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How to Make College More Affordable: An Insider’s Perspective

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By Gina Stewart

As a higher education advocate and counselor, I have helped many people, ranging in age from high school graduates to adult professionals, enroll in higher education, only to see them get in way over their heads when it comes to finances. Pressured to meet enrollment numbers, admissions advisors are often guilty of selling the my kids and clients “the dream” without painting a realistic picture of the financial burden that they’re going to saddle these students with after graduation.

Here is what I tell my kids and clients: College, at any level, is expensive. Anyone selling you the dream of higher education without also providing an accurate accounting of the costs and associated difficulties, is doing you a disservice. While I will not share with you the horror stories I have witnessed in an abusive and unchecked system, I can give you some advice on how to spend as little of your money as you can to get the best return on investment possible.

Here are the most important pieces of advice that I offer to every hopeful student I work with:

Get a Degree that Pays

The most important advice I can give to anyone running the financial aid gauntlet is to get serious about the investment, and choose a degree that will pay off in the end. While it is great that many schools offer degree programs in subjects like art history and music appreciation (I majored in music theory and composition so I know whereof I speak), these programs aren’t going to help you get hired outside of your field.

It is better to get your degree in a field that pays well from a school that has a solid track-record of placing students in jobs within the first six months of graduation.

For example, I helped one of my kids enroll in the radiation therapy bachelor’s degree program offered at Gwynedd Mercy U, located here in Pennsylvania. I explained that radiation therapy is a degree that she could carry with her wherever she went and, if she wanted to further pursue medicine or health would pay her enough to help fund that education while simultaneously giving her a leg up on her fellow students. Whatever university and degree combo you choose, make sure it is one that has a good chance of paying off (and that travels well).

Online University

If you are still carrying some doubt about the efficacy of online universities, get over it. When I was an admissions advisor for a major online university back in the day, I understood people’s reticence about joining the program. Today, though, we live on the internet and recent high school graduates are literally younger than household access to the web.

Many of the degrees that are now available online can lead to some highly lucrative careers in a variety of different industries. For example, you can complete a nursing degree online, which puts you on the fast track to paying for your education and earning a very nice living. There are always jobs available in the nursing sector, as hospitals, private clinics, and many other facilities require trained workers. The industry is expected to grow by 22 percent by 2018, since the country’s population is aging, giving you even more chances to find a great job.

Here’s what I told a man who had been downsized out of his retail management position: At the end of the day, you are going to get a solid education at an accredited school, and land a job that pays well. Your interviewer will not disregard your application because you went to a school with an online component. He went after a business degree from one of the most well known online schools in the country and now he’s making three times what he used to make.

Get on the Fast Track

Another thing that I tell everyone I work with is this: If you have the option to get it done quickly, get it done quickly. The longer you are in school, the more it is going to cost you. It’s good to look for programs that have an accelerated option. If you already have some college credits, see if you can CLEP out of the core. That could save you two years, and thousands of dollars. One of my students was looking to transfer from a community college to a four year university. We found her an accelerated program that let her finish the last two years of her bachelor’s degree in just one year. Her current employer was impressed that she took such initiative and even listed it as part of the reason my client was hired!

Let’s face it: College is expensive. But if you do it right, it is one of the best investments you will ever make.


The Embarrassing Position of Being a High Risk Driver

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By Dana Rather

Here is the sad truth that nobody ever talks about: when you are in debt (or other disastrous financial straights) it isn’t just the decisions you make about your money that affect your life. Every decision you make, even the seemingly small ones, is incredibly important and can have a huge impact on your life. Here’s an example from my life:

I was running late for a job interview, so I took an unfamiliar — but supposedly faster — route than I had originally mapped out. On the way, I blew through a stop sign because I wasn’t looking closely enough at my surroundings. A quick glance at the corner said “nope, no sign, no worries.” Had I been paying attention, I’d have seen the great big red octagon that was only partially obstructed by a leafy tree branch. But I wasn’t and so, suddenly, I had a huge ticket that I had to find a way to pay. It might not have ordinarily been a big deal, but this was my fourth ticket and I had so many points on my license that I was in danger of losing it completely. My insurance agent called me to talk about my premiums and suddenly I was at risk of losing my insurance. To keep it, I had to let the insurance carrier classify me as “high risk.”

