Entries from November 2011 ↓

Tips For Avoiding Consumer Debt Over the Holidays

Holidays are meant to be joyous occasions full of togetherness for friends and family.  However, holidays have also become synonymous with consumerism and marketing ploys are amped up to try to put your spending habits on overdrive. The holidays create an environment where extreme pressure is placed on the average citizen to spend well above their means and give the newest and best gifts to everyone on their family tree and neighborhood block. This pressure causes a lot of Americans to turn to credit cards when purchasing presents for their family and friends–spending money they don’t have.

Financing the holidays in this manner can lead to overwhelming credit card bills that take a long time to pay off–creating lasting memories of the holiday, but certainly not in a good way! Instead of getting yourself into consumer debt this holiday season, follow these simple steps:

1. Set the credit cards aside. When you bring your credit cards on shopping trips it can be extremely tempting to whip them out for purchases you hadn’t planned or gifts you can’t afford. When you’re venturing out to tackle holiday shopping leave the credit cards at home in a safe place.

2. Shop online. Often, websites like Amazon have far better deals than brick and mortar department stores. When you get an idea for a present, click around and see if there are any great deals online. When making a purchase use your debit card.

3. Stick to a budget. Check your finances and determine how much you can afford to spend per person on your shopping list. Plan your gifts around these numbers and don’t stray just because you find something you know they’ll love but  YOU can’t afford.

4. Buy presents with cash. Once you’ve established a budget, a great way to make sure you don’t go over is to take that money out in cash. You don’t need to do this all at once, but keep track! Once you’ve spent your allotted present-purchasing funds, the shopping is over.

5. Get crafty. Capitalize on your skills! Are you a great knitter, fabulous baker or craft extraordinaire? Buying supplies in bulk and making friends and family one of a kind gifts from scratch is a wonderful way to save money. They’re sure to appreciate gifts made especially for them more than a store bought doodad they could purchase themselves.

6. Save early. The most effective tip for avoiding holiday debt is prior planning. Set up a way to save money for the holidays all year round. Whether this is a special savings account or a shoe box in your closet, putting away $10-$50 each paycheck will add up quickly! This will also allow you to pull from these funds if you find a good deal  on a potential present at any point in the year (tuck it in the closet and give when appropriate–Aunt Jane will never know you purchased it in July!).

When the holidays sneak up on you it is easy to fall to the pressures of consumer debt but by keeping an eye on your finances and planning appropriately you can stay debt free this holiday season!

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Using the Internet to Better Manage Your Money!

The Internet is, without doubt, the most useful tool modern society has at its disposal. Aside from endless hours of entertainment watching people fall over on Youtube and catching up with celebrity gossip on Twitter, there are really, genuinely useful applications for the mammoth amount of information online and at our fingertips.

One such use for the Internet is in effective money management. There are forums, websites, blogs and even videos that can teach us little hints and tricks that will help us to budget better and keep our bank balances looking a little healthier. Here are three ways in which we feel the Internet can be put to best use in money management.

Money Saving!

Voucher codes – use forums, voucher code websites and blogs to find discount codes to save on your online purchases. But don’t stop there!

Price comparison – if you are going to make a purchase, it now takes just moments to find out where the best place to make that purchase is. Google Shopping and other purpose built sites will let you compare prices from across the web on almost any product you can think of!

Cashback – there are many cashback websites where, when you make certain purchases, the website will give you a certain amount of cash (based on affiliate or similar relationships they have with the retailer). So if you’re going to make a purchase anyway, you might as well do so through a cashback website!

Budgeting

No matter where in the world you live, you will be able to find budgeting spread sheets and hints tailored to you. You can even find tools that will help you to work out how much income you will receive after tax (based on tax in your own country). Use the search engines to find tools relevant to you and keep an eye on personal finance websites and forums for budgeting hints and tips. People love to share their own advice and this can be really beneficial.

