Get out of debt FAST

... with real tips from real people just like you

Derek Clontz
January 10, 2007 at 12:40 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. When you get out of debt, you’ll have money, too.
FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. When you get out of debt, you’ll have money, too.
You can make more money, pay off your debts without chopping up a single credit card and live high on the hog day after worry-free day with financial tips from ordinary people just like you.

And you don’t have to invest a million dollars in high-risk stocks, stop buying clothes for your children or treating yourself to nights on the town to turn your finances around, either.
All you have to do is consider some common-sense strategies offered up by men and women who decided to stop slaving their lives away just to keep up with the interest on their loans and credit cards.

At the same time, they made a commitment to themselves to start working - and spending - smart for a change.

By making one or more of these simple changes in your life, you’ll soon find yourself walking around town with cash in your pocket.

You'll shop when you want to shop.

And you'll buy what you need to buy - and still pay every bill on time.

Impossible dream? Not at all. Simply make financial security your goal.

And then day by day and week by week, do what it takes to make your dream come true.

To help you along the way, here are 12 “real world” strategies from my forthcoming "simple-living" book, 99 Ways to Make More Money, Get Out of Debt - and Live Like a King, which is slated for an August release.

1. Start a “Skinflint’s Club” - and rally the troops around a collective crash "cash diet.” It sounds dull, but its fun. First, round up as many friends and acquaintances as you can find who want to take control of their finances. Second, get together and schedule regular weekly or bi-weekly meetings to discuss ideas and support one another.

To get started, simply make a note of every penny you spend for two weeks, and then take a look at the result. Depending on your income, you might want to “slim down” from spending $400 a week to spending $340 a week.

When the club meets, everyone can discuss their own spending patterns and offer suggestions to one another for cutting them down to size. It’s not only a great way to socialize and have fun, the result could be the financial freedom you crave.

“My Skinflint Club has 12 members and together we’ve slashed $1,200 a week in frivolous or dumb spending from our household budgets,” says Sammy Klower, of Spartanburg, South Carolina “We’re working on getting out from under high-interest debt now, and on bringing our food budgets into line.

"At the same time, to reward ourselves, we’ve all added money to our recreation budgets. We’re taking control of our finances and having more fun than ever at the same time.”

2. Help friends - for a price. This little-known but excellent strategy will not only earn you the extra money you need to pay down bills, it might develop into a lucrative - and easy - new job.

Tell friends and relatives who are in business that you’ll send customers their way - for a percentage of sales. Chances are you’re going to refer people to them anyway - you might as well get a cut of the profits. “It’s the American way,” says Mary Strehln, who started out sending customers to her brother’s lawn service for a 5 percent cut of the profits and now is on the unofficial payroll of 22 other small businesses in Minneapolis.

“I average $600 a month just keeping my ears open and not being afraid to express my opinion. If I’m standing in line at the supermarket and hear someone say he needs a new sofa or car repair or whatever, I chime in with a recommendation, and give them a business card for the company I’m recommending. It’s the easiest money I’ve ever made.“

3. Promote national companies in return for freebies like cars, major appliances and lifetime supplies of foods and personal-care items. Make a habit of writing glowing letters and testimonials for products you use every day - cars, shampoo, computers, refrigerators, soft drinks, food, motorcycles, bedding, you name it.

You’ll be surprised to find out how lavish big companies can be in rewarding people for testimonials - a lifetime supply of soap, a new laptop computer and even a new range, refrigerator and car are not out of the question.

“I bought a pre-owned 1996 Toyota Corolla from a dealer here in town and was so happy with the car and the salesman that I wrote a letter to the owner,“ says Fred Tolert, of Gaffney, South Carolina.

“Two days later he told me to drop by the lot because he had ‘a little something’ for me. That little something was a 2002 Lincoln Navigator - and free oil changes for life. All I had to do was agree to let him use my letter in his advertisements.”

4. Get yourself EVEN DEEPER in debt. It sounds crazy, but study after study confirms that you can expect to earn an extra $1 million over the course of your career - more than enough to get out of debt and live high on the hog - after you earn and apply your 4-year degree.

Unless you’re just too old to go back to work, taking out student loans to pay for more education makes good financial sense, financial experts say.

“I took out $60,000 in student loans and it sure paid off for me,” says Leslie Playor, of Birmingham, AL. “I used to make $300 a week working in a dry-cleaning plant. Now I’m an environmental engineer making $1,200 a week - and the benefits are incredible.”

5. Start eating smart. Most Americans are overweight. If you fall into that category, and statistically, over half of all citizens do, you can slash your food bill - and flush out the flab - by changing the way you eat.

Remember: When you buy food that someone has prepared and packaged in any way, you’re spending two to 20 times what it will cost you when purchased whole and raw. Sure, you can buy a package of premixed salad greens for $3. But you can purchase them separately and toss them yourself spending the same $3 - but instead of having just one salad, you’ll have ingredients enough to make five or six, slashing the price.

“Everybody’s talking about ‘whole-food diets' that revolve around foods that are uncooked or only lightly cooked, such as vitamin- and enzyme-rich fruits and vegetables,” says Roger Lafayerre, of Princeton, New Jersey.

