Warning: Declaration of TCB_Menu_Walker::walk($elements, $max_depth) should be compatible with Walker::walk($elements, $max_depth, ...$args) in /home/runthemo/public_html/fratstacks.com/wp-content/plugins/thrive-visual-editor/inc/classes/class-tcb-menu-walker.php on line 0
July 2012 - Frat Stacks
Archive
Monthly Archives: July 2012

Why You Should Kick Start Your Savings Plan Early

kick start your savings plan

By: Sam Payn

The idea of financial stability during your old age is something that leads us back to the basic importance of savings. Saving money is always a good habit to embrace any day, but the earlier you start it the better. By starting a savings plan early, you will not only be saving more money for down the road. You will be doing yourself a favor and be able to take advantage of the following:

1. Steady retirement benefits: With the change in lifestyle, many people now prefer to have fun and take pleasure in the joys of life after retirement instead of just sitting around. By starting early, you can have a comfortable amount of money saved to fulfill your wishes when you actually have the time.

2. Covers medical costs minus debts: Improvements in medical science have helped to increase the life expectancy of people to a great extent. However, with increase in the life expectancy rate comes a considerable increase in the costs of treatment for various diseases and health issues related to old age. If you have a considerable amount of savings to back you up during those crisis periods, you can save yourself from the claws of debt.

3. Secured education policy for kids: If you start saving early, you can save a sufficient amount of money to provide for your children’s education. They can study in the best institutions and receive the best opportunities that you had planned for them. The best part is you do not have to opt for a student loan to fulfill such plans.

4. Children’s marriage plans assured: You would like to make your kid’s wedding day the best day by giving him or her the best possible comforts. It can be a lavish affair or a moderate one depending on your savings. Thus, if you can save a good amount of money, you can present them the best gift of their life.

5. Emergency needs: We never know when we might face an emergence situation like a car accident or home repair. Such situations need your immediate attention so you need to be prepared. If you think of quick fix solutions like payday loans, they can work. However, you will be loaded with high interest. That said, if you are prudent enough to save for an emergency, you can face the crisis confidently.

6. Short-term needs: Even if you have a stable job with a good salary, it may not always be enough to fulfill your short-term dreams. It may be a car or an apartment that you would have dreamt of buying. It may even be some short-term investments. However, if you do not have a well-planned budget, you may face a financial crisis during the end of the month and may not be able to make them come true. However, if you have a backup savings plan, the problem can be easily sorted out. Thus, the earlier you start saving money, the more you will have to spend on your short-term needs.

If you want to save for your future and have a financially-secure life. it is better to start early. It gives you ample time to manage your resources well and save for the rainy days. By starting to save early, you can also stay away from debt and your savings fund would sufficiently meet all your financial needs.

Sam Payn is a financial blogger consultant with EasyFinance.com. He helps people to tackle their financial problems by helping them with tips on budgeting and savings in order to make their life easier.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Order and Optimism in Your Financial Life

financial order and optimism

In a previous article, I stated that to gain a sense of control over spending and especially over credit card debt, people must know how much they owe on each of their cards.  And they should put this in writing.  It’s important to grab a pen and paper or create a spreadsheet and list these balances.  Specifically, the balances should appear from smallest to largest.  Why make this list?  And why from smallest to largest?  The short answer is Order and Optimism.  The “long” answer (well, not so long) follows.

Order: At times, when people carry credit card debt, they practice what I call “The Ostrich Method.”  You may have seen an ostrich stick its head in the sand.  Makes it difficult to see, right?  We humans sometimes do the same thing (figuratively) when we don’t want to face the truth about something…like credit card debt.  “If I ignore it, it will go away, yes?”  No!  “The Ostrich Method” simply leads to other bad habits, including increased ignorance and a lack of organization.

By opening all of your latest statements and listing the current balances, you  establish a sense of order.  You take the guesswork out of the picture and replace it with knowledge.  This empowers you!  You see exactly what you are facing (what you owe; the minimum payment due; the interest rate; etc).  This is good!  Instead of an estimated balance, you now have an exact balance.  And you’ve condensed this information from several separate statements to one list.  You’ve gone from scattered to succinct; a little shift makes a BIG difference.

