Financial Advice for College Students or Recent Graduates

With today’s increasing cost of tuition, housing and food for the average college student, funding the college experience can be challenging. If you’re like most college students, you’ll be turning to financial aid, personal loans and even credit cards to keep up. However, four years of building up those debts can mean years – even decades – of credit issues after graduation.

Saving money before and during college is one of the best strategies for protecting your credit and staying one step ahead of the financial game. Here are some tips on saving money, finding resources for funding and dealing with finances after you graduate:

Tips for Saving Money Before and During College

Most college students don’t even begin to think about saving money during college – until they deplete their savings account completely. Staying ahead of your finances may involve creating a budget and really taking a close look at your expenses. Keeping tabs on your expenses each week can help you manage your money so you don’t become just another ‘broke college student’ as you move through your educational career. After you narrow down your real ‘needs’ versus ‘wants’ you can create a workable plan by:

-Cooking at home vs. eating out

-Carpooling to save on gas

-Sharing a vehicle with a roommate or friend

-Living with roommates to save on rent

-Limiting social activities to the weekends

-Shopping at thrift stores and discount shopping outlets for clothing and accessories

Saving money from a part-time job during high school is one of the easiest ways to build up some financial strength for those college years, and you can set these funds aside in a money market or other high-interest investment account to earn as you go.

Still, even the most frugal budget can leave you short of funds when it comes to paying for books and that upcoming semester. If that’s the case, you’ll need to secure other sources of funding such as scholarships, grants and possibly a part-time job.

Other Sources of Funding for College Students

If you want to avoid interest-bearing student loans and personal loans to get you through college, there are additional resources available. Some of the best ways to fly through college without damaging your finances include:

-Securing local and national scholarships

-Working on the weekends or around your class schedule

-Applying for grants and work-study programs where you earn both college credit and a (modest) wage

-Having your employer sponsor you (if you work full time)

Dealing with Finances After Graduation

Making the shift from the college lifestyle to the ‘real world’ can be tough, and very few college students head to the working world completely debt free. Student loans and credit card debt often accompany that degree in hand, and you will be paying off these debts for years to come. Still, there are ways to take control of your finances as soon as you take off the cap and gown.

You can:

-Set up an investment savings account and make monthly deposits.

-Keep up with a monthly budget

-Live with a roommate to save on rent costs

-Take a second job to pay down student loan debt faster

Managing your finances during or after college requires a diligent commitment to stay ahead. It’s easy to fall into the trap of credit cards and overspending when you’re busy studying and socializing, but creating a budget and maximizing your resources can help you enjoy the college experience without the financial burden.

How to Evaluate Mortgage Reduction

If you have a mortgage you may want to consider a mortgage reduction plan. When you pay off your principal balance faster you will save yourself money in finance charges. The longer your loan term is the more money you pay in finance charges. A mortgage reduction plan can help you achieve your financial goals and objectives.

When you add additional principal payments to your mortgage you are able to pay it down faster, which increase the amount of equity in your home. Equity if determined by taking the value of your home and subtracting the outstanding balance. If your home is valued at $100,000 and your balance is $65,000 you have $35,000 of equity. Any additional principal payments should be sent to your mortgage company with written instruction, to your mortgage lender, explaining how the funds should be applied.

The price of your home can be reduced substantially if the economy is facing a recession, but adding additional payments to your loan can help counter the effects of having the value of your home reduced. When you get ready to sell your home the extra payments will help you realize more of a profit as the balance is lowered.

An amortization schedule or table will let you know exactly how much more money should be added to your standard payment if you want your mortgage paid off by a particular year. You can change up the amounts of money added to your payment to see how much time is cut from your term. A new amortization schedule can be run every time an extra payment is made to see how much time has been cut from the original mortgage loan. You also get a run down on the amount of money you save with finance charges.

