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How to Use the Debt Snowball System

There seems to be a trend on social media these days. Everyone is talking about being debt free, showing how they paid off their student loans or have paid off all of their credit cards. I am guilty of this too. The thing that gets me is most of these posts, while usually positive in nature, leave me feeling a little negative about myself. Let me explain.

I stumble across a picture of a woman who is showing her student loan debt completely paid off. She goes on to talk about how great she feels and how it has changed her life. I mean, congrats lady, really. However, I have never seen a post like this where the person lays out, step-by-step, exactly what they did to pay this debt off.

Most of the time the post will disclose what method they used. Then, it will direct you to a link to a website where you can buy their latest e-book on their secret debt repayment system. Well, that’s how they did it! They used the money from the sale of their e-book and paid off their debt. Mystery solved. This leaves me feeling defeated because if I am looking for a way to get out of debt, the last thing I want to do is pay $49 for an e-book!

There is nothing wrong with monetizing your knowledge in order to help others. However, call me old-fashioned, if you really want to help someone shouldn’t you just do it? Okay, okay, okay. Let me get off this soap box before I go off sis. My point is, I want to know exactly how to pay of a large debt (like a student loan) and I want my hand to be held the whole time. Well, I am about to break it down for you. Take my hand and let’s talk about the “snowball” method.

The Debt Snowball

Maybe you’ve heard of the Debt Snowball Method? Maybe you haven’t? Dave Ramsey explains this as”…a debt reduction strategy where you pay off debt in order of smallest to largest, gaining momentum as you knock out each balance. When the smallest debt is paid in full, you roll the money you were paying on that debt into the next smallest balance.”

Picture rolling a small snowball down a hill. As it gains momentum, the snowball gets bigger and bigger. Now picture that the snowball is your payment and the hill is your debt. Can you picture it? Okay, now let’s dive into the details. Here is how I used the debt snowball method to pay off my credit card debt.

Getting Started

First, you need to gather all the debt you are wanting to payoff. Next, download my Debt Snowball Tracker sheet and fill in the names and starting balances of each of your debts. You want to write these debts down in order from smallest to largest. On my tracking sheet there is a section where you can write in any notes. I just used that area to write down the total amount I had budgeted to go towards paying off my credit cards every month. My budget was $245 per month. This helped me make sure I was doing my calculations correctly every month.

Next, figure out what your maximum budget is for repaying these loans every month. Make sure that you include minimum payments for all of your debts. As in my example above, I have 7 credit cards. My minimum payment for each credit card is at least $25 per month. That equals to a minimum of $175 ($25 x 7 cards) every month in total. I figured I could wiggle in an additional $70 each month. This is how I arrived at my $245 monthly total. ($175 + $70)

Now, what this means is that my first debt with the smallest balance would receive an initial payment of $95 ($70 +$25 minimum payment). This single payment eliminated that debt completely. Which means the next month, I would take this $95 and apply it to the next debt in line, along with the already established $25 minimum payment. This means I paid $120 to my second debt the following month. Are you following what I’m throwing down? Stop me if I am not making sense.

I continued this process of “snowballing” the previous debts monthly payment and adding it to the next debt payment. By the time I paid off 6 of the 7 credit cards by using this method, my final payment was $230.42. I was able to cover this final payment with the entire $245 monthly budget I had already established. I was able to pay of 7 credit cards in under 6 months.

Types of Debts

The snowball method can be used to pay off any type of debt. Although it works great for credit card debt, it can be applied to virtually any financial situation. It can be used to pay off student loans, mortgages, and car loans. I’ve seen people use the snowball method to pay off other debts too like gym memberships and daycare. The possibilities are endless if you get creative enough. Also, you don’t have to use my tracking sheet for the snowball method to work. You can create your own tracking sheet if you want. Heck, a plain old notebook would work just as well. This is just something I created on my computer that worked for me and helped me stay organized. It is available to download for free in my “Free Stuff” section of my blog if you’d like to have a copy to use.

So Now What?

I’ve had a lot of people ask me “What now?” since I’ve paid off my credit card debt. “Does this mean you are debt free?” No…far from no actually. I currently have a six-figure student loan debt that I am paying off. I am using the snowball method to pay it off as well. Now, in addition to my monthly loan payment of $318, I have added the additional $245 that I had budgeted for my credit cards and applied it to my student loans. I now pay $563 every month towards my student loans. It might seem like a splinter in a snow storm to some. However, I know that chipping away at it will eventually lead to me destroying it.

