5 Ways to Pay Down your Holiday Debt Quickly

by Justin Weinger on March 3, 2015

Now that the holidays have come and (quickly) gone, many of us are bracing for the bills to come  after splurging a bit too much on presents, decorations and food.  In fact, in a poll recently performed by Yahoo, almost 70% of  respondents said that they used credit cards to pay for practically all of their Christmas shopping in 2014.

If one of those people was you, today’s blog will give you 5 ways to pay down that holiday debt as quickly as possible. Enjoy.

1) First, you’ve got to figure out how much money you actually have at the end of the month to use towards paying down your  holiday debt.  That involves figuring out what your fixed expenses are and, once you’ve done that, also figuring out what your flexible expenses are as well. Once you’ve got them all tallied, subtract that number  from what you make every month. Anything left over should be used to pay your credit card bills. (If you already have a working budget, this will be much easier.)

2) Once you know exactly what’s coming in and going out every month, you can then cut back on unnecessary expenses like entertainment, new clothing and entertaining, among other things. Let’s face it, then debt isn’t going to pay itself and, until it’s paid off, you’ll be losing money in interest. If you can hunker down for a few months you’ll not only pay it off quicker but, by the time spring and summer roll around, you might actually have a little bit of money left over at the end of the week / month to have some fun. (Just remember to save some of that money too.)

3) Since it’s winter and outdoor activities are limited, now might be a great time to use any skills you have to  work part time and make some extra money, and then use that money to pay down your holiday debt. Interestingly, January just happens to be a great month to find a job so, if you’re unhappy with the one you have now, you might consider looking for a newer, better one that pays a little bit more.

4) Now is a great time to use a bit of strategy also. If you used more than one credit card to make your holiday purchases, paying off the card with the highest interest rate first, by the using as much money as possible and paying the minimums on the others, is a great idea. Once that card is paid, shift to the next card with the next highest interest rate and do the same thing. Do that until all of them are paid and you’ll have paid much less in interest.

5) Finally,  bring someone on board with your debt paying plans. It’s always easier to do something if you do it with a partner or in a group, so let people know that you plan to pay off your debt quickly and give them an idea of what your goals are. Keep them updated and let them know that, if you don’t meet your goals, they can give you a hard time. If they’re good friends they will and you’ll get your debt paid off more quickly.

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Welcome to the time of year when millions of consumers all over the country start drooling about the tax return that they’re going to receive from the IRS. Many consumers want that tax refund as quickly as possible, for obvious reasons, and the fact is that financial experts have been telling consumers for years that filing early is a good idea adds to the rush.

While that might be true if you’re completely ready, if you’re not you might actually hurt yourself as far as your return is concerned because, if you file incorrectly, you’ll get less money, need to file an amended return and possibly increase your chances of getting audited. Below are several good reasons that filing your tax return early is not a good idea. Enjoy.

Reason #1: All of your forms might not have reached you yet. Even though the deadline for 1099 forms is February 2 this year, it’s a fact that many issuers still miss that delivery date. K-1 forms for partnerships, LLCs and S corporations can also come later than their due date of March 15th. Unless you have all the information from all of these forms, your return won’t be complete.

Reason #2: Filing quickly usually leads to mistakes. There’s an old saying carpenters use; measure twice, cut once. What that means is simply that you should take as much time as possible to make sure everything is perfectly correct before sending in your return, so that you don’t have to amend it later or pay any penalties for mistakes.

Reason #3: If you end up amending your tax return, you have to make sure that you fix everything, not just the mistakes that increase your refund check. That’s one of the reasons for Reason #5 (below).

Reason #4: Amendments to your return can be lengthy, tricky and stressful. Even if you realize that you’ve made a mistake, one that could get you back a slightly higher amount of money, you probably should think twice before making an amendment because it can set you up for an audit in the future.

Reason #5: Referring to Reason #4, the fact that you can increase your chances of being audited if you have to amend your tax return is the best reason to make sure that you file correctly the first time.

Reason #6: You’ll have to pay interest and penalties if you owe more taxes. If the IRS finds that your return is incorrect, they’ll usually send you a bill and compute any interest that you owe them on the money you didn’t pay.

Tax time is stressful enough without increasing your stress by incorrectly filing your tax return. As we said, if you are completely ready and feel extremely confident that you filled out everything correctly, said that as early as you want. On the other hand, measuring twice and cutting once works for both carpenters and taxpayers.

