How to Plan a Memorable Family Vacation Without Going into Debt

How to Plan a Memorable Family Vacation Without Going into Debt

Isn’t is sad that most vacations people go on are financed? It is hard to enjoy a vacation that you know isn’t paid off yet! But you can take a memorable family vacation without going into debt. The world tells you to put your vacation on credit and take care of it later. I promise you will enjoy your vacation that much more if you don’t go into debt for it. Check out these tips!

[Read more…]

5 Expenses You Should Avoid Paying with a Credit Card

5 Expenses You Should Avoid Paying with a Credit Card

A credit card may seem like a friend when you’re in a crunch, but misuse of the cards can create a lot of stress or even financial ruin. It’s important that you know when to – and when not to – use your credit cards to prevent a mass of debt that you can’t seem to get out from under.

Read on to learn five expenses that you should never put on a credit card!

1) College Expenses

No one wants to graduate from college with a lot of debt, but credit card debt fresh out of school can be the worst. Avoid placing your college tuition on a credit card, as the interest rates will likely be much higher than you can get with a regular loan through your school or the government.

Check out any and all scholarships offered by your high school, hometown, or the college you will be attending. If necessary, get a part time job to help pay for expenses such as books or gas to and from school, so you aren’t tempted to put it all on a card.

2) Wedding Costs

Similar to college, newlyweds shouldn’t begin life together with an alarming credit card balance. Financial stress is not something you want to create in your first years of marriage. A smaller wedding may not be as extravagant as you wish, but it will relieve you of any possible arguments over the debt you have waiting for you as soon as you return from your honeymoon.

Create a wedding budget, and accept that a smaller wedding may be necessary to avoid the hassle of credit cards. Alternatively, push back the date until your wedding account has enough in it to cover the essentials you want for your big day.

3) Furniture

The “0% for 12 months” credit card offers from furniture stores may seem enticing when you want to redecorate your bedroom or the den, but avoid financing such a large purchase. Sure, you have a year to pay it off, but the odds that you will are slim and no one wants to have such a large debt looming over them when trying to enjoy their new purchase.

4) Vacations

It’s fun to take a break from the real world, but not so much when you return to a large credit card bill. It’s very easy to spend more than you planned when you charge your lodging, food, and attractions. Find ways to save money on your trip rather than introducing more stress into your future.

5) Medical/Tax Bills

Sometimes, serious bills arise that we don’t plan for. A child has a hospital stay, or you miscalculated your taxes and owe the IRS. You may want to reach for your credit cards to settle these debts, but it’s usually not a good idea. Instead, remedy the situation by reaching out to the company you owe money to and setting up a payment plan.

 

7 Tips for Gaining Control of Your Finances in the New Year

7 Tips for Gaining Control of Your Finances in the New Year

The new year is upon us, and that means it is time to start gaining control of your money and getting yourself financially stable. If you have been struggling with getting your finances on track, the start of a fresh year is the perfect time to get focused. If you aren’t sure where to begin, take a peek at these 7 tips for gaining control of your finances in the New Year so you can enjoy the financial peace you deserve.

1. Track your spending.

It can be a difficult to face reality when it comes to your day to day spending. Coffee stops, gas, dining out, clothing purchases, and other day to day purchases can all add up quickly. The best way to face what you are spending is to track your spending. Track your spending for 10 days to see where your money is going and to get a clear picture of where you can start cutting costs.

2. Make cuts.

Once you track your spending for 10 days, start making cuts wherever you can. See which purchases can be eliminated all together, and which can be cut back. Try to identify which ones were impulse purchases, and which ones you couldn’t honestly afford. Take an honest look, and see where cuts and savings can be found.

3. Practice saving methods daily.

There are so many ways to save money: clip coupons, price match, wait for sales, buy second hand, etc. Start utilizing these practices in your day to day life. Even if you haven’t in the past, now is the time to get into the habit of these practices in all areas of spending so you can start saving money wherever possible.

4. Opt for cash only purchases.

One of the best ways to get back on track is to opt for cash only purchases. When you avoid charging items, you avoid buying items you may not be able to afford. You also avoid high interest fees as well as late fees for late payments. Instead, opt to pay cash on everything so you are only buying what is truly in your budget at the moment.

5. Bring your family on board.

Hold a family meeting to let them know about the upcoming changes. If they know you are working on a tighter budget, opting for cash purchases, and utilizing various savings methods, they can best help you meet your goals and support your efforts. If you wish, you can also find a friend or buddy to take on this challenge with you. Support always helps!

