Credit cards are designed to make life easier.  Instead of carrying cash everywhere, you simply use a credit card.  No more running out of money or forgetting your money.  No more worrying about someone stealing your money.

However, if you’re like many Americans, you may have trouble paying off your balance every month.  As the balance continues to snowball every month, it doesn’t take long to find yourself staring at a large balance and financial difficulties.

If you want to get your credit card balances under control, try these steps:

1.  Look for a better credit card.  Chances are that you probably applied for the first  credit card that you were offered.  That’s likely not the best credit card for you.  Look for options for LTSB credit cards or other credit cards that can offer you a lower interest rate or a no annual fee credit card.  Just switching to a different credit card that offers an APR of 1 or 2% less than you currently have can have a big impact on how quickly you are able to pay off your balance.

2.  Consider looking for a 0% APR card.  Some cards offer a 0% APR for balance transfers.  They either offer that rate for the life of the loan (which is a sweet deal!), or for a certain amount of months.  Either way, finding and utilizing deals for a 0% balance transfer will give you a chance to gain some traction in paying down your balance.  If your 0% APR expires after a year or so, you could always try to find another card to switch your balance to.

3.  Take out a loan.  If you qualify, another option may be to take out a consolidation loan with your local bank.  In return, you’ll know that the credit card balance will be paid off in a number of years (usually 1 to 3 years), and you’ll have a fixed interest rate that is often lower than a credit card company’s (unless you can find a 0% fixed APR card).  The only downside is that you have to be very careful not to run up your credit cards again, or you will end up in a worse financial situation.

If you’ve run up your credit card balance, don’t despair.  The key is to take action immediately.  There are several ways you can once again gain control of your finances.

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Is Investing In Your Work Wardrobe Worth It?

by melissa on June 21, 2013

The way we dress for work or for an interview has a huge influence over how we are perceived and although it may be a materialistic, clothes and overall personal presentation make a huge statement.

It frustrates me to no end when I see interviewees arriving in casual clothes or dressed completely inappropriately and I have quickly realised that investing in your work wardrobe is more than an a monetary commitment. A work wardrobe will define you professionally and if you employ some smart shopping techniques you can invest in your wardrobe and your future without it costing a fortune. For instance, try the following:

Capsule Wardrobe:  You don’t have to win the jackpot at a top casino like http://www.handycasino.de  to invest in some good quality clothing that is flattering and work appropriate. If you invest in one quality piece a month you can plan your outfits to compliment other items you already own and create an effective capsule wardrobe with multiple combinations.

Shop Vintage: Vintage or second hand clothes can be the best investment in a working wardrobe. Often women pass on barely worn, top quality, designer label pieces to second hand stores, giving you the opportunity to score at a much lower price. Search your local stores for wardrobe staples such as jackets and shirts and save a fortune.

Avoid high fashion: By avoiding obvious, high fashion pieces you can ensure that your wardrobe lasts for several years. However, if items begin to look a little shapeless or faded it’s time to quickly bin them. Following trends is completely acceptable but avoid high fashion clothes that are flashy or revealing. By purchasing classic pieces you can avoid looking outdated and make a sound invest in your wardrobe that doesn’t go out of fashion fast

Accessorise:

Accessories are a clever way to dress up or change any outfit. If you add an eye catching scarf or an elegant belt to your look you can manage a capsule wardrobe with great success and no one will ever notice that you are wearing outfits on rotation.

How you dress for an interview or on a day to day basis at work can alter your career path accordingly. An investment in your wardrobe will pay off long term and with some smart shopping you can achieve a polished, professional look that is cost effective.

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The Economy and Home Buyers

by melissa on June 13, 2013

There have been reports of late that the US economy is improving – in fact, President Obama is eager to point out the signs of improvement over the last two years. This, according to VOA news, included the creation of nearly 7 million jobs and the news that plans to produce more crude oil than exports.

The president has also called for the passing of legislation to give homeowners access to refinancing their mortgages, but many suggest that this is far from the truth. Allegations that the improvements are actually the result of private equity firms rather than an organic recovery has raised more than a few eyebrows.

As far as the housing market goes, these ‘improvements’ can be attributed to Wallstreet firms buying foreclosed homes, which are so attractive to these buyers thanks to their low initial costs. States which are particularly hit by foreclosures are California, Illinois and Florida.

This buying of foreclosed properties leads to local home values rising as Wall Street firms acquire thousands of homes at lower prices. So what does this mean for first time buyers?

