10 Halloween Decorating Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank


Image: RomoloTavani

The post 10 Halloween Decorating Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank appeared first on Credit.com.

How These Common Financial Skeletons in Relationships Can Affect Your Credit


Whether your Halloween costume is the latest animated character or a menacing clown (please don’t), many of us use the holiday to feel free to step outside ourselves and become someone else for one night.

But, get this: For nearly half of U.S. adults, donning a mask of secrecy doesn’t pose much of a challenge.

According to a 2016 Harris Poll done on behalf of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), 42% of adults in the U.S. reported that they have purposely deceived their partners in matters of household finance. Why is this revelation so terrifying?

“When you agree to combine finances in a relationship, you’re also agreeing to a certain degree of cooperation and transparency in your money management,” Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE, said in a press release.

This financial game-playing covers a broad field.

  • Purchases: 22% of partners admitted to hiding minor purchases and 7% said they have hidden major expenditures.
  • Income: 6% of partners said they maintain a secret bank account, and 5% reportedly conceal their true annual earnings (which may include salary, bonuses and other employment perks).
  • Debt: 12% reported hiding bank statements and/or bills from a partner, while 8% said they’ve concealed outstanding debts.

Reasons Why Partners Might Lie

While nearly one-third of survey respondents didn’t list their reasons for lying about money, others (45%) reported a partner’s disapproval and embarrassment (25%) as their primary motivations. On the other hand, 32% said they believed their finances should remain private regardless of relationship status.

How Do Lies Affect Personal Credit?

Your credit scores are personal, but that doesn’t mean others can’t damage it. In the case of financial infidelity, joint account activity poses an immediate risk to the factors that determine your score.

  • Payment History (35%): Account statuses, late payments, judgments, liens and bankruptcies are all considered in this category. If your partner has jeopardized joint accounts, it could significantly damage your scores.
  • Credit Utilization (30%): This category measures installment debt (e.g., home or auto loans) and revolving credit balances against your total credit limit. Secret purchases can drive up your ratio and hurt your scores in the process.
  • Credit History (15%): If your partner opens new accounts tied to your name, or closes one of your older credit accounts, your credit scores could take a dip, as this could lower the age of your credit. You can review the accounts currently on your reports by viewing a free copy of your credit reports from the three main credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Inquiries (10%): If your partner is applying for credit accounts with your name attached, you will likely see an inquiry listed on at least one of your credit reports. While this category may not be as impactful as your payment history or other category, too many inquiries in a short period of time can really cause your scores to take a hit.
  • Diversification (10%): Credit health relies on your ability to manage varying types of credit. That said, your partner could hinder your scores if they close joint revolving or installment accounts, especially without your knowledge.

You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

What Can You Do?

Financial infidelity can cause serious relationship trouble. According to Beck, it isn’t the severity of financial infidelity that destroys relationships; it’s the deception itself.

“Hiding or lying about small amounts of money can damage a relationship just as effectively as a high-dollar deceit,” he said.

While it’s rough to be lied to, especially about money in your marriage, you may not want to pack your bags just yet. In addition to confessing their lies, 54% of those surveyed resolved to repair things with their partners by taking a few practical steps that you may also be able to implement.

  • Communicate Openly: Honesty is a positive trait in healthy relationships, and it won’t hurt your finances, either. Consider talking to your partner about their reasons for deception and setting expectations for joint finances in the future.
  • Create a Budget: If you and your partner clash on money matters, it may be a good idea to create a household budget that you both agree on. A tangible list of expenses will help you remain accountable and honest as you form new habits.
  • Open Separate Accounts: If you can’t agree on money management, consider maintaining financial independence to limit conflict. If you prefer combined finances, it might be a good idea to create separate bank accounts for shared necessary and miscellaneous expenses. This strategy may help you both adhere to your budget and track spending.

Image: gpointstudio

The post How These Common Financial Skeletons in Relationships Can Affect Your Credit appeared first on Credit.com.

How the Stock Market Could React if Trump or Hillary Wins

Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump wins the U.S. election this November, the question for investors is how that victory might affect the stock market.

