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A Guide to Personal Financial Freedom: Is it Fact or Fiction?

written by: •edited by: Tracy Sabattis•updated: 8/31/2011

Late night TV is filled with ads from so-called personal finance experts who will happily take several of your hard-earned dollars and give you the secrets of financial freedom. But, you don't really need to cough up some of your extra dough. Instead, just follow a few basic tips.

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    Struggling to make your pay check stretch? Carrying the burden of massive loans, credit card debt, or both? When every month you find yourself deeper in debt, it can feel like financial freedom is something out of reach for the average person.

    That feeling is what advertisers, loan consolidators and personal finance gurus prey on. They make the concept of budgeting your income and paying down multiple charge cards or loans seem downright impossible without their help, which you need to, of course, pay for.

    The simple truth is that the basic concepts of paying down debt while living within your means can easily be learned. But, as is often the case, simple doesn't mean effortless. Usually a major lifestyle adjustment is required at first. However, the rewards are immense, and these aren’t just financial rewards. Worrying about money can create a huge mental burden as well as limit your ability to live the life you want. Debt and missed payments can impact your credit score and limit future opportunities.

    Achieve the freedom of living life without worrying about money! Select one of the below articles and learn to pay off your debt, live within your means and start saving today.

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    Basic Tips to Understand & Manage Your Debt

    Learn the steps you can take to assess your debt, make a payment plan and stick to it, even if your debt seems overwhelming.

    How to Negotiate your Credit Card Debt

    Instead of turning to a credit repair company, learn how to negotiate your own credit card debt. You can call your credit card company directly to negotiate payments and due dates. Learn which cards to pay off first, and commit to making a payment every month, even if it’s small.

    How to Negotiate a Student Loan Payment

    Is it difficult to make your student loan payments each month? Avoid defaulting on your loans and learn how to reduce your interest rate, negotiate lower payments or even get your loan forgiven. Learn the steps you can take to reduce your student loan debt.

    How to Deal with Bill Collectors

    If you owe money, you may have had interactions with bill collectors, which can often be unpleasant. Know your rights as a debtor and do not be pressured into paying more money than you can afford. Follow these tips to keep your cool and make wise decisions about your finances.

    Facts About Wage Garnishment

    Yes, if you owe money, it can come directly out of your paycheck. Not only can the government take money owed to them, any creditor can request to have your wages garnished. Learn your rights and how to respond if this happens to you.

    "Get Out of Debt Fast!" Can You Trust a Credit Servicing Company?

    Can you really trust companies that promise to get you out of debt? The frightening reality is many of these programs are scams. The cheapest and safest way to get a hold of your finances is to do it yourself. Learn how to negotiate with your creditors and set up payment plans that work for you.

    How to Consolidate Your Debt

    If you have loans or credit card payments with high interest rates you may wish to consolidate your debt into one loan with a low interest rate allowing you to pay off your debt faster. Learn how this is possible and, most importantly, when you should and should not merge your payments in to one.

    Improving Your Debt to Income Ratio

    If you have debt, you will most likely need to alter your lifestyle in order to pay it down. Get tips on improving your debt to income ratio. Learn to live within your means in order to reduce debt and start saving.

    Create a Budget

    Never created a budget before? It's not as overwhelming as it may seem. Find simple steps to help you create a financial plan for your household. A budget is a crucial tool to help you understand your income and expenses, stick to a monthly plan and reduce spending.

    Find Out Where Your Money is Going!

    Budget your living expenses in order to find out where all that extra cash is going. You likely spend money every day on unnecessary items, without realizing it. Money saved from dining out, splurging on extra cable channels, or keeping your bedroom a toasty 75 degrees could be used to pay down debt or start a savings account.

    Track Spending With Free Tools

    Financial planning software can be a great aid to help you create a budget, track expenses and plan your financial future. Best of all, there are plenty of free options to choose from. Our top three picks include Quicken Mint, Ace Money Lite and Money Strands. Find out which one is right for you!

    Find a Few More Ways to Save Money

    The less money you spend on little luxuries, the more you have to pay down debt or build up savings. Here are some more sneaky ways to save money on everyday items. You’ll be rolling in extra dough before you realize it.

    Saving Basics: From Beginner to Advanced

    Why is it so important to save money? Prepare for the unexpected, whether it be a flat tire or losing your job. Once you have your debts paid and an emergency fund in place, you can begin putting your money to work for you. Follow these steps to bring you from a beginner saver to an advanced financial wizard.

    Understanding Money Market Funds

    Now that you have a handle on your debt and an emergency fund saved up, what are you going to do with all that extra cash? Why not put it to work for you? Learn how to start investing with a low risk Money Market Fund.

    Investing in a Certificate of Deposit

    If you are in a place where you have some extra money consider investing in high yield Certificate of Deposit (CDs). This is only an option for those who can commit to investing their money in a bank for a set amount of time as early withdrawal will earn you a penalty. Shop around at different banks to find one that will provide the most return for investment.

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    Personal financial freedom is possible. And while it's not fiction, and it is simple to learn, it's not easy to put in to practice. With some discipline and determination, you can stop worrying about money and instead, make money work for you.