Once your mortgage is paid off you have a number of things the extra money can be used for such as investments, credit card debt, home improvements, or even tuition. Having a home that is paid in full can go a long way towards helping you achieve your financial goals and objectives. If you need to borrow additional money you can even use your home, which is free and clear for that purpose.

There are a number of companies that will do a free mortgage reduction analysis which allows you to see how much is needed to get your home paid off on a particular date. Using an amortization schedule and mortgage calculator can give you the mechanisms needed to perform this task yourself.

Five Recession Traps to Avoid

A sluggish economy brings out more than just long unemployment lines and frustrated citizens. It brings with it a host of predators who seek out individuals who are at the end of their rope. It can be really tempting to buy into some of the options that are often marketed to the average consumer. In order to get through tough economic times, you’ll need to be even more diligent in weeding out those opportunities that seem a bit too good to be true. Here are some common recession “traps” that make their way into the media (and even your neighborhoods)-ideas that seem logical, but may end up costing you money (or much more) in the long run.

Car Title Pawns

No one can tell you how to feed your family when your back is up against the wall. But it seems that everywhere you turn, there are car title pawn commercials beckoning you to ease your financial woes. Companies like TitleMax can be a bonus for emergencies (especially minor household “catastrophes.”) But it is extremely important to evaluate your financial situation before entering into this kind of agreement. Be sure that you completely understand the terms of your agreement, and will be able to handle the payments. These kinds of companies have the right to repossess your vehicle if you are seriously delinquent, but would actually prefer not to. In short, these commercials run day and night, hoping that frantic consumers will take the bait. Be certain that your needs actually warrant this kind of financing option.

Loan Modification Scams

Those who have managed to hold onto their homes in the face of job loss are typically concerned with keeping their homes. You’ll probably also see many more “loan modification” ads (in print and on TV) than you might imagine. These companies know that people are seeking out all sorts of survival options during the recession. As such, many of these options are scams. If a company seems to good to be true, it probably is. Do your homework before signing any paperwork, or making any arrangements. You should also never offer any money upfront to an organization that claims it could help you reduce mortgage payments or erase debt in any way. In fact, you may even want to attempt renegotiating with your lender. This is always the best place to start to avoid getting into a position where you could be evicted for failing to meet “new loan” agreements.

Grocery Store “Sales”

For the most part, you can easily tell when you’re being “taken” at the supermarket. But lately, you might find that some supermarkets offer sales on certain items after you have spent a particular amount of money. For those who are already in the store, spending their unemployment checks on a huge basket of items, this might be beneficial. But some who don’t read the fine print on the labels in the store might not realize that the items they’re picking up will not be reduced unless the spend say, $25 or more. Always read the fine print when a sale seems exceptionally juicy. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t always check out his grocery receipts, you’ll return home to find that you’ve spent more than you planned on items that you don’t really need.

Credit Cards (Pre-paid or otherwise)

One might think that offering credit cards to consumers during a recession isn’t a smart move. But you would be surprised by the number of people who lean toward this option as a way of paying off debts or surviving during a slow economy. Some companies offering pre-paid credit/debit cards are completely legitimate. But there are so many organizations in existence that you’ll really need to do your homework. For instance, you may find one Visa card option that seems great for your budget and financial situation. But in the fine print, you may have failed to realize that the card holds a $10 monthly fee that you’ll be responsible for–whether you use the card or not. Thus, you have just created a new bill for yourself where there was none before. These kinds of cards can really help to improve your credit score if they are used properly. But if you’re seeking out one of them merely to get through a financial crunch, you may want to re-evaluate your application.

Job Offers

There are millions of scam artists who supply people with fraudulent checks to cash, in exchange for returning a small portion of “lottery winnings.” In the same vein, beware of those predators who rely on distraught job seekers to become unwilling participants in their money scams. Those using the Internet to find employment are particularly susceptible. The scammers place ads placed on various career websites, hoping to reel people in. They provide information that looks legitimate, and will ask for typical contact information, including an email address. But the ad (with contact request) is merely a ploy to get your email information. They will then send to you correspondence that looks like a job offer, but is in actuality-an advertisement for their business. Some scammers will even ask for money for “training programs”, etc. These are usually easy to spot. But with a flimsy economy, the scammers are becoming savvier in concealing their true intent. Some of them seem like real companies.

