How to Have a Debt Free Christmas

Every year, I have a debt free Christmas. Mostly because I’ve never really been a fan of going into debt over Christmas. I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong.DEBT FREE CHRISTMAS It is my favorite holiday because it honors Jesus who is my Lord and Savior. However these days Christmas seems to be more about getting the latest and greatest Apple product and spending thousands of dollars on your friends and family.

Despite all the hype to open up your wallet, this isn’t the reason for the holiday, although retailers would have you believe that. If you’re tired of going into debt and looking at your bank account and your credit card statements on January 1 then considering implementing one or more of the tips below. It’s time you had a debt free Christmas!

Manage Your Cash Flow

Step one is to manage your cash flow today. Managing your cash flow means that you manage your spending and underspend the money that you bring in every single day. That’s hard for many of us. We’re used to using credit cards to cash flow our personal lives.

I could say it’s time to create a budget, but you probably already know that you should do this, but you’re not. So the first thing I would recommend is going to an all cash spending habit for the next 30 days. Get out of the habit of using a credit card for everything that you purchase.

Don’t worry; you can bring them back. I know it’s hard. I did it too. But, this activity is only for 30 days until you can get a feel for how much you’re overspending (if at all).

The 30-Day All Cash System

The 30-day all cash system is easy. It involves a pen, paper, calculator and some envelopes.

Write down the income that you receive from your job(s) on the sheet of paper. Then write down all of your necessary expenses. Necessary expenses include food shelter utilities and transportation. That’s it. Not even new clothes.

Wants include everything not already listed including your Christmas list, iPhone, fancy dinners, and entertainment. Sometimes I think that my wants are the same as my needs, but if I truly look in the mirror, I realize I’m way off. For example, I thought my iPhone was a need. When I needed to pare back expenses, I realized that it wasn’t. Instead, I used a prepaid phone and cut my phone bill by 75%.

Allocate your cash to all of your necessities first before moving down the Wants List to fund those categories. The goal is to have income be larger than expenses because that’s positive cash flow.

If for some reason you’ve covered your needs and do not have extra for wants, consider looking at your paycheck withholdings to see if you can reduce the amount that the federal government holds back on your behalf. Always speak to a professional advisor financial advisor before using information contained in this blog post.

If you can’t reduce the amount of withholdings, consider taking on a second job. This is something that you can do easily on your own, at nights, or in on your own spare time. I know this because I’ve had a side job for almost my whole life. I just like making money so it’s hard for me to do one thing.

Side note: If you want me to write about how to make money on the side, just comment below. I’ve dabbled in Etsy, Amazon Retail, Amazon FBA, eBay, yard sales, craft fairs, Facebook, websites, affiliate programs, and so much more. It’s fun, but you have to manage your cash flow first.

Once you have your cash flow organized, you can put your cash in envelopes. That’s what I did. Alternatively, you can stop by the ATM before your shopping visits so that you have cash to spend. I promised you that you’ll spend less in the store if you only pay with cash. You should have extra money by the end of the month that you can allocate towards your debt free Christmas.

Create a Debt Free Christmas Plan

Step two is to create a debt free Christmas plan. With this plan of attack, you’ll use only your extra cash flow and hopefully not all of it. The goal is to spend less than what is allocated in the debt free Christmas plan.
Create a list of people that you are purchasing for and what they would like for Christmas. Consider whether or not the item has to be a brand-name or can it be something similar or functional.

Next to each person’s name write down how much you’ll spend on the gift. You can even put down zero because there are free things that you can do as I explain below.

Now is the perfect time to test whether or not you are ready to use a credit card responsibly. You need to promise yourself that you’ll only charge what you budgeted for your Christmas purchases. This means that once you’ve hit your mark, you’re done. Even if you get a rebate or cash back, you can’t factor that in. It’s a bonus that you can look forward to at a later date. Perhaps you’ll exchange your bonus for paying off your credit cards early.

Get Exactly What’s On the List Using Discount, Coupons and Rebate Sites

If you want to get them exactly what they want, that’s fine! I do it all the time. But, I use discount and rebate sites combined with cash back from my credit card and hopefully a coupon.

