Get in Shape: Consolidate! (2 of 3)

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Part II: Spend Less, Earn More

Budgeting is a great way to get your finances in shape. But what comes next?

In Part I of this series, we talked about making a budget. Now, we’re going to talk about minimizing your expenses and maximizing your income.

Cut Your Spending

Once you’ve made a budget, you’re going to have a much clearer picture of how you’re spending your money. You’re basically seeing your finances completely naked. And there’s a chance that you’re not going to like what you see.

But that’s good! If you feel a deep-seeded sense of shame when you look at how much you spend on coffee, candy, and fast food each month, it means that these are easy places to cut. Oftentimes, the things we can afford to cut back on aren’t all that beneficial to our health. Skipping that afternoon coffee break is good for you, and the same goes for that pre-commute candy bar.

One thing that is good for your health that you might still want to cut is your gym membership. This might sound a little crazy, but hear us out: If you don’t use your gym membership enough to justify the cost, get rid of it! There are plenty of inexpensive and downright free at-home workouts that you can do instead. The same goes for a lot of cable packages and streaming subscriptions. When you get right down to it, there are many people who don’t use these things enough to justify the cost.

Look for all the places in your budget where you’re spending more than you should and cut that spending back. That’s money that you could be putting to better use. For instance, you could be using it to pay down your debt! When people lose weight, they are shedding excess fat. Part of getting your finances in shape is also shedding excess spending.

Increase Your Income

If you’re serious about paying down your debt quickly, then increasing your income is something you’ll want to do. Think of this like putting on extra muscle as a part of working out. And just like people can go overboard with putting on muscle, they can go overboard with this too. You don’t need to work a full-time night shift along with your regular 9-5 job. Don’t get us wrong: we want you to sleep. At OppLoans, we are 100% pro-sleep, and we don’t care who knows it!

But a part-time gig, something that you do on the weekends or maybe a few evenings a week is going to bring in additional funds. And that’s money you can use to pay down your debt even faster.

You could drive for Uber or other ride-sharing services. You could pick up a shift working the counter at a local business. You could even offer to do yard work for your neighbors. There are any number of ways to make some money on the side. Working as event staff for a local venue or arena is another great gig that usually has a favorable schedule.

Just watch out for jobs on Craigslist that sound too good to be true. For example, there are some ads that advertise “reshipping” jobs, where you receive packages at home then you repackage the goods and send them off to a new address. The funny thing about these gigs is that—you’ll think this is hilarious—you might actually be helping criminals fence stolen goods! (We lied. It’s not hilarious.) In short: don’t do anything illegal.

Pay Down Your Debt

All this money that you save combined with the extra money that you’ve earned should be put towards improving your finances. Most likely, this means paying down your debt faster by paying more than the minimum payment. It’s putting in extra reps at the personal finance gym.

If you’ve decided to consolidate your credit card debt by transferring your balances to another card with a 0% APR introductory offer, this is going to be key. This sort of debt consolidation can be risky, because once that introductory offer has expired, you’re going to be paying interest. And because interest on credit cards is usually pretty high, this is not going to help.

However, if you can put as much money as possible towards paying down that balance during the 0% APR period, you can make this work beautifully. During that period, your balance is earning no interest whatsoever, and every dollar you pay is going towards reducing that balance. With careful planning and persistence, you can save a lot of money.

And even if you’ve just taken out a standard consolidation loan, paying it down ahead of schedule will still save you money. It will lower your balance, which will lower what you’re paying in interest. And if you pay it off early, you’ll save money that you would have been charged on interest over those final months. But check to make sure that your loan doesn’t have a prepayment penalty, which charges you more for paying off your loan early. (Can you believe that?! No, we can’t either.)

To learn more about what to do after you’ve consolidated your debt, made a budget, minimized your spending and maximized your income, check out Part III of this series.

References:

[1] “Did You Accept a Job to Reship Merchandise?” US Postal Inspection Service. Accessed May 2, 2016.PostalInspectors.USPIS.gov

[2] Konsko, Lindsay. “Credit Card Debt Consolidation Versus a Credit Card Balance Transfer: What’s the Difference?” Nerdwallet. July 10, 2014. Accessed May 2, 2016 NerdWallet.com