Digging out and Saving up

What to do about debt.

If you're in debt, you're not alone. Americans owe a staggering $1.2 trillion on their credit cards. How do you get the upper hand with credit card debt? Here are some tips for squeezing out an extra payment each month.

—Use your savings.

With savings accounts yielding only from 2.5 to 3 percent, and credit cards charging 18 percent, you're actually losing money by not applying savings toward debt retirement.

—Track your expenses.

Chip Krueger, president of Fortress Financial in Wheaton, Illinois, suggests keeping a daily log of everything you spend, no matter how insignificant, for at least a month. "You can save $1 a day just by ordering water instead of a Coke at lunch. That's $30 a month."

—Make nickel-and-dime savings.

Set a timer when making long-distance calls, find a bank that offers free checking, join a food co-op, refinance your mortgage to a lower interest rate, drop cable for a year.

—Pay off smaller amounts first.

If you ...

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