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Five ways to take control of your debt

(NC) Is debt taking control of your life? Owing money can feel like a heavy weight on your shoulders. It may still be possible to take control of your debt.

Here are five ways you can take charge of your finances this year:

• Ask some tough questions. Do I often pay bills after their due dates? Do I bounce cheques or receive calls from collection agencies? These are all warning signs that your debt may be getting out of control.

• Make a budget and stick to it. A good place to start is to find a financial or budget counsellor to help you. Also, many organizations like the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada or even your financial institution offer free budget management tools and spreadsheets that you can use.

• Combine your debtsinto one. Consider a consolidation loan to pay off your debts. Combining many debts with different interest rates into one monthly payment with one interest rate is a great way to simplify your finances, and reduce the overall interest you are paying.

• Renegotiate. Sometimes you can contact your creditors and arrange for lower monthly payments, lower interest rates or a longer pay period. You never know until you ask.

Sell assets. Take a step back and assess if there is anything you could sell to help pay down your debt—furniture, appliances, gadgets, even gently worn clothing, footwear or accessories may get you some extra cash from a consignment store.

You can visit for more helpful hints, tips and tools that will help you see where your money is going, including:

• My Expense Calculator. This tool allows you to estimate how much money you spend on each expense every month and how much you could save by cutting back.

• The Budget Calculator. Enter information such as your income, savings and expenses, and identify ways you can achieve your financial goals such as paying off your debts. The tool also allows you to export the information to a PDF or excel spreadsheet.

Take advantage of the tools that are available to you – take control of your budget.

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