Is There Such a Thing as a Debtor’s Prison?


In this modern world that we live in, consumers are protected and have certain rights when it comes to debt collection. The practices of debt collection agencies have to abide by rules through the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) as enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to the FTC, consumers are to be safeguarded from abusive, harassing or unfair debt collection practices. But, the question is, “Does this act protect consumers from being arrested for the failure to pay back their debts and sent to a debtor’s prison?” The short answer is yes, but there are some instances related to debt in which people have been sent to jail.

Debtor’s Prisons were abolished in the US in 1833, and thankfully so. Before the abolishment, being arrested for outstanding debt was a catch-22 situation. Since there were no work-release programs in place at that time, there was no opportunity for the debtors to make good on their outstanding debt. To make matters worse and put more debt strain on the debtor, they would be responsible for paying prison fees as well. So, without the financial help of friends or family, there would literally be no way to escape their sentence.

Consumers’ debt rights have come a long way, but why are people still being arrested if the debtor’s prison was abolished so long ago? Here are some answers that can shed some light.

What Could Put You at Risk for Arrest

While arrests can be made in a debt situation, it’s not the debt itself that will get you arrested; it’s the violation of the court order that can land you in jail. Depending on the court and jurisdiction, it may be required of the debtor to appear in court. If you are summoned to appear and ignore that summons, a warrant may be issued for your arrest for failure to appear in court. It’s very important to ensure that you don’t ignore any correspondence from the courts and are compliant in regards to being sued for debt and the appearances you are expected to make.

If you don’t know what to do, don’t procrastinate and push it aside. Ignoring a summons to appear in court will not go away. You have the option to represent yourself. However, you may want to consult an attorney that understands the laws on what debt collectors can and cannot do by law as well as your legal rights as a debtor. Depending on your state, there are some other specific restrictions on what creditors and debt collectors can and cannot do when trying to collect a debt.

Many types of debt collection practices are prohibited.

Should you have any debt that is in the process of collection, it’s important to educate yourself on the types of debt collection practices that are prohibited. In addition to being prohibited from harassment, debt collectors may not:

  • Use any threats of violence or harm
  • Publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau such as Experian, Equifax, and Transunion)
  • Use obscene or profane language when trying to collect on the debt; or
  • Repeatedly use the telephone to annoy and harass a debtor.
  • Take or threaten to take your property unless this can be done legally(meaning the debt is secured and tied to an item that can be repossessed);
  • Threaten to sue, garnish your wages and freeze your bank account if they have no intention of doing so.

Knowing what debt collectors are legally allowed to can be overwhelming. Consider consulting an attorney in your county to help you find out what you need to know to keep yourself protected.

If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly,’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated each month.

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How to Avoid Credit Card Theft while Traveling

Identity Theft Travel

Whether you plan to travel now or in a year, you should take steps to protect yourself from identity theft and credit card fraud while you’re on vacation. Tourists are often victims of theft, including passport and credit card theft—both of which can compromise personal information. Thieves can gain data by physically taking belongings the old-fashioned way or by hacking into your phone or computer.

By following these six tips before and after you travel, you could save yourself years or even a lifetime of credit and financial nightmares.

1.Notify Your Creditors of Your Travel Plans

Before you travel anywhere, call your credit card companies and your banks to let them know where you will be and when you plan to travel. Many banks and credit card companies keep track of your spending habits, so any purchases out of the norm may prompt them to lock down your account—this could be especially frustrating if you are out of the country and have no way of reaching your bank or credit card company.

If you do end up going overseas, find out the best way to get in touch with your creditors should your credit card or bank card get lost or stolen while you are away. Keep this information and all creditor phone numbers in a safe place that is separate from your cards—then you’ll have it on hand no matter what happens to your wallet or purse.

