What you're doing wrong with your debt

What You’re Doing Wrong With Your Debt

It’s likely that you only use credit cards to make everyday purchases. People don’t often carry around cash anymore simply because credit cards are more convenient. You might even have several cards for specific stores. You make payments here and there and wonder why all the sudden, you’re thousands of dollars in debt. $40 on gas + $100 on groceries + $5 on coffee + $15 on lunch during the week will definitely add up. I can also bet that you’re not just at the coffee shop or sandwich stand next door once a week. Then take that credit card debt and add it to your car payments, student loans and mortgage and you’re likely drowning in all the numbers next to that dollar sign. There are several ways to pay off your debt, but some methods are more effective than others. If several years have gone by and you’re still making payments on credit cards and loans, you’re probably doing something wrong.

Here are some of the common mistakes people make when paying off debt and how you can get out of that trap as soon as possible:

You don’t have a plan

It’s great that you are putting payments on your credit cards, but without a smart plan, you won’t really see your efforts pay off as much as they can. If you have several credit cards, it’s smart to make a list before you tackle them. Write down the credit card name, balance due, interest rate, minimum payment and due date. Some people have made the mistake of putting the minimum payment on all their cards or focusing on the credit card with the most balance. While this is a plan, it’s not the best one. Instead, focus on the card with the highest interest rate as that the one worth paying off first and the pay the minimum on the rest of your cards until you can solely focus on them. You’ll pay off your debt quicker in the long run when you’re paying off bigger amounts on a single card. Mainly focusing on one balance also makes your debt seem less overwhelming as opposed to throwing $50 here and there on multiple cards at the same time.

You’re missing payments

 

While you’re devising your plan, set up all your accounts to automatically pay by the due date. This will ensure that you’re not hit with late payments. If you know exactly how much will be coming out of your bank account and when, it’ll be easier to make sure you have the right amount of funds for that payment every time. You can even change the payment dates to work around your paychecks. Noting all of your debt information on paper or on a spreadsheet will help you see things in a bigger picture so you’re prepared every month. If you are charged with a late fee, call the credit card company and kindly ask if they will waive it for you. They’ll be more likely to reverse the fee if you tell them you’ll be setting your account to automatic payment, if this is your first late fee or if you’ve been a long time valued customer. It never hurts to ask.

You keep a balance on your cards to build credit

Keeping up your credit score should definitely not be a priority over paying off your debt and it’s likely that your good credit score got you into this debt in the first place. Carrying a balance on your card each month that you’re being charged interest for is actually ruining your credit. Pay off your debt now and stop worrying about hurting your credit score. There are several ways to boost your credit when it’s time, but for now, paying off these cards should be number one on your list. Also keep in mind that just because you have a high limit on your credit card doesn’t mean you should be maxing it out. A $15,000 credit limit does not equate to a shopping spree. In fact, you should be keeping your utilization rate low and your balance should not exceed 30% of your credit limit. For example, a card with a limit of $15,000 should never have more than a $4,500 balance. Doing this will definitely protect your score later.

You’re putting it off until you make more money

“When I make more money, I’ll pay this card off. When I make more money, I’ll clear all my debt. When I make more more money, life will be great.” Well when will that be? The time is now. The longer you procrastinate paying off your debt, the more debt you’ll be in. Simple as that. An emergency might come up. Your company might downsize. You might decide to pursue a different career and end up working a lower paying job until you learn the ropes. Who knows what can happen, but you don’t want to have all this debt acquiring on top of it all. Start paying off as much as you can starting now.

You don’t know your options

Stuck paying a high balance on loans you simply cannot afford right now? Got a balance with high interest rates? You have options and asking what they are is where you can start. If you’re paying off student loans and don’t make enough money to pay the monthly payments, don’t have a job as a recent graduate or recently got laid off, you can request a deferment or forbearance for a certain amount of time. Stopping payments on student loans for now can help you focus on your other debt. Refinance your car to reduce the amount you pay each month, reduce your interest rate and change the length of your loan. Also ask your credit card company if you can reduce the interest charge on your monthly payment. Some companies will grant this request if you’ve been a loyal customer who makes payments on time. It also helps if you have a good credit score or if it has recently improved. These companies want to keep you as a customer so simply request a lower interest rate and hope for the best.

