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 to be continued in June ……………………………

 

 

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

WORD OF THE MONTH: BUDGET

Teacher working with student

David’s friend, Mikey, had the most awesome basement ever. It had a ping-pong table, a foosball table and an air hockey table. That’s why David loved going over to Mikey’s house to play.

But David wanted an air-hockey table of his own.

“Can we get one, Mom? Please?” he asked his mom one day after coming home from Mikey’s.

Mom shook her head. “Not now, David. Air  hockey tables are fun, but they’re also expensive.”

“So what?” David cried. “Why can’t we buy something expensive, just this once?”

Mom pushed back her chair and stood up. She walked over to a kitchen drawer and pulled it open. She took a bunch of papers and checks out of the drawer and motioned for David to come join her at the table.

“Let me show you something,” she said. Mom started dividing the papers into two separate piles.

“These are our bills,” she said, patting the larger pile. “And these are our paychecks.”

Mom took out a piece paper and drew a line down the middle.

“Look, David,” she said. “On this side, I’m going to write all of our expenses and on the other side I’m going to write our income.”

“You mean like how much money you and Dad get paid?”

“That’s right,” said Mom. “I’m not going to tell you the actual numbers, just an estimate so you get an idea.”

“Why won’t you tell me the real numbers?” David was curious.

Mom smiled. “Because there are some things you don’t need to know about just yet. You’ll have to do all this when you’re older, but for now, you can learn about it without knowing the actual amounts.”

Mom started listing items:

  • Mortgage payment
  • Credit card bills
  • Phone and internet bill
  • Electric bill
  • Gas bill
  • Insurance payments
  • Car payments
  • Cable
  • Gym membership
  • Groceries

There were so many expenses! Next to each item, she put a small number.

Then she wrote a few larger numbers on the other column.

“You see this, David?” she said, holding up the paper. “This is called a budget.”

She pointed at the longer column. “This is the amount of money we need to spend on certain expenses each month.”

Then, she pointed at the shorter column. “And this is the money we have to work with each month.”

“But how do you figure out how much money you need for everything?” David asked.

“That’s where the budget comes in,” mom explained. “I set aside the amount we need for our fixed expenses—that’s stuff that costs the same amount each month—and then I set a little bit aside for the expenses that cost a different amount each month.”

“But how do you know how much to set aside if it always changes?”

“I take an average of a few months and use that number.” Mom pointed to Groceries: $350.

“But you see,” she continued, “I only have a little bit for extra expenses we don’t have all the time, like new shoes or winter coats, or household repairs.”

“And air hockey tables,” David added.

“And air hockey tables,” mom grinned. “That’s not on our budget.”

David was thinking. “But what would happen if we bought one anyway?” he asked.

“That would really mess us up this month,” Mom said. “It’s not planned, and we don’t have enough money in our budget to cover it. We might not be able to pay the electric bill this month, or make a payment on the car if we spent that money on the air hockey table. Do you understand?”

David nodded. “Does that mean there’s no way I can get an air hockey table?”

Mom laughed. “You can—just not right now! We can save up for one together. How about we build a save-up-for-air-hockey-table plan into our budget together? We can think of ways to cut back on our budget and use that extra money to put into an air hockey fund.”

“Sounds good!” David smiled.

He bent over mom’s paper and after 15 minutes of discussion and writing, they had a plan in place. It would take a few months for it to happen, but they had a plan to make it work.

David was happy that mom had taken the time to explain how budgets work. He knew he would have his air hockey table soon. After all, it was part of the budget!

Talking points:

  • Why is it so important to stick to a budget?
  • What would happen if David’s mom bought the air hockey table without a plan?
  • How long do you think it will take David and his mom to save up for an air hockey table?

Word of the Month: Savings Account

father and daughter counting change

Kyle’s friend Ashley was always buying new things with her own money.  Today, she’d come to school with a brand-new glittery case for her laptop.

“How’d you pay for that?” Kyle wondered out loud. “You must get a really big allowance each week!”

