Summer Vacations Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

person-1281761_960_720

We all look forward to summer vacation but sometimes worry about the cost. Particularly if you’ve had a spate of unexpected bills we can end up feeling a little depleted of funds. There are though some great summer vacation ideas that won’t break the bank. Try a few of these suggestions.

Try a staycation

Often overlooked when considering alternative summer vacation ideas is the so called staycation. The staycation involves, as you would imagine, staying at home for a week or so and trying out all the local or nearby attractions. It’s amazing how many great attractions there are right on your doorstep, from water parks to dinosaur museums to local festivals which are common throughout the summer months. The activities you can do on a staycation are really only limited by your imagination. You’ll see your area completely differently on a staycation.

Go on a cruise

This suggestion may at first not seem a cheap option, but the amount of fantastic deals you can find on a cruise holiday can be quite surprising even shocking if you’ve always assumed cruising is the preserve of the rich and famous. If you book at the right time some real bargains are there just begging to be picked up, and the great thing about a cruise is that all your accommodation and food needs are taken care of in the price. You may have to pay extra for alcoholic drinks, but even so there are many package options when on board that will save you money. Remember, too, that cruise ships provide great on board entertainment, which will save you money when keeping the family entertained. 

A road trip that doesn’t cost the earth

A road trip doesn’t have to be long and expensive to be fun, and what better way to feel that sense of freedom than taking a road trip? With careful planning, perhaps arranging to stay with family or friends, or maybe camping as you go, you can save plenty of money. If you insist on staying in hotels on your short adventure, planning ahead will mean you can get the best deals when it comes to budget accommodation en route.

Beneath the canvas 

What better way to get back to nature than camping? National and provincial parks usually have plenty of options for setting up camp and there are plenty of activities, too. Everything from swimming, cycling, star gazing away from city lights, and of course barbecuing, all can be great fun and cost very little. There’s no doubt, camping vacations will leave you some treasured memories. 

Go last minute

Not to be overlooked is the good old last minute vacation. You can grab some real bargains if you’re prepared to drop everything last minute and are flexible about destinations. Check out various websites that deal with last minute bargain vacations and you could be jetting off to foreign climes much sooner and more cheaply than you thought possible. You might even find all inclusive options which work out to an even better value for your money.

Away for the weekend

A well planned weekend getaway can be just as rewarding as a two week vacation. Again, last minute bookings can see some real bargains. Whether it be relaxing in a spa hotel or perhaps a cabin overlooking the lake, flexibility could see you saving up to 50% of the original price.

No doubt there are other ideas you can think of when it comes to summer vacation ideas that won’t break the bank. Applying one of these tried and tested suggestions could be just what you need to create treasured memories for years to come.

There are plenty of easy ways to save money even if you’re on a tight budget.  But if you need some extra help with personal budgeting or credit counselling, contact Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada today.

How To Stop Collection Calls

17744-business-man-holding-a-cell-phone-pv

Collection calls are annoying, especially if your financial situation hasn’t changed since the last call. Although the rules vary between provinces, legally, collection agencies have the right to contact you regarding a legitimate debt. They are prohibited from using threatening language, becoming abusive, contacting your employer except for employment verification, or calling during specified hours. According to Canadian statute, collection agencies cannot “make frequent calls that constitute harassment,” however their calls are unfailingly systematic, unwanted, and aggravating. Following are three ways to stop collection calls.

  1. Cease and Desist Letter

In Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, and Nova Scotia, consumers can legally request that debt collectors stop phoning you at your home. A cease and desist letter can be written by anyone in Canada that is being aggressively pursued by a debt collector. Cease and desist letters demand that the agency stop the phone calls, and continue communication only in writing. Consumers should make sure to keep a copy of the letter for their records, and send the correspondence by certified or registered mail.  Difficulties may arise for the consumer once the cease and desist letter has been received by the collection agency. These difficulties may include instigation of legal action to collect the debt, or the agency may allow the account to simply charge-off which will damage the customer’s credit for years to come.