You always give into your friends’ invitations

We’re not telling you to live like a hermit crab until you’ve zeroed out all your cards and loans, but you need to be smart about where you go out and how often. As much as you want to and as hard as it is to break bad habits, don’t accept every invitation your friends throw your way. Lunch here, coffee there, brunch on weekends and happy hour during the game can cost you hundreds of dollars a month when you add it all up. Plan accordingly, choose the events and be ready to decline if it’s something you can’t afford to do. Only try going out to celebrate your friends’ special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries and avoid the random “Wanna grab a drink?” invites. If your colleagues always go out for lunch on Fridays and you don’t want to miss out, vow to eat a packed lunch for the rest of the week and choose an affordable option on the menu. If you’re invited to watch the game at a bar during happy hour, eat at home first and you won’t be tempted to order something at the restaurant. You also don’t need to order a drink to enjoy the game. Be smart and disciplined (almost like you’re on a diet). When you’re on a diet, you watch what you eat, you create a meal plan, resist temptation and create incentives when you achieve your goals, like if you lose 10 lbs. in 2 months, you’ll buy new workout shoes. When you’re on a spending diet, you need to decide what’s a necessity and what’s a splurge. Create incentives the same way and treat yourself without breaking the bank. For example, for every $1,000 you pay off, reward yourself with a Netflix binge, a drive to the beach, a homemade pancake breakfast or a lazy day to sleep in and do absolutely nothing. Having a reward system for your goal to pay off debt can help you achieve it faster.

It’s not a priority

Having large amounts of debt can be extremely detrimental to many factors in your life. It can affect you buying a house, buying a car, going on vacations, changing your career, opening up a business or going to grad school. It can even cost you landing your dream job as a larger percent of employers check your credit along with running a background check. According to a 2012 study from the Society for Human Resource Management, 47% of U.S. companies conduct credit checks and if they see that you have poor credit history, have missed payments, filed bankruptcy or have large amounts of debt, it could cost you the job.

Your life will benefit greatly when you learn how to manage your money, pay off cards in full and on time, and experience what it’s like to live debt-free. It’ll feel like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders and you could be a lot closer to it than you think. Just make paying off debt a priority, cut out the bad habits that are costing you money, make a plan, find out your options and be disciplined. This can be hard, but it can be done. You just have to start somewhere. Don’t let debt run your life and the sooner you start paying if off, the sooner you can start living your life to the fullest.

Top 5 causes of debt

Top 5 Causes of Debt & How To Fix Them

They say it’s smart to have between 3-6 months worth of expenses saved up incase of an emergency. To give you an idea, if your monthly expenses round up to $5,000, there should be $30,000 sitting your saving account right now. But in this age of consumerism, people are likely swimming in debt instead of in a comfortable amount of hundred dollar bills. As of May 2016, 38.1% of all households carry some sort of credit card debt and according to the most recent survey from the U.S. Federal Reserve, the average credit card debt of U.S. households is about $5,700. That’s a lot of money to be sitting on credit cards that likely comes with an interest rate that will boost that debt even higher.

Sometimes, debt is accumulated from massive charges that are typically unexpected such as a medical emergency, a broken car or a divorce, but usually, debt is accrued over a longer period of time by charging common expenses like gas and groceries. These “small” charges here and there look unthreatening at first, but then it spirals out of control where you end up only paying the minimum balance each month, leaving you with more interest to pay in the future.

Here are the top 5 causes of debt and some suggestions for how you can get address the problem.

