Tag: money management
Need some money? Don’t ask your friends or family. Find out why.
For many people, there comes a time when it becomes absolutely essential to borrow money to pay important expenses or make bills. If you are late with a lot of bills, you could end up facing huge costs for late fees, utility shut-offs and other penalties. You could damage your credit and you could end up facing eviction or the repossession of your car.
Unfortunately, many people go through these kind of financial problems at some point in their lives and they need to find somewhere to turn for help.
If you are facing any kind of financial problem, from unexpected home or car repairs to being unable to pay bills, you may be tempted to turn to your friends or family members in order to get the money that you need for your bills. The reality, however, is that this is almost always a terrible idea.
Borrowing money from friends and family should be an absolute last resort only after you have exhausted other possible loan options that may be available to you. There are myriad reasons why you should never even borrow money from friends or from family members unless or until you have exhausted all possible other resources and are in a truly emergency situation.
Some of the many reasons why you don’t want to borrow from family and friends include the following:
You could put your family or friends in an uncomfortable position
Many people in the United States today are living paycheck to paycheck and your friend or family member that you ask for money may not actually have any cash to spare to give you, even in a temporary basis.
When you ask them for money, you’ve thus put them in a very uncomfortable position. They might have to admit to you that they are also facing financial struggles, which could be something that they don’t really want to say to you.
If they are a close friend or a close family member, they may also feel too badly to say no to your request especially if they know that you really need the money.
The result could be that your friend or family member lends you money that he or she doesn’t really have to give and thus you could drag someone you love into a bad money situation.
You could ruin the relationship and be uncomfortable whenever you spend time together
Owing someone money can make you feel very beholden to that person, even if they don’t say anything and are gracious about giving you the loan. You could feel uncomfortable and no longer like the equal of the person that you borrowed money from. This can undermine your relationship and make it less fun for you to be around a person who is important in your life.
The person who you borrowed money from could also become resentful of the fact that you took the loan, especially if they see you spending cash on something else or if they feel that you are taking too long or not trying hard enough to pay them back. You do not want to take a chance on alienating the people in your life who you care about because of a financial transaction.
You could end up being unable to pay the loan back
People generally do not borrow money with the intention of defaulting on the loan and not paying it back (especially when they borrow from a family member or a friend).
Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way of your best intentions. Even though you have every intention of paying back the person that you borrow from, you could end up simply being unable to do so.
This is likely to make you feel a tremendous amount of guilt and it is likely to make your friend or loved one feel resentful and possibly feel financial pressure as a result of the bad loan.
These are just a few of the many reasons why you do not want to take a chance of borrowing from a family member or from a friend. Instead, consider all other possible sources of loans available to you.
Even people who have bad credit may be able to obtain a car title loan from a trusted provider like TitleMax.com or a loan through a bank or other lender. Apply for loans and exhaust all options available before you ever even consider asking someone you love or care about for money.
Contrary to popular belief, paying bills on time is an overrated part of your financial reputation.
People are obsessed with getting and keeping an excellent credit score. We hear these statements regularly on our financial helpline:
A caller who can’t pay their monthly bills because their debt payments are so high says, “I can’t go to credit counseling because I heard it will damage my credit score.”
A caller who is not saving in their 401(k) and missing out on the company match says, “I don’t want to pay off my credit cards. I am keeping a balance to help my credit score.”
This makes no financial sense. People aren’t going to seek help getting out of debt — lowering the interest rate and possibly the balance owed — because it will hurt their credit score? How is this helpful? If people don’t get their debt under control, they may never retire. We’ll have a nation of people working into their 80’s with no savings but they can all come together and brag about their credit scores.
Let’s examine some of the biggest credit myths that can lead to disaster:
Assuming if you pay your bills on time, you don’t have to do anything else. Paying your bills on time accounts for about 35% of your credit score but there is another 65% which includes amount owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%) and type of credit (10%). Consider all of the other factors.
Also remember that there may be errors on your credit report so if you don’t check it, you’ll never know and your score will be affected. According to Deborah McNaughton, author of The Get Out of Debt Kit, 80% of credit reports have errors (as cited by Bankrate.com). Many of the erroneous reports had missing information that may boost a score, such as missing a revolving account in good standing, or miscellaneous incorrect information such as an incorrect birthday.
Check your credit report. Credit reports are unique to Social Security numbers, so if you are married, you may want to stagger your requests with your spouse every six months. You can also request your actual score for a onetime fee (which is less than $15 through most credit bureaus). Most credit monitoring services will provide your score for free when you sign up for their service.
Assuming when you divorce, your accounts automatically divorce with you. They don’t. If you have a joint account and one of the parties on the account is late, you are both late. With some types of loans, such as a mortgage or a car loan, the lender may not accept a letter asking you to be removed from the account after a divorce even if that property is going to your ex-spouse. They will need to qualify for the loan on their own before you will be removed from the account.
