Category Archives: Managing Your Debt

Where to find great budget forms

If you are looking for a great way to start a budget, you will find thousands of tips and forms on the web, but one of the best tools a fellow daily money manager suggested comes from the Dave Ramsey website.

Ramsey has several forms you can use, either print them out or use the online budget tool he has available.  The printouts he has include the Quick Start Budget and the Monthly Cash form. All the forms are easy to use and give step by step instructions on how to calculate each category. The forms help you budget for food, charity, saving, clothing, transportation, housing, utilities, and even medications and doctor bills. Plus Ramsey gives recommended percentages to keep you from budgeting too much for any particular category. For example, he recommends budgeting 5 to 10 percent for medical and health related expenses such as vitamins and medications and 2 to 7 percent for clothing. This helps the budgeter have a goal in mind and keeps the format nice and clear.

So if you want to check it out, take a look here: http://www.daveramsey.com/tools/budget-forms/

Ramping up on Student Credit Card Offers

When I went to college back in the 90’s, I remember going to class and there would be tables set up in front of the school building. Credit card representatives had set up shop and were offering free T-shirts, water bottles, stuffed animals, bookbags, pens and anything they could in an effort to entice students to sign up for the credit cards they were marketing.

Fast forward to 2013 and fortunately credit card companies are no longer allowed to solicit students in this manner due to regulatory reforms. However, they are allowed to bombard college students with direct mail marketing. This is what is happening today. Companies are sending households with college students credit card offers left and right. Instead of giving out useless freebies like they used to, they promote their cards by offering rewards points, cash back on purchases ,credit cards with low or no annual fees or a waiver of the first late payment.

So, in addition to your heavy duty large student loan that you will inherit once you graduate college (if you weren’t able to get a full scholarship, which would count most of us), you have tons of opportunity to get into even more debt! Isn’t that awesome? The opportunities for starting out your professional life with a negative income is endless!!

Seriously, credit card companies want your money or the money you will make someday so be vigilant, be savvy with your hard earned cash.

The truth is it’s okay to get one of these credit cards, it’s a good way to build credit under your name. You need to do your research however and sign up for a card that has low or no annual fees and a low interest rate. Compare cards at sites like CreditCards.com and Bankrate.com. Keep the limit of the card you choose also low, say $800 to $1000 and don’t use it for everyday purchases that can quickly add up in a sneaky manner, like lunch or coffee. Use your card instead for legitimate purchases such as school supplies, books and maybe gas if you have a car. This way you build a transaction history. But pay diligently and try to pay before you start accruing interest charges so you don’t end up paying more for what you purchased.

Getting a card is a good way to start building an excellent credit history, but don’t go overboard on your borrowing and never pay late. School might not teach you how to handle your finances but there is no denying that this is a skill you will need. It is essential, so start building a solid foundation now for a stronger and more secure financial future for you and your future family.

Ways to Control Your Holiday Spending

Overspending and the holidays seem to go hand in hand, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be that way. I know, I know, we want to show the people we love that we care by giving them thoughtful and sometimes expensive gifts. However, we have to remember that once the holidays are over, we are the ones stuck with a credit card bill we can barely pay off. Some of us will even dig into our emergency savings in order to *gasp* pay that holiday debt. Let’s not get crazy here folks, avoid hitting the panic button by holiday shopping the right way.

In order to shed some light on how we should shop sensibly this holiday season, I interviewed Don Batsford, retail expert and co-founder of ShopGala, an online store coupon codes and promotional codes provider for online retailers.

What is the best and smart way to plan financially for the holidays?

Don: Stay focused. People tend to overextend themselves when they don’t stay on target. Concentrate ahead of time on building a list of people you want to buy gifts for. Then you can create a budget of how much you want to spend for each person. Think of thoughtful gifts you want to buy each person within that budget. Ideally, you will write down ideas throughout the year and then refer to those ideas during the holiday season. If you stick to shopping for only what you need to buy and staying within your budget you will save money.

What are some of the biggest mistakes people do during the holidays that gets them into trouble?

Don: People get into trouble when they are supposed to be buying gifts for friends and/or family and they end up buying things for themselves. It’s very easy to fall in love with shopping during the holiday season and ending up buying a ton of stuff for yourself that you don’t really need. Instead, take note of the things you like by adding them to a wish list and let people know about your list when they ask you what you want for the holidays.

Can you save yourself if you are already getting into trouble or is it too late?

Don: Return extra items now. Even if it’s a great deal, return it if you don’t really need it. You can always buy it again later if you find you can’t live without it.

Where can consumers find the best savings?

