Bring More Money Into Your Life... and Keep More of What You Already Have
Unfortunately, most of us tend to ignore the small print when we sign up for that shiny new credit card. Instead we focus on what that new line of revolving credit means in terms of the doors it will open (or the ones it will prevent from slamming shut).
However, your financial institution is obligated to provide you with information re: applicable credit card laws when you enter into this type of agreement.
So you need to do your part – and actually READ it!
We tend to think financial difficulties will happen to someone else. The reality is that even today – 5 years after the financial meltdown of 2008 – many people continue to struggle to meet their financial commitments. A sluggish job market and rising costs continue to affect nearly everyone – so it pays to know the score when you decide to take on new debt in any form.
Don’t be so sure that banks and financial institutions will be happy to help you work through any financial challenges you may encounter (such as an unexpected job loss or sudden medical emergency). Even if they were falling all over themselves to lend you the money at one point - If you find yourself struggling to make your payments, you may find the relationship sours rather quickly.
Once the economic crisis hit, many banks resorted to using whatever means they could to collect what was owed them. So, instead of trying to work with customers to restructure their debts into a more manageable program, many people found themselves in an openly antagonistic relationship with their lenders.
Now… please don’t get me wrong. I do believe that if you borrowed money – you need to do everything you can to repay it.
That said, I also think the banks should own up to their part in this mess and help people who genuinely want help – rather than make things harder.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what credit card laws affect you…
The Credit Card Reform Act is one, but it depends on your circumstances and age as to which provisions will apply.
Every state will have laws relevant to their jurisdiction. This could be case law or state law and you need to educate yourself about both. If you are having problems repaying your debts, speak to a local non-profit debt counselor who can point you in the right direction.
You should also understand The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. As the name implies, this dictates how your creditors can behave when collecting the money due to them.
Important Note: These laws are NOT designed to help you not pay your debts. This is definitely not the case and ignoring your creditors is not the best way to handle the situation.
If you do end up in court, a judge is going to look more favorably on someone who has made an effort to repay what they owe. If you have made steady payments and have tried to negotiate with your creditors, he may even push them to enter into an arrangement with you.
But, if you tried to ignore the problem by burying your head in the sand, you may find the judge is a lot less sympathetic to your case.
Repaying debt isn’t easy, but it is often possible. When you simply don’t have the assets or cash to repay your creditors, there are legal ways of dealing with it (e.g., bankruptcy). But, please, don’t explore that option until you have spoken to a debt repayment expert and know exactly what the implications are.
Bottom Line: Credit card laws are there to protect both creditors and you, the debtor. Take the time to educate yourself so you can make an informed decision as to what your best options are.Read More
With gas prices obnoxiously high and the economy trudging along at a snail’s pace, saving money at the gas pump is more important than ever.
Sometimes, small tweaks can add up to big savings – here’s a few ways you keep more of your hard-earned cash in your own pocket starting right now…
1. Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained. That means changing the oil and air filters regularly, inflating tires properly and keeping your engine tuned. A well-maintained vehicle can decrease your monthly gas bill by up to 10%.
2. Trade-in your gas-guzzler for a vehicle with better gas mileage. Driving around a huge car or truck might make you look a little cooler, but there’s nothing cool at all about being broke all the time. Smaller, more fuel efficient cars are the way to go if you want to save money at the gas pump!
3. Consider a hybrid or other alternate-fuel powered vehicle. If you can purchase a car that is either a hybrid or hydrogen powered, you can save a great deal in fuel costs. There are even vehicles that run on natural gas. A gas-powered vehicle can be converted into one that runs on natural gas for about $8000.
5. Run all of your errands in one trip. Instead of making 10 different trips to 10 different places, map out all of your errands and then run them all in one trip.
6. Do not let your car engine idle. You do not even need to let your car engine idle to warm up. The best way for you to get your vehicle to warm up is to drive it. Any time you’re going to leave your car idling for more than a minute, you need to turn off the engine.
7. Carpool when possible. Planning ahead can pay off for you big time. If you can carpool with a coworker or friend when you’re going to work or running errands, you could possibly cut your gas bill up to 50%.
