Should You Change Your Kids’ Lifestyle When You Have A Financial Emergency? Or Not?

Jessie’s kids were 10 and 12 when her husband, Ron, was involved in a serious car accident with a semi-truck on the highway.

Thankfully, Ron survived, but his recovery was a long one and involved many medical procedures and hospital stays.

While he luckily had disability pay at his job, it only paid 60% of his salary.  The reduced salary combined with the many medical bills meant that money was very, very tight.

Carrie’s kids were 9 and 13 when her husband, Michael, was diagnosed with cancer.

He, too, had to take a lot of time off work for treatment and incurred significant medical bills.  He didn’t have disability insurance, so he was only paid for the time he was able to work.  Their finances became very strained.

Though there were different causes, both families fell on difficult financial times because of medical issues.  However, how the families handled the financial strain was opposite.

Change Your Kids’ Lifestyle When You Have A Financial Emergency?

Change Your Kids’ Lifestyle When You Have A Financial Emergency?

Let The Kids’ Lives Go On As Normally As Possible In A Financial Emergency

Couple #1, Jessie and Ron, wanted life to go on for their kids as normally as possible.

They were thankful that Ron was alive and wanted to make the most of being with one another.  When they could, they took outings as a family to local attractions.

They kept the kids in all of their sports, and when their 10-year-old turned 11, they made sure to have a big, expensive party just as they had for all of their children’s previous birthdays.

Restrict Expenses and Curtail Kids’ Activities When In A Financial Emergency

Couple #2, Carrie and Michael, took a different approach.

Soon after Michael was diagnosed, they sat down with their children to explain that they would have to work together as a family to help dad beat cancer.  One way was to cut their expenses so that Michael wouldn’t have to worry about finances while he was also being treated for cancer.

When times are tough, do you tell your kids and economize, or do you try to go about your life as normally as possible, creating memories by spending time together?

There’s really no right or wrong answer to this issue; each family copes the best way that they can.

For some, that means going to outside activities and carrying on as if nothing in life has changed.  For others, that means economizing and changing their lifestyle temporarily while the financial difficulty is present.

My Experience With A Financial Emergency

I was 14 when my dad was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, and life changed radically.

We were never a family that spent a lot on outside activities, but all extra spending stopped when my dad was sick.

He couldn’t work, didn’t have disability pay, and my parents didn’t have a large emergency fund, so we had to rely on the generosity of others for a few months simply to get by.

The whole situation was stressful, but I did not begrudge my parents curtailing all of our extra activities.

In fact, I would have felt terribly guilty if my parents would have spent money they didn’t have to make life seem as normal as possible because life wasn’t normal then.

When my dad passed, my mom received a small life insurance policy, and thankful, she didn’t have debt to clean up first from the time my dad was sick.

All people handle a radical life disruption differently, but in the case of couple #1, chances are, eventually they’ll reach a point when the emergency fund is gone and the credit cards are at their limit, when they’ll need to economize and stop treating their kids as if everything is normal.

Why not do it earlier so they can save as much of their financial integrity as possible?

Have you had a major life issue that disrupted your finances?  If so, how did you handle it?  Did you tell the kids and start economizing, or did you try to maintain the status quo for your children because they’ve already experienced so much upheaval?


3 Things You Should Know About Consumer Credit Sites

There are a lot of consumer credit sites popping up lately. Indeed, a number of sites like Credit Sesame, Credit Karma and Credit Wise purport to give you an idea of what to expect when it comes to your credit, and better managing your finances.

These sites can be extremely helpful to you. For example, all three sites provide you with ways you can save money on your loans, by suggesting debt consolidation credit cards, or helping you figure out if you could refinance to a lower rate. Not only that, but you can keep tabs on your overall general credit situation, since some of these consumer credit sites allow you access to a credit report from a major bureau — on top of the access you get through

While consumer credit sites can be helpful, you do need to be aware of their limitations. Here are 3 things you should know about consumer credit sites:



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your identity hasn’t been stolen.  In addition to a free score, Credit Wise and Credit Karma will give you a free credit report. You can also always get one for free from each of the 3 credit bureaus every year at:

The point is, make sure you’re aware of what these sites offer, and how you can use the information you’re given. Be sure to read the fine print about if extras will cost you money, and if so, how much. Finally, always stay on top of your credit, especially when you’re trying to get a mortgage or some other type of loan.