Now, I have a question for you. Have you decided to use the snowball method? If so, what kind of debt are you using it to pay off? Leave your comments below. I love hearing other peoples success stories and being able to pass on words of encouragement to others. Till next time…

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Why You Don’t Need a Blogging Course

So you want to start a blog, do you? Where do you start? How can you find everything you need to know about starting a successful blog? Most bloggers today will tell you to buy an online course. “It’s the best investment I could have made!” and “I wish I would have bought this course sooner!” are the typical reviews you will see on most of these blogging courses. I would like to add that most bloggers who suggest this, would be wrong. Hear me out.

Starting a Blog

There are a ton of useful and informative courses out there for new bloggers. Heck, there are even courses out there geared towards experienced bloggers. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself “how do they know this information?” Yes, I am sure some of it is based on experience and good ole’ trial and error but I will bet my bottom dollar that they did a lot of research on their own. It also probably did not cost them a penny.

Think about it. In today’s world (I’m speaking from personal experience) when you need to find the answer to a question, where do most people turn? That’s right…Google! Google was (and is) the foundation of my “blogging tips & tricks” when I first started this blog months ago.

Do Your Research

Here are the blogging questions I asked Google during the early stages of this blog:

  • “How do I start a blog?”
  • “Web hosting, what is it?”
  • “Which blogging platform is best and why?”
  • “What is the basic structure of a blog post?”
  • “What should I blog about?”
  • “How do I promote my blog?”
  • “How do I drive traffic to my blog?”
  • “What is SEO?”
  • “How do I improve my blog’s SEO?”

Just by googling these questions, I was able to compile my own personal Word document with all the tips and tricks I felt would benefit the construction of my blog. This also took little to no time on my part. This is why I feel like most blogging courses are C.R.A.P. This means that most (if not all) useful information about starting a blog is Content Readily Available to the Public. CRAP, get it?

I feel like this is how most Bloggers compile the information they sell in their online courses. Also, have you seen the prices on some of these courses? I thought I was floored when I saw people selling their courses for $79. You should have seen my face when I saw a blogging course (geared towards beginners, mind you) for $10k! Yes, that’s right. Ten thousand dollars for a course that will virtually give you information that is already available to you…for free! Mind blown.

When a Course is Helpful

So why do these blogging courses exist if everything is free, Melissa? I hear ya. The simple answer (IMO) is time. Purchasing these blogging courses will save you time from conducting the research on your own. Now to some, this factor alone if worth the thousands of dollars these courses are going for. If this is you, then go for it. However, I know when I started this blog my budget was $1,000. Oops, sorry that was a typo. I meant to say my budget was $1. Meaning, I had no money to spend which is why I turned to Google and figured it out for myself.

I know it can be very tempting when you read descriptions for these courses. “How I Make $100,000 a Month Blogging” or “I Quit My Job and Blog Full Time Now” are very appealing headliners but I have found most of these are false. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are bloggers out there who make six figures a month with their blog. However, it is usually a combination of ads, product sales and affiliate marketing that make up this hefty sum.

I am Not a Pro

Let me be very transparent here with my blog. I do not make squat with my blog. I know I am still in the early stages of blogging but I can tell you that I have yet to make $100 a month on my blog. Currently, ads are the the only form of revenue I use on my blog. I could create a blogging course and sell it for $500. That would be a steal compared to some of the price tags I have seen for some courses. Then, I would only need 100 people to buy it a month and I could proudly exclaim “How I Make $50,000 a Month Blogging!”

See? YOU, the blogger, are the ones who are allowing these other bloggers to make upwards of six figures a month. Now, I’m not saying that all courses are a waste of money. What I am saying is that paying for information that you can get for free is an insult.

Free Courses

There are some great courses for bloggers that are free and very informative. A lot of bloggers actually have posts about every blogging topic from how to start a blog to how to monetize your blog. All you need to do is Google it. One blog post that I referenced when starting my blog was “How to Start a WordPress Blog on Bluehost” by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents blog.

Another great resource that I used is Debbie Gartner’s “Free SEO Email Course” from the blog The Flooring Girl. It an email course that you can get for free when you sign up for her newsletter. I actually created an email folder for all of the free email courses that I subscribed to. That way, they are easy to reference when I am searching for a particular topic or answer.

Conclusion

The flack I expect to receive from this post is inevitable. However, I welcome it. Finance and budgeting is a passion of mine and I don’t like when people are taken advantage of. I would gladly pay for a blogging course that provided me with truly invaluable information that I could apply to my blog and see substantial results from. If you know of one, drop it down in the comments below. I would love to check it out.

