get started paying off debtYou’ve gathered your bills, figured out who you owe and how much, and you’ve even created a budget. But it can still be overwhelming when you decide to get started paying off debt.

I've been there! Just a few short years ago I confronted my debt balances and created a plan so I could get started paying off debt, but it wasn't easy.

When you get started paying off debt, you have to make some tough decisions and sacrifices that you may not want to make.

If you are ready to get started paying off debt, here are my top 5 tips that can help.

Change Your Habits

We all have habits that we'd like to change. Some of them may be financial, and some may not. An example of a bad financial habit is "window" shopping whenever you have time to kill. Instead of window shopping while you kill time, choose a different activity instead. You can bring a book to read, or go for a walk in a nearby park or neighborhood as an alternative. These will keep you from being tempted to spend money. Don’t shop unless you absolutely need something.

Completely Stop Buying on Credit

If you want to get started paying off debt, you have to stop creating it first. This is essential if you want to change your habits and improve your financial situation. Make a pact to stop using your credit cards for anything except emergencies, but even then if you have an emergency fund you shouldn't need your credit cards for that either. In fact, you might consider getting rid of all but a couple of them by shredding them or even just freezing them in a block of ice.

Develop a Strategy

There are a few different tactics you can choose from to help you pay off you debt quicker. First decide on a method for paying down your debt.

There’s the snowflake method in which you make payments toward your bills throughout the month anytime you have a little extra money. Just like snowflakes, they all add up.

Or, you could use the snowball method and pay off the smallest debt first while making minimum payments only on all other debts. Once the smallest is paid you apply that amount to the next largest bill along with the minimum amount you were already paying and so on. The payments get larger each time a debt is paid off.

Lastly you could choose the avalanche method and pay the debt with the highest interest rate first, saving you the most money in the long run.

Each of these plans has advantages and disadvantages, so check them out thoroughly before deciding. Also, don’t be afraid to combine them if you think it would work the best for you. That's what I've done as my debt balances and needs have changed over time.

For instance, pay off the lowest balance bill first and then move to the debt with the largest interest rate. Meanwhile, when you have extra money during the month, apply it toward the lowest balance bill.

Add a Side Hustle

Increasing your disposable income is another way to pay debt off faster. If you add a second job, a side hustle, or start a business of some kind on the side, you can apply more money toward your debts and reduce them at a faster rate.

Make Room to Breathe

Don’t forget to check your progress and even give yourself a small reward as you meet a goal by paying off a debt completely. Make sure the reward is not something that will wreck what you’ve accomplished. Also, allow for the occasional hiccup and emergency because these things happen. The key is to get back on track as soon as possible afterward.

Now you know my top 5 tips to help you get started paying off debt. I hope it motivates you to pay down your own debt so you can live with less stress and enjoy life to the fullest.

What other plans have you adapted to help you get started paying off debt?

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whole life insuranceAt sometime in your life, you're likely to need life insurance — or to at least consider it. For me, that revelation came after taking on some adult responsibilities: marriage, buying a condo with my wife, and our plan to have a child.

What I didn't want to enter into the equation, however, was a long presentation by an insurance salesman on a topic I didn't know much about: whole life insurance. But that's what I got, and it didn't end well.

Unfortunately, the wrong insurance salesman tried selling whole life insurance to us, and the ordeal was so confusing and full of insurance salesman cliches that it could have been cast for a short video on how not to sell insurance.

We were young and had enough income to buy a condo and consider adding to our family — which sounds like the best time to buy life insurance. If one of us died, having a child, mortgage and other expenses would be too much for the other to pay without insurance.

An insurance salesman knocks on the door...

I thought it was a pretty straightforward scenario, and one that could be solved relatively quickly with an insurance expert. I called an insurance agent, and we set up a time for him to come over and explain policies to my wife and I.

I didn't know then what I know now about life insurance — that a term policy was much better for our needs than whole life.

When the salesman arrived at our door, his first and only pitch was for whole life insurance. I don't remember all of the details, but the main thing that stands out is how he kept trying to show us how whole life insurance was an investment we should take advantage of. ...continue reading

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travel hacksTraveling for leisure is supposed to relax you, but sometimes the simple act of traveling can be stressful.

Crowds, noise, flight delays, lost luggage, and unaccounted for expenses…you get the picture.

You may not be able to do anything about some of these annoyances, but proper planning can rid you of some others. Now that I've been doing some more traveling since I became self-employed, I've learned a few things that help my trips be less stressful, and to help me save money along the way. Here are 4 travel hacks, some of which I've used, that you can implement to help you save money.

Consider Your Currency

Once you know your travel destination, check the exchange rates ahead of time if you will be traveling abroad. You may be able to save some money by getting a better rate than if you wait until closer to your departure date.

Another of the travel hacks I've used to help me save money is keeping currency in a secure place, like a money belt. This is especially important if you are traveling through an area with a high crime rate. Store some money in more than one place if possible, to prevent a thief from leaving you penniless should they get their hands on your money.

...continue reading