Consumer credit sites can be great financial tools, but you need to be aware of their shortcomings, and carefully choose how you use them.  Have you tried using these consumer credit sites? What has your experience been?


8 Low Cost Ways To Improve Your Home’s Appearance

If you’ve been in your house a few years, you may notice that its original luster is wearing.

When you first buy a house, the previous owners will likely have spent a lot of time and energy making the house look as appealing as possible.

Just a few years after living in the house, however, you’ll likely find the time has come to make improvements and bump up the home’s visual appeal.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money making your home look spic and span and real-estate-listing ready (even if you have no intention of selling your home).

In fact, there are several low-cost ways that you can make your home look like it did when you first bought it.

ways to improve your home's appearance

ways to improve your home's appearance

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to simply declutter.  You might even be able to make a little money with your extra stuff!

Wash The Walls

If you haven’t washed the walls, that may be an easy (and free) first step to improve the interior of your home.

I noticed certain areas of our walls, usually on corners, about shin high that were much darker than the rest of the wall.  I wiped them down, and the walls looked much better.

I later found that they were in spots where our cat would rub his face on the corner.

Paint With Neutral Colors

ways to improve your home's appearance - neutral color paint

ways to improve your home's appearance - neutral color paintIf washing the walls doesn’t improve the look of your home as much as you would like, consider a fresh coat of paint.  However, if you’re going to go through the hassle of painting your walls to improve your interior, why not choose neutral colors?

Often you don’t know when you’ll move; sometimes you unexpectedly have to move due to a job loss or family illness.  If you choose neutral colors, you will likely be helping yourself when it’s time to sell.

My friend recently tried to sell her house, and doing so took her much longer than expected.  Although her house looked nice inside, I can’t help but wonder if the electric blue walls she had throughout the home discouraged potential buyers.

Clean Up The Landscaping

In as little as a year or two, without regular attention, your landscaping can look overrun. Bushes become too big for the yard, trees have overhanging branches that need to be trimmed.

Improve the curb appeal of your home by trimming bushes, taking care of dead leaves, and putting down new rocks or grass.

Power Wash

Likewise, you don’t notice how grimy your exterior is until you clean it.

Borrow or rent a power washer to remove the built-up grime from your sidewalks and cement porches, the exterior walls of your home, and your deck.

You’ll be shocked how much dirt you remove and how much better your home looks after you’re done. Maintaining your home by doing things like washing it can greatly add to it’s appeal.

Replace Outdoor Welcome Mats

If you have outdoor welcome mats, they’re subject to wind, rain, snow and sun damage.

Under these circumstances, they turn shabby rather quickly, so make sure to replace them at least once a year.  Your home will look that much more inviting.

Paint Kitchen Cabinets And Bathroom Cabinets

Are your cabinets from the 80s?

If so, you can improve them for a little cash and a lot of elbow grease by painting them yourself.

We have blond kitchen cabinets that are so old, the paint has worn completely through in some places.  This winter when it’s cooler, we plan to sand and repaint them.  Doing so will vastly improve the look of our kitchen.

If you’re repainting the cabinets, don’t forget to add stylish handles and knobs to complete the look.

Update Light Fixtures

Light fixtures can make a room look dated.  Both of our bathrooms have dressing room type lighting strips, which I hate.  We also plan to replace these.

We’ll buy the fixtures ourselves and hire an electrician to actually replace them.

If your home is looking a little worn and dated, these low-cost improvements can give it a whole new look.

What other frugal home improvements do you recommend to improve the look of your home?


Should You Do A Balance Transfer?

One of the major debt reduction strategies touted by just about everyone is the balance transfer.

The idea behind the balance transfer is that you should open a credit card account that offers a special introductory rate on balance transfers, usually zero percent. Without interest, you are able to put your entire payment toward reducing the principal, helping you get out of debt faster and saving you hundreds of dollars.

In many cases, a balance transfer can be a smart choice. However, a balance transfer isn’t always the right choice. You need to look at your financial situation, and possibly consult with a professional, before deciding to move forward.

should you do a balance transfer?

should you do a balance transfer?

When A Balance Transfer Makes Sense

The main advantage to a balance transfer is that you don’t pay interest on the balance. However, in order for a balance transfer to be fully effective, you need a plan for paying it off before the introductory period ends. Once the introductory period ends, you could find yourself paying a much higher interest rate — one that offsets your previous savings.

If you can get a long introductory period (between 12 and 18 months if possible), and you have a way to pay off the balance in that time, it makes sense, especially if the balance transfer fee is low, or waived.

