Topics We’re Talking About: Banishing Scary Costs

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Hello happy people! It’s Friday and this week – in honor of Halloween – we’re talking about frightening costs. More specifically, how to budget for and avoid them. PS boo!

I have to admit, I had a lot fun with this post. My mind splashed around in a pool of Halloween puns and references. I scoured the web for creative, inspiring posts (and found quite the treasure trove). And – importantly – I ate a Reese’s pumpkin as I did so. Who says there’s no room for fun in finance?

Though it’s the Halloween edition of “Topics We’re Talking About” post, scary costs are a year round obstacle. From spending leaks that slowly drain the health (vampire alert!) of your bank account, to once every full moon fees (werewolf alert!), to times when you indulge a little more than you planned to (candy alert!)… there’s nothing more frustrating than having a budget in place only to have it attacked by unwanted expenses.

Best Balance Transfer Cards: Do They Work for Debt Consolidation?

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One of the most overwhelming aspects of debt is the way that multiple loans — with multiple payments and interest rates — can cause a great deal of grief. It can be difficult to manage several loans at once, especially since you are likely to see a large portion of each payment go to interest rather than toward reducing what you actually owe.

Debt consolidation allows you to combine one or more debt accounts into one new loan or line of credit. You end up with one payment and an interest rate that is usually lower. While we recommend debt consolidation loans from peer to peer lenders as a good option, for some people (especially those with a high credit score) a balance transfer card can also work. The right balance transfer credit card can help you streamline your debt repayment and potentially save in interest. That said, not all balance transfer cards are created equal. It’s important to understand the terms and fine print before making your final decision.

Should You Have a Wedding When You’re In Debt?

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Truth be told I’ve never been much of a wedding-minded girl.

The closest thing I’ve come to planning a wedding was penning the vows for the Esmeralda/Quasimodo ceremony. Those would be used for my neighbor’s pet guinea pigs, by the way. Though a beautiful and budget friendly affair (turns out rodents don’t require much when they say “I do”), it didn’t take up too much mental bandwidth at the time. As I grew older, I didn’t develop much more interest in the details of planning for a future wedding.

That being said, a few weekends ago I went along with my friend as she shopped for her wedding gown at a lovely little boutique. There, in a room full of dresses I’d never given a second thought to, something remarkable happened. Slowly but surely the thought “They’re all so pretty!!!!!!!” crept into my head.

Boom.

All of a sudden, I went from mildly interested to brainstorming how I might justify buying a tiara to wear at Sunday brunches. What happened?!

In short, I experienced the “see, want” phenomena. I, the non-wedding minded girl, was suddenly considering the possibility of someday spending money on something I’d never considered spending money on before. All because I was in an environment that made these purchases compelling. This got me thinking… if even this wedding curmudgeon was persuaded to plan and spend, what about others already in the throes of wedding planning?

When it comes to weddings, there’s the ever present danger of letting the tide of excitement sweep you past a point of financial danger and then being pushed out further and further into sea. The problem is, weddings are expensive. Just last year, the average cost of a wedding hit $30,000.

Holy. Moly.

Best Student Loan Refinance Companies

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In the nearly ten years since I graduated college (!), the face of student loan debt has changed quite a bit. In my college days, we mostly joked about our loans. My classmates and I would look at our total debt number in comparison to our major and say, “Yeah, we’re going to be paying that off well into middle age…” or “We’ll probably have kids in school and still be paying these loans off.”

Now that there legitimately are many parents paying off their loans while putting their children through school (sometimes referred to as the “Sandwich Generation”), that joke doesn’t quite seem so funny. Nor does it seem so funny when facing my own 20 year repayment plan.

So why did my classmates and I joke about such a serious subject? Quite frankly, it was because that seemed to be the only thing to do. There was no way myself nor my friends could afford to pay for college out of pocket – and not getting a degree was simply not an option. We felt stuck in a situation that we couldn’t control and figured we’d deal with that bridge when we crossed it.

Well, the bridge has now been crossed.

17 All-Star Bloggers Share Their Best Fall Budgeting Tips

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Fall is finally here, and the holidays are right around the corner. For many, this time of year is ideal. The air feels crisp and fresh, the leaves on the trees put on a gorgeous display, and warm spiced drinks take over as beverages of choice.