Are mortgages affected by the economy?

In a poor economy, lenders are more hesitant to offer mortgages and loans to first time buyers given that they may not have a proven track record of being responsible repayers. Bank and mortgage specialist Mark Hanson of Hanson Advisers gave a good review of the way in which the financial climate has had a blow for mortgage seekers: “After 5 years of interest rates being forced incrementally lower each year – and everybody that qualifies refinancing over and over again allowing the banks to originate and earn several points off of each government loan churn – the jig is up for a while at least.

“The mortgage market is now so efficient – and rates have been at historic lows for so long – there is simply nobody on the proverbial ‘fence’.”

Elsewhere in the world, the UK government has recently implemented a scheme to help first time buyers get a foot on the property ladder, offering some hope for the future of the housing market. Perhaps it’s something that should be considered in the US?

First time buyers are able to access valuable learning resources from advisors such as Totally Money, and are actively encourage to apply for mortgages.

The scheme offers the option to apply for a specialised loan, which is designed to make buying a first home affordable and manageable. Of course, there are certain conditions that need to be met – as with any loan – but it should make the idea of getting on the property ladder more appealing to first-time buyers and hopefully help the housing market.

 

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If you’re deep in debt, you likely want to be out of debt as soon as possible.  Chances are, though, you already have more money going out than you have coming in.

If you’re looking for extra money to snowball on your debt, one of the best ways is to cut your expenses.  You can make some pretty drastic cuts without sacrificing the quality of your lifestyle.

In this multi-part series, we’ll be exploring ways you can cut expenses without too much sacrifice.

One of my favorite ways to save is to buy food and toiletries from Amazon, essentially for free.

I did pay upfront for Amazon Prime.   That cost me nearly $80, but it ensures free shipping for a year.  Since I order from their frequently, the Prime membership is paid for within a few deliveries.  If you don’t order from Amazon frequently, you may not break even as quickly.

Remember, with Prime you also get some free movie rentals, which we love to take advantage of.

Alright, down to the nitty gritty of getting things for free from Amazon.  There are two main ways I do this.

First, I use Swagbucks as my Internet search engine.  I let my Swagbucks accumulate until I have enough to cash them out for a $25 or $50 Amazon gift card.  Voila!  Just by searching the Internet several times a day, I’m able to get free groceries and toiletries.  I’m usually able to earn about $200 to $300 in Amazon gift cards a year.

Another option I use is my credit card rewards.  For every 5,000 points I earn, I can redeem a $50 gift card to Amazon.  I’m able to do this a few times a year, too.

One other option I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) is to enter blogger giveaways for Amazon gift cards.  Those are so popular that I haven’t had any luck yet.  However, I keep entering!

I also wait to buy my purchases until they are on sale.  For instance, gluten free oats are typically $25 to $30 for a 4 pack, but I wait until they are on sale for $15 to $16 for the 4 pack before I buy.  That makes my free money stretch even further.

I take the money that I save and put it on my debt.  It’s one small way that I can help decrease my debt load faster, even when money is tight.

What’s your favorite way to find extra money to apply to your debt?

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Why Shoulder Bags Make Perfect Sense

by melissa on March 20, 2013

To bag, or not to bag, that is the question. Not for me the carefree summers spent wondering around town in a miniskirt, clasping a tiny purse. As a headstrong, permanently-perplexed teenager, I denied myself the simple pleasure of taking a few key items to the beach. Often too worried about leaving something important at home, I was always the one frantically running to catch up with her friends, weighed down by the carrier equivalent of an albatross around my neck. How I longed for the day when I would find a bag to suit.

You see, bags you carry by hand, such as the tote bag, are just not for me. They are too easily lost, in my opinion, whilst also weighing down your arms unnecessarily. I also often end up banging them into people accidentally whilst shopping! For a long time I used to use a handbag and carrier bags as my main method of transporting items, until I realized that there probably was a better way of doing things! Shoulder bags, I eventually realised, make me feel more secure, as I know that all my stuff is safely tucked under my arm. With lots of compartments to fit everything in, shoulder bags are a practical choice of bag wear.

You can take a shoulder bag to work, as they look smart and ultra-organised. Or, you look just as glamorous wearing them out at night to complement your fantastic outfit. Equally useful at the weekends, shoulder bags make ideal bags for shopping trips or short breaks away, as you can fit lots in them without encumbering yourself unnecessarily. Shoulder bags are more practical than rucksacks, as you can access their contents more quickly. Likewise, they are more useful than briefcases, for the same reason.

