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Former Goldman CEO´s turn politicians

¨You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.¨ – Abraham Lincoln

The following will share a short yet scary history of former Goldman Sachs CEO´s. Two CEO´s from arguably the most important investment bank in the world and their close ties to government, corruption, billions of missing consumer funds and policies which in turn benefit their buddies on Wall Street.

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How Revolving Credit Works

Money Gold Coins

Having creditors hound you over payments that you are unable to make can be incredibly stressful. With revolving debt, such as credit cards, it is easy to pile up debt that is seemingly impossible to pay back.

However, there is hope. Instead of giving up and filing for bankruptcy, Financial Solutions of America can help you fix your mounting debt from revolving credit. In order to eliminate debt, it’s crucial to first understand the source. Read on to learn more about how revolving credit works.

What Exactly is Revolving Credit?

Revolving credit—also referred to as an “evergreen loan”—is a flexible type of credit that can be used repeatedly once it is paid off. It provides the borrower with a set amount of credit and allows them to repay and use any of the available credit. Repayment of a revolving loan is usually scheduled on a monthly basis or can be paid in full before termination.

Money in Pocket

Distinguishing Characteristics

In understanding how revolving credit works, it is important to note that there is a set credit limit, and that the borrower will pay interest on the amount they have spent. Although there is the option for the borrower to pay the balance in full, if paying the balance over a period of time, most revolving credit has a mandatory minimum payment. Essentially, revolving credit is the basis of how credit cards function.

Rollover Loans

When someone uses revolving credit to pay for another loan with a similar interest rate and payment date, this is referred to as a rollover loan. Rollover loans are common because it is a simple solution to pay off credit debt. However, rollover loans pave the way to fall even deeper into credit card debt.

Revolving Credit Debt

Revolving loans inadvertently create more debt as it eliminates older debt. Especially if you are simply paying the minimum balance, the interest rate can cause credit cards to exceed the monthly limit. Overall, revolving credit debt can be avoided if you are mindful of your credit limit and aim to pay more than than the minimum payment.

Revolving credit debt does not have to control your finances. Discover an effective way to conquer your debt with Financial Solutions of America. Consult with us for help reaching a debt settlement with your credit card company today.

10 Life Hacks for Saving Money

Ideas for saving money

Let’s face it: the world is an expensive place. The cost of living has continued to increase-even as wages have stagnated-and it’s tough to save money in this economy.

But here’s the good news! A little creativity, elbow grease, and patience can help you to build up the savings you’ve always dreamed of having. Keep reading for 10 great ideas for saving money.

Woman typing

1. Find a Side Job

A job on the side is a great way to earn extra money. It can help to pay off any extra bills, credit card debt, or student loans. It can even become the money that you use to start a savings or retirement account. If your primary job covers your living expenses but doesn’t allow you to put anything aside, a side job can give you that extra financial push.

If you have a reliable car, online transportation services like Uber, Lyft, and Turo are great options for earning some extra income. You can set your own hours, meet interesting people, and comfortably support your primary income.

Additionally, delivery services are another way to use your car to earn extra income. Whether it’s for PostMates, GrubHub, or even the local pizza store, delivery drivers make over $20 an hour, excluding tips! Part-time drivers only need to work a minimum of 12 hours a week to earn an additional $1000 per month.

A side job doesn’t have to be limited to working for someone else, though. You can join the DIY economy and become your own boss. Monetize your skills, hobbies, and talents on sites like Etsy and eBay that allow you to sell handcrafted clothing, art, and more. These sites come with a built-in customer base that are looking for one-of-a-kind, handmade heirlooms, artworks, and clothes.

You can also put your skills to work on sites like Fiverr and TaskRabbit. If you have experience in graphic design, creative writing, or other marketable artistry, you can earn money freelancing for a variety of clients.

Finally, put your education to work for you. There’s always part-time employment in academics: you can score standardized tests, proctor exams, run after-school programs, or tutor. The possibilities are endless.

Thrift store sign

2. Buy Used and Off-Brand

Believe it or not, there are hidden gems to be found in thrift stores. Thrifting is one of the best ideas for saving money and a great way to pick up a wide range of necessities for the house. Fill your home with vintage coffee mugs, plates, and silverware, along with vinyl records, furniture, and other home goods. If you are looking for designer or high quality clothes, consignment stores carry many brands and styles that you may be looking for.

A car can be one of the most cost consuming things you may own. Even before maintenance and repair costs, driving a new car off the lot immediately depreciates up to 11% of its value. A general rule of thumb is to either pay for the car outright or to finance only a portion of the total to keep loan and interest rates low.

When it’s time to replace your vehicle, consider a used or certified pre-owned option. It’s a great way to get a dependable car at a much lower cost.

You can still find great deals on new items as well. Generic or off-brand products are often made by the same manufacturer—meaning the difference in cost is to cover marketing and branding fees.

Fresh vegetables

3. Eat Smart and Be Healthy

Health and diet aren’t just about looking and feeling good. They’re also a major factor in any financial budget. Fast food may seem like a good option due to its low price point, but its nutritional value compared to its caloric content isn’t very healthy. In fact, eating fast food may contribute to adverse health effects. The best way to save money and get the most nutrition out of your meals is to cook unprocessed foods at home.

This can take some getting used to, but it is one of the best ideas for saving money. Get a slow cooker and start a meal before you leave the house in the morning. By the end of the afternoon, a healthy, delicious meal will be fully prepared and ready to eat.

A major component of eating at home is shopping for groceries. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, as you may be more likely to end up with snacks and junk food. Instead, take stock of what you need and plan your meals in advance.

Children’s craft projects

4. Get Creative

Entertainment and gift giving have turned into billion-dollar industries. You don’t need to overspend on gifts to let your friends and family know how much you care. Making your own gifts is a great way to save money and create something unique and special that the recipient will treasure. Even a nice handwritten note or card instead of an expensive store bought greeting card will do the trick.

