No matter what time of the year it is, whether the first weeks of January or the middle of the summer, or even as autumn or winter begin, it is never too late to consider the ways you can free yourself from debt. In fact, it is a great idea to constantly look at ways to keep money in the bank rather than anywhere else. Yet, it can be pretty overwhelming to start looking at your options. Why? Just consider the typical advice that experts provide:
- Look for a second job
- Look for ways to reduce your expenses
- Set attainable financial goals around savings
If you are like me, it is not at all feasible to get a regular, second “gig” or part-time job. With household responsibilities looming over some, difficulties with transportation being an issue for others, and the need to have an actual life a big factor, getting a part-time job may be both unrealistic and impossible.
So, that’s one of the “expert” tips down. The next one is also not always ideal. After all, you may be looking to free yourself from debt simply because you are at that bottom line in the budget and have no further ways to cut costs. For example, you might be paying only the minimum possible (housing, utilities, food, and so on). An expert saying you are going to eliminate your debt by somehow reducing those expenses might be saying you have to take in a roommate or renter, cut back on the way that you eat (which might already have been done) and reduce utility expenses. This may not be possible.
That leaves us with tip number three, and most readers may actually laugh out loud at the word “savings”. After all, according to a CNBC report from late 2017, more than 50% of people in the U.S. have less than $1k in savings. That is nothing close to the 90 to 180 days of expenses financial professionals recommend we keep on hand. So, to suggest that you can get free of debt by simply looking for ways to put more into your savings account is not a viable answer, either.
That may leave you wondering just what the rest of this article is about, and here’s the good news. It is actually going to look at workable ways you can begin to eliminate debt and which don’t demand unrealistic steps or anything that forces you to put your family, responsibilities or life on hold or along the sidelines.
Tip #1 Take Stock
Have you already done a budget? If not, you need to understand the amazing power of doing so. As one expert wrote, “When you actually put pen to paper and figure out your household budget, the whole needs versus wants spiel comes into play…Cut out the stuff that doesn’t need to be there…After you tally your legitimate expenses, take a look at your monthly cash flow. Circle the amount left over with a red permanent marker. Scrutinize your expenses again. Circle the new amount left over. Rinse and repeat as needed. There’s almost always something that can be cut.”
That last line is the most important, there really is almost always something that can be cut. If you haven’t done the legwork of an actual budget that maps out your spending from the two previous months, take some time to do it right now. You may see that your cable bill is more than it could be due to on demand movies, extra channels and so on. It could be that you can cut the landline and work with a cell phone only (most do). It could be that you make a coffee stop each day, buy most lunches and go out a few times per week. That, my friend, adds up to an enormous amount, and is often as much if not more than a grocery bill.
Once you have narrowed everything down to that famous “bare bones”, it is time to hold yourself super accountable. That means using some sort of budget tracking. It can be pencil and paper, but it is also something you need to check each day. Your tracking has to account for every penny spent whether cash, check, credit or debit. Remember you are aiming to free yourself from debt, so use the credit route only if it is going to get paid immediately AND bring you a benefit (i.e. a rewards card). If there is no benefit to using the credit card, put it away and don’t use it at all.
Once you start tracking, you might see that you are bleeding a bit of cash on a regular basis. This is the time to rein in the unnecessary spending. Seriously, the $2.39 pack of mints is nowhere near that amount. If you did that each week it is more than $100 wasted each year. It all adds up, so track yourself diligently.
Once you have done the budget and honed your tracking skills, create a plan of attack to become debt free. List the debts you must eliminate and then use the advice of the experts to pay things off from the bottom up. In other words, eliminate the small balance first, and then start on the next, and the next and so on. Always keep up with minimum amounts due on all debts, but when you actually payoff a balance, it gives you momentum and even improves the credit score.
Would you prefer to pay off the higher interest rates first? If so, that’s a good route to follow, too. Just be sure you create a debt budget and stick to it.
So, that’s one part of taking stock.
The other part is to take a look at everything you have that could translate to more income. And by that, I don’t mean you need to consider selling everything you own. Instead, what sort of assets do you have?
