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Archive for January, 2010

How Credit Repair Software Programs Can Help You Meet Your Financial Goals

Written by Toi Williams on Jan 31st, 2010 | Filed under: debt relief

Many people do not understand how important credit repair software programs can be to helping you meet your financial goals.  Credit repair software programs can affect many different aspects of your world and create more lucrative opportunities for the future once you have completed the requirements of the software program and gotten out of debt.  Completing credit repair software programs can help you eliminate expensive financial obligations quickly and help you get the items you desire.

Lower Interest Rates For Credit Products

People that have completed credit repair software programs will typically qualify for a lower interest rate on their loans and credit cards than a person that has a lot of debt or is having trouble making payments on the debt.  This is because people that have demonstrated that they have the determination to complete one of these software programs and have demonstrated financial responsibility afterward are not considered a credit risk for the company.  The company can give you a lower interest rate because there is a very good chance that they will be receiving their money back in a timely manner.  Being able to obtain a lower interest rate on your credit products can save you hundreds of dollars in interest payments each year.

Easier Approval For Credit Related Items

Completing credit repair software programs will mean that you have a good chance of being approved for additional credit or loan products in the future.  Being able to get approved for credit is very important if you ever want to purchase a new car or obtain a mortgage loan to purchase a home.  Getting out of debt with credit repair software programs available will increase your chances of getting approval from the lender or the credit card company that you are interested in doing business with.

Completing credit repair software programs will also encourage future lenders to approve you for a higher credit limit than they would have if you had retained a low credit score.  This allows the person to have enough credit available for any financial emergencies that may arise.  People that have used credit repair software programs are often qualified for personal credit at reasonable rates within a few years of completing the programs and demonstrating financial responsibility.


Save Hundreds On Grocery Shopping With One Simple Tip

Written by Toi Williams on Jan 28th, 2010 | Filed under: saving

One of the largest monthly expenses for any family is the money that they spend for food at the grocery store.  Purchasing food for a family of four can easily equal more than $100 per week and is often dependent upon the prices of staples and deals offered by the store.  But there is one simple way for a shopper to reduce the money that is spent each month at the grocery store and that is by reducing the number of trips that you make to the store.

Why Is This Beneficial?

Reducing the number of trips that are made to the grocery store each month is not a way that many people think of when they think of methods of saving money, but it is one of the most effective ways to keep more of your money in your pocket.  This is because many grocery stores are masters of impulse purchase manipulation and organize their stores in such a way that it entices most shoppers to place items that they did not intend to buy into their cart.  While this is a good way for the grocery store to boost their profits and move their merchandise, it negatively affects consumers that end up spending much more money at the grocery store than they intend.

Experts estimate that individuals that make a “quick trip” to the grocery store to pick up a few items at a time will often purchase around 54% more than they intended during the trip while individuals that plan out their shopping trip before hand, plan to purchase two weeks worth of food, and make a shopping list of their purchases tend to stick closely to the amount that they intended to spend.  For example, a person who intends to purchase $200 worth of food in a two week period would spend $308 with the impulse purchases made in quick trips for a few items at a time compared with around $220 spent when the items are all purchased in a single trip using a shopping list.  That is an estimated savings of $88 in food purchases every two weeks or nearly $2300 over the course of a year.

Additional Tips

An important part of saving money during your trip to the grocery store is making a list of the items that you intend to purchase at the store and sticking to this list while you are shopping.  Some people who follow this rule choose to make a menu of the meals that they intend to prepare over the next two weeks to ensure that they will not have to return to the store to pick up additional ingredients needed to make a meal.  By following this simple tip, it is very easy to save a great deal of money on your grocery store purchases over the course of a year.


What Should I Look For In A Credit Counselor?

Written by Toi Williams on Jan 26th, 2010 | Filed under: debt relief

credit counselor

Choosing the right credit counselor to help you get out of debt could be one of the most important choices that you make for your future.  Having the right credit counselor for your future will determine the speed and success of your debt reduction efforts.  Picking the right professional credit counselor can be a difficult choice, but by keeping a few things in mind you can choose the counselor that is best for your needs.

Professionalism

One of the most important things to look for in a credit counselor is their professionalism and their ability to get the job done.  There are many things that can be used to judge the professionalism of a credit counselor, including their manner when setting the appointment, whether they are prepared for the job when you arrive, and how they act while they are assessing your debts.  If the counselor is unable to act professionally during the initial contacts, then you would be better served by hiring a different counselor.

Some of this may be difficult to judge before beginning to pay the counselor for their help so it is important to obtain reviews about the credit counselor prior to hiring them for the job.  The reviews can be obtained from previous clients of the counselor, testimonials that the counselor has available, or community websites that allow consumers to post reviews about the businesses in the area.  These reviews will give you a good picture of what other consumers thought about the credit counselor and can save you from making a bad decision on which counselor to choose.

