8 Ways You are Wasting Money (and How to Stop)

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Some money saving tips seem obvious, like cutting back on eating out and sticking to a realistic budget. But there may be some things you are wasting money on without even realizing it. Being a smart consumer means looking at all of your expenses critically—even the little things. These are some common ways people waste money without even realizing it:

 

  1. Shopping Brand Name

This goes for everything from designer clothes to grocery items to pharmaceuticals. If you insist on buying only brand name items, you’re definitely overspending. Instead, look at the quality, function, and value of an item. For groceries and pharmaceuticals especially, the generic item is likely to contain the same exact ingredients as the name brand, but will cost you a fraction of the price. Don’t get hung up on big names; it will make a huge difference in your wallet.

 

  1. Overpaying on Car Insurance

Car insurance is a necessity, but taking the time to shop around and compare rates once a year can save you big. When it comes to car insurance, you can’t assume any one company is the cheapest. Different people will pay different prices for the same coverage which is why you have to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal for you. Check for discounts you may qualify for and make sure you’re getting coverage that makes sense for your car.

 

  1. Paying for Cable

There are dozens of movie streaming services and non-cable TV options on the market today—and those services are always growing. Almost any streaming service is cheaper than cable or dish and you have the added bonus of paying for exactly what you want. You can build a package catered to your interests instead of having to pay for extra channels you never use.

 

  1. Keeping Electronics Plugged In

Saving money on energy goes beyond turning lights off when you leave a room. You would be shocked at how much energy waste you produce just from leaving devices plugged in. Some electronic devices, like computers, DVD players, and even microwaves will use power even when they’re not in use. You can calculate what these devices are costing you using this tool from Duke Energy. Keeping these devices unplugged can save you money on your electric bill.

 

  1. Piling on Credit Card Debt

If you use your credit card to pay for most things, it’s a lot easier to spend outside your budget unless you are vigilant. Credit card debt can add up quickly if you aren’t keeping up with your monthly payments. If you fall behind, you may find yourself spending so much money on interest that you can never catch up enough to pay off the actual balance. Don’t ignore potentially crushing interest rates. Be proactive by looking into consolidating or refinancing debt.

 

  1. Spending Too Much on Gas

Overpaying on gas can really hurt your everyday budget. Pay attention to changing prices and shop around for the cheapest gas station in your area instead of just going to the closest one. You can even go a step further by earning rebates on gas purchases. Some credit cards will net you 5% cash back when you buy gasoline. Shopping with certain stores can help you get gas discounts, too. Giant, for example, will help you save 10 cents per gallon for every 100 points you earn at Giant grocery stores.

 

  1. Overpaying Monthly Bills

Just like with car insurance, reviewing the amount you pay for your cable, internet, or cell phone provider is essential to making sure you’re getting the best deal. Some companies rope you in with discounts and monthly credits that expire after your first few months paying for the service. Don’t let that be the final word on your monthly payment. A lot of the time, if you call your provider to discuss a payment increase, they will work with you to keep your business.

 

  1. Not Earning Cash Back When You Shop

There are dozens of apps out there that give shoppers money back for their purchases. Some apps will pay you for scanning your receipts from specific stores while others will give you cash back on individual items. Ibotta and Fetch Rewards give you cash back for scanning your grocery and retail receipts. Ebates and Shopkick give you cash back on specific items from qualifying retailers. A lot of these apps have cash sign-up bonuses. Using cash-back apps is a great way to earn a little money back when you shop.

 

All of these little ways to save money can add up big time in the end. Taking advantage of new technology and competitive pricing will give you more financial power as a consumer. Use these tips and start saving today!

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10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Finances

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  1. Start saving
    It seems obvious, but many times it also seems impossible. By the time you pay your bills and have some spending money, every paycheck seems to fly out the window. The easiest way to save is to make sure you never have the chance to spend those funds in the first place. Most people have direct deposit these days; set up an automatic transfer of 10% of your net pay into a separate savings account each pay period. You won’t miss it, and it builds up pretty fast. When you get a raise, try redirecting the entire difference in your net pay over to savings. Your net pay will seem unaffected on your end, but your nest egg will grow that much quicker. You will be prepared for an unforeseen expense like an emergency car repair or for a “rainy day” when you want to take a long weekend out of town with friends.

