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Helping Japan: How to Make Sure Your Money Goes to the Right Place

Helping Japan: How to Make Sure Your Money Goes to the Right Place

    The events that have unfolded in Japan over the past week are horrifying, sad, and devastating.  The country is facing death and destruction at the hands of a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. Now they are also on the verge of a nuclear disaster.  Many countries and organizations are pledging volunteers, supplies and money to help.  But what about you, average Joe citizen, how can you help?  How can you be sure that your hard-earned money will actually go to the people who need it?  How can you be sure that it will get there as fast as it can, instead of months later?  How can you be sure that half of what you’re giving isn’t going to “administrative” fees?  If you are inclined to donate, please keep the following guide I have created in mind before you write that check, hand over that cash, or push “Send”.

    Finding a Reputable Charity

    One great resource to finding a charity to donate to is CharityNavigator.com.  Using this site, you can search through their database of charities and find one that interests you.  Each charity has star ratings as well as a complete, detailed profile.  Information is included such as the organizations efficacy, how much goes to administrative costs, and so on.  There are also links that will take you to the charity’s site where you can complete your donation.

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    See Where Your Money is Going

    Be wary of the organization that assures you that 100 percent of your donation goes to help the victims or particular effort.  They are likely not being truthful.  Every organization, even charitable non-profits, have some overhead expenses.   To make sure that you get the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to be sure that you avoid middlemen.  Some groups may simply collect the money and then pass it on to more hands-on charities.  Avoid diluting your dollars by giving directly to groups that are already on the ground and helping the victims in Japan.

    Be Skeptical of Offers that Promise to Donate Money for Things You Buy

    Lady Gaga’s heart might be in the right place with the new bracelet she has launched, with all profits going to help the victims in Japan, but you’re really not helping as much as you could.  If your goal is to help and not score some cool gear, you’re better off giving directly to the charity yourself.  The entire cost of that $5 item isn’t going to Japan, only the profits are, and what the company might deem to be “profit” can be kind of sketchy.  From that five dollars, subtract the cost to produce the item, to market it, etc.  If you’re going to spend anyways though, by all means, spend away – at least a portion will go to help.

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    Forget Putting Together Your Own Care Package

    While it might be tempting to put together a “care” package for a needy family in Japan, it’s probably not the best idea.  Right now, infrastructure is severely damaged in some areas, making things like delivering packages impossible.  It’s also a logistical nightmare.  You’re better off giving to a group with people on the ground and a plan in action.

    Reconsider Texting Your Donation

    Making donations through a simple text message became popular during 2010’s massive earthquake in Haiti.  But one thing that a lot of people didn’t seem to know was that there’s a delay between when you send the money by text.  The charities don’t get it for at least 30 days later.  And while Japan will likely need help for many months and years to come, if you are wanting your money to help immediately, it’s better to send them a check or money order by mail.  They’ll get it a lot faster that way.  Even using your debit card or Paypal balance is a lot faster.  Just keep in mind that when you donate digitally, there will be hidden fees taken out of your total donation, so it will get diluted somewhat.

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    Avoid Newly Formed Charities

    Getting a new charity off the ground is a difficult venture in itself.   In the midst of a disaster it’s virtually impossible to succeed.  You wouldn’t trust your life savings to a financial firm that just opened, has no track record, and whose employees have zero experience, so why would you donate to a brand new charity?  Find a charity with a proven history of success, and ideally one that’s already on the ground in Japan helping. Research before you write that check.

    Watch Out for Scams

    In the wake of disasters, it seems that while there are a lot of people willing to help out there are also plenty of unsavory types looking to cash in on your goodwill for their own devious means.  You’re better off sending in your money to an official organization’s address than handing it over to a person going around collecting donations. While they might actually be doing good, there’s a chance they’re just looking to run off with your money.

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    Some Carefully Vetted Charities That I Recommend

    • Doctors Without Borders USA
    • American Red Cross
    • Save the Children
    • Relief International
    • Food for the Hungry
    • Direct Relief International
    • AmeriCares
    • Action Against Hunger
    • Catholic Medical Mission Board
    • World Vision
    • Global Giving
    • International Medical Corps
    • Convoy of Hope
    • Oxfam America

    All of these organizations are have high ratings on CharityNavigator.com, and have people already in place in Japan distributing aid.  You can find additional lists of reputable organizations to give your donation to on their website as well.  If you don’t see a charity listed either on my list here or on their list that’s not to say it’s a scam, but you’ll want to make sure you do your research first.

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    Julie McCormick

    Julie McCormick is a writer, and co-owner of The Cleveland Leader, a Technorati Top 1000 site.

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    Last Updated on April 3, 2019

    How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

    How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

    Debt is never a fun thing to be in. But, there are many actions that you can take that will help you rid yourself of the burden of debt once and for all.

    By coming up with a set plan, eliminating your debt can feel much easier than constantly thinking about it.

    This post will provide some tips on how you can do this to help you nix your credit card debt in less than 3 years.