  1. Pay off Debt

Dealing with the debt is the best option to stop the collection calls. In many situations, paying off the debt in full is not possible. In this scenario, talk to the collection agency about a payment arrangement to repay the debt that does not compromise paying your other debts and living expenses. For all payment arrangements made:

  • Follow up all arrangements in writing, and when possible, enclose an initial good faith payment
  • Never send cash
  • Get a receipt for all payments
  • Deal only with the collection agency and do not contact the original creditor
  1. Debt Management Solutions

If no acceptable solution is available with the collection agency, a debt management program can help. Be forewarned that not all debt management programs are legitimate. Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada, Inc. (CCSAC) is a registered non-profit organization that helps individuals in Atlantic Canada negotiate lower payments and interest terms. Paying back debts is structured around the person’s ability to pay. The counselling service contacts the creditors on your behalf and details the payment schedule. Once an agreement has been made, collection agencies are asked to stop, or lower interest, for the length of the payment process. They are also asked to contact the Credit Counselling Services, instead of the debtor, with any questions or difficulties. Clients pay a single monthly deposit to the debt management program that is then distributed to creditors.

Credit counselling can stop the collection agency calls, help you manage and eliminate debts, and avoid bankruptcy. If you are getting calls from collection agencies, and need some advice, contact us today.

How Do Payday Loans Work?

PayDay Loans

Sometimes emergencies come up; your car breaks down, the roof or other part of your house needs to be repaired, or there is a medical emergency. The funds to take care of such problems may not always be at hand. In such situations, many people opt to take out payday loans.

How payday loans work in Canada

Payday loans are short-term loans that are taken out to get through a rough spot. They are so called because typically they are paid back on the next pay day. While they can be helpful, there are disadvantages to them. The loan amount is often modest (a few hundred dollars), and they are payable in periods of two weeks to one month. You will write a postdated refund check for the amount you are borrowing plus a loan fee. You will leave the postdated check with the lender and they will cash it on the day indicated on it, which will be within a few weeks to a month. If for one reason or another, you are unable to repay your loan, you can roll it over by asking for an extension. You will essentially be buying more time because the fees payable will keep accumulating.

The real cost of a payday loan 

A payday loan is really one of the most expensive loan options. It actually attracts interest in the form of annual percentage rate (APR) in the range of several hundred percent. For instance, to borrow $100 for two weeks, you will have to pay back an additional $20 in interest. Using online calculators to see just how much a payday loan will actually cost you is helpful. With these very high fees, payday loans don’t really help you to solve your financial problems. Instead, they make things worse because you will most likely be unable to repay the loan plus fees on time, have no choice but to roll it over, and you will have entered a debt cycle that will be very difficult to break out of. You will either accumulate a huge amount of debt because of the rollover fees or have to borrow elsewhere to pay the loan which keeps you in a debt cycle. A bouncing check that you write to a payday loan lender may end up on your credit record and perhaps attract overdraft charges from your bank.

Get back on track

Payday loans are helpful when you only use them once or twice in your life but when they become a survival strategy, they leave you worse off than you were at the beginning. The long-term solution is to make a commitment to getting back on the right financial track.

Walk with Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada (CCSAC)

If you find yourself in a situation where you are swimming in debt and can’t see a way out, we will show you the way.  We believe that the first step to getting out of debt is education. CCSAC will equip you with the tools and skills you need for effective money management. At the end of your journey, you will be saving money, investing, and financial freedom will be within your reach.

Filing for Bankruptcy: Know Your Alternatives

Feel free to use this image, just link to www.SeniorLiving.Org This photo I expressed the current trend in the US. Tighten you belt. I am spending a lot of time with my pigs.

Filing for bankruptcy is often a last resort for those trying to take control of their finances. Depending on your financial situation, filing for bankruptcy may or may not help you. For instance, bankruptcy excludes secured debts like vehicles and mortgages. It also excludes student loans that are less than seven years old and any back alimony and child support. If you have credit card bills that you recently racked up, filing for bankruptcy may not help you get back on track.

Bankruptcy Alternatives
After reading the worst case scenarios, you may be thinking that an alternative to filing for bankruptcy is the best option for you. The available alternatives depends on your financial situation. However, one or more of the alternatives may work for you.

Filing a Consumer Proposal
A consumer proposal is arranged by a trustee. You make your required monthly payments on the debts that you owe. Your creditors do have the option to disagree or agree with your proposal.

