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Posts tagged with: debt reduction

5 Point Plan for Getting Out of Debt

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Debt could be good because it affords you an opportunity to use tomorrow’s money to meet today’s needs. However, debt when not properly managed can cast very dark shadows over your finances and make it hard for you to become financially secure. This article provides five actionable steps that could help you improve your odds of getting out of debt faster and permanently.

Build an emergency savings fund

An emergency savings fund is money you set aside to tide you over during the proverbial rainy days. An emergency savings fund can help you cover unexpected expenses such as a broken faucet or a failed transmission among other things. Experts often advise saving up enough money to cover at least three months of living expenses.

However, it might be impossible for you to save up that much money if you already have a debt burden. Yet, you can still shoot for saving up $1000 in an emergency fund. You can reach the $1000 milestone by doing odd jobs, having a garage sale, or working overtime among others.

Get rid of all consumer debt

Consumer debt has a way of sucking people into the darkest recesses of a debt vortex because you’ll always have more reasons to take on more debt. Student loans, credit cards, gas cards, medical bills, and car loans are some of the consumer debt you should prune off your finances. If you are serious about getting out debt, you should start by paying off the smallest debt with the biggest interest payment. Move on the next debt with the second biggest interest payment work through the rest of your debt systematically.

Leverage the value of your home

A smart way to get rid of consumer debt (see above) is to leverage the value of your home. If you own a home, you’ll find it much easier to get out of limiting debt by taking out a home equity loan. A home equity loan gives you a huge emotional boost by lifting the psychological burden that comes with being saddled by too many loans to different creditors. Debt consolidation with a home equity loan means that you have only one creditor; hence, you’ll find it much easier to manage monthly payments and other parts of your finances.

Invest 15% of your income

One of the reasons you got into debt in the first place was that your expenses was more than your income; hence, you were forced to borrow money to make up the difference. You can improve the odds of your financial security by moving from being a spender to becoming an investor. Ideally, you should invest at least 15% of your income into investments that could bring in some extra money or investments that could provide you with income during retirement. Of course, you can start investing the little money you already have instead of waiting until you have a huge investment capital.

Build a real emergency saving fund

Getting out of debt is not an end in itself, being financially secure enough not to get back into avoidable debt is the real goal. You can take proactive steps to reduce your need for avoidable debt by building a real emergency savings fund. Building an emergency savings fund enough to cover at least three months (and up to six months) worth of your living expenses will put you in a strong position to weather most financial storms.


The Biggest Mistake in Debt Reduction

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debtreduction

I’m finally debt free and in the process of becoming debt free, I read a lot of articles on how to do it. While most of these give good advice, they often leave out the most important part that, I have found, will actually make or break your debt reduction journey. I have no idea why most articles don’t talk about this, but my guess is because it’s different for every individual which makes it more difficult to put it nicely in to a 10-step debt reduction mantra.

Yes, it’s important to come up with a debt reduction plan whether that’s doing a credit card debt snowball, consolidating debt or even bankruptcy. Yes, you need to look at ways you can reduce your debt, spend less money and create a workable budget. Yes, you should probably look at ways you may be able to bring in some extra income through side jobs or part-time work. But before you do all that, you need to take a look at the emotional triggers that brought you to the current debt you have.

While many personal finance writers and gurus talk about the need to get control of the numbers, those numbers will never be contained until the emotions that drove the debt are addressed. That can make for some strange conversations. When people learn I managed to reduce my debts of over $40,000 and asked me how I did it, they are often surprised when I tell them I was able to do it because I finally decided to go to a psychologist.

I’m sure there are exception to this rule, but I believe in order to get out of debt, the first step most people need to take is to go to a psychologist to better understand themselves. I tried to get out of debt dozens of times over a 10 year period, and I failed miserably each time before I decided to see a psychologist. I knew what I was supposed to do, but much like dieting, knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two completely different things.

For me, it was about security. I grew up poor and we never had a lot of things. As I got older and I was able to earn my own money, I liked to have things. It made me feel secure. My income allowed me to get credit and that credit allowed me to get into debt as I continued to buy things to make myself feel more secure (when in reality I was actually damaging my financial security). It wasn’t until I was able to work out the emotional reasons behind why I was purchasing and going into debt that I actually had the opportunity to begin to free myself from it.

Most people know they spend too much and that’s the reason they are in debt. Again, just knowing this isn’t enough to help you get out of ebt. What most people don’t know is the emotional impetus that leads to their overspending. Not taking the time (and often the difficult emotional journey) to understand why you spend the way you do is the biggest mistake most people make when they are trying to get out of debt.


Ashley’s July Debt Update + General Life Updates

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It’s that time of month where our checks have all come in, bills have all been paid, and we’re getting to see how much progress we were able to make on debt. And – spoiler alert – it was a good month for debt payments!!!!

