credit cards

Are you over-spending this holiday?

The “stock” advice for the upcoming holidays is not to overspend. Everyone knows that. You know that. The financial experts know that. And people who overspend know that as well. Now, the question is- with item prices skyrocketing everyday how do you ensure that you’re not blowing your budget on the smallest of items? Here are a few tips to check your holiday spending in 2015.

How to check your spending this holiday?

Let us start off by saying that you necessarily don’t have to turn to an Economics book in order to dig out essential financial tips. Look around and you can actually recognize avenues of saving from even the smallest of items. For instance, why cough up $100 for gift bags? Rack your cupboards and drawers in order to find old gift bags. Recycle gift bags and ribbons instead of purchasing new ones. Here are a few other tips to save up more in the upcoming holidays.shutterstock_223147579

Stop depending on your credit cards

You are stacking most of your expenses on your credit cards simply because you don’t have the money to buy these items. Not a prudent move. Let start off the New Year on a really different note. Why not assure yourself some peace of mind this holiday? How about ditching those credit card bills? In fact, studies have shown that buyers spend much more when they are buying with credit cards than what they do when they are not using these cards.

Take your time

Don’t be in a rush to get your hands on everything that you come across in a flash sale. Herd mentality remains one of the major reasons why people end up buying much more than they had intended to do initially. And, you necessarily don’t have to be accompanied by your friends in order to “succumb to over-buying”. You can just see people around you jumping on stuff and you can jolly well follow suit as well. It happens even when you are buying online. Checking out deals after a hectic day at work- when you’re all exhausted does not make you immune from imprudence as well. The key is to wait and watch your deals properly and then buy—doesn’t matter if you’re shopping offline or online.

Make a list of people who you need to buy gifts for

Yes, you cannot really keep hopping (in your mind) from one friend to another relative in the shop. “Oh! I have taken a gift for Martha but what will her half sister think if I don’t gift her anything?” What if you have already spent a huge amount of money on Martha’s gift? Lack of planning often gives way to more spending. It is very important to ensure that you are actually making a list of the people for whom you want to buy gifts. It helps you spend your money evenly or at least prioritize. Take time to make this list. Don’t rush through it.

Do watch out for deals and discounts and invest proper time in comparing these deals. However, do not be too late in reaching a decision.

The Fastest Places to Get Loans

The Fastest Places to Get Loans

Sometimes you need money fast. Unfortunately, the bank is not a place to get a loan. They require long credit checks and an application process with so many boxes it can make your head spin. You need an alternative to meet your urgent monetary needs. There are places where you can get quick loans, however.

Let’s take a look at some of the places you can get money straightaway.

Credit Cards

We do not often think of credit cards as a loan, but at heart, this is exactly what they are. If you still have credit available, it is a good idea to plug it in and take the money you need with no questions

What you should beware of is eating up more than 30% of your total credit limit. This can hurt your credit score in the long-term.

Payday Loans

Payday loans have gained a lot of bad press over the years for their high interest rates, but what is often forgotten is how many people they have helped in a bind. With these type of quick loans you can often receive the money the next day.

The key to making payday loans work for you is to do your research. Do not approach the first company you see and ask for a loan. Here are some tips to help you through this process:

  • Research the company you want to take a loan from. Do they have a good reputation?
  • Only take what you can afford to make the repayments on. People get into financial difficulties because they do not follow this step.
  • Check to make sure that you can take a loan. While most companies perform no checks, some are starting to do this. Do not waste time applying to a company that will not pay you the money.

Family and Friends

If you need an urgent loan to get out of a hole, family and friends are a great place to look. Depending on whom you ask, this could provide you with all or part of the money.

Dictate terms before going through with this. Outline when you will have to pay the money back and whether there will be any interest. Write down the terms and conditions so there are no disputes later on.


Getting loans fast often means giving up the prospect of low interest rates and favorable terms. Before taking out a loan, think about whether you can trim your budget. You may find you do not need to ask for a loan after all.


How to keep a check on your credit card debt

Carrying a debt forward is a natural habit with most of us. A debt might appear in various forms like home equity credit, mortgage and student loan. It isn’t bad to carry your debt forward and at times it becomes absolutely necessary. At the same time, you must keep your debt under control; if you can’t, you’ll find yourself in crisis.

In case you aren’t careful, you may end up experiencing creditor calls, late payments, and high credit card balances.

