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  • 4 Ways Planning Can Save You Money

    Plan2

    Do you ever go out to run errands only to find yourself going in circles and backtracking on some of the roads you have already been on?  Or do you go shopping for the week and realize you’ve forgotten something?  If so, there are a few things you can do to prevent that.  It will save you on time and money and we all know the old saying, “Time is money.”

    • Make a menu for the week – If you make a menu for the week for what your family will be eating you will not have to make extra, “unplanned” trips back to the grocery store.  Once you have your menu, go through your pantry and refrigerator and make sure you have all of the ingredients you need to make what you’ve put on your menu.  Stick to your menu list so that you don’t overspend.

    • Plan your route – Before you go out, take a few minutes to plan everywhere that you need to go.  If you have to go to the grocery store, get gas, mail some letters and drop off or pick up dry cleaning, then plan where you want to start.  Make a circle so that you don’t spend a lot of time driving from one place or another and then find out you just passed the post office going to the grocery store and you have to turn around.

    • Run all of your errands in one day – Pick one day out of the week or weekend and try to make all of the trips necessary that you have to.  Then use the tip above to plan the route that you need to take to make it the most efficient for your gas tank and your time.

    • Take a different route to work – If you know that you pass a grocery store on your way to or from work if you just take a different route, why not change it?  You can then stop on your way to work or home from work and pick up what you need.  That will leave you more time on your normal errand day to do something else more fun.  One more thing off of the list.  Or if you pass several different places on your way to or from work you can stop at all of them in the course of a day.

    No matter how you manage to plan out your days or your routes to get all of the things done that you need to, just take a little time to plan what you are going to do and you will save more time and money than you realized you could.

    Live Frugal!

  • How to Choose the Best Consumer Credit Card

    All credit cards are created equal, right?  Wrong! That’s like saying a dented, 1970s van is the same as a fully loaded, luxury 2007 SUV.  Consumer credit cards can vary dramatically in terms and conditions that either cost or save you money.

    Because financial institutions are extremely competitive in marketing credit cards, you’ll find different terms and conditions among the suppliers. If you’re a smart shopper, you’ll pay attention to the fine print.

    Naturally you want the most credit for the least long-term cost.  Look for a credit card with a low APR. That’s the Annual Percentage Rate or the actual cost for credit.  It’s basically the price of renting the credit card company’s money for a period of time.

    Time is of the essence here. Make the minimum monthly payment on time, every time and you’ll keep the stated APR.  If your payment is late (or missing), some cards bump up your APR by several percentage points.

    A late payment could boost your APR into the 18-22% range and it stays there – there’s no reduction for making the next payment, because your late payment threw you into the high APR penalty box with no escape clause.

    Let’s assume that you’re a good credit risk and you’ll make the monthly payments on time. Look for a card that gives a little something extra, like bonus points that can be traded for gifts, restaurant meals, movie tickets, music downloads or travel and hotel stays.

    As you spend on your credit card, you actually earn something else that you want. That’s making a good deal even better.  There are some people who charge everything and pay in full each month, and are easily able to afford roundtrip first-class tickets anywhere in the world each year!

    The fastest way to get a credit card and start shopping is to apply for the card online. In mere minutes, you can complete the credit card application and get approval almost immediately if your credit checks out.

    With instant credit, some companies give you a small opening limit so you can shop online right away. You have to wait a few days (usually 7-10 business days) for the actual card to arrive by snail mail.

    If you currently have a high interest credit card, you may be able to find a better deal online where you can transfer the balance and pay 0% interest for 6 months, or some comparable transfer incentive that makes it worth your while to make the switch.

  • Don’t Fall Into These Consumer Credit Card Traps

    Credit Card

    Getting the credit you need can be easier than maintaining it. In fact, there’s probably not a week that goes by without receiving a credit card offer in the mail.  You’ll see even more credit card offers online.

    Stores – both in the mall and on the ‘net – are quick to give you an immediate discount on your purchase if you sign up for their credit card. While that extra 10% off is tempting, before you realize it you have another credit card payment to make each month.

     

    The problem with credit cards is that it doesn’t seem like real money.  Since you don’t count out those dollars leaving your wallet, it’s easy to underestimate the impact of a swipe here and a swipe there.

    Credit cards were never meant to be a substitute for budgeting. No matter how easy it was to spend the money, each month there’s a day of reckoning on the payment due date. Making the minimum payment will keep you from getting late fees, but look at your balance.

    If you didn’t charge another nickel, how long would it take to pay off the balance? That’s a question you need to ask yourself.  Don’t make the mistake of getting a second, third or fourth credit card just to transfer the balances.

    Balance transfer is a great way to move higher interest debt to a lower interest card. It’s not meant to shuffle money like a shell game.  Most Americans have more credit cards than they need.

    Since the major cards are accepted practically everywhere, you only need one or two credit cards. It’s easier to keep track of the balances on one or two cards than on six or eight credit cards, which many people carry.

    Cash advances are like getting a loan on demand. The problem is, it’s the most expensive loan you’ll get. The easy access to cash from ATMs makes it simple to get ten bucks for lunch, fifty bucks for shopping and twenty-five bucks for movie ticket for you and your spouse.