But there’s a dark side to autumn and the impending holiday season. With parties, dinners, get-togethers, and gift-giving, the end of the year gets expensive, and fast. Don’t let the next few fun, festive months bust your budget. Plan ahead and prepare your finances now!

We recently hopped around the personal finance blogosphere to ask various bloggers to share their favorite fall budgeting tip to help you save more money this season. Check them out below, and put them to good use today.

Debt Consolidation Vs. Balance Transfer Cards: Which Is Best?

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When I was in my early 20s, I made a huge money mistake. A mistake so big that it led to several years of struggling with debt. A mistake that started off innocently enough but spiraled into larger and larger consequences due to the lack of foresight necessary to right the course.

So what was this huge mistake?

I ignored my financial instincts.

Now, I’m not against taking good financial advice. How could I be? I dispense it nearly every day. But I am against taking advice blindly. I am against not considering the source and not adjusting the advice to your own priorities. That’s when things can get dangerous. And that’s what led me to years of credit card debt.

My Big Debt Consolidation Mistake

At 24 years old I had $2,000 of credit card debt that I was struggling to pay off. Ironically enough, I was a personal banker at the time. I told a close friend (and personal banking colleague) that I wanted to take out an unsecured loan to pay it off. The loan would lock in a lower interest rate and give me a fixed payoff plan. It was just what I needed to both pay less for the debt and know for sure when exactly it would be paid off.

My friend then reminded me that I could take out a 0% interest rate balance transfer credit card. With that I would pay no interest at all the first year – the obviously cheaper choice. However, I was worried about it for one big reason: it required me to take on a new credit card.

I didn’t want a new credit card. Heck, I wanted to forget I ever even got one in the first place! And I certainly didn’t want to deal with any more revolving debt. I wanted a fixed rate and fixed payoff date. Revolving debt scared me – I wanted structure. And there’s a reason I wanted structure. I didn’t trust that I could pay it off in time and I didn’t trust myself with such easy access to credit. In the end, however, I took my friend’s advice…

….and ended up in debt for several more years.

4 Reasons Your Childhood Directly Affects How You Deal with Money

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When I was 16, I accrued a $12 library fine for a few books I failed to return on time. I knew my dad would have a word or two to say about it, but what followed was a 30 minute diatribe – at least– about how said fines and late fees could really mess up my credit one day.

Um, credit?

I proceeded to tell him that taking such a quantum leap was ridiculous, and I wasn’t ruining my entire financial future with a few measly library fines. But the long lasting result of that conversation, and several before that, was a paranoia about how my everyday decisions and purchases could be impacting my financial health and bottom line.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate how mindful my parents taught me to be  – I just know some of those lessons reap healthy habits in my current life stage, and some reap a few not so healthy habits.

The truth is, the way we grew up and the money lessons we gathered along the way can have a huge impact on the way we handle money as adults.

How exactly? Let’s take a deeper look.

Our first experiences with saving and spending is through witnessing the actions of our parents.

While my parents made it a point to take the family on at least one big trip a year, I knew that we always split meals at restaurants, and never purchased food or drinks at the movie theater. Through these unspoken rules, I learned how they prioritized their spending – they cut where necessary so they could comfortably spend on the things that mattered most to them.

Review of SoFi: My Experience Trying Student Loan Consolidation

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Do you ever hear of something that you know could make a drastic improvement in your life – but you think, “I’ll do that later”? You have every intention of taking care of it as soon as you can but inevitably you forget…and then you remember again (at another bad time)…and you forget…and so on.

This happens to me all the time. If I don’t either take care of something right away or set a calendar reminder on Google, it’s sure to never get done. That’s why – even though I’ve been feeling annoyed by the interest rate on one of my student loans for a long time now – I’ve just finally sat down to do something about it.

How this is possible when I work for a company that helps people pay of debt is beyond me. I mean, I literally think about debt payoff day in and day out; and yet I still sometimes manage to forget to do what’s best for myself financially. Simple proof that we all have the best of intentions but sometimes that’s just not enough for taking action.

