Is debt sinking you?

Debt is a burden that many people are shouldering these days. You are not alone by any means. If you’ve got debt, then you know how it can make you feel like you’ll never get ahead. As much as you may try to ignore it, it’s always lurking in the back of your mind. Ignoring your debt won’t make it go away.

Like some kind of evil weed it will just keep growing, inching up each month as the interest compounds. It seems there is no way to fully kill it in it’s place, even when you make extra payments.

While I can’t give you a perfect recipe for getting rid of your own debt, I can provide some suggestions that have worked for many people. Only you can decide which ideas will help you climb out of debt. It probably took some time to get into debut and it’s going to take time to get out. With commitment, a desire to change and a little bit of enthusiasm, you can be free of your debut.

Just take it one step at a time. Don’t think about your debt as a big picture.
If you do, it will bury you mentally.

Conquer it in increments.

Here are 10 ways to help you kill your debt starting right now…

1. Figure out what you owe. It sounds obvious, but many people who have debt don’t have a clear picture of its extent. Gather your credit card and loan bills and make a list of your balances, interest rates and minimum monthly payments. Now you know what you owe.

2. Don’t dig any deeper. Climbing two steps up and falling one step back is not the way to get out of debt. If you want to quit digging yourself deeper into debt, quit using your credit cards. Don’t cut them up since you may still need them for emergencies, but put them away so you won’t be tempted to use them.

3. Simplify your lifestyle. Take a long hard look at your spending and find ways to trim the fat. Instead of treating yourself with a shopping trip or restaurant meal, focus on how good you’ll feel when you get out of debt. Go minimal.

4. Enjoy free entertainment. If you spend a lot of money on concerts, movies and going out at night, look for free alternatives. Check online and in community newspapers for free events. You can also spend more time outdoors and visiting with family and friends. Instead of buying books, DVDs or music, visit your local library.

5. Be on the lookout for extra income. Take advantage of opportunities to earn more in your day job, such as working some overtime or increasing your commission. Assess your talents and hobbies to see if you can generate income outside your job. Not only will you be earning more money to pay off your debt, but you also may a secondary source of income in case your primary job is in jeopardy.

6. Transfer high-interest balances. Check your credit cards for balance transfer offers. The best offers will allow you to transfer from a high-interest card with a high balance to a card with a low balance that’s offering low interest for a limited time. Even with a balance transfer fee, you’re likely to save a significant amount on interest for several months.

7. Set up automatic payments. When credit card payments are late, the interest rate can be raised. This can be disastrous when you’ve transferred balances to get a low rate. Avoid late fees and interest rate hikes by setting up automatic payments. Do it.

8. Track your spending. This sounds harder than it really is, especially if you simplify your lifestyle and cut your spending. Just save your receipts and add them up every few days. You can use financial software, a spreadsheet or just paper and pencil to categorize your spending. At the end of the month, look at where your money went. Don’t be surprised if you’re spending more than you thought in one or two categories.

9. Put off big purchases. Think long and hard before making any big purchases, especially if it means taking on more debt. Drive your car for a few more years, clean your old carpet instead of replacing it and resist the urge to splurge on the latest gadgets. Once you do this for a bit, you will feel better about yourself.

10. Create an emergency fund. It might seem almost impossible to save money and climb out of debt at the same time, but if you begin to put aside a little bit each month you won’t have to use credit when an emergency or unexpected expense arises. Shoot to save enough to cover your expenses for at least 3-4 months.

If you dread the thought of living more frugally, just remember that it’s not going to last forever. Once you’ve climbed out of debt you’ll be able to make a fresh start and pursue the life you really want.

Here are a few sites I really dig on the subject of finances you might enjoy….

*Man Vs Debt

*Credit Card Debt Calculator

*Debt Free Adventure

*Frugal Dad

*Get Rich Slowly

Self improvement can be a long, long process. Waiting to see the fruits of your labor can be frustrating, to say the least. It is often said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.

Why not make that first step something that has immediate results?

Try these ideas to jump-start your overall self-improvement process, or just to brighten your day.

#1: Tap Into Gratefulness. It’s so easy to get mired down in what we don’t like, what we don’t have, what we wish we did had. By taking the time to reflect on what you do appreciate about your life, you can help to focus your thoughts and energy on those positive things. In some cases, this may seem a little difficult, so you may have to start small. Maybe you’re grateful that your favorite show is on tonight. It’s not a big thing, but it is something that makes you feel good. To go a step further, consider creating a “gratitude journal” where you can write 5-10 things each day. Make a point not to repeat things you’ve already written, and by the end of the week, you’ll have as many as 70 things on your list.

#2: Spark Your Curiosity. Is there something you’ve always wanted to know more about? We live in the information age, and the amount of knowledge at our fingertips is amazing. Always wanted to know how sugar was refined? Curious about the life of FDR? Get online and find out. In just a few minutes, you can learn something new. Not only is it a fun activity, but it engages your mind, leads to a sense of self satisfaction, and actually makes you smarter.

#3: Make Yourself Smile. The very act of smiling can change your mood. Even if it’s a forced smile at first, your body will follow suit, relaxing and causing you to feel better physically. By the end of a few minutes of “making” yourself smile, you’ll usually find that you’re just doing so naturally. Another benefit of smiling is that it makes you more approachable. Smiling at a stranger often illicit a smile in return, which means you’ve not only improved your own life, but you’ve made someone else’s day a bit brighter, too.

#4: Become Generous. Random acts of kindness don’t just mean something to the recipient of your generosity, they also improve your own life. Consider paying extra in the coffee line to cover the price of the next person’s order, or pack up some unwanted items and donate them to a good cause. Being generous actually increases the “good feeling” chemicals in the brain, which means you will greet the rest of your day with a more positive outlook. Continuing to practice generosity can even impact the way others see you, which can certainly improve your life not just today, but over the long run, as well.

#5: Get Moving. If you don’t exercise at all, then something as small as taking a brisk walk can be enough to make you feel good about yourself and your accomplishment. As with other activities suggested here, it can also increase endorphins in the brain, leading to a long-lasting feeling of contentment. If you do exercise regularly, then you likely already know the benefits and can take it a step further by exercising somewhere new or incorporating a friend into your routine.

#6: Think positively. Sure, it may be unreasonable to avoid all negative thoughts forever, but there’s no reason you can’t do it for the next hour. If you feel a negative thought coming into your mind, give yourself permission to think about it at the end of the hour and return your thoughts to focusing on something positive. This exercise can relieve your stress levels and help retrain your thinking so that you can make it more of a lifestyle than an occasional exercise. Or if you want to really make an impact, instead of thinking positive, make the switch to FEELING positive.

By implementing these ideas, you can literally improve your life right now. There are obvious benefits to that, as who doesn’t want things to be even a little better than they are? A less obvious effect, though, is that when you start seeing results immediately, it encourages you to continue on your thousand-mile journey. You start feeling so empowered that you are more likely to find more and more ways to improve your life, and as they keep working, the cycle repeats.

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