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5 Steps to Lower Your Financial Stress When You’re Drowning in Debt

“You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.” ~Timber Hawkeye

I never anticipated the stress and pressure that come when you are no longer able to pay your bills on time.

Knowing that you owe money, and that your current income isn’t going to cover it, is a heavy reality to face.

I found myself starting to envy low-income, salaried employees. Even though they don’t earn a lot, which I’m sure brings its own challenges, they aren’t eligible to receive huge credit. This protects them from ever finding themselves owing millions.

My husband and I have recently gone through a time when we found ourselves way overextended. Due to a series of bad beats and various twists of fate, we found ourselves in over our heads. And this is not a good space to be in.

It’s a sickening feeling that has seemed to overshadow all the other areas of our lives. We’ve felt unable to breathe, knowing that debt is hanging over us. When the phone rings from an unknown number, we’re hesitant to answer it. It could be someone wanting to know when we will pay a bill.

Small Beginnings

It didn’t start out like this. Let me backtrack. I grew up on a farm in an average-income-earning household. Although we didn’t lack for anything, we weren’t wealthy.

My husband and I married early on in life and started out with very little. We set up a small business from home soon after we got married. I was halfway through studies at the time and managed to juggle both. Our expenses were minimal, and even though it felt like hard work, we seemed to prosper.

Friends would comment and say we had the Midas touch. As the business grew and branched out, money always seemed to be plentiful. We didn’t start out intending to reach a massive bank balance. Our aim had been to reach financial independence sooner than later. Words like “budget” or “frugalness” never seemed to enter our thinking though.

Over the years, we upgraded our living, our home, our cars. We took overseas holidays and bought properties. As our affordability increased, so did our expenses. In a short space of time, we up-leveled our lifestyle requirements.

The Storm

The stress and anxiety of knowing you are unable to catch up on financial commitments is scary. We had some business ventures fail, we bought out a partner, there was a notable economic downturn. We had new competitors enter the market that we could no longer match, as our running costs had become so high.

Then things came to a boiling point; a perfect storm was in the making. A few clients didn’t pay for larger projects. This meant we had to put out money to complete the work, but nothing was coming in. Our rental property didn’t have a tenant in it for a few months, and major maintenance needed doing. Staff went on strike, and several employees had to get retrenched and paid out.

The strain on our marriage was palpable. The weightiness of the situation was hard to bear. There wasn’t going to be a quick-fix solution. We had to rally, face this storm head on, and ride it out over the next two years.

Downsizing

We took massive action to downscale. It’s very easy to upscale and commit to new financial obligations. Downscaling is hard because it feels like you’re taking a step backward. And in a sense, you are, although you’re going back to go forward.

The new forward for me looks like being out of debt. The new goal is to have a business buffer of funds available to get through unexpected setbacks. We never want to experience the stranglehold of debt again. No fancy dining or luxury goods are worth the stress and worry of financial pressure.

And so, we downscaled throughout the business. Everything got cut back down to size. All the unnecessary extras we didn’t need got cut away. We opted to move home. We cut our rental amount by a third.

I swapped my shiny floors and designer fittings for a modest, old-school, rustic duplex. We no longer have to worry about hiring a gardener or keeping the pool clean. We cut up our credit cards and canceled every debit order we could.

We Have Everything We Need

To be honest, we still lived well and had everything we needed. But only just. When our new large screen TV stopped working, a month or so out of warranty, we started to use an old spare one we had in the garage. When winter came around, I took my allocated winter clothes budget and put it toward better use. That year I made do with what I had. Priorities dictated there were more pressing things to spend on.

My motto became “If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.” Look for cheaper alternatives. This may be obvious to people who earn a set income and aren’t in a position to over-spend. But it seemed I had to re-learn it.

For a year, my children didn’t get any new toys. In fact, I packed all the old ones away, only took out a few at a time, and tried to think of creative ways we could play with them.

By the time Christmas rolled around, there was a financial improvement, so we spoiled the children with presents. The funny thing is, the novelty of the new toys wore off quickly. They didn’t seem to play with the new ones any more than they did the old ones. It seemed the more they had, the less they appreciated it.

If you’re going through something similar—if you’re drowning in debt and need to claw your way out—perhaps my lessons may help.

5 Steps to Lowering Financial Stress

1. Know exactly where you stand.

Get all your financials listed on a spreadsheet. Open communication is key between the role-players involved. List all your debt, liabilities, and expenses, and your income, investments, and assets.

The starting point is to gain clarity on where you stand. You need to know how far you have fallen behind so you can plan to rectify your situation as soon as possible.

