This week USA Today tweeted a crazy, scary statistic about American debt:

(click here if you can’t see the graphic)

I’m a bit surprised at how shocked I am by these numbers, but maybe it’s because I have too rosy of a view of how people are really living right now. My own family worked and clawed our way out of student loan and credit card debt following the adoption of our 2 children, and I must expect others to be able to do the same. Or at least, I hope they could. Perhaps though I haven’t realized how deep some people have fallen into debt. I’m glad I see the numbers now. I am glad I see the PEOPLE struggling behind those numbers!

Look at again at those stats, shall we? First, the statistic that the average American is saddled with over 50K in debt is mind blowing. How can someone ever hope to recover from that? That is more debt than the income most people I know make in an entire year of work. And then to read that 1 in 3 people have some of their debt in collections? That blows my mind, too. I’m not sure why, but it does.

How long can people keep spending out of control and expect there to be no consequences? How high can the pile of bills and debt grow before people realize that instant gratification and spending beyond their means is just creating stress, pain and financial difficulty ahead?

Here’s what I DO know: it IS possible to get out of debt. It’s hard work. It takes a lot of time. It’s something many people think they can’t do. But they can! Some just might need help getting started on their journey out of debt.

I have two FREE printable tools that might be helpful if you are one of the folks in this info-graphic and you are ready to start making some changes. Heck, even if you don’t have that much debt and nothing is in collections, you might still need a little help. These tools won’t instantly get you out of debt, but if you commit to using them and learning from them, maybe you can start creating a new future for you and your finances. I hope so!

FREE PRINTABLE EXPENSE TRACKER (download page)

Free Expense Tracker

I think this is where it starts for most people. They have no idea how much money they are spending, what they are spending it on, and whether or not their income actually matches their expenses each month.

Take a moment to read through the instructions on the Expense Tracker download page and give expense tracking a shot. Before you can start fixing what you’re doing wrong, you have to know how bad things are.

The expense tracker is a set of two documents that are an essential first step for anyone that wants to learn more about where their money is going each month. It’s one of the initial steps in most budgeting processes. You can download the actual Expense Tracker sheet, and also an Instruction Sheet.

My suggestion is for you to use the tool to track each and every expense you make for an entire pay period. The goal is to match up your spending with your income, and identify necessary and unnecessary spending.

After you have gotten a handle on where your money is going, you can begin making a plan for cutting back in needed areas, and diverting your money where it should be going to make the most impact.

FREE GOAL PLANNING SHEET (download page)

Free Goal Planner

Once you know what’s going on with your money it’s time to set some goals. Without goals about how you want to go about getting out of debt, it’s hard to take that first actionable step to getting there. Read through the instructions on the Goal Planner download page and see if you can’t identify a few things you could be doing differently.

This tool helps you look at a long term goal, and identify some short term goals and specific actionable items to help you achieve that goal.

I encourage you to dream big and set whatever goals are necessary for you to get where you want to go. By dreaming big, you might surprise yourself with what you are able to accomplish.

It’s one thing to have a dream. It’s another thing to have a plan for accomplishing that dream. Setting goals should be a part of that plan!

I know my free Expense Tracker and Goal Planner sheets won’t solve the American Debt Crisis, but if someone out there finds them helpful and is able to use them to change their financial situation, then I am happy to have shared them!

Need more free printable tools? Check these out:

Charity

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