Tag Archives: destroy debt

Money Possible Produces Debt Destroyers

Debt Destroyers photo all participants-no logoRaquel, Fredica and Lisa and Bryan made it. Sixteen weeks of rigorous budgeting and saving and heavy financial lifting.

OK, maybe not that intense…but our three families did make a commitment, met with a financial counselor and made major changes in their financial life. And lived to tell about it.

Here’s what they learned:

“Say no to frivolous spending.”
“Live within your means.”
“Don’t overwhelm yourself with credit.”

Each participant started out with a different financial issue. Lisa and Bryan wanted to bulk up their retirement savings. Fredica needed to control her spending. Raquel’s payday loans were spiraling out of control.

But the outcome for the three was the same: a lighter debt load, and more importantly, less stress in their lives.

The takeaway is that financial stress can cause problems in your daily life…which is in line with this recent survey that says employee financial problems or stress can reduce worker productivity.

What did our participants accomplish in 16 weeks? Here’s the skinny:

Financial Literacy is a family affairLisa and Bryan

  • paid off four of their credit cards
  • learned the difference between needs and wants
  • involved their children and developed a family budget

credit cardsFredica

  • stopped using credit cards
  • is paying down her existing credit card debt
  • learned to live within her means, and work with what money she does have

emergency money jar - compressedRaquel

  • paid down 30 percent of her debt
  • is current on all her bills and has stopped using payday loans
  • started an emergency fund

If you only remember one thing from this post, remember this: Your household budgets and finances are up to you. It’s a life-long process, not just something you can do once and be done.

But don’t feel like you need to do it alone. Get help from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service or a credit union. Financial education is a primary focus of Kansas credit unions, and credit unions nationwide. Credit unions promote financial fitness, and their goal is to make your financial life easier. Get started on your own by downloading the Money Possible Workbook.

Thank you to Lisa and Bryan, Fredica and Raquel for sharing their stories for the world to hear. Using a public venue to air your dirty laundry can be intimidating. These three credit union members took it in stride to promote the importance of financial literacy, and learned a little something along the way.

Quick Tip: On Time Payments

Destroying your debt doesn’t have to take hours. Watch our 15 second tips and then be on your merry way. These tips also air on KAKE-TV’s (ABC, Wichita, KS) regularly.

View all our quick tips.  Follow along on social media at #moneypossible.

On Time Payments

By making credit card payments on time, you can save $30-35 per month in late fees which could free up an extra $500 a year.

Our Debt is Embarrassing

Money MindWe know we suck at money management…we just gave ourselves a C or lower in personal finance class. But then we say we are spending more and basically not doing anything about it.

Yet, we are embarrassed about our credit card debt…more embarrassed about that than our weight, age, credit report or how much money is in our bank account.

It’s embarrassing and we stress about it. We’d like to say “don’t sweat the small stuff,” but your finances aren’t “small” and maybe sweating it would do you some good.

If you’re this far, the good news is you CAN find the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s called “saving money.” And it can be the answer to all your financial woes.

The bad news? It’s going to take some work. For the rest of your life (or until you don’t have to worry about money anymore). Money management doesn’t just “go away” once you have it in order. It takes lifelong tending and growing.

Go Girl Finance has some ideas to get you started saving money and living stress-free:

Identify the problem. Be serious…what is the real issue? Spending too much on fancy-schmancy stuff? Too much activity on your credit card? Or is there just not enough income coming in? Find out why you are stressed about money, then make a plan and start getting organized.

Stay positive in the present. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer. But it’s easy to become one and jump on the “woe is me” bandwagon. Focus on what you are doing now and give yourself a daily pep talk. Remember what Stuart Smalley used to say: “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”

Put yourself in the power seat and know that you can change your situation. Above, we said you need to make a plan. This is when you put that plan into motion, little by little. Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint. One small change (like saving $25 a month) can have a snowball effect, and encourage you to do even more.

Exercise! Yes, move your body more than just lifting the remote. Exercise is a great stress buster. Just a regular old walk around the block can put you in a better mood, and relieve stress.

Savvy Money says to track your spending. Maybe not forever, but this is a must for a few months. Here’s how it should pan out:

  • 35% for housing
  • 15% for transportation
  • 15% for debt
  • 10% for savings (this is NON-NEGOTIABLE!)
  • 25% for any other living expenses

If you feel like housing can be a lesser expense, use it towards another category. It’s your choice! You can borrow from any category EXCEPT savings.

Managing your money smartly takes time, effort and dedication on your part. But we know you can do it…because you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.

It’s a Family Affair

Financial Literacy is a family affairFinances are one of the leading causes of friction in family households.

Money can cause divorce.

It ruins the lives of your children (just ask any teenager who is denied money by a responsible parent).

