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Don't let embarrassment keep you in debt

by Barbara Marquand

When you've dug yourself deep into credit card debt, you might feel like crawling into the hole with your money woes and never coming out.

Consumers struggling with debt often feel lost and embarrassed, and frequently hide their troubles from others, according to a recent survey by GreenPath Debt Solutions, a credit counseling service based in Farmington Hills, Michigan. GreenPath says when people call the service for help, it's often the first time they've spoken about their credit card debt with anyone.

Credit card troubles dent self-esteem every bit as much as they hurt credit scores. But don't let sheer embarrassment stop you from addressing the issues. Here's how to crawl out of the emotional hole so you can begin getting your finances in order.

• Realize you're not alone

You're not the first to struggle with credit card debt, and you certainly won't be the last. About 15 percent of card holders carry balances of more than $10,000, according to FICO, developer of the FICO credit score. Of course, that doesn't excuse continuing financial bad habits, but it can serve as a dose of courage to address your problem.

• Face reality

You can't solve a problem you don't acknowledge. Take a full inventory of how much you owe on all your credit cards.

Break credit card debt silence and tell someone

Financial infidelity -- when one spouse hides spending from the other -- kills marriages. If you've been keeping credit card spending a secret, the sooner you tell your spouse or partner about the problem, the better.

• Get financial counseling

Contact a reputable credit counseling service -- one that offers free services on a range of topics, including budgeting and saving. Avoid services that focus only on debt management, charge big up-front fees, and urge you to stop communicating with creditors.

• Get to the root of the issue

Overspending may be a symptom of a deeper problem, such as, depression. Seek professional help from a therapist if you're struggling to get your spending under control. Addressing the root of the problem, which probably has nothing to do with money, can give you the strength to take the necessary financial steps.

Finally, if you're paralyzed by embarrassment, remember, this too shall pass -- as long as you take a step forward. Once you take that first step, keep at it. Each step that follows is that much easier.

Published 07/30/12 (Modified 07/09/14)

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