Basically, you should be wary of any job offer that has arrived too quickly after contacting the “employer.” A good rule of thumb is to investigate every single company that you’re considering for employment. Do so before providing any contact information. Check career forums and blogs; you may be surprised that there are other people who have fallen prey and are willing to share their experiences with others.

Using Your Credit Card to Manage Your Finances

Before I begin, only someone who is wise enough not to get into debt can use this method and if that person figures he is getting over their head, he should pay by cash, check or debit card. However, the wise money manager can use this method to manage his finances.

True, you may need cash and loans for big items. For instance, tollbooths and some dollar stores do not take credit cards, and neither does it look good to put your name and your credit card number in the collection plate at Church, but for most purchase, you can depend on your Master Card or Visa.

First, this will only work if your credit card carries no annual balance, has a cash-back, or points system. You must be able to pay your balance off every month and not even carry over one cent and think of your credit card as a debit card with a bonus. After so many points, you get a trip, an Mp3 player, new sheets, or whatever.

It also helps if you have a high interest savings account that you will transfer into your checking account and then after that, placing the amount you spent onto your credit card account. If you got one of those credit card insurance, it would be best to put the money on the statement before you use the card, and after a time, you will be able to estimate how much you will need.

Now many checking accounts do not carry interest unless they run into thousands of dollars, and many businesses prefer either credit or debit cards. With debit cards, the money comes out of your bank account almost instantly, whereas with credit cards, you get a little leeway.

Before you use this, you have to make sure you know what your spending habits are, because if you put almost everything on credit, and pay off each month, you cannot have surprises. So, the first thing you should do is to figure out what you cannot put on credit, the purchases you make at the Dollar Store, the odds and ends you pay cash for, and the surprises such as group wedding gifts, showers, et cetera, also anything that you cannot use your card. After this, figure out your annual payments or anything that costs considerably much. For these, you will have to deposit money into your high interest savings account and then when you have enough, you withdraw the money into your regular savings or checking account, charge the item, and then you are so many points to your goal.

After this, you make a list of what you spend each month, and then you are all set. You can now use your credit card as a debit card with no worry.

iPod Touch / iPhone Financial Applications

With the New Year ringing in, people tend to make resolutions for the upcoming year. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions involves money. This is either paying down debt or saving money for a specific goal. If you have an iPod Touch or iPhone the following are good applications to use to achieve this goal.

Before you can get a hold on your finances you need to get a handle on where your money goes. Consider using an application such as iXpenseIt to input your expenses. It will generate reports based on your transactions so you can find out where your money goes. You can also use this application as budgeting software.

Don’t want to keep a check register anymore? Use an application such as Balance to replace the paper/pen register you carry around. Never run out of room in your register again.

Once you know where your money is going, consider downloading a debt snowball application such as Pay Off Debt. Input all your bills and the interest rates and record when you make payments. You can also input an extra payment and it will show you how long it will take to pay off the debt based on the information you input. It will also calculate your total debt load based on the balances for each debt.

iStash is where you can input your savings information. It can track multiple accounts. Input what your goal is and update it as you put money aside. It has a visual of a thermometer so you can slowly see it rise to the top.

Consider getting an application such as mSecure to keep your passwords, account numbers, vehicle numbers, website logins, and insurance information. Just be sure to password protect the software to prevent unauthorized viewing.

Depending on who you bank with, they may have developed their own application. Banks such as ING and US Bank have their own mobile application you can download. You can download Mint.com and Quicken Online. Paypal has their own application as well.

Want to list you New Year’s resolutions out to keep them at hand? Make It Happen is a goal oriented software that lets you input your goals and keep track of your progress.

