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Living Without Credit

Living Without Credit
Living Without Credit

    Picture this: I’m 18, going to college, living 3,000 miles away from home. I stop in at a music store and fiddle around with one of the keyboards there. It’s nice. I strike up a conversation with one of the salespeople. He’s nice. He asks if I’d like to buy the keyboard I’m playing. I tell him I couldn’t possibly, since it’s a good $2000 out of my range. He introduces me to store credit. A couple hours later, I’m setting up this glorious keyboard in my dorm room.

    When I went home for winter break, I took the keyboard with me. And almost got the whipping of my life when my dad found out what I’d done: over $100 a month for 24 months — and me a college student without a job. He made me put an ad in the paper, and I was lucky enough to sell the keyboard for about what I still owed on it.

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    You’d think I’d have learned my lesson then, but you’d be wrong. A few years later, I was planning a year abroad, just out of college. For emergency use, I got a secured credit card, one of those deals where you put $200 in an account and get a $300 credit limit.

    That wasn’t a bad move, really — during my year in Europe, it gave me a great deal of security, and I had arranged with my mother to make the $10 minimum payments until I got back. And when I got back I paid it off.

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    Problem is, I didn’t cancel it once I’d paid it off, and pretty soon started getting more offers for “better” credit cards. $1000 limit. $2500 limit. Gold card. Platinum card. I was living in New York by then and traveling a lot and making pretty good money and before I knew it I had racked up $20,000 in credit card debt.

    Then I got laid off. And suddenly the $500 a month I was paying in minimum payments wasn’t feasible. I fell behind. Then I fell really behind. Accounts were canceled, and charged off, and sent to collection agencies. It was a mess.

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    I’ve spent years dealing with that mess, and to be honest I’m still working on it. I don’t have an advice to offer on debt recovery — it’s a slow, painful, messy process, and frankly I’m not that good at it. One thing I have become good at since my credit score plummeted is living without credit.

    It seems impossible, in this online era with cash becoming rarer and rarer, but it’s not impossible. In fact, there are a lot of good reasons to live without credit:

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    • It forces you to live within your means. When I had charge cards, I could always rationalize a big purchase. “$400? That’s only $12 a month!” Twelve dollars doesn’t seem like a lot of money, does it? Or else, I’d tell myself I’d pay it off next month — and next month, there was always some pressing cost that kept me from paying off my balance. Without credit, I simply can’t do that — there’s nothing to spend when my bank account balance reaches zero. There’s no way to push costs into the future — I can only spend what I have, when I have it.
    • Things cost what they cost. That $400 purchase I just mentioned? Taking into account interest and annual fees, it could easily cost $1000, $2000, or even more, making only minimum monthly payments. These costs get buried in the sum total of charges — you pay off a little and charge a little more, pay off a little and charge a little more, and pretty soon you have no idea what you’re paying for or how much you’re paying for it. Without credit, I walk in to the store, pay $400 cash, and that’s it: $400, period. Or, more often, I don’t pay $400, because I can’t afford it.
    • It forces you to discipline your spending. When you have $10,000 in available credit, it’s easy to get carried away. Living without credit means weighing every purchase, every expenditure, against your available cash. $400 seems like a lot more when it comes out of my monthly paycheck than when it comes out of a revolving line of credit with thousands of dollars to go before I max out. If there’s something I want, I have to work for it — either by finding a way to offset the expense or by saving up over time until I can afford it. Either way, impulse spending becomes impossible.
    • You can’t default on cash. Cash doesn’t call you at work, send threatening letters, or track you down through your references. You pay and that’s it.

    My biggest regret is that I didn’t realize all this at the time, and that I didn’t take steps to live without credit when it would have been a choice, rather than a forced exile. But I wouldn’t go back; if I somehow woke up with perfect credit tomorrow, I’d still keep to my credit-free lifestyle, for the reasons listed above.