It’s easy to start blaming or regretting or going around in “if only I had done this” circles. We had made one bad judgment call, and that may have changed everything. In hindsight it seems so obvious, but at the time we did what we thought was best.

We had to stop hypothesizing and going back over bad decisions. We needed to work as a team, and now more than ever, we had to support each other, and not go back to “we should’ve.”

2. Make a plan.

After getting a realistic view on where exactly you stand, you can start working on a plan.

Although we felt like throwing in the towel, we had to get our mindset right.

There are usually more options than you think to get things back on track. Under stress we tend to go into survival mode, and this isn’t conducive to creative problem solving.

Try to take the emotion of the situation away when you start to problem solve. Imagine this scenario is happening to someone else, and you’re there to help figure it out with them. You will need to research various options.

Try to make a plan, even if your initial plan changes along the way. It’s important to gain back your sense of control.

Communicate with the role-players. If you owe the bank or your credit providers, call them and meet up to discuss options. Ask for extensions. Get advice from people who have gone through similar experiences.

3. Live within your means.

Cut everything back to what is manageable. Yes, you will feel like you have lost some of your status. We moved from a prestigious housing estate to a random lower end suburb. It was a major personal downgrade, but I’ve come to learn that we are so much more adaptable than we realize. We actually need very little to live comfortably.

We cut back on luxury items and learned the art of patience. Instead of buying on demand, if I wanted something, I would wait until I could afford it. I found that by doing this, it also eliminated impulse purchases. After waiting and giving it more thought, often I decided I didn’t need that item anyway.

We had to get in touch what is most important. When you have only a limited supply to work with, you have to focus on what’s a priority. You need to weigh up the options and decide where you will get the most value for money.

We implemented a budget, where we allocated amounts for the month, so we could plan to get through.

4. Get back to your intrinsic values.

Both my husband and I have never been particularly materialistic. We love quality products, but we’ve never been into flashy status items, although we’ve certainly grown accustomed to the finer things in life.

During our financial crisis, we had to come back to our core values and to the intrinsic value of things. I got to a point when I realized, it doesn’t matter if we lose everything; our health and well-being are most important. We can start over again if we have to.

I stopped fearing the worst and worrying and stressing. Instead I became fascinated by how the whole experience unfolded. I tried to learn and glean from this what I could.

A few key lessons from my experience:

  • I never want to be in this situation again, so I’ll need to maintain these changes.
  • I only need to get through one day at a time.
  • Laughing through tough times is much better than crying through them.
  • To be a strong team, you can’t have internal conflict.
  • We had to accept the situation and make the best of it.

A few things we did to get back to our values:

  • We started to value every penny again.
  • We focused on all we did have, not on all we didn’t have.
  • We forgave and moved on.
  • We left karma to deal with our wrongdoers.
  • We tried to cultivate a long-term vision, and this was merely a glitch in the road.

5. Practice gratitude and generosity.

Not your typical response when the financial pressure is on. But when you have little, it’s easier to be grateful for the small things in life. If you have a lot, it’s more difficult to be mindful of and value the small things. You tend to develop bigger and better expectations when you have much.

We stopped expecting and taking things for granted. We started for be more thankful for everyday things.

I tried to remain generous, if not with monetary resources, with what I could be generous with. A smile, a text message of encouragement to someone. A flower picked out the garden and given with a hand-written note. Or a listening ear might be what someone else needs. Too often we are so caught up in our own drama, we fail to consider what others are going through.

As we give to those less fortunate, we start to appreciate our great wealth. It puts things back into perspective.

6. Calm yourself while you get through the storm.

This experience has definitely taught me that we can’t control life. We can plan and set goals, but ultimately a lot of things are out of our hands. Life happens, and it doesn’t always unfold how we imagined it would.

During these times you have to find your inner grit. Your character gets tested and refined. You start to move way out your comfort zones and you land up somehow expanding but not breaking.

And just when you think you can’t take withstand the storm anymore, you look back and notice how far you’ve come. You realize how much you’ve grown, and you’re stronger than ever.

Things that helped me get through:

  • Find my composure daily through meditating, deep breathing, consciously releasing muscle tensions when I notice it, practicing self-compassion, celebrating small wins, and staying focused on the bigger picture
  • Remember “This too shall pass”
  • Don’t give in to self-pity or start whining to others
  • Take responsibility for my part in getting here
  • Remember that there is always more money to be made
  • Don’t give way to scarcity thinking
  • Sell or offload what I don’t need
  • Think out the box how to re-structure
  • Keep my life simple

I’m glad to report we are well on our way to righting our finances. I honestly wouldn’t trade this experience or go back in time and change things. It hasn’t been pleasant, but I’ve learned so many valuable lessons that I will take with me going forward.

