5 Ways to Start Improving Your Credit Score TODAY

A great credit score can be the difference between being approved for that car you’ve saved for, that house you’ve looked at, and even that job that you just interviewed for that is now pulling your credit history. If you have a low score, the people who decide whether you are an “attractive” candidate hold the cards. If you, however, have a great credit score, you hold ALL the cards. I learned this when I was buying my first home just three days after my 24th birthday. In the midst of trying to prove to my parents that I was, in fact, a real and financially responsible adult by doubling up on student loan payments and keeping my credit card balance low, I was unknowingly improving my credit score. In fact, during the contract negotiation period of the home buying process, my score improved by 20 points. A great score also came in handy once I moved because the majority of my utility expenses did not need a deposit and I was offered a lower rate. No matter what your score is, it is never too late to start improving it.Credit Score Hacks from the Money, Career, & Lifestyle blog, She Makes Cents | How To Improve Your Credit Score Today

Here are 5 Easy Ways to Boost your Credit Score

  1. First and foremost, it is imperative that you know your score, that way you know where you stand. By law, all US citizens are entitled to one FREE credit history report, but depending on where you live your state may pay for one more.  Georgia residents, for example, are entitled to two FREE credit reports from each reporting agency.   This is a great time to make sure that all the information is correct and give you an overview of where your finances stand.  Related Post: How to Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report
  2. Pay your bills on time. It sounds simple, but I’m going to take a quick flashback to my college days when I was on the dance line of the marching band featured in Drumline. (insert flashback bubble here) To be early is to be ON TIME, to be “on time” is to be LATE, and to be late is UNACCEPTABLE (end flashback bubble…now). The same essentially holds true with how you pay your bills.  The earlier you pay your bill, the better. For one, you are certain that your bill will be received by your service provider way before the date. More importantly, paying your bills as soon as you get them can be a quick but subtle  increase to that credit score. I try to pay all bills within days of receiving my statements and then record the due dates and balance due in my calendar. This allows me a quick glimpse of my monthly financial trends. This is something I recommend to EVERYONE!
  3. Use only one credit card. If you have more than one card, start paying down the card with the smallest balance first by doubling the minimum payment. Once, that card is paid down, move to the card with the second lowest balance. Double the minimum balance and tack on whatever you were applying to the first card, until that card is paid down, and then so on. This, lovely people, is what is called a money snowball.  Next, choose one card to work with, preferably the one with the highest interest rate and take the other ones out of your wallet. Freeze them, cut them up, lock them away but whatever you do, do not close them. Closing a credit card can sink your credit score faster than you can say “She Makes Cents”. Don’t do it, don’t do it, do not do it…
  4. Increase your credit limit. Now that you have worked towards reducing the debt on your existing card, credit card companies should begin to see you as an “attractive” customer. Call your company and request a credit increase. Again, this is not meant for you to start increasing your spending¸ but rather it is an opportunity for you to increase your credit to debt ratio. Can anyone say credit score boost? Related Post:  How The Debt to Credit Ratio Affects Your Credit Score
  5. Pay in Cash. I have said it before and I will say it again. Paying in cash forces you to really consider whether your purchase is right you. Personally, I find that paying for things in cash acts as a visual aid and helps keep me on track with my spending. In swiping a card, I can’t “see” my funds dwindling, but watching your cash go from thick to thin is definitely a sign that you could be mindlessly spending. When you pay in cash, you don’t have to worry about interest rates and hidden charges because Cash is King  QUEEN.

      

{Financial Goals} Tackle Your Credit Card Debt Today

Slow-and-steady-moneyHave you ever heard the phrase, “a goal without a plan is just a wish”? Well I’m starting to think that is true. Like many of you, I always have financial goals… some I have shared on this blog and others I have not. As we start this brand new year, I have to ask myself, were my goals of last year actual goals or just wishes for the future? I started reflecting on this the other day while looking at older posts about financial goals. Sure, I can list some of my goals but without a plan, how can I help you as readers follow my financial journey? Isn’t that the point of all of this? I also started wondering how much is too much to share? The answers to these questions will unfold throughout 2013, but for today, getting a plan together is the priority.

The Problem: In my pre-She Makes Cents life, I worked every month and in a short amount of time, I paid off my credit card. Then the bottom fell out and I was using my credit card to simply…live (very honest moment). Long story short, my balance of about $5300 (rounding up) is nowhere near, where it should be. Why, you may ask? Because I was caught up. I started swiping to get the “cash back” deals that I told myself I would pay it off at the end of the month and didn’t. I wasn’t using my envelopes as I should have and I might not have fully realized the my new financial situation.