If Clinton wins, will health care companies like Aetna prosper? If Trump wins, will oil companies like Exxon and Shell, surge?

Historically, the presidential election has had little long-term impact on the U.S. stock market. “The market responds more to Fed policy and economic conditions more than who is president,” said Sam Stovall, Chief Investment Strategist with CRFA.

Stovall looked at how the stock market has fared under past U.S. Presidents. Overall, markets from 1945 to 2016 gained 9.7% under Democrat presidents and 6.7% under Republican presidents, according to his findings. But it’s hard to say whether those gains were tied directly to the person sitting in the Oval Office.

Nonetheless, decisions the president makes can have lasting impacts on certain industries, which could have an impact on market value for publicly traded companies in those industries.


MagnifyMoney reached out to a handful of experts to find out how the market might look the day after Election Day (and beyond).

Here are their predictions:

If Trump wins …

Donald Trump

Stovall noted there’s a lot of concern that a Trump victory would send the market into a nosedive. But any dip in the market would eventually level out. “If it falls, it won’t be for too long,” Stovall says.

Trump has vowed to cut regulations across many industries and let markets rule, which could lift markets if he is elected, says Jeff Auxier, president and CEO of Lake Oswego, Ore.-based Auxier Asset Management. “The perception is he would cut taxes and regulations,” he says.

For example, Trump has said that he will allow insurance companies to buy insurance across state lines, which could boost their business.

The insurance industry would particularly benefit from Trump’s insistence on deregulation, Auxier suggests. Lately, the U.S. government has worked to block a pair of potentially lucrative insurance mergers — marriages between Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana. All signs point to less federal regulation under a Trump presidency.

Most large financial service companies favor a Trump triumph. “Banks favor less regulation,” Stovall says. Under a Clinton administration, some of the mega banks such as Bank of America and Citigroup would likely face pressure to shrink. In other words, they may be forced to sell off businesses and reduce total assets. If regulations under Trump declined, Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) and Discover Financial Services (DFS) stand to gain.

Another industry that might celebrate a Trump victory is construction and engineering.

“Any companies associated with building roads and bridges like engineering firms will benefit,” Auxier says. Some specific companies that could see revenues rise include Granite Construction (GVA) and Sherwin-Williams (SHW), the paint company. Stovall says these companies could do well under Clinton as well, who has said she would spike investment in infrastructure.

Large oil and energy companies would welcome a Trump victory since they prefer less regulation, a hallmark of the Republican agenda, Stovall adds.

For-profit colleges have been battered by regulations and would bounce back in a Trump presidency, Auxier suggests. Under Trump, companies such as Apollo Education Group and Lincoln Tech could “come back from the dead,” he says.

If Clinton wins …

Hillary Clinton

If Clinton wins the election, renewable stocks would prosper and many health care stocks could do well. On the downside, biotech and retail stocks might falter.

Many retail stores and restaurants are concerned about a Clinton election, Stovall says. “Retail is worried about a $15 an hour minimum wage,” Stovall says, which Clinton has supported.

On health care, don’t expect much difference if Clinton is elected. “[A Clinton victory] is basically a continuation of the Obama administration,” Stovall says. “She represents more of the center of the two candidates and that would make for less uncertainty. Wall Street doesn’t like uncertainty.”

Despite that fact that Aetna cut back its Affordable Health Care coverage in 11 states, and Humana and UnitedHealthCare also reduced coverage, the Obama administration has noted that millions of people still maintain their health plans. Health care companies can opt out of offering coverage and then return, so it’s not necessarily a permanent trend.

Under a Clinton administration, large managed health care firms, HCA Holdings (HCA), Tenet Healthcare Corp. (THC), and Molina Healthcare (MOH) could prosper as more companies drop out of the marketplace, creating less competition.

But Stovall also notes that Clinton has focused on capping the rising cost of drugs, which could trouble the pharmaceutical industry.

If Clinton wins, “biotech will shake in their boots,” Stovall adds. Clinton has stressed that controlling drug prices and avoiding massive price hikes is critical. She has said she will look to regulate and curtail pharmaceutical price increases, specifically highlighting the recent controversy over Mylan’s decision to drastically increase the price of EpiPens.