In order to keep your debt under control, you’ll need to pursue a few good steps –

1) Know and accept the actual cost of credit

Do you really need to pay much when you use your credit card for meeting bills on purchasing a pair of sunglasses or having your dinner at a restaurant? Not considering the actual cost of credit is one of the primary causes of concern when you find yourself under the debt burden. Know and accept the actual cost of credit. You’ll be paying more than the initial cost of purchases till your monthly credit card balance is paid off consistently.Credit_Card

2) Meet your card balance each month

Emergencies compel us to use credit cards, although we may try to remain committed about not using credit cards. Once you receive a new credit card statement, pay off your credit card in full after you’ve utilized it for meeting unforeseen expenses like sudden tire replacement.

3) Track your expenses

You might need to spend some time for keeping a track of your expenses. Take notes and carry it with you regardless of whether you’re meeting your expenses with credit or cash. You may try this out for a month or at least for a couple of weeks. The entries shown in your notebook ought to be reviewed. You’ll be in for a surprise when you check out the irrelevance of some of the items that you pay for.

4) Check your impulses

Curbing your impulses isn’t that tough and you don’t need to worry. Your budget planner won’t be able to save you if you make impulsive buys. You must draw certain lines to avoid them. Keep track of your rising debt as much as possible. Although it may seem impossible, it is actually possible. You mustn’t raise your hands in despair, if you can’t manage things on your own. You may start all over again if you remain committed to the path of hard work and honesty.

Steps to improve your credit rating in the long run

Responsible borrowing needs to proven to your lender if you’ve accumulated debts. Your credit score is likely to be improved with time.

Follow a few simple steps to improve your credit score –

Make timely payments

Your accounts need to be paid off as early as you can. Making timely payments is important. It proves your being a sensible borrower. If you wish to pay your debts out of your savings, you’ll need to keep extra cash in your account for future emergencies.

Use any prepaid card that builds credit

Your credit score may certainly be improved with the help of credit building option that show up in some prepaid cards. This way, the prepaid card issuer will give you loan worth a certain amount. For repaying this loan, you’ll need to arrive at a credit agreement with the card issuer, wherein you’re supposed to pay a monthly fee. Your payments will be counted as “successful” for 12 months when you continue to make payments towards your monthly fees without any misses.5451685974_aa00a963e4

However, you mustn’t forget that such fees are charged by all prepaid cards. You may need to bear a fee for getting the card, a certain percentage on all of your expenses on it and a top up fee worth a very small amount. It’s advisable that you visit comparison websites for the lowest rates and fees.

Use credit cards that build credit

You may choose to apply for the pizza when you have a poor credit history. In comparison to standard credit cards, some cards may charge higher interest rates. You must beware of these cards. You’ll need to bear interest worth 30% or more every year; that’s why it is necessary for you to pay your balances entirely every month. In case you fail to do so, you’ll end up hurting your credit score in a way that you’ll regret it in the future. You’ll find much lower credit limits with cards of these types.

Opt out of credit repair companies that seem expensive

Repairing your credit rating is important. You may come across firms that put on advertisement in this regard. Companies that have already sought judgments at the court against you may be contacted for negotiation. Some companies claim that they can do a few things for you, which the others can’t. A few of them may even go to the extent of encouraging you for hiding facts from the credit reporting agencies. It’s truly unwise for you to get in touch with these firms. In case you find it difficult to do it yourself you must seek assistance from firms that have been in business for a while.

Why PIN is Coming to Credit

To a resident of Canada, the United Kingdom, or Hong Kong, the chip-and-pin system is far from revolutionary. If you live in the United States, however, you still utilize signatures and a magnetized strip on your credit cards. Because of this, the U.S. has fallen significantly behind in the pursuit of more secure and encrypted payment transactions. Now, with a new wave of cyber-attacks and credit card fraud, some of which involved juggernauts like Target and Home Depot, the time for an update has arrived. Payment processing companies have allied with retail giants to begin the conversion to the chip-and-pin system, and it’s costly. The question remains, however: after all this time, why should you switch from a time-honored system? Is the hassle really worth it? For many security analysts and multinational corporations, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

