How to Manage Credit Card Debt During a Divorce

divorce and money

Divorce is complicated. When it comes to divvying out debt, even the most amicably separated couple can find themselves at odds. In New Jersey, you are responsible for any debt in your name—even if your spouse is the one who racked up the bill. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and end up spending buckets of money either paying off your ex’s debts or facing a pile of legal fees. To avoid making a complex situation any more confusing, here are some great money-saving tips for dealing with credit card debt during a divorce.

Deal With Debt Before Divorce

If you’re already facing credit card debt, it could be financially disastrous to add the high cost of divorce to your financial woes. While it may be difficult, your best option is to deal with the debt before you file for divorce. As tempting as it may be to wait for a court to figure out how to divide the debt evenly, you and your spouse will save a lot of money coming to an agreement on your own.

Meet up and discuss exactly what the two of you owe. If you both have your own credit cards, remove the other person as an authorized user from those accounts. Even if you are just an authorized user on an account, your credit can be impacted if your former spouse does not make on-time payments. If you have joint accounts, consider transferring the balance to new cards that you each take out separately. Look for balance transfer credit cards with low interest rates. If you can compromise with your spouse in how to divide the debt evenly, you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars in legal fees.

If You End Up Paying Your Ex’s Debt

Unfortunately, some people don’t have the chance to be proactive about marital debt before a divorce because they only find out about the debt after the fact. If your name is attached to the account the debt is under, you may have no choice but to take responsibility for the debt. You can take steps to getting your name removed from the account, but in the mean time, you will need to make sure the account is getting paid.

In order to protect your credit, you may be stuck paying off debt accrued by your ex. It is important to note that while you can petition the court to have your spouse repay you for these debts, this path is expensive and you may never get the money back—even if you have a court order. This is why it is very important to make sure you and your ex do not share any accounts at the time you file for divorce.

If your ex does not remove your name from an account willingly, you will need to get a lawyer to prove you did not know about the account and did not benefit from the loan. If you do end up being responsible for paying off a portion of this debt, kept diligent records of your payments. If your ex decides not to pay their part, you will be able to prove that you have a history of making good on your payments.

Work on Creating Good Credit Post-Divorce

Whether you are facing the arduous task of building your credit from scratch or working on paying off debts accumulated in your marriage and subsequent divorce, you will need to generate a solid plan to rebuild your finances. Create a list of your debts to determine how much money you can afford to put towards each debt every month. Your new budget will need to absorb living expenses as well as any debt you are responsible for after the divorce.

It can be difficult to adjust to life under one income instead of two—especially if you are struggling under the weight of credit card debt. Veitengruber Law’s experienced financial legal team can help you come up with comprehensive debt-relief solutions catered to your specific needs. Managing debt during and after a divorce can be complicated and stressful, but you don’t have to do it alone. We can help you make a plan to eliminate burdensome debt so that you can start to move toward financial health.

10 Purchases You Should Never Make with a Credit Card

Credit cards can be powerful financial tools. They offer convenience, the opportunity to build credit, and can act as a loan to buy bigger ticket items. But when credit cards are not used wisely, they can cause a great deal of financial trouble. Overspending can lead to unmanageable credit card debt. To avoid out of control credit card debt, here are 10 things you should never purchase or pay for with a credit card.

1. Mortgage Payments

Most mortgage companies will not allow you to make direct payments with a credit card. If you do find a way to circumvent the rules of your mortgage servicer to make your payment with a credit card, you are asking for trouble. If you cannot pay off your credit card balance in full before your next payment is due, you will be paying for interest on a substantial balance. This added interest, on top of the interest you already pay on your mortgage, means you will end up paying much more for your mortgage payment than you should be.

