Category Archives: Saving

Tips to Get Your Job Search Under Way

Resolutions to improve ourselves and our circumstances dont have to wait for a flip of the calendar ”sometimes now is the perfect time to take action. We always want to look better, feel better, spend less and earn more. Finding a new job may be able to help you achieve multiple resolutions.

If your aim is to improve your financial health with better employment, but you still havent found a good place to start, we have a few tips for getting your job search started sooner than later:

  • Perfect your résumé. Online job sites are a great resource for résumé guidance. Look at what others in your industry are saying about themselves on their résumés and style yours to be competitive. Keep in mind the résumé basics: like brevity, flawless grammar and punctuation, using power  verbs instead of passive ones, and presenting a clean, accessible visual appeal.
  • Make a priorities list. What are the factors that your new job must have? Perhaps its a higher salary, better retirement benefits or more opportunity to advance. What are your would like  factors? Maybe thats your own office, a company car, or more vacation time. Finally, what are your no way  circumstances? Moving? Taking a pay cut? Identifying in advance what you can and cant live with will help you to better evaluate a golden opportunity when it appears.
  • Look everywhere. Dont overlook social media and good old-fashioned personal networking. Use every possible resource in order to cast the widest net. Some job-seekers start their search in traditional ways, such as with the want ads in their local paper or an industry-specific publication. But job search sites and other online job boards also feature plenty of listings just remember that can also mean plenty of competition.
  • Be professional. From how you respond to a want ad to the attire you wear for an interview, your behavior speaks volumes about your level of professionalism. When responding to an ad, stick to the method the advertiser says is best. When invited for an interview, be flexible on scheduling, show up slightly early and fully prepared. Dress appropriately for the interview and be sure to thank the interviewer(s) with a follow up email that same day.
  • Consider Alternatives. Have a passion you have yet to tap? Or a hidden talent youre itching to share with the world? Consider entering the world of consulting, freelancing or even starting your own business. While being the sole proprietor of your own start-up sounds risky, it can also provide financial and emotional fulfillment for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Whether youve already hit the pavement or have just started to update your resume, be sure to protect your credit and identity when youre on the job hunt. Be especially wary of scammers looking to take advantage of those on the job hunt. When applying for jobs online, limit the amount of data you provide like your social security number or drivers license number.

Remember, respectable employers dont usually need your personal information until youre past the initial application stages and will be happy to take the steps necessary to protect your information.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   © 2014 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   All rights reserved.

Tips-for-Recent-College-Grads

6 Tips for Recent College Grads

Now that you’ve graduated college, its time to make an important financial decision: Will you allow your finances to rule you, or will you rule your finances? I’d highly recommend the latter. Managing your money for the first time can be overwhelming, but there are lots of ways to keep your finances clean and humming along. Here are six financial management tips for  recent college grads.

  1. Choose Your Organizational System
    You can organize your documents electronically (which also saves money and protects the environment), or you can store them manually in a filing system. Think carefully before you decide on a system – there are pros and cons to each. It’s basically a matter of personal preference, but it’s better to choose one method and stick to it than to dabble in both.
  2. Shred Unnecessary Documents
    If you plan to store documents manually, remember that you don’t have to keep everything. Any document that’s also available online, such as bank statements, can be shredded after you’ve reviewed it. Tax returns and documents that contain beneficiary information should be stored permanently. Every six months, go through your entire filing system and pare it down to what’s absolutely necessary. This will help keep your files clean and relatively simple.
  3. Organize Due Dates
    Paying bills is a nuisance, but it’s particularly bothersome if you have to do it several times per month. Instead, contact your billing and credit card companies to see if you can adjust your due dates. The goal is to consolidate due dates to the same time each month so you only have to pay bills once.
  4. Bundle Your Services
    Get your Internet, cable, and smartphone services from the same company to further consolidate monthly bill-paying. Do the same with your homeowners, auto, and life insurance policies if your provider offers all three. If it doesn’t, check the competition. It’s a good idea to shop around for policies and services to ensure you’re paying the lowest rate.
  5. Back Up Documents
    Make sure you have access to back up financial records in case you experience a computer or home disaster. Purchase an external hard drive or check out a cloud service, such as Dropbox or Carbonite. The first two GBs of storage on Dropbox are free, while Carbonite costs $59 per year, but provides unlimited storage space.
  6. Pay Bills Online
    Paying your bills online streamlines the bill-paying process, and allows you to see immediately that your payment was received. It also gives you a better reference for balancing your checkbook and reviewing monthly bills. Just make sure you create a strong password and change it frequently to prevent possible identity theft.

