Having some debt, such as a mortgage or car and student loans, is to be expected. However, accumulating an unmanageable amount of debt—especially unsecured, high-interest debt—may cause undue stress and financial hardship. But the good news is that there are many ways you can help stop debt from becoming a problem by taking control of your financial situation.

A few helpful online banking tools and a prudent approach to your finances can help you avoid debt problems and keep many financial stresses at bay.

Lower your debt-to-income ratio. Use credit cards only up to what you can afford to pay off every month. If you find that you're struggling to make monthly payments on unsecured debt, closely examine your budget and look for ways to cut your expenses or bring in more income.

Use a savings account for an emergency fund. Save a reasonable portion from each of your paychecks so you won't have to use credit for emergencies. Learn about the savings options from Ally Bank.

Open a certificate of deposit to help you reach longer-term goals. The restricted access to your money helps you stay disciplined as you save and earn interest.

Set a budget, and stick to it. Take a hard look at your expenses and set a realistic and reasonable budget for things like food, housing, transportation, insurance, recreation, savings and incidentals. Be sure to keep track of how you're doing and work to stay within the budget you've set. If you still find yourself accumulating debt, you may need to rethink your priorities or find ways to earn additional income.

Seek credit counseling from a reputable source if you're having difficulty making your plans work. A qualified financial professional can give you solid strategies for getting out of debt and developing healthy financial habits.

Shop wisely. Watch for sales, coupons and discount stores to stock up on things you need at the best prices. However, be careful not to buy things you don’t need simply because they are a “good deal.”

Practice patience. Self-control in spending is crucial to help avoid debt problems and make the other rules of debt prevention work. Learn to carefully evaluate your "wants" and "needs" both in the short and long term. Often what seems like an immediate need will seem less important once you give yourself time to evaluate it. It also helps to view purchases in terms of what it costs in time, or comparing the purchase price to your income on an hourly basis. If that "gotta have it" purchase actually costs you a day and a half at work, for example, it may not be worth it after all.

Wherever you are in your financial journey, if you want to help stop debt from becoming a problem, avoid debt problems altogether or work toward other financial objectives, Ally Bank has a variety of savings products to help you along the way.

Learn more at Allybank.com or call live, 24/7 customer care at 877-247-ALLY (2559).

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