2. Household Expenses

There are some arguments that favor paying for household expenses with a credit card. These arguments point out the convenience of online payments and credit card rewards. But the risk of paying your monthly home bills with a credit card is that you can easily lose track of your balance. If you go over your credit limit, you could face fees and heavy interest rates, not to mention potential late fees if your card is declined and you cannot pay your bill. Linking your online accounts to your debit card and checking account offers the same ease of payment without the added risks.

3. Medical Bills

The cost of medical care is expensive and many people struggle to pay off their medical debt. Paying for medical expenses with a credit card only makes this situation worse. If you find you cannot pay a medical bill immediately, get in touch with your medical care provider to see if they can set up a payment plan for you. Payment plans through the hospital will likely charge you much less in interest than a credit card issuer.

4. College Tuition

Most schools charge a 2-3% convenience fee for charging payments. If you cannot pay off the bill before interest accrues, you will end up paying even more. If you need help paying your tuition, the interest for student loans are often much lower than for credit cards. Talk to your financial aid department about work study opportunities, grants, scholarships, and other ways that can help you pay for college costs.

5. Wedding Expenses

Big, lavish, Pinterest-worthy weddings are all the rage right now. The average wedding costs $35,000.00. It can be tempting to start charging all your expenses to a credit card to pull off the wedding of your dreams. But unless your dreams also include crippling credit card debt, this is the worst way to budget your wedding. When you’re paying with a credit card, it can be easy to lose track of your budget and spend way more money in interest. It is better to save money ahead of time and start planning once you have enough money put away.

6. Business Startup Expenses

Paying for business expenses or startup costs with your personal credit card can be a recipe for disaster for your new business. It can take years for a business to become profitable, which means you could end up paying high interest on debt you cannot afford to pay back. Instead, opt for a small business loan which tends to have a lower interest rate. Looking for investors can also give you the cash you need up front to finance your startup.

7. Taxes

While you can pay your taxes with a credit card, you will end up paying more money which does not make good financial sense. The payment processing services that handle federal and state tax payments charge between 2-3% for using a credit card on top of a $2-$3 flat convenience fee. If you owe thousands in taxes, your processing fees can really add up!

8. Down Payments

Using a credit card to cover the down payment on your house, your car, or any other big purchase that comes with a loan is a good sign you can’t actually afford the loan. By charging the down payment, you are adding a large cost in the form of interest rates to the sales price of your item. If you find yourself scrounging around for the money for a down payment, you are better off waiting and saving.

9. Big Ticket Items You Can’t Really Afford

A good rule of thumb for credit cards is if you can’t pay it off in full by the end of the month, don’t pay for it with a credit card. This goes for cars, appliances, furniture, equipment, and any other big purchase you can’t afford outright. The interest you will accrue carrying this balance statement to statement will make these purchases more expensive in the long run. If you need to finance these kinds of purchases, look into financing options directly from the seller or loans that will allow you to include these purchases in your monthly budget.

10. Small Indulgences

These are the things you don’t really think about: your morning coffee, a sandwich for lunch, a few drinks with friends. It is convenient to just swipe your card, but without being super careful about your spending, this can lead to an out of control balance. Unless you are taking advantage of some kind of credit card rewards, it is best to pay for these items in cash. This will help you stick to a budget and spend more mindfully.

9 Smart Money New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

money new year's resolutions

Everyone looks forward to the New Year as a fresh start. This year, use your New Year’s Resolutions to benefit your wallet! From big goals to small changes, these 9 tips can get your finances on track in 2019:

 

  1. Eliminate/Reduce Credit Card Debt

If your credit card debt has gotten out of control in 2018, plan to make paying down your credit card balances a priority in 2019. With the Federal Reserve likely to increase interest rates this year, credit card debt is only going to become more expensive. Set a specific goal for yourself, (for example:  pay down 25% of your current debt). Focus on paying down the debt under the highest interest first to avoid income-draining interest rates. If you are struggling to make credit card payments, do not hesitate to reach out for help from Veitengruber Law.

