Dana Ehrlich - The Fresh Start Attorney

Ever notice how a new coat of paint on a wall can make all the difference in the world? It has the ability to conceal any scratches or other imperfections and gives the room a "fresh start." There are some things in life that can’t be avoided. Things like: illness, disease, accidents, job loss, unemployment, underemployment, divorce, broken promises, dreams unfulfilled, business disaster, unexpected expenses, moving, natural disaster, etc. Bankruptcy may be that fresh start you are looking for. So--take a deep breath...breathe in that intoxicating, enticing fragrance of "starting over" and call me today to get started.

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could."

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Puppy Love

We all LOVE our animals. Some of us think of our pets as our children. We adore them and pamper them with bones, toys, clothing, shoes, bows, etc. We of course want the best for our "kiddo-s", but is the expensive pet food REALLY worth it? According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, pet owners will spend more than $18 billion on pet food in 2010--yes BILLION.  The $7.00 fifty pound bag dog food isn't the best for your pet. It can lead to obesity, disease, heart problems even death. However, is the $100 fifty pound bag of dog food worth it? To distinguish between feeding your pet caviar vs. fast food, turn the bag over and read the Nutrition Facts.

The first ingredient needs to be a recognizable meat product--chicken, beef, lamb, etc. Grains aren't the best when it comes to pet food. If cornmeal, wheat or gluten are listed--that's an immediate red flag. The higher quality carbohydrates like potatoes and whole grains are OK to be included in the ingredient list. Look for ingredients like "apples" not "apple extract". Apple extract is referred to as a byproduct and is not good for your pet. Don't go directly to the brand name aisle. Names such as Iams, Royal Canin, Eukanuba, etc. are great marketers and advertisers, but is the quality of the product as great? Look for the Association of American Feed Control Officials seal of approval on the bag of dog food. This label will let you know that the pet food contains ingredients that provide adequate levels of nutrients and that it was properly tested. Always use the suggested serving size, it will make the dog food last longer and keep your pet healthier.

Monday, August 30, 2010

How To: Achieve a Great Credit Score

So you're browsing around for a new car or looking to purchase a house, and you get your credit score pulled. You notice the loan officer's subtle attempt at hiding his or her disbelief at how low your credit score is. Your stomach drops, you get embarrassed, confused, then angry. Why is your credit score so low?? Well, the two things that account for the bulk of your credit score are:
  • Payment History
  • Owed Versus Available Credit
Having a long history of making payments on time is one of the biggest things taken into consideration when you are applying for a loan. So if you've had your Visa card open for quite a long time and you are making regular payments on it -- DON'T CLOSE THE ACCOUNT!  The longer history you've had with a credit card company - the better.

So you apply for a Wal*Mart card and you get accepted with a credit limit of $3500. Yay! Time to go spend ALL of it right? Wrong! Your credit score can be extremely lower when you use more than 50 percent of your available credit for each account. When you are close to maxing out your credit limit, thats an automatic red flag for lenders. You are labeled as a "high risk" credit card user, which in return makes you more likely to make late payments.

The three other factors that account for your credit score are
  • Length of Credit History
  • New Credit
  • Type of Credit You Use
Generally speaking, a credit report that contains a list of accounts that have been open for at least ten plus years can help your credit score. Once again, if you've had an account open for a long time, don't close it even if it has a zero balance.

If you open several new credit accounts within a short period of time, your credit score will take a divebomb. Multiple credit inquiries that appear on your credit report will also lower your score. However, if your credit report is pulled by you, an employer or a lender who is "pre-approving" you, have little or no impact. These types of credit pulls are referred to as "soft credit inquiries." Also, a good little secret to know, is you have a 30 day window if you are shopping for a car or mortgage to have your credit pulled as much as you want--it only counts as one inquiry! So go ahead and "shop" for lenders, just remember it's a 30 day window.

Your mix of credit cards, retail accounts, finance company loans, and mortgage loans is also considered.

