Hope for your financial life and beyond

How to Get Out of Debt and Win in Five Simple Steps

Are you up to your eyeballs in debt? Don’t see anyway out? If so, take heart. You are not alone. Millions of Americans live with this burden and never once think about how to get out of debt.

how to get out of debtYou shouldn’t ignore the mountain of debt piling up. It would be better if you paid close attention because excessive debt will cripple your wealth building process. It will mess up your savings, the kid’s college funding, and even your retirement investing. In many cases, it also ruins your relationships.

People choose to ignore the debt crisis in their lives for many reasons. Some aren’t self aware enough to see how debt is affecting their life. Others enjoy the perks that come from excessive spending and think debt is the only way to get what they really want. I’m sure in some cases, people see the mountain of debt is so overwhelmingly high. As a result, they don’t know where or how to begin climbing out of it.

Whatever your circumstance, what I am about to share can help. How to get out of debt involves five simple enough steps to understand. However, the steps themselves won’t be easy. A few will be challenging to implement. Your behavior will have to change if you are going to be successful.

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The Hidden College Debt Statistics You Never Hear About

The cost of college continues to expand with each passing year. With it, so does the amount of student loans being processed. It’s leading to an alarming amount of college debt that is hamstringing the life of graduates.

college debtBy now I’m sure you’ve heard the alarming student loan statistics. Americans now owe over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. For the class of 2016, the average borrower will owe just over $37,000, a figure that is up 6% from last year.

But those are just your basic top line college debt statistics. They are the most visible numbers but they don’t tell the whole story. There are some hidden statistics (i.e. not usually reported) that highlight what this college debt is doing to students later in life. They show that virtually every decision in life can be impacted by college debt.

How College Debt Impacts Your Life

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How to Make Sure You Never Need a Car Loan

My wife and I have recently bought a new car. It was used but new to us. The best part about the whole deal was that we didn’t have to take out a car loan.

We paid cash.

car loanNow, we are both in our forties and well established financially. So you might think this purchase was a piece of cake. On the contrary, it wasn’t. It took us two years of preparation to be able to buy this vehicle. But it was worth the effort to avoid needing a car loan.

How did we do it? I’ll share that in a minute and show you the steps to take to never need a car loan again. But first, let’s look at the reasons why people feel the need to take out a car loan in the first place.

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4 Ways to Fund That Extra Mortgage Payment

For most people making one monthly mortgage payment is challenging enough. Why in the world would you want to make an additional one? Seems like that extra mortgage payment would be pushing the monthly budget a bit too far.

extra mortgage paymentWell, if you can see the bigger picture, the money you put towards an extra mortgage payment now can have significant impact on your long-term financial health. The more you pay and the earlier you pay it will reduce the amount of interest you owe over the life of the loan. You could be looking at tens of thousands of dollars saved in the long run.

If you don’t believe me, run your own numbers on any online mortgage calculator. You’ll be amazed on how much you can save.

Making an extra mortgage payment each month (or even a partial payment) takes a strategy. More importantly, it takes extra money. That’s where the real problem lies. When you look at your monthly budget you may be left scratching your head wondering where that extra money is going to come from.

Back when my wife and I decided to pay off our mortgage early, we faced the same problem. Here are the ways we came up with to free up some money to make that extra mortgage payment.

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What Does the Bible Say About Debt? Wait Til You See

I end up turning to the Bible for a lot of questions in my life. After all, God has a lot more wisdom than I do, so why not tap into that knowledge? It seems that no matter what I’m dealing with I can find some answers within the pages of the Bible.

what does the bible say about debtA few years ago, I’m reviewing our finances and this question randomly pops into my head, What does the Bible say about debt?  The truth is it wasn’t a random thought at all. My wife and I were trying to get out of debt so the topic was weighing on our minds. I knew what I thought about debt but didn’t really know what God said. So I decided to give it a look.

What I found was a little surprising and served as a wake-up call. Not only that but at another level, it provided encouragement and hope. I realized there was a better path to take than the one I was on.

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The Hidden Step to Pay Off Debt You’ll Not Want to Miss

If you are looking to pay off debt, the first place you’ll probably look is at your monthly expenses. That’s what my wife and I did when we wanted to pay off our mortgage early. We wanted to squeeze some extra money out of our budget. To do that we needed to cut expenses.

pay off debtWe looked long and hard at our budget and made some adjustments. While we were paying off our mortgage we disconnected our cable TV, ate out less, spent very little on things around the house (like landscaping and home furnishings) and pretty much stopped going to movies just to name a few things. The extra money we saved by cutting our expenses and changing our lifestyle we put towards the mortgage.

For us that was enough to speed up the process. We were overspending in some areas in the worst way. Believe me when the sacrifice was worth it to not have any debt following us around.

But for many others simply cutting expenses in the budget will not be enough to pay off debt at the pace the want. The reason is that you can only cut expenses so far. You’ll still need money to pay for food, housing, utilities, transportation and clothing. All those things cost money and you can’t eliminate them entirely from your budget.