 

  1. Pay Down Student Loans

For a lot of people, student loan debt is a heavy financial burden. It’s a great idea to take 2019 as an opportunity to make a huge dent in your student loans. Start by reviewing your loans and determining which ones have the highest interest rates. Making extra payments on those loans will save you money on interest in the long run. Paying more than the minimum due each month is also a great way to make sure you are not spending more than you should on interest. If your interest rates are high or you have a lot of different loans, consolidating your loans may allow you to get a lower interest rate and create more manageable monthly payments.

 

  1. Emergency Fund

In 2018, 39% of Americans paid for an unexpected $1,000 expense with their savings.* Many Americans end up in debt trying to cover unexpected costs. Most experts recommend having at least six months’ worth of expenses in savings, but if you are starting an emergency fund from scratch, make your goal something you think is reasonable to achieve. Even having a few hundred dollars in savings is better than nothing. You may want to consider setting up automatic transfers from your paycheck into a savings account so you are not tempted to spend this money.

 

  1. Improve Your Credit Score

The first step to improving your credit score is to know what it is in the first place. Signing up for free and reliable credit score monitoring through services like Experian or Mint will help you see how healthy your credit score is now. Good credit scores range from 700-749 and scores of 750 and higher are considered excellent. If your credit is not where you want it to be, make raising it your priority in 2019. Small things like paying your bills on time, keeping credit card balances low, and setting up automatic payments right after you’ve gotten paid can help reduce your debt and improve your score.

 

  1. Do Taxes Early

Filing for your federal income tax returns as soon as you can is a great way to start the New Year. Not only will you get your refund faster, it can give you extra time to pay taxes you may owe or help you avoid needing a tax extension. If you are expecting a big life change in 2019—like returning to college or buying a home—filing early will help you get a head start on this paperwork. For instance, students can use the information on their 1040 form to apply for financial aid. Plus, the sooner you apply for your refund, the less likely it is that you will be the victim of tax return identity theft.

 

  1. Cook More

Americans spend thousands of dollars a year eating out. A big way to save money in 2019 is to spend less time eating out and more time making your own food. Use 2019 as a chance to get more comfortable in the kitchen. Bring lunch from home, meal prep on the weekends, and spend some time researching quick-to-make meals. The more frequently you eat food bought from the grocery store, the less money you will spend—and the healthier you will be, too!

 

  1. Retirement Savings Plan

It is important to start saving for retirement as soon as possible. There are many options for creating a savings plan for retirement and you can determine which one is best for your specific circumstances. Maybe your employer provides a 401(k) plan, but if not – you can open an IRA or, if you are self-employed, a Simplified Employee Pension IRA. If you already have a retirement plan in action, reassess the plan in 2019. Could you be saving more? Are you on track for retirement?

 

  1. Home Improvements

While some home improvement projects will cost big and add value to your home, sometimes it’s the small projects that can have a big impact on your finances. Investing in energy-saving appliances in 2019 could allow you to save money every month on energy costs.  Energystar.gov has recommendations for energy efficient products and other home improvement ideas to get you thinking about ways you can save money on energy this New Year.

 

  1. Focus on Your Health

The average American spends over $4,000 a year on health care. Make your health a priority in 2019! Join the gym, focus on eating well, and take the time you need to relax. Go to the doctor at the first sign of illness instead of waiting until your health has been severely diminished. Preventative healthcare measures can save you big in the long run.

 

 

 

*From Bankrate

5 Mistakes to Avoid After NJ Bankruptcy

NJ bankruptcy

After your NJ bankruptcy, a common concern is how to re-establish your credit score. The real challenge is creating new financial habits so you don’t find yourself back in the same hole all over again. At Veitengruber Law, our holistic approach to financial health means our job doesn’t end after the bankruptcy is closed. We work with you to repair your credit and create healthier financial habits.