2. Set Up Email or Text Alerts

As you prepare to travel, subscribe to mobile email or text alerts. By doing so, you will be notified of all activity on your accounts. Receiving email or text alerts on your phone can stop credit card fraud in its tracks, since transaction information is sent to you almost instantaneously. This timely warning can help you resolve unauthorized purchases on the spot.

3.Make Copies

Whenever you travel, make photocopies of both the front and back of your credit cards. Give the copies to a trusted family member or friend at home. In the unfortunate event that your credit card is lost or stolen, you can quickly obtain all the information you need to cancel your credit card.

If you prefer to store copies digitally, you can scan and upload your copies to a secure cloud storage site, such as Google Docs or Dropbox. Should you access your documents while traveling, make sure you are connected to a secure network and not to an open Wi-Fi connection where hackers can steal your passwords and get into your accounts.

Whatever you do, do not keep copies in your luggage. Should your luggage get lost or stolen, you are putting yourself at risk for credit card fraud as your credit card numbers can be used to make fraudulent purchases.

4.Check Your Credit Card and Bank Accounts Often

If you haven’t done so already, sign up for online access to your bank accounts and credit card statements. Consider downloading the mobile apps for your bank and credit cards for easy and convenient access to your accounts. With these apps, you can not only view your bank balances and credit limits but also see all current transactions.

As soon as you see anything suspicious, immediately contact your bank or credit card company to report the questionable charge. Once you’re home, review the transactions from your trip to ensure you didn’t miss any unusual activity that should be reported.

5.Update Your Account Passwords and PINs

If you can’t remember the last time you updated your password or account PIN, it’s probably a good idea to do so now. Create passwords that are long and unique to each credit card and bank account. Updating your passwords and PINs may be a cumbersome task, but the time you take to do so will be well worth the extra protection and security.

6.Stay Alert at All Times

With the recent Equifax data breach, many are on high alert and constantly looking out for suspicious activity. But with time, people may grow lax and check their accounts less often—and this is when a credit card thief’s strike will hurt the most.

Some thieves may sit on your information in hopes of catching you unaware. So it’s important to continually monitor your credit and keep your files and important documents in safe and secure locations where thieves may not think to look.

If you’re thinking of taking a trip, use these tips to avoid credit card theft and protect your financial standing. Credit card fraud can be damaging if not handled properly, so don’t be afraid to check your accounts frequently or err on the side of caution. You can never be too careful.


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3 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score in 2018


All the holiday excitement is over and it’s time to face your post-holiday credit card bills. If you stayed within your budget, you shouldn’t have difficulty paying off your bills. However, if you went a little crazy with December cheer, now is the time to take corrective action, prioritize your finances, and boost your credit score.

As you get your finances back in shape, you’re ultimately helping out your credit—and for a multitude of reasons, it’s important to have a good credit score. Good credit grants you better loan approval, lower interest rates, higher spending limits, negotiating power, and more rewards. Your credit score also impacts the ability to obtain necessities like a home, a car, and other lifestyle needs.

So here’s how to start boosting your credit score in 2018.

  1. Pay All Your Bills on Time

If you’re expecting hefty post-holiday bills, the best way to improve your credit score is to simply make timely payments. Making all of your payments on time is crucial to a great credit score and positive credit history. Your payment history has a huge effect on your credit score.

Set calendar reminders or alerts on your phone to make sure you pay your bills and pay them on time. Unpaid bills are a red flag and may indicate to the lender that you’re an unreliable borrower. It’s also important to tackle balances with the highest utilization and interest rates.

  1. Consider a Lifestyle Change

If you find yourself strapped for cash, there are a few things you can do.