Likewise, entertainment doesn’t always have to be a trip to Disneyland or an expensive night at the movies. Your community has many free or affordable options that are sure to entertain. Going to a park or riding a bike is a low cost way to have a good time.

Check with your local community center to see if they have free movie screenings. Also, you can join the local theatre, choir, or any other club. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also meet interesting people and get a chance to express yourself artistically.

Investment

5. Invest Your Money

Saving a little extra money each month only goes so far. To really get the most bang for your buck, you need to invest the extra money you earn so your savings can grow and work for you. A financial planner can help you develop a strategy that works with your personal goals and income.

A great place to start is with a simple savings account. This offers low-yield interest, but it also keeps your savings separate from your checking account. When it’s time to further invest, you might consider a high-yield savings account, a money market savings account, or other investment strategies like a 401(k) or a Roth IRA.

The company you work for also might be a great resource to consider in this scenario. Many employers offer investment matching, while some even pay for gym memberships and higher education. Remember, investing in your future is the best investment you can make.

Division of coins

6. Pay Yourself First and Prioritize Your Money

Before you can truly invest, you need to make sure you’re actually able to do it. Make a reasonable plan that you can stick to and afford. When creating your plan, you should create savings categories that amount to 10-15% of your net income. Your savings categories can include vacation funds, a down payment for a car or a house, or savings for a wedding.

Your savings should be something that excites you. It makes it easier to maintain savings willpower when you know that you’re saving for something that you’re truly passionate about.

Part of your plan should include a little tightening of the belt. We all spend money on extraneous stuff that we don’t really need. Keep your debt payments affordable by limiting your credit purchasing. You want to keep debt payments at around 10% of your pre-tax income, with 20% being the maximum.

A great way to make sure you stick to your budget is to automate your finances. Many banks and applications allow you to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account into your savings account.

Reading

7. Find Alternative, Simple Solutions

Saving money isn’t just about skimping and saving—it’s also about being creative. There are some creative things you can do to save money while still doing the things you want, which is why using your creativity is the one of the best ideas for saving money.

Negotiating your bills is an inventive way to save money. Call your cable or Internet provider, insurance company, or even your credit card company to talk about your rates and payments. Most will negotiate lower bills and costs. A simple phone call can save you big bucks. Click here to learn more about bill negotiation.

Going to the library might seem like a novelty in the age of the Internet, but it is an invaluable resource for entertainment and education. You can check out books, videos, and even music instead of buying or renting them.

A great way to stretch your budget is to go green. Replacing dead light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs will cost you a few extra dollars up front, but will save you more in the long run. Your technological gadgets draw power when they’re plugged in, even if they’re “off.” Use a modern power strip that will help you avoid phantom energy costs.

Checking product info

8. Be Intelligent About Purchases

Advertisers do a great job of making us think we need the latest gadgets from brand name companies. But you don’t need to be a victim of trends or high-priced items. Research products before you purchase them so you know you’re getting the best deal possible.

If you need to buy a new appliance, you may consider cutting up-front costs and buying a lower quality product. However, this is an area where you should stick to quality. A more expensive, higher quality appliance will last longer, break down less, and save you money in the long run.

Pay careful attention to the calendar when you buy things. When you shop a few days after a major holiday, you find great deals on products and goods that would have cost more even a few days earlier. Shopping after holidays is one of the best ideas for saving money while still getting the goods and products that you want.

Avoid impulse buys. It’s not always easy, but if you follow the 30 day rule, you’ll only buy things you need or are truly willing to pay for. If you walk by something in the store and feel you really need to have it, wait 30 days before you buy it. This helps you prioritize what you need and what you just want.

Knitting

9. Repair Broken Things

One of the best ways to save money is to do what was once commonplace—repair items before you buy replacements. Learning how to sew is a great money saver. Repairing or modifying old clothes is a great way to put off buying new items for another season or two. It’s not only thrifty—it’s also a cool way to get the most out of your favorite outfits, plus you get to put your own creative spin on them.

Clothing isn’t the only thing you can repair or do yourself to save money. You can mow your own lawn, grow your own food, change the oil in your car, fix your bike, and much more. You can learn how to fix, repair, build, and grow all kinds of things online. You’ll save money and feel a sense of accomplishment at the same time.

Parties

10. Host More Parties

That’s right, the last hack is the best. You should host more parties. It may seem like one of the more novel ideas for saving money to say the least, but think about it: If you plan it right and can accommodate a gathering in your own living space, you can more or less replace spending money with spending time with friends, family, and loved ones. Compare that to a night on the town, which could have you making purchases every step of the way for things like transportation, cover charges, and gratuities, to name a few..

A great way to spread out costs and make it a fun night for everyone is to make your party a potluck and/or “BYOB.” Set a theme for the night or let it be a free-for-all, but have your guests bring snacks, drinks, and entrees. You’ll have done your part simply by being a gracious host. This lets everyone feel involved and prevents you from shouldering the bulk of the cost.

Have movie nights at home instead of at the theater, set up some board games, or play cards. The possibilities are endless. Is there really a more fun way to save money than to throw a party?

Saving money shouldn’t be painful or make you feel like you’re missing out on something. By following these 10 tips you should be in the money in no time.

Credit Card Debt Help for Recent College Grads

Each year, college students are faced with an increasing amount of debt. Students use all the resources available to them to make it through college: federal loans, private loans, credit cards, and even generous family members. Yet, according to CNN, the average debt that students had upon graduation among the class of 2013 was $35,200. Today, that number is certainly much higher. Many recent grads end up piling up credit card debt after graduating and then struggle to find a job. For credit card debt help for recent college graduates, it will be worth your while to learn how to negotiate a credit card settlement.

