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Take Control of Your Financial Life
by Christopher Cooper
Your financial affairs can get out-of-hand, no matter how hard you try to keep them under control. Bad decisions, a stock market crash, illnesses, layoffs or major unexpected expenses can quickly throw us close to the edge.What can you do

Your financial affairs can get out-of-hand, no matter how hard you try to keep them under control. Bad decisions, a stock market crash, illnesses, layoffs or major unexpected expenses can quickly throw us close to the edge.

What can you do when youíre up to your neck in debt to avoid complete disaster? None of your options are particularly desirable. But sometimes you have to bite the bullet and take control of your debt to get by. Here are four courses of action to consider.

Sell Assets

Do you have anything of value you can sell? Anybodyís whoís been to a garage sale knows that most household goods will bring you next to nothing. But on eBay, those same goods cold bring in a fair price.

If you have artwork, valuable jewelry, a coin collection or real estate, you can raise some real money.

How about the second car, the snow mobile or RV?

Do you even need a car? Can you commute by bus or subway until the crisis passes?

If you are facing problems meeting your mortgage, maybe you should sell the house yourself before the bank forecloses. Pay off your debts and buy or rent a smaller home or move to an apartment.

Earn More

Sometimes you got to do what you have to do. When I first began practicing law, I ran up a lot of debt. Even though both I and my wife were working, we couldnít handle it.

I got an adult paper route, one with several hundred homes you covered by car. I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning, seven days a week, and was very tired lots of times, but I made enough in about eight months to get things under control.

There are more ways to make money part time now. You can sell Avon or Mary Kay. You can set up a business selling goods on eBay or other online auction sites. You can set up an affiliate website and earn commissions selling famous brand goods and services.

Having a home based business can also help with your taxes. Being self employed is a great way to take control over your life.

You can do tax returns at night at H&R Block or one of its competitors or you can make money by converting a hobby into a part time business. Or you can work part time at Wal-Mart or McDonalds.

Sometimes extra training will help you earn more money. See if your employer offers training. Or check out job banks and community colleges to see what courses you can take to make you more valuable to your employer.

If you live in an area where jobs are scare or donít pay well, why not consider moving to another part of the country where the economy is booming.

Refinance Your Debt

If you have equity in your home, you can either refinance your mortgage or get a second mortgage or home equity line of credit. It makes no sense to do this unless you take control and make some other hard financial decisions.

The first would be a true commitment to stop credit card spending. Cut up your cards, close the accounts and donít apply for new ones. Buy only what you can afford with cash.

You must take the proceeds and pay off your bills. Apply the interest savings toward a new savings and investment plan.

The reason most financial experts frown on the refinancing option is because most people who do it just use it as another source of credit. They may pay off debt with the proceeds, but then continue to use their credit cards and are soon in worse shape then before.

You will lose your home if you donít handle this option properly.

You can get unsecured debt consolidation loans. However, the interest rates you will have to pay make it unlikely you will save much money.

If you have money invested in a 401-K plan, most employers allow you to borrow against it. You pay interest, but that interest is paid to yourself.

Most financial advisors think this is a bad idea. If you suddenly get laid off, you have to repay the money properly or be faced with some nasty tax consequences.

If you feel safe in your job and if you can continue to make your normal 401K contribution as you pay back the loan, this is something to consider. If you stop making your contributions, the long term loss on your investment growth will dwarf however much you borrow.

Change Your Lifestyle

Do you really need two cars? Do you have to buy a new one ever few years?

Can you cut back on spending? If you want to take control, you can do it.

One way to learn is to write down every single expenditure you make no matter how small. Balance your books every night to make sure you didnít forget anything. After a week or two, study the list and see what can go.

Do you need an extra $200 a month to meet your bills? If you cut out the double latte every morning and brown bag it, you might have the extra money you need. Or if you drop the cable TV and cell phones, get a dial up Internet connection, rather than broadband, raise the deductibles on your insurance policies and/or cut out restaurant meals, you can free up hundreds of dollars a month.

While it sounds bad, bankruptcy is worse.

Here are some lifestyle calculators to show you what a big difference small changes can make.

The Starbucks Calculator - See how much you can save by skipping the double latte.

The Smoking Calculator - See what quitting smoking does for your financial health.

The Lunch Calculator Ė See what you save by brown bagging it.

The Name Brand vs Store Brand Calculator - See how small changes in buying habits add up.

None of us want to do any of these things. But if you take control, especially early on when youíre not yet too desperate, you can dig yourself out of your hole.

By: Chris Cooper. For more information on debt management and personal finances, visit

The site is not responsible for any content in it. E-mail: alldir[at]gmx[dot]com
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