  • Pay at least double the minimum on each payment. If you can, and if there’s no prepayment penalty, doubling down on payments each month will help you tackle the balance quicker.
  • Rework your budget. Evaluate your budget and cut out unnecessary expenses that are eating up your income. Then you can start allocating that money toward getting out of debt. For example, forgo your daily specialty drink at your local coffee shop and bring a lunch from home instead of buying lunch at work. Setting a strict budget will allow you to free up cash and focus on paying down your debt.
  • Pick up a side hustle. If you can, apply for a part-time job or do some extra freelance work to build up your funds.
  • Don’t apply for new cards or loans. For now, stay away from new credit card and loan applications, even if you’re planning to use the extra credit to pay off your debts. Also, avoid using any credit cards you’re currently paying off. 
  1. Check Your Credit Report

About once or twice a year, you should check your credit report for mistakes. Maybe you forgot to pay a bill, or maybe you’re a victim of identity theft. If you don’t check your report for these and other problems, chances are you may miss them and they can harm your score tremendously—which in turn would bring you great financial hardship.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, about 5% of consumers have credit errors large enough to increase costs of insurance or some financial products. When you have bad credit with a low credit score, it may take some time to build it back up. Check your history so you can address these problems right away.

When you do check your credit report, make sure you get reports from all three bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) to get the clearest picture of your credit, since some creditors only report to one or two. You can check two of your credit scores for free at


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How to Make Your Financial New Year’s Resolutions Stick

new years resolutions

Making your New Year’s Resolutions is the easy part and you have the best of intentions, however sticking to them can be challenging. Old habits may be hard to break and achieving your financial goals can be difficult. While you may get complacent and comfortable in your old ways as you head into January, you can stay motivated and follow through on your financial New Year’s resolutions if you consciously avoid procrastination and take action! Starting with small steps and setting weekly goals can pave your way to achieving long term goals and will give you a sense of accomplishment. Once you see the positive results and monetary growth, you’ll feel financially happy and healthy.

By following these five tips, you will soon be on your way to making those New Year’s resolutions stick!

  1. Be SMART

Goals which are “SMART,” or specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound are the ones which will be easier to keep up with. Set a specific amount that you would like to save or pay off and keep track of the balances on your accounts. Make sure that goal works with your lifestyle and budget, and give yourself a deadline of when you would like to complete your goal which is realistic. Keeping your goals realistic is key to making them stick.

  1. Break it Down

If your goal is to save $5,000 by the end of the year, that can seem very overwhelming. Try to break it down to a monthly goal of $417 or a weekly goal of $104.25. This will help you figure out what you need to put aside per paycheck and how much of your budget you need to reign in. Breaking it down helps to make your goals more tangible and less impossible; you can plan better for the savings and add it to your daily routine instead of making it a second thought.

  1. Take the Extra Steps

Sometimes, using the tools that you presently have may not be enough to make you successful in achieving your goals. Taking extra steps such as making your lunch and bringing coffee, or even opening up a new bank account (should it be in your best interest to do so) will help you in the long run and make your goals stick. The extra step may be checking your statements weekly to make sure you are staying within your budget. Making a habit of checking your statements is a great way to ensure that you aren’t overspending as well. By assessing your spending habits, you can see where you may be able to cut back.

  1. Replace Not Eliminate Habits

If you try to drastically alter your lifestyle, including your habits, it could be an indicator of why you cannot stick to your resolutions. Consider replacing habits such as buying lunch with a habit of making extra food at dinner so you have leftovers or setting up your coffee pot the night before so you won’t feel the need to stop and get some on the way to work. This ensures that your daily routines aren’t cumbersome and hard to keep up with.

  1. Put Your Finances on Autopilot

Taking control of your finances is taking control of your life. Using tools such as Mint or setting up automatic payments for your bills is a great way to keep your resolutions on track. It may also be beneficial for you to sign up for text reminders or application notifications to help keep track of your spending and savings. Having a notification pop up on your screen daily which reminds you that you are that much closer to reaching your goal is a great way to stay on track and make those resolutions stick! You can also do this to help increase your savings. By setting up a monthly or weekly auto-deduct from you checking to savings accounts, you can help ensure that you actually have set aside the amount of money you intended to save.

If better credit is part of your new year’s resolution, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly,’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated each month.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.


