Back – to – School Budgeting Surprises

young boy child with Abacus

And How To Get Ahead Of Them

Ah, back-to-school season. Your child is anticipating the academic year ahead of them, and for parents, too, this can be an exciting time. But it can also be an expensive one — especially when you get blindsided by costs you weren’t expecting. Here’s your guide for how to handle unexpected back to school expenses.

Where To Start

A new school year can mean new activities and interests — many of which demand dollars. Talk to your child in advance about what they think they might be interested in, says Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at truetrae.com. “Especially as they get older, they might not be talking to you as much about things they deem important,” she says. “Keeping those lines of communication really open can help you as a parent anticipate what the costs might be.”

The school will likely provide a list of necessary supplies. But there’s nothing wrong with writing to your kid’s teacher — even during the summer — and inquiring about needs, especially for items that are generally more expensive, like field trips and technology.

Also, keep in mind that when you’re trying to anticipate costs, one of your best sources of wisdom is your spending history. “I would look at your back-to-school shopping costs from last year. See what you spent on that you didn’t anticipate, and factor those items into your budget if you need them again,” says Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert at andreaworoch.com.

Extracurriculars = Extra Costs

Your kid’s extracurricular activities always seem to inspire activity in your wallet. For activities like dance and gymnastics, you may have to purchase costumes for performances. And for things like Model UN, your child will need business attire. Also, if your child is an athlete, you’ll likely have to pay for equipment. “Nowadays, especially since the recession, a lot of schools can’t cover the cost of uniforms, and in some cases even basketballs and footballs,” says Bodge. And if you’re buying something like cleats, it can cost you again later in the year when your child grows out of them. “Don’t overspend now, assuming that these supplies are going to carry you through the year,” Woroch warns. Activities often require ongoing expenditures. Instead, keep an eye open for neighborhood sales and swaps where you may be able to use last year’s equipment to give you a leg up on this years, financially.

Clothing: At First, Less Is More

Even though you may be tempted to snap up every possible outfit your child may need for the year while the summer sales tax holidays are in full swing, hang onto a portion of your budget for later in the year, advises Bodge. Why? If you live in an area with regular seasons, better deals on cold weather clothing happen later — in late September and October. Plus, if you wait, your kids have an opportunity to go to school, check out what everybody else is wearing, and see if they want to hop on a trend. You can ensure you’re spending money on things they like wearing and will actually wear.

Technology

Technology is likely an integral part of your child’s educational experience — especially if they’re in grades five or above. It’s quite possible they’ll have homework requiring a computer and assignments to print out at home. In other words, if you realize in October that you’ll need to purchase a laptop you hadn’t planned on, that can be a major hit to your budget. To prevent a possibly stressful surprise like this, make sure you reach out to your childs’ teachers or school in advance.

Avoid The Big Shopping Spree Before September

These next few weeks as you’re strolling through the mall, you’re likely to be bombarded with colorful back to school sales. You may be tempted to start shopping for everything on your list right then and there, but prices are expected to drop throughout the month of August, reaching a low in early September, says Bodge. And even once you think prices can’t get any lower and you’re ready to shop, make sure you compare prices online before making a purchase — especially with big ticket items like a laptop or phone.

Also, if you want to minimize the hassle of returns and items that don’t fit, try to shop with your child. “Bringing your kids shopping with you — even if it seems like a pain — is good bonding time. And it shows them what shopping is,” Woroch says. Giving them a budget will instill in them the idea that money is a limited resource. Plus, if your child can watch you in action making efforts to save (using a coupon, buying on sale), that will give them an appreciation for the value of money — something that not nearly enough kids will be taught in schools.

 

Sources: 

https://www.savvymoney.com/blog/spending/back-to-school-budgeting-surprises/

Contributing Editor: Jean Chatzky with Molly Povich

Do My Child’s Activities Really Need to Make Me Go Broke?

little girls playing soccer with coach.jpg

Extracurricular activities are an important part of a child’s development. They allow students to shine in ways that may not be possible in the classroom. It also helps kids step out of their social circles to forge new friendships. They may even be your child’s gateway to a college scholarship and possibly a lucrative career. 

But extracurricular activities are expensive. If you’ve got several school-aged children and each wants to participate in two activities, you can be looking at an investment as high as $10,000 or more for fees, equipment, uniforms, instruments and supplies. 

No worries though; you don’t have to choose between your budget and your children’s happiness. Here are some ways to save on your kids’ extracurricular activities: 

1. Limit the number of after-school activities you allow for each child 

If you’ve got several over-ambitious young ones at home, consider limiting extracurricular activities to just one per child. You’ll be doing your children a favor by forcing them to pick an area of focus, allowing them to channel all their energy in one direction. Plus, it’ll be easier for them to keep track of just one schedule — and it’s a lot easier on your carpool calendar, too! 

