22
April
2015
martha's story of becoming debt free

Hi! This is the story of Martha Jackson who lives in Nevada and is currently working as a freelancer for Oak View Law Group. Five years back, her student loan debt messed up her otherwise happy life and pushed her towards the edge of financial cliff. At one point, she had to plan her every step in order to survive in this merciless world. But after she came in touch with Oak View Law Group (OVLG), her life changed for the better. Finally, she stopped having dreadful dreams about food, clothes and shelter - the 3 basic necessities of life.

Martha's story
Total student loan paid off - $10000
Time taken 4 years

“A miracle is something that seems impossible but happens anyway”

I don't know about others but I believe in miracle because it happened with me. Yes, it's true and the magician who did this miracle is OVLG. Yes, believe it or not, OVLG came into my life when there were only negativity in my life. It got to the point where anytime I received money, I would use it to buy a hotdog. And, then I would eagerly wait for the next miracle to happen in any form of financial windfall.

In one line, I was in hell; mentally and financially shaken. You can call me a penniless Cinderella without her magical shoes.

By this time, you must be thinking - Huh! here comes another debt story before us. A story where a hero enters with a bag of debt and then describes what he does to pay off it. Well, you're not wrong. But there's a catch and that is, there is no hero in the story. There is a heroine and that's me. The other 2 characters in the story are OVLG (my guardian angel) and a villain (my lender - sorry, I can't think of anybody else for this character).

My story is like a play with 3 Acts. The first Act unfolds the problems, the second Act brings the guardian angel into the story and finally the third Act concludes the story wherein the heroine gets back to her happy life.

Act 1 - Debt enters into the heroine's life

My (Martha Jackson’s) debt story actually began 5 years back when I was an undergraduate in Baylor University. In the very first year of my college, I had to attend an academic conference. I made all the reservations at the best hotels and flights assuming that the expenses would get soon reimbursed.

I spent my credit cards like a real life heroine. Conference was just an excuse, actually I wanted to hangout with my friends, explore the place, try out new dishes, etc. The trip was good, actually more than good. Whenever I was swiping my credit card, I was thinking - “What the hell! Money will soon be reimbursed”.

Before even I knew it, the amount on the credit card was much higher than what would be reimbursed for. So, basically, I overspent. And this is what kicked off the debt ball at my court.

Then later, my boyfriend at that time lost his job. So, I had to support him financially as well. This created an additional pressure upon my credit card. Although, we eventually broke up, but the debt stayed with me, creating problems in every possible way.

Life is not only about studies and boyfriend. You've friends, their weddings and birthdays, your own food and traveling expenses, etc. So, you need to have money for them as well. My credit card took care of all of them in silence but burning in fury.

Soon, my credit card debt load became so high that my meagre stipend was not enough to release it. Moreover, I had a student loan as well along with my credit card debt. I made payments when I could and skipped most of the time. Creditors waited for a few months and thereafter they started making demands. I tried my best to take care of them but they were simply not ready to listen. They were just saying one thing - Pay or be ready to get a miserable credit score.

Act 2 - There comes my guardian angel OVLG

Fortunately, it was around this time only when I came across OVLG. I was actually trying out different online calculators to know how long I had to make payments in order to get rid of debts. I bumped into OVLG's debt payoff calculator by chance, and after calculating my savings, I decided to call them up. And thank god, I called them up. One single call saved my life.

I had a long chat with the OVLG financial coach. I told Shane Rogers (FC) everything and he listened to it very minutely. He made a quick analysis of my financial situation and offered me a range of possible solutions. He explained the pros and cons of each solution, what might work for me and what might not. He told me exactly how much I need to pay every month and why. Everything was clear and transparent. I had no confusions.

The monthly payable amount was affordable. But the problem was I didn't have any job at that time. The financial coach (Shane Rogers) suggested me to take up a part-time job. It's not that I didn't think about it earlier, but I wasn't getting a suitable one.

In the next two months, I frantically searched for a part-time job. I worked as a waiter at a cafe' but the wage was not good at all. Plus, the cafe was very far from the university, which meant I had to travel for several hours every day. This didn't leave much time for studies. I had to find out another job.

I started looking for online jobs since you only require a laptop for that. I could do the assignments at night or free time. After doing a few assignments, I finally I got a job as a SME at a small company. The job was good since it gave me a lot to learn. Unfortunately, my good luck didn't last long and I lost that job as well due to cost-cutting.

