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24 Quick Actions You Can Do Today That Can Change Your Financial Life Forever

in Money Basics, Pay Off Your Debt, Sell Your 'Stuff'

Note: This is a post from Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt.

Last week, while I was talking about our new You Vs. Debt class, we touched on the “status quo” of our Upside-Down Nation.

We talked about our obsession with the debt-fueled life path and how it’s keeping millions trapped.

But talk is cheap.

I’m much more interested in action.

And this week, I want to do my part to shatter any excuses or justifications you may have. Below are 24 different actions that can be done this very day. Most are really quick (as quick as a few minutes) and others will require a chunk of your evening after the kids go to bed.

I took the time to provide 24 different options. For pete’s sake, you can at least do one of them. Can’t you?

Sure, there’s little chance all will be viable for your situation. Some you’ll already have done.

I’m asking for one. Just one.

Do it. :-)

Action #1: Pull Your Credit Report (10-20 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Visit Annual Credit Report – Visit annualcreditreport.com. Do not use other scam sites.
  2. Follow this tutorial step-by-step – Rather than rehash every detail here, I’ve provided screenshots for each step along the way over on Get Rich Slowly (as a guest post). Click here to see the guide.
  3. Quickly check your report over for errors – Over 2/3 of credit reports have some sort of existing error (many are very minor, but some can be large!).
  4. Store a copy of your report in a safe place – You can use your report to reference all sorts of information in the future, including listing every debt you owe, following up with errors, or when applying for different services.
  5. Monitor your scores using free tools Credit Karma and Credit Sesame – Both give you a credit bureau specific score you can use to monitor any changes. Credit Karma gives you TransUnion’s score and Credit Sesame gives you Experian’s National Equivalency Score.
  6. (optional) Check your credit score: – You can take advantage of a free trial of MyFICO, run by Fair Isaac (the company that invented the FICO credit score), to get your score for free. This step is entirely optional, it’s good to know your score but it isn’t as important as checking your credit report.

How this can change your life: When we first pulled Courtney’s credit report, we were saddened to find she was a victim of identity theft. :-( We had better luck with my credit report, however I did discover a $200 collections account I didn’t even know existed! Fixing errors like these is the fastest way to improve your credit score – many people go years and years without ever pulling their reports.

Additional Resource: How to Get Your Free Credit Report Online: A Step-by-step Guide

Action #2: Employ the “Clean Slate” approach to your clutter (20 – 90 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Pick a room, area, or desk drawer – Pick a single, specific area. Your closet, bedroom, kitchen, office – or even the top of your desk or a “junk” drawer.
  2. Remove everything out of the space - Everything… that’s why it’s called “Clean Slate”. Move it into another area or room.
  3. Go item-by-item - Ask yourself not “Should I get rid of this?” but instead “Does this item add joy, value, or purpose into my life?”…  ”Do I really need it?”. If yes, move it back into the room.
  4. If no, put it into one of three piles – Put it either into SELL, DONATE, or RECYCLE piles. After you’re done with each item, sell the SELL pile, donate the DONATE pile, and recycle the RECYCLE pile. Duh.

How this can change your life: Clutter slowly sucks away more of our time, energy, and money. By attacking specific areas where it tends to collect you can reclaim back pieces of these resources. For most people, selling excess stuff is the #1 way to generate extra cash quickly. This process is also addicting and can lead you down a rabbit hole that may just end in an organized and clean living space.  Gasp.

Additional Resource: The ‘Where to Sell Your Crap’ Flowchart

Action #3: Get 1 paying client (15-35 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Brainstorm a specific need you can fill – Can you cut grass? Shovel snow? Walk dogs? Provide computer training/support? Tutor? Teach English? Consult on a topic?
  2. Write out three clear benefits to working with you - Pick three BENEFITS of what someone would get out of working with you. BAD: I’ll cut your lawn.  GOOD: You’ll have a freshly trimmed, clipping-free yard by the time you get home.  Three benefits.
  3. Brainstorm 5 people who could use those benefits - 5 people. Likely whom you already have some relationship with (or know through someone). Quickly list them out.
  4. Call the most likely candidate – Pick one that’ll especially need your benefits. Call them. Explain who you are and list out the three benefits of them hiring you. Then… just ask.
  5. Continue down your list until you have 1 client. If the first doesn’t work, try the other 4 – one at a time.

How this can change your life: The biggest mistake most people make in making more money is that they do TOO much planning. Your facebook fan page, twitter profile, and even your blog aren’t a tenth of the value of your first paying client. You’ll learn more in this process than you will in years of tweeting. I promise.

Additional Resource: Examples from the Field: How to Stand Out

Action #4: Do something incredibly nice (and free) for your spouse (5-20 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Brainstorm a free gesture or activity – Plan something fun, cook a nicer-than-normal dinner, record a song, write a poem or letter. There are thousands of ideas online at your fingertips. Base it on what they value/love most.
  2. The next time you see your spouse, surprise them. - It’s really as easy as that. Use your brain and heart instead of your wallet this time.  :-)

How this can change your life: All too often, I find myself getting stuck in the “oh I forgot to do something nice for Courtney… let me buy XYZ or get XYZ thing.” The easiest solution is to simply buy something. Quick and painless most times. But gifts and actions of the heart and mind often mean many, many times more. They are often just as easy, once you take the time to actually start brainstorming. Try it. You may find out that a happy spouse doesn’t always require spending.

Additional Resource: 74 Simple Things You Can Do to Brighten Your Spouse’s Day (many free)

Action #5: Freeze Your Credit Reports (20-30 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Decide if a freeze is right for you – A “freeze” will restrict new creditors (and identity thieves) from being able access your reports. You can easily lift a freeze (should you want someone to access your reports), which takes anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple days. Some states have a small cost to place a freeze, others are free. Free reports are given to senior citizens and victims of identity theft in most cases.
  2. Freeze with TransUnion Online - Click here.
  3. Freeze with Experian Online - Click here.
  4. Freeze with Equifax Online - Click here.
  5. Call customer service if needed – Most of the time, freezing will be just a few click away online. If you have problems, call - TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872 – Experian: 1-888-397-3742 – Equifax: 1-800-685-1111
  6. Turn down any upsells – Unfortunately, customer service may try to sell you on additional services. Just state you would like a “credit report freeze” only.

How this can change your life: A credit report freeze is one of the best ways to lower your exposure to identity theft. Many sources report that the average time spent fixing an identity theft case (by the victim) is over 150 hours. Need I say more?

Additional Resource: How to Freeze Credit Reports Online

Action #6: Draft your first budget (25 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Estimate your income – Round down whenever possible to convenient numbers. If on extremely inconsistent income, start by budgeting based on last month’s income. That’ll never change.
  2. Brainstorm fixed expenses - Brainstorm your fixed, regular expenses. Those bills you pay every month. Round these up to convenient numbers. Don’t worry about being perfect – get as many as you can.
  3. Brainstorm irregular expenses - This is the hardest part for most people – and where most budgets fail. Think ahead to any non-regular expenses or bills that are coming up in the next 30 days. Gifts, repairs, holidays, supplies, taxes, etc…
  4. Accept that you are going to fail miserably – Do not try to be perfect. Round income down and expenses up. Give yourself fluff room. Next time, at least you’ll have a base with which to start and adapt. Simplify when possible. Take notes when things come that were unplanned.

How this can change your life: The toughest thing about the budgeting process is just getting started.  People try to spend hours creating their first budget – perfecting every single category or angle. Formula for failure. Take 25 minutes and complete as much as you can. Next week, revisit it for another 25 minutes. It’s only as hard as you make it.

Action #7: Track your spending all day at point of sale (5-10 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Get paper and a pen – Fold a piece of paper until it fits into your pocket – or find an unused small notebook.
  2. Jot down each purchase you make, when you make it - At the point of purchase, quickly write down the item and the amount you spent. Feel free to round up to the nearest dollar or whole number.
  3. At the end of the day, review your list - Check it over with a spouse or partner. Did you forget anything?

How this can change your life: Tracking your spending (along with budgeting) is one of the most high-leverage financial habits you can form. The act of writing expenses down will be a powerful jolt of consciousness into your spending. If you can do this simple task for one day… why not 30 consecutive? You’ll have great data to budget with – and even more insight into your habits.