This isn’t the only way to be considered high risk, of course. There are others. The most common one is being caught without insurance. Thank goodness that wasn’t the case with me; it might have meant a suspension of my license as well as a huge hike in insurance costs for me.

I can tell you, from personal experience, that being classified as a high risk driver is not the end of the world. It can, however, be really expensive, if you aren’t careful. it’s also embarrassing because it’s something that can be avoided and really shouldn’t happen to anyone, but I was lazy and found myself in this position. Here are the things I did to keep my “high risk” classification from ruining my finances.

I ended up being labeled high risk due to a combination of unlucky situations that compiled upon each other to raise a bunch of flags when it was time to renew my insurance policy. There are a lot of other ways to get labeled this way, but all have to do with poor driving, but those aren’t the only reasons. Getting a DUI will also have a lasting effect and, even if you are lucky enough to keep your license, will definitely qualify you as high risk. Even age can have an impact. Drivers under the age of 25 and those over the age of 75 can and in most will be considered high risk. A friend of mine found out that her bad credit, and a cancelled insurance policy due to a missed payment lowered her into the high risk category. Fast sports cars and expensive vehicles, and/or living in area with high crime rates can also be considered high risk.

NOTE: I’d be remiss if I didn’t make sure you know that being caught without insurance can also land you on the “high risk” list. This is especially worth knowing because, if you get caught without insurance — especially if you have a DUI on your record, not only are you considered “high risk” but you will likely not be able to actually get regular insurance. Instead, you will be forced to purchase a special type of insurance coverage called SR22 insurance. This type of insurance can be incredibly expensive, so if this happens to you, be sure to spend some time shopping around for the best rates. Speaking of which… Shop around

One thing that I noticed when I was trying to find a high risk insurance policy that wouldn’t bankrupt me is that insurance companies are always competing. This means that there are lots of opportunities for you to shop around to find the best price. What made things much easier for me is that the high risk market is big and getting bigger and many online companies are fighting for space. The online market is a great place to check offers and compare prices, even if you have to get special SR22 quotes.

I spent a few weeks diving into the details of a bunch of different policies, determined to get the best deal, so be prepared to spend some time doing your own research. It’s easy to get impatient but try to remember that a few weeks of taking the bus and bribing friends for rides is for a good cause. You can save lots of money by shopping around and comparing rates. I did. And then I used some of the money I’d saved to buy presents for all of the friends who had been so great about ferrying me from place to place while I was uninsured.

One of the things that surprised me the most was just how easy it is for the DMV to make mistakes on your driving. Like with a credit history, a driving record changes over time. Old tickets, accidents, etc fall off of it over time (the amount of time varies by state). This meant that by keeping my head down (not literally) and staying out of trouble, I could actually wind up with a seemingly perfect record after a few years. Unfortunately, like with credit companies, the DMV doesn’t really keep up with these things. I had to keep a close watch on my record to make sure that my strokes of bad luck were actually removed when they were supposed to be. You might have to spend some time on the phone with or, like me, actually visiting the DMV to make sure things are removed properly, but it’s worth the effort.

Everything becomes a major balancing act. I found out that the cheapest cars were often the hardest to insure because they rarely had clean title records. Plus, very old and very cheap cars can also be very unsafe and that makes them more expensive to insure. So it was important for me to spend time searching around for a reasonably priced and very safe car. I quickly learned, the safer the car, the cheaper the insurance, and helped me to save money in two ways! It’s possible to overcome a high risk insurance status. I know it’s possible because I did it. It takes time and it might be frustrating, but you can do it.


