Debt Consolidation

The Facts About Debt

Unhappy With Your Bank? Just “Move Your Money”

Filed under: Banks
Tags: , , — Written by: Simos
April 23, 2010
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Photo by: Mark Csabai (Stock Exchange)

In a previous post, we discussed staying out of debt and maximizing your savings by staying aware of the terms, fees, and features your bank offers and, most importantly, moving to a new one if you discover terms that suit you better. This time, we’re going to share a few more resources to help you locate those deals in your region and compare what’s available. Your bank is immensely important in your financial world, and a little part of it goes with you everywhere in the form of your debit card, so it’s worth getting the most out of it. Even if there weren’t many other options when you first started banking, there probably are now — and lots of people are hunting for the best ones. (more…)

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Never Saved Before? “Keep the Change” Might Be The Answer

Filed under: Banks, Saving
Tags: , , , — Written by: Simos
April 9, 2010

Loose change

Photo by: ajajulian (Stock Exchange)

Household savings is one of your first lines of defense against debt, but most people have more experience with credit than they do with saving cash. If you’re having trouble putting money away, use a little psychology and your bank account to help you out. Remember: it takes longer than a day or two to settle into new habits, and though resolving to save more and spend less is a good start, you’ll have to find a way to endure after enthusiasm starts to dry up. That’s where “Keep the Change” comes in. (more…)

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Keep Your Kids Out of Debt: Four Credit Facts to Share With Teens and Young Adults

Filed under: Children, Debt, Family Finance
Tags: , , , — Written by: Simos
April 2, 2010
Wallet

Photo by: Sanja Gjenero (Stock Exchange)

In today’s tight consumer credit market, it’s harder than ever for someone starting out on the road to financial responsibility to establish strong credit; and even with new legislation intended to protect credit-holders, the stakes may very well be higher now than they were twenty, ten, or even five years ago. A few key credit facts can go a long way toward helping teens and young adults establish a positive credit history that works in their favor when it’s time to start making big decisions.

Here are some useful credit tips to help the youngster in your life avoid debt as an adult. (more…)

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Another Way to Protect Your Budget

Filed under: Budgeting, Debt, Family Finance, Saving
Tags: , , , — Written by: Lyuda
April 1, 2010

Photo By Declan Jewell(flickr)

Here’s another way to protect your budget – take advantage of the free account balance alert feature that many banks now offer. You can request an email you or a text message to your phone letting you know when your account balance falls below a level you specify or when your direct deposit paycheck has posted. They’ll also send reminders of when your bank payments are due, such as credit card debt or other lines of credit.

While there’s no guarantee the alerts will protect you from overdrawing your account or being charged fees you weren’t anticipating, they will let you know where you stand. If you do overdraw or get hit with fees, the alerts will allow you to take immediate steps to get back on track paying your bills if you break your budget.

You can prevent overdrawing your account, which is especially important if you’re still using a debit card. Instruct the bank to remove the ability to overspend from your debit card. Make sure the bank reduces the amount you can overdraw to $0. This is quite an important move for budget protection. It also keeps from getting into debt with the bank by having to worry about having an overdraft line of credit.

Once you’ve run out of funds, banks typically allow you to keep using your debt card as a credit card. Sometimes, they’ll even allow you to withdraw as much as $400 from ATM This allows them to charge you interest on the amount of the overdraft, which can be quite costly.

Probably the best way to limit overdrafts and otherwise spending more than your budget allows by getting rid of the credit and debit card. Just carry the amount of cash you have budgeted.

Similarly, avoid store credit cards. There’s so much advertising and so many incentives for consumers to apply for these cards and keep using them. But these are high interest credit lines that end up offering you no bargains. Not surprisingly, they are a bargain for the credit card company. You shave a few dollars off your purchase, they get hundreds in interest payments. That’s why you need to take only the money you’ve budgeted when you go shopping

These are all great ways to protect your budget and keep it working for you. Remember that it’s an important asset so you need to protect it from the biggest threat is has – your own ability to splurge and take yourself off track. .

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Does Debt Stacking Really Work?

Filed under: Banks, Debt, Debt Consolidation
Tags: , , , , — Written by: Lyuda
March 29, 2010

Too Much Credit
Photo by: Andres Rueda (flickr)

Looking through some of our older articles on UWSA I found some on the subject of Debt Stacking. A few people have asked me whether this is a good idea, and whether it does what it says for people. I’ve never used debt stacking myself, though it is really just a high tech way to follow through on making sure you’re not paying a bunch of extra fees and interest to maintain multiple credit lines. That is a pretty common sense part of maintaining your credit rating. Here’s a little on making debt stacking work, and seeing if it’s right for you.

Firstly a little on what debt stacking is. The basic concept is that once you pay off a debt with a monthly payment you continue to apply the money previously allocated to the monthly payment to the payments for other debts. If you’re trying to get out of debt it’s pretty obvious that is a good idea. What is not obvious is which debts to apply the freed up money to.

Mathematically if you want to get out of debt faster there is a relationship between both the amount of a monthly payment, the balance, and the interest rate. No I don’t know the formula off the top of my head, but there are a lot of computer programs that do, and will allow you to input basic information about your debts and spit out the order in which to pay them off or ’stack’ them.

Tip number one would be not paying a lot for a program; if the goal is spending less repaying your debt and getting out of debt faster burning a bunch of money on a program doesn’t make sense. There are free tools out there to figure this information out, and sometimes professionals will offer that information free of charge or at a reduced fee as well.

One thing debt stacking does do is to avoid what is called ‘the shotgun approach’ to repaying debt. This is where one month you put a little extra on one bill, and next month you do another. Using that approach is a great way to maximize how long you stay in debt.