Action #8: Use Cash Envelopes for Food, Clothing, “Blow Money” (20 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Pick your spending limits - For the categories “Food”, “Clothing”, and “Blow Money” (guilt-free entertainment) – pick a maximum amount you are willing to spend over the next 30 days.
  2. Stop by your bank and withdraw cash - Of course, the cash is equal to the combined limits you set for the three categories.
  3. Stuff envelopes with the cash - Get out 3 envelopes. Write the name of the category on the outside, and stuff the appropriate cash inside the envelope.
  4. Pay with cash – For the next 30 days, anytime you want something in that category – you’ll pull out your envelope and pay with cold, hard cash. Yes, I’m serious. You don’t have to carry them around at all times. When you go to the grocery store – take your Food envelope. Again, this isn’t rocket science.

How this can change your life: There is no budgeting trick or technique that is more powerful than going to pay for $60 in groceries and only having $45 in the envelope. I promise, the first time you put back $15 in items – your commitment to budgeting will never ever be the same.

Additional Resource: Dave Ramsey’s Envelope Budgeting System

Action #9: Start a “30-day” list (2 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Pull out a piece of paper and pen – Pretty self explanatory. Write “30-day” list at the top.
  2. Write impulse desires on the list - The next time you want an iPad 2, new purse, video game, television, online subscription, etc… you’ll first write the item down on the list (along with the date).
  3. After 30 days on the list, revisit the item - After 30 days have passed for each item, ask yourself – do I really need this item? Is it the best way to spend my money in accordance with my goals and values? If yes, then buy it.

How this can change your life: For most of us, our weakest moments are just that… moments. It’s the new shiny gadget, the review we just read, the window we walk buy, or the webpage we just landed on. Separating ourselves from our desired purchases even 72 hours will nip most impulses in the bud. Do it for 30 days? Well, it’s the best method I know at ensuring you spend on only those things you really do want. :-)

Action #10: Automate a large, regular bill (5-15 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Select a large, regular bill to automate - Pick one that you always plan for and know is coming anyway.
  2. Log onto your online banking website - The far majority of banks now have “online bill paying” or “pay bills” as features. Walk through the individual process for this one single bill. If in doubt, call your bank.
  3. Mark the automatic transfer on your calendar – Mark the automatic transfer down the day before it is set to go out of your account. This will get you used to the process for the first few times (and ensure you don’t bounce the payment).

How this can change your life: First let me say that you should only automate bills when you are in a positive financial situation. Automate a bad financial plan – and you get more of a bad financial plan (with less control). That said, automation can be a powerful tool once you get on the right track. Just going through the process once, will give you the confidence to automate more and more of your routine financial tasks (and focus on more valuable issues).

Additional Resource: Ramit Sethi’s Automation Strategy

Action #11: Cancel your cable (15-20 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Call Customer Service – Look on your last over-priced bill and call your cable company.
  2. Tell them you’re calling to cancel - Do not yield, they will be trained to talk you into staying. (sound familiar?)
  3. Ask for a confirmation number or code - Before hanging up, get a confirmation code or number that verifies your cable has been cancelled. Write it down.
  4. Throw your television out the window – Just kidding, checking to make sure you’re really reading. Keep your television for movie nights – or to watch your favorite one or two series via DVD, Netflix, or the internet.

How this can change your life: Just as debt is the default life path for so many of us – television is the default form of mindless entertainment. Look, I don’t hate television – I just know what happened in our life once we stopped defaulting to it every night on the couch. I still watch a few favorite shows, games, and events from time to time, too. ;-)

Additional Resource: 11 Reasons to Ditch Your Television

Action #12: Start your emergency fund (20-40 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Walk into your bank and open an account – If you don’t already have a separate savings account, open one. Make sure it’s separate from your normal process.
  2. Fund it with whatever you can - $20, $25, $50 – your bank may have a minimum, but many are set up to encourage savings accounts and their limits will be low. You don’t need $200 to start!
  3. Commit to $50 per month - Or $100, or $20, or $250. Pick something you know you can make room for and transfer it as soon as you get paid every pay period. Throw any extra small income chunks or bonuses into this fund!
  4. Celebrate vigorously at $1000 – Even if it takes two years, celebrate achieving your first $1000 emergency fund. This is a great place for most people to start – and now it’s time to attack our next most important financial goal.

How this can change your life: A $1000 emergency fund is the most important financial principle you can instill in your life. Having this fund will radically change your relationship with money. You’ll sleep better, build confidence, and be able to sustain momentum in the event of a true emergency. I can’t stress this enough – start here (if you don’t have one yet).

Additional Resource: 11 Ways to Spice Up Your Emergency Fund

Action #13: Create one single product from scratch (15-45 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Select an everyday product you use regularly – This could be anything from shampoo, to laundry detergent, to clothes, to gifts, to… you get the point.
  2. Find a great tutorial online - Google: “How to make [YOUR THING] from scratch at home”. Your answer will be on the front page 9 times out of 10. Skip eHow if  you can and find a real person or blogger with a tutorial.
  3. Follow the step-by-step directions - Just like you are doing here – except over there.

How this can change your life: Resourcefulness is one of the traits I respect most in people – and one of the ones I struggle with most. The simple act of creating one gift, product, or gadget yourself (at home) can really change your relationship with buying new things every time you need something. Some people take frugality to extremes, but almost all of us could benefit from some ole’ fashioned resourcefulness.

Additional Resource: Trent Hamm’s “Do It Yourself” Rule

Action #14: For one day this week, take alternative transportation (10-45 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Pick a day of the week – Today would be great, but if not… what about tomorrow?
  2. Take an alternative form of transportation for the day - Take public transportation. Walk. Bike. Call your buddy up and car pool (you get to ride in the cool lane legally this time!). Switch it up.

How this can change your life: Most of us aren’t willing to explore possibilities unless we are challenged. In New Zealand, I could have never imagined enjoying riding the bus. But I loved it. It gave me time to think, work, or relax – without being stuck in traffic and stressing out. You may find that biking to work on nice days is a possibility after all. Or that carpooling may save you gas, repair costs, and give you social interaction.  :-)

Additional Resource: Tammy Strobel’s Rowdy Kittens Blog

Action #15: Intentionally negotiate something (10 – 25 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Pick your target – Maybe there is already a new product or service you are in the market for. Otherwise, cable bills, credit card interest rates, and medical bills are always good targets. As a last resort, go find a local flea market.
  2. Call, approach, or visit your target - Call customer service or drive to the location of the item/service.
  3. Politely, but firmly ASK for what you want – Ask for a lower interest rate, ask for a discount on the portion of your medical bill not covered by insurance, ask for 40% off a service or item. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen?  Seriously?
  4. Walk away/hang up – Always be willing to walk away, there’s nothing wrong with that. If they can’t help you, hang up the phone. There… it’s over. You can breathe again.

How this can change your life: Negotiating is one of the most important life-long financial skills you can build. I’m not talking about the cheesy, take-advantage-of-people, type of negotiating.

Additional Resource: 27 Simple Ways to Become a Better Negotiator

Action #16: Cancel An Unused Credit Card (15-20 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Call Customer Service – Turn your credit card around and call the number on the back. Alternatively, Google the customer service number.
  2. Tell them you’re calling to cancel the card - Do not yield, they will be trained to talk you into staying.
  3. Ask for a confirmation number or code - Before hanging up, get a confirmation code or number that verifies your card has been cancelled. Write it down.
  4. After 60 days, verify it’s been canceled – For extra security, pull your credit report and ensure it’s been closed. Recall customer service if needed. Provide confirmation code. Send a certified letter if they request it. 9 times out of 10 the first call will do the job – these are just extra steps to help in rare cases.

How this can change your life: Sure, canceling an unused credit card can temporarily lower your credit score. However, Courtney and I found this first process so empowering – we decided to cancel the rest of the credit cards in our life, as well. With no credit cards we are much more conscious of our spending, worry less about identity theft, miscellaneous fees, and account changes. By the way, our credit score has gone up since we canceled all our cards. Just pointing out a fact.

Additional Resource: I know this is a controversial topic. Here’s a break down of the pros and cons of canceling a credit card that I wrote over two years ago. Read this for more perspective.

