A Personal Story: Bad Financial Advice and Debt Consolidation

This post is sponsored by Diamondlinks. Any opinions expressed are my own.

I’m going to tell you a personal story.  I’ve told some of my financial journey on this blog before. I wasn’t always so savvy with money. It took me learning the hard way then educating myself to fix it. I’m going to tell you a story about a piece of bad advice I once got from a realtor when we were trying to buy a house about 15 years or so ago.

It started off with me and my (now ex) husband living in a small apartment in SC with a new baby. My husband, of the time, had just got promoted but didn’t get as much of a raise as he thought he would get. I was trying to be a stay at home mom with my son.  Mostly because we had just moved to SC and I needed to get my OT license squared away in SC.  Long story short, we started getting behind on credit card and student loan payments. I talked to one of the credit card companies and they suggested I try credit counseling.  I was willing to give it a go and so was my husband.  So we did. It rolled everything together and made things much more manageable for us. Yes they did roll a fee into the payments but it made it better for us to budget and were were able to get back on track.

 

Fast forward a couple years and we want to build a house in Elgin, SC.  We were still paying on the debt consolidation and doing well with it. The our realtor, (who seemed  a bit uppity) kind of looked down on us for being in debt consolidation. She told us that we needed to get out of it because it was slowing our credit down and it wouldn’t look good on our mortgage application (even though we had already been paying on it for about 2 years and only had about a year or so to go.  Well we really wanted to buy a house and we figured she was probably the expert on this so we got out of the debt consolidation.

Well all that money we paid in then basically meant nothing after that. Creditors were calling us trying to get their money. We were overwhelmed everyone wanted all their money right now!  Hindsight being 20/20 we should have never bought a house anyway but we ended up being approved for a mortgage through Countrywide.  Yep the mortgage lender that ended up getting in all kinds of controversy now long after.  We were in over our heads.  Honestly I think that whole thing sealed our financial doom at the time. When I look back on it, I wish we would have stayed in the debt consolidation program, paid off our debt, and been denied for the mortgage and just stayed in an apartment. Especially, again with hindsight being 20/20, my ex and I ended getting a divorce not long after anyway. And NO it was NOT all financial related.

The reason I’m telling my story is that you have to find what works with you in your budget. Sometimes debt reduction can be just what a person need to get back on track.  You might pay a little longer but in more manageable payments or in some cases maybe help you erase some debt. Companies like Nationwide Debt Reduction Services even offer ways to  help with student loan debt.

Bottom line is, I don’t think there is a cookie cutter way to get out of debt. I think you need to do your research and decide what’s best for you.

 


Which Is Really Cheaper, Uber or Lyft?

Which Is Really Cheaper, Uber or Lyft?

As a mom trying to make each penny count, rideshare costs can be one area you can save some money. In fact, if you use ridesharing as a way to avoid the need for a second or third car you can drastically cut down on your monthly expenses.
Uber and Lyft have been in a heated rivalry for years now, and one of the ways they compete iswith price. That’s a good thing for us, and even though the prices in general may rise one day, currently they are cheaper than renting a car, taking a taxi, or in some cases driving your own car.

Uber and Lyft Pricing Comparison

Airport Trip – To see which service offers the best price we ran a comparison test with both
apps to see who could get us to the airport the cheapest. The trip would be almost 26 miles and take 28 minutes. The basic Lyft service would cost $39, while the UberX service would cost between $34 and $44.

The Results – That’s quite a range for the Uber estimate, and likely it would fall somewhere in
the middle, so very close to the $39 rate quoted by Lyft. In this case they are very comparable
and since one would get there in four minutes and the other would get there in three minutes
it’s almost a negligible difference. It is interesting to note that the same taxi ride was estimated at $65.70, so either way you’re saving quite a bit compared to a taxi.
Shorter Ride – Not satisfied with this longer ride example, we also calculated a shorter trip from the house to the grocery store to see if that made a difference. Again, there wasn’t much difference, with Uber saying it would cost between $6 and $8, and Lyft saying that they do it for $7.

Surge Pricing

Ridesharing is great during the day when there’s plenty of drivers available and prices are at
their lowest. Both Uber and Lyft have surge pricing, but Lyft’s is not as steep as Uber's so if you find yourself needing a ride after a girl’s night out, Lyft is most likely your best bet.
Cost vs. Riding Experience Much has been said about what it’s like to ride in an Uber versus riding in a Lyft. In this regard, Lyft seems to have the edge with more people rating their ride higher than with Uber. When you consider that the prices are so close to each other, it comes down to which ride will you enjoy more for the price.

Which Is the Best Value?