1. Divorce

The leading cause of arguments among couples revolves around money more than any other causes of typical domestic disputes. It’s likely that one or both parties had accrued debt prior to getting married and “what’s yours is mine” unfortunately applies to the bills too. Although it’s recommended to discuss money and spending habits before tying the knot, if couples don’t create a reasonable plan to paying off debt and spending money, it will lead to marital strife that can turn into divorce. The average percent of divorce in the United States is between 40-50% and the cost of getting divorced is $15,000-$20,000. Also going from a two-income household back to one can take a significant toll on your bank account.

2. Unemployment & Underemployment

No one expects to lose their job and it never comes at a good time. Unless you have the recommended 6 months worth of expenses stored in your savings account, you’re going to accrue a lot of debt sooner than later just to pay off your current bills and it’s possible that it’ll take longer than 6 months to get another job. There’s also the unfortunate occurrence of taking a pay cut when having to suddenly work part-time either due to having a child, a medical issue, or getting fewer shifts at work. We’re creatures of habit, so although our employment status might have changed, it’s very likely that our spending habits haven’t. People are typically spending more than they earn and recent studies have shown that although income is decreasing, the rate of spending is still climbing up, which leads to the next reason for debt.

3. Poor Money Management

Related to financial illiteracy, not many people have a good grasp of managing the money they earn likely because they were never taught the simple rules of spending and saving growing up. These people rely on credit cards for expenses and the idea of instant gratification is a major factor. It’s so appealing for us to buy something and have it now, but pay for it later. If you don’t pay off your credit card balance in full, you’ll end up paying a good chunk of it in interests. Most credit cards today have an interest rate ranging between 15-20%, making anything you buy cost a whole lot more than what you paid for. This also ties in with impulse spending and making poor financial decisions. Having a monthly game plan to tackle your common expenses will keep you from spending more than you make. It’ll also be a good idea to educate yourself on the rules of the bank, loans and credit cards to see if you can reduce your fees, avoid late charges and have 0% APR for a set period of time.

4. Minimum Payment Trap

So you racked up a credit card and can’t pay the full balance. You know you have to pay something on it so you set up your account to automatically pay the minimum every month and brush it off, feeling assured that payments are being made. Months later, you check your account and wonder why you still owe so much. Well, that’s interest for you! Here’s an example to give you an idea: If you owe $10,000 on a credit card and pay a minimum of $250 per month and your interest is 15%, you’re going to be paying $3,950 in interest in the 56 months it’ll take you to pay it off. That $10,000 easily turns into nearly $14,000 before you know it. If your interest rate is 20%, that payment towards interest becomes $6,617 and it’ll take you 67 months to pay it all off! That’s over 5 years of your life spent paying off this credit card while you’re stuck paying off your typical expenses too, such as food, gas, rent or mortgage and a car. Bottom line is that you should always pay the balance in full, but if you can’t, pay as much as you can as fast as you can.

5. Military Status

A recent study revealed that members of the military accrue debt at a higher rate than civilians and there are a number of reasons why. First of all, military members may be receiving a steady paycheck but it isn’t large enough to support their means, especially if they’re supporting a family, making them resort to credit cards to compensate. Next, frequently moving can add to the debt if an active military personnel is forced to sell their home and they can’t get an immediate buyer. They end up paying two mortgages until they receive an offer on their old home. It may also be difficult for the spouse to find a good-paying job right away during relocation. And finally, when military members find themselves in debt, they end up staying in debt because they don’t want their superiors finding out. They don’t seek out help due to their fear of losing their security clearance, ruining their chances of a career advancement or being discharged. This just makes their debt continually increase.

If you’re currently in one of these situations, there are a number of routes to take to reduce your debt, but the first step should be to come up with a spending plan and stick to it. Review your spending habits and see where you can cut down. Your daily cup of Joe at the local coffee shop can definitely add up in the bills. Pay your balances in full as often as you can and use cash if you’ve got it. People tend to spend less when they only use real money to pay. And most importantly, if you’re married, make sure you keep all lines of communication open and ask for help if you need it. In a perfect world, both parties of the couple will be savers but that’s an unlikely story. If you’re the spender, it might be a good idea to have your spouse manage the money until you’ve got a good grasp on saving more money each month.

