Freedom Blog

Articles About Debt

4 Proven Ways to Get Rid of Money Stress

Posted in: Debt, Debt Relief, Goals, Money

Worrying about money problems and debt is unfortunately pretty common. Covering your monthly bills could make you anxious enough, but what if you suddenly need to pay for car repairs or some other expenses you hadn’t budgeted for? Stress and money can go hand in hand…which could have serious implications on your mental outlook.

A recent survey found that 25% people who are in debt have symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—36% if you happen to be a millennial. Symptoms can manifest themselves as:

  • Worry: You have excessive concern about being homeless or other worst-case scenarios around being unable to pay off debt.
  • Nightmares: Sleepless nights can have severe impact on your day-to-day life.
  • Avoidance: If you don’t pay bills on time, you could incur late fees.
  • Denial: You ignore the reality of the situation and don’t take ownership for paying off debt.

If this sounds familiar, then recognize you’re not alone. Nearly 40% of U.S. households have credit card debt. And for those who carry a balance, the average debt is $16,048 on those cards and the interest can cost as much as $1,300 per year.

Understanding your reaction to money problems can help you adjust your approach, take control of your finances, and reduce your stress levels.

  1. Stop Retail-Therapy: Ebates research found that over 60% of women and nearly 40% of men shopped to improve their mood. Before you buy, learn to HALT by questioning if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. By taking a moment to assess, you can discover what will satisfy you—eating a snack, addressing an issue with your spouse, calling a friend, or going to bed early. The benefits of HALTing can be long lasting, and leave you with fewer/lower bills to pay at the end of the month. To resist online impulse-buys, delete credit card information stored on your computer and mobile devices.
  2. Curb Anxiety: Money problems can make you anxious and fearful. Be proactive to stay on track for paying down debt:
    • Set Up Automatic Minimum Payments: This can help ensure you don’t receive late fees.
    • Put Credit Cards Out of Reach: Rather than cut them up, simply take them out of your wallet. If it’s still “too easy to spend,” then try freezing the cards in a container of water or take them out of the house and put them in safe deposit box at a bank.
    • Find a Credit Counselor: Consider hiring a professional service that can coach you on how to create better budgeting skills.

  3. Calm Yourself: These proven techniques can help you feel more relaxed so that money stress doesn’t take over your life.
    • Start Exercising: Work with a doctor to create an exercise plan.
    • Learn To Meditate: Attend a class or download a free app.
    • Seek Counseling: Look for a mental health counselor who can help you understand the root causes of your stress.
    • Avoid Splurging: This can be confusing as being happy is good, yet feeling loose (especially if you’ve had alcohol) can quickly lead to financial splurges. Set up situations where you celebrate with friends at home.

  4. Become Empowered: Remember, you’re in control! Listen to how “I choose to live frugally” sounds better than “I should live frugally” because it reinforces your power. By saying “I choose…” to friends, family, and yourself, it states this is your decision. And you can be an inspiration to others by showing how serious and relaxed you are about being careful with your money. Remember that you own this choice knowing it will help you eliminate your debt.

If after you apply these strategies you still feel overwhelmed by debt, then consider enrolling in a debt relief program like the one offered by Freedom Debt Relief. Such programs could help reduce the amount you owe for an affordable, predictable monthly cost. Even the simple act of enrolling in a program could immediately reduce stress, since you know you’re on a path toward the solution!

6 Ways to Plan for a Debt-Free Holiday

Posted in: Budgeting, Credit Cards, Debt, Money

The holiday season is fast approaching and with it come the feasting, festivities, and financial obligations many of us have come to dread. According to Gallup, Americans will spend an average of $830 this year on gift giving. This figure will increase if you’re a parent: playing Santa can cost between $400 to $500 per kid. So, unless you happen to have a significant amount socked away for just this purpose, your holiday shopping sprees could garner you holiday debt come January.

But by following these six tips, you may still be able to enjoy the season, while ensuring your credit card debt doesn’t get out of hand.

  1. Make a spending plan
  2. Take a hard look at your finances and figure out realistically how much you’ll be able to set aside for holiday shopping. Then, draw up your list and figure out your budget. The key is to stick with the plan. If you don’t start out with a firm idea of how much you’re able to spend on each person, it’s easy to get sucked into impulse buying.