2. Register early 

Lots of children’s’ sports programs offer discounts of up to 30 percent just for signing up early. Speak to your children about after-school programs and sports teams well before the season so you can register early and snag those early-bird specials. 

3Purchase used equipment 

Save big on sports gear by purchasing gently used equipment from sites like PlayItAgainSports and SidelineSwap. Some of these sites also allow you to sell your own used equipment. 

4. Swap equipment 

If you have friends with kids who are also into sports and music, see if you can swap equipment and instruments from year to year. 

5.  Rent musical instruments 

If you’ve got budding musicians at home, consider renting the instrument they’ve taken up this year. There’s no way to tell if that burst of passion they’re currently nursing for the oboe is just a passing phase or the beginning of a lifelong hobby. Some instruments, like the French horn, can cost as much as $1,000 but can be rented for as little as $50 a month. 

If your child is convinced they’ve found their instrument of choice, you can purchase gently used musical instruments from resale sites like Craigslist, eBay or Reverb. 

6. Volunteer your time 

If you’ve got the time to coach a team or to walk around selling refreshments during games, you might be able to nab a discount on the program’s fees and equipment. 

By making smart, frugal choices, you can turn your children’s dreams into reality without draining your wallet. 

Your Turn: How do you save on your children’s extracurricular activities? Share your own tips with us in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/g27678115/back-to-school-hacks/

https://www.moneycrashers.com/save-extracurricular-activities-kids-after-school/

https://www.parents.com/parenting/money/saving/11-ways-to-save-on-after-school-activities/

Word of the Month: Credit Card

Father and son using laptop together, online shopping

Kate and her mom were going shopping for school supplies. Kate had her mind set on exactly what she wanted. She’d even scribbled a list of all the things she was going to buy at the store.

“And can’t I get that?” she asked, pointing at the sequined pencil case her best friend Lori had told her about.

“Oh, Kate,” her mom groaned. “We can’t buy the most expensive of every supply on your list!”

Kate was stumped. “But why not?” she asked. “If it’s too much money, you can just put it on your credit card!”

Mom gave her a look, and then said under her breath, “Let’s talk about this a little later, at home. Meanwhile, let’s try to find all of your supplies at decent prices.”

Kate agreed and they finished shopping without any more arguments.

After they’d gone home and put away all of Kate’s supplies, Mom prepared two tall glasses of lemonade. She sat down at the kitchen table, across from Kate.

“Let me explain how it works, Kate,” she said. “A credit card isn’t ‘free money.’”

Kate yawned. “I know, I know—you get a bill at the end of the month and you need to pay it all back.”

Mom nodded. “Exactly. But there’s a few things you don’t know about credit cards.”

“Like what?”

“First of all,” said Mom, “lots of credit cards cost money just to have. It’s called an ‘annual fee.’ Also, credit cards don’t lend you that money for free. They charge you interest on every purchase you make.”

“Interest?”

“That means extra money, a certain percentage of the purchase that you need to pay to the credit card company.”

“So it really costs you more than the price!” Kate broke in.

“Exactly,” Mom smiled. “You won’t have to pay the interest if you pay the full amount on your bill on time, but most people don’t. And then they end up paying for that one little purchase for months—or even years and years!”

“So, if the best way to use a credit card is to pay up your full bill each month, why have one at all?” Kate asked. “Why not just use cash?”

“That’s a great question,” Mom said. “There are two main reasons people have credit cards other than to help them pay for stuff they can’t really afford,” she explained. “One is to get the rewards. Lots of credit cards offer points and money back for specific purchases you make on the card.”

“Cool!” said Kate. “Like a bonus for spending money?”

“Right,” said mom. “But it sometimes can get out of control and people spend more than they planned just because they’re getting some points out of the deal. So it doesn’t quite work out as planned. Plus, lots of rewards cards have an annual fee, so they’re expensive just to have.”

“Wow,” Kate said. “And what’s the second reason?”

Mom reached into her wallet and pulled out her MasterCard. “You see this?” she asked. “This helped me buy our house!”

Kate’s eyed bulged. “You can buy a house on a credit card?”

Mom threw back her head and laughed. “No, Kate,” she said. “Let me explain. Let’s say someone has a bunch of open credit cards but they’re super-careful with how they use them. They’re always careful about paying their balance on time and they never rack up huge bills. What does that say about them?”

“They’re responsible!” Kate said. “They know how to pay back what they borrow and they don’t spend too much money.”