As an example, on my list I would put down:
- 2 hours per day that I am willing to hand over to a second job
- A good computer and high speed Internet
- Time spent in grocery stores and malls on a weekly basis
- Certain skills (for instance, I am great at gardening, cooking, cleaning, research, computer work, and so on) particular to you
- A relatively new car in great condition
- The ability to lift up to 50 pounds (or more) and do an array of household tasks
- The ability to walk easily
- A healthy body with lots of plasma (don’t worry, we’ll explore this a bit more in a moment)
- Some items that could be sold for cash and which I do not need
What is your “inventory” of this kind?
As you might have guessed, we all have a similar inventory to that list above. Each item listed, though, is a way you can earn income and start to free yourself from debt. The good news is that a lot of the items above also allow you to earn income without leaving home or doing a tremendous amount of work and/or training.
Tip #2 Consider Any Legit Work from Home Jobs
If you have a few hours a day or week that you can spare as part of your inventory, then you can direct several of them towards one of the many legit work from home jobs available. Now, keep in mind, I’m not advising you take those envelope stuffing offers or things that might make you miserable for several hours or more per week.
No, consider options like:
- Learning how to make more money on Inboxdollars and other similar sites that pay you for taking surveys.
- Starting to do work through MTurk at Amazon.com.
- Doing online mystery shopping or by phone mystery shopping gigs.
- Learning how to use any affiliate marketing opportunities to help you create passive income (a particular favorite of mine).
- Getting involved in direct sales such as Avon, Tupperware and other similar gigs.
See, it is not that difficult to actually dedicate a few hours now and start to earn income via a “second job” that doesn’t also ruin your life. Most of the things listed above can be done on your sofa and in your PJs at the end of a bad day at the office, day job, etc.
This sort of approach would let you use the first four items on that inventory above, and if you had a knack for sales, the affiliate marketing and direct sales would be very lucrative. In fact, you might even find yourself thinking of turning one of those side gigs into the financially rewarding day job.
Tip #3 Consider How Your Body Can (Legally) Bring in Income
In another article, I’ve written about the surprising ways that you can earn money legally by selling things related to your body. These extend from pretty bizarre options (think selling your #2) to donating blood plasma to the locations that are eager to pay you for it. I suggest you go back and read that article again, or just use the links below to focus on your areas of interest.
- Sign up to donate plasma.
- Participate in the OpenBiome Stool Donor Registry.
- Explore paid opportunities within clinical trials.
- Consider sperm or egg donations.
Yes, you have to leave the house. And, yes, they are odd ways of earning money but there are documented cases of people bringing in substantial sums by using their bodies to generate regular income.
Remember too that your body is also an asset for the things it can do in exchange for cash – according to the law! For example, we already suggested that you learn how to get a secret shopper job online or the phone, but if you go to the mall or a few restaurants each week, you can start to earn income as a secret shopper during your time spent there. It does require a bit of training and skill, but you can often get certification and training before you get started, and then get even more lucrative gigs right away.
Don’t forget that a lot of people are glad to offer you job opportunities through apps like Fiverr and TaskRabbit. Typically, Fiverr is more of a desk job while the TaskRabbit options are for those with the ability to do anything from hanging shelves and cleaning garages to doing weekly shopping or running errands. If you are looking for a way to make the most of your time, it could be that you can sell your time and effort doing errands for others and even book it overlapping with your own errands, too.
Tip #4 Monetize the Car
If you have a vehicle, it is also possible to monetize ownership of it through an array of opportunities. I looked at them in great depth in an earlier article, and again, I suggest you take a look at it to see the many different ways it works. You can also look at the summary points below to see if any apply to you:
- You can make money driving others in your spare time through apps like Uber and Lyft.
- You can monetize time spent driving if you explore options for car wrapping that turns your vehicle into a billboard.
- You can use options like Fiverr and TaskRabbit to find ways to run errands for others.
- You can become a freelance delivery service doing airport, school, appointment, and even dog runs.
- You can grab a newspaper route and get a second income while most of the world is still asleep.
- You can offer food or grocery delivery services.
So, whether you have a lot of free time or very little, you may also have all kinds of “assets” that can help you start earning income and paying off debt right away and throughout the year.