Thought I'd give a little help for those that are starting over and don't want to make the same mistakes. I'm not exactly sure how it is now with the banking collapse but in the past if you filed bankruptcy you would immediately get offers for credit cards in the mail. Why you might ask would they do something like that? Simple, once you file bankruptcy you can not file again for at least seven years. It seems like a stupid thing on the part of the banks but they know they'll have you on the hook for a lot of money including interest and fees if they can get you back on the debt treadmill.
First things first - Pay yourself first. The bills will always be there no matter what you do. So when you get paid put 10% of your take home pay in savings. In a just a few years you'll be amazed at how much you've saved.
Credit cards - I only use credit cards when absolutely necessary when it's the only means of payment accepted or as a temporary means of payment when I know I can find a better loan through a bank or credit union. Have only one credit card. It's through a credit union but even there you need to do your homework. Not all cards are the same even with credit unions so read the fine print.
Autos - Never buy a new car. Once you drive that new car off the lot it's value drops from between 10 and 20%. Even if the terms of the car loan are outstanding you'll never get out of that car with the shirt on your back. With the internet it's so much easier to narrow down the search for a decent used car and check prices against the Kelly blue book. If you finance do so for no more than three years. You want to get the car paid off before it will need major repairs. Never have your car repaired at a dealer unless it needs a part that the local repair shop can't get. Never take those extended warrantees. They add a lot to the price of the car and they always seem to have an escape clause when it comes time for pay out. If the salesman says the bank won't finance unless you get the extended warrantee then it's time to stand up and walk out. When you buy a used car buy a copy of the repair manual. You may never do a repair on the car but it will tell of the problems that will come up later and you will soon know when the repair guy is feeding you a line. Yeah lady your exhaust bushings need replaced and I'll need a left handed monkey wrench to do the job.
Housing - Rule of thumb is never buy a place that's more than two and a half times your gross yearly income. Try to find the least expensive place in the best part of a city that fits your needs. I live in the cheapest place in a very upscale area. The advantage is better schools and services as well as cheaper property taxes. I like a fixed rate mortgage over an adjustable because there's a consistency in payments that are easier to deal with and the only fluctuations are from property taxes. It's always a good idea to add $50 to $100 to the monthly payment thereby shortening the term and saving thousands in interest over the life of the mortgage. Never borrow against the equity of a home unless you're putting that in upgrades to the home. In short always put money into things that increase in value not depreciate. I realize that housing is going down but eventually it will stabilize. You'd be amazed at the amount of loans taken on equity to buy boats cars and vacations. Keep those loans separate.
More info from an older post
I hope this helps Lisa.