debt http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/805/all en-US 6 Warning Signs That You Need to Stop Using Your Credit Cards http://www.wisebread.com/6-warning-signs-that-you-need-to-stop-using-your-credit-cards <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/6-warning-signs-that-you-need-to-stop-using-your-credit-cards" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/cutting-credit-card-78725890-small.jpg" alt="cutting credit card" title="cutting credit card" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>In romantic relationships, career choices, even struggles with drugs and alcohol, professionals often ask us to look out for warning signs. Well the same should be done with credit cards. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/12-habits-of-highly-responsible-credit-card-users?ref=seealso">12 Habits of Highly Responsible Credit Card Users</a>)</p> <p>According to the Federal Reserve, average household credit card debt in the U.S. is more than $15,000 in 2014. If you have <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-signs-that-your-credit-card-spending-is-out-of-control?ref=inarticle">credit card debt</a> anywhere near that high, it's probably a sign that you should cut up your credit cards right this minute. But that kind of debt doesn't pile up overnight, and many of the warning signs are much more subtle.</p> <p>Here are six signs you should kill your credit card sooner rather than later.</p> <h2>1. You Shop When You're Sad</h2> <p>They don't call it &quot;retail therapy&quot; for nothing. Research has found that hauling something new home at the end of a hard day really does have a &quot;<a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mar.20404/abstract">lasting positive impact on mood</a>.&quot; In this same study, 62% of respondents also admitted to buying things to cheer themselves up. But there's a catch.<a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/08/the-loneliness-loop-why-feeling-sad-makes-us-shop-and-shopping-makes-us-sad/278443/"> It also makes you lonelier</a> and less able to form meaningful connections with the people around you. It's what economists call a &quot;loneliness loop.&quot; In other words, it's something you can get stuck in. If you're using your credit card to dig yourself out of an emotional hole, you may end up in a huge financial one instead.</p> <h2>2. You Spend More Than You Mean To</h2> <p>When you're faced with temptation while holding a card that can buy $10,000 worth of stuff in a single swipe, any budget you may have set for yourself can easily be &quot;forgotten.&quot; Research suggests that <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/retail-therapy/201306/why-we-overspend-credit">overcoming the urge to overspend on a credit card</a> is a tough hurdle for many psychological reasons, but they all boil down to the fact that it simply hurts less to pay with credit (at least in the short term.) If you are often shocked by the size of your credit card bill (even if you're still able to pay it or pay most of it), it may time to kill your credit card for a while and learn to shop on a budget.</p> <h2>3. You Don't Remember What You Bought</h2> <p>Have you ever had a look at your credit card bill and been totally baffled by several of the purchases? When did you spend $50 on a restaurant meal? What on earth is that $250 charge for? Did you really go out shopping three times in one month? Credit card bills tend to come well after we've enjoyed the goods they purchased, but if you can't remember much of what you've bought, you're probably spending on things that aren't that important to you. Over time, those kinds of shopping habits can lead to real financial trouble. If your credit card bill shocks you, it may be time to do away with that card before the balance does you in. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-your-credit-card-statement-is-keeping-you-in-debt?ref=seealso">How Your Credit Card Statement Keeps You in Debt</a>)</p> <h2>4. You Shop for Points You Can't Afford</h2> <p>We've all heard stories about people who've scored 'round-the-world, all-expenses-paid vacations by racking up <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/top-5-travel-reward-credit-cards?ref=inarticle">credit card rewards</a> and flight miles. It happens. Those people really do exist. But trying to emulate them is a bit like signing up for your first marathon and expecting to be in the lead; it isn't something that most people are able to achieve. And, what's much more common than people who get free stuff by using their credit cards are people who pay thousands and thousands of dollars in interest. If you can find a decent rewards card and pay it off in full every month, go ahead and rack up those points for a beach vacation. If you can't, you're more likely to end up broke, in debt, and at home. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/a-beginners-guide-to-miles-and-points?ref=seealso">Beginner's Guide to Miles and Points</a>)</p> <h2>5. You Often Use It to Buy the Basics</h2> <p>The golden rule of responsible credit card use is to avoid buying more than you can afford. If you often feel the need to use a credit card to buy <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-5-credit-cards-for-groceries?ref=inarticle">groceries</a>, gas, or other daily essentials, some part of your financial life is most likely off balance. Whether you need to earn more money or spend less of it on non-essentials, using a credit card to make up for shortfalls will only make the problem much worse. Credit cards are best used as a convenience, not a crutch. If you're using a card to prop yourself up and pay for everyday expenses, it may be time to kill it.</p> <h2>6. You Can't Bear the Thought of Putting It On Ice</h2> <p>Shopping &mdash; particularly when it's done using a credit card &mdash; can be addictive. If you're struggling to keep your debt under control and are making a bunch of disastrous financial decisions to do it, you probably know that your credit cards are a bad thing, that you should cut them up, throw them out, or at least shove them to the very back of the freezer where they won't tempt you as much. But, maybe, somehow, you just can't bear to do that. You don't want to go out without a credit card in your wallet. You don't want to remove the option. That sense of dependence is a serious red flag, and one that suggests that you should kill your credit cards before they snuff out any financial stability you may have left. If you can't do it alone, consider seeing a credit counselor for help.</p> <p>Killing your credit card can feel like a tough decision &mdash; until you consider the consequences. The real killer is the high-interest debt that credit cards can accumulate. If you're on a path toward financial destruction, it's time to wipe out those credit cards &mdash; before debt takes a swipe at your personal finances.</p> <p><em>How do you control credit card spending? Please share in comments.</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-warning-signs-that-you-need-to-stop-using-your-credit-cards" class="sharethis-link" title="6 Warning Signs That You Need to Stop Using Your Credit Cards" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tara-struyk">Tara Struyk</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Credit Cards credit credit card habits debt spending warning signs Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:00:05 +0000 Tara Struyk 1195552 at http://www.wisebread.com 10 Things You Should Do Now to Get Your Finances in Order for the Holidays http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-you-should-do-now-to-get-your-finances-in-order-for-the-holidays <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-things-you-should-do-now-to-get-your-finances-in-order-for-the-holidays" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/couple-paying-bills-90865837-small.jpg" alt="couple paying bills" title="couple paying bills" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>In a way, Black Friday has become a sort of ceremonial ribbon cutting for the holiday spending season in America. In reality, the groundwork to spend all that money during November and December can and should be laid during the months leading up to Thanksgiving. To put it succinctly, we should be financially prepared to handle the holidays well in advance of their arrival &mdash; because holiday shopping has a way of taking us by surprise and catching us off guard. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-avoid-holiday-debt-starting-now?ref=seealso">How to Avoid Holiday Debt &mdash; Starting Now</a>)</p> <p>We spend more money than we need to (often on things that nobody really wants) simply because we don't have a plan in place for managing our finances during a hectic time of the year. Understandably, we get busy and distracted, sidetracked with all of the travel, work, and family activities.</p> <p>The good news is that you don't need to leave it all to chance, or to the last minute. Get started now with these steps.</p> <h2>1. First and Foremost: Save for Holiday Shopping</h2> <p>Ideally, this is something you started doing last January, putting away $10 to $15 every week or so for holiday spending. If you're just now starting, simply up the amount. Try $25 to $30 once a week until mid-December. By then you'll have roughly $450, which is significant for many households and certainly for individuals buying for other family members. To help you plan your savings strategy even better, try something like Dave Ramsey's <a href="http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/custom-christmas-budget">Christmas budgeting tool</a>.</p> <h2>2. Know That Thoughtfulness Is Cheaper</h2> <p>Our tendency to buy gifts at the last minute ends up costing us far more money. Holiday marketing pushes us towards the more expensive items and, unfortunately, they're usually easier to buy. Dad gets new power tools; Mom gets a tablet of some kind; and kids get a new cell phone, computer, or gaming system. Those things are expensive, and despite the fact they're usually enjoyed, you don't always need to spend top dollar on that kind of stuff.</p> <p>Particularly if you're buying for someone in your family, think about keeping it personal. If you take the time to think about what would mean more to someone, you can often avoid the more expensive, conventional gifts.</p> <h2>3. Pay Off as Much Debt as Possible</h2> <p>It can be difficult to manage holiday spending under ideal financial situations, much less when debt is crowding out your cash flow. Make it a priority to pay down your debts now before the holiday season hits.</p> <h2>4. Tighten Your Budget &mdash; Now</h2> <p>The less you spend now, the easier it will be to handle the holiday spending rush when it eventually comes. Consider how much you want to participate in that rush. For example, if you really want to take advantage of Black Friday and do some heavy Christmas shopping in December, avoid store hopping in the months and weeks leading up to those events. Keep your budget tight and make sure you have enough extra cash flow for the budgeting we mentioned in step one.</p> <h2>5. Plan Who You Want to Buy For</h2> <p>Creating a Christmas roster does two things for you. First, it eliminates the risk of impulse buying for people that you weren't initially planning on getting anything for. Second, it gives you a grid by which to divide up the Christmas budget you created in step one. Perhaps you want to spend $75 on each of your children, $50 on your spouse, and so on.</p> <h2>6. Start Buying Gifts Now</h2> <p>If you do some Christmas shopping now and in the months leading up to December, you'll not only avoid some of the inflated holiday prices, but you'll also have less people to shop for during the weeks when the stores are annoyingly busy and overcrowded.</p> <h2>7. Set Aside Some Money for Travel</h2> <p>Putting cash away for travel doesn't mean that it has to cover the entirety of your holiday trip cost. What it should do is offset the cost of fuel, food, and whatever other travel expenses might come up. Try to set aside $30 for every day you plan to be away. It'll be a welcome break for your checking account in the middle of the holiday season.</p> <h2>8. Commit to Not Using a Credit Card</h2> <p>If you've gone through (or committed to going through) step three, don't get back into the habit of using your credit card for the holiday season. It's far too tempting to say, &quot;I'll just use it for Christmas shopping.&quot; Use a debit card or cash. If you must use a credit card, treat it as a debit card and pay the balance down quickly. Who wants to start the new year with that monkey on their back?</p> <h2>9. Track Your Expenses</h2> <p>Use a program like <a href="http://mint.com">Mint</a> to track your spending and see where your money is going now, to help you budget and save, and during the holiday season to help you stay on budget.</p> <h2>10. Buy Decorations Now (If You Need Them)</h2> <p>The secret here is that you can get Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations almost year round. It's just that most people don't start to look for them until the holidays are imminent. That usually means you'll pay more when the season is close. If you can plan ahead and restock your decorations in June or July (the very end of December/start of January is even better), you'll save some money and time in the long run.</p> <h2>The Holidays Are Coming</h2> <p>A little forethought and planning now can help you avoid most of the annual holiday stress &mdash; and financial strain. It's simply a matter of being intentional about your finances with an eye to the future.</p> <p><em>How are you getting your finances in order leading up to the holiday season? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-you-should-do-now-to-get-your-finances-in-order-for-the-holidays" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Things You Should Do Now to Get Your Finances in Order for the Holidays" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mikey-rox">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Shopping debt holiday shopping Holidays Tue, 12 Aug 2014 11:01:05 +0000 Mikey Rox 1181398 at http://www.wisebread.com Enter the “Life After Debt” $16,000 Giveaway: Plus $500 Just for Wise Bread Readers http://www.wisebread.com/enter-the-life-after-debt-16000-giveaway-plus-500-just-for-wise-bread-readers <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/enter-the-life-after-debt-16000-giveaway-plus-500-just-for-wise-bread-readers" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/couple-self-portrait-469111855-small.jpg" alt="couple self portrait" title="couple self portrait" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions is giving away $16,000 in prizes PLUS an additional $500 exclusive for Wise Bread Readers! To encourage people to become debt-free, they are running a fun video contest asking people to think about what <a href="http://bit.ly/UxrwX1" ref="nofollow">&quot;Life After Debt</a>&quot; means to them and share their story for a chance to win!