How Credit Card Debt Happens

Using a credit cardCollege is a formative, important time in the lives of many young people across the world, especially in the United States. Besides taking up a course of study that could possibly determine a student’s career, college is also a time of socialization and self-discovery. However, no matter what happens in college, most graduates walk across the stage with a huge amount of debt. Students may be encouraged to take out loans from all sorts of providers and credit cards, with the assurance that the money will flow easily to cover the accrued costs after college. Instead, students struggle to find a job out of college and rely on credit cards to cover apartment payments and bills. The bottom line is that this generation of young people needs extreme credit card debt help.

How does credit card debt happen? From a distance, it may seem absurd that so many people let their credit card debt rise to such a ridiculous sum. But like many common issues, such as academic stress or rifts in a relationship, little things can accumulate slowly over time and then suddenly appear at a breaking point. For instance, very few people accrue credit card debt from large purchases like a new car or a boat. Instead, smaller, seemingly harmless purchases build up-going to the movies, for example, or dining out. As everything adds up, the total balance can become substantial in no time. More students would likely seek credit card debt help if they were able to realize how far over their heads they are.

Open storefront windowGetting out of college is exciting-it’s a time where you gain true independence from your parents and take on the world by yourself. The thrill of getting your own apartment and managing your own finances is enough to make some college grads forget about money for awhile. Getting a first credit card can feel like someone handing you a blank check. You can spend just about as much money as you like with no questions asked; and if you can’t afford it at the moment, just pay it back later. This kind of power gives young grads a false sense of control and responsibility. They may not be aware of the lurking danger of credit card debt or know how to negotiate a credit card settlement.

In the moment, it may not seem like a big deal to go shopping and put it on the credit card. A small spending spree here or there won’t cause financial ruin, you think to yourself-but it can be easy to lose track of exactly how much you’ve spent if you don’t keep good records. Recent college grads can easily start a long trail of debt by paying off one credit with another. This downfall is a slippery slope, and graduates should seek credit card debt help.

Stacks of cashMoney managing is a continuous process that you should be thinking about while things are bad or good. When you’re ahead of your payments and in good financial standing, you can take advantage of that position to secure the hard times ahead. Contact your credit card companies and ask if they can give you a lower rate. They’ll be much more likely to do this when your account is free of debt. Companies may initially turn down your request, but don’t be afraid to give yourself leverage by telling them you’re shopping around at other credit cards for a lower rate. It never hurts to ask, and you can possibly secure yourself a lower interest rate if you end up with a balance on your card in the future.

Dealing With Credit Card Companies

Hospital emergency roomWhat many people don’t realize is that if you know how to negotiate a credit card settlement, it’s possible to relieve debt or find some alternative payment plan. Debt is nothing new to credit card companies. They deal with it all the time—one could argue that they actually expect it. Since debt is such a common event in the last couple of decades, credit card companies have many strategies for dealing with it.

Many creditors will offer credit card debt help by being lenient with payment deadlines in the case of emergency. If you give warning as soon as an emergency happens and before your payment due date, you’ll have an even higher chance of getting some sympathy from your credit carrier. Naturally, some companies will be more forgiving than others, so there are no guarantees. Here are a few life event scenarios that might gain you some repayment leeway:

  • Medical injury
  • Sudden loss of job
  • Family emergency
  • Recent college graduation
  • Recent relocation

To be fair, the first time you ask your credit card company to negotiate a balance, they may outrightly turn you down. However, don’t make the mistake of assuming that there is no way to negotiate credit card balances with any company. One or two rejections may be the anomaly-and the next company you ask may be happy to help assist you in relieving your debt. Just remember that all companies are different, and that there’s no reason to assume you’re stuck with your credit card debt just because one company rejected you.

Handshake agreementGetting credit card debt help can make a huge difference for your financial situation. Your settlement could take the shape of something as small as moving the payment date, getting a lower interest rate, or even requesting a payment reduction for a time. Learning how to negotiate a credit card settlement can even earn you more significant benefits, such as a long-term repayment plan with little or no interest.

For many of the minor credit card debt help requests, you can simply talk to someone in customer service. This is a good place to start, as the representative will be able to put you in touch with a specialist if the situation calls for it. If you’re looking to get an interest rate reduction, you’ll probably end up talking to a manager.

If you anticipate that you won’t be able to make your next payment won’t be on time, call your credit card company in advance and talk to the appropriate department. Most companies will transfer you to the right department from the phone operator menu.

Yes and No signsFor the most part, customer service representatives don’t have the authority to accept or deny requests for debt negotiation. If they tell you that you can’t negotiate, just politely listen until the representative is finished speaking before asking to be transferred to another department or a supervisor. It’s prudent to speak personally to a manager or supervisor about your ideas regarding how to negotiate a credit card settlement. Don’t give up the fight for a new payment plan until you talk to several service agents and at least one manager.

Know the Facts

Since credit card companies make a lot of money from people suffering from debt, they’ll probably try to deny you an alternative repayment plan at all costs. You need to stay vigilant in your quest for a better rate. It can help to know some of the tactics that companies use to keep you paying the maximum.

Secured and Unsecured Debt

Secured creditors are ones that have interest in some kind of asset, like a car or a boat. With these creditors, if you don’t pay your debt, you are liable to lose your property of these assets.

Unsecured creditors allow you to buy goods on credit without any asset security backing it. Most credit cards are unsecured, meaning that you’re not in danger of losing any property as a result of neglecting to pay off debt. Knowing the difference between these types of debt is essential to getting the best credit card debt help. Creditors may try to scare you with threats to take away your property during a negotiation—even if your debts are unsecured. If you know from the outset that your debts are unsecured, then you can deflect this tactic and gain leverage toward your new debt settlement.

