MORE than Finances

Get your finances in order, and get on with your life!


Make Money While Paying Off Debt

How to Work Towards a Healthier Bank BalanceNew Solutions to Help Defray Debt’s Stranglehold On Life

There are many ways to save money. You can use green options to replace grid-based energy and utilities, you can make some extra money online through various agencies when things are tight, and you can even use crowdfunding in order to overcome expenses or difficult financial situations.

When it comes to loans of the student, business, and personal variety, the payback will be specifically regimented, often in the manner of paying a certain amount every month. The reason lenders can afford to do this is because of something called “interest”. Basically, interest is an added fee to your existing loan.

Such loans can be sustained for decades at a time, though you should be aware that the initial cost of the loan may double over years. The best solution is to pay as much into a debt as possible, and as regularly as you can. Ideally, you’ll avoid debt altogether, but in today’s society that is next to impossible. So plan ahead.

As points out, a good sample business debt settlement agreement would incorporate principles which are strategic; those paying a debt would ideally: “Set aside funds each month during debt settlement negotiation to pay…creditors once your debt settlement company successfully negotiates a lower balance.”

Common Difficulties

The problem is that it isn’t always possible to directly set aside funds based on your current monthly spending. The key is cutting the fat, polishing away the dross, and diminishing your unnecessary expenditures on a regular basis. Don’t buy any new clothes for a while. Don’t finance anything else. Stop buying $5 coffees!

In a 30-day month, a $5 coffee every day comes out to $150 in a month. How much is that in a year? $1,800. Now imagine spending the same amount on fast food. By eliminating these two indulgences, you can cut out up to $3,600 in costs. If you start buying coffee at the grocery store and cooking at home, it will be realistic to expect to save up to $3,000 annually.

Now: if you’ve already got a loan payment, and you’re able to hit it every month anyway, such cost consolidation can additionally increase your pay-back on the loan. If you were paying $400 a month on a $10.000 loan, by cutting out expensive coffee, you can now pay $550 every month.

When All Else Fails
But sometimes individuals are in a situation where they’ve already consolidated their expenses and are still having trouble paying their regular bills. In such situations, it may make sense to contact relief organizations and institute a crowdfund. There are countless groups who are dedicated to helping people help themselves.

Or you might look into green energy. A $300 solar energy system including a power inverter, a surge controller and a battery can produce around 100 Watts per hour. You can charge your smartphone and laptops for free, thus minimizing your utility bill.

Using techniques like this will allow you to increase your payments on a monthly basis by consolidating expenditures. This means that you can still save money with shrewdness. All you’ve got to do is budget strategically, and use all the means you have at your disposal. If you’re able to pull in $2,000 a month—which is achievable even at a low-end job—you can succeed.

Search for the least-expensive housing solutions you can find. It’s definitely possible to live sustainably for around $500 a month or less, single or not. If you also spend $500 on food, gasoline and unexpected expenses, you will have additional $1,000 that can be split between paying back the loan and savings. It just requires forethought and discipline to achieve.


Getting the Most out of a Mortgage Loan

new-home-1664262_6404 tips on getting the best deal

For homeowners, one of the easiest ways to get extra cash to pay bills, take care of unforeseen emergencies or plan upgrades to their home or personal business is by taking out a mortgage loan. These loans use the equity you have built up in your home as collateral to borrow money from a bank, mortgage company or any other financial institution.

As opposed to personal loans, mortgage loans are easier to get because homes and property have value and are used to secure the loan. If a person defaults on a mortgage loan, the lender can foreclose on the property to get back some of the money that was loaned.

How to borrow against your house

To get the best rate for your second mortgage, you need to have a good credit score and know exactly how much money you want to borrow. Since a second mortgage will be paid back concurrently with the original one, you don’t want to overextend your ability to pay it back.

Once you have determined how much money you need, start looking at who to borrow from. Although going to your original mortgage company is usually the safest way to borrow money against your home equity, it isn’t always the only way or the best way for that matter.

  • Make sure your credit score is good. When your credit score is high, even doing business with your current bank or mortgage holder is easier. The higher your score, the more leverage you have with your financial institution.
  • Know the current market. Interest rates are a leading indicator of the financial landscape, but they don’t give you valuable information about how a bank or financial institution does business. Do your homework.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are borrowing money and using your home as collateral, that gives you every reason to want to know about all the aspects of the loan process. Don’t let yourself be bullied into agreements that you do not understand.
  • Read the fine print. Everything has a price and most of the ‘hidden’ fees and costs can be found in your contract. Read it, ask questions and don’t sign it until you understand what it says.