Debt Settlement
To settle your debt means that your creditors receive a lump sum of money. Typically, a credit counsellor will negotiate with the creditor on a specific amount for you to pay. Let’s say you owe a credit card company $1,300. Your credit counsellor would talk with the company’s representative and negotiate a lower payment such as $750 or $1,000. The lump sum amount is generally lower than the total amount you owed. Your counsellor would negotiate a debt settlement with each of your creditors.

Debt Consolidation Plan
A debt consolidation plan is actually a loan. All of your debts are added together. This is the amount you need to eliminate all of your debts. A bank lender will give you a loan for that amount. The new loan would pay off all your creditors. In exchange for the loan, you would make one payment each month to the lender.

Consolidated Debt Management Plan

Instead of taking out a loan and dealing with a new creditor, many people decide to pursue a debt management plan. This does not involve taking out a loan. All of your bills and other debts are added together, or consolidated. Creditors working with your crediting counselling organization will provide some discount. This may be waiving interest charges while you are making payments. It may also include lowering your interest rate to make it easier to continue your payments.

How to Decide Which Bankruptcy Alternative is Best for You
Of course the answer depends on your financial situation. Filing for bankruptcy or choosing a bankruptcy alternative requires the help of a credit counsellor. A counsellor will:
• Answer your questions and explain what you should know about filing for bankruptcy or dealing with debts.
• Look over debts and bills.
• Inform you of all of your bankruptcy alternatives.
• Show you how to avoid getting in an overwhelming financial situation by budgeting and managing your living costs.
• Refer you to bankruptcy if filing for bankruptcy is your best option.

You are ready for a financial fresh start. Sometimes filing for bankruptcy isn’t your best option.  Like most Canadians you want to pay your creditors off. There are options available to help you do that. Contact Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada for assistance with paying off your debts.

 

3 Reasons Consumer Credit Counselling Works

Reasons Consumer Credit Counseling Works

Consumer credit counselling involves educating consumers on managing their finances. Consumers are learn how to avoid or get out of debt, how to create wealth and how to achieve financial freedom and prosperity. The goal is to help them get over financial difficulties through budget counselling, enrolling them in debt management programs and keeping them on the right financial track once they are debt-free.

There are different types of counselling services. One client may need help with making the most of their finances to be able to acquire assets while another may need help because they are on the verge of bankruptcy. The help that is given depends on the particular circumstances a client is facing.

There are three reasons why consumer credit counselling works: 

It saves time, money and credit scores

By the time a client seeks consumer credit counselling, they are in some form of financial crisis. In these cases, time is money. With every passing day, the problem gets worse as credit card balances accumulate interest daily and creditors keep calling and perhaps consider taking legal measures to recover what is owed to them. In essence, credit counselling stops the clock ticking through the solutions that are prescribed and measures that are taken to implement them. A credit counselling company can put a client into a debt management program, like debt consolidation or filing a Consumer Proposal, to give them more time to pay back what they owe based on what they can afford. With such measures in place, a client can see the end of the tunnel in terms of being free from debt. It will also stop creditors from taking legal measures which leave a long-standing dent on a client’s credit history and score.

Dealing with creditors

Before creditors come calling, a period of time will have elapsed during which they will have sent more than a few reminder letters, emails and perhaps calls and messages. When creditors still don’t see their money, they come calling at your door and become more aggressive. At that time, things will most likely be out of hand. Another reason that consumer credit counselling works is that it takes off the immense pressure of dealing with creditors. Counselling will involve enrolling a client in a debt management program which will have the counselling company deal with creditors directly.

It presents unknown options 

There are options that consumer credit counselling can present that you didn’t know about such as debt consolidation and debt settlement services. Those who need help to get out of debt may be considering declaring bankruptcy because they don’t know that there are other options, such as having the counselling company renegotiate a new payment plan. The company can also negotiate having interest owed reduced or eliminated altogether. Counselling can also present a client with options they might not have considered through personal budgeting education and educational seminars on managing finances to remain debt-free and achieve financial freedom.