Once your finances are organized, you can make other important financial decisions. First, pay off your credit card debt, then start an emergency fund. And as soon as you can, start saving for retirement – the earlier you start, the more you’ll save.

Are you a recent college grad? Do you have tips for managing your finances?

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisons.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company. © 2014 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. All rights reserved.

Lease-to-Own-a-Home

How to Rent a House with the Option to Buy

Renting a house with the option to buy can be a way to secure a house and lock in a price before you’re ready to buy. When you do a rent-to-buy transaction you typically pay some money upfront in addition to paying rent every month. The upfront money is usually applied to the purchase price, which helps you build equity and be able to afford the house when the time to buy it comes.

The drawback to a rent-to-buy contract can be that you usually have a limited period during which to buy, and you will usually lose the extra money youve spent if you don’t purchase the house. This means that it’s best to rent-to-buy only if you’re sure you’ll eventually be able to buy the home. There are several steps to deciding whether or not to rent a home with an option to buy.

Step 1

The first step is the most obvious find a rent-to-buy home. A real estate agent may be able to help you find one. Another strategy could be to ask the owners of homes that are available for rent if they’re open to a rent-to-buy contract while also asking the owners of homes that are for sale if they’d be willing to let you rent-to-buy the house.

Step 2

The second step is to negotiate the up-front and monthly costs of the rent-to-buy agreement so that payments will fit within your budget. You can start by establishing a monthly rent for the property. Since rent-to-buy rent usually includes both a fair-market rent and additional money for the purchase of the property, it will be more than what it would cost to simply rent the house. You will also need to determine how much the up-front option fee will be. This money can be applied towards your purchase or, if you don’t buy, it may stay with the current owner.

Step 3

Finally, the contract should specify how long your option lasts. For instance, if you rent a $125,000 house in a market where the typical rent is $1,000 per month, you might put $3,750 down as an option fee and pay $1,200 per month with $200 getting applied to the purchase price as long as you buy within three years.

Make your payments on time every month and while you’re doing that, monitor your credit reports to see if your financial situation will allow you to get a mortgage. A mortgage broker might be able to help you with strategies for managing your credit, if necessary. He can also give you guidance as to what kind of score you will need to get a mortgage and how much it will cost you.

Warnings

When you buy a rent-to-own house, consider having an attorney or real estate agent look over your contract to ensure that your interests are protected, especially if the seller still has a mortgage.

Depending on the terms of your agreement, its possible that you will lose the money you put down if you aren’t able to buy, so it’s usually best to rent to buy only if you’re sure you will be able to eventually purchase the house. Otherwise, you could simply rent and save money toward someday buying a house.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company.     © 2014 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   All rights reserved.

pay-down-debt-or-save

Which is Better? Paying Off My Debt or Starting a Savings

As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. And while it might seem more responsible to pay off debt first, if you dont save for a rainy day, you might find yourself right back in the debt you just got yourself out of. Instead, find a balanced approach to paying off your debt, while also putting away should an emergency arise.

According to the experts at Mint.com, you should have between three and six months salary saved in case of emergencies. But this doesnt mean you should put paying your credit cards or loans on hold that could ruin your credit and have you drown in debt.

First, organize your finances and calculate how much youre spending. If frivolous spending has you exceeding your budget, learn how to cut expenses so you can put more toward your savings instead. Continue to stay up current with all of your payments while putting away as much as you can in your savings.