“Biotech and pharma companies would likely suffer from promised price caps. However, hospital management companies will prosper since we won’t be back to the old pattern of uninsured individuals using emergency rooms as their primary care facilities,” Stovall asserts.

While a Trump victory could likely be good news for oil stocks, a Clinton victory could send renewable energy stocks soaring.

“Democrats would be pushing for renewable energy and putting more restraints on energy,” Stovall says. Hillary Clinton has supported President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which intends to set a national limit on carbon pollution, and she has stated that “the Obama plan is a major step forward to combat climate change.”

The post How the Stock Market Could React if Trump or Hillary Wins appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

OP/ED: CFPB Should Strengthen Its Payday Loan Rules


A few years ago, Corri Varner of Savage, Minnesota needed a new pair of glasses so she could drive to her church. She was short on funds and went to a payday lender to borrow money to cover the cost. She was loaned the money, but it came with a steep fee and high interest rate. When her loan came due, she needed to take out a new loan to cover the previous loan, plus the fee and interest. Her new loan came with its own set of high fees and interest rate. Before she knew it, Corri was stuck in a “debt trap” – being forced to borrow each month to pay off the last month’s loan.

She isn’t alone. Each year millions of Americans get stuck in similar debt traps because of predatory payday lenders.

The good news is that earlier this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took a first step to crack down on lenders that make high interest, short-term loans. It has drafted new rules to make sure payday lenders don’t saddle consumers with excessive fees and outrageous interest rates. But the CFPB still has the opportunity to change its rules before they take effect, and I’m urging them to stand up for consumers by eliminating loopholes in their proposed rules and making sure the rules are as strong as possible.

According to the CFPB, 70% of borrowers of payday loans are forced to take out another loan when their first loan expires. And one in five borrowers are forced to repeat this cycle ten times or more. These debt traps can rob consumers through outrageously high charges – often with interest rates of more than 300% a year. And lenders sometimes cause consumers even more financial trouble by making repeated attempts to debit a customer’s bank account, even if there’s no money in it. That can put consumers on the hook for hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees.

The CFPB’s new rules would require a payday lender to verify that a customer actually has the ability to repay a loan before it’s issued. That means payday lenders have to check a consumer’s income, debt, and other data before making a loan, to ensure the customer has the resources to repay it. A family needs to put food on the table, pay rent, or make a car payment. And the rules will also prevent payday lenders from repeatedly debiting a customer’s account if the account doesn’t have any money in it. That means payday lenders won’t be able to run up overdraft fees as some have in the past.

While these rules will be good for consumers overall, it’s important to close loopholes that could undermine their effectiveness. For example, in some cases, under the CFPB’s proposed rules, payday lenders would be allowed to make up to six loans to a person without having to do a full review of the borrower’s ability to repay. In addition, the proposed rules wouldn’t apply to some longer-term loans either. So, I’ve been pushing the CFPB to close these two loopholes before the payday lending rules take effect.

In Congress, I’m also taking on abusive payday lenders. First, I’m fighting for legislation to cap the interest rates that payday lenders can charge. Instead of charging interest rates higher than 300% a year, I think we should set a national cap on how much lenders can charge, just like the 15 states that have already enacted interest rate caps of 36% or lower. And second, I’ve been pushing for legislation to crack down on online lenders that try to skirt U.S. laws by setting up their computers in foreign countries.

The new payday lending rules are an opportunity to secure a big step forward for this country’s working families. Although there’s more to do, we should be glad that for the first time, our country will soon have basic, national standards for payday lenders. It’s an important step to stopping the debt trap cycle that payday lenders have been forcing upon Americans.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: Zoran Zeremski

The post OP/ED: CFPB Should Strengthen Its Payday Loan Rules appeared first on Credit.com.

4 Credit Cards That Could Help You Get Out of Debt Faster

0% credit cards

Are you struggling under the weight of credit card debt? As unsecured debt, credit cards can have much higher interest rates than loans secured by your home or your car. And unlike a home mortgage or a student loan, credit card interest charges are never tax deductible.

