Carnival of Debt Reduction – Opting Out Edition

Welcome to this week’s Carnival of Debt Reduction!

My favorite submission this week is from PT Money. He shares how to opt out of credit card offers and junk mail in general.

This is an excellent idea, and I highly suggest you follow this advice. Because the more offers and advertisements you receive in the mail, the more likely it is that you’re going to spend money you shouldn’t be spending.

My second favorite submission was from Mighty Bargain Hunter. He suggests kick-starting debt reduction by selling your stuff.

One tip he shares was new to me. He writes: “A nice collection of DVDs can be sold as a lot on eBay for a few hundred dollars (or more).”

I hadn’t thought of selling small items in lots before. This would probably work well for many different kinds of collections. Just something to keep in mind if you need to raise money quickly to pay down debt.

Here are some other good articles worth reading:

That’s it for this week. Thanks!

Debt Consolidation Programs – Benefits & How to Avoid Scams

If you’re burdened with your unpaid bills and want to get out of financial trouble, you may opt for debt consolidation programs. With the help of these programs you can simplify your debts and become debt free.

Debt consolidation programs

A debt consolidation program combines all your multiple debts into a single one. Whether or not you will be eligible for the program will depend upon several factors, like, your credit report, amount of debt you owe, your current income, etc.

All your unsecured debts will be consolidated into a single one. You may have to take a new loan for this, at a lower interest rate. It will be easier for you to make a single payment towards the new loan, instead of paying multiple creditors.

You may take a home equity loan or a new debt consolidation loan to consolidate your multiple debts into a new one. If you take a new loan you may have to use your home or car as collateral.

You will need to negotiate with your creditors to consolidate your unpaid debts, with a new loan at a lower interest rate. You may do this negotiation on your own or get the help of third-party professionals to find out the most suitable consolidation program for you and do the negotiation, on your behalf.

Benefits of a consolidation program

A consolidation program has several benefits which are mentioned below:

  • Single payment: This program helps you to make a repayment plan according to how much you can afford. Once your creditors approve the plan, you have to make a single monthly payment to pay off your debt.
  • Counseling: If you opt for a consolidation program with a consolidation company, they will do counseling with you to help you realize your financial goals.
  • Negotiation with creditors: The consolidation company also negotiates with your creditors, on your behalf, to lower your interest rate and waive off your fees towards late payments.
  • Less time: If you opt for a consolidation program, you may get rid off your debts in 4 to 6 years. Thus, in a very short time you will be able to attain freedom from debt.

Debt consolidation programs are beneficial for you if it really helps you to get rid off your debts in a shorter time. With the help of this program you can also pay less than the amount you actually owed. However, you need to be aware of the fraudulent companies and avoid those.

How to avoid fraudulent companies

To avoid scam companies, you need to find the reliable and authentic companies, based on the following factors:

  • Proper license holder: Every state has its own list of license-holder companies. Prior to enrolling for a consolidation program with a company, you should make sure that it has a valid license. You can get the list of license-holder companies from the office of the attorney general.
  • BBB rating: Every registered company receives a grade from the Better Business Bureau. You can see the rating of the company to know about its credibility.
  • FTC: The Federal Trade Commission has a list of companies against which the customers have lodged any sort of complaint. Before selecting a company you can check with the FTC list and find out whether or not the company is reliable.
  • Consult with relief networks: You can take help of people associated with relief networks. It has experienced people concerned with debt, so you will get authentic advice/suggestions on the program you may want to opt for.

If you want to opt for debt consolidation programs, you should choose reliable and authentic agencies. You can get list of authorized agencies from the Yellow Pages or from the Internet. You can also get references from friends and neighbors.

Before finalizing with an agency you should make sure that it has legal accreditations so you do not fall prey to a scam and lose your hard-earned money.

About the Author: Jason Holmes is a regular writer with Debt Consolidation Care and is also a contributor to other financial sites. His expertise is woven around various aspects of the debt industry and with his e-books he tries to impart to people the different situations and simple solutions to get out of difficult situations. Some of his works include e-books like Credit Score: The Quintessential Therapy for a Happy Pocket, Take Creditors and Collection Agencies to Small Claims Court, and My Story- From Depression to a Smile.

Consumer Debt – The Worst Kind of Debt

Consumer debt is the kind of debt you put on credit cards and other types of revolving retail accounts.

What makes this kind of debt so odious is: There are no fixed minimum payments. And there is no fixed term in which to clear the debt. You could be making (mostly interest) payments for decades.