In regards to my last statement, I was thinking about doing reviews on some of these popular blogging courses. I would purchase a blogging course and use it to create a new blog. Then, I’d post about what I have learned and if I have seen substantial growth using these courses. It would be kind of a try-before-you-buy situation for you, but I would be the one footing the bill. Would something like this interest you? If so, let me know in the comments below. Also, if you recommend a blogging course for want me to review, I will feature you and your blog on my socials. This is my way of showing some love back to you. Let me know!

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Virtual Girls Night

Trust me, I get it. You’ve been grinding all week at work, the kids have been running you into the ground, the laundry is piling up and no amount of hours in the day seems to be enough for everything you need to get done! The only thing that can rectify this situation is a night out with the girls! Getting together with your closest girlfriends and unloading whatever has been weighing you down.

There’s only one problem…COVID-19. ‘Rona is a biiiish and has literally interrupted everyone’s regularly scheduled programs. Am I right? I mean, I’m not wrong. Businesses are closed or have reduced their hours, social gatherings are limited to a certain number of people and everyone is social distancing. Personally, it’s a lot for me to take in. I’ve been using these affirmations to help me with my anxiety.

Now, I am not saying that these things are unnecessary or overkill. The precautions that are in place are essential to helping our country recover from this pandemic. What I am saying is that it has really put a damper on my girls nights out and this mama is in need of a stiff drink and gossip session with her girls.

Reluctant to venture out into public to satisfy my selfish need and hesitant to give up hanging with my girls, I have found a temporary, yet sufficient alternative…virtual girls night! You may have read my blog about virtual birthday parties for all ages, if not you can check it out here. However, it got me thinking. If I can throw my kid a virtual birthday party and have 10 of his closest friends participate, why couldn’t this work for my girls nights? Short answer is, it can!

Here are a few virtual girls nights that I have put to the test along with a few more that I am looking forward to having in the coming weeks. Now, let me add this disclaimer. I cannot and will not be held responsible for anyone who takes these ideas and determines that virtual girls nights should happen every night of the week. (that actually sounds pretty amazing!) I don’t want to open my inbox to messages from distraught husbands and neglected children scolding me for their drunk mama whose been busy virtually getting lit with the girls all week long and are now hungry and out of socks. I just can’t. Let’s get into it.

The Basics

First, you need a platform. It’s important to pick a platform that is easy to use and readily accessible to all of your girls (and not to mention free). There are numerous group-calling apps available. Simply doing a Google search will bring up a ton for you to explore. Here are a few that are pretty user friendly and, in most cases, are free to use.

  • Facebook Group Video Chat – start a Facebook group video chat and invite up to six of your gal pals. This is done through Messenger. Then you can “go live” with your girls and as long as you’ve accepted the setting to allow group members to “go live” as well, you can all see and talk to each other. Now this doesn’t mean you can only have six of your best girlfriends be a part of virtual girls night. You can invite up to 50 friends who can join to listen, via voice or be on camera however you will only be able to see the first six friends.
  • Zoom – With Zoom you can host a virtual meeting. There are numerous price plans to choose from. However, there is a free plan. The free plan allows you to host up to 100 of your friends for up to 40 minutes at a time absolutely free.
  • Skype Group Video Calling – Skype video chat app allows for group calls up to 50 people for free on just about any mobile device, tablet or computer. Just download the app and get started for free.

Let’s Party!

  • Dinner and Drinks: This is just like it sounds. Grab your dinner plate and beverage of your choice, load up your Zoom call with the girls and get to gabbing. This is what my girls and I did for our first virtual girls night. It was simple, it was fun. We laughed, we cried, we drank ourselves silly.
  • Sassy Spa Day: So what we did was everyone got mimosas, face masks, nail polish, hair treatments, etc and we had a spa day together. With most salons being closed or booked-up due to limited availability, we had fun pampering ourselves while we chit chatted. Heck, I even whipped out my tweezers and plucked my eyebrows while chatting it up with my girls. Not only did we have fun but we ended the call feeling (and looking) better than when it started.
  • Book Club: I miss my weekly book club meetings. Talking about the characters in the book or how we think the plot twist will come about are all highlights of book club night. Thanks to virtual face-to-face calls I still get to enjoy book club with my girls.
  • Heads Up: Ok, I love a good game of Heads Up as much as the next gal, but virtually takes it to another level. If you’ve never heard of this game, you can download it onto your phone. The person who is holding the word up to their forehead will need to close their eyes or make sure they cannot see themselves on the virtual call. I don’t know why this was so much more fun playing virtually, but it was. Oh, maybe it was the shots we took for every wrong answer? 😉
  • Baking Fun: You guessed it! Everyone decides on a recipe to make. The catch is, there has to be a video of the recipe being made. One person will watch the video with the sound off while trying to explain to the group how to make the recipe. They can either choose to make it along with everyone or just sit back and laugh as the other girls try to follow the directions give. Once the final product is made, everyone compares their masterpiece. This can also be done with a craft project, sewing project, etc. The sky’s the limit.

