Where Do You Start with No Credit

This can be a tough question when you are just starting out. If you want to go to college or get a car, you may not know which way to turn. In this article will be some ideas to help the first time credit seeker in establishing credit in hopes of putting you on the right track from starting from no credit to building a good credit score.

No Credit

[Read: Building Credit With Credit Cards]

Feeling Invisible Credit wise

There is no shame in not having a credit history; it just means you have to build one. Unless your parents allowed you to become an ‘authorized user,’ on one of their accounts, there is little chance you have a credit history. Seldom do parents allow their children to become a ‘joint account holder’ on a credit card because of their age and ability to pay.

Is It No Credit or Bad Credit

Having no credit is not the same as bad credit. No credit means you do not have a credit history. Bad credit means that the person was extended credit, and failed to repay the debt. The lenders sometimes look at both similarly because they cannot determine how someone with no credit history will be when it comes to paying back on an agreement. Lenders base a loan on a positive credit history.

Steps to Establishing Credit for the Young Adult

There are a few ways that someone new to credit can establish himself or herself in the credit world.  It does take a little time, but that is why it is called a credit history.

First, it would be helpful to have a “verifiable” job. Even if you are in college full time, a source of income is necessary. If you don’t have a job, you will need to have a co-signer. That is not a position many people like to be put in.

Here are a few ways to start establishing yourself:

I. Try your Bank

If you have a savings or checking account already, then you have an opportunity to start locally.

  • Ask for a small loan
  • Ask for a credit card
  • Ask for a secured loan

This works when you have been responsible with your account. The best way for you to handle this is to go to your bank directly and speak with the branch manager. You already have an existing relationship with the bank or credit union so a face-to-face meeting to discuss and apply for credit is a more responsible approach than applying online.

II. A Revolving Department Store Card

These are usually safe bets that you will be approved.  Watch out if you decide to use this venue:

  • Have high-interest rates
  • Not versatile
  • Encourage you to spend by offering discounts

The nice part about using this type of card is you can probably qualify in a few months for a major credit card if you use the department store card wisely.

III. The Student Credit Card

If you are in college, you are probably able to qualify for a major credit card, regardless of having no credit. That is the positive side. Now the all-important downside:

  • Student credit cards usually have high-interest rates
  • They usually carry an annual fee
  • Other fees may apply when you leave college

As you can see, this is not the best option, but it is an option if you are in college. Some colleges send you a card when you have loans. If your semester doesn’t exceed your loan amount, the balance is loaded on your credit card.

IV. The Secured Credit Card

This card is like putting money in the bank for a rainy day. It is there, but you cannot use it. You deposit the same amount of money as the credit limit on the card. Then, all you have to do is:

  • Make your payments on time when you use the card
  • Pay off the card when possible
  • Don’t default

As long as you are current and keeping up with your payments, eventually your card will become an unsecured credit card. It doesn’t matter that you have no credit history because the bank has your money for safety as a security measure. The bank will raise your credit limit and that is a sign that you are on your way to building the good credit history that you wanted to begin with.

V. The Secured Loan

This was mentioned before under your bank, but it should be explained a little more clearly. It is set up much like the secured credit card:

  • Have money available in the amount you want to borrow
  • Explain your situation of wanting to build a history since you have no credit

You can go into the bank or credit union where you have an account and ask to speak to the loan officer. You should only need around $500.00 to accomplish this. Keep the loan small enough to be able to handle the payments easily. You are deliberately going to be making payments strictly to build a credit history, not to pay off the loan early.

[Read: How to Find the Best Rewards for Credit Cards]

I hope this has helped you get some ideas on how to start building a good credit history. Have you found a good way to start building a good credit history that isn’t mentioned here?

Are You Managing Your Credit Well?

There are several dozen sites that give you tips to improve your credit. But how will you know if they work? Other than monthly checks to see how your score is doing, some of the other things you will notice are:

  • You have no late fees
  • Your credit limit is rising
  • You are getting offers for other cards
  • You don’t need your card for bills

among other things. These are all signs that your credit is improving, and you are doing great at managing your credit well.

Managing Your Credit Well

[Read: Debt Management Programs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly]

You may also notice other things, like lower bill amounts, and possibly lower interest rates. These are noticeable signs that you are doing well, and your good credit habits are starting to pay off.

Changes in rates

Managing your credit well will often bring an offer to raise your credit limit. You have shown that you are capable of handling the credit offered, and their reward is to increase your limit. This will affect your score in a positive direction, showing that you have more credit available. If you continue your habits, the amount you have available versus the amount you are using will only reflect well on your score.