Also, it’s important to avoid racking up more debt in that time. So, if you decide to use a balance transfer, you need to stop debt spending first. One of the biggest dangers of a balance transfer is that, after you move your balance to the new card, you see your old card as “open” and “available” and you run up more debt.

When To Avoid A Balance Transfer

While a balance transfer can be a great debt reduction tool, the reality is that you shouldn’t always complete one. First of all, before you transfer your balance, you need to stop debt spending. Before you transfer a balance, make sure that you have changed your money habits and you are living within your means. Next, you need to have a plan to pay off the balance transfer.

Also, watch out for some of the pitfalls associated with certain balance transfer credit cards. Take a look at the terms and conditions and watch out for these red flags:

  • High balance transfer fee: Most credit cards charge between three and five percent of your balance as a fee. Often there is a minimum fee as well. Run the numbers. If your fee is on the high end, and you have a short introductory period, and you won’t pay off your debt in that time, the fee you pay might offset your interest savings.
  • Deferred interest: Some credit cards charged deferred interest. Your payment reflects a lack of interest during the introductory period, but interest accrues anyway, on a conditional basis. If you don’t pay off your balance with the intro period, all of that interest is then added to your balance and you have to pay it. This can be devastating, and undo all of your work.
  • Short introductory period: If you only have six months to pay of the debt before your interest rate rises, especially if it’s a very high regular rate, you might end up worse off. This is especially true if the deal comes with deferred interest.

Like any financial tool, a balance transfer can be problematic if it isn’t used correctly.

Take the time to evaluate your situation, consider your options (like negotiating with your credit card company), and then make a decision about whether or not you really should make a balance transfer.


Swagbucks Review: What Is It, How Does It Work And What Can You Win?

Have you heard of Swagbucks?

Many people have, but don’t know exactly what it is or how it works.

Now that Swagbucks just celebrated their tenth birthday, more and more people are learning about this reputable company (which has earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau) that helps you earn free gift cards, cash and prizes.



Chances are, when you learn more about this company, you’ll become a Swagbucks enthusiast like me!

Open Your FREE Swagbucks Account Now!

Use our link to get a $5 signup bonus, and use promo code “BMONEYMATTERS” when you register you’ll get an extra 70 points called SB

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If you do nothing more than search the Internet a few times a day (and don’t we all do that?), you could easily earn 7 to 10 points called SB a day.

Earn 300 SB (which is possible in 3 to 5 weeks with minimal effort), and you could redeem your points for a $3 Amazon gift card.

In general, every 100 SB earns you a $1 toward an Amazon gift card. 300 SB for $3 Amazon gift card, or 500 SB for a $5 Amazon gift card.  However, you can earn a $25 Amazon gift card for just 2,200 SB points!

How To Sign Up For Swagbucks

Swagbucks Review - Is It A Scam?

Swagbucks Review - Is It A Scam?

Signing up for Swagbucks is simple.

Simply go to the Swagbuck’s page and either sign in with Facebook, or fill out a simple form with your e-mail address and a password that you choose for your Swagbucks account.

Open Your FREE Swagbucks Account Now!

Registration is free, and right now you’ll eligible to get a $5 bonus for signing up!

Once you are signed up, make sure you stay signed in so you can use Swagbucks to search the Internet and earn points.

How To Earn SB

There are many ways to earn SB.  If you use it to search the Internet, you will randomly earn points.  I have earned anywhere from 7 to 79 points at one time. Those points continue to accrue until you redeem them for your rewards.

Swagbucks Review

Swagbucks Review

In addition to searching the Internet, there are many other ways to earn points:

  • Watch television programming.  Like to find new recipes?  Watch the Food Network videos.  Or watch videos streamed right from Hulu as well as clips on news (regular and celebrity), tech, etc. on Swagbucks and earn SB points.  (They have many quick two to three minute shows that you can watch to earn points.)
  • Encourage your friends to join.  If your friends sign up for Swagbucks with your referral link, you will get 10% of their Swagbucks earning for life!  This can be a great way to watch your balance grow with minimal effort on your part, especially if you have several friends join.
  • Use coupons.  If you routinely print coupons off the Internet, print them from Swagbucks.  For every coupon you redeem at the grocery store, you earn 10 SB
  • Take a poll.  There are usually short, one question polls that you can answer.  This takes less than 10 seconds, and you can earn a SB point.
  • Meet your daily Swagbucks goal.  Every day, Swagbucks sets an earning goal for you.  For instance, they may set a goal of earning 30 SB.  If you’re able to do that, say for 7 days in a row, you’ll earn an additional 25 SB.
  • Play games. You can play a variety of games in the games section to earn SB.
  • Use the special offers section.  This section isn’t something I’d use just to get SB (though some people do), but it can be a great way to earn SB points on something you were already going to do.  For instance, if you were going to sign up for a Target Red Debit or Credit Card anyway, why not do it through Swagbucks and earn 215 SB points?