“Exactly!” Mom smiled. “So when someone wants to take out a huge loan—like a loan that will help them buy a house, the people lending them that money will look at the way they use their credit cards. It’s called their credit history and credit score. The person’s credit history will tell the borrower about their credit card use in the past, and their credit score is like a grade which shows how responsible they’ve been with their credit. Are you following?

Kate nodded. “I think so.”

“So, why do you think the lender will look at their credit history and credit score when deciding if they will lend this person money to buy a house?”

“Because they want to make sure the person will pay them back!” Kate exclaimed.

“You’re catching on really quickly,” Mom grinned. “I was always very careful with my credit cards, and that helped us get a mortgage for this house!”

“Wow,” Kate said. She had a lot to think about. “What do you say we open a credit card for me, Mom?” She asked. “I want to start building my credit score right now!”

Talking points:

  • Can you explain the way a credit card works?
  • Why do you think credit card companies let people borrow so much money from them?
  • Are credit cards a good way to purchase something you can’t afford? Why, or why not?

8 Things To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen

Retiree - Financial planning

  1. Lock the compromised account. Dispute any fraudulent charges on your compromised accounts and ask to have them locked, or even shut down.
  2. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This helps alert creditors that someone may be trying to open accounts in your name. Contact one out of the three credit bureaus to add the fraud alert to all three. Visit Equifax.com or Experian.com or Transunion.com.
  3. Consider a credit freeze. This will make it impossible for the scammer to open a credit line or loan in your name.
  4. Alert the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). Visit https://www.identitytheft.gov and follow the site’s instructions.
  5. Strengthen your passwords. In addition to changing them, use strong and different passwords for all your online accounts.
  6. Check your account statements. It’s best to do so frequently to look for suspicious activity.
  7. Open new credit cards and accounts. Replace compromised accounts that you’ve shut down so you can be inconvenienced as little as possible.
  8. Repair your credit. Be extra careful about paying your bills on time and keeping your credit utilization low.

Your Turn: Have you ever been the victim of credit card fraud? Share your story with us in the comments.

7 Steps To A Mid-Year Financial Checkup

7-Steps-to-Your-Mid-year-Financial-Checkup

It’s hard to believe, but 2019 is half over. Take a timeout from barbecues and beaches to give yourself a mid-year financial checkup. Use the seven steps below to guide you. 

Step 1: Revisit Your Budget 

Take some time to review your monthly budget. Is it working for you or are you falling behind each month? After reviewing, adjust your budget as necessary. 

Step 2: Anticipate Large Expenses 

List any large expenses you anticipate in the coming six months. This can include household appliances that may need replacing or an anticipated medical expense that is not fully covered by insurance. 

Next, determine the spending category you will take the money from to cover these expenses. Deciding on a source for these funds now will help you avoid making the wrong choices when you’re under pressure in the future. 

If you do not have enough money set aside for these expenses, build a savings plan into your monthly budget so you have the funds available when you need them. 

Step 3: Review Your Tax Withholdings 

Review your tax withholdings to see if they need any adjusting. Your goal here is to pay the perfect amount so you’re not hit with a huge tax bill at the end of the year, but you’re also not lending the government your money all year long. 

Step 4: Check Your Credit Score 

Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus. If your score has gone up in the last six months, you’re doing great! 

Conversely, if your score has dropped, review your report in detail. Take the necessary steps to fix your score today, whether that means contesting an erroneous charge with the Federal Trade Commission, setting up an automatic payment on some of your bills or lowering your credit utilization rate by paying with plastic less often. 

Step 5: Review Your Investments 

Review and adjust all of your investments. This includes your retirement funds, any stock investments, bonds, trust funds or share certificates at Mutual Credit Union. Make sure you are maximizing your contributions when possible and that your other investments are performing according to plan. Adjust as necessary.   

Step 6: Tackle Your Debt 

List every outstanding debt you carry, including credit card debt and all kinds of loans. Designate one debt to tackle first and work on a plan to pay it down. Once you’ve paid off this debt, move to the next one on your list. 

Step 7: Review Your Financial Resolutions and Long-term Goals 

Review the financial resolutions and goals you dreamed up at the end of 2018 and then determine whether you are taking the steps necessary for making them happen. If you’ve been neglecting them, create a plan for working toward them for the rest of the year. 

Now you can kick back and enjoy the remaining summer season, guilt-free. 

Your Turn: What’s on your list for your mid-year financial checkup? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://money.cnn.com/2016/07/28/investing/financial-checklist/index.html

https://onebiteblog.com/its-time-for-your-mid-year-financial-checkup/

Word of the Month: Work Ethic

 

Youth working movie theatre concessionsSchool was out, and Aaron and Tom were counting down the days until July. That’s when their first real job would start and they could hardly wait.

