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What are your plans for Valentine's Day?

Valentine’s Day can be an expensive day! Last year an estimated $19 billion was spent on this man-made holiday. As people who desire to steward well, yet show our love, we can find budget-friendly, creative alternatives to honor those we hold dear.

So here is my advice for not breaking the bank to honor your love:

  • Instead of going out, try cooking new recipes together.
  • Support a local coffee shop and try some new flavors.
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Being threatened by a debt collector is no joke. Do you know your rights?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently reported than 1 in 4 consumers felt threatened when contacted by debt collectors. They experience collectors calling too often, at odd hours, and warnings of jail time and other frightening threats. Some were being hounded for debts they did not even owe! Many complained that the collectors ignored requests to stop contacting them.

Sarah Skidmore Sell, of the Associated Press says that although the Bureau is working on stopping abuse, there are some things you need to know.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects those being pursued for personal debts on a credit card, auto loan or mortgage. Business debt is not covered.

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Help! I'm caught between church and credit cards

Originally posted on the Christian Post on February 3.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

 

Dear Chuck,

I need some help. I am a 50 year-old widow with a teenager at home, and I’m using credit cards to survive, drowning in late fees. I am over extended and miserable. My income cannot support my obligations so I decided to find a part-time job in the evenings and weekends. But now I am taken away from my weekly involvement and support system in church, leaving me very unhappy. Still, I don't have any other way of paying off these credit cards. What should I do? Please help.

Struggling Widow

 

Dear Widow,

My team and I will pray for you as you and your child go forward in life. Please know you can contact us for more personal help.

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We are two weeks into a new year. Are you discouraged by the state of your financial affairs?

ZeroHedge.com recently revealed the states where consumers accumulated the greatest revolving debt. Hopefully, you were not among those who woke up regretting the addition of thousands of dollars to your credit cards over the holidays (at a 30% interest rate nonetheless).

Minnesota and Wisconsin dominate the list of cities with the top 10 best credit scores, while cities in California, Texas, and Louisiana account for 8 out of 10 of the worst scores.

According to MarketWatch, the average family in the worst states would be required to apply 15% of their median income toward debt repayment and it will take them over a year and a half to pay off their credit card debt.

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Thinking about buying a home? You may not want to wait until next year.

You may think December is too busy to consider house hunting, but expert Robyn Woodman at Trulia.com explains that lower buyer competition, motivated sellers, and year-end tax benefits are good reasons to make a purchase now.

If you are in the market, it may be worth taking a vacation day to work with a realtor who probably has more time available for showings. 

Homes are priced to sell in December because there are fewer active buyers. You may get to avoid multiple offers, bidding wars and escalator clauses.

For a home to be on the market in December there may be a need to sell due to a job relocation, financial hardship or personal change of circumstance. It gives you the opportunity to negotiate a price and closing date that works for you.

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I think gift cards are a bad idea for a Christmas present

Here are my top four reasons I don’t think unrequested gift cards are a good idea:  

#1 – Ever wonder why you see racks of gift cards at every grocery store and retail store?  Studies show that between 20 to 25% of those that receive them never use them.  In other words, the stores make a fortune knowing the cards are likely to go unused due to loss or forgetfulness.

#2. They are not the same as cash. If you get a $25 gift card and only spend $23 – you will have a balance of $2 on your card. These small, unused balances are likely to never get used.

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Want to celebrate Christmas without blowing your hard-earned savings? Today, some tips for a Christmas without the financial stress.

First of all, protect yourself from advertising overload. Companies know how to play on our emotions to get us to purchase their products. Rather, pray for legacy-building ideas that don’t require money. Intentionally plan a stress-free holiday that allows you to focus on Christ, the best gift of all.

What do you have? Think about it! Time, talent, and training cannot be underestimated!

Give of your possessions. Pass down things that can be treasured by others. Take note of what your children or friends especially like in your home.

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Be on high alert for scams!

Unfortunately, this wonderful time of year is when scammers attempt to prey on shoppers.

The Better Business Bureau publishes a list of the Top 12 Scams of Christmas. Here are a few to keep in mind.

Fake charities: The holidays create a great opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to fill their own pockets. Beware of solicitations from charities that cannot deliver on their promises or pretend to be representing victims that do not really exist.

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Today, some tips to avoid ID theft combined with some good news

The number of people who reported being victims of identity theft in affidavits to the IRS has “fallen dramatically” this year, according to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

“Through the first nine months of this year, that number is down by more than 50 percent,” he said in a press call, adding that there are about 275,000 fewer identity theft victims than there were a year ago.

Fighting ID theft has been one of the IRS’s top priorities in recent years.

In the first nine months of 2016, the IRS’s systems stopped more than $4 billion in fraudulent refunds from identity thieves. Almost 500,000 fewer tax returns were stopped this year than in the same period last year, and the commissioner said this is because it has become more difficult for criminals to file fraudulent tax returns as a result of efforts by the software industry.

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Have you started saving $1,000 yet?

My challenge to you is to escape the trap that nearly 70% of Americans are in: Living with less than $1,000 in savings! Here are a few more tips to find that $1,000 and put it away for future emergencies.

How about that cable TV bill? I have friends who spend more than $100 per month for their cable TV package. If you cut the cable you can easily find $600 in savings to put away. 

Your mobile phone is likely a place to save lots of money. Consider going to a non-smart phone to stop paying for all the data expenses. Possibly go to a simpler contract to limit your use to what is necessary. Getting the kids a flip phone vs. a smart phone is another place to save money.

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