Week 16: Understanding How Your Spending Habits Affect Your Debt

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You are reading Week 16 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

This week in our journey to get rid of debt, we want to look at understanding how your spending habits affect your debt. For even the savviest person, debt can creep up quickly and unexpectedly. While it isn’t always the case, your spending habits can be the reason you have found yourself in debt.

Do you feel the pressure to keep up with others? Whether it is going out to lunch with the rest of the work crew, or buying the latest video game system for your kids for Christmas – peer pressure can hurt you. Many people simply find it difficult to live within their means and not spend when they want to keep up with their peers.

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52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending

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Are you ready to get your budget under control?   Do you long to live a life without debt?  Then get ready for our new series: 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt and Curb Spending!

Each week we will discuss practical ways to help you get out of debt and take back control of your finances.   Now, this isn’t an easy challenge but it’s one that you must commit to in order to help secure your financial future.

Some of you may be thinking it’s not possible to be debt free.  Maybe you’re living paycheck to paycheck and are just barely making your minimum payments each month.  Regardless of your financial situation, you can still get out of debt.

For some people (depending on the amount of debt) it may take just a few months, but for others a few years.  However long the road to a debt free life, it will be worth it in the end.  Just stick to the plan.

My family is finally living debt free.  Our goal was always to be debt free except for our mortgage.  Once we wrote that last check, it was liberating.  I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and I want all of you to feel the joy of not owing your hard-earned money to someone else.

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Are your ready to eliminate your debt?  Get started with Day 1!

Week 1: Establishing Debt Relief Goals
Week 2: Make a Functional Family Budget
Week 3: Making a Debt Repayment Plan
Week 4: What Debt Should We Pay Off First?
Week 5: Finding Income When you Have None
Week 6: Change the way you view money
Week 7: 3 Ideas to Make the Step to Downsize
Week 8: Making Wise Budget Choices
Week 9: 8 Ideas for Finding Alternative Sources of Income NOW
Week 10: Is Bankruptcy Ever a Good Choice?
Week 11: How to Avoid Bankruptcy
Week 12: How to Negotiate with Creditors
Week 13: Get Rid of Money Zappers
Week 14: Green Living for Debt Relief
Week 15: Focus on Student Loan Debt
Week 16:

Don’t miss a week of the series.  Get each weeks post straight to your inbox and get a FREE Financial Planner!  The planner includes:

  • Savings Goal Worksheet
  • Debt Payment Checklist
  • Debt Repayment Plan
  • Bill Pay Calendar
  • Monthly Budget Worksheet
  • Cash Envelope Template

Sign up below or click HERE to get your FREE financial planner.

I’ve also created a Pinterest board that you can follow along as I pin each weeks post plus more ways to keep your budget on track and curb your spending.

Now let’s get started!

Disclosure:  I am not a financial adviser nor do I have formal financial training.  All articles are for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as financial advice or consultation.  Please consult your account and/or financial adviser before making changes to your finances.  All situations are different, so please consult a professional to determine your individual needs.

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Week 15: Focus On Student Loan Debt

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You are reading Week 15 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

When you are working on debt, one of the biggest problems many individuals face are their student loans. This week in our debt relief project we are going to focus on student loan debt. Sadly for most young adults to get higher education, loans are a necessity. Education is very important, but debt as a result is frustrating. This week we will talk about some tips to help you handle student loan debt.

Why You Should Focus On Student Loan Debt:

Get caught up on past due payments. If you are already behind on payments, this should be your first focus. Get caught up as quickly as possible. Interest, penalties and fees add up fast with student loans and can be tough to overcome.  When in default, a student load debt may become due in a single payment called acceleration. Unlike other debts, student loans are often immediately sent to collections when in acceleration. This can result in tax refund garnishment or even wage garnishment in a short period of time.

Ask for forbearance. One thing that is wonderful about student loans, is the fact that you can ask to have your payments suspended when you are in financial strain. You will still be responsible for paying the interest and fees each month, but the overall principal payment will be on hold for 1-2 years.

Ask for lower income payment plan. If you can still manage a payment, just not as high a payment as is required, it is time to ask for a lower income payment plan. You may have to provide proof of income to receive a lower payment, but it can be well worth it to maintain your account in good standing.

