Credit Death: Why certain moves will always kill your credit score

Think about your credit score and the advice you receive from friends, a family member or anyone else (including a financial planner) about that score and how to protect it.

You may think that protecting a credit score simply means making sure you pay relatively the date due and having debt is just a part of everyday life.

But destroying your credit score is a reality that most ignore, and they don’t follow simple rules to keep that three digit number on the straight and narrow.

And we all know what a poor credit score means in the grand scheme of things as it relates to money: you won’t be able to get it, nor are you going to be able to get a credit card, borrow money or get a car or house with much ease.

Don’t forget as well that a bad credit score also means your interest rate if you are able to get a loan is going to be heavy, to say the least, and you’ll end up spending more in interest than you on the principle, and that’s a place no one wants to be.

To keep your credit score in line, you want to focus on two elements: paying on time and keeping your credit levels at a reasonable level (i.e. not maxing out your credit card). Maxing out a credit card is a huge credit score red flag as creditors see a $5,000 credit limit and the balance sits at about that or maybe only a few dollars less. This is called a bad credit utilization rate, and creditors see it and assume that you aren’t going to be able to accept any more credit, certainly not from the reputable ones anyway.

Paying on time might be the easiest yet the most difficult element to control for the general public to get right when it comes to their debt. Late credit card payments not only carry with them a late fee, but carry quite the relevancy when it comes to your score: something in the neighborhood of 35 percent. You want to stay as close to that payment date as possible but certainly not past it, and if you manage to go past 30 days, you run the risk of having that reported to a credit agency and thus turn it over to collections. That, in itself, is worth about 100 points of a drop to your score.

Keep that score alive and kicking by doing not much more than pay attention to paying on time and reminding yourself that the money on those credit cards needs paid back, so keep it minimal at best to maximize your score.

Saving Money After the Holiday Dip

The financial dip is the wallet-depleted period that immediately follows the holidays. It is the period that starts in the beginning of the year and ends when the weather warms in some areas. Most consumers have nothing but lint in their pockets at this time. Some consumers have a difficult time recovering from the dip period. The following are some tips that all consumers can use to save money after the holiday financial dip:

Do Some Bill Snipping

One way that modern consumers can save money after the dip is by snipping the household bills. Some of the bills such as the cell phone bill, car insurance bill, Internet bill and cable bill are open for consumer manipulation. What that means is that the account holder can contact customer service and remove some of the unnecessary features and add-ons until the post-holiday finances recover. Examples of bill add-ons are premium cable channels, cell phone music and data features, additional gigabytes of Internet, and collision and comprehensive auto insurance coverage. Consumers often surprise themselves when they see how much of a difference a little bit of bill snipping can make.

Start a Couponing Hobby

Many people do not bother themselves with coupons because they do not want to take the extra few seconds or minutes to stand in line or type a code into a website. The beauty of the dip period is that it provides consumers with the opportunity to do things that they would not normally do. Coupon codes, promotional codes and discounts codes are available on a vast number of websites as well as in the paper circular. They can help a struggling post-holiday consumer to get by and get back on his or her feet after spending so much money.

Go on a Penny Hunt

Many consumers turn their noses up at pennies because they are the least of all the money. However, these little brown coins can get people out of many tough situations. A group of them can put food on the table. They can buy gas. They can even purchase clothing. The best thing about pennies is that they are all over the place. Consumers can find them under the mattress, in the car, behind the dresser and more. A post-holiday consumer can probably find some serious cash by going on a penny hunt. Bank machines can help consumers turn their pennies into dollars.

There are ways that one can bounce back after the holiday doldrums. Consumers can start with the previously mentioned tips and go from there.

Myth Busters: Why you’re not always hurting your credit

Your credit score is coveted, at least it should be based on those three numbers and how they dictate everything from an interest rate to if you’ll be given a loan of any kind.

But as much as you pay attention to that score and make sure any move you make won’t hurt it in the long run, you might be overthinking it.

There are plenty of misconceptions about your credit and subsequent score, mostly centering on how you can damage it.

For instance, plenty of smart shoppers have vetoed the idea of having their credit score inquired on because of the thought that it is going to hurt your score. There is a difference between a hard and a soft inquiry, with the former being what happens when you buy a car or house or there’s something of value being attached to the score and approval.

The soft inquiry, mostly centering on you checking it yourself, won’t matter at all. Even the hard inquiry is only going take a few points off, so if you are buying a car for instance and go to multiple dealerships, you won’t take too much of a pounding by having it check more than a few times.

For those of us who struggle with credit and debt, you also might be inclined to inquire about a credit counseling or consolidation program in the hopes of managing your debt and having one reasonable payment per month.