As we build up again, we are going to keep our expenses under control. We are going to be a lot more cautious, and never over-extend ourselves again. We will never enter into bad debt again.

This time has made me respect the beauty and harsh reality of life and tread a little lighter as I move through it.

About Sam Theron

Sam specializes in helping woman declutter their lives. She coaches them on how to organize and design a life that suits them best. She is now offering online courses where you can work with her virtually. Sam resides in sunny South Africa and loves yoga and being in the ocean. You can learn more about Sam Theron here.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post 5 Steps to Lower Your Financial Stress When You’re Drowning in Debt appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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Rightmessage Review: Add Personalization and Grow Your Digital Product

If you’ve been blogging for a while, then you probably have an email marketing campaign set up for your blog.

Growing an email list has been proven to be effective in increasing website traffic and converting visitors to customers.

Because of this, it’s important that your email campaign is relevant to your subscribers. You don’t want a huge email list with low open or click rates.

Unfortunately, not all your subscribers signed up to your list for the same reason. Some might have signed up just to get the free e-book you promised, without any interest in reading the rest of your emails. Others might have signed up expecting to receive specific information. And the rest, well, they were probably just curious.

Enter RightMessage.

It’s a brilliant tool for knowing exactly why a person visits your site, giving you the power to deliver content that is relevant to them based on their answers.

It’s simple yet it solves a problem that most e-mail marketing tools can not.

What is RightMessage?

RightMessage is branded as a website personalization software. It installs a code in your site so it can capture answers to survey-type questions that you set up. Once a visitor answers one or more of these questions, they are immediately added to a field/tag in your email marketing software.

It’s a great way to segment your users. Especially if you are using modern email-marketing services like Convertkit, Aweber, Hubspot, ClickFunnels or any other, RightMessage is what you should also be using.

Also see:

How To Use ConvertKit’s New Visual Automation Feature 🤔

Head to their website and you’ll see a testimonial from online entrepreneur Pat Flynn, claiming that this tool made him over $100k worth in customer sales.

How to Setup RightMessage

RightMessage works with any Content Management System including WordPress, Shopify, Leadpages, and Squarespace.

When you sign up (they have a 14-day free trial), you’ll be taken through several steps.

  • Choose a business type: Select what kind of business you are promoting with your website. This can be changed after the welcome phase.
  • Choosing the questions for your site visitors

You can choose from a list of suggested questions or create your own.

  • Edit the widget

You are given a preview of the widget that will appear on your site. You can click on the heading to edit it, or click the Add button on the bottom to add more choices.

You can also change the appearance of the widget by clicking on the gear icon on the top-right corner.

In addition to changing the appearance, you can also change the widget position, the trigger (when the widget appears), enabling/disabling for mobile, etc.

  • Integrate with email service provider

Now, it’s time to connect RightMessage with an email service provider.

If you don’t see your email provider here, you can still use RightMessage’s data to learn about your site visitors and create a strategy accordingly.

  • Install the script to your website

You’ll be given a script with instructions on how to add it onto your site.

  • Publish RightMessage to your site

After verifying that the script is successfully installed in your site, you can publish your first RightMessage widget to your site.

The dashboard will show you what steps you’ve done in the process. You’ll notice a Publish button on the top right corner and you’ll also see the questions you’ve set up.

All you need to do here is click on the Publish button.

How your website visitors will see RightMessage

Depending on where you set it up and which trigger you chose, the RightMessage widget should be somewhere on the bottom of your site when it pops up.

How RightMessage works with email

The most interesting (and rather technical) feature of RightMessage is connecting the data with your email list.

Syncing gathered data with email provider

When a subscriber or visitor who later opts in your list answers one of the questions on the site’s widget pop-up, you can set up RightMessage so that it saves the information into the subscriber’s account information via a special field.

This field can then be used to automatically put that subscriber into a segment based on his answer.

As an example below, I’ve setup ActiveCampaign and created a field called Rightmessage to record my subscribers’ answers.

Auto-segmentation

In addition to syncing subscriber data to your email software, RightMessage also lets you control who can see the widget on your site. These “conditions” are applied to each question on the widget.

In the example above, anonymous or unsubscribed site visitors and subscribers can view the personalization widget on the site.

You can also set conditions to a referring domain or URL, or if the visitor came from a different page of your website.