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5 Financial Moves to Make in 2018


It’s understandable if you drifted off course financially during the last couple months of the year. However, you don’t want bad money habits to follow you into the New Year. If your finances have slipped, it’s time to get back on track for 2018 and devise a plan to tackle your debt efficiently and effectively. Take a step back and evaluate your finances before the clock strikes 12 on December 31.

Here are some tips that can help you refresh your finances and stay motivated in the New Year.

1. Review Your finances

Take a look at your overall finances and consider setting both short-term and long-term goals. Confused about where to start? You may want to begin by obtaining a free copy of your credit report at Through, you can request reports from all three of the major nationwide credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Since you might have been using your credit cards often during your holiday shopping, be sure to check your credit report for any irregularities. Fraud and identity theft skyrocket during the holiday season. While you are checking your credit report, you also might want to check your credit score. If you are using more than 30% of your credit cards, you may see a slight drop in your score in the post-holiday season. While credit scores can fluctuate slightly from time to time, it’s important to recognize when a deep drop occurs so you can find the problem and resolve it as soon as possible.

2. Set Goals and Make a Plan

Goals give us something to look forward to and work toward. Make a list of all the financial goals you plan to achieve in the next 12 months or so. Establish a payment strategy that works best to tackle not only your post-holiday debt, but also your overall debt. Consider making a list of all of your debts (secure and unsecure) and devise a plan on how to get them down.

Ask yourself what your short-term and long-term goals are. You might be looking to save up for a wedding, for retirement planning, or for your student loans. When it comes to loans, consider paying more than the minimum and making payments twice each month to help tackle your debt more efficiently. If you think you won’t be able to tackle all of your debt at once, focus on the highest-interest rate debt first before you work on the rest.

3. Stay Motivated

You may be stressed out from your financial situation. Stress can be very overwhelming, especially when it’s money related. Try to write down all of the reasons why you are stressed out. Focus on two to three financial problems or financial stress points and write down ways you may be able to solve that issue.

For example, you could write the following:

  • “I am stressed because I keep missing my credit card bill and now I am in debt from the late fees.
    • Solution: Maybe I can set a reminder on my phone or sign up for automatic payments so I don’t forget next time.
    • Solution: Since I’m deep in debt now, maybe I will put extra money towards my monthly payments instead of just paying the minimum.”

4. Put Yourself on a Financial Diet

Try and put yourself on a “financial diet” after the holidays. Focus on your debt instead of spending frivolously. Consider only spending money on essential expenses and use coupons when you can. If you make a few changes to your lifestyle—bringing the exact cash that you need to the grocery store or bringing a bagged lunch to work instead of eating out—you will improve your overall financial health. You will also adapt to these new habits and boost your cash flow. If you think you have a problem with impulse buying or you find yourself in deep debt, then you might want to consider seeking outside financial help.

If you only have enough money in your bank account to pay your bills at the end of the month and anything unexpected expenses are being paid for with credit cards, it may be time to rethink your financial strategy. It’s easy to get caught up in the credit card debt cycle especially around the holiday season, however getting out of debt means planning for the expected. Planning for those “what if” moments can help you avoid breaking the bank in case of an emergency. You may be thinking I can always just use my credit card, however, using a credit card in a “what if” situation should be your last option.

5. Don’t Cheat Yourself of a “What If” Fund

If you only have enough money in your bank account to pay your bills at the end of the month and you’re paying for any unexpected expenses with credit cards, it may be time to rethink your financial strategy. It’s easy to get caught up in the credit card debt cycle, especially around the holidays. However, getting out of debt means planning for the expected. Planning for those “what if” moments can help you avoid breaking the bank when an emergency comes. You may think, “I can always just use my credit card,” but really, a credit card should be your last option in an emergency.

To get started on your “what if” fund, you can set reasonable goals, open a savings account, and be sure to make regular contributions to your savings until you reach 10% net income. If you take money out, be sure to replenish the funds! Just think how great it will be having money available if an emergency happens.