First, let’s get right to the debt table…

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient$658116.55%$4383July$74218
ACS Student Loans$85966.55%$20July$8215
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$63500% (through April 2017)$500July$7650
Medical Bills$57610%$25July$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$86,518 (June balance = 91,058)$4928Starting Debt = $145,472

It’s still exciting to see so many empty rows, the debts having been paid off.

And can I get a virtual high-five for entering into a new first digit for debt payments? Just last month we were still in the 90k owed range and here we sit this month in the mid-80s!!! How exciting is that?! Still a heap-load of debt, no doubt, but it feels like it’s really moving at this point!

Also:  you ask for it, you get it! In response to reader comments requesting an updated break-down of my Navient Loans, I’ve made this special new table just for you!

NumberTypeAmount Owed
3/2015
Amount Owed
7/2016
APR
1-01Unsubsidized5612$08.25%
1-02Subsidized8762$86976.55%
1-03Unsubsidized6967$06.55%
1-04Unsubsidized6794$45336.55%
1-05Unsubsidized2215$06.55%
1-06Subsidized860$06.55%
1-07Subsidized7433$73676.55%
1-08Subsidized6572$65226.55%
1-09Subsidized8762$86976.55%
1-10Unsubsidized17557$183086.55%
SUBTOTAL:$71,534$54139
1-01 Federal LoanUnsubsidized08.25%
1-02 Federal LoanUnsubsidized116875.80%
TOTAL:$65,811

FYI, I broke apart my Navient (formerly Sallie Mae) Department of Education loans way back in March 2015. Please note that the original table did not include any Federal student loans, but I’ve gone ahead and included those in the updated Navient table.

Recently I’ve really started making good progress on paying down some of my student loans. They are, by far, the largest combined debt that we owe. But I’m still tackling them individually because I find it gratifying to pay them off loan-by-loan. After we buy a house, I’ve thought about refinancing to get a better interest rate, which would cause them to all be lumped into one new loan. But I’m not going to do anything related to credit until after the house deal goes down, so while the loans are all separate I continue to knock them down one-at-a-time. The next loan in my sights is loan 1-04. I’ve been doing a modified snowball method, paying the smallest loan first but focusing solely on my unsubsidized loans first.

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I feel very fortunate to be in a position where we are making a nearly $5,000 debt payment within a single month. This will probably be our highest debt payment all year, given the way our salaries work (our highest income months are June and July). Our pay was higher than usual this month, so we had a higher than usual debt payment. We also did some savings for our house down payment and a little bit of spending on back-to-school shopping, conference-travel expenses (the trip isn’t until August, but I pre-paid a hotel, flight, etc.), and a surprise birthday present for hubs (his birthday is in early August).

It’s just crazy to think how big a hole we’re dealing with due (primarily, among other things) to the enormous amount of student loan debt we had. I’m so glad that my degree is finally coming in handy and helping to give us a larger-sized “shovel” (aka: income) to get out of the mess we’re in. (credit: Ramsey for the hole & shovel analogy). I certainly do not take it for granted.

In August I don’t get paid at all from my part-time job, so our income will be a little lower but we still have a buffer since hubs still has his income and I have my full-time job income. I’ve been working hard at balance this year. We’ve spent more money on having occasional date-nights (the goal is to have one per month, though we’ve been averaging closer to every-other-month). I’m also determined to start entertaining more, especially after we are in a new house! And, to give another personal (but related to finances) update, I’ve finally scheduled an appointment for therapy. Remember when I talked about wanting to go to therapy nearly a full year ago? I made it as far as to do some internet research, find someone I liked, and then I called and she wasn’t accepting new clients. That was nearly a year ago and I’ve done nothing about it since then. But even though I feel much better now than I did at that time (things are on the ups – my dad is in an assisted living, we’re selling his Utah house, preschool starts again in 2 weeks, hubs and I have had more date nights and fun stuff  out of the house), I still feel the desire to talk to someone. I’ve experienced a lot of major life changes in the past year between starting back to work full-time, starting the girls in preschool full-time, dealing with my dad’s health crisis, recent deaths in the family, etc. etc. etc. I think it’s good and healthy to take the time (and money, if one’s budget allows. thank you generous university insurance plan!) to have little “check ins” every once in awhile. Plus, we’ve got more major life changes ahead as we begin the process of house-hunting and officially putting down roots here in Arizona (something that’s strangely difficult to come to terms with. We’ve been living here a solid 6 years now, but I always thought we’d move back to Texas to be by family so it’s odd to realize we’ll likely remain in Arizona for some time to come).

