Entries from January 2012 ↓

A Guide to Bankruptcy Filing

Even if you are a responsible person that tries to take care of their financial welfare, sometimes life simply gets out of control. Whether it is unexpectedly losing your job with no backup plan or making a bad investment that ends up putting you in an extremely bad financial situation, there are a countless number of events that can put your financial welfare into jeopardy. While some skeptics may view declaring bankruptcy as an easy way for irresponsible people to get out of paying their bills, in reality, it is a way for people who are in an impossible financial situation to get a second chance at life. If your credit and financial status is beyond repair, you may need to file for bankruptcy. Whether you are at the end of the road when it comes to financial options or simply want to know what is available to you, this guide will provide you with an overview of how to file for bankruptcy.

Review all Other Available Options

Filing for bankruptcy is far from being a get out of jail free card. When you declare bankruptcy, it will have a major impact on your credit for up to ten years. Therefore, the decision to file for bankruptcy is not one that should be taken lightly. Before you begin the process of filing for bankruptcy, you should ensure that there are no other available avenues for you to pursue to take care of your financial problems. If you have not met with a financial planner or credit advisor, be sure to seek their advice before you decide that your only option is filing for bankruptcy.

Obtain Approved Credit Counseling

If you have exhausted all of your other options and have come to the conclusion that filing for bankruptcy is the last option you have, before you can begin the process of actually filing for bankruptcy, you are required by law to meet with a credit counselor that has been approved by a US Trustee. Even if you have sought the advice of other qualified financial professionals (as recommended in the section above), you will most likely still need to meet with an additional credit counselor. Keep in mind that this meeting must take place within one hundred and eighty days of when you file for bankruptcy.

Look at the Two Types of Bankruptcy

When it comes to actually filing for bankruptcy, there are two routes that you can follow. The first type of bankruptcy is known as Chapter Seven bankruptcy. This form of bankruptcy is a liquidation (also known as straight bankruptcy). In order to file for this form of bankruptcy, you will need to pass a means test, which will determine whether or not you are qualified to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy (this test is used by the US Trustee to weed out fraudulent claims).

If you don’t qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (or choose not to file for this type of bankruptcy), you will end up filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Instead of being a liquidation, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves reorganizing your finances and setting up a plan that will allow you to repay your creditors. This type of bankruptcy allows you to rebuild your financial health without liquidating all of your assets.

Find a Lawyer to Help You File Bankruptcy

Although it is possible to go through the process of filing for bankruptcy without a lawyer, bankruptcy can be an extremely complicated issue to deal with, so it is highly recommended that you seek the help of a lawyer. In addition to finding a lawyer that has experience dealing with bankruptcy courts, you will want to choose a lawyer that you are comfortable around. If you have any reservations after meeting with a potential lawyer, keep in mind that there are a countless number of qualified lawyers that can help you file for bankruptcy, so you should not feel obligated to work with one that does not make you feel comfortable.

In addition to feeling comfortable with your lawyer, you should be aware of any and all fees that they will be charging you. The average fee for bankruptcy lawyers is around two thousand dollars, but there are quite a few other factors to consider (such as whether or not a deposit is required, how long you will have to pay off your legal bill, etc). If you are thinking strongly about hiring a lawyer, make sure that you get a written copy of what they are going to charge for their services.

Prepare for Your Meeting of Creditors

Once you have enlisted the help of a lawyer, you will be able to begin referring your creditors to your lawyer. After you refer a creditor to your lawyer, there is no reason for them to continue contacting you. If you continue to be contacted by a creditor, inform your lawyer immediately, as they may be able to pursue legal action against this creditor.

Your lawyer will arrange a meeting with all of your creditors. Prior to this meeting, it is important that you sit down with your lawyer and provide them with an honest look at your full financial situation. If you are filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your lawyer will also look at whether or not your assets are exempt from being liquidated.

Finish the Process of Declaring Bankruptcy

When your meeting of creditors occurs, you will be sworn in and all your answers will go on record. Once your meeting is over, depending on the type of bankruptcy you filed, the court will either decide if any of your assets will be liquidated (Chapter 7) or setup a three to five year repayment plan (Chapter 13).

If your creditors do not challenge any portion of your bankruptcy filing within sixty days of your meeting of creditors, all of your qualified debts will be discharged (remember, debts such as student loans and taxes are not eligible to be discharged).

For more information on finance related issues, read How To File For Bankruptcy and Bad Credit Small Business Loans.