Once you’ve mastered a few good financial habits, you’ll find that managing your money and reaching your financial goals is really not that complicated. Following is an easy 3-step process to get you started…
1. Write Down Your “Big Picture” Goals. Whether you are trying to save money for college, start your own business, or create your dream retirement, you’ll need to develop good financial habits to achieve your goals.
One of my favorite ways to accomplish any task is to write out what the ideal outcome will look like… for example, where or how will you live? How will you spend your days?
In other words… what will your “Perfect Day” look like once you reach your goals?
The key here is to be as detailed as possible – the more realistic you can make your vision, the better. The more real this vision becomes to you, the more likely you are to stick with your plan to make it happen.
2. Outline a Series of Steps to Make it Happen. Once you can clearly “see” where you are headed, you’ll need to develop a game plan to get there.
For example, let’s say you want to start your own home-based business and want to have 12 months worth of living expenses socked away before you do. A good first step would be to make a list of all your usual monthly, quarterly and annual expenses. (Don’t forget to add 15 – 20% to the final number for unexpected emergencies that might pop up).
While you’re at it, honestly evaluate your current income, factoring in any anticipated changes heading your way while you’re working towards your objective.
Once you know your target savings goal, take a look at where you can reduce your current spending levels and/or increase your income in order to reach your goal even faster.
Most importantly, be very specific on what ACTION you can take to make it happen!
3. Be Consistent. Like everything else in life, developing good financial habits takes practice. Simply wishing or hoping for the best isn’t going to help you get out of debt or sock enough away for your retirement.
Once you figure out where you are heading and the steps you need to take to get there… its then up to you to get out there and do what you need to do every day to make it happen!
Resourceful identity thieves may contact you in any number of ways, including over the telephone or via voice mail, email and texting. Fortunately, following a few simple precautions can help you avoid banking related identity theft and its consequences.
When trying to prevent banking related identity theft, the key is to remain vigilant: Many of these messages look and sound like authentic bank communications. However, they are all are attempts to gain access to your personal data and ultimately, compromise your bank accounts.
Fortunately, there is one thing all of these attempts have in common: they all try to elicit information in a manner that no legitimate banking institution ever would.
Rest assured, your bank already has your card information and social security number on file. (*You will most likely be asked to confirm the last 4 digits, however). On the other hand, banks do not have access to your Personal Identification Number (PIN) – and for good reason.
It’s PERSONAL – and should stay that way.
First and foremost – DO NOT ANSWER any questions re: the information noted above. Instead, contact your bank or other financial institution directly using a telephone number from a statement, the back of a debit or credit card or from a telephone book.
If, however, you’ve already responded to one of these messages, contact your banking or financial institution immediately to discuss your options.
Most Americans are used to living with a certain level of debt. Its an unfortunate, but all-too-common fact of life.
If asked, most people would say they’d like to get out from under the debt they have hanging over them. However, wanting to get rid of extra debt is not the same as being in a true “debt crisis.”
If you are in danger of (or are actually) losing your possessions or if you are on the verge of declaring bankruptcy – it’s time to take some emergency action steps to get yourself out of trouble.
The first, and most obvious, step is to drastically cut unneeded expenses.
Start by making a detailed budget for your spending. Be brutally honest here – understand in advance that your budget will probably add up to a lot more than you can afford. (You already know you need to start making cuts – so the more honest you can be with yourself at this stage, the better).
Look carefully at the items of your budget and decide whether you really need what you’re spending money on. When it comes to a crisis state, extras like cable and eating out are probably going to have to go.
Once you’ve removed all the items you don’t need, then cut down your bills on the things you have to maintain. Work on cutting your energy and grocery bills. You can also cut out unneeded parts of needed bills like extras on your phone plan.
Next, return things you can’t afford. Many people reach a budget crisis because they were living outside their means. Often, this can be somewhat reversed. If you’ve made recent purchases you don’t need, try to return them to the store. If you can’t return the things you don’t need, you can sell them in a garage sale or on Craigslist.
Contact credit card companies and other debtors and ask them to reduce your debt.
Many people consider this a futile effort. The debtor doesn’t care about your problems, so why would they work to make things easier on you?