Action #17: Arrange a coffee or lunch meeting with a person you look up to financially (5-10 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Brainstorm 3 people whom you respect when it comes to money – Don’t pick people who “seem” rich – this can often be an illusion. Pick people who you know have solid financial habits – or even better – people who’ve recently turned around a bad situation.
  2. Ask them to meet you for coffee or lunch - Call them up and be 100% honest. Tell them you respect how they handle financial issues and were wondering if they’d spend 20-30 minutes mentoring you on how they got started.
  3. Create a list of questions - You don’t have to read from a piece of paper – but it’s important to plan out some great questions to ask during the conversation. Ask about their personal experience and do 5 times as much listening as you do talking.

How this can change your life: Finding and surrounding yourself with positive influences is absolutely key to accomplishing any financial goal. A mentor that can help you with both inspiration and advice will be invaluable to you as you proceed.

Action #18: Understand your “Big Why” (15-20 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Watch this video – Yes, that’s my video – and yes I think it’s awesome. Watch the full thing, first. Alternatively, find someone who helps inspire you to go deeper with your reasoning.
  2. Download the worksheets - To the right of the video, there are worksheets with examples. Download, print, and fill them out.
  3. Tape your “Big Why” on the refrigerator - Once you have a clear, emotional answer to what really motivates you (deep down) – paste it on your refrigerator. Heck, put it in front of your computer or on the wall of your bedroom. Anywhere that’ll remind you.

How this can change your life: All the step-by-step instructions in the world won’t help you – unless you’re clear about what is really driving the change or goals. All to often, we stay at the surface. We don’t just “want more money” we want what the money will bring us. Going deeper will provide you the extra momentum to overcome the dips in the journey.

Additional Resource: Understanding What Really Motivates You (Deep Down)

Action #19: Read 3 chapters from a personal finance book (25-45 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Find a book that most closely speaks to you - Read reviews, websites, or pick from my suggestions below.
  2. Buy, order, or borrow the book - It’s ok to pay for education. However, you may be able to borrow these books from a friend or your local library. However you do it, obtain the book!
  3. Pick 3 chapters to read in full – In one sitting, pick three of the chapters that seem interesting and read them.
  4. Take notes – What down what you think or feel when reading. What lessons can you apply to your life? Does this resonate with you?

How this can change your life: My life has been changed many times on the account of digging into a book. Courtney’s and my journey started with a couple books and a few select blogs. Again, surrounding yourself with positive influences (both human and informational) will immerse you in motivation to keep chugging ahead.

My top three personal finance books:

Action #20: Write a letter (or email) to yourself (10-15 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Fetch a pen and paper – You likely already have this on hand from past action items. ;-)
  2. Write a letter forgiving your past self for financial mistakes - Specifically forgive yourself for all your past financial mistakes. Mention details if you need to. Express your true frustration and feelings – and then forgive yourself.
  3. Open up the letter and read it - The next morning open your letter and read it.
  4. Burn it in a fun (but safe) way – Rip it shreds, light it on fire, give it to the cat to play with. Destroy in a fun, safe way and part ways with the guilt.

How this can change your life: I’ve talked to a lot of people about their financial issues – and one of the most recurring themes is regret and guilt. While it’s important to acknowledge that past habits and decisions have had less-than-desirable outcomes… dwelling on them does no good. One of my favorite quotes is “Even God can’t change the past”. From this day forward… that’s what you can control.

Action #21: Update your resume (15-30 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Find your most up-to-date resume – Some of you may have that on hand, for others it may have been a while since you used one.
  2. Update the personal information - Start by ensuring all your personal data is up to date. Address, phone number, years, etc…
  3. Update job history/duties - A little more difficult is going back and updating any new job history – and refreshing the job duties/responsibilities section.
  4. Update references - Are these still the best references to talk about your talents, experience, and work ethic?
  5. Revisit your copywriting – Over every part of your resume, revisit how you describe the tasks, duties, responsibilities, and talents. Often, if I take a break from something (especially for a long time) – I’m able to immediately make drastic improvements when I revisit it.

How this can change your life: Having an updated and fresh resume on hand will allow you to quickly jump on any potential opportunities that may come up. It doesn’t mean you’ll be able to quit your job just yet, but it’s the first step in taking initiatives in that direction!

Additional Resource: SquawkFox Resume Series

Action #22: Pledge to volunteer one full day next week (10-20 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Research local volunteer options – A quick Google search (or call to church/friends) will turn around dozens of opportunities to give back.
  2. Schedule a specific date/time - Clear your schedule for one day and pledge yourself to that organization for the day (bonus points for pledging your partner and kids, too!)
  3. Show up ready to give back! – That’s it.

How this can change your life: Our society makes a big business out of blurring the lines between our needs and our wants. If we aren’t careful, we can lose appreciation for exactly how fortunate and blessed we are. Giving back, especially to the underprivileged is an amazing way to come face-to-face with these facts. It also builds up your community and helps set an example for others to give back.

Action #23: Sleeve your credit/debit cards (10-20 minutes)

Simple steps:

  1. Pull out all your credit/debit cards - Dump out your wallet or purse and pull out any cards you commonly use.
  2. Tape a “Big Why” reminder around them - You can wrap them in a piece of paper (a paper sleeve of sorts) and write your “Big Why” or some other pieces or motivation on the outside. Even better, tape a picture of your kids or photo that represents your goals to the front.
  3. Every time you go to make a purchase, pause – Whenever you go to pull out your card to swipe for a purchase, pause and reflect at your writing or picture. Does this purchase support that?

How this can change your life: The downside of the convenience of credit and debit cards is that they make our spending unconscious. Many people – myself included – get into habits of swiping without realizing what’s going on. The ability to pause – even if for a few seconds – and be reminded of your financial goals and motivation can completely change your daily spending habits.

Additional Resource: Sleeve Your Credit & Debit Cards to Fight Impulse Spending

Action #24: Be happy (30 seconds)

Simple steps:

  1. Recognize when you are in a bad mood – The first step is to realize when you are frustrated, depressed, stressed, or upset.
  2. Establish a silly gesture, pose, or thought - Find something completely outrageous that you can do to “break” your current state of thinking. Physical gestures, actions, or celebrations are the best at this.
  3. Jump on one leg and scream like a monkey – Execute said gesture.
  4. Stop being so pissy :-)A positive attitude is a choice.

How this can change your life: Study after study has shown than people are weakest financially when they are in crappy moods. Many of us resort to buying to fill temporary holes in our attitudes (much like food). Establishing a silly gesture that helps break you out of your rut can help you avoid your most vulnerable financial states.

Additional Resource: Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project Blog.

*****

Remember, you don’t have to do every item on this list.

Pick whichever ones stand out – and knock them off the list. Start small. Start with one.

You have the time… it’s up to you do it.

If you found this list valuable, please share it on Facebook or Twitter below:

Now get into action!

Xoxoxo,

-Baker

{ 109 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee Knowlton April 7, 2011 at 4:47 PM

Great compilation list Baker!

I’m in a weird situation as a college graduate where I don’t have any credit cards to cut up because I can’t apply for any decent credit cards as I don’t have any credit. I’ve decided to move to Japan so it’s not too big of a deal, though.

I need to focus on the 1 paying client today. I’m trying to get started as an online copy editor but it’s tough to break into the field without recommendations. Thank you for the reminder and the link!

I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.

Reply

Kevin @ Thousandaire.com April 7, 2011 at 5:05 PM

I have to strongly disagree with cutting up all your credit cards. Besides the fact that you can get lots of nice rewards from credit cards, it also builds CREDIT HISTORY for when you want a bigger loan. I understand your lifestyle is such that you don’t want to take out a loan for anything big like a car (I don’t know if you have a house or want one or not), but most people want to do these things. A blanket recommendation for everyone to stop building credit history is a horrible suggestion.

Sure, maybe your credit score went up, but you can have a great score and no recent credit history and still get declined for a loan.

Reply

Baker April 7, 2011 at 5:20 PM

Thanks for sharing, Kevin – I’ve written about this a couple dozen times before (and didn’t have 2,000 words to rehash it in the post). After studying the facts, I feel that the pros of canceling your credit cards outweigh the cons (for the far majority of people).

I hope you enjoyed the other 23, this is a great debate to talk more about in depth later. :-)

Reply

Kevin @ Thousandaire.com April 7, 2011 at 5:30 PM

Yeah, I saw your other post about why you cut them up. I’m not saying what you do is right or wrong. That’s why personal finance is personal. If you don’t want to take out a big loan for something, then you don’t need the history. If you do want big loans, then you will need it.