“Not really,” Ashley said. “My parents give me just $6 each Sunday.

“Six bucks? That’s all?” Kyle’s parents gave him $8 each week. “But that costs a ton of money! How did you pay for it?”

Ashley smiled. “I saved up for it. I put away a little bit of my allowance each week in a special place. I also saved up my birthday cash and the money I earned helping my aunt out during the summer. It all adds up!”

Kyle was interested. His allowance never lasted more than a few days but he really wanted to buy a new Wii game. His mom had told him he’d have to pay for it himself.

The next Sunday, when Kyle’s mom gave him his allowance, he carefully put all eight dollars in his sock drawer. He’d have that Wii game in no time!

On Monday afternoon, Kyle’s friends decided to make a Slurpee stop on the way home. Kyle followed the group into the 7-11 store and started reaching for an extra-large cup when he stopped. His spending money was at home in his sock drawer. He wasn’t wasting his allowance on Slurpees!

He hung back and watched his friends fill up their cups with icy treats. He was surprised to see Ashley joining the line at the register with her own small Slurpee. Didn’t she know there were more important things to spend money on than a slushy drink?

***
That afternoon, he went with his mother on a trip to Mutual Credit Union.

“What’s that?” he asked his mom as she slid a small pile of checks across the counter to the Teller.

“This is some extra money I earned this month from a side job,” Mom answered. “I’m going to put them into our Savings Account.”

She held up another check. “And this,” she said. “Is going to go into our Checking Account.”

“But why don’t you put all of the money into savings?” Kyle wondered.

“Because we need money to live on now,” Kyle’s mom explained. “Savings Accounts are for money we will probably need sometime in the future, but we need to keep some money for today.”

Kyle nodded. That made sense.

On Saturday, Kyle and his friends met up at the pizza store for lunch.

After they finished eating, Kyle’s friends started digging out quarters and dollar bills and heading towards the arcade games at the back of the store.

Kyle stayed in his seat, watching them. His mom had given him enough money for pizza, a can of soda, and fries, but none for extras like arcade games.

“Hey, Kyle!” Ashley called from behind him. She jangled a small pile of quarters in her palm. “Want to race me in the car game?”

Kyle looked at her. “I don’t have any money on me.  I’m saving it all up for something really big.”

Ashley shrugged. “So am I. But that doesn’t mean I can’t keep anything for now. If you put all your money into savings, it can get really hard and you might give up quickly.”

“So how do you do it?” Kyle asked.

“I put 2 or 3 dollars into my savings jar each week, and the rest I spend on stuff like Slurpees and ice cream.”

“That sounds easy,” Kyle said.

“It is!” Ashley grinned. “Come on, I’ll lend you some money. Are you going to race me or not?”

“Nope,” Kyle smiled. “I’m not going to race you. I’m going to win!”

Talking Points:

Why do you think Ashley bought a small Slurpee?
• Why is it important not to put all of your money into savings?
• Why does Kyle’s mom put most of her earnings into her Checking Account?

9 Ways For Kids To Make Money

Lemonade stand

The best way to teach a child financial responsibility is by encouraging her to earn and manage her own money. As the weather warms and summer nears, there are many ways for your kids to pull in extra cash. 

In honor of Youth Savings Month, let’s take a look at 9 easy ways your kids can earn money.  

1. A lemonade stand 

It may be old-fashioned, but kids can bring in good money by selling America’s favorite hot-weather drink. For optimal exposure, let them set up near a local yard sale or another neighborhood event. 

2. Help a senior 

Your pre-teen can be a huge help to a local senior while earning money on the side. Let your child run some errands, take out the trash, clean the litter box or just chat with a lonely senior. 

3. Hold a yard sale 

Spring-cleaning season is the perfect time to host a yard sale. Let your kids be in charge by having them choose the items to feature, set prices and run it. You’ll want to be available to oversee things, but let them make most decisions on their own. 

4. Do yard work 

If your children are old enough to handle a gas-powered mower and can be relied upon to trim shrubs and weed gardens, let them offer yard work as a service. 

