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Debt Help for Your Secured and Unsecured Debt

August 26th, 2011 at 12:01 pm

If you find yourself swimming in debts and falling behind your payments, you must be frantically looking for a way out. If you would like to eliminate your liabilities without the help of a third-party then it is not a very easy task. Loans and credit agreements are generally differentiated into two key groups: secured and unsecured. A secured loan is one in which a creditor has a legal interest in your property and your loan amount is secured against it, whereas unsecured loan is a loan obtained without collateral. Knowing the difference between these two types of loans is the key for consumers who are looking forward to do it yourself (DIY) secured and unsecured debt elimination. However, remember if your personal negotiations with the creditors are unsuccessful, you may have to seek the help of a third party, Debt Settlement Company to reduce your debts.

Unsecured debts

Your unsecured debt incorporates the line of credit that involves no collateral to secure the balance. For example if you have huge credit card bills, medical bills and payday loan advances, they all come under unsecured debts. If you have robust credit score and a positive payment history, you can approach your lenders for a discount on your overall balance, on condition that you will pay the debts all at once. Once you realize that you are able to pay back the debt amount if the lenders reduce your debt loads, you can try to negotiate a lower interest rate or partial debt forgiveness by writing to your lender with an explanation of your current financial impediment and your willingness to settle the debts. By doing so you might be successful in lowering your debt by up to 60 percent.

Secured Debts

In order to get rid of a secured debt, sometimes you have to allow the lender to repossess the property that you offered as collateral against your loan. For example, if you default on your auto loan, the lender can repossess your vehicle or if you miss your mortgage payments, it could result in foreclosure. You can attempt to negotiate a lower interest rate and an extended repayment period with your creditors as well. In addition, you can also try to refinance the debt at more favorable rates or obtain a home equity loan to repay your secured debts at a low, tax-deductible interest rate. If none of these attempts succeed, the last resort is to sell the item you financed, and use the money to pay off your secured debt balance.

Final Thought

If you find it impossible to handle your secured and unsecured debts on your own, you are recommended to seek expert help from a debt counseling service. However, remember, according to the Federal Trade Commission you should thoroughly investigate about the debt counseling company via consumer reviews and complaints with your state attorney general office, as well as the Better Business Bureau before hiring a service. If you fall on the trap of a scam company you could end up doing more harm than good to both your credit report and your debt balances.

Guide to PLUS Loans

August 18th, 2011 at 02:51 pm

If your child is going to college and needs financial assistance you may want to look into the possibility of getting a Direct PLUS Loan. Loans of this type are provided through the federal government if certain criteria are met. A Direct PLUS Loan is different from a student loan because it is taken out by the parents, not by the student. Following is a guide to PLUS loans.

Dependent Children

One of the main components of a Direct PLUS Loan is the fact that the parents take out the loan for a dependent child. A dependent child is defined as a child less than 24 years of age who does not have any dependents of their own. The child canít be married. They also can not be a veteran, or have a graduate or professional degree. The dependent child must not be a ward of the court. If these conditions are met you should be able to qualify for a Direct PLUS Loan--depending on your financial situation. Graduate and professional students may apply for PLUS loans on their own.

Additional Qualifications

A few additional qualifications apply. You must be the studentís real or adoptive parent. In some cases you may qualify if youíre a stepparent. The child must go to a school that participates in the Direct Loan Program, and they must attend classes at least half-time. This may include traditional schools that award a campus-based degree or web-based schools that award an online degree. Your credit rating canít be in question. If you fail a credit check, the only way to qualify--unless there are extenuating circumstances--is if someone who does pass the credit check is willing to cosign the loan. Other qualifications are U.S. citizenship--noncitizens may be accepted provided they are eligible--and not being in arrears on a federal student loan.

How to Get a Direct PLUS Loan

You must fill out a Direct PLUS Loan application and a Master Promissory Note (MPN), which is a legal document stating that you will repay the loan, including interest and applicable fees, according to agreed upon criteria. Usually one MPN will suffice for your childís academic career. Instructions on filling out the forms are available through the financial aid office at your childís school. You may also be able to fill out the applicable forms online by visiting the Internet website, https://studentloans.gov.