  3. Set money aside
  4. With the multitude of savings apps now available, there’s never been an easier time to put money away. These apps encourage and track your savings and range from simple piggybank-like features that allow you to put small amounts away regularly to more sophisticated versions that let you trade stocks as well.

  5. Start early
  6. The benefits to getting a jump on your holiday shopping are many. You can spread out the total expense and effort over multiple months, and chances are, if you’re more relaxed about the whole endeavor, you’ll make better choices and stay within your budget more easily. (Remember that budget)?

  7. Shop online
  8. Shopping online offers many advantages, but the top perk is being able to compare prices to make sure you get the best deal. If you fail to complete your holiday shopping early, there’s always Cyber Monday. You’ll be in good company as, according to Netmarketer, online sales will increase by 16.6% this year.

  9. Use caution with cards
  10. If you do go the credit card route, charge only what you know you can pay off the following
    month to avoid interest fees. For example, a holiday bill of $1,000 becomes $1,190 when you
    factor in an interest rate of 19%. This could take you months to pay off. Wouldn’t you
    rather put that money toward a summer vacation than still be paying off holidays come July?

  11. Take cash only
  12. If you prefer shopping in the real world, consider leaving your cards at home to avoid the urge to overspend. To score some serious bargains, wait for Black Friday. The 2016 average price reduction on goods over the four-day day period following Thanksgiving was a whopping 44%.

If you’re already concerned about your credit card debt situation right now and worried the holidays will only make it worse, you may want to consider taking more proactive measures to begin tackling your debt. Learn more about how the Freedom Debt Relief program works and whether it could be the right solution for you. Even if you enroll in our program today, you won’t be able to get rid of all your debt by the time the holidays hit, but at least you can know you are doing something to make your debt situation better.

5 Brilliant Ways for Couples to Get Out of Debt Together

Posted in: Budgeting, Credit Cards, Debt, Debt Relief, Goals, Relationships

Once you’ve found the person you want to spend your life with, you’ll do anything to keep your relationship strong. And sometimes, money problems and debt stress can make that tricky.

Even though talking about your finances can be scary, bringing it up now could help you avoid future relationship or marriage issues and create a deeper and more supportive connection with your partner. Here are some simple ways you and your partner can overcome debt and build a better life together.

  1. Be Honest
  2. When you’re in a serious relationship, honesty is always the best policy—especially when it comes to money issues. Letting your partner know about your money problems is important if you want a relationship based on honesty and trust. Plus, being truthful about your debt could lead to more open communication in all areas of your relationship.

    If you keep your debt a secret, you could be creating tension in the relationship without even realizing it. Talking openly about student loans, credit cards, personal loans, and other forms of debt with your partner could help bring you two closer. And chances are, they may have some debt of their own to talk about.

    These discussion don’t have to be too serious, either. Why not make a date of it? Each of gets a free copy of their credit report at, and then you can go over them together.

  3. Identify wants and needs
  4. After you two have talked about your debt situations, sit down with all of your bank and credit card statements and identify unnecessary expenses together. This is a problem both of you can solve!

    • Look through your statements and highlight “Needs” like your mortgage, car payments, and insurance in one color.
    • Highlight “Nice-to-Haves”, like gym memberships, cable, or high-speed internet, in another color.
    • Finally, highlight “Wants”, like entertainment or expensive restaurants in a third color.

    Once you create these three categories, discuss and debate which expenses you can afford to cut as a couple. Then, plan out how much you’ll each put against the debt each month.

  5. Support each other
  6. Budgeting, cutting back, and paying off debt isn’t always easy. But knowing that you have someone on your side who supports you and wants the best for you could give you the extra motivation you need to get out of debt. By encouraging each other and committing to a common goal, you won’t just improve your financial wellbeing—you could also strengthen your bond as a couple.

  7. Set goals and reward yourselves
  8. Getting out of debt could take a long time, so it’s important to break your ultimate goal into smaller, more manageable ones—like staying on track with your monthly budget, paying off a credit card, or reaching other milestones in your debt repayment plan. After achieving each of your goals, reward yourselves with a night out, a bottle of wine, or a special home-cooked meal. Just remember to stay within your budget.

    You could even make a game out of the weekly goals you set for yourselves. For example, one week you could have a contest to see who can save the most money. Whoever wins could get to choose the next movie you watch, get a neck massage, or have a pass from doing their least favorite chore for a few days. Celebrating your victories together could keep you and your partner motivated throughout the process of solving your money problems.