No matter what program and route you decide to use, just remember to keep your ultimate goal in sight. Your personal route can be as simple or detailed as you want it to be. The iPod Touch has many useful financial applications.

The Business Class and Style of Singapore

Singapore has surpassed the heavy weights in the world of international finance by becoming the leaders in business travel satisfaction. World Bank has voted Singapore number #1 for business location in the world. Singapore is a vibrant country full of surprises and wonderment for tourist. But, for the business class sect there is no greater nation on the planet for first class business facilities and convenience. International business travelers continue choose Singapore as their first choice for international business gatherings. The astonishing business class services from hotels to restaurants in Singapore goffer the extra mile for those in Singapore on business rather than mere pleasure purposes. During their stay in Singapore, professional businessmen and woman can expect only the best. From the minute you touch down at the Singapore Changi Airport business class impeccable services commence. Singapore Changi Airport has come up with the perfect solution for the business traveler on the go. Creating an airport porter style service for those rushing to business meetings with no time to store their baggage at the hotel. This porter service will check your bags in and transport them directly to your hotel while you are away at your meeting. For those looking for an instant hotel option upon touching down at the Singapore Changi Airport there is the Crown Plaza Hotel situated at Terminal 3. This hotel boast of being the only one to greet you as you exist your plane, assist you to your hotel and get you settled into to room personally.

The M Hotel is also one of Singapore’s great business class options for travelers. This 4 star hotel spares nothing when it comes to making your business stay the best in town. It is fully equipped with no less that 40 business offices for hotel business guest to use. The hotel is located in the hub of the financial district adding additional convenience for those conducting business in the neighborhood. With all the amenities of a luxury end hotel at your finger tips this hotel is one to place at the top of your list. When in search for a hotel providing you with state of the art in business center facilities but located in the heart of everything, the St. Regis Hotel is perfect. Located on the glamorous Orchard Road, this hotel is first class all the way especially for their business traveler guests. The stylish suites make you feel right at home. The most astute art collection is housed within this most elegant hotel for guest to appreciate. This hotel makes the business travelers stay a breeze with butler services that takes the stresses of the day away. Being located on the shopping road of the century in Singapore does not guarantee that you will have time to do a spot of shopping yourself. That’s where your butler services come in handy as luxury goods can be brought to you in your suite for a private viewing making shopping a real cinch. Singapore continues to impress all who arrive at its shores with stylish living. This is especially so for the business travelers of the world who return to Singapore again and again.

A High School Student’s Guide to Managing Finances

When you are a high school student, money matters are cool and important things. You think about earnings, jobs and what you can do with money. Here are some tips for you to enter that complex adult system.

There are a lot of jobs for high school student. But always remember your homeworks issue and government issue about young employment.

Now that you have some money, it’s time to think about what to do with it. I started a bank account when I got my first job. It’s not only a great way to start budgeting, but is also a convenient way to keep up with your money. Ask your parents, guardian, or a trusted adult where he or she banks. This is a way to do some research on which bank might be best for you. Also, your parents or guardian may have to cosign with you on the account, so it may be more convenient to bank in the same location. At many banks, students are eligible for accounts with free checking and a debit card. This could be a major factor when deciding which bank to choose.

A debit card and checks are good things to have. Today, debit cards are quickly replacing checks as the most popular way to access funds in your bank account. Still, there are pros and cons to each. When you have a debit card, because it is so easy to use, you may be tempted to spend a lot. You may not save receipts or keep an accurate record of your deposits and purchases. DO NOT fall into this trap. Receipts are the only way to make sure your records are accurate. What if your card was stolen or your account was compromised? You would never know or be able to prove your case if you didn’t have the appropriate documentation.

