debt is $2,100 harder!

EZ solutions for getting out of debt!

Lenders have made it too easy to get in a pinch. And a lot of folks claim that their product or service makes it easy to get out of the vice grip of debt. They've got one thing right: Getting out of debt and staying out of debt is actually pretty simple, at least compared to most money management topics. It boils down to spending less than you make, on a consistent, long-term basis. That's it. Nothing else will get the job done. Nothing. And it's easy, too. Right? Wrong!

While conquering debt won't send you scrambling for thick math textbooks, it's an ocean away from easy. One moment of weakness -- or worse, one cruel act of fate -- and you're scratching and clawing your way back out of the hole. It's not easy. Take the first step.

If money problems are nipping at your heels, or if an overwhelming debt burden is pushing you to the edge of financial disaster, you've come to the right place. There are a lot of Fools rooting for you. The following resources are at your disposal:

  • For a bird's-eye view of tackling debt, take just a minute to review the 60-Second Guide to Getting Out of Debt -- a CliffsNotes take on the task at hand.
  • Roll up your shirtsleeves and get to work with The Motley Fool's How To Get Out of Debt Guide (online seminar). It's completely free. Gratis. No dinero needed. Be sure to download the workbook (also free) to help organize and track your progress. Did we mention the free part?
  • There's no better community of Fools than the ones on the Consumer Credit/Credit Card discussion board. Check in. Say hello. Get input, advice, and support.
  • And finally, click around the rest of the Motley Fool Credit Center for more tools, tips, and a few lame jokes.

What do you say we get started paying down that debt?