It’s not that hard to rack up large amounts of consumer debt shopping at malls, retail stores, and department stores. Twenty dollars here, twenty dollars there… next thing you know you’ve got some serious financial obligations.

My wife stumbled on a show last night called Clean House: Search for the Messiest Home in the Country. This show shines a light on families who have shopping, hoarding, and cleanliness/organization problems.

Sharon Baglien: Shopaholic in Denial

Last night was a re-run of the third episode of Clean House in which the crew tackled Sharon Baglien’s home in Cincinnati, Ohio. From the first scene, I could not believe what I was seeing. Baglien’s house, garage, attic, basement, and an off-site storage unit were crammed floor-to-ceiling with junk.

I say “junk” because not much of it was getting any use. But the truth is, most of the junk was brand new — still in the box, tags intact!

There was so much stuff in the attic that the ceiling was cracking. There was nowhere to sit for meals. And when the house was finally emptied, it took 400 50-gallon plastic containers, 75 large packing boxes, and 300 large garbage bags to hold everything.

The show’s crew then had to rent a 7,000 sq ft space for the “yard sale” to sell all of Sharon Baglien’s stuff. I was truly stunned.

But what stunned me more than anything else was Sharon’s persistent denial. She repeatedly denied being a shopaholic. She repeatedly excused her own behavior by saying that it was “just 30 years’ worth of accumulation” — as if the amount of time that had passed made everything okay!

If I accumulated for 30 years straight, I wouldn’t have had even a fifth of what this woman had in her house.

Anyway, with such an addiction to shopping and hoarding (she had been paying monthly rent for a storage unit for decades), I have to imagine that Sharon is also facing some substantial consumer debt. And while her situation is extreme, it paints a vivid cautionary picture.

The Problem with Consumer Debt

The problem with consumer debt is that it must be paid off by the sweat of your brow. Clothes and food and dishes and kitchen gadgets and “stuff” all depreciate rapidly. In most cases, you’d be lucky to get pennies on the dollar when you tried to resell your stuff, even if it was barely used.

Cars depreciate, too, but not nearly as fast as consumer goods.

This is a unique quality of consumer debt when compared to secured debt. Debt that is secured can usually be cleared by simply selling whatever was used to secure the debt.

Consumer debt, on the other hand, cannot be cleared by selling the items you purchased. Unfortunately, you will have to work off the debt — or settle it, or declare bankruptcy. And none of those is much fun.

Secured vs. Consumer Debt Ratio

As you take stock of your own finances, pay close attention to the ratio between your consumer debt and secured debt. If you have debt, it’s better to have secured debt.

There was a time not that long ago when the majority of my debt was consumer debt. Now that has changed. I mostly have secured debt now. Which means that in a pinch I could liquidate a few items and clear my debts quickly.

(Of course, being debt free is best of all, but I’m not there yet.)

Another option that I recommend is consolidating consumer debt into a Prosper loan. I did this at one point and it worked really well for me.

What’s nice about a Prosper loan is that there is a fixed monthly payment and there is a fixed pay-off date. You’re not making payments for the rest of your life. The whole point is to pay off the loan. (This is in contrast to credit card companies who want you to carry balances forever.)

Remember: Consumer debt can be ugly. So stay away from it as much as you possibly can. And if you have consumer debt, develop a plan for how and when you’re going to pay it off.

Tax Debt Relief – Negotiating with the IRS

Tax debt relief is rare, but is sometimes awarded to individuals who’ve overextended themselves and are unable to pay their taxes by the time they are due.

Unfortunately, getting Uncle Sam to cut you a break is not easy. That’s because all the laws are written to favor the federal government.

Sure, the government provides bankruptcy laws. But going through bankruptcy does NOT discharge your tax obligations!

In other words, the government will forgive your debts to others, but will not forgive the tax debts you owe to them.

If you think this is a hypocritical double-standard, you’d be right. Nevertheless, it’s just the way it is, and we have to play by the rules our legislators make.

Tax Installment Plan

The most common kind of relief the government will offer you is some kind of installment plan. They may allow you to make four or five equal payments over four or five months. Or they may spread out your payments over 60 months.

Every situation is unique. Different terms are offered to different people.

If you have a huge tax obligation, an installment plan will at least break down the payments so they are somewhat more manageable (although certainly no less painful).

Offer in Compromise

Although it is extremely rare, the IRS may offer you what’s called an Offer in Compromise. This is basically the same thing as settling a debt.

If you owed $20,000, the IRS may evaluate your situation and decide you will never be able to repay that tax debt. And so they may allow you to make a single lump sum payment for less than what you owe.