 

Top Mistakes to Avoid After a Bankruptcy Discharge:

 

1 – Ignoring your credit report

When rebuilding your credit subsequent to a bankruptcy discharge or reorganization, you will want to be very attentive to your credit report. Your creditors are supposed to report any discharged debts included in the bankruptcy to the credit bureaus. These reports should show a zero balance and include a note indicating the debt has been discharged. It is crucial to follow-up on this and ensure that all creditors are reporting to credit bureaus correctly. If discharged debt is being wrongly reported—as either a charge-off or an open account—late or missed payments can continue to show up on your credit. This can further damage your score and make it more difficult for you to get new credit.

2 – Applying for multiple new credit lines

It can be tempting after bankruptcy to rush out and apply for a gaggle of credit cards or loans in an attempt to quickly repair credit. However, it is important to give your credit score time to rebound before applying for new credit. The impact of a bankruptcy is strongest in the first year after filing, although it can stay on (and affect) your credit report for up to ten years. Instead of rushing into opening several credit lines at once, be patient and take the time to research your best options.

3 – Failing to read the fine print

When you do start applying for credit cards, it is important to remember that not all credit cards are created equally. Some credit cards will be more helpful to those rebuilding post-bankruptcy. A secured card, for instance, allows you to deposit cash as collateral up front to create a line of credit. That way, you are not able to charge more than your initial deposit. With any card you choose, it is important to read the fine print of your terms to make sure the card will work in your favor.

4 – Falling for credit repair scams

Many unethical “credit repair companies” make big promises about performing miracles to improve credit scores, but they rarely ever deliver the results promised. These companies rely on misinformation to scam those that don’t know much about how credit works. Some of their tactics may even be illegal. Keep in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

5 – Making things too complicated

Ultimately, when it comes to rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy, you need to go back to the basics. What bad habits caused you to file for bankruptcy in the first place? An unflinching assessment of your spending habits will help you determine which factors led to the bankruptcy and determine where you need to make changes. Figure out what your credit-bingeing triggers are and work toward setting spending limits for yourself. Simple things like making on time payments, keeping debt to a minimum, and sticking to a healthy budget are excellent foundations of any financial strategy and will get you on the road to financial health quickly.

You’ve been through the hard-fought financial battle of bankruptcy and come out victorious on the other side. Now is the time to think positively about your financial future. Rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy takes time and patience, but you can use the knowledge and financial savvy you’ve learned along the way to move forward to a brighter future. Veitengruber Law is here to help. We are skilled in advising clients and creating easy-to-follow strategies to rebuild credit. Call for your free consultation today.

Wallet Full of Plastic: Do You Need Credit Counseling?

credit counseling

Many people enjoy the flexibility of credit card spending, but the more credit cards you have, the easier it is to develop destructive spending habits. The convenience and ease of credit spending can be a slippery slope to overspending and unmanageable debt. If you find yourself with a wallet filled with plastic, it might be time to seek credit counseling to get expert advice on debt management and credit repair. At Veitengruber Law, our credit counseling team can work with you to improve your individual financial situation and help you gain control over your money and credit.

Credit counseling is a great way to receive expert financial advice and support to help manage your debt and organize your finances. It is important to make sure you are getting advice from true experts and not financial scammers. Our legal team provides debt management and credit repair services to get you back on the road to financial health. Many of our clients developed unhealthy spending habits over time, slowly building debt until suddenly finding themselves overwhelmed with payments. Out of control credit card debt can seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to face it alone.

At Veitengruber Law, we understand how the credit industry works. We strive to instill in our clients a holistic understanding of their finances and how the credit system works. Our team can give you the tools and insider advice to take control of your credit. In your individualized consultation, we will provide easy-to-follow strategies to rebuild your credit, even after major financial set-backs. Our attorneys can also help you establish a realistic and manageable budget by looking at your monthly bills, expenses, debts, and income and devising the best plan forward. We can give you the knowledge to negotiate better terms on your credit cards to make your payments more impactful.


You may be surprised by how much a few budget changes can massively improve your financial situation.