At the End of the Day

It doesn’t matter what activity you do on your virtual girls night. The point is to have fun socializing with your girls. Some of our best girls nights have just been sitting on a Zoom call together, drinking some cocktails and dishing about our lives. Incorporating social distancing doesn’t need to put a damper on your social life, it just gives you an opportunity to think outside of the box.

I hope you enjoyed these virtual girls night out ideas. Let me know in the comments below if you tried any of theses ideas out and how they worked out for you and your girls. Till next time!

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Affirmations to Reduce Anxiety

Here are affirmations to reduce anxiety. Affirmations can be beneficial in many areas of your life. Using positive affirmations help to orient your thoughts into life actions. Whether it be for anxiety reduction, success, happiness or love, affirmations can change your life.

These affirmations to reduce anxiety can be used any time you experience anxiety. These affirmations help to release the stress of your day, calm your mind and help place you in a more controlled state of mind. You can pick as many as you’d like to use or you can use them all. It is up to you.

There are many different ways that you can use affirmations. The most common way is to simple recite the affirmation aloud to yourself. You can even repeat each affirmation over and over. Another way to use affirmations is to write them down on sticky notes and place them in places you will see them throughout your day. I actually use a combination of the two methods. I like to choose a few affirmations to recite to myself. Then, I write the remaining affirmations down. I place them on my fridge, my bathroom mirror, on my desk and in my car.

Ultimately, which ever way you decide to use affirmations in your life is your choice.

I hope you enjoyed these affirmations to reduce anxiety. Interested in affirmations you can use in the morning to have a productive day? Check out the only morning affirmations you need to start your day here. Maybe you need affirmations to help with getting restful sleep? Click here to find the perfect list. Don’t forget to stop by my Free Stuff tab for just that, free stuff!

Follow me on Instagram @justmelissajane where I am more active and post a lot of great content.

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Reusable Products That Save Time and Money

Reusable products that save time and money. That’s music to my ears. If COVID-19 taught me anything it was this: we ain’t ready. It is scary how a world wide pandemic can cause immediate loss of jobs, income and freedoms. I am using this time in quarantine to do some budget trimming. My goal is to spend the least amount of money on necessities. I have been looking for any way to trim my expenses and save a little bit more time and money. By doing so, I am ensuring that my family is financially prepared for any future emergencies.

One way I am able to trim my expenses is by looking at frequently used items in my home. I found a lot of disposable items that my family and I use. Surprisingly, quite a few of these could be substituted with money-saving alternatives. I am so excited to share these things with you. I hope that you might find a couple of these items helpful in your life.

Storage Bags

My family and I can easily go through a couple boxes of Ziploc bags every year. We use these disposable bags for things like packing snacks and for storing food in the freezer. I knew that finding a reusable product that could take place of my disposable bags was not only better for my wallet but also the environment. These storage bags have replaced my disposable Ziploc sandwich bags. I bought these off Amazon. They came in a 10 pack.

I love that they come in a variety of sizes. They are also pretty easy to clean. However, I would recommend hand-washing them only. If you must put them in the dishwasher, top rack only and do not use heated-dry. I have found that they can warp a bit otherwise.

Another bonus about using these bags is with freezer meals. I can store food in these reusable bags and toss them in the freezer. When it comes time for me to use the food, I can cook it right in the bag! Frozen green beans? No problem! I toss them in a pot of hot water and they cook perfectly. You can also put these in the microwave. They are BPA-free, leak-proof and freezer safe. What a great Eco-friendly reusable product!

Wool Dryer Balls

At first, I was a little skeptical about using wool dryer balls. The reviews online said they are a reusable product that can be a substitute for dryer sheets and could also reduce energy usage by cutting down drying time. But, do they really work? Could this really be one of the reusable products that delivers what it claims to do?

I figured it was worth the try. I bought 3 dryer balls from Grove when I placed my monthly shipment. I was really excited once they arrived. I popped them into the dryer with a load of laundry, cranked the dial to start and waited for the magic to happen. Only, it didn’t.

My load of laundry did not dry any faster than usual (at least not that I could notice) and my clothes had static cling. This was very irritating. Why were so many people raving about these when they clearly did not work? Well, my good friends, here’s why.