Another thing that might happen is a lower interest rate. This, especially with a low balance, may not make much day-to-day difference, but will overall lower the amount you have to pay. Small balances will not increase quite as fast, and any new purchases will be at the lower rate that you have earned.

Many companies, especially those with less-limited rewards or very attractive interest rates, screen their customers so the cards are only offered to those who are eligible. Getting these offers in the mail not only shows that you are known to be able in managing your credit well, but you may be able to open a new account, with benefits that you desire.

Before opening a new account, think a bit on it. Be sure that this is a card you will be able to afford (fees, interest, and any minimum usage), and actually will have a use for. There is little use in getting hundreds of miles of travel credit if you do not intend to travel in the near future.

Juggling Bills

When you firs got your credit car, you my have overspent a bit, and had to juggle bills to make all of the payments. This is now a thing of the past, because managing your credit well means that there is enough money to pay the bills, and keep a low balance on the cards as well.

Late fees for any of your bills are now gone- you have done such a super job of managing your credit well, and now do not have either fees, or the penalty interest rate that all cards have if you make major mistakes in your credit activity. This not only saves you money, but shows that you are doing great with your credit!

Card use

One thing you can check yourself on managing your credit well is how you use your card. Needing to use credit for things like bills and food is a sign that you still have a ways to go to become a credit managing superstar. But if you use it simply because it is more convenient than cash, you have a sign that you are doing all the right things.

Rotating credit cards allow you to keep your available credit high; and on-time, more than minimum payments means your balances are at or near zero. This gives you a great credit score, even without needing to look. And gives you more money at the end of the month than paying late fees and high interest rates.

The Score Knows

Your credit score, and what go into figuring it, is an important part of managing your credit well. By using many of the resources on the internet, you can figure out how each type of purchase, payment, or card will affect your overall score. The longer you are able to keep your good credit habits, the better your score will be, especially once you start making larger purchases.

After a few months of seeing all of these factors, you may be willing to only check your credit occasionally. This is potentially a problem, with all of the many possibilities of gaining your information an abusing it that the modern world offers.  Managing your credit well is an ongoing process, and a few months of inattention on your overall credit scores may ruin your hard work.

[Read: Defeat Money Depression and Take Back Your Life]

You’ve made it: managing your credit well, gaining savings, and making plans for the future: this is why we budget, and YOU are a success story for those around you!

Defeat Money Depression and Take Back Your Life

Defeating Money Depression

The cost of living doesn’t need to cost you your health especially when you’re at a point of financial disdain. Sure, you’ve reached lower-class and sit toeing the poverty line, but that doesn’t mean your mood needs to nose dive with it. With the idea that money doesn’t buy happiness ringing in the distance, the cliché clearly didn’t account for scientific proof of the opposite being true. You may not be able to purchase pure bliss with a MasterCard swipe, but you will find that you’re mood and outlook are directly affected by money at least, some of the time.

So what can you do to ward off the evil depression of being broke and turn that frown upside down? Try some of these tactics to give you the needed boost, and you’d be surprised just how much happier you are, even without cash in your pocket.

Defeat Money Depression

[Read: Manage Your Money Through The Power Of Intention]

Don’t Eat It, Defeat Your Money Woes.

Eating when you’re depressed solves nothing, and gives you more reason to be depressed. The natural instinct of our bodies is to raise our happiness level and food will do that for us. Chocolate, sweet foods such as cake and ice cream also make us feel happier, releasing the chemicals in our brains to suggest the act of eating was the solution to defeat money depression. This is but a band aid that will only worsen your condition. Eating healthy also;

  • Keeps your immune system healthy
  • Provide enough vitamins to sustain a healthy body
  • Avoid the depressing realization that you’re not only broke, but you’re also gaining weight.

Defeat the Couch Potato Money Blues.

Another proven fact is getting up off your butt. Not only do you feel better when you exercise (science says so) you’ll also find your own self-image is heightened by exercise as well. When we get out of our comfort zone and enjoy some fresh air we raise our self-confidence thanks to that pound reducing walk we just took as well as got some much needed vitamin D from the sun. People that live in areas that experience cold such as New England and Alaska are more likely to experience vitamin D deficiencies. This is because they’re stuck inside and less likely to exercise due to the extreme cold. Add in financial stress and it’s a recipe for disaster. Even on a brisk day,

  • take a walk to help clear your mind
  • get that vitamin D boost your body needed from the sun.
  • Relieve stress and take your mind off of current woes.