Optimism: Now, I draw your attention to the fact that you’ve listed the balances from smallest to largest.  “Why is that important?” you might ask.  Well, let me start by referring to a line in my book, Master The Card: Say Goodbye to Credit Card Debt…Forever!: “Money is as much psychological as it is material.”  It’s natural to get overwhelmed by credit card debt.  The amount does not matter.  $1,000….$100,000…more…less.  If you are worried about how you will pay off the debt, then you are overwhelmed.  It weighs on you: thus, the psychological part of the quote.  So by listing your balances from smallest to largest, you can train your eye (and ultimately your mind) on the card with the lowest balance.

For example, say you have balances on four credit cards and you list them as follows:

Card A:    $600.00

Card B:   $1,050.00

Card C:   $1,500.00

Card D:   $2,700.00

Instead of adding up the grand total on the four cards or even looking at any combination of the cards, which can be scary, focus your attention on Card A.  Which seems more manageable: Card A or the other cards?  Card A, of course.  And it’s very likely that you’ll say to yourself, “$600?  I can pay that off pretty quickly.”  Great!  Now do it.  Focus your attention and as much money as you can on paying off that card ASAP, while paying the minimum on the other cards.  By doing this, Card A is paid off in short order AND you gain a sense of victory, an important psychological component when getting out of debt.  You’re now optimistic and know that in due time, you’ll pay off the other cards in the same fashion.

Order and optimism are essential when freeing ourselves from credit card debt.  They were at the heart of my liberation process.  Order and optimism give us a plan and hope.  With this knowhow and confidence, we can overcome any obstacle.

MUST READ: Joe Paretta’s article, Do You Know What You Owe?

Joe Paretta is an author, speaker, and coach. His first book, Master The Card: Say Goodbye to Credit Card Debt…Forever! (Balboa Press, 2010), is one which he considers “a labor of love.”  After accumulating $12,000 in credit card debt, Joe changed the way he thought about and used money and credit cards. As a result, he has been free from credit card debt for many years and coaches others to freedom, too. To learn more about Joe or to purchase his book, visit his website www.joeparetta.com.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Five Stages of Debt: Which Stage Are You In?

debt stages

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

By: Allison Martin

Debt Stage 1: Denial

In this fast-paced world, many are moving at such a rapid manner that they forget to pay attention to the minor details of major items, including outstanding debt. The average consumer at this stage either fails to calculate how much debt they are in or turn a blind eye (as if it doesn’t exist). Either way, this is a dangerous position to be in. The longer the debtor denies or ignores the issue, the more rapidly the debt will increase (as a result of interest or the minimum payment trap).

Debt Stage 2: Realization

At this stage, the debtor has decided to face the music and come to terms with the situation at hand. They have taken the time out to list the details of each debt and analyze the situation. The list includes but is not limited to: creditor’s name, balance interest rate, minimum payment, and balance. Realizing that a problem exists is not necessarily negative in nature because the debtor is now at a crossroad. They must make a choice to rectify the situation or continue to let it spiral out of control. Hopefully, the debtor will make the correct choice and select the first option.

Debt Stage 3: Depression

If the debtor owes an excessive amount of money to a creditor(s), it is expected that they will experience some sort of depression. (Some skip this stage depending on personality type). A lot of debt incurred in the United States is a result of the “gotta have it” mentality. It has been ingrained in many minds that it is okay to finance items that are desperately desired, even if they will cost way too much money in the long-run. If you don’t agree, take a glance at all the loan and credit card products that exist around us and you will think again. Depression typically sets in when the debtor realizes that they engaged in impulse spending or purchased items that they couldn’t afford.

Debt Stage 4: Perseverance

The debtor will experience this stage if they decide to tackle their outstanding debts. At first, progress will be gradual since the debt repayment process can be lengthy and tedious. However, once the debtor notices just how much they have reduced the outstanding balances, they will have the desire to press on and remain persistent in the debt repayment process until everything is paid off. This stage can be empowering to many because it demonstrates the rewards that result from persistence and determination with anything that an individual does in life, whether or not it involves personal finance.

