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Kicking the Habit of Overspending


Kicking the Habit of Overspending

Does the arrival of your monthly credit card bill strike fear into your heart?  Have you ever discovered that your checking account is empty without knowing where your paycheck could have possible gone so quickly?  Do you have more new pairs of shoes in your closet than you can count?  If you answered yes to any of these questions then you may have a problem with overspending.

Overspending is one of the most common causes of poor credit scores and unbalanced budgets.  Of course, typically consumers do not set out to overspend; however, without a solid plan for spending it is easy to find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having more bills than money over and over again.  When you find yourself short on cash that is when bills get paid late (or not at all) and credit scores begin to slip.

Keep in mind, over-spenders are not bad people!  Our team of credit experts at HOPE4USA has helped many, many people to overcome credit problems, a sizable percentage of whom arrived at those credit problems due to overspending. The good news is that if these clients were able to fix their overspending problems and turn their credit reports back around then it is possible for you to do the same.  Here are a few tips to get you started on kicking the habit of overspending:

1.) Write down every dollar you spend for the next 2 weeks.

Analyzing your spending habits is the first step to help you find out if you have an overspending problem and, if so, how severe the problem has become.  Wives and girlfriends, if you are asking your spouse or boyfriend to track their spending you may want to note that men are typically a little more resistant to doing so. My suggestion? Make it easy for them!  Give him a simple 3X5 card to keep in his wallet. Just ask him to jot down the amount spent and where he spent it if he does not want to save receipts. You will still get the basic information you need this way and he may be more likely to follow through with your request.

2.) Make a spending plan (in writing) and stick to it.

You may be wondering, “What exactly is a spending plan?”  A spending plan is a written list of your monthly income (paycheck, alimony, child support, etc.) and your monthly expenses (rent, utilities, car payment, etc.).  In other words – it is a budget.  You can even CLICK HERE to download a free copy of the HOPE4USA Basic Budgeting Worksheet - no strings attached. The key is to get started. (Note: if you are a current HOPE4USA client you can ask your case manager to review your completed budgeting worksheet offer advice and suggestions. Talk about a great membership perk!)

3.) Trim the fat from your spending plan.

Once you have reviewed your 2 week spending list and completed your budget worksheet, look for areas where spending can be cut.  Now, I’m not talking about sucking all the fun out of your life so be sure to resist the urge to respond negatively to this suggestion.  However, I am suggesting that you make a plan to get the things that you really want out of life (i.e. a new home, a new car, college education for children, family vacations, etc.) by figuring out what you can live without in the present. You may be able to find hundreds of extra dollars per month by reducing cable TV plans, cell phone plans, entertainment expenses, eating out expenses, or shopping.  Don’t be afraid to take an honest look at your spending habits and see if a change can and should be made.


Michelle Black is an author and a credit expert with over a decade of experience, the credit blogger at, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, a contributor to the Wealth Section of Fort Mill Magazine, and  a regularly featured speaker at seminars up and down the East Coast. She is an expert on improving credit scores, credit reporting, correcting credit errors, budgeting, and recovering from identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE4USA Facebook page by clicking here. 



Out of the Box Summer Savings Ideas

Check us Out in

Fort Mill Magazine!

We are featured in the Summer Issue of Fort Mill Magazine! Click here to see the digital copy and check out page 40 for some great summer savings ideas courtesy of our very own Michelle Black. Healthy credit begins with a healthy budget. If your budget is in need of an overhaul then these fabulous tips on saving money may be exactly what you need to give your finances a kick start.

Need tips on how to sell your home ? Don't miss page 34 for "10 Tips to Sell Your Home Fast." Keller Williams Realtor, Jen Mildenberger has some wonderful - not to be missed - advice for you if you plan to put your home on the market in the near future.

So take a minute, check out the issue, and be sure to drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter to let us know what you think.



Saving Money - Part 2

Saving Money - Part 2  By Michelle Black

Have you ever found yourself in a place where you have more bills than money? Money shortages lead to a poor credit rating, marital stress, and the inability to provide the things your family needs.  One of the first things you will want to do if you find yourself in a situation where your budget is unbalanced is look for a way to start saving money. We hope today's tip will be helpful.

Tip #2: Ask for your bills to be lowered. Similar to yesterday's tip regarding asking for your credit card interest rates to be lowered, you can also request for many of your monthly bills to be lowered as well.  Try calling your cable company, explain that you have seen some great offers for satellite TV and that you are considering switching services. However, before switching, you wanted to check with them to see if they could offer you a lower monthly rate. While you are at it, ask for your internet service bill to be lowered as well. I have personally saved money off both of these monthly services just by calling and kindly making the request.

