Credit Freezes and Fraud Alerts

In September 2018, a new federal law was passed extending fraud alerts to one year and making it free to put on a credit freeze. The Federal Trade Commission’s website has more information about the new law and also a helpful FAQ page. This new law is a positive change to the previous 90-day fraud alerts and $30+ credit freeze charge especially considering that there are new security breaches almost every week. If you are concerned that your personal information may have been compromised, you may want to consider using a fraud alert or freeze to help protect your identity. A fraud alert will stay on your report for a full year and you only have to contact one of the credit bureaus (and they contact the other two). A credit freeze will stay on your report until you remove it. It is your responsibility to contact each bureau separately to apply the freeze.

Even if you have a fraud alert or credit freeze in place, it is still important to be vigilant about monitoring your credit and personal information. Never enter credit card information on a website that isn’t secure and review your credit card and bank statements in detail. If you use online banking, it is a good idea to check your charges online frequently (at least once a week) to verify that all charges are legitimate. Also, remember that you can obtain a free credit report from each bureau once a year.

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Job Posting: Customer Service Representative

Our company, Sage Personal Finance, currently has a job opening for a customer service representative.

  • Looking for a conscientious, preferably bilingual individual (English/Spanish speaker) to work remotely as a customer service provider for an on-line educational company.
  • Individual would need to work as an independent contractor for about 15 to 20 hours a week, including some half days on weekends.
  • Tasks include: answering clients’ questions over email, phone, and live chat (in English and Spanish); reviewing reports; filing documents electronically; and testing website functionality.
  • Candidate should have strong verbal and written skills in English and Spanish, strong attention to detail, a desire to get the job done right, and experience with Excel, Word, internet search engines, and email programs.
  • Candidate should have either a BA/BS degree or equivalent work experience.

If interested, please email a cover letter and resume to: ageving@sagepf.com.

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Are Meal Kits Worth It?

The ready to cook meal kit delivery business is booming and experts predict that it is going to continue to grow. But is this new trend worth it? As with any service, there are pros and cons, and depending on your specific situation, it may be worth the money to you. However, here are some things to consider before signing up for any meal kit service.

Meal kits are convenient. Having everything you need for a meal delivered right to your doorstep with clear instructions on how to prepare the meal is a time saver. You don’t have to come up with an idea of what to make, search for a recipe or go grocery shopping. It also introduces people to new recipes and foods that they may have never considered trying on their own. This can also be a con to the service, however. Your meals are decided for you and if you don’t like a meal, you have already paid for it. Also, you can’t take advantage of promotions at the grocery store. For example, if pork chops are on sale, you typically would purchase extra and freeze what you didn’t use immediately. Or, buy and cook extra chicken to use for a lunch the following day.  Since the meal kit only includes the food for that meal and have predetermined portion sizes, you don’t have the option of using the left overs. Depending on your lifestyle and eating habits, it may be too small for you and you have to cook more of your own food to round out the meal. Additionally, many people have compared the price for the meal kit to buying all the ingredients at the grocery store. The consensus is that it comes out roughly the same. Except that you don’t typically buy a teaspoon of cumin; you would buy the more expensive container but then have it for many more meals in the future. The average price for a meal kit for two is $20 or $10/meal. This isn’t a terrible price for a meal and you would pay a similar price if not more at a restaurant. At a restaurant, however, you wouldn’t have to cook or clean up your food and dishes.

If you’re looking to try a meal kit service to save time and try new foods, it may be worth it. If you are trying to save money, however, it most likely will end up costing you the same or even a little more. If you decide to give it a try or just want to take advantage of the many coupons available, remember that they are all subscription services and you must cancel your subscription if you decide it isn’t for you; otherwise they will keep billing you for an unwanted service.

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Ways to Track Your Spending

Practically every financial adviser, column, article, or blog will tell you that the key to budgeting and spending wisely is to track your spending. It is impossible to know where to cut back if you are not tracking where your money is going. Keeping track of every purchase and categorizing it, however, can be very tedious and it can seem so overwhelming that you just don’t know where to begin. Here are some ideas to help get you started:

  1. If you like excel and have the time, you can set up a simple spreadsheet to enter each transaction and assign a category. There are also lots of different templates available that you can download. The budgeting app Mint offers a free template as well as Microsoft just to name a couple.
  2. You can purchase budgeting software such as Quicken.
  3. You can use a free app such as DollarBird, Fudget, GoodBudget, Mint, or Mvelopes.
  4. Keep it simple especially when you are just starting out. For example, if you buy food, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, and pet supplies all from one store at the same time, track your spending at each store instead of calculating each separate category from a receipt. As you get a handle on your finances and really want to analyze and trim your spending, you may need to calculate the exact amount for each category but doing so from the start can be too overwhelming.
  5. Finally, get started! Don’t put it off until next month or the next paycheck. The hardest part of any lifestyle change or project is getting started. So, even if it seems like too much work, start tracking your spending today and you may be surprised at how easy it can be and how much you learn about your spending habits!

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Managing Your Subscriptions

A new trend in shopping is buying everything from diapers to TV service through subscriptions. Setting up subscriptions is convenient, and it allows you to forget about having to pay for services. Sometimes you are even able to save money by taking advantage of a discounted rate when you allow the company to automatically charge your credit card or withdraw funds from your bank account.  However, many people forget that they signed up for a subscription service. Unless they are meticulously reviewing their bank statement each month, they might not notice the $5 or $20 charge and are wasting money on a service they don’t even use. Luckily, there are apps that you can use that review your bank statements for you and help you save money by cancelling subscriptions that you are not using. Truebill, Bobby and Trim are all apps that help you manage your subscriptions.

Beware that there may be a charge to cancel some subscriptions and the app may suggest new subscriptions based on your current interests (ensuring that you keep using their app). Thus, it is best to review your bank statement carefully each month to check for fraud and unnecessary subscription charges. But if you need some help getting started,  take advantage of a free app to help save you money!

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How to Ask for a Raise

We all would like to make more money, but before asking your boss for a raise, you should make sure you deserve one. It is intimidating to ask for more money and you can risk losing your job if you are too aggressive when you ask. Thus, it is important that you prepare a few items before asking to meet with your boss. First, you should research to see how your current pay relates to the current local job market. O*Net Online is a helpful resource for conducting a job analysis. Second, you should review your job performance and find talking points to support your request for a raise. For example, have you received positive feedback from superiors, coworkers, and clients about your job performance? Have you completed tasks well and on time? Have you gone above and beyond your specified job duties to help the company? Have you taken on any new responsibilities?

Once you have prepared your talking points, practice the conversation and think of any follow up questions your boss may have. It may be helpful to ask a significant other or friend to practice with you and ask them for feedback. Be sure to focus on why you deserve the raise and not why you need it. Also, be prepared to hear no and remember to be polite.

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Budgeting Tools

Creating and following a budget can be tiresome and overwhelming. If you are unsure of where to begin or need to re-start your budget, there are plenty of online resources that can help. Practical Money Skills is a site that provides “financial literacy for everyone.” They have tools for you to understand the basics of budgeting, assess your financial situation and create a budget tailored to you. You Need a Budget offers free online and webinar courses to help you create and stick to your budget. They also have a mobile and desktop app that you can use to create and maintain your budget; however, they do charge a small monthly fee to use their app.

There are several other budgeting apps available for free. The Balance provides a review of 8 different budgeting apps based on different needs (to stop overspending, create a budget with a partner, etc.). With so many different tools available, there is no reason to put off creating your budget any longer!

-Kathryn M.

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