Dec 06

How Do Consolidation Loans Hurt Your Credit

If you are trying to get out of debt, a consolidation loan appears to be a good option. Your term, interest rate, and what you do afterwards will determine if this loan will positively or negatively impact your credit.

Applying is a Hard-Inquiry Check

Since a consolidation loan is a personal loan or merging your loans into a new credit card, there will be a hard inquiry check. Your score will decrease by a few points and remain on your report for two years. This however would not be enough to warrant not applying if you do need this loan.

Your Credit Rating Could Decrease Due to Your Credit Worthiness

A credit report consists of a credit score and a credit rating. If you apply for credit elsewhere, the underwriter will take a look at your credit rating. Your credit rating includes your job stability, current income, and how you use your available credit lines.  If an underwriter believes that you can increase your debt because you now have no balances on your credit cards, this could make your rating decrease.

High Interest Rates

Consolidation loans are meant to help people get out of a financial bind. If your credit is not above average, you could have a hard time obtaining an average interest rate loan. Some lenders prey on that and offer you a high-interest rate when compared to others. A higher rate means a higher payment and longer terms to pay your loan off. Some online installment loan lenders may provide a loan but you may end up paying more in the fees.

Missing a Payment

If you are not careful, you could get a consolidation loan with a higher payment than you were paying for all your split debts. Late payments or missing payments make a huge impact on your score, causing negative effects that will stay on your report for a while. For this reason, be cautious when signing up for consolidation loans. Ensure you know the interest rate, monthly payments, and if your payments will increase should you miss one.

Closing Your Accounts

After receiving a loan consolidation, you may feel relieved to be rid of your credit cards. You may not trust yourself with your open accounts. Closing your accounts will negatively impact your credit score. The longer your account stays open you’ll show a long credit history. You’ll also decrease your available credit, which will appear as though you’ve maxed out your credit limit. You’ll be a high-risk consumer at that time.

This post was contributed by Kayla McDonahue

Dec 01

I Bought Thanksgiving Dinner & I Overpaid

ThanksgivingI generally consider myself a pretty money savvy gal. I hate to pay full price for things and it literally makes me cringe to think when I find out that I could have bought something for less. 95% of the time I use coupons at the grocery and drug stores and I peruse slickdeals and the savings blogs (to make sure I’m getting the best deal) before I make a purchase. I’m not shy to barter or ask for a discount and I always shop through one of the cash back sites like ebates or shopathome when I’m making an online purchase.

But sometimes (probably about 5% of the time) convenience overrides frugality.

And this Thursday was a prime example of that! So here goes (brace yourself), This thanksgiving my family had a beautiful meal from…Boston Market. Yup, that’s right, I purchased $100 worth of Thanksgiving heat and serve, “fast food” from Boston Market and warmed it up in the microwave (yes I’m laughing to myself as I type that). After a long couple of weeks, I was too stressed and too tired to fool with Thanksgiving cooking.

Long story, short, Tuesday night in a fit of panic I almost had a meltdown because I couldn’t get our stove, “streak free”. Normally, I’m pretty relaxed, and don’t care much about a streaky stove, but Tuesday night all of the stress from the previous weeks seemed to culminate in a massive freak out (ask poor Eric, I almost cried at 1am as I googled “natural cleaning recipes to clean a black stove”).

I’ve been pretty quiet for the past couple of weeks because our kitty Liam took a dramatic turn for the worse and we ended up having to put him to sleep (RIP my little love). Since then I haven’t really felt like blogging, or cleaning or cooking. So the thought of my family coming into town to our dirty house, followed by a day of massive cooking and cleaning, pretty much pushed my to my breaking point.

Sadly, I had most of the food I needed to make the Thanksgiving meal, including a frozen turkey breast. Thanks to my, “mad couponing skillz” I probably could have bought the rest of the ingredients to make the whole meal for $20 or less. But the thought of spending all day cooking was too much.

Thanks to the wonder of the Internets, I ordered a turkey breast, mashed potatoes, gravy and the whole shebang then went to bed (streaky stove and all).

When I picked up my parents at LaGuardia the next morning, I told them they were in for a, “real treat” because they wouldn’t have to eat my cooking. Instead, I’d ordered a delicious, “catered meal” (wink). Neither of them had eaten Boston Market before (they live in rural Maine) and both agreed the meal was delicious.

thankful-thanksgiving-food-family-eating-diet-funny-ecard-iKFSo thank you to Boston Market for helping me retain my sanity and thank you to Eric and my parents for understanding that it’s not what you eat, but who you’re with on Thanksgiving that matters!

Have you ever bought Thanksgiving, instead of making it (even if it was more expensive)?

