Are You Slipping Behind in Bills or Farther into Debt?

With economic statistics painting a picture where those at the top of the economic ladder are getting richer but those in the working middle class and below are having to increasingly struggle to make ends meet, and it’s no surprise that the amount of consumer debt – already large – is climbing yet higher. A record number of Americans find themselves slipping behind in bills or making less than full payments.

Yet, regardless of whether you’re just tapped out from spending too much on the holidays or you’re in serious financial red due from more limited income coupled with rising energy and other living costs, even relatively minor changes you make now can help you start the climb out of the big hole known as debt. Even the most ambitious of these changes probably involves less of your time and energy than you currently spend fretting over the money you owe.

Consider some of these ideas, which you can mix and match to come up with the most effective solution for you. As you do, remember that your goal should be to pay down the debt and give yourself sufficient cushion that one or two unexpected bills are less apt to break you.

1. Take a part-time second job. The key here is to try to find something where you get the most per-hour amount you can while still giving you the ability to maintain your primary employment without draining yourself physically and mentally.
2. If a second job doesn’t fit your style, consider a small, low startup cost business or service you might be able to get others to pay for, like becoming a personal shopper, performing fast cleanup jobs, simple painting, and even offering consulting services in an area you know like an expert.
3. Have a garage sale and move out all the stuff you do not need. Families have picked up anywhere from $100 to several hundreds of dollars in this way.
4. If you don’t have enough for a garage sale, start exploring your closets, jewelry chests, attic, and garage. Even a few good pieces might fetch a nice sum from a used furniture, art, or jewelry shop and simple gold and silver jewelry brings in a bit of money even when sold for scrap.
5. Start noting how much you spend on convenience items. With take-out gourmet coffee in some shops running at $3 or more and a simple burger costing $5 in some places, you can save a lot by packing a sandwich and making your own commuter cup or Thermos of your favorite brew to take along. Some estimates say Americans can save more than $400 a month simply by avoiding convenience purchases.
6. Take an honest look at your budget. Almost every budget can be pared down and even multiple small changes can add up to less debt and potentially more savings.
7. Avoid get-rich-quick schemes. Often, you end up paying out of pocket for only a sheet of paper, a single Web page, or a tiny booklet with information you could have obtained through your own research for free. If you “buy” what they sell, you aren’t apt to make money for anyone but the scam artist selling the package.

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