</p> <h2>Three Exciting Prizes Are Up for Grabs:</h2> <ul> <li><strong>Monthly Prize ($6,000 total)</strong>: Throughout the contest period from July 2014 through November 30th 2014, six lucky winners will be randomly chosen to win $1,000. For more information on when these random drawings will take place, check out the contest details below.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Grand Prize ($10,000 value)</strong>: At the end of the contest period on November 30th, 2014, one randomly selected entrant will win $10,000.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Special $500 Wise Bread Prize exclusive to our readers</strong>: By entering the video contest (NOT the written contest) and sharing your entry with us (details below), you are entered into our random drawing to win a $300 or one of two $100 Amazon Gift Cards! Our contest runs from August 1st, 2014 through August 31st, 2014</li> </ul> <h2>How to Win the &quot;Life After Debt&quot; Monthly, Grand, and Wise Bread Prizes:</h2> <p>From now until November 30, 2014, you can register and submit a video telling your story about what &quot;Life After Debt&quot; means to you to be entered to win the $1,000 monthly prizes as well as the $10,000 grand prize! Just <a href="http://bit.ly/UxrwX1" ref="nofollow">click here</a> to enter and to see current submissions to give you some inspiration to share your story!</p> <h2>How to Win $500 Exclusive Wise Bread Prize</h2> <p>Once you've registered and submitted your video entry, enter the email address you used to register in the Rafflecopter widget below. We will use your email address to confirm you entered the monthly and grand prize giveaway! <strong>Please note you are only eligible to win the Wise Bread prizes if you submit a video entry. Written entries are NOT eligible to win the Wise Bread prizes.</strong></p> <p><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/79857dfa122/" class="rafl" id="rc-79857dfa122">a Rafflecopter giveaway</a> <script src="//widget.rafflecopter.com/load.js"></script></p> <h3>Contest Details</h3> <p>No purchase necessary. Open to US residents of the 50 states &amp; D.C., 18+. Void where prohibited. Enter by submitting video or document online or entry information by mail before 11:59pm PT on 11/30/14. One entry per person. Details &amp; restrictions in Official Rules. *$1,000 awarded in random drawings from all entries received through 7/10, 8/10, 9/10, 10/10, 11/10 and 11/30. $10,000 awarded in random drawing of all entrants. Total prize value: $16,000. Odds of winning depend on # of entries received. In order to register to be able to submit an entry, registrants must agree to receive communications from ClearPoint. If video file cannot be uploaded, try again with a different format and/or smaller file size. 1 entry total is allowed per person.</p> <p>Wise Bread is administering and responsible for the $500 giveaway that will run from August 1st, 2014 through August 31st, 2014. The Special Wise Bread Prize winners will be announced on this post on September 5th, 2014. <strong>Only video entries are eligible to win the Wise Bread Prize. Written entries are NOT eligible to win the Wise Bread prizes. </strong><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/wisebread-official-contest-rules">Click here</a> for Wise Bread's official contest rules.</p> <h2>About Our Sponsor</h2> <p>Here is a message from our sponsor:</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"><a href="http://bit.ly/1mVbOeX" ref="nofollow"><em>&quot;ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions</em></a><em> is a national nonprofit agency that helps consumers with credit card debt, housing concerns, student loans, and bankruptcy.</em></p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"><em>Since the economic downturn in 2008, ClearPoint has helped its clients repay $1.5 billion in credit card debt! And, in 2014, ClearPoint is celebrating its 50th year of helping American consumers make positive financial decisions. The company wants everyone to experience &quot;Life After Debt,&quot; so <a href="http://www.clearpointcreditcounselingsolutions.org/start/" ref="nofollow"><em>contact them</em></a> today for a free budget and credit counseling session!&quot;</em></p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/enter-the-life-after-debt-16000-giveaway-plus-500-just-for-wise-bread-readers" class="sharethis-link" title="Enter the “Life After Debt” $16,000 Giveaway: Plus $500 Just for Wise Bread Readers" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ashley-jacobs">Ashley Jacobs</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Announcements Contest debt giveaway Sat, 09 Aug 2014 01:00:04 +0000 Ashley Jacobs 1171168 at http://www.wisebread.com 8 Organizations That REALLY Can Help You With Your Debt http://www.wisebread.com/8-organizations-that-really-can-help-you-with-your-debt <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-organizations-that-really-can-help-you-with-your-debt" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/debt-177716803-small.jpg" alt="debt" title="debt" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Pinpointing the exact moment you got over your head in debt may be tricky. But if you suspect you're never going to pay off your loans without a drastic change in circumstances, then you are likely stuck in a bad spot.</p> <p>You may need to seek outside help, and that means being careful to avoid shady companies that promise to make you debt-free quickly and painlessly. Consider tapping the capabilities of these organizations to do a financial turnaround.</p> <h2>1. Non-Profit Credit Counseling Agencies</h2> <p>If you're struggling and unsure about your financial future, a reputable non-profit credit counseling agency may be able to help. Visit the <a href="http://www.nfcc.org/FirstStep/firststep_01.cfm">National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC)</a> website to find a NFCC member agency licensed in your state. There are local, regional, and national agencies that offer face-to-face, telephone, and online counseling.</p> <p>Generally, credit counselors at non-profit agencies develop a debt management plan and support you in its implementation. You give them a list of your obligations (outstanding balances, monthly payments, interest rates, late payment amounts, etc.). They negotiate with lenders on your behalf to reduce interest rates and waive penalties; otherwise, you may continue to make extremely slow or negligible progress in reducing balances as much of your money goes to fees and interest charges.</p> <p>At the same time, they should work with you to develop a budget that includes making regular payments to eliminate debt over time, often three to five years. This can mean making monthly payments to the agency, who then disburse funds to creditors, as well as receiving guidance on developing better money habits to avoid future debt.</p> <p>Note that even though services are provided by non-profit agencies, there are upfront fees for plan set-up along with monthly fees. Review proposals to make sure that these expenses won't exceed your savings associated with the debt management plan. And get a signed agreement before you move forward.</p> <h2>2. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)</h2> <p>The FTC has valuable tips on managing credit and dealing with debt overload at its <a href="http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0150-coping-debt">consumer website</a>. For example, you can learn about vetting a credit counseling agency with the Attorney General's office in your state.</p> <p>Plus, the difference between a debt management plan and a debt settlement plan is explained. Briefly, debt management involves a plan to pay off debt in a reasonable manner; debt settlement requires you to default on loans so that the debt-help organization can then attempt to negotiate payment of pennies on dollars owed. Creditors may refuse to deal with the debt settlement firm, demanding full payment plus late fees. As a result, this approach often worsens your situation.</p> <p>Also at the FTC site, you can access a budget worksheet. Complete the form to help you see where you might eliminate expenses and accelerate paying down debt.</p> <h2>3. Credit Reporting Agencies</h2> <p>Your local credit reporting agency, along with national ones (Equifax, Experian, Trans Union), can be allies in making sure your <a href="http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0151-disputing-errors-credit-reports">credit information is accurate</a>.</p> <p>Correcting errors may help improve your credit score. As a result, you may be able to negotiate lower interest rates and insurance premiums, leaving you with more money to apply to loan balances.</p> <p>The idea here is not to wrangle removal of negative-but-true items but to remedy any problems. Start by <a href="http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/ccc/reporting.html">ordering and reviewing your reports</a>. Then deal with inaccuracies through communications with the reporting agency and information provider.</p> <h2>4. Creditors</h2> <p>Going to your creditors may seem like an odd way to get out of debt. But you may be able to negotiate lower interest rates and get fees waived directly, rather than through a third-party agency. Be prepared when you make calls to discuss possibilities (such as proposing a reasonable interest rate) based on current offers for which you qualify.</p> <p>If you decide to take this approach, make sure that you can meet the requirements of a revised payment schedule. <a href="http://www.extension.org/pages/16134/deciding-which-bills-to-pay-first#.U8lj_fldUlk">Creditors may be lenient</a> with those who demonstrate earnestness to repay debts but show less mercy to those who renege repeatedly on agreements.</p> <h2>5. StudentLoans.gov</h2> <p>The <a href="https://studentloans.gov/myDirectLoan/index.action">Student Loans website</a> run by the federal government offers a wealth of information on ways to manage your debt. You can learn how to avoid default, get your loans forgiven through public service or cancelled through other methods, and consolidate your federal education loans.</p> <p>Loan consolidation and income-based repayment plans may be useful if you want to lower your monthly payments, although you may pay more interest over the life of your loan.</p> <h2>6. Private Student Loan Consolidators</h2> <p>Consolidators may be able to help you manage debt, if you have multiple private student loans. For example, Wells Fargo offers <a href="https://www.wellsfargo.com/student/private-loan-consolidation/">consolidation of private student loans</a> and the <a href="http://www.studentloannetwork.com/consolidation/private-student-loan-consolidation.php">Student Loan Network</a> provides resources for consumers looking for this service.</p> <p>Through consolidation, you eliminate the need to deal with multiple organizations. You may be able to save by lowering your interest rate or getting a fixed rate, rather than a variable one.</p> <p>Even if you are not able to get a better rate, you may be able to lower your monthly payments so that you are better able to handle debt obligations. Like federal student loan consolidation, this approach may result in higher interest charges over the life of the loan (by extending the term) but could provide short-term relief.</p> <h2>7. National Institutes of Health</h2> <p>Those with doctoral degrees in a health profession may be eligible to receive loan forgiveness of up to $35,000 per year if they work in medical research after graduation. Check out the <a href="http://www.lrp.nih.gov/index.aspx">Loan Repayment Program (LPR)</a> on the National Institutes of Health website for details.</p> <h2>8. The United States Department of Justice</h2> <p>The Department of Justice maintains a list of approved <a href="http://www.justice.gov/ust/eo/bapcpa/ccde/cc_approved.htm">debtor education providers</a> and <a href="http://www.justice.gov/ust/eo/bapcpa/ccde/cc_approved.htm">credit counseling agencies</a> on the <a href="http://www.justice.gov/ust/eo/ust_org/index.htm">United States Trustee Program &amp; Bankruptcy</a> section of its website. You can also find information on avoiding foreclosure through this site.</p> <p>Much of this information is focused on bankruptcy but could be useful in understanding processes for dealing with debt and avoiding scams relating to getting out of debt.</p> <p><em>Have you worked with any of these organizations to deal with debt? Or have you chosen a different path? Tell us what worked for you in the comments.</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-organizations-that-really-can-help-you-with-your-debt" class="sharethis-link" title="8 Organizations That REALLY Can Help You With Your Debt" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/julie-rains">Julie Rains</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Debt Management debt debt repayment getting out of debt Fri, 08 Aug 2014 13:00:04 +0000 Julie Rains 1178249 at http://www.wisebread.com 6 Ways Debt Settlement Can Leave You Deeper in Debt (Even With Trustworthy Companies) http://www.wisebread.com/6-ways-debt-settlement-can-leave-you-deeper-in-debt-even-with-trustworthy-companies <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/6-ways-debt-settlement-can-leave-you-deeper-in-debt-even-with-trustworthy-companies" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/couple-debt-91460038-small.jpg" alt="couple debt" title="couple debt" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Late night TV ads and radio ads promise that you can obtain debt relief, paying &quot;pennies on the dollar&quot; for what you owe to creditors.</p> <p>These ads are for debt settlement, a process designed to convince creditors to accept a lump sum payment for less than you owe them. Your account is closed and considered paid off, and you no longer have onerous debt payments. (Although the settlement might be noted in your credit report and impact your score.) (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/surprising-things-that-can-kill-your-credit?ref=seealso">Surprising Things That Can Kill Your Credit</a>)</p> <p>Unfortunately, debt settlement often comes with pitfalls that can cause you problems &mdash; even if you are dealing with a reputable company. According to a report from ResponsibleLending.org titled, &quot;<a href="http://www.responsiblelending.org/state-of-lending/reports/12-Debt-Settlement.pdf">State of Lending: Debt Settlement</a>,&quot; a debt settlement program can <em>increase</em> a successfully enrolled consumer's debt by 20% on average.