 

  1. Make a budget – and be realistic
    Determine your starting point by keeping track of every dollar spent in a month. Now separate each expenditure into a category: utilities, housing, food (groceries), eating out, entertainment (movies, clubs, golf, etc.), childcare, transportation, car payment, and so on.Where are most of your discretionary funds going? See if there is anything you can cut back on or cut out altogether. If you have a wicked Starbucks habit, you might decide you can do without that daily grande latte after seeing that you are spending over $80 a month on coffee. Don’t want to quit your Starbucks habit cold turkey? How about only getting that latte once a week (say only on Fridays or Mondays) instead? Your $80 a month expense just went down to $16. You can’t decide to live on canned soup five days a week – you know it’s not going to happen, so don’t set yourself up for failure. Look at where your money has been going versus where you want it to go.

 

  1. Little changes can make a big difference
    As you saw, coffee can be a bigger expense than you realize. There are a lot of those little things that can suck money out of your wallet. Limit your dinners out each month. Make the transition less painful by allowing yourself one or two fancy dinners out, but eat at home the rest of the time. Pack your lunch. Join a carpool. Use a filtering pitcher, such as Brita ™, instead of buying bottled water. Feed a meter instead of using valet parking. Shop for clothes at consignment and second hand stores; you might even find higher quality items than in a big box store! Cigarette smokers spend hundreds of dollars a month on a product that they literally set on fire. That type of savings might make a lifestyle change a real incentive. It all adds up.

 

  1. Lower your existing monthly bills
    If you’ve always made payments on time, call your credit card company and see if they are willing to lower your interest rate. If you haven’t reviewed your cell phone plan in a year or more, it’s time to compare new deals and potentially cut your costs in half. Consider whether you really use that gym membership. If you barely go, it’s time to cancel it. Consider workout alternatives like YouTube videos or running groups. If a brick and mortar gym is where it’s at for you consider this; membership deals are generally better in the summer when everyone else would rather exercise outside. You could get those initiation fees waived or get a lower monthly rate.Shop for cheaper car insurance. Lower your electricity bill by using timers and power strips, and your water bill by checking for leaking faucets or toilets. Look into local weatherization programs that can troubleshoot conditions in your home to prevent wasting money on heating and air conditioning. Many times these programs are run by your utility company or local government and are free.

 

  1. Set goals
    Hard decisions are easier when you see the payoff at the end. Want to take vacation? Set up a retirement portfolio? Send your kid to college? Keep that in mind when you’re setting up your budget, or deciding if it’s really worth it to go to Olive Garden tonight, or if you really need yet another pair of black shoes.

 

  1. Check your credit reports
    The three major credit reporting agencies are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You are entitled to a free report annually or whenever you are denied credit directly from all three agencies. Look for mistakes and dispute them! This is even more important if you have a common name or share a name with someone else in your family. Check your credit report for bills you forgot about or never received. Maybe there’s an old bill from a dentist that got lost in the mail or never got forwarded when you moved. Even a small bill that went to collections stays on your report for 7 years after it is paid off. A low or lower credit score can mean increased interest rates or outright denial of credit when you need it most.

 

  1. Don’t pay full price – for anything
    Clip coupons; look for online deals, shop sales. Get discount codes from places like ebates.com, retailmenot.com, or slickdeals.net. Look for Deals of the Day on Amazon. Utilize discounts for services or experiences by using Groupon and Living Social.

 

  1. Change where you bank
    Many banks are rife with fees. Fees for less than a minimum balance. Fees for ATM use. Fees per check. Shop around, find a bank that values your business and doesn’t drain your account when you want to use your money. Veterans and business owners can often get even more perks, such as free certified checks or safety deposit boxes.

 

  1. Utilize employment benefits
    Your benefits package at work can offer a lot more than you think. Does your employer offer matching incentives for retirement account deposits? Flexible spending accounts? Free counseling or other wellness support programs? Take advantage of everything you can.