If you feel like you’ve tried it all on your own and need professional help, one of our professional and friendly counselors here at Pacific Debt can talk you through your options. Our consultations are free and it’s our goal to get you out of debt for less than you currently owe.

Couple struggling with bills

Not All Debt Consolidation Companies are Equal – 5 Important Questions to Ask Before You Sign Up

Whether you are looking for help with debt consolidation, credit counseling or debt settlement, it is important to know that not all debt consolidation companies are created equal.

What separates one company from another? Here are 5 important questions to ask when evaluating a debt consolidation company:

  • How long have you been in business? Let’s face it, you don’t want to trust your money to an overnight start up and be some company’s Guinea pig.  At Pacific Debt, we have been helping consumers since 2002 and have settled thousands of debts representing hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • Is the company highly rated by the Better Business Bureau? Do you really want to trust a company with an F rating and loads of complaints? Companies that are Accredited Members of the BBB make a commitment to marketplace ethics and are required to resolve consumer complaints to maintain their memberships. Remember, all companies get complaints, it is how a company responds and addresses those that separates the good from the bad. We are proud to say that Pacific Debt is an Accredited Member of the BBB of San Diego with an A+ rating.
  • Is the Company a member of any Industry Trade Associations? Trade associations often set many of the standards in the industry and their members are required to meet minimum requirements to maintain membership. For instance, in the debt settlement space, the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) requires that each Accredited Member company undergo an audit once per year to ensure that member companies are not charging upfront fees and are complying with all AFCC standards. At Pacific Debt, we are one of only 13 Accredited Members of the AFCC.
  • Will you receive personal service? Some companies treat you like a number and basically have huge call centers designed to answer your calls, but rarely offer you any personal dedicated service. At Pacific Debt, we created a system where all of our clients get a dedicated Personal Account Manager who is there to guide them through the process from the first settlement until completion. Our Account Managers get to know our clients on a personal level so that you don’t have to deal with the aggravation of explaining your situation over and over again to a different call center representative each time you call.
  • What are others saying? If you scour the Internet you can find all sorts of review sites and comments on social media. If clients have a good experience, or a bad one, they like to talk about it online. In fact, due largely to our great client reviews, Pacific Debt is the #1 Ranked Company on BestDebtCompanys.com .  Our average user score of 9.7 on the BestDebtCompanys site is a direct reflection of our commitment to customer service and delivering value to our clients.

The bottom line is that you have a lot of choices when it comes to selecting the right debt consolidation company and the reality is that not all debt relief companies are equal. However, by asking the right questions and doing your homework, you can find the right option and company for you.

Your Guide to Debt Consolidation Loans

Many prospective customers call Pacific Debt in hopes of obtaining a debt consolidation loan to pay off their existing credit lines. During our initial consultation with clients, we review the fact that Pacific Debt is not a lender, and therefore does not offer consolidation loans. Instead we offer a program called debt settlement, which is a form of debt relief that does not require taking out a new loan. For more information, feel free to read and learn more about our debt settlement program.

Criteria For Obtaining a Personal Loan

For those of you who are looking for a loan, there are several factors that will determine what your options may be, here are a few of those factor:

  1. What is your credit score? Generally speaking, the higher your score, the better the rate you will be offered and the more loan options you will have. Typically the lowest rates are reserved for consumers with a FICO score of 720 and above. If you don’t know your score, financial web sites such as CreditKarma.com now allow you to track and monitor your score for free.
  2. What is your capacity for repayment? In order to obtain a loan, you are going to be asked about your employment history and level of income. Lenders prefer to see stable income and will analyze your debt-to-income ratio when considering the risk involved with extending you a loan.
  3. Are you willing to use collateral to secure the loan? If you use your home or vehicle as collateral to secure the loan, lenders may offer you a lower interest rate or overlook less than perfect credit. Of course using your home or vehicle as collateral also puts those assets at risk in the event that you default, so you need to be extremely confident in your ability to repay the loan.