Lessen Stress with Good Deeds

Since you’re going out, why not take your mind off of you and do some good in your community? This will help you with one and two, but it also is for selfish reasons that you need to get out there and volunteer. Volunteering makes you look like a superstar. You’re taking your precious time and giving it away to others. This may be a freebie but it’s not overlooked and is a great networking opportunity. It also looks great on your resume thus adding some dollar bills to your pocket, the source of your stress in your first place. You never know how much better you feel when you touch someone else’s life and get the satisfaction of;

  • Help others
  • Get you off the couch
  • Earn you money if you teach a class or workshop
  • Gain new contacts in your network

Kill the Money Depression creatively

For creative types, moments such as this beg us to be creative. When you’re down on your luck and need a reason to smile, sometimes it’s as easy as opening a notebook and writing your thoughts out on paper. Utilizing your creative outlet doesn’t need to be limited to the arts. If you’re skilled in a trade, teach a class. If you’re experienced in startups and in between ideas, share your knowledge and help others. No matter what your skills are there are ways to put them out there to;

  • Find your passion and reason to smile
  • Be more grateful for what you already have by understanding there are far worse situations.
  • Defeat Money Depression

Fly into Success and Stomp the Money Blues

Okay, so maybe you’re not going to miraculously gain the ability to fly, but you will feel better when you think positive. The lost boys had the right approach to be successful you have to feel successful and to be happy you have to tell yourself exactly that. I’m happy. Keep in mind that;

  • Feeling like you’re successful will heighten your rate of success
  • Positive thinking reduces stress
  • You are who you think you are. Defeat the Money Woe demon with a positive self-image.

Avoid Avoidance Tactics and Beat the Money Blues

Most people will attempt to avoid the problem by holing up and not facing it. Just like running from your problems and the old saying they catch up eventually, avoiding the bills due will likely give your more reason to worry. Face the fact that you owe the money and develop a realistic plan of attack that puts the money due in check and your sadness at bay. Try the next suggestion to get your plan in check.

Setup a Money Binder to Lower Stress

If you’re not avoiding the problem you’re facing it and what better way to face it than to set up a plan to defeat money depression? My personal plan of attack when attempting to face the mountain of debt accrued thanks to my college education is to setup a bill binder equipped with tabs and dividers to well, divide and conquer. To setup a binder you’ll need;

  • 3” 3 ring binder
  • 1 Pack Dividers with Tabs
  • Paper Hole Punch

The rest is easy. Collect all of your bills and three hole punch them. Sort them by category and importance. Student loans and Car Payments will be in different sections and differ in importance. The idea is to accept that you’re not where you want to be and see the bill. This will help you see, accept, plan, and conquer.

[Read: Smart and Sassy: Money Tips for the Ladies]

Coping with being broke may seem like an impossible feat but taking the steps to live a positive and happy lifestyle will help boost your mood and your finances by changing your attitude and how you are perceived by the outside world. Next time you’re feeling the money blues remember the tips here to start defeating money depression.

Your Budget: 5 Ways to Make it Work for You

When you imagine creating a budget, do you imagine a spreadsheet with and endless line of items? The good news is you don’t need to manage an endless line of items, and you don’t have to miss out on your favorite things. You can personalize your budget so that you can still enjoy the things you love most.

Your Budget

[Read: A Few Personal Budgeting Tips]

Referring to this daunting task as ‘budgeting’ isn’t necessary. You can call it whatever you like. Imagine you are creating a recipe for how you plan to spend your money. You wouldn’t try to cook a new dessert without any previous knowledge or experience in doing so! You also wouldn’t want to blindly trudge through your finances without having a guideline. Now do you see how you may benefit from creating a budget?

Follow these five simple guidelines when creating your first budget:

Keep it Simple

Filling the list with too many categories is a common mistake made when people are creating their first budget. Try to focus on making a small amount of categories instead of listing every item you plan on purchasing. For example, when listing gasoline, oil changes, makeup and hair spray, make your categories broader by listing vehicle necessities and beauty supplies instead. Needless to say, the fewer categories you have the better off you’ll become.

If you really want to go to the extreme and create a tight budget, then you could have as little as two categories in all.  The anti-budget, the 50/30/20 budget and the side category budget work well with fewer categories.  Also, this article has wonderful templates and advice to help you get started.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Don’t create a budget expecting to drastically decrease the amount you spend each month. If you are spending $150 a month on groceries, then don’t expect that you can spend $50 next month. It’s important to set small incremental goals that are easy to follow and stick to. Try to reduce your monthly spending by 5-10 percent each month. This small amount will save you a large amount of money over time.