Take this into consideration because if they don’t refinance, and then have late payments, you may find yourself with some credit issues. When possible, close all joint accounts and refinance any debt separately. If it is not possible, maintain some type of control, whether it is an escrow account or at least access to information to make sure the accounts are paid in a timely manner. Don’t assume. Also see the last point about closing accounts.
Avoiding consumer credit counseling because it will hurt your credit score. For someone with serious debt, working with a not-for-profit credit counseling agency to develop a debt reduction plan and get out of debt permanently should take priority over credit scores. Credit counselors will work with your creditors to try and reduce your monthly payments, or settle your debt altogether. Debt settlement doesn’t affect scores as badly as you would think. In fact, many people don’t realize that late payments affect scores more than a debt settlement. Here is an example of how a debt settlement can affect credit scores, and how that compares to late payments.
A late payment hurts your score more than a debt settlement if your score is in the 680 range; it only significantly pulls it down if you are in the 780 range. Let’s be honest here, people ready for credit counseling probably don’t have the highest scores anyways, and the bottom line is credit scores are fluid — they can be rebuilt. According to Credit.com, a debt write off can stay on your credit report from seven to ten years, but as the information ages, so does its negative impact.
Making late payments aren’t that big a deal. According to FICO, a 30-day late payment can affect your score by as much as 110 points. Late payments can have a huge impact on your credit score causing it to drop like a stone. This is one disaster that is relatively easy to avoid. Simply set up all of your accounts with an automated minimum payment schedule from your checking account. This way you’ll never miss a payment. You can always pay additional amounts through online banking. Set yourself up for success with this one because it can be an easy one to miss and makes a significant impact.
Closing accounts to clean up your credit. Closing an account may be a good idea if you only opened the account to get a discount on merchandise or have too many credit cards which is causing confusion, but it won’t clean up your credit or help your score. In fact, it can hurt your score when the account you close has a long credit history — especially a good one. Your credit history accounts for 15% of your score, so in making decisions which cards to keep and which ones to close, keep in mind how long you’ve had the account open and close the most recent ones first.
Are credit scores important? Yes, but they are not the “be all and end all.” Now that we’ve dispelled some of the biggest myths, consider what the “be all and end all” is for you. What are your biggest financial challenges and concerns? Our latest research shows that less than 18% of employees feel they are on track for retirement.
Are you part of the 82% that isn’t? Do you have a personal net worth statement and is it going in the right direction? The point is when you focus on the important financial issues, you have a chance to meet your financial goals. Clean up your credit if you have to, and do your best to keep a good credit score, but let’s not go overboard and lose sight of everything for just one number.
Two frugal experts reveal how to shave 15 percent off your monthly utility bills.
Imagine spending just $20 a year — or less — for yearly telephone service. Or, perhaps you’d be interested in shaving 15 percent off your monthly utility bills. Two frugal experts say you can do it.
Everyone looks for simple ways to save, especially in today’s tumultuous economy. Bankrate asked two frugal bloggers to share their thoughts on some nearly effortless ways to hang on to your hard-earned green.
If you take their advice to heart, you’ll likely save at least $100 a month around the house.
Rethink Your Phone Service
Fed up with expensive telephone bills? Jonni McCoy, author of the Miserly Moms website, recommends switching to an alternative phone service like magicJack or Skype.
Such services allow you to make local and long-distance calls for a fraction of the price of traditional phone service. For instance, magicJack customers can get phone service for as little as $19.95 a year, while Skype calls are free to other Skype users.
“These are good alternatives to (traditional) phone service, and they include long distance, so no extra card is needed,” McCoy says.
Customers nervous about dropping their traditional phone carrier have other options for saving money.
For example, consider canceling long-distance service from your phone carrier and using calling cards instead, says Susan Palmquist, creator of money blog The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to the Universe.
Need a second phone line? In this case, a service like magicJack works well, because it’s “much cheaper than adding a second line to your existing phone account,” Palmquist says.
When it comes to your monthly cell phone bill, save money by cutting down on your minutes and switching to a more basic plan. Palmquist recommends switching to a pay-as-you-go cell phone.
Cut Down on Electricity
Each month, utility bills silently drain a little more cash from your wallet, preventing you from building a sizable emergency fund or retirement nest egg.
There are several ways to trim these bills. Three quick and painless ways to save include: switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs (which are more energy-efficient than standard light bulbs) lowering the temperature on your hot water heater (130 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to kill germs) and drying your clothing on a clothesline or rack whenever possible.
McCoy and Palmquist also recommend signing up for any incentive or rebate programs offered by the local utility company.