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How to Host Thanksgiving without Going Over Budget


Thanksgiving is a time to cherish family and friends and to enjoy all your favorite foods, drinks, and desserts! You want to make this day special for all your loved ones, but don’t forget your budget. Debt can easily pile up during the holidays. Between the cost of food, beverages, decorations, and dessert, your wallet may not end up being too thankful. Luckily, there are ways to make your Thanksgiving dinner memorable and budget friendly!

Here are four ways to host a Thanksgiving dinner without gobbling down your funds.

1. Start Early

Don’t overwhelm yourself by shopping for Thanksgiving at the last minute. This can throw off your budget—not to mention the store will be hectic. There’s a good chance popular Thanksgiving foods and ingredients will be marked up if you shop right before the holiday, so you should purchase nonperishable items as early as possible. Starting early will give you the time you need to hunt down the best holiday deals.

Consider making a list of what you need and then search for deals to save you money. But before you rush out to use those coupons, take inventory of what you already have. You might be surprised what’s been hiding in that cluttered pantry or packed freezer.

In addition, when buying alcohol, consider asking your store for its deals on buying cases. Purchasing a case can save you money in the long run and can come in handy for a future party or holiday gift. Finally, take a stab at do-it-yourself recipes instead of just buying items. This can help save you money even though it may be more time-consuming.

2. Ask for Help

Food can be expensive, and food prices have gone up in recent years. You were kind enough to host Thanksgiving, so don’t be afraid to ask your attendees to help out. Ask friends and family to bring specific items so that you can save both time and money and also avoid stress. You may even want to consider making it a potluck dinner. Ask your guests to bring an appetizer, side dish, dessert, or even their favorite bottle of wine or beer. This can bring new tastes to the table, lessen your expenses, and keep you within your budget. 

3. Limit the Number of Dishes—or Don’t

The number of dishes you serve depends on the number of guests you’ll be feeding. By limiting the number of dishes, your grocery bill will be much lower. Consider ditching sides that haven’t wowed guests in the past and offer your guests fewer dishes in bigger quantities. This way you can buy ingredients in bulk, stay within your budget, and still have enough to feed all your guests.

On the other hand, increasing the number of side dishes can mean purchasing less turkey, which can also save you money. If you go this route, consider purchasing sides that won’t break the bank. A few canned or frozen sides can go a long way.

4. Rethink Your Décor

Your home décor can provide a nice atmosphere for your Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, you want your table to look the part, but at what price? Holiday decorations can be expensive and can take away from other areas of your Thanksgiving budget. Try to get crafty with your decorations. Find things like fall leaves, hay, and gourds to use as holiday props. You may also want to visit the dollar store to find other budget-friendly decorations.

If you do want to splurge on something and don’t have enough place settings for your guests, consider buying simple white dinner plates and a set of nice silverware. These have an elegant, timeless look and can be used for future holiday parties at your home.

If you follow these tips and you still find yourself struggling, you may need to make sure your budget’s really working for you. Consider rethinking your budget before your next event, or consider a high-rewards credit card to help your next event run smoothly. Don’t forget, you can check your credit score for free at before you sign up.

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The Ultimate Holiday Debt Survival Guide for 2017

Here are six personality types that can keep you from financial success and how to spot them.

Millions of Americans have an overwhelming amount of debt, and during the holidays, many consumers spend more than they have. Don’t fall victim to overspending and accruing debt this holiday season. You can still love and celebrate the holiday season without overspending on holiday gifts, food, decorations, lights, and entertaining. After all, the holidays are a time to gather with friends and family and to be grateful for what you have!

We compiled the ultimate holiday survival guide to get you through this season of giving without going into debt. Here are five tips to help you spend wisely and protect your finances.