  9. Know when to seek help
  10. Why do couples fight about their finances? Because money problems put pressure on each person in the relationship, creating feelings of guilt, fear, and anxiety that can make them lash out or act irrationally. If you’re worried that debt is starting to negatively affect your relationship, it may be time to get professional help.

    Some people try financial counseling for couples, where you and your partner talk to financial expert or a representative from a credit counseling agency about how to deal with your debt. Using this method, a credit counselor may be able to reduce the interest rate on your credit card debt if you enroll in a Debt Management Plan.

    However, if you and your significant other are experiencing a financial or life hardship, or struggling to make minimum payments on your high-interest debt, a better plan may be to enroll in a debt settlement program together. And since you can enroll as a couple into our program, Freedom Debt Relief could be the perfect option for you.

    After enrolling in our program, our expert debt negotiators will work on your behalf to reduce the total amount of debt you owe your creditors. That way, you and your partner could save more and get out of debt faster than making minimum payments. Learn more about how our program works here.

6 Ways to Save Your Sanity When Debt Collectors Call

Posted in: Credit Cards, Debt

If debt collection calls are causing you stress, these tips could help you deal with them better.

No matter how many times you’ve been contacted by a debt collection agency, the calls are never easy. The stress of being in debt can be too much to bear all by itself. But getting multiple collection calls every day could put you in an all-out panic.

Debt collectors can be unpleasant or downright rude when they call you. And you may feel like you have little control over the situation when they call. But stressing over these calls or getting angry over the phone won’t make them go away. In fact, debt collectors might purposefully push you over the edge to get you to pay. So how can you keep your cool the next time a debt collector calls you?


  • Stay Positive


It can be hard to remain optimistic when you’re getting collection calls, but having a positive attitude could change the way you deal with debt stress.

If you let a collection call ruin your day, you’re playing into the hand of the debt collector. But if you’re able to think of the situation as temporary, you may be able to handle the call better. Remind yourself that you will get through this rough patch, and you may be able to handle the stress a little more easily.


  • Prepare Yourself


Being ready ahead of time can help reduce your stress when a debt collector calls. One practical way to prepare for the call is to save the debt collector’s number into your phone so that you know who is calling.

It’s also important to think about what a debt collector has said to you in the past, and how you would have responded to it if you were cool, calm, and collected. A lot of the time, debt collectors try to catch you off guard. Preparing your responses in advance could counter their aggressive tactics and put you back in control.

Explain that you are unable pay them right now but will make sure they are paid. Don’t offer too many details on why you can’t pay them right now. It’s none of their business, and they could use those details to try to get you to commit to a payment.


  • Slow Down


When you’re on the phone with a debt collector, don’t forget to breathe. If they ask you a question you don’t know how to respond to, pause and collect your thoughts before answering. Try to control of the pace of the conversation by responding when you’re ready so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Sometimes they purposefully create awkward silence to trick you into filling the silence and give them details they can use against you.


  • Know When to Walk Away


If a debt collector is making you frustrated, angry, or stressed out—hang up. Tell them they can call you later, once you’ve had time to think. Take some time to decompress, gather your thoughts, and prepare.

Until you are ready to talk to them again, ignore the calls. Don’t pick up the phone from a number you don’t recognize. Remember that when a debt collector calls, you don’t have to answer. In fact, if you are angry or stressed, answering the call could be worse than ignoring it. After walking away from the situation and clearing your mind, you may be able to handle the call more easily.


  • Take Care of Yourself


You may underestimate how important it is to take care of yourself when you’re stressed out—but it could make a huge difference in the way you approach a stressful situation.

If you’re dealing with debt stress and you don’t take time to relax, you could end up suffering from anxiety, depression, or a feeling of helplessness. Stress could affect your sleep, your outlook on life, and your relationships with the people you love.

Taking time to do something for yourself could reduce your stress. Whether it’s exercising, spending time with loved ones, reading a book, or watching TV, taking your mind off of the calls could help you handle your stress better.


  • Get Help


The stress of constant collection calls and the feeling that you are stuck in a never-ending cycle of debt can push you over the edge—especially if you don’t see any way of putting your debt behind you. So if you’re struggling with debt that you can’t pay off and the collection calls are too much to bear, it might be time to get professional help.

Freedom Debt Relief could help you relieve debt-related stress by providing you with a plan to get out of debt in as little as 24-48 months.* With the tools and resources available to all our clients, our program is designed help with the stress of collection calls. Learn more about how our program works here and start relieving your debt stress today.