</p> <p>Here are six debt settlement realities that can cause you to end up with up with more debt, instead of less.</p> <h2>1. You Have to Stop Paying Your Debts</h2> <p>In most cases, debt settlement doesn't work unless the creditor thinks that you won't repay the debt without a settlement. If you are going to convince the creditor of this, you need to stop making payments on your debt.</p> <p>Most debt settlement companies require you to make regular payments to them, instead of making payments to creditors. They keep the money in an account, and use the accumulated savings to make lump sum payments to creditors who agree to settle.</p> <p>As you might imagine, this doesn't bode well for your credit score. Additionally, as you miss payments, fees and penalties (and interest) add up. If you can't reach a settlement with some of your creditors, you are in deeper through all the costs of missing payments and defaulting.</p> <h2>2. Some Creditors Won't Work With Debt Settlement Companies</h2> <p>Not all creditors are willing to work with debt settlement companies, so the fact that you aren't making payments becomes increasingly problematic as the process continues. The creditor, instead of settling your debt, might decide to send your account to collections. This move further dings your credit score, and adds to your debt through fees, penalties, and interest accruing on all of it. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-a-solid-credit-score-saves-you-money?ref=seealso">How a Solid Credit Score Saves You Money</a>)</p> <p>And, of course, as your credit score continues to drop, it's harder for you to get loans at good rates. You will continue to pay more money over time as a result of your destroyed credit &mdash; even for non-credit financial services like insurance.</p> <h2>3. Creditors Could Decide to Sue</h2> <p>In some cases, turning your account over to collections is the least of your worries. Creditors who don't negotiate with debt settlement companies might decide to sue you for what you owe instead of just turning over your debts. This can add to your debt, since you now have attorney fees and other costs related to the lawsuit.</p> <h2>4. You May Pay Hidden Debt Settlement Fees</h2> <p>The Federal Trade Commission says that debt settlement companies can't charge fees upfront. They are only supposed to charge a fee after a settlement is reached. However, there are loopholes to this rule, and debt settlement companies have no problem taking advantage.</p> <p>In order to get around the FTC's requirement, many debt settlement companies claim they have attorneys working for them. They form very loose associations with willing attorneys, and then charge you an attorney fee. So, <em>technically</em>, it's not a fee for debt settlement; it's a fee for the attorney. However, the attorney doesn't actually do any of the work in most cases. The attorney gets a bit of a kickback, and most of the process is handled by non-attorney employees for the debt settlement company.</p> <h2>5. You'll Have to Pay Tax on the Settled Amount</h2> <p>Most consumers don't realize that forgiven debts are considered income by the IRS. So, if you owe $15,000 and you settle your debts for $8,000, the IRS requires you to report the $7,000 you were forgiven as income. You don't actually have the money in hand (it was spent a long time ago), but the IRS taxes you like you do.</p> <p>Depending on how much you benefit from debt settlement, even a successful experience with a debt settlement company can result in costly tax debt. If you have a big enough settlement, you could wind up in a higher tax bracket. You might need to set up an IRS payment plan to deal with the problem, and that means more interest payments.</p> <h2>6. You May Still Have Bad Credit Habits</h2> <p>Finally, one of the problems with debt settlement is that it might not address your underlying issues with money. Sure, you might settle your debt, but once everything is taken care of, will you end up back in debt down the road?</p> <p>Many consumers go through debt settlement, but do nothing to change their overall money habits. Once their credit recovers enough that they can qualify for credit again, they start accruing debt. Even if you have gone through debt settlement, it's possible to get a credit card again fairly easily. Debt settlement can also make the process of getting rid of debt <em>feel</em> easier. If you feel as though you've dodged a bullet, you might not have incentive to reform your financial habits for the long haul. You could easily end up back in debt &mdash; and looking to use debt settlement services again. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/12-habits-of-highly-responsible-credit-card-users?ref=seealso">12 Habits of Highly Responsible Credit Card Users</a>)</p> <h2>Bottom Line</h2> <p>There are some people who use debt settlement effectively, but the truth is that there are so many pitfalls that true success with this process is hard to come by. Instead, you are far more likely to end up with more debt than you started with.</p> <p>This is especially true if you have mixed results. When you have some creditors accept the settlement, but others refuse, you end up with additional fees and interest &mdash; not to mention the extra tax liability from the accepted settlements. You might have to borrow just to deal with the aftermath of your debt settlement!</p> <p>If you are considering debt settlement, carefully think through your options, and consider consulting a different financial professional who can help you put together a realistic plan for repaying your debts and reforming your overall finances.</p> <p><em>Have you relied on a debt settlement firm to help you get out of debt? Please share your experience in comments!</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-ways-debt-settlement-can-leave-you-deeper-in-debt-even-with-trustworthy-companies" class="sharethis-link" title="6 Ways Debt Settlement Can Leave You Deeper in Debt (Even With Trustworthy Companies)" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/miranda-marquit">Miranda Marquit</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Credit Cards Debt Management credit card debt debt debt scams debt settlement Wed, 06 Aug 2014 13:00:05 +0000 Miranda Marquit 1172366 at http://www.wisebread.com Best Money Tips: The Debt Edition http://www.wisebread.com/best-money-tips-the-debt-edition <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/best-money-tips-the-debt-edition" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/student-debt-iStock_000020939569Small.jpg" alt="student debt" title="student debt" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Welcome to Wise Bread's <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/topic/best-money-tips">Best Money Tips</a> Roundup! Today we are featuring some of the best articles from around the web on debt!</p> <h2>Top 5 Articles</h2> <p><a href="http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/2006/08/six_debt_tips_f.html">Six Debt Tips for College Students and Recent Grads</a> &mdash; College students and recent grads would be wise to know how much money they can borrow and pay bills on time. [Free Money Finance]</p> <p><a href="http://www.americandebtproject.com/2014/01/you-just-got-out-of-debt-now-what-6-things-to-do-once-your-debt-is-paid-off/">You Just Got Out of Debt. Now What? 6 Things to Do Once Your Debt Is Paid Off</a> &mdash; Not sure what to do after you've paid off your debt? Create a financial plan and save for an emergency. [American Debt Project]</p> <p><a href="http://cashmoneylife.com/get-out-of-debt-reduction-dave-ramsey/">Which Debt Should You Pay First?</a> &mdash; When it comes to paying off debt, it is important to try to reduce your interest rates. [Cash Money Life]</p> <p><a href="http://www.thesimpledollar.com/does-good-debt-exist/">Does Good Debt Exist?</a> &mdash; If you absolutely need a car, then a car loan may be a &quot;good&quot; debt for you to have. [The Simple Dollar]</p> <p><a href="http://www.narrowbridge.net/5-great-reasons-to-get-out-of-debt/">5 Great Reasons to Get Out of Debt</a> &mdash; Getting rid of debt means you can stop paying interest and live stress free. [NarrowBridge Finance]</p> <h2>Other Essential Reading</h2> <p><a href="http://www.consumerismcommentary.com/debt-reduction-methods-and-philosophies-snowball-avalanche-and-more/">Debt Reduction Methods and Philosophies: Snowball, Avalanche and More</a> &mdash; Do you know the difference between the snowball and avalanche debt reduction methods? [Consumerism Commentary]</p> <p><a href="http://livingonthecheap.com/dealing-debt-collectors/">How to Deal With Debt Collectors</a> &mdash; When dealing with debt collectors, be aware that they cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. [Living on the Cheap]</p> <p><a href="http://www.stretcher.com/stories/01/011029d.cfm">Inherited Debts?</a> &mdash; Your parents cannot leave your debts to you. Typically a will determines financial affairs after someone dies. [TheDollarStretcher.com]</p> <p><a href="http://moneysmartlife.com/tools-to-help-you-pay-off-debt-and-reach-your-goals/">6 Tools to Help You Pay Off Debt and Reach Your Goals</a> &mdash; Online calculators and ReadyForZero can help you pay off your debt. [Money Smart Life]</p> <p><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/How-Pay-Off-Debt-Five-Years-29776211">How This Couple Paid Off a $210,500 Debt in 5 Years</a> &mdash; To pay off your debt, sticking to a strategy and increasing your income can help. [PopSugar Smart Living]</p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/best-money-tips-the-debt-edition" class="sharethis-link" title="Best Money Tips: The Debt Edition" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ashley-jacobs">Ashley Jacobs</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Debt Management best money tips debt Tue, 29 Jul 2014 19:00:07 +0000 Ashley Jacobs 1149839 at http://www.wisebread.com 10 Dark-Side Motivations to Get You Out of Debt http://www.wisebread.com/10-dark-side-motivations-to-get-you-out-of-debt <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-dark-side-motivations-to-get-you-out-of-debt" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/quitting-job-182298092-small.jpg" alt="quit job" title="quit job" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We usually like to take the high ground when motivating ourselves. When it comes to getting out of debt, common reasons include &quot;I want to put more money into a college savings fund&quot; or &quot;it will lower my insurance premiums.&quot; And yes, they're good reasons. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-harmful-money-beliefs-that-are-keeping-you-poor?ref=seealso">6 Harmful Money Beliefs That Are Keeping You Poor</a>)</p> <p>But what if, for a second, we don't go the way of the good-hearted Luke Skywalker, and instead follow the path of his evil father? What if we use motivations that come from &quot;the dark side?&quot;</p> <p>Here are 10 dark-side motivations you could use to get out of debt. Feel the power of the force.</p> <h2>1. Beat the Joneses</h2> <p>Forget keeping up with the neighbors or co-workers who always seem to be doing better than you. It's time to beat them at their own game. Scrimp, save, cut back, and do whatever you can to get rid of that debt you have. Once you're debt-free, start throwing that in their face. The average indebted American has almost <a href="http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson9/">$16,000 in credit card debt</a>. If your neighbors are driving around in fancy cars, and always wearing new threads, they're probably in that camp. How good will it feel to casually tell them you have ZERO credit card debt. That's right. None. Zip. Nada. Watch their squirming faces and enjoy.</p> <h2>2. Better Still, Move Away From Them!</h2> <p>It's all well and good one-upping your neighbors, but why not just get out of dodge and save enough money to buy a bigger, better house in a more exclusive neighborhood? By getting out of debt, you'll get a better credit score, have money to put into savings, and will be able to move into the home you've always wanted. Won't it be nice to wave goodbye to that one neighbor you really cannot stand?</p> <h2>3. Splurge On Something Insanely Selfish</h2> <p>Yes, we know the reasons people want to get out of debt. Paying off those credit cards every month sucks, especially when your money is <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-0-balance-transfer-credit-cards?ref=internal">paying off the interest first</a>. What if you put a goal in front of you that is a complete waste of money, for most people anyway? Maybe you've always wanted the original costume Michael Keaton wore in Batman. Or perhaps it's a half-eaten cheeseburger that Elvis left behind. Whatever your insane splurge is, don't let other people tell you it's not something worth getting out of debt for. It is. If it is the reason you're debt-free, it really is. Of course, don't go back into debt buying it!</p> <h2>4. Quit Your Crappy Job Earlier</h2> <p>Think about it. The sooner you get out of debt, the sooner you can start saving. And that also means saving for retirement. The more you put into your 401(k), the quicker it will accumulate. Before you know it, you've shaved five, or even ten, years off your retirement date. If that's not a reason to get out of debt, what is?! (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/14-ways-to-retire-early?ref=seealso">14 Ways to Retire Early</a>)</p> <h2>5. Pig Out</h2> <p>How about some gluttony? Usually, getting out of debt is something that requires some major sacrifices. You may really be <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/21-surprising-and-delicious-ways-to-cook-instant-ramen">eating ramen</a> for a few months, or if you're a Brit, the good old beans on toast. Why not give yourself a massive feast as a goal? Once you get out of debt, treat yourself to a meal fit for three kings. Order your favorite everything, have it delivered, eat it in the bathtub watching your favorite movie while drinking a one-gallon vanilla shake. It's only once, and to be honest, your stomach won't be able to handle the size or richness of the food you'll be throwing back. But who cares!