    Hint: there are ways that are easier than you think.

    1. Consider Consolidating Multiple Credit Cards If Possible

    This may not be applicable to you, but if you have multiple cards – it is something to consider. Keeping up with multiple bills is time consuming.

    It will depend on the balance you have on each. Consolidate ones you can but do not do it to the point that you get too close to the maximum limit. Also, it is ideal to pick the card with the lower interest rate.

    Consider if there are any fees or alternatively, rewards, with transferring a balance to another card. Watch out for fees. Note that some cards offer rewards for transferring a balance to them. This is extra cash that can help go towards paying off your debt.

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    Having one or two cards can make nixing your debt much simpler than keeping up with the balance of a bunch of cards. Keeping track of paying the minimum towards a bunch of cards is time consuming. Spend the time to consolidate instead to make the overall process simpler going forward.

    My tip: Have one main credit card. Have a second one that you use for necessities – such as groceries or gas – that offers rewards for those purchases (a lot of cards do) and set the second one on auto-pay. You should be able to pay off a smaller amount on auto-pay if it is a necessity. If you think you cannot, then you may need to cut down a lot on expenses.

    Why do I suggest doing this? Having one thing set to auto-pay is one less thing to think about. One less thing to waste time on. Same idea with consolidating to one main card. Tracking down too many is a hassle.

    2. Try to Pay the Full Balance You Spent Each Month at the Very Least

    You need to pay off the amount you are spending each month when that bill comes in. This is the amount you spent THAT month.

    Do not let the debt keep accruing while you work on paying any unpaid debt that has accrued. It will become a never-ending battle. Try as best as you can to be current on paying for each month’s expenses when that month’s bill comes out.

    If this is a strain, consider why. You may need to cut expenses. Or you may need to consider other cards. Or look at where this money is going.

    3. Pay Extra When You Can – Every Small Amount Counts

    This cannot be emphasized enough. If you are looking at a lot of credit card debt, it can look daunting, but each extra amount that you can put towards the debt will really add up – no matter how small it is.

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    It does not just reduce the principal amount that you have left to pay off, but it reduces the amount that is collecting interest. You will always save money with that reduced interest.

    4. Create a Plan on How to Pay Extra

    Back to the main point, having this plan is giving you one less thing to think about.

    This plan should be a plan that works for you. If it does not work for you, your spending habits, and your views on debt, then it will not be an effective plan.

    For instance, if a set plan of an extra $50 (or another amount that you know you can afford) works for you, then do that. Set that aside every month and pay that extra amount. Treat it like a bill. Choose an amount that works for you and pay it like clockwork as though it was a bill you had to pay each month.

    Little amounts will not nix it entirely, but they will help tackle it and having a set plan can make it less of a chore. Creating a new plan of how much to put towards it each month is an unnecessary added stress.

    5. Cut out Costs for Services You Do Not Use

    If you are signed up for subscriptions that you do not use because of some free trial or for some other reason, cut it out. Your overall financial position will look better.

    In turn, that will make cutting your credit card debt easier. Look at your statements to find these expenses. If you do not use them, you may forget you are paying some unnecessary amount each month. Cutting it out can really add up in savings that you can put towards other needed expenses.

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    6. Get Aggressive About It

    Consider these points:

    Depending on the interest and the level of debt, you may need to give up a few indulgences. For example, instead of ordering delivery or going out to eat, cook at home. Everything adds up.

    Other things may be more of a sacrifice. It may be a trip you wanted to go on, or a daily latte habit you’ve picked up. In these instances, consider how important it is to you and if it’s worth the sacrifice. And if it is a costly expense, think whether you can wait to indulge.

    Cutting an extravagant expense can really help make a dent in your overall debt. Try not to add to debt when you are trying to pay it off. It will be a never-ending battle. Make it less of a battle with these tips and it will feel easier.

    Bottom line: Do what you can to make this process easier for you. Implement steps that do this. It takes time now, but will help overall. Also, keep track of your spending and paying down of your debts. Which is the next point.

    7. Reevaluate Your Progress at Set Intervals

    Doing a regular check-in can help you see your efforts pay off or maybe indicate that you need to give this a bit more effort. If you check every 3-6 months, it will not feel so much like a chore or feel so daunting.

    By doing this, you will be able to better understand your progress and perhaps readjust your plan. Bonus: if you see it pay off, it will feel great to do this check-in. You will get there.

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    Finally (and most importantly)…

    8. Keep Trying

    Do not get discouraged. Pushing it off will make it worse. Just keep trying.

    Once your debt becomes lower, each monthly payment will reduce the balance more. Why? You are paying less towards interest. It will be a snowball effect eventually and it will become much easier to manage. Just get to that point. And know once you do, it will feel easier and motivating.

    Start Knocking out Your Debt Today

    The best way to eliminate debt is to get started right away. Begin by implementing the above steps and watch your debt just melt away. Try out some of the above strategies and see what works best for you. Soon you’ll be on your way to a debt free life.

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