Ways to Avoid Credit Card Debt this Holiday Season

Guest Post by Amanda Tradwick

Some of us can spend thousands of dollars on gifts during the holiday season. Many of us turn to the convenience of our credit cards to finance these giving (shopping) sprees, causing us to impulse purchase and spend much more in the long run by paying high interest rates. Even more modest holiday shopping budgets can spiral out of control when they are compounded by excessive interest rates over the year, or more, they take to pay off. Here are a few tips to help you avoid using your credit cards this holiday season and accumulating more debt:

Make a List

Start out by making a list of everyone for whom you want to buy a gift. Include family, friends, work associates, church members and anyone else you can think of who you want to give a gift. If you find that the list has become too long, you can go back through and remove some people. Creating a complete picture of your gift list will help you budget better.

Set a Budget (and Stick to It!)

Now that you know who you want to buy for, start setting a price limit for each person to come up with an overall budget. This is easier than setting an overall budget and then dividing by the number of recipients because you aren't likely to want to spend the same amount on your officemate as you are on your mother. If you find that your overall budget ends up being too high once you've set individual limits, you can go back and make a few adjustments. Setting an overall budget -- and a per-person budget -- will help you to better select gifts once you begin.

Hit the Sales

Once you have your budget, maximize its potential by shopping sales and online promotions. There are a few times a year when many retailers are known to mark down their items, most notably the day after Thanksgiving and the Monday after Thanksgiving. Shopping during this time can save you a significant amount. The period after Thanksgiving and before Christmas is also a generally good time to shop.

Don't limit yourself to these sales times! Look for sales throughout the year -- even those right after Christmas if you're able to plan that far out for the next year. Also, take advantage of online sales and specials. Many retailers offer lower prices through their online stores, as well as free shipping and gifts with purchase. Check out all your options to get the lowest prices that you can.

Leave Your Credit Cards at Home

If you don't have your credit cards with you when you shop, you won't be tempted to use them to spend more than your budget, to purchase impulse items for which you had not planned, or to get "just a little something extra." Take cash with you, or use a debit card that is tied directly to your checking account and does not have a protective credit line. Once you're out of cash, you're done buying.

Make Gifts

The easiest way to save money on your gifts and to save yourself the burden of credit card debt is to make some of your gifts. Many friends and family would prefer to receive a gift that was made with a sincere spirit or that has some sentimental value. Framed photos, favorite baked goods or even heartfelt letters all make great gifts. Be creative and make it specific to the recipient.

Saving early, making a plan and doing some smart shopping can all help you to save money this holiday season and to avoid the burden of extra credit card debt. The earlier you plan (and save), the better off you will be and the brighter your holidays!

Author Bio:
Amanda Tradwick is a grant researcher and writer for She has a Bachelor's degrees from the University of Delaware, and has recently finished research on grants for married college students and student grants in north carolina.


Lacey’s Credit Card Debt Story

Guest Post by Lacey Cook

Hello all. My name is Lacey Cook, and this is my personal credit card debt story. I was always taught to spend my money wisely. From the age of eight, I started to save for my first car. By the time I turned 18, I had saved enough to buy a six year old car at about $8,000. I paid in full with a check, and I’d never felt so great.

After that, I went off to college, where I had some trouble keeping my finances afloat, but I made it through with the help of my parents. After graduation, I got married and started a new chapter of my life. That’s where everything started to go south. I had no student loans or credit card debt, and we’d just got a few thousand dollars for our wedding, but that wasn’t enough. He was about $40,000 in debt from student loans and credit cards, and we had no way of paying our bills. We struggled to find jobs, and we ended up having to use my credit cards to make ends meet for the first few months of our marriage.

Finally, we found jobs and started to slowly dig our way out of the hole. Everything was great, but we still wanted something more, so we decided to get a dog. We went to the pound to adopt one, and found the most adorable little puppy I’d ever seen. She was fun, yet still wanted to cuddle, and I knew she would be the perfect addition to our new little family. We spent our weekly budget for groceries on her and decided to eat bologna and mac and cheese to tide us over.

