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Reduce your expenses by using Coupons

Many consumers are facing serious debt problems, where their day to day expenses simply can not be met, without cutting corners.  Interest rates on credit cards from basic purchases, such as kids clothing, and weekly trips to the supermarket and basic medication as well as an inability to meet basic heating, electric and phone bills are forcing many people into filing for bankruptcy.   Many consumers in debt have found a possible alternative to filing a bankruptcy is to cut costs, and doing so without cutting essential life necessities, such as you might be able to do at the grocery store, and drug store, through the use of a new concept called, “extreme couponing”.

There are no shortages of alleged “experts” out there who will tell you how to use coupons.  The concept of cutting coupons has really hit the main stream.  There is the Learning Channel’s Extreme Couponing show.  Recently, I was even watching CBS’s “Two Broke Girls” television show and they were making a joke about getting “free money” by using coupons.  However, the real trick seems to be not to buy things that you would not normally need or purchase, but to do so, when you have a coupon that makes it less expensive or even at no cost, which your family can actually use.

There are many ways that coupons can stretch disposable income.  For example, locating the highest savings and combining those discounts with in-store promotions.  Additionally, consumers who are using credit cards may want to consider limiting the use of certain cards and increasing the use of others with great rewards programs.  By combining these various saving strategies, a consumer can drastically reduce their monthly expenses and make their money go further.

The best way to learn to coupon effectively is to start perusing the Sunday news papers advertisement section for coupons, as well as reviewing a few of the many websites out there that allow you to print coupons for free.  However, you must go into it with realistic expectations.  It is unreasonable to expect to save 95% on your each coupon shopping trip, or even more absurd is expecting to make money while getting your food and other products for free.  However, you can get some great buys.  For example, let’s say you go to your local food market and they have a deal, buy two cans of soup normally $2.50 per can for the price of one.  You also have two coupons each for $1 off a can of soup.  You now can buy both cans of soup, normally for $5.00, but only spend $0.50 for both.   Taking this example even further, if the store has a double coupon policy, that could make your $1 off coupon worth $2.  In this rare example, you could actually get your soup, and then have enough money back to eat some cake too.

Finally, in order to save the most money and cut your spending as much as possible, you must be diligent and very detail oriented.  What I mean by this is, if a product rings up higher than advertised or the cashier misses one of your coupons, let them know, and make sure you get your deal.

By taking these and other cost cutting steps, it may even be possible to avoid having to file a bankruptcy, or at least put yourself in a better position once you come out of bankruptcy to stretch your income further then before.

 

The foregoing article was written by Michael Goldstein, aMassachusettsattorney who helps consumers with debt relief.

 

Top reasons to file bankruptcy

There are a multitude of reasons why a consumer may choose to file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection. Most of these are good reasons and by discussing your situation with a debt relief attorney who is licensed in your state, the bankruptcy will generally help relieve the financial stress or even protect against losing property. Below is a list of the top ten reasons that I, as a Massachusetts bankruptcy attorney, have found to drive people to file for protection pursuant to the Bankruptcy Code.

1. Credit card bills are out of control: Many people have found themselves in the unfortunate position of owing more money to their MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express then they will ever be able to pay back. This is not to say that the consumer was irresponsible or went on spending sprees. Many times it is due to outrageous interest rates or a temporary loss of income, which led to the need to use a credit card much more frequently then one traditionally would do so. If this is the case, all of that credit card debt would be considered unsecured and can be discharged in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case.

2. The loss of a job or severe illness – Similar to the #1 reason for filing a bankruptcy, the loss of a job or being sick for a prolonged period of time may be making it very difficult to stay current with normal living expenses. Unfortunately, an inability to pay household bills tends to lead to abuse or, at the very least, overuse of one’s credit cards.

3. Fallen behind with mortgage payments – In an economy as unstable as we are currently seeing, when a consumer looses a job or cannot earn money for a period of time very large bills, such as mortgage payments, tend to fall by the wayside. The problem is that, once you miss a couple of these payments, it is very difficult to catch up on your own. The bank, in fact, does not need to accept partial payments and can accelerate your mortgage and demand full payment if you miss even one month. A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy can save a consumer’s home if mortgage payments are in arrears. Under this chapter, a consumer can pay back missed payments stretched out over sixty (“60”) months, interest and penalty free. Often this option is far better then trying to modify a loan, where there is no guarantee. There is, however, one with a Chapter 13 repayment plan.

4. A foreclosure is scheduled – The natural consequence of falling too far behind on mortgage payments is that the bank can take a consumer’s home back, by selling it at a foreclosure sale. If a sale is scheduled, filing a bankruptcy will enact something called the automatic stay, which will stop a foreclosure sale dead in its tracks.

5. A repossession of a vehicle is scheduled – Just as the automatic stay, pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 362, will stop a foreclosure sale it will also stop a repossession of a car or any other collateralized property.

6. The value of a property is less then the mortgages owed – Many homeowners and investment property owners have found over the past few years that, as real estate values have declined, the fair market value of their properties is far less then that of their mortgages. In some situations, an equity line or second mortgage may be wholly unsecured, due to the fact that if a foreclosure sale ever did occur the bank would not get all of its money back. If this is the case, there is a provision in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which allows a debtor to strip an entire second mortgage from the property. If the property is an investment property, the debtor can cram down the value of the mortgage to its actual market value.

7. A loan modification was denied – Many consumers have found themselves in a bad situation due to attempting loan modifications. Often times they have been advised to stop making mortgage payments so that a loan modification can go through. Additionally, home owners who were in trial plans but were subsequently denied have been told that, due to their lower temporary payment, they are now in default. If this has occurred, the Chapter 13 reorganization plan will allow the homeowner to catch up over time.

8. More time is needed to negotiate with a mortgage company – In some situations, homeowners have fallen behind a significant amount and are trying to workout a loan modification; however, the process is taking too long and a foreclosure sale is scheduled. If this is the case, filing a bankruptcy and enacting the automatic stay is enough to buy the additional time to complete the modification.

9. A divorce has increased debt load while decreasing income – Just as when a consumer loses a job or becomes sick, when two people get divorced household income tends to decrease substantially. In addition to this, often times the total debt load is not separated equally, and one spouse cannot pay everything alone.

10. Remove a lien or attachment from your real estate – Just as a second mortgage or equity line can be stripped off a property as secured, a judicial lien can also be stripped from the real estate if it can be proven that no equity exists in the property to satisfy the lien.

The forgoing top ten list was drafted by Attorney Michael Goldstein, who practices debt relief and bankruptcy law in Massachusetts.