I called Shane again and told my new problem. Shane asked me if I could work for a few hours for OVLG as a SME. He knew that it was not possible for me to work for 8-9 hours. Hence, he gave me a job wherein I had to work for only 3-4 hours, which suited me perfectly.

Thanks again OVLG!

Act 3 - Finally, the payoff process accelerated and the heroine smiles

After a few months of working as a SME, I had enough money to make more payments towards my debts. Finally, I could sleep at night without thinking about how to get food in the next day.

For the last 5 years, I have been working with OVLG - both as a client and employee. And, the experience has been great. I have already paid off my debts. Thank God! I'm still working as a SME at OVLG and hope to work with them for a long time. They have helped me during my bad time and I would like to stick to them as long as I can.

Conclusion

We're happy to share Martha's story. She is doing well for herself and that's more than what we have expected. We hope she finds her dream man one day and spends her life in a clean financial state.

If you've any debt story, then do share it with us. We would love to share it with our readers. Let your inspiring story give hope for a new happy beginning to millions of readers.


15
April
2015
save mother earth

“Care for Mother Earth just like you care for your money Leave a green earth and beautiful money tree for your kids”

Mother nature is least bothered about the Earth day. In her dictionary, each day is an Earth Day and therefore she expects that we will take care of nature 24*7. But for us, Earth Day falls on April 22. This is the day when we are suddenly overwhelmed with love and emotions for our mother nature. This is the day when we remember that yes, time has come to look after our mother nature at least for a day.

But what happens after the Earth Day celebrations are over? Well, we go back to our normal life and start exploiting nature 365 days. Frankly speaking, no one cares about Mother Nature. All they care about is their hard earned money.

So, what’s the solution? Should we go on exploiting and exhausting nature day by day? Should we care for our Mother Earth for only one day? Never.

We have to find out a middle path, and that is to think about the ways to create a beautiful world and ‘money tree’. Interested to know how? Here are the top 51 ways to achieve your goal.

Office

  1. Install energy-efficient bulbs everywhere.
  2. Ask your employees to turn off the switches after leaving office.
  3. Ask your employees to turn off bulbs, fans, ACs when they go out for a break.
  4. Go paperless and save all the work in digital files.
  5. Use printers to print in both sides of the papers.
  6. Use recycled papers.
  7. think about the ways to create a beautiful world and ‘money tree’
  8. Replace company cars with carpooling option for employees.
  9. Give work from home option to some employees.
  10. Have energy audit at office and then upgrade operations to reduce power costs.
  11. Create a green team to get innovative ideas. Implement them to reduce energy waste and expenses.
  12. Install sensor activated sinks to save on water usage.
  13. Keep potted plants on the roof to put less stress on AC. They will also absorb carbon emissions.
  14. Put up window shelves so that more natural light creeps into your home and you use less artificial light.
  15. Replace the old models of ACs with upgraded versions to reduce electricity usage.

College

  1. Drive less and use public transport to commute.
  2. Students can use ebooks instead of taking print outs or making photocopies.
  3. Install LED lights in campus.
  4. Create a trayless cafeteria to save gallons of water.
  5. Install Energy Star software on computers to save energy.
  6. Charge a fee for the laundry service to avoid waste and reduce costs.
  7. Set all computer monitors at sleep mode after 10 minutes.
  8. Ask students to stop using screen savers to save energy.
  9. Use energy-efficient options in computer server rooms.
  10. Unplug appliances such as printers, fax machines and other equipments when they are not used.

Home

  1. Use energy-star electronic appliances at home.
  2. Replace normal bulbs with CFL bulbs.
  3. Turn off exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchen after leaving those rooms.
  4. Try to use ceiling fans instead of AC whenever you can.
  5. Make your walls properly insulated.
  6. Keep the interior doors open so that cool air circulates everywhere.
  7. Use microwave to warm leftovers.
  8. Use your dishwasher at economy mode (120 degree) to save electricity.
  9. Set your thermostat at 65-68 degrees during night and at 68-70 degrees during day time.
  10. Turn off oven when the food is 90% cooked. Use copper-bottomed cookware and cover them with tight-fitting covers. Rest of the food will be cooked in the remaining heat.
  11. Make sure the size of your cooking pan is not smaller than the burner.
  12. Check and repair your hot water pipes whenever it is required.
  13. Keep your refrigerator full with vegetables and fruits.
  14. Recycle and reduce garbage. Save lands and your money.
  15. Have white roofs in your house as they require 40% less energy for cooling.
  16. Wrap your water heater with an insulating blanket to preserve heat.
  17. Opt for the shortest cycle in your dishwasher to clean your dishes.
  18. Place your AC in the shade. It consumes more energy in sunlight.
  19. Don’t preheat the oven when the recipe doesn’t call for it.
  20. Use cold water to wash clothes and buy cold detergents as well.