    That’s $85 in one day. Repeat this once a week and your debt will skyrocket in a few months. The price for your easy access cash can be at the credit card rates of 24% and up.  The rewards and bonuses sound tempting, but you may find that getting a credit card with a better APR (annual percentage rate) and no annual fee is worth more in the long run than the freebies that you might not use even if you earned them.

    Using credit cards is the way to establish a good credit history. The problem is that misuse of credit cards destroys your credit rating. When you need to buy a car or want to purchase a home, that credit rating suddenly becomes very important.

    Every careless shopping spree, every cash advance, every late payment – is factored into that credit rating. If you’re going to use credit cards, treat it like cash and only charge what you can afford to pay. Otherwise, you cheat yourself out of the credit rating you need in the future for really important purchases.

     

  • Credit Cards Contribute to a Student’s New Start in Life

    Even before earning a diploma, you graduate to adulthood when you get that first credit card in your name. The one from the parents?  That’s part of their credit and it doesn’t count toward your credit history.

    Paying your charges to the parent’s card helps their credit rating, not yours. To the financial world, you become a responsible adult when you start paying your own credit card.

    Whether you’re a graduate or still a student, your efforts to handle things in the adult arena, like renting an apartment or buying a car, heavily depend on your credit history. If you’ve gone from your parent’s home to the dorm, you may not have established any credit history.

    In credit terms, no history is almost as difficult to deal with as bad credit. You’re an unknown to the financial world and there’s a 50/50 chance you won’t do well with your newfound responsibility.

    Lending money or credit under those odds isn’t exactly favorable to the lender. Banks are funny that way – they want all the terms in their favor.  So what do you do when you need money but you can’t get money because you have to prove you don’t desperately need it?

    Granted that sounds wild, but it’s the way the financial world operates. The fastest way to build a credit history is with a credit card. Don’t jump at the first credit offer you get or wait weeks for processing.

    Get online and compare several major credit card companies’ terms and conditions. Take time to really compare the details.  You’ll find some sites that set up a comparison chart on credit card terms, making it easy to see the differences at a glance.

    By looking carefully over the credit card offers, you can find one with no annual fee and a low APR (annual percentage rate). You may even choose one with a low limit to begin with.

    If you aren’t planning any major purchases and are just getting the card to establish credit in your name, then this is a good choice for you. By applying online, you can get instant approval.

    In a few days, your credit card arrives by snail mail. Then you shop. To build good credit, you have to use your credit card and then pay off the balance at the end of the month. Charge something that you know you can pay for when the credit card statement arrives.

    After a few months of paying off the balance (or at least meeting the minimum monthly payment amounts on time), you’ll develop a positive credit history.  This isn’t just for purchases anymore.

    Many major corporations and some professions now look at your credit rating as a factor in whether or not they’ll hire you. Social research shows over and over again that people who are responsible with their credit tend to also be responsible employees.  Having a credit card may not get you the job you want, but it will buy a stylish new suit and an airplane ticket to bring you to corporate headquarters for the interview!

  • Credit Cards 101 for Students

    Credit Cards

    Applying for that first credit card was surprisingly easy. You just had to complete an online application and click to submit.  In a few minutes, you became a credit card holder thanks to instant online approval.

    You still had to wait for the actual credit card to be delivered by snail mail, but when it arrived you felt “official.”  As you learned in your online credit card research, the best way for students to establish credit is to get a credit card in your name, make purchases and then keep up the payments.

    Sounds simple, right? You fill out an online application and then you shop. You can do that. But then the monthly statement arrives and each month it gets scarier to open it. How did it go from a proud moment to one you dread each month?

    Let’s say you go out and spend $100 on new clothes for school. You don’t have that much money in cash, but you got some great deals – so you put it on your credit card. After all, you need clothes and a credit history, so why not do both at the same time?

    That’s basically a good idea, but it loses something in the cost factor.  That $100 in charges is subject to a 21% interest rate. Remember the interest is applied monthly on the balance, so even after making a $10 minimum payment faithfully over 10 months, you still owe money.

    How can that happen?  You paid almost $20 or two additional payments to “rent” the money to buy your clothes for nearly a year. Your new clothes may go out of style before you finish paying for them.

    Imagine what a financial bind you’d be in now if you spent $1,000 on that new stereo system.  Pay close attention to the APR or Annual Percentage Rate. That’s the price you pay to charge on your credit card.

    It’s applied to the outstanding balance monthly. And here’s a bit of a shocker – if you have a variable interest rate, the bank or financial institution can raise your interest rate as much as they want to – any time they want to – without warning!

    “That doesn’t seem fair – no one told me!”  Yes, they did tell you. It was fully disclosed in the Terms and Conditions section that you agreed to without reading. If you have no credit history or a bad credit history, don’t expect to get as good of a deal on APR as someone who has a good credit history.

    In the credit world, you’re rewarded for being financially responsible.  Try to make more than your minimum payment each month to show that you’re more than responsible with your charge card.