Types of Loans Available

Now that you have reviewed some of the major factors that lenders will consider on your quest for a consolidation loan, here are the types of loans that might be available to you:

Pay Day Loans: Designed as a short term stop gap, pay day loans are typically obtained with the understanding that the loan will be repaid on your next pay day. These loans are typically $500-$1000 and come with huge interest – often 300% APR or higher. Be careful with these high interest loans, as they can get you in serious trouble. In fact, regulators such as the CFPB, have serious concerns about pay day loans and are taking action to curb abuses in the pay day loan industry.

Personal Loans: A better alternative to pay day loans are personal loans. Personal Loans can be either secured or unsecured and typically come with a fixed monthly payment and repayment term.

  • Unsecured: Over the past few years unsecured personal loans have become very popular. Traditionally, these loans have been offered by major credit card issuers and carry interest rates of 10-25% typically. Recently, peer-to-peer lenders such as Prosper and Lending Club have sprouted up in the marketplace, giving consumers more options than ever before with regards to consolidating their debts. The downside to most of these loans is that the interest may be just as high as what you are paying on your credit card debt. In fact, a quick review of Lending Club’s web site shows that a consumer with poor credit, looking to borrow and repay a loan over 60 months, could face an APR of 35%!
  • Secured: If you use your home or a car to secure a loan, you may be able to snag a lower interest rate on your personal loan. However, the catch is that if you default on your payments, the lender is now entitled to your property and that can put you in a very serious financial predicament. If you are considering a title loan to your vehicle, check the interest rate, as they are often just as bad as pay day loans.

Changing Financial Behavior

Once you have obtained a loan and paid off your other debts, it is important to change the behavior that led to accumulating the debt in the first place. At Pacific Debt, we frequently speak to consumers who previously obtained a consolidation loan to pay off their credit cards, but now have a large personal loan and also carry large balances on their credit cards. The bottomline is that unless your financial behavior changes, a personal debt consolidation loan is really just a method of transferring your debt from one creditor to another.

We encourage consumers to do their due diligence and research your options. If you are not comfortable with the loan being offered (remember many personal loans have interest rates over 20%) , feel free to give us a call at Pacific Debt. One of our professional and courteous counselors can review with you all of your options, and can explain how debt settlement may be an appropriate alternative. The call and consultation are free, and unlike getting a new loan, we actually work to get you out of debt for less than you owe right now – not more.

How to get out of your debt quickly

How do I get out of debt quickly without hurting my credit?

Each day our enrollment counselors at Pacific Debt are posed with this question: “How do I get out of debt quickly without hurting my credit?” The answer, unfortunately for most, is that there is no easy way out, and depending on the option you select, as well as your prior payment history, your credit may be impacted. The reality is that it took a long time to accumulate the debt in most cases, and it generally takes even longer to dig yourself out, due to the interest and fees charged by credit issuers.

One of the fastest ways to get yourself out of debt, is to enroll in a debt settlement program, which is an alternative to bankruptcy. For those struggling with over $10,000 in unsecured debt, it can be a turning point in their financial lives and put them on a path to a debt free future. Unfortunately, many individuals and families don’t get the financial relief they need because they are paralyzed by the fear of their credit score dropping. This relates back to the original question posed in this post, which is that most consumers are looking for a solution that is “quick” but that will also not “hurt their credit”.

For the record, your credit score is important. Individuals with a FICO score of 720 or higher generally can borrow money at the lowest rates available, meaning car loans, mortgages and credit cards will carry lower rates of interest. If you own a television or surf the web, you have been exposed to countless advertisements and financial gurus all espousing the virtues of a high credit score. The fact is, credit is important.

However, I would argue that for most individuals struggling with excessive unsecured debt, their low credit score is not what keeps them up at night. Nor is their credit score what prompted them to call us for help.