Once you have met your initial savings goal, consider taking a closer look at your debt. If high-interest rates and are cutting deep into your budget, consider paying more than the minimum due to get yourself out of debt faster.

The secret to balancing your payments between paying off your debts and saving for an emergency is to avoid accruing additional debt. Once youre out of debt, you can increase your efforts to build your savings. This will only help you meet your financial goals, could help change your credit ratio as well!

 

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company.     © 2014 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   All rights reserved.

managing-your-financies

6 Money Drains and How to Avoid Them

When it comes to managing your finances, paying closer attention to monthly expenses can really pay off. You’re likely paying for services you don’t really need, or overdoing your discretionary spending. These types of money drains can zap your accounts, leaving you feeling… well, drained. You work hard for your money, so you should work equally hard to protect what you’ve got.

1. Paying too Much for Groceries
Your  grocery  bill is one of the highest monthly expenses that you can reduce with relative ease. If you’re not already couponing, now’s the time to start. Cut coupons from your Sunday paper and download a price finder app on your smartphone to help you find the best savings. Make sure you’re signed up for your grocer’s loyalty program to maximize savings at the register, and then start looking at your actual grocery purchases. Start cutting out sugary snacks, sodas, and juices. They’re expensive and unhealthy – a double-whammy of financial negativity. Finally, learn how to plan your meals  and shop with a list. This prevents you from overspending on unnecessary items.

2. Overdoing Your Data Plan
When was the last time you cross-checked your  smartphone  usage with your data plan? If you’re well below your monthly limit, switch to a less expensive plan. If you are always going over your monthly data limit, you might want to download a free app that helps monitor data usage plan. This can help you avoid both expensive and unnecessary charges.

3. Stopping at Convenience Stores
Other than gasoline, there’s very little you actually need to purchase from convenience stores. You can get your news fix online, your coffee at home, and your groceries at the grocery store. If you frequently stop to grab a lottery ticket, beer, or cigarettes, it may be time to kick those money drains to the curb.

4. Not Itemizing Your Taxes
Depending on your situation, you could save hundreds of dollars each year by itemizing your taxes. Plus, you don’t need to be all that tax-savvy to take advantage of available deductions. Use inexpensive tax prep software or go to the IRS website to access a list of companies that prepare tax returns for free.

5. Paying for Hidden Fees
Hidden fees are everywhere. They’re in your monthly service bills, credit card bills, and bank statements. Don’t just mindlessly pay your balances each month. Look at each bill and check for added fees. If you see something unusual, contact the provider and ask for it to be removed.

6. Not Managing Your Thermostat
Aim to set your thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter. Put a sweater on in the colder months and pare down to a tank top when it’s hot out. Purchase a programmable thermostat and adjust its settings so that your home’s temperature is lower or higher while you’re at work, depending on the season. There’s no sense cooling or heating an empty house.

Everyone’s money drains are a little bit different, so take a hard look at your expenses to see where your money’s going. Frequent shopping sprees, regular  nights out, or subscription services you never use are a few other possibilities. You don’t need to give up your favorite hobbies or your time with your friends, but consider cutting back to free up some cash.

What money drains can you think of?

 

 

About the Author
Bob Reber writes about money saving strategies and methods to save more for the future and for retirement.

 

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company.     © 2014 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   All rights reserved.

benefits-of-having-savings

Five Reasons Why You Need a Savings Account

If you dont have a lot of expenses or personal debt, or you have no trouble making ends meet every month, you may think you dont need a savings account. But you do. Everyone should have one, and here are the top five reasons why:

1. Stuff happens.

Cars break down, basements flood, kids break their retainers. Emergencies arise, and a savings account helps ensure that when something happens, youll have the cash on hand to pay for it. Otherwise, you may end up using credit to fund emergency costs, and thats an expensive habit worth breaking.

2. You probably have a dream and need the money to pay for it.

Is your goal to retire at 55 and travel the world? Get a college degree? Take the vacation of a lifetime? Whatever your dream, achieving it takes money. A savings account can help fund your dreams and meet your goals.