*Clients who make all their monthly program deposits pay approximately 50% of their enrolled balance before fees, or 68% to 75% including fees, over 24 to 48 months. Not all clients are able to complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Our estimates are based on prior results, which will vary depending on your specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be resolved for a specific amount or percentage or within a specific period of time.</p style=”font-size:20px”>

5 Facts About Debt Collection Calls You Need to Know

Posted in: Credit Cards, Debt

It’s hard enough to be in heavy debt. But if you’ve fallen behind and creditors or debt collection agencies are calling you at home or work, your stress levels could be at an all-time high.

You might feel confused, angry, or even guilty about these calls. But have you ever considered that your creditors might be using unfair debt collection practices? Most people don’t realize that there are limits to what a debt collector can do and say when they’re trying to collect a debt. That’s why it’s so important to know the facts about unfair debt collection practices, so that you can protect yourself against them.

1. Not All Calls Are Legitimate

When a creditor or collection agency calls, have them identify themselves and give you the specifics on the debt they are trying to collect. Knowing the name of the person contacting you, their company’s name, and debt amount can help you determine if the call is legitimate. If they contact the wrong person or misrepresent the amount you owe, they could be using unfair debt collection practices.

2. There’s a Difference Between a Creditor and a Collection Agency

If you don’t recognize the name of the company contacting you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are calling the wrong person. Once an account has been delinquent for a certain amount of time, most creditors will either send your debt to a collection agency or sell it to them for a fraction of what you owe. This process is called a charge off.

Once your debt has been charged off, collection agencies try to make a profit from your debt by getting you to pay the same amount as before. To do this, they may use more aggressive debt collection tactics on the phone to pressure you into paying. Even though it’s not illegal for debt collectors to call you, there are certain things they cannot do when they call.

3. Debt Collectors Aren’t Allowed to Use Unfair Collection Tactics

Under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), it’s illegal for debt collectors to:

Contact you at unreasonable hours
Debt collectors can call, text, or send you letters—but they can’t contact you at unreasonable times, like before 8AM or after 9PM, unless you agree to it.

Harass or threaten you
Debt collector cannot threaten to harm you, use obscene or profane language, or repeatedly use the phone to annoy you.

Make false statements or misrepresent themselves in any way
It’s illegal for a debt collector to make false claims about you or themselves when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, a debt collector may not claim that they are an attorney or government representative, claim that you committed a crime, or misrepresent the amount you owe.

Threaten to seize, garnish, or sell your property or wages if you don’t pay
A debt collector cannot threaten to seize or garnish your wages unless they take you to court and get a court order to garnish your wages, or intend to take you to court in order to do so.

To learn more about what a debt collector can and cannot do, the Federal Trade Commission has more information about the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act here.

4. Debt Collectors Who Don’t Follow the Law Could Be Held Responsible

If you think a debt collector could be violating the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, contact an attorney to see if you have any legal recourse. You have rights as a debtor, and there are legal consequences for creditors and collection agencies who violate those rights.

5. Many Debt Collectors Will Settle Your Debt

Debt collection calls are stressful—even if the debt collector is just doing their job. And the truth is that debt collectors won’t stop contacting you until you pay them.

But did you know that there are ways to get debt collectors to settle for less than you owe? If you simply cannot afford to pay your debt, you may be able to negotiate with creditors to lower your interest rate, change the terms of your payments, or even settle the debt for less.

After calling a debt collector, explaining your situation to them, negotiating new terms, and getting them to sign a contract accepting the new terms, debt collectors could stop calling—as long as you pay the new amount on time each month.

Getting a debt collector to agree to new terms and accept less money than you owe can be difficult. And even if you do, you could be missing out on savings that could help you overcome debt faster. That’s why people in heavy debt turn to professional debt settlement companies like Freedom Debt Relief. After enrolling in our program, our Debt Negotiation Experts work with creditors on your behalf to get them to accept less than you owe so you can be debt-free. In fact, our clients could tackle their debt in as little as 24-48 months.*

Learn more about how our debt settlement program helps people get out of debt faster and for less here.

*Clients who make all their monthly program deposits pay approximately 50% of their enrolled balance before fees, or 68% to 75% including fees, over 24 to 48 months. Not all clients are able to complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Our estimates are based on prior results, which will vary depending on your specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be resolved for a specific amount or percentage or within a specific period of time.

