Tag Archives: credit debt

6 of the Worst Ways to Save

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Over the last year or so, we’ve offered up sundry tips on how to consistently and systematically save money.  However, there exists a litany of alternative methods that certain factions of people routinely employ in a hapless effort to hold on to their finances.  Let’s take a gander at some of the worst ways that people have dreamt up to “save,” and why you should avoid them like the bubonic plague.

“Everything’s fine!  Why would I need insurance?”

For the love of all that is holy, please do not adopt this attitude.  Be it home, auto or health, you need insurance.  All the money you could possibly save in your lifetime by not having insurance will still pale in comparison to the amount you would have to pay out of pocket in the event of an accident or unexpected serious condition.  Property and car insurance providers are well aware of this, and as a result must compete for your business by advertising/offering cost cutting incentives (why do you think Geico has over 100 mascots?)  Even the oft maligned ‘government’ is looking out for you in terms of reasonably affordable health insurance (Hello, Obamacare.)  Only when you’re insured, can you rest assured – or at least take a little nap.

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“Let’s buy in bulk! / Find the best deal!”

Shopping at the massive bulk item conglomerates can be quite cost effective when making purchases …if you actually use up all the items you buy.  For instance, “Octomom” could have benefited from a large supply of diapers.  You, on the other hand, may not need 200 Glade Plug-Ins.  While the individual costs of these items will be ostensibly inexpensive when you break them down, if you aren’t using the products up rapidly, then these giant quantities are effectively costing you cash.  Not to mention the annual fees that most of the wholesale clubs enforce.  Along the same lines, if you spend all day long scouring the internet for “super great deals,” you can often be tempted (and lured with clever advertising) to buy “cheap” things that you weren’t going to buy in the first place.  So great, you’ve just saved 40 cents on fabric softener with a discount code provided by a site, but you also just bought 78 dollars worth of Snuggies.

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“I see Golden Arches ahead!”

Truly, a “Dollar Value Menu” sounds like the epitome of savings/deliciousness, but if you trust your, ahem, gut, you know this is not a smart idea.  Yes, eating healthy can be costly, but ultimately it is worth it.  Scarfing down copious amounts of fast food will leave you feeling lethargic and susceptible to illness.  In the long term, doctor’s bills of any sort will always outweigh any savings you may have incurred from eating BK every day.  Repeat, do not have it your way.

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“Minimum payment: check!  I’m good to go!”

We’ve gone over a lot of the pros and cons of credit cards and how to avoid debt, but one thing is for certain; making only the minimum monthly payment on your cards is costing you a great deal.  As your balance surges higher and higher, the interest you owe also accumulates at this exponential rate, leaving you in quite the credit hole.  Try to pay as much as you can per month (unless, of course, you’ve got one of those nifty promotional cards with an APR of 0% for the first year, in which case, go buck wild.)

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“DIY, DIY, DIY!”

While some of you may love working with your hands, either digging around in a garden for weeds or popping Ikea furniture together, there is definitely a time and a place for home projects.  So let’s go over the times/places where you should NOT attempt to repair or construct things yourself (after a perfunctory Google or Bing instruction session that you deem totally adequate): fixing a hole in your steep angled roof, stopping that gas leak in your basement, putting out the fire billowing from your carburetor, building a guest-tree house for your brother-in-law to live in, capturing a rabid raccoon.  There are professionals in all these fields; if you value your safety in the least bit, please use them.  Even tasks that aren’t that dangerous can just be a colossal waste of your time.  You’ve been trying to grab it for the last three hours; you’re never going to reach that turtle your son flushed down the toilet.  Call a dang plumber immediately before you permanently lose your mind and end up in a mental hospital.

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“One day, this sparkly thing will be worth so much!”

Holding on to old diamond jewelry that you never wear anymore (or ever did, in the case of some dusty inherited pieces) is not smart.  Diamonds, and most jewelry items in general, do not appreciate in the same way that other commodities can.  If you have substantial diamonds of any nature (meaning 1 carat and larger), you should consider selling them now.  The money you make from them can then be used for something more profitable, such as a mutual fund or (a more spiritually profitable) trip to Paris or Mumbai.  Check out DiamondLighthouse.com.  We get our clients the best value for their diamond jewelry, every single time.  Find out how!