3. Youll be a better person.

OK, possibly not … but having a savings account can make you a better money manager. Building a savings into your personal budget is a great financial habit, and the discipline you learn through regularly making savings deposits can serve you well in other aspects of your financial life.

4. Did we mention more money?

Having savings helps you avoid debt, which means youll have more readily available cash each month if youre not paying off credit bills instead. Plus, if you put your savings into an interest-bearing account, youll make even more money just by letting the cash you already have sit in the account. Whats better than money you didnt have to work for?

5. Because you can.

In the past, you had to write out a savings deposit slip and tote your cash to the local bank branch. Technology has made it easier than ever to save. Transfer money online or with your smartphone, sign a check and stuff it into the ATM saving money takes far less effort now than it ever did before.

Having a dedicated savings account can offer much needed financial security for whatever life may throw at your. Besides ¦ Everyone already knows about your mattress.

 

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company.     © 2014 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   All rights reserved.

year-end-sales

Three End of the Year Sales on Big Ticket Items

As the saying goes, he who hesitates is lost, but jumping into buying a big-ticket item without first doing your research is a sure-fire way to lose money. The sustained attack of holiday ads may have you thinking nows the time to make that expensive purchase you’ve been considering for a while.

Here are Three Items to Consider Buying Now:

1.           A New Car! Considering vehicle finance options as auto dealers are notoriously desperate to move current year models off their lots as next years models arrive. Year-end sales are likely to be considerable and you could potentially negotiate a beauty of a deal on the car of your dreams if you play your cards right.

2.           An HDTV! Granted, prices on flat screens have been falling for years, but if you want all the bells, whistles and latest tech, youre still looking at thousands of dollars. Retailers know these are hot holiday items, and they offer great deals to ensure they can compete for your business. And any inventory left on their shelves after the holidays is likely get an even bigger discount.

3.           A Wedding Dress! With the bustle of the holidays, many engaged couples put their wedding planning on hold this time of year. This puts a strain on boutiques looking to make room for new dresses coming into season. If youre looking to purchase an affordable wedding dress, you might luck out this time of year.

As with any big purchase, its good to have enough cash on hand so the item doesnt bust your budget. If you plan to finance a big ticket item, you might want to know your credit first. This way, there aren’t any surprises when a potential creditor reviews your credit to see if youre qualified for a new line of credit. Remember, checking your own score wont hurt it.

While some deals can definitely be had on certain big-ticket items at the end of the year, this isn’t always the best time to make every high-price purchase, especially if that means breaking the bank to buy it.

 

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   © 2013 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   All rights reserved.

how-to-cut-back-spending

Yes, You Can Cut ˜Fixed Expenses

Most savvy savers understand the importance of trimming the superfluous spending when working to meet financial goals. But when you think you’ve shaved all the extras from your budget, you may find the only expenses you have left are the ones you think of as fixed  and uncuttable. 

But even fixed expenses can be negotiable. Take another look at those monthly musts like your cell phone bill, rent and insurance and you may find theyre not as immovable as you thought.

Here are some ideas that could help you reduce fixed expenses and save even more money.

Housing Moving to lower your rent is one option but not always a practical one. If youre paying rent, and youre on a month-to-month lease, talk to your landlord to see if a long-term lease is available and more available. Some property management companies also pay if you refer a friend, pay before the due date or commit to reducing utility usage.

If you own your home, you can also consider some improvement projects to lower your home maintenance costs. Small home upgrades like cleaning your air vents, installing better insulation or changing over to energy saving light fixture can all help lower your energy costs over time.

Phone, TV and Internet In many areas, companies offer bundled  plans that include your home phone, TV and Internet for a combined price lower than what you would pay if you purchased each service individually. Also, make sure the plan you’ve bought is just enough to meet your needs, without a lot of extras that increase costs for features you dont need.

If you cant find a plan that works with your budget, it might be time to cut the cord. Use an affordable pre-paid phone plan, eliminate cable TV and wean yourself off the high-speed web and watch your savings grow.

