Cheapskate Monthly: Debt-Proof Your Holidays


Enjoy a holiday to cherish— without breaking your budget!

If the holidays bring you a little something you don't want— debt!— stop worrying! The most famous cheapskate in the world, Mary Hunt, is here to help. With wisdom, wit, and fabulous money-saving secrets, she delivers family fun without spending a fortune. So put away your credit card and feel the joy of the season without money headaches.

Discover how to:

* Beautifully decorate your ...

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Enjoy a holiday to cherish— without breaking your budget!

If the holidays bring you a little something you don't want— debt!— stop worrying! The most famous cheapskate in the world, Mary Hunt, is here to help. With wisdom, wit, and fabulous money-saving secrets, she delivers family fun without spending a fortune. So put away your credit card and feel the joy of the season without money headaches.

Discover how to:

* Beautifully decorate your home with materials that cost pennies...or nothing at all

* Wrap in original, fun, and appealing ways without expensive store-bought paper and ribbons

* Create gifts that are truly special, and appreciated more than a store-bought item

* Purchase a "must-have" present without using credit

* Prepare a feast with mouthwatering money-saving recipes

* Capture the laughter and love of the holidays with free activities for the whole family

* Change unwritten gift-giving (and card-sending) rules into exchanges that are based on caring...not dollar bills

Plus, you'll get the best reader's letters and most-requested columns from The Cheapskate Monthly on how to have a new year with your bills paid in full!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312963903
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/1997
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Hunt is a self-avowed reformed spendthrift and credit-card junkie. When she and her family of four found themselves in $100,000 in debt and her husband suddenly lost his job, it was time to tighten the belt.

Refusing to sacrifice her quality of life, Ms. Hunt systematically put to work every tip, trick and technique to turn her financial disaster around.

Translating that experience into her immensely popular newsletter, The Cheapskate Monthly, Ms. Hunt now tells you all you need to know to turn around your own finances for good.

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First Chapter

Like a lot of people, when McKenzey got her first credit card, she had a feeling of "having arrived," but declared it would be used for emergencies only. A coworker laughed when she heard her say that. Five years later McKenzey had six cards, all maxed out because of "emergencies," and then she understood what had prompted her coworker's chuckle.

Today she owes for car repairs on a car she no longer owns, furniture that she sold in a garage sale, braces that came off her son's teeth a year ago, but worst of all, her balances include several thousand dollars worth of expenses that she doesn't even remember.

Everyone who goes into debt and successfully digs out has a turning point. McKenzey's was facing Christmas buried in bills with no space on any cards. She took a job working for minimum wage in a department store for the holidays. Her entire Christmas season was miserable because she was exhausted and had no time to enjoy family festivities. But it was such a valuable experience that she now recommends this to anyone sinking into "Credit Card Chaos."

Working in that store, she saw credit from a whole different perspective. Customers would make a small payment on a huge balance, charge twice that while they were in the store, and pay several times as much in the end on already-overpriced merchandise because all they had was their credit line and no cash reserves.

Her customers bought top-of-the-line clothing and housewares as gifts to keep up appearances, but confessed they would never be able to afford these things for themselves. As a cashier, she knew even before they got to the register which customers would charge their purchase; they were the ones with the tired, sad expressions, who were obviously not enjoying the holiday season or anything else. She felt guilty suggesting purchases (the training staff at this store instructed her to suggest the highest-priced options and sell by pushing low payments, never divulging the number of payments) and putting their selections on a charge account because she knew she was helping make their lives worse.

McKenzey felt horrible giving discounts to entice first-time credit-card users because she knew that the merchandise they were buying would not last as long as the payments. The giddy look on the newlyweds' faces when they first discovered they had more buying power than cash looked sickeningly familiar.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that for the first time in years she made up her mind to get off that merry-go-round forever. She is now going in the opposite direction, out of the hole instead of deeper in. McKenzey is sticking with her Rapid Debt-Repayment Plan and is about halfway to becoming debt-free.

McKenzey told me she's feeling the same things she felt years ago when she got her first credit card: powerful, in charge, secure, and prepared for emergencies. Only this time, her emotions are based in reality.

You've just come through another holiday season. I hope you made it without incurring any new debt. And even if you did, I'm going to assume it was much less than it has been in previous years or what it would have been had you not picked up this book.