Pricing

RightMessage has a monthly and annual subscription fee which depends on the number of subscribers.

Starting at 10,000 subscribers, you can sign up for the Survey Plan ($19/month), the Enrich Plan ($29/month), or the Personalize Plan ($79/month).

Do You Need RightMessage?

Now that you understand how this tool works, you might be asking yourself if you need this for your website.

Here are some reasons why you might need RightMessage:

  • You’re in the early stages of launching a product but you want precise customer research
  • You have more than one product/service and you want to sell it to different customer groups
  • You want to take your email marketing to the next level
  • You value each visitor that comes to your site
  • You want to segmenet your existing email list
  • You want to grow your sales

There are more reasons why someone would want to use RightMessage, but these are the most common ones.

RightMessage Review: Conclusion

RightMessage is another useful tool that will help make your email strategy more personal — and less scripted. In a world where promotional emails all say the same thing to everyone, this software is a breath of fresh air.

With that being said, it’s not a must-have tool, but it’s a nice-to-have.

If you want to pursue a meaningful relationship with your email subscribers, then RightMessage can make that happen for you.

Here are a few hand-picked guides for you to read next:

Rightmessage Review: Add Personalization and Grow Your Digital Product is a post from ShoutMeLoud – Shouters Who Inspires

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How To Write SEO Friendly Content (Beginner To Advanced)

Do you want to write SEO friendly content?

Well, this is an art which could take your blog or your writing career to the next level.

Anyone can write an article, but it takes special kind of practice to write SEO optimized articles.

In this article, I will share some tips for writing SEO-optimized articles that will rank better in search engines.

I run multiple blogs and we have several authors working day and night to keep these sites updated with fresh, quality content. Sometimes, however, quality can drop (which usually happens due to a lack of knowledge).

Every blog post is like a web page in terms of search engine ranking and you can optimize each post with specific keywords for search engines.

When writing these SEO friendly articles, there are several things that you should keep in mind.

Whenever I hire a new author to work on one of our blogs, I have to give them manual inputs and checklists to help them to write better articles. Apart from selecting topics, there is a complete SEO checklist that must be followed.

(Note: I used to send this information out in an email to all the authors in my blog network. So I thought it would be a good idea to compile all of this information into a post. This way, ShoutMeLoud readers will also benefit from this information and learn how to write SEO articles as well.)

Also, note that in this post I will not be covering keyword research as keyword research requires a detailed post of its own.

For more on keyword research, check out:

Writing SEO-Optimized Articles:

Start with research:

If you really want to make a difference for yourself or for your clients, without research, you are simply shooting in the dark.

In this stage, you want to determine a few things:

  • Keyword to target
  • Length of the article
  • Type of the article
  • Analyze existing articles for outline
  • People also ask questions

Do yourself a favor and get a tool like Ahrefs or SEMRUSH first. They both offer trial which will help you to do better research your topic and help in proper optimization of Keyword. These tools will help you to understand what is the right keyword you should be targeting.

Type of content:

Also, put your target keyword in the Google search to see what kind of articles are currently ranking. This is part of the research and will help you understand what kind of article Google think is better for such queries.

You may notice some pattern in the search result. For example, certain queries will only show listicles as shown in below screenshot:

Length of the article:

Use a free tool like SEO Rambler to identify what is the common length of articles that are ranking for your target keyword. This will give you an idea of how lengthy your article should be to stand a chance to rank on the first page.

SEO Word limit

As shown in the screenshot above, the first-page average word for my target keyword is 2445 and average for the top three average is 3576. I would naturally ensure that my SEO optimized article should be at least 3600+ words. I have actually talked about this in-depth in my earlier guide on “Long-form content for SEO“.

Alright, once we are ready with these data, now is the time to create an outline.

Analyze the top 10 results for your target keyword. I know it’s a lot of tasks but again, SEO writing is not easy and so is ranking #1.

Based on your understanding, create an outline of your content. It’s a good time to learn about brainstorm and outline from this free guide.

People also ask:

Search for your target keyword in Google search and it will show a section called “people also ask”.

Pick the questions that make sense with your article intent and answer them in your article. But, don’t stop here, as when you click on one of the questions, Google will add more questions after that.

This is one smart way to ensure your SEO optimized content answers queries that people are looking for.

Alright, now it’s time to start writing and optimizing your article for SEO.

Now, I use WordPress as my content management system and even if you are using something else, the next tips on SEO copywriting remain applicable to you. If any perticular step doesn’t make sense for you, do check our comment section as it is full of useful questions and answers.