After sticking to this goal for a month or two, you can adjust your budget further. Over time you will reach your set monthly spending goal. It is much easier to stick to those small incremental changes.

Stick to What You Know

Many people decide to use different types of software and applications that are made to help you stick to a budget. Don’t be afraid to stick to what you know and use the old fashioned method of putting pen to paper. Truth be told, there is no right or wrong way to create and manage your budget. The best thing to do is to find the method that makes you the most comfortable.

Get Your Family Involved

Keeping everyone in your household up to date on your financial decisions is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy budget. After all, you’re most likely not the only person in your house who wants to spend less and save more. Planning a weekly meeting is a great way to get your family involved in making the best financial decisions for everyone. Here are examples of topics that you can discuss with your family at these meetings:

  • What is the most realistic way to reduce spending in each category?
  • How can we build a solid emergency fund?
  • How can we get the most from our retirement and investment accounts?

These meetings will also give you a chance to explain why you purchased that older vehicle versus the newer model. You can remind them of your goal to save for your son to go to college. Your family will feel more at ease when they know that the money you saved is going to such an important investment.

Tweak Your Budget Monthly

Truthfully, you’ll most likely have two columns in your budget:

  • the final amount you actually spend this month and
  • the amount that you originally planned on spending.

Reviewing your budget every month will show you the amount you actually spent versus the amount you planned to spend. Now you can pinpoint the areas in which you are spending more than you should and adjust those areas accordingly.

[Read: Why a Budget Really Matters]

After I created my first budget, I discovered that I was spending more money than I’d realized at Walmart and eBay. I couldn’t go into Walmart without spending at least $50. Having a budget to review helped me become aware of my spending habits. Now, thanks to my budget, I can go into Walmart with a list of items I need, pick them up and then simply leave the store.

Want more information on how to save money? Check out this YouTube video:

Paying off Debts – How to Get Started

Millions of Americans are struggling to pay off their debts. Many have credit cards, student loans, mortgages, personal loans, medical bills, and more, so it’s easy to see how overwhelming it can be to sort out your personal finances. However, this article will help you to start planning how to pay off debts.

paying off debts

[Read: Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage After You Retire]

Regardless of the types of debts that you have or the level of financial difficulties that you are currently facing it’s important to have full knowledge of your monetary situation. Burying your head in the sand will do nothing but make the situation worse, so if you feel like you’re constantly struggling to pay off debts then it’s time to take the bull by the horns and organize your finances.

Step One – Make a List

You may feel that you’re all too aware of what money to owe to which people. But until you list down all of your debts together there’s no way that you can organize paying off debts. This exercise alone will help you see the extent of what action is needed. You may feel better for having done it, or you may feel even more disillusioned and afraid that there’s no way for you to combat your debt. But without this list you can’t get started. Make sure that you include all of the important information for each debt, including:

  • The name of the lender or creditor
  • The amount of money that’s still owing
  • The minimum monthly payments you can make
  • The interest rate

Once the list is done it’s time to look through and decide which debts need to be prioritized. This is difficult to do without some sort of structure, so now let’s look at which debts should be concentrated on.

Step Two – Prioritize

The first thing to do is to mark on the list which of the debts makes you feel the most nervous. Which one do you lie awake at night worrying about? This doesn’t have to be a logical answer, but at the end of the day part of paying off debts is regaining happiness. For example, you may put a mark next to your mortgage because you’re most afraid of losing your house, or you may be more concerned about a personal loan because you don’t want to change the lifestyle that you’re now used to. Remind yourself why you’ve chosen to concentrate on paying off your debts now. What’s made you decide that action needs to be taken?

Secondly, mark on the list the debt that has the smallest balance and the debt that has the highest interest rate. These should be a priority depending on your individual circumstances. For example, if it’s the sheer number of different people and organizations that you owe money to that stresses you out the most, pay off the debt with the smallest balance so that it’s out of your hair for good. Once you start making the list smaller the momentum will hopefully build and build. With regards to the debt with the highest interest rate, regardless of the size of the original loan, it makes sense to pay this off sooner rather than later. The longer you leave this debt alone the more empty interest you’ll be paying to the bank or creditor. Also look at switching loans or consolidating them into one monthly loan so that your interest rates are reduced. Your bank or credit union can help out here.

Step Three – Make your decision

There’s no point in confronting your debts if you’re not going to do anything about them. You may think that you’ve been doing the right thing in spreading out your finances evenly so that every creditor gets some money back. This will get you nowhere as you’ll hardly make any dent at all on your overall debts. And tell yourself this – you’re not here to make friends with the creditors and keep them all happy. When looking at paying off debts, if you have to pick one over the other then do it, especially if it makes you feel better about your financial situation.

