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Surviving The Holidays On A Tight Budget

Every year, the day after families sit down and give thanks for all that they have, a countless number of consumers hit the malls and other retail stores in hopes of finding the perfect holiday gift on sale. Black Friday is a long standing shopping tradition, and thousands of people pour over the ads for weeks in advance and map out their plan of attack. Saving money is always a good idea, but rather than try to beat off the crowds, there are some things you can do to help survive the holidays on a tight budget. Many of these tips can be practiced year round, resulting in substantial savings not only in December, but throughout the year.

If your money is tight, you might be worried about how you will give gifts to family members and other loves ones this year. But, it can be done. You can survive the holidays on a tight budget, by sticking to some of these tips:

  • Shop for items when they are on sale; this can include Black Friday; Cyber Monday, or stocking up on smaller items throughout the year from sources like Living Social or Groupon.
  • Download apps that save money, like Cartwheel from Target or the Savings Catcher from Wal-Mart. Many stores participate in a price match with their competitors, and when you have the right tools in your hands, you can save big.
  • Draw names for gifts if you have a large family, agree to buy only for the children, or set a spending limit. While it can be hard to bring up the subject of a holiday budget, you’d be surprised at how many of your friends and family will quickly jump on board once the conversation gets started.
  • Put together frugal, but thoughtful gifts from lower priced stores. You can put together a “spa night” basket for under $10 by visiting most dollar stores. These make great gifts for teachers or caregivers.

The holiday season does not have to be a time of year that breaks the bank. Make a plan, and stick to it to see real results. Remember that it is not the gift that you give, but the thought behind it that counts. Going into debt during December can make seeing loved one stressful, and take the joy out of the season. But, if you do get in over your head, call us for help. We can help develop a strategy for your finances that helps get you out of debt, and puts you on the path to financial freedom.

For more information about debt and debt management, contact our office at www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We work with you to come up with solutions that work.

Three Ways To Stop Collection Calls

 

Owing money that you can’t pay is no fun; it can cause you sleepless nights and be a constant source of stress when you begin receiving collection calls and letters. Unfortunately, even with caller ID, it can be hard to know when a call is from a collector. More and more frequently collectors are becoming tricky with how and when they place calls, making simply avoiding the phone a non-existent option.  But, there are ways to stop the calls, and give you the time and space you need to figure out how to best manage your debt load.
Three ways to stop collection calls include doing the following:

  • Send a cease and desist letter to the creditor. This will stop the calls and letters from coming, but will not stop the possibility of a lawsuit being filed against you.
  • Dispute the validity of the debt, and request a pay history as well as identification of the original creditor if it is a different entity than the one calling you.
  • File for the protection of bankruptcy.

While issuing a cease and desist, or disputing the debt are good tactics, they offer only temporary relief. However, with bankruptcy, you are afforded the benefits of the automatic stay. The automatic stay prohibits a creditor from taking the following actions:

  • Calling you, in an attempt to collect a debt.
  • Garnishing your wages.
  • Sending threatening collection letters.
  • Filing or maintaining a collection, repossession, or foreclosure lawsuit against you.

And the best part is that the automatic stay goes into effect the moment you file for bankruptcy. What this means is that the minute your case is filed, your creditors can no longer contact you. Of course you may have to field a call or two if you receive one within the first couple of minutes after your case is filed, but providing your case number will put an end to the call on the spot, and will also prevent future calls from being made. If you are unable to meet your monthly obligations as they become due, take your future into your own hands by speaking with a knowledgeable bankruptcy and debt management attorney today. We will help you develop a strategy that fits your budget, and meets your needs.

 

For more information about bankruptcy and the automatic stay, contact us at  www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

Will A Chapter 7 Eliminate All Of My Debt?

The purpose of filing bankruptcy is to give the “honest, but unfortunate debtor” a fresh financial start. It is hard to do this if you come out of bankruptcy with close to the same debt load as when you filed your case. When you file bankruptcy, you have a choice about what chapter to file. What debt is discharged (eliminated, or no longer considered due and payable) and what debt is still owed after your case is determined, in part, by the chapter of filing. Most debtors prefer to file a Chapter 7 case rather than a Chapter 13 case, because a Chapter 7 acts to discharge all of your unsecured debt. In contrast, a Chapter 13 case is like a loan consolidation, and a portion of your unsecured debt will be paid through the case over a period of up to 5 years.