Increasing Your Income

Freelancing – The Internet is home to several well populated and established freelance websites that enable you to make money out of any skill you have! Check them out, make some contacts and earn some money from home.

Selling – eBay springs to mind when thinking about making some money online. There are also websites that let you make and sell your own crafts and similar.

So step away from Youtube, click off Twitter and close down Facebook. It’s time to start putting the Internet to use in creating a healthier bank balance!

This post was a contributon by Aaron Hewitt, who is a personal finance blogger in the UK, specialising in debt management and IVA solutions.

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Top Ten IPhone Apps to Manage Your Money

If you’re looking to make managing your finances easier, there are multiple IPhone apps that will help you do just that.  There different types of financial apps to suit your needs and best of all, many of them are free.

  1. If you phone has internet access, you can access your banking information through you bank’s website.  On the other hand, if you bank with Chase, they offer a free app for android and iPhone users that allows you to view account details and take a picture of your check with your camera’s phone to make a deposit.
  2. For saving receipts, an app by Expensify.com lets you take pictures of receipts with your phone and forward them to an online account that saves the data.  This is a great way to keep track of receipts for tax purposes. The app is free and available on Android, Blackberry and the iPhone.
  3. Looking to end late-payment fees? Pageonce money & bills app helps you keep track of utility payments, bills and shopping.  It gives reminders of when bills are due so you don’t miss a payment.  Available free on Android, Blackberry and iPhone.
  4. The iRewardchart app helps your kids earn rewards by completing tasks set by you.  Cost is $3.99 and available only on the iPhone.
  5. Mint.com offers a free app that helps you track your budget.  It collects information from your bank account and credit cards and places information into categories to help you track purchases.
  6. What to know how much a loan will cost you? If you plan on getting a car, home or student loan the app Loan Shark by Foggy Noggin gives you an idea on how long it will take to pay it off. The app is available on the iPhone for $2.99.
  7. If you want something plain and simple, Ace Budget by SVT Software offers a simple budget app that is easy to use and allows you to categorize transactions, review progress and create a budget.  The app is available on the iPhone for $1.99.
  8. If you owe someone money, PayPal has a free app that allows you to make a payment from your account to the person you owe money to. Available on Android and iPhones.
  9.  Need to find an ATM? A free app called ATM Hunter helps you hunt down the closest ATM.  You also learn of the ATM network to choose so you can avoid fees. Available on Android and iPhones.
  10. The iCredit Calculator helps you calculate how long it takes to pay off credit cards.  Available on the iPhone.

Andrew writes frequently about personal finance as well as issues effecting both consumers and small businesses, covering everything from savings to mortgages to credit card applications.

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How to reduce your credit card debts

Many individuals have been forced to default on their credit card debts and this could be due to several reasons of which include unemployment, recession, and layoffs. Every day more and more people are not paying back what they owe and with the interest piling up, they may think that there is no end in sight, but in reality it is possible to reduce your credit card debts and either pay less per month or not have to pay at all. The ways that credit card debts are reduced is through lowering rates, balance reduction negotiation, and debt settlement. All of these either help you to pay the debt off quicker or eliminate part of the debt itself.

One of the ways that you can lower your debt is through a balance transfer. A lot of companies that deal with credit cards offer a deal that lasts for several months and involve 0% on transfers in order to give you time to make payments on the principal. What you will want to do here is choose the credit card with the least amount of debt on it and transfer it over. After paying off the account, you can add the card’s monthly payment to another card that has the next lowest balance. Finally, you can close out that account after it has been paid off in order to raise your credit score.

Another way to lower debt is to negotiate for a lower rate. Most credit card companies will lower rates for individuals, especially when the individual is using a debt management company. The debt management company will handle your monthly payments and lower the rates with a credit card company. This option includes debt management plans that could have you out of short term debt within 5 years and allow you to breathe once you have a good credit score come from it.

