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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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#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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According to the Balance, 133.7 million Americans went shopping on Black Friday weekend in 2014 and spent a total of $50.9 billion. Stores count on bringing in at least 30% of their annual sales just between Thanksgiving and Christmas, making you the apple of thousands of marketer’s eyes.

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Many cannot imagine living in the modern world of electronic commerce without the use of a credit card. Because of that, I see couples that basically manage their entire budget around keeping their credit card balances paid down enough to stay out of hot water.

Did you know that if you carry a large monthly balance on your credit card and pay only the minimum monthly payments, you are actually creating a debt more expensive than your home mortgage? None of us would ever order pizza knowing we would be paying for it over the next 25 years, would we? 

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Originially posted on the Christian Post on October 21.

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