Dryer balls work best if you use at least 6 balls in a load of laundry. Naturally, I ended up buying a pack of six dryer balls. This will provide enough movement within the load to circulate the heat between the clothes. This is how it saves you money on energy. Also, static cling is significantly reduced because the dryer balls are bouncing around in there absorbing moisture from the clothes. I couldn’t believe the difference adding 3 more dryer balls made.

These 6 little fluffy puffs of magical wool cut my drying time down by 10 minutes per load. Since I am a nerd at heart, I calculated out how much money in energy this saves me every year if I were to dry one load of laundry a day. It comes out to roughly $17. Every little bit adds up.

Another perk of using dryer balls is being able to add essential oils to your laundry. I like using a couple drops of lavender oil on the dryer balls. It makes my laundry smell ah-mazing. You can use any scent you like. There are literally hundreds of essentials oils out there and are pretty affordable. I bought this variety pack off Amazon months ago and I’ve barely made a dent in my supply. This will probably last me all year.

Coffee Pods

Okay, this is my language. There are a handful of things I love in this world and my Keurig is definitely one of them. However, the one thing I don’t like is how expensive those delicious coffee pods are! The brand and flavor I use is almost $14 for a box of 24 pods. I knew this was an area of my life that desperately needed a reusable product substitution.

I found the perfect solution! They are reusable refillable coffee pods. You just buy your favorite ground coffee which costs a fraction of the box of pods. Then you fill up the little pod and pop it into your Keurig. When you’re done, you just rinse it out and it’s ready for the next brew. It’s an absolute genius product and I would like to personally shake the hand of the angel that created it.

Now, I buy a 12 ounce bag of my favorite ground coffee for $8 and use my reusable refillable coffee pod. This means instead of paying $14 for 24 cups of coffee, I am now paying $8 for 62 cups of coffee. That is an insane savings comparison.

What I Have Learned

Even the smallest changes can make a huge difference when it comes to saving money. Simple substitutions with reusable products like the ones I mentioned above have allowed more freedom with my finances. What are some ways you cut costs in your budget? I love hearing your great ideas and suggestions. Leave me a comment below.

You might be interested in learning how to start an easy to use budget. You can get everything you need right here along with free printable budget sheets too!

Maybe you’re wanting to pay off debt but don’t have the money to do it. I can show you how to do it here.

Some of you may be focusing more on saving money. Here are some tips on how you can become a savvy saver in just 5 simple steps.

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The Only Morning Affirmations You Need

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11 Bedtime Affirmations

Here are 11 bedtime affirmations. Affirmations can be beneficial in many areas of your life. Using positive affirmations help to orient your thoughts into life actions. Whether it be for success, happiness or love, affirmations can change your life.

Here are 11 bedtime affirmations you can recite before going to bed. These affirmations help to release the stress of your day, calm your mind and prepare for a deep and restful sleep. You can pick as many as you’d like to use or you can use them all. It is up to you.

There are many different ways that you can use affirmations. The most common way is to simple recite the affirmation aloud to yourself. You can even repeat each affirmation over and over. Another way to use affirmations is to write them down on sticky notes and place them in places you will see them throughout your day. I actually use a combination of the two methods. I like to choose a few affirmations to recite to myself. Then, I write the remaining affirmations down. I place them on my fridge, my bathroom mirror, on my desk and in my car.

Ultimately, which ever way you decide to use affirmations in your life is your choice.

I hope you enjoyed these bedtime affirmations. Interested in affirmations you can use in the morning to have a productive day? Check out the only morning affirmations you need to start your day here. Maybe you need affirmations to help with anxiety? Click here to find the perfect list. Don’t forget to stop by my Free Stuff tab for just that, free stuff!

Follow me on Instagram @justmelissajane where I am more active and post a lot of great content.

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Pay Off Debt When You’re Flat Broke!

So, it happened. You lost your job, you have a medical emergency or a major unexpected expense, whatever it is, it has left you broke. When I say broke, I mean we are having Ramen for dinner kind of broke. I hate to admit it, but I’ve been this broke before. I remember having my last $3 in my pocket and having to figure out how I was going to feed my (at the time) family of three. It’s not a good feeling. I am sure others have had to endure tough times much worse than mine. I had to figure out a way to pay off debt even while I was flat broke!

Thinking back to that experience, I can recall never thinking about how to pay off debt. My mind was focused more on survival and how I was going to take care of my family. Plus, I grew up in a family where debt was sort of an expected component of adult hood. I grew up without a solid foundation in finances but I knew how to dodge a bill collector. That was one thing I picked up real quick as a kid.