Tip number two, which is true of any debt repayment strategy, is stick to the plan. The benefits of debt stacking can be great, and include very reduced interest on one’s debts. These benefits drop fast though for every month you don’t make the payments in the manner suggested. If you cannot do this by yourself debt consolidation with a credit councilor or debt consolidation service might make more sense.

Debt stacking can be really helpful in repaying debt, and save you a ton of money. It is also usually free and because generally you are not modifying your repayment plan significantly it can help build your credit rating as well. The key is keeping to the plan, and knowing your limits. As always though the plan only works if it works for your.

Too Much Credit Photo by: Andres Rueda (flickr)

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Protecting Your Budget

Filed under: Budgeting, Debt, Family Finance, Saving
Tags: , , , — Written by: Lyuda
March 25, 2010

Photo by: lyudagreen (flickr)

On paper, a budget may not look like much. Just a list of income and expenses. But if you’re doing your job and following that budget, you know what a critical asset it is. Your budget is keeping your finances – and your life – on track. So why not treat your budget like the precious asset it is by protecting it as you do with jewelry, a fine watch or a family heirloom?

Protecting your budget means following it. It means remembering to make payments when they’re due. It means saving and spending and donating according to a carefully crafted plan.

You can protect your budget in several ways. Here are some suggestions for the technically inclined and the not-so-technically inclined.

I use technology myself. I put my family’s budget into my computer’s Calendar. Then I sync it up with my digital organizer, which, in my case, is my cell phone. This way, I get automatic updates right on my cell phone every month when bills are due.

There are several software programs that do this too. You don’t even need a computer because even cheap cell phones usually include calendars which allow you to input recurring events.

On my cell phone, I get 2 notifications, the first one comes two days before a bill is due and the second one comes on the day the bill must be paid. This makes it very hard to forget when expenses need to be paid.

By due date, I mean the date I need to send a payment for it to get there in time. Some payments are mailed and others I handle online through my checking account.

For those who prefer not to deal with gadgets, paper calendars can work just fine. It’s best to put in expenses at least one month in advance and to check the calendar every day. Put it someplace that you’re sure to see it. And don’t forget to schedule the day to input your expenses for the next month or the next several months right in the budget calendar.

You can also use a personal date book. The important thing is whatever helps you to remember when expenses are due with enough time to make sure the funds are available for them.

Have you got a great method for staying on track with your budget? Tell us what’s working for you!

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Three Little Piggy Banks

Filed under: Banks, Children, Debt, Saving
Tags: , , — Written by: Lyuda
March 9, 2010

Piggy BankPhoto by: Marcelo Moura (Stock Exchange)

Piggy Bank #1: The Three Little Piggy Banks

Piggy Bank is a UWSA blog series discussing ways to save small amounts on a regular basis and how the savings add up surprisingly quickly. Please feel free to share your ideas and your stories about how saving “pocket change” added up and helped you and your family reach a meaningful financial goal.

In the grocery store check-out line the other day, I watched a mom struggling to say “no” to her two sons who were begging her to buy them each a little car that the store had strategically placed at their eye level. There were a whole bunch of toys and trinkets there – meant to encourage impulse purchasing in kids – and in parents who instantly decide that a couple of extra bucks is an easy way to make their child happy. Parents beware! These are NOT cheap toys; impulse purchases add up to big bucks very quickly, especially for parents on a budget. Worse, they encourage terrible spending habits in children from the very earliest of ages. We want to teach our kids how to save, not just spend.

The approach I took with my son, who’s two, is the “three piggy banks” system.” The idea is simple and you can make your “three little pigs” system easier or more complex, depending on your child’s age.

The first step is to get three piggy banks for each child. You can purchase inexpensive ones or make your own out of jars or plastic containers. Perhaps you want to let your child pick out the piggy banks or do a craft with them to turn used containers into piggies.

Next, label the piggy banks as follows: “Savings,” “Spending,” and “Sharing.”

The “Savings” piggy bank is for collecting money that your child will keep on adding to over time. One idea is to have the child periodically deposit the money from the “Savings” piggy bank into their very own passbook savings account. This lets them get used to going to the bank and watching the total in their account go up and up — and they’ll see how their money earns interest.

The “Spending” piggy bank is to help your child save for a long-term goal. This depends on age, but with prices nowadays, it’s probably not hard to imagine that even a younger child wants something that will require accumulating enough money. If they choose to purchase something else with this money, like an impulse toy, it means you have a chance to remind them of their other goal and that it will take longer for them to get “the big thing” they’re saving for. This helps children begin to understand the concept of “cost” as opposed to “price.” Their decisions will have real consequences for them – positive and negative. To reach the long-term goal, they will learn to be more patient and not give in to impulse buying and other diversions.

The “Sharing” piggy bank is for donations to a charity that is important to the child or to your family. The satisfaction of helping those in need it is a wonderful feeling to experience at any age. Charitable giving is as American as apple pie. We have the highest level of individual donations in the world year after year after year.

Once the piggy banks are set up, whenever your child receives money, whether it’s allowance, a birthday gift, payment for shoveling the neighbor’s driveway etc., it gets divided evenly among the three piggy banks.

The three piggy banks can teach children to see money in many ways, not just in terms of what it can buy them. They also see that money can grow into more money and that it can help them help other people. It’s never too soon to start.

The three piggy banks is also a way to encourage your child to spend from the “Spending” piggy bank, rather than your wallet. It might not stop a child from asking you to buy them a trinket they spot at the check out counter, but it will give them an understanding of why you say “no” and a true sense of appreciation on the rare occasion that you say “yes.”

Got a great story about saving money? Please share your inspiration! Write to me at: staff@uwsa.com

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