credit card and moneyNo, you’re not imagining it—just as everyone in the country is more strapped for cash, lenders have been raising interest rates and fees on credit cards. Miss a payment and your interest rate could rocket to 30 percent; continue to carry a balance and you could be slapped with a $10 charge.

That’s bad news in the best of times; if you’ve been laid off, those are extras you simply can’t afford.

We’ve already shared the latest and greatest information on handling your mortgage, especially if you’re in a financial crisis. Here’s the most current advice on controlling your credit card debt. Get out before you become a victim of what some see as the next wave of the economic downturn.

Dealing with Debt: Mortgages

by Sara Clemence on February 25, 2009 in Money

red houses in circleIn this economy, things change fast. One day you have job, the next you don’t. Companies fold within days. Investments evaporate.

In a recent story about how to handle a layoff, we suggested that you take a look at your finances—particularly what you owe—so that you can start planning. But that actually holds true for everyone these days.

Most of us have some sort of debt. And even if you have a job, the bonus you normally rely on to pay off credit card bills has probably shrunk or vanished. Freelancers and consultants still have student loan obligations, even as their gigs are being cut. Many people are taking salary reductions, but continue to carry mortgages. And just how secure is your job, anyway?

Meanwhile, as credit markets shift at lightning speed, it’s not easy to find up-to-date information. So we’re doing it for you, compiling the most current advice on managing debt, starting with mortgages.

phoneI used to complain that my parents never taught me how to negotiate for a pay raise. Turns out, that wasn’t my only knowledge gap—nobody told me how to navigate a pay elimination. I’m not just talking about what to do with the severance papers and your 401 (k), but how to feel like the world hasn’t been turned inside-out. Here’s my hard-won advice for the first hours, days, and weeks after a layoff.

Call the most sympathetic person in your life. This may or may not be your mother. Save anyone who is prone to freakouts for later in the day—or year. (My grandfather thinks it’s my fault I got laid off, which is one reason I’ve been “too busy” to visit.) Call the person who is going to listen, commiserate, stroke your ego, and think no less of you if you cry. That last part goes double if you’re a dude.

Simple Ticket Savings

by Sara Clemence on February 17, 2009 in Money

admission ticketsKiplinger’s just released a story on how to easily save $50 a day, or a total of $18,250 a year. It won’t change your life–several of the tips we’ve heard before (like buying energy-efficient light bulbs); many others don’t apply to urban dwellers who take a lot of public transportation and don’t eat at Cheesecake Factory.

But this one about event tickets was a pleasant surprise.

Read more…

Downturn Deals: Sacco Shoes

by Laura Rich on February 5, 2009 in Money

shoesWe wander past signs like this all day long. Some of them are more surprising than others. This one definitely caught our eye and, we must admit, caused a wee bit of secret delight.

What is the deal? Shoes and boots are 50 percent off prices well below normal levels.
Read more…


Money’s tight. So every penny counts when you’re on the road…

Psst. You may be incurring up to 3% in currency-conversion fees when you travel abroad every time you use your credit card. In recent years, banks have started piling fees right on top of the standard 1% fee that Visa and MasterCard charge for foreign purchases. Why? Because they think you’re too jet-lagged to notice.

bubbleWelcome to the Bubblesphere, ’09. Remember the signs? Irrational exuberance. Excessive risk-taking. You’d think we’d learn our lesson, but it’s tricky to see a bubble until it pops. Nobody has a crystal ball, but there are indications that these five potential bubbles may soon deflate in dramatic fashion.

crash-proofPeter D. Schiff deserves a gold medal, while most of us deserve a dunce cap. Schiff, an economic commentator and stockbroker, was once dubbed “Mr. Doom” and “Chicken Little” by the media for his dire warnings about the real estate bubble and the shaky state of the American economy.