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Debt is an essential part of credit health. When used correctly, it can improve your credit scores and lead to positive things like better consumer offers, interest rates and more. When used poorly, it will accomplish the opposite. Debt utilization — how much debt you have in relation to your combined credit limit — represents 30% of your credit scores, so it’s essential to keep your balances low. Experts recommend keeping your debt below 30%, and ideally 10%, of your credit limit.

If you realize that you are exceeding this, or are simply searching for a new way to pay off debt, you may want to consider the following six creative ways to do so. A little creativity could speed up the process.

1. Sell Your Stuff

We all have clutter lying around the house, and yours could yield some serious cash. Consider ridding your closet of unused clothes, bags, electronics, books and other items you don’t use. You may want to place high-end merchandise on a bidding site to get the most from your sale, and hold a garage sale for the remaining items.

2. Rent Out Your Home

Do you live in a tourist-centric town? Are you comfortable with guests? Sites like Airbnb allow you to rent space to travelers at your discretion. You can rent a room, a floor or your entire house in exchange for a fee, using your home’s potential to earn some extra cash. A few paying guests could drastically improve your finances. Just make sure you are smart about this and do your research ahead of time — not every landlord or city allows tenants to use these services.

3. Use Your Creativity

Are you artistically-minded? Transform your passion into an income stream by forming a side business for one of the following:

  • Crafting: You may have a skill to handmake items that could sell well on sites like Etsy. The sky is the limit when it comes to your shop. You’ll find knitters, woodworkers, designers, jewelry-makers and more.
  • Catering: Does your food receive lots of compliments? Turn your culinary skills into a business by providing catering services. Whether it’s baked goods or full-fledged meals, busy families are always looking for a tasty alternative to fast food. Join your community’s Facebook group (or create your own) to share your services locally. Establishing a few regular clients is an effective way to earn a part-time income.
  • Freelance Writing: Communication is essential for every business, and freelance writers can take their laptop anywhere. Consider what types of writing you like (blogging, marketing, reporting) and what categories you could specialize in (travel, food, technology, etc.) and reach out to sites that meet these qualifications to see if they’re hiring.
  • Photography: Even amateur photographers can earn royalties for their photos. You can earn a commission when you submit your snaps to sites like Shutterstock, iStock Photo and Dreamstime.
  • Design: Logos, fonts, websites — all of these are created by designers. Businesses and bloggers rely on visuals to deliver their message and engage clients.

4. Become an Affiliate

Have you ever wondered how successful bloggers earn money? For many, affiliate marketing is the answer. Retailers often thrive on word-of-mouth recommendations, and most offer some type of compensation for your reviews. While major brands like Target and Amazon typically have their own affiliate programs, others are managed by marketing networks. Adding affiliate links to your content is an effective way to create passive income and influence others with your opinions. (Note: The Federal Trade Commission requires disclosure of affiliate relationships. Be sure to include a disclaimer at the beginning of any post that contains links and ensure your pages are meeting the guidelines.)

5. Use Your Couch Time

According to recent Nielsen data, American adults watch just more than five hours of TV per day. Wasting half a workweek on the couch may seem appealing, but it won’t help you earn extra money and pay off your debts. Use your time wisely by looking for income-earners that you can accomplish at home and maybe without leaving the couch. Fill out surveys, test websites or even work as a customer service representative.

6. Pay Less For Everything

Sticker price can be the enemy of debt reduction, so it’s time to look for deals for everything you buy. For example, suppose you plan to shop online for clothes at American Eagle. A quick search on Ebates reveals an instant 4% rebate, earning you $8 cash back on the $200 bill. It may seem like a measly reward, but small efforts can add up quickly.

Strengthen your savings by adopting a new lifestyle. Aim for a budget-wide cut of a percentage you feel comfortable with and look for coupons before making a purchase.

Paying off debt is a process, but it doesn’t need to be a difficult one. Consider your skills and interests and find new ways to build your finances, pay off your debts and likely improve your credit in the process. To see how your debt-reduction plan is affecting your credit scores, you can view two of your credit scores for free, updated monthly, on Credit.com.

Image: Yuri_Arcurs

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