The second day after we got her, she started to look lethargic, and I wanted to make sure she wasn’t sick so I took her to the vet. Turns out, she had a very draining virus that could have killed her if we hadn’t caught it in time, and even with the treatment, she still only had about a 50% chance of survival. I handed over my credit card. Two days and nearly $2,000 later, we finally got to take her back home to nurse her back to health.

We knew, at that point, that we had to make some drastic changes in our spending to get us back out of debt. We sat down, made a list of all of our monthly expenses, and created a budget to suit our life. I started clipping coupons and stopped buying name brand items to cut down our grocery bill. We discontinued our cable bill as well and used digital rabbit ears instead. We cut down our budget so much that we were able to start paying way more than the minimum payment on our debts each month, which I know is important when you are trying to save your credit score.

We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re getting there as fast as we can. In fact, we’ve been so successful, that we’re also able to put away a little money each month to start a retirement fund. I know you may be thinking that we shouldn’t have to worry about such things yet because we’re young and have plenty of time, but I have realized that I definitely don’t want to have to work until I’m too old to stand. The sooner a person starts to save for retirement, the sooner they can actually retire. I am determined and motivated to get out of this debt and live my life to the fullest.

Author Bio:
Lacey Cook is an author who writes guest posts on the topics of business, marketing, credit cards, and personal finance. Additionally, she works for a website that focuses on educating readers about getting their first credit card.


3 Steps to Building a Superhuman Credit Score

Guest Post by Jacelyn Thomas

With the economy still weak from the recent recession (though at least recovering), it is harder to impress credit lenders than it was ten years ago.  What would have passed for an above-average credit score in 2001 (680) is now considered on the lower side of average.  The reason for this new, higher definition of credit-worthiness is primarily that banks are still hesitant to loan money for fear of not making that money back.  They want as few liabilities as possible, so they are more stringent in their credit score requirements.

In light of the shifted credit score curve, it might be time to examine your own credit score, as well as your spending and credit usage practices, to ensure that you aren’t unfairly denied a loan for your next car, house, or business venture.  There isn’t much you can do to improve the economy, or lender’s expectations, but there are steps you can take to improve your credit score, so that you will impress even the shrewdest of banks and always get the best rates.

Step 1: Know Thyself (Or At Least Thy Credit Report)

There are a number of factors that influence your final credit score: Payment history, bankruptcy, credit card debt, length of credit history, type and number of credit cards, and hard inquiries that are made when you apply for loans and lines of credit.
At any point, it is possible that one or more of the three bureaus that track your credit usage or any involved party (banks, collection agencies, etc.) could make a mistake that might negatively affect your score. 

To avoid this, check your credit report every 12 months for errors.  You can obtain a free copy of your credit report (though your score isn’t on free reports) from; if you find any errors you can dispute them to have them resolved.  But be aware: it can take up to six months to fix an error on your report, so do it early, and be patient.

Step 2: Hold Steady

Especially if you’re planning to buy a new home or car in the near future (three to six months), don’t open any new lines of credit if you can help it.  Ultimately your credit score shows lenders your risk level, and will directly affect your interest rate — and applying for loans and credit cards temporarily lowers your score, so you might not get the best rate possible if you have any recent hard inquiries into your credit report. 

Instead of opening new accounts or transferring balances, make the best use of the credit you have.  The best way to prove to banks and other lenders that you will be a reliable borrower is to have a great revolving credit history.

Step 3: Be a Payment Superhero (Or At Least Pay Your Bills On Time)

Credit history accounts for 30% of your credit score, so it is imperative that you aren’t delinquent on any accounts you have.  The fastest way to delinquency is missing payments or due dates, so make your credit card payments with superhuman punctuality, and you’ll be on your way to a superhuman score.

