Thursday, May 31, 2012

"My car got repo'd! How can I get a car now?"

As I laid out the plans for dealing with a repossession company in my last post, what if you don't want the vehicle back but you still need a car?  What can you do?

Simply, save up cash for a new one.  Now that you don't have any car payments, the last thing you want to do is get another loan.  What I suggest is finding a car for around a grand or two.  Save up for it and pay cash.

The other thing you need to save up for is when the reposession company sells your other vehicle and the bank wants to get paid the difference.  You can possibly settle with them, but you'll also need cash to do this as well.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

3 Ways to Deal with Vehicle Repossession

"My car got repo'd!  What do I do now?"

Having a visit from the repo man is a dreaded and unsettling event.  But, truthfully, not expected.  You know you're behind on your vehicle payments, possibly 3-4 months, and that is what banks do when you cannot pay: they take them away.

There are essentially three ways to deal with the Repo Man:

First, refuse to let them take the vehicle.  If they do not have the vehicle up on their hoist or somehow have physical control of it, it is always possible to stop them.  The majority of these ways are illegal and I do not recommend it.  Some will insist on giving you the keys to the vehicle.  If you do not, they'll probably take the vehicle anyway and charge you an extra fee for it.  Here's the bottom line: if you refuse to let them take it, they can have a judge order you to do so, which will up the trouble you are already in.  This method I do not personally recommend at all.  Keep in mind, a repo man (or woman) is just doing their job.  They are not evil, and if you talk to them like a normal human being, they can be quite reasonable.  They'll still take your vehicle, but you can work out a way to at least take some possessions out of the vehicle first.

Second, let them take it and do not try get it back.  If you are unable to get caught up on payments and simply let the vehicle go, please be aware that when the repossession company sells your vehicle for a fraction of what is owed on it, the bank will come after you for the difference and try to collect.  Many times you can settle this like you would any other bad debt, but you need the money up front in order to settle a debt.  Otherwise, they can sue you and eventually garnish your wages.

Third, let them take it and work like hell to get it back.  This method is not easy, but if you have the ability to pay the payments once the vehicle is back, go for it.  But be warned: this is not easy and will require multiple phone calls and plenty of extra cash, as you'll soon find out.

From the moment the Repo Man takes it, you have roughly 14 days to get it back--if you so desire.  How this generally works is this: the Repo Man takes it to wherever they are located and waits these 14 days (the time may vary from state to state, so be sure to check this out).  If you're able to get the money together to get it back, you'll either have to wire it in to the bank or use Western Union.  After repeated phone calls to the bank, in which time they'll hopefully confirm they have your money, they'll give you a number to the Reposession Company.  This is NOT the Repo Man's place, but a "Middle Man."  Typically, these people can act nicer (in my opinion) then the banks themselves, and can act more professional (i.e. not treat you like you're a piece of scum or a doggie turd).  Once they receive confirmation (usually via fax) from the bank, they'll give you the number of the Repo Man.

When picking up your vehicle from the Repo Man, be sure to inquire as to how much money you'll need to get it back--this is on top of the money you've already given the bank!  And, be sure to get cash, and exact change if possible.

**Please keep in mind, the advice given above is only my opinion, and your situation may be different so it would be advisable to seek legal counsel**

Friday, May 25, 2012's Frugal Living

One site to check out for living a frugal life is's Frugal Living.

A young lady named Erin Huffstetler is in charge of the blog, and she offers weekly tips on a variety of topics centered around living a frugal life and saving money.  She shows areas where you can cut costs, get bargains for food, etc., and even do-it-yourself topics.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Verizon Droid X2 - problems in initial programming and activation

Recently, I upgraded up LG flip-phone for a Droid X2.  However, I ran into a problem right away with the activation.  Whenever it would try to activate, it sounded like someone was pressing the "1" key over and over and over and over again.  It was quite annoying, which resulted in my not being able to activate it.

When I went online, I found many people had similar problems.  Here's one such video I found:

I even tried pressing the dialer and pressing *228.  No such luck.

The solution: call Verizon at 1-800-922-0204.  I found the lady at the call center over-the-top helpful and she got my phone activated without problems.  Oh, by the way, you'll have to call from another phone into of your new Droid.  She'll more than likely ask you to power it down and then back up--and I'm not really sure how you can do that while talking to her.  So, bottom line, call from a land line or another cell phone.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Temporarily cutting back

As you may have known, I've been regularily posting every weekday for the past few months.  Since the publication of my ebook, I've been working back on my thriller novel--for updates on this, please see my other blog Views From The Outhouse.

I have been ramping up on my thriller so much that I've found that I'm not doing this blog justice by posting everyday.  I will be temporarily cutting back to 2-3 days a week, unless I feel compelled to delve into a topic that I just need to get out.

If you wish to help with this, and know of any topics you'd like me to cover here, please let me know by commenting below or e-mailing me at

Monday, May 21, 2012

An easy way to pay for your child's sports

Having grown up in a town where hockey is the predominant winter sport, there are tales of parents taking out loans at the beginning of the season just to pay for all of the equipment, fees, traveling, etc.  This isn't exclusively with hockey--although, I must confess, my son played hockey for many years and even though it's not in the same town as where I grew up, it's still expensive.  This can be for any of your child's activities.