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How to Know if your Financial Advisor is a Good Match

by Justin Weinger on February 27, 2015

While not everyone has a financial advisor, other than their accountant, if you have one you know that they don’t come for free. That being said, having the best financial advisor for your needs and your financial situation is an obvious must.

Below are a number of “red flags” that might tell you your financial advisor, while possibly competent (and possibly not), isn’t the one for you. Enjoy.

Red Flag #1: You feel guilty whenever you think about finding another financial advisor

If you feel “trapped” because the social circles, as well as the business circles, that you and your financial advisor are both included in, are overlapping too much, and it’s because of this that you don’t want to hire someone different, it might just be time to do exactly that.

Red Flag #2: The person most excited about your financial goals is your advisor, not you

Frankly, the person advising you about your finances needs to be as open, honest and sensible as possible because, let’s face it, they need to be able to stick a pin in your balloon if your ego gets too overinflated and you start making bad financial decisions. If the person is overconfident, overzealous or over, well, anything, it’s probably time to find someone new.

Red Flag #3: The advice you get from your financial advisor is the same you can find on your own

Using a financial advisor means that you’re putting your trust in them, as well as paying them to handle your money better than you can yourself. If they aren’t doing that, or give the same overused advice that you can easily find on your own, you have to ask yourself if paying them the extra money is really worth it.

Red Flag #4: Youve been through a major life change and your financial advisor hasnt changed their advice

Let’s say you’ve just gotten married, divorced, had a baby or retired. If the advice your financial advisor is giving you hasn’t changed substantially because of the change in your living situation, it’s a sure sign that they aren’t  as interested as they should be in your financial health. As one well-known financial advisor says, when you meet with your financial advisor  it should feel like an ongoing conversation, not a surprise meeting.

Red Flag #5: You stick with your financial advisor simply because you dont want to go through the change involved with getting a new one

The fact is, transitioning to a new and, hopefully, better financial advisor isn’t that difficult. As a matter of fact, usually your new advisor will call your old one and get all of your paperwork from the old one.  It’s not nearly as big a deal as you might think and the law actually protects you from an advisor that might have ill feelings.

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Want to do more than just Dream about Success?

by Justin Weinger on February 25, 2015

For most successful people, planning the day ahead begins the night before, as they’re preparing for bed. That’s a critical time for anyone, but successful people use it to not just plan the next day but also calm themselves so that they can get a restful night’s sleep.

In order to do that, and ensure your success (rather than just dream about it), you should make the next few small tasks part of your nightly routine before hitting the sack. Enjoy.

The first is to spend some quality time with your loved ones, no matter who they happen to be. The fact is, a happy home life (whether it’s living together with someone, being married or what have you) is quite a bit more important than your job as far as your well-being is concerned. If you have children this is especially important as they won’t stay children forever and, if you’re always too busy to give them a part of yourself, you’ll find that they won’t be willing to give you a part of themselves when they’re adults.

Interestingly enough, the most successful people are the most prodigious readers and make a habit of reading before bedtime. It doesn’t have to be anything related to work and, indeed, reading something that has no relation to your work whatsoever is a great way to unwind.  In some cases it can even give you insight that you can use at work. Even better however is that reading is a great way to relax and calm the mind before bed.

We mentioned planning at the beginning of this blog and, to be sure, planning for the day ahead is a great way to get a good nights rest because you’ll know what the day ahead brings and be prepared to face it, and get tasks accomplished. The CEO of American Express, Kenneth Chenault, says that he likes to write down the top 3 things he wants to accomplish next day, which calms his mind and actually helps them to prioritize when he wakes in the morning.

This next small task won’t take long but is extremely important if you want to get a good night’s sleep, and it simply to turn off your cell phone and any other electronic devices that might cause distractions as you’re drifting off into dreamland. In fact, many successful people turn off these devices about an hour before they go to bed so that they can relax, unwind, read a book and otherwise be completely relaxed with no distractions whatsoever.

Lastly, there’s the simple act of getting enough sleep, which for most people means 7 hours. (Yes, it used to be 8 hours, but new research suggests that that 7 might be better.) Simply put, getting sufficient sleep is the best way to maximize your brain power and memory, and thus is extremely critical to anyone’s success.

All set? Great! Now get some shut eye, tomorrow’s another day to go out and become successful!

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