Should I pay off my student loan or credit card debt first?

Once you are current on your debts and assuming you have the extra money in your budget to put toward paying off debt, you should focus on paying off credit card debt first.  The #1 reason is mentioned above – forbearance.  Credit card companies don’t offer suspended payments.  If you ever need to suspend payments, you have the option with student loans.

Second, student loan interest is a tax deduction.  If you must pay interest, at least get a bit of a tax break while your chugging along to becoming debt free.

However, you should consider what type of student loan you have. Federal student loans usually have a relatively low instead rate compared to private loans which could have a much higher APR.

As you work toward finding debt relief, you really should focus on student loan debt early in your journey. Student loans can quickly get out of control. It’s important to get this debt under control as quickly as possible.

Focus On Student Loan Debt

Disclosure:  I am not a financial adviser nor do I have formal financial training.  All articles are for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as financial advice or consultation.  Please consult your account and/or financial adviser before making changes to your finances.  All situations are different, so please consult a professional to determine your individual needs.

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Week 14: Try Green Living For Debt Relief

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You are reading Week 14 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

When you think of changing your financial status, you typically wouldn’t think about green living for debt relief. However, this week as we approach your journey toward getting rid of debt, we want to focus on green living and how it will also change your finances. Thinking outside the box to get rid of debt includes many factors of your life, and green living can be one of them.

Upcycle instead of buying. There are countless ways to upcycle items in your home instead of buying something new. From home décor to clothing or even heating sources you can choose many things each week in your home to upcycle instead of buying new. Use jars from condiments for storage. Use leftovers to create a new savory stew or pot pie. Upcycle toilet paper rolls and scraps of fabric to create fun napkin rings for different seasons such as my Easy Easter Bunny Napkin Holder. Upcycling items in your home instead of buying brand new can save tons of money in your budget.

Invest in solar and green energy options. While you are trying to get rid of debt, sometimes there are expenses that are ultimately a savings. Solar panels, water and wind power as well as simply increasing insulation in your home to prevent higher utility expenses. Solar and green energy may cost up front, but the long term savings will be great for preventing future debt.  If you are not planning to live in your home long term, I don’t suggest this route.

Simply caulking around air leeks and sealing doors can be beneficial to your budget.  Waste less to save more!

Make your own household products. As you move toward saving money in your budget on daily needs, you can easily use simple products like vinegar, water, essential oils, baking soda and even coconut oil to create great household cleansers for a fraction of the cost. Not only are these natural products safer for you and the environment, they are great for your budget.

When it comes to ultimate savings, making the choices to change to green living for debt relief is often important. Consistent changes in your expenses will have long term benefit. Green living often includes lower expenses on your household budget, as well as your utilities. Ultimately that offers great debt relief.

Another post that may help is Frugal Hobby Ideas.  Hobbies can be expensive, so here are cheap and free ideas to help you save even more!

Week 14 Challenge:

What can you do in your home to be more green?  Can you make your child new play costumes instead of purchasing them?  Make you’re own Homemade Cream of Mushroom soup instead of buying it in a can?   Fill water bottles from the sink instead of buying another case?  Start thinking of green ideas that you can implement into your daily lift.  Write them down and start making your way through the list.

Green Living For Debt Relief

Disclosure:  I am not a financial adviser nor do I have formal financial training.  All articles are for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as financial advice or consultation.  Please consult your account and/or financial adviser before making changes to your finances.  All situations are different, so please consult a professional to determine your individual needs.

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Week 13: Get Rid Of Money Zappers

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You are reading Week 13 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

A clear way to get rid of debt is to simply get rid of money zappers. What is a money zapper? Those are the little things that we spend money on that aren’t necessary. Some of these things are items that are conveniences. Other items on this list may seem necessary, but can be evaluated and changed to cost less and free up money in our budget.

Evaluate Cable or Satellite Service. While this is not a necessity in your home, it is hard to go without some source of entertainment. Cable and satellite expenses can add up quickly. While you don’t have to completely rid your budget of these expenses, you should take the time to remove extra channels, call for a lower rate or even drop them and use streaming products like Amazon Prime, HuluPlus or Netflix instead. You can easily drop your monthly bill from $99 to only $99 per year with an Amazon Prime membership that offers free streaming of thousands of movies, television shows and even music.