A Shift from Abroad

In Europe and Asia, the shift to chip-and-PIN (personal identification number) services has been gradual but extensive. Tolls throughout Europe often will not take American credit cards, which rely on the older model of swipe-and-sign, referring to an integrated magnetized strip and corresponding signature to verify identification. As you can imagine, the signature itself is a far cry from true security, as it’s generally only useful once the offender’s actions have been uncovered and must be undone. The PIN is regarded as a safer option, since it provides an immediate barrier to accessing your funds, should your card be stolen or lost. A handful of countries have changed over to the system entirely, and throughout Europe, many automated cash-withdrawal machines will not take American cards at all. Many European countries have already transferred to a largely cashless method of accessing services, including Sweden, which uses text-message services rather than physical bills or coins to pay for bus tickets. While Europe may not be fully cashless, the leap in payment technology is making the concept more viable, and allows customers to pay with better peace of mind.S Image

Chip on Your Shoulder

The current model of your standard U.S. credit card, swipe-and-sign, relies on a magnetized strip for its “swipe” aspect. Researchers have discussed exactly how the system can be broken and exploited, however. With the use of malware and other data-relay programs, hackers can gain access to Point-of-Sale (POS) systems and read the magnetic data stored on the card’s strip. Some POS hardware manufacturers, including Shopify, have rolled out credit card terminals which utilize advanced security features and special encryption to offset the vulnerability in a traditional card-reader. The newest approach, which will undoubtedly be reflected in POS hardware trends, relies on a microchip within the card itself. This microchip is safer than the strip in matters of hacking and data theft, and a variety of U.S. banks and credit card companies have already stepped up to offer the microchip cards. Some of these cards are not true chip-and-pin devices, but rather rely on a combination of the microchip and your signature. In the near future, however, you can expect to see a new line of chip-and-PIN cards. These cards will rely on the microchip and a custom, four-digit PIN number to secure your funds and information.

Corporate Security

The incentive to protect valuable data and money concerns both companies and consumers, however. While the general public can certainly benefit from an integrated microchip that will stave off potential theft, the companies that rely on card-readers – and the payment processors that control the funds – have a vested interest in protecting your card. Just last year, Target was affected by a major hacking scandal, where its own POS systems were breached and allowed the leak of credit card information. Sam’s Club recently announced its own plans for company-branded microchip card releases, following in Target’s footsteps. Major card companies such as Visa and Mastercard have partnered with these stores to protect your data, converting from their standard swipe-and-sign model to the newer chip-and-PIN model. The switch to the newer system will begin next year, and Target has already provided $100 million to begin replacement operations. If Europe is any indication, the willingness of major retailers and banks to make a change will prompt other institutions, trickling down to things like your train tickets, local coffee shop, and smaller retailers.

Considering the price and consumer involvement required to make the jump, the chip-and-pin system may not seem beneficial at first glance. Simply acknowledging that other countries have adopted the system may also not convert naysayers, either. But the beauty of chip-and-pin is in long-term benefits for both companies and your own interests. Your funds will be more secure, as will any precious data and personal information stored on your accounts. The system is expected to begin full-scale implementation next year. In the meantime, take precautions to protect your credit card.

How To Save More Money And Boost Your Finances

The year is 2014 and the financial climate of the world is only getting worse. More and more jobs are being cut and employers paying less and wanting more time and work from employees. The cost of living seems to be soaring and with a paycheck that doesn’t increase, many people wonder, how can they save more money or at least cut down on their expenses. Not to worry, this article will outline some of the easiest ways you can instantly save some money and improve your financial situation.

The first thing you can do is refinance your home. You may be doubtful of doing this; however, this can give you huge savings on your current mortgage in the long run. Sure you will pay more on the monthly for a period, however, in the long run, you will save thousands of dollars.

The next method to save money is to cut your grocery bills and food expenses. The first step is to reduce how many times you eat out and drastically cut this to the bare minimum. Instead of wasting hundreds of dollars in restaurants or bars, buy all your food at the grocery and market. You can save even more money at the grocery if you collect coupons and use these to purchase essential items in bulk and save hundreds. The television show, “ Extreme Couponing”  will show you exactly how little you can spend i.e. less than $20 at the grocery but get a basket full of groceries. Also, there are usually days that you can get discounted fresh produce from the market – usually the day before they get new stock and you will get fruits and vegetables for less than half of their original cost.