It is important to note that you don’t have to be in dire straits to seek credit counseling. Maybe you have a decent credit score, but making payments on time has recently become a struggle. Don’t wait to address your financial situation until debt collectors are knocking at your door. If your current budget isn’t comfortable or you find yourself struggling to make your payments, it might be time to reassess your financial situation. If you are feeling overwhelmed, be proactive about your debt and address your problems before they become emergencies. Credit counseling can help you avoid future financial woes like bankruptcy.

IMPORTANT FACT: Credit counseling and debt management are excellent alternatives to bankruptcy and can often even prevent it.

Even novice consumers can benefit from credit counseling. Seeking advice from experts when you first start living on your own is a great way to make sure you are starting on the right foot as you make plans for your financial future. We offer individualized counseling to help you understand how credit scores work, financially healthy ways to build credit, and how to make the most out of your credit right now. Establishing healthy spending habits and formulating a budget early on will set you on the path for a healthy financial future.

It’s our goal to help you become a stronger financial consumer. From helping clients out of extreme credit card debt via NJ bankruptcy to keeping homeowners in their homes via mortgage modification, and even simply offering advice to struggling novice consumers, we can get you back on track. We care about your financial future.

The Consequences of Late Credit Card Payments

late credit card payments

There are many reasons hard-working people fall behind on paying bills. In the short-term, it might seem like missing a payment or two is not going to affect you in the long run, but missing a credit card payment could be a bigger deal than you may think. A payment becomes late if it is received after the designated due date or if the payment received is less than the minimum amount due listed on the billing statement. The actions creditors take to respond to late payments can affect you for months, or even years, to come. At Veitengruber Law, we use our expert knowledge of debt management to help you get on top of your finances so that making late payments stops becoming a problem for you.

Once a payment is considered late, your creditor will charge a late payment fee on your next billing statement. Late fees typically range from $15-$35 depending on the late fee policy specific to your credit card company. If this is the first time you have been late in your payment, you may be able to get your creditors to agree to waive the late fee under an accidental late payment. If not waived, a recurring late fee will be charged every month a payment is late or does not meet the minimum payment requirement.

After 60 days, creditors will likely increase the interest rate on your account. Most credit card policies indicate a penalty rate which is the highest interest rate for your credit card. A higher interest rate will increase your monthly finance charges, not only making it more expensive to carry a balance between statements, but also making it likely that it will take you much longer to pay off your balance. You may also be barred from using your card rewards, or you may lose those awards completely.

After six months of on-time payments, your creditor is required to return your account to your pre-penalty interest rate. However, this is where it is important to know the specifics of your policy. Some credit card companies include a policy to continue to charge purchases made during the penalty period under the higher penalty rate.

The biggest effect of late or missed payments, and what you most want to avoid, is losing points to your credit score or getting a bad mark on your credit report. After a payment is 30 days late, it will appear on your credit report. Once an entry is added to your credit report, it can remain there for up to 7 years. Missed payments are added to your credit report in 30 day increments until the account reaches 180 days delinquent. At this point, creditors will charge-off your account, meaning the credit card company writes-off this account as a loss. A charge-off does not mean the debt goes away. Often, the creditor will turn over the debt to a collections agency and the charge-off will appear as a negative mark on your credit report.

Payment history makes up 35% of your credit score—meaning late payments can take a serious toll on your credit score and make it difficult to get approved for new credit in the future. Generally, the better your credit, the more points you are likely to lose after a late payment. To avoid damage to your credit score or your credit report, you can make the full payment plus the late fee before the first 30 days are up. There are many options to manage your debt before a late payment is counted against you. Our experienced team is there to help you explore all your options.

Veitengruber Law offers comprehensive debt solutions specific to your unique circumstances. Our legal team understands the stress and anxiety of unmanageable debt. We provide an all-inclusive analysis of your debt and offer knowledgeable solutions to your specific problems. Our goal is to give you the tools for a brighter financial future. Contact us today to get your free debt relief evaluation.