When you have credit card debt, you continue to incur interest charges each day on your balance, and it can consume a substantial proportion of your monthly payments. Thankfully, there are some credit cards that can actually help you to get out of debt sooner than staying with your current credit card.

Many credit cards offer interest-free promotional financing on balance transfers. When you open an account with one of these cards, you can transfer your existing balance to your new card and enjoy 0% APR financing for more than a year. However, nearly all credit cards with interest-free promotional financing on balance transfers will charge a fee of 3% or 5% of the balance you want to carry over to the new card.

During this promotional financing period, 100% of each payment you make goes directly towards paying down the principal. As a result, you can pay off your credit card debt sooner without making larger payments each month. Better yet, you can use the end of the promotional financing offer as a goal for paying off your entire debt. When you have an added incentive to pay off your debt before interest begins to accrue, you can work even harder towards avoiding all interest charges.

Here are some of the best credit cards that can help you to get out of debt faster.

1. Chase Slate

This is the only credit card from a major bank that offers 0% APR balance transfers with no balance transfer fee or annual fee. New applicants receive 15 months of interest-free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, with no fee for transfers completed within 60 days of account opening. 

In addition to its outstanding balance transfer offer, this card also features Chase’s Blueprint program at no additional cost. Blueprint allows you to set a date for paying off your debt and it provides you with the amount you have to pay each month to reach that goal. Or, you can input the amount you are able to pay each month, and it will tell you how much time it will take for you to pay off your debt. Blueprint also allows you to avoid interest on some charges by paying them in full while carrying a balance on others. There is no annual fee for this card, and it has no penalty interest rate.

2. Citi Simplicity

Citi’s Simplicity card offers the longest promotional financing offer available from a major bank. It features 21 months of interest-free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, with a 3% balance transfer fee. Simplicity also has no late fees and no penalty interest rate. Other benefits include extended warranty coverage and access to Citi’s Price Rewind service. There is no annual fee for this card. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)

3. BankAmericard From Bank of America

This card offers 18 months of interest-free financing on balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening, with a 3% balance transfer fee. And since it’s issued by one of the nation’s largest banks, those who have an existing checking or savings account with Bank of America can have the convenience of making transfers between accounts rather than payments between institutions. This card is also compatible with mobile payment systems including Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. There’s no annual fee for this card.

4. JetBlue Plus Card From Barclaycard

This card allows you to pay down your balance faster, while also offering travel rewards and benefits. New cardholders receive 12 months of 0% APR financing on balance transfers completed within 45 days of account opening. You also earn 6x points for JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores and 1x on all other purchases. Travel benefits include a 50% savings on in-flight purchases, 10% of your redeemed points back and a free checked bag on JetBlue flights. There’s a $99 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

A Note on Balance Transfers

Once you transfer your balances to a 0% APR card, it can be tempting to spend again on the clean, debt-free card, but it’s important to try to keep your balances as low as possible on both cards. Card balances and a heavy amount of debt influence your credit scores in a negative way, and a low credit score can limit your options in the future. Mortgage rates, car loan rates and even cellphone down payments are influenced by your credit score. If you’re curious to see how your debts are influencing your credit scores, you can see two of them for free, updated every 14 days on Credit.com. 

At publishing time, the Chase Slate, Citi Simplicity and the JetBlue Plus card from Barclaycard are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: LuminaStock

The post 4 Credit Cards That Could Help You Get Out of Debt Faster appeared first on Credit.com.

‘Same As Cash’ Offers: What’s the Catch?


Perhaps you’ve heard it before: six months same as cash. The offer pops up frequently at furniture stores, appliance stores and with contractors offering a deal to fix your furnace. These kinds of deals can sound tempting, but they can be troublesome if you’re not careful. How do they work? Are they ever a good idea? And what other options can you leverage instead? Read on to find out.

How Do Same As Cash Offers Work?