Loan Details

There are no definite limits on the amount of money you can borrow in a Direct PLUS Loan. The only limitation is the fact that you can only borrow an amount equal to the difference between actual costs and the amount of any other sort of financial aid. For instance, if the annual cost for your childís high education comes to $20,000, and they receive aid in other forms, such as student loans, of $15,000, then, if youíre eligible, you are allowed to borrow the remaining $5,000 through a Direct PLUS Loan. The money will go to the school to be applied to the studentís costs, such as tuition, room and board, and other related expenses. The money will usually be given to the school in two payments. If any money is left over it goes to you unless you specify it for release to the student, or to be applied by the school toward future expenses.

Repayment

You must begin repaying a Direct PLUS Loan within 60 days of the time the last of the loan money has been handed out. In certain cases a deferment may be granted. Repayment of the loan includes accrued interest and a 4% fee. At the time the loan is approved you will be put in touch with a loan servicer. Details of the loan will be discussed with the loan servicer, and you will have to agree to the stipulations before the loan is approved. A payment schedule will be provided by the loan servicer, and you will be provided with regular updates on the status of the loan. You can access details of your account by visiting the Internet website, www.nslds.ed.gov. The details of your loan will be determined by your financial status. A Direct PLUS Loan offers three payment plans, standard, extended, and graduated, and will usually need to be repaid between 10 and 25 years from the time the loan is granted.

How to Find a College with Reasonable Tuition

August 10th, 2011 at 05:13 pm

A college education is almost a Ďmust haveí these days. The time of walking in off the street with only a high school diploma and being hired at a decent pay rate, with benefits, is pretty much a thing of the past. Instead you need to have a degree in something useful to be assured of being hired at anything more than a subsistence wage. Unfortunately college is expensive, so most people need to find a way of going to school on the cheap without sacrificing the quality of their education. Following are a few tips that may help you find a college with reasonable tuition.

Scholarships

The first, best way of paying for a college education, with the exception of being financially independent, is to get a full-ride scholarship. Sadly those are few and far between. Only very gifted athletes and brainiacs get those. Partial scholarships are different. Many charitable organizations contribute scholarship money to chosen individuals every year. Some scholarships go unclaimed because no one applies. If you spend some time researching scholarships you may run across something youíre qualified to receive.

College Payment Options

Barring a scholarship of some sort, or a college fund supplied by forward-thinking family members, you may be forced to foot the entire bill for your education yourself. There are many ways of doing this. The history books are filled with cases of people working their way through school. While this is an option that shouldnít be overlooked studying for a college degree can be extremely draining, both physically and emotionally, and it is also time consuming. Finding time to work and keep your grades up at the same time may be difficult. Taking out a student loan or joining a Federal Work Study Program are viable options. Another way of doing it is to look for a college with somewhat more affordable tuition.

Choose a Smaller School

Instead of opting for a large prestigious school you may want to consider going to a community college for the first two years. If you go this route be sure you select courses that earn credits that can be transferred to a state school. The tuition rates at community colleges are significantly lower than larger schools. You will also have save money because associated costs, such as housing, may be lower--you may even be able to live at home or in a small apartment close to the school. Travel expenses should also be minimal if you choose a school close to home.

Go to a State School

Whether or not you choose to go to a community college for the first couple of years you can still save money by attending a state school in the state in which you reside. Residents of any given state usually receive lower tuition rates than out-of-state students. As with a community college you can also save money by living at home if you choose a state school near your home.

Decide on a Major Later

By delaying your choice of major you can save money by attending a Liberal Arts college in order to satisfy your core course requirements. Depending on what major you select you can transfer to a school later on that specializes in your field of choice--just make sure the courses you choose offer credits that can be transferred.