If it hasn't already crossed your mind, think about this for a minute: It is possible to become completely debt-free, and I'd like to show you how.

You can change the way you deal with money. In just the same way you learned new attitudes about dealing with the holidays, you can learn new money attitudes. Then you can experience the happiness and satisfaction that comes from knowing how to handle your resources in an intelligent and reasoned fashion. Want to give it a try? Well, let's get going.

First, it is mandatory that you stop incurring new debt and reverse your financially destructive behavior by making a Rapid Debt-Repayment Plan part of your life.

Allow me to introduce you to the rarely-thought-of-and-even-less-enjoyable activity called debt repayment. That's a subject the credit card companies don't talk about very often. But I'll give it to you straight: If you ever want to experience financial freedom, peace of mind, and the kind of joy that makes life worth living, somehow, somewhere, sometime you must repay your debts.

If you are relying on your minimum monthly payments to accomplish repayment anytime soon, think again.

Let's say you owe $2,000 on your credit card, which charges 19.8 percent interest for the privilege of using someone else's money. Your minimum monthly payment is 4 percent of the outstanding balance, which is presently about $80 and fluctuates each month depending on the principal balance.

Eighty dollars is all that's required, so that's all you pay, right? Given the typical minimum payment requirements, how long do you think it will take you to pay off that $2,000, even if you never make another purchase? Don't struggle too long with this math challenge. I'll tell you: 116 months. That's almost 10 years, and that's assuming you are never late and never add any new purchases. (Fat chance, huh?) By the time you're finished with the payment plan designed by the credit card company, you will have paid interest in the amount of $1,215.44. And if you are a typical consumer, i.e., a preferred and valued customer, meaning you keep your credit cards "maxed out" or at least make sure there's a good, healthy balance rolling over from month to month, it is highly unlikely your consumer debt will ever be paid off. This, my friend, is what I call perma-debt, and the credit card companies love it.

Let's go back to that $2,000 debt example, which has a current monthly minimum payment of $80. What if through some stroke of unexplained sense you made a solemn and personal pledge to pay $80 every month until the darned thing was paid in full, choosing to ignore the fact that the actual monthly minimum payment requirement was decreasing every month? You would reach a zero balance in just 32 months instead of 116. And if you got real sane and committed to pay $90 a month? Then the debt would be history in just 28 months. Brace yourself, but let's assume you really lost your mind and you made a personal pledge to pay $100 a month against this $2,000 debt. You would pay it off in just 24 months, more than eight years sooner than if you believed the credit card company when they said all you have to pay is the minimum monthly balance. I never cease to be amazed by the power of compounded interest and what it can do to one's financial picture!

All of us who are intimately familiar with overspending know that it is easy to five-and-ten dollar ourselves into oblivion. The good news is that you can five-and-ten dollar yourself right back to financial health too.

The key to rapid debt repayment is to make a plan and then stick to it as if your life depends on it. The details of the plan for your own debt reduction are not nearly as important as your determination to carry it out.

There are several methods of rapid debt reduction that work equally well. One method involves a plan whereby each of one's debts are paid off proportionately so that they all reach zero balance at the same time.

However, the method that I will teach you and which is, coincidentally, my personal favorite, is based on the principle that it brings a great deal of personal gratification (we overspenders are really into gratification-and the instant kind is the best) to work extra hard on one bill at a time in order to experience the exhilaration of a zero balance as quickly as possible.

Paying off one debt completely gives a great boost to your determination to pay the next and the next and the next. While not instant gratification, this method certainly offers short-term achievable goals. Small dosages of gratification along the way keep me motivated, that's for sure. Here's how it works:

The first thing you must do is determine exactly how much you owe and the exact nature of your debts. We are talking about unsecured debt, which includes credit card balances, personal loans, payments you are making to the dentist or doctor, anything that you owe but would not be subject to repossession if you stopped paying. Include all of your unsecured debts.

Make a written list that includes the current balance, minimum payment, interest rate, and number of payments required to pay it in full. If you do not possess the math skills required to figure how many payments will be required to pay the debt off at the current terms, you might consider using a financial calculator or call the creditor and ask. Some creditors will not help you with this information, particularly if you have a variable interest rate. In that case, go to your bank or call a math teacher. If you are a little confused, here is the question you should ask: "With my present balance of $$$ [insert your current balance] how many months will it take me to pay this debt in full if I make a monthly payment of $$ [insert your present minimum monthly payment] every month and add no new purchases?"