All financial institutions are not alike

Although interest rates are a prime consideration in who you refinance through, it should not be your only consideration. Fees, requirements and interest payments also play key roles in deciding who the best lender for you should be.

Communication is also very important. Since most of the communication between you and the finance company will be with a single person, you want to ensure that you can work and communicate clearly with your mortgage loan originator.

What is a mortgage loan originator?

In a nutshell, a mortgage loan originator is the person who works with you to complete the loan process. He or she is your main point of contact at your financial institution and will walk you through the entire procedure. Although you will be borrowing money from the bank or mortgage company, the mortgage loan originator is the face of the transaction.

If you are uncomfortable with your mortgage loan originator, you can ask for his/her replacement or go through a different financial institution or bank. It cannot be stressed enough that having a positive relationship with your loan originator can make the entire mortgage process easier.

Although refinancing your mortgage is not your right, you have every reason to want to get the best deal possible while setting the terms of the agreement. In addition to having collateral, your credit rating and credit history should earn you the respect of our financial institution.


Vehicle Driving Etiquette: Know When to Turn Off Your High Beams

key-949094_640When you first got your license, you got behind the wheel assuming that most people try to follow the rules of the road when they drive. But the first time you rolled up to a four-way stop sign and watched someone accelerate out of turn, you realized: Many drivers ditch driving etiquette the moment they leave the DMV. This bothers you, and it should! Not only is it just plain rude, but it makes driving more dangerous and difficult for everyone else.

Or maybe you’re a long-time driver wondering if you’re the person offending others on the road. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate some of your driving habits to make every commute to work a little smoother.

Either way, here’s a quick refresher on some common vehicle driving etiquette: 

High Beams

We all know the feeling of helplessly squinting against someone else’s high beams. As the oncoming vehicle gets closer, you wait for them to switch to low beams. If they don’t, you’ll have to steady your hands on the wheel and avert your eyes until they pass.

Don’t be this person. While high beams are useful for rural driving, open highways or certain types of weather, they are not optimal for use in nearby traffic. As writes, “Be sure to switch off your high beams when you see an approaching vehicle. High beams make it difficult for other drivers to see the road.”

In fact, some states have laws regarding switching from high to low beams when other vehicles approach. It’s not just courteous and safe; it may spare you a citation.

Using the Blinker

How are other drivers supposed to know what your next move is if you don’t use your blinker? While you might know that you’re planning to switch lanes or make a turn, others can’t read your mind.

What are the consequences of drivers neglecting to use their turn signals? One study from the Society of Automotive Engineers shows that neglecting to use turn signals properly may cause as many as two million accidents per year in the U.S. and occur 750 billion times annually.

The moral of the story: Use your turn signals before changing lanes or completing turns. And if you change your mind, turn it off as quickly as possible so other drivers can react accordingly. You may just cut down on the risk of a multi-vehicle crash for yourself and others. 

Highway Merging

Sometimes merging onto the highway means anxiously hoping that the drivers already on the highway will let you join. Mistimed merging can lead to scary situations—from getting rear-ended on the on-ramp if you have to slam on your breaks to getting scraped against the guardrail if you have to dodge an oncoming vehicle.

If you’re the merger, you need to get up to speed so you match the flow of traffic. As the National Motorists Association points out, pulling out into traffic that’s going 20, 30 or 40 miles-per-hour faster than you can cause a dangerous accident. You’ll also be delaying the cars behind you. Use the merge lane as a chance to accelerate and match traffic; then check frequently to make sure that you’ve found an open spot and can make a safe merge.

If you’re already on the highway and see that someone is trying to merge, move over to the left if it’s safe to do so. If you absolutely can’t switch lanes, either speed up or slow down so the merging car has a comfortable cushion to enter the highway.

Insured Driving

Unlike overt driving habits, you have no way of knowing if other motorists have insurance—until you get into an accident. The Insurance Research Council found that uninsured driver claims totaled $2.6 billion in 2012. This can end up raising the premiums for all drivers across the board.

It’s good etiquette (not to mention a legal requirement in most states) to have at least minimum liability coverage, although you may want to protect your vehicle with a collision or comprehensive plan. Taking the time to compare car insurance rates ahead of time will give you confidence on the road, regardless of whether other drivers are as thoughtful.

If we all follow basic driving etiquette, the roads will be a better place. We all have the power to prevent accidents (or at least a bout of road rage or two) by doing our part.


Is Debt Consolidation Right for You?

