Another note about the Pew Survey I blogged about this weekend:
On the list titled "biggest problem facing you and your family," the responses included what you'd expect: Not enough money/bills, taxes, cost of living, unemployment, recession, fuel prices, health care costs, health problems, etc.
Thing is, they don't suggest debt as a separate issue for people. Obviously they aren't suggesting debt isn't a problem families are facing; I'm sure people's debts are rolled up in the "paying bills" category.
That's a problem.
Your debt payments are not like your utility and phone bills. When I help people with budgets, I never lump those things together. Most of what we think of as "bills" are a given. You're going to have electricity, gas, phone service, etc. But you don't need to have credit card debt. When you start thinking of credit card bills in the same way you think of your utility bills, you're in dangerous territory. Your goal should be to pay those debts off and be done with them. That's a very different outlook than you'd have with a perpetual expense like the electic and phone bills.
Ditto car payments-many people assume that they'll always have a car payment, so they go car shopping as soon as they pay off their auto loan. Don't be one of them. Once you've paid off your car, own it for a while, live without car payments being due every month. Give yourself a break from debt.