Experience

The experience of the credit counselor is also important when you are trying to choose the best person to help you eliminate your debts.  Counselors that have more experience may know more tips and tricks to obtain just the right tone with creditors, which debt relief methods have the greatest success rates, and how to arrange your payment spacing so that you have enough money to pay your other bills while going through the debt elimination process.  The number of years the counselor has been in business will give you a good idea of how much experience the credit counselor has.


Is Your Checking Account A Free Checking Account?

Written by Toi Williams on Jan 23rd, 2010 | Filed under: saving

When people think about all the ways that they could be saving money, changing their checking account is not typically at the top of the list but it is possible that checking account fees are depleting the checking account by hundreds of dollars each year.  In most cases, the checking account fees are considered to be part of the cost of doing business with a nationally accessible banking institution but it is easy to get the same type of checking power with a free, no fee checking account.  There are several criteria that must be met for a truly free checking account.

No Minimum Balance

The best free checking accounts will not have a minimum balance that must be met for the checking account to remain free.  For example, some banks have a rule that the checking account must contain more than $2,500 for the account to remain free.  As soon as the balance of the account dips below the $2,500 mark, the account is hit with fees and the fees continue to accumulate until the balance of the account rises above $2,500.  Having a checking account that does not have a minimum balance ensures that you will not have fees levied against your account if you must withdraw a significant portion of the money in the account.

No Maximum Number Of Transactions

Some banking institutions hold down the costs of their checking accounts by limiting the number of transactions that an account holder can have each month.  The types of transactions that are limited can include deposits, withdrawals, transactions made by teller, or number of checks written.  The philosophy behind the transaction limitations is that the less the account is used, the less work it will take the bank to maintain the account which allows the bank to save money. 

Conducting more transactions per month than the checking account allows will cost the account holder a significant amount of money.  If the person goes over the transaction limit, fees are levied against the account as a lump sum fee or a per transaction fee.  The best free checking accounts will not have a maximum number of transactions for the account per month.

Forget About Accruing Interest

One of the biggest hooks to get a person to sign up for a checking account that is going to cost them money is to tell the person that the account is interest bearing.  In many cases, the balance that will have to be left in the checking account to accrue interest will have to total thousands of dollars in order for the amount of interest earned to offset the fees that are charged by the bank for the account.  Unless you are able to keep a large balance in your checking account untouched for a long period of time, you will pay more in checking account fees over the year than you will earn in interest.


How Can I Tell If A Balance Transfer Is The Right Move For Me?

Written by Toi Williams on Jan 20th, 2010 | Filed under: credit cards

Many credit card companies are advertising deals on balance transfers to their cards and some of the deals sound great on the surface, but it can be difficult to tell whether the balance transfer terms that the company is offering is right for you.  There are several different things that you can look at to determine whether the balance transfer would be beneficial for you in the long run for your debt management plan and if the company is truly offering a good deal.

The Interest Rate
The most common reason to transfer a credit card balance from one credit card to another is to take advantage of a lower interest rate.  This can be a tricky process as some credit cards will offer a low interest rate or 0% interest rate on the balance that is transferred, but the interest rate for new purchases is higher than the interest rate for the old credit card.  It is important to read all of the terms and conditions of the new credit card and compare them to the information for the old credit card to ensure that you are getting the best deal.

Fees And Charges
Some credit card companies charge a fee for transferring a balance onto their credit card.  Typically, this fee is around 3% of the amount transferred or $30 for each $1000 transferred to the new credit card.  These fees should also be taken into consideration when attempting to determine whether a balance transfer will be financially beneficial.

Company Reputation
Some individuals make the mistake of transferring large balances to credit cards run by obscure credit card companies because they think that they are getting an amazing deal on the balance transfer.  Credit card companies have a great deal of power over the credit cards that they issue and many include a clause in the terms and conditions that allows the credit card company to change the interest rate for the credit card for any reason at any time.  Less reputable companies are generally more likely to use a low initial interest rate to lure in new customers and then raise the interest rate charged unexpectedly in the future to increase their earnings.

Transferring a credit card balance can be a good way to improve your financial situation and can be very beneficial if done correctly and for the right reasons.  By taking the time to research different offers and compare them to each other, you can ensure that you are getting the best deal possible on a balance transfer.


What Can We Learn From The Economic Crisis?

Written by Toi Williams on Jan 19th, 2010 | Filed under: mindset

These past two years have been a difficult economic environment for nearly everyone across the nation and around the world.  The cost of staples keeps rising as wages stagnate or decline for a majority of the employed.  The unemployment rate is the highest it has been in nearly eighty years with large portions of many industries facing massive layoffs.  Housing values have plummeted to the point where many people owe much more on their mortgage than their homes are worth.  Add the lack of credit availability into the equation and you are looking at the worse economic climate that many people have ever experienced.

