Americans are chronically in over their heads these days, and more often than not, personal financial plans are broken by job loss, low income or a lack of foresight on necessary expenditures. Many didn't expect to wind up in a monetary hole, but once that's the clear destination, there are certain moves that can stop disaster in its tracks. It will take self-discipline and strict budgeting, but the alternative could be financial ruin.
Stop spending so much
It sounds simultaneously like the hardest and easiest thing to do because it is. The trick is finding ways to do this without rubbing all the fun out of life, and there are many simple ways to do that.
The average gallon of gas costs just shy of $4, and most cars need at least 20 gallons to fill, as Matt Stewart wrote for Fox Kansas City. Instead of spending $80 a week or more on gas, taking the bus is roughly $1.50, and that adds up to more than $250 per month in savings. Buying lunch at work is easily five times more expensive than packing a sandwich. Going to the movies is $45 for tickets, popcorn and a drink, but Netflix is $15 per month, including a soda and a bag of microwave popcorn.
Pay things off
Don't make the monthly installment or the minimum payment. That is a great way of perpetuating a debt and spending a lot more than needed if more had been applied to the principle. It may feel like opening an account to save for the future is impossible while pouring every penny into an old bill, but spending everything on a debt isn't the solution, either.
Deborah Jacobs wrote for Forbes that people should try to invest money, pay off monthly bills and then spend whatever is left on outstanding balances. This may only amount to a little more than the minimum at first, but every dollar over that price point will drive down the outstanding figure, rather than just scoop off the interest.
It may seem daunting to try and pay back bills, but balancing lower expenses with higher payments can make a big difference in the amount and duration of repayment.