This section is Swagbucks highest earning vertical.  There are plenty of special offers to choose from.

These are just a few ways to earn rewards; there are many more, some more labor intensive than others.

I usually just have time for the polls and searching the Internet, and I still earned enough in a year to redeem for Amazon gift cards and get a few presents for my kids at Christmas.

Swagbucks Browser Extension

Swagbucks has a browser extension that you can install in your browser as well.

Swagbucks review browser extension

Swagbucks review browser extension

In my Chrome browser I have it installed and it will notify you when there is cash back available for a store you’re shopping at. Just click on the button that pops up to activate the cash back, and a short while after you complete your purchase the SB will be added to your account.

It also will tell you when there are coupon codes available at a certain store and apply them for you, saving you additional money!

What it comes down to is adding the extension will likely save you quite a bit of money! It takes the work out of remembering to go to a cash back site – it does it for you automatically.

Swagbucks Hack To Triple Your Savings

Her’s a hack that I have started using in order to triple my savings when shopping online. I use Swagbucks in conjunction with two other providers, Honey and Gift Card Granny.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Activate Swagbucks cash back: First, go to the shopping site where you want to save money.  Activate your Swabgucks cash back via your browser extension. It should pop up automatically if you have it installed and ask you to “activate cash back”.
  2. Use Honey to get a coupon code: After you find the item you wanted to buy, add it to your cart and begin the checkout process. On the checkout page where they have a space for coupon codes, use the Honey browser extension to search for available coupon codes, to save you more money!
  3. Buy a discounted gift card from Gift Card Granny: Figure out your order’s total, and then buy a gift card at Gift Card Granny to cover the cost. You can often find gift cards for popular retailers at a big discount. For example, a $100 gift card for $85. Purchase the gift card and use it when checking out.

When you do these three things, you’ll save using Swagbucks cash back, by using a Honey coupon code, and by getting a discount on a gift card to pay for your order.  Triple the savings!

How Much Can You Earn With Swagbucks?

Once you’ve earned enough points you can redeem your SB for an Amazon gift card, but there are hundreds of other ways to also redeem your points.  Choose from a wide range of retailers—Amazon, Target, Lands End, Chili’s, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Walmart, Sears, and many more.

There are hundreds of prizes to choose from, and if you want to make your SB points stretch further, look for the sale category where they temporarily discount how many SB certain items can be redeemed for.

They say that nothing in life is free, but if you search the Internet using Swagbucks, utilize the cash back tools and engage on their site you will earn enough SB points to redeem for some nice free gifts.

Have you used Swagbucks?  If so, what have you earned?

If you use promo code “BMONEYMATTERS” when you register you’ll get an extra 70 SB.

Get Your Free 70 SB When You Open Swagbucks Account Now!

Similar Programs

Swagbucks Review


Swagbucks Review




  • Lots of reward options including PayPal
  • Great cash back options
  • Browser extension works great
  • In store cash back
  • Lots of ways to earn points


  • Some offers require a lot to get SB


Latest Annual State of Credit Report from Experian: How Do You Stack Up?

Every year, the credit reporting agency Experian puts out a report on credit trends in the United States. The Fourth Annual State of Credit takes a look at trends divided by geography and age, as well as other demographics.

I always find it fascinating to have a look at how I stack up as compared to my peers.

Geographic Trends

First of all, I looked at the report’s map showing the cities with the best and worst credit scores. I found it interesting that almost all of the best credit scores are located in the upper midwest. Minnesota and Wisconsin had most of the cities with the top credit scores, with a some sprinkled in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa.

The 10 cities with the worst scores are all below the Mason-Dixon line, with most of them located in the Southeast, with Riverside, CA and Las Vegas, NV as the two in the Southwest.

None of the cities with the worst or best credit scores are located in Utah, my home state.