    There are some inconveniences, of course. If you want to buy a house someday, you’ll probably want to have some credit history, although records of on-time utility payments and rent payments are often adequate (though who knows what the mortgage lending field will look like by the time the current meltdown works itself out?) Likewise, buying a car can be tricky.

    But that’s about it. Between my debit card and my PayPal account, I have no problems ordering online — PayPal even offers virtual credit cards for online ordering. Likewise, you can almost always use a debit card to make travel reservations or for rentals (sometimes they charge a deposit to your account which is then charged back when you pay the final bill, so you need to be able to cover both the deposit and the payment).

    It’s been six years since I made my last charge to a revolving account, and to this day I don’t miss it. I’ve found myself running short a couple of times, but to be honest, tightening my belt for a week or two doesn’t seem so bad next to the prospect of spending 20 years paying off the balance on a credit card. And while I’m still getting my house in order today, in ten years I’ll be in much better shape than I would be if I’d never screwed up and still held a pocket full of plastic.

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    Last Updated on November 3, 2020

    50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

    50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

    If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, maybe it’s time to check-in with your time management skills.

    No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!

    Here are 50 ways to increase productivity and add hours to your day.

    1. Set a Timer

    Estimate the time you need to tackle different tasks and set a timer for each of your tasks. How you go about this is up to you as there are many different ways. There is the Pomodoro technique where you focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break afterwards.

    In the event that you have a task that will take much longer than that, you can consider one of the many timer-based apps. One that comes to mind is Clockify. It’s used for freelancers and entrepreneurs alike, however it’s a good way to be setting yourself a timer. It provides reports and you can serve as a project manager of sorts too. Best of all, it’s free.

    Download Clockify here.

      2. Eliminate All Distractions

      Distractions include the phone, email notifications and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Just as it’s important to be organized offline, it’s key to have things organized online as well. One consideration is trying out Freedom an app that allows you to block certain sites during periods of time. Try it out on your phone here.

      You can also learn more on how to get rid of all distractions in this guide: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

      3. Listen to Music That Boosts Productivity

      Distractions should be avoided, but sometimes a bit of music in the background can help you focus.

      Of course, it doesn’t need to be heavy rock music, but a bit of Beethoven may do you some good.

      Here’s a complete guide to help you pick the right music for better productivity: How To Maximize Your Productivity With Music: A Complete Guide

      4. Find Meaning in What You Do (And Love What You Do)

      Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to increase your productivity.

      If you aren’t sure what you love doing yet, don’t worry. Leo Babauta has some unique ways to help you: How to Find Your Passion

      5. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.

      By listing your tasks in order of importance, you can make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks during the day.

      Learn a unique technique to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster.

      6. Batch Similar Tasks into a Single Batch.

      Tasks like blog writing, phone calls, email and errands can be grouped into a single batch. You will save time by completing similar tasks in one session. One way to help you with organizing all of those things is through the app Todoist. It’s an easy and simple way for you to plan out your day, set reminders, and group all of your most important tasks in a convenient spot.

      Download Todoist here.

        7. Complete Your Most Dreaded Tasks First Thing in the Morning.

        Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.

        Many people tend to check emails in the morning because after checking a list of emails, they feel fulfilled. But that’s just an illusion of having achieved more.

        Doing simple tasks like checking emails first in the morning is bad for you. Instead, do the difficult tasks because you have more energy in the morning to tackle them!

        8. Reward Yourself for Finishing a Big Task

        To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then.

        Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come!

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        Find out more about this 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself.

        9. Don’t Multitask

        Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. If you think you can multitask, think again.

        For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.

        10. Step Away from the Computer

        The Internet has become one of the number one distraction. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.

        I do this a lot when I try to brainstom new ideas and have found it to be very beneficial to simply unplug.

        11. Use Focus Tools

        Make good use of apps and technology to help you remove distractions.

        Here’re 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you stay focused. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM.

        12. Just Start

        Often times, starting is the hardest part. People tend to wait for the perfect time with perfect condition to start. But there’s no perfect condition.

        Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.

        13. Find out Your Productive Hours

        Everyone has a certain time of the day in which they are more productive than others. For me, it’s the morning.

        Find out when your prime time is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.

        14. Keep a Notebook and Pen on Hand at All Times

        This way, you can write down your thoughts, to-dos and ideas at any time. The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Your subconscious mind won’t be reminding you about it every other second. Another consideration is getting the app Evernote. Not only does this save you on ink and paper, Evernote is a convenient place for you to jot down notes and thoughts and then share them with the team. In certain circumstances, this can prove useful if you’re the type of person that has a lot of ideas that you want to share.

        Download Evernote here.

          15. Write a Blog to Chronicle Your Own Personal Development and Achievements

          The blog keeps you accountable and always working towards self improvement and personal growth.

          When you write down all the small achievements you’ve been having, you’re also more motivated to move forward.

          And you know what, this is how I started Lifehack too! What also helped me in starting Lifehack is WordPress, which allows people to set up a website for free. WordPress has simplified a lot of the process of building a site to the point that virtually anyone can build a website now.

          Try WordPress out here.

          16. Write out a To-Do-List Each Day

          I like to plan my day the night before. This way, I can get started on my most important tasks as soon as I wake up.

          Make sure you don’t make any of these common to-do-list mistakes!

          17. Write Your Most Important Tasks and To-Dos on a Calendar.

          The key to good time management is knowing where to be and what to be doing there at any given time. Effective calendar management goes hand in hand with good task list management.

          Learn here How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space.

          18. Reflect on Your Productivity Constantly

          As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself:

          “Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”

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          This one simple question can be an excellent boost to your productivity.

          19. Get up Early Before Anyone Else

          I know it could be difficult for some to wake up early in the morning but nothing beats a quiet house!

          Here’s How to Start Your Day at 5:00 AM and some Simple Things Early Risers Do to make waking up early easier.

          20. Get Plenty of Sleep

          When you work online, sleep can become a long lost memory. However, it’s important to get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.

          Try out this night routine which I highly recommend for productivity: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

          21. Exercise

          Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace.

          Take a short walk at lunch or do some simple stretches during your break to maximize your productivity.

          Here I have some exercises recommendations for you:

          22. Outsource as Much as Possible

          If you want to achieve more in less time, learn to delegate or outsource work. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:

          Also, read this guide to learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

          23. Set Some Exciting Goals

          Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.

          Set goals that are challenging and achievable. The best goal setting framework is a SMART goal. That said, there are other tools that can help you out as well.

          For example, Strides is an app that takes the SMART goal framework and amplifies it through reports, charts, and other helpful information to help you achieve your goals faster and regularly.

          You can download Strides here.

            24. Tell Other People About Your Goals

            When you tell others about your goals, you will instantly be held accountable.

            25. Listen to Podcasts

            Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner.

            Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it.

            Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

            26. Read David Allen’s best-selling book Getting Things Done

            This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done.

            Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

            27. Learn to Speed Read

            When you can read faster, you will read and learn more! Check out these 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed.

            You can also make use of the app OutRead to help speed up your reading speed!

            28. Learn to Skip When You Read

            When you’re reading a book, just read the parts that you need and skip the rest. But you have to read with a purpose.

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            Learn how to make it work here: How to Read 10X Faster and Retain More

            29. Focus on Result-Oriented Activities

            Pareto’s law (also known as the 80 20 rule) states that 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. This means that 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results.

            We must find the 20% that is creating the 80% of our desired outcomes and focus solely on those activities.

            30. Take a Break

            You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.

            31. Start a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

            What is polyphasic sleep?

            Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern specification intended to compress sleep time to 2-5 hours daily.[1] This is achieved by spreading out sleep into short (around 20-45 minute) naps throughout the day. This allows for more waking hours with relatively high alertness.

            While you can learn more about it here, you’re recommended to take some naps during the day to recharge your energy too.