Reply

JB April 8, 2011 at 11:10 PM

I used to have a major credit card. But I took some sound financial advice and opted to try living cash-only. Except during my experiment, my parents took ill and subsequently died—and by the time I realized it, my credit card had been deactivated due to lack of use, leaving me completely without a “backup plan” (my parents had been my other backup plan, and now they were gone, too).

Once I get back on my feet financially, I am applying for (and getting) at least one major credit card again. The reason? Security. Peace of mind. Knowing I have it, but only using it for true emergencies (barring the occasional tiny purchase that is paid off in full within the month to keep the card active), is worth more to me than ever having to endure the feelings of sheer panic I’ve had without one. When you are single, seeking work, and don’t fall into the right categories to qualify for ANY of the programs available to assist you in times of need (due to lack of kids, age, etc), you need at least one back up plan. I’m flying blind right now.

I would have a lot more cash on hand right now if I’d put certain things on a card. Yes, interest rates incur; yes, fees can add up. But I’d gladly pay a little extra on top for a while for the privilege of delaying full payment while I get squared away.

Reply

Matt April 23, 2011 at 3:20 PM

Kevin and JB,

I’m afraid I have to agree with Baker on this one. First of all, a credit score is nothing more than a measure of how good of a debt slave you are. It’s just a carrot on a stick to keep you spending on credit from the day you turn 18 until the day you die. Have you ever noticed how credit cards are marketed? The banks try their hardest to make you feel like a special member of their “Platinum” club, as if being a debt slave was some kind of badge of honor. As for credit card rewards, Dave Ramsey says that no one ever became a millionaire from credit card rewards.

JB does raise a valid point about financial emergencies. Everyone needs to squirrel away $1000 into a savings account ASAP for short-term emergencies, then pay off their debts, then start accumulating 3-6 months of living expenses in a savings account. It will take years, but the funny thing about emergencies is that they seem to happen a whole lot less if you have half a year of cash in the bank.

Max Bronson April 7, 2011 at 5:23 PM

Hi, Kevin,

When you say it like that, it makes the system look like a pile of steaming crap. :)

You are true that is what the system requires or encourage, but I think what Baker is doing is trying to promote a better, perhaps we could say more ethical and wise system which if spreads would see the system needing to change because people are no longer willing to go into debt to purchase things for personal use. I think businesses would still need to borrow in some circumstances.

What do you think?

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Kevin @ Thousandaire.com April 7, 2011 at 5:32 PM

I think if I were personally loaning someone money, I would like to see that this person has shown the ability to pay on debts in the past.

I don’t think the system is broken. A broken system would require you to pay interest on debt in order to build credit history. The current system allows you to build history without paying a dime of interest.

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Rachel @ the minimalist mom April 7, 2011 at 5:38 PM

Yes, but the system is built on borrowing money. Even if you don’t pay interest on that money.

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Rachel @ the minimalist mom April 7, 2011 at 5:25 PM

Are you here for kick-ass advice for living a low-cost lifestyle and reducing debt? I am. That’s why I have to disagree with your critique of Baker’s take on cutting up credit cards. This isn’t general advice for everybody: it’s advice for those of us that want to be debt-free and living well – not living big. I hope to never finance another thing in my life.

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Kevin @ Thousandaire.com April 7, 2011 at 5:40 PM

I’m here for personal finance advice in general. I’m not a regular reader, but someone who followed a tweet here. I guess I’m in the minority when I’m happy with the low interest debt I have and will be happy to take out a mortgage one day. With that being said, Baker made a point to mention that cutting up credit cards can make your credit score go up but didn’t mention the negative effects of having less credit history. I just wanted to clarify how a higher score doesn’t mean you are more creditworthy for people who aren’t very familiar with how the lending approval process works in America.

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Baker April 7, 2011 at 5:48 PM

Kevin, you are likely in the minority of the readers of this site if you are comfortable with debt. Most here have it in their plan to be completely debt-free.

Also, I mentioned that canceling credit cards could lower your credit score. And then mentioned that our score actually went up. That’s both side of the same issue.

Lastly, there are plenty of lending option for people with no credit history but fantastic personal finance situations. Many community and local banks will do a full underwriting process, which includes looking at the complete situation.

Let’s all move on with the conversation. While this is a thrilling topic, I’m sure many will appreciate being able to discuss some of the other points. :-)

Thanks everyone!

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Kevin @ Thousandaire.com April 7, 2011 at 5:58 PM

Of course, I don’t want to hijack your comments.

And I should have mentioned, thanks for the tip about freezing credit reports. I never knew that was an option and it seems like a great thing to do when you know you won’t be applying for credit!

Jim April 16, 2011 at 12:04 AM

Baker, I personally pay off all of my credit every month (within 30 days) so I never pay interest yet I do get the Rewards that Kevin had mentioned. I do agree with Kevin that it is important to maintain a credit history to build a good rating. However I also understand your philosophy of sleeving credit cards to provide a second review of each purchase. I know I will be paying off anything I buy on credit in 30 days so that kind of acts as a deterrent also. I have 4 kids and I don’t think that I could conveniently live without a credit card and I also think that it is tough to integrate into today’s lifestyle without having a card to perform transactions that are not in person (i.e. online). I guess a debit card would be a good compromise as it would give you the convenience of plastic with the reality of a finite limit.
Jim

Tice June 10, 2012 at 3:32 PM

Tice@Jim

I do the same thing as far as paying off credit cards every month ending up with two or three hundred ‘free money’ at the end of the year.

I don’t know a debit card that would allow those same use bonuses and also many debit cards do not have the same fraud protections. Often if someone pilfers your debit account, you’re s.o.l., however, many credit cards offer zero liability for fraudulent purchases.

Now it’s probably good to note I abhor debt. I’ve never felt comfortable with it and the only thing I owe on is my house. With this mindset it’s easy to have a credit card, I actually just bumped up my limit this morning coincidentally, but I have never had a single time in my life where I considered using this credit to make an extravagant purchase. I’m sure many do not have this same mindset and perhaps for them it’s a safer practice to not have a credit card. But I want to make sure whenever I want to move I can get an excellent rate on a home, which one can’t do without excellent credit.

Paul February 16, 2014 at 1:53 PM

We need to understand the audience. What I mean is people who Dave Ramsey, Man vs Debt,etc. deal with is people with a severe debt problem. Ramsey advocates paying cash for everything, throw out all cards, etc. I guess he does that because of the people he is dealing with. It’s kind of like a person having a problem with drinking or drugs. If you go to AA they won’t say that you just need to go have 2 beers at the bar twice a week. It’s a problem these people can’t handle at that degree and it must be removed from their life completely. For those who don’t have debt issues can keep the cards and pickup tips on how to save money, purchase items more intelligently. It comes down to take what you can from the advice and leave the rest behind. I don’t have a debt problem but I enjoy getting tips, and I won’t be throwing out my cards. Those who have huge debt would be better off throwing them out and spend time trying to figure out the underlying issue that causes them to engage in the behavior so the can stop it.

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Rachel @ the minimalist mom April 7, 2011 at 5:26 PM

Fantastic! Love it and feeling psyched to tackle the rest of our debt. Keep up the good work.

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ben April 7, 2011 at 8:17 PM

such a great read! i’m gonna get to work on ALL of these tonight. right after jersey shore reruns. kidding!

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Kerri April 7, 2011 at 8:22 PM

I SO needed this today. Awesome tips. Thank you!

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Dwight April 7, 2011 at 9:32 PM

Great action steps Baker, really did a good job laying out the fundamentals of becoming debt free and improving one’s self through perseverance.

Dwight Anthony
Financially Elite Blog dot Com

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Justin April 7, 2011 at 9:33 PM

Freezing your credit reports, sounds like a great idea, especially since we have no activity going on in the foreseeable future.

BUT, does this have any affect on your actual credit score? Does your score improve or decline over this course? Or is it really just to prevent anybody from accessing your credit report?

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Paul Carlson April 7, 2011 at 11:22 PM

Brilliant list. I hope this becomes one of your most popular blog posts (I bet it will). Very practical.

Thanks for the encouraging tips.

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Lindsay Wyglendowski April 7, 2011 at 11:45 PM

Hey ‘Baker’
Had fun at dinner with you guys the other night and enjoyed reading this post as Chris and I have done many of these things through following Your Money or Your Life…YMOL as we affectionately call it. Wanna see our wall chart? hehe yes we brought it with us in the camper.