Location Is Important

Geographical location may also have an effect on tuition rates. Generally speaking, schools in the South and Southwest have somewhat lower tuition. You may find the cost of living to be a little lower, as well. Schools in urban areas also carry higher tuition rates. Suburban schools are somewhat cheaper, but for the lowest tuition rates, generally speaking, seek out small colleges in more out-of-the-way areas. The cost of living will also be less in a rural area than in an urban environment.

Online Schools

In order to find the schools that have the best tuition rates it would be a good idea to do some research. The Internet is a good place to begin your search. While youíre online you may want to look into the possibility of getting your college degree online. Your research should include the http://www.bestonlinecolleges.com because many online colleges have significantly less expensive tuition rates. By perusing the websites of different schools you can compare the price of their courses, which will help you decide on which school is best for you.

How to Save on Tuition and Other College Costs

July 29th, 2011 at 11:16 am

Like just about everything in the world today, the price of a college education is not cheap. There are so many things that must be purchased and taken into consideration before class even starts. If you are stressing about the price of tuition and other college costs, you will be glad to know there are ways to save money on these things. You should definitely take a moment to look into them.

Scholarships

If you think scholarships are only for the most exceptional students, think again. Many scholarships nowadays only require you to carry a 2.5 GPA in order to be eligible for them, meaning they are fair game to average students as well. Scholarships are a great way to lower the amount of money you pay for college tuition, show initiative, and they look great on a resume as well. If you are wondering where to look for scholarships, it is a good idea to start at businesses in your community. Consider your parentsí places of work as well, as they often offer scholarships to children of employees. This of course depends on the type of business, but it is worth looking into. Websites that list about every type of scholarship available are worth checking out, too. There are scholarships that recognize your heritage, college major, year in college, and more. You should apply for as many scholarships as possible, because the more scholarships you receive, the less you will have to pay in tuition.

Community Colleges

Community colleges are great places for students to start out, as they are smaller and much more affordable. This means you will be saving money on tuition and other college costs, while still receiving a quality education. Many students choose to attend community colleges for their first two years of school, and then transfer to larger universities to complete their education. The amount of money you can save by doing this is quite astounding. Just be sure that the credits you receive from your community college will transfer to the university of your choice. These days, many large universities offer incentive programs that include scholarships and guaranteed acceptance for transfer students. You may also want to consider http://www.onlinecolleges.net, which sometimes charge lower tuition and eliminate the cost to commute.

Consider Used Books

Many students do not realize how expensive college textbooks can be and are blindsided when it comes time to buy them. Luckily many books can be bought in used condition. Purchasing used books can save you quite a large sum of money. Although they are not always in perfect shape, the material is present and that is what matters. It is good to know that not all books can be purchased used, as some courses and instructors require new books. You should also keep in mind that many books can be sold after you have completed a course. This can give you extra money in your pocket, which is always a plus while in college.

These things can really help you save money on college-related expenses. There are also various other costs to consider when it comes to college, such as supplies, transportation, and housing. If you can be smart and frugal when it comes to these things, you should save money as well. It is not always easy to be that way, but in the long run it will be worth it.

Cold and Flu Guest Post

March 24th, 2011 at 08:03 am

I recently had the opportunity to guest post on http://thriftculturenow.com. You can check out the article here:

http://thriftculturenow.com/frugal-living/664-top-natural-re...

A Guide to High Deductible Health Plans

March 21st, 2011 at 10:31 am

People who want to make sure theyíre completely covered in case of a medical emergency may want to check into a high deductible health plan (HDHP.) Commonly referred to as catastrophic health insurance, high deductible health plans are intended to take care of the financial problems associated with medical expenses beyond what a normal health care plan would normally cover. Following is a guide to high deductible health plans.

Starting Out

A high deductible health plan goes hand in hand with a health savings account. They work in tandem. Basically a HDHP will cover you and your family in the case of a medical emergency. By definition you will be required to pay a rather substantial portion out-of-pocket. Having a health savings account (HSA) can help meet the cost of the high deductible. Because the money in a HSA is tax deductible the system is attractive to those who can put enough money in their health savings account to ensure theyíre protected against the high deductible in the HDHP. This type of plan is only good for major medical expenses and doesnít apply to certain types of medical care. One of the major benefits of a high deductible health plan is that the premiums are significantly lower than with a more traditional health care plan.

