How to Pay Down Big Debt Without Resorting to Ramen

How to Pay Down Big Debt Without Resorting to Ramen

Editor’s note: Guest post by Joan Otto

If you simplify the advice of most financial advisors, it goes something like this: Pare your budget down to the very essentials. Use the rest of the money to pay off your debt. Then you can do all sorts of things.

It’s pretty good advice, to a point.

Lots of pretty famous people share versions of the same philosophy. You know what it looks like, too. In its extreme, it’s eating ramen and driving a car that’s held together with duct tape, prayers and plenty of dirt. It’s no vacations; it’s not even driving 30 miles to a relative’s house for Christmas so you can save on gas.

Done in moderation, this philosophy is great. But when you’re trying to pay off what I call BIG Debt – like I am – moderation is key, and extremism is unlivable. My husband and I do share a pretty awful car (our only vehicle). We don’t take extravagant vacations, and we try to be reasonable with our travel.

But we’re two years into what looks like a six-year battle to pay off almost $90,000 in credit-card and loan debt. And that means that, yes, I prefer to eat something other than cheap noodles occasionally in that time.

So we compromise. We’re not lobster, but we’re not ramen, either. What we’re not willing to compromise on, though, is our debt-payoff schedule. We have a dollar amount above the minimums that we aim to hit every month. Sometimes, there are hurdles that prevent that, but we definitely try.

But what about when money is tight? (more…)

How to Find Out What You’re Really Worth

How to Find Out What You’re Really Worth

W hen I decided to leave the military and science at the same time, I had no idea how to put a price tag on future work.

A friend offered to put me in touch with a large company who specialized in hiring former military to give me an idea of what I might be worth. Having no better method, I sent the guy my resume and agreed to meet over lunch.

He didn’t waste any time. He told me, “The first thing you have to do is prepare yourself that you won’t make as much money as you did when you worked for the government.”

I think my mouth actually hung open. I’d always been led to believe that contractors made a lot more money than government employees. My heart began to sink.

But he wasn’t done giving me advice. It got worse.

“The second thing you have to realize is that the longer you’ve been away from your government job, the less valuable you are.”

That’s when I got angry. (more…)

Is Your Career Making You Schizophrenic?

Is Your Career Making You Schizophrenic?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Chris Lappin.

Y ou’re going around in circles.

One day thinking one thing, the next changing your mind.

You’re not completely unhappy with your job, but you’re not exactly happy either.

It pays the bills and lets you sleep soundly, but there’s this nagging voice saying you could be doing something much more worthwhile and fulfilling. You secretly yearn to fly solo and follow your dream, but just the thought of trading in a secure pay check for a future with no guarantees makes your stomach tighten and brings a tidal wave of negative questions.

Can you make it work? Have you got the skills? Are you too young? Too old?

What if it doesn’t work? What will other people think? Who are you to think you can do this?

When you’re feeling brave, you listen to your heart. What if it did work? Others have, so why shouldn’t you? This would be the making of you. Who cares what other people think! Of course you can do this.

You smile and feel alive. No more boss. No more achieving someone else’s goals. No more boring, mundane work, day-in and day-out.

But then your head chimes in again. Don’t be stupid! You’d be kissing goodbye security, a steady income, holiday pay, sick pay. And what about all that stress and worry? You could lose everything.

And so it goes back and forth. Like you’re two completely different people, trapped inside the same mind.

While this exhausting argument rages, you stay with your feet firmly entrenched in your uncomfortable comfort zone. (more…)

Making Time to Start a Business Without Leaving Your Job

Making Time to Start a Business Without Leaving Your Job

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Ellen Rohr.

A re you hanging on to a job that doesn’t fit?

Maybe it’s good enough for now, and the benefits are hard to resist. Still, if you suspect there is more in store for you, why not start a business? Starting a business could provide the financial freedom you need to quit, or it could be the resume enhancer that helps you get hired elsewhere.

Before you start in with the, “I don’t have the time,” whine, consider… (more…)

The Minimalist MBA: Smart Investments for Your Budding Business

In my first 6 months as a entrepreneur, I spent nearly $36,000 on training.

I was scared to death.

It sounds ridiculous, I know.  If I was so scared, why did I spend so much money?

Because I was scared no one would discover me. Scared I couldn’t sell to those who did.  Scared I couldn’t sustain success once I had it.

I made the mistake of attributing the various problems and set-backs I encountered as an entrepreneur to a lack of knowledge rather than the normal ups-and-downs that are inherent when doing something for the first time.

I’m not gonna lie to you: that mistake turned out to be huge, one that has nearly put me out of business.

But it’s also a fear that I see driving a lot of other new entrepreneurs.

And it’s easy to justify your continued spending when other successful entrepreneurs, usually selling a course of their own, talk up how much they invest in themselves.  They imply you can spend your way to success.

I say: invest in yourself, yes.  But especially in the beginning, you must do it wisely, thoughtfully, and cautiously.

As the saying goes, do as I say, not as I do.

Out of the dozens of courses and mentorships and premier membership circles I’ve enrolled in, there are only two that more than returned their investment. In fact, it was these two courses that led me to gross around $48K this year in my business, and secure another $54K in contract work.

That’s a 40-fold return on investment–in just one year.

In this post, I’d like to show new or on-the-fence small business owners how to get the help you need, without putting yourself in serious debt.

I’m calling it the Minimalist MBA, but it’s even better than that.  Because rather than teaching you everything, it provides just what you need to get started.  If you listen and implement these lessons, you’ll be making good money in no time. (more…)

Just Do It! 3 Quick Resources to Start Your Business Now

I’ve been chased through the woods at night during Survival Training.  I’ve mountain biked down a hill where hang-gliders were taking off.  I’ve survived three major surgeries, one with an illicit donut in my stomach.

But the day I started my business?  Now that was scary!

In retrospect, that level of fear is laughable.

But I remember feeling so completely overwhelmed by the idea of trying to make money by myself.

How do I start?  What if no one wants to work with me?  Am I in danger of creating a money pit that loses far more than it gains?

What if I’m just not cut out for this entrepreneurship thing?

On and on the questions went in my head.  So I proceeded the way any nerd would: I enrolled in courses, bought books, and signed up for masterminds.  My quest for knowledge was, let’s say, thorough.

Over the course of 18 months, I spent nearly $30K learning how to start and sustain a business.

Wow, now that was dumb!

In my defense, I had no idea which courses and teachers were worth the investment and which weren’t.  When you have no idea where you’re going, it’s easy to just follow the crowd of self-improvement junkies who plan to take one more course before launching.

The only thing that saved me from that ball and chain of expenses was that I actually implemented what I was learning and in turn, fell in love with running my own business.

Today I’m going to give you the benefit of some of my experience.  I’ll introduce you to three inexpensive alternatives to learning the ropes that will quiet the questions in your mind and finally get your business off the ground. (more…)