Slipping Behind in Bills from Holidays and High Cost of Living?

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 regular second job is out, do you have skills that you can put to use doing freelance consulting or other work? This might allow you to take on some projects you complete on your own schedule. A couple of examples include using your digital camera and your better than average photography skills to do event photography or put your knowledge of computer setup to help put together someone’s office network or new PC.

3. Although you’ve probably already taken a look at your budget with an eye toward cutting out all excess, you may want to take a second look. Even among more necessity items, it’s likely there are ways you can pare down the costs to leave you more to pay off outstanding debts.

4. Have some space to rent out? You may be able to make a bit extra if you rent out a spare room, your garage, or a room or area that can be converted into a studio or workspace. While you may have extra costs with this idea, you might earn enough to make it worthwhile.

5. Go through your home, garage, and storage space and determine if you have any items of valuable you may be willing to part with; use the proceeds to pay down your debt. After the holidays, some newspapers, for example, offer cheaper ad rates to allow you to advertise merchandise for sale. Auctioning some collectibles on eBay may also be a possibility.

6. Review where your debt is located. If most of it sits on high interest credit cards, consider whether you can take out a lower interest loan to pay them off. If you have a fair amount of equity in your home and haven’t refinanced, it may be worthwhile to tap into a small amount of that equity without extending your debt load farther.

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