Tax Advantages

One of the major attractions of a HDHP is the tax advantage of a HSA. You can place more than $6,000.00 for a family or over $3,000.00 for an individual into a health savings account per year and 100% of that money is tax deductible. The money can then be used to pay the deductible for any emergency medical expenses that may be incurred. There is no limit on how much you can place in a health savings account, only on what is tax deductible. One caveat is that the money needed to be deposited before December 1, 2010 to qualify for a tax deduction in 2011. Consult your insurance agent, a tax attorney or an accountant to find out the deadline for 2012. Be aware the deadlines and amounts that are tax deductible may vary from state to state.

Coverage

A high deductible health plan will cover all major medical expenses and some routine medical costs. Preventative care, which includes such things as regular checkups for children or adults, weight loss programs, or plans designed to help a person quit smoking, are not included. There is usually a cap on the annual deductible. Once the cap is reached, the policy may cover all or part of routine medical expenses. The idea behind this type of plan is to protect you in case of a high-cost medical emergency. The HSA helps defer the out-of-pocket expenses caused by the high deductible. Itís a wonderful two-tiered system that can provide ample protection at reasonable rates.

Shop Around

As with any other type of insurance itís advisable to shop around before signing any papers. The amount of the deductible in a HDHP has an upper and lower range stipulated by law, but individual plans may vary. The minimum and maximum amounts may change from year to year, based on the cost of living. Talk to your insurance agent about the potential benefits of a high deductible health plan. Have them explain how a high deductible health plan works, and what your advantages or disadvantages may be. It might even be worth your time to consult a tax attorney or accountant before making a decision.

Guest post from Jessie Mars. Jessie writes for http://www.healthinsurancequotes.org.

10 Tips for Shopping at Thrift Stores

March 8th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Thrift stores are a great resource for the frugal shopper, the environmentally friendly shopper, or anyone looking to find a good deal. You can find everything from clothes and old record albums to furniture in a thrift store. Many thrift stores support a nonprofit organization, so you can be confident that the money you are spending is helping someone.

Shop Often

Shopping frequently is a very important part of thrift store shopping. Since new items arrive daily, you have to shop often to find the best products for the best deals. You may want to ask the store if they restock on a certain day or a certain time of day, and plan your trips around that information.

Be Friendly

Some thrift stores may not have paid employees; they may just be volunteers. Being nice to the employees--whether they are paid or volunteers--may help you get more discounts, coupons, or exclusive information on upcoming sales. Remember this is someplace you plan on visiting a lot; you don't want to be remembered as the rude customer.

Keep Your Eyes Open

When you are shopping in thrift stores, you have to keep your eyes open at all times. You never know when you will see a great deal. Don't be afraid to dig, a treasure may be buried under something or at the back of a rack.

Test Electronics

It is not possible for a thrift store to make sure that every item on the shelves is in working order. Most of the items are donated and it is assumed that they are in working condition. Before you buy any electronic items, you should test them to make sure they work correctly.

Make a List

Before you go thrift store shopping you should make a list of things you would like to find. This list should include sizes, colors, and any other item specifics you are looking for. Having a list will help keep you on track once you begin shopping. Use this list until you have found everything you were looking for.

Try It On

Many thrift stores do not provide dressing rooms, which can cause problems. You should always try clothes on before buying them. If you plan on going shopping at thrift stores, take your measurements before you leave the house. Take the measurements and the measuring tape with you while shopping. It is also a good idea to check the stores return policy.

Bring Cash

Many thrift stores do not accept personal checks, credit cards, or debit cards. When you are making your list of items to look for, also try to estimate the amount of money you are willing to spend. Before you go to the store to do your shopping, stop at the ATM and grab some cash.

Don't Impulse Shop

This one is pretty simple--don't buy something because it is cheap. Only buy items that you know will be used. You may like that end table but if you already have one, what will you do with it?