Shoulder bags are a cost effective choice of bag for the busy working woman. You only need to invest in one good bag and you will be sorted for a long while. A high quality shoulder bag will make a good accessory, whatever the colour.

There are some fabulous shoulder bag collections to choose from this season. Long or short straps, round shaped, shopper or messenger-style are all popular choices. In terms of design, you can find bags adorned with tassels, studs, sequins, bows or lace. With a shoulder bag, you can experiment with different looks and perhaps be a little more daring than you would be with your choice of outfits. Sometimes, it’s fun to play!

Likewise, this spring there are opportunities to work your shoulder bag into an on-trend look. For example, choose a black and white striped shoulder bag and wear it to pay homage to the monochrome trend. Or, choose an outlandish graphic print shoulder bag and clash it with an ethnic print scarf.

Author Bio:

Louise Smith is a fashion blogger who has an impressive collection of shoulder bags to call her own.

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Welcome to the August 24, 2012 Edition #251 of the Carnival of Financial Planning.

The Carnival of Financial Planning takes a long-term view of personal financial planning for individuals and families. We focus on efficient and sustainable personal financial planning practices that can lead to lifetime financial security.

This edition is arranged by subject heading, so that you can browse efficiently.

Enjoy!

The Skilled Investor, Editor

Budgeting and Economics

Crystal presents Budgeting Can Change Your Life And Get You Out Of The Debt Hole posted at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, saying, “Budgets and budgeting are the key to savings and getting out of debt.

krantcents presents Start a Business at 59 Years Old? posted at KrantCents, saying, “Would you start a business at 59 years old? Bob Chinn did! His seafood restaurant is the highest grossing restaurant in the United States. It is not in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles! It is in Wheeling, Illinois. It is just thirty 30 miles from Chicago.

Ryan presents How Solar Power Can Make You a Passive Income posted at Early Retirement Investments, saying, “Learn how solar power can make you passive income. I bet your in for a small surprise!

Liana presents Another Mobile Wallet? Are You Kidding? posted at Card Hub, saying, “The latest in mobile wallets is a team effort from more than 12 of the nation’s largest retailers. But does the new joint company – Merchant Customer Exchange- have what it takes to climb the mobile wallet mountain and claim the crown as King?

Janet presents Expense budgets posted at Independent Financial Planner , saying, ” Many people do not track their living expenses and do not understand the magnitude of their consumption.”

SBB presents Is Budgeting Worth Your Time? posted at Simple Budget Blog, saying, “Find out how you can keep budgeting simple and avoid the time consuming tasks that are often associated with managing your finances.

PITR presents Negotiating Your Salary and Benefits posted at Passive Income To Retire, saying, “Find out important career tips and what you can do to negotiate your way to a better job.

Financial Planning

Eddie presents The Cold Hard Truth On Being a Personal Finance Blogger – What I Learned In Less Than 2 Years! posted at Finance Fox, saying, “Looking back now at your blogging journey, you can agree with me on this: Being a blogger and blogging is anything but easy.

Young presents How Far Would You Go to Score a Deal? posted at Young And Thrifty, saying, “This is my journey to get myself 16,500 free Aeroplan points. It took a while, but in the end I was able to take a mini vacation!

Suba presents Brown Bag It: Tips For Making Cheap Lunch posted at Broke Professionals, saying, “Deciding to brown bag it doesn’t meal relegating yourself to a life of school lunches with PB&J and baby carrots. Here are my favorite adult lunch ideas.

Marie at Family Money Values presents Kids and Money posted at Family Money Values, saying, “Make sure your kids know the basics of money management so your estate will not be squandered. Learn about 5 things you can teach your 5 – 8 year old child.

DL presents Global Financial Markets  posted at Nerds on Wall Street , saying, ” Stock markets are almost perfectly transparent, with full information available to all, and the best electronic clearing and settlement in history. These technologies were omitted in building the skyscraper of cards (“house of cards” seems too mild) out of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), credit default swaps (CDSs), synthetic collateralized debt obligations (SCDOs), and the rest.”

Parker presents Index Funds posted at Preferred Funds, saying, “Some mutual funds and ETFs must be better than others, but which ones are they? How can you tell beforehand.”

CCS presents Are Those Credit Card Rewards Worth It? posted at Credit Card Smarts, saying, “Who doesn’t like a credit card with generous rewards? But sometimes those credit card rewards may not be worth it. See when credit card rewards aren’t worth it.