How the Payment Box Allowed Me to Buy a Car

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By Darren Stevens

I thought my story might help some people who find themselves in a similar situation. I was recently able to get a car because of the payment box when I likely wouldn’t have been able to any other way. Getting that car was vitally important because it allowed me to keep my job, which in turn allows me to pay for my apartment and stay off the streets. It’s a rather long and complicated story, but I will give you the concise version to give you a bit of background.

I’ve been in and out of the hospital for some years now due to chronic illness. The illness has also led to me having huge medical bills and even filing for bankruptcy. Due to all of this, my credit isn’t what could be called close to being good. It’s terrible, and that makes it difficult for me to qualify for any credit or loan. That hasn’t been a problem because I went to an all-cash system that had been working well. That was until my employer decided to move locations which meant that I would no longer be able to take public transportation to work.

The only option I had was to get a car or lose my job. I was terrified because I thought there was no way I could qualify with my credit history. Then I remembered an article Tricia wrote about payment boxes when they first came out years ago. Since my choice was to have a job and a roof over my head or not, I immediately went searching to see if I could find something that could help me get a reliable used car that would get me to and from work each day.

For those not familiar, a payment box is a device that lenders place in the car that give them control of whether or not the car starts. , it allows lenders to disable your car so that it won’t run if you don’t make a payment that’s due. While this sounds like a terrible thing for the car owner, for me it was a lifesaver. That’s because the payment box gives the lender some control over getting payments, so they’re willing to give people like me who have terrible credit a loan when otherwise it wouldn’t be worth the risk.

By having control of the car, it mitigates their risk and allows them to easily disable the car. It won’t start if a payment is missed, and to recover the car (the device also has a GPS tracking system) if a missed payment isn’t immediately made. On my side, as long as I make the monthly payments on time, there is no issue, and I have a car that gets me to and from work. With these safeguards, they’re willing to make a loan to someone they might not normally approve. To qualify, I had to show my paycheck stubs to prove that I could make payments.

There are a lot of people who think that payment boxes are a bad idea. I read a survey conducted by Stoneacre that said the public is still evenly divided on whether or not this is a good idea. It said that 35 percent of people thought the payment box is a good idea, 34 percent thought it’s an invasion of privacy, and 31 percent had no specific view on it. My guess is that those who though it was a bad idea or an invasion of privacy have never been in a position where they couldn’t get a car they needed without this option.

I must admit that I would prefer not to have the box in my car. They claim they only use the GPS capabilities if they need to repossess the car, but that doesn’t mean the NSA doesn’t have access to it. I’d rather there not be a possibility of someone knowing where I am at any time. If, however, the choice is that or living on the streets because I can’t get to my job, I’ll gladly accept the conditions.

So you may be wondering why I’m writing this for BAD. I wanted people to know that not all people who have terrible credit are people who just racked up credit card debt and decided not to pay, or people who don’t understand how credit works. Not everyone who gets a bad credit car loan is someone who is lazy and didn’t have what it takes to organize their finances. Until I came down with my illness, I had great credit, and I’d never failed to pay a bill on time. When you get sick, and your choice is getting the medication you need to stay alive or paying a bill that has come due, priorities change pretty fast.

There are some of us who were thrust into the poor credit world because of the genes our parents gave us without ever intending to get anywhere near it. I hear from a lot of people who say that those with bad credit shouldn’t be able to get any credit because they have already shown they aren’t reliable, and they should live with the consequences of their prior choices. The truth is that there isn’t a one-size fits all designation as to why people have credit problems. And if the system didn’t find ways to try to help those who do have bad credit, I would probably be living under a bridge somewhere instead of having a job, paying taxes and being able to contribute to my community.


Some Simple Ways I Reduced My Debt and Everyday Living Expenses

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By Martin Fine

Almost all of us reading BAD have struggled financially at one time or another. Most of us who have found our way here try to spend more frugally, but it wasn’t always that way for me. There was a time when I lived with the attitude that the money doesn’t go with me to the grave. While living like the later may have been more enjoyable in the moment, it’s was stressful day in and day our when I didn’t have money to pay the bills and caused me to take out ill advised loans and to sell things I wish I hadn’t.