Anyway, all of this is just to say that I’m still working to add more balance back into my life. I’m now into my 3rd year of debt payoff. The first solid 2 years I was 100% gung-ho on the debt reduction train. I’m still on the train (as evidenced by this month’s killer debt payment, thankyouverymuch!), but I’m trying to add more room to our budget for normal “life” stuff. Dates, kids’ activities, entertaining friends, going to therapy. I’m even thinking about maybe re-joining a gym once the kids are officially back in preschool (for long-term readers, you may remember I bought a gym membership a couple years ago and cancelled it after only a couple months to try to save every penny and put it all toward debt).

I just want to keep it real with you all as I’m on this journey. We’ve had 2 years of solid, hard, grueling work. We still have a very, very long way to go. But this is a marathon for us, not a sprint. We couldn’t have maintained that pace forever (and it would have been unhealthy and damaging to try). I’m still trying to be reasonable – we’re not going all-out crazy spending money. But I think it’s important to start letting the girls participate in different activities (I’m still limiting to one activity at a time. Right now it’s swim, but we’ve put in a cancellation notice effective at the end of August and plan to start a new activity in the Fall). I think it’s important to put more time and effort (and, yes, money) into strengthening our friendships by having people over and hosting more get-togethers. And just generally doing more paid activities that we’ve been foregoing the past 2 years. All while trying to still make hefty debt payments that we can be proud of.

We’re well on our way to hit that $30,000 debt-reduction goal for 2016. I think our future is bright.

Where are you on your debt reduction mission? Did you go all-out the whole time, or did you add in some “breaks” and periods with more balance? How long did it take you to get out of debt? What was the #1 thing that helped you to stay the course and eventually get out of debt?


Budget’s Busted!

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We’re nearing the end of the semester at my university and this time of year is notoriously crazy. Fortunately, I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel (and the cruise! Can’t wait!!!). But the past 4 weeks have been insane. It hasn’t helped that I haven’t had weekends to catch up on things, either! Last weekend I had a 2-day workshop that I hosted and ran (= TONS of work, not to mention the whole weekend was taken). The weekend before, hubs was out of town the entire weekend for a conference (= quality mommy-daughter time, but impossible to catch up on other household or work tasks because there’s no “time off”). So it’s felt like the past 3 weeks were just one continuous week with no end in sight. I’m really looking forward to this weekend.

But there’s one thing…

I’ve let time get away from me. The first time I sat down to reconcile the budget this month wasn’t until just a couple days ago (usually I enter purchases pretty immediately). I sat down and typed in all the numbers and discovered that we’d already blown our entire restaurant budget for the month…only 1/3 of the way through the month.

It’s kind of ironic coming on the tail of last month, where I’d finally tamed our food budget and was talking about what an impact meal planning and food prep had been making. This month has included far too many nights where I’ve had to unexpectedly work late, resulting in a quick run to a sandwich shop or chick-fil-a on my way home so the kids could eat immediately and not wait for food to be cooked. We’ve also been dealing with more illness (this entire semester has been back-to-back sickness! It’s been tough!). There was a solid week straight that was affected as first one child had a stomach virus, then me, then hubs, then other child. While hubs and I were sick (and our bugs overlapped. Ugh!), it was impossible to cook food for the kids, but they still needed to be fed. Take-out pizza to the rescue! I think you’re seeing the general trend.

Realizing what’s happened, I’m going to buckle down and try to have no more eating out for the rest of the month. That being said, we luck out a little since our cruise is on the horizon. Any “eating out” at that time will come from our cruise budget (not our regular eating out budget). However, my mother-in-law is coming out to help travel with the kids. While she’s here we’ve always treated her to at least one meal out at a local restaurant, so I know there’s going to be at least one more eating out expense.

It’s tough. There are giant peaks and valleys in academia. During summer, things are pretty tame. But right now I’m getting my butt whipped and just barely treading water as I keep battling illness, trying to plan for a vacation, etc. I’ll be honest. Early in our debt-reduction mission I might face this type of challenge with gumption and determination. Right now though…..when I added all the numbers and saw we’d blown the budget….I just felt defeated. Like it’s not even possible to go the rest of the month without any more eating out.

I really am going to try my hardest, but just wanted to be honest about my feelings. Don’t know whether the difference can be attributed to just the craziness of this time of year with work, or whether its a more general issue of being so entrenched in debt-reduction. It’s no longer this shiny new thing that I’m just beginning. I’m still just as dedicated to get out of debt, but I now feel like I’m dead in the middle of an ultra-marathon. I’ve come so far, but still have so far left to go and digging deep to find the energy to continue isn’t always easy.

I’ll just keep pressing forward.

How do you handle disappointment when you realize you’ve blown your budget? How do you continue with resolve rather than simply blowing off the rest of the month? What do you do to keep your spirits high?


A little boost

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I just mentioned how my plan of action (in regard to order of debt payment) was going to be changing.