Hospitals

  1. Install dimmers and daylighting controls to cut down electrical usage.
  2. Install an effective steam wrap maintenance program to save energy.
  3. Use low-flow plumbing fixtures to cut down water usage and energy consumption.
  4. Install energy-efficient lighting system in parking space and outdoor walkways.
  5. Install sensors in places where there are lots of natural light. It will adjust the amount of overhead heating and drop upto 75% electricity usage on lightings.
  6. Turn off the medical devices that require electricity after official hours. Use inexpensive timers to make the devices ready once patients start coming in.
  7. Ask administrative officers to shut down computers and other electrical equipments after finishing work.

Takeway

These were only 51 incredible ways to save Mother Nature and money. Do you have any other interesting idea? Share them with us. Sometimes, one single idea can help to bring a great revolution.


13
April
2015
tax-relief-measures-taken-by-irs

Better late than never. The IRS is ready with it’s bag loaded with last-minute relief measures for business owners, employees and everyone else. Have a look at this article to know about it.

Obamacare penalty relief

Employers

  • No penalties if there are only 50 employees
  • No penalties for S corporations with above 2% shareholders
  • No penalties for a S corporation with only 1 participating employee

Insurance holders

  • No penalties for late payment of premium tax credit

Other relief measures

Business owners

  • Simplified procedure to apply repair regulations

Everybody

  • Launched IRS2Go 5.0 app in smartphone
  • Don’t have a tax liability for 2013
  • Your tax for FY 2014 minus your withholding is not more than $1000
  • Your withholding plus estimated tax payments was equal to 2013 tax
  • You made estimated tax payments on time
  • Your current year taxable amount is not above $1000
  • The unpaid tax balance on your 2014 return is less than 10% of your total 2014 tax

Waiver of penalty

Underpaid your taxes? Don’t worry! The IRS will waive off your penalty under the following situations:

  • You’ve a valid reason for not paying your tax
  • You didn’t not intentionally forget tax payments
  • You’ve retired or have become disabled in 2013 or 2014
  • You couldn’t pay tax due to casualty or any disaster

Incase you’re in a similar situation, then it’s best to request for a waiver of the penalty. File the IRS form 2210 in order to request for a waiver of penalty. Apart from that, you’ll also have to give a written statement and narrate why you couldn’t make the estimate tax payment. You also need to specify the time period for which you’re asking for a waiver. Make sure you provide documentation of:

  1. Your actual age
  2. The date on which you retired
  3. Disability (if any)
  4. Evidence of a casualty or disaster
  5. Police report papers
  6. Insurance claim or report

Other ways to get tax relief from the IRS

Here are some other tax-relief options which are available for the consumers. Take advantage of them to save some extra dollars. But, even before you look at the subsequent section, have a look at the various aspects of filing taxes.

1.Automatic Extension

Don’t owe tax to the IRS? Don’t have to file your income tax returns too? Well, in that case you can file your tax returns after 6 months. Yes, April 15 is not your deadline especially when you’re about to get a refund.

Get a form 4868, fill it out properly and then submit to get an automatic extension. But make sure you file your income tax returns in the next 6 months. Otherwise, you may have to pay a penalty of 5% every month.

2. Deductions for student loans

You can deduct as much as $2500 for interest rates on student loans. You can claim the deductions even if you don’t itemize taxes. For single filers, deductions phase out at $65,000 and $130,000 for joint filers.

Conclusion

Try your best to avoid getting slapped by the IRS penalties for filing your tax returns late, making mistakes in your tax calculations, not having a proper itemized slip in case of charitable donations, etc. Consult a tax professional if required in order to make costly mistakes. Other than that, avoid the popular tax scams that are happening nowadays. That is more dangerous than getting penalized by the IRS.


8
April
2015
Debt Free Guys Interview

Apart from offering frugal tips, rich household budgeting ideas, and legal fixes for debt problems, it’s also our duty to publish stories of real people who took control of their finances and defeated debt.

Today we are bringing you the story of John & David - a gay couple from Denver, Colorado, who have been living together now for last 11 years. Apart from fulfilling their traveling spree, David and John spend a lot of time on Debt Free Guys - a personal finance blog that helps people with their finances.

