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A Short Message for College Students and Those Who Soon Will Be

It was an honor to be invited to spend a few days on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University to speak to the students on money matters—specifically the student loans many students will take with them as part of their college experience.

Remember the days when to get a loan you had to qualify and prove you had the capacity to repay the debt? Well, for college students those days are history. They do not need to have a job or a co-signer to get huge amounts of money both in federal student loans. From what I discovered on my visit, students (and their parents in many cases) are more than willing to accept as much as they can get in federal student loans because these days that’s just the normal way to pay for college.

But here’s the good news. These young adults are willing to listen to advice from someone who’s been around the block with debt. Seizing the moment, I told them:

Accept the least amount of help possible not the most available. Just because you can borrow enough money each semester to pay for tuition, room, board and books doesn’t mean you should. You’ll never believe how difficult it is to pay back. Check yourself out of governmental outpatient care. Get a job. And in the summer get two jobs or three. Finish your degree as soon as possible instead of taking it slow and easy. Make your own way as soon as possible and you’ll reap the benefits for the rest of your life.

How to Have More Money

You need more money. You need it now. So what are your choices? You have two: You can increase your income or you can reduce your spending.

INCREASE INCOME

Get a bigger paycheck. Ask for a raise, land a new job that pays a lot more than your current job or get a second (or third) job to supplement your current income.

Win a lottery. Do keep in mind when considering this option that your chances of being struck by lightning are much better than winning a lottery.

Sell assets. Finding a cash buyer for your grandmother’s sterling silver, the boat or other asset you own is another option for increasing your income.

Why You Need an Emergency Fund and How to Get One

Last year, Mitch and Jenn had a string of bad luck. Mitch broke his leg in a skiing accident, Jenn’s car broke down requiring major repairs and their home’s aged roof decided to fail right in the midst of a major storm.

The timing for all of this wasn’t ideal—four weeks before Christmas. The financial and emotional toll of these events continues to be huge, but nothing like it might have been if they hadn’t been diligently building their Contingency Fund—more commonly known as an emergency fund.

Mitch’s health insurance is covering most of the costs of his surgery and follow-up therapy. Still they’ve had to come up with more than $2,400 to cover his deductible, co-pays and prescriptions. The car repairs were just shy of $2,700—not surprising given their Subaru’s age and 140,000 miles.

It was the roof that really threw them for a loop. The estimate to repair it—with no assurance that said repairs would last for longer than a few months—was $750, with a new roof coming in at $12,000.

Everyday Cheapskate Greatest Hits 2016

As we bid a fond farewell to the year 2016, I thought it would be fun to review the posts and products that were so popular they made it into Everyday Cheapskate Greatest Hits 2016.

Enjoy this trip down EC memory lane and the opportunity to revisit something you may have missed or forgotten about. Hint: The #1 post has enjoyed more than 337,000 views in 2016 … and counting.

The Guide to Proper Regifting

The act of re-gifting—passing on as new a gift someone else gave you—is controversial but only because of those who do a noticeably bad job of it. After all, if every act of re-gifting was carried out flawlessly no one would have the occasion to find it distasteful. And that brings me to the first Rule of Re-gifting:

1. Never admit to re-gifting. If your friends know you’re a regifter, you’ll find yourself in the unpleasant situation of explaining why re-gifting is different from not caring. Worse, they will be suspicious of the gifts you give them. It’s best to keep re-gifting completely to yourself.

2. Designate a location. Keep re-gifts in a convenient, albeit secret, place in a special box or cupboard with extra wrapping paper and ribbon. Some people shop for gifts in department stores. Never underestimate the utility of a gift stash that allows you to shop at home.

3. Have a heart. Any gift made especially for you or given to you by a parent, child or close relative cannot be re-gifted. Even if it’s not ideal, consider its sentimental value. Don’t even think of re-gifting. It just wouldn’t be right. 

The Messenger

I’m so excited. Just one week from today, our kids and family will arrive. They’ll be home for Christmas! We’ll be together for three wonderful days and I just can’t wait.

The house is mostly decorated, guest rooms are ready. I have a few more items to tick off my gift and to-do lists, but generally we’re looking good on this end.

While the holiday season is not all about gifts, it would be foolish to suggest that gifts don’t play an important role in our celebrations. Even if haven’t yet begun to think about the gifts you’ll give those you love a week from now, don’t panic. It’s not too late! Stores will be open crazy hours for you the next eight days. And even though today, Dec. 16, is the last day for Amazon FREE shipping, Amazon has a shipping schedule for you late shoppers that guarantees you’ll get items before Dec. 25. Hint: Sign up for 30-day free trial unlimited Prime Shipping, use it starting immediately and then cancel anytime.

Or you can forget about shipping altogether because it’s not too late to make gifts—no particular skills or craftiness required. Ideas HEREHERE and HERE.

The simple act of gift-giving has become complicated. I blame that on the consumer credit industry. Think about it: You can be completely broke but still spend thousands of dollars on Christmas gifts—and believe it is not only your right, but that you are obligated to do so. (Please don’t do that!) It’s so easy to fall into the trap that says we have to spend a lot to be socially acceptable.

Four Ways to Neutralize the Glamour of Easy Credit with Kids

There is no reasonable way to shield your children from the glitz and glamour of easy credit. It’s everywhere with all its seduction and allure. So if you cannot shield, neutralize!

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Years ago, I watched an effective television documentary in which juvenile delinquents went into prisons, drug-treatment centers, and the like to observe the dark side of the life they were heading toward. The intention was to scare them out of their wits—to scare them straight.

In the same way these kids were jolted by reality, you can scare your kids out of a life of consumer debt by revealing the seduction and lies behind the glamour.

TELL STORIES. There is nothing as effective as true stories when it comes to scaring kids about the dangers of consumer debt. Share credit horror stories with them as often as you can (stick to stories you read in newspapers, newsletters, or other published sources rather than gossip). Let your teen or older child draw conclusions and suggest what would have been a better course of action. Let them be the ones to point out how foolish it is to live beyond your means. Follow up with an explanation that when people are not financially knowledgeable, they are easy marks for the debt trap.

Your Best Money Year Ever

For years (and years), I lived under a dark cloud of worry that I would end up financially destitute—a bag lady.

A study conducted by Harris Interactive for Allianz Insurance Group reveals that I’m not the only one. In fact, most of us have felt that way, not because we’re broke, but because we don’t have confidence that we know how to hang onto our money. And that makes us timid, worried and financially insecure.

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We don’t have to accept financial insecurity as some kind of life sentence. And that constant and gnawing fear of becoming destitute? Forget it! We can do something about this.

Financial confidence is a choice. It’s a matter of changing bad habits and choosing to learn simple financial principles. Then by consciously applying them over and over again those principles will become automatic responses—financial habits.

Are you ready to make 2017 your best money year ever? Here are four simple things you can do starting today to improve your financial confidence—and take control of your money.