By Mai Nguyen
Millions of Americans are struggling with debt. It's a scary metaphor, but not an unfair one: According to the latest statistics from the Federal Reserve, the average credit card balance among indebted households is $16,140, while the average student loan debt is $31,946. And this holiday season, shoppers will spend an average $805.65 on gifts and other seasonal items, according to the National Retail Federation. Many of those purchases will be paid with a credit card, leaving them with bigger balances in the New Year.
Steve Rhode, a consumer debt professional in North Carolina, sees the country's debt issue as a simple math problem, with a simple solution. You should spend less than you earn. "People make it so complicated," Rhode says, "when all they need to do is take action." But even the idea of taking action can seem overwhelming. When you're ready to give it a shot, here are the five things you should consider.