5. Help with pets 

Let your kids walk dogs around the neighborhood and offer to pet-sit. If your child is truly a budding entrepreneur and has the skills, they can set up a pet-grooming station out in the yard. 

6. Be junior tech-support 

Generation Z kids are practically born holding smartphones. Let your kids use those skills to help older folks who may not be as tech-savvy. They can offer to organize digital photos, assist with data entry or help set up a Facebook page. 

7. Help a mom 

Your child may be too young to babysit alone, but he can offer services in assisting a neighborhood mom while she’s at home. 

8. Collect recyclables 

Help your child gather empty bottles, cans, cardboard boxes and newspapers to bring to a recycling plant. You’ll be keeping the planet green and helping your child earn pocket money at the same time. 

9. Wash cars 

Let your child try out her car-washing skills on the family car. Once she’s got the technique down, have her offer car washing services to the neighborhood. Your neighbors will cross another weekend chore off their list and your child will be learning that hard work can pay off. 

Your Turn: How do your kids earn money? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.moneytalksnews.com/10-ways-for-preteens-make-money-this-summer/

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-can-kids-make-money-2085398

https://selfsufficientkids.com/how-to-earn-money-as-a-kid-elementary-age/

5 Ways To Spring Clean Your Finances

5-Ways-to-Spring-Clean-Your-Finances-studying your PC

Q: Spring is here! I’ve cleaned out my house and now I’m ready to take on my finances. I’d love to give them a thorough cleaning, too. Where do I start? 

A: It’s wonderful that you’ve decided to clean up your finances. Springtime is months after the holiday squeeze and still a while away from the pricey summer season, making it a prime time for whipping your finances into shape. 

So, let’s get cleaning! 

1. Dust Off Your New Year’s Resolutions 

We get it: New Year’s resolutions get stale as soon as the calendar hits February. But this was the year you were really fired up and ready to conquer the world. Why sell yourself short when your goals are actually within reach? 

Use the fresh energy and renewal of spring to revisit the list of resolutions you penned back at the end of 2018. What were your budgeting goals? What were your savings dreams? Have you achieved any of those goals? If not, what’s holding you back? 

Take stock of where you are financially and get back on track, moving forward and toward those goals. It’s not too late to make it happen this year! 

Do it today: Dig out that paper with your New Year’s resolutions and go through your financial goals one at a time. Did you overreach? Were you irresponsible? Tweak and adjust as necessary, create a new tracking system if the existing one isn’t working, and then get out there and own those goals! 

2. Sweep Out Your Monthly Budget 

Now that you’ve taken stock of your resolutions, take a good look at your monthly budget. 

Review your spending habits of the last few months. What are your weak spots? Where can you cut back? Have you been allotting too much money for one category and not enough for another? It’s time to take stock! 

Do it today: Review your monthly budget and choose one area to trim. Create concrete and realistic steps to make that happen. For instance, try the money envelope system to keep you on track, or stick to cash-only so you don’t slip up. Your budget will thank you! 

3. Freshen Up Your W-4 

You might be celebrating a generous tax return this year, but that only means the government has been handling some of your money all year long instead of it earning more for you. It’s almost like giving the government an interest-free loan! You could have used those funds to start investing, add to an existing emergency fund, launch a business or to save for your dream summer getaway. 

Take a closer look at your W-4 so you don’t overpay in taxes again this year. 

Do it today: Spend some time researching your best withholding options or ask your accountant to help you work out the numbers. Adjust your W-4 accordingly and submit it to the payroll specialists at your workplace. 

4. Pile Up Your Savings 

Once you’re cutting down on your spending habits and taking home a larger check each payday, why not use the extra money to bump up your savings? You can add to an existing fund, build a new one, open a Savings Certificate or start investing. You have many great options! 

Speak to a Mutual Credit Union representative today to find out about our fantastic savings options. 

Do it today: After choosing a savings option, stop by any Mutual Credit Union branch to set up a direct deposit. Each month, your money will be automatically transferred from your checking account to your new account. It’s the ultimate in set-it-and-forget-it! 

