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Have you Checked your Credit Report This Year?

If you’re like most Americans, credit is a big part of your financial life. You probably have secured lines of credit, such as your mortgage and auto loan, as well as unsecured lines of credit, like your credit cards. If credit is a part of your life, experts recommend you should check your credit report at least once per year to ensure it is correct and error-free.

Although you may think you can trust your creditors and the credit bureaus to provide accurate reporting, mistakes are more common than you might think. A recent study found roughly six in ten people have credit reports that contain errors. These mistakes can have a big negative impact on your credit rating which can affect your ability to achieve your financial goals. This makes it essential to check your credit report regularly to ensure it is accurate.

By law, every consumer is entitled to one free credit report each year. You can redeem your free reports through annualcreditreport.com. Just log on to the site and follow the instructions to get your credit reports. You will notice you actually need to check 3 reports, as each of the major credit bureaus maintains their own version of your credit history. Since creditors and lenders use the reporting from all three bureaus, you need to make sure the information is accurate in all three versions.

As you check your report look for any incorrect information; some of the most common credit report errors include:

  • Aliases that aren’t you. Credit reports contain variations of your name that the credit bureaus recognize as you. Typically, these are just different variations of your name used on different accounts. In some cases, you may find an alias that isn’t you which means your credit could be getting downgraded because of someone else’s bad credit habits.
  • Incorrect account statuses. Each credit account listed in your report will have an account status. Make sure all of these statuses are accurate, as consumers often find their account listed as delinquent, even though it is current.
  • Repeat account listings. Consumers also find accounts listed twice in their credit report; in some cases, this duplicate account may even be something as big as your mortgage. Since total debt owed and numbers of credit lines are both factors in determining your credit scores, accounts listed more than once can mean a big problem for your credit.
  • Inaccurate penalty dates. By law, penalties can only be listed in your credit report for a certain period of time. If a penalty date is incorrect, you may be penalized longer than this set period. These inaccuracies will decrease your credit rating for longer, which can affect your ability to get new lines of credit or purchase a new car or home.

When you find errors or discrepancies in your credit report, take action. Find any documentation you have to support that there is a mistake on your credit report. Submit the discrepancies in writing to each of the credit bureaus along with copies of your documentation. You must submit to all three bureaus, as they are not required to communicate corrections to the other bureaus. Your creditors will get a chance to respond and confirmed errors will be removed. If your correction is rejected, you may submit a summary of your claim to be added into your credit report for future references.

 

Connie Solidad has been writing about finances and debt consolidation for years. She’s an expert in the industry and writes about debt management for individuals and credit counseling options and resources. When Connie is not working, she loves playing with her two dogs in Tampa, Florida. To learn more about debt management refer to ConsolidatedCredit.org.

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How to Avoid Spending Traps at the Grocery Store [INFOGRAPHIC]

Here’s a really cool infographic that All You released about grocery tips and things to avoid while at the grocery store. I’d love to know a tip that you took away from this infographic, there’s a lot of great ones! :)

Save Money on Groceries: Avoid Spending Traps at the Store
[Source: Daily Savings from All You] For more tips on smart shopping flip through this free digital issue of All You!

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Why Pay More than your Minimum Payments on Credit Cards?

When it comes to your monthly credit card payments you may feel like you’re being responsible by paying the minimum amount requested on each credit card on time every month, but are you really doing right by your finances? In a practical sense, paying only the minimum amounts due on your credit card bills isn’t very fiscally responsible at all, because it maximizes the amount of time you’ll be in debt. As a result you pay more in interest, which means you end up paying more for your purchases than what’s reasonable.

Consider this example:

You buy a new laptop with all the bells and whistles that costs you $1,000. You make the purchase on a new credit card with a zero balance, 15 per cent APR, and a payment schedule where your payments are calculated as 2 per cent of your total balance. So you make the payments required, starting with your first $20 payment and then paying less each month because your bills go down as your debt decreases.

Sounds good right? It would, except using this method you end up paying $851.03 in interest and won’t pay the debt off in-full until late 2021. So your $1,000 actually cost you almost $2,000 and took almost a decade to pay off. This is why maintaining a minimum payment schedule really isn’t a wise way to handle paying back your debts. You may have paid $20 on your first payment, but only $7.50 of that paid off the actual debt (the principal); the other $12.50 covered the interest. Since most of every payment you make covers interest, you only decrease your principal by a few dollars each month.