But not missing payments isn’t really enough.  Ideally, you should be paying your entire balance in full (or at least more than the minimum amount due) every month, and should never exceed 30% of your total available credit. 

You won’t be bulletproof or be able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound, but if you follow these steps, your credit score will leap up, and will be as close enough to bulletproof that lenders will trust you with their lives (or at least their money, which is all that really matters). 

Author Bio:
Jacelyn writes about identity theft for She can be reached at: jacelyn.thomas @

Credit Card Debt vs. Student Loan Debt: Which Should take Precedence?

Guest Post by Mariana Ashley

With Labor Day now done and long over with, all colleges have officially commenced. That said, there are many students who will be completing their final semester/year of college. While many are looking forward to earning their diploma, many are dreading what happens shortly after graduation—repaying student loans. But the situation may seem a lot worse for graduates who have to face a double whammy: student loan and credit card debt. If you find yourself in this situation, which debt should you try to take care of first and why? To find out, continue reading below.

What Kind of Debt Gets Higher Priority?

To state it rather directly, you should always aim to clear your credit card debt before your student loan debt. This is because since your credit card is considered revolving debt as opposed to installment debt, it will impact your credit score more ferociously and more quickly than a student loan debt. That's not to say that your student loans should be disregarded. But if you have some sort of student loan grace period—which is typically around 6 months or so after graduation—you should put all of your energy to wiping out your credit card debt first before making payments to your loan. It's understandable why you may want to pay off your student loan first during the grace period, after all you typically do not acquire any interest during this time. But ultimately credit card debt will do more damage. If you find an extremely high-paying salary job and can afford to pay off both credit card and student loans simultaneously then by all means do it. But if your resources are limited, go with the credit card debt first. If your student loan grace period expires and you still have a hefty credit card balance, talk with a student loan officer immediately to figure out a way to make the smallest monthly payments possible. Sometimes doing something as simple as consolidating all of your loans can result in a small monthly payment, some as low as $50. Whatever you do, you never want your loan to get defaulted though.

Debt Collection Rights

If for some reason you cannot make timely payments on either your credit card debt or student loan debt, you can be reported to a credit card debt collection agency or the Department of Education debt collection agency respectively. By law, debt collectors (of either department) can't threaten to repossess your home, car, or anything else valuable over the phone to compensate for your debt. But they can drag you to court and sue you. Here, if a judge finds you at fault then the judge can mandate that certain items be repossessed, garnish your wages, or collect your tax refund checks to pay off your debt if you don't the money to pay it off for example. Note that credit card and student loan debt collections work a little differently however. With credit card debt, each state has a statue of limitations—which simply means there is only an allotted time for which a debt collector can hit you with a law suit. For example, in Texas it's 4 years. A debt collector can still take you to court even after the statue of limitations is up—it's up to you to show proof that the allotted time has expired if you are taken to court. While you may get out of making the court forcing you to pay up, know that your credit report will be ruined for a good chunk of your life. Good credit is needed to make most big purchases that you will make as an adult, including a home and car. A student loan debt collector does not have any restrictions however and can sue you at any time.

Author Bio:
Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031


Finding Options to Help Fight Off Debt

Guest Post by Stella Walker

Getting into debt is scary. There is no denying that. You start to get this anxious feeling of being trapped; you have too many bills not paid off to think clearly. You know you have to do something, but you feel like you don't have a lot of options.

In actuality, there are a lot of options out there, and I'm not just talking about bankruptcy (although this is still viable in extreme cases). Half the battle is getting yourself out of this emotional and psychological slump and convincing yourself that you can be proactive about your debt and finances.

Cut off luxuries

If you can't pay your own bills, it's time to start making your own coffee and lunch and bringing it to work. You should also at least attempt to repair household items yourself. If there's no cancellation fee, cancel your gym membership and instead opt for good-old-fashioned jogging. While you're at it, cancel any other services that you don't need; if the service doesn't facilitate you getting out of debt, you don't need it.