If it comes to it, be honest with yourself and decide which things you can live without in your day-to-day life. Could you manage with a smaller car, for example? Thinking like this can help you to choose which debts are the most important to you.

[Read: Ten Unfamiliar Ways to Help Pay down Medical Bills]

Depending on the type of debt, you may be able to ask for an extension period or relaxation period so that your payments are either reduced or suspended for a short period. Not paying off student loans can have a dramatic effect on your day-to-day life, but many people are unaware of the help that is available to them in the form of deferment or forbearance programs, for example. The US Department of Education has a lot of advice on offer for those who need assistance.

Why you should check your Credit Report Today

Our financials are something that take up a lot of our time. Consider how much time you devote to ensuring that your checking account is right, how much time you spent each month paying bills and then looking over those investments that you may have. It can feel overwhelming. But, it is vital that you check your credit report today…waiting could become a huge issue that affects you greatly and takes time to pull yourself out of.

[Read: How to Keep Track of Errors on Your Credit Report]

check your credit report today

Why Your Credit Report should be checked

There are several reasons as to why you are going to want to check your credit report today. These reasons are going to pertain to anyone who is of age and who are building their credit:

  • If you have never checked your credit before, then today is the time to change this. It has been found that almost 20% of consumers have never checked their credit, and when they do they often find errors that could be lowering their credit score.
  • If it has been over one year since you checked your credit report, and more than likely you do fit this category as there are only 34% of the adult population who order a yearly report on their credit as they are entitled.
  • If you have plans on applying for a mortgage or another loan, so that you can prepared to see what types of offers you are going to qualify for. The credit rating that you do have is going to affect just how much companies will let you borrow, as well as the interest rate that is going to be charged.

You cane easily check your credit report today, especially if you have never checked before or it has been over a year since you last checked. Every year, each citizen is given one free run of their credit report. Thus, there is nothing that can stop you from gaining access to this free of charge.

A few other reasons why checking your credit report is something that you should do:

  • This is the first step is ensuring that your identity is safe
  • You can work off of this report to see what changes you should make
  • If you have been denied credit, the report can help to outline why this credit was denied

Information that you will discover from your Credit Report

Once you do decide to check your credit report today, there are several pieces of information that you can discover from this. This information includes:

  • Open accounts under your name, which will include the balance and the date in which the last payment was made. In many cases, you can also see when this account was opened.
  • The rating that you are given based on your credit
  • The amount of total debt that you owe is listed

With this information you can easily see what your debt situation is. This can tell you whether it is time to get some financial freedom through debt consolidation or simply planning your budget better. It can also help in identifying accounts that you may not be aware of, which is one of the biggest signals for identity theft being the problem. If you check your credit report today, you are going to be in a better place to see if there are problems, and how to solve these problems before they get to be too much.

What you Will Need to check your Credit

Several people who decide to check their credit are often surprised by what they find. Especially those who have not checked this in several years or who have never checked this information. If you are ready to check your credit report today, you are going to need some pieces of information:

  • Name
  • Social security number
  • Address
  • Email, in some cases
  • Other personal information such as phone or maiden name, for women

Here’s more information about Credit Reports and Scores

Do not be tempted with paying services that offer to check your credit report today for you. It is best to do this on your own so that you know specifically what is affecting you.

Once you have gained the information from the credit report, you can start to make any financial changes that you need to make. For example, if you are wanting to increase your rating, then start doing things that shows you are a responsible borrower. This can range from paying down the balances to not maximizing your lines of credit.

[Read: What Influences Your Credit Report Score?]

Your credit is the lifeline to your financial portfolio. With bad or poor credit, you will find it harder to borrow, while those with good credit often reap the benefits in other areas of their lives. For instance, getting a lower rate on insurance as they have probed that they are a dependable and financially responsible person. There is no one that does not want to be considered credit worthy in the eyes of lenders, and the first step in getting here is through checking the credit report on yourself.

Budget Tips For Real-Life Situations

You have a budget, and are living within it- you have it made! Or do you?

Some things that many people don’t plan for in their budgets can cause serious financial difficulties, especially if they happen all at once. Being able to plan your budget to fit in

  • Car repair or replacement
  • Household or family emergencies
  • A vacation- even for a weekend
  • Taxes on a windfall
  • Your personal Bucket List

Budget Tips

[Read: Budget ‘Serial Killers’]

I will provide you with even more reason to relax and enjoy living, with fewer worries. Budget tips are everywhere, from big-name celebrities to many blogs. This is because many people forget about these things, or simply don’t want to think they will ever be needed. A small amount of extra savings in the budget will avoid you needing to use and rebuild your emergency fund over and over.