It can be really discouraging to think about debt when you’re not even sure how to make it through from day to day. It is really easy to adopt the mindset of “my electricity bill is due now so that old hospital bill can wait.” I am here to tell you that you can do both. You can pay your electricity bill and that old hospital bill without working more hours or making more money. However, the only way it will work is if you are truly dedicated and focused to sticking to a plan. This post is going to be a bit lengthy but I will lay out exactly what you need to do to pay off debt even while being flat broke. Ready to get this thing started? Let’s get it.

Being Broke Stops Here!

You know what I am going to say. First things first, without a doubt you need to create a budget. Just this topic alone deserves its own post. Here’s some great information on how to start a super simple budget. It won’t take you hours to do and it doesn’t involve any fancy, hard-to-use spreadsheets or software. I know creating a budget may not be the most appealing task to complete to most people, but honestly the only way to know what you have to spend is to see where you are spending your hard-earned money. You can use this free, easy expense tracker to figure out your current monthly expenses.

When you’re setting up your budget, you want to list your necessary living expenses first. These are things like mortgage/rent, utilities, food, gas, insurance, etc. I call these my “Needs” items. Next, you want to list expenses that you don’t necessarily need but like to have. These are things like Netflix, gym membership, monthly subscription boxes, etc. I call these my “Wants” items. These are the items you will sort through first to determine whether you truly need to continue paying monthly for it or if you can let it go and use that money towards your debt instead.

An easy “Wants” item that I was able to remove from my budget was the $17.32 a month I paid for Netflix. I asked a friend of mine who also has Netflix if she would let me use her account if I paid half of the monthly fee. That would have allowed me to save $8.66 a month and throw that all at my debt. However, she is such a great friend that she said she would add me for free. So, now I have an extra $17.32 a month to pay towards my debt and I can still Netflix and chill.

You will see that just by eliminating unnecessary “Wants” you have the potential to reallocate a nice chunk of money to throw at your debt. I know it can be hard to go without some of the luxuries we like to have in our lives, but you can always find an alternative. For example, instead of paying $25 a month for a gym membership, check out your local YMCA or local college for the cost to use their gym facilities. Better yet, workout at home or follow an online workout video on YouTube. Think outside of the box and great things can happen!

Narrowing Down Your Debt

Now, let’s get back to our “Needs” items. Each item on this list is an essential item needed every day. Meaning, you are not able to live without it. This is where you will want to see if you can negotiate with your electricity company or your landlord for a better price. Doing this really freaked me out to begin with. I don’t know if it was my pride or if I felt ashamed for asking for a bill reduction. Then I realized, why the heck am I feeling like this? I work hard for my money and just because I have debt does not mean I am not entitled to live a comfortable, happy life. Plus, what’s the worst that could happen other than being told “no”? So I gave it a try.

First, I called my cell phone provider. I know some people may consider a cell phone a “Wants” item but I feel like it is a “Needs” item. I use it to keep in contact with family and friends. I use it to pay my bills online and I am able to use it to call for help during an emergency. Anyways, I called my cell phone provider and explained that I am going through a financial hardship right now and trying to pay my debt down. I asked if there was any way I could switch to a cheaper calling plan. The rep on the phone was so helpful. She told me that there is actually a courtesy option that the company can offer to customers that will provide them with a significant bill reduction for up to twelve months. The only catch is, the customer has to ask for it. Can you believe that? All I had to do was ask for it and my monthly bill of $108.63 was reduced to $64 a month. That saved me a little over $44 ($528 for the year) that I could use to pay off my debt.

Next, call your electricity company, water company, mortgage or landlord and see if there are any options they can offer you. When I initially started this, I wasn’t able to get my mortgage company to assist me in any way. However, my electricity company and my water company were able to help me with some discounts. All in all, I was able to cut down my monthly expenses by an additional $93 using this method alone.

So Now What?

So now what? Well, now that you have cut out an unnecessary “Wants” and have gone through your “Needs” items and received bill reductions or discounts from the various companies, you need to add up all the money you saved. Using my info, I was able to cut $107.32 from my “Wants” items which were $17.32 for Netflix, $25 for my gym membership and $65 for my massage membership. Then, I was able to save $93 a month from my “Needs” items by asking companies for a bill reduction. This gave me a total of $200.32 a month to pay off debt. That means I will be able to pay off an additional $2400 worth of debt in the next 12 months. #winning!

Now, you need to list out all of the debt you are wanting to pay. Since I am a visual person, I like to use my debt tracker sheet to keep everything organized. It allows me to have an over view look of every single debt I owe, the total amount I owe and any payments I have already made or are planning to make. Download a free copy to use here.