6. Go on a spending fast.

When you go on a spending fast, you refuse to buy anything for the designated length of time. It can be a day, a week, or even a month. You will be amazed at how much you can save in this time period and how much “stuff” you really don’t need! You will also be forced to get creative, which is fun and challenging.

7. Find non monetary ways to reward yourself.

We often make purchases we can’t afford because we feel like we deserve them. Well, you deserve financial peace as well. Find non monetary ways to reward yourself for your hard work. Some ideas could be a nap or sleeping in; a visit to a local park, some free music downloads, etc. Find ways to spoil yourself without spending dough.

When you keep these tips in mind, you can enter the New Year ready to save and get your finances in check! Give them your attention and see if they don’t make a difference in your life.

8 Great Tips for Paying Down Debt

8 Great Tips for Paying Down DebtOne of the biggest obstacles many of us face in our financial life is getting rid of debt. Think how much freedom you would have in your budget if you weren’t still paying off the vacation you took 3 years ago, dinners out 6 months ago or the clothing hanging in the closet with the tags still on them. So what’s the magic solution? The magic solution is, to steal a phrase…JUST DO IT! I have been chiseling at my own debt for the past three years, with the end in sight in two. Here are the tips I have found useful.

1) Get Serious

Don’t think about this in theory only. You need to get in there, get dirty and make hard choices. You need to understand this is not a way of life you will have to adopt forever, but it will forever change your life. Prepare to make sacrifices and stick with it.

2) Make a Plan

Use online calculators to figure out realistic monthly payments. These will allow you to plug in your various debts, their interest rates and the amount of time you would like to have those debts paid within.

3) Sell Anything You Don’t Need

Think about all the “stuff” you have that you don’t need. Be brutal. Sell those items and use the money to pay down your debt. Put ads in the classifieds and on Craigslist, have a garage or yard sale, take things to the consignment shop, sell extra gold for cash. The side benefit to all of this is the peace you will feel when you don’t have all of this extra “stuff” weighing you down.

4) Work a Part-Time Job

Pick something you will enjoy so it’s bearable, but find something to bring in extra income. I like working with people, so working at the guest service counter of a local discount store has been a great fit for me in the past. Those paychecks go directly to paying off debt.

5) Sell Your Skills

What are you good at? What can you do that others don’t like to do? You have an opportunity to get paid for these things! Mow lawns, tutor, baby sit, run errands, freelance, do handyman work, drive for those who can’t…the possibilities are endless.

6) DON’T Take on New Debt

Just because you have cleared up extra room on your credit cards as you pay off your debt does NOT mean it’s okay to charge them up again.

7) Buy Only What You Need

If it’s not in your budget, don’t buy it. If you can borrow it, don’t buy it. If you can improvise and use something else, don’t buy it. If you can repair something you already have to use in place of it, don’t buy it. Are you seeing a theme here? Stop buying things you don’t need!

8) Treat Yourself

This is not an excuse to spend money. Do however, do things that you enjoy…take a bubble bath, or a moonlit walk, cook a dinner you truly enjoy. Spend your life doing things you enjoy, but don’t spend your life spending.

Photo Credit: iClipart

5 Reasons to Live Frugally Even If You Don’t Need To

Scissors  to cut  a dollar

Living frugally doesn’t always have to be a lifelong way of living. Some people choose to keep this lifestyle just until the credit card debt is paid off, or until the mortgage is fully paid. For the meantime, one will clip coupons and bring a packed lunch to work. Of course, while you can return to your old ways once your financial goals have been met, you can also choose to continue living a frugal lifestyle. Here are some reasons you may want to consider doing so:

1) You’ll stay out of debt.

Yes, living frugally allows you to get out of debt—but it also allows you to stay out of debt. Apply the lessons you’ve learned during the process of your debt repayment to build up your savings and continue paying off your bills in a timely manner.

2) You’ll be prepared for emergencies.

Being frugal with your money allows you to build up a decent emergency fund, which will come in handy when your car needs repairing, when your pipes are leaking, or when someone gets sick.

3) You can set aside money for your children.

You may have enough to pay off your bills this year, but how about your child’s tuition, wouldn’t it be great to start preparing for college? What about their first home? Put away money for your children’s future, and maybe even for your grandchildren!

4) You’ll be teaching your children an important lesson.

Living frugally will impart valuable lessons to your children. Don’t allow your children to grow up with an unhealthy attitude about money. Teach them to budget carefully, and to avoid making the mistakes you may have made. Teach them to avoid debt at all costs, and to only pay for things with money they’ve already earned.

5) You’ll have more room to give.