1. Create a Holiday Budget

You might be tired of hearing about budgeting, but if you’re serious about not overspending this holiday season, you should make a holiday budget. It’s important to be realistic—don’t make guesses if you can avoid it. Look back on how much you spent last year to guide you as you create your budget, and see where you could cut back.

The key to staying on budget is proper organization so you can have a holiday season that’s free of financial stress. When it comes to gift giving, be sure to make a list and check it twice. Don’t feel pressured to give to friends or extended family if your budget doesn’t allow it.

2. Use Cash

It can be discouraging to start off the New Year already behind on the eight ball in money matters. To avoid a financial hangover in January, you may want to consider using cash or a debit card for your holiday purchases—instead of a credit card. By having cash on hand when holiday shopping, you will be less likely to go over budget. You’ll be forced to spend only what you have available as opposed to a large credit line.

If you do plan to use a credit card, remember that you’ll have to pay interest on your purchases if you don’t pay the entire balance in full. Be sure to add due dates to your calendar for each of your credit cards and schedule a reminder on your phone. Overdue payments can hurt your credit score and push you further into debt with late fees.

Additionally, learn to prioritize your bills. Pay off the card with the highest interest rate first—otherwise you’ll pay more over time. You should also consider dropping any retail credit cards after you’ve paid them off. These tend to have the highest interest rates and limited benefits.

3. Plan Ahead

Last-minute shopping is stressful, and it can also be costly. If you’re in a rush, you’re more likely to forget about your budget and instead grab what is most convenient. Taking the time to research the best deals, sales, and prices can save you time and money. Try spreading your holiday gift purchases throughout the year, in place of doing it all in December.

4. Get Creative

If your budget doesn’t allow you to buy for everyone you would like to this year, a great alternative is a holiday grab bag. With a grab bag, everyone buys a few small gifts to wrap and throw into a bag or a box, then each participant randomly picks one gift at a time until all the gifts are gone. Anyone who would like to participate should agree to a price that fits into everyone’s budget and how many gifts each person should buy. This is not only frugal but also fun!

If you’d rather stick to traditional gift giving, get creative with it. Try making do-it-yourself projects or crafts—a homemade gift is much more sentimental than a store-bought one anyway. For your children’s teachers or coaches you would like to include in your holiday list, consider gift cards, home-baked goodies, or both combined. Gifts don’t need to be lavish to show someone you appreciate them.

5. Implement Damage Control 

If it’s too late and you’ve already overspent this holiday season or are already in deep credit card debt, don’t panic. There are ways to recover and do damage control after the holiday season is over.

The most important thing of all is committing to paying off your debt. It might be easier to simply continue your regular spending habits and pay the minimum balance when you remember. But giving debt priority, even when it’s an insignificant amount, will do wonders in helping you maintain good financial health.

With all the new items you’ve received during the holiday season, you might have some older things you can sell. Clothes, electronics, and even books could earn you a little extra cash to help pay off your debt. Amazon, eBay, and your local consignment shops or thrift stores are fantastic venues for selling your unwanted stuff.

Take a look at your budget and make sure you set aside enough money each paycheck to make at least double the minimum payment. But if you can manage it, you should aim to pay much more than that. Fine-tune your budget to see where you can cut back so you can make more substantial payments to your credit cards. The sooner you’re out of debt, the sooner you can start putting that money where it really matters.

Don’t let your finances take a major hit this season. Follow these tips to avoid overspending, and keep an eye out for other common holiday pitfalls. By building more frugal shopping habits, you can also improve your credit score. If you’re curious about how your credit’s faring now, take a free look at your credit score through

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5 Tips for Splitting Bills With Roommates

Roommates can be great. Or a nightmare. Here's how to keep your experience as positive as possible on the financial front.

There are many benefits that come with roommates: the ability to rent a larger space, share cleaning duties, and easily find friends to watch a movie with. On the other hand, sharing a space with a roommate – or roommates – is not always easy and can bring on some challenges, especially when it comes to money.