</p> <h2>6. Destroy Something</h2> <p>Legally, of course. But think about this one; is there something you really hate that you want to get rid of? It can be small, like the clock in your mother-in-law's house that plays the sounds of different birds chirping, every single hour. Maybe it's an eyesore in the neighborhood. Whatever it is, promise yourself that when you get out of debt, you'll find a way to buy it&hellip; so that you can send it to a grisly end. Think this is silly? I talked to seven people in the office today; every single one had something in mind when I brought it up.</p> <p>What would you buy, only to put it on the chopping block?</p> <h2>7. Get Revenge</h2> <p>They say revenge is a dish best served cold. Well, it may be a while until you get out of debt, so your dish of vengeance could be quite cold indeed. But don't let that stop you from using it as grim motivation.</p> <p>Is there someone who wronged you? Someone who made (or is currently making) your life miserable? What could you do to them when you get out of debt? It could be a cheap and harmless prank, or it could be something more inventive and costly. Check out <a href="https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=revenge+prank">YouTube here</a> for a few ideas. Just don't go breaking any laws, okay?</p> <h2>8. Publish a Tell-All Book</h2> <p>Tired of all those haters who hate on you? Really wish you had the money to put all the dirt you have on them into a book? Well, it can happen. It doesn't take a big deal with a publisher: you can publish your own book on sites like <a href="http://www.lulu.com/">Lulu</a> and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=revenge+prank">Blurb</a>. So, focus on getting out of debt, and spend those nights you're not going out writing everything down. When you hit your debt-free goals, use some of the money you're now saving to run off a few copies of the book and distribute it to those most deserving.</p> <h2>9. Invent Something Horrible</h2> <p>There's a device out there called &quot;the <a href="http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/b278/">Annoyatron</a>.&quot; Its sole purpose is to drive people absolutely nuts by emitting a random beep no one can trace. It's evil. Like Darth Vader meets the Joker evil. We are all capable of such creative mischief. Once you're out of debt, you can devote a little time and money into making your very own. And who knows, if it's popular it could make you a ton of money too!</p> <h2>10. Replace All Your Hand-Me-Downs</h2> <p>Right now, you may be calling them &quot;family keepsakes&quot; or &quot;precious memories.&quot; To be fair, some of them are. But some of them, like the old sofa with the weird smell, or the painting that scares you every time you pass it, are not so much keepsakes as heartaches. You're only keeping them around because you can't afford to replace them. Once you're out of debt, you can give them away, donate them, burn them, dump them, or give them back to the original owner &mdash; and replace them without something you actually like. And can now afford.</p> <p><em>So, this was clearly a list of more crazy, dark ideas, but how would you add to it? What dark motivation can you think of to help you (or anyone else) get out of debt?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-dark-side-motivations-to-get-you-out-of-debt" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Dark-Side Motivations to Get You Out of Debt " rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/paul-michael">Paul Michael</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Budgeting Debt Management debt debt elimination motivation spending Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:00:04 +0000 Paul Michael 1166030 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Inspiring People Who Each Paid Off Over $100,000 in Debt http://www.wisebread.com/5-inspiring-people-who-each-paid-off-over-100000-in-debt <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-inspiring-people-who-each-paid-off-over-100000-in-debt" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/paying-bill-122474302-small.jpg" alt="paying bills" title="paying bills" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Americans today owe over <a href="http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/">$11 trillion in debt</a> and that number is on the rise. On a household level, that averages out to $15,191 in credit card debt, $154,365 in mortgage debt, and $33,607 in student loan debt &mdash; per indebted household.</p> <p>Carrying a large debt load may seem like a necessity for some, but for many it also keeps them from reaching their dreams. Bulky monthly payments to creditors deplete funds you could be using to fund your dreams for tomorrow. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-most-valuable-thing-debt-takes-from-you-isnt-money-its-this?ref=seealso">The Most Valuable Thing Debt Is Costing You Isn't Money</a>)</p> <p>Meet five inspiring people who made a commitment to paying down over $100,000 in debt and changed their lives for the better.</p> <h2>Cherie Lowe, Greenwood, IN</h2> <p><a href="http://www.queenoffree.net">Blogger</a> and author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1414397208/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=1414397208&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=TFUQ4T4DLAXIECG3">Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily After</a></p> <p><strong>Paid Off</strong>: $127,000 in four years</p> <h3>What She Paid Off</h3> <p>In four years, Cherie Lowe and her husband, Brian, paid off $127,000 in debts including $80,000 for student loans, $16,500 in credit card balances, $12,000 in car loans, and an additional $12,000 in assorted medical and home expenses.</p> <h3>How She Did It</h3> <p>&quot;We used the <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/a-comprehensive-guide-to-the-debt-snowball-method-0?ref=internal">debt snowball method</a> and followed many of the principles outlined by Dave Ramsey,&quot; says Cherie. Ramsey's methods are counterintuitive for many, she admits, but they worked wonders for her family. The Lowes also:</p> <ul> <li>Took on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/30-great-side-jobs">extra work</a>. Brian worked three jobs at very long hours.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Ran their home like a business. Cherie streamlined expenses by qualifying purchases with this question: &quot;Will this choice help us save as much as possible?&quot; If not, they didn't choose it.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Made temporary <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-smart-ways-to-make-yourself-love-saving-money">sacrifices to save money</a>. &quot;We didn't eat meat for about six months so we could continue to use every penny to fuel our efforts.&quot; Brian didn't eat at a restaurant &mdash; even for a cup of coffee &mdash; for 2.5 years. The two didn't exchange gifts for Christmas, anniversaries, or Valentine's Day (although they did buy gifts for their kids!)</li> </ul> <h3>Why She's Glad She Did It</h3> <p>&quot;Paying off debt unified our relationship in ways I could never even describe,&quot; says Cherie. &quot;We're on the same page with our goals, saving 15% of all of our <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-easy-ways-to-supercharge-your-retirement">income for retirement</a>, quickly building college funds for our daughters (ages 11 &amp; 6), and saving for fun things like vacations, a more elaborate Christmas, and a new car.&quot;</p> <p>Unexpected expenses like the $600 car repair the Lowes faced the week we talked for this piece now have very little impact on their daily lives. &quot;[I] like not having to worry anymore when we have a major repair,&quot; says Cherie.</p> <h3>How You Can Do It, Too</h3> <p>&quot;So much of paying off debt has very little to do with money and math and more to do with personal behavior and your outlook on life,&quot; she says. &quot;Live from a mindset of scarcity and you'll never be satisfied, no matter how much money you have. Live from a place of wonder in the wealth you've already been blessed with and you'll be much happier and more successful in paying off debt.&quot;</p> <p>&quot;When we began our journey, we thought it would take 15 years, seven and a half if we really hustled,&quot; she says. Instead, the Lowes' willingness to get creative and sacrifice even the smallest of luxuries allowed them to meet their goal in just under four years. &quot;Success builds momentum, which fuels everything you do,&quot; she says.</p> <h2>Christine Sparacino, Walnut Creek, CA</h2> <p>Retiree and author of Energize Your Retirement: Stories of Passionate Pursuits (upcoming)</p> <p>She and her husband paid off a mortgage on their California home in 21 years.</p> <h3>What She Paid Off</h3> <p>Approximately $245,000 in mortgage debt.</p> <h3>How She Did It</h3> <p>The Sparacinos are from California, home to one of the priciest real estate markets in the nation. Even so, they were able to find a bargain, <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-happens-at-a-foreclosure-auction">buying a foreclosed property</a> for $291,000. (Their home is currently worth between $850,000 and $900,000, according to Christine.) &quot;[The house] was in a great neighborhood with excellent schools, but it was definitely the dog of the neighborhood,&quot; says Christine. &quot;Since my husband is a general contractor and I don't mind helping, it worked out.&quot;</p> <p>The Sparacinos <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/refi-shy-how-to-determine-if-now-is-the-time-to-refinance">refinanced their mortgage</a> twice to take advantage of a lower interest rate but, says Christine, &quot;We never took additional money out. That's one of the keys.&quot;</p> <p>The Sparacinos also:</p> <ul> <li>Paid extra toward their mortgage every month, even when money was short. They started with an additional $100 per month and bumped the extra amount to $200 &mdash; $300 once their kids graduated from college.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Did most home renovations and repairs themselves, saving on costly contractor expenses.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Used an inheritance to pay the last $105,000 of their mortgage.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Made <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/this-one-financial-trick-lets-you-buy-happiness">conscious choices</a> about how to spend their money, making saving and conscious spending a priority over buying new cars (they drove theirs for about 200,000 miles before replacing) or moving to a larger home.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Found a good accountant and built a long term relationship with him. &quot;We've had the same one since 1984. We grew up and prospered together,&quot; says Christine.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Communicated with each other about spending. They always consulted the other before buying something that cost $100 or more.</li> </ul> <h3>Why She's Glad She Did It</h3> <p>Her two kids were each able to finish college without any student debt. &quot;We were very disciplined about saving,&quot; she says. &quot;Every month, even if it was only $50, we saved money.&quot;</p> <p>Despite their disciplined approach, the Sparacinos never felt they were living frugally. &quot;We spent a lot of money on our kids.&quot; Things like swim team, tutors, space camp, Boy Scouts, and family-centered vacations were their financial priorities.</p> <h3>How You Can Do It, Too</h3> <p>The key to financial success is in the prioritization of spending. &quot;Many of our friends drove expensive cars &mdash; but we didn't. Our accountant told us to move up to a more expensive house &mdash; but we didn't,&quot; she says. Even so, she never felt that they scrimped. They bought what was important to them and passed on what was not.</p> <h2>Matt Kelly, Durango, CO</h2> <p><a href="http://www.personalfinancecoaching.com/about/">Personal Finance Coach</a> and newspaper columnist</p> <p><strong>Paid Off</strong>: $165,000 in debt and saved $20,000 in 15 months.</p> <h3>What He Paid Off</h3> <p>In 15 months, Matt Kelly and his wife, Cheri, paid off $165,000 in credit card, medical, and student loan debt. At the same time, they also put away <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-save-26000-in-5-years-or-less">$20,000 in an emergency savings</a> fund. Subsequently, they reduced their mortgage burden by an additional $100,000.</p> <h3>How He Did It</h3> <p>&quot;We got very conscious about what's important to us,&quot; says Matt. &quot;We started really tapping into what our dreams are.&quot; By using their dreams as a compass, the Kellys gained clarity about how their debt was holding them back from getting what they wanted out of life.</p> <p>They also:</p> <ul> <li>Sold their condominium and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/this-is-how-you-downsize-your-home-and-start-living-a-better-life">bought a smaller place</a>. &quot;We actually like the smaller, more connected feel than what we had in our larger, more lavish place,&quot; says Matt. &quot;With that one move alone, we were able to take about $100,000 off our overall debt load.&quot;<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Used a $40,000 inheritance to pay down debt, instead of taking a lavish vacation to Hawaii.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Focused exclusively on debt reduction at first, but also set up a budget for monthly expenses and irregular but expected expenses like routine auto maintenance or regular home repairs.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Budgeted for all expenses, not just the monthly ones, including a newspaper subscription, vet bills for their pet, and future car repairs. &quot;These things stopped impacting our budget once we started planning for them,&quot; says Matt. &quot;We were pretending every month would be a perfect month, and that the car would never break down. But, of course, the car does break down.&quot;</li> </ul> <h3>Why He's Glad He Did It</h3> <p>&quot;We were sick of being stressed out and fighting about money,&quot; says Matt. &quot;We still have a mortgage but it's been five to six years since we've had any consumer debt at all.&quot;</p> <p>Soon after paying off their consumer debt, the Kellys were financially able to send their young son, whose dyslexia they had recently uncovered, to a specialty school. &quot;We never would have been able to pay for private school if we were drowning in the debt that we were,&quot; says Matt. &quot;We couldn't have helped our son that way if we hadn't gotten control of our finances.&quot;</p> <h3>How You Can Do It, Too</h3> <p>&quot;I found it far more empowering to focus on what I want, rather than what I didn't want,&quot; says Matt. Thinking ahead about what you want, even if it's something small like a weekend getaway, gives you the power to make good financial choices. Like Matt says, &quot;Focus on your dreams.