Debt Stage 5: Bliss

Once all debt is eliminated, the former debtor will more than likely be filled with joy as if he or she is on top of the world. After all, the debt repayment process can be an emotional roller-coaster for many because it takes a lot out of a person. Making sacrifices along with changes in spending habits and personal finance lifestyles as a whole in order to repay outstanding obligations is hard work. However, it pays off in the long run when the individual is released from bondage with the creditor(s), financially free, and has resources to explore the various elements that life has to offer without having to borrow from anyone.

Which debt stage are you in?

Allison is a Financial Coach who educates individuals from a Christian perspective on financial goal-setting, budgeting, saving, debt management, and wealth building. Make sure to check her out at FinancialCoachingForYou.com

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do You Know What You Owe?

financial inspection

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s an old saying, “Knowledge is power.”  There’s a level of truth to that.  When you have knowledge of something, you have the potential to apply it and possibly improve your life.  This philosophy works with regards to credit card debt.  Read on and see why.

Frequently, I speak with people who tell me, “I’d like to get out of credit card debt.”  One of my first questions for them is “How much do you owe?”  All too often, they respond in silence or they look at me as if I am from another planet.  Then, there are those few “brave” souls who, upon hearing this question, look to the ground and have the courage to mumble, “I don’t know.”  (And, of course, that, too, is the implied answer of those who do not verbally respond).  If you don’t know how much you owe, it is difficult, and dare I say Impossible, to be debt free.  And there are also those people who don’t know what they owe, don’t want to know how much they owe, and even expect to die in debt.  This article is NOT for them.

On the other hand, if you are one of those people who genuinely says, “I want to be free from credit card debt, but how do I start?” then you are seeking knowledge.  You want assistance; you want answers.  You want to be debt free.  But first, you must know how much you owe.

Here is a series of steps to help you:

1) Know How Many Credit Cards You Have:  For some people, this is simple.  “I have two.”  “I have three.”  “I have five.”  For others, who have a longer credit/buying history or have a problem or addiction to credit cards, as I did, he answer might not be as simple.  Either way, just take your time and make sure that you account for every credit card that you have.

2) Know Which Cards Have Outstanding Balances Depending on how many cards you have, there may be some on which you are carrying balances and others that are at zero.  Back when I was a “chronic” credit card user, I had between 12 and 14 “pieces of plastic.”  The majority had outstanding balances and a few were at zero.  Sometimes, I would look at those few cards that had a zero balance and “convince” myself that I did not have a problem with credit card debt.  That was the ultimate in denial!  Since our eventual goal is to be completely free from credit card debt, we will focus on those cards with balances due.  NOTE – Take those cards with zero balances and put them safely away.  Do NOT use them!

3) Know What You Owe On Each Card:  Some of your credit cards might have a high balance, while others have a low (or no) balance.  The key here is to know exactly to the penny what you owe on each card.  Grab a piece of paper and a pen and write down the name of the card and the balance due.  Do that for every card.  List the balances from smallest to largest.  (In an upcoming article, I will address the significance behind this).  Something to keep in mind: It is more important to know what you owe on each card than it is to know the grand total of your credit card debt.  This, too, will be addressed, in detail, in later articles.  But for now, suffice it to say that you are gaining knowledge: you know what you owe on each card and  you are becoming aware of how often you use the card (as well as where, why, etc.).

4) Know That You Can Do This!:  It is easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about credit card debt.  I know that I was when I first decided to change my habits and pay off my debt.  But by becoming proactive and determined, I focused on the task at hand and as a result, I have been free from the albatross of credit card debt for many years.  Keep in mind that many people have already done this.  You will, too!!

Remember that “Knowledge is power.”  Now that you know exactly what you owe, you are ready to go!

Joe Paretta is an author, speaker, and coach. His first book, Master The Card: Say Goodbye to Credit Card Debt…Forever! (Balboa Press, 2010), is one which he considers “a labor of love.”  After accumulating $12,000 in credit card debt, Joe changed the way he thought about and used money and credit cards. As a result, he has been free from credit card debt for many years and coaches others to freedom, too. To learn more about Joe or to purchase his book, visit his website www.joeparetta.com.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Planning a Vacation on a Budget? Check Out These Tips …

vacation budget tips

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Traveling is a popular pastime for many people and once a year vacation trips are quite common. Budgeting for a holiday is something that should be done all year long and not just in a few frantic months before the trip.