Here are some tips to help you split the bills and keep the peace.

1. Establish Ground Rules & Guidelines

Just as your lease spells out every detail, consider working together with your roommates to create some ground rules or guidelines. This is a good time to discuss exactly which expenses you will be sharing and which you will be paying for individually.

A major key for keeping the peace is making sure bills are organized. Figure out when and how bills will be collected and split each month, how they will be payed, and who is responsible for paying what amount. While this may sound obvious, too many times roommates will wait until the last minute, causing stress, tension, and possibly late bills.

2. Make a Cost Spreadsheet

Once ground rules and guidelines are created for paying the bills, make a spreadsheet outlining each expense you and your roommates will need to pay. Each expense should show details such as due dates, the amounts owed, and the person responsible for paying. It may be wise to have a monthly meeting to discuss the bills and this spreadsheet. This will make sure everyone is on the same page and no one is surprised by a bill when it’s time to pay.

3. Use Apps

There’s always an app for that! When you have large expenses, such as rent or utilities, consider using an app that can help with the math and the payments. Gone is the excuse that a roommate “doesn’t have cash” on them as Venmo can easily solve that issue. This free app lets you send money from a debit account to friends. The app also lets you request money letting your roommates know that money is due.

Another great app is Splitwise. This app lets roommates track bills, tally who paid, and send reminders so you’re never late. If a cost spreadsheet is too old-school for you, consider using an app to make paying bills easier among you and your roommates.

4. Keep Some Purchases Separate

Unless you and your roommates plan on selling everything when the time comes to move out, consider buying furniture separately. While it may sound logical to split furniture costs that you both will be using, what happens when your lease is up? Deciding who gets to keep what can be stressful and problematic. Consider making a list of furniture and electronics necessary for your place and figure out who will be responsible for each item while keeping your overall costs even.

Like furniture, groceries are another item which roommates should consider buying separately. If you love to eat fresh foods while another roommate loves frozen pizzas, splitting the costs won’t exactly be even. This also creates controversy when your roommate decides they want fresh food that day and indulges in your groceries.

5. Choose Your Roommates Wisely

Obviously you won’t want to live with someone who you’re going to constantly clean up after. You also won’t want to live with someone who will never pay their share of the bills. Doing so could end up hurting your credit, especially if they skip out and you can’t afford the rent on your own. You may want to request that they check their credit scores and you can do the same. That way you’ll know what their history of paying bills is like (you can get your credit scores for free on

While it may be hard to know your possible future roommate’s habits, at the very least, consider meeting with them beforehand so you can feel them out. You won’t want to be stuck in a lease with someone you’re going to regret living with.

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How Debt — Yes, Debt — Can Help You Jump-Start Your Business

Debt isn't always a bad thing. In fact, it can help your small business thrive.

Many business owners run in the other direction when they hear the word debt. But debt can help a business thrive. If you take away the stigma, you can see how it can be used to your advantage — if you know how to manage it. Here are four tips for using debt to help grow your business.

1. You’ll Grow Faster

Taking out a loan can help you grow your business, creating more opportunity for profit. A loan can be used to purchase new equipment to develop your product quicker, increase your overall inventory or help open a new location. By taking out a loan, you give yourself room to grow without making additional investments with company profits.

Before taking on a new loan for your business, make sure you have a plan. If you take out a loan without one, or if your business is struggling financially, it may set you back. However, if you leverage your debt effectively, you could be on the right track to using your debt wisely. Before making any big financial decision for your business, consider speaking with a debt attorney or financial planner to help you weigh out your options. (Disclosure: I am a debt attorney.)

2. You May Keep Ownership of Your Business

Sometimes businesses need extra cash flow to expand and continue running smoothly. By choosing to take out a loan, you will owe the lending institution interest but retain full ownership of your business. Any profits you make after paying principal and interest will be yours to keep.