The Chapter 7 discharge eliminates the following types of debt:

  • Unsecured debts; like credit cards, signature loans, or medical bills.
  • Secured debt for property you decide to surrender to the lender.

What is not discharged are things like student loan debt, unless you can meet a strict standard that your future is bleak, with no hope of ever finding gainful employment that would allow you pay even a part of your student loans back; taxes; child support obligations; any debt that was incurred under false pretenses; and debt that was incurred with the intention of discharging it in bankruptcy. The benefit to a Chapter 7 case versus a Chapter 13 case is that discharge is entered much faster. The typical Chapter 7 takes from about 4 to 6 months, while a Chapter 13 can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years. You are also not required to make monthly payments to the Bankruptcy Trustee with a Chapter 7, but are required to do so in a Chapter 13 case. Given these attractive benefits, it is no wonder most debtors seek to file a Chapter 7 case. However, there are certain requirements that must be met in order to be eligible to file a Chapter 7.

Debtors must qualify for a Chapter 7 after having completed a means test calculation. This complex math requires a debtor to compare their secured debt to their disposable income, and if there remains even a small portion of disposable income to put towards unsecured debts after the secured obligations are met each month; the debtor will be required to file a Chapter 13 case. We can help by reviewing your monthly budget, income, and expenses and making the computation for you. A misstep in the means test could mean that your case is not allowed to be filed at all, so it is critical to get it right. Call us today for help.

For more information about Chapter 7 bankruptcy, contact us at  www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

Does Foreclosure Mediation Work?

Receiving a notice of foreclosure can make your heart beat just a little faster, and cause you a significant amount of anxiety. After all, the possibility of losing your home means you and your family will be left looking for a new place to live. Moving is never fun, and it can take time and money that you may not have if you are in dire financial straits. There is some thought that working with the lender may prolong the case, giving you the time you need to find alternate housing that meets your needs, but not every lender is generous enough to give their customers this time. Another alternative that gained quite a bit of popularity a few years ago is that of foreclosure mediation. But, what does it require and does it really work?

Any mediation is a form of dispute resolution that takes place outside of the four walls of the Courthouse. Countless homeowners have tried to work with their mortgage lender by having a neutral third party (mediator) listen to their dispute and come up with a workable solution. Unfortunately, not many homeowners have been successful when using this forum. An article on the issue states that the idea of mediating a foreclosure case simply does not end with the good results for the borrower. Here are some reasons why:

  • Home values have decreased so drastically that the amount owed on most homes is far more than what the homes are worth. This means the lender cannot resell the property without taking a loss. It would seem logical that given these figures more lenders would be willing to work with their borrowers, but that has not been the case.
  • Much of the information needed to review the value of a home for purposes of modifications or short sales are being withheld from borrowers. This makes it hard to come to the mediation table with any kind of meaningful offer of resolution.

Because these programs have failed to help homeowners, other avenues of dispute resolution must be used. If you are facing foreclosure, you do have defenses. One thing you should do right away is to ask the lender for the note, because if the lender does not hold the note then they do not have the right to foreclose. Considering bankruptcy is also an option that works for many. When you are able to eliminate unsecured credit card debt, more of your monthly disposable income is available. In many instances the amount of money freed up from not having to make large credit card or other unsecured loan payments is enough to cover what is due on the home. Call us for information about how to save your home today.

 

For more information about foreclosures, contact us at  www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

Five Hidden Fees Your Lenders Charge, And How To Avoid Them

We all know that certain fees and charges go along with taking out a loan, or applying for a credit card. This is how lenders make their money, but it can be hard to figure out what all you are paying and just how your monthly payment is allocated. Knowing where your money goes is the first step on the road to financial recovery. So, when your monthly bills come in, take a closer look to see just what all you are being charged for the benefit of doing business with your creditors.

Five hidden fees your lenders charge, with tips on how to avoid these fees, include:

  • The cost of having a bad credit score will significantly increase what you pay in interest every month. In order to avoid paying a higher rate, take steps to repair your credit before taking out a loan.
  • The length of your loan may also be costing you more money than you need to spend. The longer you take to pay off a loan, the more you will pay in interest. If you are able to increase your payment a bit, think about shortening the loan term or paying extra to the principal balance. This will reduce the amount you owe much faster.
  • Costs for add-on’s or required insurance should be taken into consideration when applying for a loan. Shop around for the lowest rates beforehand so your total monthly obligation fits within your budget.
  • Origination and other fees are often tacked on to a loan. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you know the amount of these fees, and ask for them to be eliminated or reduced if possible.
  • Accumulated interest fees, most often associated with a deferred loan. While you do have the option on some types of loans (such as a student loan) to defer payment for a period of time, the interest will continue to accumulate when you are not paying. In order to avoid being shocked at the amount of accumulated interest, opt to make an interest only payment rather than defer the payment all together.

