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Debt Management Tips That Save You Money
How to control spending, manage your personal debt load

Managing your own personal debt ceiling gets rid of money worries, protects credit rating
The federal government and the average consumer have a lot more in common than you might think. The government's debt has grown exponentially since the 1980s, and this summer we saw it come dangerously close to the debt ceiling - the cap set by Congress on the amount of debt the federal government can legally borrow.

Some people often ignore their limits to get what they want in the moment and push the bounds of their own "debt ceiling." Doing so could damage your credit score, dig you deep in debt that will be difficult to pay off, and ultimately hinder your long term financial goals.

The federal government has raised the debt ceiling nearly 100 times since the ceiling was established, but you don't have to. Taking on too much debt can have severe consequences - today, more than 5.6 million mortgages are either delinquent or in foreclosure, and a lack of savings can impact one's ability to retire comfortably. Here's some ways to set your limits and stick to them.

Get lean and mean: Take a hard look at how you're spending your money. Save receipts for any purchase you make for a week (or a month). At the end of your prescribed time period, go through your receipts and see where your money's going. Divide your receipts by category - such as household expenses, meals, entertainment - and tally them up for each group. Sites such as, or smartphone apps like iReconcile, can help you track and analyze your spending if saving receipts is a hassle for you. Understanding where your money is going is a necessary step to determine your own budget and where you need to cut down, and can help you understand where you're headed financially.

Watch for hidden expenses: You've tracked your spending. Now take a look at hidden expenses - little regular expenditures that don't seem like much on their own, but over time can drain your finances. Have a Netflix or Hulu Plus account you're too busy to use? Cancel your subscription and save $7.99 a month - which adds up to nearly $100 a year. Cancel unnecessary unused gym memberships, cellphone insurance, unused long distance plans and extra TV channels and watch your bank account rebound.

Take that savings one step further and open a separate account for those "found" funds. Look for a bank that makes it easy for you to save, with account offerings that meet your needs.

Find more hidden money by emptying the change from your wallet into a jar at the end of each week or month. Some banks, like TD Bank, offer their customers free coin counting services. Deposit the counted coins into your savings for a pain-free nest egg!

"It is important to know there are options and consumers can still find a bank that doesn't charge fees that affect your day-to-day-banking, and has an extensive store network that is open when you need it to be," says Nandita Bakhshi, executive vice president, head of products, TD Bank. "TD has programs in place to make switching banks and checking accounts as simple as possible."

Eliminate hidden fees: Just like you may not notice all the little hidden expenses that can drain your bank account, watch out for hidden bank and credit union fees - charges for paper statements, transactions with tellers or over the phone, the purchase of gift cards, or monthly checking. According to, six out of 10 banks increased their checking fees recently.

Review your statement carefully each month: Ensure you're not being charged for things you're not aware of - and if you find you are, have a chat with your bank to see if they offer other products that meet your needs. You should have access to services, convenient hours, and a large branch network without being nickel and dimed.

If you decide to check out what other banks have to offer, do some research on bank websites, or look to magazines like "Money" or "Kiplinger's," who have researched and ranked banks and credit unions in a number of recent studies. In a recent "Money" study, TD Bank - named the best regional bank on the East Coast - got kudos for having "a low bar to free checking," meaning their $100 minimum requirement to avoid checking fees is one of the lowest in the banking industry.

With these tips and a little bit of legwork, you'll be on your way to keeping your personal debt ceiling in check.
(Article courtesy of

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-- 6 steps to debt relief.

-- How to make a spending plan to pay off your debts.

-- Pay off debts.

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Find out how to repair & boost your credit score fast!

Should you use credit for holiday buying? Yes, no ... and maybe

When it comes to the use of credit to fund holiday shopping, people tend to fall into two extremes of thought: Some believe in a cash-only approach to holiday spending, while others think it's impossible to get through the holidays without maxing out their credit cards.

For most, the approach that allows you to spread cheer without breaking the bank exists somewhere between the two extremes. Using credit during the holidays should be just like using credit at any other time of year. If you do use it, you should use it wisely and avoid overspending.

Using credit can make sense for holiday shopping, especially if you'll be buying big-ticket items (such as electronics) and could benefit from the extra layer of consumer protection that many credit cards afford. Buying with a credit card can also yield financial rewards; many credit card companies offer incentives such as cash back to encourage credit card use during the holidays.

So, how do you make decisions about credit use that will keep your holiday season bright without putting a damper on your personal credit and cash flow in the months - and possibly years - to come? The credit experts at Experian offer a few tips:

1. Establish a budget - The holidays arrive at the same time every year, and we all have 12 months to plan for them. Give yourself a very early gift, and start your holiday budgeting in January of each year. Decide how much you'll spend on holiday gifts and how much you'll need to save each month to accrue that amount by the time the holidays arrive. Set that amount aside in an interest-bearing account.

2. Check your credit - It's always a good idea to understand your credit and know your score before you make any big credit moves, such as funding your holiday shopping with credit cards. Websites like make it easy to check your score and learn about how your credit moves may affect your score and your overall financial well-being.

3. Make a list - You've got your budget in mind, now it's time to decide how you'll use your money. Create a detailed gift list of who you'll be buying for and what you plan to purchase or spend for each recipient. Having a plan in hand before hitting the mall can help ensure you don't resort to budget- and credit-busting impulse buys.

4. Keep your credit under control - Although incentives from credit card companies can help save you cash during the holiday season, those incentives may not be a good enough reason to open a new account. Don't be tempted to open new accounts in order to fund your buying or to get a discount or better deal. Opening too many accounts in a short time frame can negatively impact your credit score. Instead, look for incentives from cards you already have and use.

5. Don't spend beyond your means - It can be tempting to overspend on credit cards, especially during the holidays, thinking you're just spreading the cost of your purchases over a few months. Remember, when you buy on credit and take more than a month to pay off the balance, you're not just spreading out the cost, you're increasing it. The same holds true for those tempting low-APR promotional checks sent by credit providers. The vast majority of those promotions incur fees, thereby increasing your total purchase price while potentially simultaneously damaging your credit profile. If you can't afford to pay off your balance in a month or two - and minimize the cost of using credit - then you probably should reconsider how much you're spending.

Gift giving is one way we show the people in our lives that we care about and appreciate them. By keeping an eye on your credit and making smart credit moves, you can ensure the holidays stay happy for all, including your wallet.

(Article courtesy of

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