Full disclosure: I don’t really like to cook and this isn’t the first time I’ve avoided cooking on Thanksgiving. A couple of years ago Eric and I went to our favorite Indian restaurant on Thanksgiving (Yes, I’m very thankful for a partner in crime who doesn’t really like turkey, and doesn’t care that I’m not a great cook ;-))

Nov 15

Why the Self-Investment of Higher Education is Worth It

Education costs continue to rise and many college graduates are working lousy jobs with no relation to their field of study. For a time, I was counted among their number, but I’ve begun to see the subtle benefits of having a college education, even if it’s not paying off big time right now. Thanks to my private student loans I have an education that’s helping me build a better future for myself. These are the three biggest factors I am personally thankful for with regard to my time at school.

  • Growing Up. I fear that if I had never gone to school, left my small town home, and learned how to fend for myself, I would be a lot less happy with my present life. Without the social stimulation at my school, I wouldn’t have been exposed to a lot of the thoughts that went on to make me who I am. My social group would be homogeneous and severely limited. I would have never had the experiences you can only have away from the people you grew up with. This is not all about partying and philosophy; it’s about experiencing the essence of life. Even if your major doesn’t translate into an awesome career right away, simply being able to expand your horizons is worth (moderate) student loans.
  • College Grads Make More Overall. The college graduates mentioned above haven’t lived long enough to experience this for themselves, but it’s true. Excellent statistics gleaned by the Hamilton Project illustrate just how much more a college grad makes, on average, than a high school grad, over their career lifetimes. Young graduates can’t appreciate this (unless they look it up and think about it); a university trained worker doesn’t experience peak salary until some 26 years into his or her career. The lifetime pay of one of these workers is more than double their high school educated counterparts. And it’s not just about the money you make directly from your profession. It’s about what you’re then able to do with that money. The college graduate stands to make so much more in investments and business earnings than someone who doesn’t have the extra money to throw around. Once you’ve paid down your student loans, your options really look not that bad after all.
  • It Opens Other Doors. Employers hire people, not majors. This is true. And of course a hard-working and inspired person will make themselves marketable, no matter the limits of their own educational background. But it’s harder to get over that hump. Simply having a college degree can get you a seat at the table in many application scenarios and other specifically social employment opportunities. On the one hand, I kind of hate this. It’s a cultural differentiator that benefits some on imaginary merits. But it’s the world we live in. This is the positive side of student loans. They put education and its many social benefits within the reach of those who could not otherwise afford it.

You’ll continue to hear lots of complaining from the anti-college crowd, telling you you can make it on your own. College is a scam and a ripoff. I’m here to tell you, it’s only what you make it. Sure you may leave with debt, but if you pick the right major, have a good attitude, and focus on advancing yourself in whatever way works for you, you will be able to make more of your life, more easily, with a college degree (and some debt) than without one.

This infographic explains college financial aid letters. Read along to find out how much is offered and how much you’ll need in financial aid.

Financial Aid Award Letter Sample

**This post was a guest post written by Michael Miller

Nov 12

Side hustles that suck: ebay

ebayOver the years I’ve made a pretty tidy sum of money selling stuff on ebay. From old clothes and books to electronics and jewelry gifted by ex-boyfriends (not like I was going to keep wearing it after we broke up!) I’ve sold a bunch of stuff.

For a while when I was in college, I was making so much cash my mom was convinced thatwas some sort of illegal activity and she was going to have to bail me out of jail. Oh mama bear, you’re funny!

For several years when ebay was still relatively, “new” and, “unknown”, I was making a few hundred bucks a month buying inexpensive stuff at yard sales and thrift shops and re-selling it. It wasn’t that much work and it worked perfectly with my erratic (staying up late and sleeping in) college schedule.

Although I’m still a frequent buyer on ebay, I don’t do a lot of selling these days. That said, a couple weeks ago I did some, “fall cleaning” and found a few items I no longer needed/wanted. I took some quick photos with my phone and wrote up a few auction descriptions. About an hour later all the auctions were live and I was eagerly waiting for the bidding to begin. Sadly, the bids were exactly, “rolling in” and my overall earnings were pretty slim. That’s when I decided that ebay is a bad side hustle (when you do it, “wrong”).

Here’s how to lose money and mail people items for free (otherwise known as how to be a sucky ebay seller):

  1. Sell items that no one wants to buy. There’s a buyer for every type of item, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to find that buyer. I recently sold a blood glucose meter that I got for free with coupons. It was an expensive meter ($40+) at the drug store, but it only received one bid for $10.00. Because I offered “free shipping” I actually I lost money selling it.
  2. Sell items buyers can purchase for cheap locally. Some people want to buy things online for convenience (maybe they are home-bound or live in the middle of nowhere), but generally, if you can buy it cheaper and easier at the local drugstore, you probably won’t net much selling it on ebay.
  3. Sell items that are heavy and expensive to ship. Depending on the item’s size and weight, shipping can be super expensive. Furniture, big electronics and heavy toiletries aren’t always worth selling (unless you offer local pick up). By the time you pay the shipping, you’ve eaten into all of your profit.
  4. Sell items out of season. You might be able to sell that knee length down coat in July, but you’d get a lot more bids if you sell it in December.