Other monthly bills you may be able to get lowered with a request include your cell phone bill (even if you are currently under contract), your lawn care bill, your newspaper subscription, your insurance bill, etc. By calmly and politely making the request you can save yourself a lot of money. When making the request for your bill to be lowered please keep the following in mind:

1. Always be polite and calm. Getting angry will most likely insure that you do NOT get the bill reduction you need. 2. Explain why you need for the bill to be lowered. For example, "I have seen an offer for a better rate" or "I cannot afford to continue making such high payments and I'm trying to balance my budget." 3. Ask for a supervisor if necessary. The first customer service agent you speak with likely will not have the authority to lower your bill. 4. Don't take no for an answer. If the supervisor refuses your request politely explain your reason for needing the bill lowered again and ask "What can you do to help me please?"

Remember to check back with us again for part 3 of our money saving blog series. Saving money can help put you on the path towards a balanced budget and even a healthier credit report! If you need personalized credit or budgeting advice please feel free to give our friendly staff a call at 704-499-9696.

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Saving Money 101

Saving Money 101 

by Michelle Black

Everyone loves to save money. Saving money is the quickest way for you to move closer to a balanced budget and a healthier credit report. In that spirit we will be featuring a multi-part blog series with some fantastic debt busting, money saving tips for you to start using immediately. If you can put even a few of these great suggestions to use you will see a big benefit in your finances. So, without further ado, let's get started with today's tip:

Tip #1: Ask for a lower rate. Sometimes saving money is as simple as picking up the phone. You can start by calling your credit card companies and ask for a lower interest rate on your current credit cards. (This works best if you have a good payment history on your credit cards.) When you speak with the customer service agent regarding your account the first thing you want to ask is "Do you have the authority to change my interest rate?" If the answer is no then politely request to speak with someone who does that that authority, perhaps a supervisor. Once you have the right person, explain that you have seen offers for other credit cards at lower interest rates - which we all have received in the mail, via internet advertisement, or on TV - and that you would rather stick with your current card company if they are willing to offer you a lower rate. Be kind but persistent and explain why it is not affordable for you to continue paying the higher interest rate. I personally have seen my interest rate reduced from 14.99% to 9.99% by using the exact method above.

Remember, a lower interest rate can save you a ton of money depending upon the amount of your credit card balances. Of course, your best bet is always to pay off all of your credit card debt and keep money wasted on interest for yourself and your family. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to request a free copy of HOPE's Debt Snowball Payoff Plan which can help you to plan a strategy which can get out of credit card debt for good.  If you would like more personalized advice we are here to help as well! Just give our friendly staff a call at 704-499-9696 and we will be more than happy to assist you. Don't forget to check back later this week for more great money saving tips!

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Why Are Credit Scores Important?

So, you likely already know the basic principle about what a credit score is used for and, therefore, why it is important to have a good one.  Whenever you apply for a loan (car loan, mortgage loan, credit card loan, personal loan, etc.) a lender is going to look at your credit score and decide whether or not you qualify.  If your credit score is high enough, you can likely expect to be approved for the loan (provided you earn enough income to qualify). However, a low credit score could result in you being declined for the loan you want or, if you are approved, it could mean a higher interest rate and a bigger down payment.

To put it simply, credit scores (and your credit report) are a type of report card which future lenders get to look at when you apply for a loan.  The “report card” shows lenders a picture of how you pay your bills – on time, late, or not at all.  If your credit report shows that you have a history of paying your bills on time then future lenders will want to loan you money as well since, chances are, you will pay the payments on time and they will be able to earn a profit from you in the form of interest.  However, if your credit report shows that you have a history of paying your bills late or not at all then future lenders will be scared to loan you any more money.  The reason they will be hesitant to loan you more money is because chances are higher that they may not get paid back for their investment, much less make any kind of profit through interest fees.

In our current culture, credit scores impact our lives in many ways.  I already mentioned how you will need a good credit score to qualify for any type of loan.  However, did you also know that your credit score may be used to determine you auto insurance rate and whether or not you have to put down a deposit when opening a new utility or cell phone account?  Plus, it is now a common practice for employers to pull your credit score when you are applying for a new job.  Depending upon the industry in which you work, your current employer may even access your credit report to determine whether or not you are “credit worthy” to remain employed with the company.

Since credit affects so many different aspects of our lives, it is more important than ever to have a healthy credit score.  However, if you find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having a subprime credit score (a consumer score of 649 or lower) then HOPE would like to encourage you to give our credit experts a call.  Remember, you do not have to feel embarrassed or defeated due to a subprime credit score!  Bad credit scores happen to good people all the time. In fact, over 60 million American currently have a subprime credit score so, if you are in the same boat, you certainly are not alone! You still deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel otherwise.

You can make a plan today to start improving your credit scores.  Please contact us via email or phone at 704-499-9696 to learn more about how the HOPE Program can help you to achieve the healthier credit you desire! 

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