With these programs, you typically agree to allow the power company to briefly shut off certain appliances when energy demand is particularly high. In return, you get a credit on your monthly bill.
For example, customers who participate in Florida Power & Light’s On Call Savings Program allow FPL to install a small device on their water heater and air conditioner compressor. This allows the utility company to periodically borrow electricity for 15 minutes or so.
Palmquist — who lives in Minneapolis and gets her power from Xcel Energy — does this and gets a 15 percent discount on her bills.
Are you drowning in monthly water bills? Palmquist and McCoy recommend money-saving options such as washing all clothing in cold water.
“I use cold water to wash clothes, and recently read that using the delicate cycle also saves water, too,” Palmquist says.
In some cases, saving cash actually goes hand in hand with superior performance, Palmquist says.
“We installed a low-flow shower head in the main bathroom and find it not only saves water, but the flow is better than the old one,” she says.
Of course, another “no-brainer” way to save is simply to use appliances less frequently. Wait until you have a full load before running the washing machine, dryer or dishwasher.
Don’t overlook water-saving tips for outside the home. Palmquist plans to invest in a rain barrel for outside watering next year. Meanwhile, McCoy recommends making changes to landscaping “so there is less lawn to water.”
Bundle or Drop Cable and Internet
McCoy suggests saving money by bundling cable and Internet services. Palmquist agrees, and recently switched to an “economy package” for her TV service.
However, Palmquist says it’s important to look before you leap into bundling.
“Sometimes it’s more expensive and they can lock you into a two-year contract, so check out everything first,” she says.
If you’re really gung-ho about saving, simply drop cable altogether. Perhaps you can watch your favorite TV shows for free on an Internet site.
Or, maybe it’s time to simply give up those expensive TV habits and think about the priorities that really matter to you.
“My main advice is to think about wants and needs,” Palmquist says. “Many of us think something’s a necessity when really it’s just a want.”
These tricks could raise your income or reduce expenses without affecting your quality of life.
It’s painfully clear Americans are still hurting financially. Jobless claims are far too high if we’re actually in any kind of meaningful recovery. Penalty withdrawals from 401(k) plans have been increasing, not shrinking. Mortgage rates are hitting 40-year lows with regularity and we still can’t find a pulse in the housing industry.
If there was a magic wand that would sharply raise incomes or reduce expenses, we’d be out there waving like mad. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to cut and stretch. If you can afford it, give yourself some transition time to get used to spending cuts. Some will come at too steep a price in terms of your quality of life. But others may be painless, and you’ll never look back.
1. Know where your money goes.
This is Number One Obvious Idea that many people don’t follow. How can you possibly know how to save money if you don’t know what you spend it on? There are a growing number of online budgeting sites to help you. Use one, or do this yourself. Whatever you’ve been spending each month, try cutting it by 5 percent. Then cut it by another 5 percent the following month. Keep it up if you can, and put the savings in the bank or pay down debts.
2. Make a grocery list and don’t stray.
Once you’ve tracked household spending, you will see how much you spend at the supermarket. What’s less clear is that you also probably spend a lot of money on stuff you don’t need. In our house, we began downsizing our grocery spending by seeing what we were throwing out and the items that had freezer burn and should have been tossed. This helped sensitize us to unnecessary purchases. (My mom passed away nearly 30 years ago and I can still remember her hollering at me about wasting food.) We also save money by making fewer runs to the store. Our greatest savings come when we make a weekly meal plan, create a shopping list for that plan, and then buy nothing but what’s on that list.
3. Mothball a car.
If your household has two cars, try leaving one in the garage for a month. See how it affects your life. With a modest amount of planning, a lot of households might be able to make do with a single car. Once you’ve determined that you can do likewise, sell the second car, bank the money, and also begin enjoying lower bills for auto insurance, gasoline, and maintenance.
4. Try free phone service.
I’ve bought and used the MagicJack service, which is the most popular of its type. You order a small device — perhaps an inch and a half by three inches and about an inch thick — and it connects to your home computer. The software that launches when you connect the device provides easy-to-follow instructions. MagicJack also links from the computer to your existing phone set. So, you are making your phone calls over the Internet but using a regular telephone to do so.
I’ve found the audio quality higher than with products that require separate headphones and microphones. And picking up the phone is such a long-ingrained habit that there didn’t seem to be much to learn. You do need to get a new local phone number, which Magic Jack will provide at no extra charge. After the initial fee, there is no charge for domestic phone calls. This switch can easily save you hundreds of dollars a year. Think about keeping your existing phone line for a transition period in case MagicJack or a similar device doesn’t meet your needs. If you like the MagicJack and also have a cell phone, if could make sense to cancel your home land line and switch your home phone number to your cell. You’d lose your existing cell number but you’d at least be able to keep your old home number.