What I suggest for those out there fighting this battle is this: start a sports fund.

The concept is simple.  Figure out what you'll need for the entire season (or even for the entire year) and split that total up by 12.  If you really want to get crazy, you could divide it by 26 if you get paid every two weeks, but going by a monthly budget, this works the best.

For example, let's say you figure out that all sports will cost around $2,000.

$2,000 / 12 months = $166.67 a month.

Okay, but what if your total sports costs around $5,000?

$5,000 / 12 months - $416.67 a month.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The importance of an emergency fund

The other day I was at the grocery store and I overheard the cashier talking with the stock boy bagging up my groceries.  She said that they're been without water in their house for three days (not sure why, as she didn't say and I--a complete stranger--didn't want to seem like a nosy prick).

The cashier went on to say that the plumbing company completely tore up their yard and their parents had to take out a $10,000 loan to pay for it.

Then a thought struck me: if they had an emergency fund, they wouldn't have to go into debt to pay for it.

This truly was an emergency, and it shows one small example of why it is important to have an emergency fund.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What is an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is a fund used for . . . emergencies.

The water heater goes out.

The transmission on the car dies.

Your right rear tire goes flat.

And the list goes on.

Emergencies are something that, if you didn't have the money saved up, you'd probably borrow it or put it on a credit card.  Not good!  The last thing you want to do in an emergency is get yourself into more debt.

Where do you put it?  In a savings account that is easily accessible but not too accessible.  You don't want it in CDs where there is a penalty for taking it out, and you sure don't want it in the stock market.  I probably wouldn't keep it under your mattress either.

You can also put it in a money market account with check-writing capabilities.

Keep in mind, this is for emergencies.  Not movie-night money.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Example of a budget

This is an example of a quick monthly budget. Yours may vary, depending on your income and debt load.

Let's assume an income of $3,000.

Income (after taxes)  $3,000
Mortgage                    -$800
Car Payment               -$500
Utilities                       -$250
Home/Car Insurance   -$200
TOTAL                     $1,250

Credit cards (4)           -$200
Student Loans             -$300
Food (family of 4)      -$500

TOTAL                        $250

Given this, you have $250 left, but there is at least one more category that I always put it, and that's the miscellaneous category.  The $250 could go here.

Is your budget as nice and neat as this one?  Probably not, but it should get you started.  Add and subtract categories as you see fit.  Add a Giving category, as you see fit.  If you want to car and/or house maintanence fund, be sure to add it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Budgeting 101

To reiterate what I started yesterday, if you make $45,000 a year and you spend $55,000 – that’s not good. You will end up broke.
Budgeting your money is not difficult, but it must be done. It doesn’t take long, once you start doing it.
It’s best to do it just before the first of the month. Let’s assume we’re doing a monthly budget. Ready?
At the top of the page, list what your total incoming income will be during the month. Use net income, as the taxes, etc have already been taken out. Once that is done, list all of your bills below that, starting with rent/mortgage, auto payments, utilities, and ending with student loan and credit card payments.
If you have any left over, don’t start jumping for joy just yet. Let’s think of some other expenses you may have: fuel for your vehicles, food, charitable giving, and miscellaneous.
When it comes to food, I suggest overbudgeting for this, because, depending on your family size, you may be amazed at how much food you’re consuming.
How does it look? If you’re in the negative, you’ll have to do one of two things: first, go through the budget to look at areas to cut; second, find ways of increasing your income.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Do I really need a budget?

I don’t care if you make $20,000/year or $100 million. If you can’t budget your money, you’re going to end up broke.

Think I’m kidding?

MC Hammer once filed for bankruptcy.

Ed McMahon had his home in foreclosure before he passed away.

Nicholas Cage owned multiple residences and several were foreclosed on.

And let’s not start with the countless athletes who make it big, only to crash and burn in the financial trenches.

It may sound a bit nerdy but everyone needs to budget their money. I don’t care if you do it bi-weekly, monthly, or even a rolling yearly budget (or for the super nerds out there, the ten-year budget!). Spend a few minutes and write down everything you pay out for in bills each month (or if there are some things you pay annually or quarterly, write them down in a separate piece of paper).

Once this is done, tomorrow we’ll start the next stage of budgeting.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Entertainment that doesn't bust the bank

The local park.


The public beach.

Playing a board game at the dining room table.

The backyard (or frontyard).

Taking a drive an hour or so from home.

All of these places, and a whole lot more, are great places to entertain that won't bust your wallet.  Cheap or free, in most cases.

Nobody ever said that entertainment has to cost an arm and a leg.  Think outside of the box, if you find yourself living life on a shoestring budget and want a little bit of rest and relaxation.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Selling stuff at a consignment store

Consignment stores are not just for buying things, you can sell stuff there too.