That leads me into the safety issue of debit cards. Be careful to protect your pin number and do not share it with anyone except maybe a parent or guardian. When you type in your pin, be careful to make sure that you do not show the card number or your pin number to anyone. You never know who is watching you, so keep the card in the palm of your hand or in your wallet until the cashier asks for it. Finally, when using the Internet to make purchases with your debit card, be careful. Never pay using a site unless it has a valid security certificate, which is indicated by a closed lock in the bottom right hand corner of the browser window. When entering your card number, double check to make sure it is correct. In order to ensure that no one can access your account information except you, be sure to log out of any site when you finish your transaction, and don’t forget to print or save your receipt. Keep your passwords private and hard to crack, i.e. don’t save them on your computer. Now that your checking account number can also be used for online payment options, you should be careful when using it too.

Another pitfall with checks is the infamous account “overdraw.” What this means is that you write a check for more money than you have in your account. NEVER EVER do this. Sometimes people will write a check for a few things from the drug store anticipating a trip to the bank before the check clears, but Murphy’s law (what can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible time) will always hold true in this case. Also, there is a hefty penalty from your bank and the merchant for a bounced check. Again, keeping receipts and always balancing your checkbook as you make your purchases (and checking them against your monthly statement) will prevent this. Usually, for a small fee, you can get overdraft protection for your account (which is an especially popular offer for student accounts). If you ever lose your checks or debit card, if they get stolen, or if you think your account has been compromised, report it to your bank immediately and work with them to get your account frozen and to get a secure account again. Some banks even monitor your account for you and report anything that may seem suspicious. Be sure to ask about this before you sign up for an account. Remember, services and fees differ from bank to bank.

There are many options for credit cards, which means that you need to do your research in order to find the one that is best for you. Consider getting a card that has some sort of rewards program. You can get cash back on purchases, airline miles, even money to use at amazon.com or Best Buy. As a student, never pay a fee for a card. Be aware of the interest rates on credit cards. They matter if you don’t pay off your balance monthly. Banks love to make credit card offers to students, but be a smart credit user. You don’t want to get a card just because it is easy to do, use it, never pay anything but the minimum balance, and thus be indebted to the bank or store for the rest of your life. You probably only need one credit card right now, and it needs to be one you can spend anywhere, not just at a particular store.

Also, NEVER spend more money than you have. If you do this, the interest you will have to pay on the balance can be very costly. Not only will this end up costing you more money, but it also hurts your credit rating, something that will follow you for the rest of your life. A good credit rating can come in handy when you are going to buy a car or your first home. The moral of the story is: don’t buy anything you don’t need unless you have the money (or have budgeted) for it. Always make sure your payment is made on time. Finally, the same safety rules that apply to your debit card apply to your credit card.

Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes,” and his quip is still true today. Taxes are a fact of life, and you should pay them or the IRS will eat you. You are obligated to pay taxes on income, whether it is cash or check, and your employer should pay taxes on you too. Make sure to check the tax laws regarding how much money you have to make/earn before you must file a return. At your age, you are probably not making enough and do not have complicated income sources and deductions, so it may be possible to do your taxes yourself, though you can get an accountant to do them. Sit down with your parents or guardian and fill out a sample form, then fill out the real one, copy it, and put it in a file. This file that you keep your tax forms in is also a good way to keep up with a lot more of your important papers, such as credit card and bank account information as well as your receipts and deposit slips.

Making a budget may sound like something for your parents to do, but it is actually important to start one when you get your first steady source of income and a bank account. Project how much you will spend in a month on everything from gas to a night at the movies. Then compare that to what you actually spent. From there, you can begin to project the things you may want in your budget. If you know that you want to go to a movie twice a month, you can earmark a specific amount of your income to go towards that. Do the same for all the things you want to spend money on, but prioritize your necessities, meaning that you need to allot money for them first then use any extra for nonessential things.

One thing that you may overlook but will want to include in your budget is a monthly deposit into your savings account. Begin saving for the future when you get your first job or when you have enough disposable income to have the ability to purchase anything other than the necessities. You can open a savings account from your bank (the one where you got your checking account) or you can open one at a different bank. Research options like the amount of interest you will earn, how often you will earn it, and how it will compound. By saving now, you can help yourself in the future. You may think that a new iPod is crucial now, but wouldn’t a payment on your first apartment be even better? One day your car will break down, your refrigerator will stop working, or your kid will want to go to college and you will be glad you had funds set aside.