It may come down to which service works best in your local area and can pick you up the
fastest. Depending on which city you live in, or if you live in a more rural area, there may be
more Uber drivers or more Lyft drivers to be able to get to you more quickly.
With each app you can get an idea of how much the ride will cost and see which one will pick
you up the fastest to determine the best value in your town.


Waste not, want not: Rethink monthly outgoings to save money

Waste not, want not: Rethink monthly outgoings to save money

 

When you’re looking over your monthly budget again trying to figure out just where your money is going, it can seem like you have no more slack to cut. There’s several things we take for granted paying each month, like cable bills, car payments, and cell phone contracts, that we simply don’t question. But if you take a step back and evaluate these – and other expenditures – more closely, you might just find a few extra dollars after all, and in the run up to the holiday season this couldn’t come at a better time.

 

Re-evaluate monthly payments

 

It’s all too easy to sign up to a monthly subscription for something and then never really think about it again – and companies take advantage of this ‘too much trouble to switch or stop it’ mentality. However, you could be shelling out hundreds of dollars each month that you don’t really need to. Sit down and write a list of all your monthly payments – satellite or cable bills, cell phone charges, gym fees, and so on. Then think carefully about how much you really use what you’re paying for – are you just wasting your money? Do you really need those 200 channels if everyone watches (much cheaper) Netflix now? How many times have you actually been to the gym? Don’t feel you have to get rid of things you actually use, but swapping to a lower cost plan which better reflects your usage might be of benefit.

 

Payment plans or paying upfront?

 

Credit card interest and car payment plans are really common monthly expenditures for many American families. The average car loan in 2016 was over $30,000, meaning spending just under $500 a month. Selling your car and buying a used vehicle in cash can save a lot of money. The average American also has nearly $5,000 in credit card debts – and at a yearly interest rate of 15%, you’ll end up paying around $20,000 back over 10 years if you only make minimum payments. Switching to cash forces you to confront what you’re actually spending, and reduce the amount you end up spending on interest payments.

 

Daily luxuries – unnecessary?

 

Keep hold of your receipts and look at what you’re buying on a daily basis: one or two dollars a day really builds up over time. This could be through buying coffee and snacks, or picking a more upmarket brand of toiletries or household product. Try taking your own coffee and just treating yourself once a week or once a month; and experiment with own-brand household products – and only opt for premium brands if they’re on a really good special offer.

 

Don’t try to change everything all at once, or you might not stick to it; but thinking more critically about your monthly spending – particularly items we take for granted – can often turn up some opportunities for saving money.


Budgeting When You’re Unemployed or Low Income

 

Balancing Your Budget Using Assistance Programs

It can be tough to get by on a small salary, even with careful budgeting. Luckily, there are financial assistance programs designed to help low-income families manage their money and cover daily living costs without trouble. By utilizing government and nonprofit financial services, working individuals can more easily access and save up the funds they need to achieve financial stability.

Know Your Income and Expenses

No matter what your income is, whether you rely on aid programs or not, the most important step to financial success is to keep track of your spending. There are several major expenses to take into account when planning out your monthly budget, including:

  • Rent and utilities
  • Groceries and eating out
  • Insurance
  • Medical bills
  • Transportation
  • Student loans, credit card payments, and other forms of debt
  • Leisure costs

Once you’ve figured out how much money you’re bringing in (or losing) each month, you can set about planning how to pad your savings account and improve your cash flow. Low-income individuals can also look into whether or not they can apply for local, state, and federal assistance programs.

Find Out What Assistance You Qualify For

Applying for financial assistance can help to boost your overall income each month and make it easier to afford necessities such as food and rent. Even if your family receives aid, you may be eligible for additional programs that can help you to manage your expenses better each month. Assistance isn’t just limited to cash grants, either. You can find programs that help low-income families to afford food, a new house, or hefty medical bills without throwing off their budget. Such financial aid and benefits programs include:

  • Affordable rental housing
  • Food assistance
  • Financial aid for students
  • Retirement and pension benefits
  • Programs and benefits for active military

There are plenty of government assistance programs that make it easier for families to manage their money. If you want to know whether or not you qualify for any of these programs, many offer a convenient online pre-screening tool for applicants.

Find the Right Bank Account

If you rely on government assistance programs for financial support, you may be worried that you won’t be able to apply for loans with big banking institutions. A little bit of financial assistance can make it easier to open a new bank account, however. It’s important to shop around in order to find a bank that offers accounts with financial perks such as waived account fees, no minimum deposit amount, and overdraft protection.

It can be difficult to manage your money in a low-income situation, but luckily, government branches and nonprofit organizations are on hand to step in and offer assistance. Financial aid programs not only help families to afford the essentials but also gain the financial stability that they need to pull themselves out of the red and start building a savings account.