Income

Ray @ Financial Highway presents How to Make Money with Amazon posted at Financial Highway, saying, “There are dozens of different ways for you to make extra money online, and you don’t need to spend any money on an expensive course to teach you how to do it either.

Insurance and Risk

Jeremy presents Vehicle Insurance Better Safe Than Sorry posted at Modest Money, saying, “I am sure none of you are guilty of this, but amazingly some people take the risk of driving without insurance. Here in BC that is illegal and a pretty dumb risk regardless where you live.

Lawrence presents ID theft protection posted at Best Financial Planner, saying, “As a threat to your financial security, you should take the potential for identity theft very seriously. Identity theft sometimes entails a loss of your money, but whether or not you lose money, it can take a very large amount of your time to rectify.”

Investing

Squeezer presents Dividend basics and important dates to remember posted at Personal Finance Success, saying, “Dividends are when companies pay shareholders (investors) for owning a portion of the company. Money must be invested by a specific date to earn the dividend.

Ted Jenkin presents Getting Your Children Started With Stock Investing posted at Your Smart Money Moves, saying, “It was important to me for my children to learn about stock investing from an early age. We all know how grandparents try to get back at us by overloading our kids with holidays full of latest gadgets and electronics that money can buy. Whether you have $20 or $200 stashed away in your kid’s drawer, there is an opportunity to get your children started in the stock market.

Dividend Growth Investor presents How to get dividend investment ideas posted at Dividend Growth Investor, saying, “Some of the dividend paying companies in my portfolio are corporations, whose products I and millions of other consumers worldwide use on a daily basis. Here is a summary of how my daily routine provides me with dividend stock ideas for further research. The narrative is rather simplistic, but the point is that we are surrounded by investment ideas everywhere. Only after training ourselves to spot these opportunities, will investors be able to capitalize on them.

Passive Income Earner presents Is RIM a Good Investment? posted at The Passive Income Earner, saying, “Research In Motion RIM for short has been an icon for Canada with their Blackberry but the fierce competition it has faced since Apple came out with the iPhone has challenged their market hold on the smartphone. Not only has Apple taken a bite of their market but so has the Android based smartphones.

Kelly presents Investment risk tolerance posted at Investment Risk, saying, ” Individual investors with different levels of investment risk tolerance for financial risks tend to be more satisfied with risk management strategies, which are better aligned with their financial risk and return profile.”

Tushar presents How Are Stocks Classified? posted at Start Investing Money, saying, “Read my article to learn how Stock are classified, and in the process gain a possible new perspective on them.

Teacher Man presents Investing In Yourself Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive posted at My University Money, saying, “There is plenty of buzz out there these days about “investing in yourself”. Usually it is in reference to some magical product that you should buy. The logic is that by investing in what they have to offer, you are really just spending the money to improve themselves, and really, who doesn’t want that?

Willie presents Superior Fund Performance posted at NoLoad Funds , saying, ” Screen out inferior mutual fund performance — but only after using other ETF and mutual fund selection criteria. Superior or even average mutual fund performance in the past simply does not predict similar fund performance in the future.”

Echo presents Fee Only Financial Planner Vs. Commission Based Advisor posted at Boomer & Echo, saying, “A fee only financial planner is a worthwhile investment, especially as you get older and your income, investments and tax situation becomes more complex.

Managing Debt

Ben Feldman presents Car Loan or Home Loan: Which Would You Pay First? posted at ReadyForZero Blog, saying, ” Is it wiser to pay your car loan or your mortgage? It might seem like a silly question – after all, ideally you want to pay both – but if you had to choose, which would you pay first?

Luke presents Emerging Market Debt: Having Your Cake and Eating it Too posted at Learn Bonds, saying, “Emerging market debt trades at – twice the yield of developed country debt and triple the fundamentals.

Jon the Saver presents Lack of Liquidity May Be Why You Don’t Feel Rich posted at Free Money Wisdom, saying, “Having a lack of liquidity has real negative consequences that can be really bad for your finances.

Real Estate

John presents Do You Know Your Mortgage Credit Score? posted at Wallet Blog, saying, “So you’re applying for a mortgage? Did you know that there is a special credit score used just for that? You better have a good record for paying your utilities on time.

Jen presents Preparing Our Finances 4 Home Ownership posted at Master the Art of Saving, saying, “By estimating our mortgage and bills and preparing our finances for home ownership now, we can begin to adjust our budget to avoid a financial apocalypse later.

