spending

5 Things To Do Today If You’re Drowning In Debt

Struggling with debtIt wasn’t so long ago that I was living paycheck to paycheck. In fact, worse, with my income I was struggling to just keep up with my minimum debt repayments each month. The slightest issue could (and sometimes did) derail the whole carefully managed situation.

Now, through, things are much different. I’m virtually debt free and have disposable income to enjoy. So there *is* light at the end of the tunnel. But trust me – if you’re really drowning in debt right now then you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you to regain control of your finances and come out the other side.

Based on my own experiences of fighting – and winning – against a mountain of debt, here are the four most important steps you should be taking today to start making some significant changes to your situation.

And remember; the longer you ignore your debt problems, the worse they will get. No matter how painful, uncomfortable or embarrassing they may be, the sooner you get started on solving your problems the sooner you’ll get your finances back on track.

Stop Spending Money

It might sound like the most obvious step of all but if you’re drowning in debt then your first step should be to stop spending money if at all possible. See if you can go for a day without spending a penny. Then try a week.

Stop going out with your friends for a while, give up those posh coffees, live on the food in your cupboards or freezer rather than buying more. Because the sooner you can stop spending money, the more you’re going to have left over for debt repayments and the sooner you’ll get back on your feet.

Review Your Outgoings

This step was arguably the most powerful for me. As someone who spends most of my money with my debit card – rather than using cash – I combed back through the last few months of bank statements, looking at exactly where I spent my money.

When you have your spending habits laid out infront of you in black and white, you’ll be surprised at how much you spend on certain things and where savings become obvious. Consider reducing your cell phone tariff, using price comparison sites to get a better utilities supplier, cancel direct debits that you’re not using and so on.

By calculating your savings as you go, not only will you be pleasantly surprised at all the “extra cash” you’ve found, but as this figure grows it’ll also help to motivate you into really making a dent in your debt situation.

Sell Your Junk

Everyone has unwanted stuff at home and selling it off on sites like Ebay, Amazon and Craigslist is one of the easiest ways to find a few hundred dollars out of thin air. Combined with the savings you’ve made on your spending, within a few weeks you should find yourself coming up with a small “nest egg” of money you didn’t even know you had – and that can come in very handy indeed.

Negotiate With Your Creditors

Are you struggling to keep up the payments on your debt? If so, it’s time to ring your creditors to see if they can help. This is without a doubt the most unpleasant part of the process – my heart was pounding the whole day I rang my creditors – but you’d be surprised just how useful it can be.

Simply ring them up, one at a time, and explain how you’re struggling to meet their demands. Let them know you *want* to pay it all off and do the right thing, but that you’re in a financial bind right now. Then ask if there’s anything they can do to help.

Not every creditor will be sensitive to your request, but quite a number will be able to offer a payment holiday, reduced or even halted interest payments etc. A few might even be willing to accept a single lump sum to settle your debt that is smaller than the existing sum.

With your newly liberated cash, this is a definate possibility. And even if not, it’s likely that at least one or two of your creditors will give you some kind of preferential treatment simply for having the balls to ring them up and ask.

This should further help to ease your financial pressures, allowing you to think more clearly about the future and budget for your debt repayments without you losing too much sleep over the situation.

Make A Debt Repayment Plan

Lastly, once you’ve reduced your expenses, sold some old stuff and seen what your creditors can do to help it’s time to go ahead and make a proper financial plan for your debt repayments.

Use your spending figures from earlier, the extra cash you now have, and any reduced rates, and go to town to hammer out a repayment plan that will not only meet all your creditors terms but also allow you to have some kind of life while paying them off.

Then put it on autopilot – ensuring that your debt repayments go out every time you’re paid automatically. Doing so means those bills that arrive in the post won’t worry you any more. There’s nothing quite like getting bills – like I do – that remind me I need to pay “zero” because the payments have already been taken care of!

Not so long ago Richard was drowning in debt, dodging creditors at every turn and working a 60 hour week to try and make ends meet. Now his financial life is back on the straight and narrow he loves to show others how to save money and gain control of their finances. For plenty more tips visit Frugality Magazine on Pinterest.


