6 Thoughts on Bankruptcy

May 19, 2017


Bankruptcy.  It’s a word that evokes a lot of differentgavel and scale emotions and responses.  “It’s a cheap way to get out of debt.”  “Or perhaps it’s the fresh start someone needs.”  “But if they hadn’t gotten themselves into debt in the first place.”  “Then again, they didn’t choose to get sick and end up with the medical bills they have.”  “I pay my bills so why can’t they?”  “I can’t pay my bills so what’s wrong with me?”

The comments could go back and forth for ever and certainly have since the advent of bankruptcy.  In reality, bankruptcy is not the right answer for everyone, but it may be the best option for some.  It’s not always an easy choice to make. Read the rest of this entry »

“If I Were A Rich Man…”

May 11, 2017

“If only I made more money.”  “Life would be so much easierEmpty Wallet if there was just more in my paycheck.”  “I would love to have enough to not have to worry about money.”  Let’s be honest.  We’ve all made these comments before.  Just like Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof”.  He sang “If I were a rich man, Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum.”  It all sounds great.  Unfortunately, every last one of them is a lie!  Read the rest of this entry »

What to Spend on Your New Home

April 20, 2017


Tired of renting?  Tired of the landlord?  Tired of the crazy neighbors doing who knows what and all kinds of hours?  Tired of nothing but white walls in your living space?  Tired of someone else parking in your parking space?  Tired of paying every month and getting nothing (except maybe part of your deposit) back when you move?  Perhaps it’s time to move out of your parents’ house…..

OK, so this probably isn’t your parents’ house anymore.  But it may still be time to move on.  Perhaps it’s time to look at buying your own home.  As our clients consider a home purchase, one of the most frightening issues they face is determining exactly how much they should spend on a home. Read the rest of this entry »

What You Are Really Paying For

January 24, 2017

Pop.  Soda.  Fizzy caffeinated goodness.  Whatever you call it, wecoke-in-a-glass go through a lot of it.  Have you ever paid attention to the cost of it?  More importantly, have you ever thought about why you pay so much extra for that one quick bottle? Read the rest of this entry »

Upping Your Giving Game

December 19, 2016


‘Tis the season, or so the saying goes.  But the season for what?  cash-in-walletDuh, it’s the season of consumerism….. I mean the season for giving.  It’s the time of year when we shop to give gifts to our family, friends, coworkers, teachers, coaches, neighbors, mail carriers, garbage haulers, pizza delivery guys, and anyone else we can possibly think of.  And while we are shopping, there are the other organizations that are asking us to give to them, whether it is for a special project or for one last push to make their annual budget.  After all, giving is a great way to get a tax break, right?  No cash?  That’s ok; they’ll take stock transfers, old vehicles, and even donated real estate if you’d rather.  Man, that’s a lot of giving that is expected of us this time of year.  Read the rest of this entry »

4 Tips for When Life Isn’t Vanilla

September 15, 2016


Mmmm.  Vanilla ice cream.  Vanilla is the greatest flavoricecream-sunday-and-woman of ice cream ever.  I know, it’s plain, not overly stimulating in the flavor department, and easy to find.  But with that one flavor I can meet just about any mood I’m in.  Without clashing, I can add chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, fresh strawberries, peanuts, even crème de menthe.  Try that versatility with just about any other flavor and eventually you will have a bad, bad dessert that is anything but a treat.  Vanilla is definitely the way to go.

If only life were like ice cream.  It would be so easy, so predictable.  We would know exactly what is coming.  We would always know we were safe.  It would be perfect.

But life isn’t vanilla.  And that’s a GOOD thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Beat the Heat (and Cold)

July 22, 2016

Oppressing.  Overbearing.  Sweltering.  Crushing.  Roasting.  Torrid.  Fiery.  Scorching.  Searing.  Parching.  No, this isn’t the latest marketing blitz for a new action movie.  It’s our weather.  Simply put, it’s HOT.  We can find relief by shutting ourselves indoors, but that is going to give way to another set of adjectives when the electricity bill comes.

There was a news story the other day about a nearby town in Minnesota that, in a 6-month span, saw a temperature swing of 180 degrees between the coldest wind chill and the hottest heat index.  No figurative speech there.  It was literally 180 degrees difference in temperature between the two extremes.

So what do we do?  Are we just subject to the wild swings of utility bills as we alternate between seasons of gas bills and electric bills?  Let’s be honest, that can be a little scary.  The weather can be so wild that the trained meteorologists can’t even figure it out perfectly and we are just left to pay the bills necessary to make it tolerable.

Well, there may be relief in sight.  Not from the wild swings of weather, but from the wild swings of the utility bills.

Most gas and electric companies offer budget- or average usage-billing.  Whatever they choose to call it, they take anywhere from a 3- to 24-month usage history and calculate your average monthly usage.  There may be a little more math in there to calculate anticipated rate changes and whatnot, but you get the idea.

Some months you will use more of said utility than you pay for.  Other months you will use less than you pay for.  Just be aware that month 12 of your billing cycle is the adjustment month.  Used more than you have paid for?  Your bill will be higher.  Used less than you’ve paid for?  Bonus.

Some people admittedly struggle with paying for more than they are actually using in a month, but that is a fairly short-sighted perspective.  In the end, you will come out even.  And the two providers that I checked (my providers) both offer the program free of any additional fees.

So why would you want to go through the hassle of the change if it doesn’t give you any great discount?

The biggest reason I would give is stability.  You know what that bill isbills default going to be each and every month.  You know how much you need in the budget and how much to set aside so you are sure you can even keep the lights on.  This can greatly reduce stress associated with unknown variable bills.

The second reason I would recommend it is if you are vulnerable to counter-swings.  Perhaps in the winter months when the gas bill goes sky high, your job is subject to cuts in hours.  Now, on top of a higher utility bill, you have a significantly lower income.  A budgeted utility program won’t make the bill go away, but will help prevent the exaggerated extremes of these counter-swings.

This is only one aspect of budgets that can be quite complex.  If you are struggling  or would simply like a second, objective set of eyes to look over your budget, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources would be happy to help.  We all deal with utility bills of our own.  We understand.  You can either schedule an appointment online or call us at 605-330-2700 to set something up.

If the heat is getting to you, a little attention to your budget can keep the proverbial heat off of your neck.  But you’re stuck with the literal heat of the weather.  Sorry.  We’re not meteorologists.


written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

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