Oprah's Debt Diet Step 6: Take Big Steps to Grow Your Income
June 17, 2009
Part 1: Making Hard Choices
What if you've gone through the first five steps and you can' t free up enough money to start repaying your debts in a big way? Then you have three choices. You can consider whether the big-ticket items in your life—your home, your cars, private schools—are truly necessary. You can go through your home and your possessions and see if there's anything of value to sell. You can earn more money, either on your current job or—more likely—by taking on a second one. The other alternatives? Credit counseling and bankruptcy—but you're not there yet. For now, let's see what you can accomplish on your own.
Here are some options you may want to consider.
Moving. Is your housing sabotaging your ability to make ends meet? It is for a lot of people. During the last decade or so, we were so afraid that if we didn't buy right now we'd be priced out of the only neighborhood we wanted to live in. It may be that selling your house is a solution you have to consider. Yes, the conventional wisdom is that your house is the asset you'll retire on (and often retire in)—the most valuable asset in your portfolio. But unless you can afford to make the payments, it's also the one that can be your Achilles heel. Perhaps you can trade down—swapping a larger house for something more manageable and less expensive. You also may need to consider renting for a while. As long as you can keep the cost of moving reasonable (recruit your friends), renting will save you the cost of homeowner's insurance. (You'll need renters insurance, but it's much cheaper.) You'll save on yard care and—depending on where you relocate—may be able to cut your commuting costs as well.
Going carless. There probably is—if you dig down deep and consider it—another, less-expensive way for you to get back and forth to work each day. Could you get by without a car for a while? That wouldn't only save you the cost of paying for the car itself and it's upkeep, but for gasoline, auto insurance, parking. And if you can't go carless, how about trading in your pricey car for one that runs just fine but is used and less luxurious.
Putting your children in public school. The thought of moving their children from one school to another is often overwhelming to parents. If you're not willing to do that, how about applying for financial assistance from your current school? Part 2: Selling Assets
When big corporations are looking to lower debt and boost profits, one of their primary strategies is to sell assets. They sell divisions, product lines, inventory, equipment. You can do the same on a smaller scale. What possessions do you have that might be valuable on the open market? Which could you part with if it meant financial security? Your boat? Second car? Second home? Time share? Art or jewelry?
To get the most for whatever you're selling, you need to know what it's worth. If it's truly valuable (think $5,000 or more) you should have it appraised for your sake and for tax purposes. If it's a household item that's not worth having appraised, you can get an accurate idea of fair market value by seeing what similar items are selling for through classified advertisements or on eBay.
If you find you have nothing big of value but lots of little things to sell, there's a solution as American as apple pie...
Have a great garage sale.
Don't just throw your junk in a pile and expect it to fly out of your garage or your yard. Approach it methodically and you'll clean up financially—and clean up your garage.
Pick a date at least a few weeks out. Saturdays are best.
Then, go through your house and decide what goes. If you haven't used an item in two years, you can live without it.
Next, organize the merchandise—putting like with like—so buyers can find what they're looking for. If you're selling clothing, put it on a rack or string up a clothesline and hang it for people to see.
If you're not sure you have enough to fill your yard, collaborate with a few families. In order to keep track of who's earned what, put different color price tags on each family's items. Then make sure whoever's minding the register knows the code.
Don't forget to advertise by running ads in local papers and on the Internet (there are lots of free yard and garage sale sites).
Part 3: Earning More
We know you work hard already, but sometimes the only way to dig out is by earning extra money. You may be able to do that at your own job.
If it's been a year or more since you received a raise, it's time to ask for one. If you don't get it, ask your supervisor what you need to do to increase the size of your paycheck.
You may need to get a second job. Eight and a half million Americans have already done so to meet regular household expenses or pay off debt, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's 4 out of 10 people!
If you're already moonlighting and it's been a while since you raised your rates or raised your prices, do so today by 10%. That's the easiest way to pad your pocket.