How to Pay off Those Credit Cards This Year

by Susan Dunn

There will probably be two items on many of our New Year's Resolutions this year: lose weight and pay off debt.

Both have simple solutions! The way you lose weight is to burn less calories than you take in; and the way to pay off debt is to earn more than you spend. How to start? Cutting back on living expenses.

1. Don't underestimate the power of soap and water.

There are so many products out there now for cleaning that cost a fortune, when the basic is soap and water. Experiment with soap and water in the mop bucket, on your face and body, on the kitchen counters, on the dog, on the car, and when shaving your legs!

2. Consider other remedies from simpler times. You can cover a lot of territory with Merthiolate , baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.

3. "Water" it down.

Most products today are over-charged. Add water to your dish detergent and laundry detergent. Add generic bath oil to your bath salt scrub. Add more liquid to your soups, casseroles and mashed potatoes. Mix a little margarine in with the butter.

4. Use less.

Tomorrow morning when you shower, take a look at how much of that expensive shower gel you put on the scrub brush. Generally you can cut it back to about 1/4th. Likewise toothpaste, makeup base, shampoo, cologne, shaving crème. Spray just a dash of Pam® or put a dab of Crisco® on a paper towel and brush it over the cooky sheet or pan. We tend to overdo!

5. Guard your health.

Need I mention health care costs. How we manage our emotions and how we experience stress directly affects our immune systems. Maintain a health regime, including developing your Emotional Intelligence, so you can build your resilience, emotionally, physically and mentally.

6. Pay attention to what your kids are doing.

Children are into having fun. They empty whole bottles of shampoo into their bath to "make bubbles," leave water running, spill whole boxes of cereal, dump a cup of catsup on their plate, drop brand new jars of mayo and jugs of milk, and are otherwise in need of being watched!

7. Go generic when you can.

I remember reading in a magazine that all cosmetics are made of the same thing, that you're only paying for the label. I haven't found this to be true. Certain more expensive items are worth the extra price, many times over, but SOME are NOT. Experiment and find the generic products that do the job satisfactorily. I will pay for perfume, makeup base, cereal, canned goods and clothes. These things seem to be fine from the dollar store: hand lotion, pens, clothes hangers, shampoo, paper goods like toilet paper and paper towels, alarm clocks, and candles. It's better to buy quality used clothes than originally cheap clothes - the lines, fit, and make are better.

It may strain your aesthetic taste a bit, but a Piaget doesn't keep better time than a Timex, nor does a Cross pen write better than a Bic. Be willing to eliminate some of the "designer" in your life.

8. Or find cheaper ways to go "designer."

eBay offers some great bargains, so do local Goodwill and Thrift stores in your town. It's the same book inside whether it's new from B&N, or "used" from for a fraction of the cost but has few pencil marks inside. A search engine can lead you to everything from recycled printer cartridges to retro'd headsets. Take advantage of the Internet. Don't forget the library.

9. Get a mentor, a resource person.

When you're ready, the teacher will come. There's someone in your life-space who's a master at this. I have a client right now who does this for a hobby; he just refuses to "pay retail." (Remember, the millionaire next door is a millionaire because she doesn't spend money.) He's alerted me to Cracker Barrel's book tape "rental"; growing your own tomatoes; which chains have the "two-fers" which nights; what chains consider a 'senior' to be 50; shopping in stores like WalMart that show you the unit price; got his wife interested in learning how to cut his hair; and the possibility of negotiating or bartering for practically everything. (Coaches are good for this too.)

10. Do the (physical) work.

Yes, clearly things like cleaning your own house, mowing your own lawn, doing your own nails and hair, and but also things like this. Don't buy those little bags of potato chips for your kids' lunches, buy the largest bag and some cheap "baggies" and "you do the work." Pour some juice into a cup for them and leave those little bags with the straws to those who have more money than sense.

11. Do the (mental) work.

Waiting is also work- get the video instead of going to the movies. Using your brain is also work - the time to buy Christmas decorations is the day after Christmas. The time to buy sweaters is in August.

12. If you've got a "heavy foot," switch venues, and don't forget the emotional component.

Meaning, if buying things is something you love to do, take it down a notch. Go to garage sales and thrift stores and buy away. You'll have the experience without busting your budget.

While you're doing this, don't focus on what you're giving up, celebrate your ingenuity, problem-solving skills and creativity. It's the Emotionally Intelligent things to do!

Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, . I offer coaching, distance learning courses, and ebooks around emotional intelligence. Free ezine, Daily tips, send blank email to . I train and certify EQ coaches. Get in this field, dubbed "white hot" by the press, now, before it's crowded, and offer your clients something of real value. Start tomorrow, no residence requirement, global student body. Email for prospectus. Business programs - .

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