Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Caught in the Credit Card Debt Trap

Dear Cheapskate: I have three credit cards with interest rates upwards of 30%, the result of late payments in the past. With my limited budget, I can only manage the minimum monthly payment on each, which is more than $200 per account.

Despite paying on time for many months now, huge finance (interest) charges have pushed me over the limit on more than one occasion in the past year. It is because of this over-limit issue and the high balances that the creditors won’t lower my interest rates. I can’t keep paying over $600 a month, and I can’t pay more to make a bigger dent in my debt. What else can I say to get them to lower my interest rates? — Jen, Texas

Dear Jen: I’m not sure anything you plead, beg or promise will do any good at all. But take heart! Your situation may make you a perfect candidate for credit counseling. A reputable credit counselor (there are lots of scam artists out there these days, so be very careful) will contact each of your creditors on your behalf to set up a payment schedule you can handle with your current income.

Many times, when credit card companies see you are getting professional help with a reputable counseling organization, they will waive fees and penalties and often lower the interest rate. I suggest you go to the National Federation for Credit Counselors (NFCC.org) to find an accredited counselor near you. It’s an easy process. You just input your zip code and you’ll be connected in minutes. Or call 1-800-388-2227. Credit counseling is not for everyone, but from what I can tell, you need this kind of intervention. I trust and wholeheartedly commend the NFCC for its outstanding work and help for so many people, and over many years!

Dear Cheapskate: My fiance and I have decided to move our wedding day up from two years to 10 weeks. Yikes! I’m a bargain hunter, but I find my head spinning with the reality of planning a small family wedding and keeping it within a realistic budget. Do you have any ideas? — H.M., New York

Dear H.M.: Whew! That’s a tall order, but here goes: Rent your dress (search for a rental facility near you). Have your attendants wear clothes they own already. Enlist the help of friends and family. Get your cake from Costco or your local supermarket bakery.

Order your flowers in bulk at wholesale prices from Sam’s Club (nonmembers can order for 5% tacked on), then arrange the “growers bunch” flowers in country-style, rustic bouquets. Sam’s will even deliver the flowers to you two days before your wedding.

Don’t shy away from asking to borrow. If you know someone who recently had a wedding, inquire about borrowing some of their stuff. And if you are on the other side of a wedding, offer to lend.

Remember this: After every wedding comes a marriage. In the end it’s what you put into the marriage that will matter, not the food or flowers that you and your guests will soon forget. Congratulations, and may all your worries be little ones. We had two.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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