Learn the Creditor’s Weaknesses

Broken chainsIf you enter into negotiations with a debt collection agency, be sure to read up on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which limits the tactics of collection. The more you know about your rights under the FDCPA, the more you’ll sharpen your tactics about how to negotiate a credit card settlement.

Lawsuits are expensive for creditors, so they’ll typically try to reach a settlement before it gets to the courtroom. The time and cost of litigation is only worth it for a creditor if the debt is enormous. You can use this as a bargaining chip—urging to simplify the process by reaching a civil agreement that works for both sides to avoid having to go to court.

Remember that unsecured creditors don’t have the ability to repossess property. This means that there’s more negotiating power on the table for you.

Don’t be afraid to pull the bankruptcy card with unsecured creditors. If you can’t reach a debt repayment agreement and declare bankruptcy, the creditor will probably get nothing at all. In other words, if the company wants anything at all, it’s in their best interest to offer you some credit card debt help.

What Happens If You Succeed?

If a credit card company agrees to give you an extension, a better rate, or any kind of debt-managing alteration, ask to get the agreement in writing. Also, be sure to get the full name and job title of the person that you had negotiated with. Occasionally, an agent might tell you that you can pay later, only to be faced with a call from the company later demanding payment. If you don’t have the name of the agent you spoke with, or any kind of documentation on the agreement, the company will have no reason to believe that an arrangement was reached. A key aspect of learning how to negotiate a credit card settlement is keeping great records so that you can defend yourself if you get a call from a credit card company down the line.

The Best Repayment Method

If you can begin your repayment with cash, you can likely get a creditor to settle for a lower amount. The more liquid your payment is, the better your chances of reducing the sum. It’s a bad idea to use equity on secured property to pay for unsecured debt. For instance, getting a home equity loan to pay off your debt may put you at risk for losing your house if you run into more financial trouble in the future.

For the best advice on how to seek credit card debt help, especially for recent college grads, consult with the expert team at Financial Solutions of America and be on your way to achieving the next financial milestone.

How to Save Money on Travel for Budget-Friendly Summer Vacations

Stylish travel

Debt is an enormous problem for Americans. According to recent figures, up to 80% of Americans are saddled with debt, with the median household deficit being over $130,000. Though the most common sources of debt stem from home mortgages, car payments, and student loans, there’s another, even more frightening source of debt that sneaks up on Americans: unpaid credit card balances.

Since credit cards are often used to cover miscellaneous expenses and other costs, the balances that accrue can go unnoticed for long periods of time. Credit card companies make it very easy to borrow money instantly, without adequately warning consumers of the great risk.

Despite all of this debt, more than half of Americans still vacation each year, whether it’s a budget-friendly summer vacation or not. In fact, a third of the entire population spends over $1,000 per person on summer vacation alone. Many carefully managed budgets are violated during the care-free days of easy spending and vacationing.

The reason vacation is a time of such extraordinary spending is that it usually acts as a break from the stress of everyday life-it’s a time to be relieved of the usual duties and put pressing concerns out of mind. Though there is virtue in taking the time and space to center and balance yourself amidst the stresses of life, it pays to consider all of the costs of vacation beforehand. Read on to discover effective ideas to save money throughout the year and learn about creating budget-friendly summer vacations.

Financial spreadsheet

How to Save Money on Summer Trips

A great resource to use while planning for your budget-friendly summer vacations is a spreadsheet. Use Microsoft Excel or a similar program to create a sheet where you can keep track of your yearly spending, and another where you can crunch the numbers for your summer trip options.

On your budget spreadsheet, fill in your Mortgage, Groceries, Utilities, and other daily, weekly, and monthly expenses. On your summer spreadsheet, make separate columns for Entertainment, Travel, Lodging, and Dining.

Do your homework by researching average prices of food in the area, the cost of the specific events you’d like to attend, and the price of travel to and from your destination. The best way to get a sense of the cost of a trip is to set all the numbers in front of you so that you can visualize and compare prices. Then, take a look at your budget spreadsheet to decide which summer plan fits your budget best.

Reading on vacation

Research and Planning

The key to learning how to save money on travel is to explore multiple options. With a little online research, you’ll find that there are plenty of affordable, non-traditional ways to travel. Rather than just looking at hotel prices in the area of your vacation destination, look into alternative lodging. For example, Airbnb provides a service where homeowners can list a room or a part of their house for overnight guests. It’s essentially a room rental, but often at a fraction of the price of a hotel. Also, Airbnb hosts may treat you to in-house accommodations, or offer to show you around the town.

Of course, all vacation destinations are not created equal, and it will take some research to find the budget-friendly summer vacation destination that you can enjoy while staying true to your budget. Remember that the cheapest option isn’t necessarily the best choice. For instance, if you enjoy the big city, but you decide to go on a cheaper trip to a rural area, you may not enjoy yourself and all the money you spent on the trip would be wasted. Look for the opportunity to maximize enjoyment while staying within your means.

Purchasing plane tickets online

From Point A to Point B

Another way to plan for budget-friendly summer vacations is to book your flights well in advance. Prices will be cheaper, and you may be able to find special promotions for exotic destinations. Consider molding your summer vacation around a great promotional deal.

Often, there are certain times during the year when buying flights can be much cheaper. If you can avoid weekends and peak hours, you can cut your flight costs by up to half of the original price. When you find an approximate time and destination that works for you, check a few other airlines to compare prices before you make a purchase.

You can also maximize your savings when you consider inner-city travel alternatives once you land. Instead of simply hailing a taxi at the curb of the airport, do your research into public transportation-buses or trains can save you a substantial amount. There are also mobile apps, like Lyft and Uber, which you can use to request a pickup anywhere in the city limits. These options are usually more affordable than taxi transport. Another way to save money on transportation is to rent a car, which allows you to cover long distances without planning around public transport schedules.

