Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How credit use affects credit scores. Also in the news: Starting a business if you have student debt, how one couple crushed their debt, and how budgeting doesn’t have to suck if you make it a habit.

Virtual People, Real Lessons: How Card Use Affects Credit Score
Meet Cora Condo and Rebuilding Robert.

Ask Brianna: Can I Start a Business if I Have Student Debt?
Can you be your own boss?

This Couple Crushed Their Debt
How you can do it, too.

Budgeting Doesn’t Have to Suck If You Think of It As a Habit Rather Than a Task
Getting into a groove.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: NerdWallet’s best credit card tips for April 2017. Also in the news: How one man dug out from $30K in debt, seniors are facing rising credit card debt, and should colleges require a financial literacy class?

NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for April 2017
The best cards for spring.

How One Man Dug Out From $30,000 in Debt
You can do it, too.

For Seniors, Rising Credit Card Debt Squeezes Tight
Medical debt is pushing seniors to the limit.

Should colleges require a financial literacy class?
Two experts weigh in.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to invest $50,000. Also in the news: Ditching student debt through monster payments, funding a wedding while paying student debt, and what we can learn from rich people who are bad with money.

How to Invest $50,000
Making the wise choices.

How I Ditched Student Debt: ‘Monster Payments’
Using monster payments to pay off your student debt faster.

Ask Brianna: How Can I Fund a Wedding and Pay Student Debt?
Managing two large expenses.

What We Can Learn From Rich People Who Are Bad With Money
Learning from other people’s mistakes.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 7 reasons why the IRS will audit you. Also in the news: Big news that could affect your student loans, sneaky ways debt can change how you think, and how the “Once in a Lifetime” mentality screws up your budget.

7 Reasons the IRS Will Audit You
How to avoid triggering an audit.

This News Could Affect Your Student Loans
Heads up.

3 Sneaky Ways Debt Can Change How You Think
Don’t resign yourself to debt.

How a “Once in a Lifetime” Mentality Screws Up Your Budget
Something to watch out for.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to cash a check without paying huge fees. Also in the news: How a Mom paid off $37,000 of debt, what you need to know about FSAs, HSAs and taxes, and why you should beware of mind games when shopping mortgage rates.

How to Cash a Check Without Paying Huge Fees
Don’t pay money to get your money.

How I Ditched Debt: Penny Pinchin’ Mom
Learn from a Mom who paid off $37,000 of debt.

What to Know About FSAs, HSAs and Taxes
Accessing your accounts and how they affect your taxes.

Beware of mind games when shopping mortgage rates

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to do when you haven’t received your W-2s. Also in the news: When you should use your emergency fund, how overborrowing can add over $100 a month to your student loan payment, and how a millennial couple paid off $20,000 in debt in two years.

Haven’t Gotten Your W-2? Take These Steps
Getting your tax docs in order.

When You Should Use Your Financial Emergency Fund
Determining true emergencies.

Overborrowing Could Add $119 to a Typical Monthly Student Loan Payment
Only borrow what you truly need.

How This Millennial Couple Paid Off $20,000 in 2 Years
Sticking to a plan.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What retirement savers need to know about Trump’s action on the advisor rule. Also in the news: Using your emergency fund to pay off debt, breaking up with your bank, and what to do if the IRS breaks the rules.

What Trump’s Action on Advisor Rule Means for Retirement Savers
The fiduciary rule is now in question.

Emergency Funds: Should You Use Yours to Pay Down Debt?
Making a tough decision.

Sean Talks Money: Don’t Cling to a Bank You Don’t Love
Breaking up with your bank.

Know your rights if the IRS breaks the rules
Taxpayers have rights, too.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to manage your investments during the Trump presidency. Also in the news: How to dig out from December’s debt, why ‘Buy Online, Pick Up in Store’ is a double-edged sword, and the first thing you should do after paying off a big debt.

How to Manage Your Investments During the Trump Presidency
Practical suggestions to help stay the course.

How to Dig Out From December’s Debt

‘Buy Online, Pick Up in Store’ Is a Double-Edged Deal
The pros and cons of convenience.

The First Things You Should Do After Paying Off a Big Debt
Don’t dive back into the debt hole.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Credit report with score on a desk

Credit report with score on a desk

Today’s top story: Debt collectors continue to defy requests to stop calling. Also in the news: How to map out a year’s worth of shopping, how stuck-in-the-middle parents can afford college, and why your free credit score might not be what you think it is.

3 in 4 Say Debt Collectors Defy Requests to Stop Calling
Consumers are still feeling threatened.

Map Out a Year’s Worth of Shopping Right Now
When to get the best deals.

How Stuck-in-the-Middle Parents Can Afford College
Looking at the options.

Your Free Credit Score Might Not Be What You Think It Is
Understanding the differences.

Holiday debt hangover? Here’s how to fix it

images-2Despite what you often read, credit card debt isn’t typical. One quarter of U.S. households don’t use credit cards at all, and another 35 percent or so regularly pay their balances in full, according to Federal Reserve statistics. Among households that carry credit card balances, the median debt–where half owe more and half owe less–is somewhere around $3,000.

Whopping “average credit card debt” statistics are what grab headlines, though. They’re typically compiled by taking the total amount charged on plastic at the end of the year and dividing it by the number of card-carrying households. Those total charges include amounts that are about to be paid off by us so-called “convenience users,” and often business credit card balances as well. Also, averages can be misleading, since a relatively small number of households carrying a lot of debt can skew the average upward.

If you’re the one with the debt, though, you know it doesn’t feel good. If your balances grew over the holidays, you may be stressing already about how to pay it off. Here are some ideas:

Skip the post-holiday sales. You’ve heard it over and over: You can’t get out of debt if you don’t stop digging. But our brains tells us sales are the exception. We’re saving money! Nope, we’re spending–and adding to our debt stress. Whatever’s on sale likely will be on sale again, so let it go.

Have a no-spend month. I hosted one of these more than a decade ago on MSN, and readers reported saving $300, $400 and more. A no-spend means you spend only on essentials: no eating out, paid entertainment or shopping. You’ll learn frugality skills like planning and making do that can help you save year round.

Check the cushions. You may have money tucked away in various forms–jars of coins, unused gift cards, rewards programs that can be converted to cash back or gift cards. (Sites like Gift Card Granny can help you convert plastic to cash.)

Make weekly credit card payments. Don’t wait until the bill arrives to pay it–start whittling down your balance with regular injections.

Lower your interest rate. If you have good credit, you may be able to qualify for low- or zero-rate balance transfer offers. Use them as a way to speed up your debt repayment.