Working Overtime - A Blessing Or A Curse3 reasons to refinance before you are caught in the debt cycle

A vast number of Americans live in a the debt cycle of spending more money than they have coming in while financing their existing debt. There are many reasons that people fall into the debt trap, yet only a precious few ways to break out of it.

The current sluggish economy has made it difficult to break out of the debt cycle. Cost of living continues to rise at historic rates, but income has remained relatively stagnant for the last few years.

What is the debt cycle?

Although not all debt is bad, having debts that you are unable to pay or debts that take away from your standard of living is not a good thing. Many of us rack up a lot of debt going through college, buying a house or after a severe illness or accident.

Paying off that debt can lead to an unsustainable lifestyle as we are forced to choose between paying our living expenses or paying off our debt. Since the immediate effects of not paying rent or a mortgage, skipping car payments or not buying groceries are apparent, the bills that most often don’t get paid are the ones that have no immediate effect other than on our credit rating.

The importance of credit

Generally, concern for our credit rating is well down on the list of needs. Food, shelter, work all come above it, but the health of our credit rating can have major effect on our standard of living, especially as we get older.

In addition to making it more difficult to buy large ticket items like a home or vehicle, a poor credit rating can cause unexpected problems when trying to get a job, getting auto or home insurance or renting an apartment or a house. Keeping your credit rating in decent shape should be a top priority.

Fixing your credit once it is damaged

If your credit rating isn’t in decent shape, there are steps you can take to repair it. However, the first thing you must do is to correct the underlying problems. Paying off your bills only to immediately begin accumulating them again only reinforces the debt cycle. To break free, you must fix the behavior that causes the problem in the first place.

Identify your financial problems, create a budget and reduce your spending, especially your use of credit cards that cause more debt. If that doesn’t solve the problem then there are things you can do to repair your credit rating.

  • Get copies and review your credit reports. In 2013 the Federal Trade Commission found that 25 percent of credit reports had errors in them. These can range from incorrect billing to outdated information. Fixing your credit might be as simple as discovering and disputing an error.
  • Raise your credit limit. Although this might seem counterintuitive, raising your credit limit on your credit cards but not utilizing them can improve your credit utilization ratio. This ratio is the percentage of credit you use compared to the credit you have. The lower the percentage, the better your credit is. Raising your limit while paying off your credit cards and not using them will improve the score.
  • Get a debt consolidation loan. Refinancing existing debt and consolidating payments can have multiple benefits. Your payments are lowered, there is less of a chance for a mistake to damage your credit and you only make one payment per month as opposed to multiple. Merging debts is not for everyone, but to see if debt consolidation is right for you, you should speak to a professional who is familiar with it.

Fixing your credit can be a lengthy process, so don’t expect overnight improvements in your rating. Patience and persistence will carry you through until your credit score is decent again.


How to Get Legal Advice

hammer-719068_640If you’re running a business, it’s vital to know how to get legal advice. If there is any legal point you are uncertain on, seeking advice in advance is a cost well worth paying to avoid larger penalties later. Not paying for an expert’s input is the worst kind of false economy.

That still leaves the question of where to go for your legal advice. There are many different kinds of law specialist, dividing barristers from solicitors, and each of these kinds of lawyer divide further into different specialisms. The lawyer you want to read a contract before you sign it is not necessarily the ideal one to advise you if a customer has injured themselves on your premises and seeks reparations.

Barristers spend most of their time representing clients in court. Ideally, you will not need the services of a barrister, as our aim is to take advice early and negotiate to avoid getting as far as court. You’ll mostly be speaking to solicitors.

Solicitors represent clients and give advice in all sorts of legal situations. While they can appear in court with sufficient training (where they are referred to as ‘my friend’, rather than ‘my learned friend’), they mostly support clients with advice and documents.

You’ll need to find business solicitors who can meet your needs. Whether you’re working mostly with property and need a conveyancing solicitor, or want a commercial solicitor who specialises in reviewing contracts, there are two main ways to find what you need.

LawyerLocator is a handy tool for finding legal firms near you, that also shares community reviews and information so can assess if they are right for you. The nearest firm might not be the best one – it’s worth travelling a little longer to find someone who specialises in what you need, and reviews tell you gives a great service.

You could also consult your network – a personal recommendation from a trusted peer is the best endorsement of a business. You’ll likely know a number of other people in a similar situation to you, either working in your industry or simply facing the same challenge of a running a small business in your area. Talk to them about who they use for their legal needs. They may be able to recommend a hidden gem who is absolutely perfect for what you need from a legal consultant.