8 Little Known Credit Score and Credit Report Facts

Cash is quickly becoming a thing of the past, being replaced by plastic and virtual payment methods. Credit cards are now everyone’s new best friend. Along with a credit card comes a credit score and credit report, which leads to the first thing you may not have known.

 

1. Credit scores and credit reports are not the same thing.

Yes, they are two different things. Credit reports include information such as how frequently you apply for credit, data about your credit accounts, your payment history, a few public records, debt collection and a few other related points. Credit scores, on the other hand, are calculated based on the data found on your credit report.

 

2. Specific employers check credit scores.

Did you know that applying for a job in certain industries will most likely cause your credit score to be checked by your potential employer? These industries/jobs include the armed forces, Transportation Security Administrators (TSA), law enforcement, financial planners/accountants, mortgage loan originators, and, believe it or not, parking booth operators.

 

3. You could catch a criminal!

By keeping a close eye on your credit report, you can see if someone runs up a massive credit card bill or draws out credit in your name. If there is an unanticipated change, contact your bank or lender immediately. You may be able to stop a scammer from stealing someone else’s credit information.

 

4. Identity theft can affect your credit score.

Over 8 million people are victims of identify theft each year in the United States. Believe it or not, hundreds of millions of hours are spent each year trying to find the problem, halt the fraud, and wipe credit reports clean. This is yet another reason why it’s crucial to keep a close watch on any changes in your credit report.

 

5. Seven is the magic number.

After about 7 years, negative information will be eliminated from your credit report, with the exception of bankruptcy (find out how long your bankruptcy will show up on your credit report here.)

 

6. Maxing out is not as fun as it sounds.

Did you know that maxing out your credit card can lower your credit score anywhere between 10 to 45 points? Aim to keep your debt to income ratio between 28 – 33% (this means that your monthly debt and spending is no more than 33% of your total monthly income).

 

7. Closing out an account is actually a bad idea.

Are you aware that closing credit card accounts can damage your credit score? Even if you only use the card once or twice per year, keep the credit card active. Your credit score will be more positively influenced the longer you keep the account open. A longer credit history, which determines 15% of your credit score, makes you look more responsible, and will boost your score.

 

8. Five Factors

There are five factors that go into formulating your credit score, also known as your FICO score. Your payment history makes up about 35% of your score. This is why it’s so important to make all of your monthly payments on time. Responsible for 30% of your score is how much you owe, so don’t leave debt hanging on your card. Your credit history length is responsible for 15% of your credit number. Accounting for 10% of your total credit score is your last application for credit (how long ago it was, what type of credit and the amount). The final 10% is calculated based on the types of credit you use.

If you have more questions about your credit score and/or report, please check out our many other blog posts on the topic. Happy reading!

 

5 Ways to Get Caught Up on Bills After the Holidays

 

debt resolution

Just as a little too much partying on New Year’s Eve can leave you with a painful hangover — a little too much spending during the holiday season can result in a financial hangover. Unfortunately, the latter can’t be cured by drinking plenty of water and getting some extra rest.

When your out-of-town loved ones have gone back home and the decorations are starting to come down, credit card debt and crumbling finances can be a cold, unwelcome reality check. While we want our holiday memories to last a lifetime, holiday debt is something we’d really rather not think about. Avoiding the truth about how much you really spent on gifts for all and sundry won’t make the problem disappear; what it will do is snowball the interest and late fees.

5 effective ways to begin tackling your excessive holiday spending:

 

  1. Assess the Situation/Make a Plan

Tackling excessive debt is anything but fun, but it can’t be avoided. Begin by looking over all of your banking statements and making sure that you agree with all listed charges. Then, make a list of your debts from smallest to largest (based on total amount) to get an idea of  how much you’re in the hole for. Next, create a list of their interest rates from highest to lowest.