 

  1. Make sure you are financially informed
    Understanding basic concepts when it comes to investing, spending, saving, interest rates, etc. will benefit you (and your bank account) in the long run. Find out if your employer offers programs on these subjects, or seek them out yourself through online videos or books by consummate professionals in the field. If you have a personal accountant or financial planner, ask questions and ask for advice and heed it! You can’t make good choices if you don’t have the background information needed to make them.

How “Keeping up with the Joneses” can Send You into Bankruptcy

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What exactly is “Keeping up with the Joneses”?

 

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a phrase that originates from a 1913 New York Globe comic strip by Arthur (Pop) Momand. The use of this coined phrase now refers to the actions of striving to keeping up with one’s neighbors in reference to social status and spending. “Keeping up with the Joneses” sometimes begins to happen for an individual when they bear witness to a neighbor or loved one coming into a large financial windfall – perhaps by winning the lottery. The neighbor may start to spend their newfound money on luxuries like cars, vacations, clothing, etc. This inspires said person to begin spending money outside their means to compensate for jealousy of the newly rich neighbor. Unfortunately, these actions can lead to debt, financial crisis, and bankruptcy.

 

Take the story of NJ lottery winner Pedro Quezada, formerly from the Dominican Republic. Quezada was from Passaic, New Jersey, and winner of $338 million. After hitting the jackpot, Quezada (owner of a local bodega) proclaimed he was thrilled because he could properly take care of his family.  Spending immediately began, but maybe not in the exact way his neighbors anticipated.  He was constantly approached by frequent customers of his bodega and friends of his looking for handouts, some traveling from as far as Colombia. There were even several false reports on news outlets claiming he declared to pay the rent for his neighbors, and eventually this led to a falling out with them. In fact, Quezada was even sued by his live in girlfriend of ten years for half of his winnings a year after winning the lottery. Eventually Quezada’s attorney won the case because the couple had never been married therefore his ex-girlfriend was not entitled to any of the winnings.

 

Unrealistic expectations

 

Suppose you have a neighbor (or family member) who just won the lottery. They decide to throw a lavish party to celebrate and show off their windfall. Maybe they add in that in-ground pool they have always wanted, or purchase that car or boat they had been dreaming of, and while they’re at it they make upgrades to their landscaping and home. These types of actions can cause a trigger effect with neighboring individuals who begin to look for ways to get rich quick or take out a loan much larger than they are capable of repaying just to be able to unrealistically and irrationally upgrade their lifestyle to keep up with their newly rich friend or loved one. This is a common theme that leads more often than not to bankruptcy and financial crisis.

 

Managing your money well

 

Watching someone win the lottery may seem like a super exciting event, and you may feel inspired to make rash decisions which can then result in irresponsible spending. Our advice? Forget about “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

As an NJ bankruptcy attorney firm, we at Veitengruber Law focus on aiding individuals with managing their debt and finances more realistically to protect their assets in order to avoid bankruptcy. If you feel as though you are lost in your expenses and debts because you’ve tried to live beyond your means, please reach out to us PRONTO. We can help, and we WANT to help.

How Financial Stress Affects Your Health

Would you be surprised if someone diagnosed your change of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and incessant headaches as symptoms of financial stress? It might be a hard pill to swallow, but your financial stress can have a tremendous impact on your health.  According to a survey published by the American Psychological Association in 2017, 62% of Americans reported being stressed about finances. Unbelievably, financial stress can cause companies upwards of $520,000 per year! You’re probably asking “why?”


Are you aware of the impact of stress on the human mind and body? You’re about to find out.


Financial stress, and many other kinds of stress, can have a negative impact on your health. There is a positive, temporary response to stress, and that is known as the “fight-or-flight” response. Preparing to run a race, giving a presentation, performing, and being involved in a dangerous situation are all examples of when your body is going to react with the “fight-or-flight” response, or adrenaline rush. Heart rate quickens, pupils dilate, brain functions heighten, and oxygen intake increases as your body reacts to the scenario. This is helpful in the short-term, but in the long run, on the other hand, it can become extremely harmful.