            32. Learn to Say “No”.

            We can’t do everything and therefore we must learn when to say no in order to save our sanity.

            Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No from Leo Babauta.

            33. Go on an Information Diet

            Most of the world lives on information overload. We must eliminate mindless Internet surfing.

            Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.

            The key is to limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on. Here’re some simple tips you can try: 10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

            34. Organize Your Office

            The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity. Optimize your time by organizing your office, setting up a system and dumping the junk.

            Check out these 21 Tips to Organize Your Office and Get More Done.

            35. Find a Mentor

            By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

            A good mentor is hard to find, so here’s a guide to help you: What to Look for in a Mentor

            36. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

            With technology’s help, you can double your work efficiency. Even better, you learn all the shortcuts when using technology, for example keyboard shortcuts.

            When you use keyboard shortcut, you gain 64 hours every year!

            Not sure what shortcuts to lear? Check out these 22 Tricks That Can Make Anyone A Keyboard Ninja.

            Besides learning the shortcuts, you can also create keyboard shortcuts with AutoHotKey.

            37. Improve Your Typing Speed to Save Time

            Do you know you can save 21 days per year just by typing fast?

            You don’t really need to take some serious courses to type faster, try these typing games online:

            38. Work from Home and Avoid the Daily Commute

            If your job is a flexible one, consider working from home. This saves you the commute time and you’ll find yourself more energetic throughout the day as you have saved the long ride.

            Take a look at these tips to help you stay productive while working from home:

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            How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

            39. Get Rid of Time Wasters

            Common time wasters include Instant Messenger, video games, Flickr, checking your stats 10 times a day, television and extraneous Internet surfing.

            Don’t rely on your willpower, make use of some of these useful tools to help you stay focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

            40. Plan Your Meals in Advance

            Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well.

            Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.

            Pick up Mealime here.

              41. Cook Your Meals in Bulk

              When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday.

              Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

              42. Protect Yourself from Unnecessary Phone Time with Caller ID

              The minutes you spend on picking up unnecessary phone calls are time wasted. You can prevent that from happening.

              Check out this detailed guide how you can deal with those unnecessary phone calls: How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day – Cellphone Calls

              43. Take Shorter Showers

              This one may sound silly but it’s actually something I struggle with. I spend up to 30 minutes in the shower. Think of the time I could save simply by speeding up a bit.

              44. Save the Trips to Bank by Taking Direct Deposit

              Many employers now offer direct deposit. If yours does, then be sure and take advantage of it and save yourself from a number of trips to the bank.

              45. Auto Pay Your Bills

              How many times have you been worried about whether you missed the bills deadline?

              Auto paying your bills will save you time and eliminate late fees and increased interest rates.

              46. Shop Online

              Whenever possible, avoid going to the store. When you shop online, you can be more focus about what you’re getting.

              47. Speed up your Internet with a broadband connection.

              Many people are aware of the slow speed of internet but aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, this is the number one Internet time-saver!

              If you must use dial-up, then you can use accelerators like Propel and SlipStream to double or even triple your speed.

              48. Keep up the Speed of Your Computer

              If you’re a Windows user, use Windows hibernation feature to avoid the slowdown of exiting and restarting Windows.

              Or maybe, consider switching to Mac as there’re plenty of Advantages You Probably Don’t Know About Switching To Mac From PC.

              49. Turn off the TV.

              The average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. Over a 65-year life, that’s 9 years glued to the tube.

              For better health and productivity, turn off the TV. Here’re 11 more reasons to tell you to stop watching TV so often.

              Turn off the TV and you are sure to get more out of life.

              50. Use a Tivo or DVR.

              This can help you cut an hour-long television show down to just 40 minutes. You can save time while not missing the fun.

              So, here’s the ultimate list of techniques you should learn to boost productivity. Pick the techniques that work for you and make them your daily habits. As time goes, you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive.

              More Time Management Tips

              Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

              Reference

              [1] Medical News Today: What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

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