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Stressful Times: Financial stress doesn't have to define your budgeting prowess

You can't quite describe the feeling of fear mixed with anger and frustration that abounds when you realize that you're having money problems. Worse yet, you don't know when you'll be able to pay for your car, make that house payment or even keep up with the credit debt you're amassing.

Getting to the root of the problem is paramount, as most who struggle with money throw their hands up in disbelief and wonder aloud why they can't make payments on time or aren't able to have any money leftover once they've paid those expenses.

Truthfully, they most likely don't have a budget and if they do, chances are they don't stick to it. Ask yourself some important questions.
Do you have a budget?

If you have a budget, when was the last time you looked it over to make sure it was either accurate and up to date or actually determined wants versus needs?
Your stress most likely comes from that fact that you simply don't make enough money but beyond that, have you looked at your expenses to determine what is expendable? Far too often, the masses complain wholeheartedly about not having enough money but tucked away is money being spent on the unnecessary, such as two $5 coffees each day or a pack of cigarettes times two as well, which can cost as much as $12 to $14 per day. Eliminating those two vices can save you about $7,000 per year, so your money might not be the problem.

The issue might just be a lack of paying attention to what is seemingly right in front of your face. Often plaguing the stressed and financially stranded and struggling is their penchant to want to see results right away. What they do then is constantly worry on a day to day basis, which is understandable considering the topic at hand. But you have to realize that the mess you made isn't like spilling milk on the kitchen floor. There's no financial tool that can clean this up quickly. You have to exercise patience and realize that over time, with a little prudent planning, you'll get to where you want to be. Until then, you'll only serve to drive yourself crazy if you keep worrying about it.

And if all else fails, ask for help. Consolidation, consulting and anything else you can learn from this financial predicament only will serve to make sure you aren't doomed to repeat history.

Late Forgiveness: Is paying late on debt dooming you forever?

We've all been there before as it relates to paying on some sort of loan, credit card or other sort of debt.

You find yourself thinking long and hard about that upcoming due date and then something happens: you forget to make your payment. Maybe work got in the way, long hours or after school activities prevented you from making your payment, and once you realize, for example, the 15th has come and gone and now you're late, you begin to fret.

A lot of what needs to be dismissed is the idea that paying late infrequently is automatically going to drop your score immediately. Yes, of course paying late is never advisable, but you can recover quickly if you realize what has happened and have your finger on the pulse of your payment history.

Most creditors, cars and homes included, have a grace period that typically is between 10 and 15 days. You can pay within that time period without penalty.

Credit cards aren't quite as lenient with the aforementioned grace period but they also can be reasoned with if you aren't a habitual late payer. For instance, if you pay a few days late and catch it quickly, you can make a quick phone call and discuss options beyond having to pay a late fee. Most credit cards won't send you to collections until you reach the 30 day mark; many of them will even remove the late payment if you simply call, take responsibility for being late and ask them to remove it. If you haven't had late payments in the past, you'll be hard pressed to find a credit card company that won't reward your consistency and loyalty as a customer by reversing that fee.

Anything paid before the 30 days, if you choose not to argue or fight the late payment, usually doesn't show up on your credit score. Yes, you'll have to pay the late payment but that won't be a knock against your financial standing. What will sting is that 30 plus day mark; you'll most likely be reported for being late, although that still isn't a dead on arrival type endeavor.

Consistency pays big, and if you keep making on time payments that one instance will fall off your credit report, comparable to losing points on your driver's license and having them reappear as time passes. Even if you get a credit report ding, you still can call the collection agency and plead your case, perhaps to some avail.

Don't necessarily worry if you're late paying; you can reverse it or make it a point to fix it quickly but that only works if your attention to your money detail is paramount.

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