Same as cash offers are often considered financing options of last resort. They’re typically tailored to borrowers with low credit who won’t qualify for other financing options. While you can certainly take advantage of these offers, you definitely need to understand how they work first.

Oftentimes, consumers assume that a six months same as cash offer means they won’t pay any interest for the first six months. This is actually not how these offers work. Instead, you can go six months making minimal payments, or sometimes no payments at all. But if you don’t pay the entire balance by the six-month deadline, bad things could happen.

Let’s say you take out a six-month same as cash loan for $5,000 to buy new furniture. You understand that the loan has a 24% interest rate and that you aren’t required to make any payments for the first six months. But what you may miss in this “deal” is that if the entire balance of the loan isn’t paid off at the end of six months, you’ll owe all the interest you would have paid over that six-month period. Worse still, the lender could charge this back interest at whatever rate he likes. Any future missed payments could also trigger an even higher interest rate.

The caveat is that if you can get your loan balance paid off in full before the six months is up, you won’t have to pay any interest at all. Same as cash offers vary from creditor to creditor, so be sure you read the fine print on any offer you’re considering.

Are Same As Cash Offers a Good Idea?

In general, same as cash offers may not be the best option for consumers who have trouble making their payments. The only time they’re a decent option is if you are absolutely positive that you can pay off the full balance during the offer period. But you really never know what will happen to your finances over a 90-day or six-month period.

What if your furnace breaks in the dead of winter, and a same as cash offer is literally your only option for getting it fixed? In this case, it’s better to take the chance than be unable to live in your home because of a furnace malfunction. But you’ll want to manage your risk by putting as much money toward paying off the balance each month as possible.

What Are Some Other Options?

When you’re in a situation where a same as cash offer is on the table, be sure you consider your other options first. These include saving up to pay cash and using credit cards or a personal loan instead.

Same as cash offers aren’t ideal for non-necessities, like furniture or vehicle upgrades. If you need a new couch, it’s best to just save up the cash you need to buy it. Or you can downgrade your expectations and buy a secondhand option from a site like Craigslist or Goodwill.

In the case of emergencies, though, you may not have the option to save up cash to cover the expense. In this case, using a credit card or personal loan may be a better option. (Note: If you consider applying for either of these, be sure you know where your credit stands, as this could impact the rate you receive. You can view two of your free credit scores, updated every two weeks, on Credit.com.) Yes, you’ll have to pay an interest charge each month while you pay off the debt. But you’ll likely secure a lower interest rate, and you won’t have to worry about taking a huge hit on interest all at once.

As with other financing options, same as cash has its place. But it’s definitely an offer you need to be cautious with and be sure to understand fully before you sign on the line.

Image: sergeyryzhov

The post ‘Same As Cash’ Offers: What’s the Catch? appeared first on Credit.com.

With $655 Malaysia Trip, This Student Proves Gap Years Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune


Brandon Stubbs isn’t your typical 18-year-old high school graduate. In addition to graduating valedictorian from his Grass Valley, Calif. high school, he’s joined the ranks of a growing number of students embracing the concept of taking a gap year before starting college.

While other college freshmen began their first classes this Fall, Stubbs, who plans on attending Brown University, kicked off his gap year with a trip to Malaysia.

A gap year is usually more than just a nice break from calculus exams and book reports. Many students choose to focus on personal growth and incorporate travel abroad or participation in volunteer projects. That growth can come at a high cost. Some programs, like the $35,000 Global Gap Year offered by Thinking Beyond Borders, can cost more than what some students pay for a four-year college degree.

But, there are plenty of ways to trim costs and still have a great gap year. We reported on some here, which is how we met Stubbs.

We asked Stubbs to share his budget so far. Take a look at how he’s financing the first leg of his gap year in Malaysia:


We caught up with Stubbs to see how his budget is holding up in Malaysia and how he intends to spend the rest of his gap year. Here’s what he said.

MagnifyMoney: Where are you now?

Brandon Stubbs: I’m taking two months of my gap year in Malaysia, one of the most diverse countries in the world. Right now I’m in Johor Bahru, the southernmost city of Malaysia, just across the bridge from Singapore.