If you have a horde of gently worn clothes and don't want to just throw them out, sell them to a consignment store.

Recently, my son brought his old football spikes and baseball cards to our local consignment store.  It didn't take long for them to be sold, and he earned around $30 for the entire set of cards and spikes.

For those who don't feel like selling on eBay or Craigslist, give a consignment store a try.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Buying at a consignment store

Consignment stores are great places to look for bargains.

Clothes, electronics, bikes, books, etc. can all be had for mere dollars.

Simply put, if you're looking for something in particular, or are looking for a bargain on something, don't forget consignment stores.

Wedding dresses can also be had there.  When brand new dresses are several hundred dollars, these gently-worn bargains can be snatched up for around $100.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What does pre-certified mean?

I was recently in the process of upgrading my old Verizon LG flip phone to something newer--and that's a story for another day--when I came across "pre-certified" phones.

Then, I got to thinking: what in the world is pre-certified?

Pre-certified is a fancy term for . . . used.

But used doesn't necessarily mean it's bad.  The phones are supposed to go through a rigorous inspection, and functionally they work.  Instead, there may be a cosmetic defect, like a small scratch.  It's up to you on whether or not to go with pre-certified or new.

Then again, when it comes to cars, used is typically what most people go with.  Why would cell phones be any different?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Is lending to a friend ever a good idea?

A friend may come over to borrow your new power tool, or a new movie or book, or even some kitchen utensil and we don't think anything of it.  But if it's money, then the entire interaction feels different.

Is borrowing money to a friend ever a good idea?

Many may be inclined to say "Of course, if my friend needs help."  But is borrowing the right thing?

The best thing for your friend is to look into why they're asking for money.  Did he/she get laid off and has been unable to find work?  Did they just find out a close family member has cancer and had to help out this family member, even though their own financial picture isn't all that bright?

If someone is in trouble, then just giving them money could be the best solution.  Otherwise, you'll be looked upon as a sort of banker to them and they know they have to pay it back.  And no friendship, if it's worth anything, is worth this.

Friday, May 4, 2012

How to gain knowledge without having to go to a classroom

While I was growing up, if you wanted to take on a field of study, for the most part you had to go to school.

At least, that's what I thought.  How wrong I was!

Earl Nightingale once said that if you spend fifteen minutes a day reading up on your current field of study, in just a few years you will become an expert.  This type of learning requires a commitment to learn something every single day, for . . . fifteen minutes.

What are you interested in learning about?

The field of knowledge is practically endless, and you shouldn't have any excuse for not doing so.  When I was growing up, I went to the local library at least once a week.  And today, with the advent of the internet, anything can be researched.

Listen to your favorite podcast every single day.

Read a few blog posts--ones that stimulate your mind, not fill your head full of garbage and mindless banter.

Take the time to do it.

 You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Graduate school doesn't guarantee anyone a job. Do it for the right reasons.

I have a bachelor's degree from Bemidji State University.  Although I have a double major in Criminal Justice and Psychology, the degree itself doesn't guarantee me a job.

Neither does graduate school.  In the news lately, more and more graduates are finding themselves disappointed that the supposed truth of graduate school guaranteeing them a job is all a myth.

There have been times when I've thought about going back to graduate school, but two things have held me back: first, I didn't have the money to do it, and I certainly wasn't going to take on more student loan debt; second, I didn't have a good enough reason to go to graduate school.  I've always wanted to be a writer, but having a Masters in Creative Writing never would've guaranteed me that my book would be published.  The only way I could control that is plain hard work over time.

There's nothing wrong with education, learning to expand your current knowledge base, and also nothing wrong with going to graduate school.  But do it for the right reasons.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Do I need to get a student loan to go to college?

Do you need a student loan in order to go to college?

The short answer: NO!

Today, more and more college graduates find themselves in so much student loan debt that it's extremely overwhelming.  Think about it for a minute: you go to school for four years, rack up $40-$60K in student loan debt . . . all for a $35K/year job.  How ridiculous!

I'm not being hypocritical.  I have a pile of student loan debt I'm working on paying down too.  The financial aid office made it so easy for me to take as much money as I could, not even once telling me that I had to pay it all back.

And don't even think about filing for bankruptcy, in order to erase your student loan debt.  This type of debt doesn't qualify to be forgiven due to bankruptcy.

What I suggest is, if your parents aren't able to pay for college, save as much as you can ahead of time and, even while going to school, do that little four-letter word called . . . WORK!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When a collection agency gets abusive

You get a phone call from a debt collector and they get abusive.  What do you do?

Simple: hang up on them.  Don't take their crap.  THEN . . . get a recording device (like an answering machine with a recording feature) and the next time they call, advise them that you are recording it.  If they start swearing or making false accusations, keep it and advise the FTC.

Get familiar with the FTC's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Here is a link to their PDF publication.

A debt collector's job is to get money from you.  They will also try to guilt you into giving them your bank account number or credit card number.  Don't do this, under any circumstances.

**Please keep in mind, the advice given above is only my opinion, and your situation may be different so it would be adviseable to seek legal counsel**