Mobile shopping

The Right Card

Making purchases for your vacation sometimes requires you to spend a large amount of money all at once. Maximize your budget-friendly summer vacations with a credit card that offers loyalty points for each dollar spent. You can save money on gas with some cards, get cash back on others, or get flight miles for certain airlines. Keep an eye out for rebates and promotional offers that cycle throughout the year. As long as you’re spending money on a credit card, you should take advantage of the rewards that come along with it. This is a hallmark of how to save money on travel.

Thanksgiving feast

A Fun and Cost-Effective Staycation

A quick price comparison is all it takes to discover the enormous financial advantage of staying at home for your vacation instead of traveling. A “staycation,” as it were, can be one of the most budget-friendly summer vacation options out there, since you can eliminate the price of travel and lodging. Avoiding this large expenditure will free you up to spend a little more money on food, fun, and activities at home and nearby.

If you know how to save money on travel, you know that straying far from home is not mandatory for a fun vacation. There are plenty of enjoyable activities you can discover locally. Summer is packed with festivals, fairs, and markets all over the country. These specialty events feature unique items and acts that you couldn’t find anywhere else. Take the kids through the booths at the farmer’s market where they can see homemade arts and crafts, handmade clothing, and farm-fresh food items.

You can also take advantage of a staycation with a season pass to a local amusement park. Staying home all summer affords you many opportunities to visit a park and enjoy the benefits of a season pass. After five or six visits, you’ll see the pass pay for itself when you save money on food, parking, and other activities.

There are many other spontaneous activities you can include in a budget-friendly summer vacation. Hit the road with your phones to do some geocaching-a real-life treasure hunt where you track down GPS coordinates of hidden boxes, or caches, which contain tracking logs and mysterious treasures. Caches are often difficult to find, which makes the search a real adventure. When you discover the treasure, you take something from the box and leave something behind for the explorers who come after you.

You can also host potlucks and BBQs, visit local museums, join community center activities, and attend city-hosted movies and concerts in the local parks. Don’t underestimate the action-packed summer your local city can offer.

Vegetarian groceries

Sticking to Your Budget Throughout the Year

When it’s time to start saving up for budget-friendly summer vacations, you can free up your budget by living frugally all year. Save up for your vacation by setting aside a small amount of extra money each month. This seemingly insignificant bit of cash adds up over the year, and by the time your vacation rolls around, you can use your savings during the summer months. Here are some very simple ways to cut back on costs throughout the year:

  • Utility Bills. Besides cutting down your monthly charges, keeping your utilities in check is great for the environment. There are simple ways of curbing your utilities usage, such as taking shorter showers and turning off any lights that aren’t being used. Learn how to save money on travel by developing habits to lower your monthly bills.
  • Smart Grocery Shopping. A big mistake people make while shopping is just buying random food while meandering through the store aisles. This leads to buying too much food, splurging on overpriced foods, and buying food you don’t need. Make a grocery list before you go to the store that includes all the essentials for prepared meals, find coupons for the foods you purchase most often, and set aside a budget for non-essentials like sweets and ice cream-importantly, don’t let yourself exceed that allotment. These changes will benefit your health and your budget, leading to more money for budget-friendly summer vacations.
  • Saving on Clothes. Visit a few thrift stores to look for hidden gems. Local clothing exchange stores often have incredible bargains for thrift-hunters. You can find very stylish clothes at affordable prices. If you love shopping, get into the thrift-circuit, where you get the thrill of discovering incredible clothes at a fantastic price.
  • No-Spend Days. Try controlling your spending by designating certain days of the week as “no-spend days.” You’ll save extra money throughout the week, and you’ll discover that most of your daily purchases are impulse based. Cutting down unnecessary spending is just one more way you’ll learn how to save money on travel.

Jumping on mountain

Eliminating Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is one of the biggest culprits against saving money. An average American pays over $2,000 in interest per year to credit card companies. Reducing your debt is one of the best ways to save money, especially in the long term. Ask your creditor what their policies are on debt consolidation and debt negotiation. Often, you can persuade a creditor to give you an extension for more time to pay off your debts. You can also negotiate for a better interest rate, or move your debt to another credit card that has a lower rate The less credit card debt you have, the more budget-friendly summer vacations you can afford.

Budgeting finances

Choosing Your Summer Savings Strategy

No matter which strategy you choose to curb spending during the year and save funds for the summer, be sure to set realistic expectations for yourself. A good strategy would be to try implementing one money-saving tip at a time. Perhaps this week you can try controlling your utilities, then next week make the switch to thrift stores. The path to financial freedom needs to be taken one step at a time. Choose the options that are most attainable for you, your family, and your lifestyle. Just remember not to underestimate savings because they seem insubstantial.

If you found this guide helpful, stay informed on more of the latest strategies for staying debt-free and managing existing debt with tips with the Financial Solutions of America blog.

How to Reduce Credit Card Debt Over Summer Vacation

Couple shopping online

Many Americans take the freewheeling notion of summer as license to spend without thinking. With spending rising precipitously over the summer-especially during vacations-credit card debt can quickly get out of hand. Financial stability plans are disregarded in favor for spontaneous road trips and accommodating surprise visits from family or friends, meaning vacations are not only expensive but financially debilitating.

In fact, many financial advisors recommend that extraneous expenses such as trips, nice meals, and large purchases be accounted for in your budget. Unfortunately, unplanned spending on a credit card with a high interest rate not only makes it easy to lose control of your money, but can quickly spiral into insurmountable debt. To avoid falling into a precarious financial situation this summer, learn how to reduce credit card debt effortlessly, courtesy of Financial Solutions of America.