So recently I was browsing through our blog and saw one of our ads for SoFi and I thought to myself, “Seriously, I need to see if I can get a better rate.” And that I did! But deciding to move forward on a student loan refinance isn’t quite that simple…Read on to learn more about my experience with SoFi.

The Secret To Saving? Share-economy (Plus 4 Other Tips)

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The success principles of personal finance are pretty simple: spend less and save more. Doing so will help you live within your means and grow your wealth.

Knowing this and putting the ideas into action, however, are two different things. It’s not hard to understand that we need to save, but it can be a challenge to make it happen on a regular basis. How can you save more money this week — especially if you’ve already kicked the expensive daily coffee habit and you’re tired of being told to cut your occasional latte?

For most of us, it’s an overused tip that doesn’t provide much value. We need better suggestions for creating serious savings.

Or at least, ideas that are fresh and provide us with new perspectives on evaluating expenses and cutting costs. Try one (or more!) of these 5 unique ways to save money right now:

1. Switch to a Non-Traditional Cell Phone Carrier

Smartphones are now the cell phone standard for most people, and this technology isn’t something many are willing to give up (even if it means big savings). Alternative options are slim, and in the past a drop in the price on your cell phone plan came with a drop in quality, phone selection, and service, too.

With new players in the game, however, consumers do have more options for lower prices on the phones they want and reliable coverage. Republic Wireless offers high-quality smartphones from Motorola on no-contract plans that start as low as $5 per month. Their most expensive plan tops out at $40 per month.

I mention Republic Wireless because that’s the provider I switched to from Sprint, and I was happy to drop my cell phone bill from $100 to $30 per month. (I’m on the $25 per month plan, which offers unlimited call and text with 3G data; with taxes and fees I pay right under $30.) I have the Moto X and am really happy with my experience.

There are additional options for non-traditional cell phone carriers, including Cricket, Freedompop, and Scratch Wireless. T-Mobile and Virgin are also providers worth considering, depending on what companies offer the best cellular coverage in your area.

Topics We’re Talking About: Champions of Financial Literacy

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When I first started working at ReadyForZero, I’d already been financially independent for some time. I pretty much started marking out (in some capacity) my money strategy the moment I graduated high school.

Even still, I’d never really considered myself to be a financial wizard. Then I started working for ReadyForZero. The (awesomesauce) blog offered me the opportunity to share my own financial knowledge and – importantly – prompted me to build upon this foundation. During the first few weeks, something pretty amazing happened: the more I threw myself into the topic of money, the more confidence I gained. No longer was I just chatting nonchalantly about rent and receipts. I was spouting off about things like APR, IBR, and gulp…. even index funds. No, I didn’t know everything, but I realized how much I was capable of learning

This from the same woman who earlier in life had substituted “you know… what’s-it-called” for about 70% of financial terms.

Learning the “money language” was one of the most crucial steps in the process of financial literacy. Whereas before I had the financial intuition, I didn’t necessarily have a way to communicate or organize it effectively. In order to speak with any fluency, I had to put in time to learn the language.

How is it that we learn a new language? By building up a vocabulary. Talking the talk. Having confidence in your potential and making an investment in your abilities. That’s exactly why I’m excited to be giving a blog drumroll to ReadyForZero’s upcoming course:

Destination Debt Free: A Six Week Course To Debt Freedom

shannonscreenshotsmallReaders, this is exactly the kind of course to help you achieve financial fluency in your life. Led by the incredibly talented Shannon McNay, this course offers the guidance and teaches the skills to help you achieve financial freedom. Beyond a supportive environment, it’s also an organized approach. The six week course breaks down what you need to know about creating a budget, paying off your debt, and creating a personal financial philosophy. Above all, Destination Debt Free provides you with the chance to learn a “language” that will assist you in all your future financial decisions.

But don’t just take my word for it… have a listen as the lady (and fellow partner-in-MoneyBuzz) herself explains it in a special MoneyBuzz style shout-out!


Whoa – talk about awesome! To sign-up to reserve a spot (space is limited!), head over to the course page.

» Learn more here!

Remember, whether in the form of a blog, a community, a podcast, or course, it’s essential that we practice, practice, practice in order to maintain and elevate that financial literacy.