When you have a lot of debt, paying it back can feel overwhelming. The first step to getting debt under control is a realistic budget based on accurate income and expenses.

Follow these steps to make a budget and determine your best course of action.

List income and expenses

First, make a list that includes your monthly income from all sources. Write down the amount you will receive in wages from your job, disability or benefit payments, child or spousal support, and any other type of income.

Next, list all your bills. Include your mortgage or rent, utilities, child care, car payment, insurance premiums, credit card bills, student loans, and all other debt payments.

Finally, estimate expenses not included in the bills listed above. Write down how much you spend on food, transportation, entertainment, child care, child support or spousal support that you pay, and all other monthly costs.

Determine available debt repayment funds

Subtract your bills and expenses from your monthly income. The resulting number reflects the amount of money you can realistically put toward your debt each month. If you can limit spending in flexible categories such as food and entertainment, you can pay down high-interest debts even further.

You might get a negative number when you subtract your expenses from your income. In this case, you are spending more than you earn each month and will continue to accrue debt unless you either curb your spending or obtain a higher salary.

If you find that you spend most of your paycheck repaying your creditors, filing for bankruptcy could be an option for a fresh start.