If these stressors are present over a long period of time, other health issues will manifest. Have you ever heard of heart disease? That’s a rhetorical question, since it’s the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Guess what? Chronic stress is one of the main contributing factors to heart disease (along with a poor diet and lack of exercise). Not only is heart disease intensified by stress, but migraines, sexual dysfunction, asthma, gastrointestinal issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, general pain, stomach ulcers and many other health complications are also correlated with stress – money worries in particular.

We know that when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to make decisions that aren’t always the best. But when you accidentally, or purposefully, make a choice that ends up being detrimental, stress will follow. For example, the fear of not being able to pay next month’s mortgage bill can initiate symptoms of depression or PTSD. In turn, this can lead to even more issues with budgeting and over-spending (like racking up your credit card balance to make yourself “feel better”), which only exacerbates symptoms.

In the same way that stress exacerbates physical issues, it can also aggravate psychological problems such as anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, anger issues, and hopelessness. About 10% of high-earning individuals experience 2 to 3 indicators of depression, in comparison with 23% of low-earning individuals. Pair together financial stress and depression, and you’ve got a crippling combination. It definitely isn’t a recipe for productive and satisfied employees. Each day it seems that employee health is worsening, so it’s crucial that employees, managers, and health care professionals work to decrease stress levels and improve coping skills.

Although many of us brush off money worries, the physiological effects actually make sense. How can your body thrive if it’s constantly being beaten down with the incessant worry of money troubles? Simply put: it can’t. The physiological response of the body to stress is so immense that physical and mental health quickly begins to suffer. The lower classes of America undoubtedly experience the effects of financial stress, but studies show that financial worries also plague middle and upper class individuals.

In the United States, approximately 75 to 90% of all doctor’s visits are stress-related medical issues according to The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. We know that stress causes plenty of medical issues, but some of that can be attributed to unhealthy coping skills. When people are stressed, they tend to resort to unhealthy coping behaviors such as overeating, overconsumption of alcohol, etc., which only worsens other medical problems. Stress management techniques such as exercise, deep breathing, and meditation are all effective ways to lower stress levels.

The heaviness of financial stress can weigh you down, but it’s important that you and those around you find successful ways to decrease stress levels and develop helpful coping skills. Lifting such a weighty burden requires intelligent money management and more important, stress management.

Self-Employment Budgeting Tips

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When you’re not working a 9-5 job with a stable, predictable salary dispensed into your bank account on a set schedule, budgeting for recurring monthly expenses can be a bit tricky. While being self-employed can afford you the freedom to work flexible hours, have a varied office location and the ability to do something you love, it does not always provide the easiest and most consistent stream of income to rely on. This is where careful, diligent budgeting comes in handy.

 

1) Always budget for the necessities first!

While you are most certainly deserving of a dreamy resort vacation this summer, that doesn’t mean it qualifies as a necessity, as your vacation can easily be delayed until you can truly afford it. Necessities solely include staples like your rent or mortgage payment; groceries, gas, medical insurance, car insurance and car payment or other required transportation costs; utilities like electricity, phone, internet, water, sewer and garbage. It is also critical that you budget for your income taxes, as they will no longer be automatically deducted from your income. Anything else not featured on the aforementioned list does not qualify as a necessity and therefore you can live without it and save up for it before purchasing it.

 

2) Establish an emergency fund.

If you haven’t done so already, creating an emergency fund that has enough money to sustain 3-6 months worth of your necessary expenses is an absolute must for the self-employed. Not only does this provide you with added financial security and stability, it also buys you time to find a new job or side gigs if your self-employment opportunity does not prove lucrative enough to afford your expenses.

 

3) Once you have your emergency fund in place and have mastered budgeting comfortably for the necessities and have some wiggle room left over in your budget each month, you can start budgeting for “little luxuries.”

When I say little luxuries, I mean just that. Not living large, but treating yourself to small and affordable indulgences in moderation but on a regular basis. This may include something as mundane as ordering a Netflix subscription and Chinese takeout once a month, or something as exhilarating as a night out at a rock climbing gym with friends depending on your tastes and interests.