Here are some simple ways that I have reduced debt over the years.

Rent: If you are paying rent like I do you can’t be afraid of your landlord. Let the landlord know that times are tough and ask for a rent reduction if you sign a longer term lease. By doing this, the landlord let me save $50.00 a month for signing on for another year. A savings of $600 just for asking. There is a theory that if you ask you have a chance of receiving. If you keep quiet you will never know. Remember you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you are paying your mortgage each month check out the possibility of refinancing and getting a lower rate than certainly explore this possibility.

Water Bill: I found that my water bill fluctuated a lot. The culprits? Well showering too long, leaving the hose on, and not repairing leaks were some of the culprits, Addressing these issues have saved me $100 so far this calendar year (pro rated). While all of these “leaks” were tiny, when I tightened everything the monthly bills started to go down.

Electricity: Always know that in the summer and the winter there are ways to save on electricity. A few things like using less natural gas, pellet stoves, and buying energy savers like LED light bulbs and adjusting your devices. In fact there are over 100 different tips (PDF) from First Energy Corporation that I used such as adjusting my thermostat and saving $65.00 so far this calendar year.

Health Insurance: There’s no price you can put on your life right? Well, that is correct, but you also don’t have to overpay. I called my representative and let them know times are tough and again ask to save. While I only was able to squeeze out $5.00 a month savings when I pleaded my case, it was still an extra $60 in my pocket.

Renters Insurance: I never opt for additional insurance and you shouldn’t either. This is a tough call and I think it depends a lot of what you own, but I opted to cancel mine and go without. Renters insurance isn’t too expensive, but I needed to save every dollar I could. It was a chance. Had something happened, I would have been on the hook, but I thought it was worth teh risk since I didn’t have anything that was too expensive to replace. I took a pass and rolled the dice and it worked out for me.

Entertainment & Meals: When I was at the Naval academy I learned that the best food is free food. While only when others are looking for business advice do I receive those free meals. So when I am on my own I check out deals on Groupon and Restaurant.com which offer all sorts of great specials and deals for when you eat out. If you are not too health conscious shopping at the secondary grocery stores and buying the BOGO (buy one get one deals) always pays off. Once I lived off of Pasta, Rice, and Shrimp. I spent $25.00 and it fed me for a whole month. Yes you read that correctly. Maybe take a month to test it out and see how much you can save on food and take the Pasta, Shrimp, and rice challenge.

Gas & Car Expenses: GasBuddy is a site that you hear all about when Gas Prices are at all-time highs, but what about when they are low? Well that’s where the frugal mindset looking to pay off debt comes in. I make sure to save money by shopping out the cheapest gas year round not just when prices are high.

I had a difficult choice to make when things were tightest. I had a settlement that was paying me a small amount each month that I relied on, and I was tempted to cash it in. That would have been the easiest way to handle the situation. I considered it enough to search the pros and cons of a loan against my lawsuit settlement, but ultimately decided against it. I count on that small amount monthly, and if I cashed it out, I would have had money now, but lost the income each month. It initially seemed a good idea, but taking up more sound financial debt reduction ideas like the ones stated above was a more feasible long term solution for me.

The thing I learned most was that the easy solution isn’t always the best solution. Taking steps to make my overall finances more sound was the best move I could make even though it took a bit more work. Those are savings I will be able to keep without having to give up anything in return which was the best move for me.


Steps I Took to Reduce Debt and Get Back on My Feet After a Job Loss

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By Mary Greenhalgh

I’m Mary and I used to work for a big firm in London as a Legal Assistant, earning £28,000 a year. Life was good until the credit crunch. After that I lost my job, and ended up having to find a new firm to work with. Now I’m just earning £22,500 a year, but life has never been better. You’d think I’d be in a horrible mess – and I was at first, but losing my job was the best thing that’s ever happened to me because it forced me to learn how to reduce my spending, shop smarter and actually start saving money. I’d like to let you know what I went through and how you can use my experiences to reduce your own debt and save money.