No, just about everyone that picks up the phone to call Pacific Debt for the first time is concerned with their actual debt. Clients often have a combination of credit cards, high interest personal loans and payday loans. We often hear stories of clients borrowing from one creditor to pay another. For some, this is a cycle that they have been trapped in for years, possibly decades. Many of the people we consult with are excellent candidates for debt settlement; however, many still opt to not get the help – even when the problem involves over $40,000 in credit card debt. The primary reason cited for not proceeding is “affect on credit”.

For those of you who are stuck on the fence with your decision, here are three points to consider when weighing your DEBT versus YOUR CREDIT:

  1. How much is your “good credit” costing you? The reality is, your good credit is probably what enabled you to accumulate the debt in the first place. Now, consider how much interest you are paying each month. Are you making any progress on the debt? If you are paying $400 per month in interest and seeing little to no progress, that translates to $4800 per year, $19,200 over four years, and you will STILL likely be in debt! If the above situation resembles your own, it’s clear to see that maintaining your “good” credit is a cost that you simply cannot afford. Alternatively, if you choose to stop throwing away your money, you could be DEBT FREE in as little as 3-4 years. Upon completing Pacific Debt’s program, that $400 per month could then be used to fund a retirement account, college savings or down payment on new home or car.
  2. Have you had any recent late payments? Are you close to being maxed out on your cards? Do you have collection accounts? If you have answered “yes” to any of these, your credit score probably isn’t as good as you think it is. Pacific Debt has a relationship with Experian and can actually run your credit and pull your score for free to let you know where you stand. Once your debt is resolved, you can then begin focusing on improving your credit score by borrowing and using credit wisely.
  3. If you are struggling with debt, the last thing you probably need is MORE debt! The primary reason people maintain good credit is so that they can borrow money at favorable interest rates. While enrolled in a debt settlement program, your score will be negatively affected and you should avoid borrowing more money. Like all things, time heals all wounds and your score will improve through proper credit management. With that said, one of the many benefits to debt settlement is that our clients learn to live without relying on credit. Upon completing their programs, our clients have spent two to fours years budgeting and managing their finances without depending on credit cards to finance their monthly expenses. As a result, our clients have learned new financial behaviors to avoid falling into the debt trap in the future.

As with all decisions concerning your finances, it’s important to weigh all of your options. One of our professional staff members would be happy to complete a thorough budget analysis with you, and review your debt situation. Based on this information, we are happy to review your options and help you to decide if debt settlement is right for you. Please call us directly at 1-877-722-3328 for a free, no obligation consultation.

Get out of your debt by changing bad spending habits

Debt Crisis Relief:  Changing Bad Spending Habits

Getting into debt is one of the easiest downward spirals any person can get caught up in. Everything in the western world is geared toward getting people to spend money and promotes consumerism. Furthermore, the ease of acquiring credit cards steers individuals toward spending money they do not have. The deck is stacked against consumers who cannot withstand the onslaught of credit cards, financing offers, and sales on expensive merchandise. Simply put, it is amazingly easy to get into an enormous amount of debt.

On another token, one of the hardest things to do in today’s world is to get out of debt. Sure there are classes, books, DVDs, and seminars galore meant to teach people how to climb out of the hole of debt, but in truth all of these are useless if the habits of the individual debtors are not changed. Five of the most common habits that should be changed to help a person get out of debt are listed below, but a look at one’s spending habits could reveal many, many more. Use the list below as a starting point in determining what bad spending habits you have. You might come to realize that you’re able to regain control of your debt situation much more easily than you think.

Eating Out

One of the leading causes of debt in the United States arises from the desire to eat great food. Many people think it is more convenient and less expensive to get great food by going to a restaurant. However, this perception is incorrect. For a family of four, the average bill at a sit-down restaurant such as T.G.I. Friday’s, Olive Garden, or Ruby Tuesday is somewhere between $45-60. This amounts to about a third of the average weekly grocery bill for a family of six!

The money spent on one meal at a restaurant could go toward paying one third of a grocery bill, high interest credit cards, or student loans. Reducing restaurant dining experiences from one or two per week to one or two per month would amount to enormous savings and a quicker climb out of debt.