&quot;</p> <h2>Edward Nevraumont, Seattle, WA</h2> <p>Chief Marketing Officer, <a href="http://www.aplaceformom.com/">A Place for Mom</a></p> <p><strong>Paid Off</strong>: $120,000 in student loan debt in just two years.</p> <h3>What He Paid Off</h3> <p>In two years, Edward Nevraumont paid off $120,000 in student loan debt.</p> <h3>How He Did It</h3> <p>Being a foreign student was an advantage for Edward. &quot;I was a Canadian going to school in the U.S., so I actually got a better rate on the Canadian bank loan over a U.S. student loan,&quot; he says.</p> <p>Edward also:</p> <ul> <li>Was very cautious about any unnecessary spending until his debt was paid off in full.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Paid a hefty $5,000 per month toward his loan. &quot;I had a job as a tax consultant and was making about $150,000 per year plus bonus,&quot; he says. &quot;My Canadian taxes took about a third, which left me a little over $8,000 per month. My apartment was $1,400. I lived on the remaining $600 per month, plus the float from my annual bonus.&quot;</li> </ul> <h2>Why He's Glad He Did It</h2> <p>After paying off his debt, Edward decided to splurge. &quot;I bought a nice racing bike,&quot; he said, &quot;as a gift to myself.&quot;</p> <h3>How You Can Do It, Too</h3> <p>Get a job that pays a lot but keep your expenses at the same level they were <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-life-hacks-for-college-students-or-anyone-else-trying-to-save-money">when you were a student</a>,&quot; says Edward. &quot;Just because you have a high income doesn't mean you are rich.&quot;</p> <h2>Kate McKeon, New York, NY</h2> <p>CEO of educational consulting firm <a href="http://www.prepwise.com">PrepWise</a>.</p> <p><strong>Paid Off</strong>: More than $150,000 in small business loans and expenses in under two years.</p> <h3>What She Paid Off</h3> <p>While living in Dallas, TX, Kate McKeon paid off approximately $105,000 in nine months. The remaining $45,000 was paid off in the subsequent 12 months. She later moved to NYC.</p> <h3>How She Did It</h3> <p>As a business owner, Kate personally took on the debts necessary to expand her company. (A move she doesn't recommend, by the way.) After two poor performing years, she faced a mountain of personal debt which forced her to temporarily shut down her business.</p> <p>Kate also:</p> <ul> <li>Picked up two side jobs and worked around the clock. &quot;I averaged 117 hours a week of billable time for eight months,&quot; she says, &quot;and then a more manageable 85 hours a week for the following year.&quot;<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Took on jobs with unreasonable clients.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Spent spare moments doing odd jobs. &quot;I was very aware of the market rate for temp professional gigs and weighed every idea or possible cash flow opportunity against that hourly rate,&quot; says McKeon.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Calculated the rate she needed to earn on her time based on the hours she could dedicate to paying back her debt. &quot;If I could make more teaching a bootcamp class than temping as a marketing analyst,&quot; she says, &quot;then I taught a bootcamp class.&quot;<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Accepted a debt forgiveness of 20&ndash;30%.</li> </ul> <h3>Why She's Glad She Did It</h3> <p>McKeon feels it was foolish to have taken the debts of her company on with a personal signature. However, she concedes, it was also the fastest way for her to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/16-ways-to-get-money-for-your-business">get into business</a>.</p> <p>&quot;A mountain of debt is a lot like having a hacking cough that no one understands,&quot; she says. &quot;No one wants to be near a hacking cough.&quot;</p> <h3>How You Can Do It, Too</h3> <p>&quot;Prepare to get dirty,&quot; she says. Only you can dig yourself out of your debt load.</p> <p>Also, do excellent work. &quot;When you have a client who pays you fairly and respects your work, go the extra mile for them. You want to keep them as clients, sure. More important, they are giving you the opportunity to right the ship,&quot; she says. &quot;They may not realize it, but they are investing in you. Be grateful.&quot;</p> <p><em>Do you have massive debts to pay off or have you successfully paid your loans in full? How do you plan to do it or what have you already done? We want to hear about your debt reduction plan. Tell us in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-inspiring-people-who-each-paid-off-over-100000-in-debt" class="sharethis-link" title="5 Inspiring People Who Each Paid Off Over $100,000 in Debt" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/alaina-tweddale">Alaina Tweddale</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Debt Management credit debt investing productivity saving savings Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:00:03 +0000 Alaina Tweddale 1163690 at http://www.wisebread.com 10 Ways to Prevent an Emergency From Driving You Into Debt http://www.wisebread.com/10-ways-to-prevent-an-emergency-from-driving-you-into-debt <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-ways-to-prevent-an-emergency-from-driving-you-into-debt" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/couple-finances-86515975-small.jpg" alt="couple finances" title="couple finances" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Emergencies happen, and they can often be expensive &mdash; particularly crises like car accidents, unexpected dental or medical needs, high vet bills, or unexpected flooding in your apartment after a vicious storm. If you have not fully built up your emergency fund yet (or you are hit with back-to-back hardships that your emergency fund can't handle), then you can feel like you have no choice but to go into debt to pay for your emergency. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/emergency-plan-better-than-an-emergency-fund?ref=seealso">Emergency Plan: Better Than an Emergency Fund</a>)</p> <p>Nothing could be further from the truth. There are much better ways to take care of emergencies without going into debt. Here are ten things you can do to pay for an emergency without debt:</p> <h2>1. Ask Family or Friends for Help</h2> <p>Asking for financial help can be a serious relationship killer, which is why many people would prefer to do anything (including go into debt) rather than ask a friend for money.</p> <p>But the real problem with getting financial help from a loved one is when there are unmet expectations. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-navigate-4-tricky-family-money-situations?ref=seealso">How to Navigate 4 Tricky Family Money Situations</a>)</p> <p>For instance, you might think that your potential benefactor might be doing better financially than they are, or you might think that they ought to help you when they feel much more comfortable saying no to any such request. In either case, you might end up resenting your friend for saying no. You need to go into the conversation with the recognition that they can say no and that it does not reflect in any way on your relationship if they do.</p> <p>On the other end, your lender might feel that you need to pay them back on a quicker time frame than you are comfortable with.</p> <p>The only way to borrow money from a friend or family member with little chance for blowback is to treat it like a financial transaction and actually use a <a href="http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/promissorynote.asp">promissory note</a>. This legal agreement (which will cost about <a href="http://www.nolo.com/products/promissory-notes">$9 to DIY</a>, and the borrower should be the one to pay for) will spell out the specifics of payment dates, interest, and other loan details.</p> <p>The other important thing to remember about borrowing from friends is that it cannot become a habit &mdash; no matter how diligent you are about repayment.</p> <h2>2. Ask Your Bank for an Emergency Overdraft</h2> <p>If your emergency occurs within a few days of payday, it could be worth your while to talk to your bank about an emergency overdraft. Explain the situation that you are in and tell the bank how much of an overdraft you will need. Be sure to ask how much the fee will be to cover your overdraft. From there, your bank can either approve or deny your request. Depending on the cost of your overdraft protection, this could be a relatively inexpensive way to get the money you need.</p> <h2>3. Sell or Pawn Something</h2> <p>In an emergency, it becomes clear that some of the stuff you own may be less important than you think. That's a good time to sell some of the things you have kept but no longer need. If you have some time, you can try to sell your things on Craigslist or eBay. If you need money in a hurry, you can take your valuables to a pawnshop. There you have the option of outright selling your goods or pawning them &mdash; taking a loan with a set amount of time to buy it back with interest.</p> <h2>4. Borrow From Your 401(k) or Your IRA</h2> <p>While it's generally a bad idea to borrow from your future to pay for a current need, there are some instances when it makes sense for you to take a loan from one of your retirement accounts. In particular, if you have a short-term emergency need for cash, borrowing that money from your 401(k) or your IRA could get potentially you through the emergency with few consequences to your retirement account. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/this-is-when-you-should-borrow-from-your-retirement-account?ref=seealso">This Is When You Should Borrow From Your Retirement Account</a>)</p> <h3>401(k)</h3> <p>You are legally allowed to access a portion (generally the <a href="http://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/08/borrow-from-401k-loan.asp">lesser of 50% or $50,000</a>) of your retirement plan money tax-free. You are required to repay that amount, plus interest (paid to your account), which will help to restore some of the growth you have lost by taking the loan. Loan rules specify a five-year amortization repayment schedule, but there are no pre-payment penalties if you would like to rebuild your account more quickly. In addition, many plans will allow you to make repayments through payroll deduction, in the same way you make normal contributions.</p> <p>One caveat &mdash; if you leave (or lose) your job before paying back the loan, it will be considered an early distribution, which will mean that you owe the 10% early withdrawal penalty and tax on your loan.</p> <h3>IRA</h3> <p>Strictly speaking, you cannot take a loan from an IRA. However, it is legal to <a href="http://www.creators.com/lifestylefeatures/business-and-finance/money-and-you/can-you-borrow-from-your-ira.html">withdraw money from your IRA for 60 days</a> with a tax-free rollover. Basically, you can take money out of your IRA with no taxes or penalties, provided you put the money back into that or another IRA within 60 calendar days. If you fail to replace the money within that time frame, it will be considered an early withdrawal and you will have to pay income taxes on the money and a 10% penalty.</p> <p>In addition, it's important to note that there is what's known as the one-year rule. You can only do such a tax-free rollover once within any 12-month period.</p> <h2>5. Research Alternatives to Your Emergency</h2> <p>Depending on what major bill has unexpectedly cropped up, you may be able to reduce the expense to something more manageable if you do a little shopping around.</p> <p>For instance, emergency dental work does not necessarily have to break the bank. Dental schools are in constant need of patients for students to practice on. A friend of mine who went through dental school at OSU had a great deal of trouble finding patients for each type of procedure she needed to complete for her degree, and even began offering token amounts of money to patients in order to get them to come in for needed procedures.</p> <p>Call your local university to see if they are in need of dental patients &mdash; or veterinary patients if it's your cat or dog that is having the emergency. In addition, vocational and technical schools need practice in diagnosing engine problems in cars. Your problem could be good experience for a budding professional, while having a student fix it could cost you a lot less.</p> <h2>6. Get a Charitable Grant</h2> <p>There are <a href="http://www.moneycrashers.com/get-help-paying-rent/">multiple charities</a> that offer one-time cash grants to help individuals in temporary financial difficulty. These grants do not have to be repaid, but qualifications depend on both the limits of the particular charity and your particular situation.</p> <h3>The Salvation Army</h3> <p>Local chapters of the <a href="http://www.salvationarmyusa.org">Salvation Army</a> offer one-time assistance to help cover things like rent. To apply, you must visit your local Salvation Army office and prove your hardship.</p> <h3>Catholic Charities</h3> <p><a href="http://catholiccharitiesusa.org/">Catholic Charities</a> offers emergency assistance grants for applicants who prove their need. You must apply in person and talk with a caseworker.</p> <h3>Modest Needs</h3> <p>This charity is funded similarly to Kickstarter. Private donors pledge money to fund specific grants for those in need, and the applicant will only receive the funds if his or her application is fully funded. Anyone with a job can apply. In particular, <a href="https://www.modestneeds.org/index.asp">Modest Needs</a> offers the Self Sufficiency Grant, which provides up to $1000 to cover one emergency expense.</p> <h3>211</h3> <p><a href="http://211.org/">211.org</a> is a program run through the United Way, and it offers an online database of local nonprofits across the United States.</p> <h2>7. Cut Way Back</h2> <p>How much do you spend each month on food, utilities, gas, and cell phone? You may be able to find enough money in your monthly budget to cover your emergency if you are willing to eat peanut butter and jelly, turn off the a/c, take the bus, and switch off your cell phone data plan for a month. This may sound drastic, but it's preferable to getting into debt just to avoid a few weeks of discomfort.</p> <h2>8. Adjust Your Withholding</h2> <p>One important and reassuring piece of information I learned from my financial planner father was that the IRS does not care what you say on your W-4, as long as you tell them the truth come tax time. That's because the W-4 is simply a form that tells your employer what your allowances are &mdash; not a legally binding claim to the IRS.