Insurance You can comparison shop for auto, homeowners or renters insurance at any time; you dont need to wait for your policy to come up for renewal.Switch if you find a better deal. Again, make sure the policy you choose covers your needs without added costs for features you dont use. For auto insurance, see if discounts are available for driving less, taking a driving safety course or for having added safety features such as an alarm or blind-spot warning in your vehicle.

Keep in mind, if you opt to walk, bike or take the train instead of driving, not only can you forego the costs of insurance, but you also save on gas and car maintenance all while helping the environment. While that might not be an option for everyone, even carpooling to work might help lower the costs of driving.

Remember, almost every expense is negotiable and nearly every budget has some wiggle room you just have to be creative about finding that extra bit you can trim.

 

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   © 2013 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   All rights reserved.

selling-your-home-in-winter

Tips for Selling Your House in the Winter

While spring is traditionally thought of as prime home-buying season, the reality is that people sell homes all year long. Whether its necessary to relocate for a new career or your dream home suddenly became available, you may find yourself needing to sell your current home when snow is on the ground and a chill is in the air.

Fortunately, it is possible to make your home as appealing and welcoming in winter time as it feels during warmer months.

First, take care of all the same cosmetic concerns you would address if you were selling in spring or summer. Take advantage of the simple upgrades you can do to help you sell your home. Make sure exterior landscaping is tidy and walkways and driveways are free of snow and ice. Paint should be fresh and neutral, carpets clean and in good repair, and all windows adorned with attractive treatments. Declutter throughout the house and put away photographs and knick-knacks that are too personal in nature.

Next, its important to make your home feel warm, welcoming and light to counter the naturally subdued feeling of winter months. Keep the furnace set to a comfortable temperature and maximize the amount of light in your home. During daytime showings, open all blinds and draperies to admit as much natural light as possible. In the evening, choose a combination of table and floor lamps that will impart a warm, comforting glow throughout the home.

Be sure to emphasize home features that can make winter life easier for buyers, such as attached garages, skylights that admit natural light, an updated furnace or hot water heater, or efficient energy upgrades. Help potential buyers understand how your home will look in warmer months by offering a photo portfolio. Enhance your online real estate listing by adding images of your home in spring with flowers blooming along the front walk or in summer with the backyard fully leafed out in inviting greenery.

Finally, if youll be showing your home during the holidays, be sure to keep decorations tasteful (not over the top) and to scale with the size of your home. Cramming a 15-foot Christmas tree into your modestly sized living room is more likely to make buyers think the room looks small, rather than boost their holiday spirits.

Regardless of what you do to make your home more sell-able, be sure to watch your budget and dont overuse your credit. More important – stay warm this winter and happy selling!

 

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   © 2013 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   All rights reserved.

finance-tips-for-college-students

Financial Stress-Relievers for College Kids and Families

Money can be a major worry as a freshman; room, board and tuition at a four-year college averages well into the thousands. In fact, one study from Fidelity Investments found that the average 2013 college graduate had an average of $32,000 in college loans and credit card debt.

Getting an early start  learning about credit before a student starts college may help families and college kids ease some of the financial stress associated with getting a degree. Before you or your student starts to feel overwhelmed, look into the many ways you can ease the financial strain college can create.

  • Take advantage of new health care laws that allow young people to stay on their parents employer-sponsored health insurance plans until age 26.
  • Work with your schools financial aid office to line up your financial aid options well before the school year starts.
  • Encourage students to work part-time. Not only can part-time income help cover college costs like food and books, working while in school is a great way to gain experience that will look good on a resume and attractive to employers once students graduate.
  • Keep an eye on students credit reports and use online resources that can help you understand how taking a college loan and other major financial decisions can affect credit scores.

Wrestling with those costs prompts many students to go into debt, either with student loans or credit cards (for basics such as food, clothing and books). Establishing a personal budget for college students can also help them stay on track financially and minimize their debt before graduation.

 

 

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   © 2013 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.   All rights reserved.