The best service

There are different consumer credit counselling companies and each operates differently. Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada (CCSAC) has built a reputation as the credit counselling company of choice. Since 1994, Canadian families and individuals have found and maintained their financial footing with the help of CCSAC. Counselling is done by certified counsellors who will serve everyone who needs their help. Contact a CCSAC counsellor via chat, phone, email or a face-to-face consultation and get a customized solution that will guide you to achieving your full potential.

 

Is your debt stress causing health problems?

debt stress

Debt is one of the most stressful aspects of modern life. In many cases it is not something you chose, or simply the result of a bad decision. It may have been unavoidable. No matter what the cause or the outside circumstances that lead to it, debt is very stressful. There comes a point where your debt stress may actually start causing health problems. The most common health problems caused by debt stress relate to depression or other psychological issues. Here are some ways debt stress can affect your health and signs to look out for.

Changes In Behavior Or Worldview

One of the first signs that debt is starting to affect your health is changes in your day to day behavior or world view. When your behavior starts to change, and your view of the world with it, this can be a sign of stress and possibly depression. Taking a negative view of the world when you were normally positive is a common symptom. Also, no longer taking joy in activities you once did is a rather common sign of a depressive condition. An overall negative view of the world and an increase in negative traits such as anxiety, stress and being temperamental are commonly triggered by stress.

Feeling Trapped

When you have debt you often will start to second guess yourself. Everything takes on a monetary value and you start to question if you can afford anything except the bare essentials. The natural response to stress or remove the stressor from your environment. However, this often takes time when it comes to debt stress, and living only on the bare minimum can have a serious impact on the quality of your life. Aside from feeling stressed because you feel the need to keep track of every expense (no matter how minor) in time you may wonder what’s the point anymore. You may feel that no matter how careful you are there is no way to eliminate the underlying debt issue. Such hopeless can develop into depression if unchecked.

Lack Of Sleep

Stress and anxiety lead to lack of sleep. This results in a feedback loop where you can be very aware that your stress is causing you to lose valuable rest, which in turn makes you more upset. Lack of sleep only further exacerbates your condition and only increases in stress and overall negative feelings. Continued stress can lead to insomnia which has a highly negative impact on your overall mental health. Much like the other listed symptoms the root cause is feeling a lack of control over your financial situation and do not see any way to fix it.

As you can see debt related stress can be far more than a mere annoyance. It can cause you undue psychological stress and can even lead to depression. However, you don’t need to handle your debts alone. Professionals are here to help and can assist in debt management and help you get your debts paid off. This not only results in healthier finances but in a healthier mind as well. Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada has been helping people just like you for many years. If you need help managing your debts call or contact them today.

3 Common Debt Problems

common debt problems

Debt is a problem facing many Canadians. Debt problems can have many root causes and no two people have the exact same situations. However, there are many broad areas that are common causes of debt problems. If you’re having issues with debt it is important to address the root causes of the situation before trying to find a solution. Here are three common debt problems and what to do if you need assistance.

Credit Cards

When you think of debt, credit cards are one of the first things you may think of. Credit card debt is a subtler form of debt as the money you owe slowly builds up over time. Therefore, it’s very easy to end up owing a great deal of money through simple bad spending habits. These bad habits don’t have to be particularly egregious ones either. Eating too much take out, getting too many drive through coffees, or buying clothing a bit more expensive then you can afford can slowly but surely add up. Where credit cards become a burden is that interest rates take up part of each monthly payment and the more you owe the more this ends up being. Only through careful spending habits and consistent payments can you hope to pay down a credit card debt.

Buying A Home

A home is one of the most important expenses on your budget. Where it can become a debt issue is when you’re buying a home. Buying a home is a long term proposition and, unless you’re independently wealthy, one that will take you a long time to follow through on. The problem is that life often gets in the way of even the best plans. Losing a job, having a decrease in income or even unexpected expenses can quickly lead to situations where paying your monthly mortgage becomes an issue. The underlying problem may not be the mortgage itself but the fact that outside events have harmed your ability to pay it. However, through careful planning and review of your income and expenses, along with possible assistance from your bank, mortgage debt can be brought under control.