</p> <p>What that means is that you can potentially <a href="http://www.kiplinger.com/article/taxes/T055-C000-S001-last-chance-to-fix-your-tax-withholding.html">adjust your withholding on your W-4 form</a> at your workplace and see more money in your very next paycheck. By claiming more allowances on your W-4, you will be sending less of your money to the IRS.</p> <p>If you regularly get a large refund, you can figure out exactly what your withholding should be using the <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/IRS-Withholding-Calculator">IRS online withholding calculator</a>. In this case, once you've adjusted your withholding, you can keep it at the adjusted amount for the rest of the year and save the difference (ideally in an interest-bearing account or in your retirement account).</p> <p>However, even if your refunds tend to be modest, you can still take advantage of this trick. Simply adjust your withholding for a short time &mdash; a month, for instance &mdash; and submit a new W-4 with your original allowances once the month is up. In this case, you will have to be careful that you have enough set aside at tax time in case there is a shortfall because of this. (And make certain that you re-adjust the numbers back, or else you'll be in for a nasty surprise next April 15.)</p> <h2>9. Try Crowdfunding</h2> <p>Websites like <a href="http://www.gofundme.com/">GoFundMe</a> offer opportunities to raise funds through online donations. These sites allow you to create a profile explaining who you are and why you need the funds. Donors give money to your campaign, and the site takes a percentage of the donation for operational costs. The fundraiser can withdraw the money raised on GoFundMe at any time. GoFundMe has no campaign deadlines or goal limits (although other crowdfunding sites do), and the service is free for the fundraiser.</p> <h2>10. Rent Out Something You Own</h2> <p>No matter where you live or what you do, it's likely that you own something someone else might need temporarily. For instance, if you live in an area that draws tourism or business travel, you might be able to rent out a room (or even the whole place, if you crash at a friend's house) on <a href="https://www.airbnb.com/">Airbnb</a>.</p> <p>Alternatively, if parking is at premium in your area, you could rent out your parking space or garage while you perfect your parallel parking skills (or leave your car elsewhere and take the bus for a few days). Check out sites like <a href="https://www.parkingpanda.com/how-it-works">ParkingPanda</a> and <a href="https://www.justpark.com/rent-out-a-parking-space/?source=pamh">JustPark</a>.</p> <p>Finally, as long as your car is not the basis of your emergency, you could rent it out to visitors who need wheels on <a href="https://relayrides.com/">RelayRides</a>.</p> <h2>Life Happens</h2> <p>In the best-case scenario, we would all have a robust emergency fund and appropriate insurance for every possible curve ball. But even the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_a_Mouse">best-laid schemes &quot;gang aft agley,&quot;</a> and it's important to remember that paying for an emergency does not have to mean taking on debt.</p> <p><em>Have you been fortunate enough to navigate an emergency without crippling your finances? What was your strategy? Please share in comments.</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-ways-to-prevent-an-emergency-from-driving-you-into-debt" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Ways to Prevent an Emergency From Driving You Into Debt" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/emily-guy-birken">Emily Guy Birken</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Debt Management avoid debt debt emergency emergency fund quick cash Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:00:03 +0000 Emily Guy Birken 1162784 at http://www.wisebread.com 10 Things You Think Affect Your Credit Score — But Don't http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-you-think-affect-your-credit-score-but-dont <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-things-you-think-affect-your-credit-score-but-dont" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/couple-finances-178554678.jpg" alt="couple finances" title="couple finances" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="145" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to personal credit. One reason for this is the way your credit score is determined is largely shrouded in secrecy. Because of this, there are many things that you may think affect your score that actually don't. Let's go through a few of these below! (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-rebuild-your-credit-in-8-simple-steps?ref=seealso">How to Rebuild Your Credit in 8 Simple Steps</a>)</p> <h2>1. Your Age</h2> <p>Age is not a consideration when you take a look at the <a href="http://www.myfico.com/crediteducation/whatsinyourscore.aspx">credit score breakdown</a>. Many feel that you'll have a worse credit score when you're younger, but in reality, it's not your age that matters &mdash; it's how much you've used credit. Opening a low-limit credit card, using it, and paying the bill in full every month can help you establish your credit history at a young age.</p> <h2>2. Unemployment</h2> <p>As long as you continue to pay your credit card bills, unemployment will not affect your credit score at all. Late payments or missing a payment, however, will affect your score.</p> <h2>3. Breaking a Lease</h2> <p>Not paying your rent or breaking your lease will not affect your credit score, as long as your landlord does not take you to court and win a judgment against you. Renting and leasing property or <em>things</em> isn't something credit card reporting agencies track.</p> <h2>4. Not Carrying a Balance</h2> <p>This is one that I hear about the most from friends and family, but it's not true. In fact, having a low credit utilization ratio, or none at all, helps, as stated <a href="http://www.myfico.com/CreditEducation/Amounts-Owed.aspx">here</a>.</p> <h2>5. Debit Cards</h2> <p>Overdraft your debit card accidentally? No problem (well, for your credit score). Since the bank has not extended any credit to you in giving you this card, you won't have any <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-surprising-ways-to-negatively-affect-your-credit-score?ref=internal">negative consequences on your credit</a> from accidental overdrafting.</p> <h2>6. Not Spending on Your Cards for a Time</h2> <p>Just because you don't spend any money on your credit cards for a time, doesn't mean that your credit score will be hurt. It's only closing credit that may affect your score negatively &mdash; but not always. For example, closing your oldest credit card will affect the length of your credit history, thus negatively affecting your score.</p> <h2>7. Marrying Someone</h2> <p>While joint accounts may be affected, your personal credit score will not be affected by your spouse's bad credit. So, if you plan on marrying someone that has had some financial difficulties in the past, go for it! But know that filing for joint credit may result in a lower score than your personal score.</p> <h2>8. Not Paying Taxes</h2> <p>As long as the government does not put a lien on your property, not paying your taxes on time will not affect your credit score. I would probably recommend that you do pay these on time, though&hellip; it's sort of required.</p> <h2>9. Level of Interest Being Paid on Credit Card Accounts</h2> <p>The amount of interest that you are paying on remaining balances for your credit card accounts does not, in fact, affect your score. Your credit score does affect the initial size of your APR on most cards, though.</p> <h2>10. Your Location</h2> <p>Some may think that your credit score has something to do with your location (like people in big cities having better scores than rural customers). But your credit score is unaffected by matters that don't affect your spending habits.</p> <p><em>Are you surprised by any of these? Relieved that your credit might be better than you thought?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-you-think-affect-your-credit-score-but-dont" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Things You Think Affect Your Credit Score — But Don&#039;t" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mark-jackson">Mark Jackson</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Credit Cards borrowing credit credit cards credit score debt Fri, 18 Jul 2014 09:00:03 +0000 Mark Jackson 1161532 at http://www.wisebread.com 8 Things People With Good Credit Never Do http://www.wisebread.com/8-things-people-with-good-credit-never-do <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-things-people-with-good-credit-never-do" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/credit-card-bill-79078261-small.jpg" alt="credit card bill" title="credit card bill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="150" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Paying your credit card on time every month can <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/a-secured-credit-card-can-repair-your-credit-score-heres-how-to-pick-the-best?ref=internal">raise your credit score</a>, and with an excellent FICO score it's easier to qualify for loans and a low interest rate. However, achieving a high credit score is just the beginning. You also need to maintain this score. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-rebuild-your-credit-in-8-simple-steps?ref=seealso">How to Rebuild Your Credit Score in 8 Simple Steps</a>)</p> <p>If you don't know a lot about credit, you might unknowingly do things that lower your score over time. Maintaining good credit isn't rocket science, but you'll need to know the right ways to manage credit.</p> <p>For a solid place to start, here are eight things that people with good credit never do.</p> <h2>1. They Don't Rely on One Type of Credit</h2> <p>You might feel that it's safer to stick with one type of credit. This way, you can keep your finances simple and avoid unnecessary debt. However, credit scoring models take into account the types of accounts you have, and diversifying accounts work in your favor.</p> <p>A mixture of different types of accounts shows that you're able to manage multiple debt, which adds positive points to your credit score. A good mix includes a credit card and an installment loan, such as a mortgage, an auto loan, or a student loan.</p> <h2>2. They Don't Wait Until the Due Date to Pay Off Credit Cards</h2> <p>People with good credit know the danger of excessive credit card debt, and they might pay off balances each month to avoid debt. However, these individuals don't always wait until the due date to pay off their cards &mdash; they pay by the report date. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/pay-bills-early-only-if-you-want-to-save-money?ref=seealso">Pay Bills Early? Only If You Want to Save Money</a>)</p> <p>The report date is when a creditor sends updates to the credit bureaus, and paying off credit cards by this date is a smart move for those who use their credit cards heavily during the month, perhaps to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-best-cash-back-credit-cards?ref=internal">rack up rewards points</a>. Let me explain.</p> <p>Let's say you charge $2,000 to your credit card every month, and you don't pay off this balance until your due date on the 15th. If your creditor reports to the credit bureaus on the 10th of every month, it'll appear as if you're carrying a $2,000 balance from month-to-month, despite the fact that you always pay off the card by the due date. But if you pay off the credit card by the 10th of the month, the creditor reports a zero balance. The less debt on your credit report, the better.</p> <h2>3. They Don't Stop Using Their Credit Cards</h2> <p>Cutting up a credit card might be the answer when you cannot control spending. However, people with good credit never stop using their cards &mdash; even if they only charge $10 or $15 every few months.</p> <p>Some credit card companies cancel accounts due to inactivity, which can affect an account holder's credit score is two ways. A cancelled account might cause their overall credit utilization ratio to go above 30%, which can trigger a drop in credit score. Also, if a cancelled account happens to be the account holder's oldest account, closing this account can eventually reduce the length of the account holder's credit history, resulting in a lower credit score.</p> <h2>4. They Don't Turn Down Credit Limit Increases</h2> <p>You might be shocked to learn that a creditor increased your credit card limit by several thousand dollars. To avoid any temptation, you may even call the creditor to decline the increase. However, credit limit increases aren't necessarily a bad thing. They can widen the gap between your credit card balance and your credit limit. This lowers your credit card utilization ratio and helps maintain a good credit score.</p> <h2>5. They Don't Open Retail Accounts</h2> <p>Getting a retail charge card isn't credit suicide &mdash; as long as you apply sparingly. However, people with good credit know how credit inquiries impact credit scores, and they don't arbitrarily apply for store accounts to save 10% off a purchase.</p> <p>Each inquiry can reduce a credit score by up to five points, depending on the credit history. This might seem like a minor ding, but if you applied for ten accounts in a short period, that's up to 50 points off your score.</p> <h2>6. They Don't Ignore the Fine Print</h2> <p>There is no one-size-fits-all credit card. People with good credit know that terms and fees can vary by credit card company and they read the fine print before applying. This part of the application highlights everything from the <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-0-balance-transfer-credit-cards?ref=internal">introductory rate to balance transfer</a> fees. Knowing the card's terms is how they take charge of their credit. This way, they don't get stuck paying unnecessary fees or a higher interest rate, and they can decide whether a card works for them.</p> <h2>7. They Don't Forget to Monitor for Fraud</h2> <p>Financial experts recommend that everyone order a free copy of their credit reports at least once a year. However, people with good credit don't rely solely on yearly checkups. They're always on top of their credit and they typically sign up for credit monitoring services. These services send an email alert whenever an account is opened in their name, allowing them to catch fraud before it destroys their credit score. (<a target="_blank" href="http://track.linkoffers.net/a.aspx?foid=18819056&amp;fot=1139&amp;foc=1" rel="nofollow">Discover it card</a> offers a free credit score with each monthly statement.)