It’s quite simple. Most creditors would rather receive part of something than all of nothing. While they may not be willing to lower your total debt, you may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate or even have them temporarily stop adding interest until your finances improve.
QUICK TIP: Before you pick up the phone to talk to credit card companies, BE PREPARED.
You can find all kinds of resources online for how to talk to creditors. They know what they’re doing – you don’t. If you’re uncomfortable talking to them yourself, there are agencies that can do this for you.
If you’ve worked out everything you can and still can’t make ends meet, you probably want to look into getting another job. Even if you don’t have a lot of free time, you can often find valid work on the Internet or pick up odd jobs for your neighbors.
When everything else fails, get help.
If you’ve tried everything above and nothing’s working, it’s time to get help. For whatever reason, many of us don’t want to see help from others, but when it comes down to being able to afford necessities like food and shelter, sometimes it’s your only option. Utility companies, charities, churches, and various other organizations are willing to help you if you ask for it.
Save Money: Emergency Help with Utility Bills
Everyone can learn to save money on utility bills as they are directly related to your water, gas and electricity consumption.
For starters, there are many upgrades or alterations you can make to your appliances that will drastically reduce the amount of resources you consume. In addition, certain lifestyle changes (e.g., using less hot water) can also have a pronounced effect on your overall utility costs.
Changes You Can Make
For starters, assess the following in your home and determine where your potential trouble spots are:
Finding out how to save money on your utility bills does not have to be a mystery anymore. Evaluating how your home measures up in the three mentioned areas is great place to begin the steps to saving.Read More
Almost all individuals in the U.S. are infected with the habit of making the indiscreet use of credit card that eventually incur them an overwhelming credit card debt. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. citizens have over $886 billion in credit card debt and the figure is expected to rise to $1.177 trillion this year.
If you are also the one among the staggering number of debt stricken individuals, then you may consolidate credit card debt. But credit card consolidation involves certain eligibility criteria and other factors, so if you cannot qualify for it, you may look for other credit card debt relief options.
Credit Counseling: If you are under the pressure of insurmountable amount of credit card debt and are unable to manage it all by your self, then it is advisable to seek help from a credit counselor.
Credit Counselors can aid you manage your finances and pay off your debt as soon as possible. They will review your fiscal situation and will discuss with you about your debt problems in order to determine a suitable solution. They will even assist you in preparing your budget and provide you with free educational workshop in order to make you aware how to manage finances.
All these help in managing the debt and achieve a long term financial goal for future. These counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, debt management, debt consolidation and budgeting. So they can also provide you with a personalized plan to consolidate your credit card debt and solve your debt problems.
Credit card debt consolidation: Credit card debt consolidation is a debt relief solution that consolidates all your debts into a lower monthly payment. This lowers the interest rate on the outstanding balance of debt and therefore reduces the monthly payment extending the length of the loan.
Typically, to take a consolidation loan, you will have to submit collateral in order to secure the consolidation loan. Any time you default on your loan, you may lose all your assets put as collateral.
Credit repair: Credit repair is a good option if you have any erroneous information on your credit. To find that out, order your credit report from the three credit report bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian and take a close look to find out if there is any inaccurate or incomplete information.
If there is, hire the services of a credit repair company who will correspond with your creditors and repair it for free.
However, remember, it’s not so essential to hire someone to do this; you can do it by yourself as well. Improve your credit through a constant effort and sticking to personal debt repayment plan.
Debt settlement: Debt settlement is one of the best debt relief solutions for unsecured debts, like credit card debt. Debt settlement involves negotiating with creditors in order to lower the pay off amount by upto 30 to 60 percent.
Most debt settlement companies charge fees for their services, including a fee to establish the account with the debt negotiator, a monthly service fee, and a fee for a percentage of money that has supposedly been saved.
Bankruptcy: Bankruptcy is a legal status of an insolvent person who cannot repay the debt owed to the creditors. It is designed in such a way that a portion of debt is waived off through an order of the court. On the other hand, it is also designed to allow creditors to get their designated share of debt owed by the debtors.
In conclusion, if you are finding yourself under a knee-deep credit card debt, you may consider any of the above discussed credit card debt relief solutions.Read More