“I switched from my old meat and potatoes diet and instantly whacked $100 a week off my family’s food bill. Not only that, my cholesterol and high blood pressure returned to normal, and my doctor took me off prescription drugs. That leaves me with another $75 a month to spend on things I really want, like that new fishing rod I’ve had my eye on.“

6. Spend $20 to $50 a month to the world’s most important charity - you. Don’t say you don’t have $20 to $50 - chances are good you‘re spending that much or more for home delivery of a daily newspaper that you could be reading free at work, borrowing from a friend or perusing at the public library.

Be ruthless in looking for ways to find your “charity cash” - and invest it. Remember: You don’t have to sink a million in the stock market to realize a handsome return. Call a stockbroker and don’t be shy - tell him you’ve got a $20 -or $50 - a month to invest.

He’ll help you build a financial future that, until now, you probably thought was beyond your reach. “I started out investing $40 a month in 1998 and my investment is worth over $10,000 today,“ says Jakee Carentine, a single mother of five from St. Louis.

“I thought a stockbroker would laugh at my plan to invest $20 a month. But he didn’t - and today, I’m way ahead. And to think I used to live paycheck to paycheck.”

7. Rake in the riches that are in front of your nose. To do that, take stock of quick-and-easy money-making activities that are available to you that you aren’t taking advantage of.

“Washing one car a week at the going rate of $25 can net you $100 a month in extra income,” says Fred Johanes, of Raleigh, North Carolina, who paid off all his credit card debt by doing just that. “Cleaning windows or bathrooms - chores people hate to do themselves - are big moneymakers, too. My wife charges $25 to $50 per house or apartment and that’s another $100 to $200 a month in extra income.”

Tim McCreighten, of St. Louis, started out cleaning a neighbor‘s toilet for $10 a week in 1998 to help pay off a credit card. Today, “Tim the Potty God“ employees 60 workers - and lives in a $400,000 home.

8. Get serious about suing somebody when litigation is justified. A fascinating new study suggests that the average American will be the victim of negligence or an accident that legally qualifies him to receive money on three different occasions over the course of his life. But only one in 10 will take legal action. The bottom line?

If you’re hurt in an accident or by someone’s negligence, don’t be "Mr. Good Guy” or “Mrs. Milquetoast." Get the best lawyer you can afford and demand the cash settlement you deserve. Pay off credit cards, write a check for a new car to avoid finance and interest charges, splurge a little and invest the rest of your windfall. In one fell swoop, your financial future may be assured.

“I was so deep in debt I was sure bill collectors were going to chase me into an early grave,” said Melinda Rashama, of Trenton, New Jersey. “If I hadn’t slipped on that wet floor in the movie-plex, I’d probably still be in debt today.”

9. Crown yourself “King - or Queen - of Garage Sales” - and hold one every week without fail. Go door to door or run a small ad in a newspaper offering to clear out garages, attics and basements for free.

Leave the junk on the street for the trash collector and keep the good stuff for your garage sale. “One garage sale isn’t going to improve your finances - but one a week sure will,” declares Amy Seener, of Chattanooga, TN.

“I hold a garage sale every Saturday morning and spend every Saturday afternoon cleaning out someone’s attic or garage. That gives me a week to clean the items I’m going to sell and also to research my prices. I average $100 to $150 a week, more than enough to make my car payment and pay for my weekly crab legs and beer bill at Red Lobster!“

10. At a complete loss over the best way to bring your finances under control? Consult a bankruptcy attorney and find out precisely where you stand financially.

The consultation is free and the attorney can quickly tell you what you need to do to get out of debt. Bankruptcy usually isn’t necessary - and most attorneys will be more than happy to put you on the right track because they know you’ll refer them when your friends or relatives get into trouble.

“I was ready to commit suicide until I talked things over with a bankruptcy attorney,” says Candace Moreger, of Houston. “He put things in perspective in five minutes flat. I didn’t have to declare bankruptcy, but by following his suggestions, I climbed out of debt pretty much painlessly. And I’m living better than ever.“

11. Expect cash and good fortune to come you way - and it will. Dramatic new studies show that good luck abounds for people who cultivate a positive attitude and keep an open mind about themselves and their future.

If you need help, sign up for a free “positive attitudes” class at your nearest library or community college - and get off your duff and go. “Once I learned to keep a positive attitude, I started seeing where I had been missing one lucky opportunity after another,” says Fred Blemerman, of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“Now that I’ve opened my eyes, good things happen to me almost every day. I got a new, higher paying job because I heard a man talking about the opening while I exercised at my gym. And you might not believe this, but I find money on the ground all the time. I expect good things to happen and thy DO happen. I encourage everyone to do the same.”

12. Liquidate. Do you really need to be making payments on three TVs, four stereos, three computers, two cars, a new bedroom suite and all the other junk you and family members keep buying on credit?

Sell everything you can part with or turn it all back over to the people you bought it from, not sometime in the future, but right now, today. Shelling out $400 a month on a car? Give it back and you instantly increase your cash flow by a staggering $4,800 a year. To get where you‘re going, walk, ride a bike, use public transportation, rely on friends, or buy a cheaper car.

“Want a $200 raise? Get rid of something that costs you $200 a month in payments,” says Marge Retwenger, of Kansas City. “Be ruthless. I got rid of my new car and bought a clunker for a monthly savings of $320. I told the appliance company to take back my $2,000 refrigerator and bought a used model at the thrift store for $50, saving my monthly payment of $40 a month.

“Now I’ve got money to spend on me and things I really like. It‘s like winning the lottery every day.”

View other articles written Derek Clontz

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