I personally have Amazon Prime and Netflix.  No exorbitant cable bill for channels we never watch!

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Week 12: How To Negotiate With Creditors

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You are reading Week 12 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

One option I mentioned last week when talking about how to avoid bankruptcy, was you may need to know how to negotiate with creditors. As your debt is piling up, you have to find a stopping point at which you can reverse the problem. Sometimes that means sitting down with pen and paper and a telephone to go the old fashioned route of calling the people you owe and figuring out a solution with them.

How To Negotiate With Creditors:

Be brutally honest. When you call a creditor to attempt a negotiation you have to be honest.  No lying to say you might be able to come up with more money next month. Make it very clear where you are currently financially, and that improvement may take time. Tell them what you can do, instead of focusing on what you can’t do.

Being honest with a creditor is what they need.  They need to know what to expect. Don’t promise on something you know you can’t deliver.

Make it a win-win situation.  Being willing to compromise (if your budget allows), can create a better chance for negotiations. Approaching a creditor and working with them to create a new payment amount, lower interest rates or even settle an account for a percentage of what is owed can all be great ways to get out of debt and avoid bankruptcy, foreclosure or repossession.  The creditor gets some money and you

Be prepared with honest numbers. Seriously look at what you can afford to do. If that is only $25 a month, tell your creditor that. Take the time to prep before you call by looking at your account history. Look at the total balance, current and past interest rates, how old the account is, and then look at your finances. While you always want to offer more payment, go with the lower amount you are certain of. You can always pay more than promised.

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Week 11: 6 Tips on How To Avoid Bankruptcy

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You are reading Week 11 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

As I talked about last week, there are some instances when it can seem you have no other choice but bankruptcy. This week I am going to share some tips with you on how to avoid bankruptcy. We will look at these suggestions in depth at various points this year, but this week we will focus on the basics.   You want begin considering these options now to get your finances back on track and get out of debt this year.

How To Avoid Bankruptcy

Get honest with your creditors. When you are behind on payments (in default), it’s time to get honest with your creditors. Start calling and talking to them. Tell them you want to avoid bankruptcy.   While a mortgage, car payment and select credit cards might be unwaivering without an attorney of other 3rd party being involved, there are many creditors who are willing to suspend your account and negotiate lower payments for you.

Instead of letting the fees continue to pile up, focus on how you can negotiate a functional payment with them. Ask for an extension, lower payments, lower interest rates, suspend accounts or any negotiation they are willing to offer to keep your account from going to collections or court for repayment.

If you’re account is current, they are less likely to help you by reducing payments or interest rates.  Now, I’m not saying stop paying on accounts, so you can negotiate a deal.  I’m suggesting you focus your efforts on accounts that are already in default & keep paying the minimum payment on accounts that are current.

No amount is too small to offer. Your meager twenty five dollars a month may not seem like an option to offer, but when it comes to creditors no amount is too small to offer. While they will ask for more, and likely you will be charged interest for being late, there is truly no amount too small to offer. Most creditors would rather have you paying something than nothing at all. Taking you to court or sending you to collections costs them money they don’t want to spend. Offer even a small monthly payment.

Seriously change your spending habits. Yes, sometimes you just don’t have the income to make even the basics happen. That is understandable. Yet, some people are struggling because they still haven’t given up their wants to pay for their needs. Take time to really get honest and evaluate your income and expenses to remove things you don’t need. Some things can be a temporary change while others could be a permanent change. The important thing is to get honest about your situation and step up to make the big changes required to avoid bankruptcy.

Sell your possessions.  I know, I know.  We’ve been here before.  If you’ve previously resisted the idea of selling your stuff, now is a good time to reconsider.  Maybe you have an addiction to the jewelry store down the street.  Maybe you got a bit too excited about all those new TV’s and gadgets at Best Buy. Maybe you couldn’t help but purchase a just few more items every time the new Pottery Barn catalog was delivered to your door.

