In life, debt can be swirling all around you, like the water in the ocean. Does that mean that the tide of debt in your life is necessarily bad? Not at all. Like water, debt can help us get things done. We go into debt in order to get a college education, and we go into debt in order to pick up a house. We even go into debt in order to pick up a great car that will get to work, home, and everywhere else in between. There’s a lot of good that can come out of debt.

Yet like water, the tide of debt can turn against us, threatening to wash away everything that we’ve grown to love — even ourselves. When you’re in debt, it can feel like the world is against you, which means that it’s a lot harder to get things done. It’s a lot harder to prove to your friends and family that you are good with money and social approval does have a role in determining our self-worth. We feel bad when people don’t see us as responsible adults.

Like most things in life, you can change the tide of debt in your life, but it won’t be easy. Of course, all of the things that are worthwhile in life are rarely easy. Let’s build you a battle plan, shall we?

First and foremost, you are going to have to face the numbers. Not your friends. Not your family — you. It’s your debt, and despite the fact that there really are circumstances that are often out of your control. You are the one that is going to have to take responsibility for your debt. You are the one that’s going to have to figure out how to make the most out of your finances, even when everything feels upside down. You are the one that’s going to have to push and make sacrifices in order to get things done. If you aren’t willing to make the changes, no one around you is going to be able to force your hand — it’s your debt. Now, we know that a lot of guide swill let you get away with feeling sorry and feeling bad about the situation that you’re in, but we’re not really ones to sugarcoat anything. It’s your debt, and only you can fix it. Only you can make the choice to work your battle plan to the fullest.

So, what do you think the next step is? You need to get help. Even if you only go to a credit counselor in your area that educates you on the ins and outs of personal finance, that’s better than anything. A lot of people really don’t have a solid education in personal finance, and the school system is definitely to blame for that. We’re not saying that there aren’t social, environmental, and even financial factors in the way of you having a debt-free life. However, you can’t rest on those laurels so to speak when it comes time to fix the problem. You can’t blame the media because they sent out cute commercials and nifty postcards to your door about the latest credit cards. By taking those credit card offers and later spending the credit card as you saw fit, you agreed to the terms.

So let’s set up some new terms. You’re going to get help from someone to not only encourage you to get out of debt, but to empower you to make better choices. That might mean looking at your budget, or it might mean raising your income. You’re going to have to do something in order to free up more money to fight the debt. The debt will not just go away because you asked it to nicely — though that would be interesting to see. You can ask everyone around you to wish for the debt to go away, but it really doesn’t work like that.

The credit professional that you choose might be able to make some of the debt go down through a process called debt consolidation. This can take a few different forms, all things said and done. The most common is where all of your debts are negotiated into one nice monthly payment, where you are actually paying a lot less interest. The other way is through a loan that actually wipes out every last one of your debts in one fell swoop, but you’re left with paying the loan back. The interest rate can be sort of high because your credit’s bad, but if you want a fast result, this is the best way to get it.

Everyone is going to have to be open about your credit problems, from a household perspective. Remember what we said about budgeting? There are a lot of things that are going to have to get cut from the budget for everything to function the way it needs to function. That doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world. That doesn’t mean that you can’t go out and have fun sometimes. However, if you can choose free forms of fun, that’s a good start.

For example, if you’re reading this you probably have Internet access. Did you know that most of the major network television channels have online websites that stream free episodes of their most popular shows? That means that you don’t even have to have a cable subscription in order to catch your favorite shows. This can save you anywhere from eighty to a hundred dollars over that cable or satellite package that you ordered. Yes, there are some things that are only on premium channels, but you will need to just cut them out until you can get back on your feet.

Tracking your spending is another must — even if all you are going to do is run down to the gas station and get a candy bar. If you look over time, you might find that all of those candy bars you purchased could have actually purchased a study course on marketing or a deposit down on a cosmetology course. Something that can make you money is a better investment than something that’s going to be digested and out of your body in less than 8 hours.

Yes, this is a tough guide to read, especially when you’re in debt and your options don’t seem very high. However, if you really dig down deep, you’ll find that you really have everything it takes to do well in life — even to change the tide of debt in your life!