Once you have a clear picture of what you’re dealing with, choose either the Snowball or Avalanche debt repayment strategy and start working on the plan of your choice ASAP.

 

  1. Return, Return, Return

Did you end the holiday season with scads of decorations, gifts, or other items that were never even opened? Perhaps you bought gifts for a friend’s significant other only to discover that they broke up in November. Maybe you lost self-control and brought home that ridiculously overpriced holiday decoration you’ve coveted for months.

Do not hesitate — GO NOW, this minute, to return any still-in-box, tagged items. If you are able to get your money back – put it to good use by making an extra credit card payment before you have a chance to buy something else you don’t need. Without a receipt? Use store credit to buy something you’d purchase anyway, like home goods or diapers.

 

  1. Work to Cut Regular Monthly Spending

If you have assessed your budget and concluded that there isn’t enough money left over each month to pay off your credit card debt, then reducing your monthly expenses is a must. Chances are, you have at least some recurring monthly payments that could be eliminated or decreased. Try calling your cell phone provider or cable company to see if they have any New Year’s offers or plans that would be cheaper than what you’re currently paying. Be sure to mention that you’ll have to change providers if they can’t lower your monthly bill.

Look around for a new (lower) quote on home and car insurance. Keep searching until you find a company that has the coverage you need and is willing to work with your budget.

Lastly, assess any larger loans you’re currently repaying (mortgage, home equity, education). Consider refinancing or modifying some or all of those more substantial loans. Every dollar you decrease your monthly payments by can go directly toward paying off credit card debt.

 

  1. No Credit Diet

Until you have that credit card debt completely paid off, we strongly recommend putting yourself and your family members on a “no credit diet.” When you purchase anything, use debit cards, cash or write a check (ancient, but still better than spending money you don’t have). Using these forms of payment will avoid racking up any more credit card debt.

 

holiday spending

 

  1. Every Dollar Counts

Everyone has some expenses that could be considered “flexible” – grocery bills, clothing, entertainment, recreation, and more. Determine what items in your budget are ‘must-haves’ and what you or your family could go without.


In short: Evaluate your spending habits and start making better choices until they become habits.


Example: When you’re tempted to buy that five dollar cup of coffee, think about how quickly your coffee habit could put a dent in your debt. Bonus: Getting off caffeine (or reducing your intake) is good for your blood pressure!

We’ve given you a few ways to start lowering that holiday debt that you had so much fun charging last year. Take the tips that work for you and add your own debt pay-down tricks into the mix.


One caveat: If your holiday debt goes far beyond just the recent holidays, and you’re finding your monthly minimums are more than you can handle, regular debt pay-down strategies probably won’t get you very far. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.


When you’re so far behind on your bills that they just keep piling up, unpaid, on your kitchen table, it’s time to ask for professional help. Call Veitengruber Law. We will provide you with a holistic analysis of your debt and tailored solutions that will get you “back in black.”

The best part about reaching out to us for help?  The first meeting’s on us.

Collection Defense vs NJ Bankruptcy

If you have been sued by a collections company or “debt collector,” and the debt truly belongs to you, the most important piece of advice is: Do not ignore the lawsuit.

With that being said, people in your position naturally wonder if they have options. Being sued for a debt that perhaps you thought had been forgiven, or that had reached its statute of limitations, can come as a surprise. Many times we put these things out of our minds because it is easier than focusing on it and worrying about it.

Unfortunately, by putting a large debt that you failed to repay out of your mind, you are now faced with a lawsuit that asks you for the entire lump sum that you owe. This sum may even be larger than you remember due to late fees, attorney fees for the collections agency, and interest.

Is filing for bankruptcy your only option?

While it is impossible to give a blanket answer to this question (as everyone’s case will vary wildly) – the general answer is that no, bankruptcy is not your only option when you are being sued for an unpaid debt.

There are several things your NJ bankruptcy attorney will ask when you meet with him or her. Is this your only significant debt? What is your income? Can you repay this debt if it is broken down into payments?

