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If you are feeling stuck in your financial situation, all the advice you hear seems pretty useless. Instead of inspiring you, it can make you feel like giving up. How can you possibly save 12 months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund when you are short on this month’s rent? It’s not hopeless and there are some ways to climb out of your financial mess.

1. Perceived Lack of Control

One of the biggest hurdles to financial success is a feeling of being powerless. So to break free, you need to take control. Assess your current situation honestly. Look over the past few months of spending to see where your money is going. This can give you a greater sense of control over the situation. See where you are overspending and look for creative ways to cut back. Even if you feel as if you have done this before, it’s a good idea to take a deeper look at your finances frequently.

The results may show you that you are spending a large percentage of your income on groceries or rent. You can look for a cheaper place to live or consider options to cut your food bill. Perhaps your income just isn’t high enough. You can look into side jobs or opportunities for advancement. Just knowing the actual numbers can make you feel more empowered to reach your financial goals.

Keeping an eye on your credit is also important. You can pull copies of your credit reports for free every year, and you can check two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

2. No Goals

Speaking of goals, you should make sure you have some. Instead of vague notions that you want to buy a home or retire someday, try setting specific benchmarks that you can reach. Set a timeline for when you want to reach your goals and work backwards to determine what you need to do to get there.

Start out saving a little bit out of each paycheck. Do it first, before you pay any of your expenses. That last $25 in your bank account may have been squandered or forgotten but if you pay it to yourself first, you ensure you’re not wasting it.

3. Debt Is a Downer

When you are carrying serious debt, from credit cards or student loans, you may feel like it’s not worth thinking about other financial issues. But focusing only on your debt can be a real downer.

Instead, incorporate paying off your debt into your larger financial plan. Figure out a schedule (that you can keep) to eventually be debt free. Maybe this means you have to wait a few more years to buy a home, but it doesn’t mean you have to put it off indefinitely. Don’t let the fact that you have some debt let you continue down the debt spiral of accumulating more.

More on Managing Debt:

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