6 Signs You May Have Too Much Debt

Posted in: Budgeting, Credit Cards, Debt, Debt Options

Almost everyone has some type of debt, and not all debt is bad debt. Your debt may be completely manageable—or it could be a time bomb waiting to go off. Here’s how to know if you’re in a situation where it might be smart to start investigating debt consolidation loans, debt reduction programs, and other types of debt help.

1. All your money goes toward your debt
If you don’t have any disposable income left at the end of the month after paying toward your debts, you are in a very vulnerable financial position. One small unexpected event—a medical expense, car trouble, job loss, etc.—could force you to rely even more on your credit cards and dig you deeper into debt than you can get out of on your own.

2. You are struggling to afford to even make minimum payments.
Paying the minimum each month can give you a false sense of security. Yes, your credit score is reflecting the fact you are keeping up with payments, but you’re not making much headway in debt reduction. The longer you are in debt, the harder it could be to get out of it.

3. You can’t get new credit
To decide if they’ll extend you credit, a company will usually look at your credit report to calculate your debt-to-income ratio (This equals all your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income). If they think you have too much debt for your income, they may assume you are not capable of paying them back, and won’t approve you. All you can do to improve your situation is to reduce the amount of your debt and/or increase your income.

4. Your savings account is empty (or nearly empty)
To have healthy finances, it’s recommended that you have at least half your yearly income in a savings account, easily accessible should you need it for an unexpected expense. If you don’t have this much, make an effort to save more. If you can’t save more or are pulling from your savings to pay off debt, consider it a sign that you are not on solid financial footing. When an emergency happens, you don’t want to be forced to use high interest credit cards to pay for it.

5. You’re shuffling your credit cards
It can be smart to take advantage of balance transfer offers to move your high interest credit card debt to a lower (or even 0%) credit card. It may help with debt reduction, since you save on interest in the short term, but your debt still exists. And a low promotional rate doesn’t last forever—it goes up after a certain amount of time, and could go as high or higher than the interest rate you had. Then you’re right back where you started. If this is your method of staying one step ahead of your debts, it is not a long term solution.

6. You’re getting debt sick
Are your debts on your mind often during the day, distracting you from being able to focus on work or family? Are they causing you to either lose your appetite or overeat? How are you sleeping lately? When the phone rings, do you dread answering it because it could be a creditor or debt collector? This is no way to live. You deserve happiness, and if your life is being disrupted daily by your debt, it is definitely a sign you should explore finding debt help.

The good news is that there are many types of debt help available—debt consolidation loans and debt negotiation programs like the one Freedom Debt Relief offers are just a couple examples. Only you can decide the right solution for your debt reduction, but the key is to explore your options as soon as you know your debt is a problem.

A good place to start is this debt strategies overview. It offers pros and cons for the most common debt solutions and lets you learn more about each one.

Debt Consolidation 101

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Posted in: Budgeting, Debt, Debt Consolidation, Debt Options, Debt Relief, Money

People struggling with heavy debt are often told to consolidate their debt. But it’s important to understand that consolidating your debt isn’t the same thing as paying off your debt. And debt consolidation isn’t the same as credit counseling or debt negotiation, either.

Simply put, consolidating debt merely means to combine all your debts into one.

As a tool for debt management, debt consolidation could help you reduce the interest you are being charged on your debt and/or make it simpler to pay down your debt. But there are many different ways to consolidate debt. Deciding which one is right for you depends on your goals and your budget.

Options for consolidating your debts:

1. Borrow money to pay them all off. With this method, you consolidate multiple debts into one new debt (a loan). As to where you could get the loan, here are some options:

  • Personal lenders. You could apply with a personal lender to get a loan that has lower interest than your debts. You’ll still have debt (the loan), but it could be at a lower interest rate. And instead of having many bills to pay each month, you’ll just have the one loan payment.
  • Your 401(k). Some plans allow you to borrow from the balance as long as you repay the account within five years. But this should be a last resort since your 401(k) is meant for your retirement years. Also, if you leave the job associated with the account, the loan will be due immediately.
  • Family or friends. They would probably agree to a lower interest rate than a bank would, but asking for money from people in your personal life is risky. It could create difficult expectations or resentment. At worst, it could involve a previously good friend or family member taking legal action on you if you’re unable to pay them back.
  • Your house. If you own a home and have enough equity, you may be able to take out a home equity loan or line of credit and use the money to pay off debts. Or, you can refinance your home and take cash out at closing for your debts. You’ll move high interest debt to a lower rate mortgage, and the interest is tax-deductible. However, using your house to pay off debt can be very risky. If you can’t make the payments, you put yourself at risk of foreclosure.

