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Every debt you make, every late fee you take may be a warning

For some of us, budgeting is not as easy as it sounds. We have tried putting money into envelopes to make sure we meet our monthly obligations, but when life gets hectic, the envelope system falls by the wayside. We just try to make ends meet as best as we can, and when funds are short, we find a way to cope.

If this does not sound familiar, trust us: There are people in Illinois, perhaps in your neighborhood, who are teetering on the edge of real financial trouble. They may not even realize it.

An article on Bankrate.com lays out a few scenarios that financial experts say are warning signs that trouble is around the corner. The article indelicately and inaccurately refers to these as "eight signs you're flirting with financial ruin." We know better: They are eight signs that it may be time to consult with a bankruptcy attorney.

Late fees. There are times when a consumer just forgets to pay a bill. When the late fee comes through, a quick call to the credit card company, for example, follows. The fee is removed with a warning that the company will only forgive you so many times.

The call goes differently if you habitually incur late fees. Running up fees accidentally shows a lack of planning and, perhaps, a casual attitude toward credit that creditors will hold against you. There are times when some of us juggle late fees, too -- paying one bill while letting the other slide because we can't pay on time; we just don't have the money.

Late fees, the experts say, are not only a sign that you may need help, but they are also a colossal waste of money. Incurring a late fee is not a solid debt strategy, because it only adds to your debt.

Just as troubling, says one expert, is paying just enough to keep the lights on, say, but never reaching a zero balance on or before the due date. It happens a lot to people who live paycheck to paycheck, but it doesn't mean you are making ends meet. It means that you really aren't able to sustain your lifestyle -- regardless of how modest it is -- on your current income.

We'll take on a few more warning signs in our next post.

Source: Bankrate.com, "8 signs you're flirting with financial ruin," Claes Bell, accessed online June 17, 2014

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