Here Here! to tossing out the TV. We gave ours away a few years ago and never felt a squeak of remorse. I miss Jim Lehrer a teeny bit but we get our news from NPR now and LOVE avoiding commercials whenever possible. The two camper TV’s got the boot as well and now we have a bookshelf and a changing table instead :)

Thanks so much for these credit report tips and the thorough link work you put into them; we’ll be checking into those soon as it’s been a few years for sure.

I get the feeling you and Chris are similar in your husbandly manners as he does free sweet things all the time…like cutting out the letters for Happy Birthday and baking me a cake while watching Lily so I could go to yoga at Usery…wow. We decided no purchased bday gifts and now we don’t even buy Christmas gifts but rather make them or just write a meaningful card out.

And lastly, hooray for no mortgage…or ‘ransom’ as we like to call it.

wow so much to share…
Hoping to make it to your meetup tomorrow!
-Lindsay Wy (from down the RV Park street)

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Kym April 8, 2011 at 1:16 AM

This might be my favorite post of yours. Love it!

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Miss Britt April 8, 2011 at 7:16 AM

I’m really impressed by all of the useful, original ideas and information you’ve included in one blog post.

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Jean April 8, 2011 at 7:26 AM

Loved your list. I am taking it one step at a time.

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Eric | Eden Journal April 8, 2011 at 7:57 AM

Baker,
Love these tips, I can see you really put some thought into this post.

Question on the freezing of credit reports. Do you have to freeze with each of the three agencies, or does freezing through one also freeze the others?

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Lisa April 8, 2011 at 8:25 AM

Great post! I feel like I have made some good financial progress over the last couple of years. I am debt-free except the mortgage, but this post is a great reminder that there are a lot more things that I could be doing to keep moving forward financially. I am especially interested in #3.

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Bradley April 8, 2011 at 8:52 AM

This is one of the best posts you have ever written.

I can attest that canceling all your credit cards (credit score be damned!) is one of the best things a person can ever do. I have been credit card free since 2008. Very liberating.

Action #14 is an interesting one. I have thought about this a lot, but never taken action on finding alternate transportation. It is weird though that when I travel abroad, I never have rented a car or even thought about renting a car, but I manage to go from place to place with relative ease. I am not sure what makes my mindset shift while traveling.

Action #6: Drafting my first budget was one of the most important ways that I truly understood my spending habits and got them into check. If you don’t have a budget, get one now. The first budget I drafted was on pen and paper, but I find that using a resource like Mint.com to not only create a budget but also track spending is a must for me. Most of my transactions are via debit card, and Mint tracks them seamlessly. Plus I can also track my retirement accounts in all in one place.

Action #4: This one is in the works for the coming week. It is something that I have been thinking about for a couple of weeks now, and my wife really deserves something special for putting up with me! :D

Action #2: While in the process of getting my spending habits and budget in check, I also worked delligently to get my clutter in check as well. I think it helps to realize how much money I was actually wasting. When I moved last, I found stuff that I had forgotten about. All that went straight to Goodwill or the trash/recycling. Now I make great efforts to keep my house clutter-free.

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Nancy L. April 8, 2011 at 4:06 PM

Glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks this is one of your best posts! So much actionable advice gathered in one post! Good job, Baker!

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Andy April 8, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Dude, Baker… that credit card sleeve idea should totally be your business card, or at least something you have to hand out at events and conferences. It could just be a picture of your face looking serious and a little comic book speech bubble that says something like “You sure about this?” with http://www.manvsdebt.com at the bottom. Kinda like this:

http://tothemancave.com/images/baker.jpg

I would never use my credit card again if I had to pull it out of that thing every time.

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Corey Tyhurst April 8, 2011 at 10:35 AM

I’ve been following your site and debt-free journey for some time and I must say it’s very inspirational. While I don’t always agree with everything you post, it’s always well written and very informative.

This post in particular is very actionable and I would recommend it to anyone who’s even the least bit interested in getting their financial life under control. It’s amazing how simple like creating a 10 line budget in Excel can really set you down the path to financial freedom!

I think I’m in the minority when I find that I use Debit/Credit cards less freely than cash, so I really leverage Mint.com as well as my budget in Excel. Money just seems to burn a hole in my pocket, whereas when I know its going to show up on my bank statement I really consider the purchase first.

That being said, I love the idea of “wrapping up” your debit/credit cards as a reminder of your life’s purpose.

Keep up the great work!

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Jenny @ exconsumer April 8, 2011 at 1:19 PM

This is a fantastic list Baker! This took some serious thought and time to put together — what a great resource.

I’ve done a lot of items on your list, but some of them are new and pretty darn creative. Hmm, I think I’ll write an email to myself and forgive myself for refinancing my mortgage three times over the past 10 years to cash out some equity — because I’m still pretty mad at myself about that.

P.S. You listed three of my absolute favorite PF books up there!

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MutantSuperModel April 8, 2011 at 3:48 PM

Thank you! I had totally forgotten to pull my credit report this year (usually do it every Februrary)!! Some of these I do regularly, some I would never ever ever do. I’m going to open an emergency fund account right now. XOXO!!!!

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Jason S April 8, 2011 at 4:26 PM

Excellent post, I followed a link from GRS over here and really enjoyed reading it. I look forward to digging deeper into some of the items where you reference past posts/videos (particularly the Big Why). Like one of the other commenters noted, I’ve done or currently do many of these things, but this extensive list gives me some ideas for future activity (could really focus on the de-crapping of our home, for sure.

Thanks again.

Jason

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sgl April 8, 2011 at 4:38 PM

another tip for tracking your cash spending…
count the cash in your wallet at the beginning of each day (or week or trip), and then again at the end. so, if you forget to write down an expense somewhere, you’ll still know the amount that was spent. create a category “misc” or “unknown” for the cash you spend and can’t account for, and try to keep that number low.

when i started tracking my spending 25+ years ago, i had several hundred per month in “misc” spending, altho i knew it was mostly beer & pizza, and lunches at work. but i didn’t let that get in the way of seeing the bigger picture, and over time i got better at tracking such that it’s relatively rare now to have any unknown expenses, and they’re usually small (<$20). i also used this technique quite successfully during the several years i travelled for my job. i'd write down how much cash i had while sitting on the airplane heading out of town, and again when i got home. (my employer didn't require reciepts for expenses less than $20, which was most breakfasts and lunches.) without this tip, i would probably have been losing money each business trip!

–sgl

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Vanessa April 10, 2011 at 12:04 AM

Hi Baker,

I love your list of actions and your website. Very orginal especially when it is from your own experience. Love how you assign a time for each action and what people will get out of doing it. I can feel your passion in helping others get their finances on track. I will definitely refer people to your site. Great work Baker!

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Barbara Bell April 10, 2011 at 1:44 AM

Bravo! Great list, but especially the reminder to jump on one leg and scream like a monkey! Great, great reminder!

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Marcia Francois April 10, 2011 at 4:48 PM

Hello there

I love, love, LOVE this post. You do the action steps so well and I love the “how this can change your life” bits :)

I wanted to tell you that I had a crazy bad habit of buying hundreds of rands (divide by 7 for US dollars) worth of books a few years ago. A friend and I did a spending fast and I wrote on a post-it note, “spending fast” and stuck it to the front of my credit card.

I can’t tell you how many times I took out that thing ready to pay and was faced with the sticker. But… I made it (I tricked myself and kept a list of things to buy when the month was over) and broke the habit.

Also, one last thing, I’ve linked to your post on my blog – hope you don’t mind :)

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Ryan O. April 11, 2011 at 10:03 AM

Tried the create a single product from scratch this weekend with my wife. We googled how to make laundry detergent and made it from scratch wow was that simple, inexpensive and empowering.

Also, agree with you on the cutting up the credit cards! Mr. Ramsey was right when he said that banks have ingrained it in our culture that WE NEED credit cards to survive, to keep our credit score high, as a back-up plan and etc. Why is it that most banks have nice big buildings in prime locations? Could it be paid for by all of the late fees and high interest paid by folks thinking they are getting member rewards or points from their good trusted friend the bank?

Baker, have been following your website for a little while and enjoy your positive attitude and great insight. Keep up the fantastic work!

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Jenna April 11, 2011 at 4:16 PM

What a great post Baker! Loved the spend one day volunteering idea! Definitely something I’m planning on doing.