Knowing what to expect from your loan, and where you money goes when you make a payment will help you to budget your finances. If you find yourself in over your head financially even after exploring these fees and other options for repayment, you do have options. Call our office to learn more.

For more information about debt and debt management, contact us at  www.DsouzaLegalGroup.com. We will help by coming up with solutions that work for you.

How To Make The Most Out Of A Raise

Being called into the boss’s office is no one’s idea of a fun day at work, unless it is to learn of a promotion or a boost in salary. Getting a raise can really help keep your finances on track, and can even give you the means with which to start a savings or emergency fund. While it may be tempting to put that extra money towards a new car or bigger house, there are other things you can do with your raise that will help you make the most out of the extra dollars on your paycheck.

Some things you can to do make sure your dollars aren’t stretched too far after you get a raise include:

  • Budget, budget, budget! When you have extra money in your pocket it is critical to know where it will be spent. Identifying where your money goes gives you the chance to find ways to cut back, and start putting something aside for a rainy day.
  • Designate a portion of your newfound wealth to a savings or retirement account every paycheck. You can even set this up to happen automatically, by a recurring transfer from your checking to your savings account or by increasing the amount you contribute to your 401(k). If you never see the money hit your account, you will be less likely to overspend.
  • Put the extra cash towards debt. Whichever debt repayment method works best for you, take the extra boost in your income and put it towards those goals. You will pay off your debt faster this way, and once the balances are eliminated you will have the extra income from your raise as well as the extra money from not making monthly payments on recurring loan balances.

The key is to behave rationally. If you need to sit down with pencil and paper to figure out how to best use the money from a raise, do so! Financial planners can help you make the right choice, and we can help if you need to negotiate with lenders or take other action regarding your debt. Call us today to learn more.

 

If you have questions about budgets and how to save for a onetime expense, call our office for answers. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

 

 

What Is Your “Debt Personality”?

Have you ever noticed how some people are more cheerful than others, or how there always seems to be that one person at work who keeps to themselves? Your personality type depends on what interests you, what activities you enjoy in your spare time, what type of people you feel most comfortable around, and a host of other characteristics that make you unique. People come in all shapes and sizes, as well as with all types of personalities. And, most people exhibit personality traits depending on the issue. For instance, your views on romance will vary from your views on what type of vacation to take. The same can be said for how you feel about debt, and your “debt personality” can determine the choices you make in not only incurring debt but also in how you become debt free.

An interesting article from Business Insider hints that the way you pay off your debt depends on your personality. The article highlights include:

  • People who tend to be savers will feel more comfortable with the avalanche method of debt repayment. This method requires paying off the highest interest rate debt first, and then taking the money that would normally be applied to that debt to the next highest rate debt. The avalanche method also allows the debtor to save, by making only the minimum payment on the lower rate debts while focusing on the debt with the highest rate.
  • People who like to track their results, and get a sense of personal satisfaction by seeing results quickly tend to use the snowball method of debt repayment. This method calls for paying off the smallest balance first, regardless of the interest rate. For some, seeing a balance of zero gives them the psychological and emotional boost needed to stay on track of their debt repayment plans.
  • Using a combination of repayment methods is used by people who tend to have personalities that value both saving, and fast results.

Who knew your personality might play a role in how you decide to pay off debt? A quick read of the above shows that who you can touch nearly every aspect of your life. If you are experiencing financial difficulty and need help determining what works best for you, we can help.