The third tip to drastically cut your monthly costs is to disconnect your telephone service. This msaving_money_tipsay seem shocking at first, but I promise, you don’t need it! Once you have a good internet connection, you can use a device such as the “ Magic Jack” to make calls through your internet. Alternatively, you can use Skype or free calling services such as Viber to keep in contact with friends and family.

Another way to save money is to donate your stuff – clothes and household items to an IRS charity. These IRS affiliated charities allow you to donate your belongings in exchange for a reduction on your yearly taxes. However, be sure to keep a note of all the items you donate and their cost so you can attach them when you are doing your taxes for the year.

The last method that will help you to save more money is to cut up your credit cards! Okay, well maybe you won’t be able to cut all of them since modern living requires the use of credit cards, however, you don’t need to have more than 1 or 2. By drastically reducing your use of credit cards, you will reduce your debt and stop spending money you don’t have! Alternatively, you can use a debit card for online transactions and get rid of credit cards altogether.

On ending, you will save thousands of dollars by following the above tips and guidelines. By taking charge of your monthly and yearly finances, you will be taking charge of your life!

Albin Poulsen is a third year PhD student in the Dept. of Business and Economics at University of Southern Denmark. In his spare time, he runs a blog, where he talks about finances, debts, loans and about the economy in general.

What to Do If You Have Credit Issues?

Credit issues can impact just about every aspect of your life. Why? If you do not have a good credit score, it is harder to qualify for mortgage loans, auto loans and other types of financing. In addition, a bad credit score can result in higher insurance premiums, and you may not be able to secure certain types of employment.

Fortunately, there are effective ways to deal with credit issues. Since you didn’t get into this situation in one day, you can’t repair your credit overnight. Therefore, you should not expect a better credit score after only a few days or weeks. Even so, if you take the necessary steps to get your personal finances on track, your credit score will gradually improve and you’ll be a step closer to achieving A+ credit.

Credit_Card1. Check your credit report each year

Many consumers do not check their credit reports on an annual basis. Your credit report provides a detailed account of your credit history. It includes your most recent accounts, balances, older accounts, as well as your account statuses.

When you apply for new credit, creditors review your credit report to see if you qualify for financing. But unfortunately, your credit report may not be accurate. A creditor may report information in error, or someone may steal your personal information and open accounts in your name.

Checking your credit report regularly is the best way to identify mistakes early and each consumer is entitled to one free report from each of the bureaus every 12 months.

2. Seek professional help

If you notice errors on your credit report, you can notify the reporting creditor to clear up any mistakes. In many instances, this is all it takes to improve the accuracy of your report. But sometimes, repairing serious credit report errors requires professional help.

Credit repair agencies have experience fixing mistakes on consumer credit reports. They’ll investigate a claim and work with your creditors to remove any information that’s inaccurate. Negative information on your reports can drop your credit score by several points. However, once this information is deleted from your report, your credit score will improve.

3. Understand how credit works

If you do not understand how credit works, you may not make wise credit decisions. Several factors influence your credit score, such as your payment history, the amounts you owe, the length of your credit history, the types of credit, and new accounts.

Since your payment history and the amounts you owe make up 35% and 30% of your credit score, respectively, it is important that you pay creditors on time and maintain low balances.

This is much easier to say than do. However, if you only charge what you can afford to pay, and if you pay your balances in full each month, you can improve a low credit score.

4. Get rid of your credit cards

Canceling a credit card may reduce the length of your credit history, thus lowering your credit score. Rather than get rid of credit cards, destroy your cards and only use cash. The less you use a credit card for purchases, the less debt you’ll accumulate.

In addition, do not splurge when applying for a loan. Oftentimes, consumers overspend when buying a house or car. As a result, a larger percentage of their income goes toward paying off these debts. They end up living paycheck to paycheck; and if unable to make ends meet, they might rely on a credit card. This complicates a financial situation. Therefore, know your limitations and be reasonable.

5. Establish new payment terms with your creditors

Defaulting on a credit card or loan, and then ignoring your creditors will not make the debt go away. The credit card company or bank may send your account to collections or seek a judgment. Both moves can damage your credit score, and this negative activity can stay on your report for up to seven years.

To avoid any collection accounts or legal action, always communicate with your creditors. Explain your situation and ask the creditor for a new payment arrangement. Based on your economic situation, the creditor may lower your monthly payment to an affordable amount, or temporarily suspend payments until your finances improve.