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Johanna April 13, 2011 at 12:02 AM

Simple stuff, and so easy to do.

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Tanya April 13, 2011 at 11:04 AM

I like the way you break things down into action steps, and give approximate lengths of time for how long they take. Things like “get a copy of your credit report” may seem tedious and time-consuming, but really are neither. It’s such a valuable thing to do. Your lists here gave me some great inspiration!

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RJ April 13, 2011 at 12:57 PM

I’d like to thank Trent at the Simple Dollar for turning me onto your blog. Love it. I’ll be back.

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Harm April 13, 2011 at 4:19 PM

That guy with the identity theft protection company, who had the ads with the truck
displaying his social security number? The way he did that, is that HE had his credit
reports frozen….not a bad idea, but if you move, or buy insurance, or open a bank account,
anything that requires a credit check nowadays, you have to get your credit reports
UNfrozen. Not that it can’t be done, but ‘just sayin”.
And btw, to repeat what other posters have pointed out,
if you can restrict yourself to not buying anything EXTRA with a credit card, and
pay it completely every month, it can pay in rewards to pay for everything with a card,
and pocket the cash back. It just requires some extra thought to make sure you don’t buy
extra just ’cause you have the credit…..

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Lilly April 14, 2011 at 6:56 PM

Great list! I did four of ‘em right of the bat, and several of them I’d already done. There’s a few more I’d like to do so I’ve bookmarked this page so I can remind myself to do them. Thanks!

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RD April 14, 2011 at 7:56 PM

Hi, first timer here today. While I’ve done many of these tips #2 seemed to jump out at me. Yesterday I dove into a pile of “I’m gonna sell this stuff” that I had piling up and started posting on Craigslist. Twenty-four hours later I’m $35. richer and gained the space that stuff was taking up. I’ve done it before but just needed to do it again. I’ve made $1000′s selling stuff on Craigslist in the past. While I’ve gotten rid of lots, there always seems to be more. I’ve even given away my son’s gently used shoes on Craigslist. Again, gaining space in the closet not to mention that people are grateful for that sort of thing. Can’t wait to read more of your site. Thank you.

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Anthony Salerno April 15, 2011 at 9:46 AM

Great article here! Nicely done, and helpful.

I do have one small nit.. maybe we shouldn’t all have envelopes lying around our houses that say “Blow Money” … heaven forbid someone happen upon this envelope and think we have a drug problem…

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Colin Kemp April 15, 2011 at 1:20 PM

Sorry for the nit, but “copyrighting” should be “copywriting” in #21.

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Doris Beers April 15, 2011 at 7:19 PM

Wonderful list. I am have been procrastinating on “getting rid of crap” for far too long.

I would like to offer a slightly different story on the value of credit/credit cards, assuming one can avoid using them as Magic Money.

I lived for years without credit cards. When it was time to get a mortgage, it was time to build up the credit and three cards was the minimum then. Through regular payments, i’ve built up my credit score to the point where I regularly get 0% new card offers and balance transfer offers. When I was diagnosed with cancer and suddenly had $15K out of pocket per year to cover, the 0% cards came in handy. I did not have time or focus to work out an unsecured loan and did not know how much I would be paying. All of the cards were rewards cards that helped pay off some of the balances. The goal is to be debt-free, but also be able to deal with an emergency. I am getting ready to put what I hope is the last surprise health expense and the last of two years’ of OMG, you are kidding, costs onto an existing card for 0% for a year and start cancelling cards. (And, yes, I had health insurance. Chemo is really expensive.)

My widowed mother supported us for years by juggling balances across cards. It takes discipline and attention to detail, but when the crap starts to fly, easy credit can be a life-saver.

From a safety and security point of view, credit cards are vastly better than debit cards. Someone stealing the card or stealing the number and forging a new card can empty your account in hours. (I work in information security.)

Thanks, though, for an inspiring list. There are things here (especially making your stuff from scratch) that I have let fall for too long. It is all good stuff.

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Leonardo April 16, 2011 at 2:18 PM

This is a great article. Thank you

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James April 16, 2011 at 10:11 PM

Great article. I did a lot of these when I started my climb out of debt. I have one more tip – see if you can do with out one service or product that you buy use day for the next 2 weeks. Buy starbucks everyday? Well, at $4 a pop 5 days a week, that $80 a month that can pay down a credit card balance. Beer, coffee, cigarettes, we all have things that we can really do without and I have found that after the first 2 weeks, it’s all downhill!

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Matthew Peters April 17, 2011 at 10:39 AM

#11 will net you more time to do what you love as well as cut a rather large and unnecessary cost. It is amazing the amount of quality time I recaptured to spend with my family or on growing my business. We haven’t had cable or even “live” tv for over a year now and it is great!

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Joy2b April 17, 2011 at 3:35 PM

I love the sleeves for cards idea, I may go home and make some. I’ve used about half of these actions in the past, with great effectiveness.

As a side note for those who still need a credit history, but don’t want debt, you can use use action #10. Pick a single monthly bill that doesn’t vary (such as netflix, but anything under a third of your credit limit works well). Set it to automatically charge your credit card. Set up an automatic bank payment. Cut up and trash the card, and watch your score rise without any debt.

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Roy | cruisesurfingz April 17, 2011 at 10:47 PM

Great actions. I think some may take longer than expected but all are definitely doable!

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Mark April 18, 2011 at 12:01 AM

WRT cancelling all cards. How do you:

1. rent a car?
2. book a hotel room?
3. make online purchases?

It seems that not only banks are the ones perpetuating the credit card myth. Any ideas?

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Peters April 18, 2011 at 1:42 AM

Great list. Thanks, it provides a place to start, and I will take some time to explore the rest of your links. Regarding the credit cards, I favor keeping 1 major one, but paying it off in full monthly. I use it for any big purchases for the added warrantee my card offers and for travelling, to track expenses. To the concept of putting sleeves on purchase cards I would add that the sleeves should be the type that block RFID transmissions. Many cards with chips also have RFID capability. If you can place your payment card against a pad to pay for your purchase, soeone can read your card while it is still in your pocket. There are sleeves available to prevent this. Thanks for your list.

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Tracey April 19, 2011 at 6:01 PM

I love this post. For some reason I love picky-choosy options like this. There are some things on the list that we just never think about doing, like intentionally negotiating something. Whether we succeed or fail, we experience ourselves as people who are (1) in control of our own fate (we can buy or not buy) (2) not too attached to the outcomes (it’ll be fun to try and if we don’t succeed, we don’t have to buy and (3) we don’t walk blindly around in unconscious consumerism that so threatens to kill us as individuals and societies. Thanks for making us think!

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Big O April 19, 2011 at 8:28 PM

Well done, Baker.

I got the personal finance “bug” while in grad school, and have tried hard not to learn new lessons the hard way. Some success and some failures.

But here is a “game” I play with myself which I find helpful resisting impulse buying -

1. I figure out how much I have to earn before taxes (Federal, State and City, if applicable), to net the amount of whatever it is I’m tempted to buy. So I have to earn about $145 to net $100.

Point # 16 – Be sure to ask the Customer Service Agent to record “Account Closed at Comsumer’s Request” to it’s clear you, not the card issuer, canceled the card. Then verify that they honored your request after a couple of months. And ask for a supervisor if necessary if you have to call back.

Point # 19 – This can’t be done in a short period of time, but years ago I went to the personal finance section of my public library and wrote down the bold-faced rules,tips, insights from several in one computer file with the book name and author. It was apparent very quickly that all the advice was the same, or similar – but phrased differently. If you do enough of this, and review the list from time to time I think you’ll internalize the lessons from others, and will find that one author’s articulation of individual princples “rings true” to how you view things. Give it a try, it’s helped us.

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Rajah yoghindra April 23, 2011 at 1:05 AM

very nice compilation.. Not just one i’m going to do many of them today.. : D

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Scott April 25, 2011 at 3:07 PM

These are some really great tips. I spent 90 minutes today getting rid of crap. I think clearing up the energy in my workspace is going to be a real game changer. I’m putting a link to this article I a personal blog post I’m writing, I think you tips can help my friends as well.

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Nisha @ Healthy Mom's Kitchen May 5, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Hey Adam! So glad I found your blog. Why didn’t I know about this before?! Love it! Love the list. My husband (also Adam) and I are very financially savvy, but it’s always fun to read other people’s ideas and to stay on top of things. Great writing.