MM: What drove your decision to take a gap year?

BS: After my high school graduation, I was definitely, to an extent, burnt out and, while I was excited to attend Brown University, I wasn’t as ready or enthusiastic to start college this fall as I will be next fall.  This gap year has provided me the opportunity to gain experience in the real world while simultaneously recharging my mental battery.  I’m learning a lot in an entirely different way than in the classroom.  And my enthusiasm and excitement for next fall has only increased as I’ve grown as an individual throughout this gap year.

MM: Why Malaysia?

BS: As a student going into archaeology, it’s really important for me to be getting this exposure to this blend of Eastern cultures as well as to the geography and climate. Tropical rainforests thrive here, so I’ve been able to go on some real Indiana Jones-esque expeditions into the jungle. I’ve also visited some incredible Buddhist and Hindu temples throughout the country that have proven to be very enlightening experiences.

MM: How did you you save up for this trip?

BS: I had $2800 saved up for this trip, which I earned working as a tutor throughout high school and as a music camp counselor during the summer. I paid for my flight through StudentUniverse [ a site that offers affordable fares to students]. I booked a flight on AirChina for $535.

MM: How do you stay on budget?

BS: My room and board is covered in exchange for my volunteer service [at the hostel where I am staying] so I only have to spend money on food and transportation.  Often, I’ll only spend money on brunch and dinner during a day, but I’ll spend a little more for excursions into Malaysia or Singapore.

MM: What are you doing for money out there?

BS: I’ve done some street performing in the past on my trumpet at the local “Cornish Christmas” celebrations and other outdoor festivities. On top of that, I am focusing on the style of New Orleans Dixieland jazz, which lends itself quite well to solo street performance. I intended to bring my trumpet, anyway, if just to practice, so the idea of playing it in public was natural.  So far I’m earning about 160 [Malaysian Ringgit] a week, which translates to $40 USD, for playing five nights a week. But the money is enough to cover most of my daily expenses in Malaysia.

MM: What’s your typical day like?

BS: I have two days a week off from my work at the hostel.  On those days, I’ll either go into Singapore and visit some of the attractions and districts of that amazing city or explore the nature and culture of Malaysia, hiking or visiting new towns.  On my work days, I’ll spend a few hours cleaning and checking guests in and out and on my downtime work on my second book or street perform on my trumpet.

MM: Did your parents help you with any expenses?

BS: My parents did help pay for some of the preparatory expenses, like my typhoid shot or general supplies – flashlight, mosquito repellent, etc.  Aside from that, I am covering all of my own expenses.

MM: When do you get back?

BS: I’ll return to the States toward the end of November.

MM: Will you have any funds left when you return?

BS: I expect to return with $1800 or $1900 remaining. I shouldn’t spend more than $1000 on the entire two-month trip, all expenses included.

MM: What will you do for the remainder of the gap year?

BS: Once I return to the U.S. I intend to spend several months publishing and advertising my first book, The King of Kamaahr.  My plans for the spring are still not set in stone, but right now I think I’ll go to Sydney, where I have some family and Australian citizenship, and spend a few months living there.  I’ll try to find work there as a musician and/or an actor as well as advertise my book outside the U.S.

Do you want to share your gap year story? E-mail us at info@magnifymoney.com. 

The post With $655 Malaysia Trip, This Student Proves Gap Years Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

4 True Tales of Maxing Out Credit Cards


Some people like to joke about taking things to the limit, but when it comes to your credit, maxing out a credit card is no laughing matter.

Maxing out a credit card means swiping until you reach the card’s credit limit, or the total amount of credit extended to you. And that’s bad news for your credit scores because your debt utilization ratio (e.g., how much debt you have versus your total available credit) is one of the key factors credit agencies use to determine your score. Bump up against that limit, and your score will take a hit.

Debt levels are another factor that go into your score. Carry too much, and you’ll send a red flag to lenders that you’re in over your head; slack off on a few bills, and they’ll begin to think you can’t manage your payments responsibly.

