It is so easy to swipe that little plastic credit card, but more difficult is opening that bill each month. Once more has been charged than can be paid for, steps need to be taken to protect your money, reputation, and credit card score.

The most important step is to stop using credit cards. 20 bucks today can end up costing hundreds of dollars over the next few years. So cut'em up or shred'em up, but get off the charge and pay cycle today.

If you can't stop using credit cards, don't bother reading on. I'm not here to help you figure out how to eek out just a little more credit so that you can continue spending.

Paying the minimum due each month will save on late fees and finance charges. It won't help with the interest but that $20 or $50 that your credit card company charges every time you pay the bill late can be used for other necessities.

A budget is normally necessary if you are in way over your head. Figuring out where the money goes and how to keep it from going will help to stick to the new no charge philosophy. Everybody spends their money in their own way, and your budget will be totally unique to your situation and lifestyle. Every penny that is spent needs to be accounted for and checked for importance. If the money is not going for food, shelter, or medical care try and do without it.

It is now time for the really hard part. This is where you look in the mirror and accept that you charged it. It is your responsibility to pay the bills that you charged. The credit card company that gave you the card might be willing to work with you on repayment, but repayment is the primary goal.

If you have multiple credit cards, take the one with the lowest balance and work on getting it paid off first. If that's the one with the highest interest rate, that's great, but it is quicker to pay off $2,500 than $8,000. Pay the minimum on all cards except for the one with the lowest balance. You're going to put every single penny that you can scrape together toward paying off the little guy.

If the monthly minimum is $75 on the lowest balance card, once it is paid off that $75 can go to the next lowest balance card. This is a long term project, and most people simply cannot come up with the money to pay off their unpaid credit card debt in a couple years. It could take 10, 15, or even 20 years depending on your financial situation and how big a hole you've dug yourself into. It can be done but there will be a lot of sacrifice in the process.

Once a credit card is paid off cancel it. When you're scrimping and saving that empty credit card can be too tempting. Having a credit card that has no balance is a quick trip back to where you just came from.