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Drowning in Debt? 5 Easy Steps to Stay Afloat

The average American has almost $8,500 in credit-card debt.  If you've got debt, rest assured that a little planning and a lot of commitment can get you debt-free.

Consider these five steps to navigate debt-filled waters:

Get off the spending ship:  The first and most important step toward getting debt under control is to stop charging immediately.  Put the credit card in a shoe box on a high shelf, freeze it in a block of ice in your freezer -- whatever it takes to create distance between you and the card.

Look for a life jacket through lower rates:  Call your credit-card company to request a lower interest rate and consider consolidating your debt onto one card.  Be sure to read the fine print for details on how long a low-interest rate will last, and if there are transfer fees.

Chart your course by budgeting:  Learn where your money is going.  Create a spending record by writing down how much money you earn and spend each month.  YouA?ll likely be surprised.  Be sure to redirect some funds toward paying off your debt.

Put wind in your sails with bigger payments:  Try to pay more than the "minimum amount due" so you can reduce your balance faster.  Pay your bill on time so you avoid late fees and damage to your credit score.  Set up online bill payments to make sure your bills arrive on time.

And while being deployed may not seem like a potential boon to your financial situation, smart management of the increased pay could help you pay down your debt in short order.  Having the discipline to pay off debt with the hardship pay could give you an extra push toward a zero-balance.  Take advantage of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which gives active duty military members exclusive benefits, such as reduced interest rates on credit cards, mortgages, and auto loans.

Set sail with one card:  To reduce the temptation to go back to spending, trim your credit-card usage to one card that you use for emergencies.  If you use a credit card once your debt is paid off, be sure to pay it off in full each month.  This will strengthen your credit rating and keep you out of debt-infested waters.

So now that you have a map to help you steer your way out of debt, you can head toward financial security.  For more information, visit usaa.com.

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