 

If you have questions about debt and debt management, call a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your options. We can help you understand your choices and make a decision that works for you. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

 

 

How To Dispute Debt

Have you ever received a pay history from one of your lenders and been unable to determine how your payments are being applied? If so, you are not alone. In fact, the majority of consumers that are contacted about past due balances and request a printout of their payments is unable to decipher what the lender sends. A typical pay history from a credit card company, mortgage holder, or auto lender seems to be written in “code” that only the employees of the company know how to crack. If you find yourself in this position, and believe the debt is either not valid or that payments have not been properly applied, you do have the right to dispute the debt.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives consumers 30 days to dispute the validity of any debt trying to be collected by a third party. What this means is:

  • If someone other than the lender has contacted you to collect a debt, that entity is defined as a debt collector. All debt collectors are required to follow the rules set forth in the FDCPA.
  • One of the most basic rules in place is that the collector give you a notice that specifically and clearly tells you that you have the right to dispute the debt, or even just a portion of the debt being collected.
  • In order to dispute that the debt is owed, you must send a written letter to the collector telling them that you dispute the debt and are asking for proof that it is owed.
  • The collector is not permitted to take further action until they are able verify the debt, and provide you with that verification.

Unfortunately, many debt collectors fail to reply to a dispute, or fail to give a satisfactory verification. This failure exposes the collector to liability under the FDCPA and the consumer has the right to bring an action against the collector for any damages that resulted from the collector’s oversight. We have experience fighting collectors, so you don’t have to shoulder that burden. Call us today to find out more.

 

If you need help disputing a debt, call our office. We can offer solutions, legal and practical, that meet your needs. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today for more information.

 

How To Lower Student Loan Payments

One of the fastest growing types of debt is student loans. The cost of college has risen astronomically over the years, and in order to get ahead in life many students are resorting to taking out loans to pay tuition and other expenses. While this type of loan is generally better than most in that the interest rate is typically lower than what a bank would offer, the amounts being accumulated are far more than what an average starting salary right out of college is being reported. The disparity between what you owe and what you make is causing many college graduates to move back home after graduation, just to be able to make their student loan payments. This type of living arrangement is not ideal, for both the parents and the student, so looking for alternatives is a must.

One thing you can do is to take steps to lower your student loan payments. A lower payment can free up part of your salary, so you can provide for yourself and/or your family. Some ways to obtain a lower payment are:

  • Request an income sensitive repayment plan, rather than going with the monthly payment amount calculated at the end of your deferment period. An income sensitive payment takes into account what you make, and your household size. If you have dependents at home and make very little, you are likely to be given a reduced payment that is more in line with your budget.
  • Consolidate your loans, which gives you a longer repayment period and lowers the monthly amount due.
  • Request an interest only payment for a period of time, until you can make a higher payment.
  • Opt for a payment plan that starts off with smaller payments, and ends up with higher payments towards the end of the life of the loan. This allows you to pay less when you are just starting out, and then increase your payments as your salary increases.

Any of these methods can work for you, but the key is to find the type that works best. We can help by analyzing your income and debt, and working with your lender for a solution that makes sense. Call us for more information.

If you need help making your student loan payments, contact our office. Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today.

 

 

What To Do When Lenders Discriminate

Unfortunately discrimination in today’s world is not limited to the school yard, your job, or even a public event. For years some consumers have been the victim of lender discrimination, which means they were either denied a loan or given less than favorable terms based on their race, religion, or gender. This type of lending practice is not only frowned upon, but it is against the law. As a borrower, you do have a remedy, and should take action to send a message to the lender that these practices are not tolerated.

One of the biggest purchases most people make is their home, and to do this a mortgage loan is required. A mortgage lender has the following obligations when considering your application for a loan:

  • If you are receiving income from a social program, that income must be taken into consideration just the same as income from your job. A lender is not allowed to leave this income out of the calculation, or make a determination based on the fact that you receive public assistance to make ends meet.
  • If you decide to disclose that part of the income you will rely upon for repayment of the mortgage loan is spousal or child support, that income must also be given the same weight as your salary.
  • If you have a co-signer who is willing to obligate themselves on the loan, the lender owes the same responsibilities to that person as they do to you as the primary applicant.

If you have been denied a loan, or were offered a loan at terms higher than the norm, you should complain to the lender and tell them you believe you have been discriminated against. We can help you make this complaint, and follow it up with legal action if needed. A thorough examination of things like your pay stubs and credit report will be needed, as well as a review of the loan documents. When discrimination is identified, you are entitled to an award of damages for this action and that could include punitive damages for your suffering. Consult with one of our qualified debt relief attorneys today to learn more about lender discrimination and what you can do if you are a victim.

Call a Plantation, Florida debt relief attorney today if you believe you are the victim of lender discrimination. Schedule an appointment to learn more.