Girls night out

High Spending During the Summer Months

Vacation costs can vary wildly based on the consumer-some prefer to stay at upscale hotels, while others prefer to lodge in budget-friendly motels and prioritize thrifty options. However, in either case, vacation costs can add up very quickly. Considering the cost of travel, lodging, dining, and entertainment, domestic trips can amount to an average of nearly $150 per day, with international travel running up to as much as $300 per day.

There are many factors that determine how much a summer vacation will cost. Statistics show extreme disparity in vacation costs depending on the age of the vacationers. For example, people approaching retirement age are found to spend an average of four times as much on their vacation as compared to people in their mid-20s. Though this can possibly be attributed to travel accommodations designed for greater comfort and convenience, both age groups are susceptible to increasing debt and diminishing capital.

Holiday shopping spree

Vacation Costs Rising Every Year

Due to general inflation and the steadily rising prices of hospitality services, vacation costs are at a record high. According to ADI’s 2016 Travel Report, spending on flights and hotels in the U.S. is expected to increase by 5.5% in 2016. In the last year, Americans spent nearly $82.9 billion on vacation, with the majority of that spending occurring over the summer. Summer holidays have proven to be enormously costly on average as well:

  • Memorial Day weekend: $3.05 billion
  • Fourth of July weekend: $3.22 billion
  • Labor Day weekend: $2.92 billion

While spending money during a vacation isn’t a problem in itself, the trouble comes when people deal with the costs by accruing credit card debt. During the early stages of planning your vacation, make sure that you’re fully aware of your budget and only use your credit card when necessary. With vacation-related expenses expanding at a faster rate than economic inflation, you can face tough financial challenges if you don’t know how to reduce credit card debt. Before you embark on your summer vacation this year, make sure you know the basics of how to eliminate credit card debt.

Sailboats at sunset

Where You Lose the Most Money

If you can limit yourself to a single vacation over the summer, you’ll have an easier time keeping an eye on costs and managing your budget. Many Americans make the mistake of carefully planning one vacation and sticking to their budget, only to compromise their careful spending with an impromptu second vacation. When prioritizing financial stability, it’s always a good idea to vacation with a specific plan to keep spending under control.

Additionally, international flights are guaranteed to quickly diminish your vacation budget since you’ll need to allocate more funds to travel costs. Although travelling to distant locales may be tempting, it’s crucial to understand that proper budgeting and saving for a larger scale trip are fundamental to being able to afford expensive airfare. One way to save on your summer trip is to find a destination that not only resembles your standard of paradise, but is also closer to home than you would expect.

Key to knowing how to reduce credit card debt is being aware of your financial situation and any existing debt before you leave on vacation. Starting off in the red means that you will be in a more pressing predicament as soon as you arrive back at home. To avert any chance of financial instability, achieve a degree of financial freedom and establish a strong footing before you set off to relax.

Mediterranean vacation

Average Vacation Cost: Domestic vs International

A quick look at the average cost differences between domestic and international travel can help you make your vacation plans:

  • Transportation
    • International: $1,755
    • Domestic: $224
  • Lodging
    • International: $683
    • Domestic: $150
  • Food
    • International: $520
    • Domestic: $155
  • Entertainment
    • International: $293
    • Domestic: $52
  • Cost per day
    • International: $271
    • Domestic: $144
  • Total
    • International: $3,251
    • Domestic: $581

Wallet with money

How To Know Whether You’re Mismanaging Your Credit Cards

There are strong indicators that reflect if you’re poorly handling your credit cards, and if any of them apply to you, it is probably wise to seek greater financial stability before planning your next vacation. The most outright sign is if you own more than a couple of active credit cards that are all accruing monthly interest. Given that many people reach their credit limit before paying off their debt in full, consider reevaluating your spending before applying for another credit card.

The most important thing to consider before you make excessive charges to your credit card is your interest rate. Using high interest rate cards that you can’t pay back immediately is a very dangerous practice. As a foolproof strategy for how to eliminate credit card debt, simply avoid high interest cards; however, if you already own one, be sure to pay the balance in full immediately.

Another warning sign of impending credit card trouble is when you only pay the minimum on your balance. While this may sound appealing, it puts you at a great disadvantage because the balance that remains unpaid gains interest. Essentially, your monthly bill will continue to expand while your credit score falls.

Working with calculator

Recognize Your Vacation Spending Habits

Credit card debt rarely builds up simply because a person is unintelligent or low on funds. In fact, the majority of American credit card debt exists due to accidental money mismanagement. With a few simple adjustments to your vacation spending habits, however, you can learn how to reduce your credit card debt for good.

If you have a job that offers Paid Time Off (PTO), then this is the best way to significantly cut costs during your vacation. With some careful planning, you may break even upon arriving back at home, rather than facing a daunting amount of credit card debt.

By planning your vacations around federal holidays, you can capitalize on time while ensuring that you aren’t missing out on extra work hours. Likewise, taking unpaid time off of work can be a detrimental blow to your finances, since you would inherently be losing money rather than earning it during that time. Decrease your likelihood of falling into new debt by maximizing your PTO and taking very few additional days off.

Kids playing outside

Give the Kids a Vacation of Their Own

There are many advantages to sending the kids off for an activity of their own during the summer break. Whether you send them off to summer camp or to stay with their grandparents, they can enjoy their time away from home with a variety of new and exciting experiences. Simultaneously, you can relish the time away from the responsibilities of parenthood to enjoy your own hobbies and interests. Splitting up your vacation in this way can also help relieve costs.

You can make vacation budgeting a family learning moment by introducing monetary insights to your children and helping them to understand the importance of financial stability. If they’re old enough for the lesson, take the opportunity to teach your kids how to eliminate credit card debt by minimizing vacation costs, taking a shorter vacation, and reuniting at home for quality time.