Here is the interview:

Andy: Thank you so much for agreeing to share your story with Our Debt Free Family! Let us know somewhat about yourself. How old are you? Are you single or married? Do you have children? If so, then are they staying at your house or do they live somewhere else? Where do you live?

John: The Debt Free Guys are David Auten and John Schneider from Denver, Colorado. We’re a gay couple who has been together for over 11 years. We aren’t officially married, but may as well be and will be someday. We have no children and no pets.
Our goals in life are to travel the world and live an enjoyable retirement. We currently spend a lot of time building Debt Free Guys as a platform to help everyone with their personal finances, especially credit card and debt management.

Andy: What do you think about good debt? Given the current economic situation, do you still consider mortgage or student loans as good debt?

John: We still believe there is such a thing as good debt for those financially mature enough to manage it. As with anything, too much debt of any kind can be bad. For example, we don’t believe that college debt is in itself bad. Neither of us would have our college and advanced degrees without college debt. The cost of college today, however, is considerably higher than when we went to college.
Initially, the idea was that one could work their way through college. That became no longer feasible. Then, one could quickly pay off a small student loan with a low interest rate by getting a job out of college for which they otherwise would not have been qualified. Student loans today are three and four times what they were even 20 years ago and graduating students now can’t find jobs with salaries commensurate to their student loan debt.
Our book, #MoneyConscious Student helps students manage their student loans and other costs so they can graduate with little to no student loan debt. This sets college graduates up for success upon graduation.

Andy: Why did you choose to concentrate on getting out of debt?

John: Between the two of us, we had over $51,000 worth of credit card debt after we were together for about two years. At the time, we had 15 years of experience in financial services. We were living in a basement apartment with nothing to show for ourselves. The irony is that we helped others with their money and investments.
We decided that we weren’t living the life we wanted to live. We did a lot of soul searching and decided that we could be happier and wealthier if we made better decisions.

Andy: What amount of debt did you pay off, and to what extent did it take you?

John: Between the two of us, we have over $51,000 worth of credit card debt. We took what we believe we drastic measures to pay our debt off as quickly as possible.

Andy: What was your biggest financial mistake (if any)? What did you learn from it?

John: Our biggest financial mistake was being unconscious about our income and expenses. In our book, Do You Know How To Be Money Conscious?, we talk about the benefits of truly understanding our personal financial situation, having a fundamental understanding of economics and politics and understanding your relationship with money.
We didn’t know our true take-home pay. We didn’t know how much we spent, or overspent, on food weekly. We didn’t consider the effects on our finances when we used credit cards to make a down payment on a car. We didn’t understand how $4 here and $3 there added to our credit cards quickly added up.
When we truly understood these things, we made better decisions.

Andy: What was your annual income during this time?

John: At the time, we each made more than the average American family. Combined, our income was very comfortable. Without proper money management, however, anyone can overspend or miss financial opportunities.

Andy: What sacrifices did you make when you were getting out of debt?

John: We changed nearly every aspect of our lives, including how we socialized with friends and family to how we grocery shopped and ate to how we spent time together. In our book,4: The Four Principles of a Debt Free Life, we talk about the complete shift in thinking and living we made to reach out goal of being completely debt free. We wrote 4 to help others make similar shifts to get themselves on the track to financial independence.

Andy: Why are we so addicted to debt? Is it because of our society or our culture? Why do you think?

John: We believe it’s a combination of society and culture. Our society has created a culture that praises consumption. In fact, our society needs consumption to survive. When consumers don’t spend, economies die. The consumer can’t stop spending, though, and now nearly ever product on the market can be financed over years if the consumer doesn't have the cash to pay for it in full today.

Andy: Have you had enough of the worry and burden that debt creates?

John: Yes. Humans are driven by a desire to acquire love and a desire to avoid pain. We reached a state that was so uncomfortable for us that we were motivated enough to change it.

Andy: What is the very first step for someone who is deep in debt but wants to get out of it? What’s the first step you would advise for him?

John: The first step is to truly decide to change. Without fully and completely committing, you will never truly succeed. You can’t kind of want to pay off your debt. You can’t wish to be debt free. You have to fully and completely commit..

Andy: What is the best part about debt free living?

John: Our quality of life now is better than when we lived off of credit cards. We travel more. We’re on track for an early and amazing retirement. We have nicer cars. Have our own home that we love and is not in a basement. We eat and live better and it’s all because we’re not financing every aspect of our lives.