One of the best things to do to ensure you have an enjoyable and affordable trip is to carefully select a travel destination that has a favorable exchange rate. If you do happen to run out of money, it is always possible to get an international money transfer.

Travel to destinations with a favorable exchange rate

In some countries the U.S. dollar will go twice as far, allowing you to enjoy stays in hotels that would be out of range in many countries. Traveling to a destination that has a favorable exchange rate does not mean that you have to put up with a mediocre vacation. Quite the opposite is often true, as some of the cheapest countries to travel to can also be the most delightful.

Putting money away into a travel fund on a monthly basis is one of the best ways to ensure there are enough funds by the time the planned holiday arrives. How much you put away is really up to your budget and how much you can afford to save without depriving yourself of essentials. Saving for a trip should not involve enduring hardship and going without the things you enjoy.

Doing an internet search for cheap travel destinations is a good way to get started. Check around to see what other travelers have to say about the destination. Others who have been to the country you are planning to travel to probably have good tips and advice on local customs. Being prepared ahead of time is the greatest money saver because it lets you budget accordingly.

Buy essentials like sun cream at home

Buying all the essentials for the trip is best done before leaving the U.S. Items that are used by tourists are often a lot more expensive in foreign countries. While many things are very inexpensive, store vendors do take advantage of the fact that tourists need items such as sun cream or mosquito repellent.

These items are then sold for about three times what they would normally be worth. So, buying these types of items is a good idea before traveling.

Airlines now have strict regulations about the size of containers that can be brought on planes, so it may be necessary to transfer the contents of bottles into airline approved container sizes. Most people don’t use up everything they bring along, but if you do, make sure to shop in local stores that are away from the tourist hangouts. This way, you can pay the prices that local residents do.

Buying clothes on trips is something that many people do. It is possible to buy well-made items for a fraction of the price that you would pay in the United States. The best bet is to stay away from the high-priced boutiques that cater to tourists. To really get a taste of the colorful fashions available, it is necessary to visit areas off the beaten path.

Vendors in many foreign countries are used to haggling over prices and if you want to save money, this could be something to try. It is considered almost a sport to haggle over prices, so you need not feel uncomfortable. Only do this in countries where this is an accepted part of life. Using some of these ideas should allow you to enjoy an affordable holiday.

Andrew Griffiths is a graduate of Loughborough University and Liverpool University in the UK.  He is a self-employed blogger and a freelance writer for MoneySupermarket.com.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The ‘3 Es’ of Credit Card Debt

credit card debt

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Why do people have credit card debt? There are many answers to that question. But in the 17 years I have spent studying this topic, I have noticed that the reasons fall within three primary categories, which I call “The 3 Es”: Emergencies, Ease, and Entitlement. I have also learned that while some circumstances are unavoidable, others are created by choice and that there are ways to prevent these situations, with a basic sense of awareness and a change of mindset and habit.

Emergencies

In short, “life happens.” People get sick. Jobs are lost. Cars break down. Kids break bones. All too frequently, we do not have enough money in savings to cover these unexpected occurrences. How can we? A large percentage of people live paycheck to paycheck and struggle just to cover their monthly expenses. So, emergencies “throw them for a loop.” With seemingly nowhere else to turn, they whip out one of their credit cards and breathe a sigh of relief…until the bill comes in. Depending upon the magnitude and cost of the emergency, people could carry this debt for many months…even years.

Alternative – An effective way to prepare oneself for the unexpected is to build an Emergency Fund. Many financial planners suggest having an account that can cover three to six months of expenses, when fully funded, depending upon the number of people in your family, your monthly bills, etc. While this is the ultimate goal, I believe that simply having something, no matter how small, in an emergency fund is essential, so when the unexpected happens, we don’t have to pay for it entirely, if at all, with credit cards. Also, replenish the emergency fund as soon as possible And yes, build it to the three to six month range, if possible, so you are ready for the next emergency.