If you decide to take on a partner to increase capital, you may not only lose full control of your business but be asked to share profits, so be sure to think through the options before you sign up.

3. You May Get Tax Deductions

In most cases, the IRS will allow your business to deduct the interest paid on your loan if you used it for business purposes. This tax relief means more money for you and your business — a good thing since every dollar counts for a business owner. Consider speaking with a tax expert to see if you meet the requirements for tax relief.

4. You May Build Credit & Increase Your Spending Limit

When you decide to take out a loan for your business, a lending institution is trusting you to repay the debt. If you make responsible, on-time payments, you can increase your business’ creditworthiness, or business credit score. Smart credit habits can increase your overall spending limit, lower your future interest rates and help you obtain better terms. You’ll need decent credit to take out a business credit card, so be sure to check your credit score before you apply. You can view two of your credit scores for free on Checking your credit is free and won’t harm your scores. It’s also a way to stay on top of your personal finances.

Using a business loan to help generate cash flow can be a way to grow your business, but it isn’t for everyone. Taking on unnecessary or bad debt can put your business at risk if you aren’t careful. Though a loan can be helpful, it’s important to be aware of the consequences in case things get out of hand. Before you shop for a loan, evaluate the possible risks, costs and benefits, and develop a proper business plan.

Image: mapodile

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6 Things to Accomplish in Your First Year After College

Life after college is about more than just landing your first job. Here's what you should focus on.

Now that your college years are behind you, it’s time to begin another chapter in your life. While you may have been juggling school work, a part time job and a social life all at once, post-graduation brings a whole new meaning to “adulting.” In the next few years you may be looking to purchase a home or start a family, but for now, let’s look at a few things you should try to accomplish your first year after college.

1. Travel

You may soon realize that it can be difficult to find free time to travel when you start working a 9-to-5 job. Therefore, consider traveling the summer after graduation. It’s a great chance to see places you may not be able to see when you begin working full-time. Traveling can help clear your mind and relieve the stress of those last few college finals. It’s understandable to find it hard to even think of traveling with your student loan payments looming large, but you may regret not doing so when you begin working. Consider making an allowance in your budget for travel and remember not to add on any more debt! (Pro tip: A travel rewards credit card is a great way to help pay for your travel, and if properly managed, can also help you build your credit.)

2. Land a Job

Of course, the reason why you went to college to begin with was to establish a career. Chances are your first job won’t be your last. Now is a good time to start a job where you can learn new skills that can be used later in your career. Don’t be afraid to take a job that doesn’t directly align with your college major. You can learn something new in every job, and remember you are building skills and your career is a path.

3. Learn to Network

While networking may not sound so thrilling, learning to engage with other professionals and sell yourself is an important life skill. Learning to network is a stepping-stone to enhancing your career. It helps to improve your communication, build relationships, generate ideas and lets you stay current on trends related to your major.

4. Get Your Finances in Order

Graduation is a great time to revisit your finances and make necessary adjustments. Now that you’re out of college, your expenses and income will be different. This means making changes to your budget, taking into account any new expenses such as rent, travel costs for work and, unfortunately, those pesky student loans. Knowing exactly where your money is going can help free up some cash flow, which you can use to help pay down student loan debt.

Make sure you gather all your information regarding your student loans. You will soon be responsible for the repayment of these loans, so the more you know and understand about them, the better off you will be.

5. Open a Savings Account

For those who don’t have a savings account, now is the time to open one. If you’re working, consider opening an employee-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401K or an individual retirement account (IRA). While you may find it difficult to contribute when you have student loans, the earlier you begin savings in these accounts the better. Starting early will give your money more time to grow. Even saving a bit in your first year out of college will make a difference in the long run.

6. Accept Change

After college, you may be faced with a few changes you’re not quite used too. Whether it be starting a new career or moving to a new city, expect some challenging transitions in your first year out of college. This is not to scare you: Change can be a good thing, and when you embrace it, you can make the best of these changes.

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