It is important to not only evaluate what happened to cause this economic distress to prevent it from occurring again in the future, but to also absorb the lessons that can only be learned in this type of economic climate.  There are many lessons that are being learned by the individuals hit by this recession, whether they are unemployed, have seen their working hours cut, or are employed but are still facing the high prices and lack of credit availability that has swept the nation.

Learning To Live Within Your Means

One of the hardest lessons being learned in the current economic climate is learning to live within your means.  For the past decade, credit cards and home equity loans enabled many people to make purchases that they would not have been able to afford otherwise.  The credit crunch and the cutting off of home equity loans created a rude awakening for thousands of individuals that could no longer finance a higher quality of life. 

Today, people are learning that they cannot spend all that they earn plus more and still remain financially afloat.  By scaling back monthly obligations and delaying purchasing until they have the cash to pay for the items, people are finding financial stability that is easier to maintain and more secure than the way that they were living before.  Learning to live within your means is a lesson that should have never been lost, but is returning today with a vengeance.

Learning To Do Without

After the heady days of instant gratification and purchasing everything that caught the eye, many people are now learning how to do without.  People are finding that they do not need a new wardrobe every season or a new cell phone as soon as the upgraded models are released by the manufacturers.  Instead of dinners out, people are relearning how to prepare their own meals.  Jewelry sales have suffered to the point that many jewelers are going out of business.  The mantra for this newfound frugality is “if it is not a necessity, it is not purchased.”

Learning To Reassess Priorities

One of the best lessons being learned in this distressing economic climate is the reassessing of priorities.  Before, the common wisdom was that children would be happy if parents could buy them everything that they wanted, but now parents are realizing that what their children really want is their time, some attention, and shared experiences that expand their world view.  Instead of dedicating all of their time towards working, making more money and spending that money, people are rediscovering the allure of simple things such as fishing in a local creek or taking long walks in the woods together.  Although everyone’s priorities may be different, a much lower percentage of them are focused on chasing after money.


What Are The Benefits Of Insurance Protection?

Written by Toi Williams on Jan 16th, 2010 | Filed under: saving

There are many benefits of insurance protection that can be realized if you take the time to choose the right policies.  Insurance products have increased in popularity as individuals rush to protect the items that are important to them and the insurance industry has responded by increasing the number of products on the market to satisfy niche markets and specific possessions.  The benefits that come from having the proper insurance products to protect the future is the main reason why people choose to purchase these products.

Limited Liability

One of the main benefits of insurance protection is that the person will not be responsible for the total cost of the insured item in the event of loss, damage, or theft.  A perfect example is homeowner’s insurance which can insure a home against fire, water damage, and natural disasters.  Having the proper homeowner’s insurance insures that you will be able to repair or rebuild the home in the event of a disaster or purchase another home if your current home is totaled.

Car insurance can also keep more money in your pocket in the event of an accident.  Having the right car insurance policy will ensure that the car can be repaired or replaced after paying the deductible on the policy.  Because the insurance policy pays for most of the cost associated with the repairs, savings can be used for other important items instead of shelling out thousands of dollars because of an accident.

Peace Of Mind

Beside monetary benefits, having the proper insurance policies can give you peace of mind.  If you purchase the right insurance policies for your needs and have made all of your premium payments on time, you can be certain that you are covered in the event of the unexpected occurring.  The loss of property may be traumatic, but you will have the means to continue and get your life back on track without the worry of how to pay for or replace the needed items.

It is very important to obtain your insurance policies prior to an adverse event occurring.  Insurance policies are meant to protect you from the unexpected, not pay you a bonus for wrecking your car or destroying your home.  The numerous benefits of insurance protection can only be obtained if the insurance policy is in place before a disaster strikes.


What Can I Expect During A Debt Collection Process?

Written by Toi Williams on Jan 11th, 2010 | Filed under: collections

Many people today are finding themselves on the wrong end of the debt collection process for the first time.  The number of late payments and missed payments has skyrocketed over the last couple of years as many families have seen the loss of a job, a decline in their wages, and credit lines cut down to the bare minimum.  Knowing how the debt collection process works can help reduce some of the fear and shame that many people have when faced with financial problems that lead to debt collection.

Initial Steps

There are certain steps that are typically followed during the debt collection process that makes the process predictable.  In many cases, a creditor will not take any action within the first thirty days of non-payment on an account other than adding a late payment charge to the account balance.  The reason for this is that many people miss payment deadlines and make up the missed payment within the first thirty days of delinquency.  Many businesses feel that chasing after individuals that are less than 30 days past due on their accounts wastes money and is a bad business practice.