We spoke with a few Credit.com readers who learned the hard way about the dangers of maxing out credit cards. While they aren’t proud of what they did, they came out stronger for their experience and took steps necessary to get their finances back in order. (Note: At their request, some names and locations have been withheld to protect readers’ privacy.)

‘I Maxed Out Seven Cards’  

Between 2006 and 2008, Steven M. Hughes was saddled with a lot of debt. “I maxed out seven cards in my freshman year alone,” he said via email, “two more as a young professional.” The problem was he didn’t understand how to use them. “My parents always told me to stay away from them and didn’t teach me how to manage them properly,” he said.

“I had one credit card for emergencies that I maxed out on car repairs for a car at the time. I had department store cards that I maxed out on clothes for school and work because I worked while I was in college. I had a card I maxed out going to a family member’s wedding in New York City. I started assigning jobs to each card, but I didn’t have the income to pay them off, and paying the minimum balance wasn’t cutting it. All but one card was charged off. I managed to pay the lone card off and start a new account with the creditor.”

Today, the Columbia, South Carolina, resident teaches millennials how to manage their money through his nonprofit, Know Money, Inc. “After making all the financial mistakes, I started to learn as much as possible about personal finance,” he said.

‘I Was Into Wearing Ralph Lauren’ 

Deborah Sawyerr, a fashion and lifestyle blogger based in London, was about 32 when she visited Woodbury Common Premium Outlet, in Central Valley, New York, during a family holiday in 2005. “We bought clothes, shoes, suits, my daughter some bits, belts, jackets and some gifts,” she recalled via email. “At the time, I was into wearing Ralph Lauren clothing, so most of my spend went on this particular brand.”

Her credit card balance at the time was pretty low, but she admits she went a bit overboard that trip, racking up roughly $5,000. “As luck would have it, at the same time, my employer had just paid me in excess of £5,000, or thereabouts, as a redundancy package,” she said. “I basically — and perhaps I wasn’t so naïve — used the entire redundancy package to clear the debt in one go.” Humbled by the experience, Sawyerr said hasn’t maxed out a credit card since.

‘I Knew Very Little About Money’ 

In 1997, John Schmoll, Jr. was an undergrad with four maxed out credit cards totaling a whopping debt of $25,000. “When I went to college, I knew very little about money and was enticed to sign up for credit cards out of the promise of some sort of free swag — T-shirt, Frisbee, you name it,” he wrote in an email. “I ended up signing up for four credit cards this way, and used them to finance a lifestyle that I wanted but could not afford.”

Teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, at a roommate’s urging Schmoll decided to meet with a debt counselor, who helped him lower the rates on his cards. From there, he set up a budget, which enabled him to pay the cards off five years later. “That changed my life forever and put me on the path I am today, working toward financial independence,” he said. Today, the Omaha-based father and finance industry veteran blogs at Frugal Rates about what he’s learned.

‘0% Offers Were Appealing’ 

Years ago, Lisa, a marketing strategist, found that the 0% promotional APR offers from credit card issuers “were appealing.”

“I had six credit cards, all with a little over $3,000 on them,” Lisa said in an email. “I consolidated them into one account, maxing out that card, and I paid it off in about two years.”

So what got her there in the first place? Overspending. “I was floored to find out how liberal I’d been with spending — luxury items, travel to the Maui Writer’s Conference, etc.,” she said. “I behave very differently now.”

For starters, she said she doesn’t keep a revolving balance, and diligently pays her balances off every month. “That way, there’s no surprise debt, no interest charges, no late fees, etc.,” she said.

If you have reason to believe your spending’s out of control and it’s affecting your credit, you can read up on these tips to build credit the smart way and view your free credit report summary on Credit.com to see where you might want to improve.

Image: m-imagephotography

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8 Tips to Help You Save Money on Halloween Costumes


If your kids are like mine, they turn to you the day after Halloween and already know what costume they want for next year. Of course, that desire rarely stays the same come the following October, so you can’t really costume shop that early.

But once Halloween is approaching, your kids decide exactly what to dress up as, and you head to the store to see what you can find. Costumes can certainly be expensive. If you have multiple children — and if you and your spouse happen to dress up too — that gets even more pricey. You can easily drop more than $100, just on costumes.