Don't feel TOO bad if your credit score isn't 800 though, only about 13% of folks credit scores are to that point. To sum it all up, having a long history of timely payments, using the right mix of credits, and not maxing out your available credit are keys to having a great credit score.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vacation on a Budget

Margaritaville, Under the Boardwalk, Toes in the Sand, Walking on Sunshine...wherever your next vacation takes you, plan it on a budget. Everyone deserves a vacation, a time to let your mind relax and think of nothing more than the glass of iced tea in your hand, the warm sun on your face and the knowledge of knowing you don't have to look at your calendar or to-do list - you're on vacation. Follow the tips below and pack your bags with ease knowing your wallet won't be hurting when you return to home sweet home.

Save Up
If you have thought about taking a vacation, start saving NOW! Dedicate a small fee from each paycheck to a vacation savings; you will be amazed how much you have saved up when it's time to go! This will ease your financial stress and allow you to have a great time while you are on vacation. One thing that can ruin a good vacation is not planning in advance and having the weight of finances on your shoulders the entire time.

Think about how much loose change you have sitting around. Gather up all of that change and start collecting it in a 10 gallon water jug. When you cash your paycheck, ask your bank to give you $50 in rolled coin and add that to your jug (it's not as easy to spend). By the time your vacation rolls around, you'll be set!

Where to Go and How to Get There
A big contribution of your vacation money has to be devoted to transportation. Check out sites like Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline or Expedia. They usually have GREAT deals on vacation bundles. Plus, if you're having trouble deciding where to go, these sites can help you! They usually offer deals to certain places like Las Vegas, Chicago, California, etc. If you go to Travelocity, they have a gadget where you can choose a "mystery hotel". They base the hotel on what events you want to be near, and let you choose hotels with 1 star, 2 stars, 3 stars, etc. The catch is they don't tell you the exact hotel you are staying in until you have booked the room. If you choose a hotel with 3 stars or up, you're going to get a nice hotel for incredibly cheap. I've known people to get hotels on the San Antonio River walk for $89 per night by choosing this method.

Take a look into all-inclusive resorts or cruises. This will help in planning exactly how much to save up for the vacation.

Brown Bag It
Food can take a big bite out of your vacation savings. So pack a cooler with water, juice, cokes, sandwich meat, cheese, fruit, etc. and ignore the roadside signs advertising the World's Biggest Steak - you and your wallet will be glad you did! Most hotels will have microwaves and refrigerators in the rooms. Hit the grocery store to stock up on quick, easy meals you can make in the hotel room instead of eating out. Allow yourself to splurge at least once though! After all, you ARE on vacation.

Vacations are a time to relax, unwind and devote your time to rest and leisure. So plan a budget friendly vacation ahead

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Buzz on Cell Phones

Where exactly would YOU be without your cell phone? Still stranded on the side of the road? Missing that really important deadline that came through on your e-mail? Having to pay with those things we call "dollar bills" at Starbucks rather than just swiping your phone? Yep - Iphone's DO have an app for that. Blame it on the growing popularity of the latest and greatest smartphone's for cell plans draining our bank accounts and becoming debts we are obligated to fulfill. Sure, cellphone charges are coming down, but that means families are adding the kiddos to their plans, adding more minutes, adding text messaging capability, etc. This of course counteracts with the fact that prices are lower than they used to be. According to J.D. Power and Associates, the average household now pays $107 for cellphone service. (YIKES!)

Make sure you aren't oversubscribed on your bill. Do you REALLY need 1,500 minutes? Text messaging has almost made talking on the phone obsolete. Some companies have plans where they ONLY offer unlimited text messaging now, for a pretty decent price. Always, always, always double check your cellphone bill. It seems that cell companies are infamous for sliding in charges for random things like text messaging to Tokyo, or an added service charge when they actually haven't serviced your phone. Maybe you should wait to join the smartphone craze also until the popularity dies down. With some cell companies you are REQUIRED to get a data package for $30.00 -- that's on top of your regular monthly charges.

Don't let the constant evolution of cellphones be the ultimate demolition of you.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Wells Fargo Giving Debtors the Cold Shoulder?

Is Wells Fargo giving bankruptcy debtors the cold - or freezing - shoulder? Wells Fargo is actively checking to see whether or not their customers have filed for bankruptcy. If so, Wells Fargo will automatically put a freeze on the debtor’s account(s). What exactly does Wells Fargo do with these funds that are now frozen? Turn them over to the trustee? – No. They merely freeze the depositor’s funds disallowing them from using that particular money. Violation? You betcha!

                                                 MOVE OVER MR. FREEZE...