Generational Data

The Experian report divides the generational data into four categories: Greatest Generation (66 +), Baby Boomer (47 – 65), Generation X (30 – 46), and Millennial (19 – 29). I’m firmly in Generation X for the purposes of this report.

According to the report, the Millennials need the most help figuring out how to build their credit. This isn’t exactly surprising. After all, few schools teach financial literacy, and lessons many kids get about credit from their parents often consist of this advice: “Don’t get credit!”

This doesn’t prepare young adults to head out into the world and begin building their credit in meaningful ways. Instead of trying to scare kids about credit, I think it makes more sense to teach them about responsible credit use in combination with solid financial skills.

You have a great chance when you’re in your early 20s to create a solid credit profile, and learning how to do that effectively can mean a better financial result down the road.

National Averages

No report of this nature would be complete without national averages. According to the Experian report, the average debt in the United States is $27,887. The good news is that debt isn’t mostly credit cards. Indeed, the average balance on bank cards is $4,501. I remember a few years ago when the average was higher than that, so it’s clear that progress has been made in terms of the average person paying down debt.

The average number of bank cards that consumers have in the United States is 2.19. This is one area in which I am above average. My husband and I have six credit cards between us. This probably isn’t the most efficient use of our credit, though. I need to re-evaluate the cards and their rewards programs and make sure that I’m sticking with some sort of plan. I tend to get lazy and drift off the program if I’m not careful. We pay off what we spend, but I don’t always use the card to give maximum results if I’m not paying attention.

Take a look at the data, and figure out how you stack up. Are you average for your location and generation? Where do you fit with the national average? Answering these questions can help you figure out whether or not you need to make changes.



Here Is What It’s Like To Drive A Car Until It Dies

Fourteen years ago, my husband and I had our first child, and just three months after he was born, we bought a minivan. A Toyota Sienna, to be exact.

We planned to own the car for a while, especially since we bought it brand new, but honestly, I never thought that 14 years and 193,000 miles later we’d still be driving that vehicle.

drive a car until it dies

drive a car until it dies

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pay if off early.

We paid it off in four years, so we’ve driven that vehicle for the last 10 years without making a single payment.  The only expenses we’ve had are routine repairs, replacements, and requisite license plate tabs.

Glamorous It’s Not

I’ll admit, now that the car is quite a bit older, it’s certainly not the envy of the neighborhood.

In fact, my kids, especially my older two who are 14 and almost 10, find it quite embarrassing.  However, it’s been a very reliable car, and we plan to keep it until it finally gives out completely.

Our van had one electric sliding door and one manual.  As is common for electric doors, ours stopped working at about year 10.  I didn’t want to pay the $1,500 plus that it would cost to fix it, so we just stopped using that door.

About two years ago, our passenger manual door outside handle became loose.  No biggie.  We just opened the driver’s side door, reached into the back, and used the inside handle to open the slide door.

Was that embarrassing?  Yes, but why spend money when the door did work, just not in a conventional way?

We’ll Never Wash The Car Again

We joke that we’ll never wash the car again, and we probably won’t.  The dirt might be the only thing holding it together at this point!

A year ago we were at a manual car wash when the outside handle that was loose completely broke off.  That, even I can admit, was embarrassing. A motorcyclist was there, and he just stared at us.

My kids were so embarrassed.

When it broke off, we could no longer open the door from the inside, either, so we had to admit defeat and pay $700 to get that door handle fixed.

Surely, that was a fluke, right, and a car wash every now and then would be fine, right?  Right?

Yeah, no.

This summer, we again tried to wash the car at a manual car wash.  After my husband hosed down the car, I heard a loud pop, much like a gun shot.

I looked all around, but didn’t see anything.  Then, I started washing the car and the passenger window on the electronic door that does not work just completely shattered.  Glass filled our entire interior.

We had heard a rock hit the car a few weeks before when we were on the highway, and I think that weakened the window before the car wash.

The Air Conditioner Gives Out

This summer, our air conditioner gave out, which isn’t a good thing in the middle of an Arizona summer when temperatures routinely reach 110 degrees daily.  The problem ended up being two-fold, and we had to pay $2,500.

I can see the day is near when we’ll need to replace this vehicle, but I’m hoping we can hold out for a few more years.

After all, even with car repairs and routine maintenance, owning this vehicle for the past 14 years has been much cheaper than owning a newer model that needs fewer repairs but requires a monthly payment.

