Tips For Managing Debt In '09

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- Single mother of four, Esther Dukes, is working her way out of debt.

"I have so many credit card bills that I have to pay off, so what I try to do is get on a monthly budget and try to pay so much off every month so I can clear my credit and get better established," said Dukes.

Fortunately for Esther, she's getting a better grip on her finances, but for millions more, the task of getting out of debt can be daunting; however, it's not impossible says Attorney Michael Crawley.  He says the first step is don't use credit as a crutch.

"You have to quit borrowing money and paying monthly payments. If you have already found yourself owing "x" amount of dollars then you're going to have to be able to make certain payments and start making progress toward making that balance closer to zero," said Crawley.

Crawley says prioritizing is imperative....things like your house and car payments and clothes and food for your family top the list.  He says take what's left, even if it's just a little, and start paying back what you owe.

"What helps most folks is to pay on the smallest one and try and make it go away, so you have less and less monthly payments to make and just kind of chip away at it," said Crawley.

Crawley says bankruptcy is a last resort, but he adds it can be an alternative to help people get back on their feet.

"If the ultimate goal is to move forward from this problem and live in a different way, and in a positive way and have a positive relationship with your creditors, than that really is what a bankruptcy is for," said Crawley.

As for Esther Dukes, she says reorganizing her finances was a necessity. She'll continue working to pay off things from the past, so she can enjoy a debt free future.  Michael Crawley says to help stay out of debt, try and avoid the cycle of incurring debt and making monthly payments. Make sure the necessities are taken care of, then set money back, even if it's a small amount, every little bit helps.