</p> <h2>8. They Don't Co-Sign Loans</h2> <p>People with good credit do not put their credit score at risk. They know that co-signing a credit card or loan can potentially ruin their credit history. Even if the primary account holder doesn't completely default, he might send payments 30 days late, which triggers a negative remark on his credit report and the cosigner's report.</p> <p><em>Do you have good credit? What are some things you did to get there? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-things-people-with-good-credit-never-do" class="sharethis-link" title="8 Things People With Good Credit Never Do" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mikey-rox">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Credit Cards Debt Management credit cards credit habits debt money management Thu, 10 Jul 2014 13:00:05 +0000 Mikey Rox 1156614 at http://www.wisebread.com The Most Valuable Thing Debt Takes From You Isn't Money — It's This http://www.wisebread.com/the-most-valuable-thing-debt-takes-from-you-isnt-money-its-this <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-most-valuable-thing-debt-takes-from-you-isnt-money-its-this" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/paying-bills-157864480-small.jpg" alt="paying bills" title="paying bills" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="154" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Financial planners always stress the miracle of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-most-important-financial-lessons-people-learn-in-their-20s-did-you">compound interest</a>. The earlier you start saving, the more compound interest works in your favor. Time is on your side.</p> <p>When you have debt, however, compound interest is <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/key-terms-new-credit-card-users-must-understand">the worst</a>. It's what makes paying down credit card debt so difficult. It's one of those things that make it harder to gain financial independence. Luckily, even when compound interest is working against you, time is still your friend. You just have to turn your relationship with time from a long-term partnership to a short-term fling. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/lifestyle-inflation-the-ultimate-financial-trap?ref=seealso">Lifestyle Inflation: The Ultimate Financial Trap</a>)</p> <p>I am hugely motivated to pay down my debt by the <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-peer-pressure-keeping-you-poor">icky sensation</a> that I am just one step away from the poor house. I will do just about anything to avoid feeling finance-related stress. I am all about pain avoidance. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/your-debt-is-killing-you-heres-the-cure?ref=seealso">Your Debt is Killing You</a>)</p> <p>My husband, on the other hand, has a much higher emotional tolerance for debt. He hates scrimping as much as he hates paying the bank for previous purchases. That said, once he discovered that paying down debt quickly saves a crap-ton of money, he jumped on the frugal bandwagon.</p> <h2>Think of the Time When You Won't Have Financial Stress</h2> <p>As of today my husband and I have both been unemployed for 177 days. Luckily, my husband starts working at a fantastic, new job tomorrow, so I will finally be able to go to the dentist without worrying about paying the bill.</p> <p>That said, even with the new income, my husband and I are going to continue to live on our no-frills, crisis budget, until we pay off all our debt.</p> <p>The big lesson of the last six months has been this: Regardless of how upper-middle class we appear, as long as we have debt we are actually poor. That's kind of the definition of poverty right? Not having money. So, as long as we have debt, we not only have NO money, we've got less than no money.</p> <p>After 177 days I don't see the point in extending our poverty for one day longer than we need to. We've got five years to pay off my Home Equity Line of Credit. But why extend our poverty for half a decade when we could save three years of financial stress and pay off the debt in two years instead? We've just lived through six months of grinding poverty, which was no fun, but survivable.</p> <p>Is 24 months of the same, cash-poor life, worth the reward of early financial freedom?</p> <p>I think so.</p> <h2>Less Time in Debt Equals Huge Financial Gains</h2> <p>Paying of my HELOC early will also save me thousands of dollars in interest. Money that I can turn around and spend on furthering my education, so I can get a higher paying job, put toward my retirement fund, or blow on an extravagant vacation.</p> <p>While I love to travel, what I will probably end up doing is using the savings to pay down the mortgage on my rental property.</p> <p>Like most Americans I don't have enough money put away for retirement. People in my family live to be 90. That's several decades of retirement income I've got to find sooner rather than later. Instead of a 401(k), I have a rental property that currently breaks even, but will be an income generator, once I pay off the mortgage. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/just-saving-isnt-enough-how-cash-flow-allocation-helps-you-retire?ref=seealso">Just Saving Isn't Enough: How Cash Flow Allocation Helps You Retire</a>)</p> <p>While most people, even bank loan officers, refer to my house as an asset, I don't. Unless something makes money for me while I sleep, it's not an asset.</p> <p>I'll just come out and say it: I'd like to make money in my sleep ASAP.</p> <p>Shockingly, As Soon As Possible is a lot sooner than I expected. Using a <a href="http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/debt-free/">debt calculator</a>, I discovered that I could be making a passive rental income from my house that's bigger than my current poverty budget in just 13 years.</p> <h2>Here's the Math</h2> <p>If I make the minimum $1800 mortgage payment on my house every month with my current, yucky interest rate of 5.9%, it will take me until March of 2037 to pay off my house that cost $270,000 (including my HELOC). In addition to the $270,000, I will also spend a whopping $220,866 in interest.</p> <p>However, if I spend just $150 more per month (the equivalent of an one additional mortgage payment per year), I will pay off my mortgage in November of 2033 and instead pay $183,979 in interest. If I really stretch myself and my budget and start paying $2500 a month (an additional $8400 per year), I will pay off my house in May of 2027 and pay a total of $115,940 in interest. So what's the obstacle that's keeping me from becoming financially independent almost ten years sooner, saving $104,926 in interest, and owning a rental property that (by the current rental market) will make me $2000 per month in profit?</p> <p>$8400 per year.</p> <p>Do I think I can find a way to make an additional $8400 per year with that kind of incentive?</p> <p>Yes.</p> <p><em>Have you ever paid off a debt early? Please share your story in comments. Was it worth the extra suffering?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-most-valuable-thing-debt-takes-from-you-isnt-money-its-this" class="sharethis-link" title="The Most Valuable Thing Debt Takes From You Isn&#039;t Money — It&#039;s This" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/max-wong">Max Wong</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Budgeting Debt Management budgeting debt mortgage saving Wed, 02 Jul 2014 13:00:04 +0000 Max Wong 1151880 at http://www.wisebread.com 4 Financial Mistakes That Limit Your Freedom http://www.wisebread.com/4-financial-mistakes-that-limit-your-freedom <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/4-financial-mistakes-that-limit-your-freedom" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/debt-91460027-small.jpg" alt="woman with bills" title="woman with bills" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="146" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Whether you are at home, at work, or out with friends, there's no escaping financial stress. It's the kind of stress that stays with you until you do something about it. It takes over your life. You end up spending a lot of time thinking about your finances which causes you to be unproductive in other areas&hellip; and not present in life. It limits your freedom. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-7-worst-money-mistakes-married-people-make?ref=seealso">The 7 Worst Money Mistakes Married People Make</a>)</p> <p>Let's take a look at some of the specific mistakes that you may be making that add stress and frustration and limit your time and enjoyment!</p> <h2>Making Excess Purchases on Your Credit Card</h2> <p>This can also fall under a category called &quot;careless spending.&quot;</p> <p>At first glance, credit cards may seem to provide you with a sense of financial freedom. Suddenly, you can spend up to your credit limit without actually having the money to pay for it. You can put those new jeans, after work drinks, and a vacation to Hawaii on your card without any short term repercussions&hellip; freedom!</p> <p>The reality is that once you rack up this debt, you are forced to begin paying it back the next month. And if you don't, it will impact your credit score, and in turn, your ability to borrow money in the future (and maybe even your chances of getting a new job!). Even with <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-0-balance-transfer-credit-cards">cards that offer 0% APR</a> for the first 12-18 months, you must pay a minimum amount each month to keep that rate. Although you may initially be able to make a purchase on a whim, the cash needed to pay down the debt each month (plus any interest) will eat away at your income until you pay it off.</p> <h2>Paying Too Much in Rent (or Owning a Place You Can't Afford)</h2> <p>One of the biggest mistakes people make is paying too much for housing. The rule of thumb is that renters and homeowners alike should not pay more than 30% of gross income in housing costs. Whether you own or rent, the money comes out of your cash flow each month, reducing the amount of extra money you have to spend on other activities. Yes, it is great to live in a place with all the bells and whistles available to you, yet how much value are you actually deriving from such benefits? Would money spent elsewhere reduce your stress and increase your freedom?</p> <h2>Guessing How Much Your Expenses Are Each Month</h2> <p>One of the most common answers I receive from clients when I ask how much they spend each month starts like this, &quot;I think I spend&hellip;&quot; That's simply a guess. And, when it comes to your spending, guessing will only decrease your freedom in the long run. Imagine asking a hotel how much a room is per night and them responding that they &quot;think&quot; it is $300. After staying for two nights you find out that it was actually $500. You're now paying $400 more than you thought. It doesn't work in this situation and it doesn't work with your monthly cash flow. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-sites-and-apps-to-help-you-track-your-spending-and-stick-to-your-budget?ref=seealso">10 Sites That Help You Track Your Spending</a>)</p> <h2>Dreaming About Everything and Planning for Nothing</h2> <p>We all like to dream about what it would be like to live a more eventful and enjoyable life. It's fun! However, when was the last time you heard about someone dreaming their way to financial freedom? It just doesn't happen. Without some kind of a plan, you will never achieve the success you are dreaming about today.</p> <h2>3 Quick Solutions</h2> <p>Some of the above items have obvious solutions, but overall it's about bringing <em>intention</em> to your finances. This means that you should take steps to organize yourself. Even if you take just one step at a time, you will be progressing toward a place that may provide you freedom over your finances.</p> <h3>Limit Your Credit Card Use</h3> <p>When it comes to credit cards, never purchase something you can't afford to buy now. At the very least, you should be able to pay for it in the next two or three months. This will minimize the interest you pay and also support a lower credit score. This is &quot;bad debt,&quot; so get rid of it quickly.</p> <h3>Be Responsible With Your Housing Costs</h3> <p>Take a hard look at your monthly mortgage or rent payment. Do you feel like you can afford it without limiting other areas of your life? If not, does living there provide you with enough value to sacrifice other freedoms? There is no right answer, but I highly recommend evaluating your circumstances. What would it be like to save $300-$400 a month on rent? What could you do with that money that would provide you with more freedom than you have today?</p> <h3>Write It Down</h3> <p>Whether we are talking about your monthly cash flow or your plans for the future, putting real information down on paper makes all the difference. A simple Internet search will provide you with various ways to track your expenses. You can start by using a service like <a href="http://www.mint.com">Mint.com</a>. As for your goals, they aren't real until you announce them to the world. Write them down, share them with your family and friends&hellip; create an <a href="http://beyondyourhammock.com/creating-a-structure-to-hold-you-accountable-a-secret-to-financial-success/">accountability partner</a>. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/do-this-one-thing-every-day-to-defeat-out-of-control-spending?ref=seealso">Do This One Thing Every Day to Defeat Out-of-Control Spending</a>)</p> <p>What would it be like if you knew your financial status, at least in a general sense, rather than having to guess all the time. Guessing about your finances creates anxiety&hellip; and there are enough other things in the world that can cause that!</p> <p><em>Have you found a way to free yourself from financial stress? How? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-financial-mistakes-that-limit-your-freedom" class="sharethis-link" title="4 Financial Mistakes That Limit Your Freedom" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/eric-roberge-cfp">Eric Roberge CFP</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Debt Management budgeting credit debt money mistakes Fri, 27 Jun 2014 13:00:03 +0000 Eric Roberge CFP 1149832 at http://www.wisebread.com The Simple 5-Step Plan to Complete Money Management http://www.wisebread.com/the-simple-5-step-plan-to-complete-money-management <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-simple-5-step-plan-to-complete-money-management" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/stress-4973257-small%20copy.jpg" alt="money stress" title="money stress" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="158" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Do you struggle with managing your money? Is staying on top of your finances complicated and time-consuming for you?