“It’s going to be awesome!” Tom said to Aaron while they practiced shooting baskets at the park. “At the end of the summer, we’re gonna be rich!”

Aaron laughed and easily sank a shot from center court. He didn’t think he and Tom would be rich with the money they were making, but he was excited to start his first real job. He almost felt like a grown-up!        

“Don’t forget the best part,” he shouted to Tom over the sound of the bouncing ball. “Free ice cream every day!”

Tom and Aaron had gotten summer jobs at Scoops, the neighborhood ice cream store. They’d be helping the owner, Mr. Smith, behind the counter for a few hours each afternoon during the busy summer months.

“It’s going to be so much fun working at Scoops,” Tom said, catching the ball. ”I can’t think of any job I’d like to do more!”

Aaron nodded happily. Tom was right: it was going to be awesome!

***

One week later, Tom and Aaron met up at the intersection of Oak Street and Maple Drive for the walk to Scoops on their first day of work.

“This is going to be the best job ever!” Tom yelled, pumping his fist in the air.

But four hours later, he was telling another story.

“I have never worked so hard in my life!” he complained, collapsing onto a bench down the block from the ice cream store.

Aaron dropped into the spot next to him and let out a loud groan. “That was crazy,” he agreed.

“I thought this job would be fun Getting people the ice cream flavor they want, putting on the toppings, working the cash register—but it was so hard!”

And it was. Scoops had been packed all afternoon, and it wasn’t easy to keep the customers happy, make sure everyone got the right change and greet each person with a smile, too, like Mr. Smith insisted they do.

Aaron shrugged. “Don’t forget; we’re getting paid for this work,” he tried to cheer up Tom. But Tom still brooded.

***

The next day, when Aaron reached the intersection of Oak and Maple, Tom was nowhere to be found. Aaron waited one minute. Then two  and three, but still no Tom. He looked at his watch. If he didn’t leave soon, he’d be late to work!

Finally, after waiting seven whole minutes, Aaron left. He ran all the way to work so he would still be on time.

Tom showed up 15 minutes later, not looking too happy to be at work. Mr. Smith didn’t look too happy to see him either. He handed Tom a Scoops apron and told him to get started at the toppings center.

Work that day was a little easier than the first day, since Aaron and Tom knew what to expect. They were also learning their way around the counter a little better and everything took them less time.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Aaron told Tom as they licked their triple-scoop cones after work that day.

Tom just shrugged.

The next day, Tom was waiting for Aaron at Oak and Maple and Aaron was happy to see him.

“I’m leaving early today,” Tom told Aaron. “My aunt is taking my cousins to a Cubs game and they’re leaving at 4:15. They invited me to come along and I need to leave at 4 in order to be at their house on time.”

“Can’t they leave a little later?” Aaron asked. Their job was over at 4:30 every day. Aaron remembered Mr. Smith’s frown when Tom had shown up late for work yesterday and he couldn’t imagine their boss would be too happy if Tom left a whole half-hour early.

“Nope,” Tom shrugged as they reached the door of Scoops. They both walked into work together.

Later that afternoon, after exchanging a few words with an unhappy-looking Mr. Smith, Tom gave Aaron a little wave and hurried out of the store.

The rest of the week passed quickly. On Thursday, Tom came late again—this time a whole hour late. On Friday, Tom and Aaron walked through the doors with huge smiles on their faces.

“Payday!” they whooped, exchanging high-fives.

But a few hours later, when they got their checks from Mr. Smith, only Aaron was smiling.

“What’s this?” Tom asked Mr. Smith.

“That’s your paycheck,” Mr. Smith said calmly.

“But why is it so much less than it’s supposed to be?” Tom whined.

Aaron saw that his friend was upset. “We were supposed to get paid the same,” he said, coming to Tom’s defense. “Why is my check so much higher than Tom’s?”

“That’s because I hired you with the understanding that you’d get paid a specific salary if you worked a certain number of hours each week, right?”

Tom and Aaron nodded. Aaron had a feeling he knew where this was going.

“And you, Aaron,” said Mr. Smith, “have worked all those hours.”

Mr. Smith turned to Tom, who was staring at the floor. “While you, Tom, have not. You’ve come late, you’ve left early, and I’ve paid you what I believe is a fair rate for the amount of hours you actually worked. You need to learn how to develop—and to respect—a work ethic.”

Tom looked interested. “What’s that?” he asked.

“That means respecting a job. Being on time. Fulfilling your responsibilities. Doing what you are hired to do. Showing that it matters to you. Do you know why it is important to have a work ethic?”

“Why?” asked Tom.