To be honest, the first thing I did when I lost my job was to start freaking out. I had no idea where I would find work, and no way to pay my rent since I was living from month to month off my pay checks. I had student loans I needed to make payments on, a car payment, and a phone on credit from O2. My bills were so much that I couldn’t figure out where I was going to get the money to pay them all, even after I found work. So I consulted Doctor Google, and found out that I wasn’t the only one with these problems.

Of course as everyone knows, Google always tells you you’re going to die, but there was good news too. Even though it took me six weeks to get hired, I was able to find help and get back on track. While everyone’s situation is different, I thought sharing might help others that might be in a similar situation or who just needed to know that it could be done. This is what I learned, what I did and how it can help you if you need to get back on your feet and reduce debt after a job loss.

Step One: Find any job you can to get some income. The very first thing I did was to pick up a part time job on the weekends and a few nights a week as a waitress. It’s thankless work, but I got my tips in cash every night, which was what helped carry me through the worst of my unemployment scare. It also let me meet my immediate expenses and gave me some hope that I could sort out the mess I was in. Having some cash in your pocket makes a world of difference and even though I was working bad shifts, having something is better than nothing. As a plus, there was usually off time between split shifts, which gave me a chance to look for other work (and everyone over 20 waiting tables is always looking for other work). Plus I got free meals, which saved money on my weekly shop.

Step Two: Find a real job in your field or profession. The next thing I did was to start looking for work in my profession. Unfortunately I wasted days filling out job applications and online CVs on every job site and hire site I could find. I barely got anything back from them, which was depressing to say the least. I had more luck with the government’s Universal Jobmatch site, and that gave me some hope. They let me quickly find places that needed my skills and cut through the mess I had been dealing with in trying to find work with the other sites.

Step Three: Cut your costs as much as possible. Then I changed my flat. I was paying £900 a month for a little one room, but I found a flat share for £400. It wasn’t great, but it was good enough, and let me save £500 a month from what I had been paying. Plus I didn’t have the costs of my utilities and Internet plan, which also saved me money. I also sold my car, because it was more of a convenience than a need. It took me almost two months to sell it, but I got everything in order with my papers, and made sure to tell DVLA that I had sold it. I ended up with an extra £800 after the sale, and the loan was closed in my favour, which was great for my credit.

Step Four: Take a hard look at your spending habits. The other thing I did was to take a hard look at my credit cards and my spending habits. Part of that involved researching sites out there that had good tips, which showed me that I was actually paying interest on my pants. Seriously, who does that? It’s just crazy when you think about it. Since I had good credit, I was able to get a Tesco 0% card for 18 months, and transfer my balances over. I lied a little on my application and said that I still had my old job, but that let me shift all of my high interest payments to a no interest card and start paying things down without the interest. That made a huge difference in what I had to pay out every month.

Step 5: Start saving money to protect yourself. Finally, after I’d reduced my debt, cut costs and put myself in a better financial position, I took a look at what I had been spending before. By cutting my rent payment, moving to a flat share, reducing my outgoing payments and consolidating debts, I was saving more than £1,200 a month. That was almost half of my previous yearly salary when looked at over the course of a year. When I realized that I almost cried. Not because I had lost the salary before, but because I had just jumped into this crazy financial circus without even considering how much money I was wasting. Three years of wasted money was more than £30,000 I could have saved if I had just known better. Now I save every week, and I’m on track to save more than £6,000 this year, despite my pay cut.

Step 6: Look at your long-term financial goals. I used to just live for the moment. I had a great time, but if I could change it I would definitely have focused more on my future. Now that I’m saving, I can see that in a few years I’ll have about £20,000 saved up. That will let me buy my own flat, which means I won’t be wasting my money on rent every month. That means I will have the security of a home, and as I build equity in it, I’ll be able to get a secured loan if I find myself in a jam. That’s something I could have done before too if I had known better, but no one ever taught me how to save money or even pay attention to debt. I just lived for the moment, but now I actually feel like I am living. I’ve got security and a plan for my future.