Another way to make money is investing. There are many options for investing, for instance, stocks, CDs, and bonds. Stocks are long-term investments. Research companies that interest you that you believe in and support, and buy some stock. WARNING-there is some risk involved in the stock market. Bonds come in many forms from short-term to long-term investments, though if you get one for a short period of time, you can keep it and it will continue to earn money until you cash it in. Bonds are generally seen as not involving as much risk as stocks. Another no-risk option is a CD. Certificates of Deposit can be short- or long-term. You incur a penalty if you want your money back before the maturation date (specified at the time of investment). Once they mature, you can either take your money back, or you can reinvest it in another CD. Some CDs automatically renew unless you take action. Be careful to keep track of your CD investment rates and renewal dates. Remember that dividends and interest are taxable.

Another thing to keep in mind is the goals you have for your money. First, establish a short-term goal for your money. It is just fine to spend some of your money on fun things like video games or movie tickets. Just make sure that you don’t spend all of it there. You may know already that you want to go to college or technical school, and you will need to buy your own books or help pay tuition. If so, go ahead and set some money aside for that. You can even get a short-term investment with your money so it will be gathering interest instead of dust. You may also know that you want to pursue a graduate degree, or you want to rent an apartment or buy a house or car. Start saving now. The more you prepare now, the easier it will be for you to have a more secure and comfortable life later. Most students in high school have many of their basic needs provided for them. That will not last forever. So when you are deciding whether to get a car now, or continue to share with mom and dad, keep in mind your future and current needs. Don’t be blinded by today’s want that could turn into tomorrow’s nightmare.

Now that you know some of the basics of money management, go out there and do something to secure your future and reach your financial goals. Get a job, open checking and savings accounts, and consider some investment strategies. Be careful, though, and look out for yourself and your money. Having your own money and knowing what to do with it can be empowering. Just remember to do your research and be smart about the decisions you make involving your money. It is easy to spend, but hard to make. When it’s gone, it’s gone, and it goes really quickly.

Budgeting Tips for Students

After graduation I took a trip with my friends. The trip was immense fun but it wasn’t fun when I did the expenses. When I sat down to settle the trip bills, I knew I had to be stricter with my finances. Here’s a plan I made for myself and it has continued to help me to stay on track. I hope it helps recent graduates like me.

Make a budget for variable expenses: We all have expenses that are fixed- rent and bills. But expenses such as food, laundry and other personal expenses can change. Set a budget for such variable expenses.

Track your expenses, ALWAYS: if you don’t know how much amounts to your variable expenses, track them for previous months. You are sure to come to an average amount. Then set a ceiling for how much you should spend on them and stick to this number rigidly. Don’t give up tracking. Always track your expenses.

Avoid swiping your credit card for lesser amounts: pay by cash or use your debit card to pay for smaller amounts. Smaller amounts like the 10s and 20s amount to quiet a big number on your bill. It feels good to get them out of your way when you pay by cash.

Start cooking at home, because that is much cheaper than eating out every day. And it can save you a lot of money.

Avoid eating out as much as possible. Need I say again that it can save?

Say no: you don’t need to always catch that flick with your friend or go out every weekend for dinner. It is difficult to say no but your friends will understand.

Pause before you shop: Before you are ready to swipe your card, ask yourself if you really need the item you are buying. Can you do without it? If the answer to this question is ‘yes’ you know what to do. Few days back I was in BJs doing grocery shopping. I picked up a lovely winter jacket which was costing only $30. I was tempted to buy it. I roamed the entire store with it in my cart knowing I shouldn’t buy it. Eventually I put it down and bought only the required groceries.

It can be difficult to curb yourself from shopping in the beginning. But after you see the difference it makes it isn’t that difficult. All the best!