Making a budget

Planning Ahead Welcomes Financial Freedom

Any financial advisor is likely to give similar feedback when asked how to most efficiently manage money: budget and plan ahead. Funding a summer vacation can be less stressful if you begin saving money in advance. Setting money aside each month can result in a decently sized fund that can take the financial burden off of vacationing. If you’re looking for how to eliminate credit card debt before you embark on a vacation, planning ahead and being prepared are critical to your financial health.

As you narrow down your vacation options, you can also make a cost spreadsheet. Determine how much you will need for travel, lodging, and food, among other miscellaneous costs. Visualizing your expenditures before spending money can help you decide whether or not the trip is worth the cost. If it isn’t, you’ll still have plenty of time to re-budget or explore more options.

Furthermore, searching for airfare deals before it’s time to purchase a flight is a surefire way to save money and help reduce debt. Since airlines typically offer promotional deals throughout the year, find out which destinations are being offered at a reduced rate during your projected vacation time. By planning around deals, you can free up your budget and enjoy financial stability during your vacation.

Organized desk

Budget with Financial Tools

There are many exciting ways to get a handle on your finances. Thanks to a wealth of new financial resources, you can easily plan your budget online. One way to effectively learn how to reduce credit card debt is to start with all of the numbers in front of you. Sometimes hidden costs and forgotten charges can wreck your budget, but by mastering your finances with budgeting software you can ensure that your bank account is kept in the positive with ease.

Planning a vacation

Develop a Sound Strategy

Whether you are planning to vacation this summer or not, your finances will greatly benefit if you know how to eliminate credit card debt. Prioritize paying off all accrued debt by starting with the balance with the highest interest rate. This will keep your debt minimal, as compounding interest rates can quickly double or triple the initial amount.

Depending on your creditor, research whether you can negotiate to lower your interest rate or receive an extension on your due date. This can not only help you to avoid hefty fees, but can contribute to a lesser monthly payment. Taking the initiative to negotiate may demonstrate to your creditor that you’re proactive about your debt and pragmatic about paying it off as soon as possible.

As you begin planning for this summer’s vacation, research your expected costs, create a reasonable budget, and aim to restructure any extraneous activities with cost-efficient alternatives. Proper money management will increase your peace of mind and allow you to more fully enjoy your vacation. For more information on how to reduce credit card debt, reach out to Financial Solutions of America today.

Understanding the Different Types of Debt Settlement Letter

Man at desk with billsDebt settlement is for you if you are suffering financial hardships, which cause you to fall back on payments and start receiving those never-ending creditor calls. A positive alternative to bankruptcy, debt settlement enables you to negotiate your debt, reducing your balance and eventually eliminating it for good.

When it comes to debt settlement, not one size fits all. Financial Solutions of America understands that communicating effectively with creditors  is of the utmost importance. We will examine the various types of debt settlement letter below.

Debt Settlement Agreement Letter

If you’re establishing a settlement with a creditor or collection agency, it’s paramount to have that agreement in writing. The debt settlement agreement letter states the terms and conditions between you and your creditor, and any other debt settlement letter you have on file from the creditor should be attached to this agreement when mailing it.

Counter Offer for Debt Settlement

You don’t always have to settle for what the collection agency offers. When your personal debt is concerned, it’s up to you to make the correct decision, and sometimes that includes a little negotiating. A counter offer is your own proposed payment, a response to the offer made in the debt settlement agreement letter.

Writing a counter offer is a useful tactic when trying to resolve your debt. You have the right to explain your situation, along with the amount that you can pay to fully settle the debt. Collection agencies would much rather see you take the initiative to work with them, rather than just ignoring their calls. In many circumstances, they will be willing to take your offer (or negotiate on a similar offer) and settle with you for good.

Letter of Acceptance of Verbal Offer

Plastic payment cardsOnce you have established a settlement amount, it’s important to confirm the offer (with the necessary signatures) in writing. This important debt settlement letter confirms the agreement between you and your creditor or collection agency, and it’s especially important if the agreement didn’t take place in person. Even if you received verbal confirmation over the phone, be sure to get everything in writing for your records.

Unsolicited Offer Letter

This type of debt settlement letter allows you to take control, establishing the first written communication regarding your debt. In an unsolicited offer letter, you propose what you’re willing to pay before receiving anything from the creditor or collection agency. Rather than waiting for harassing phone calls or letters, you are showing initiative in terms of both the payment amount and the schedule. Let your creditor know that you’re serious about your offer, explain your financial situation honestly, and only propose an amount and payment schedule that is realistic for you. The effort to take control of your debt is what will impress the collection agencies and give you the chance for a better settlement, one that will work for you.

calculator pen and receiptsPay for Delete Settlement Letter

This type of letter is for when you’ve come to a settlement and the creditor or collection agency agrees to erase the account information from your credit report. That information doesn’t need to be seen now that it’s been settled, but you’ll need a pay for delete settlement letter to have this agreement in writing.

How American Credit Card Debt Has Changed in the Last 5 Years

This infographic provides an understanding of what changes in the American economy since 2010 might mean for credit card debt.