Realizing that you have credit issues might keep you awake at night. However, credit problems are not permanent. There are ways to rise above a low credit score. However, you need to be proactive and make wise credit decisions.


Should You Cancel Old Credit Cards Or Reapply For New Ones?

Most people have at least one credit card. Even if you’re not using the card, and you’re not interested in swapping the balance to another lender, it still might be worth cancelling the card and switching to another one.

With credit card fraud on the rise, it doesn’t make sense to have a really old card lingering around unchecked. Moreover, your ancient credit card most likely won’t be benefiting from the latest zero percent interest deals on spending and balance transfers. Even if you have no intention of getting into debt, you can use the card for purchases for 18 months and save the equivalent cash in an ISA, so you’re actually making money as you spend!

In addition, many credit card companies are so keen to temp you back to their services, that they’ll often treat you as a new customer after a few months have passed. That means you’ll be entitled to all the offers that have since elapsed on your older credit card.

Credit_CardWhen To Hold On To A Card

If you travel frequently, or find yourself in any situation where you might require an emergency stash of credit, an older, empty credit card can be really beneficial, especially if you don’t have any savings to fall back on.

Weigh Up The Options

If you’ve got an old card lying around, and you’re in good standing with the credit card company, there’s a chance that your borrowing limit could be significantly larger than any new card you might apply for. The fact that you also won’t need to go through a credit check means that it’s often less hassle to keep an old card running if all you’re going to use it for is emergency purchases.

Will My Credit Rating Be Damaged?

There’s really no way of telling: Some lenders will look at your empty £7,000 limit credit card and think that it’s great you’ve got so much potential to get into debt but have stayed sensible. Others will view the massive unused balance as a ticking time bomb that you could fill up in a single day. Every situation is different.

It’s definitely worth checking out your credit report to see if everything is in order before you make a decision to switch cards. Credit Cleaner allows you to check your credit score and amend any admin errors. They offer advice for repairing and improving bad credit ratings, all for a low monthly fee. Hunt down a Credit Cleaner review to see if the service is right for you. Click here for more information.

How Do I Cancel An Old Card?

It’s best to make a direct phone call and have the account shut down. You’ll still be able to access your account for a short time, so make sure you completely stop using the card or payments might still go through. This is because the card company needs a small buffer period to make sure everything is in order and the balance has been settled. It’s also worth noting that simply chopping up a card won’t suddenly close your account down.

Keeping an old credit card hanging around can be a great piece of mind for emergency situations, but it pays to shop around and find the right deal. You may be missing out on some great offers!

Wendy Lin is an author and mother. Although she travels many months out of the year, she always tries to take her family with her as she prioritises her family above business.

Credit Card Debt Weighing You Down?

The world revolves on credit. More and more individuals are dependent on these plastic cards for their daily survival. The problem with this is that you lose financial accountability and sound judgment over a period of time. Without credit cards in the picture, your expenditures will always be limited on one thing – how much cash you have on hand. When you are forced to work with the amount of cash you have with you, you’ll think twice and even thrice before making a major splurge. However, plastic cards allow you to bypass that. You can basically get whatever you want and pay for it later. The first part is relatively easy; it’s the second part that reins in all of the problems.

5451685974_aa00a963e41. Get rid of your credit card.

The first step to eliminating your credit card debt is by making sure that you don’t have any more of it any time soon. This would mean cutting up your credit cards. Don’t fall into the trap of using your credit card to cover the difference between how much you earn and how much you spend each month, even if you do pay the credit card bills once they come. This will only result in a cycle of paying and borrowing, and you’ll never free yourself from the bounds of credit card debt.

2. Get all of your bills and find out what you’re up against.

Ignoring the problem does not solve the problem. Underestimating the problem, because you do not know the actual extent and gravity, is just as bad. To know what you are up against, you should get all of your bills and find out how much you really owe. If you have bills which are missing, call up your credit card company and request for these bills although your overdue amount is usually found in your monthly bills. By know exactly how deep in debt you are, you can plan your payments accordingly and in a manner that allows you to settle your debt within the soonest time possible.

3. Organize your credit card debt according to their interest rates.

If you have more than one credit card with an outstanding balance, then you need to start prioritizing. There are two things which you have to take note of when paying off your debt – the principal debt or how much you originally owe, and the interest or how much you’re being charged for holding a debt. The higher the interest is, the longer it would take for you to shrink the principal especially if you are just paying the minimum. However, if you aggressively work towards eliminating that debt, the smaller principal will mean that that the interest, which is based on the former, will also shrink significantly.

