Debt Warning Signs: How to Spot Debt and What to Do About It

If more than one or two of these warning signs describe you, you may have too much debt:

  • I’m not sure how much I owe.
  • I can only pay the minimum amounts due on my credit cards and other bills each month.
  • The total amount of money I owe isn’t getting any smaller.
  • I often pay my bills late.
  • I am borrowing from one credit card to pay another credit card.
  • I put off going to the doctor or dentist because I cannot afford it now.
  • I spend more than I earn.
  • I would have financial problems right away if I lost my job or missed a paycheck.


There are plenty of things you can do to start reducing your debt. Living in debt doesn’t have to be permanent, but you will need a plan to tackle your payments:

  1. Get help from a nonprofit financial counseling agency: Check to see if your local state university (Extension Service) offers a free debt management service. They can help you set up a repayment plan and write to your creditors.
  2. Cut way back on your credit card use: Leave your card at home. Don’t use it to pay for extras that you can’t afford.
  3. Get help from a non-profit financial counseling agency: Check to see if your local state university has a free debt management service. They can help you set up a repayment plan and write to your creditors.
  4. Try one-on-one credit counseling: Contact the National Foundation for Consumer Credit online at www.nfcc.org or by phone at 800-388-2227.

How do I improve my poor credit history?

  • Look at how much you owe.
  • Prepare a realistic budget. See how much you can pay off each month.
  • Contact the companies you owe money to and work out a payment schedule.
  • Consider using savings, selling assets or getting another job, at least for a while.
  • Consider getting a secured credit card to rebuild your credit, but be sure you understand what will happen if you cannot make those payments.
  • Be sure to take the steps listed to maintaining good credit.
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