Be Creative

You are shopping in a thrift store so you already know how to reuse items, but can you repurpose items? Many items in a thrift store can be used for something other then what they were made for. For example, a curtain can be made into new pillows, old sheets can be made into curtains, and old shirts can be incorporated in a quilt.

Some Things to Avoid Buying

Thrift stores are a great place to shop for most items, but some things should not be bought there. Shoes, hats, and underwear should not be bought at a thrift store. You should not buy baby items like, cribs, highchairs, or swings from a thrift store either. These items may not be safe for your child.

Guest post from Bailey Harris, who writes about http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/ and related topics for www.homeownersinsurance.org.

5 Things to Think About Before Buying a New Car

March 8th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

The old clunker has finally had it, and youíve decided to shell out the money and get a new car. The prospect of tooling down the highway in a brand new vehicle is invigorating, but there are a lot of things to consider before you sign the papers. Doing your homework before rushing off to visit a car dealer is a wise course of action. Following are five things to think about before buying a new car.

Trade or Private Sale

One of the first things you need to think about is what to do with your old car. Hopefully you have a little set aside in savings so you donít actually need to use whatever the old car will bring toward a down payment, but it will help lower the monthly payments if you do. Your old car may not be worth a lot, but it does have value. You need to decide whether to sell it yourself or trade it in. Most sources agree that a private sale will bring a better price than a trade in. That is a consideration, but you have to realize that selling the car yourself may take time. If youíre in a hurry, a trade-in is probably best. It may all come down to how much you think the old car is actually worth--to you.

Type of Vehicle

Before you set foot inside a car dealership, you need to be certain what type of vehicle you need. If you carry a lot of large, heavy loads then a pickup truck, cargo van, or large SUV may be called for. Or, maybe a smaller truck would do the job. Stay-at-home moms generally car pool their kids, and their kidís friends, to school, soccer practice, karate meets, or band rehearsals. They need comfortable seating for multiple people. Business men and women may have to play host to out-of-town clients so a two-seater convertible is out of the question--theyíll need a full-size four-door vehicle. Living in a rural environment, or someplace that gets lots of snow may have you leaning towards 4-wheel drive. If you drive a lot but donít like spending half your income on gas then a fuel efficient car may be your choice. The point is that you should base your decision of what type of vehicle to buy on what you need and not necessarily on what you want. Knowing this ahead of time can save a lot of frustration when you begin actually looking at vehicles.

Lease or Buy

Another consideration is whether to lease or buy your new car. There is no definitive consensus about this issue. It seems like half the people you talk to swear that leasing is the most economical choice, while the other half contends that buying is the only way to go. The only thing you can do is research the deals offered by various car dealerships and determine which would fit your personality and pocketbook. A leased vehicle will generally cost less per month for the duration of the lease, but then you have to turn that car in and make the same choice again. Buying a car outright means you own it, as long as you make the payments. After itís paid off you still have the vehicle, but without payments.

Financing

Financing goes hand in hand with the decision to buy or lease because there is usually a disparity between the amounts you will pay per month--frequently less with a leased vehicle. If you lean heavily toward one side of the fence or the other then the next consideration is where to get your car financed. Whatever you choose, it is best to have financing arranged before you actually begin shopping. Borrowing the money for the car from a bank or credit union is usually cheaper than getting the loan through a car dealership--generally lower interest rates. There are exceptions, however, because lenders affiliated with brands, such as Ford Motor Credit or GMAC, frequently offer low interest loans.

Insurance

Another consideration before hitting the road is insurance. If you are making payments on your new vehicle, your lender will more than likely require you to carry full coverage for the duration of the loan. But that doesnít mean you donít have decisions to make. Before choosing an insurer you need to compare rates. Shop around and get quotes from a variety of insurance companies before signing any papers. If you have your home and health insurance with a certain company, they may offer discounts if you get your car insurance through them, too.

Guest post from Bailey Harris who writes about car insurance rates and related topics for the Car Insurance Blog.