Reducing debt isn’t easy, especially if you’re pushed into it by a job loss or unexpected change of circumstances. The thing is, looking back I can see so many ways I could have done this before I found myself in a pinch. Now I’ve got enough extra cash to do what I want, and to go out when I like – but I’m always aware of how much I am spending and what else I could do with the money. I’m no longer binge shopping and I always buy things on sale when making my weekly shop. These are things you can do too, and they’ll make a big difference in not just how you live, but also the quality of life you enjoy.


My Plan to Save Up to Buy a House

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By Jenna Brown

One of the worst parts about being in debt is the feeling I get that I’ll never have a place of my own. Home ownership is a big decision. I know that. In fact, it’s been a decision that I’ve steered clear of for most of my adult life. As a renter, a big chunk of my utilities are included in my rent. As a renter, when something breaks I just call my landlord and viola! It gets fixed. As a renter, I can pick up and move to wherever I want (with thirty days notice, of course). I’m not tied to any one place and I don’t have to worry that my living space will be threatened if the economy tanks again.

Still, home ownership is a boon in so many ways. It adds a level of stability to my life that has been missing. It would be nice to know that, zoning laws notwithstanding, if I want to change something in my home I can: I can paint. I can knock out or build in walls. I can add space. I can make it absolutely my own instead of having to find creative ways to dress up a rental space. Plus, owning a home makes me look better and more reliable on paper. Finally, being a homeowner would qualify me for a bunch of tax breaks that are mere pipe dreams as a renter.

Of course, buying a home isn’t easy. Houses are incredibly expensive (unless I want to buy in Detroit and, no offense to the Motor City, that’s not in the cards right now). Buying a home means saving enough to be able to fork over at least 20% of a seller’s asking price up front. That is a lot of money to save, especially since I’m still paying down my debt and building up my emergency funds, retirement accounts and savings accounts. Then, there’s finding a mortgage lender who will actually approve my application. It’s a lot, to say the least.

Still, I have a plan. It might be a “Pie in the Sky” type of plan, but it’s better than nothing. Here it is:

Figuring Out the Timeline: There is no way I am going to be able to save up 20%, pay down enough debt to make me stop looking risky to mortgage lenders and be ready to move any time soon. So, instead, I’ve decided that I don’t even want to start looking for homes or mortgages until 2022 or 2023.

Why So Far Out? I have debts and several accounts I’m trying to build. My long term goals will not allow me to totally eschew those accounts and debts in favor of saving for a home. Giving myself seven to eight years to save lets me accomplish all of those goals simultaneously. Plus, it takes an average of seven years for bad marks on a credit history to fall off. Most of mine have an average of three years left on them before they disappear. If I keep paying down my debt and don’t rack up any new bad marks, I’ll have four years of totally positive credit history to build on as well as three years of diligent and positive payment histories working to my benefit. Mortgage lenders will be able to see that I work on my debts before taking on new ones and that I know how to manage my credit and payment plans.

Finding Breaks & Deals: Did you know that there are tons of different programs out there that make it easier for first time home buyers to purchase their first homes? It’s one of the areas I have been researching. At office of Housing and Urban Development, for example, has programs that help reduce the closing costs and down payment amounts through grants or very low cost loans. If you have served in the military, Low VA Rates says your veteran’s benefits entitle you to lower mortgage rates than civilians will get. I didn’t serve and I’m not sure my income will qualify me for a HUD loan but there are other programs through banks, credit unions and nonprofits that can help a single lady like me make sense of the system and reduce my costs. I plan on exploring all of them and taking advantage of every break I can get.