For example, if someone on my list wants a gift card, I’ll try to buy it on eBay at 5-20% off. But, first I’ll go through Ebates to get the rebate from them.  I’ll buy the gift card using my Rewards card, like Discover. Then eBay gives me eBay bucks every quarter that I’m over $5 in rewards from them.

You can click my referral link to get your $10 gift card when you join Ebates. When you use my referral link, it helps me pay for hosting as well as stay debt free. Thank you!

I set alerts deals sites like Slickdeals or Brads Deals so that I’m notified when the item I want drops in price. There are many sites and apps that will do this for you. These are just the two I use.

Once I get an alert, I head over to Ebates to see if there’s a cash back discount or coupon. I click the Ebates link and off I go to purchase exactly what I want at a nice discount!

Coupons are great. Consider visiting the retailer’s website to see if there is a discount if you sign up for their email list. Sometimes you can get a new subscriber discount.

Get Products For Free

You can get products for free or at a significant discount by becoming a reviewer. It works best if you already have Amazon Prime. Otherwise, you’ll likely need to spend that $99 to get Prime.

A Reviewer on Amazon can often purchase products for up to 100% off in exchange for an honest review. Sites like Tomoson and Review Kick are the best ones I’ve come across. Review Kick is my favorite! Although, if you see a specific product you want, you can always reach out to the seller directly and ask to review it.

I received multiple free and low-cost items in the mail in exchange for testing the product in providing an honest review. However, I’m very selective on the products that I choose to review because my time is valuable.

Every product that I review has an intended purpose. Perhaps I want it for myself, as a gift, or maybe feel it would be great in a nice big gift basket. I never sell a product that I have reviewed. It seems a bit unethical to me to compete with the seller who gave me a discount.

Discounted Personalized Gifts

This morning I made a calendar and a puzzle on Shutterfly.com because they sent me a free coupon. I knocked out two personalized gifts for about $17 in shipping and tax charges. The items were “free”, I just had to spend the time to design them and pay shipping and tax.

Sites like Vista Print, Shutterfly, and SnapFish are often my go-to sites for personalized gifts at a great price. Sign up for their mailing lists to get the best deals and always go through Ebates to get the rebate.

If you’re a Discover Card member, there is often a free item every month in the Shop Discover section. All you need to have is the coupon. Then go to Ebates to get the rebate if for some reason you buy something over the coupon deal.

Homemade Gifts

I can’t write a debt free Christmas article without telling you to consider making your own gifts. Homemade gifts are special. They’re usually unique, and they show that you took the time out of your busy life to make something specific for the recipient.

A friend of mine once made me Christmas cards. They cost her about a $3 per gift. She printed out images from Shutterfly that she received for free, but paid postage. Each image cost about eight cents.

She glued those images to the cards and envelope bundle pack that she purchased with a 50% off coupon from the local craft store. She wrapped them in a cute paper bag tied with some twine. It was a beautiful homemade gift, and her total cost was $15 for five homemade gifts.

She could’ve used a stamp or recycled old cards instead of paying eight dollars for photos from Shutterfly. But, she wanted to share her photography talent and share a piece of herself.

I mail cards all the time to give away to my friends and for programs like Operation Write Home. They’re inexpensive to make however they take time. My friends know that my time is very valuable, so they appreciate the homemade gifts that I give them.

If you’re making homemade gifts, consider what your time is worth to you and those around you. A homemade gift might be the perfect way to show that you care.

Remember that you can always sell your homemade items on Etsy or Handmade by Amazon. Craft fairs, eBay, Craigslist, and in your local Facebook groups are also alternative places.

Barter and Exchange

Do you have a talent skill or ability that is hard to find in the marketplace? Perhaps you can exchange your talent for something that you want. Find sites or Facebook groups where you can discuss bartering. Bartering is usually a win-win unless the federal government steps in. If you’re frequently bartering, be sure to discuss the tax implications with a financial expert.