A basic set of budget tips will at least start to cover the home and car end of the spectrum.  A very rough figure of 4% of your home’s value is suggested as a yearly savings for emergencies. This figure may well need to be adjusted upwards for the age of your home, and the condition of the appliances and systems. You have a fair idea of how many miles are driven each year: a look at the charts for recommended maintenance will let you figure in an amount to place in a savings account for expenses like brakes or new tires. In addition to your monthly figure for service and tune ups, this money can be set aside in a savings account for the car- or home-related expenses. This is a huge figure, especially for someone with a first job. Careful budgeting will allow you to squeeze this in.

Family is another big area that people do not budget for.  A new baby in the family, a invitation to a wedding, or an emergency trip to the hospital can leave a family member without the income or savings to take care of the unexpected. Even a small amount of savings, placed in your budget, to cover these things will let you have the comfort of knowing it is there.  You can decide on a case-by-case basis if you want to help with any situation. Even if it isn’t ever needed, the fact it is there is valuable.

[Read: Is Your Budget Destined To Fail]

Some of the best budget tips I ever have heard come from many sources, summed up by “Overestimate expenses. Underestimate income.” This allows a small margin of error for price changes and for additional savings. Using this with a written budget avoids the problem of budgeting in a bonus or not accounting for price changes. A simple rounding to the nearest $25 (up for expenses, and down for income) also allows easier math.

Budget tips for the future

As the modern workforce moves away from the traditional office setting into the telecommuter world, tax codes have not kept up, nor have many of the savings plans. A sudden windfall from a lottery winning or inheritance may also cause you tax problems. A sudden tax bill when you were expecting a return can ruin a budget planned around that return. The budget tips for taxes are to make sure you check with a tax professional, or an accountant, to make sure that you are not going to have an unexpected tax bill at the end of the year. If you make money from hobbies or freelance assignments, a quarterly tax plan may be the best budgeting tool for you.

And since you have worked so hard, planning for and finding budget tips for weekends away seems like a good idea. Budgeting for these outings is so much less expensive than reaching for a credit card with higher interest rates and paying for it. The bank will pay you interest on your savings, versus you paying interest to the banks for the credit you used. I find knowing that I can afford the weekend away, without making more bills, a much more relaxing and creative vacation.

Once you retire, there well may be things that you want to do, or changes in prices that weren’t what you planned on. Having an account to let you do some of the things that you dream of is the best of the future budget tips. You start this while you are young, and as you age a bit, you can use these funds to explore and try things that you want to. Many people forget that having a budget for fun doesn’t stop once they quit working, it becomes more important than ever.

[Read: Why a Budget Really Matters]

Regardless of your age, follow these budget tips, and let your budget work for you in case of emergency. Having these items in your budget is wise,  just for the comfort of knowing it is there.

Save Money On Your Electricity Bill

Trying to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter can be a challenge for the pocketbook, as heating and air-conditioning costs account for the majority of the average electricity bill. As energy prices continue to rise, it is up to the responsible home-dweller to do what it takes to make a house more energy-efficient, providing some much-needed relief from high electricity bills. Read on for several ways to save money on your next bill.

[Read: The Best and Worst States to Save Money]

Woman Holding Dollars --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Make it Green

Planting trees and shrubbery around your home does more than just make it look nice. The proper type of greenery can shade your home in summer, preventing the sun from shining full-force on your roof and windows, which can cause your A/C to work overtime to keep the house cool. Shading the outdoor air conditioning unit is also helpful to prevent it from being overworked, which can not only drive your electricity bills up, but lead to more maintenance on the unit itself. In the winter, proper landscaping can protect your home from cold winds and provide extra insulation around your foundation.

Treat Your Windows and Doors

There are multiple options when it comes to window treatments that will make an impact on energy costs. Try any of the following to see how they can affect your bill:

  • Curtains, blinds, outdoor awnings, solar screens, or window film can help keep the sun out during those hot summer days.
  • In the winter, heavy draperies and window treatments will keep warm air in and cold air outside where it belongs.
  • Replace your windows if you don’t want to sacrifice the sunlight in order to regulate the temperature in your home. Many window types have been designed specifically to keep the heat where it needs to be while still letting the light in, giving you a great benefit without increasing your electricity bills.
  • Doors and windows are not airtight, but caulk is an inexpensive and simple solution to address air seepage. Use caulk on the cracks around doors and windows and update the weather stripping if it is beginning to show signs of wear.