That route often is viewed as a negative by the masses, given that those credit cards are closed immediately upon signing on for this type of deal in addition to the creditors issuing a letter saying as much.

But even though that all sounds daunting, a credit counselor and service that wipes out your cards and consolidates your debt is a good thing, and won’t affect your credit negatively. It’s relatively a neutral move in the sense that you’re not going to be penalized, other than maybe a few points and not being able to apply for any new credit as far as cards go for the next couple of years.

All that doesn’t sound so wonderful, but in actuality its a good thing since you shouldn’t be applying for new credit since you’ve struggled so mightily with what you recently consolidated though a company that specializes in it.

Your credit score certainly is pertinent as far as managing your debt and making sure you’re excelling and able to get the home, car and credit you want, but don’t be misled by misnomers about that score and what exactly is affecting it one way or another.

Fast and Furious: Why saving money can be quick, simple

When it comes to saving money, the time is now.

In fact, it is always now.

So many people struggle and strive to save as much as possible, but what ails them typically is they can’t do it fast enough. Time never really is of the essence as far as saving money as more often than not, you don’t look at putting money aside as the long haul or something you do over time. Chances are, you’ve talked about it as an immediate need.

But much like losing weight, saving money isn’t going to happen overnight, but that doesn’t mean you can’t strive to do as much as possible as quickly as possible with a few money saving habits you might be overlooking, or at least ones that can gain ground on your ultimate goal of saving money.

For instance, when was the last time you examined your grocery bill? Do you even have one? The latter question pertains to your propensity for putting cooking at home on the back burner in exchange for expensive and pricey eating out options at restaurants for breakfast and lunch but especially dinner.

The grocery store isn’t completely absolved, either, from this discussion. Families and individuals alike also love the idea of convenience and aside from falling prey to ordering food every night they tend to fall victim to expenses that include pre packaged grocery store meals that are much more expensive than ingredients that need prepared at home and served. If you can make the time to do that, you’ll save thousands per year.

One avenue that often gets overlooked is credit cards. And you might be thinking to yourself, how can credit cards actually help me save money? It isn’t so much using the cards at will but rather the idea that balance transfers can save you hundreds or even in some cases thousands of dollars on interest, especially for the cards that are carrying 20 something interest rates, those high interest store cards and anything else that has two digits when you talk about interest. Transferring isn’t a free pass as you have to pay it off by the time that introductory rate or promotion ends, but if you can buy yourself 18 months or more with a goose egg for an interest rate, you’re far ahead of the pack.

You’ll never meet anyone who doesn’t want to save as much money as possible, but for those without the patience or time to do it the right way, you might want to take drastic, albeit simple, measures.

Saving panned: Why traditional coupons can’t trump online version

Not long ago, coupons came to us via the mail or perhaps in the form of a door hanger or some other means of marketing and promotion that promised to save us money one way or another.

That, for the most part, was the only means that a consumer could bask in the glow of money saved, sitting at the kitchen or dining room table, scissors in tow, cutting corners literally as they went from one circular in the Sunday paper to another in the hopes of putting a little extra cash in their pocket.

The emergence of online coupons, or as it is affectionately known now as “couponing,” has benefited customers two fold: the same money savings options are there, only with a simple click of the print button but also the arrival of web sites that use online coupon codes that work in conjunction with and have relationships with retailers that allow you to score even more savings from one purchase to the next.

That advantage is one that customers find far too appealing to ignore and certainly beats the traditional form of the coupon or, if nothing else, works as the perfect compliment to that way of shopping. Some retailers have sales specifically designed for someone who might have a credit card with the store, and they’ll be apt to send you coupons in the mail for that reason alone. The influx of online coupon sites, such as keycode.com, PromotionCode.org, RetailMeNot.com, and coupons.com take those savings and merely add to the winnings.

If you can’t use both, the online coupon sites mentioned above typically trump most of what you can get with the paper version. Coupons for various retailers range from 10% all the way up to 70% off, and let’s not forget as well just how convenient online shopping is when you add online coupon promo code sites to the equation.

Not only do you have the ability to browse these sites, find the retailers and subsequent coupons you want, but it’s as simple as clicking and revealing a list of discounts that work for you, often with several to pick from, whether the retailer is offering free shipping or a discount of $25 off purchase of $100.

No matter how you slice it, coupons of this ilk are too hard to pass up.

keycode.com, for instance, partners with thousands of retailers who dish the goods on a variety of products and services so customers are more inclined to buy and you can view any number of deals, rather than just having, for instance, a $5 off coupon that hardly is enough to whet your appetite to save money and thus shop. keycode.com conveniently allows you to simply search a retailer and an entire page of coupons populates. A simple click on the one you like best, and you’re transported to a world of saving money you never thought possible and certainly wouldn’t get to this level with hard copy coupons, scissors and the best intentions in the world.