After the account has been delinquent for more than thirty days, representatives of the creditor company will begin trying to make contact with you regarding the missed payment or payments.  These contacts may be by mail, by email, or by telephone depending on the company and their policies.  At this point, you are still dealing directly with the company and may be able to negotiate some type of payment plan to bring the account current.

Additional Steps

If the company is unable to contact you or still has not received a payment after 30 days, the company will take further action to encourage the account holder to bring the account current.  First, they will report the delinquent account to the major credit bureaus, effectively reducing the person’s credit score and placing a negative mark on the person’s credit history for the next seven years.  Once this information has been placed in the person’s credit history, there is no way to remove it unless the information is inaccurate and the inaccuracy can be proven to the credit bureaus.

If this does not produce the desired effect of having the customer bring their account current, the creditor may choose to enlist the help of a debt collection agency.  Because the debt collectors are typically paid on commission and only make money when they get you to pay money, they are much more aggressive in getting you to settle your debt than the representatives at the original creditor company.  The debt collection company will continue to call your home or office and send notices by mail to try to get you to pay off your debt until the statute of limitations for collecting the debt has passes, typically a period of seven years.


Common Scams To Watch Out For

Written by Toi Williams on Jan 9th, 2010 | Filed under: scams

Experts estimate that nearly 20% of consumers have been the victim of cybercrime within the past two years at an estimated cost of $8 billion.  This cost includes financial losses related to identity theft, misuse of financial information, and the replacement of computers infected by malware.  It is much easier to protect yourself from becoming a victim of these scams when you can easily identify which communications may be fraudulent.

Delivery Notifications
A favorite of many scammers is the delivery notification scam.  With this scam, the scammer creates a fake email that looks like it is from a major delivery company or retailer and sends it to numerous consumers asking for a confirmation of personal information.  Individuals that fall for these scams can find their personal or financial information compromised or find malware installed on their computer that is difficult or impossible to get rid of.

E-Card Deliveries
Another common method of infecting computer systems with malware that can compromise personal and financial data is attaching a virus to an e-card that is mass mailed to unsuspecting consumers.  In many cases, these e-cards are sent to all of the contacts in a hijacked email address’s contact list so the e-card appears to come from a person the victim knows.  If you receive an e-card from a casual contact or from a person that has never sent you an e-card before, you may want to err on the side of caution and ask the person if they personally sent the e-card before opening the attachment or clicking on the link.

Auction Site Scams
One scam that is quickly gaining in popularity is the auction site scam.  With this scam, the scammer sends out a fraudulent email that appears to be from a popular auction website either confirming a high dollar purchase from the person’s account or claiming that there is an issue with an item that the person was bidding on.  Clicking the link in these emails allows the malware to be downloaded onto the victim’s computer where it can transmit data back to the scammer’s computer. 

Employment Scams
Today’s bleak employment landscape has given rise to another opportunity for scammers to gain access to the information on your computer by using employment offers as a lure to entice individuals to click on malware links.  Any offers of employment from companies that you do not remember applying to or emails offering work at home positions should be viewed with suspicion, as these are the most common methods used to expose the victim to viruses and malware.  Scammers are endlessly inventive, so it is best be suspicious of any email that does not look right, has grammatical errors, or does not conform to a contact’s typical activities.


Have You Thought About A High Yield Savings Account?

Written by Toi Williams on Jan 8th, 2010 | Filed under: saving

Saving a percentage of your income in a savings account is an important part of remaining debt free.  Having savings that you can access in the event of an emergency reduces the chances that a financial emergency will leave you with insurmountable debt or will require you to pay high interest charges for placing the cost of the emergency on credit.  Many experts believe that a high yield savings account is the best place to put the money that you have saved.

Why Choose A High Yield Savings Account

A high yield savings account is a good choice for several reasons.  The first reason is that a savings account is accessible.  Having savings that you cannot access readily in the event of an emergency will not do you any good, so it is important to place your savings into an account that can be accessed with a minimum of hassle and that allows you to withdraw your money without charging high fees.  Many high yield savings accounts have a minimum account balance requirement, but as long as you do not dip below this level, you will not incur any fees for withdrawing money from the account.

Another reason why placing your money into a high yield savings account is a smart money move to make is because these accounts can protect you from rising inflation.  Because these accounts pay the account holder interest for holding their money in the account, every dollar placed into the account is earning the account holder additional money.  The amount of interest paid by the bank on the savings account should be higher than the annual rate of inflation, ensuring that you will have the same, or higher, purchasing power when you withdraw your money in the future.

High yield savings accounts are considered to be one of the better options for parking additional money because the accounts are free of investment risk.  The balance of a high yield savings account will never go down unless money is withdrawn from the account, unlike some other investment vehicles that may offer higher rates of return but are subject to downturns in the economy.  There are many benefits to placing your additional funds into a high yield savings account, including keeping the money safe for your future.