5. Toss Your Debt 

This spring, while you try on old, scratchy sweaters and make piles of junk to toss in the trash or sell for cash, why not get rid of your debt, too? 

Debt is ugly on you. It holds you back from moving forward, keeps you in a spending trap that only gets stronger with time and clings to you like caked-on mud. Wash it all off this spring with an actionable plan to get rid of that debt for good! 

Do it today: We know that paying down debt is easier said than done. But, you can do it! All you need is a plan. Review your debts and pick one to pay off first. It can be the debt with the smallest amount of total owed or the one with the steepest interest rate. Find a way to double down on your payments toward that debt. You can do it by taking on a side hustle, seeking a promotion at work or trimming existing expenses. After you’ve paid down this debt, move onto the next one. Accelerate its payoff by applying the total payment amount from your first debt to the new one – in addition to the regular payment you were making on it. Keep going until they’re all gone. It might take until next spring, but eventually, you’ll kick all of your debt to the curb! 

Spring is here—it’s time to freshen up your finances so they’ll be in tip-top shape for summer! 

Your Turn: How do you clean out your finances in the spring? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.thebalance.com/spring-clean-your-finances-2385567

https://www.moneytalksnews.com/13-tips-for-spring-cleaning-your-finances/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T065-C032-S014-3-ways-to-spring-clean-your-finances.html

 

 

 

 

9 Steps to Buying Your First Car

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Congrats—you’re ready to purchase your first real car! 

The process can be daunting, but our certified financial counselors and loan officers here at Mutual Credit Union will walk you through it. Follow our guidelines for a stress-free ride! 

1. Determine if you really need a car 

OK, you weren’t expecting this, but it’s important to take a step back to review your actual transportation needs. Lots of college towns have a great bus system in place, which can save you loads on car costs. If you have a car-owning good friend you’ll be riding into town with each weekend, it may not pay for you to have your own set of wheels. Also, if your campus has everything you need within walking distance, it can be cheaper to rent a car when you need it instead of buying one now. 

2. Know your budget

If you’ve determined that a car purchase is necessary at this point in your life, don’t start hunting for your dream car until you’ve worked out a realistic budget. Take a hard look at your other monthly expenses to see how much you can spare for a new set of wheels. Don’t forget to include some cash for auto insurance, gas and maintenance. 

3. Create a tentative wish list 

This is your first car, so it doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles it does in your dreams. Sit down and make a list of all the “must haves” and “wants” you’re looking for in a vehicle. Determine how much each feature would cost you in a car and decide which are really important. 

4. Obtain financing 

If you’ve been saving up cash for your first car all through high school, you’re set! Otherwise, visit any Mutual Branch location or visit our web-page at  mutualcu.org to learn about your auto loan options and to get your pre-approval. 

5. Research your options 

You’re ready to start looking for a vehicle that will satisfy your needs and wants. You can research ratings and user reviews on sites like Cars.com and create another list that contains your top three choices of car makes and models. 

6.    Look up listings 

Start scavenging for listings of your car choices online and in your neighborhood. Once you’ve found several that might work, research their histories on Carfax.com and then contact the seller to set up a test drive. 

7.    Take it for a spin 

If a car checks out and everything looks good, you’re going to want to take it for a test drive. Pay attention to details like legroom, acceleration, brake functionality and more while you drive. 

8. Have it inspected 

If you’re purchasing a used vehicle, it’s best to have it inspected by a mechanic before signing on the deal. 

9. Make it official 

If your car has passed the test drive and inspection, you’re ready to make it official! Be sure to read all documents before signing and obtain insurance before your first joyride. 

Enjoy your new set of wheels and drive safely! 

Your Turn: Have you recently purchased your first set of wheels? Share your tips with us in the comments!