Stop and think about it.  Do you really need a flat screen in every room of your house if you might not even have a house to put them in soon?  Should you really be walking around with flawless diamond earrings and a Tennis bracelet if you might lose your car?  You don’t necessarily have to have super expensive items to sell, any amount of money you can make will help.  I’m just trying to put a little perspective into the situation.

Consider Debt Settlement.  Talk with a reputable financial adviser or credit counselor about the possibility of debt settlement.  Don’t just pick a number of a debt settlement company out of the phone book. They are there to help themselves, not you.  Get a trusted 3rd party involved to help look out for your best interest.  There will be fees, but you won’t take as big of a hit on your credit as with bankruptcy.

Ask for help.  Borrowing money from friends and family is usually not a good idea.  BUT if it’s that or bankruptcy, it could be a good option.  Determine how much money you need borrow to avoid bankruptcy.  Then work out an official repayment plan to start paying back the money you borrowed immediately.  This loan should be added to your monthly budget.  Do not use this as a “get out of jail free card” and continue raking up more debt.

It isn’t easy to avoid bankruptcy once you reach the point of collections, foreclosure and repossession, but it can happen. To avoid bankruptcy you really have to get honest, swallow your pride, ask for help and work hard. Focus on getting rid of debt by first being honest with yourself about what created it and how you can fix it.

Week 11 Challenge:

If you haven’t updated your debt spreadsheet since week 1, you need to do that now. How does your current debt compare to t10 weeks ago?  Have you made any progress or have your debts increased?  Note what accounts are in default and how much money you would need to avoid bankruptcy.  Look over the tips above.  Is there anything you haven’t tried?  Instead of using one of these tips, combine them.  Put all these tips plus anything else you can think of in your arsenal to avoid debt.

Start calling creditors (call one company per day or set aside a day and get it all over with at once), schedule a meeting with an adviser, get items listed on Craigslist and/or call your parents for help.  Do something TODAY, anything to help start the process and avoid bankruptcy.

How To Avoid Bankruptcy

Disclosure:  I am not a financial adviser nor do I have formal financial training.  All articles are for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as financial advice or consultation.  Please consult your account and/or financial adviser before making changes to your finances.  All situations are different, so please consult a professional to determine your individual needs.

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Week 10: Is Bankruptcy Ever a Good Choice?

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You are reading Week 10 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

If you are in debt, at some point you may have asked yourself the question, is bankruptcy ever a good choice?

I hope to be brutally honest this year in our dealings with getting rid of debt. I want to give you quality information and tips on how to get yourself out of debt, but that also includes the nasty B word – bankruptcy.  It’s a tough decision to make – whether you should simply choose bankruptcy to solve your financial problems.

Is Bankruptcy Ever A Good Choice?

While I wish that nobody ever would face the very thought of bankruptcy, it is a reality that must be dealt with. I know someone that filed for bankruptcy.  I was shocked to say the least, but sometimes people feel it’s their best option.

Sometimes when individuals get too far in over their heads, they struggle to find any other reasonable way to pay back their debt without this method. We are going to look at a couple specific things that may mean you should entertain the idea of bankruptcy.

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Week 9: 8 Ideas for Finding Alternative Sources of Income NOW

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You are reading Week 9 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

As we continue in our series to help you become debt free, we have to look at ways to begin finding alternative sources of income. Reality is, you can scrimp and pinch and scrape every luxury from your budget, but still fall short at the end of the month. One of the biggest complaints from those who are working diligently to pay off debt is that it is just so tough to find more money these days. With unemployment rates still high and jobs not readily available, it can be very discouraging. We want to give you some ideas that will hopefully help you create even just a few hundred dollars a month to pay on your debt.

Finding Alternative Sources of Income:

1. Part time night and weekend jobs. The first place to look is to start applying for a second job. For some families this would mean a stay at home parent might need to go back into the work force. For other families it means one parent would take on another part time job during their off hours. This can be tough not only to juggle, but it can be tough to even find. Give yourself a few weeks, or even a few months to try to locate a second job, but don’t give up when that doesn’t pan out.

This can be anything from working in the service industry in the evenings, working retail during the holiday’s or simply asking for overtime at your current job (if available).

