Archive for July, 2010

Do You Need some Sales Tax Relief?

Living in Illinois, the only time I ever heard of sales tax savings was in a furniture store offer. Now times are a changing, because for the first time – the state of Illinois is having a sales tax holiday (August 6th – 15th) on school supplies, clothes and shoes worth $100 or less. This gets even better, because 17 states are offering sales tax relief on clothes, shoes, computers, energy products, school supplies and more.

Mark your calendar for your state’s sales tax holiday
Mississippi kicks off its sales tax holiday tomorrow (July 30th – July 31st) on clothes and shoes worth $100 or less. Read SmartMoney.com’s article “More States Offer Sales Tax Relief” and find out if your state is on the list. If your state is participating, mark your calendar to take advantage of these additional savings.

Shopping Tip: Use coupons and other discount offers to maximize your savings.

5 Ways to Teach Kids about Money

Piggy Bank Children receive very little financial education in school and most of what they learn comes from home. The earlier you start teaching your kids about money the better. Sharing good money management principles prepares them to make better financial decisions (spend smarter, save wisely and live beneath their means) in the future.

5 Ways to Teach Kids about Money:

  1. The ABC’s of Money – Start with the basics of what money is and why money matters. Focus on telling them how you earn money, what you use money for (home, food) and where you keep money (bank, credit union).

    TIP: Using games like Monopoly or a grocery store shopping cash register toy (food with money) helps them understand how money is used.

  2. Counting Money – Begin teaching your children how to count money when you feel they have reached the age to understand it. Once they know how to count, show them how to make change.

    TIPS: Use the money in their piggy bank to show them how to count money (dollars and coins). If they do not have a piggy bank, I’d suggest you get them one to help them learn about money and saving. Put their making change skills into action by having your child help you with a garage sale or buy something at the store.

  3. Lead By Example – As a parent of two, I’ve learned my actions carry more weight than my words. Children constantly watch what we do and how we do it. Demonstrating strong money management skills like being a disciplined spender, shopping around and managing your budget are great ways to teach your children good money habits.

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Know Your Rights and Stop Debt Collector Abuse

JusticeIn my post Are You Being Sued for Your Debt?, I started with “Forget about the phone calls and aggressive communication tactics…” After I wrote that post it seems like I was a magnet for a series of debt collector abuse articles online. Contrary to the way my post may have read, debt collector abuse should not be taken lightly whether you’re being sued or not.

Debt collector harassment is a serious matter. Know your rights and stop debt collector abuse.

What are your debt collection rights?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has outlined your consumer rights as they relate to debt collectors. After all, the FTC receives the most consumer complaints for debt collector practices. The more you know about what they can and cannot do the better. Click here for the FTC’s Debt Collection Facts for Consumers.

If your debt collection rights have been violated:

Debt collectors gone wrong…

Here are some articles that highlight debt collector harassment and abuse tactics:

What are your thoughts about debt collector abuse tactics? Please share them using comments.

Photo: dbking

Categories: Debt

How Much Are You Willing to Downsize Your Lifestyle?

After reading the title of this post you may be saying, “given the economic climate many people have learned to live on less.”  And you would be absolutely right, because overall our spending habits have changed. My question to you is still, how much are you willing to downsize your lifestyle?

Over the weekend I watched a video about Jay Shafer’s decision to downgrade his lifestyle to have more freedom. He moved from a 4,000 square feet home into a tiny home measuring only 89. I’m not missing any zeros here – this home is 8 feet by 12 feet.

This downsize has its benefits: no mortgage, much lower utilities (less than $100/yr), and more freedom to pursue your passion since you are not being weighed down by the responsibilities of maintaining a big home.

As a family of four, I can definitely say that this would not work for us. However, I think the concept of living on less is great. I must admit though being a native Floridian, I don’t think that house would work for me – even if I was single without any children. It would have to meet hurricane standards or withstand some serious winds in Chicago. :)

Whether we choose to live on a lot less or a little less the idea of conserving more is a great one! I recently joked with my friend on the phone that being frugal is just part of my DNA makeup.

Finally, the video that inspired this post (Click the button next to volume to watch it in full screen mode):

I agree with Jay’s perspective, if you live on less you can have more freedom to pursue your passion.

What are your thoughts? Please share them using comments.

Categories: Save Money

Are You Being Sued for Your Debt?

Forget about the phone calls and aggressive communication tactics – how would it feel to be subpoenaed by your creditor? Yes, it can happen. Your creditor can actually sue you to collect on debt owed.

With many Americans struggling to pay their bills, we have seen an increase in the number of debt collection lawsuits. The problem seems to have gotten so bad that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking to reform the debt collection litigation practices. After all, the FTC says “Debt collectors generate more complaints to the FTC than any other industry group.”