Try a Side Hustle

A woman in one of my Facebook groups makes tamales every Friday. You order them for about a dollar each, but you have to pick them up. They’re really good, and it helps her earn extra money on the side.

Perhaps you’ll try a side hustle this year to help you with your debt free Christmas. What are a few things that you’re good at? Can you bake cakes and cookies? Are you great at cutting the lawn? There are so many things you can do to earn extra income these days.

As you venture into your side hustle, remember to comply with your state and federal laws. It’s likely that you will need to comply with cottage laws in your state if you’re baking in your kitchen. You may also need a business license or limited liability company to protect your assets.

Negotiate a no spending Christmas

Instead of going through the Christmas season racking up debt, consider negotiating with your family for a non-spending holiday. Tell them you’re trying to have a debt free Christmas. You could visit a homeless shelter and pack food for them, sing carols to your neighbors, or simply sit and play games with each other.

Family is the most important thing, and it’s the time together that everyone seems to value the most anyways. Cherish the ones you love. And remember that they’ll forget the Apple watch you once purchased, but will always remember the traditions that you set forth each and every year.

Is this the year that you’ll have a debt free Christmas? I’d love to hear your comments below!

OBAL 030: Create a Badass Resume That Gets you That Dream Job!

one Baddass Life Podcast Badass ResumeIf you recall our discussion back in March about Job Search Strategies that Really Work (OBAL 012), we began with the importance of a resume. Resumes are so important that we wanted to dedicate this episode to make sure your resume is Badass! A resume is your calling card to everything that you have done professionally. Careful consideration must go into telling your story. A poorly developed resume will get you a one-way ticket to the recycle bin and you don’t want that!

An employer, in today’s work environment, is going to easily get a stack of resumes for each position they are hiring for. Your time to shine begins when the reviewer moves the resume above yours and ends when they have decided to keep or recycle your resume. We are here to help you maximize this time with our six essential elements to creating a Badass Resume!

The first element is Formatting. I know boring right? There are expectations for what information an employer is looking for and formatting your resume to present your information in the most optimal way is always key. I have seen some drab and boring resumes in my past but I have also seen some amazing ones. The formatting was one of the major differences. Consider the following when you are formatting your resume:

  • Contact info – the worst thing you can do is to give a potential employer bad info. You are guaranteeing that you will not get the job. Make sure you have the right phone number, e-mail and social media credentials on your resume.
  • Length – More than likely your first page is going to be the only thing they look at when they are making their initial decision. Make sure you have the good stuff viewable on that page.
  • Order – A presumed order for a resume is your contact info, objective, experience, certifications and awards, and then references. Anything outside of this is atypical.
  • Structure – Presentation is key and a proper structure makes the resume present well. Utilize indents, bullets and font characteristics to assist the reviewer in digesting your resume.

The second element is Customization. If you are truly looking for your dream job, then it’s likely going to be different that you’re current job or those in your past. An effective strategy to finding your dream job is to apply to different type of jobs, all utilizing your awesome skills. However, to stand out amongst the other applicants, you need to customize your resume to speak to that job. Customization involves the following:

  • Tailored experience– You will want to personalize your experience to best sell how your experience shows your strengths for this particular position.
  • Modify your objective – more than likely you will want to modify your object to speak to the needs of the position you are applying for.
  • Re-organize you experience – The position you are applying for could change your emphasis on the order of your experiences. You should always consider showing the most relevant one first.
  • Title-smithing – A simple change to your job title can make the difference.
  • Match the job description –You are staring right at it. They spent time putting that job description together. Milk it for everything to make your resume stand out.

The third element is a Badass Objective. Your objective is your elevator speech. You have the reviewer’s attention for a short moment. Your objective needs to be concise but meaningful and leave them wanting to read the rest of your resume. Four major hurdles that you need to avoid are:

  • Vague – Don’t get lazy on me. A vague objective does nothing for you. Customize it along with your resume.
  • Listing your responsibilities – The objective is not the time to list what your responsibilities are. Instead focus on the impacts that you will have due to your experience.
  • Too self-focused – You need to put the reviewer in the mindset of you as an employee of their company, not an individual who has done great things.
  • Length – Make sure your objective is concise and relevant.