Five Things to Do with Your Tax Refund – Other than Spend It

Five Things to Do with Your Tax Refund – Other than Spend It

What are you going to do with your tax refund this year? If your immediate answer was “spend it,” you might want to think again. According to the IRS, the average tax refund in 2012 is $2,899. That’s certainly a significant amount of money that could buy you a lot of fun, nice things. But if you really want to make a smart decision, consider using your tax refund for one of these five purposes instead.

Pay Down Student Loans

If you still have student loans lingering from your college days, use your tax refund to take care of a significant portion of them. If your refund is big enough, you might be able to pay off your loans completely. The peace of mind that comes with reducing or eliminating your student loans is amazing. It means all the future benefits of your education are entirely yours.

Pay Down Credit Card Debt

If you have credit card debt, and lots of people do, use your tax refund to pay a portion of it. If you can pay it all off, even better. Using your refund to work on your credit card debt is one of the smartest things you can do with it. If you can reduce your credit card debt, you will significantly reduce the amount of interest you have to pay on it before it’s paid off completely and save money in the long run.
Add to Your Child’s College Fund

If you have any children, you hopefully have college funds started for them already. If you don’t, now is the time to start saving. If you do, add your tax refund to them for a big boost in savings. By the time your child is in college, the price of their education will probably be even higher than the current ridiculously high price of it. The extra savings from your refund, plus any interest it will accrue over the years, will be a big help to your child when they do enroll in college.

Add to Your Retirement Fund

If you have a retirement fund, and hopefully you do, consider putting your tax refund into it. If you don’t, you should start one now. Whether it’s an IRA or a 401(k) or otherwise, the amount of your tax refund will represent a significant contribution that could be a tax write off next year, and it will greatly increase your savings for your future. Especially in a time when Social Security is threatened, it’s very important to prepare for your own retirement as early as possible.

Donate to Charity

If you don’t have a significant, immediate need for your tax refund, or if you’re just feeling very generous, you could donate it to charity. Your donation can be a deduction next year, but more importantly, it can help out those who are in great need. There are many fabulous charities all over the world, so do some research and find one that you’re most interested in contributing to.

Andrew Clarke is a college student and avid writer who fancies himself an expert on spending money. He often writes for blogs and generates content pertaining to the benefits of writing and how it can make you money.

Photo Credit: 401K


Five tips for sticking to a budget

Five tips for sticking to a budget

There are many things that eat up our money on a daily basis – phone bills, car insurance renewals and calling out the plumber when the boiler goes bust. Unexpected expenses, twinned with daily spending can sometimes lead to a state of panic and a feeling that there’s no other way out but to borrow from the bank – or your mum.

However, if you create a budget and document your spends, you can be prepared for life’s unexpected hurdles. Here are five tips to keep you motivated to stay on the savings wagon.

Focus on savings

Recognise how much of your income you can save each month and have it debited into your savings account on pay-day. This way, there will be little to no temptation to spend as it won’t be in the account you use regularly for long. Even if the amount you save differs each month, consistently putting money away will soon add up to a considerable amount of money.

Those who find it more difficult to avoid temptation than others, leave the card connected to your savings account at home – you’ll find it pretty difficult to dip into it on an impulse shopping spree if it’s not even in your purse.

Cut bad habits

We all like to indulge in a glass or 2 of wine on the weekends, but try cutting out alcohol consumption during the week or smoking altogether and you’ll soon start saving the pennies. Start putting your beer and cigarette money into a jar and put it towards your savings at the end of each month – when you see how much you’ve saved, you’ll have more motivation to keep bad habits at bay.

Stay away from plastic

Take your card to an ATM at the beginning of each week, take out enough cash to last you to Sunday and then leave your plastic at home for seven days. If you make a decision to use only cash for the things you can live without each week, you’ll be less tempted to buy those £60 heels – nobody likes seeing a wad of cash go down.

Work together

You’re not going to save very much if your partner and family are spending the pennies left, right and centre. Sit everyone down and decide on a family budget that everyone can work to – your goals will be much more realistic if everyone cuts down a little, rather than one person completely cutting back

Track your spending

It may be worth having a look at your accounts and trying to locate areas of spend that can be omitted. Think about ways that reduce costs such as only calling friends and loved ones free after a certain time, or cutting down on the amount of text messages you send.

