Why you should focus on savings first

If you can make the minimum payments on your debts, personal loans, and credit cards each month but don’t have a sizable emergency fund, this might be the year to put debt repayment on the back burner temporarily and focus on emergency fund management first. While traditional financial advisors have suggested that customers focus on reducing debts first and savings seconds, new situations have turned that advice on its ear.

With credit card reform coming in 2010 and lenders still reeling from the economic downturn last year, it is getting harder and harder for customers without great credit to get loans and credit. Some companies are actually closing down credit cards. What this means is that if you do not have an emergency fund and you lose your job, you may not be able to secure payday loans or any other kind of loan and you cannot just rely on your credit card to act as emergency money. Now, you need an emergency fund and you need to make creating that fund a top priority.…

Should you save pennies or save big with bad credit?

For years, customers were being told that they could save money by saving on the little things – saving the cost of a coffee a day can add up to hundreds saved in a year. Now, however, consumers are being told the opposite. A few new financial books are recommending that customers should place their focus on large expenses – such as housing, cars, and credit card costs – to save big.

The thinking is that while you can save hundreds of dollars by scrimping on small expenses, you can easily save thousands of dollars or even tens of thousands of dollars by focusing on your biggest expenses. For example, getting rid of a car can save you thousands a year in car loans alone. Even if you keep that car but negotiate a better rate, pay in cash, buy a cheaper car or negotiate car costs you could easily end up savings thousands of dollars – with minimal time and no scrimping. Choosing a less expensive home or negotiating home closing costs can also save you tens of thousands of dollars.

Lenders know desperation and they usually get concerned when they see it in an applicant with bad credit. The time to apply for a credit card, personal loan, line of credit, or loan is when you are flush – not when you really need the money. When you are in a strong financial position, you will have the leisure to select the right lender for you and you will be able to shop around for a good interest rate because your finances are strong. If you don’t need money at once, you’ll also have the time to research loans and find the right one for you, apply, and wait for results.

When you wait until you need money, you may have no choice but a higher-cost payday loan. Traditional lenders may be wary of your financial situation and unwilling to give you cash and you simply may not have the time to research and apply for traditional loans. Build up your emergency fund, pay down the loans you have, repair your credit and apply for lines of credit and other forms of credit when you are doing well so that the money will be there for you if and when you need it.…

Finding the right tax preparer

Now that it’s income tax season, many people are wondering how they will get their taxes done on time. Your best two choices are: do it yourself or get a professional tax preparer to file your taxes on your behalf. If you choose to do it yourself, get a book that will guide you through the process or buy good quality software to help you file your taxes. One caveat: If you decide to use software, make sure your computer has up to date security systems as well as current patches for all your programs. You don’t want to be the victim of identity theft.

If you have a complex situation in terms of income or taxes, or if you don’t feel life doing your taxes yourself, find a good income tax preparer. Your friends and family might have someone they trust. Look for someone with expensive experience in the industry, a good track record with the Better Business Bureau and past customers, and a professional office or business. Find someone you feel comfortable with. If you have an unusual situation – you are self-employed, for example, or you invest in real estate as well as earn income – find someone with specific expertise in these areas.…