How to rebuild your credit after bankruptcy

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Many people think that once they file for bankruptcy, their credit is officially ruined. Although filing for bankruptcy does become a major blow on your credit report, it is still possible to bounce back and begin rebuilding your credit little by little. Here are few tips that will get you started on rebuilding your credit, and build yourself back up financially.

1. Make sure to review your credit report
It is important to make sure you view your credit reports to make sure that there is nothing showing up that you have not authorized. Making sure you check your credit report may potentially put a stop to fraud.

2. Pay your bills on time
One major thing you can do to build your credit score is to pay your bills on time. If credit bureaus see a positive revolving account that is being paid on time, it will help improve your credit score.

3. Know your limits
One important trick into paying your credit card bill on time is to stick to your limit. Make a budget of what you need and work on paying towards that. This is a great way to make sure your bills get paid on time.

4. Get a secure card
Another easy way to bring up your credit is to apply for a secure credit card. Most banks offer secure credit cards that are easy to get. Start off with a low balance that you are able to pay off easily so you can make sure to pay your bills on time.

5. Take it slow when applying for credit
When you get out of bankruptcy, be sure to apply to new credit cards or other major purchases sparingly. You don’t want to over apply and get hit with many inquiries, and also more accounts than you can handle!

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Mythbusters: 5 myths of Credit Reports

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The only way to know where you stand regarding your credit is to pull your reports. It’s important to have a general idea of your report and scores, especially if you have plans of buying a house or car. However, we’ve all heard the credit report myths that tend to spook us out of checking our reports. But, how many of those myths are actually accurate. Here are five myths of credit reports that aren’t as scary as we believe!

1. Paying my debts will make my credit report instantly pristine
Paying off your debts help, but it does not automatically change your credit score to an 800 overnight. Sometimes, debts can stay on your credit report for a number of years before they come off, even it is paid off. Also, having some form of rotating credit helps boost your credit score. When bureaus see a positive account that is being paid off consistently, it helps your chances of a better credit score.

2. Checking my credit report can hurt my credit
The reporting agencies distinguish between soft and hard pulls. When you apply for a credit card to your favorite store, and the store calls to check your credit before issuing its line of credit, the agencies define that to be a hard pull and it counts against your score. In contrast, making a personal request to check your credit reports fall under soft pulls, which do not reflect negatively on the evaluation.

3. I don’t need to check my credit report if I pay my bills on time
Although you may think your credit score is good because you pay bills on time, other things can play a part that can ruin your credit score. Identity theft and fraud can both be huge hits to your report, even if you are paying your bills on time. It is important to check to make sure that none of these things are happening to you.

4. All the credit reports say the same thing
This is not true! When pulling credit reports, it is important to pull Transunion, Equifax and Experian because each bureau may show something the other does not.

5. Co-signing doesn’t mean you are responsible for the account
When you are approached to be a co-signer on an account, you will also become responsible to pay if something happens with the original signer. Be very careful when co-signing. If you can avoid to, it is much safer to take that route. Activity on the joint account is displayed on the credit reports of both account holders. If you co-sign for a friend’s auto loan and that person doesn’t make the payments, your credit profile will be hurt and vice versa.

Shop smarter, not harder: Back-to-school shopping tips that won’t hurt your pocket

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It’s that time of year again! School is almost back in session. With school around the corner, shopping for school supplies is at the top of many people’s to-do list. Make sure you are well stocked and ready for school without hurting your pockets. Here are a few tips to help ease the back-to-school shopping blues.

1. Take inventory of what you already have
Sometimes we end up buying a little more than we need during the previous school year. Take a look at the supplies you have an abundance of and the supplies that are running low. Once you’ve done that, make a list of what you need the most and buy accordingly.

2. Make a budget and stick to it
After you’ve compiled your list of school supplies needed, research deals on sales going on for school supplies. Before you spend extra money on name brands, consider buying store brand items first before splurging.

3. Create a list of needs
It is easy to get side tracked on what you need to purchase for school. However, don’t get too carried away. Also, consider taking your child shopping with you. Stick with your list of needs before branching out and purchasing trendy book bags, lunchboxes or pencil cases.

4. Host a back-to-school swap
Get together with friends and host a back-to-school swap party. Have everyone bring excess items they have from the year before and swap items. It’s a great way to get rid of excess supplies, and also get more supplies that you need without spending any money!

The Importance of Filling out FAFSA

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If you are in college, or planning to attend college, it is recommended that you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application can determine if you will be qualified to get some form of financial aid form the government to help you pay for school. Every year, the government rewards up to $150 BILLION in the form of grants, low-interest loans, and work-study funds to help millions of students pay for college. Why wouldn’t you just take a risk and apply to see if you are eligible for these opportunities? Here are five reasons why applying to FAFSA is a good idea.

