A Third of Americans Have an Account in Collections

Every day I read some new tidbit on debt in America, but a recent study by the Urban Institute took me a bit by surprise.

“Roughly 77 million Americans, or 35 percent of adults with a credit file, have a report of debt in collections. These adults owe an average of $5,178 (median $1,349). Debt in collections involves a non-mortgage bill—such as a credit card balance, medical or utility bill—that is more than 180 days past due and has been placed in collections. “

As someone who has had more than a few accounts ‘in collections‘ in the past, I understand how easy it is to do on a personal level.  But on a national level these are some pretty telling figures.

Why so blue?
Why so blue?

Consider that the median amount is $1,349.  That means that half of those 77 million account in collections are really for a pretty small amount.  This is good news in that those people aren’t in huge debt (at least in collections).  But it’s very bad news that thirty some million people cannot come up with a thousand bucks to keep an account current.

But then there’s this second piece of information from the study: Continue reading

Consumer Reports Survey – the Joy of Not Buying Things

I’ve always been a fan of Consumer Reports.  I like their mix of reviews from their own staff as well as actual feedback from owners.  This past year I finally became a subscriber (what took me so long?) and have been enjoying the magazine and online site ever since.

I am one of those readers!  You can tell people that you know me.
I am one of those readers! You can tell people that you know me.

But you know what I have enjoyed even more?   The realization of how much money I’ve saved living in the city and renting all these years!

Now, before this spirals off into a debate about the merits of home ownership, rising housing prices, or “throwing away money on rent”, allow me to explain. Continue reading

Time is Money – the True Cost of Labor Saving Devices

It seems to go almost without debate these days that if you have the means you should load your home and life up with what we’ll call Labor Saving Devices such as a dishwasher or clothes washer and dryer.

But what other ‘devices’ could fall under this category of trading money for time?   Perhaps a  riding lawnmower, maid, Roomba, gardener, pool guy or dog walker would count as well.  Do these makes sense from an economic perspective?  Is this a waste of cash or a true time saver? Let’s discuss.

Whether you’re purchasing a service or a machine to do your work you have to take several items into account to determine if it makes sense.

Does it need to be done?

I think we can all agree that dirty clothes and dishes should be

Are you spending too much on gardening?  Tusk tusk.
Are you spending too much on gardening? Tusk tusk.

washed.  It’s clearly a cheaper path to clean the items then to buy them anew each time.  Vacuuming is a good idea, as is gardening.  But vacuuming every day may be overkill.  And getting your bushes turned into elephant topiaries might also be a bit more than you really need.  So first consider what really needs to Continue reading