How American Credit Card Debt Has Changed in the Last 5 Years

 

Transcript:

How American Credit Card Debt Has Changed in the Last 5 Years

At Financial Solutions of America, we recognize the value of putting your own debt situation in context and being aware of the bigger picture. To get an understanding of what changes in the American economy since 2010 might mean for credit card debt, consider these statistics:

  1. The average American in credit card debt as of January 2015 owed over $2,000 less than the average in January 2010.
    As expected, consumer debt has improved with the economy in the past 5 years.
  2. The biggest yearly decrease in debt (about $3,000) was between January 2010 and January 2011.
    Credit card debt began to decrease as the nation recovered from the Great Recession, which officially ended in 2009.
  3. In the second quarter of 2010, the charge-off rate was 10.9%.
    The huge decrease in credit card debt that occurred in 2010 was mostly due to credit card companies writing off unpaid debts.
  4. The percentage of households with credit card debt increased over 3% between January 2010 and January 2011.
    It seems as though the high charge-off rates, as well as a slow rate of economic recovery, encouraged more consumers to borrow in order to meet their needs.
  5. The biggest yearly increase in debt (about $500) was between January 2014 and January 2015.
    The recent increase in credit card debt likely has to do with credit card companies letting consumers borrow more freely, while also becoming more strict about collecting unpaid debt since the high charge-off rates of 2010.
  6. The proportion of households in debt has remained at around 46.7% over the past 4 years.
    Considering the slow climb of average debt amount in the past year or so, it could be that the rate of consumers falling into credit card debt is faster than those getting out of it.
  7. As of July 2015, the average indebted American’s outstanding balance is $15,863, while average student loan debt is at $33,090 and average mortgage debt is at $156,584.
    Credit card debt ranks third, behind student loan debt and mortgage debt, in sources of indebtedness for Americans.
  8. The average debt across all American households is $7,400.
    The average is significantly lower when including households not in any credit card debt, suggesting that most of the American population owes a relatively small amount.

Financial Solutions of America is ready to help you settle your credit card debt. Contact us to learn how our settlement programs can help you out of debt in as little as 12–24 months.

Source: http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/

What to Include in Your Debt Negotiation Letter

Credit card debt is never any fun, but it’s something that a ton of Americans find themselves dealing with. If you’re among them, there’s plenty of good news: negotiating your debts, credit card or otherwise, isn’t impossible. You can typically work with lenders and credit card companies to negotiate your debt, work out an arrangement that will allow you to pay what you owe, and can whittle the total amount that you owe down so that you wind up paying a smaller amount. It’s all about how you present yourself. We’ll talk about a few of the most important things that you’ll want to include when you start the debt letter negotiation process.

State Your Intent and Be Respectfuldebt letter negotiation

Starting the debt letter negotiation process requires a deft touch and a few important details, but it’s not a hard thing to get right by any stretch of the imagination. One of the most important details of debt letter negotiation is maintaining a very respectful and professional tone. You want to open the letter with something relatively formal like “dear sir or madam,” and you want to keep extra details to a minimum. Get to the point, and be respectful in doing so.

Announce your intents at the beginning of the letter, and be very specific. This will likely require that you get in touch with your lender beforehand so you can figure out exactly what you owe. Include everything from late fees to interest rates, so that you can begin with rock-solid information on what you owe. State what you owe, and how much you intend to pay. Also, make sure to mention that you would like for them to consider your debt paid in full, so that your credit doesn’t suffer.

Be Specific and Lay Out Your Planwriting letter of negotiation

Another important key to debt letter negotiation involves being specific and laying out your exact plan. Always use hard numbers. It’s important that you take the time before writing your letter to figure out exactly how you plan to pay off your debt, if it’s not going to be one single payment. Propose this plan with specific dates and amounts, and show your intent to clear your debt once and for all.

Having solid information and presenting it confidently is one of the keys to getting credit card companies or lenders to work with you when it comes to your debt letter negotiation. Laying out a plan will inspire confidence in your intent and abilities to pay off your debts, and being respectfully straightforward shows that you’re serious about doing so. Working with lenders can be a little nerve-wracking, but with the right information, it doesn’t have to be impossible.

5 Creative Ways to Cut Credit Card Debt

cutting credit card debtWhen it comes to cutting credit card debt, there are a ton of different ways to do it. You can deal with lenders and credit card companies on your own, or you can hire a group of professionals to do that kind of legwork for you. Either way, it’s important to know that cutting credit card debt is an attainable goal. Still, one must understand that doing this requires some relatively long-term changes. Here are a few creative tips to help you change your life and your relationship with money in a way that will help you in your goal towards financial freedom.

  1. Start a Very Thorough Budget

If you’re working on cutting credit card debt, you might not be budgeting your money as well as you should. Don’t let this become something that stresses you out, though. Start by setting up a monthly plan for how much you’ll need in order to take care of your bills, food, entertainment, and other financial responsibilities. Don’t forget that this is to be a living, breathing document that you’ll adjust every month.

  1. Track All of the Expenditures!

As you work on keeping your thorough budget, make sure you track every expenditure. A big part of cutting credit card debt involves knowing where all your money goes. If you keep track of every dime you spend, you’ll be able to tighten the belt in ways that inspire long term change down the road.

  1. Gameify Itcut debt

If you’re working hard to change your spending habits and rid yourself of credit card debt for the long-term, why not make it into something that’s a little fun? Find ways to reward yourself when you have an especially good week. Set budgetary thresholds, and work to stay below them. See if you can find creative ways to set daily, weekly, and monthly goals for yourself, making it easier to get yourself out of debt for good.

  1. Strike All Unnecessary Spending

Once you’ve made yourself a budget and have started to track your spending, try cutting out the spending that you don’t absolutely need. Maybe you can go without your Netflix account for a few months. Perhaps one less trip to the movies will do your wallet good. Either way, with a budget and better money-tracking, you should be able to figure out where you can cut unnecessary money-spending, which goes a long way when it comes to cutting credit card debt.

  1. Change the Way You Eat

Food is a big way that people spend money without realizing it. Start cooking more meals at home, and start buying cheaper foods. Farmer’s markets are great places to find high-quality meats and veggies that won’t cost you a fortune. Even your local grocery store will have produce that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. Try eating cheaper and you’ll be able to spend more money than you might have thought!

Getting rid of credit card debt doesn’t have to be impossible, and with these five tips it just might be a bit easier than you thought!