1. It’s free money
If eligible for FAFSA, the funds that you receive do not need to be paid back. The money received from FAFSA is supposed to ease the financial burden of paying for school.

2. Don’t buy into the FAFSA myths
Some students do not apply for FAFSA because they believe in the FAFSA myths.
“I (or my parents) make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.”
“Only students with good grades get financial aid.”
“I’m too old to get financial aid.”
“The form is too hard to fill out.”

These phrases often hinder students from applying for financial aid, but you never know the outcome unless you apply. If the form is a little challenging to fill out, always seek help. There is always someone who can help you through the process.

3. You may need it to apply to other scholarships
Many other scholarships, such as scholarships offered by schools or from a private scholarship source may require you to fill out the FAFSA form in order to qualify for receiving aid. If you do not receive FAFSA, that doesn’t mean you will not be eligible to apply and receive the scholarships. Many scholarships just want to see that you have taken the steps to fill out FAFSA before going forward with the process of distributing the scholarship money.

4. FAFSA takes less than 30 minutes to complete
Yes, the application has many questions, but if all you have to do is answer questions about your financial situation to get money, then there is no reason you shouldn’t. On average, it takes only 23 minutes to complete the FAFSA. Spending 30 minutes completing the application and you may qualify for some form of financial aid.

5. You may just be eligible to receive funds
You never know if you will be eligible unless you apply. Taking the time out to apply for FAFSA is not a waste of time. Think of all the dollars you may be losing if you don’t! Don’t leave money on the table. Apply for FAFSA now!

How to Save Money in College

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The school year is coming. And if you are in college or a parent sending their child to college, you can agree that every penny does count. College is an expensive investment, but it’s also a time where you can save and learn a little more about money and controlling your spending habits. Check out these tips on how to save money while enrolled in school.

1. Avoid buying textbooks from the school bookstore
Textbooks are expensive, and chances are you will only crack the textbook a few times during the semester. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars purchasing a textbook you may not use often from the school bookstore, consider other options such as renting or buying it used. Websites such as chegg.com offer students the option of renting a book up to 90% off the retail price. Also, sites such as ebay.com and amazon.com are a great place to find used books for a cheaper rate. Sometimes, the school even offers buy and sell back options for students looking to make a little extra cash.

2. Choose a meal plan wisely
In college there are different meal plans offered to students who live on or off campus. However, not every meal plan is beneficial to everyone. How often you eat, how much you eat, and location can all factor in to choosing the meal plan that is right for you. If you can avoid to eat the food at your school, you can always opt to bringing your own lunch or do your own grocery shopping if you live on campus. The best thing to do is to look into your meal plan options and see if it is worth taking advantage.

3. Open up a bank account
Many banks offer free checking or saving accounts for students enrolled in college. Take advantage of this opportunity and stash the extra cash you make from jobs into your account.

4. Consider a campus job
Having an on-campus job can have its perks. There are different positions available on campus that may be able to help off-set the cost of tuition or even room and board.

5. Look for scholarships
Every year there are millions of dollars worth of scholarships for students in college. All you have to do is look for them and apply. Make sure to fill out FAFSA, and also see if your school is offering scholarships.

Car Shopping Strategies

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Car shopping can be a hassle, but it is important to remember to negotiate when buying a car. With the option of purchasing a new or used vehicle, it is imperative that when going to purchase a car you have done your research. Here are some quick tips to consider when you are purchasing a vehicle.

1. Timing is everything
When shopping for a car, try going later in the day or the beginning or middle of the week. Since many people tend to work during the week, it is more likely that dealerships will be less crowded. Weekends may tend to be a little busier. Also, consider shopping for a vehicle later on in the day. If you go to the dealership closer to closing time, the salesperson may be more inclined to be in a rush. However, when you go during this time, know exactly what you want and have your information ready. Do not go there to waste time. Dealers want to work with people who are serious about purchasing a car.

2. Consider shopping later in the year
Out with the old, in with the new. Later on in the year is when dealerships are trying to make room for the new car models. Waiting until later on in the year to purchase a car will almost guarantee you a good deal. It will be a little easier to negotiate a price with the salesperson.

3. Research, Research, Research!
One of the most important things to do when purchasing a car is to do your research. Know exactly the make and model of the car you want. Also, if you are preparing to purchase a used car, make sure you check the Car Facts of the car. It is also good to pull Kelley Blue Books to get a price. You want to make sure you are getting a good deal, not a rip off. Also, if you know your facts and the exact car you are looking for, the dealership will be more willing to work with you since they know you are a serious consumer.

