Nation's addiction to credit is unsettling to say the least.
Just before Christmas, the Associated Press reported that Americans are losing the battle with credit-card debt. We're falling behind on payments, and defaults and delinquencies are increasing rapidly.
The subprime mortgage mess is partly to blame, economists say. But they also cite "America's long-standing attitude that debt -- even high-interest credit card debt -- is not a big deal."
Howard Dvorkin, the founder of a Florida credit counseling service, put it this way: "The desire of consumers to want, want, want, spend, spend, spend -- it's the fabric of our nation."
Dvorkin's words irritated the heck out of me. Unfortunately, they happen to be true.
Making every penny count is actually kind of fun.
When I wrote "Surviving and thriving on $12,000 a year," some people thought it was a scam. They wrote notes to the editor along the lines of, "Come on, nobody could really live on that." The fact is, plenty of people in this country live on less.
These days, some readers ask whether this part-time writing job changed things. As I noted in the follow-up to the original article, my life changed but my lifestyle didn't. The additional income has let me visit family, invest in decent shoes, and buy the occasional rotisserie chicken.
I still hate to pay retail, though.
Yesterday's errands are a good example. I'm listing a typical day of frugal hacks to show that yes, I do still live this way and that no, it's not onerous. Actually, it's kind of fun.
Do you really need all that junk?
A little cleaning can save dollars along with your sanity. That's what Smart Spending message board reader "Lynn D" says, anyway.
In a thread called "Making home a haven," the grad student notes that her formerly crowded condo made her feel "stressed and boxed in," which led to her wanting to go out, which led to her spending money.
At first, she tried to combat the tendency by spending more money -- on storage bins, hooks, an entertainment center and other things allegedly designed to help. Finally, Lynn D figured out the real problem: "I needed to get rid of (junk)!"
Now she finds herself staying at home more, whether it's to do her nails or watch a movie on a couch no longer littered with papers and books. Lynn D admits to another savings, too: She no longer has to buy things she already owns but couldn't find in all the clutter.
Readers can learn from my mistake.
A nasty upper respiratory virus recently laid me low. During this time I discovered, to my chagrin, how easy it is to overspend with a debit card when you're not feeling good.
I'm about to blame illness for yet another personal-finance gaffe: the Big Bill-Pay Snafu.
It turned out to be correctable, but it was a boneheaded error. Here's hoping you will learn from my mistake.
Pay early, pay often
A small credit card bill arrived over the weekend and I went online to pay it. I'd paid my other bills on Jan. 30. After typing in the amount, I happened to glance to the "last payment made" column on the right. It showed that this bill had already been paid, on Jan. 30.
In fact, it had been overpaid -- by about $750.
Using cards keeps his finances (and pockets) organized.
"Broke Grad Student" would like to have a big honking wad of cash as much as the next guy. But that's a dream because of his big honking student loan debt. In a post called "6 reasons why I hate cash," he explains why he otherwise has little use for bills and coins.
He's right. Cash is easily misplaced. It probably took us 20 years to train ourself to check our pockets for money before putting our clothes in the wash. Among his other reasons:
E-mail cons spreading faster than the virus.
This post comes from partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.
It didn't take scammers long to latch on to the latest hot-button topic to try to make a quick buck. Scams built on fears of swine flu are proliferating quickly across the Internet.
The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued an alert this week warning of a number of e-mail scams related to the swine flu. The attacks arrive via an unsolicited e-mail message typically containing a subject line related to the swine flu.
"These e-mail messages may contain a link or an attachment. If users click on this link or open the attachment, they may be directed to a phishing Web site or exposed to malicious code," the alert said.
Disputes don't have to become relationship wedges.
This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.
It's been said that money is the No. 1 cause of divorce. Or to say it another way: Marriage is about love, divorce is about money.
To that we may add that money is the No. 1 cause of turmoil in a marriage. Strife over money can last years in a marriage if not properly addressed and, short of divorce, can drive a wedge between a husband and wife. This doesn't have to be, and so here are eight tips on fighting with your spouse over money.
Are you blowing money with your clothes dryer?
Every little bit helps if you're trying to stretch your money, and it's even better if you can accomplish savings with little effort. For instance: How long will it take you to put a dry towel in the dryer with a load of wet wash?
Jeffrey Strain at Saving Advice says you can reduce your drying time by 10% by implementing this little trick. It's from his excellent post called "25 ways to improve your financial situation in under 10 minutes."
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