Debt Survey

In our culture, credit is everywhere. It's easily available, and also easily abused. If you're wondering how you can tell if your credit is getting out of hand, there are several warning signs you may be getting in too much debt.

Here are some of the warning signs.

  1. You don't have any savings.
  2. You make minimum payments on your credit cards.
  3. You use credit cards for things you used to buy with cash, such as groceries.
  4. You use increasing amounts of your total income to pay off debts.
  5. You have more than two or three major credit cards.
  6. After you pay your credit card bill, you increase your balance by the same amount of more the following month.
  7. You're at or near your credit limit on your credit cards.
  8. You count on the float in order to pay your bills, writing a check hoping that you'll be able to cover it by the time it clears your bank.
  9. You're unsure of the total amount you owe on all your debts.
  10. You take out cash advances on your credit card to pay other bills.
  11. You've tried to make a purchase with your credit card and been declined.
  12. You've been denied credit.
  13. You bounce checks.
  14. You get calls from collectors.
  15. You lie to your spouse or other family member about your spending or hide credit card statements from family members.

If you answered "yes" to one or more of the first six questions and no to the rest, you may have caught the problem before it becomes unmanageable. If you answered "yes" to one or more of questions 7-15, the problem m

For those who feel like they're in too deep, it's never too late. John Feliciano of the Feliciano Financial Group says the first step is to just sit down and find out how much you owe.

"Budgeting the debt is probably the biggest factor in a financial plan," John says. "It's amazing to see what your cash flow actually looks when you put

There's certainly no shame in having debt difficulty. As anyone can attest, once in debt it takes a while to dig out.

"Once you turn eighteen, a lot of stuff comes through the mail saying you can get credit," Tyler's Makeithas Johnson says. "Once you get credit, you don't do anything but go through it."

"You get three or four letters a week offering you a credit card," Tyler's Sue Otte says. "It's so easy to take that temptation."

If you think you may be getting yourself in trouble, financial planners advise you to take a simple first step. Write down all of your debts, comparing your debts, payments, and interest rates, so you'll know just how much you owe.

Once you know where your money is going, pay off the cards with the highest interest rates first. And once you pay them down, keep a watch on your spending so you don't repeat your mistakes.

Reid Kerr ( reporting.