But it doesn’t have to break the bank. We’ve got some awesome money saving tips that you can use to help you and your family celebrate the holiday, all while keeping the wallet happy.

1. Make Your Own

Even if you are not crafty, or can’t sew, you can still make your costume. Consider browsing Pinterest, where you can find all sorts of awesome ideas. Your costume doesn’t have to be perfect — it just needs to be fun to make. You can even find recipes to make your own hair dye, fake blood and more. Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas.

2. Visit Thrift Stores

Many times, you can find Halloween costumes for sale at your local thrift store. Sometimes they are brand new and other times they have been worn only once.

3. Use Coupons/Sales

Keep your eyes open and you can find costumes on sale. You can also use coupons to get an even bigger discount. For instance, Target often releases a Cartwheel coupon for 50% off of costumes, which can make for a great deal.

4. Reuse Clothes You Have

Take the clothes you have and turn them into a costume. For instance, wear a black shirt and pants. Then, create a tail and make ears and you’ll be a mouse. Put on overalls and a flannel shirt and put some dirt on your face and you could be a farmer. This is a good way to be creative all without spending much.

5. Swap Costumes

Swap costumes with a friend who has kids about the same age as yours. This is a great way to get rid of the costume your child wore only once for something like new. Best of all, everyone wins.

6. Be Flexible

You might want to dress up as a grand wizard, but the cost is just a bit out of reach. Change direction and find something that doesn’t cost as much.

7. Shop Yard Sales

Check out yard sales for costumes and costume ideas. This is something you may be able to do as the holiday approaches or something you might want to consider doing throughout the year. You might find a piece here and there and can build a costume from the bargains you find.

8. Shop at the End of the Season

This one may not help you with this year’s costume, but is good to keep in mind for when the holiday has passed. Once Halloween is over, many stores will offer holiday items at a deep discount, so consider picking up makeup, colored hair spray and other items you can put away for next year. Think twice before getting a costume your child may not wear or could outgrow next year. However, these may make for good dress up items, if they’re a good deal.

Image: Jani Bryson

The post 8 Tips to Help You Save Money on Halloween Costumes appeared first on Credit.com.

The No. 1 Rule of Balance Transfer Credit Cards


Having a mountain of debt is both stressful and draining. In order to pay off credit card debt, some people turn to a balance transfer credit card.

While it may seem like a strange idea to move your credit card debt from one credit card to another, doing so can be a good option. This new piece of plastic may come with a 0% APR for a given period of time, so you can focus on paying off your debt without adding interest charges on top of what you already owe.

That being said, if you’re not careful and diligent about paying off this new card, you could end up right back in the same situation you were in before transferring the balance.

But don’t worry; we’re here to help. We’re going to tell you the most important rule to follow with a balance transfer credit card: Make sure you pay off your debt during the interest-free period ends.

Why Is This So Important?

As we mentioned, balance transfer credit cards typically come with a promotional APR period, during which you won’t accrue more interest charges each month. Paying off your card during this time is imperative because, once that promotional period ends, you’ll likely end up with a higher interest rate, which could mean even more debt if you can’t pay the balance.

Because of this, it’s important to remember that just transferring your balance isn’t the answer to getting out of debt — the process actually starts before getting the new plastic.

Considerations to Make Before Getting a Balance Transfer Credit Card

Before you sign up for a new card, you’ll want to look at your budget and see how long you think you’ll need, realistically, to pay off your debt. Once you know that, it’s a good idea to look at all your different card options. (You can read about some of the best balance transfer credit cards in America here.) Some cards offer this benefit for 18 months, while others offer it for 12, so you’ll want to look for a card that will offer the 0% APR timeframe that will work best for you.

As you’re doing your research, make sure you also read the fine print and take note of the terms and any fees — for example, some cards charge a balance transfer fee, while others have different interest rates for the transferred balance and new purchases.

As you continue to work on paying off your debts, it’s a good idea to monitor the effects it’s having on your credit. You can view two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Image: Squaredpixels

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