1. Post Title and Meta Title

First, you need to understand the difference between post title and meta title.

  • Post title: How your reader sees the title of the post on your website.
  • Post meta title: How search engines show your post in search results.

If you have not specified a meta title in your SEO settings, your post title will be treated as the meta title.

  • It is important to have your keywords in the meta title.

You can read more about this here:

Pro Tip: Keep your post titles less than 66 characters.

2. Post Meta Description

Every WordPress SEO plugin allows you to add meta descriptions to a post. These descriptions play a major role in search engine ranking.

Think of a meta description as a sales copy for your blog post:

  • In 156 characters, you need to add your keywords and create a description that is seductive enough for users to click on it.

If you have not added meta descriptions in the past, you should start doing it immediately. Make sure to add your main keyword in meta description and make it intent driven.

SEO optimized blog post WordPress

Meta descriptions are very important.

You should go back to any of your previously published posts which do not have a meta description and add one.

By optimizing your post meta descriptions, you are ensuring that every post you write has the potential to drive a maximum amount of traffic to your site.

Google sees every blog post as a different web page so you can rank every post for certain keywords.

Meta descriptions are great places to put keywords.

3. Image Alt Attribute

Google can’t read images.  

  • Text is how Google recognizes an image.

To ensure that search engines can understand what an image is about, you must be sure to use proper image names.

Many people make the mistake of uploading images with names like image001.jpg.

  • This is a huge mistake!

When naming an image, keep the name relevant to the image itself.

For example, if you take a screenshot of an AdSense dashboard, and you name the image “AdSense”, it will not be targeted. Instead, you need to use a name like “AdSense-dashboard”. This way, when people search for an image at Google Image Search, they will land on an image in one of our blog posts.

You can always manually add alt attributes when you upload an image.

I have seen positive results when using keywords in image anchor text ( and also when naming an image), so you should at least use keywords in your image alt text.

4. Interlink and Anchor Text

When writing a new post, it’s always a good idea to link back to old blog posts so that readers will stick around your site for longer and also so that search engines can re-crawl these old posts.

This helps in better navigability of your site which reduces the bounce rate- another important SEO factor.

When you interlink, you should use the anchor text technique.

Simply put, when you link to a blog post, you see an option to add a link and a title.

Make sure to fill out the post title with the main keywords for the post that you are linking to.

At ShoutMeLoud, we also use a plugin called SEO Smart Links for automatic internal linking.

5. Remove STOP words from Permalink

Words like “a” “an” “the” and many others which are listed here are ignored by the search engine.

Our post titles usually contain lots of stop words.

So for example, when we write a post with the title:

  • 3 Ways to Make a Blog Business Plan

Our post permalink, by default, would be:

  • domain.com/3-ways-to-make-a-blog-business-plan.html

“To” and “a are stop words in the example above.

You can click on edit permalink and change the permalink to “blog-business-plan”, thus eliminating the stop words.

  • Important Note: Never change your post permalink once the post is published.

6. H1, H2, H3 Headings

Using the right heading tags is another important aspect of SEO copywriting.

You must not ignore one of the most important aspects of SEO:

  • Using proper H1, H2, and H3 heading tags.

By default, in any SEO-optimized theme, the post title uses an H1 heading tag. So for the next sub-heading, you can use an H2 heading, and then an H3 heading, and so on.

It is always a good idea to use proper heading tags for effective SEO writing, especially when you are writing a long post.

Please refer to this post and this post for a better understanding of how to use heading tags within blog posts.

According to the SEO community, it’s a good idea to use your keywords in H1, H2, and H3 tags. At the time of creating your outline (In the research phase), you should decide what your heading tags should be.

Final Checklist:

  • Research for keyword
  • Identify the right word limit
  • Scout Google to find the right format for your article
  • Create an outline by analyzing the top 10 results
  • Make a list of questions from “people also ask” section of the search
  • Post title for readers & meta title for search engine (keywords in titles).
  • Post meta description (optimize it for better CTR and use your target keyword once).
  • Image Alt text (use keyword).
  • Interlink within a post using good anchor text.
  • Post permalink (remove stop words from permalink).
  • Use proper heading tags (keywords in H1, H2, H3 tags).

For more SEO article writing tips, check out:

Let us know if you have any questions or if you have any other SEO writing suggestions. Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Do you know someone who can benefit from the information in this post? Share it with them on LinkedIn or Twitter.

How To Write SEO Friendly Content (Beginner To Advanced) is a post from ShoutMeLoud – Shouters Who Inspires