Start a small business

While it is true that it generally does take some money to startup a small business, some business start-ups are actually extremely low cost. One extremely cheap startup is a snow cone stand. Have any secret hobbies or skills? Now is the time to put yourself out there and at least give it a shot. You'd also be surprised how cheap it is to start up an online business. You could even write a blog telling the story of your struggles with debt (like this one).

Balance Liquidation Plans

If you have a whole slew of credit cards with outstanding balances and frighteningly high interest rates, you should perhaps consider requesting balance liquidations plans from your creditors. While this doesn't allow you to charge to cards that you've liquidated, it does lower the interest rates to extreme degrees. Just be sure that you have ways to make necessary expenses without your cards.

Pay Cash

If you do wind up liquidating your cards, this is a great way to try budgeting with cash. The beauty of a cash budget is that it forces you not to overspend because you literally can't. You take out the amount of money you want to budget each week (or month) in cash, and if you find yourself getting low on cash, you just have to start scraping pennies and looking for food in the freezer until the set time that you allow yourself to take out more cash.

Use Envelopes

If you decide to limit your budget with cash withdrawal restraints, another great strategy is to organize separate budgets into different envelopes. For example, you'll have envelops for bills, clothes, groceries, etc. with a designated amount for each envelope. The idea here is that you limit a budget for each area of your life, and if one envelope empties to quickly, you have identified a possible spending problem in your household.

Author Bio:
Stella Walker is a freelance writer of free credit score where she writes about topics including credit, debt, investment, bankruptcy.


Fighting Debt Incurred Through Identity Theft

Guest Post by Nadia Jones

There's no getting around how much identity theft sucks. It's deceptive, hard to spot, and it is also hindering the spread of technology. As more information is used and stored online, the threat of identity theft increases exponentially as criminals can access more ways to steal your private information.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), nine million Americans have their identities stolen each year, resulting in $631 off out-of-pocket expenses for victims due to legal fees and misappropriation of their false debt. It can take years before someone realizes they are the victim of identity theft, resulting in months or even years of the victim's time being spent towards repairing their credit worthiness and adjusting their falsely accrued debt. Remember, you are not liable for fraudulent debt resulting from identity theft. Do not pay for a criminal's debt.

Preventing and Detecting Identity Theft

Before explaining how to get rid of your fraudulent debt without having to pay the debt yourself, I think it is extremely important to detail how to prevent identity theft. Since there are so many ways identity thieves can acquire your information, protecting yourself involves a combination of a lot of little things:
  • Shred financial documents
  • Sign the backs of credit cards immediately
  • Don't carry your Social Security number or card with you
  • Don't offer personal information to anyone you don't know or trust
  • Be cautious of links in unsolicited emails
  • Use a variety of secure passwords
  • Keep your personal information locked and secure
  • Report theft or loss of key identification material (passport, license, etc.)
It is also important that you monitor your bank and credit card statements carefully, looking for any unexpected transactions or new accounts made under your name. The same applies to loans and financial aid.

Also, review your credit report annually. You area allowed a free copy of your credit report every twelve months. All you have to do is request it. To order a free annual report, go to or call toll-free to 877-322-8228. Otherwise, you can consult a consumer reporting company (like Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) which will charge about $10 for a copy of your report.

Stopping Identity Theft and Fraudulent Debt

Once you realize you are the victim of identity theft, you have to defend your reputation and credit rating by immediately filing a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports and then reviewing your reports carefully. This will alert creditors to raise security measures before opening any more new accounts or making changes to your existing ones. Filing a fraud alert will also get you a free copy of your credit report, so you can look for accounts that you didn't open and debts on accounts that you can't explain. The consumer reporting companies all have toll-free numbers that you can call to place a fraud alert, and you only need to call one:
  • Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
After filing a "Fraud Alert" you must do the following:
  • Request for consumer reporting companies to block fraudulent information.
  • Contact the security and fraud departments of companies where an account was opened or charged without your knowledge.