One final way to lower your credit card debt is debt settlement. Debt settlement should be used as a last resort because it causes long term effects on your credit and can cost you your credit score altogether since it is essentially like bankruptcy. Once the company who is involved with the credit card debt receives word that an individual has reduced the amount that they need to pay off, the company lets a credit report agency know and they will keep this information on your record for seven years.

Andrew writes frequently about personal finance as well as issues effecting both consumers and small businesses, covering everything from credit cards to mortgages to umbrella companies.

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4 Great Ways to Stretch Your Dollars

In times of economic struggle, the best way to survive is to save money. The process is not as difficult as it sounds. You can turn any situation into a money-saving opportunity. By spending frugally, you will have more money for the pockets or the bank account. Following these four tips will really help you out!

1. Think Less
The first tip in saving money is to change your mindset. You must be geared toward saving. That means you need to step back and think before you make any purchases of any kind. Ask yourself if you can get that item any cheaper. Ask yourself if you can wait to purchase the item. Then ask yourself if you even need that item at all. Only purchasing the essentials is another key part of frugal living. That does not mean that you have to wear tree leaves instead of clothing. It just means that now may not be the time for a brand new Xbox.

2. Park Your Car
Gas is one of the most expensive products out there. You can save an astronomical amount of money by leaving your car parked more often. Instead of paying approximately $7 for a thirty-mile trip in your car, you could take public transportation for a little over $3. That may not sound like much cash, but over the course of a week, it adds up to $28. Bicycling is an option for short trips. Biking is great exercise and it saves a ton of money..

3. Visit Thrift Shops and Yard Sales
Everyone needs clothing and household items, but the frugal shopper will know where to purchase them. If you desperately need clothing or shoes, the thrift shops have a wide selection of such items. Not everything is perfect, but you will find some items that are almost new. You just have to be patient and do a little bargain hunting. Garage or yard sales are also excellent places to find clothing and household goods. Things like pots and pans, furniture, electronics, and small appliances are usually available at these locations. Sometimes you will find them for ridiculously low prices, Make a habit of cruising yard sales on the weekends just to look for things that you need.

4. Stretch Your Food
Stretching your food means buying only food items that will last two or three days. Make dishes like chicken and dumplings, stews, and pots of beans instead of one meal wonders. Also, instead of spending $3 on a small can of soda pop, buy a $1 gallon of water and a $.33 cent package of Kool-Aid mix or iced tea, which make a whole gallon.

Kristen Thorn loves to blog about saving money, the stock market auto insurance quotes & term life insurance.

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Consider Getting Secured Business Loans for Your Business Success

Most new entrepreneurs tap on various sources of financing to get their businesses started. Some use their own savings or get some financial help from family and friends. Secured business loans are often used by entrepreneurs who need additional capital. These loans require the borrower to provide collateral, usually in the form of real estate properties, plant equipment or vehicles to assure repayment of the loan.

Borrowers are often assessed in terms of their capacity to repay the loan. If you plan to avail of such loans, you would have to present a sound financial statement which shows that you have the potential for success. The collateral that you are offering would also be examined by your creditor. You would be required to present titles proving ownership of the collateral, which should be free of liens or encumbrances.

A credit and background check will be conducted, so before you even apply for a loan; get a copy of your latest credit report to make sure it is accurate. Your credit score reflects your ability to pay your debts when they are due. A low credit score does not automatically disqualify you for a loan, but you may be charged a higher interest rate.

Some banks and other lenders may also require you to submit a 5 or 10-year income projection. This can help them analyze your potential growth. The profitability of your enterprise can also affect the interest rate that your lender may charge.

Once you get approved for a loan, the next step is to make sure that you can pay your obligations on time. Failure to repay could lead to expensive penalties. If you cannot repay the loan within the specified period of time, the lender has the recourse to repossess the collateral.

Secured business loans can be used to jump start a venture or make it grow. If you plan to avail of one, find out what type of collateral is acceptable, compare interest rates and work with a lender who offers the best repayment terms. Once approved, make sure you honor your obligations on time, to create good relations with your lender.

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