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8 Great Apps for Managing Personal Finances

8 Great Apps for Managing Personal Finances

Spending money is easy. Keeping track of the money in our accounts is the hard part. In today’s digital world, much banking is done online. Many people take advantage of banking technology by having their paychecks automatically deposited into their accounts each month. Others sign up for automatic bill pay for all of their monthly bills. These modern conveniences make it easy to keep up with our finances. However, if we don’t always see the cold, hard cash leave our wallets, it can be too easy to overspend or not be aware of all our purchases. With tax season approaching, many people are flailing to gather receipts and account for yearly spending. Get your finances in order with the help of one of these apps for your smartphone.

Mint

This free app for Android, iPhone and iPad devices lets you keep track of your entire financial life in one spot. Receive alerts when bills are due, track your monthly budget, or create savings goals. Easily access your financial information in graph form.

Pageonce

Pageonce is a versatile app, available for all smartphones including Android, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. View your finances on user-friendly graphs and charts, receive alerts when bills are due, or program the app to warn you when you are about to overspend.

EasyMoney

EasyMoney is an app for Android users only. It features a wide range of tools to keep your entire financial life in order. You can track all of your spending by category. It has the ability to photograph receipts or check registers, allowing you to keep them organized with the rest of your finances. You can try it free for 30 days.

Pocket Money

Pocket Money works with iPhones and iPads. This thorough app leaves no financial stone unturned. Enter every amount spent, or you can set it up to track those monthly expenses that never change. Purchase the Photo Receipts plug-in to easily input your miscellaneous spending. Desktop versions are also available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

MoneyStrands

This app for the iPhone allows you to set up a budget and helps you stick to it. You can view all of your accounts in one place and set it up to receive alerts when bills are due.

Gift List Budget Shopper

This iPhone app is for those who love to shop. The app will help you budget for gifts you intend to purchase, plan shopping trips, and help you search for products via the Internet. There is even a feature for tracking greeting cards.

CheckPlease Lite

CheckPlease Lite is a simplistic app for iPhones. The app can divide the guest check evenly when you are dining out with friends and calculate the tip. It is available in four languages and currencies.

BillMinder

This app organizes all of your monthly bills in calendar format so you can easily see what’s due, how much and when. Use BillMinder for iPhone or iPad to always be on the same financial page as your spouse or other household members. The app will sync with multiple devices, so you can all access the same up-to-date information.

Smartphones open up all sorts of new possibilities for managing and handling your personal finances. Take advantage of these to stay organized and save money. Visit billeater.com four more helpful Money-saving tips.


The Festival of Frugality #321 Reviews

In order to save enough money it is important to practice frugal living. It is always good to save some extra bucks in order to prepare for emergency situations. Frugal living has other advantages too. You will be surprised to know how many innovative ways are there to manage your finances and earn some extra bucks. Read on to know this week’s Festival of Frugality hosted by the Financewand.

Kevin presents What Are You Doing to Turn Your Discomfort into Action? Posted at Invest It Wisely. Here it he has discussed in details about how you can feel social discomfort when you are in debt and lose out on peace of mind. The article also enlightens the readers about how to find out the source of your discomfort and get over with it.

Marissa presents Learning to invest posted at Thirty Six Months . Here she discusses about how you should invest and ways in which you can make your stock investment successful. You will also get to know how you should figure out your financial situation before you venture out into investment field.

Miss T presents Finding Your Dream Job and How to Land it posted at Prairie Ecothrifter . In this post she discusses about how you can find out what your dream job is and what kind of training or skills would be required in order to pursue it. The catch to the story is that you are even provided with solution as to what you can do if you find you don’t have the required qualifications for your dream job.

LHV presents January Progress Monitoring posted at Little House in the Valley. The post is about how the author makes a number of New Year’s resolution such as driving a bike at a certain speed and also saving money and keeps them. In the end the result of the attempts are also evaluated.

Aaron presents The Golden Rules of Sales Networking posted at Aaron Hung.com. He provides you with a few pointers on how to expand and increase contacts in a sales job after you have established them. This is necessary to succeed in a sales job.

YFS presents 5 Financial Tips I Learned From Watching MTV’s The Jersey Shore posted at Your Finances Simplified. As the name suggests, this post is about the things you should do in order to hike up your finances and increase your income.