Watch the Thermostat

Try setting your heat and A/C either higher or lower than you normally would to see if you still feel comfortable. This simple step can reduce your heating and cooling costs significantly, effectively lowering your electricity bills. If you spend a large part of your day away from home, purchase a thermostat that can be programmed to adjust the temperature on a timer. Rather than remembering to change the thermostat each time you leave and enter the house, this energy-efficient solution is set to raise or lower the temperature according to your instructions. Programmable thermostats are inexpensive and easily worth the savings you gain by keeping temperatures at the desired level throughout the day.

Maintain Your Furnace and A/C

Keeping your furnace and A/C well-maintained is a simple way to increase your savings. Dirty air filters, inefficient fan speeds, and worn components will all contribute to higher electricity bills. Air filters are inexpensive and should be replaced or cleaned at least once every thirty days. Learn to recognize when your air filter needs maintenance and take care of it before it begins to affect your unit’s efficiency. Invest in a professional inspection once a year if you are not comfortable identifying potential problems with your furnace and A/C units. A knowledgeable repairman can reset your fan speed if needed and will be able to tell you if there is any issue compromising the efficiency of your unit. You may discover it is worth the cost to replace an old unit in need of frequent repair. Energy-efficient systems can dramatically cut your electricity bills and prevent costly repair charges.

Increase the Circulation

Fans are great at circulating air and improving the efficiency of heating and cooling your home. Be sure to have the fan going clockwise in the winter on low and counterclockwise in the summer on high or medium to maximize the benefits of this tip. Keeping doors and vents open can also help keep the air circulating in every room and will keep the temperature properly regulated throughout the house.

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Better appliances

While addressing the heating and cooling issues to lower electricity bills, don’t forget to check out your appliances. Refrigerators and ovens have energy-efficient alternatives that can offer a lot in electricity savings. If you can, make use of the microwave instead of the oven, especially during summer months, as the oven uses far more electricity and can add significant heat to your home, forcing the air conditioner to work harder.

[Read: Smart and Sassy: Money Tips for the Ladies]

A Little Goes a Long Way

Each one of these tips can contribute to lowering electricity bills and making your home a more energy-efficient and comfortable place to live.

Building Credit With Credit Cards

Credit cards can be complex and intimidating, especially considering the number of people who find themselves deeply in debt. However, properly managed credit cards can significantly improve credit and contribute to financial success. If you are trying to build credit for the first time, maintain your current good credit standing, or recover yourself from bad credit, the following tips will increase your confidence and give you a better understanding of how credit cards can help you build the credit you want.

[Read: Tips to Increase Your Credit Score]

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Learn How Credit Can Affect You

Many people don’t consider the ways in which credit affects them until they are face-to-face with a situation that calls for a good credit rating. You might be buying your first car, renting an apartment, or turning the utilities on in a new home. In each instance, your credit history can be a deal-breaker. It can also affect your chances at employment. More employers are beginning to run credit checks on potential hires and companies expect prospective employees to be honest and responsible. A simple credit check can tell an employer how you handle your responsibilities when you aren’t at work, and good credit can convince them that you will be a valuable employee. You don’t want to be turned away for a job for no other reason than bad credit.

Consider a Secured Credit Card

If you are just starting to build credit or are climbing back from bad credit, consider applying for a secured credit card. This type of card requires you to put down a refundable deposit, which acts as security and defines your credit limit. You can make purchases against the card and pay them off, all while maintaining your deposit. While secured credit cards can be essential for those looking to build or rebuild credit, be sure to read the fine print to prevent yourself from ending up in a worse place than you started. If you don’t pay attention you may end up with a secured credit card that doesn’t report your payment information to credit bureaus. Consistent, on-time payments are essential to building good credit. If the credit bureaus do not have this information, your credit will not improve.

Switch to a Better Card

Once you have sufficiently built your credit to either convert your current card to a standard, unsecured credit card – or qualify for a new card if your current card will not convert – you need to follow the same rules you learned in the previous tip. Make payments consistently and on-time. To get the most out of your credit cards, pay off balances each month to prevent interest fees or at least attempt to maintain a balance no more than 20-30% of your credit limit. A debt-to-credit ratio much higher than this will have a bad impact on your credit score and may prevent lenders from approving your requests for more credit.