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Freshman Flubs – Money Mistakes To Watch Out For

College can have a significant effect on your life and financial future- making the right choices in college can give you a solid foundation for achieving your dreams and career goals. However, the wrong choices can put you in debt for a long, long time. Here are the most frequent mistakes new students can make:

Getting Bank-Rolled

Many students go out-of-state for school, and this often means new bank accounts as they travel out of their banking network. Many campus-area banks offer student “deals” that can take advantage of incautious spending with high minimum balances and stiff penalties. If you decide to sign up for one of these account deals, be very wary of your bottom line, and track your spending carefully.

“Magic Credit Card” Syndrome

Another trap for new students is signing up for credit cards, or being handed a line of credit by a family member. It is vital to remember that there are very real spending limits, and potentially harsh interest rates on debt that can escalate quickly for the unwary. Again, be careful not to overspend- try to only use credit for purchases that you know you can pay off immediately.

A Better Computer Does Not Equal Better Grades

You do not need the shiniest, most expensive new product out there to ensure success. Try looking for used PCs or Macs for sale near campus- or at the college’s computer store if available- before shelling out for a high-end model that you don’t need. Many students need little more than a word processor to complete most of their assignments. If a class requires special software, it will likely be available in that department’s computer labs. Furthermore, take syllabus recommendations for items like graphing calculators with a grain of salt: models are usually good for three to five years before becoming outdated, and you can always find them for sale from other students.

Paying Full Price

Student services are frequently underutilized. Campus health centers can provide a lot of basic care for little to no cost. This is much better than many dependent clauses in family healthcare plans provide, and can be a good transition for young adults looking to become more self-sufficient. Other examples of real-world services that are largely free to students include fitness centers, counseling, and financial guidance. Student discounts are available at a tremendous variety of businesses- from the grocery store to the movie theater, to the auto service center. It’s always worth carrying your student ID with you and asking about possible discounts.

Waiting For A Better Tomorrow

Just because your future is ahead of you, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for it today. Always fill out the Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) quickly each year, and regularly ask your student or financial advisers about possible scholarship opportunities. You might also consider trying to pay off student loan interest before you graduate, to decrease the amount of repayment once you enter the workforce. And, if you find yourself with a light class schedule, why not try a part-time job? It could be a resume builder, and might at least give you extra pocket money.

There are many other expenses- necessary and unnecessary- associated with college, but addressing these common problems is a good place to start. Keep your eyes open for opportunities as well as pitfalls – college is a learning experience after all.

Nicole Rodgers has been blogging in the education, business, and finance industries for three years. Recently Nicole’s nephew asked her about advice about graduate school. She told him to get a free credit report to make sure he gets all the loans and financial aid. She also gave her nephew examples of her experiences with grad school. She also told him to take some gmat prep classes to better his chances of getting into the school of his choice.

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Save Money on Insurance By Buying the Right Car

While there are some vehicles that will cost you a small fortune to insure, there are other cars on the flip side that will cost you a very minimal price. The complete reasoning for some cars being cheaper to insure are unknown, but the most reasonable answer is that they are involved in less accidents. The exact line of thinking behind that is also a mystery, but the cars are cheaper to insure nonetheless. If you want to save money on car insurance, consider purchasing one of the following 5 vehicles.

Marcie McDonald is an insurance consultant who writes for cheapestcarinsurance.org.uk. She recommends getting a comparison online for motor insurance and also to see if you qualify for the cheapest car insurance before making your choice.

1. The Mazda Tribute i is a very rare vehicle in terms of the price for an average insurance premium. In 2011, an average owner of a Mazda Tribute i paid only $1075. This very low rate may be because young people don’t particularly enjoy the design or how the vehicle handles. This is actually a vehicle that a lot of middle-aged mothers with children drive, and they often drive very carefully. People looking to pay low car insurance premiums will want to go with the Mazda Tribute i.

2. The Honda Odyssey LX is another very affordable vehicle, for many of the same reasons as the Mazda Tribute i. It is a van that many parents with multiple children enjoy driving. It is easy for them to transport kids to and from school, sporting games, and out on family trips. An average Honda Odyssey LX owner will pay around $1,095 per year in insurance premiums.

3. The Chrystler Town and Country van is yet another low-priced option for insurance purposes. The growing trend here is that young people really don’t drive this type of vehicle often, as these types of vehicles are more aimed toward families. Since a Chrystler Town and Country is one of the least likely vehicles to be in an accident, you can expect to pay a very low price of $1,119 per year for your coverage.