Kylie presents Day 1 Setting a Budget posted at Kylie Ofiu. Here she discusses in details about how you can set your budget in a manner so as to minimize your costs.

Frugal Toad presents How to Acquire Business Financing with Bad Credit posted at The Frugal Toad. Here you will get to know the ways in which you can get capital for your business even if you have bad credit. This is important as most of the times you can’t get a loan with a bad credit on your account.


8 Small Things That Can Change Your Spending Behavior

8 Small Things That Can Change Your Spending Behavior

The million-dollar question that everyone is asking is how do I cut my budget and save money? About ten years ago, no one was as concerned with trimming the fat. Well the truth is ten years ago America was not on the verge of a recession. Today more and more individuals are looking for authentic ways to change their spending behavior. There are hundreds of ways in which anyone can contribute to less spending. The most important ingredient to any recipe is to substitute the most expensive ingredient without sacrificing quality. This can be said for budgeting as well. It is time for households to eliminate luxurious items.

The most expensive household bill that any family can control is the utility bill. For instance, rent or mortgage has a fixed rate that cannot be changed, and so does car insurance. However, gas bills, electric bills, and water bills are bills that the only the consumer can control. Not many people look at paying bills this way. By cutting back on electricity use families can save thousands of dollars each year.

  1. Start by turning off the lights before exiting a room.
  2. Change out high watt light bulbs to the low voltage ones the government is recommending,
  3. Try using a ceiling fan and opening a few windows instead of constantly running the air conditioner.
  4. Cut laundry days down to twice a week. Wash color clothes on one day and whites another day.
  5. Take a pack lunch to work 3 to 4 days per week and eat out less.
  6. Take 5-minute showers and eliminate baths as they waste a lot of water.
  7. Do not water plants on rainy days.
  8. Try shopping for clothes on clearance racks and at stores that offer the same items for less.

These are literally 8 small things that can change your spending behavior, providing the person wants to change. The most effective way would be to put you self on a spending diet. If you have allotted yourself a weekly allowance cut it in half. Only buy items that you need. You do not have to be the first one to see a new movie, wait until the price goes down. Take the extra money and invest it in an interesting bearing saving account, and at the end of the year calculate how much you have spent compared to how much you have saved. Pay off credit card debts as soon as possible, and never spend what you cannot afford to lose.


10 Easy Money Saving Tips on Groceries!

10 Easy Money Saving Tips on Groceries!

Times are tough and many of us are doing all we can to tighten our belts and keep a close eye on our budgets; everything from spending less on entertainment to not traveling very far due to fuel prices Another major expense is the cost of food You’ve probably heard all over the news that the cost of food has been consistently rising for months straight; and besides hearing it, you’ve probably felt it in the bank account as well.

Although times are tough for many there are some important things you should know about shopping at the grocery store In this article I will share with you some things that I’ve learned since tightening our belts at our home.

1. Shop at the cheap stores.
The best prices overall are usually found at the discount stores Often times they are “Big Box” stores, however places like that can purchase their items at a lower cost, therefore pushing those savings on to you

2 Be Smart about Circulars/Advertisements and remember the coupons out there!
Not all items that are in circulars are necessarily on sale A good thing to know is that manufacturers pay to have their products in a circular because it boosts their sales up to 500% even if there is no price cut Keep your eyes open for that Sunday paper they are usually packed full of coupons to use for 30-90 days on average Even though saving 35 cent on one item may not seem like a lot, it adds up quickly if used on multiple items.

3 Avoid store take-outs
Watch out for the end of the isle bins, displays or recipe-related items and their placement…especially the middle shelf items Much of the time bargains are often on lower shelves!

4 Be color-blind
Stores and manufacturers often use colors to persuade the shopper to choose one brand over another Attempt to ignore colors and check out the individual unit prices so you can truly compare the items intelligently.

5 Slice, dice and chill it yourself!
Prepackaged items that are packaged in convenient independent ways are usually always overpriced!  I suggest purchasing the item in a bigger package or even in bulk and packaging it up yourself Sandwich bags are great for this or even the kitchen appliances you can purchase to remove the air from the plastic bags are great for freezing or simply vacuum packing things up to keep fresh! Chilled drinks are also priced higher.