This problem becomes worse when you consider most of us don’t make one purchase on a credit card and then stop purchasing until we have the bill paid off. In a real scenario, while you are only paying off your principal debt by a few dollars each month, you’re probably adding a lot more than that. As a result, your total debt is consistently rising to the point you eventually either max out your credit card or can’t afford to make your minimum payments anymore within your regular budget.

If you want to use a better strategy to pay off your debts, consider committing to a fixed payment schedule. This doesn’t even have to be a large sum of money either. Using the example above, if you can simply commit to fixing your first payment amount and paying $20 every month rather than just the first, you pay off the debt in 6.5 years instead of 9.5 and only pay $579.12 in interest. This doesn’t require you to free up any money in your budget, you simply have to stick to the payment you made the first month every month after.

If you’re having a big enough problem with debt that you can’t even commit to paying the same amount each month, it’s probably a sure sign you need debt relief. Consider contacting a credit counseling agency to speak with a trained credit counselor. They can assess your debts and often provide free advice to help you find a debt solution. With the right assistance, you can get your finances back on track and be better equipped to manage your debt in the future.

Connie Solidad has been writing about finances and debt consolidation for years. She’s an expert in the industry and writes about debt management and credit counseling options and resources. When Connie is not working, she loves playing with her two dogs in Tampa, Florida. To learn more about debt management refer to ConsolidatedCredit.ca.

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FREE Summer Reading for Kids Programs List

We are getting out of school on May 31st! If you are looking for free programs to encourage your child to read during the summer, Saving Dollars and Sense created this list of FREE Summer Reading Programs:

 

Book Adventure - Sylvan offers this FREE reading incentive program. Basically your child reads books and then takes a simple comprehension quiz to make sure they understood what they read.  The quiz is usually about 10 questions long.  They earn points based on how much they remember from reading the book.

There are hundreds of books to choose from in all reading levels.  These are common books that can be found at your local library.  Once they have earned enough points they can trade them in for some really neat prizes!

 

Half Price Books – Kids ages 14 and under get a chance to earn a $5 Gift Card for reading just 15 each day throughout the summer.

 

National Amusements Theaters Bookworm Wednesdays - Your child can earn a FREE movie ticket from National Amusements Theaters when they read a book and complete a book report.

 

PBS Kids Summer Reading Challenge – This challenge kicks off on June 6th and includes a FREE six week reading program and the chance for your kids to win daily prizes for their participation.

 

Barnes & Noble Imagination Destination - Earn a FREE book after reading 8 books and keeping track of them in a reading log.

 

Local Public Library – Don’t forget to check out your local libraries to find out which programs they’ll be offering this summer.  Last year we did our local summer reading program for my 3 year old, and we also went to a free weekly reading class. This kids were read a book, sang a few songs, and made a craft at the end!

 

TD Bank Summer Reading Program – Read and keep track of 10 books this summer and your child will get $10 added to their Young Saver Account FREE!

 

Chuck E. Cheese – Earn 10 FREE tokens every time your child reads for 2 weeks in a row.  Just fill out the form and bring it in to claim your free token.

 

Scholastic Summer Challenge - Log in your reading minutes to the Scholastic site and your child will be able to participate in a World Record challenge as well as earn digital prizes.

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Frugal Gardening | Growing Vegetables for Pennies

Growing your own fruits and vegetables is a fantastic way to get high-quality produce, but is it really cheaper? Some gardening guides give the impression that without expensive tools and additives, your vegetable patch is doomed from the start. In reality, anyone can grow produce with minimal investment. Follow these steps for some frugal, fun and festive gardening!

1. Containers
If you don’t have any space in the yard, you can grow produce in containers, but don’t bother heading out to the local garden center. The only thing a plant needs from its container is room to grow and drainage. Any container that can have a hole drilled in it will work for your patio garden. Scour the house for containers you already have, like buckets, dishpans, or deep bowls. Think outside the flowerpot and you will be surprised what you can get for absolutely nothing. If your search still doesn’t turn up enough options, head to your local charity store and look for deals on the same kinds of unconventional containers you were looking for at home. This is also a good time to pick up some extra dishes to break up and put in the bottom of the containers for added drainage.

2. Soil
Whether you will be gardening in containers or in the ground, high quality soil is a must – a high price tag is not. Commercial potting soil can be expensive in large quantities, but if you are willing to get your hands dirty you can make your own for less. Although there are many recipes for potting soil, a simple formula to get you started is a mixture of about 60% soil (straight from a hole in the yard or from a bag of topsoil), 25% peat moss, and 15% sand. Even if you buy all of the ingredients from a garden center, mixing it up yourself will give you much higher quantities at a much lower price. If you are working on an in-ground plot, simply work the peat moss and sand into the existing soil to improve its quality.