What is the longest you have ever owned a vehicle?  What finally made you decide to take the plunge and buy a new vehicle?  Are you comfortable with driving a car that others may find embarrassing just so you can save money?


Can You Go To Jail If You Don’t Pay A Debt?

Being in debt is never fun. You carry a weight on your shoulders, and are bound by the obligations that you must fulfill. It stinks, but at least there are some protections for people who aren’t able to pay, and rules that govern how debts can be collected. In the past, debtors were not given as much leeway. In fact they were treated quite harshly. They were often sent to debtor’s prison:

During Europe’s Middle Ages, debtors, both men and women, were locked up together in a single large cell, until their families paid their debt. Debt prisoners often died of disease contracted from other debt prisoners. Conditions included starvation and abuse from other prisoners. If the father of a family was imprisoned for debt, the family business often suffered while the mother and children fell into poverty. Unable to pay the debt, the father often remained in debtors’ prison for many years. Some debt prisoners were released to become serfs or indentured servants (debt bondage) until they paid off their debt in labor.

Debtor’s prisons continued to be used in the United States and United Kingdom into the 1800s, at which time both countries outlawed the practice of putting people in jail for their debts.  It was outlawed in the United States in 1833, and abolished in the UK in 1869.

You might be surprised to find out, however, that some countries to this day still use the practice.  Debtors in the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai, can be imprisoned for failing to pay their debts.

You Can Go To Jail For Your Debt – Even Today

While many people think being imprisoned for your debt in the U.S. is a thing of the past, they aren’t completely correct.

I was reading my local paper in Minnesota this past week when I discovered a series of articles talking about people who have been sent to jail for their debts.  While they have technically been sent to jail in many of these cases because they missed a court date related to their debt, or because they missed a court mandated debt payment, the fact remains that they were incarcerated in part because they have debt.

It’s not a crime to owe money, and debtors’ prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009, a Star Tribune analysis of state court data has found.

Not every warrant results in an arrest, but in Minnesota many debtors spend up to 48 hours in cells with criminals. Consumer attorneys say such arrests are increasing in many states, including Arkansas, Arizona and Washington, driven by a bad economy, high consumer debt and a growing industry that buys bad debts and employs every means available to collect.

Whether a debtor is locked up depends largely on where the person lives, because enforcement is inconsistent from state to state, and even county to county.

While you’re probably OK if you follow up on court dates, and make your court ordered payments, if you miss a payment or a court date you could be in trouble.

Haekyung Nielsen, 27, of Bloomington, said police showed up at her house on a civil warrant two weeks after she gave birth through Caesarean section. A debt buyer had sent her court papers for an old credit-card debt while she was in the hospital; Nielsen said she did not have time to respond.

Her baby boy, Tyler, lay in the crib as she begged the officer not to take her away.

“Thank God, the police had mercy and left me and my baby alone,” said Nielsen, who later paid the debt. “But to send someone to arrest me two weeks after a massive surgery that takes most women eight weeks to recover from was just unbelievable.”

While I’m all for personal responsibility, and for following through on your debt obligations, some of the tactics being used by these debt collecters, and being followed up on by the law enforcement officials do seem a bit draconian. In some senses it seems like the debt collectors (credit sharks in suits as Dave Ramsey calls them) have taken over.

“The law enforcement system has unwittingly become a tool of the debt collectors,” said Michael Kinkley, an attorney in Spokane, Wash., who has represented arrested debtors. “The debt collectors are abusing the system and intimidating people, and law enforcement is going along with it.”

How often are debtors arrested across the country? No one can say. No national statistics are kept, and the practice is largely unnoticed outside legal circles. “My suspicion is the debt collection industry does not want the world to know these arrests are happening, because the practice would be widely condemned,” said Robert Hobbs, deputy director of the National Consumer Law Center in Boston.

Now if people are able to pay their debts, and are instead choosing to ignore their obligations and not pay, that’s one thing. If, however, they aren’t able to pay because of medical issues or other problems, why would you put them in jail?

Bail Is Often The Same Amount As The Debt

One thing people are finding once they’ve been put in jail is that their bail payment is set at the exact same amount of their debt owed.  When they post bail their money goes directly to the debt collector.

Hennepin County automatically sets bail at the judgment amount or $2,500, whichever is less. This policy was adopted four years ago in response to the high volume of debtor default cases, say court officials.

Some judges say the practice distorts the purpose of bail, which is to make sure people show up in court.