When you’re drowning in money troubles, you’re probably paying very little attention to those around you who may need a helping hand. Now that your finances are back on track, you can be more generous to those less fortunate than you. Even simply giving away product freebies or heavily discounted items you buy with coupons to those in need could really make a difference.

Once you’ve learned to form positive financial habits, maintain them. There’s no reason to go back to the way you used to handle your finances. You may never be completely stress-free when it comes to money matters, but preparing for whatever comes your way will definitely give you a lot more peace of mind.

Photo Credit: iClipart

5 Common Excuses For Not Saving Money

5 Common Excuses For Not Saving MoneyIt’s incredibly easy to come up with excuses for not doing certain things. Saving money is no exception. It can be very easy to come up with excuse after excuse to put off saving up for emergencies, possible job loss, paying off debt, or other monetary goals or scenarios. Here are some of the most common excuses used for not saving money:

1) I don’t make enough money.

It’s completely possible to save even just a little each month, no matter how small your salary may be. Before hitting the malls or paying the bills, tuck away a small amount for your savings account. Even saving $10 or $15 per paycheck is enough to get the ball rolling. Try setting up an automatic transfer to make parting with your hard-earned cash a little easier.

2) I want to enjoy my money now.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy your money today—but don’t do this at the expense of your future. Not everyone is able to enjoy job security and good health until they are old and gray. Remember that you need to save for tomorrow, too.

3) I need to pay off my debt first.

Yes, it’s important to pay off your debt as soon as possible. However, keep in mind that you will always have bills to pay. In fact, a savings account will help you avoid digging yourself deeper in debt later on. Set aside even a small amount of money for your savings, whether or not you are debt-free.

4) I’ll save when I’m older.

You can never be too young to start saving. Sadly, many young people feel that they still have plenty of time to build up their savings account and that they should enjoy themselves now. They really should feel the other way around! Set aside a little money now while you have no mortgage or household expenses to think of. You’ll definitely thank yourself later.

5) I’ll wait until my salary is higher.

It’s true that some people actually do follow through with saving when their salaries are higher. However, not everyone succeeds with this mentality. You may earn more money later on, but your expenses will get bigger, too. A better mindset is to start setting aside money now, then increase your amount of savings when your pay increase comes through.

If you find yourself constantly mentioning or thinking these excuses, it’s time to change your attitude about money. We must realize that not saving up can cause us a great deal of financial distress later on. Regularly put money in a savings fund and you’ll rest easy knowing that you’re ready for the future.

Photo Credit: iClipart

My Roller Coaster Relationship With Money!

My kiddos on their favorite roller coaster

I’ve had mostly a roller coaster relationship with money.  During my life I’ve gone from having very little to having more than plenty then back to having very little again before leveling off.

I’m an “Air Force brat” with five siblings and as we moved from base to base throughout childhood money was always tight so we learned early on to either make things ourselves or make do with what we had. Those skills served me well over the years, although I fell off the frugal wagon during college when credit was easy to get but jobs weren’t. I learned my credit lessons the hard way when it took a decade to pay off all my fun college purchases like clothing, a stereo, clothing, DVD player, television and more clothing.

After college I started a successful business during an economic upswing and I actually began to feel guilty about how much money I was making. It was the first time in my life that I had any real money left over at the end of the month and I didn’t want to get into debt again so I started putting away as much as I could. After the Gulf oil spill the economy crashed in our area and I closed the business in 2009. Having an emergency fund, combined with living as frugally as possible, has kept my family of seven afloat for three years! Hopefully the twists and turns are behind us, but we know we can withstand the ride!

Disclosure – I wrote this post as an entry for a judged contest from Wells Fargo. I received no compensation for this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Life After Credit Card Debt -5 Tips for Remaining Debt Free

Nothing can compare to the sense of fulfillment and exhilaration you experience when finally becoming debt free. If you’ve managed to successfully and completely pay off all your credit card debts after an extremely long period of time—a very big congratulations to you!

Yes, you do deserve to celebrate a little after carefully handling every single dollar for many months or even years. However, keep in mind that although you are no longer in debt, remaining debt free is a completely different story.

Here are some useful tips on remaining debt free for the rest of your life:

1)  Stick to one or two cards.

While it may be impossible to completely stop using credit cards, the least you can do is have just one or two cards. Close your accounts if you find yourself constantly being tempted to spend more money than you can actually afford.

2)  Use cash.

You may have credit cards in your possession, but that doesn’t mean you need to use them. Always use cash to pay for your purchases unless using your card is really necessary. Keep your credit cards at home to avoid being tempted!