“Because, when you accept a job, you are committing to do the work involved,” Mr. Smith explained. “You are giving your word that you will fulfill your responsibilities. And if you want your job to pay off and to open new opportunities for you, you need to show that you can handle the workload and do your job well. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Tom nodded, looking thoughtful. He was quiet all the way home.  

The next day, when Aaron reached the corner of Oak and Maple, Tom was there to greet him. Tom stayed until 4:30 sharp that afternoon, and all the days the rest of the week.

On Friday, Mr. Smith was smiling widely when he handed them their checks.

“Full paycheck for both of you this week,” he said.

The boys thanked him, but he wasn’t done.

“Can you stay a few minutes late today?” he asked the boys. “I have an interesting opportunity you might want to hear about.”

Aaron and Tom shared a quick fist-pump when Mr. Smith’s back was turned. They didn’t know what Mr. Smith wanted to talk to them about, but it sounded interesting. And they knew it was only because they had shown a strong work ethic.

Talking Points:

  • Can you think of three ways to show a strong work ethic?
  • Do you think it’s easier to show a strong work ethic at an easy job?
  • How can a strong work ethic help you get ahead in life?

All You Need to Know About Remote Deposit Capture

In a world where you can order almost anything using your mobile phone, it makes sense that we, Mutual Credit Union offers a complete mobile banking experience for our members. remote-check-capture

One of the most convenient features we offer through our mobile banking service is Remote Deposit Capture. All it takes to deposit a check is a few minutes of your time and a phone with internet access. 

Let’s take a closer look at remote deposit capture and mobile deposits. 

What is remote deposit capture? 

Remote check capture is a way for you to deposit a check into your Mutual Credit Union Checking Account from a distant location using a mobile device with internet access. You can be practically anywhere in the world and make your deposit at any time. 

The process is simple: You’ll sign into your Mutual Credit Union mobile app and prepare your check for deposit. Tap on the Check Deposits icon and the app will guide you through snapping a picture of both the front and the back of the check. You’ll also be asked to verify the check amount. Once you’ve made the confirmation, your check will be submitted for deposit into your account. 

It’s that easy. 

The benefits of remote check capture 

1. Convenience. As mentioned, with remote check capture, you can make your deposit anywhere, at any time.

2. Speed. Your check will generally clear more quickly through a mobile deposit than it will through an ATM deposit.

3. Accuracy. You’ll be asked to confirm the check amount for accuracy. On the small chance that an error or rejection happens, you’ll still have the physical check, which you can then deposit at any Mutual Branch location. 

Some facts you may not know about remote check capture 

A. Deposit limits. For your safety, the maximum amount you can remotely deposit in one check is $2500.

B. Bounced checks. Just like a confirmed check deposit can end up bouncing several days later, if we cannot collect the funds, a mobile deposit can also be returned for the same reasons.

C. Holds on checks. Any checks deposited after our evening cutoff of p.m. will be placed on hold until the next business day. 

But is it safe? 

We take many precautions for ensuring your personal information is protected throughout the remote check capture process. 

First, no one can sign into your Mutual Credit Union mobile account without two-factor authentication. Always use strong, unique passwords. 

Second, our mobile app does not store your check images in your phone. Once your check has been submitted, the image is erased from your phone and stored only in our own software. 

Finally, if an error occurs, you’ll always have the physical check to deposit if necessary. 

Mutual Credit Union Remote Deposit Capture is quick, easy and safe. Try it today! 

For even more information on Mutual Credit Union Remote Deposit Capture, visit our website .

Your Turn: What do you love about remote check capture? Tell us about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.thebalance.com/mobile-check-deposits-vs-atm-deposits-315007

https://www.bankrate.com/banking/5-crucial-facts-everyone-should-know-about-mobile-check-deposit/amp/

https://www.digitalcheck.com/history-of-rdc/

11 Steps To Improving Your Credit Score

BullsEye

 

Your credit score plays an important role in many aspects of your life, from the rate you get on a loan to passing a background check for your dream job. Having bad credit scoring can keep you from achieving your goals. Luckily, improving your credit score isn’t a mystery; it is a simple process that you just need to follow consistently.

Step 1: Check Your Credit Score

Your credit score is determined based on your credit history. Actions like your payment history, types of credit, and amount of credit are reported and recorded. Positive behavior, like making on-time payments, improves your credit score. Negative information, like late payments or bankruptcies, hurt your credit.

Your credit score is a number between 300 and 850 and is built looking at the last seven years of history. The lower the number, the poorer the credit.

The first step to fixing your credit is to know exactly where you stand. Too many people know they have “bad credit,” but don’t know exactly what their credit score is or what negative marks are on their credit report. Every American is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from all three major credit bureaus.

You can request your free credit reports here.