Those old fashioned coupons still have their place, but you’d be hard pressed to pass on the online coupons and promo sites that serve you much better for what you’re looking to save.

 

Free and Cleared: Is being debt free really possible?

How often have you told yourself that you want to get rid of your debt for good, start over so to speak and have money on hand and not have to depend on charging and borrowing every time you need something?

Chances are if you care about your money and want to be able to save it and spend in accordingly, you’ve thought about how to get rid of debt and also subsequently live your life completely debt free.

Those last two words are paramount because the idea of having a lifestyle or what you need to live without having to carry a little bit of debt at least is next to impossible. And truth be told, it is. There are an incredibly few number of people who actually have no debt, but the discussion put forth isn’t about your mortgage or car payment or some of the other necessary evils of debt that you and everyone else has.

This is more about how to live debt free away from borrowing money, using credit cards or amassing debt owed for things that aren’t quite as relevant and tangible as that house you’re living in or car you’re driving around on a daily basis.

This is more about charging vacations on credit cards, buying furniture or home improvement products and clothes on department store cards that have low rates at first then have interest that interjects itself at around 20 or 30 percent.
So how does one truly live debt free?

For starters, they budget accordingly to build a savings account that can help them handle emergencies or the products that they ultimately want. For this select group, it’s more about spending your own money to buy things and knowing you have enough saved that the dishwasher for $200 can come out of a checking account rather than charged to a Best Buy card, for example.

Even that so called car payment isn’t always a need, if you have a car that you can buy outright and avoid having that monthly payment. The catch with that can be a slew of repairs to come but that still can happen with the car payment, too, so why not try to eliminate at least one of the expenses.

And as long as you’re trying to live debt free, why not follow the simple act of buying based on a need not a want? If you’re toting around a cell phone that is three years old and it works fine, why replace it? The same can be said for your stove, couch or anything else that is motoring along just find in this world and doesn’t need swapped out for something better.

Keeping yourself out of debt isn’t quite the debacle and headache you might believe. It’s about decision making and determining how to budget and buy accordingly.

Teaching Kids about Money

Money isn’t always the most comfortable topic.

It’s even more uneasy when it is parents talking to kids about it, particularly if the parents aren’t exactly thriving in saving versus spending.

Truth be told, less than 50% of the population has a savings account to speak of, but instead live from paycheck to paycheck, paying bills when they can and the phrase “on time” being a relic of rhetoric that really means creditors and those asking for money will get it sooner or later.

The lack of emergency funds isn’t quite that new for the masses, most of whom really want to save money and do things the right way as it relates to money but struggle due to a bevy of reasons that are legitimate: lower wages, lack of raises, steady but not superb economy and savings account interest rates that could be described as “paltry” at best.

The flip side is a growing number of would be budgeters that are missing out on money that is free, such as companies offering 401K matching programs and you still not contributing nearly enough to take advantage of that steal of a deal.

That said, budgeting is about knowing your limits and living within your means, and that concept still escapes a good portion of the bill paying population, parents included obviously. So if mom and dad can’t handle money and aren’t good with their finances, what do you expect from the kids?

In short, not much.

That is why parents, even the ones who are struggling but know what they need to do, shouldn’t hesitate to talk to their kids about money and use techniques that have been around forever to show them the value of a dollar.

And while that phrase seems outdated and something you’d hear from your grandfather, it is relevant and goes a long way to teaching kids that money is about budgeting out rather than spending and wanting more from those same pockets of their parents.

One of the major issues as it relates to saving money and kids growing up into adults that can’t do that is the lack of education school gives. Kids don’t have classes on how to save money, balance a checkbook or especially what it means to have a 401K, how to invest on a basic level. Sure, you may get that in high school (and that’s a big maybe) and in some college classes, but what about making things like financial security and sanity a requirement in schools.

When that happens on a consistent level, perhaps parents can breath a little easier that their kids wont’ follow in their financial missteps.

Money Talks: Why you’re missing out on free money

The words “money” and “free” rarely find themselves together in the same breath.

For the masses, money comes from hard work, determination or hours upon hours of sweat and tears within the confines of your office trying to work hard to impress the boss and earn more money or that job promotion you have had your eye on for quite some time.

But none of that brings money to your fingertips for free.

That said, free money does exist in the real world, far beyond those days of playing Monopoly as a child and accumulating the kind of paper money you wish would have followed you to adulthood.

The idea of money being free doesn’t mean that someone is going to surprise you with one of those cardboard lottery checks or just hand you money over for no reason (unless you’re talking inheriting money or some other unique situation of that ilk).

Free money is more, for example, about retirement and planning for the future. Do you have enough money saved for that day or are you even on the right track? Turns out, money is waiting for you, and you may not even realize it.