2. Use a balance-transfer credit card offer. A transfer of a credit card balance to a card offering a lower interest rate can be helpful, but BE CAREFUL. Make sure to:

  • Read the fine print to calculate the balance-transfer fee
  • Choose a card without an annual fee
  • Be absolutely confident that you can pay off the balance before the rate expires
  • Once you make the transfer, put away old and new cards and stop charging

3. Work with a credit counseling service. These services ask you to make one monthly payment, which then is used to pay creditors. You’ll pay back 100 percent of the debt, plus interest. This method lets you just focus on one interest rate and one payment per month, so it’s helpful if you are struggling with lots of accounts with high interest rates. However, fees can be high. Many services have poor reputations and while using one you may need to sacrifice the ability to open and use additional credit lines and, in some cases, your credit score could be hurt.

In general, if you are unable to make minimum payments on your debt, debt consolidation may not be the best option for you. Better options could include debt negotiation (AKA debt settlement) or credit counseling. To learn more about those options, please visit the Debt Strategies section of our website.

The Truth About America’s Debt Crisis

Posted in: Budgeting, Debt, Debt Options, Money

If you’re worried about your debt, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans struggle with debt every year. And America’s debt situation is only getting worse, with credit card debt reaching a whopping $1 trillion in early 2017.

What’s causing America’s debt crisis? Flat wages, reliance on credit, and the inability to pay off debt puts the average American at a higher risk to be stuck in the red than ever before.

Follow the money and you’ll see why so many people are suffering. Wages have remained stagnant over the past 5 years, but the cost of living has increased during that time. Since most Americans barely have enough money to cover everyday expenses, they’re forced to dig themselves deeper into debt if they need to pay for an unexpected financial hardship.

In fact, a Federal Reserve study says that in 2016, 44% of people surveyed didn’t have enough money saved to pay a hypothetical emergency expense of $400. As a result, many of them would have to turn to credit cards, loans, or other forms of debt to cover it.

If people don’t have enough money to save for emergencies, where is all their money going? It’s most likely being used to keep their finances afloat. In 2015, found that the top financial priority for 38% of Americans was to stay current on their bills. 21% were focused on paying down debt. And only 18% of people surveyed said their top priority was saving for the future.

If you’re struggling with debt, these numbers might not be all that surprising to you. They may even describe you pretty well. But while there’s no shame in being in debt, ignoring the problem won’t fix it. Over time, it could get even worse. Every day at Freedom Debt Relief, we talk to hundreds of people who are struggling to pay off debt. They all have different stories, but they all have the same goal: to get out of debt.

We hear people loud and clear when they describe how hard it is to be stuck making minimum payments each month and feeling like they’re never going to get ahead. To help, we created a debt settlement program that helps people solve their debt problems faster than making minimum payments. And since it doesn’t involve a debt consolidation loan, great credit isn’t required to enroll.

Request a free debt evaluation to find out if Freedom Debt Relief could help you.

10 Smart Ways to Save Money on Summer Vacation

Posted in: Budgeting, Debt, Money

Vacations can be expensive. They often involve airfare, hotels, and lots of restaurant meals. But getting away doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Here are a few tips to make your next getaway more affordable, whether you’re traveling abroad or staying close to home.