Step 2: Clear Any Mistakes

Now that you have your credit report, look through it to see what is negatively impacting your credit score (also called a derogatory mark). They could be things like late payments, an account in collections, or defaulting on a loan. Some of these might be legitimate, and we will discuss how to deal with those in a moment, but right now we are looking for anything that might be a mistake.

If you find an error, you will need to send a letter to the creditor letting them know of the mistake. The FTC provides a free letter template for filing this dispute.

There are other companies that provide digital tools to help you identify and dispute errors on your report.

Step 3: Settle What You Can

Once we have cleared all the errors from your report, you should focus on resolving what you can. There is a technique called “pay for delete.” Essentially, you call the collection agency holding the debt and ask them to remove the derogatory mark once you settle the debt. Not all agencies will do this as the legality of doing so is somewhat questionable.

Regardless of if you choose to try and negotiate a “pay for delete” deal, you should try and settle whatever debts you can, as that will always help your credit score.

Step 4: Prioritize Card Repayment For Utilization

One of the factors considered in your credit score is something called “credit utilization.” It is the amount of credit you have used in relation to your total combined credit limit. For the sake of simple math, pretend you have a credit line of $1,000. You spend $500 of it. You have utilized 50% of your credit ($500/$1000).

A general rule of thumb is to try to keep your credit utilization under 30%. The lower, the better, as it is a proxy of how well you are handling your debt.

To help improve your credit score, look for the credit card with the highest utilization score and pay that down. That will be a card that is maxed out. A card with a $100 limit and $99 spent will have a credit utilization of 99%. A card with a $1,000 limit and $99 spend will have a credit utilization of 9%. In this step, we’re looking for cheap and quick fix. This is different from a strategy to get out of debt; if that is your goal target the credit account with the highest interest rate.

Step 5: Automate Bill Payment

The single best thing you can do for your credit is to consistently pay bills on time and in full. Sometimes we fail to pay on time, even when we could, simply because we’re human and we forget. Remove the option to forget and enroll in automatic payments.

Bill pay is so valuable, that many institutions will provide a discount just for enrolling. Check your insurance provider, cell carrier, and financial institution to see what discounts might be available.

Step 6: Keep Accounts Open

Another heavily weighted variable in your credit score is the length of an account. Some people will advise cancelling your credit card when it gets paid of in order to remove temptation. If you feel like you need that, then certainly do it, however you will be removing an old line of credit. Consider cutting up the card but keeping the account open.

Step 7: Automate Credit Building

Remember, credit is built by successfully paying off debts on time. A simple way to ensure that it happens is to put small, recurring payments on a card and then have it automatically paid off in full each month. For example, put your water bill on automatic pay. Have that be the only bill on this credit card and set the card up to be paid in full every month.

Step 8: Become An Authorized User

Your score can benefit by becoming an authorized user on an account of someone who already has a great credit score. Since the time an account has been open is a factor, you might want to look to your parents or grandparents. Do not get a physical card or use this line of credit for purchases — you don’t need it. You just want your name on the account so that you can benefit from their good behavior.

Step 9: Get Rent Payments Counted

Not all bills are reported. For example, your rent payments don’t help you build credit, even though that is likely your most expensive monthly bill. There are some services out there that will help make sure you rent helps to build your credit.

These services work by either contacting your landlord, or by serving as a middle-man in making your rent payments (you cut them a check, then they pay your landlord). You’ll probably have to pay a monthly fee for this service, but it could be worth it for the boost in your credit score.

Step 10: Consider New Products

Another product you might want to consider enrolling in is Experian’s “Boost.” This feature helps you to get credit for your phone and utility bills.

Step 11: Don’t Open New Accounts

There are two issues to be aware of when it comes to opening new accounts.

First, applying for the account usually requires a credit inquiry. There are two types of checks (or pulls); hard and soft. Soft pulls are often done for things like a background check and don’t impact your credit score. Hard pulls are done when you apply for a line of credit (like a car loan) and they do lower your credit score anywhere from 5 to 20 points.

Second, opening several new accounts rapidly shows that you are looking to get a lot of credit, which can be interpreted as having financial difficulties.

Conclusion

Fixing your credit score isn’t hard, but it does require you to consistently follow some basic rules: know your scores, pay on time and in full, get credit for everything, and then continue credit monitoring. Repeating these steps raise your credit.

 

SOURCES:

https://blog.kasasa.com/2019/06/11-steps-to-improving-your-credit-score/

https://blog.kasasa.com/2018/07/how-does-my-credit-score-affect-my-car-loan/

https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0384-sample-letter-disputing-errors-your-credit-report

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/credit-report-rent-payments-incorporated/

https://www.experian.com/consumer-products/credit-score-boost-a.html

 

Steps 1 thru 12 to Living a Debt Free Life

working on her accounts

Step One: Take Stock of Your Debt

You’re determined that this will be the year you finally pay down (or pay off) that debt. Get ready, because every month, our Do It Today plan will have you taking another step on your journey toward living a debt-free life. 