If you have other debts along with the one in the lawsuit, and your income doesn’t allow you to get ahead on paying them back, it may be that bankruptcy is right for your situation.

Can you negotiate with the debt collector?

On the flip side, if the debt in this lawsuit is literally your only debt (outside of your mortgage and car payment), and your income is steady, you might want to have your bankruptcy/debt resolution attorney negotiate with the collection company.

For example, if your unpaid debt amount is $15,000, you may be able to talk the debt collector down several thousand if you pay in a lump sum. It is also possible to negotiate a payment schedule if you wish to avoid bankruptcy.

Is collection defense an option for you?

Collection defense is only appropriate if the debt in the lawsuit doesn’t belong to you, or if the lawsuit contains errors. So, if you are being sued in error, then collection defense is an option, but the reason many people opt for a different resolution is that collection defense representation can get expensive. Regardless of how much you pay your attorney, you can still end up losing the case, even if the debt collector is in the wrong. This is because NJ law doesn’t require strict proof of signed agreements when it comes to credit cards. Therefore, you may end up owing hefty attorney’s fees and still have to repay the debt in full when all is said and done if you go this route.

The only way to know for sure which direction you should go is to sit down with a NJ bankruptcy lawyer or debt resolution attorney. Often, bankruptcy attorneys also specialize in credit repair and debt resolution strategies other than bankruptcy, so look for an attorney who is well-versed in all areas in which you need assistance.

Should I Pay my Debts or Hire a Bankruptcy Attorney?

bankruptcy attorney nj

When you are face to face with a huge pile of unpaid debt, you might wonder if it would be more cost effective to put a pay-off plan into effect or to make an appointment with a bankruptcy attorney. Naturally, both options are going to cost money – but there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you determine which option will end up costing you less in the end.

Firstly, it must be said that there isn’t a cut-and-dry, cookie cutter answer to this question, so please take the advice herein with that knowledge. There are a number of variables that will affect the direction you ultimately choose to take, like:

  • How much debt do you have?
  • What type(s) of debt do you have?
  • What is your current income?
  • Do you foresee your income increasing in the near future?
  • Is there a potential financial windfall in your near future (like a work bonus)?
  • How long do you want to spend paying off your debt?
  • Are you ok with losing credit score points (temporarily)?

If you are currently not even (or barely) able to make the minimum payment each month on sky high credit card debt, you’re looking at a very long road ahead and you will have paid a huge amount of interest at the end of your debt pay-off journey. In this case, filing for bankruptcy looks like it would be a better decision, because your bankruptcy attorney’s fees are likely to cost you less than how much you’ll be paying in interest over the years. Also, by filing for bankruptcy, you can rid yourself of your burdensome debts as soon as you case is approved for a discharge. This will allow you to start a savings account, put your child through college, or otherwise focus more of your income in a way that you weren’t able to before.

The bankruptcy route will knock your credit score down for awhile, but if you’re working with a bankruptcy attorney in NJ who knows what he’s doing, you’ll be counseled on how to potentially bring your score even higher than it is now. This can usually happen in 12-18 months after a bankruptcy discharge if you follow the recommendations given.

On the flip side of the coin – maybe you have more debt than you’d like to have but you’re not drowning in debt. This is not an uncommon situation to be in. If your income is substantial enough to handle your monthly cost of living plus (give or take) double your minimum payments on at least one of your debts, you may be a good candidate for avoiding bankruptcy.

It’s impossible to give you a completely straight answer to this question, as mentioned earlier, because everyone’s financial situation is so unique. The above general tips are just that – general – and you should base your final decision off of the in-person advice you get from an experienced NJ bankruptcy attorney. He will be able to comb through your debts and assets in order to properly guide you toward making the choice that will best fit your finances.

Get in touch with a reputable New Jersey bankruptcy attorney today – most offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose but debt!