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Balance Transfer Cards – the St. Bernards of Family Finances

Posted by : Premraj | Posted on : Wednesday, April 30, 2014

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What’s a guy to do when he’s so deep in debt that he can’t climb out from under?  Like you are buried deep in a mile-wide snow drift in the Swiss Alps?  It’s time to take drastic action.  If this sounds like you, drastic means three things.

First, you have to stop squirming and kicking.  That’s what got you so deep in the first place.  By “squirming and kicking”, I mean spending.  Every time you reach into your pocket to pay for something, you are giving someone else your money.  If you are sinking deep in debt, they don’t need your money near as much as you do.

It might seem like the generous thing to do, sharing your life support with somebody else, even if all they give you in return is a shirt or a movie ticket or a snack.  But when you are that deep in debt, let the big companies fend for themselves.  The ma and pa shops in town can wait.  They’ll survive without you buying stuff, too.

By all means, pay your taxes and your utility bills and your mortgage.  And don’t go without food (at least, basic food).  But don’t buy things you don’t need.

If you have enough clothes to get by for the next six months, don’t buy clothes; put the money on your credit card instead.

What about soda and beer?  Nothing wrong with them, but you don’t need them; put the money on your credit card instead.

Movies are a lot of fun, but it’s time to enjoy walks in the park and free skating or swimming or whatever you are already paying for through taxes.  Movies can wait; put the money on your credit card instead.

Second, you could earn some more money.  The time you would have spent at the movies or drinking beer and soda or trying on outfits to buy, is time that can be put to use with a part-time job or freelancing in the evening.  A little side hustle can quickly put a big dent in your overall debt.

Depending on the skills you have, there are marketplaces for what you can do.  “Man with truck” or “Will walk your dog” or “Dancing lessons available” ads can be placed on any bulletin boards in town, such as those sometimes found in community centers or grocery stores.  You can also list them on Craigslist.org for your town and nearby towns.

If your skills are more along the line of writing or design or anything creative or artistic, you might want to list them on Fiverr.com or on Freelancer.com.  Take a look at all the different ways people are making substantial extra income helping others out on these sites.

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Third, get a balance transfer card.  This is really the St. Bernard dog of family finances.  A balance transfer card is a credit card that offers an incredibly low interest rate on anything you transfer from your other credit card(s), which are usually at a much higher rate.  This means that you can go from paying 20 percent interest to paying one percent interest overnight, and you can consolidate all your credit cards into one (to help keep your head from exploding).

“I can’t count the number of times people have come to CompareCards.com, deep in debt, and found a balance transfer card they could use to dig themselves out,” says Chris Mettler

Like a St. Bernard dog, balance transfers come to the rescue.  And like a St. Bernard dog, you still have to come in out of the cold.  You have to take action, and quickly, to avoid freezing in the cold air.

The ridiculous interest rate lasts only for six to 18 months, depending on the card you choose.  So best to choose wisely and get a long period of low interest. And make sure to start paying down the debt ASAP.  That means that if you are saving $300/month on interest, apply that $300 against the principal of the debt, not against a new pair of shoes, an afternoon of bowling and a meal out.

Before choosing the right balance transfer card, pay close attention to what the low interest rate covers.  Does it apply only to what you transferred?  Does it apply only to new purchases?  Does it apply to both?  Are there conditions that have to be met to avoid losing the low interest rate prematurely?

Check also for fees.  Most balance transfer cards will charge you a small fee, such as two percent of the balance you are transferring.  That does take a bite out of what you would save, but if the fee is small enough – shop around! – and you apply the savings to reducing your debt, it is almost always worth it.

If that’s you burred in a snowdrift of debt, stop squirming, get some extra income and balance-transfer your way to debt reduction.

Please welcome Pat Chisholm, a freelance writer offering advice on handling finances and law-related household matters.  Pat is also a dog-lover and a huge fan of the Olympics, so don’t expect to see much from her when the Olympics come along every two years.

 

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