That leaves many who want to pay off debt frustrated. They’d like to pay off their debt faster but they just can’t. There is too little money to go around and nowhere else they can cut expenses.

What they are missing is that there is actually a two-step process to find the money to pay off debt. Cutting expenses is only half the equation.

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Should I Cosign? Here Is the Truth About What God Says

Hidden Nuggets Series #102: “Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety [ cosign ] for debts.” – Proverbs 22:26

If you’ve ever had a situation where a friend or family member asked you to cosign a loan you know it’s a tough spot to be in. On the one hand you want to help. But the idea of being responsible for someone’s debt has you a little squeamish.

cosignSay “No” and it seems like you don’t care.

Say “Yes” and you are opening yourself up to financial risk.

Maybe as you thought think about what to do, you should have considered asking this question: “What does God have to say about it? Would He want me to cosign for this loan?” It may never have occurred to you to seek advice from a higher power.

The truth is God talks a lot about money in the Bible. He even has advice about cosigning which really surprised me when I found it. For anyone, but especially people of faith, His advice is worth listening to.

God’s Advice on Whether to Cosign

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When to Avoid Zero Percent Financing Offers On Cars

At some point we’ve all run across an advertisement on TV from a car dealer pitching some form of incentive. Manufacturer incentives are special offers designed to entice you to buy a car. Overall they have been found to be very effective in drawing consumers to car lots.

zero percent financingThese deals usually come in the form of rebates (cash back) or a low annual percentage rate (APR). The APR is the amount of interest on the loan that you will pay during the year. Of course lowering the interest rate reduces your monthly payment. The lowest APR a manufacturer could offer would be zero percent. This means you pay no interest on the car loan.

Zero percent financing on a car sounds like too good a deal to ignore. Who should pass up free money, right? However, you may want to think twice before signing on the dotted line. There are several reasons these deals could be bad for the consumer.

The Story on Zero Percent Financing

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This Is What Happens When You Don’t Pay Back Student Loans

Student loans have helped many pay for the expenses of a college education. Of course you need to pay back student loans those even if you don’t graduate. Fortunately student loans have what’s known as a grace period – a set time after you graduate, leave school or drop below full-time student status before the loan repayment begins. The grace period gives you time to find a job or deal with a difficult life issue before you have to pay back the student loan.

pay back student loansIf you can’t or choose not to pay back student loans, you risk going into default. To default on a loan means you did not pay it back on schedule according to the terms of the promissory note ­– the legal document you signed when you received the loan.

The good news is you don’t have to panic if you miss one payment. Going into default won’t happen right away. If you miss a few payments your student loan will first be tagged with a delinquent status. It won’t officially go into default until 270 days have passed without a payment.

At that point, you will face some serious consequences. The U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid office lists these possible actions that may be taken if you default on your student loan:

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How to Avoid a Foreclosure When You Are Struggling Financially

If home ownership is the American dream then a foreclosure is a homeowner’s worst nightmare. Thousands of people face this situation every day because they are struggling financially and have failed to pay the mortgage. It can definitely lead to some sleepless nights worrying over whether or not the bank will come take your home.

avoid foreclosureAvoiding foreclosure is extremely important for several reasons. For starters, it damages your credit score. You may see a drop of 200 points or more even if you had perfect credit beforehand. In addition, the information stays on your credit report for seven years. This makes it very difficult to secure a new mortgage loan or open other lines of credit in the future. It’s a stain on your personal financial record that takes years to overcome.

How to Avoid a Foreclosure

In the end you may have no choice but to foreclose. However, don’t assume all hope is lost because you may be a month or two behind on the mortgage.

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Buyer Beware: Renting a Car With a Debit Card

My wife and I have chosen to be debt free and live without the use of credit cards. 99% of the time we have no issues when it comes to purchases. We simply swipe our debit card or pay with cash when making a transaction. The one instance where we’ve had difficulty is when we are renting a car with a debit card.

We’ve run into trouble twice with this and in both cases it nearly had us stuck. The most recent time, on our vacation to Yellowstone a few weeks ago, nearly cost us our trip.

My wife is an incredible trip planner. She can research and organize a trip with such precision I hardly have to pay attention. The most I end up doing in the trip-planning phase is giving minor advice and approval to her vacation to-do requests.

So when the chance came to save $700 on our rental car for the week that was a no-brainer. “Heck, yeah” I said. “Book that!”

My wife is member of the AICPA (the American Institute of  CPAs). As a member she is entitled to discounts with companies with whom the AICPA has an affiliation. One such company is Hertz.

She did all the fine-print reading ahead of time and found out Hertz does accept debit cards for rental car purchases. The one caveat is they require a credit check before releasing the car. That should have raised a red flag for us but we just missed it. (Our credit is of course shot because we don’t use credit anymore.)

So we booked a minivan with Hertz two months prior to leaving and didn’t give it another thought.

Renting a Car With a Debit Card: A Nightmare Scenario

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