Thursday, December 18, 2008

Effects of New Credit Card Regulations

As an occasional user of Credit Cards for 0% interest offers, I have spent some time familiarizing myself with the new regulations passed yesterday. As such, I thought I would provide a short synopsis of the key points:

Goes Into Effect July 2010
Those of you looking for immediate relief will have to be patient.

More Lenient Grace Period

No longer will your credit provider be able to raise your rates if you have one payment that arrives a few days after the due date. In addition, credit card companies will need to provide a reasonable amount of time to pay of at least 21 days.

Reduction of "Universal Default"
No longer will your credit card company be able to increase your rate because you paid another creditor late (like the gas or cable company).

Increased Notice
The required amount of time in advance of a change to the terms of the account or increases in penalties that the credit card company must notify you is extended from 15 days to 45 days.

All Balances Treated Equally
No longer will credit card companies be allowed to apply your payment to lower interest rates before those carrying a higher interest rate. For example, any amount paid above the minimum payment will be applied to a cash advance carrying a 20%+ interest rate rather than an outstanding 0% balance transfer.

Deceptive Offers Prohibited
I did not find a lot of detail on what exactly this means, and I thought they were already regulated in this area. However, I would assume it's a good thing.

Holds Don't Count Toward Card Limit
No longer will a hold on funds be included in the calculation that determines fees for exceeding a card limit.

There are also some potential disadvantages being discussed:

More Difficult to Get Credit
The changes could make it more difficult for individuals with bad credit to get a "subprime" credit card with high interest rates.

Everyone Will Pay More
Some suggest that the cost of credit will rise for the majority of card holders due to the fact that credit card companies will stop offering such generous promotional offers as they will be more difficult to raise later.

To learn more, visit the links below (which served as my sources for this article): Article by Susan Tompor
Wall Street Journal
Credit Card Bill of Rights by Bill Shrink
Wall Street Journal Blog
AOL Money & Finance

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Saving through Serving

Frugal is once again trendy, and everyone seems to be looking for frugal gifts, inexpensive decorating tips, and cost-effective social activities. One that I have yet to see mentioned is serving others.

Last night, our small group conversation focused on how serving together as a couple can strengthen your marriage. While there were a number of methods that involved financial giving, many were experienced oriented, requiring primarily time. And all seemed to create memories that would last far longer than the old standby of dinner and movie.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Determine Your Gifts

Spend some time determining the types of things you enjoy and how you might be able to incorporate them into service. Start by discussing with your spouse the answers to the following questions: In what ways do you think you would enjoy serving? Are there specific areas in which you're both gifted? Is there a cause or issue you share a passion for?

2. Identify an Opportunity

Begin by talking to other couples and see how they're serving. Chances are that someone you know is serving the community, and will be able to provide you with an opportunity. People tend to be more involved in serving during the holiday season, so it's a great time to ask.

3. Set Some Boundaries

It's best to start with a small time commitment. Burnout is common among volunteers because it turns into a burdensome obligation. By setting some clear boundaries about how much time you feel comfortable committing to, both you and your spouse know what to expect. You should also share this with the leaders you are working with, as there is a tendency for organizations to continue asking for more as long as you

4. Gather your friends

Serving together is wonderful, and it can be even more enjoyable if you do so with others. Reach out to other couples and invite them to join with you in serving. Not only will it add to the fun, it will help keep you accountable.

5. Get Started!

Just like anything, you have to take the first step. Talk with your spouse today, and begin looking for an opportunity. If it helps to set a goal, be sure and make it SMART!

If this inspires you and your spouse to start serving, or if you're already serving, please leave a comment sharing your experiences.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Your Personal Pie

How do you fund your personal purchases? Do you pay with a card or do you carry cash?

This past year, both She and I have discovered the benefits of paying for personal purchases with cash. As I've previously noted, our means of budgeting is to deposit a lump sum into individual accounts to pay for the expenses we are responsible for. The majority goes to her, as She is kind enough to do most of the shopping for groceries, clothes, and household items. However, her personal money is also included in the lump sum that is deposited at the beginning of each month, increasing the chance of being spent without noticing.

I dealt with this issue when we first began our budget, quickly realizing the ease of overspending when such purchases were placed on a card. As such, I now pull my personal money out as cash at the beginning of the month as my Personal Pie (or Adult Allowance), which eliminates my ability to unknowingly overspend. I encouraged her to do the same, and it has made a world of difference.

Consider moving to an all-cash payment system for your Personal Pie. Withdrawal the full amount at the beginning of the month (this is key), and use it for designated expenses. You'll find yourself remaining within your budget and likely see a shift in your spending habits.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Using Your Blog to Find a Job

The state of the economy could have many young people (including newly marrieds) looking for work. As such, I wanted to share a quick thought on job hunting:

Try blogging about companies you are interested in working for.

The increase in social media's effect on consumers has most companies paying attention to what's being said about them online. I know that I have Google Alerts set to notify me of postings about my place of work, and am certain that most marketing departments have at least one individual paying attention. As such, including the name of the company you would like to work for in a blog will likely get you into their inbox, and possibly even a look at your work (as long as it is compelling).
Of course, you'll need to lead them to a location that shows your skill set and clearly communicates your interest in being contacted for potential job opportunities, but that should not be too difficult. It also would help to post regularly, just in case your first posting goes unnoticed.

A quick shout out to Uncommon Cents who inspired this thought with his post Yes, They Are Watching. And if anyone from the Gates Foundation is reading this, I know someone who would be a great addition to your team.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Camera Phone is Saving me Money

What do Camera Phones and have in common? They save me a ton of money...and it's not about roll-over minutes or free shipping.
When I happen upon a great book at the local store or in an airport terminal newsstand (they do an amazing job of merchandising business books, which are my preferred reading material) I snap a photo of the cover with my phone instead of buying them. Then, the next time I'm at the computer, I search the local library system's website for them.
Our local library system has a full catalog online where you can search, request, place holds, and renew books. This makes it incredibly easy to keep the nightstand stocked with great reading material for FREE. comes in handy, too. I simply find the listings for the books I've recently enjoyed and pay special attention to the suggested readings. Then, I click over to the library page and place a hold on them.

Thanks to Phil's blog at the Pay Yourself First Challenge for inspiring this posting. Be sure to vote for him, and check out his regular Prime Time Money blog for more great postings.

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