    • Send them copies of supporting documents, including the identity theft affidavit.
    • Ask for verification that the account has been resolved and fraudulent debts discharged.

  • File a police report
  • Report fraud to the FTC
Thankfully, the FTC has a very useful "tools for victims" site that offers sample letters, directions, and even a chart you can print and fill out to remind you what you've done and what you still have left to do.

Author Bio:
Nadia Jones blogs at online school about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @


Top Debt Relief Scams to Avoid

Guest Post by Alan Winkler

Getting out of debt can sometimes be a long and arduous process under the best of circumstances. Between the complexities of debt legislation and the various competing demands of debt collectors and consolidation firms, someone working to relieve their debt has several obstacles to overcome. Unfortunately, there are nearly as many shady, untrustworthy, and downright fraudulent collection and consolidation services out there as there are honest firms that genuinely try to help consumers. In order to avoid being taken advantage of, it's important to understand some of the most common debt consolidation scams out there.

Watch Out for Hidden Fees

One of the most common forms of debt consolidation fraud is the time-tested tactic of charging numerous hidden fees. All debt consolidation firms charge a fee of some type or other in order to stay in business, but reputable firms are up front and very open regarding their fee payment structure. If you have started to notice reoccurring charges from debt consolidators that defy explanation, you might be in the grasp of scammers. In order to avoid this, check out a debt consolidation company thoroughly before beginning a business relationship with them. Companies that pressure you to sign contracts right off the bat may be trying to conceal hidden fees or service charges until it's too late for you to back out.

Consider Your Debt Plan Carefully

Debt relief plans are also ripe for exploitation. These plans set the structure for how you'll repay your debt and what the time frame for doing so will look like. Ethical debt consolidation companies provide an excellent way to plan your debt relief and satisfy creditors, but all too often, unscrupulous debt collectors with no concern for customers will offer plans that do not meet creditors' needs, leaving the customer in the lurch. This happens for a variety of reasons: the scammers may be better able to hide an exploitative fee structure in longer-term, slower payments, or they may have lured customers in with false promises of far lower interest rates that the creditors have not actually offered. These scams leave the individual in terrible trouble, as their financial situation worsens and the scammers make a profit.

Know Who to Trust

While it's not a scam, it pays to be aware of the fact that many false debt relief organizations will attempt to portray themselves as something more trustworthy. Common examples include so-called "Christian" debt consolidation firms, which prey on the trust that many feel for their co-religionists; the "non-profit" label is also frequently employed by these charlatans. The FTC has filed suit against several so-called "non-profit" debt collectors in the past few years for advertising their status as non-profits falsely in order to generate trust. Choose a debt consolidation company on their track record and user reviews, not on the basis of their attempts to portray themselves as more honest than the other guys. When it comes to debt consolidation, a little skepticism can go a long way towards keeping you safe!

Remember, the debt consolidation firm is working for you, not the other way around. Avoid companies that are too eager to talk you into a commitment, and if they're too forceful, ignore them. Many other options exist. Likewise, be sure that both you and your creditors understand and approve of the consolidator's plan. Preparations such as these can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on top of the extreme aggravation that debt scams can cause. Get out of debt today with honest and ethical debt consolidators.

About the Author: Alan Winkler is a professional debt advisor and regular writer for Debt Consolidation Advice, a credit card debt relief blog. He also covers the debt relief industry as a whole and provides money saving tips.


How to Avoid Overspending on Your Credit Card

Guest Post By Andrew Black

Your credit card debt could be piling up by now if you are into overspending. It is becoming a common problem these days as the number of so-called shopaholic people increases. Moreover, modern society has obviously made it very easy to spend much more than you should. It is about time you start aiming to clear your rising credit card debts.

If you want to obtain peace of mind, you should aim to curtail, control, and eliminate overspending. In reality, it could be harder than you think. Most of the time, consumers fail to resist the urge to spend according to their means. Overspending is a problem that leads to more financial problems. Thus, it would be best if you would observe the following tips on how to avoid it.