First, sit down and take stock of all your debts. Don’t let the numbers scare you; you need to do this to move forward. Get out every single credit card bill, personal loan, student loan, and any other debt you’re carrying (except your car and mortgage payments). Tally up the numbers to give yourself an idea of what you’re dealing with. 

Next, organize your debt into different categories, such as credit card debt, student debt, personal loans etc. Use a spreadsheet to list your debt, the remaining term of each loan (if applicable), the minimum payment and the interest rate.   

Finally, designate one hour each week for working on your finances. 

Step Two: Don’t dig yourself deeper

When you’ve dug yourself deep into a pit, the only way to get out is to stop digging. This month, focus on not racking up more debt. Stop using your credit cards. Skip your weekly trips that usually have you buying too many non-essentials.

Instead, start brown-bagging your work lunch and brewing your own coffee. Get into the habit of spending only on essentials so you can make real progress toward paying down that debt.

Don’t forget to make the minimum payments on every line of credit and loan you have open. Neglecting your debt will only pull you deeper into the pit.

Step Three: Negotiate a lower APR

If the majority of your outstanding debit is credit card debt, you may be spending hundreds of dollars just on interest alone. Aside from wasting money, this keeps you from moving forward and paying down your debt.

Most people don’t know you can call up a credit card company and negotiate for a lower APR. Take the time this month to do that. Explain that you are working on paying down your debt and that the interest payments are impeding your progress. You can even research competing cards and cite their interest rates in a bid for a lower APR from your current credit card company.

Lowering your interest rates will allow you to make another real step toward getting rid of debt.

Step Four: Create an emergency fund

You may be feeling impatient to start more aggressively paying down debt, but it’s important important to first create an emergency fund. If you don’t have money socked away for unexpected expenses, you’ll be tempted to use the money that’s already earmarked for your debt payments to fund this expense.

Experts recommend keeping three months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund, but you can start with a modest $1,000. Set up an automatic monthly or weekly transfer from your [credit union] Checking Account to your Savings Account until you have a fully padded emergency fund. This may take several months, but no worries, you can continue following the next few steps towards a debt-free life as your emergency fund grows.

Step Five: Create a budget

This month, you’re going to organize your finances. Hold onto every receipt, bill, paystub and invoice you produce throughout the month. Sometime during the last week of May, sit down with all of your paperwork and start crunching the numbers.

When you’re through, you should have all of these questions answered:

  • How much is my net monthly income?
  • How much are my monthly fixed expenses?
  • How much are my monthly non-fixed expenses?

Now that you have the numbers in front of you, work on creating a budget. Designate the necessary funds for your fixed expenses. Then, with the remaining money, determine how much you will spend in each non-fixed expense category; like groceries, clothing, entertainment, etc.

Put your minimum debt payments in the fixed-expenses category, with another category for extra debt payments in your column of non-fixed expenses.

Step Six: Trim Expenses

Now that we have a budget, let’s slim it down!

You’ve already practiced spending less thanks to Step#2 in this series. Now, it’s time to get serious about it. Take a long, hard look at the money you spend each month and find your weak spots. Where do you spend the most on unnecessary purchases? What’s your particular vice? You may even have several spending traps. How can you cut back on your daily expenses?

Any extra money you save goes toward your debt payments.

Step Seven: Create A Debt Snowball

You’ve organized your debt, you’ve set up an emergency fund and you’re working on spending less. You’re now ready to start getting rid of that debt…for good!

Choose the debt you’d like to pay down first. Financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests starting from the smallest debt and working your way up. You can also choose to start with the debt that carries the highest interest rate. Either way, once you’ve paid down the first loan or line of credit, you’ll move onto the next and continue to work your way through all remaining debt until you’re completely debt-free.

For now, paying off this debt will be your top priority. Be sure to pay the minimum payments on all other debts, but any extra money you have at the end of the month goes towards the first one. Start with the minimum payments you were making anyways, and add the money that was previously going towards setting up your savings account to create your debt snowball. Whenever possible, try to add money to your snowball to accelerate your progress.

Doesn’t this feel great? You’re on your way to a debt-free life!

Step Eight: Boost Your Income

Increase your income this month to help you pay down debt.

There are a handful of practical ways to accomplish this. For instance, consider asking for a raise or promotion at your current workplace or seeking employment elsewhere if you feel you’ve reached your maximum earning potential at the company. You can also freelance for hire, take on a side job on weekends or a seasonal job for just a few weeks a year. You might also consider offering consulting services in your particular field.

