Is your store-branded credit card worth the hassle?

I have made no secret of the fact that we use credit cards here at the Stew household. “We” as in, my wife and I – our children do not currently carry plastic, although my seven-year old told me to “just put it on the card” the other day.

She and I might need to have a talk.

Years ago, before I really knew what a credit score was worth, my wife and I would often sign up for store-branded credit cards in order to get the various incentives that come with getting a card: $50 bonus or 20% of a purchase or any number of things.

How much is moving worth?

I have mentioned once or twice that we would like to find a place to rent that comes with lower rent than our current location.

Late last week, Mrs. Stew found a rental that had just come open on Craigslist and called to find out more details. A few days later, we drove over to see the place. It was not terrible, some things we liked, some things we did not like. Let me lay out the pros and cons to see what you think:

Christian Finance Blog Carnival

Here are some from the Christian Finance Blog Carnival that is organized by Money Help for Christians. Perhaps a few articles will be of interest to you:

Joseph presents Coupons – Save Money posted at Penny Pinching.

Craig Ford presents Student Loan Debt Forgiveness | For Ministers & Non-Profit Workers posted at Money Help For Christians, saying, “How ministers can have their student loan debt forgiven.”

Colin Robertson presents How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt posted at The Truth About Credit

DebtManagement presents New FTC Regulations Seek to Rein in Unethical Debt Settlement Firms posted at Debt Management.

Lessons from Luke: Money and the Christian Ethic

A friend of mine recently told me a story about a Christian organization where an administrator was confronted about a particular business decision that some thought was not “good business practice”. Stunningly, the administrator responded, “Well, sometimes we here at ———-, do not do things like the rest of the world.”

Discontentment undermines frugality

Last week I wrote about how my discomfort at caring for my children for four days by myself was influencing me to spend more money. I recognized the fact that discomfort can affect the spending of even the most frugal spender.

But there is an even bigger threat to frugality: the desire for more and better and bigger. It is a desire that is never satisfied. A wealthy man was once famously asked how much money it would take to satisfy him, he replied: “just a little bit more”. His response was a wry nod to the human condition. We are never satisfied and the few among us who learn to control the natural desire for more are the happiest – regardless of their socio-economic status.

Second mortgage debt settlement!

(not my letter)

A couple of months ago, I told you that I had received an unexpected collections letter in the mail, stating that we were 30 past due in payments on our home equity line of credit from the house we sold last summer.

If you read the post, you will realize that while I was aware that we owed this debt, I had not received any communication telling me where to send the payments.

Going to apply the Dave Ramsey “Debt Snowball Plan”

Last week I mentioned that I have finished paying off my college student loan debt. My next task is to figure out which debt to tackle next.

There are several different strategies to employ when deciding how to best pay down family debt. One is the Dave Ramsey “Snowball”. Dave explains the idea here. Basically, a person considers all of his particular debts, determines how much extra principle he can pay on one of those debts and then focuses all extra money on that one debt. Meanwhile, he continues to make the minimum payments on every other debt. Once the smallest remaining balance is erased, he takes whatever monthly payment he was making on that particular debt and adds it to the minimum payment that he is making on the next smallest remaining debt.

Discomfort undermines frugality

Ookaay . . . I was away from the internet more than usual this weekend (due to my wife’s absence) and I came back to a raging controversy.

Raging might not be quite the right word, but I think that my hastily typed essay from last Friday may have been misunderstood – quite possibly due to my poor use of English. Last Thursday night, as Mrs. Stew was making plans to leave town for four days, I wrote about how the prospect of being a single caregiver to three children for four days had the effect of undermining my usual bent toward frugality. A commenter or two took me to task – you can read all about it here and I might have deserved it. Please allow me to explain myself a little more completely.

Dad spends more

Okay, I will admit it, Mrs. Stew is more frugal than I.

She is poor at paying bills on time and keeping track of the amount of money available in our account. I take care of that stuff because, well, numbers do not really mean anything to her. But she definitely spends less than me. Mrs. Stew leaves on a trip tomorrow and I will be home with our three young ‘uns for four days. I think that this scenario provides the most apt demonstration of my point.

My student loan debt is gone

Last month I made the final payment on my federally subsidized Stafford loan.

I graduated from college with a relatively small amount of student loan debt. Due to the fact that my parents started to make me save for college from the age of eight years old, I paid cash for my first year of enrollment at a private college. After that, I financed my own education by working during school semesters and on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring and summer breaks. I managed to finish my undergraduate degree with only $7,000 in student loans. I then immediately enrolled in graduate school which I financed by working as a graduate assistant. Payments on the $7,000 were deferred while I was enrolled in graduate school, but I still managed to pay off $2,000 before finishing my masters. That was the spring of 2001.

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