One of the greatest myths in the world of personal finance is that you are always aware of your debts. Sometimes debt really can indeed sneak up on you, and sometimes it comes to a point where you really need to step back and make sure that you keep your eyes on what truly matters. Yet if you don’t know where to begin, how do you really put the pieces together? Of course, if you’re already a personal finance junkie, then it might be hard for you to imagine that other people really are that clueless about their own finances.

The reality here that we all need to face is that you have to take matters into your own hands. But if your parents never said anything, and your teachers never said anything, and your relatives never really said anything, then you really might not realize the gravity of the situation until it’s too big to ignore anymore.

There are a few signs that you might be running into financial problems that you’re not realizing.

The biggest one is the shift from cash to credit. If you’re starting to use credit cards a lot more, then you’re going to need to make sure that you really are thinking about getting out of that situation as soon as possible. Building up credit card debt is not good because the payments can easily get out of control. If you’re spending your money on the essential items rather than luxurious ones, you might not have enough income to support your current lifestyle. You will have to modify as necessary.

This is where feelings can get hurt, because nobody wants to be told that what they’re doing may not be yielding them the results that they’re looking for. Yes, we’re well aware that not everyone can run out and find a job. However, there are plenty of people that find another way to make a second income in a safe, legal fashion. You might have to do odd jobs or network in your community. If you have a skill that is in demand by someone, you can usually charge them a modest fee to help them out. If you get good enough, that’s a side business that can produce some extra income.

Don’t wait till the last minute to realize your lifestyle is out of control. If you don’t have a budget, now is definitely the time to make sure that you have that under control. If you don’t have what you need, now is the time to get what you need. That’s really the only way to go if you’re really serious about living a better life in the long run.

Did we mention that it might be hard to face these things? We may have earlier, but it bears repeating — nothing about hits will be easy.

Another thing that comes up often is disconnection bills. When you’re starting to get a lot of disconnect notices, you really do need to start making changes. When there are collection agencies calling you, it’s time to make some changes. Even before that when the original creditor is calling you; it’s time to start thinking about a change in your lifestyle.

Getting out of debt is a process and a system. It’s one that isn’t overnight, but you can build a plan to get out of debt. Even if that means that you will have to get a job, then you’re going to have to do whatever it takes to get out of the situation and onto a different chapter of your life — hopefully a better chapter of your life. If you can live with roommates or family to save money, you might need to do that. You may need to safely try to buy less food or take public transportation rather than trying to maintain a car. Either way, you will need to ensure that you take care of the situation one way or the other.

Looking at your life and seeing the things around you — the stress of handling financial emergencies, the stress that comes every time there’s a time where there’s going to be extra money required — and realizing that things are broken is a tough pill to swallow. But ignoring the problem will truly only make it worse — don’t be in that situation if you can help it. Break out, move on, and rise higher — it takes time but it’s really worth it!

By Jasmina