How We Improved Our Financial Health

Several years ago my husband and I were in quite a financial fiasco. We were behind in payments on our housing, autos, utilities, and installment loans, and creditors were calling us constantly. Our young marriage was rocky at best due mostly to the financial stress. After much hard work, though, we managed to dig ourselves out of the hole we were in, and I’m happy to say we are now on a much firmer financial footing. I’ve tried to put together an outline of how we improved our financial health. I put them in some sort of order, but many of them must be done simultaneously.

Change your attitude

This was the first, and most crucial, step in turning our financial life around. We had to accept responsibility for the choices we had made and make a conscious decision that we no longer wanted to live that way. We wanted a better life for our family with less stress. Though we didn’t realize it at the time, the change in attitude in one area of our life slowly overflowed to all other areas and many of the problems we were facing seemed to disappear. Now I look back and realize how much of an impact our attitudes had on our lives and marriage.

Set goals

Preferably with your spouse so you can work together. As I learned in the early part of our marriage, it’s very difficult to get anywhere when resources are spent trying to go in two separate directions. And if you don’t set a specific goal, like saving for a down payment, paying off credit cards, or going on a family vacation, you are less likely to actually set the money aside.

Analyze spending

Starting with the monthly bills and getting right down to the little things like the candy bar at the gas station. The simple act of writing down everything you spend (and your spouse) for thirty days can be a huge eye opener. I resisted for years, and when I finally stuck with it for 3 months I was amazed at the potential savings I had overlooked for so long.

Start slashing costs

How drastic you need to be depends on how desperate your circumstances. Start with things you and your family are least likely to notice and that will provide motivation to continue.

Research, research, research

There is information everywhere on every subject imaginable. Check out books at your local library and do online searches for finances, saving money, living cheaply, or a specific area you want to save money on. Find like-minded people who you can share with and learn from.

Make and stick to a realistic spending plan (aka budget)

Do it simple or fancy, just get it done. Write down all the income and the bills and fill in with the extras like groceries, gas, allowances, clothing, etc. It must work on paper before it will work in real life! Dave Ramsey and Mary Hunt both have excellent advice on budgeting and getting out of debt.

Start paying off debt

Of course, you must stop buying things with credit if you ever want to pay it off. Most of our problems were old bills we had let lapse into collection. Once we had adjusted our attitudes and set up a plan, I started paying the bills off one by one. I started with the smallest ones and paid those as the budget permitted. There was a great sense of achievement after the smaller ones were gone. Then I moved onto the larger bills, which required making phone calls to creditors whom we hadn’t been in contact with for some time. Those calls were extremely difficult! Not only was my pride a little bruised, but I often had to deal with rude people. After having my feelings hurt on more than one occasion by what I felt was a lack of helpfulness, I finally started asking to speak to a different person. If that didn’t work, I simply hung up and called again until I was speaking with someone who wanted to take my money without insulting me. And one last note: Save records of everything you pay off! This is especially useful when cleaning up your credit report.

Plan, plan, plan

I don’t believe in unexpected expenses; I simply think they are unplanned. Everyone gets sick, the car will eventually break down, the dog will have to go to the vet. Just make sure you set aside a little bit at a time on a regular basis and the money will be there when you need it. Mary Hunt calls this a Freedom Account. Planning also applies to purchases of all kinds. Amy Dacyzyn, author of The Tightwad Gazette, says you should plan purchases in such a way that you get them before you need them at the lowest possible price. If your kids need winter clothes for next year, get them this summer at yard sales.

Clean up your credit

This should not be an immediate concern! If you are serious about getting out of debt then you don’t need to worry about how great your credit is. However, it should be done eventually since it takes years for bad stuff to disappear, and you may want to buy a house down the road. I didn’t tackle this until we were paying our bills on time and had paid off the collection items. It was a huge undertaking that took up a lot of hours over a couple of weeks. First I went to a link from Dave Ramsey’s website and ordered a 3-in-1 credit report so I could see everything at once. I did a rough read through to see what was immediately incorrect and then started digging deeper. My records from paying off old collection bills were very helpful. Once I had a list of all the items that needed to be corrected I went to the credit agency’s website and filled out a dispute form. They responded to each item I questioned and sent me a new credit report after all the changes were made.