There are a couple different ways you can approach this. You can either throw all of the money you have to use toward your debt at your largest debt, pay off the debts with the highest interest rates first, or pay off the smaller debts first which will result in a lower total number of debts you owe. Whew! Does that make any sense? I hope so. Here is what I did. I had 6 debt items I needed to pay that varied from $49 to $1500. I prioritized them from smallest amount to largest amount. The three lowest debts I had were for $49, $102 and $107. I paid the $49 and the $102 amounts in full. This left me with $49.32 which I paid towards my $107 debt making my balance owed now $57.68.

The following month I repeated the process. I took the $200.32 I had for the month to pay towards debts and paid the remaining balance I owed of $57.68 which left me with $142.62. This knocked off one more debt item and left me with three remaining debts that I still needed to pay. The next smallest debt that I owed was for $212. I used the remaining $142.62 and paid it towards this $212 debt. This left me with a balance owed of $69.36 which would ultimately get paid off the following month. I continued to use this process for the next 15 months, which is how long it took me to pay off my debt.

Living Debt Free

I know debt can seem daunting and I know seeing a small amount like an extra $200 a month doesn’t seem like much. It can make you feel like it will take you forever to pay off a debt. Don’t stop now! You can do this! You have to stay positive and stay focused. Chipping away at your debt, little by little, takes patience and perseverance. However, if you’re willing to trust the process and don’t give up, you will make it to the finish line with less debt than when you started this journey.

Living a life debt free and on my own terms is something I am striving towards. Next up on my list, kicking my six-figure student loan debt out of my life forever. I am using my debt payoff methods as well as multiple passive streams of income to help me chip away at my student loan debt. Leave me a comment below if this is something you would like me to share on my blog. Thanks for stopping by!

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6 Things to Do Every Day (for a Clean Home)

There are 6 things I do every day to keep my home clean. I don’t know about you but there’s nothing I love more than a clean home. There’s something about a clean and uncluttered living space that makes me feel like I have my life together. Being able to walk into the living room without tripping over toys, preparing food in a kitchen without a sink full of dishes and relaxing in a bedroom without a pile of laundry on the floor are all things that bring me joy. I know, I’m pretty lame. However, as much as a clean home brings me joy, there isn’t anything else that can have the complete opposite effect on my mood than having to clean my house. I don’t want to spend hours a day cleaning and organizing my home. How can I enjoy my clean home if I am always spending my time cleaning it?

Well, I narrowed it down to the top 6 things I have to do every day that really make a huge difference in the cleanliness in my home. I’m not talking about how I use to clean my room as a kid either. You won’t see me stuffing things in closets or tossing items in “catch-all” baskets. These, my friends, are the 6 things that I do every single day that have leveled up my home and kept me from breaking my back cleaning it every day. Let’s get into it.

Make the Bed

Ok, ok, ok! I know this is a very common “tip” that pretty much every one swears by and recommends. Seriously though, they are not wrong. I was never a bed-maker person (if that’s even a thing). My reasoning behind this thinking was that I was going to waste my precious time and ever-fading energy making my bed, only to mess it back up later that evening. It seemed sacrilegious, honestly.

However, after deciding that I needed a morning routine that implemented things I normally did not do, it felt only natural that I should try making my bed every morning. I promise you, this single act alone changed my life. Not only does it make me feel like I am ready to start my day, it instantly makes the room look cleaner. No kidding. I could have crap all over my nightstand or my husband could have his dirty socks on the floor, it will still look cleaner than if the bed was unmade.

Now, about those dirty socks. Making the bed every morning also, strangely enough, makes me want to tidy up the rest of the room. Usually, after admiring how pretty my bed looks once its made, that stinky sock catches my eye. How could I leave my beautifully made bed to exist in a room with dirty socks?! Completely uncalled for and unheard of! Those socks end up in the hamper and my room looks pristine once again.

“Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.”

~ Charles Duhigg

Manage Clutter

Boy, oh boy! I use to be the Queen of clutter. I saved everything and I mean everything. I had beer labels that had been folded into hearts 17 years ago that I refused to toss out. Did you hear what I said? I saved beer bottle labels. In other words, I saved garbage. No joke. When we moved 2 years ago to the house we are in now, I decided I was going to finally free myself of the clutter. I had no idea how much this clutter was weighing me down. I swear, I probably made 12-15 trips to Goodwill to drop off donations before our move. They do say that one (wo-)man’s trash is another (wo-)man’s treasure. The last thing I wanted to do was pack up a bunch of unnecessary junk and physically move it with us to the new house.