Student Loans

According to CBC news the average post-secondary graduate owes $25,000 in student loans. Student loans (while essential to furthering your education) sadly start you off in the job market post-graduation with a large amount of debt. Such debt can endure for many years and prove difficult to pay off without careful planning. Defaults and several years passing without much headway made on the loan principal are not uncommon for many graduates. However, student loans, despite not being credit card debt, are alike in that they can be paid off with careful planning and money management. With a nuanced approach and a careful payment plan you can pay off your student loans.

When You Need Help

Getting out of debt isn’t something you have to do on your own. As the above examples show, many people just like you end up in debt even with the best intentions. Debt counselling services can help you get your debt under control and help you pay it down. If you have debt problems and are having difficulty getting them resolved contact a professional today for assistance.

 

5 Ways To Reduce Credit Card Debt

reduce credit card debt

According to a recent credit report issued by Equifax Canada, consumer debt in Canada stood at $1.529 trillion as at the end of 2014, a rise of 7.7% from $1.42 trillion in 2013. This consumer debt was primarily acquired through credit cards.

The numbers when it comes to credit card debt in Canada are a cautionary tale. There is an urgent need to take steps to reduce personal credit card debt. The following five steps will help you to do so:

Start with one  

Choose one credit card to pay off first depending on your short-term goals. If the goal it to pay off one card completely, start with one that has the lowest balance while keeping up with minimum payments on your other cards. If your goal is to boost your credit score, start with the one with the highest utilization rate. You can arrive at this rate by dividing the balance on it by the card’s limit. Your credit score takes a hit every time you use over 20% of your available balance, so reducing the utilization rate by even 20% could increase your credit score significantly. If your goal is to reduce credit card interest, pay off the one that attracts the highest interest first.

Apply for reduced interest rates

Sometimes, a phone call is enough to have your credit card interest rate reduced if your credit score is good which would be a score of 730 or higher. Long-time customers who pay on time can also get their interest rate reduced by a percentage point or two. This seemingly small margin can add up to an annual saving of hundreds of dollars.

Transfer your balance but exercise caution

Transferring your credit card balance can save you hundreds of dollars a year, but only if you make a commitment to paying off what you owe within an introductory window during which low interest rates are applied. Should this window close before you have cleared your balance, the interest rate will go up and you may end up owing more than you did to the company you transferred from. You will also need to avoid swiping this new card because low interest may not apply to new balances or purchases. You should also know that you may be charged a balance transfer fee of about 3 to 4% of the total transfer amount.

Make use of a peer-to-peer lender

Rather than swipe your credit card, explore the option of peer-to-peer lending. The way this works is that you go to websites where the service is offered and you take a loan with fixed interest rates that beat those of credit card companies by 20 to 30%. If you have a stable source of income and good credit score, you can borrow more than $25,000 at reduced rates.

Make at least two minimum payments every month

Credit card companies usually charge interest daily so the sooner you make a payment towards your credit card debt the better because you reduce your average daily balance and the interest it accumulates. Even on a tight budget, pay the monthly minimum and try to do so again in two weeks until you pay off the debt completely.

Need a hand?

If you are drowning in debt, call on Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Company (CCSAC) for credit counselling and debt management services. Talk to a certified counsellor and become debt-free.

 

Easy Ways to Save Money on Everyday Expenses

Save Money on Everyday ExpensesSometimes you just need to find a little extra money in your budget.  Maybe you want to pay off debt, establish an emergency fund, or just purchase a special gift.  Don’t worry!  There are plenty of easy ways to save money on everyday expenses in almost every area of your life.  Adding just a couple of these strategies can be a big help.

Saving money on food

According to government statistics, the average Canadian family spends close to $6,000 a year on groceries.  If you want to cut that figure a little, there are many ways to do so.  Saving a little money here can really add up fast.

  • Use coupons – They are easily available online, through phone apps, and in newspapers and magazines.  Use them when an item is on sale or with other discounts to save even more.
  • Buy store brands or generic – A lot of the price difference for name brand products accounts for advertising.  Store brands are often just as good and many are packaged by the major food producers.
  • Eat a few vegetarian or vegan meals.
  • Avoid fast food – Dining out is expensive, especially if you have a family.  It’s cheaper and healthier to eat at home.

Easy ways to save money on clothes

Clothing purchases are often seasonal, but may require a large amount of money all at once.  Here are a few ways to make it a little more budget friendly.