By making this reduced lump sum payment, the IRS then agrees to wipe out the entire tax debt.

In a perfect world, an Offer in Compromise would be more common. But the federal government is quite greedy, so this kind of settlement is very rare.

How to Seek Tax Debt Relief

Anytime you face a tax obligation that you cannot pay, then your best course of action is to contact the IRS and talk to somebody. Do not try to hide from the IRS; be transparent with them.

Many times you will be able to negotiate some kind of installment plan. In fact, there are four different kinds of installment plans depending on how much you owe and your past history of filing your taxes.

You can find out what you qualify for by searching the IRS web site or calling an IRS agent directly.

If you are facing a genuine hardship involving a disabled child or insurmountable medical bills, the IRS may be willing to forgive a portion of your debt through an Offer in Compromise.

But in order to see if you qualify for such an offer, the IRS would need to thoroughly evaluate your financial situation.

Remember: Tax debt relief comes in many forms. Don’t procrastinate and try to hide from the IRS. Call them and work something out. You will feel less stress and you’ll be happier when you resolve your tax debt as quickly as possible.

Earning Extra Money – 5 Fool-Proof Methods Revealed

Everybody wants to be earning extra money since the recession hit. Many people around the country are struggling to pay their bills, and they want to know what they can do to make up the difference.

Well, I’ve by no means cornered the market on ideas for earning extra money. But I have been working from home for nearly 5 years now, so I’ve got some experience.

Plus, many of my clients are doing well financially — and I’ve gotten to peek inside their businesses. So I know which methods work and which ones don’t.

With that in mind, I offer the following 5 fool-proof methods for earning extra money:

Method #1: Mystery Shopping

One popular way to make extra money is to become a mystery shopper — somebody who gets paid to shop certain stores and report on their experiences.

Companies will often pay for mystery shoppers to shop their own stores because they want to know that the shopping experience is a good one. In a way, it is a form of covert quality assurance.

While I’ve not done this personally, I do know a woman who has quite a bit of experience in the field. Her name is Cathy Stucker. You might want to look her up if you’re interested in mystery shopping. She has a how-to guide available.

Method #2: Sell Products on Ebay

Do you know how to find and buy a certain line of products at or below wholesale prices? Or do you think you could?

Then you may have what it takes to sell products on Ebay.

I have a good friend who has made significant profits (to the tune of $15,000 in a year) by reselling used books on Ebay.

The trick here is to have a consistent supply of products you can buy at a low price. Your profit is based on the difference between your cost and your sale price.

Not all products sell well on Ebay. And it’s not always easy to find a good product supplier. But if you think creatively and do some research, this may be a good option for you.

Method #3: Get Paid to Write Sales Copy

I’m a freelance copywriter. I write direct response sales copy for a living: ads, sales letters, emails, etc.

If you have writing ability, and you like the idea of persuading people to buy products through the written word, then this may be a good avenue for you to explore.

I personally worked as a copywriter for 3 years before going freelance. And I also took the AWAI Six-Figure Copywriting course before striking out on my own.

No doubt, your path will be different than mine. You can research the course I named above. You can also check out classic copywriting books like Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins and The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy.

Or you can check out two online products I have: Copywriting Code (to learn how to write sales copy) and Get Clients Report (to learn how to get copywriting clients).

Method #4: Write an Ad-Funded Blog

If you like to write and think you could write articles about a particular hobby you have, then you might consider starting a blog.

How will you make money?

Simple. Through ads that you place on your blog. You can make money through Adsense blogging, affiliate links, text links, etc. There are actually quite a few ways to monetize your blog writing.

As with any worthwhile endeavor, blogging does take work. And you have to be consistent to attract and retain readers. So keep that in mind before you start a blog.

Method #5: Create & Sell Your Own Digital Product

A fifth and final way for earning extra money is to create your own digital product and sell it. You can write an ebook, record an interview, or make a video.

Then you can sell that product through Clickbank. Or sell it on your own and collect money through PayPal. Or get your own merchant account and shopping cart and collect the money that way instead.

The beauty of a digital product is that it can sell consistently for years. And with the right product and the right traffic to your offer, you can easily make $50 to $250 extra per month. This is conservative.

Earning Extra Money Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

When you use your creativity and start researching your options, you’ll find that earning extra money is much easier than you might have thought.

Even better, you can design your new income stream around the lifestyle you want. You can make money from home or you can choose to do something that gets you out of the house and talking with people.

The key is to just get started earning extra money. Once you’re moving in a certain direction, then you can course-correct along the way. Good luck!