YFS presents 2 Home Buying Tips That People Never Tell You! posted at Your Finances Simplified, saying, “I would like to talk about home ownership, in particular, mortgages. Now everyone tells you that home ownership is better than renting.

Retirement

FMF presents Delaying Social Security Payments is Worth 7% posted at Free Money Finance, saying, ” The Wall Street Journal has an interesting take on the value of Social Security. Specifically they look at what it’s worth to delay taking benefits. They calculate the value of the delay and give it a return percentage as if it was any other investment you might make. What makes this compelling is that under certain circumstances, the value of Social Security is the same as that of a bond yielding 7%.

IMB presents Investing Money is Important posted at Investing Money, saying, “Find out why investing money is important. You could be missing out on a lot of money.

Brock presents Retirement Spreadsheet posted at IRA Account Investment, saying, “Whether or not to make investments into “traditional” tax-advantaged employer accounts and IRAs versus investing in “Roth” tax-advantaged employer accounts and personal IRAs is never a straightforward nor simple financial planning decision.”

Paul Vachon presents Deciding When to Retire posted at The Frugal Toad, saying, “Deciding when to retire can be a difficult decision to make. Will I have enough income from my retirement accounts, pension, and social security to live comfortably in retirement?

Knowles presents SandP 500 Funds posted at Large Cap Index Funds, saying, “The no load index fund strategy of the Schwab S & P 500 Index Fund tracks the S and P 500 stock index. This no load index fund was listed as one of the top 25 lowest cost index mutual funds in a research study.”

Corey presents Young Adult Retirement Planning – Benefits of Saving a Lot Early posted at 20s Finances, saying, “Find out when you should start saving for retirement and how much you should be saving for retirement.

Savings

Charles Davis presents Is it time to Refinance Your Mortgage? posted at Wallet Hub Blog, saying, “We’ve all heard how mortgage rates are at record lows, but will refinancing actually save you any money? Hint: The answer isn’t as clear-cut as you might think.

Jason presents 4 Ways to Build an Emergency Fund Faster posted at Work Save Live, saying, “Should You Have an Emergency Fund? Despite conventional wisdom suggesting that it would be wise to have a stash of savings set aside for unforeseen events that life could throw your way, many Americans opt to forgo the safety net and face lifes challenges on a whim.

TSI presents Hard work and wealth posted at The Skilled Investor, saying, ” How much you earn, spend, budget, and save are by far the most dominant determinants of your long-term financial well-being. Self-control in your financial decision-making regarding budgeting and consumption is far more important than clever investing.”

Taxes

MR presents Is A Roth IRA One Of The Best Protection Against High Future Tax Rates? posted at Money Reasons, saying, “With tax hikes more than likely in the future, is a Roth IRA your best protection against the government being able to tax all of your money?

A Blinkin presents Should I Die This Year or Next Year? posted at Funancials, saying, ” 2013 Federal Estate Taxes. When you are dealing with a death in your family, the last thing you want to think about is what fraction of the estate goes to the United States government. Whats remarkable is that depending on WHEN you die, that fraction could be significantly higher or lower.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Financial Planning using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Two Roads to Affluence: Produce More or Be Satisfied with Less

June 11, 2012

A cultural anthropologist, Allen Johnson (UCLA), wrote an article over 30 years ago in 1978, called “In Search of the Affluent Society.”  He conducted his field work among the Machiguenga, living with them for 18 months.  The Machiguenga are native Indians living in the Amazonian rainforest in Peru, who subsist on food from gardens, hunting, [...]

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The Basics of Covered Calls

May 29, 2012

I’ve mentioned options before when I talked about short selling. There are advanced option strategies that I won’t get into here, but there is also a beginner option strategy that is a nice way to protect your portfolio. You should definitely learn as much as you can about options before getting into buying or selling [...]

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Intro to Order Types

May 10, 2012

I’ve mentioned short selling and I’m sure you are familiar with buying or going long a stock but it never hurts to have a refresher and learn more about the markets. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at types of stock market orders. Types of Stock Market Orders Buy Order This is [...]

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Yakezie Blog Swap #20 Round Up

May 6, 2012

This month Fiscal Phoenix participated in the 20th Yakezie blog swap.  The topic selected for us all to write about was as follows relating to wedding spending. According to the Huffington Post, the average wedding cost in 2011 was $27,021. Looking at this statistic, why do you think people spend so much on weddings? Do you think it’s worth the money? How [...]

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