Money Management Tips for Your Child’s College Degree Education

Proper financial planning and money management for the purpose of college education of your children is absolutely essential, in view of the fact that the cost of college education has almost doubled in the last ten years and it is likely to become more expensive in the future. As we have entered an era of knowledge economy the advantages of a college degree have increased manifold.

It is an undeniable fact that young people who earn a college degree are more likely to have a higher income, enter an occupation that is more satisfying and get more opportunities for growth, than someone who doesn’t have a college degree. College education equips young people with critical and analytical thinking skills that are important in almost all fields today, especially the highly technical fields.

The cost of college education includes tuition fees, room and board fees, cost of books and transportation costs. If you wish to provide college education for your children you must plan ahead from now and this is where personal money management comes in. The earlier you start the more flexibility and choices you will have. Later on you will have other expenses and financial goals like buying a house and planning for retirement. In fact it is best to start saving and investing for your child’s college degree from birth to ease the pressure later on.

Saving and investing for college education will require a special program to be pursued specifically for this purpose. Your financial planning and money management strategies for college degree will depend on how early or how late you start. If the goal is far into the future, say ten years or more you can use aggressive investment strategies that involve some risks. When you are planning for long term you can use a variety of investment options so that your money can grow significantly. In case it is near you can use only low risk investments

The advantage of long term planning is that through compounding your money can grow to a significant amount over time putting less pressure on your earnings. Just setting aside a small amount every month will be sufficient to cover future college degree expenses of your children and you will not be under pressure when you will need to buy a family home and plan for retirement expenses. Of course these can also be included in your early financial planning. This will allow your children to complete college with less or no debt and they will have more choice of colleges and courses to join.

For the purpose of proper planning and execution of your college degree financing plan you need to assess the number of years until your child goes to college, projected cost of college education at that time in view of the past rates of escalation, amount that can be easily set aside from the household income, rate of inflation, possibility of student employment during college, availability of student loan, etc. A clear picture will no doubt help you to clearly chalk out your money management strategies for savings and investment. You can then look for and evaluate investment alternatives that will help you achieve your goals by balancing safety and yield.

You should diversify your investments so that the growth of your funds can outpace the rate of inflation to a great degree. According to financial experts you should aim at a return of around 3 percent over the rate of inflation because promises of more returns can be risky. You must keep in mind that investments with much higher yields will put your capital at risk. Liquidity may be also an important consideration for you but you should remember the fact that more liquidity might mean slower growth of your investments.

Various investment options are available for you depending on the age of your child. If you start before your child is 12 you can consider investing in stocks and/or growth-stock mutual funds. For children up to 16 years a series of bonds that mature each college degree year can be considered as they carry lower risk. If the child is above 16 then you should move into low risk investments so that the capital is protected. Short term government securities, money market funds, savings bonds and certificates of deposit are a good choice at this time.

In addition to the money management strategies described above other options for funding college education of your children are also available. Some states allow you to prepay college tuition fees. You can purchase one, two, three or four years of college in advance for your child’s college degree but you have to be sure that your child will not need to study out of state as each state has its own procedures and policies. If the refund policy and other terms suit you then this avenue should be definitely explored.

Another possibility is to borrow from a 40(K) retirement account but the limitation is that the amount has to be repaid within five years. A home equity loan which may also be tax deductible, can also be considered for funding your child’s college education. Thus if you wish to save for a college degree for your child, the essential money management and investment strategies are to begin as early as possible, save regularly, evaluate the risk and return of various types of investment and diversify your investments. It is important to regularly keep reviewing and adjusting your investment portfolio for maximum return on investment.