NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Consumers are admitting to their biggest weakness – they often make the poorest, ill-conceived decisions when it comes to their personal finances.

In a recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) poll, an overwhelming 80% of respondents indicated they typically make the worst decisions when it involves their personal finances. That rank higher than other categories such as marriage, health and job.

"It is good sign that consumers recognize and admit their problem," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. "Financial awareness often provides the motivation to jolt a person into taking action that can change the course of their financial life."

Changing your previous habits which have contributed to poor financial choices can be done with a little discipline. Consumers can take the following steps toward increasing financial awareness, the NFCC recommends.

Start by facing the financial facts. It's impossible to know where money is going without tracking it. People avoid doing this as they fear the reality of their spending will force them to make unpleasant changes. Yet, knowing where money is spent puts a person in control, allowing him to spend mindfully instead of mindlessly.

Consumers need to know how much is owed. This eye-opening exercise is a must. Once all debt is totaled, review the interest rates for each obligation. Next, total the dollar amount of interest paid each month and consider how that money could be used if it weren't going to service debt.

Another step is breaking the pattern of seemingly harmless financial habits. Consumers should be conscious of incidental spending. Track the amount of money spent each day on items such as lottery tickets, vending machine snacks, cigarettes and impulse purchases, as these are all budget busters.

Determine if conveniences are worth the price or whether you can eliminate some or all of them. Purchasing prepared food at the grocery store or paying someone else to mow the lawn, wash the car, clean the house or do the taxes are all examples of tasks that merit a second look.

Consumers are more likely to make poor decisions with their personal finances, because the consequences are often not immediate, unlike decisions within employment, marriage or health, said Melinda Kibler, client service associate of Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Ft. Lauderdale.

Many people do not fear the lack of having adequate savings, because they rely on their ability to keep working, but that attitude has a huge drawback, she said.

"They are forgetting that emergencies may come up that require a major expense on top of their daily expenditures," Kibler said. "When consumers are living paycheck to paycheck with no savings, they will probably be unable to cover an emergency expense, thus forcing themselves into a situation where they may be required to take on debt. This could be avoided with proper saving techniques."