 

SOURCES:

https://www.carbuyingtips.com/first-time-buyer.htm

https://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/10-steps-to-buying-a-used-car.html

https://www.carbuyingtips.com/used.htm 

Spring Cleaning Hacks

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The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming—and your cluttered closets are calling. Time to roll up your sleeves and whip your home into shape. And yes, this means you! It’s been a long winter and you’ve let the clutter grow, all over your garage, across your basement and up into your attic crawl space. And your bedroom closets? We’re not even going there. 

As always, Mutual Credit Union is here to help! Use this handy list of creative cleaning hacks to banish those dust bunnies without spending a fortune on organizers and cleaning solutions. Plus, you’ll be doing your part to help keep the planet green by skipping over those toxic cleansers this year. 

Let’s get cleaning! 

Schedule smart 

Before you get started, create a master list of every part of your home that you plan on attacking. It’s best to make this an old-fashioned physical list so you can post it somewhere you’ll see often—like the door of your fridge. 

Once you have every area listed, divide the chores according to the amount of time you estimate it will take to clean them. Make smaller sub-lists of 3-hour jobs, 1-hour jobs and 15-minute jobs. This way, when you have large chunks of time, you can find a larger job to do at a glance. And when you have smaller pockets of time, like those 10 minutes in the kitchen when you’re waiting for the water to boil, you can quickly tackle a smaller job, like straightening out the catch-all drawer in your kitchen. 

Once you’ve got it all written out, it’s time to roll up those sleeves and get to work! 

DIY cleansers 

Why blow your budget on pricey, toxic cleansers when you can make your own for so much less at home? Try these DIY solutions and hacks for all those hard-to-clean places around your home: 

  • Use a lemon for cleaning stainless steel sinks and faucets.
    Slice a lemon in half, and rub the fruit against hard water stains and rust spots in your kitchen and bathroom. You can also sprinkle on some baking soda for the really stubborn marks. The stains should now lift easily. Plus, instead of chemical fumes that make you gag, you’ll leave behind that springy, lemony scent.
  • Steam-clean your microwave.
    Is your microwave plastered with hardened food stains? It’s time to make your appliance shine! Grab a microwave-safe bowl, fill it with 1-2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, plus a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Nuke it for five minutes and then wipe those stains right off!
  • Wash your windows with 1 teaspoon of mild dishwashing soap added to several gallons of water.
    Pour your homemade solution into an empty spray bottle and use old newspapers to wipe away the grime. Leave this job for a rainy day—literally. Sunshine can make your windows dry too quickly and leave unsightly streaks behind.
  • Use coffee filters for your monitors and screens.
    Get rid of those fingerprints and itty-bitty dust mites on your computer monitors and TV screens. Let the gentle fibers in coffee filters leave your screens squeaky-clean!
  • Clean your shower heads with white vinegar.
    Fill a sandwich bag with white vinegar, and then use a rubber band to secure it around your showerhead. Let it soak overnight. The water stains and calcium buildup should wash right off in the morning.

Tips and tricks 

Cleaning is easy with these helpful hacks! 

  • Use a lint roller to dust.
    Instead of sticking brushes and feather dusters into every little corner and cranny in your home, use a lint roller. Run the roller over your light fixtures, mantels and shelves. It’ll pick up all those tiny dust mites and leave you with clean surfaces in just minutes! For corners that are super-dirty, use a strip of duct tape for stronger pickup power.
  • Use your dishwasher for more than just dishes.
    Stop scrubbing those teeny-tiny pieces of Lego and load up your dishwasher instead. You can also throw in your hair brushes, pet dishes, refrigerator shelves, soap dishes, tweezers and drawer knobs. When the cycle is through, it’s best to clean your dishwasher by placing a cup of white vinegar on the top shelf and running it through its hottest cycle.
  • Use a window squeegee to scrape pet hair off your carpet.
    The rubber edge of the squeegee is perfect for gripping and removing pet hair from your rugs and carpet.
  • Use a hair dryer to get rid of water rings.
    Is someone forgetting to use coasters? Let your coffee table look beautiful again by blasting a hair dryer over the water rings until they start to fade and disappear. You can also rub olive oil over the area to return the wood to its original shine.

