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Oprah's Debt Diet What It Is and How You Can Benefit from It

In February 2006, Oprah Winfrey challenged her television viewers and all other Americans to get out of debt. If you are currently suffering from debt than you know that it is difficult to overcome. That is why Oprah and a number of financial experts developed the Oprah Debt Diet.

Oprah's Debt Diet includes a step-by-step guide on overcoming debt. It is important to note that getting out of debt will not happen over night. That is why Oprah's step-by-step guide is important because it helps debt ridden individuals change their daily habits over time. If you are currently searching for a way out of debt you are encouraged to read on and learn a few of the steps in Oprah's Debt Diet.

Step # 1 - Determine Exactly How Much Debt You Have

This first step is extremely important because it is impossible to get completely out of debt if you are unaware of all of your debt. The easiest way to determine how much debt you owe is by collecting all of your current and overdue bills or by requesting a copy of your credit report. Your credit report can easily be obtained from one of the three main credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

Step #2 - Eliminate Unnecessary Expenses

Like many other Americans, it is likely that you grab a soda or coffee while at work. Those items are expensive and they quickly add up. Did you know that simply by eliminating unnecessary purchases you could get out of debt a lot quicker than you may have originally thought? Tracking all of your purchases for one week is a great way to know what items you can live without purchasing.

Step #3 - Learn About the Credit Cards You Have

Many Americans are falling victim to late fees, annual fees, and high interest rates without even knowing it. The best way to prevent credit card debt is by knowing how your credit card works. It is also important to know that minimum payments may sound great, but in reality they are a financial death trap because they only keep you in debt longer. If you successfully follow step 2, you could use your extra money to make more than the minimum payments each month.

Step #4 - Learn to Cut Back on Your Spending Habits

Step 2 mentioned eliminating unnecessary purchases. Eliminating unnecessary purchases is a great way to get out of debt, but it can be difficult to do. Individuals who are unable to control their spending habits are encouraged to not carry credit or debit cards with them. If a credit card is used, it is important to make the payments on time and pay as much of it as you can. It is also important not to obtain new credit cards during this time or accept offers of increased spending limits.

Step # 5 - Develop a Monthly Spending Plan

A monthly spending plan, also commonly referred to as budget, is a great way to allocate money to necessary expenses. A monthly budget is the best because it can include holidays, birthdays, and other special events that only occur during certain months. Your budget should include all housing costs and expenses, transportation expenses, other miscellaneous expenses, and the debt that you owe.

Step #6 - Develop Ways to Increase Your Income

When developing a budget, there are many Americans who realize that they do not make enough money to pay for all of their expenses and debt. If you are one of those individuals then you may want to consider finding ways to obtain extra income. Extra income does not necessarily mean having to get a second job. It can also mean altering your lifestyle. The Debt Diet recommends going without a vehicle if possible and relocating if your current home expenses are too high.

Step #7 - Develop a Customized Plan to Get Rid of Your Debt

A customized plan can be developed simply by prioritizing your debt. This means that you will examine all of your debt and determine which debt you need to pay off first. The date of the debt, how much it is, and what can happen if you don't pay it should be examined when deciding what or who to payoff first.

Step #8 - Determine Why You Spend Money and Try to Change It

Many unnecessary purchases are made when individuals are feeling angry or depressed. It is also possible that you are an impulse buyer or that you may have a shopping addiction. Whatever the reason for your unnecessary purchases, there are ways to change it. Sometimes this process may require professional help, but other times it can simply be cured with other activities.

Oprah's Debt Diet worked for the guests on her show and there is no reason why it cannot work for you. As previously mentioned, getting out of debt is difficult and it will not happen over night. If you sway away from any of the above mentioned steps do not give up. Try as many times as it may take. Once you make the steps of the Oprah Debt Diet a part of your daily routine you will be on your way to being debt free.

Performance Contracting Helps Save on Energy Costs

To improve energy efficiency, some companies are doing more than just turning out the lights at the end of the day.

As soaring energy costs increasingly affect the bottom line of U.S. businesses, the "energy performance contract" has become an attractive solution for commercial building owners. This contract is a financing or operating lease offered by an energy service company, also known as an ESCO, to help businesses improve the energy efficiency of their buildings or facilities.

The key to energy performance contracting is to use long-term utility savings to fund the improvements. The ESCO often guarantees energy savings that will meet or exceed annual payments to cover all project costs, usually over a contract term of seven to 20 years.

"A building owner either pays a utility for an inefficient building, or they can pay an ESCO to improve their building," says Jeff Stokes, a vice president at World Energy Solutions, a publicly traded ESCO (symbol: WEGY) based in St. Petersburg, Fla.

World Energy Solutions strives to reduce kilowatt usage by up to 30 percent. The company offers a variety of services, including utility billing and rate analysis, energy auditing, installation of building improvements, building systems maintenance and ongoing monitoring and verification of the energy savings.

ESCOs can provide flexible and unique ways to finance their services. For example, World Energy Solutions offers to pay the

total up-front cost of installation as well as equipment maintenance in return for an 80 percent share of the actual savings realized over a minimum 10-year period.

"In some cases, our company will fund the entire installation, at no charge to our customer, and live off the savings we generate over a certain amount of time," says Ben Croxton, chief executive officer of World Energy Solutions.

ESCOs not only identify energy-saving opportunities, but also develop engineering designs and specifications and manage the entire process. They also can provide staff training and ongoing maintenance services.

Even the federal government has gotten into the act, and for good reason: Executive orders that require federal agencies to use 35 percent less energy by 2010 in comparison to 1985 levels will require $5 billion in energy projects. Much of that will go to "Super Energy Savings Performance Contracts," offered by the Department of Energy.