Sunday, September 14

Get out of debt on $10 a day

This week's giveaway is a copy of Pay It Down by Jean Chazky. As always, there are five ways to enter. Check the giveaways page for more information!





Pay It Down
by Jean Chatzky doesn't contain brilliant, revolutionary ways to get rid of debt. It doesn't have some secret to ridding yourself of debt in days, or even months. It doesn't even have all that many original ideas.


But I think it's a great book.


Why? Because it breaks down the long, arduous process of debt reduction and comes out with bite-sized pieces.


Jean Chatzky is smart enough to know that Americans have short attention spans. (Heck, I barely made it to the end of that sentence!) But in 200 pages, she conveys a very workable system that could give a lot of people hope.


She tells us that, at $10 per day, 16% interest, we can pay off $8,000 of debt in under three years. It's catchy, as far as hooks go, and it's enough to keep most people going.


The thing is, $10 a day sounds like very little. Of course, finding that much each and every day is a lot harder than it sounds. Still, even to me, it sounds a lot easier than $300 a month.


The book goes through the various methods of finding the money, step-by-step. It may be a bit too much hand-holding for people already on track to pay off their loans. Still, I appreciated the number of real-life suggestions Chatzky provides. It's in no way exhaustive (and she admits this) but the author does still provide a workbook format, complete with examples of how to cut down in each category.


There were a few in there that I hadn't thought of, such as prescriptions by mail, which I have put on my to-do list. I also liked the idea of ranking fixed expenses as high/medium/low priority. I think a lot of people run into problems because their priorities are askew.


Finally, I liked that she gives people hope for the future -- not just debt-repayment, but having reak retirement funds in your 401(k). Using the S&P's lifetime average return (10.7%), she figures you can have over $23,000 in ten years, and over $64,000 in 15.


Obviously, these numbers may be a tad different in the short term. But for people of my generation, who have at least three decades before retirement, this seems like a safe enough bet.


There are a few other dated items in the book, which was written in 2004. The biggest example is her consolidation chapter, where she talks about refinancing your mortgage. She enthuses about two great agencies: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Oops.


That said, the book is educational and full of hope. Her writing style is straight forward and she sprinkles in facts and life stories to keep things interesting. Perhaps the most "interesting" was her table of FICO scores: A chart breaking down interest rate by score range, and the corresponding interest paid over the life of a loan. Now I'm practically paranoid about my score.


Still, when she does resort to scare tactics, she doesn't leave you terrified and helpless. She offers a very comprehensive guide to raising your scores. I did learn some new things.


I have to say: I went into this book expecting a cheap gimmick and a rehashing of what I already knew. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.


That's not to say the book is entirely innovative. You will read some things you're practically sick of. There are only so many frugal ideas in the world, guys. But chances are that you will learn something, too. Or maybe you'll just come away with a less angst-inducing outlook for your debt.


Either way, I highly recommend this book.



While I am usually gung-ho about telling people to just borrow from the library, this book is full of places to write down your debt, scribble expenses saved, etc. So you may want to consider buying, unless you're handy with Excel or don't mind scribbling into a notebook -- both good alternatives. Or, you can read a library copy in order to decide whether you want to buy. (Full disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, which means if you click from my site and make a purchase, I do profit.)

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4 Comments:

Blogger Shtinkykat said...

Sounds like Chatzky gives great common sense advice. The sad thing is I can't even afford $10/day. :-P But I guess it's something I can strive for!

September 15, 2008 at 6:13 PM

 
Blogger Abby said...

Chatzky,

The neat thing is that Chatzky points to a BUNCH of places to trim a bit here and there. Including lowering credit card rates by calling (the saved finance charges each month count toward your total). Or you just review and save what you can. If it's not 10 bucks a day, it may be soon.

September 15, 2008 at 6:18 PM

 
Blogger Abby said...

Sorry Shtinkykat. I didn't meant to refer to you as Chatzky. This is clearly why I shouldn't try to multitask!

September 15, 2008 at 6:18 PM

 
Blogger blueviolet said...

I do like her common sense approach very much!

September 18, 2008 at 4:05 PM

 

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