It even causes jealousy with friends and neighbors, because we are all trying to keep up with the Joneses (who, by the way, are broke.)

This is where you can turn it around. Make money a regular conversation in your house, and not a fight. Your kids need to know what is going on. And don’t worry, your friends and neighbors don’t care what you do or don’t have. They just care that you’ll offer them a slice of pizza and a beer when you ask them to move that massive TV that you really shouldn’t have bought in the first place.

In our last post, we reported that adults aren’t making the grade in their financial knowledge. Don’t let this trickle down to your kids, or their kids, and their kid’s kids. Studies have shown the skills and habits you learn as a child, stick with you into adulthood. Don’t let debt be a habit in your family.

Sit down and really talk about your budget. Show your kids what amount is coming in, and what must go out. Kids need to learn now that they can’t always get what they want…and neither can you.

Lisa and Bryan showed their teenagers that more was going out than was coming in. They talked about the difference between needs and wants.

Their kids are fully on board. Even keeping Lisa and Bryan in check when they are out and about.

“Do you really need that purse, mom? Or do you just want it?”

Raquel’s family didn’t realize why she needed those payday loans. After a good discussion, they are helping with the budget and making sure everyone knows where the money is going.

Fredica already told us her children were looking out for her. As self-described impulse buyer, her kids were already on her. “Just because you have a coupon, doesn’t mean you buy it.”

But how can we teach our kids and families about money management, when many of us are struggling ourselves?

  • Make financial literacy a priority in your household, and take it seriously.
  • Prepare a budget and stick to it.
  • Determine where you are a wasteful spender and Shut. It. Down.
  • Talk honestly about needs and wants and respect your children and other family member’s opinions too. Let them each choose a splurge item, unless it’s a trip to Hollywood for them and their five friends to celebrate turning sweet 16. Giving your children and others the power to choose will help keep them on board.
  • We’ve said it before. GET HELP! Many financial institutions like credit unions offer financial literacy assistance. Just watch this nifty interview with one of our super cool Kansas credit union financial counselors. And if your children are old enough, bring them with you! It will improve your household financial knowledge and may even strengthen your relationship with your kids.

Your financial knowledge helps you no matter where you are in life. It can help you live better and healthier, and ensure your children have a better, healthier future too.

Just Say No.

Just Say NoThe word “No” kinda gets a bad rap. Parents of young children grow weary of saying it. “Just say no” was the 1980s ad campaign for the war on drugs. We feel bad sometimes when we say it; like when you are asked to do something you really don’t want to do, or don’t have the time, yet feel obligated to say yes.

Saying no is no fun.

The word yes is much more positive, like that Home Alone Macaulay Culkin fist pump YES!

But when you are talking about your finances, saying “yes” can be much worse than saying “no.”

Just ask Lisa and Bryan. They want to reduce their debt and save for retirement. They are saying “yes” to things, when they should be saying no. Especially to family and friends.

It’s hard to say no to those close to us, or even our co-workers and neighbors. But if you are trying to stick to a budget, save for retirement or whatever, “just say no.”

No to Sonic runs. No to that new movie that just opened today. No to the soda at the ball game. (By the way, if you said no to just those three things, you’d have an extra $20 to save.)

But how do you come across without sounding like a Debbie Downer or a Party Pooper?

It’s simple. Tell people you are trying to stick to a budget, save money, save for retirement, whatever. People who care about you, won’t put you through the ringer for wanting save for a rainy day.

You’ve got to stand your ground. And don’t you dare feel guilty about saying no. It’s like peer pressure for adults. It’s like keeping up with the Joneses. There will also be someone with the newest gadgets, eating at the fanciest restaurant, taking the coolest vacations. Get over it. Just say no.

Here are three ways to say no:

  1. Keep it simple.
    You don’t need to explain the heck out of why you can’t (or don’t want to) go the latest flick. Just say “another time.” Or “I’m busy that night.” Even a casual “It’s not in the budget this week” should do the trick.
  2. Offer something else.
    “Instead of going out to a movie, let’s rent that one we’ve been wanting to see, and have a movie night at my house.” You are still spending time with them, just in a different way.
  3. Say “I don’t” instead of “I can’t.”
    “I don’t go to movies in the theater,” is different than “I can’t go to movies in the theater.” A change in terminology can be the difference between staying within your budget, and blowing it to bits.

A couple of good hardy “nos” and you’ll be a pro at it. You’ll feel better about your decision, and your budget will be saying YES!

The Payday Loan Trap

The Payday loan trapDid you know there are more payday loan establishments in the United States than McDonald’s and Burger King fast food restaurants COMBINED? Welcome to America, where we swipe our cards, spend our money and stuff our faces.

12 million Americans take out payday loans each year. That’s a lot, but it’s less than half of the 27 million Americans who eat McDonalds EVERY DAY! That’s a lot of burgers.