Downloading Music on Your Phone or iPod

Although song downloads cost $0.99 or $1.29, the ease with how they download leads to overspending and feeds the “click and buy” mentality, increasing your amount of debt. Downloading ten songs may only cost $10 but over time it adds up and trains you into fulfilling your instant satisfaction desires. This leads to little or no concern about how the songs will be paid for in favor of being satisfied.

The actual downloading of music might not affect your budget all that much but the act of downloading anything off the internet or anything utilizing the “click, buy, and pay later” mentality sure does. The key here is to train yourself into not buying things with one click. Break the habit of downloading and paying later and watch your debt slowly decrease. You will be surprised how much more you pay attention to what you are buying when you break this small habit.

Paying With a Credit Card

Perhaps the hardest habit for anyone to break when trying to get out of debt is using their credit card. A lot of people state they are using their card to get bonus points or cash back and they will pay it off at the end of the month. Unfortunately, most people do not actually pay off the card at the end of the month and their bills skyrocket because of it. If you are one of the good folks out there that actually does follow through, either you need to keep doing that or get rid of your cards so you do not charge something you cannot pay off.

A good way to get yourself out of debt is to get rid of your credit cards. That is right, cut them up and get rid of them. Of course when you cut them up your debt remains, but getting rid of the cards will keep you from adding more debt to your total and will get you out of the habit of using them. The best way to pay for things is cash but if you do not like carrying money around, the only card you should have in your wallet or purse is a debit card which automatically withdraws money from your checking or savings account.

You will quickly learn that if you do not have any money in your wallet or in your bank account, you cannot buy something. If it is absolutely necessary that you buy the item you are looking at, then you need to adjust your budget so you can afford it. Not paying with a credit card will not only lower your debt and teach you to only spend the money you have, it will also make you think about those “must have but unnecessary” purchases and get the “need” purchases instead.

Smoking and Drinking

Regardless of what your stance on the issue is, a smoking and/or drinking habit is expensive. The truth is there is no cheap way for a person addicted to alcohol or nicotine to get the drug they crave. The good news is kicking either habit will have major implications for your health and your debt. If you have been trying to find a reason to quit either of these habits, take a look at the receipts from the liquor store or the tobacco shop and you will begin to see where a significant portion of your income is going.

Quitting cold turkey will have the greatest and quickest effect on your budget and your debt issues, but requires the most effort. Alternatively, weaning yourself off of tobacco or alcohol takes more time and causes strain on your budget to continue, but is easier to do from an addiction standpoint. Saving over $100-150 a month because you do not smoke or drink will dramatically change your fiscal standing.

Leasing (Not a House)

Renting an apartment or a home should not be looked at in a negative light unless you are spending above your means. As a matter of fact, many Americans are switching back to renting because owning a home is just too costly in the current economy. Keeping living accommodations out of this, leasing or renting anything is a big, bad, ugly, no-no for people looking to get out and stay out of debt.

If you take a moment to think about it, why do you want to pay $350 a month to lease a car when you can pay $250 for a car that you will own after all your payments are done? On the lease, you will have to turn the car in after three to five years; after you followed all the strict rules that go with a lease, and then you have to start renting all over again! On the other hand, you can buy your car, finance it, and in three to six years you will own it with no payments left to make.

The renting and leasing mentality can be applied to almost everything these days. You do not need to rent a television or a couch for two months from places like Rent-A-Center. Instead, save the money you need to buy one and be done with it. Leases are convenient little scams that cause you to pay out money each week or month for something that you can get yourself. If that television you want costs $50 a week to rent, save the $50 each week until you have enough money to buy the television.

Of course it could take a while to get the television if you only save $50 a week but it will teach you to pick and choose the things you really want to have and will actually make you appreciate the items you buy when you actually get them. Who knows, after two months of saving, one of your neighbors will be getting rid of their flat screen television and the $400 you have saved up will take it off their hands.

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