6 Try store brands.
Much of the time store brands are exactly the same as the big brands, just hidden in other packaging Try the store brands, if you and your family enjoy them then you can save up to 50% on many items! How great is that?!

7 Limit your impulse buys.
Do you write out a shopping list? If not, start to do so and stick to the list If you’ve forgotten something on the list, allow yourself a certain dollar amount, say $10 so you can still get what you want/need, but won’t over extend yourself.

8 Ask for a deal!
Have you been practicing your negotiation skills?  A great, easy way to do that is asking a store to match the price or coupon of a competitor Let’s face it, there are stores that have everything from automotive parts to sewing supplies, if we don’t have to drive from store to store to get all the good deals, why do it? Advertising in the recent weeks have shown a major “big box” store stating that they will match other store’s prices Pick your favorite store and see if they too will match prices! It can’t hurt…only help, so try it.

9 Don’t leave your store membership card at home.
These little cards can save you big bucks at the checkout They are easy to store and more convenient than clipping coupons.

10 Watch the scanners.
Make sure you are watching the items that are being scanned Mistakes can be made by the person doing the scanning, or even the machine itself so keep an eye on both By doing so you can prevent any over charging that may accidentally occur.

By utilizing these great 10 tips you will be sure to have more money Enjoy your summer and if you really want to save money on fresh produce, my favorite recommendation is plant a garden! If it’s too late to do it this year, I would recommend doing so next year Not only is the food free, it’s more delicious than store bought produce Here’s to saving at the grocery store!

Lisa Harris Gore is an Award Winning Educator, Wellness Consultant and is a regular contributor for the health and nutrition website PSCLife.com – one of the web’s top retailers of Cosamin ASU – a hip, joint, and sore muscle supplement for those ailing from joint and muscle pain.


Are you due a spending makeover?


The question ‘do I need a spending makeover?’ is one that we should all ask ourselves regularly. New financial products are being introduced, there are always inviting incentives to switch providers and, of course, credit card balance transfer deals such as those to be found here.

Circumstances too might have changed. Saving to buy a house, or a baby on the way, are just two life-changing events that will probably need a bit more financial care and planning.

Any financial overhaul should address debt first. If you are in debt, then the priority is to pay off any loans before starting to save. With savings interest rates so low, clearing debt is certainly the most efficient way of maximising your money’s potential.

If you don’t pay off your credit card bill every month and have accumulated a balance, then you should look at switching to a provider with a 0% rate on balance transfers. This can typically give you 18 months or more to spread over the cost. Remember, there will probably be a balance transfer fee and other fees payable, so be sure to do your research.

If you do have savings, or want to start saving, then keep a very close eye on the interest rates. Many accounts have an introductory bonus, so if you open one of these products then keep a note of when it’s due to expire and be prepared to switch to a better rate.

Fixed term products often offer better interest rates, but make sure you definitely won’t need the money before the term expires, or you could pay a hefty penalty to get hold of it.

If you pay tax, then it makes sense to put your money into a Cash ISA, which allows you to save without paying tax on the interest you earn. You could consider moving money form a normal savings account into a Cash ISA if you don’t have one, but there are limits, currently £5340, on how much you can save each year.

If you aren’t a UK taxpayer, you should fill out an R85 form to prevent tax being deducted from the interest you have earned on your savings accounts.

Any spending makeover should involve a close look at your insurance and protection products. Always compare different providers when it’s time to renew your policies in a bid to find cheaper, but still comparable, cover and be prepared to switch to a better deal.

It’s probably not as inconvenient as you might think. If you’re taking out an insurance product for the first time, always compare products to make sure you get the most suitable and cost effective policy for you.

With soaring gas and electricity costs, utilities should also be regularly reviewed in a bid to shave a few pounds off the cost. Using the same provider for both and gas and electricity and paying by direct debit can both help to cut down the bills.

The biggest outgoing that many of us will ever have is a mortgage. Know your rate and any tie-ins there may be on the mortgage and investigate whether you can find a better product.

Look beyond enticing and eye-catching rates for any fees associated with the product and check which rate it will revert to at the end of any fixed or discounted rate term. You will also need to consider whether or not you want the security of a fixed rate, or to opt for a discounted or tracker rate deal.

This article was written by Sam, a financial writer based in the North-West, UK.


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