I thank both of you for sharing your story with our readers and also for the meaningful insights on society, economies, culture and consumption. Our best wishes are for you and your blog - Debt Free Guys. If you want to know more about John & David, click here.

What About You?

Participate in the conversation. What parts of John and David’s story did you find the best? What tips from them you think might work for you? Share in the comments below.


31
March
2015
easter-celebration-ideas

You must be preparing to celebrate Easter as well as spring events in your town. The itinerary for the celebrations could include egg hunts, games, puppet show, visits with the Easter Bunny and so on. However, before you embark on any such journey, pay a heed to the events that folks across the country are planning for themselves this Easter and you can follow suit.

EASTER 2015 EVENTS

MARCH 29

Conservation Egg Hunt – Timing, 2-3 p.m. The venue of this event is Rush Creek Conservation Area, 20501 McGuire Road, Harvard. A short hike would lead you and your kids to a wide range of bird habitats. This is where you’ll have to search for “eggs” of the local birds. Egg hunt are usually organized for infants belonging to the age group of 4-13 years. However, they must be accompanied by an adult throughout the event.

In between the hunt, the organisers have included both prizes and refreshments for the participants. Cost of enrolment in the event is $4 for the local county residents and $5 for the non-residents. Online registrations are available since 23rd March, 2015. For that, you may want to visit www.mccdistrict .org. Or else, you can contact them at 815-479-5779.

APRIL 1

Bunny Breakfast By The Lake – This part of the Easter celebrations will be held on 1st April and are expected to at 9 a.m. sharp. The site of this event is located at LaBahn-Hain, 149 Hiltop Drive, Lake in the Hills. The place has serene backdrop as it is hosted by the Lake in the Hills Parks and Recreation Department. The salient features of this event is crafts, photos, bunny pancakes , etc with the bunny. For the kids to be eligible to participate in this event, adults are required to register themselves.

Registration fee for resident adults is $35 along with one child participant, whereas for a single non-resident adult and a child it is $42. Moreover, for every additional resident kid the registration fee is $20 and the same would cost $24 for non-resident additional child. Entry is free for children aged below 12 months. In order to register and for further information, you can visit www.lith.org or get in touch with them at 847-960-7460.

APRIL 3

Encounters: The Beginning of Hope – Timing: 7:30 p.m and the event would be hosted from 3-4 April. Venue of the event is Christian Fellowship Church, 3419 Walkup, Crystal Lake. A marvellous theatrical and musical community produced performance is on the anvil and would be performed by the Christian Fellowship Church Theater Arts Ministry. The theme of this fusion performance reminisces of the challenging encounter followers of the Christ had to face before crucifixion.

Organizers of this event has vouched that the drama sends a powerful message and would certainly move the audience to tears. This one event you can enjoy with your family with spending a dime. For information about this drama, you can call at 815-459-9473. Better still, you can go through their official website: www.cfchurch.us.

APRIL 4

Bunny Bash – Timing 10-11 a.m. and it would be held at Crystal Lake Public Library, 126, paddock Street, Crystal Lake. You can begin your day with a fun-filled story at the Ames Room and then straightaway head for the egg hunt that would be hosted in the Youth Department.

Though the organizers have kept the entry to this event free, yet all the attendees to the Bash must oblige by having themselves registered, and that includes adults as well. For enquiry and registration, you can call at 815-459—1687. You can also visit their online portal, www.clpl.org to register yourself.

Easter Egg Hunt – The Egg hunt once again! Timing for the event to start is 10 a.m. The location of this event is Living Waters Lutheran Church, 1808 Miller Road, Crystal lake. Here, in this event all children ranging from preschoolers to those reading in the fifth-grades are invited to participate by the church. Luckily, adults aren’t left out lurking aimlessly. For them, the church has in offer free coffee and snacks.

So, this time you can take your entire family to have an eventful Easter without spending too much on food, decoration and gifts. Carry a basket or a bag to take the eggs home. Entry is free and so, all are welcome. For further details, you can call them at 815-455-2424. Moreover, the church has a website of its own – www.livingwaterschurch.com.

APRIL 5

Marengo united Methodist Church Egg Hunt – This egg hunt would start at 9.40 a.m on 5th April at Marengo United Methodist Church, 119E. Washington Street, Marengo. This hunt is free for children of all age groups. For enquiry, you can visit www.marengo-umc.org.

These are some of the events that are coming up this Easter in different parts of the country. If you want to make this Easter a memorable one without burning a big hole in your pocket, then you can lookout for such events in your local county or state.


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