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-Joe Leone

Ways to Get Out of Debt

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“We got so far out of debt, we got lost!”

Having a credit card or taking a loan is a commitment that requires a lot of self-control. It is easy to spend borrowed money. It is easy to pay only the minimum payment due. It’s easy to say “yes” to something you don’t have to worry about until the future. But when the future arrives and you’re still in the hole, what can you do?

Getting out of debt requires a coherent and realistic plan that might start with a little prioritizing. Credit.com recommends making a detailed list of all of your debts, a list that includes the total balance, interest rates, the minimum monthly payment, and the three- or five-year pay-off amount that is likely available on your statement. That way, you can compare each debt and evaluate which one is the most pressing based on the interest rate or amount owed.

Consumer expert and blogger Clark Howard advises that in addition to organizing the debt you owe, you should commit to not accruing new debt if possible. Focus on the debt you currently owe rather than looking for opportunities to get new things that you will have to finance. When you organize your debt, list the smallest first and the largest last. Once you tackle the first, you will gain confidence that you can also tackle what remains, and you will see a clearer picture of when you can be debt-free.

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“If we jump high enough, debt can’t reach us!”

One way to avoid having to open new credit lines is to commit to spending cash instead of thinking of your money in terms of credit. Time magazine’s Family Finance writer Kara Brandeisky explains that people who pay in cash are more likely to “feel the pain associated with spending real money,” citing a study that showed consumers are less likely to make luxury impulse buys with credit cards.

Another key part of making a financial plan is to be sure to pay more than the minimum balance each time. Paying the minimum only requires you pay a very small portion of your debt—and then leaves the rest of it in your account to accrue interest. One way to avoid paying a lot of interest is to utilize available balance transfers—most of which offer a promotional period with low or zero percent interest.

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“I got a retweet!”

Make a plan with deadlines and set amounts that you are to pay off, and be willing to adjust that plan when necessary. Track your behavior using a chart or taking notes about whether you really did what you said you were going to do, and be honest with yourself. You may want to create a plan, then schedule time to reassess it every month in the beginning, slowing down to every quarter as you progress. That way, you’ll be sure you’re on the right track and you’ll have the added reward of seeing your debt totals go down.

Clark Howard also advised debtors to use any “excess” cash against their debt. Excess or unexpected cash may come from a higher tax return than expected, a rebate, sales of items on eBay, or even selling your diamonds with us. If you have that cash, prevent the debt you already owe from adding up by putting it toward it. You’ll never miss it!

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“Yes!! …Also, I’m excited for pumpkin spice lattes.”

Liberating yourself from debt is an achievable goal if you are willing to change the way you think about money and the way you live your life. If you make a pact with yourself that you are going to pay off your debt, then uphold that pact, you can knock the debt train right off the tracks and get things moving in a more positive direction. Eighteen percent of people surveyed by CreditCards.com said they expect to never pay off their debts. But that pessimistic attitude doesn’t have to be yours if you plan properly and act according to plan. So chop up that plastic and get out of the black!

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“Debt doesn’t bother me…because I’m really a super hero.”

The Truth about Credit Card Debt in the United States

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As of January 2015, Americans are $882.9 billion in the hole, a 3.3% increase from the previous year.

Yet people are more reluctant to talk about credit card debt than ever, preferring normally taboo topics like politics, salary, love, and religion over credit card debt, according to a poll by CreditCard.com. The average credit card holder has 3.5 credit cards, those little pieces of plastic that have wracked the average credit card debt per household up to $15,799. (This number does not consider households that do not use credit cards. In other words, having credit cards has given the average American household the opportunity to have almost $16K in debt!) Who would want to ruin a good dinner party by talking about that?
Continue reading The Truth about Credit Card Debt in the United States