Having Too Much Credit

Overextending yourself is never a good option, but having multiple credit cards can be good or bad, depending on how you use them. The most important aspect of analyzing the strength of your credit is credit utilization. A good credit score is largely based on your debt-to-credit ratio, or how much you owe compared to what your credit limit is. Multiple credit cards with zero balances may work in your favor, but only if you can effectively manage them. A missed or late payment will count against you and can negatively impact your credit score.

Close Accounts Responsibly

Many people believe their credit will be improved once they pay off a card and close the account. However, this can actually work against you, since it increases your debt-to-credit ratio, even if your actual debt has not changed. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you would like to close some of your credit card accounts:

  • It is best, especially if you are planning a significant purchase in the next 3 to 6 months, to keep your accounts the way they are. Lenders will note significant changes and overall will appreciate a lower utilization ratio.
  • If you decide to close a credit card, try to close the one most recently opened, as your credit score partially depends on how long you have had an open account. Being a long-term customer is a mark in your favor.
  • If you are closing multiple accounts, don’t do it all at once. A drastic change to your credit may negatively impact your score.

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[Read: Several Things That Are Credit Builders]

Stay Informed

The best step you can take in building your credit and responsibly managing your credit cards is to stay informed. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com and get a free credit report each year from the 3 major credit bureaus. It is an essential part of taking control of your financial future.

Finding A Financial Advisor You Can Trust

When you find yourself needing a financial advisor, it might be overwhelming to wade through the many companies and individuals advertising their services. There are multiple things to consider when choosing someone to help you manage your investments and plan for retirement. Your financial situation, your philosophy of investment, your personality, and your professional standing are just a few of the elements you should contemplate before making a choice. It is important to pick a financial advisor who does what you need and provides you a service you can trust. No matter where you are in your search, this article will help you move forward with confidence.

[Read: Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage After You Retire]

 

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Determine What You Need

The first step in choosing a financial advisor is deciding exactly what it is you want to achieve. Everyone wants to be successful in their financial planning, but a good financial advisor will want to know what success means to you and what you are willing to do in order to achieve your goals. Whether it is retirement, debt repayment, making a significant change to your lifestyle, or planning for a future large expense, your financial advisor will want to tailor a plan that can give you precisely what you envision. Moving forward in your search with a general plan in mind about how you want your money managed will help you narrow your choices to the individuals who can serve you best and provide you with the type of service you require.

Will You Take a Risk?

As in any profession, there are some financial advisors who are risky, some who are conservative, and some who fall squarely in the middle, adjusting their philosophy depending on the situation. Decide where you stand regarding the amount of risk you are willing to take with your investments. If you are open to losing money at times in order to potentially gain a greater payout, look for a financial advisor who can identify the more aggressive investment opportunities and go after them in order to get you the payday you’re looking for. If you would prefer to be more passive and conservative in your investing, find an advisor who shares your philosophy and won’t play fast and loose with your funds. Your financial advisor will be working closely with you in order to maintain your money in a way that benefits you best, so you want to make sure the decisions made will reflect your own personal philosophy of investing.

Find Out What They Have to Offer

There are many websites that allow you to solicit multiple proposals from financial advisors who are eager for your business. Websites like www.wealthminder.com allow multiple requests for free so you can compare and choose the advisor who is right for you. Once you receive the proposals, take the time to study them in depth and identify what makes each candidate qualified to handle your money, and how their experience can fit with what you need. Look for keywords like CFP, CFA, or ChFC, all designations that can give you confidence the person you’re considering has taken the extra steps needed to do the job well. Be wary of financial advisors who offer unqualified advice outside their realm of expertise. For example, tax advice and information should come from a CPA, or someone who is well-versed in the nuances of the tax code.

Narrow the Field

Once you have successfully narrowed the field to a small handful of potential candidates, set up interviews and give them the chance to look over your financial information beforehand so they can understand what type of investing you are interested in pursuing. Once they have reviewed your documents and are prepared to offer advice on your future investment planning, take the time to ask questions that will help you understand them and their work preferences more clearly.

  • Are they willing to communicate with you in the manner and with the frequency you desire?
  • What questions do they have for you regarding your current goals and expectations for future investments?
  • What potential red flags do they see in your current investment strategy and how would they address them?

Financial advisors do their best work when they know exactly what to expect and how they can meet your needs. You don’t want to waste any time moving your finances in the wrong direction because your instructions weren’t clear at the beginning.

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[Read: What Are the Best Ways to Build Credit?]

Trust Your Instincts

You want a financial advisor who listens, advises you correctly, and keeps you on the path you chose, guiding you around potential pitfalls when they arise and helping to manage anxiety around financial planning. At the end of the day, you can pick a financial advisor with confidence, knowing that you have done everything in your power to make the right choice.