4. Cancel a credit card once you have paid it off.

Debt, just like other mistakes, comes with an invaluable lesson and that is to never have one again. So it would be remiss if you using a credit card once you’ve already gone through the painstaking process of paying it off. On the other hand, cancel the credit card once you’ve already paid it off to keep you from getting tempted. All of these tips will teach you how to get out of credit card debt fast.

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Phil Farell is a finance writer who loves to give useful tips to overcome bad debts. He also shares his insights on investing, financial management and lease financing.

Four Naughty Credit Cards Spending Habits You Need To Fix

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It is common knowledge that Santa Claus is making a list and checking it twice,  that he’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.

But that’s just for kids.  Adults get into all sorts of mischief without the benefit of a jolly old elf to check in on them.

Perhaps the biggest mischief adults get into is credit card debt.  While this might not seem as exciting as putting a frog in a classmate’s desk, the repercussions are much more profound. “Many of our customers come to us because they are at their wit’s end with credit card debt, and they need to find a better card with lower interest or better cash-back rewards to bring their spending back into balance,” says Chris Mettler of the popular credit card comparison website

Naughty spending habits come in various forms.  Sometimes it is simply spending too much, other times it is spending on the wrong things

Here are some of the top naughty spending habits that you might want to break now.

Shopping to lift your mood.

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This is a bad one.  In fact, it’s not just pulling out their credit cards (or “retail therapy”, as it is sometimes called) that people do to lift their moods.  Some people smoke whenever they get stressed or feel low.  Others drink, which can lead to even bigger problems.  Other eat (and overeat), and we all know where that leads.

While overeating, alcohol and smoking are all bad for your health, they are also horrible for your pocketbook.  Whether you try to lift your mood by shopping for shoes or dresses or power drills, or you seek comfort in pastries or drinks, the financial result is the same : more debt to bring down your mood.

Much better to lift your mood through music or exercise.  Yes, just go for a walk or a run to boost your mood.  Play some uplifting or energetic music.  Get pumped up rather than spiralling down in debt.

Spending more than you make.

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This is the mathematician’s truism.  If you spend more than you make, you will be in debt.  Each time you spend more than you make, you get further in debt.  The only solution to this is to spend less on things you don’t need or make more money (which could be the subject for dozens more articles).  The easier option is to simply spend less. 

Draw up a budget.  Start with how much you make, and remove from that all the automated payments and expenses you don’t have a choice about.  What you are left with is discretionary spending, including emergency expenses, like when your car breaks down or you need to call a plumber.

Carrying a credit card balance.

Credit cards cost money…but only when you carry a balance.  When you don’t carry a balance, any credit card with a reward actually makes you money.  So what to do about the balance?  Pay it off in full every month.  Before deciding to take that weekend trip to Paris, first pay off the balance.  If you don’t, you’ll be skipping more than one weekend getaway in the years ahead.

Impulse buying.

How many times have you come home from the store with twice as many items as you had on your list?  That means your credit card is bearing twice as much weight as planned, and it is probably not necessities that you purchased.  Impulse spending adds up to huge amounts of debt that ultimately can drain your finances in a big way.

Furthermore, if that impulse spending was at a food store, chances are it was on high-sugar, high-fat, low-nutrition and high-calorie “foods”  that you really would rather have left behind once you feel their effects.

Always shop with a list and be determined to stick to it.  Break this rule under only one circumstance: when a consumable (such as food or cleaning products) is on a very good sale.  In such cases, if you absolutely know you regularly use the product, buy several of them while on special.  If you use the product regularly, it will save you money.  If you don’t, chances are it will simply cost you money.

The Bottom Line

People spend too much for many reasons, and for the most part the same spending habits repeat themselves.  If you can identify those habits, you can fix the problem.

Santa isn’t making a list for you, so hopefully this list will help.  If you can avoid these naughty credit card spending habits, your bank account will be better for it.  And in some cases, so will your health.

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Justin Black is a freelance writer who covers personal finance, health and life planning issues.  He grew up on the Atlantic Seaboard, an average child in an average home and got an average education.  He has a wife and two children, who he hopes will make smart choices about their futures.

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