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.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

2Today’s top story: 4 steps to managing your parents’ bank accounts. Also in the news: How banks boost overdrafts by counting big debits first, how to determine whether to pay down debt or save for retirement, and mistakes to avoid when choosing a financial advisor.

4 Steps to Managing Your Parents’ Bank Accounts
Taking the reins.

Many Banks Boost Overdrafts by Counting Big Debits First, Report Says
Putting transcations in a certain order can guarantee overdraft fees.

This Calculator Will Tell You Whether to Pay Down Debt or Save for Retirement
Which should you choose?

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Picking a Financial Advisor
Selecting the right one for your needs.

How 3 People Changed Their Financial Lives

Lauren Greutman’s moment of truth dawned when she sneaked $600 worth of clothes into her closet. She didn’t want her husband to see what she had bought — or to know that they were $40,000 in debt.

J.D. Roth hit bottom after buying a home he thought he could afford

Zina Kumok’s epiphany came when she saw her student loan payment eating 20 percent of her paychecks.

The catalysts were different, but the reactions of these three people in different parts of the U.S. were the same. Years of incurring debt made them realize that they couldn’t continue to spend like before.

In my latest for the Associated Press, learn how these three people changed their financial lives.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

twrmn81mopj80nvlk4zqToday’s top story: Manage your debt for a smoother divorce. Also in the news: Giving your child the gift of stocks, how to donate credit card points and miles to charity, and six ways to make the most of your holiday bonus.

Manage Your Debt for a Smoother Divorce
Making a difficult situation a bit easier.

Give Your Child the Gift of Stocks
The gift that keeps on giving.

How to Donate Credit Card Points, Miles or Cash Back to Charity
Put those forgotten miles to good use.

6 Ways to Make the Most of Your Holiday Bonus
Stretching it out.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Pile of Credit CardsToday’s top story: How to choose your second credit card. Also in the news: How home insurance can cover your holiday disasters, how Affordable Care Act plans could change in 2017, and how to calculate how long it’ll take you to get out of the debt.

How to Choose Your Second Credit Card
Finding a card that compliments your spending habits.

No Need to Pout: Home Insurance Can Cover That Holiday Disaster
Saving you from becoming The Grinch.

How Affordable Care Act Marketplace Insurance Plans Will Change in 2017
A new administration could bring big changes.

How Long It Will Take to Get Out of Debt, Depending on Your Monthly Payment
Calculating your escape date.