The Solution: In reading some of my older posts, I remembered a period where I locked my credit card up in a safe deposit box.  Initially, I just wanted to see how long I could go without credit card spending.   I wasn’t swiping, I wasn’t living beyond my means, and the balance was slowly decreasing over time. I am a very goal oriented person, so I know adding the component of an end goal date, one of the tips featured in the post How to Make and Achieve Your Goals, will help.  Thinking back, why did I ever take the card back out?

The Plan: If you are in a similar situation, this is how I plan on making this wish into a goal and a goal into a “been there done that”. While I would like to have this paid off in a year, I know I may need cushion. My end goal date for credit card payoff is August of 2014. That means, with my interest rate, I will need to be making a payment of $294.36 per month to be credit card free by next August (check out the credit card payoff calculator at the bottom of my sidebar to figure out yours).  Instead of paying the minimum, which is NEVER a good look, I will pay the fixed rate listed above or more.  Also, whenever there are cash back deals through my bank, I will use the “rewards” to pay down my credit card. In my research, I have heard the advice to pick up the phone and call your credit card company for a reduced interest rate but depending the company, they may label you as a “high risk” customer and close your account, so do your research first. 

How Are Your Eliminating Your Credit Card Debt?

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SMC Answers Email Question: How to Get the Most Out of Coupons

Today, I will be providing information to answer an email question that was submitted to She Makes Cents via my About.Me page, which by the way you should totally check out!

I’m trying the coupon bit, can you please show me how to use them, I guess coupon 101, and how to get the most out of my coupons, I often see where folks buy $600.00- 1100.00 in value , but pay $50.00 or less, can you teach me how to do that?

First off, congratulations on making the decision to start reevaluating ways to make your money work for you and not the other way around. To be honest, I do not coupon to this degree where I buy “$600.00-$1100.00 in value, but pay [around] $50.00 or less”, but I have seen it done. If this is the level of couponing that you aspire to, then there are a few things that you must consider:

  • Keep an ongoing grocery list. This helpful because it I find it easier to jot down an item I’m running low on or completely out of when I’m thinking about it. That way, it ensures that it makes it on my list. If I start a grocery list right before I go to the store, I risk forgetting something I actually need or spending money on products that I didn’t know I already had.

     

  • You must be extremely organized. Keeping up with coupons to multiple stores can easily become overwhelming if you do not have a system in place. Reuse a folder or an old note book where you store your coupons. Find a way of filing that works for you. For example, you can store coupons by type of product (groceries, health and beauty, fashion, restaurants, etc) or by store.

 

  • Don’t get tricked into buying things you don’t need. Stick to your list. Review your ongoing list before you actually go shopping. Then compare the list of items (including specific brands) on your list to your library of coupons you have compiled and filed away oh so neatly in your folder or notebook. Just because the coupons mentions that you have to buy three of the same products to get .75 off, doesn’t mean it is a good deal. Who really needs three containers of mayonnaise any ways?  Remember the tour of Amanda’s stockpile from TLC’s Extreme Couponing?

 

  • Know the stores’ policy about couponing. Some stores allow manufactures coupons and some don’t. In addition, some stores allow the practice of double couponing and some don’t.

 

  • Read the small print. So this one is self explanatory, yet few people actually take the time to read the tiny print. Think about it for a second, they make it small for a reason. It’s better to know the limitations of the deal before your get to the cash register.

 HOW TO SPEND $16 FOR $75 WORTH OF STUFF AT TARGET

 

CHECK OUT WHAT $20 AND COUPONS WILL GET YOU…YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE IT

 

 

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How to Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report

You are on the road to financial empowerment. You have printed out your spending chart. You have cut back on impulse spending. You know at least 5 ways to improve your credit score. The birds are chirping. The sun is shining and you look like you’re the happy little stranger in the middle of a Brady Bunch episode because your latest financial decisions have been uncharacteristically positive. Then is happens…(insert screeching sounds here)… something pops up on your credit history that is inaccurate. What do you do?

What is on Your Credit Report?

Your credit report reveals how you spend, the type of loans you have, your revolving credit, how you pay your bills, etc. This information is then used to decide whether you are approved for a credit card, loan, car purchase, insurance, home purchase and rental, and even employment. For potential employers, your credit report is used as a measure of your level of responsibility and can be a part of the deciding factor of whether you are offered the job or not.

How Credit Report Errors Are Made?

Mistakes can appear on your credit report for several reasons. Clerical errors are common because people make mistakes. Perhaps numbers were transposed, your handwriting was not legible, or the unfortunate situation that you have become a victim of identity theft. Check your credit report periodically for these types of errors.

How to Resolve Reporting Errors for FREE

Contact the credit bureau in writing, highlighting the information to be investigated. You will need to submit supporting documents such as a copy of your driver’s license if the inaccuracy involves a name change, change of address, or dispute of a utility bill. If your dispute is regarding your social security number, you will need to present a copy of your social security card and/or a copy of your W2. If you have your credit report number handy, this is the time to get it. Submit your credit report number and copies (not originals) of documents to be reviewed. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you “send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested,” so you can document what the credit reporting company received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures. If you used Experian, the fastest way to challenge a dispute is online. Generally, disputes are resolved within 30 days but depending on the nature of the dispute, resolutions can take up to 45 days. If you find information on your credit report that is not accurate or doesn’t belong to you, please contact the credit bureau which produced the report.