2. Small home businesses. There is a whole world of income available in things like direct sales, small home craft businesses, in home bakeries or even babysitting. Take a look at options and your skill set. Take a leap toward a small home business that can be run around your regular work schedule to provide a few extra hundred dollars per month.

Consider becoming a consultant to sell Pampered Chef or Thirty-One bags.  Start pet sitting, dog walking or a lawn service.  These small jobs can often be done “on the side” with your income dependent on the time you have to devote to your new job.

 

3. Share you skills: What are you good at?  What can you teach someone else?  Do you play the piano, speak fluent French, know how to crochet or woodwork?  Hire out your skills through a site such as Craigslist.  Meet at a local library or other area and charge a fee to teach someone a new skill.

4. Sell crafts and other homemade items.  There is a wonderful website, Etsy.com, for selling your artwork, jewelry, woodwork, handmade clothing and more.  I have personally purchased high quality items at a reasonable price from this website.  Tip:  to maximize profit, pick something to sell with a relatively low time-to-profit ratio.

5. Work as a Virtual Assistant.  If you want a full or part time job, consider working as a virtual assistant (VA) for an online business. You work from home, so this can be ideal for a stay at home mom looking to make extra money while the kids are at school.   VA jobs can vary but they can include writing articles, finding deals (such as here on The Coupon Challenge), creating and photographing crafts or recipes or managing social media.  If you are computer savvy or have a background in graphic design, you can also offer these services.

6. Ghostwriting. Write articles, blog posts or books anonymously.  There is a site Fiverr.com to sell your services.  This site has the option for selling more than your writing skills.  Graphics, programming and videos are a few of the many other services you can sell on Fiverr.

7. Surveys and Mystery Shopping.   Okay, this will not usually yield a large amount of income.  However, you can earn a little bit of money here and there just by completing survey’s from the comfort of your own home.

8. Sell items online or at flea markets. Yard sales are famous for making quick money. While you can simply clean out your closets, junk drawer and garage to create a local front yard sale, you can also take that further for even more money. Break down individual items to sell online on sites like eBay or Craigslist. You can also set up booths for a small fee at local flea markets for an easier local sales venue.

Sometimes these simple methods are just what you need. Other times finding alternative sources of income means you find yourself being forced to truly think outside the box. The important thing to remember is you should never give up. Keep your focus on getting out of debt!

Week 9 Challenge:

Think about your skills and how much time you could realistically invest into making more money.  If any of the 8 ideas above sound like something you could do, start researching more on that specific topic now.  If not, start brainstorming other ways to make money.  Think outside the box to generate more income and pay off debt faster.

Finding Alternative Sources of Income


Disclosure:  I am not a financial adviser nor do I have formal financial training.  All articles are for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as financial advice or consultation.  Please consult your account and/or financial adviser before making changes to your finances.  All situations are different, so please consult a professional to determine your individual needs.

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Week 8: Making Wise Budget Choices

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You are reading Week 8 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

We have already talked at length this year about creating a functional family budget. This week we want to look a bit more at making wise budget choices. You have created a budget, but sometimes you need to look a bit closer at what you are allowing into your budget that could be adjusted to pay down debt or to increase your savings account. This is not to condemn your financial choices, but to remind you that sometimes you need to look at the big picture for the most success. Sacrifices now can result in a debt free life later.

Making Wise Budget Choices:

Look beyond immediate benefit to the big picture. As you look again at your budget, you need to look at the big picture and not just immediate gratification.  I know, you REALLY need a night out.  That new iPhone would be awesome.  Don’t look at right now, look at how much better that dinner will taste once you save up and can pay in cash.

Focus on getting caught up, so you are no longer in default on accounts. This should be one of the key focus in your budgeting. Yes you need to account for rent, insurance, food, transportation and savings – but those optional things like a morning coffee or a lunch out with friends should be shelved until you are no longer in default on credit accounts. The longer you stay in default, the larger the fees and your balance will become.

While paying off a small balance this month may be rewarding, it would be better to put that money toward a debt you are in default with instead. Say you are $200 behind on payments to credit card A, but credit card B has a balance of only $200. You want that zero balance, but reality is getting the zero balance on credit card B would actually cost you more in interest and penalties. Look at the big picture and focus on getting caught up, so you are not in default before you focus on paying off debt.

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