4. Another van with low insurance costs is the Dodge Caravan. This is a very popular vehicle among mothers, and they will drive more safely when they have their children in the vehicle. You will once again rarely find young people driving these on a regular basis. Averages costs for insurance here are roughly $1,131 per year for coverage.

5. The Toyota Sienna CE rounds out the top 5 at a great rate of about $1,133 per year to insure. This is yet another family car that reckless youths tend to avoid. These coverage prices are all great news for people with families where money is always tight. Switch to a more family-focused vehicle to save yourself some money in insurance.

The common theme among these low-cost insurance vehicles is that drivers under the age of 25 don’t often drive them. The more cars that these younger drivers drive, the more likely that car will be to have higher insurance costs. You can avoid paying more by purchasing one of these great vehicles, and you’ll never again pay high insurance.

Marcie McDonald is an insurance consultant who writes for cheapestcarinsurance.org.uk. She recommends getting a comparison online for motor insurance and also to see if you qualify for the cheapest car insurance before making your choice.

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Saving Interest with a Balance Transfer

Credit card companies charge high interest rates. For those who let their debt from credit cards spiral out of control, this can mean that they have insurmountable debts to pay back. One thing that they can do to make sure that their debts stop growing at the high interest rates they are currently paying is to obtain balance transfer credit cards that offer them 0 percent interest rates.

Several Hundreds of Dollars Saved

Balance transfer credit cards can be very advantageous to people with high interest rates on their credit card debt. For example, the average interest rate for credit cards is around 13.36 percent. If people are paying 13.36 percent interest on a $5,000 debt, they are paying around $650 in interest. If they were to transfer their balances to credit cards that offer them 0 percent interest, they would significantly lower their monthly payments.

With a 0 percent interest rate, these people would be able to pay more each month toward the debt and in the process, they would be lowering their balances faster than if they had to pay a significant amount toward interest. Because they can pay the balances down at a quicker pace, they will be making it possible for them to climb out of credit card debt. With the ever-increasing interest they were paying, being debt-free may have seemed like an impossibility to people.

Open Enough Balance Transfer Credit Cards to Make a Difference

The person who has $5,000 of credit card debt may not be able to transfer that much to 0 percent balance transfer credit cards. These credit cards will have credit limits just like any other card, and they, generally, will only allow a limit of about $3,000. In this case, this customer will need at least two balance transfer credit cards to cover the entire amount to make transferring their balances worth while.

Fees for Balance Transfer Credit Cards

When considering balance transfer credit cards, people will have to pay fees. This fact doesn’t have to scare anyone off; these fees can be as low as three percent of the amount of the balance. When they find these types of credit cards, they may be able to obtain a time period of as much as 21 months that they can enjoy the 0 percent interest rate.

Some credit cards have shorter 0 percent time periods, such as 15 months, but this may be sufficient to pay some people’s debts. The added advantage with these cards is that they may give the cardholders the opportunity to obtain cash back rewards which can be placed toward the fees they will be charged for transferring their balances.

Good Timing for Balance Transfer Credit Cards

At the moment, anyone who needs to obtain balance transfer credit cards couldn’t pick a better time to do it. Right now, the Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates at a low level and it’s projected that this will be the case until at least 2013. The current rates are as low as they have been in years, and people can’t expect this to be the case ad infinitum. The possibility also exists that credit card companies will stop offering these types of deals. It has already started to occur; credit card companies were offering and advertising for 0 percent balance transfer credit cards at a much more furious pace than they are currently. This gives people fewer choices, but they do still exist and people can find them if they look.

 

Noelle Greenwood is a consumer finance advocate who wants to make sure the consumers come out on top and are not at the mercy of the banks or marketing spiel. Noelle helps run a number of finance comparison websites including High Interest Saving Account which compares high interest savings account products from leading banks.

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5 Ways to Keep Your Finances in the Green

As the global economy worsens, many households have found themselves living paycheck to paycheck. Proper budgeting is a necessity in these hard times, as a single financial emergency can cause huge consequences for those barely making ends meet.

The good news is that almost anyone can develop a solid financial picture simply by taking control of their finances and educating themselves about their financial picture. What follows are techniques to help you on the path to a healthy budget.

