This Halloween Young Adults Can Avoid Specter of Bad Credit

Bills.com suggests 8 ways for beginners to treat, not trick, their wallets

SAN MATEO, Calif., Oct. 29, 2008 – With this month's scary financial headlines, Halloween is the perfect time for those too old to trick-or-treat to instead take steps to improve their credit and debt situations, said Ethan Ewing, president of free online consumer portal Bills.com.  

"This year, Americans are learning what it feels like when credit -- from their own bank accounts to Wall Street – becomes more difficult to obtain," Ewing said. "Fortunately, young people can take these eight steps to manage their money in any credit market." 

Ewing's suggestions include:  

1. Don’t let a "want" disguise itself as a "need." Savvy consumers separate wants from needs. Needs must be accommodated in a budget. Wants are extras, to be added if money allows. "It may be difficult, but practice budgeting for the things you could not live without -- literally," Ewing said. "Remember to include an amount for savings (ideally at least 10 percent of your income). Then add in “wants” if room remains in your budget." 2. Overspending is terrifying. "It cannot be emphasized enough: Spend less than you earn, and you will be on the right track for a healthy financial future," Ewing said. "Sometimes this means you cannot have the latest car (or any car), buy the newest video games, or take the most exciting vacations. So be it. By living within your paycheck now, you can avoid years of financial hardships down the road." 3.   Face financial realities. If you are worried about your bills, one of the worst -- and most common -- actions is to avoid opening them. Fortunately, facing the facts doesn't have to be scary. Know what you earn, what you owe, and where you stand. Keep a list of your debts, your monthly payment on each debt, and the due date. 4.  Pay bills on time to avoid being haunted. Avoiding paying a bill will get you nothing but late fees, higher interest rates, harassing phone calls and a lower credit score. If you can, pay every bill in full, on time. Always pay at least the minimum payment, pay on time, and whenever possible, apply extra cash to additional payments. Use online scheduled payments to stay on track. If you cannot meet your monthly obligations, contact a debt resolution specialist for help. 5.  Don't tempt the bogeyman by purchasing unwisely. Before making a purchase, Ewing suggests comparing payment terms and interest rates. "Take into account the time until the item you buy will wear out and require maintenance or updating. Evaluate all the benefits of a purchase -- whether a vehicle, new computer or apparel -- and select the purchase that will give you the most value for your money." 

6.  Save something. "Money is like Halloween candy: You'll feel better if you don't devour the whole bag the moment you get it," Ewing said. "Instead, save something for later." Ewing suggests following the example of more Americans who are saving some of their income. During the second quarter of 2008, the U.S. personal savings rate increased to nearly 3 percent of income, from historic low rates ranging from negative 0.5 percent to around 1 percent during the previous 13 quarters (3 years).(1) "If you get in the habit of saving at least 10 percent of income from the time you receive your first paycheck, you can remain in a sound financial position," Ewing encouraged. "With your savings, first build an emergency fund that could cover six months of expenses – realizing that a fund of even a few hundred dollars can carry you through a period of tight cash flow." 7. Repay debt frighteningly fast. "Just because a loan allows you to pay it off in 48 installments does not (usually) mean you must take that long to pay the loan off," Ewing said. "First, before taking a loan, check to ensure there are no prepayment penalties. Then, get the monkey off your back -- put any extra available cash toward your debts so that you can pay them off as soon as possible. The sooner you pay off debt, the sooner you can use your cash flow for savings or investment in your future." 8. Protect yourself. Shred important personal papers so criminals cannot use your personal information for their own gain. Do not give out personal information such as your Social Security number, birth date, or mother's maiden name without ensuring the information will not be misused. Be cautious when shopping online or responding via phone or e-mail to requests for information.  

"By taking these eight steps, Americans of any age can lay the foundation for a healthy financial future – and avoid financial stumbles," Ewing said.

About Bills.com (www.bills.com)

Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. As the online portal to Freedom Financial Network, LLC, the company has served more than 40,000 customers nationwide since 2002 while managing more than $1 billion in consumer debt. Its RSS feed is available at http://www.bills.com/news_releases/.

Bills.com holds the No. 257 spot on the Inc. 500 list for 2008, and the No. 3 spot on Entrepreneur Magazine’s Hot 100 list of the fastest-growing U.S. companies. Bills.com also was named a finalist as “most innovative company” in the American Business Awards in 2008. Company co-founders and co-CEOs Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh were named to the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal's "40 Under 40" list in 2008, and are recipients of the Northern California Ernst & Young 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.


(1) http://www.bea.gov/briefrm/saving.htm