Raquel, our young mother, admits she stepped into the payday loan trap.

Payday loans are meant to be a quick fix, but consumers are finding these loans (or cash advances) are causing debt to become the next four-letter word. These loans are typically $500 or less and carry hefty fees. The problem is, most consumers, 80 percent of you, can’t pay off the first loan, so its rolled over or renewed within two weeks, turning that initial $500 into $1,500 before you can even say “super size it!”

Don’t despair. Try these alternatives to get you by in a pinch.

Credit unions.
Credit unions put people before profit, and as not-for-profit financial cooperatives (read: not-for-profit bank) they can offer low or no fees on some of their services. The credit union philosophy is “people helping people” so you can be sure that they won’t pull a fast one on you. Credit unions promote financial literacy too, and many have a financial counselor on staff that can help you re-evaluate your finances and put you on a path to smart money management skills. Many also conduct money management workshops for their members, free of charge.

You have to become a member first, which is easier than understanding what is said through a drive-thru speaker. Find a credit union near you at asmarterchoice.org.

Credit counseling help.
A financial counselor can’t help you if you need cash NOW, (kinda like an apple won’t satisfy that craving for chocolate), but if you are using payday loans, it’s probably a good idea to seek help with your financial situation, and eliminate the need for future payday loans. So join the crowd of roughly two million people who sought the help of a financial counselor last year.

A non-profit agency like Consumer Credit Counseling Service usually offers free money management help such as budget counseling, debt management planning, and mortgage default or rent delinquency counseling. In fact, our Money Possible participants are all meeting with a counselor from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Wichita.

Reduce spending in other areas.
If you stop hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru, wait until that epic movie is on pay-per-view and hold off buying that new iPhone, you might be able to take that quick cash place off speed dial. Don’t be fooled…it’s hard work, just like eating a salad instead of a Big Mac. But you’ll soon find that some of your “needs” are actually “wants” and you can go without them.

Negotiating your bills.
Talk to your credit card companies. Beg your utility company. Negotiate a payment plan. Most would rather keep you as a customer than lose you, and are willing to work with you. At least it’s worth a try.

Cash advance from a credit card.
We usually don’t condone using your credit card for cash, but the 25 to 30 percent interest rate you’ll be charged is far less than the fees and 300 percent to 500 percent interest on a payday loan. Yup…pay day loan places charge 300 to 500 percent interest plus fees!

Think on that for a minute. It’s not uncommon for a consumer to be charged $10 or $20 on every $100 borrowed. So, if you borrow $300, and the fee is $20 per $100, you’ll actually owe $360. Then, if you can’t pay that loan in two weeks, you’ll roll it over and pay another $60. So now you’ve paid $120 in fees to borrow $300. That equals 520 percent interest rate!

Don’t Be Such a Waste

Wasteful spendingDon’t be such a waste. Wasteful spender that is. Financial experts estimate Americans spend 10%-15% of their income on unnecessary items. (Read: Things you don’t need!) Or things like fees or services charges that are certainly avoidable.

We asked our Money Possible participants what they found they waste money on.

Fredica brings up a common one: cell phone. She says her monthly payment could be lower.

Lisa and Bryan admit wasting money on things like a soda at the gas station, or food and drinks at sporting events.

Fredica, Lisa and Bryan are in good company.

Unnecessary bills, fees, or or simply paying for a service you don’t need is at the top of the “money down the drain” list. So are “extras” at entertainment venues, like popcorn at the movies. At $5 a bag, that’s enough to pop your wallet!

Wasteful spending items can include any or all of the following, and can really add up:

  • Memberships you don’t use (gym, Sam’s club)
  • Late fees (pay your bills on time!)
  • ATM service charges (use your financial institution’s ATM. Credit unions have a network of surcharge free ATMS…7,000 of them! Or at least take out a big chunk of money so you don’t have to use the ATM every week)
  • Services you don’t use (check your bills – don’t use call waiting on your landline anymore? Who does? Get rid of it!)
  • Unlimited data on a mobile device (only text your teenage daughter? Use a limited data plan to save money)
  • Junk food (eat before you go!)

Need more money wasters? How about drinks and dessert when eating out? Those alone can tack on an extra $20 on your restaurant bill…and an extra $4 in tip…so really an extra $25! Sheesh!

Here’s another, and it sounds stupid. But you can waste $100 a year on electronics that are plugged in when not in use. Just don’t pull the plug on that annoying clock that you have to set every time the electricity goes out. It’s not worth it.

And by all means, pay those dang bills on time! Get your act together, organize your household expenses and budget and never pay a late fee. It’s just money down the drain.

Need more?
Yahoo Finance: Ways to Waste Your Money