painting homeSome people enjoy painting, while other people despise this task. My thoughts exist somewhere in between. For simple projects - such as painting a single room - I actually enjoy getting down to business. However, if the job is labor- and time-intensive, I often call in a professional.

Over the past few years, I have learned quite a bit about the "professional painting industry." One thing is certain: most painters or painting companies are either a pleasure to work with, or a complete disaster. For the money you pay, you should expect the job to be done right. But before your crew ever gets their brushes wet, you need to be aware of common scams and problems you can encounter to ensure that you avoid troubles and hire a crew that will be easy to work with and provide a quality job.

Common Scams to Be Aware Of

Just as with all industries, there are people who are out to scam you. There are many painters who can do the job right - but some of them will want to do a good job while taking as much money as possible. Furthermore, there are painters who may take advantage of naive customers and perform a sub-par job.

1. Prep Work Fees
As I received quotes for an exterior paint job last summer, I quickly found that there was a lot of prep work involved. For example, there were holes that needed patching and some bad wood that needed to be replaced.

After talking to four companies, only one charged for prep work. And not only did he want to charge for prep, the cost was outrageous. While this may not have technically been a scam, it is safe to say that he was charging for something that others were doing for free.

2. Not Applying Two Coats
If you don't know anything about painting, this may be one area in which you get scammed. There are times when a wall or other type surface needs two coats. If you feel this is necessary, there is nothing wrong with requesting or agreeing to two coats of paint.

Of course, there are situations in which applying two coats is overkill. For example, if you are having your walls painted the same color (or a similar, darker shade) as the existing paint, you probably don't need two coats.

In some cases, painters will charge you for two coats so that they can double the cost of labor. To make things even worse, you could be charged for two coats and only have one applied. If your job doesn't need the additional coat, you may never know that you've been scammed.

3. Refusing to Sign a Contract
When you hire somebody to do work on your house or property, you need a contract, no questions asked. For whatever reason, some people just don't believe this. Instead, they think that a handshake is good enough.

Fortunately, for me, the last time I hired a painter, the contract came in handy. In the contract were explicit details on what was and was not to be painted. However, one of the workers neglected to heed the contract and painted an area (the backdoor) that was not to be touched. Soon enough, I realized that this had been done and questioned the crew. The response was not what I wanted to hear: "Sorry, we made a mistake. It will only cost you about $30 for us to fix it."

Despite knowing it was their mistake, they didn't want to pay to fix it. Fortunately, the contract settled the dispute easily enough.

Final Thoughts

If you don't like painting, you may have to hire a professional at some point. This can be an positive experience if you get the right person on the job. However, hastily hiring the wrong person for the job may cause you a major headache. Be sure to stipulate your needs in the contract, and be sure you are not over-paying, nor paying for services you do not need.

What additional scams do you suggest to look out for? Have you ever had a negative experience hiring a painter?

The average college student graduates with more than $20,000 in student loan debt, and hopefully, your reliance was less than this. However, regardless of your level of student loan debt, you will want to do whatever you can to pay off these debts as quickly as possible.

The strain that student loans put on your daily finances is significant, and once you eliminate this debt, you can focus on other important aspects of your financial future, such as your retirement fund and your kids' college fund. If you implement a few common sense strategies and are willing to be diligent, you can get these loans paid off in a short period of time and begin to live a more financially fulfilling life.

Here are six tips to help you expedite the elimination of your student loan debt:

1. Avoid Payment Deferrals
If you have private student loans, this is not an option. However, for your federal loans, never apply for deferment or forbearance. You'll simply be prolonging the inevitable.

Of course, if you have yet to find work and you have no other option, then you can take advantage of deferment; however, far too many people abuse this course of action. If you've got the means to pay the money back, then do so.

2. Research Job Salaries
Do not let an uncertain job market force you into accepting less for a job that you know pays more. Research salaries online for the industry and career you're interested in, and use this information when it comes time to negotiate your salary. Having as much capital as possible on hand is always a good way to quickly pay down student loan debt.

3. Consolidate Your Loans
You may be able to save by consolidating your private or federal loans. Research the interest rates on your private student loans, and visit your bank to see if they can save you money. For federal loans, the interest rate will be a weighted average of the current interest rates on the loans you have, capped at 8.25%. There are online calculators available to estimate what your new interest rate might be.

4. Don't Extend Repayment Terms
If you do consolidate, do not extend the terms of repayment. This will negate any up-front savings you receive, and you'll end up paying more over the life of the loan.

5. Live Frugally
The thought of carrying a student loan balance for 10 or 15 years after your graduate makes no sense. In order to make more than the minimum monthly payment, you'll have to tighten your belt financially. To do this, postpone any major purchases in your life until these debts are gone. Furthermore, save on smaller purchases too: Clip coupons to save on grocery shopping, and review your monthly bills to see if switching to another provider will save you money on your cell phone, Internet, or your cable or satellite TV package.

6. Set Goals
Once you've got the extra money to spend, plan a time-frame for when you expect to have your debts paid off. Review this budget occasionally to make sure you're still on track. You can also apply any "bonus" money you earn or receive throughout the year to your debts, whether work-related commission, cash gifts, rebates, or any other unexpected funds.

Final Thoughts

Though paying off your student loan debt should be your priority, do not completely put off saving for retirement or investing for your children's education. If the interest rate on one of your student loans is 4%, but you can invest in a Roth IRA that yields a 7% return on your investment, you can see why you can still do both.

Put together a modest retirement portfolio, and once your debts are paid off, you can then begin to contribute more. As long as you remain steadfast and have a plan in place, there's no reason why you can't quickly pay off your student loan debts.

What plans do you have for paying back your student loans?