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Common Cents

Q. My husband and I have separate banking accounts. I didn't used to mind, but writing two checks for everything and trying to make sure it's all "fair" is getting to be a drag. We agree that we should combine our finances, but then nothing changes. Should I just accept things as they are or keep trying to combine our money?

A. In most cases one person will handle the bills and keep track of the finances. If you two are paying separate bills and expenses, it's easy to lose control of your spending as well as blame the other person if things come up short. It becomes a control issue. Maybe ultimately, that's what this is really about?

If it's difficult to pry loose from your separate checking accounts, then the best remedy is to set up three checking accounts. The first is the main account to pay all the household bills. Determine how much each of you will deposit into this account from your paychecks. The other two accounts are the ones you're currently using. Instead of paying bills with those accounts, use them for miscellaneous items you spend money on. Make sure you keep enough money in them so you don't have to dip into your joint household account.

If your husband procrastinates on opening the main account, then you take the initiative, go to your bank, and begin the process. The bank will send you home with a signature card for him to sign. Then make a list of all the bills you'll pay through this account, get together with your husband, and create your game plan.

For more ideas on how to save money, plus calculators for figuring out mortgage, bi-weekly mortgage payments, and compound interest, go to www.richandthinliving.com.

Money back!

How many times have you purchased a product for which the manufacturer offers a rebate, but you never send it in? That's free money you've just thrown away. And it takes only a few minutes and a little effort.

The next time you have a rebate offer:

  • Read the fine print. Check the rebate form for exactly what you need to submit, such as a cash register receipt, upc code, and the completed form. You also want to check the deadline. Many times people who want to cash in on rebates don't follow the manufacturer's instructions and find themselves with no money back.

  • Save the packaging. Make sure you save the item's box or packaging, since the manufacturer requires proof of purchase, which is usually the UPC code.

  • Make copies of everything. Before you mail anything, make a copy and file it. Be sure to add the date you mailed it. This will help if you have trouble receiving your rebate or want to check its status.

  • Enjoy the cash. Sure, the rebate check may not afford you a yacht, but in today's economy, every little bit of money helps.

Did you know that if you have a balance of $2,000 on your credit card and make only the minimum payments each month, it'll take you approximately 16.5 years to pay it off? But if you pay only $5 or $10 extra each payment, you'll significantly reduce the amount of years it will take to pay off your debt.

Money saving tip!

When eating out, split dinners and order water instead of drinks. Put the money saved into a mutual fund or other interest bearing account.

Interest payments going up?

If you're struggling to make your mortgage payments, before you go into foreclosure (which should be your last resort), try these options:

  1. Refinance. Check other mortgage rates to see if you can cut your monthly payment. An FHA loan usually requires less equity.

  2. Contact your lender immediately to see if they'll freeze or at least modify the loan's interest rate.

  3. Consider selling your home and renting something cheaper for a time.

  4. If your house doesn't sell, offer it as a lease-to-purchase.

  5. Check into a short sale, in which, if there's a qualified buyer, the lender will take a loss of what the principal amount owed and sales price is for their payoff of the balance.

Deborah McNaughton, co-author of Rich and Thin: Slim Down, Shrink Debt, & Turn Calories into Cash (McGraw-Hill), is a credit expert. Hal McNaughton is a certified financial planner. They've been married 36 years. www.FinancialVictory.com

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Budget; Marriage; Money
Today's Christian Woman, Fall, 2008
Posted February 18, 2009

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