CREDIT MATTERS
With the major global economy recession closing in, most banks are making it harder for consumers to qualify for loans. At such time, your credit score and records gain tremendous importance. In order to be eligible for any credit, your records should be as close to impeccable as possible. Are they?

Be warned, though that this is the time when fraudulent credit repair companies prey upon the vulnerable consumers and fleece them of their hard earned money without adding any value to their credit score. There is enough advice that teaches you how to avoid fraudulent credit repair companies, yet every year millions are cheated. How?

The answer, put simply is lack of awareness. People who are worried about debt swallowing their lives rarely give themselves time to gather enough intelligence on the topic. The result is that they part with their hard-earned money and gain nothing but heartache.

Be smart, not victim. Learn to protect yourself against such unscrupulous "business" establishments.

1.Cover the bases – be aware that all credit repair agencies are required by CROA (Credit repair Organizations Act) and FTC (Fair Trade Act) to provide you with a copy of your rights as a consumer. This is a simple one-page document that explains what your rights are when you want to repair your credit by disputing inaccurate entries and information found in your credit report. A very important point that every consumer should know is that you have the right to cancel the contract entered with a credit repair agency within three days from signing it, in case you find that anything has been misrepresented to you.

2.Payment matters – remember you went to this credit repair company for the exact reason that you do not have money. Therefore, you need not pay anything upfront. Ensure that you have some results before you loosen your purse strings; and the results are obtained through legal means. According to CROA (Credit Repair Organizations Act) you need to pay the fees only after the credit repair company delivers what they promised.

3.Financial management counseling – any credit repair company that does not offer financial counseling is not worth its salt. The root cause for the situation you are finding yourself in today is poor money management. While credit repair is emergency treatment, the cure lies in learning how to manage your money better in the future.

4.Do not accept their word for it – reputation is the scent that spreads from the past performances of a person or organization. Find out whether the credentials given to you by the credit repair agent/ agencies are accurate by checking with the Ethical Credit Repair Alliance (http://www.ecraonline.org)

5.Stay within the legal frame – do not accept "wiping off bad entries", "piggy backing" or other such nefarious ways to improve your credit. For every illegal way, there are four legal ways to improve your score. Accept only the legal way and ensure not only a better credit score, but also peace of mind, as you would never have to worry about "being caught" as this is a Federal offence.

 

MONEY SAVING IDEAS

Bad debts, poor credit records, and lack of proper financial management are all the outcome of unplugged money drainage. While losing a job, college going children, marriage, and the like puts stress on your finances, good finance management can come to your rescue even when you live on a shoestring budget. Here are some ideas which are simple and easy-to-apply-to-your-own-life:

1.Switch to renewable energy – more than 80 per cent of your energy bill can be saved if you switch to renewable energy. Choose whatever suits your part of the world. Some good choices would be solar energy (http://www.geda.org.in/solar/inside_solar.ht) if you live in an area where you have plenty of sun through the best part of the year. Other resources you could use are wind or water. An extremely effective way of generating energy is using your own gym bike to generate all the energy needed in your home (http://sfchronicle.us/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/23/HOKO11469A.DTL&type=printable) Another choice is bio-gas (http://indiaedunews.net/In-Focus/December_2007/Biogas_-_from_your_kitchen,_in_your_backyard_2850/). This is a method where human and animal waste can be converted into cooking gas.

2.Plan your driving – just as you would do your monthly budget, plan your trips by car in such a manner that you make the best of every trip. This would easily cut your gas bills by 35-50 per cent and you will find that you like your new organized self, better.

3.Insulate your home – ensure that your home is insulated properly. Start with the windows and work out through the heating system, attic, and flooring. Every small detail counts. The better your home is insulated the less effort and energy you would need to keep it comfortable both in winter and summer.

4.Cooking at home is great for your health and pocket – you need not spend hours in the kitchen to work out some mouth-watering nutritious meals for your family. There are exceptional recipes online (http://www.busycooks.about.com/) and off it. Cooking at home would save you thousands of dollars every year.

5.Budget for entertainment and fun shopping – put aside a part of your income for impulsive entertainment and fun shopping and stick to that budget. More than 90 per cent of all debt is caused by impulsive shopping and entertainment binges. You put a cap on this and you would be saving enough to buy a home every five years. It is important that you do budget for it or you would never be able to cut short such expenses; to think that you could eliminate them is utopian.

A few other ideas:

1.Try Netflix instead of buying movie DVDs
2.Try the local library instead of buying books
3.Try cloth napkins for your baby instead of the readymade stuff
4.Use compact fluorescents or LED for light in your home
5.Switch off the light when you leave the room or have movement activated lights
6.Grow your own veggies
7.Teach your children the value of money young; teach them to save
8.Try saving about 35 per cent of your income for that rainy day
9.Invest as much as possible in retirement plans, as early as possible
10.Switch off computers at night

 

Resources

US Trusty Program

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

NBC-2.com

Useful links
Money.net and money market network
SmartMoney.com
quote of the day

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency.  The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency. 
by: Bill Gates
 
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