  • Used clothing that is in good shape – This is especially good for kids’ clothing or special occasion clothes you are unlikely to wear more than a couple of times.  Friends and family, garage sales, thrift stores, and consignment shops are all good sources.
  • Shop the clearance rack – Seasonal items like winter coats or summer clothes can often be found for huge discounts toward the end of the season.  If you know you’ll need it for next year, buy it ahead of time for a much better price.
  • Shop discount stores – For items that are replaced frequently, like socks, there may not be much of a quality difference.  If you are really in need of something, the cheaper prices can be a big help.
  • Shop sales – Find out when the items you need are cheapest and spread out your purchases a little.  For example, jeans are often at their lowest prices of the year during back to school sales, watch the ads and buy then.

Other easy ways to save money

  • Take public transportation – It’s cheaper than buying a car and then paying for car insurance and parking.  It’s also a good temporary option if you are trying to save for a car.
  • Get a bike – Faster than walking and cheaper than the bus, a bike can be a convenient solution in urban areas during warmer months.  It’s also good exercise!
  • Tackle a DIY project – Many basic home maintenance and repair tasks are well within the capabilities of the average person with good instructions and proper tools.  Start small and do your research if you are inexperienced.
  • Make your own décor items – Consider making curtains, pillows, or a piece of decorative art.  If you’re really adventurous, you can even make your own furniture.  There are plenty of online tutorials for just about any kind of project and most require only basic crafting or sewing skills.

There are plenty of easy ways to save money even if you’re on a tight budget.  But if you need some extra help with personal budgeting or credit counselling, contact Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada today.

Talk About Money – It Just Makes Cent$: Talking Intimately

BY: JENNIFER CLEATORmoney and relationships - financial literacy month

Money or rather the perception of money is symbolic. It represents how we perceive our place in our world, our sense of self-worth, and feeling of accomplishment (or not). It is a ruler against which we measure our success or failure against those around us. We size people up based on their possessions – the size and location of their house (and whether they own a house), the type of car they drive (provided they own a car), where they vacation, or the type and brand of clothes they wear. These judgements give us a false sense of power.  In order to avoid the judgements of others, we place the knowledge or our personal position behind the wall. Money and financial well-being becomes the most intimate and personal knowledge in our lives. As a result of our mask, money offers a unique, rarely seen, window into our personalities.

Money is emotional. It is a proxy for other unresolved issues. Among families, money often becomes a trigger. Feelings of love or rejection can be attached to these discussions with money representing the hopes and dreams of marriages and parent/child relationships. Love is intimate, making our relationship with money very intimate. Increasingly, society is more willing to talk about sex than money. In doing so, the sex and love equation becomes uncoupled and sex is replaced by money.

With all that intimacy, can you blame anybody for not wanting to talk about money? We carry the lessons we witnessed in our childhood into our adult lives and in doing so, we drag the emotional baggage along with us – this is problematic. If we don’t unravel the baggage and if we don’t start talking about money, we will never untangle the messiness that is entrenched in our relationship with money. If no one is talks about it we have no way of knowing what beliefs and behaviors will influence our future for the better.

Start Talking! Remember:

Others Feel the Same Way. People often keep their mouths shut about money because they feel alone and scared. If you know that virtually everyone else you see on the street is thinking and feeling the same thing, perhaps you will not be so restrained.

Silence Hurts You.  We benignly procrastinate having the hard conversations in life. We will get to it all eventually. Instead, we should think of silence as damaging the quality of our lives. Without attention, money problems only tend to get bigger. If money is one of the largest representations of intimacy, withholding the money talk enables a loss of intimacy.

Silence Hurts Others. If you clam up about cash, pause for a moment and think about the longer-term effects. Whether you intend it or not, your position and behaviour impacts your family. If you are a parent, you are likely to pass your traits down to your kids, who might turn pass them to their kids. If you are a parent and you are not having money conversations with your kids, you are handicapping the next generation of savers and investors.

You Can Ask For Help. Even if you never talk about money and would not even know where to start, people who deal with this stuff for a living can help you start the conversation. If you want to learn to play a musical instrument well, you would get a tutor – the same should be said about money. Once you start talking about money, you will realize it’s not as scary as you thought.