Pro tip: seek out experiential luxuries whenever possible as they don’t generate physical clutter that you’ll have to deal with down the road. The memories you’ll gain are much more valuable in the long run.


 

4) Think big: now that you’re managing all your monthly expenses (including little luxuries) like a pro and have a solid emergency fund in place, it’s time to consider your long-term financial goals.

When you’re self-employed, saving for retirement is even more important than it is for your peers who participate in employer-sponsored retirement programs. Given that you don’t have the opportunity to participate in employer-based matching programs, you will need to be proactive and learn to not only save diligently toward your retirement fund, but also actively invest your money wisely to make it work for you. There are tons of great retirement-planning resources available online, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of managing your own retirement accounts, consider consulting with a local retirement specialist who can help get you on the right track. If you’re more concerned about meeting more immediate financial goals like purchasing a home or a new vehicle (or even that resort vacation), a financial planner will be able to help you adequately allocate funds for each important goal while still contributing to your retirement so that it can continue to grow as you meet your other major milestones.

Veitengruber Law can guide you through your NJ asset management needs as you get older; with advances in medical care extending life expectancies, you may be facing difficult choices over health care and your legacy. We also have close relationships with expert financial planners and NJ CPAs with whom we are happy to connect you.

Budgeting Basics

Creating a budget is certainly not a walk in the park. Budgeting is an ongoing process and for most people, your budget has the possibility of changing from month to month. Your first try won’t be perfect, but don’t get discouraged.  As with most things in life, the more you practice budgeting, the better you’ll get. Once you figure out a flexible and successful process that works for you, you’ll be ready to go! Before you start, make sure you have 30 to 45 minutes set aside to work through each step. Let’s get started!

Income

Let’s begin at the most obvious place: your income. As we all know, your income is going to determine your budget, or in other words, how much money you have to spend. Your income can come from a variety of sources: your main day-to-day job, side jobs, child support, or even rental properties. It includes any source that brings money into your household each month. To start creating your budget, record the total amount of money that you’re making.

It’s important to take taxes into account, so make sure you’re recording your monetary income post-taxes. Some people refer to this as your “take home pay.” If you’re married, you’ll potentially be combining your incomes, so record them on the same budget.

Plenty of people are self-employed, which makes a budget all the more important. Your month-to-month income may be unpredictable depending on your business. If you have no reason to believe that your income will significantly drop in the upcoming month, average your monthly income for the last 3 months and use that for monthly income.

Expenses

The next part (that no one likes to think about) is what you spend your money on. Though expenses have their own categories, you always have regular “offenders” every month like your utilities, mortgage, or car payment. Sometimes utilities can sway a bit from month to month, but in general, they stay consistent.

You can’t forget about the other necessities like groceries, gas, clothing, household necessities, and other miscellaneous items. For your budget, it’s important to take into consideration everything that is going to require money. Depending on your family’s spending lifestyle, do you need to add or delete any categories? Think about this before moving on to the next step.

Set Priorities

Maybe you have student loans to pay off or maybe you and your spouse have a baby on the way. No matter what situation you find yourself in, your budget health relies on how well you prioritize.

  • Groceries: You have to feed you and your family, so first and foremost, set aside enough money for food. This should come before you worry about other bills. You may have to adjust it a bit depending on other expenses.
  • Utilities (Electric, Water): You have to keep the water running and the lights on, so these should take next priority. You might be asking, “isn’t my mortgage more important?” Well, living in a house without lights or water is no fun. The utility company won’t wait to turn your water and electric off if you don’t pay them. You tend to have slightly more leeway with your mortgage payment.
  • Mortgage or Rent: Don’t put this off unless it’s a dire emergency. Stay on top of it and don’t let it slip to the bottom of the pile!
  • Gas/Fuel: You have to put gas in the car to get to work, and if you can’t get to work, well, you’re not going to need a budget. (This is not a good thing!) Pay the monthly car payment and keep some gas in the tank. Tip: Be smart about your trips or try carpooling.
  • Clothing: You need to look appropriate at work and the kids need to be dressed for school, so if you’re only spending money on necessary clothing, that’s great! Don’t feel required to buy name brand clothing or accessories.

