Financial fitness: How to get (and stay) debt-free

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Antonette Taylor of Des Plaines, a personal empowerment coach. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

Debt-busting books

When it comes to money management there is no shortage of books, so we asked our friends on Facebook to share their favorite recommendations:

Great With Money by Melissa Burke and Ellen Rogin — Meg B.

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko — Cathy H. ~ Ca

Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey — Lisa K.

Women & Money by Suze Orman — Kathi L. ~ Kathi L

Debt Free for Life by David Bach — Antonette ~ Antonett

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Get financially fit in 2013 with these tips.

Track it

One of the best ways to get financially fit is to start tracking where your money goes. Try keeping a record of your receipts and expenses for a year, which will help you gain a better understanding of your spending habits and a clearer sense of how much money you actually need for everyday necessities. If tracking your spending for an entire year sounds too daunting, try tracking for just a month, which should give you a fairly accurate snapshot.

Create a ‘doable budget’

When it comes to budgeting, set yourself up for success. Make sure you create a budget that reflects you as a person, which means prioritizing line items that matter most to you and your family. For example, if taking a family trip each year is a top priority, find other areas where you can cut, such as expensive dinners or sporting events.

You also want to work in some padding so you have wiggle room in case a special opportunity arises.

Establish an emergency fund

Saving a little each month can make a big difference, especially when it comes to unexpected household emergencies such as broken appliances, leaky roofs, etc. A good rule of thumb is to keep 10 percent of your net worth liquid, so you can access it at any time. If that’s impossible, try putting away as much as possible each month. Talk to your employer about direct deposit options, which may include designating your paycheck to multiple accounts (savings and checking). Another savings trick is to take out an extra $20 each time you go to the debit machine, which you can then funnel into a separate savings account or piggy bank.

How I became debt-free

Life coach and mom of two, Antonette Taylor shares how shouting at the sky and changing her attitude about money helped her become debt-free.

“A couple years ago while camping with my family, I decided to test the theory behind the laws of attraction. Feeling silly, I shouted to the sky, ‘I am going to become debt-free and live my passion.’ To my surprise, I came home to find a damaging hailstorm had created an opportunity for me to receive an unexpected lump sum of money. I couldn’t help but wonder if the universe was sending me a message. Remembering the promise I had made, I took that money and paid off as much debt as I could. I also enrolled in a debt management program through www.Cred
Ability.org. Soon I was paying off my credit cards one by one and becoming stronger and more motivated in the process. I also learned that I needed to change my attitude about money, specifically the way I spoke about my debt. Instead of saying things such as ‘I’m broke,’ or ‘I can’t afford that,’ I learned to empower myself and focus on all the things I was doing to become financially healthy. It wasn’t easy, but my new attitude and determination eventually paid off and I am proud to say that I’m now 100 percent debt-free.’’

For more information about Taylor and her life coach practice, visit www.thegiftwithin.com.

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