The fourth element is Relevant Experience. As you reflect back on the work you have done for your current and past employers, you can always find elements of that job that made you awesome at a certain task. For example, you may have never had a title of project manager; however I am confident that you have been placed in a position as a leader of a group working on a task or project. Poof, you were a project manager! To stand out, you must make your experience relevant by doing the following:

  • Adjust roles – as the example shows, you need to find the parts of your past work that convey your experience to match the position you are applying for.
  • Order of your experience – the current of past jobs that convey more expertise to the position you are applying to should be at the top. Remember that the reviewer may not get to the second page if you have one.
  • Explain your role – Make sure that you are descriptive enough that the reviewer believes that you are authentic with your experience.

The fifth element is Awards and Certifications. If you have worked at a company the values recognition and awards, you are lucky. Unfortunately I don’t think recognition has been properly valued in the workplace. If you got it though, share it. In comparing resumes of similar applicants, awards and certifications may be what set you apart.

The sixth and final element is Wow Factor. In a crowded space of hundreds of applicants, you need to stand out. You need to shine where others don’t. One of the best examples I have ever seen of this was done by Tracie. She created a video that we will share on our website, which set her apart from everybody else. You must create this WOW for yourself and you will experience the difference.

Be sure to support our podcast by sharing it with others and rating our podcast on iTunes. Ratings helps us keep our podcast visible, giving other a chance to check our podcast out. A special thanks to those that have already provided a rating.

If you’d like to comment in this episode, please go to the bottom of this podcast. We look forward to reading your comments.

Don’t forget to check out the resources page to get access to some of the tools we have made available to our audience.

We are glad you joined us. Now go live one badass life!

OBAL 026: Help Wanted! Getting your Teenager a Summer Job.

One Badass Life Podcast - Teenagers Getting a JobAs summer approaches, your teenager is preparing for a nice lazy ten weeks of sitting on the couch watching movies and playing video games. NOT!!! They are getting dangerously close to adulthood and their level of responsibility is resembling that of a 5th grader. As parents we need to provide a little bit of hard love and get them off that couch and looking for a J.O.B. As it is the end of June, a lot of the typical jobs may be taken. However that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there.

A point to discuss quickly as well is that the current job market is pretty rough on teens. In a study released in March of 2014 by Statista.com, the monthly unemployment rate for teenagers in the US dropped from 24% in March of 2013 to 21% in March of 2014. As a comparison to the overall national unemployment, the same time period saw a drop from 7.6% to 6.7%. So the jobs for teenagers are recovering quicker but the overall discrepancy is staggering. That is all the reason more to get our teenagers out there and we are here to help you get started. Today we are going to discuss five strategies to get your teenager a summer job.

  • The first strategy is to Get them Prepared. The first job is always the hardest to stand out from others. Most of the typical employers they are applying to understand this. We talk about the top four items they will need to be prepared.
  • The second strategy is to Hit the Streets. Time for all the preparation to come to fruition. Teenagers have no idea how hard this is going to be. We have to keep them going.
  • The third strategy is to Think Outside the Box. The first choices that a teenager is going to gravitate to will be based on their interests. To help our teenagers to think outside the box talk to them about other jobs that they aren’t thinking about.
  • The fourth strategy is to Get their Entrepreneur On. What better time for teenager to create their own business. The opportunities are large and limited only by their imagination. We talk about a few places that they can start with.
  • The fifth strategy is to Think Beyond This Summer. If your teenager is eating up the entrepreneur work, don’t let it stop once summer is done. Our next generation is going to be led by these young minds as innovators not employee.

Be sure to support our podcast by sharing it with others and rating our podcast on iTunes. Ratings helps us keep our podcast visible, giving other a chance to check our podcast out. A special thanks to those that have already provided a rating.

If you’d like to comment in this episode, please go to the bottom of this podcast. We look forward to reading your comments.

Don’t forget to check out the resources page to get access to some of the tools we have made available to our audience.

We are glad you joined us. Now go live one badass life!