By Bobbi Burger Brunoehler of Bobbisbargains.
My son has officially become an adult. I know because he gets credit card applications almost every day. I’m amazed at what banks are offering a teen who does not have a job or any way to pay off the debt he might incur. Juxtapose this against the tremendous scrutiny that my credit report underwent recently when I applied to get a mortgage and you can see that something is amiss. Why is my penniless son being lured into debt while the banking industry is making great credit-scored working adults pay huge fees to get a fully collateralized mortgage? Sorry, I don’t have the answer to this question, but if anyone else does, be sure to enter a comment so that I find out the answer.
What I DO have the answer to, is how to save a lot of money by being on time with your bills and keeping on top of paperwork.
As I stated, my son has been getting frequent credit card offers. I don’t shred them. I read the fine print with my kids as a way of educating them to the perils of over-extending your credit. THEN, I shred them.
Instead of going into the fine print of your credit card contract, I will state firmly that if you are a person who wants to keep out of debt, sit down with a dictionary, a magnifying glass, and something to calm your nerves as you make your way through the maze of fees and penalties that can befall you if you miss a credit card payment. Although the contract does not state that the bank will send someone to break your knees with a tire iron, they will produce a similar result by raising your interest rate to a sky high amount AND possibly informing your other credit card companies that they should do the same as well.
Granted, the reforms of the Credit Card Act of 2009 have caused the credit card companies to make their type faces bigger, their words more comprehensible and their fees less hidden. However, the truth of the matter is that if you fail to pay a bill on time, you will pay more than necessary. Sometimes you will pay LOTS more.
People usually pay their bills late for only two reasons:
- They don’t have the money.
- They forgot or didn’t know the bill was due.
No. 1 can often be avoided by only using your credit card to purchase things that you already have saved money for. When the bill comes, you have the cash. Of course, there are other reasons that people don’t have money to pay their bills, such as losing their jobs or an unexpected emergency. An emergency fund is one way to safeguard against this.
No. 2 is easily remedied. Set aside time once a week to work on your finances. I don’t want to sound too simplistic here, but if you make at least 30 minutes each week to balance your checkbook, pay your bills, go over your budget, and plan out your financial actions for the week, you will avoid most penalties and fees associated with lateness or being overdrawn. I’ve been doing this for decades and I attest that it works.