  • Examine your finances carefully. The first step towards a healthy financial picture is to educate yourself about your current financial situation. You will need to examine your loan, credit card, and bank statements to ascertain your monthly income, your monthly expenses and your debt owed.
  • Make a plan to pay down your existing debt. Saving money is great, but if you are saving money at 1% interest while paying down credit cards at 20% interest you’re not doing yourself any favors. Many people, when confronted with debt, have a tendency to try to ignore it or put it off for another day.To appropriately pay down your debt, you will need to know your debt balances, the terms of your repayment, your minimum payments and the percentage rates attached. You will want to pay at least the minimum balances on all of your accounts, and then devote the remaining funds to the debt with the highest percentage of interest.

    Of course, to know how much you are paying towards your debt, you will first have to draw up a budget.

  • Compare your income and your expenses. Since you will already know your debt amounts, the first step towards drawing up your budget will be to itemize your monthly expenses and your income. It is important to be as accurate as possible in this step. You may estimate in your head that you spend $60 eating out every month, but when you add up all the charges the true amount might come out closer to $200.Your expenses should be separated into two categories: necessities, and discretionary income. Necessities are items that are required to live: your rent or mortgage payment, your auto payment, and your minimum debt payments will go here. Discretionary income are items such as groceries and clothing, which are variable amounts that can be adjusted.
  • Make adjustments to your discretionary expenses. Once you have listed your income and expenses, you will want to total up both items. If your income exceeds your expenses, then you have a solid budget. The excess income should be allocated to debt if you have it, and if not, into savings.If, instead, your expenses exceed your income, adjustments will have to be made. You will want to start by examining your discretionary income, and eliminating any luxury items that you can until your income will cover all of your expenses.
  • What if you can’t cut your expenses any further? Unfortunately, you may have already cut your expenses as much as possible and still be in the red. In this situation, it may be time to seek alternative services such as debt management, debt settlement or financial counseling. You may also need to seek ways of increasing your income rather than decreasing your expenses, either via pursuing a different career path, or accepting a second job.

The most important element of budgeting is to educate yourself about your finances and to remain on top of them. You should revisit your budget regularly to verify that you are still following your plan. If you find yourself straying too much in one category, consider making adjustments in a different one. Being vigilant about your finances enables you to stop worrying about when and how the bills will get paid, and instead focus on living your life.

 

Thomas Hathaway is a finance consultant and understands there are times when payday loans may come in handy when you have financial urgency before your regular pay date.

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How to Save Money on Work Lunches?

Food is an important part of any budget, but it is one area that varies a great deal from one person to another based on budget and the amount of time one has at their disposal. Living at such tough economic times that have characterized the recent past, saving money and cutting down on expenses should be top on your priority list. How do you save money on work lunches while still enjoy your favorite meals? Be advised that you do not save money by forgoing your lunch, as a matter of fact; skipping lunch could be detrimental to your health, if not for anything else because you will end up overeating at dinner time. Following are some ideas to save money on work lunches while making healthy eating choices.

 

Carry snacks with you to work

Not allowing yourself to get to the point where you feel ‘I am so hungry I could eat a whole horse by myself’ will help you make a more logical choice when you go out for lunch. Getting to a point of extreme hunger often always translates to eating large burgers and sandwiches. Carrying simple snacks and salads at work is not only affordable and healthy but will also help you feel full throughout the day, so you end up eating less during lunch hour and saving some cash in the process.

 

Carry packed lunch

This is the greatest money saving tip on work lunches you could ever find anywhere in the world today. Fast food choices costs a significant amount of money, and opting for a healthy quality meal would cost you even more. The main challenge most people face when it comes to packed lunch to work is dealing with appetite fatigue i.e. getting tired and bored of the same thing day in day out. The good news is that if you take the time to prepare your meals, you can be able to vary your lunch menu each day of the week. You can also bag leftovers and bring them with you to work.

 

Potluck lunches

Rather than go out every day of the week to eat lunch with colleagues, you can arrange with colleagues where each people brings a different dish. You could also rotate among colleagues where each one would have a turn to prepare lunch for the group. This not only introduces variety to your lunch menu but you also get to cut down on the cost of preparing or buying lunch each day of the week.

 

Plan a lunch exchange program

This is more or less like the potluck lunch program where a group of friends or colleagues come together and plan a lunch exchange program every two weeks. Most people prefer doing this over the weekend or in the evening. Each member prepares one meal that can be refrigerated or frozen and portions it out such that each member can carry a serving home. This not only cuts down on the prep time needed for lunch meals during the week, it also saves one a significant amount of cash in the long run.

 

Denis Bowler is a freelance writer that contributes to www.paydayloansuk.org.uk and really like to share tips in order to help people make some savings.

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