Once you’ve covered these 5 categories, you can move on to other sections of your budget that may vary from person to person. If you still have money left in your budget, you can include things like: Date Night, Cable, Family Entertainment, and other fun categories that should only be a part of your budget if you can afford to spend real money on them (not credit).

Final Touches

Many websites have free budgeting templates that will get you started. These make it pretty easy to figure out spending for monthly bills, since they don’t change much. You will have to make an estimate for gas and groceries. We suggest looking over your spending for those categories throughout the past couple of months and then finding an average. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you do want the most accurate idea of where your money will need to go.

Once you’ve figured out your grand total of expenses, you want to make sure that it doesn’t add up to more than your total income. If you end with a negative number, you’ll need to go back through and see what unnecessary spending can be cut out. If Income – Expenses = $0, you’ve successfully created your first budget! Some people prefer to have their final number greater than $0, just to provide a little wiggle room. This is naturally preferable so that you can begin to build up a small savings.

As you go through the next few weeks, chances are, you will have to make some edits to your budget. This is more than okay. Remember, it’s a process and it takes time to figure out. Don’t be discouraged at the thought of having to create a budget; instead be proud of yourself for taking a step towards managing your money skillfully.

Top Ten Money Saving Tips for Healthier Living

Cut coffee out of your budget (or at least brew it at home!)

If you have a daily caffeine habit you’d like to kick, let all the money you’ll save by cutting it out of your daily routine serve as an extra incentive to help you achieve that goal! However, if you are among the lucky folks who can enjoy coffee in moderation, there’s no need to deprive yourself even from a daily coffee habit. Just try to avoid coffee stands and restaurants where coffee is costly. Instead, consider investing in a home coffee machine like a cartridge coffee maker or an espresso maker, a reusable travel mug and even a milk frother if you prefer more gourmet-style drinks. These fancy gadgets can be more affordable than you think and will easily pay for themselves within a month or two if you’re a regular coffee drinker. Home coffee makers are convenient and easy to use, and reusing your own mug everyday also has a positive impact on reducing your carbon footprint to help protect the environment.

 

Clip online coupons from the convenience of your home computer

When people think about clipping coupons, it often sounds tedious to go through the newspaper and find relevant coupons each week. However, there are dozens of reputable websites online that offer both printable coupons that can be used in-store and coupon codes that can be used at online retailers. Anytime you’re about to make an online purchase, be sure to search your favorite coupon sites like Retail Me Not or Coupons.com to make sure you’re not eligible for any additional savings, a free gift or free shipping before committing to a purchase.

 

Seek out deep discounts at the grocery store

Did you know that every grocery store puts items on sale that aren’t even advertised in their weekly circular? That’s right! By knowing where to look you can save yourself even more money on your weekly grocery bill. If you’re looking for a dinner to cook the same night you shop, check out the butcher’s counter or the deli counter for discounted items that are close to their expiration date. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the reduced price food items, but they need to be prepared and consumed within a day or two in order to be guaranteed fresh. Many grocery stores also have a clearance section filled with pre-packaged, non-perishable and often seasonal items (think organic Easter candy!) they are closing out.

 

Cook and meal prep at home more to avoid buying lunches out

While eating out can be a fun experience to occasionally treat yourself to, eating out regularly can really dent your budget and your health! Even cheap fast food meals add up quickly, not to mention they aren’t the healthiest options with which to fuel your body. By always bringing a lunch and/or snacks to school or work you will be less likely to succumb to the temptation of eating out or pulling up to the drive-through window when hunger hits. Bringing lunch from home will save you a ton of money over the course of a year and even over the course of a month.

 

Cut back on trips to the salon by DIY

While treating yourself to an occasional trip to the salon should not be forbidden, try to limit the number of times you go to the salon every year. By purchasing a couple bottles of nail polish in your favorite colors and investing in a good quality nail file, with a little practice you can often achieve a salon-quality result at home. Recruit your best friend or significant other to trim your hair between salon haircuts. You can also successfully deep condition your own hair at home and even color your own hair at home for a fraction of the cost if you have a willing helper and a little patience.