money flowTips for selling on ebay and NOT losing money:

  1. Brand names do best. Buyers want designer name brands. If your item is made by a designer use the designer’s name in the title. “Black Donna Karen size 6 party dress” will get more hits (and more bids) then “Black party dress”.
  2. Specify the item’s condition in the title. Buyers want to know if the item is “New with tags (NWT)”, “Worn twice”, “Like new” etc.
  3. Take good photos and lots of them. Photos speak louder than words. What you might consider, “fair” condition another seller might consider, “good” condition. Let the buyer be the, “judge” by including lots of photos.
  4. Set the buyer qualifications to exclude people with no/poor feedback. I ask buyers with no feedback to e-mail me before they bid. If they don’t, I cancel their bids. I’ve had bad experiences with new buyers and buyers with poor feedback. Honestly, it’s not worth your time to deal with buyers who jerk you around. Stick to buyers with great feedback.
  5. Have a, “no returns” policy. When I first started selling on ebay, I desperately wanted everyone to be happy, and give me good feedback, so I offered a, “no questions asked” return policy. Unfortunately that was a big mistake and I ended up spending a bunch of money on return shipping, listing fees and paypal fees. Tell your buyers upfront there are no returns so you don’t get stuck with overeager buyers who later experience, “buyer’s remorse”.

Unexpected (weird) “good sellers”

greeniesUsed bras-yup you read that right. I’ve sold gently used designer bras multiple times with good luck.

Bulk cat treats-bought too many with coupons and they would have expired before the vultures our furries ate them all. I was shocked when they sold for over $20 plus shipping. (I was smart enough to charge for shipping that time!).

Belly button rings-when I was in college I had a pierced belly button and about 15 belly rings (good use of expendable income right? ugg). I sanitized all of them and sold them as a lot for over $50.

Used shoes-I once bought a pair of Dansko clogs on ebay, wore them for several years and then sold them for more money they I paid for them, score!

Have you ever sold items on ebay? Did you make money? What were “good sellers” for you? Did you ever lose any money?

Nov 03

My boyfriend the dumpster diver!

bookshelfOK, he’s not a dumpster diver exactly, he’s more of a garbage room liberator ;-) If you’ve been reading for a while you might remember this post I wrote a while back about all the free stuff we’ve found in our garage’s garbage room. Well, we moved our car to another garage, but we’ve recently been really lucky to score a bunch of great free stuff.

Yesterday Eric came home from the garage smiling ear to ear (I can always tell when he’s pleased with himself, which is pretty cute). He told me that he scored a sweet little bookshelf that he though would go well in the hallway.

Too Much Stuff & Too Little Space!

I’m not sure if we just have a lot of kitchen gadgets, or if we hoard food, but we never seem to have enough space in our cabinets for all of our stuff. As a result we had to, “make” a makeshift pantry out of a couple of unstained bookshelves circa my college years.

They aren’t nice by any means, but they hold our popcorn popper and some food items that don’t fit in our cabinets. Basically our kitchen is half “high end” (granite counters, newer appliance etc.-all the stuff that was here when we bought the place) and half is “college dorm room” (sadly, that’s our “mark” on the place-wink).

Sure, we could go out and spend a bunch of money buying new furniture and decor, but that’s not our style. Right now, saving is more important to us then living in a pottery barn catalog (My 20-year-old self would never type that! Oh the irony). Maybe someday we’ll invest in nicer pieces, but for now, I’m totally happy with what we have.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

I really love reusing and re-purposing old furniture, clothing, electronics etc. whenever possible. Not only is it fun and free, it also helps to keep “stuff” out of our landfills.

OK, back to the bookshelf…where did he find this little gem? In the garbage room in our parking garage! At first I panicked a little bit because you never know who owned the piece before you or how they live. But once I saw the piece I was really happy. It was clean and bug-free. Plus once Eric carried it up the 3 flights of stairs to our place (bless his heart he was snorting and panting by the time he made it to our door-He didn’t ask me to help because he wanted to surprise me-aww), I washed it down really well and let it air dry.

Now it’s holding our rice maker and coffee maker and the cubbyholes are hiding some “crap” that used to be out in the open and driving me nuts. I hate clutter, so having cubbyholes with doors is the perfect solution. What’s even better? I have a few pieces of “art work” (target) that I’ve been meaning to hang since we moved in and I never had a place to put them. I think they’d look perfect over the bookshelf. I guess that’s next weekend’s project :-)

drying rackWe (Eric) also found a drying rack that will come in handy for “line drying”. It’s a “Real Simple” model and looks brand new. What a happy day! Many thanks and good karma to the kind folks who “left” us these sweet finds.

What’s the best free “find” you’ve ever scored off the street, in the garbage, been given by a friend etc.? Am I weird…or cheap… or both, for not wanting to spend money on new furniture?

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