Figuring Out My Priorities: I know that I do not want to leave my current city. I’m totally fine with the idea of putting down roots here and really committing to this place. I’m not sure, though, which neighborhood I most want to live in long term. I love where I live now, but buying space here is expensive and primarily condominium-based. I’m not sure I always want to share walls with other people. Another factor is future kids. I know that if I have kids I want them to go to a great school and that means committing to a neighborhood in those school districts. I also want to be able to have enough space to accommodate guests.

You’ll notice that I didn’t really break these categories down into specific numbers. This is because it is important for me to be flexible when I’m putting together a long term plan. I know what I can afford now, but who knows what the market will be like when I’m ready to buy. So, instead, I’m hoping that by keeping it loose and focusing on my current goals and doing my ground work now, when I’m ready to buy, the process won’t be as shocking as it has been for my friends and family. Wish me luck!


How I am Blogging Away My Debt: An Overview

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I really love the concept of “blogging away debt” (which is the obvious appeal of this site) because after I got out of High School, I went to community college, but it couldn’t keep my attention. As you’d expect, that quickly amounted to me taking on student loan debt so, naturally, I went out looking for jobs. I settled into a good position for a small company doing their website stuff which lead me to begin learning about the whole blogging thing. Before long I found myself spending my free time in the afternoon constantly blogging, commenting, connecting, and finding ways to earn a few bucks. I have a long way to go before all of my debt is eliminated, but ever since I started my blogs, I have been able to scale it from nothing to a couple hundred extra bucks each month (which can do some very amazing things to knocking down debt, believe me). Here’s how I’m doing it…

Keeping a solid mindset

The thing that I needed most when I set out to use my blog to cut away at my debt was inspiration and motivation. I needed these two because I had already been busting my butt at work all day, and now I had to come back and put in another 4 – 6 hours into the blog. What I started to do was look for a mentor. There were a few different people in business that really caught my attention. One of them was Patrick Byrne; who’s the CEO of Overstock.com. It wasn’t just about having that high position, but the lifestyle that came about with the success. So what I did was make a mental image. The person who I wanted to be. By doing so, I was able to sit down and write out clear goals. Once I had those goals, I was able to break it all down into manageable tasks for the day-to-day activities.

I found that having these clear goals and activities made it far simpler to do my work, and keep my eye on the debt reduction prize. Before long those extra hours I was putting in doing blogging after work didn’t feel like a drudge. It became exhilarating because it was forming a new lifestyle.

Promoting products I love

I started my blog(s) focused around the hobbies I enjoy (like music, crafts, etc), and so the first few months was me writing as much as I could doing tutorials, reviews, and the like. Later down the line I began looking to affiliate marketing which sounds off-putting because of the whole “marketing” aspect of it, but it really made sense if I wanted to earn a bit from my blogs. The post that really got me excited was labeled “11 Lessons I Learned Earning $119,725.45 from Amazon Associates Program“. It taught me how to get into the affiliate program done by Amazon which was a no brainer because I was already talking about products on my sites…but I was never linking them as an affiliate (where you get to earn a commission).

Basically it’s this

1. Find a product you’re promoting (in this case it was an item I was using with my hobby)

2. Talk about it on your blog

3. Link to it with your affiliate URL

But that wasn’t the end. Sites like Etsy, Ebay, and other major retail websites have these affiliate programs. So when I was doing my reviews I’d plunk in a link and viola! I began earning some money from what I had already been doing.

Working off what works

Once you start to learn all the various skills that goes into blogging you will be astounded to find how many of them can be nice little money makers of their own. For example:

• You could setup websites for people or businesses
• You could create graphics or edit video for clients
• You could publish a book or develop a piece of software

Creating content isn’t the only form of income generation with blogging. If you take the time to browse around freelance marketplaces (here’s a good list to start with) you can figure out what other people are doing, and then use your skills (and blog – like a resume) to get your foot in the door. What I did was help friends, family, and aquaintences setup websites for their businesses (or just as a personal site). Since they signed up for the domain and hosting under my name I earned a commission. It’s win/win/win since they get a site, I got to help them, and I earned a bit of extra money with my skills.

That’s my story…what’s yours?


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