 

Call your cable, internet and phone service providers to negotiate a discounted rate—whether you’re a new customer or not!

If you’re in the market to switch companies, now is the time to capitalize on the new customer discounts! Make sure to always inquire about their new customer rates any time you switch service providers. However, even if you’re an existing customer, it’s always worthwhile to call your providers periodically and ask them about any current promotions in your area and customer loyalty specials. You’d be surprised by the amount of money you can save just by asking.

 

Review your insurance policies

Call your insurance company to find out if you’re eligible for any multi-policy or multi-car discounts, non-commuter policies and safe driver discounts. If you have teenagers behind the wheel, ask if your insurance company offers a discounted rate for good grades. Your insurance company may also offer a discount for having extra safety features on your vehicle.

 

DIY your own all-natural cleaning products

Chemical cleaning products are not only expensive, they are also bad for your health! There are several inexpensive and effective alternatives that are much safer than most pre-made cleaning products you can buy at the store. Baking soda, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are all extremely affordable cleaning staples that you likely already have on hand in your pantry or medicine cabinet that can be used as key ingredients to make multiple cleaning products (think window cleaner, dishwasher tablets, toilet cleaner, etc.) easily and at a fraction of the cost of what you would pay to purchase each product individually. There are many informative video tutorials available online that will walk you through how to make your own all-natural cleaning products from scratch. After you’re done making your own products, you will have a powerful, safe and effective arsenal of cleaning products at your disposal.

 

Use apps to find the lowest gas prices

There are so many free and inexpensive apps that can help consumers uncover extra savings nowadays, even on necessities like gas! Special gas tracker apps find the lowest prices in real time and even show you where the gas stations are located on a map. This is a great option if you live in or nearby a city with multiple gas stations to choose from. Prices are always changing, so be sure to check before you fill up your tank each time.

 

Try consignment shops for clothing—buy, sell and trade!

Consignment shops are a great way to save on high-quality, gently used and sometimes even never-been-worn clothing. Even if you’re not in the market to purchase any new clothes, consider consigning, trading or selling your gently used clothes to a consignment shop to earn some extra cash and clear some clutter out of your closet while you’re at it!

How To: Overcome Financial Stress and Get Your Finances in Order

Before the Great Recession, financial stress was the number one worry of over 70% of Americans. Since the Great Recession, money issues have become increasingly depressing for some people. With the loss of a job or a decrease in income, many people can have a prolonged stress that sits like a ton of bricks upon their shoulders. This chronic financial stress is extremely detrimental to the body, and you will begin to affect the lives of those around you. Before you know it, you may start to rely on bad habits to relieve your stress. How can you get a foot in the door of overcoming your financial stress and straightening out your money matters? Well, it obviously doesn’t happen overnight, but if you keep reading, you may gain some insight as to how you can begin.

Setting Goals. 

Though you can’t control all of your circumstances, you can initiate steps towards improving them. One of the most important first steps is setting a goal. This might sound simple, but that’s because it is! Before you can even think about your goals, you need to take a step back and review your finances. Doing this on a monthly basis could be beneficial for you, and don’t forget to check out your budget to know where exactly your money is being delegated.

Once you’ve had a chance to look over and get really familiar with your debts and income, set some goals. We are always setting goals in life – (financial, fitness, education, etc) and this goal is just like the others. It should have a purpose and a particular plan of action that will help you to attain the goal. Rather than setting a broad goal, attempt to set specific goals. Maybe your goal is to have $5,000 in your bank account within the next 2 months. You can break that broad goal down into smaller goals, like making yourself more valuable to your employer or improving your business plan. No matter the goal, review your financial state, set a goal, and clearly define the parameters and steps needed to reach it.

Make it measureable.

As covered in the last paragraph, clearly defined goals will be of more benefit. A goal such as “having a lot of money” does not have clear parameters. Some financial professionals suggest keeping 3-6 months of expenses in your bank account. Rather than setting a goal of “I want to always have 6 months of expenses in my account, sit down and put an actual value to that 6-month amount. This will focus your mind on a specific number instead of a vague sum.