Don: There are terrific savings all the time. You just need to know when you see a good price or discount code. Also, don’t be afraid to use eBay or CraigsList to buy things. Very often you will find huge savings on items that are still brand new.

Coupon codes are a great way to find discounts for many of the most well know sites on the internet. Coupon websites like Retailmenot.com and Shopgala.com consolidate these deals together and allow shoppers to see who is running an aggressive deal at any given time. If you are looking for a particular item, comparison shop. Find out who sells the item the cheapest and include shipping, taxes and any promotions when checking prices.

What are some strategies a last minute shopper can use to shop efficiently for friends and family? Online? Any special techniques they could use?

Don: To find the perfect, gift look for hints in their social media profiles. For example, pins on Pinterest may suggest clothing interests, likes on Facebook can help with favorite authors and check-ins on Foursquare can tell you what restaurant they would love a meal from.

Organization can be key during the holidays. If you are comfortable with Excel, create a simple spreadsheet with names and gifts. This way you can keep track of all the items you need to buy and for whom. You will see in front of you what you have purchased and what you still need to get.

Are there any online sites they can help organize gift lists?

Don: Sites like MyRegistry.com allow users to combine existing wish lists or add products from disparate sites. There are also some great apps for your phone and/or tablet including mGifts or GiftShopper.

How Many Credit Cards Should You Carry?

This story was originally published by Investopedia.com on May 15, 2012

Ever wonder if there are a right number of credit cards you should have? Or better yet, at what point does carrying too many credit cards affect your credit?

Several experts weigh in on this issue.

The Experts
John Ulzheimer
President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com and recognized credit expert John Ulzheimer says that there is no optimal number of credit cards to have. The number is going to vary from person to person based on your own personal credit card needs. Some people function just fine with one card. Some people need more because of business travel. A good rule of thumb is not to focus so much on how many, but more so on how you’re managing the ones that you do have. For example, someone with one maxed out credit card is going to have a lower credit score than someone with five unused credit cards. If you can keep your aggregate balances to no more than 10% of your credit card limits then you’ll be in great shape regardless of how many you choose to have.

Kevin Gallegos
Credit and debt expert and vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Financial Network, LLC, Kevin Gallegos advices consumers to use only one credit card. “Most adults need to carry one credit card for personal business. It is not necessary to use more than one,” he says. Make sure, however, to pay on time, every time; charge only what you can pay off in full each month (in other words, live within your means). On-time payments are the most important factor in developing good credit and upping or maintaining credit scores. He warns credit users, “If you hold other cards and wish to no longer use them, think carefully before canceling a credit card with a long (positive) history. The longer you hold a card, the more valuable it is in your credit score determination. So, do not close other accounts, but put the cards away in a safe place.” This is not to say we should not use credit cards, on the contrary, Gallegos emphasizes using credit. Credit cards can be especially helpful for significant purchases like electronics, where you might need to take advantage of the extended warranty that is sometimes offered with a card. A credit card also offers greater protection against fraud with online purchases. If you need to dispute a transaction, you can report it to the card issuer. You are not liable for the charge until the dispute is resolved.
Read more: http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0512/how-many-credit-cards-should-you-carry.aspx#ixzz27OJRj1BF

 

Cutting down debt!

I paid my student loan today. I submitted my last payment and have never felt such a sense of pride. After finishing school in 2005, I quietly and persistently chopped away at that tree of debt. Making sure that my expenses were kept low and being careful to not accumulate more debt, I consistently sent payments in monthly and more recently weekly. I was determined to get that loan paid off this year. Today, my $44,000 student loan was paid off! When you pay off your student loan, do it consistently, every week or every month. You won’t even notice that extra money is not there for you to use and you won’t feel a need for it, trust me. So go ahead and chop down your tree of debt!

Lower your credit card rate

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I called my Citi credit card company today to inquire about a charge. I also took the opportunity to ask for an interest rate decrease. I wanted to give it a try and see if it would work, I mean after all I’ve been a loyal customer with Citi for 14 years. Citibank is my credit card company. The representative I spoke to said she would put in a request to have my rate decreased and then proceeded to put me on hold for about 2 minutes. After awhile, she came back on the line and voilà! she had good news. My rate was decreased from 16.99% to 15.74%. The decrease was not dramatic but it was lowered.

The motto here is, ask your credit card company for an interest rate decrease or a credit limit increase, if you have a good payment history with them, they just might oblige. Last year I requested a credit limit increase and it also worked. Credit limit increases will help your credit utilization ratio go up. This leads to a better credit score! Try it for yourself and let me know what your experience is like.