3)  Don’t spend past a certain percentage of your credit limit.

Commit to never maxing out your card again. Establish a limit to your credit card spending and stick to it. A safe bet would only be spending up to about 30 to 40 percent of your limit.

4)  Pay off your balance at the end of the month.

Only swipe your credit card when you are absolutely sure that you can pay off the entire amount within 30 days. This mindset may be a very difficult one to practice, but it is sure to keep you from going back in debt.

5)  Create an emergency budget.

One reason many people go into debt is because they lack emergency funds for when such crucial times arrive. Now that you are no longer paying off debt after debt each month, start working on beefing up your emergency funds instead. One easy way to build up your incidental funds is by setting up an automatic draft from your payroll account to your savings account!

As you are about to find out, life after credit card debt isn’t easy. Don’t get sucked back into debt, and don’t let all your hard work go down the drain! To remain debt free, you must keep making smart decisions and uphold your commitment at all times!

Photo Credit: iClipart

5 Practical Ways to Get Rid of Credit Card Debt

Are you purposely ignoring the increasing amount of credit card bills piling up on your kitchen table? Don’t worry—millions of other people also know what it’s like to be behind on bill payments. If you are deep in debt, you first need to realize and accept that you have to face these debts straight on. Here are some practical tips to help you out:

1)  Ask for a lower rate.

Call up your credit card company and kindly ask the customer service representative if there’s any way you could get your current rate lowered. The worst that they can do is say no to your request. Who knows? They might just agree!

2)  Divide your minimum credit card payments in half.

Interest is based on your account’s average daily balance for the month. Why not divide the minimum credit card payment in half, and then pay this amount twice a month? By doing this, you’ll also be able to schedule your payments around the time you get your paychecks, as opposed to scrambling to gather enough funds for one large payment at the end of the month.

3)  Follow the snowflake method.

The snowflake technique requires you to use any extra money to help pay off your credit card debt. Did you get cash as a birthday present from your parents? Did you make a few dollars from garage sale earnings? Use these additional dollars to pay off your debt instead of spending it or putting it in the bank. It may not seem like a lot—but every little bit counts!

4)  Find an additional source of income.

If your monthly earnings just aren’t enough, you might need to find another source of income. If your schedule permits, then try looking for a part time job that you can do in the evenings or during the weekends. Utilize your talents to make a little extra money. Write articles for local magazines or newspapers, or develop a website for a friend’s business. A few extra dollars per month can make a huge difference in getting you out of debt!

5)  Build an emergency fund.

It may seem like a tall order, but do your best to allot a portion of your budget towards building up an emergency fund. If you need to make a sudden trip to the doctor or send your car in for repairs, it’s better to pay for such expenses with cash instead your credit card!

Follow these tips and you’ll make steady progress towards being debt free. Focus on your goal and commit to getting yourself out of credit card debt, one payment at a time.

Photo Credit: iClipart

6 Steps to Work Your Way Out of Debt

Millions of people around the world are struggling to get out of debt. It is a long road, and it definitely isn’t an easy one. If you are one of these people trying to pay off an endless list of payables—don’t lose hope. Focus on being debt free, and take things one at a time.

Here are a few practical steps to help you work your way out of debt:

1. Stop acquiring new debt

The first step to working you way out of debt is to stop acquiring new debt. Yes, this piece of advice may seem obvious, but you need to start realizing that you cannot afford to spend money you don't have. Leave your credit cards at home or better yet, cut them up!

2. Look your debt in the eye.

One of the most difficult things to do is to face reality and total all your debts. Itemize each payable—student loans, medical bills, car loans, personal loans, credit cards and anything else you may need to pay off.

3. Select the first debt to work on.

Look over your list of debts and decide on which of them you’d like to tackle first. Is it the smallest debt or the one with the highest interest rate? Choose to work on a debt that will motivate you, and then continue to create an order for paying off your remaining debts.

4. Start paying.

Pay the minimum payment on all your debts. For the first debt on your list, pay the minimum amount plus whatever extra amount you can afford to pay. Keep doing this on a monthly basis until you have completely paid off your first debt.

5. Keep going.

You’ve entirely paid off one debt—and are definitely making progress! Repeat the process on your second debt on your list.

As you begin to see results, it’s extremely important that you stay focused on your end goal. Do not return back to your old spending habits!

6. Move forward.

Once you are worry-free, start working towards the future. Create an emergency fund, see the world and save for retirement.

The road to being debt-free will take a lot of time and even more dedication, but just remind yourself that your hard work will definitely pay off!

Photo Credit: iClipart

jfdghjhthit45