</p> <p>If so, follow the simple five step plan below &mdash; and the calculators and tools suggested for each &mdash; to get in control. With these simple tools, you have everything you need to make sure you're achieving your financial goals. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-painless-ways-to-manage-money-with-your-partner?ref=seealso">Painless Ways to Manage Money With a Partner</a>)</p> <h2>1. Create a Debt Elimination Plan</h2> <p>This is the most important tool. You can't build wealth and win the money game as long as you're in debt.</p> <p>This tool lets you track all your debts in one place, so that you have a good grasp of your overall financial picture. The beauty of this tool is that you can run different payment scenarios, such as determining the order you want to off your debts. This lets you see how fast you can get out of debt, and how much money you can save in interest payments.</p> <ul> <li> <p><a href="https://drive.google.com/previewtemplate?id=0Ak7JTr_5ZgQBdEhKSmRDNGdjY3Ezc3libU1qSE1DMWc&amp;mode=public">Debt Elimination Calculator</a> (Google Sheets)</p> </li> </ul> <h2>2. Develop a Budget</h2> <p>The next tool you need is a budget. This lets you see how much money you're bringing in and how much you're sending out.</p> <p>With this tool, you can tell if you're overspending, which leads to debt. But it'll also show you if you're spending within your means, which creates a cushion to help you get ahead financially.</p> <p>If you're overspending, you can instantly see where you may want to cut expenses. And if you're spending within your means, you can think about the many possibilities you have for spending the extra money (such as the occasional splurge).</p> <ul> <li> <p><a href="https://drive.google.com/templates?q=vertex42+budget&amp;category=14&amp;type=spreadsheets&amp;sort=user&amp;view=public">Budget Spreadsheets</a> (Google Sheets)</p> </li> </ul> <h2>3. Improve Your Credit</h2> <p>If you're like most people, you need to get around town with a car, and you think about owning a dream home. Unless you have the cash to pay for these in full, you'll probably need to take out a loan. And that means you'll pay interest.</p> <p>To save the most amount of interest, you'll need a good credit score. Let's say you take out a 30-year mortgage on a $200,000 house. Comparing the difference between a score in the best range with the worst range (According to <a href="http://www.myfico.com/myfico/creditcentral/loanrates.aspx">myFICO</a> as of May 2014), you'd save over $68,000.</p> <p>There are several &quot;free&quot; sources of credit scores (you've heard the jingles and seen the commercials). While those services may provide some value, they do not actually report the credit scores kept by the <a href="http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports">three major reporting agencies</a>.</p> <p>To get those scores, visit <a href="http://www.annualcreditreport.com/">AnnualCreditReport.com</a>. You're entitled to one free report from each of the three bureaus per year.</p> <h2>4. Create an Investment Plan</h2> <p>Investing is one of the best ways to build financial security for your future.</p> <p>And the biggest determinant of your investing results is your asset allocation, which is how you decide to split your money between stocks and bonds. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-basics-of-asset-allocation?ref=seealso">The Basics of Asset Allocation</a>)</p> <p>So how do you decide on yours?</p> <p>Most of the major investment services offer lots of calculators and tools to help you figure it out, but here's one:</p> <ul> <li> <p><a href="https://personal.vanguard.com/us/FundsInvQuestionnaire">Vanguard Investor Questionnaire</a></p> </li> </ul> <p>With this knowledge, you can make investing decisions for accounts such as your 401(k) and IRA. Better yet, you can revisit this tool when circumstances in your life change, and see if this changes your proposed asset allocation.</p> <h2>5. Track Your Net Worth</h2> <p>The last tool you need is one that'll keep track of your net worth. This is important because it'll show you how you're doing overall in the money game. It'll help you stay focused.</p> <p>For instance, if your goal is to leave your day job once you become a millionaire, this tool will show you when you've reached that target. Then you can stop working and enjoy more time with your family and friends!</p> <p>Here, you have two options.</p> <p>If you want your net worth calculated automatically and don't mind storing your personal account information online, a site like <a href="https://www.mint.com/">Mint</a> will do the job for you. It can also help with budgeting, and paying your bills on time, and preparing your taxes.</p> <p>But if you don't want your personal details kept on the web, here's a spreadsheet you can use:</p> <ul> <li> <p><a href="https://drive.google.com/previewtemplate?id=0An50IrnQTTJQdExpTW9KclF3ZTRZSE5ESWFjejNIMmc&amp;mode=public">Basic Net Worth Calculator</a></p> </li> </ul> <p><em>What tools do you find most helpful in staying on top of your finances? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-simple-5-step-plan-to-complete-money-management" class="sharethis-link" title="The Simple 5-Step Plan to Complete Money Management " rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/darren-wu">Darren Wu</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Banking Debt Management Investment debt financial calculators money management Thu, 29 May 2014 08:48:32 +0000 Darren Wu 1140874 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Get All of the Benefits of Your Credit Cards — and None of the Costs http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-all-of-the-benefits-of-your-credit-cards-and-none-of-the-costs <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-get-all-of-the-benefits-of-your-credit-cards-and-none-of-the-costs" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/credit-card-453507849.jpg" alt="credit card" title="credit card" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="181" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>So you got that great new credit card. You know, the one that lets you earn <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/top-5-travel-reward-credit-cards">airline miles</a> so you can fly to see your sweetheart, or the one that earns you free stuff at your favorite store. And you're super excited to start using it, because you want to get as many benefits as you can in as little time as possible.</p> <p>But you're also a little wary. You've heard about some of the downsides that credit cards can have, like high interest rates, and you don't want to get locked into a debt cycle that you can't get out of.</p> <p>Fortunately, there are ways to get all the benefits out of your credit card without getting sucked into debt. With some simple planning and intentionality, you can <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-earn-tons-of-frequent-flyer-miles-without-flying">fly for free</a> or get the free stuff without joining the thousands of people who owe more than they can ever pay.</p> <h2>1. Plan Your Spending</h2> <p>Look at your finances, and decide two things. First, choose the expenses that you want to put on your credit card. For instance, if you have to pay your gas bill anyway, you may as well put it on the card and let it <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/this-might-be-the-best-travel-rewards-program-no-matter-what-airline-you-fly">earn rewards</a>. Similarly, it may make your life easier to put all of your groceries and/or your fuel on your card. Deciding to do this ahead of time, though, means that you are less likely to be surprised, at the end of the month, by how much you have charged.</p> <p>Secondly, give yourself a ballpark amount for how much you can spend on the card each month. This doesn't have to be set in stone, but doing this means that you will be able to tell at a glance, when you check your balance, if you can use your card more or if you should leave it at home.</p> <h2>2. Track Your Credit Card Spending</h2> <p>There are a million ways to track your credit card spending. You can use <a href="http://www.mint.com">Mint.com</a>, <a href="http://www.ynab.com">YNAB</a>, a simple Excel spreadsheet, or even a pen and paper. The important thing is that you do it. Every time you use your card, take 30 seconds to jot down, at the very least, how much you spent. That way, you will know how much should be on your card when you check your balance or look at your statement at the end of the month.</p> <p>Tracking your spending this way also allows you to see how close you are to your limit. If you're getting too close, you can leave your card at home before you get in trouble, rather than after.</p> <h2>3. Check Your Balance</h2> <p>I've mentioned it a couple of times, but I'll say it again. Check your balance. I know people who do this every day, but once a week is usually enough unless you're a big spender. You can do this online, by setting up an account with the credit card company, though some companies have apps you can use or will let you check by text message as well.</p> <p>Alternatively, if you don't think you'll remember (or bother!) to check your balance or you want to be especially careful, some companies will allow you to set up text or email alerts when your balance reaches a certain amount. If your company does this, you can usually set up as many of these as you want, so you can track your balance this way instead.</p> <h2>4. Set Up Payment Reminders</h2> <p>Most smartphones and tablets have some sort of reminder program, though you can always download a separate app if you don't like the one you have. If you don't use either of these devices, there are also websites that will <a href="http://www.memotome.com/">send you email reminders</a>. Simply setup a reminder several days to a week before you need to make your credit card payment.</p> <p>This means that you won't have to worry about whether you will pay your bill on time. You'll just have to wait for the reminder, then log on and pay it. If you know for sure that you will always have money in your account to pay the bill, you can sometimes set up automatic payments (though many credit card companies won't do this, because they make the most money when you pay late).</p> <h2>5. Ask for Mercy</h2> <p>If you happen to make a late payment, especially if it happens by accident or because extenuating circumstances caused you to pay late, call your credit card company. Some companies will waive interest one time, but only if you ask them to.</p> <p>If you pay late because of extraordinary circumstances, they are particularly likely to do this for you. For instance, one of my friends lost all of her financial documents and most of the lower floor of her home in the flooding in Colorado last September. Her life was so crazy for a couple of weeks that she missed some bills. However, when she verified what had happened to her house, every single company waived fees and/or interest, and one of them forgave her bill altogether.</p> <h2>6. Spend Wisely</h2> <p>It goes without saying that credit cards are not &quot;free money.&quot; Even if you know that, though, sometimes they can feel that way. It's so easy to just slide your card, sign your name, and take off, without actually thinking about whether you can pay for what you just bought.</p> <p>If you find yourself struggling with this, back off from using your card for a while. You may want to keep certain payments, like utilities, on the card, but leave it at home when you leave the house. That way, you will be able to keep earning some rewards but you won't spend more than you can afford.</p> <h2>7. Plan Large Purchases</h2> <p>One of the best ways to earn rewards on a card can be to use it for large purchase. Some friends of mine paid their tuition on a card throughout college, and flew home for free nearly every semester. However, they did this knowing that they had the money to pay the bill, or that they had loan money coming in that would cover it.</p> <p>If you know for sure that you can cover the expense, there's no reason not to put it on the card and earn rewards for it. However, if there's any question about being able to afford whatever you're buying, consider setting up a payment plan (still using the card!), or covering your costs another way.</p> <h2>8. Check Your Statement</h2> <p>Credit card companies are getting insanely good at catching fraud. I just got a call from mine the other day, asking if I'd used my card in Malaysia. Um...no. However, it's definitely worth it to run though the charges on the card every month, just to make sure there's nothing strange going on.</p> <p>Look especially at any charge where you might have left a tip. Sometimes handwriting can be hard to read and people enter the amounts wrong, and every once in a while someone simply <a href="http://boingboing.net/2007/11/15/how-to-stop-restaura.html">lies about how much you charged</a>. If you have the receipts to verify your amounts, you can always call your company and get these charges changed.</p> <h2>9. Take Advantage of the Rewards!</h2> <p>After all that effort, be sure to take advantage of the rewards. Don't just trade in your points for stuff, however. Do some research and find where it makes the most sense to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/are-you-wasting-your-credit-card-rewards-on-one-of-these-stupid-things">spend those points or miles</a>.</p> <p>Using credit cards can be a great way to earn rewards that you wouldn't otherwise be able to get. As long as you are practical and intentional about your credit card use, you can rack up these great offers without succumbing to massive debt.</p> <p><em>Do you use a rewards card &mdash; responsibly &mdash; for the points or statement credits? How do you manage your spending?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-all-of-the-benefits-of-your-credit-cards-and-none-of-the-costs" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Get All of the Benefits of Your Credit Cards — and None of the Costs" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/sarah-winfrey">Sarah Winfrey</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Frugal Living Credit Cards credit cards debt rewards cards spending Fri, 09 May 2014 09:24:20 +0000 Sarah Winfrey 1138515 at http://www.wisebread.com