I wanted to share here one of our license fees being paid in full this month (wahoo!!!) Just FYI, we started off with 2 full pages of fees (I don’t even know how many – probably 12ish?) We’ve been making payments on these fees for many years (in fact, you can see the top fee on this page was paid back in 2006). But after this month’s payment where we paid off the second fee in full (which you can see below), we’re down to making payments only on the one last remaining license fee (which you can’t see below because its on the first page of fees).

Boy, will it feel so good to get rid of that fee. I’m already thinking and strategizing….is there any way to get rid of it by next month???? We shall see (enter evil debt-paying laugh: Mwahahahahaha!!!!!)

 

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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.


How I Reduced My Debt by $10,000 in 6 Months

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By Alan Helman

Chances are incredibly high that, at some point in your life, you will have to deal with debt. Thanks to increasing tuition rates and decreasing summer employment, students are leaving college and university saddled with large amounts of debt. Then add in the costs of starting a family and buying a house and a car and…well, you see the problem. A lot of people who had dreamed of a life as an artist or a designer find themselves having to switch gears in order to handle this debt, and then falling into a depression when they look at the seeming impossibility of becoming debt-free.

When I graduated, the first thing I had to establish was that it wasn’t possible to pay off all my student debt at once, and looking at the full amount due almost gave me a heart attack. I told myself not to freak out; paying off the debt was possible. It would take some creativity on my part, and might require I change my way of living a bit, but the thrill of realizing that I wasn’t so deep in debt was certainly worth the life change.

Build a Budget

After a lot of research, talking to friends and professionals, I found that the best way to reduce (and eventually get rid of) my debt is to set a good budget and follow it. I determined how much money I brought in each month, then figured out what percentage of that absolutely had to go to standing bills like my mortgage, car payments, debt payments, etc. The money that was left over could then be apportioned to my remaining monthly purchases. I started with the most important areas: figuring out an amount to devote to food, an amount for gas (and transit fees, for when I took the train or might need a cab), and an amount for entertainment. I tried to leave myself with extra money in the kitty, because I knew a few things already:

1. Chances were high that I would break my budget in one area or another, especially when just starting out.
2. The extra money could be used to pay down more of my debt.
3. It’s always a good idea to try to accumulate a bit of a savings to safeguard against emergency situations.

There are plenty of online systems that can help create a budget, so I took advantage of that in my planning. The New York Times suggested some great apps such as LevelMoney or Billguard–these systems often come with fees attached, and that money would have to come out of the budget, but it was worth it in the long run. Apps like this provide a valuable service and, for me, were 100 percent worth the money. It might not be the same for you, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you jump for a service.

Search for Sales

I found one of the best things about the Internet is that it makes looking for deals much easier. I no longer had to scour the newspapers and local flyers for the right coupons or stand in line for the huge sales at stores; everything was online where I could access it easily. Since I’d already budgeted for my Internet bill, it was simple. I discovered coupon apps, which led to some pretty great savings (or refunds and rebates) once I uploaded my receipt to the app. Other coupons could be saved on my iPhone, and then shown to the cashier to be scanned. Though the amount saved on each coupon seemed pretty small, it added up quickly. For beginners, the Toronto Star has a great list of sites and advice from people who are quite successful at utilizing this method.

If I needed a new electronic device or piece of computer hardware, I just made sure I found the best deals online. This simple act saved me hundreds, possibly even thousands of dollars. I was amazed at the plethora of things I could find coupons for on the net.

Increasing Income Creatively

I didn’t have the time or the energy to take on a second job, but this didn’t mean I couldn’t increase the amount of money I was bringing in. This is actually where I found I could draw on that creative side that I’d come to fear was lost forever. Thanks to online eCommerce sites like Shopify, I found I could create an online store of my own to sell my art, design and products bearing them. I was able to set up a shop that held my unique designs, choosing a price that I felt was fair while still competitive.

While I worked to pay the bills, my designs were finally online for millions to discover. With a little bit of effort in my spare time (dealing with the orders, creating product), I found I could actually, at least in part, live my artistic dream — and still pay the bills. I never had to be a starving artist.

If you think the idea sounds like a silly fantasy, like I did at first, you should know something: this is actually how new designers are approaching the market. Cutting out the retail store middleman allowed both for increased profit but also increased creative control, and even beyond that I came to the realization that the online market is much bigger than single retail stores. It’s quite serious; the Wall Street Journal has touted this method as “the new black.” Online sales are always on the rise, so this was the ideal opportunity to live my dream while still keeping a foot in the regular working world.

Very few people will live a life of complete leisure, never worrying about their income. But having a budget didn’t mean I couldn’t have nice things (or, you know, things). It just meant I needed to be a little more creative when it came to choosing how to buy things, and left me to explore other ways to make money. The biggest thing I learned was that it doesn’t actually have to be a huge effort, thanks to the wonders of the Internet and current technology. Six months later, and I’m that much closer to living debt-free. You could be too.


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