Sunday, January 3, 2010

10 Financial Disasters I Learned to Avoid from Judge Judy

I like Judge Judy. If there is one TV show I try to catch each day, besides Dave Ramsey which comes on right afterwards, it is Judge Judy. Both Judy and Dave have a refreshing, no BS, take on things which is highly appreciated (and necessary!) in a world that seems to reward stupidity and bad decisions. If you watch for a while, you will notice that Judge Judy seems to handle the same cases over and over, only the people change, and most cases revolve around money. Here's 10 ways to keep you out of financial trouble (and off of the Judge Judy show):

  1. Don't sign up for a cell phone contract for anyone (ie: boyfriend, girlfriend, roommate, family member, etc). Once you sign your name to a contract, you are responsible for that contract and with cell phones, that usually means you are stuck paying for two years unless you pay the early termination fee. The problem with getting a cell phone for others is that they tend to use way more minutes than they are allotted, not pay their monthly share like they promised to, lose their job so they have no money, etc. Which means you are stuck holding the proverbial bag. If you want to help someone out with a cell phone, get them a cheap, pre-paid phone to get them started then they can pay for their future minutes.
  2. Don't get into a lease with anyone. It is better to get on your own lease, for your own place, even if it is the size of a closet, rather that expecting your current boyfriend/best friend/Craigslist buddy to pay their half of the lease payment for a year or more. Like the above, they will lose their job, decide they hate you, find a better room mate, etc. and you will be stuck for the entire cost of the lease.
  3. Don't loan money to anyone. Again, like the above, people tend to lend money to friends, family members, or even near strangers and wonder why they never get paid back. NEVER loan money to anyone. If you have money and you want to help someone, give them the money as a gift without expecting to be paid back.
  4. Don't sell something (like a car) to anyone (like friends, family, or strangers) on credit. You aren't a loan agency, you aren't the repo man, and you aren't a business that can write off a bad debt. Never sell something to anyone on credit. Like the above, they will lose their job, figure out they can't afford to pay you, or become dissatisfied with the car, and you will be left with nothing. If you want to sell a car or other item, make sure the transaction is a cash-only deal with all sales final.
  5. Don't pay someone's bail/pay someone's fines/pay someone's child support and expect to be paid back. If people are in such a lousy position that they can't even #1 stay out of trouble, and/or #2 take care of their basic responsibilities, don't be surprised if you never see your money again.
  6. Don't fight over a guy/girl. Many cases come about because people are jealous and end up fighting over a loser with someone else. A girl is mad at her "boyfriend" because she sees he is hanging out at another girls house so she keys one or both of their cars. A guy is mad at another guy because he sees his girl out with the other guy so he does the guy thing and beats up the other guy. Either way you could end up arrested, with a record, and paying court costs/fines/restitution. If your significant (or insignificant) other doesn't want to be with you why would you want to be with them??
  7. Do control your kids. There's usually a few cases each week in which someone didn't control their kid and said kid caused someone else a financial loss--drove a friend's parent's car when they were drunk and wrecked it, rode their bicycle into the side of a parked car and scratched it, beat up a neighbor kid and caused damage. Then you end up on TV making a weak explanation for your kid's bad behavior, you lose, and end up paying for damages.
  8. Do get every contract in writing. Even with your best friend or close family member, if you decide not to heed the warnings above and sell something to/buy something from/get into a contract with said friend or family member, get EVERYTHING in writing. Verbal contracts are not worth much and assuming things doesn't even fly in court.
  9. Do watch out for cons. Some people are just con artists. They offer something that is too good to be true, which usually includes the exchange of money, and then you end up with the short end of the stick. Don't expect something for nothing and definitely do your research before you part with your money.
  10. Do rectify problems quickly and efficiently. Some people drag out their problems for years. Some people keep hoping to get paid forever. Some people keep throwing good money after bad like when a girlfriend/boyfriend borrows money, doesn't pay it back, then they loan them MORE money. Judy Judy hates it when a person allows another person to get away with bad behavior, then goes right back and allows that bad behavior to continue.

The bottom line is that you need to keep your money to yourself and allow others to sort out their own financial problems. Otherwise, I might just see you on Judy Judy!

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