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Perhaps you have already experienced the common scenario. You are offered easy credit with great terms and you take advantage of it. The credit card offers keep coming and the credit limits keep rising. You assume that if someone is willing to keep extending you credit then you must be in a position to pay for it all.

This is the wrong mindset to have, and it’s proven financially fatal for a surprising amount of people. Following the scenario, you get nervous when you realize you’re struggling to make the minimum payments and panic when the demand letters and collection calls start rolling in. This is generally where many realize they need help in figuring out how to pay off their debt, and look to debt consolidation programs to help them out.

However, if you’re the kind of person that likes control and has an understanding of financial issues, you can fight this battle alone. To succeed, you should be comfortable with some unpleasant tasks, including negotiating with your creditors and writing strong letters to credit bureaus. So if you have time to devote to this task, pay attention to details, and are willing to go toe to toe with your creditors, you may be cut out for the job.

Regardless of what route you take to dig yourself out of your debt conundrum, from here on out you will need to change the way you look at how you spend money.  Here are three ways you can prevent yourself from finding yourself in this position again.

Plug the Gaps. Stop spending on credit. This is a no brainer since you are already in trouble because of your credit, right? Not so fast. Your credit has allowed you to enjoy a lifestyle you can’t afford, especially now that you are devoting more of your financial resources towards paying off that debt. It might feel like you are breaking a drug habit, so expect to experience some pain along the way.

Balance your lifestyle. If you want to stay out of debt you have to change your lifestyle. Sure, stopping  for the daily coffee on the way to work or putting a hiatus on online shopping may be doable, but it’s going to take a lot more sacrifice than that. Expect to cut way into your entertainment and eating out budget. Consider these expenses a thing of the past as you will be putting that money towards your credit payments.

See credit for what it is. Unless you had medical issues or had to live off credit after a job loss, you are likely in this situation because you have the wrong attitude towards credit. That’s easy to do in our culture. But from here on out you have to change the way you look at credit. Shun away from it altogether until you get your finances back in order, then be very wary of any future credit offers you receive.