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Heather May 9, 2011 at 2:34 PM

Baker! I started #7 and #9 and it’s working like a charm. I am actually so lazy that I will talk myself out of buying something because I don’t want to be required to write it down! Saving by laziness…who knew?

I have had a horrible habit of buying jewelry then never wearing it. I planned on selling some of it then I realized I still had receipts and tags. Nordstrom and Macy’s got to give me money…it was awesome!

My husband and I unleashed the fury of hell on our student loans. We have $40K in debt and since January we have paid over $12K toward it. Our plan is to have it paid off by January 2013 instead of 18 years from now. Thanks for the inspiration and all the info. =)

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Elisa May 15, 2011 at 9:44 PM

I don’t know why, but envelopes laying around with the phrase “Blow Money” on them make me feel like I’m part of a really bad Judd Apatow or Blaxpoitation movie! ;)

As for the sending a note to yourself, have you heard of the site FutureMe? Basically it advance sends emails for you. So you can send yourself an email to be opened in 2 days, weeks, months, years (as long as your email stays the same) with a message from your “past”. Grace Boyle showed me it, I’ve enjoyed it so far! http://futureme.org/

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Anna McMullen May 17, 2011 at 7:45 PM

I love this challenge. I shared this article with my readers. Thanks!!!

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joann May 17, 2011 at 7:48 PM

This is a wonderful post filled with more value than most sites I have visited.
It’s nice to see others out here taking the alternative route of the hype, that seems
to plague the home based business industry. Keep on keeping on. I’ll be back. I’ve
booked marked your site as it will be one I refer to as I begin my journey on my own
alternative route!

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Chris Leadley May 28, 2011 at 3:23 PM

Number 2 is definitely one that every one should try – it’s very liberating to get rid of stuff that you don’t use. Plus I think if a bit of house clearance is done in any sort of situation it can help you focus on more important things with out being distracted by loads of clutter. Also great post, not sure I think everything is a good idea but you can always pick and choose.

Chris

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Frederick June 8, 2011 at 4:55 PM

@ Chris – I recently moved across the country and got rid of half my stuff. It WAS very liberating. Honestly, I have half of what I took stuck in storage closets here and I honestly can’t remember what’s there. So I could easily get rid of half of the half that’s left and not miss it. – frederick sallaz

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Annie June 10, 2011 at 6:39 PM

I Stumbled this page, and read through all of these quick actions. While some of them I dismissed (for my own reasons – not saying that others won’t find them helpful), what really made the difference to me was the bit on reading three chapters from a finance book. The day after I read this post, I went to the library and picked up a finance book aimed at women (Smart Cookies guide) and also Your Money Or Your Life. While the former still had some relevant information, the latter has had me typing furiously – so many notable things that really have made me feel more ambitious about money and where it can take me.

In any case, I’d like to thank you for offering specific examples of things to do after offering the quick actions – I regained focus on another quick action, setting up the emergency fund, and now I’m only $300 away (roughly two more paychecks, so it’s going to be at $1000 THIS MONTH) from finally making an emergency savings account. Seeing someone else who is really in tune with their own goals has been inspiring!

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Bill ion June 13, 2011 at 3:47 PM

Tremendous collection of material and solution. Really thank you for the time you took to compile this Great (and complete) work

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JB - Tio Admin June 27, 2011 at 10:31 PM

Baker, I really liked your 26 Life Lessons post! But this one is even better! You’ve got good insight with credit, debt, and personal finance.

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Tim Barnes, CLU July 10, 2011 at 8:06 PM

Great information but I would add one caveat and a new Action to your list. Action # 24: Be happy needs some work. Depression is not something that can be cured by a desire to be happy. When there is an underlying chemical balance or repeated sense of frustration due to circumstances, like caring for an invalid loved one, it is not as simple as just deciding to be happy. You are right, some people are grouchy by nature and could use the advice to “Be happy” but some people would be better off with the command “See a doctor.”
As for adding something to your list, I would add Action # 25: Review your insurance. Many people are paying more for insurance than they need and others do not have the right mix of insurance. For example, they pay more than they need to to make certain their doctor’s are paid if they get sick but do nothing to guarantee their incomes continue to pay the mortgage and groceries during the same illness or injury.

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Ron August 20, 2011 at 9:47 AM

A major point in paying off debt is the freedom you have and the major reduction in stress. I no longer spend time worrying about how to pay my credit card bills, no collection agencies call me. My quality of life has improved and I am happy!!

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Jamie Northrup August 29, 2011 at 2:14 PM

Great list, printed it out so I can share it with my wife tonight!

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sophie August 30, 2011 at 4:00 PM

This is a great list! Some of this I already do, but there are a few things I hadn’t thought of and will try.

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Justin C. Doggett August 30, 2011 at 5:01 PM

Great post! These are definitely managable things that people need to hear. Doing these things can prevent a life disaster or even help someone recover from a disaster.

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Elenor September 18, 2011 at 6:24 PM

Let me add a painfully learned note of caution: my husband of 15 years died in early July. He paid all our bills online. I did NOT have the passwords! (I was a ‘kept’ wife.) It took me nearly one-and-a-half months to ‘break’ all his passwords. Thankfully, I knew his mind, and once I managed to figure out his email password (which I also did not have), I could go to all the various sites/cards and change them to my email address and bank accounts, so I could access and use them. Please make sure your family can ‘take over’ whatever duties you have and you can take over theirs. You just never know!

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Fisayo@Iroy.in September 24, 2011 at 7:33 AM

These are really great tips. Thanks for sharing this, I really enjoyed reading it.

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Scorpi September 28, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Thanks a lot of sharing this, it truly is a great list.

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jesse October 11, 2011 at 3:50 PM

HI i realy like reading all of this stuff i wish that i had the money to save but dont i just started school and i havve been looking for help on getting me a labtop so i have a way to do my school work at home if i had one i work try and get me a job on there to but when you have to use someone elses computer thay dont realy want you there any way i realy want to make my life better so if anyone can help me please help me out thank you for your time and have a nice day

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Chris Jordan December 25, 2011 at 2:19 PM

Excellent list! I am on the other end of the work/credit lifestyle (retired), and I should be old enough to get rid of crap I do not use by selling, but to buy what? After reading the comments, I do not have a “blow money” envelope; so the thought came to me that if anyone wants to buy a 2 year old Dell ‘labtop’ I could start that envelope! Thanks for such a well thought out list.

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Dave January 5, 2012 at 1:46 AM

Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this post. As someone who is currently in the process of venturing into the world of online business, its always refreshing to see examples of those who have been successful in doing so without sacrificing their values or dreams.

I also found it nice to see I’m on the right track already. Many of the steps you’ve laid out here are things that I’ve already done (big Dave Ramsey fan and student of many entrepreneurial guides). With that being said, I still have a lot of areas that I could use advice on and this post helped tremendously with that.

One small complaint, I was really excited to view the “Big Why” video, but it appears the link is down. If you could update or provide me with a new link, it would be much appreciated. Tried a quick Google search with little success…

Thanks and safe travels!

-Dave

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Annabelle January 10, 2012 at 12:19 PM

The 30-day list is a new one for me, and I think I’m going to try it. Thanks for the suggestion! I’m going to have to think about #24 as well — I think the connection between emotion and finance is one that we can all probably stand to give some consideration to.

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jl February 4, 2012 at 10:40 AM

Your #7 should be #1. About 30 years ago we were newlyweds who knew nothing of finances. We ran into a rough patch where we overdrafted out account three times in one month. To remedy this we decided to freeze the checking account by paying everything in cash for 60 days. We kept all receipts on everything, and at the end of it, we tracked our spending on everything just to see what we were doing with our money. It was so eye opening that we totally changes our approach to money. Now after thirty years of wise spending and diligent saving, we hold investments in excess of $500,000 dollars and that’s in a down market.

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The First Million is the Hardest February 9, 2012 at 6:56 PM

Really great post. This is some legitimately great advice.

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Charles Moore March 12, 2012 at 4:28 PM

Baker, I fully agree with the rabbit hole analogy of selling excess stuff from your home. As a proud addict myself, I do it all the time from my home and other sources. Makes for some great experiences and amazing stories. I’m touching on this in an ebook I’m writing, and it’s great you take the time to emphasize this to so many people. Keep it up!