3. Plants
The cheapest way to get plants is by starting them yourself from seeds. Greenhouses made of milk jugs or two-liter bottles will get your vegetables growing with nothing more than recycled containers, seed starting mix, and duct tape. In a small-scale garden, you can reduce costs even further by sharing a packet of seeds with a friend. If it is too late to start seeds, look for sales, plant swaps, and end-of-season price reductions.

4. Fertilizer
Once your plants get growing, you must feed them, but there is no reason to break the bank on ready-made mixtures. Homemade fertilizers are inexpensive because they primarily come from things we throw away. Composting can be as easy as putting vegetable scraps, peelings and garden trimmings in a pile or container and turning the mixture regularly. Grass clippings, leaves and fireplace ashes also feed garden plants for free. If none of these options is available to you, ask your local coffeehouse for used grounds or buy alfalfa intended for rabbit food from your pet store and spread it on top of the soil.

High-quality produce doesn’t have to be the biggest expense in your grocery bill. Frugal gardening yields big results for small change!

This guest post is by Megan Thomas who likes to save with Home Owners Insurance.

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Saving by Buying Smart | 6 Ways to Save on Clothing for Kids


Keeping your budget in tact while clothing kids is sometimes quite the oxymoron. You can make it fun and frugal by trying a few different options. Here are some that may help you when looking to fill the closets at your house.

1. Second Hand Consignment Shows. A new concept of second hand shows is popping up and it’s a rather great concept. Essentially, people tag and give their items to the show managers, the show managers and volunteers hang them, priced as low as possible and once the sale is over, the sellers can either come and pick up their items that didn’t sell or they are donated to a local charity. The best part if you’re a buyer, is you have tons of items in one place, making it easier than hitting up 10 garage sales! Plus, in an effort to get rid of the items, the sale will usually give the volunteers an additional discount or offer a half price day to buyers (this is the day to go!).

2. Consignment Stores. This is a phenomenal place to look for accessories for example hair bows, special occasion clothes or shoes. Because a child grows out of these items so quickly, some are hardly worn at all. Plus, there are certain guidelines that most consignment stores follow to make sure the items they sell meet certain standards so you’re getting the best of the hand-me-downs.

3. Garage Sales. Hitting up every garage sale can become pretty tiring and consume a whole weekend. Plan ahead and look through the classifieds the night before, or weekend before and map out your route. This way, you’re also not hitting up sales that have no clothes in the size that you’re looking for.

4. Swap Clothes. Say you have a neighbor that has the opposite needs that you do, for example they have a 3 year old boy, you have a 1 year old boy. And, say they also have a 1 year old girl and you have a 3 year old girl. See if you can swap clothes. You give them your girls clothes and they give you their boys clothes to borrow. This way, hopefully they’re getting something and so are you. Of course, in order for this to work, you have to have the same taste in clothes as well.

5. Make a Friend. Most likely you know someone a couple years ahead of your kids. If so, ask them what they do with their hand-me-downs. Offer to come over and buy them from them. This saves them an immense amount of time tagging, hanging them and preparing them to go to a garage sale or to the consignment store, and you get exactly what you’re looking for. Win, win!

6. Shop Out of Season. This requires a bit of budgeting, but it works. Shopping for the opposite season can save you loads of money. This works best for kids under 5 because they grow at a pretty predictable pace. Essentially, when you shop out of season, you are looking for a size up when the clearance sales hit. Telling from experience, it’s also a great surprise when you open up the bin for the upcoming season, as you forgot about all of the great finds you got the previous year. In a way, you’re actually excited to see your kids grow and be able to fit in to them!

Combining all of these tips is also a great idea, as there’s no ‘one size fits all’ fix for spending the least amount of money on kids wardrobes, but hopefully this helps get some ideas running!

 

This has been a guest post by Kate at Coupon Cravings. As a Wife, and Mom to two young kids, ages 4 1/2 and 1, Kate prides herself on making the most out of a dollar and being frugal by finding great sales, purchasing secondhand clothes and making sure that every dollar is money well spent.

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Ways to Save When Shopping Online | Help My Budget Infographic

How do you get your best bang for you buck online? Here’s an infographic with tips of ways to save online. Also be sure to look at our Online Shopping posts for deals we find around the web.

Turtle Mat

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