Andrew Martin’s New York Times article Automated Debt-Collection Lawsuits Engulf Courts does a great job highlighting some of the major issues with debt collection lawsuits and the huge number of cases that are being filed against consumers today.

Here are a few tips if you’re being sued for debt collection:

  1. Verify the debt is actually yours. This one may sound easy, but I’ve heard of people paying it just because they were told that they owed it.
  2. Challenge any inaccurate information. This includes your account balance, interest rate and any additional fees.
  3. Appear in court. Appearing in court or having representation gives you a voice in the matter. According to the FTC, “courts frequently granting default judgments against consumers who do not appear or defend themselves.”

When it comes to debt collection, know your rights. Below is the FTC’s video that explains your consumer rights for dealing with debt collectors.

Do you have any thoughts on being sued for debt? How about any other tips to add?

Categories: Debt

5 Steps to Improve Your Credit Score

Improve Your Credit

Nationally credit scores hit a new low with 25.5% of consumers with a poor credit score of 599 or less. Historically 15% of consumers fell into this category, read MSNBC’s article Americans’ credit scores at new lows for recent credit score trends.

Improving your credit score will help you receive credit approval (mortgage, loans, credit cards) and save money (lower interest rates, insurance costs, less deposits).

Here are 5 Steps to Improve Your Credit Score:

  1. Check your credit report – The first step is to review your credit report to identify any inaccurate information (e.g. accounts, payment history, balances). If you find any errors on your credit report dispute them with the credit bureau.

    Read my post Uncover the Truth: 5 Reasons to Check Your Credit Report to find out how to get a free copy of your credit report and for more tips on what to look for on your credit report.

  2. Get your credit score – In order to fix your credit, you have to know where you stand today. If you recently applied for credit, perhaps the lender can provide you with your credit score for free. If not, there are a variety of websites that provide your credit score, but unlike your credit report it’s not free. Beware of any website that promotes your credit score for free, because there is usually a cost.
  3. Pay on time – Your payment history is the largest factor in determining your credit score, so paying your bills on time is very important. If you have any delinquent accounts, catch them up and start paying on time. To make bill paying easier, you can set up automatic payments. If you choose to use auto-pay be sure to monitor your billing statements for accuracy. (more…)
Categories: Credit

What’s the Worst Financial Advice You Ever Received?

Worst Advice - Dead TreeA few weeks ago when I wrote the post What’s the Best Financial Advice You Ever Received?, my husband told me that it would be helpful for people to share the worst financial advice too. I agreed, but thought it would be easier to keep the two separate. Thanks to all of you who shared the Best Financial Advice You Ever Received, now I’d like to hear about the Worst Financial Advice You Ever Received.

When I think about the Worst Financial Advice I ever received, I would have to sum it up into — any get rich quick scheme. You know the ones where you put in a little money and then you instantly become rich overnight. I’ve been approached with pyramid schemes, e-commerce business opportunities, hot stock tips and other seemingly enticing investment offers.

The common things with these get rich quick schemes or scams (in some cases):

  • They usually sound too good to be true, which is the first red flag.
  • Sometimes it feels like they are pressuring you to make a decision and make it quick. In other words, you have to do it now and there is no such thing as tomorrow.
  • They do not like answering too many questions.

I simply AVOID these get rich quick schemes/scams with a friendly – No thanks. If they get too pushy about it, then I follow it up with a firm NO! :D

“The ability to say “no” is a tremendous advantage for an investor.”
- Warren Buffett

FTC.gov offers some great tips to help consumers avoid these types of investment schemes. Click here to view them.

What’s the Worst Financial Advice You Ever Received? Please share it using the comments. I’d love to hear from you. :)

Photo: geoftheref

Enjoy Your July 4th Weekend

July 4th is almost here. It’s the day we celebrate Independence Day with great food, entertainment and outdoor fun. I hope you enjoy your July 4th weekend!

July 4th Special Offers

  • AMC Theatres is offering $1 for any size popcorn and $1 drink on July 4th. Click here for this special offer.
  • Denny’s has free red, white and blueberry pancake puppies when you purchase something from the $2, $4, $6, $8 menu. Click here for more details.
  • Applebee’s is offering 2 free kids meals with the purchase of an adult entrée at participating locations from July 3rd – July 5th. Visit applebees.com and contact your location for more information.
  • Many retailers are having big 4th of July sales. This could be a great time to stock up on groceries, get some real bargains and purchase items on your ‘things you need to buy’ list.

July 4th Events
Check for any free events, parades, concerts, fireworks displays and other activities in your area. Some amusement parks (Cedar Point, Great America) and zoos (Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo) are offering free admission to active duty or retired military personnel.

I’ll be celebrating in Priceline.com’s #1 July 4th, 2010 destination — Chicago. Here’s a guide for Chicago events (fireworks, festivals, etc.).

Have a Fun and Safe July 4th weekend! :)

Photo: travlinman43

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