Staying out of deep debt is tough when the economy is in the toilet. We asked Carmen Wong Ulrich, a frequent contributor to CNBC who also writes On The Money, a personal finance blog for CNBC.com, for her five essential debt busters.
1.) Curb unnecessary spending. Going on dates four days a week? Make it three and use the loot to pay down your debt or shore up for an emergency cash fund. Be sure you know what you need before you shop—at the grocery store or online. Don't shop for food when you're hungry and don't shop for clothes, electronics, or cars when you're feeling down.
2.) Fight fees. Banking fees can sap your funds every month. Check your bank and credit card statements. Between overdraft fees and point-of-sale fees which average seventy cents a pop at many retailers, banks make billions. Stick to cash, an ATM-only card, and one credit card that you pay off in full every month to avoid finance charges.
3.) Automate your green. Consider taking your financial transactions online. You'll avoid late fees and jacked-up interest rates due to late payments and grow your money without lifting a finger. Sign up for alerts that let you know if a credit card interest rate goes up, an account balance drops too low, or a fee has been applied to your account.
4.) Protect your J-O-B. Nothing can get you more quickly into debt than losing your income. Perform like gangbusters at work: no shopping online, no IMing; network, find a mentor, make sure you have great references, and always go above and beyond the call of duty. Or at least look like you do.
5.) Get a side hustle. Got a few free hours after work or on weekend, plus a valued skill? Post your services on your local Craigslist.com to earn extra coin. Walk dogs, do some personal training, catering, photography, proofreading—you'll find there are plenty of ops out there to make extra money.