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Steve Post April 4, 2012 at 1:46 PM

Hi. Love this post, and the entire blog. Really great stuff.
I’m sorry to be “that guy” (and if someone already pointed this out, forgive me), but in Action #21: Update Your Resume, Step 5 – Revisit your copyrighting….
It should be copywriting, as in the copy (words) one writes. Not copyright, as in legal protection.
I found that particular typo quite humorous.
Anyway, keep up the great work. You’re an inspiration.

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John Power April 25, 2012 at 2:36 PM

I found that paying cash limits how much I can spend, I have credit cards but I try to limit there use.I also have a general budget that I have made, so that I know where the money is going.

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Greg May 1, 2012 at 2:18 PM

Great blog!! I just found this through clicking links, so many that I don’t even remember where I started. I’d like to add another way to save that I’ve found quite helpful for me so far. Pay yourself first! Open a retirement account and put a direct deposit in there from your paycheck BEFORE you pay any bills. This can be a small amount, ie: $20 on up or a percentage of your income. I personally started with 8% of my income, changed it to 10% a few years ago and considering upping it again to 12-15%. Whenever I got a raise, my retirement got a raise also regardless of what the market was doing. I only wish I had started this much earlier in life to be able to capitalize on longevity in the market, but I’m glad I started it when I did anyway. Either way, I don’t even miss the money, but I know that if I ever “needed” another raise, I could give myself a 10% raise and my boss would never know or care.
Thanks for all the other tips, I’m definitely going to look into implementing them and passing the list on to my son who’s in college now so he can start his life out with little worries about debt.

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TBeads May 23, 2012 at 10:31 PM

For me debt has been a trap – I got lots of stuff, then had to spend my time care for it, while I worked at a job that I liked, didn’t love, but needed – to pay off the debt and maintain my lifestyle. Debt stole my freedom and led me off my path. By implementing lots of the ideas in this post, I am debt free now and back on track – moving towards fulfilling my heart, not my bank account.

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Paul June 9, 2012 at 2:38 AM

Some great tips here. It must of taken you awhile to write it all out. I would totally cancel my cable if it were not for sports. I like sports too much and have not found a good enough stream online yet.

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Shirley June 15, 2012 at 3:56 PM

It’s great to see so any of the younger generation here taking control of their credit. Debt can get you in a lot of trouble and create problems that could be with you for the rest of your life if you don’t make changes. Many of the older generation grew up with everything cash if you didn’t have the money you didn’t get the goods. However things have changed and credit has become the norm for all ages even many of the seniors as it’s been strongly encouraged. Even seniors could heed much of this advice as a reminder.

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George Huss June 26, 2012 at 1:42 PM

Adam,

Thanks for the list. One other item you may consider is how to extend the life of consumables.

For example, consider the simple razor blade. Not to pick on any particular manufacturer, consider the Gillette Fusion Power Cartridge: 8 count pack suggested retail price of $50.29. Assuming each one will last 2 or 3 weeks, the 8 count pack will need to be replaced every 16 – 24 weeks. Let’s say on average every 20 weeks or 2.6 purchases a year or annual cost of $130. (Sure you can get them cheaper online or buying larger quantities or buy cheaper blades, etc.)

Take an old coffee mug from the kitchen. Fill it about 1/2 inch with glycerin (less than $5.00 at a discount store). When you finish shaving, simply put the razor in the mug so that the blade is submerged. The life of the blade increases to 2 – 3 months!

Why? Because you have eliminated the exposure to air and therefor eliminated rust which dulls the blade. Try it. You can extend the life further by “sharpening” the blade using a length of denim (blue jeans). Just run the blade 10 – 20 strokes in one direction and another 10 – 20 strokes in the opposite direction on the denim (the secret is in the diagonal weave of the fabric).

Is it a lot of money? No. But, would you pull a hundred dollar bill out of your pocket, throw it on the sidewalk and walk away? Probably not.

What other ways can you think to extend the life of other products you use every day?

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Woman Seeks World (@WomanSeeksWorld) June 27, 2012 at 8:37 AM

Great list! Ive literally been studying this and a few other posts over the last week and have made some action points for myself – I’m feeling pumped to start my new more minimalist life! Thanks for all the resources!

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Ken July 3, 2012 at 7:03 AM

These things remind me of so many different things I did when I first started taking control of my finances. All the little tricks to take control where previously there was none. I did all these things and more. And today, 17 years later, I have total control over all of my finances. I live modestly and within my means, I can pay every bill when it arrives without a second thought, I no longer budget because I am in control, and as for debt… whats that? Its amazing when I still see people in this day that are still sucked into all the consumer garbage that goes along with this world, everything is so easy to control, if only we take control, and even better if only someone would actually teach us. Good post.

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Maria August 9, 2012 at 7:01 AM

These are some great tips. It’s so much easier when you write down what your goals are and work out your expenses and what you can cut back on.

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Red Siren Julie September 7, 2012 at 12:24 PM

I really want to try action 3… but I feel really afraid to do it and have not built up the nerve!

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Fiesta September 10, 2012 at 6:35 AM

Great tips, I’m gonna try some of them to see if they really helps :) Thanks again, surely it’s a place which will be bookmarked…

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Lynne October 30, 2012 at 9:35 PM

Awesome. I’m sharing this with everyone I know!

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Julie December 1, 2012 at 5:04 PM

Great motivation!! Thank you for your thoughful suggestions.

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Karina March 4, 2013 at 8:55 PM

Can you please provide new links or info for #18? It’s calling to me…… :)

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Joan March 27, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Karina, just saw your comment, but these have been updated as of this week!!

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Randall Carlisle March 28, 2013 at 5:54 AM

Really enjoyed reading the 24 actions, and the passionate comments. These actions help you reorganize your life and get things under control. It takes effort and re-thinking things to break free of the consumer-culture mentality. We really have to shift our thinking. Since 2008, things have changed dramatically!

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KD April 25, 2013 at 5:33 PM

Great post, I had never heard of freezing your credit report as a means to help stop ID theft, I will investigate further. Thanks

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Harry Heijligers June 22, 2013 at 7:24 AM

Great post. I did not know there was something like the possibility to see your own credit report. Where I come from (the Netherlands) this is certainly not possible.

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Rollan Dizon June 23, 2013 at 12:44 AM

I love this post and I love your website. I really like how you titled man vs. debt, because it is adversarial and you want to arm yourself with as much information you can to empower yourself to make the best credit decisions.

I got to your site via Pat Flynn and Corbett Barr. I am new to blogging, and I love what you put together here. I hope to get a chance to collaborate and learn from you and your blog. Here is my “Reason for being”.. so to speak.

http://www.agebasedplanning.com/featured-postes/our-reason-for-being-age-based-planning/#more-527

Keep up the great work!

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hannah June 24, 2013 at 1:17 AM

I really like your list, lots of good ideas. We’ve been doing the allowance money thing for over a year, some months not sticking to it as well. With a lower income now we’re going to drop the amount – $15/per spouse per month and see how that works out.
Another thing I’m doing is buying only the essentials in groceries. Meat, fruit, veggies, milk, cheese, eggs, and the occasional spices or cooking ingredients. We’re doing a trial run on cutting out bread/tortillas/cereal; and we’ve already cut way back on processed food over the past couple years.
Not only will we save a significant amount of money, seeing all that REAL food filling the cart makes me feel good!
So, with only buying essential healthy food, our $15 will have to cover it if we feel a craving for junk food.

One action I will not do is cut up all the cards. I’ve heard the pros and cons back and forth and have settled on the camp who will own a card or two. However, your action point reminded me to get some cards closed that we haven’t used in years. DONT leave cards open if you aren’t using them – that makes you ripe for identity theft.
Closing four cards, all four of them products of newlywed purchases – that we paid off interest free!

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Susan August 1, 2013 at 1:23 PM

Was brainstorming with my daughter and we had actually thought of doing some of these things already. Thanks for more great ideas.

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Trina October 19, 2013 at 8:46 AM

My husband and I have been credit card free for the last 5 years and own 2 paid for cars. We will be working hard on the emergency fund. We do live paycheck to paycheck and sometimes the stress of knowing we are one mechanic bill away from disaster is overwhelming. Your list has made me realize we have lots of crap that we no longer need that we can sell and $5 a week in savings is not going to break us any more than we already are!

I am glad I stumbled upon your blog. Thanks for the suggestions.

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