Prevent impulsive spending

Spending on impulse could be a habit. It is one of the main reasons cited for consumers’ overspending activities. To prevent it, try to reflect prior to buying any item. If you like to buy anything you see in a retail shop, try not to make a purchase right away. Instead, wait for a day before you actually decide to buy it. Doing so would enable you to rethink the proposition to buy and possibly find other items that could be comparatively better.

Do not go to places where there are numerous temptations to buy. Overspending is common to consumers who frequent shopping centres and retail shops. If you go to such places to overcome boredom, try to find other venues to do so. Likewise, try not to spend your lunch break strolling around retail shops. How about hanging out in a garden or a park where there could be less temptation to spend anything?

Live within a strict budget

If overspending is your problem, set a specific budget per week. Intend not to spend beyond this allocation no matter what happens. Furthermore, make sure your weekly budget is in cash, which is much easier to monitor. Keep your credit cards in a secured place and do not bring it whenever you go out so as not to face the urge to spend unnecessarily.

It would also help if you would know how much you spend. Be conscious when you buy small or relatively cheap items. For instance, do not buy coffee as frequently as you do. Review your bank accounts, payables, and credit card bills so you would determine how much you spend within a particular period. Also try to look at different types of items you purchase.

Set objectives when shopping

You could effectively avoid overspending if you would set clear objectives prior to shopping. Buy items because you really need them, not because you want them. Before deciding to purchase anything, think more than twice whether you would go on and complete the purchase. Do not try to look closer at things that do not fall within your shopping objectives.

Lastly, you could curtail overspending by avoiding spending by habit. Review your own habitual spending pattern. This way, you could determine whether you tend to buy things based on necessity or simply based on your habit. Try to find other recreational activities that would take most of your idle time from habitual spending.

Andrew has been working in the finance industry helping people to consolidate credit card debts. Andrew now likes to share advice on how to avoid debt.

No Advance Fees for Debt Relief Companies

Guest Post by Robert Zangrilli

Robert Zangrilli is the CEO of Franklin Debt Relief, a debt settlement company based in Chicago, Illinois but servicing clients nationwide.

Before October 27, 2010, the common practice in the debt reduction industry was to charge to up front fees to consumers who used their services. Prior to this date, my company for example, charged its fee over the first 18 months of our client’s programs, which usually lasted 24 to 36 months. Earlier this year, however, the FTC ruled that charging fees in advance to settling a consumers’ credit card debt as a practice was harmful to consumers. Certainly this was true of many companies, especially those who collected the majority of the fees before providing any services and in fact, probably had no real intention of settling their clients’ debts.

This all changed effective October 27, 2010 when the FTC made effective an up front fee ban for debt relief services. More specifically, the FTC ruled that debt relief companies must now negotiate the term of at least one of a consumer's debts in order to receive compensation for its services. Not only must there be a written agreement of this settlement, but the consumer must agree to it and have made at least one payment to a creditor in order for a debt relief company to receive compensation for its services.

On top of these new rules regarding fees, there are also specific provisions in the new rule regarding the advertising and sales of debt relief services. First off, debt relief companies are now required to make specific disclosures to clients before enrolling them into their programs. Second, debt relief companies are prohibited from making deceptive claims about the success of their programs, including how long it will take to settle a consumer’s debts and how much a client will save. While these two new provisions may seem unimportant, these are perhaps the most significant parts of the new rule because it makes it clear what is a deceptive practice in the debt relief industry, which in turn will be used to justify FTC actions against unscrupulous actors.

I hope this article sheds some light on the protections afforded to consumers seeking debt relief services. As is true in most industries, there are still bad actors out there trying to skirt the law by setting up face-to-face meetings with consumers (the rule only sold over the telephone), so it is important that consumers continue to do their due diligence before enrolling with a company. BBB complaint record, how long a company has been in business, and TASC accreditation (the debt settlement industry’s trade organization) are both good indicators of how reputable a company is.


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