Remember: any extra money earned goes straight towards your debt snowball!

Your Turn: How did you boost your income this month? Share your success story with us in the comments!

Step Nine: Releasing in September ……………………………

Paperless Statements – Pros and Cons

Paperless Statements – Pros and Cons

Woman organizing papers

Switching from paper bills to paperless billing might save time, but is it worth it?  Below we will review the Pros and Cons of signing up to receive paperless statements, bills and notices.

•••Tetra Images / Getty Images

How Paperless Billing Works

When you sign up for paperless billing statements, you won’t get a credit card statement in the mail anymore. Instead, your statement will be available online, often as a PDF file that you can download, save, and print. Your credit card issuer will send an email each month you when your statement is ready.

For your convenience, some credit card issuers also include your minimum payment due and the due date in the body of the email. If you’re thinking about ditching traditional paper statements, consider the pros and cons before you make the change.

Pro: Saving the Trees

Paperless statements are good for the environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American uses about one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper each year. If credit card issuers send out fewer billing statements, there will be less demand for paper, which means less air pollution from paper production. Some credit card issuers have even promised to make their own contributions to environmental causes when you sign up for paperless billing.

Con: Easier to Miss Payments

One of the downsides to paperless statements is that it’s easier to forget to send your payment when you don’t have that physical bill as a reminder.

If you need a due date reminder, you can print the statement from the internet and post it where you normally put your bills. Paper is still being saved since you’re skipping the envelope and billing statement inserts.

You could also miss your due date if the credit card issuer’s emails are caught by your spam filter and never delivered in your inbox.

Make sure you add your credit card issuer’s email address to your “safe list” to prevent the emails from being automatically quarantined.

Pro: Less Mail and Paper in Your Home

The elimination of billing statements means there is less paper and clutter in your home. You’ll save time sorting through bills and figuring how what you should keep, what can be thrown in the trash, and what must be shredded.

If you download your billing statements, you can save them to your computer or external drive and access later when you need them. Most credit card issuers make several months of billing statements available online, so it’s may not be necessary to save your most recent statements.

Con: More Passwords to Remember

When you sign up for online billing, that means you’ll have yet another username and password to remember. Even if you try to use the same ones for all your sites – which generally isn’t a good idea – there are always a few sites with slightly different restrictions that will require you to come up with something different from what you normally use, something that you’re more likely to forget. And if you can’t remember your password, you’ll have to use the password recovery process to check your statement every time you forget your password.

Pro: Perks for Online Billing Statements

Some credit card issuers offer incentives to cardholders who sign up for paperless statements. For example, you may be entered into sweepstakes when you switch to paperless billing statements. Some card issuers charge a fee to send a paper statement and waive this fee when you sign up to receive your billing statement online.

Con: Less Access to Previous Statements

Credit card issuers typically only make a certain number of statements available online. If you need more than that, e.g., for tax purposes, you may have to go through a few extra steps (and could even have to pay a fee) to access older statements. You could get around this by printing your billing statement each month and filing it away so you can access it if you need to.

Pro: Identity Theft Prevention

Switching to paperless statements could help prevent identity theft resulting from stolen mail.

Since statements aren’t mailed to your home, mail thieves won’t get access to your credit card number if they intercept your mail. Even hacking your email account wouldn’t give a thief access to your credit card information since you have to log in to your credit card issuer’s website to view your statement. Emails from your credit card issuer should never contain your full account number.

Con: Delay in Catching Credit Card Fraud and Credit Card Changes

If you’ve set up an automatic payment for your account, you could easily forget to review your statements each month, a step that’s critical to catching credit card fraud. You have 60 days to report billing errors, beyond that the credit card issuer could make you pay for purchases you never made.

There’s another downside to paying without reading your statement – no alert to changes in your minimum payment. If your minimum payment increases beyond the payment you’ve set, you’ll be hit with a late fee even if the payment is made on time. After 60 days, your interest rate will increase, and the late payment status will hit your credit report.

Con: Email Address Change Notification

Just like you have to notify your credit card issuer when you change your mailing address, you should also update them with a new email address. Otherwise, you’ll miss the monthly notification that your billing statement is ready. You could also miss an email letting you know about suspected fraud on your account (but beware of phishing scams) or to alerting you to other changes to your account, e.g., a credit limit increase.

Pay Online Without Paperless Billing

Even if you choose not to sign up for paperless billing, you can pay your account online either through your bank if they offer online bill payment services or directly to the credit card issuer through their website.

 

Source Information:  https://www.thebalance.com/pros-and-cons-of-paperless-billing-statements-960230

Go paperless and save