  1. Do your research
    Plan in advance and compare prices on airfare and lodging. If you’re flexible with dates, consider flying out mid-week. It can be significantly cheaper than traveling during the weekend. And if you’re a member of a group such as AAA or AARP, you might be eligible for additional discounts, so remember to ask ahead of time.
  2. Pack light
    Airlines are starting to charge for everything, and if you are bringing two or more bags, expect to pay extra. So if possible, try to pack light and keep it to one piece of luggage per person. It won’t just save you money, it will save your back too.
  3. Go grocery shopping
    Plan out what you are going to eat before you leave for your trip. It’s fine to dine at a few local restaurants, but if you want to eat on the cheap, visit a grocery store for fast, easy snacks and meals. That way you’ll keep your hunger pangs at bay and keep more money in your wallet.
  4. Rent a home
    If you’re traveling with friends or family and don’t need daily housekeeping service or other hotel amenities, this can be a great option. Furnished home rentals have become popular in recent years because they’re easy to book and often cost less than hotels on a per-person basis.
  5. Know your transportation options
    Not every city has public transportation, and even if it does, it’s not always great. Do a little research before your trip to see if it makes more financial sense to rent a car, take a cab, hop on public transit, or use an alternative method of getting around.
  6. Download free travel apps
    Your smart phone can be a handy money-saving travel buddy. There are apps for everything including guides, maps, phrasebooks, and more. You can get some great ideas for inexpensive things to do, cheap eats, and how to get around affordably—right at your fingertips.
  7. Travel off-season
    If you want to save money, avoid going to your vacation spot during peak season. For example, if you’re heading to a beach destination, try to go in the late spring or early fall. The prices are lower, the weather is still nice, and there are fewer tourists around.
  8. Select a guided tour
    If you’re looking for a hassle-free vacation, this might be your best bet. Today’s tours cater to all travel styles, so don’t write off this option just yet. It’s important to do your research and find a tour that offers a balanced schedule and is good at getting you the best value for your money. When you find the right tour, you can worry less about logistics like transportation and directions, and spend more time soaking in the local culture.
  9. Take a road trip
    If you’re looking for a more affordable vacation option, consider skipping flights altogether and reach your destination by car. Pack some food and entertainment, and let the road lead you on your next adventure!
  10. Plan a day drip
    A getaway doesn’t have to include an overnight stay. You might find nearby attractions that you haven’t visited before. Whatever your interests are, you can still get some well-deserved rest and relaxation without having the additional expense of a hotel.

Even though it’s smart to be frugal, splurging on a restaurant meal or a fun activity can make your vacation extra memorable. Just be sure to check out your options in advance and save up for your trip. With a little bit of planning, you can enjoy an awesome vacation and still stay on budget.


5 Money Tips for the Class of 2017

Posted in: Budgeting, Debt, Money

Graduating from college marks a huge time of change in your life. You’re officially joining the real world and there are some things you’ll need to consider. Pretty soon you’ll be faced with new challenges, like looking for a job, paying back student loans, and figuring out where to live next. This may sound daunting, but we’ve got five tips to make the transition out of college go smoothly.

1) Create a budget
After landing a job and getting used to the amount of take-home pay you’re earning, figure out how much you can afford to spend each month. First, add up your necessities like rent, utilities, transportation, groceries, and debts. If there’s nothing left over to save at the end of the month, go back to the drawing board, crunch some numbers, and figure out what expenses you can cut back on. Establishing and sticking to a budget is essential for long-term financial health.

2) Manage your debt
Credit cards can make it tempting to spend money you don’t have. Don’t fall into the debt trap and let it hold you back from achieving true financial freedom. Whether it’s student loans or credit card debt, it’s important to reduce your debt load as quickly as possible. You need to be honest about what you owe, what it will take to pay off your debts, and have the courage and dedication to tackle it head on.

3) Protect your credit score
New graduates need to be aware of the problems associated with having poor credit. It can seriously limit your opportunities to make a big purchase, secure an apartment lease, or even land your dream job. Protect your credit score by paying your bills on time and in full each month. Missing payments means you’ll not only get hit with fees, but you’ll also see your score plunge. Ultimately, your credit will affect almost every major financial decision in your life. The better your credit, the more money you’ll save in the long run.

4) Establish an emergency fund
No matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s crucial to have a stash of money set aside for the surprises life throws your way. It’s okay to start small, but eventually, you’ll want to give yourself a financial cushion of at least six months. It will help tide you over if you face a job loss, unexpected medical bills, or run into other financial emergencies. Debt or no debt, an emergency fund is vital to your overall financial health.

5) Start saving for retirement
Even though retirement seems years away, the earlier you start saving, the better. Consider opening a Roth IRA account and contribute as much as you can to it each month. It may not seem like much now, but with compound interest, your funds will continue to grow over time. If your employer offers a match, take advantage of it. Not participating enough to get your 401k employer match is like leaving money on the table.

Want one less thing to remember? Set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your Roth IRA and emergency savings accounts. Soon, you won’t even miss the extra cash, and your money will be there for you when you need it.

Follow these tips now and adopt smart money habits early to help maximize your savings for a lifetime.

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