5. Trim television services.
Hey, I love my cable, and millions others love their satellite dishes. But if the times demanded, I would wave goodbye to a bundle of monthly cable charges. I’d also be in mourning during football season but I’d survive. I would install a digital antenna. And I’d begin making much heavier use of free online video sites that the networks and other providers offer.
6. Recheck insurance rates.
A year ago, I went out shopping to explore replacing all my insurance coverages. I wound up saving a bundle. When you’ve had your auto, home, life, and other insurance policies in place for several years, it’s easy to forget what I call “creepage” — those annual bump-ups in premiums. They really add up after a while. And while constantly rising health insurance rates may make it seem like premiums can only move in an upward direction, that’s not true. When you do shop around, you also may discover that your coverage needs have changed. If your cars are the same ones you had five years ago, for example, you probably don’t need as much collision insurance as you once did.
7. Forget about green; go brown!
The summer has been brutal where I live. But with dollars at stake, I am becoming very environmentally responsible. So what if even the goats pass by my yard?
Using some simple rules and tools can help you save plenty over the long haul.
Break bad habits: The science of habit change
Does it really take just 21 days to change a habit? Experts say it’s not that simple. “Breaking bad habits successfully depends on your readiness to act,” says Heidi Beckman, clinical health psychologist at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and speaker on financial behavior change.
John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com, agrees. “If it was easy, we’d all have big savings accounts, and none of us would have credit card debt,” he says.
Beckman says habits change more quickly when you’re in the action stage versus the ambivalence or preparation stages that come before. To catapult yourself into action, she recommends using this three-step approach daily.
1. Create a positive picture in your mind of the result you want, and act as if the bad habit is gone. Use a negative picture of the current stressful result of the bad habit to push yourself further toward action.
2. Identify and focus on your positive financial habits, as proof you can do things the right way.
3. Create simple rules to fall back on when tempted, such as: “Don’t browse shopping websites until all my bills are paid this month.”
Break bad habits: Resist impulse buying
“We’re wired for instant gratification,” says Ulzheimer. “But if you can’t afford to pay cash and whip out a credit card without thinking, then you’re on a downward spiral into debt and money mismanagement.”
Using credit cards to spend more than the cash you have while making only the minimum payments on the cards can build up their balances faster than you can pay them, he says. And if you pay late, penalty fees just add to the total. “You forgo the many benefits of the proper use of plastic, such as for reimbursable business traveling, establishing a good debt utilization percentage on your credit report… and for earning easy cash-back rewards,” says Ulzheimer.
Practice telling yourself “no” when tempted to spend, and try these tactics.
• Distract yourself by making a phone call or unwrapping a stick of gum until the “buy” urge passes.
• Make a rule to only charge for reimbursable business expenses or rewards and only when you have the cash to pay for it during the grace period before the date interest is charged. Double-check dates.
• If you must take drastic measures to curb spending, have your credit card company lower your limit and opt out of over-limit and overdraft spending so your card gets declined.
Break bad habits: Automate finances
Counting on willpower alone is not enough. “When you rely on willpower to meet your expenses, important financial obligations such as timely payments and depositing to an emergency cash or retirement fund are left up to your personal choice and can easily be mismanaged,” says David Bach, author of “The Automatic Millionaire.”
Ulzheimer warns that some use the excuse of not being organized or not having enough money, but paying late just means you pay more because many companies tack on a late fee (typically $39) and many also charge you interest on the unpaid balance as well.
Says Bach: “Make your important payments automatic so bills get paid on time, and important savings deposits that protect you and your family don’t get missed.”
Make payments automatic to avoid late fees.
• Set up shadow payment dates by subtracting seven days from the real due date.
• Make payments automatic using your bank’s or the payee’s online bill pay.
Break bad habits: Pay more than the minimum
Paying just the minimum is a good way to stretch out your debts for as long as you can. “When you only pay the minimum amount due on a credit card, you’re effectively rolling over approximately 97 percent of the balance and adding the interest applied,” says Ulzheimer. This is very profitable for mortgage companies and card issuers, but not you. “The only way to reduce your balance quickly is to pay more than the minimum, avoid fees and stop adding to balances,” advises Ulzheimer.
Pay more than the minimum with every payment.
• Set up automatic timely payments of a higher amount than the minimum.
• For fastest results, create a “debt snowball,” in which you pay as much as you can toward the lowest-balance card until it is paid off. Then you apply that same payment amount plus the new payment amount to the card with the next-smallest balance.
• Consider taking advantage of the automatic biweekly mortgage payment plan your lender may offer. For the one-time fee, the quicker pay-down is worth many thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.