Not only did this save time when it came to moving but it drastically cut down the time it took for me to unpack once we were in the new house. Everything had a place. Honestly, even if my stuff was not in it’s place, I didn’t have enough physical stuff anymore to make my living space look cluttered. This instantly makes my home appear cleaner.

It also had an affect on the vibe of my house. I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. Does it make me crazy to say that I even feel like the air in my home is lighter and more crisp? LOL It’s so true. It feels like negative energy has been removed and replaced with positive vibes. Positive vibes only please.

“Clearing the clutter in your physical space will go a long way toward clearing the clutter in your mind and relationships.”

~ Peter Walsh

Sort the Mail

This is a big one. I know earlier I said there is nothing I cared less for than cleaning my home…but I forgot about mail. I use to have stacks of mail all over my house and in my car. I will say though that my intentions were good. I always intended to sort through it later when I had time but you know what? I never did find that free time.

Now, what I do is sort the mail as soon as I get it. Let’s face it, we all kind of skim through our mail when we first get it right? Use that time that you’re skimming to sort the mail. Put all the junk mail in a pile to be thrown out and the rest of the mail in another pile. This is where I take it a step further.

I use a mail organizer that has three slots. I put all the mail that needs my immediate attention into the first slot and everything else in the second slot. The third slot is where I put mail for the other members of my family. They know to look here for their mail. Not only does this method keep me from having piles of mail all over my house but it also lets me organize my mail in a cute way. This is the exact mail organizer I use.

“Discourse is fleeting, but junk mail is forever.”

~ Joe Bob Briggs

Clean as You Cook

Have you ever found a delicious recipe online and decided to make it? However, once your masterpiece was completed, were you left with a huge mess in the kitchen? Flour and sugar sprinkled on the counters, egg shells strewn about along with every seasoning bottle in your kitchen? We’ve all been there and it isn’t pretty. This is why I am an advocate for cleaning as you cook.

When I am cooking, I put every ingredient I use back to it’s rightful home immediately after I use it. I will even take it a step further. Once I am done with a pot, pan, cutting board or spatula I will wash it, dry it and put it back. By doing this, I am left with a clean kitchen even after I just prepared dinner for a family of five. This is probably one of the most effective cleaning tips I use that keep my kitchen clean.

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“This is a self-cleaning kitchen. Clean up after yourself!”

~ Unknown

Wipe Up Spills While They’re Fresh

This is something I wish every member in my home would adopt, but they haven’t. This is probably why I insist on doing most of the cooking. Cleaning up dried food splatters, burnt casserole dishes and sauce pans that have been sitting over night take some serious elbow grease. Elbow grease, which is something that I do not want to muster up to be honest. Yet, here I am, wanting a clean home.

I always keep a microfiber cloth next to the sink that I use to wipe up spills as soon as they happen. These are the cloths that I use and let me tell you, they have changed the game. I prefer to use these instead of paper towels. Not only are they more cost effective but they are better for the environment. That’s a double win, my friend. The really come in handy for any spills or splatters that might happen. The best part is when they get dirty, I just throw them in the wash and they are as good as new.

“Never cry over spilled milk, because it may have been poisoned.”

~ W.C. Fields

Sweep the Kitchen Floor

I do this every night before I got to bed. It only takes a couple minutes and I don’t have to worry about all the crumbs and dirt plotting against me throughout the night while I slumber. It is especially quick and easy with my dustpan. I did not think one appliance could have such an impact on my life. I’m obsessed with my EyeVac and it was the best money I ever spent.

Not only does this prevent debris build up on the kitchen floor but it also prevents pests. There is nothing worse than seeing a marching line of sugar ants coming into the kitchen because of a chocolate chip morsel from yesterdays cookie bake-off that fell onto the floor unnoticed. Is it weird that I find it fulfilling? There is something about sweeping up the “dirt” from the day and throwing it away that brings me inner peace and keeps my home clean.

“Do you want to be great? Pick up a broom and sweep the floor.”

~ Mother Teresa

There you have it! Try implementing all or some of these tips into your daily routine and see if it makes a positive impact in your life. I certainly feel like these six tips have changed my life and my home. What are some daily routines that you do to keep your home clean?

Another area of my life that I like to keep “clean and organized” is finance. I use different budgeting sheets to keep me organized. All the sheets I use I have uploaded to the ‘Free Stuff‘ tab above for you to download for free. Also, if you’re interested in starting a budget or maybe you just want to simplify your budget, here are a few tips on how to do just that!