Ease

“That will be eighty dollars and sixty-five cents, please.” “OK,” you say to yourself. “Hmm. I think I’ll use my Visa today.” Whip. Swipe. And Return. You have made your purchase. Easy, right? It sure is! It is easy to reach into your wallet, grab the card, use it, and put it back…It is also easy to run up a lot of debt that way. So many of us have been conditioned to swipe the credit card without much thought. We want as much ease as possible, especially regarding finances. Credit cards provide the easiest way to get what we want quickly and the easiest way to rack up consumer debt. In my days as a chronic credit card user, I would swipe the card for nearly every purchase, only to get the statement at month’s end and think, “I don’t remember buying half of this stuff!” Couple that with the fact that the pleasure that the purchase once provided had now faded and I was left with nothing but an outstanding balance. Easy is NOT always good!

Alternative – The best way to avoid using credit cards is to leave them at home. “What!?!” I know; this shocks some people. But you can’t go into credit card debt if you don’t have them with you. “What if I memorize the account number?” Well, then there’s a bigger issue, beyond the scope of this article. But for our purposes, at least temporarily or until your spending habits are under control, go on a steady “cash diet.” That way, you will not add to your debt, you improve your chances of lowering your current debt levels, and (AND THIS IS A BIG “AND”), you will start thinking more constructively about your purchases. It “hurts” a little when we spend cash. We feel something leaving our wallets…and our lives…and that sense of loss makes us consider our purchases more carefully than when we simply swipe the credit card. We start to distinguish a WANT from a NEED (the focus of an upcoming article). This is a HUGE step in the right direction. Eventually, you will mange your credit cards as easily as you once used them.

Entitlement

You work hard, two jobs, in fact. The boss has been “on your back” for a month. Then you go home and have to take the kids to soccer practice, band rehearsal; you have to pay the bills, finish the laundry. You deserve to “kick back” a bit. You deserve some “Me Time.” You’re right; you do! But for many people, men and women alike, “kicking back” translates to several sessions of “Retail Therapy”: at the mall, at the home improvement store, etc. Yes, you do deserve some “Me Time,” but “Me Time” does not have to “break the bank.” When a sense of entitlement overwhelms our sense of logic…and our money…problems start. The busier we get, the more stressed we become. The more stressed we become, the more entitled we feel. The more entitled we feel, the greater the chances of rising credit card debt. Entitlement usually starts small. But it rarely stays small. As responsibilities and stress levels rise, we tend to want larger, more expensive items to “satisfy” us. That also means a greater reliance on credit cards. And likely, growing debt on a monthly basis….and More Stress!

It does not have to be that way.

Alternative – Here’s a suggestion that some folks may see as “sacrilege.” But here goes: REDUCE the “To Do” list. You may not be able to reduce your responsibilities at work, but maybe you (and your kids) are overscheduled outside of work and school. We’ve become a society of “do’ers,” frequently operating on “automatic pilot,” simply to check another item off our list as if it were a “badge of honor.” If we don’t have at least a half-dozen items there, we think that we are underachievers. If we are not exhausted when our heads hit the pillow, we feel unsatisfied. Some parents have said to me, “If (kid’s name) is not doing all of these activities, (he/she) won’t get into college!” Usually, my response is “Nonsense.” And this comes from having taught on the college level for 16 years. Grades do play a role in gaining college admission, you know. Simply put, we are living “Quantity Lives” when we should be living “Quality Lives.” And we are training the next generation to live the same way: overwhelmed, stressed, and entitled. Reduce the unnecessary activities in your family. Spend more time together at home as a family unit. This will add to your quality of life and greatly diminish the belief that we are entitled to a houseful of stuff.

Joe Paretta is an author, speaker, and coach. His first book, Master The Card: Say Goodbye to Credit Card Debt…Forever! (Balboa Press, 2010), is one which he considers “a labor of love.”  After accumulating $12,000 in credit card debt, Joe changed the way he thought about and used money and credit cards. As a result, he has been free from credit card debt for many years and coaches others to freedom, too. To learn more about Joe or to purchase his book, visit his website www.joeparetta.com.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

>