Monthly Archives: May 2012

What Everyone Should Know About Credit Scores

Do you know what your credit score is?  Do you know how it might affect your life?  Do you have any ideas about how to improve it?

You may be familiar with the term “FICO” score, which stands for the Fair Isaac and Company score.  These are the credit scores used to determine your credit risk, also known as the credit bureau score and these scores are used to determine interest rates and credit offers.  You will generally get the best rates if your score is 700 or higher.  There are 3 nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

The first step to improving your credit score is to check your credit report.  You can request 1 free copy per year.  Make sure to check this report for any errors.  Be sure to note that the amounts owed are correct and that there are no errors on late payments.  After you have verified that the information on your credit report is accurate, there are a few important things to keep in mind:

  1. Pay down any existing credit card debt.  Keep good records of what you owe and come up with a plan to repay your debt.  It is best to pay off your cards with higher interest rates first, while continuing to make sure that you make payments (even if they are the minimum payments) on all credit cards.
  2. Pay bills on time.  If you do make a late payment, call your credit card company and ask for this to be removed.  Sometimes they will make a “goodwill adjustment”.
  3. Understand your outstanding debt.  Many times the amount of debt you have is compared to your credit limits.  So, if you owe amounts close to your credit limit, this can be detrimental.

For more information, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s site – Building a Better Credit Report:

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre03.shtm

Remember, better credit scores lead to better interest rates and decreased insurance rates!

-Lory M.

(Check out our course available at: http://www.sagepf.com)

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Paying a Lot for Groceries?

Of all of the “everyday expenses” we consumers encounter, the grocery bill is probably the most common.

It’s also the area where many of us (and that includes the folks at Sage Personal Finance!) overspend. An interesting new survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association indicates that 22% of us have no idea what we are spending on such common items as housing, entertainment…and groceries.

The good news is that spending on food is one of the areas of an average consumer’s budget that can be brought under control with very little effort, leaving more cash on the table — and in our pocket.

Time Magazine’s Moneyland summarizes a great article from the April edition of Real Simple Magazine outlining several easy ways to save on some of the common items we purchase every day.

So what strategies do you use to stretch your dollar at the supermarket?

-Cindy M. (Sage Personal Finance)

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A Few More Helpful Financial Calculators

Here are a few more helpful financial calculators we found on the web.

1)      Can I afford to send my child to college?

www.finaid.org/calculators/savingsgrowth.phtml

It’s something that most of us don’t put too much thought into when our children are first born, but before you know it, the kids are in high school and college is right around the corner.  Even if you haven’t started saving for college yet, it’s not too late.  Whether your child is looking into a community college, a public university, or a private college, you will need to plan for this big step. There are 4 factors to consider when planning for college:  risk, return, liquidity and time frame.  Take a look at this calculator to help with your savings plan.

 

2) Family vacation alternatives

www.fuelcostcalculator.com

With the state of the economy these past several years, many households are not in a financial position to spend money on big family vacations.  There are many alternatives that are worth considering when trying to figure out what to do or where to go if you are able get a week off from your job.  Instead of packing your bags and heading out of the country, consider local venues.  You might want to consider a camping trip at a nearby campsite, or even a water-themed day at a river or beach.  If you live near a big city, try hopping on the train and spend the day in the city, visiting museums, libraries or street fairs.  Use the attached calculator to estimate your fuel costs while planning for your trip. If you find that you have saved enough to get away, consider the many discounted sites such as priceline.com or Kayak to take advantage of last minute bargains.

 

3) How can I save money on my day to day expenses?

http://www.couponcloset.net/…/free-coupon-savings-calculator-for-2012-stay-on-budget/

There are many advantages to using coupons, especially in today’s economy.  Now more than ever, it is wise to keep track of our expenditures in order to see how we can stay on our budget.  In addition to many free online coupon sites (coupons.com, shopathome.com, dailygrocerycoupon.com, to name a few) there is a coupon calculator which will allow you to enter your shopping trips from up to 4 different stores and provide you with totals to help you keep track of your spending.  Use the link above to start keeping track of your store expenses.

Also, don’t forget to check your newspapers, magazines and mailboxes for retail coupons as well.  In addition, many retail stores will have rewards cards.  They are usually free and the barcode is swiped each time you shop, allowing you to accumulate points to be used for future discounts.  Keep a large envelope in your car, and each time you get a coupon, place it in the envelope so that it is always ready to be used.

 

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