Next, arrange your debts in order of the number of months required to pay in full, with the shortest payoff first on the list. (See Mr. and Mrs. Example's plan that follows.) The debt that they placed first on the list has a balance of $80. With a minimum payment of $35, it will take just a bit longer than two months to pay it off, which is less than any of their debts. Next, add up the total of the current minimum monthly payments.

This is a very important number, so write it down, embed it in your brain, tattoo it on your forehead, paint it on your walls, teach it to your children. Forgive me, I go a little nuts now and again. You can skip the tattoo.

And now, it's commitment time. In the same way you made a personal commitment to not incur holiday debts, you need to make a personal commitment that until you are debt-free you will pay the same amount toward your debts every month until they are paid off.

Look again at the total of your minimum monthly payments, that number you've just embedded in your brain. This is the amount of money you must commit to pay toward your Rapid Debt-Repayment Plan until all of your debts are paid. You shouldn't find this at all out of line because this is the amount you have to pay every month whether you ever picked up this book or not. At this point I am not asking you to pay any more than you are required to pay. (It wouldn't be such a bad idea, but it's not required.) This is the minimum amount you must devote to your Rapid Debt-Repayment Plan regardless of the minimum amount the creditor says you owe in one particular month decreasing or not. Remember, they want you to pay less every month so you can keep paying forever.

Look at the Rapid Debt-Repayment Plan example on pages 158 and 159. Basically this is how it works: The total of the minimum monthly payments in the first month is $619. This is the amount our Example family has committed to pay every month until they are debt-free, regardless of anything their creditors say about lower payments. In Month 1, the Examples make all of the minimum monthly payments for a total of $619. In Month 2 they do the very same thing. In Month 3, they make their committed payments just like in the past two months-except, the payment to Department Store 1 is only $12 because that is the total outstanding balance. Wow! The first zero balance. So what happens to the $23 they didn't have to send to Department Store 1 because of the zero balance? Should they use it to celebrate the first victory? No! That $23 must be included with the regular payment to Personal Loan (the next debt in line), increasing its payment of $108 to $131.

In Month 4 the $35 payment that used to go to Department Store 1 is now added to Personal Loan's payment so it becomes $143. This additional payment (technically prepayment of the principle) is what will get Personal Loan paid in just seven months, including interest. The total amount paid in Month 4 is still $619 even though the number of debts has been reduced.

Now look at what happened to Student Loan while this was going on. It reached a zero balance in Month 4 as well, so now three debts are completely paid off. But since the Examples are committed to paying $619 every month against their debts, the payment to Visa 1 is substantially increased because the old payments for Department Store 1, Personal Loan, and Student Loan are all added to the Visa 1 payment, increasing it from $108 to $227 until it is fully paid in Month 11.

And on it goes. The Examples pay $619 every month, always taking the old payments and adding them to the payment of the next debt in line until they are 100 percent debt-free in Month 23! You must agree that this is truly amazing, considering that given the slow-pay method, Sam and Samantha would have been paying on these debts for 12 years or more, provided of course that they never missed a payment and did not incur any new debt.

To recap, here are the five steps for wiping out your debts in record time:

1.You must repent. Relax. Repent simply means to turn around and go in a different direction. You must repent from debting, that is, incurring new debts. If you don't complete this first step, the plan will not work.

2.You must pay the same amount every month until all of your unsecured debts are paid in full. From this moment on, you must adopt the total of your current minimum monthly payments as your regular monthly obligation, not unlike your house or car payment. It will not change from month to month. It's big, it's ugly, and it's not going away. Just accept it.

3.List your debts in order according to the number of months left. For example, a debt to a department store of $80 total with a minimum monthly payment of $40 has about two months left (the total paid will be slightly higher than the $80 because of the interest). That one goes at the top of your list.

4.From here on out ignore declining minimum monthly payments. Whatever the minimum is in the first month is the amount you are going to pay until your total debt is wiped out, regardless of whether the creditor shows a lower amount due on your statement.

5. As one debt is paid off, apply its monthly payment to the next debt. No matter how many debts you have paid off, you must commit to pay the same total amount every month until every debt is paid.

If you want to see your Rapid Debt-Repayment Plan work even more quickly, increase your monthly commitment.

Remember: the key to repaying debt quickly is to prepay the principal.

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