For information about contacting Equifax to launch an investigation click here

For information about contacting TransUnion to launch an investigation  Click Here.

For information about contacting Experian to launch an investigation click here .

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Budgeting 102- Spending Diet

I saw the movie Eat Pray Love not too long ago. In it, is a reference to an old Catholic joke that I have become very fond of. In a voice-over, Liz, played by Julia Roberts, recalls the following:

I remember an Old Catholic joke about a man who spent his whole life going to a church every day and prayed to the statue of a great saint begging, “please, please, please, let me win the lottery.” Finally the exasperated statue comes to life and looks down at the begging man and says “my son, please, please, please, buy a ticket”.

Sometimes I find myself in situations where I am the one begging and sometimes I am the statue. Today, I come to you as the statue. I once heard it said that we buy what we want and beg for what we need. Is this you? Have you put you financial security at risk with things you wanted and now you are begging for a financial miracle? Be a part of your own miracle…buy a ticket. I am taking the points mentioned in Budgeting 101 step by step. Like dieting and working out, budgeting takes time, restraint, and accountability. I invite you to join me on my Spending Diet.

Write Down Everything You Spend Your Money On. Since April 1, 2011, I have been writing down EVERYTHING I have spent money on. I included this advice in Budgeting 101 with the suggestion to do this for two weeks. I would now like to retract that advice and tell you to extend it for an entire month. Every financial and money management writer will tell you to do this. Honestly, it wasn’t until the beginning of April that I actually did this myself. I thought between my memory and online banking statements, that I had an accurate grasp on how, when, where, and with whom I spent my money. SMC readers, I couldn’t have been more wrong. My spending chart has revealed that I am an emotional spender who blows a great deal of my food budget on eating out with my sister because I believe we don’t see, talk, or interact as frequently as we once did. My spending chart personified aspects by my sometimes-narcissistic personality. I made a donation to my alma mater that I really couldn’t afford, because I didn’t want to be the 5,999 person who comes shy of the 6,000 donor goal for the Founder’s Day scholarship fundraiser. I also learned that while there are aspects of my personality where I am admittedly spoiled, I also spend and give the a great deal of my money to others to make them happy. Hi, my name is Danielle and I am an emotional spender. Buy the ticket. I am putting myself in financial rehab to get back on track like my Rah Tiffany did years ago. I have locked my credit card away and most importantly, I am learning to say no to others. Catey Hill, the author of Shoo Jimmy Choo created a Day to Day Spending Chart that I particularly like. I used Hill’s chart as an example and made one that fits my own financial goals and spending style. Buy what you need and you will not have anything left to beg for. Buy a ticket and let’s start our financial journey together.

If you are interested in my own Spending Chart, please email me at shemakescent@gmail.com
subject: Spending Chart 
 

 

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How to Spend Less on Gas

Gasoline and oil prices are at their highest levels in the past two years; which is causing people to freak out and/or speculate just how bad this situation is about to get. $4.00 per gallon for regular unleaded is what we should expect as the norm in the coming days. I’ve even heard that we will see $5.00 per gallon in 2011. I don’t know about you all but these gas prices are killing me, especially since my car requires premium fuel. So what can we do? For one, I’m seriously considering riding my bike from the 5th grade with streamers, glitter, and basket- it’s economical and will definitely help me in my endeavor to achieve my awesome bikini body. But before I get to that point, I will remind you of some basic tips & tricks that you may have forgotten:

1. Speeding and braking wastes gas, so slow down. According to Fuel Economy, aggressive driving can “lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town”. Driving sensibly can save you between $.17-$1.12 per gallon.

2. Clean out your car. Simply said, excess weight = wasted gas. For every 100 pounds you remove from your car, you get 2% more gas mileage.

3. Plan and combine trips

4. Car Pool/ Telecommute (if you have that option)

5. Keep Tires Inflated Properly

6. Use Cruise Control on the Highway

7. Use A/C on the Highway (rolling your windows down causes air drag which forces the car to work a little harder and decreased fuel economy)

8. Use your GPS!! It helps you not waste gas from getting lost and often has a “shortest route” option in your device settings.

 

To FIND THE CHEAPEST GAS NEAR YOU

Gas BuddyGas Price WatchFuel Economy

TO FIND THE CHEAPEST GAS IN A RAH CITY

Atlanta MiamiChicagoDC • Nashville

OTHER HELPFUL LINKS

City and State AveragesPrices by Counties

 

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