Realistic and Reachable.

When you are setting your goal, it’s crucial to ensure that it’s one that you can actually attain. If you don’t have a good chance of reaching the goal, what was the point in setting it? Since you’ve already reviewed your finances and budget, you know whether or not a goal is realistic. If the goal is realistic, in your mind, you know that it’s attainable. Maybe your goal is adding $500 to your savings account each month. If you’re currently struggling to pay rent and have a low income, that goal may be a little out of reach. Work with what you have.

Deadline.

If you have no time limit on your goal, it might take you forever to reach it, which in turn makes setting the goal a waste of time. Part of defining a goal is listing a deadline so that you are able to separate your one big goal up into smaller chunks. Focusing on reaching your goal week to week can be mentally easier than seeing a huge number in front of you and stressing about how to climb that mountain.

Financial stress can take a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional state, which is why it’s so crucial to alleviate at least a small portion of that worry. Now that you have a few pieces of advice on how to overcome your financial stress, don’t wait until you find yourself in a desperate financial state. If you aren’t sure how to go about everything on your own, don’t hesitate to get in contact with a professional debt resolution/credit repair expert. They will be able to help you in setting a proper budget as well as raising your credit score and negotiating with any creditors to whom you may owe outstanding payments.

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.

Divorce Doesn’t Have to Ruin Your Credit Score!

While the act of separating and/or getting divorced from your spouse won’t affect your credit score on its own, it is likely to cause indirect damage to your finances. So, while there won’t be a giant mark on your credit report that says “GOT DIVORCED, automatic 100 point deduction,” your score can and will begin to drop after a divorce if you aren’t hyper-aware of the potential damage.

In order to take proactive steps to maintain a good or excellent credit score during and after a divorce, you first have to know what you’re up against. Some of the biggest factors that cause divorcees financial strife include:

  • Suddenly dropping from two incomes to one income
  • Joint debt that goes unpaid by your soon-to-be ex-spouse
  • Shared bank accounts that can be drained by either party
  • Spiteful actions of one spouse, like running up a joint credit card balance
  • Lack of an independent financial identity and/or credit history
  • Divorce expenses
  • Child support and/or alimony

Even if the split is something that will ultimately make you happier, the process of getting to that end goal is undoubtedly going to be stressful. It is much easier to miss a bill payment or make other financial errors when you are stressed to the max.

Why is My Credit Score so Important After Divorce?

Losing a few credit score points shouldn’t make or break anyone, right? In many situations, this may be true. However, for those people who are going through a divorce, maintaining a solid credit score is IMPERATIVE.

You may need to buy or rent, initiate utility services for, and completely furnish a new home. In order to do so, your credit must be fair to good at minimum (ideally in the upper 600s or above).

Additionally, many divorcees seek higher-paying jobs in order to make up for the second income that was lost in the split. These days, it is common practice for employers to check the credit history of all potential hires before extending a job offer. If your score tanks during or after your divorce, it may prove difficult to make even a lateral employment move.

What Can I Do to Maintain a Good Credit Score After my Divorce?

As soon as you know that divorce is in the cards, your first move should be getting a current credit report from each reporting agency. This will allow you to know precisely what debts and recurring payments are officially your responsibility as opposed to your spouse’s.

“Knowledge is power, but only wisdom is liberty.” ~ Will Durant

After you have current credit reports in hand, it’s important that you take smart action based on the information contained in your report(s). For example, you may not have realized that your spouse listed you as an ‘authorized user’ on a credit card. If the card’s balance gets maxed out due to extra expenses during your divorce and your ex-spouse stops making payments, you could be held responsible for the balance. In addition to removing yourself from any joint accounts, you should:

  • Create an amended budget using your adjusted spending limit.
  • Make it a priority to make all of your payments on time.
  • Closely monitor any accounts that you’re unable to separate immediately.
  • Get educated on the topic of good financial habits.
  • Seek the help of a financial advisor or NJ credit repair attorney, if needed.