Let’s get organized! 

Banish the clutter for good with these tips. 

  • Create a space for clutter.
    When you’re deep in the throes of spring cleaning, you’re convinced your home will never see clutter again. But all it takes is one art project, a stack of unread mail and one lone toy truck to give your home that cluttered look again. Be proactive and create a place for every bit of clutter that passes through your door. You can pick up perfectly functional organizers and storage bins at the dollar store. Consider investing in a storage ottoman for favorite toys and hanging a shoe organizer in your foyer closet for unsorted mail, keys and gloves.
  • Use Velcro to keep drawer organizers in place.
    Those adorable organizers are no use if they’re slipping and sliding all over your drawers. Fasten strips of Velcro to the bottom of your organizers to keep them in place.

Happy cleaning from all of us here at Mutual Credit Union! 

Your Turn: What’s your favorite spring cleaning hack? Share it with us in the comments!

 

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/capitalone/2018/02/21/spring-cleaning-tips-for-saving-time-and-money/amp/

https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2017-03-23/5-ways-to-make-and-save-money-with-spring-cleaning

http://mentalfloss.com/article/62170/15-brilliant-life-hacks-speed-your-spring-cleaning

https://www.google.com/search?q=spring+cleaning+hacks&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS753US753&oq=spring+cleaning+hacks&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3.8546j0j7&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

ATTENTION TEACHERS: ENTER OUR APRIL BULLETIN BOARD CONTEST

You Could Win $200 for Your Classroom!

CONTEST BEGINS APRIL 8, 2019 AT 8:00 A.M

Five Educators will be selected as winners of the $200 for their classroom. To be eligible to enter and to win you must teach children in grades Pre-K thru 12th in either Warren, Hinds, Yazoo, Issaquena, Sharkey, Claiborne or Copiah Counties.

To enter, simply submit a photo of your decorated door or bulletin board in your classroom to marketing@mutualcu.org. Please supply us with your name, your grade, and your school. If you would like to say anyBulletin Board Contest 2019thing about your bulletin board you may do so in the email. Once your entry is received, it will be compiled into one album on the Mutual Credit Union Facebook page labeled “2019 Mutual Credit Union Bulletin Board Contest.” Please encourage your friends to vote for your entry by “liking” your submitted picture located in the photo album. Entries are due to marketing@mutualcu.org by April 6th at 8:00 p.m.

The Facebook Contest begins on April 8th at 8:00 a.m.

As a bonus, eligible Voters in the contest will randomly be selected to win a Mutual Credit Union Prize Pack! To be eligible for the Prize Pack, you must follow the Mutual Credit Union Facebook page and “like” a picture in the contest.  Random prize packs will be awarded throughout the contest month (April).

Our Bulletin Board contest is just one part of  many celebrations planned during the month of April – Youth Savings Month. Look for us out in the community bringing Financial Literacy Tools to our Youth!

At Mutual Credit Union “Our Focus is You!”

Bulletin Board Contest 2019

 

FAQ’s

Does my door/bulletin board have to be a youth savings theme? No, your door or bulletin board can feature any subject area or topic.

What file format is acceptable to email? Please email your image in either a jpg or png file format. Please contact us at marketing@mutualcu.org if you are having issues emailing your image.

Can my students decorate/plan the board or is only teacher created? It can be the Teachers creation, combination of student and teacher lead or completely student driven. Be sure when you submit your entry that you let us know so we can mention in your entry.

How do I know if my entry was received? You will receive a confirmation email back from lsimmons@mutualcu.org once your submission is received. If you do not, please email lsimmons@mutualcu.org with your concern or call 601-636-7523 ext. 1220.

When will the winners be announced and awards presented? The contest concludes on April 30th. Winners will be announced by the end of that week (May 1-May 3) on the Mutual Credit Union Facebook page. Arrangements will be made after that to present to each of the five (5) winners at their school location.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to email marketing@mutualcu.org or give us a call at 601-636-7523 ext. 1220.

Best of Luck to All 🍀