Ask about your company and its retirement plan. If they have some sort of 401K or IRA and they match your contribution 100%, you’d be silly not to do two obvious things: make sure you enroll as soon as possible and contribute the maximum amount possible.

Now, you might try to convince yourself that you need that money in your check more so than the money in a retirement account you’ll use in 30 years or so, but that equal contribution contingency might not hang around forever, so you might want to consider rethinking your budget versus walking away from money that you have to literally do nothing to get.

Perhaps even more obvious at it relates to free money and not using it and thus being able to save in other areas are the bevy of loyalty programs you belong to, yet you still never manage to cash in when the time is right. From free miles to points that equal free meals at a bevy of restaurants, you might be losing when the free flying or food is standing right in front of your face.

Even something as simple as a gas fuel perks card that is implemented by plenty of grocery stores is being wasted when you have $1 off a gallon of gas, only to watch the expiration date come and go without ever using it.

Free money might not be exactly what you expect it to be, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile in other facets of your financial future when it turns up as products, services or funds that you failed to account for.

Clothes for Church when Times are Hard

A church experience is about spending time with the higher power and other people who want to do the same. People from all walks of life visit churches, and some of them do not have the finances to purchase new wardrobes just for Sunday service. Most churches will accept people the way that they are. However some of the church goers like to visit churches with a certain style of dress in mind. The following are some ideas of where to get “church clothes” and look presentable without breaking one’s personal bank:

Specific Online Church Shops

Several websites are available, and women can visit them to find clothing that appeals to them for a church experience. An example of a church-clothes site is the Expressway website. The ExpressUrWay website is a site that offers a wide variety of options for people who like to look pretty in church. The site has a clearance section where customers can receive amazing discounts. Persons can find a wide range of colorful church hats, dresses, shoes and more. The clothing on the site is highly expensive, so a budget friendly shopper may want to visit a different site.

Thrift Shops

Thrift shops are some of the best places to purchase church clothes. Thrift shops such as Goodwill and other places can put customers in touch with new church clothes for so much less than they would spend at other places. People visit thrift shops and donate clothing to them to help those in need. The thrift shops sell them for a highly discounted price so such people can afford them. A woman could quite possibly find a church suit at a thrift shop for less than $20. Thrift shops have shoes and other clothing items, as well.

Auction Sites

Shoppers can sometimes find huge bundles of clothing on auctions sites such as eBay. Amazon.com may have a collection of church clothing, as well. The person can find reasonable outfits by conducting a search for “church clothes.” The search will produce a significant number of results, and the consumer can choose clothing that appeals to him or her.

Yard Sales

Finally, yard sales are a great place for a person to find clothing for church. Most people have yard sales on Saturdays and Sundays. The shopper can find articles of clothing for $.25 to $1 in some cases.

The previously mentioned tips can help a person to locate the best church clothing for those special Sunday gatherings.

How to Save Money on Childcare

Childcare is an expense that keeps many people from working. The average childcare facility charges $200 to $300 per week per child. Even private persons are starting to request $7-$12 an hour for childcare. The expense places a hardworking person in a jam because some employers do not offer much more than that as an hourly pay rate. The following are some tips for cutting childcare expenses down. A couple or a parent can alleviate some of the stress by using the tips.

Work Separate Shifts

A married couple can save on childcare expenses by working separate shifts. The separate shift concept may seem like an obvious solution, but some people lose sight of it in the midst of working hard and trying to pay the bills. One parent could work day shift, and the other parent could work either night or afternoon shift. This solution is best for the children since they will be in their parents’ care at all times.

Check the County for Vouchers

Another way that one may be able cut childcare expenses is by visiting a county organization such as the Department of Children and Family Services. Such a department may have a voucher program, and they may be willing to provide free or inexpensive childcare services to a struggling single mother or father.

Find a New Childcare Center

An interested parent may want to search for a new local childcare center. Such a center would need to build its consumer base, and it may be willing to provide newcomers with an amazing discount that they would not receive under normal circumstances. Hardworking parents can take advantage of that and save money on care for their children.

Hire Responsible School-Age Children

Finally, children can babysit once they reach the age of 13 in most states. A young babysitter may not require as much as an adult will require for childcare. Teenagers often want to gather funds so that they can have recreational time on the weekends. Hiring responsible teenagers for babysitting jobs can save parents enough money to ease their financial worries. Retired individuals are good persons to seek for babysitting, as well. They may be looking for income that can supplement a benefit that they receive.

Work From Home

Finally, the last resort method for saving money on childcare expenses is for a person to work from home. Work-from-home opportunities are abundant as more businesses are opening websites so that they can reach the masses. Parents can start with this simple list of suggestions to save money on childcare expenses.

Savings Gone Wild