“It’s certainly an efficient way to collect debts, but it’s also highly distasteful,” said Hennepin County District Judge Jack Nordby. “The amount of bail should have nothing to do with the amount of the debt.”

If friends or family post a debtor’s bail, they can expect to kiss the money goodbye, because it often ends up with creditors, who routinely ask judges for the bail payment.

This does seem to be a bit shady – basically the law enforcement and judicial systems are being used as an extension of the debt collection agencies.   I’m sure the debt collectors will abuse this system since they’ve never been known for their fair debt collection practices.

How To Stay Out Of Jail For Your Debt

So how can you ensure that you’ll never end up on the wrong side of a jail cell door – especially if you have debt?

  • Don’t avoid bill collectors or warrants.
  • Make sure to read any documents you get from bill collectors or the courts.
  • If you get a summons and complaint, you are being sued. You must show up in court.
  • Respond promptly to a summons either denying or admitting to the debt.
  • Show up for all court hearings.

So to stay out of jail, follow up on your debts, and if you are being sued or given a court date – show up!  If you don’t you could end up losing by default, and have a warrant sworn out for your arrest.

What do you think about the ways that debt collectors are now using the law enforcement and judicial system to collect debts for them?  Do you think it is right? Should debtors be afforded more protections, or are they getting what they deserve? Should new laws be passed? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.


3 Ways To Be More Grateful This Christmas

Have you ever read the Little House on the Prairie books?

One Christmas, Laura and Mary each get their own shiny tin cup (they had previously had to share an old one), two sticks of candy, a small homemade cake, and a shiny, new penny.

They were excited beyond belief.

In our modern times, such a meager Christmas is unimaginable.

Each year the retail stores seem to ratchet up the consumerism, trying to get us to buy more and more; some stores even stay open on Christmas.

Many of us have fallen for this and feel an intense pressure to spend a large amount of money on the loved ones in our lives, but such pressure often makes Christmas feel like something to get through without going thousands of dollars into debt.  Because of our own expectations and others’, Christmas feels like a burden.

That’s not what Christmas is about.

Christmas is about giving and doing for others, but not at the expense of having to work overtime to buy more gifts or having to go into credit card debt so you don’t look cheap.

Why not bring back the meaning of Christmas and enjoy the holiday more starting this year?

Ways To Be More Grateful This Christmas

Ways To Be More Grateful This Christmas

Focus On the True Reason for the Season

The real reason we celebrate Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

This holiday season, why not find a few activities your family can do to focus on this?

Our family does many of the 30 recommended activities to keep Christ in Christmas.  Two that we do every year are to make a birthday cake for Jesus that we enjoy on Christmas Day and to decorate our tree only with purple ornaments during the Advent season.  (After Advent is over, we change out the decorations to more “fun” decorations as the kids say.)

Focus On Family Activities

Before the Christmas season arrives, consider sitting down with your children and telling them that Christmas this year will be focused more on giving than getting.

Ask them to consider some fun activities they’d like to do as a family this holiday season such as watching a holiday movie together, decorating the Christmas tree together, making holiday treats together, etc.

Also, consider asking each child to have one of their gifts be a family gift.

They could ask for a family membership to the local amusement park or a family membership to the local museum, or a small, weekend trip you could take together.

Focus On Appreciation And Gratitude

It’s easy to take family members for granted.

This holiday season, draw names from a hat, and each family member writes five to 10 things they appreciate about the person whose name they drew.  As you write the list, you’ll be more grateful for the person, and the person will feel more appreciated, as will you when you hear what someone has written about you.

In addition, decide how you’ll help others this holiday season.

You might make personal care kits filled with items like deodorant, soap, razors, etc. for the local shelter.  Or, you could pick a name off a Christmas tree at a local store or at your church and buy a gift for a child in need. You could volunteer at a soup kitchen.

Our family volunteers once a month at our church helping to make 200 sack lunches for the homeless, but in December, we’ll find some other activities to do also.

Helping others not only makes you feel good, but it also helps to make you grateful for all that you have.  That is a reminder all of us need from time to time.

I’m not saying don’t spend money this Christmas, but why not try to make Christmas more meaningful this year?

Why not focus on helping others and spending time together as a family rather than on the never-ending rat race of buying more and more and more gifts all the while feeling more frustrated and less satisfied this holiday season?

What do you do to bring the true meaning of Christmas into focus and to tune out the retailers pleas that you must spend more and more money?