4. Avoid buying a car during the spring months
Statistically, spring months tend to be the worse time to buy a car. Due to the factors of end of the winter season and the beginning of tax return season, it can be possible that dealerships tend to give less incentive to buy due to the fact that consumers have a little extra money in their pockets.

Try these strategies when you go to purchase your next vehicle. You never know what may come out of the deal! Happy Saving!

Shortcuts to a better credit score

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Are you trying to get your credit score up? Along with getting help from financial service companies, you have to do your part as well. Gaining excellent credit needs to start with you. You make the decision to have excellent credit, and you also have to make the decision to make sure you correct old, bad habits that can hinder your credit score. Here is a list of some common reasons credit scores are low. Are you having trouble with any? How can you improve in these areas?

1. Pay your bills on time
One habit that hurts credit scores are late payments. It is important to pay your bills on time, and staying consistent with the payments. The best way to make sure that your payments come out on time is to set up an automatic payment if it is an option. This way, you do not have to worry about falling behind on your payments. If you are already behind on payments, play catch up. Take care of the payments that are late, and work on paying or utilizing bill pay going forward.

2. Apply only to credit cards that you need
With many of your favorite stores offering credit cards, it is easy and tempting to apply for one. However, do not rack up credit card debt that you cannot pay off. Don’t apply to credit cards that you do not need. If you cannot keep track of five credit cards at a time, don’t sign up for them. Credit bureaus tend to look at how many cards are open. So, think twice when opening that credit card!

3. Keep your credit line open
Don’t be so quick to close your credit! The longer a credit is open, the better it will look. Keeping your credit line open for an extended period of time shows longevity.

4. Double check your reports for errors
Sometimes errors can be as little as an old address, or the incorrect spelling of your name. However, other errors that can be detrimental to your score is if a name that is not yours pops up. When you find errors on your report, send a letter to the credit bureau to dispute it.

5. Keep your balance below your credit limit
Be careful not to max out your credit cards all the time. Of course, there will be instances where you may hit your credit card limit, but keep in mind, the lower you keep your credit card balance, the easier it will be to keep track of your bills and pay them in full on time.

Planning for the College Years

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Planning to send your little scholar to college? If you are a parent who has wondered when a good time to start planning your child’s future, you are not alone. It is never too early to start investing in your child’s education. Here are some tips on saving money for your child’s college years.

1. Creating A Plan
Make a list of your child’s interests, skills and aptitudes for specific academic areas. Then, when the time is right, sit down with your child and select a few colleges that are not only in budget, but are also schools that he or she will be willing to attend.

2. Execute the Plan
During your child’s high school years, make it a priority to keep track of all the courses needed to get into the program of your child’s choice, especially in the schools they are interested in attending. Stay involved in their schooling and extra curricular activities as well. Be a support system to your child, and keep them motivated to excel during their time in school.

3. Choose the Right College
It is imperative to find the right college that is a great match for your child. A great way to discover if a college is right is to schedule college tours to the schools your child is interested in attending. This way, you child will be able to get a taste of campus life and learn more about what being in college entails.

4. Paying for College
Many schools offer different kinds of scholarships, financial aid, grants, work study, and loans. All you have to do is apply. Also, utilizing different websites that are geared to pairing students with scholarships are an easier way to find scholarships that are the best fit for your child.

5. The Admissions Process
It is always a wise decision to apply to more then one college. It increases the student’s chances at acceptance.

6. Prepare All Items Needed for College
If your child is going away to college, you will want to ensure that they have all the comforts of home available to them to take along with them.

7. Prepare your child Mentally and Physically for College
Going off to college is a major stepping-stone for any student, and although they may be excited about the appeal of going to college, there is additional preparation needed. Ensuring that student is mature enough and is able to organize themselves is important.

Dump the Theme Park Blues: Ways to save money at your favorite park

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Living in Florida has its perks. Besides beaches, sunny weather and a great night life, we also have theme parks. Between Disney World, Busch Gardens and a number of water parks to indulge in this summer, it is hard to decide where to take the family for this summer’s theme park trip. Although trips to the amusement park can be quite expense, families are able to rack up savings while still enjoying there time in the park. Here are some ways that you can save money while still enjoying your favorite theme park this summer!

1. Buy tickets online
Sometimes waiting until the day of to purchase your tickets will cost you more than what you expected to pay. However, checking the theme parks website may save you money that you can spend on other parts of the trip. Sites such as undercovertourist.com gives you the opportunity to pay theme park tickets at a discount rate. Take advantage of sites like these to minimize your spending.

2. Follow social media
Everyone is on Facebook and Twitter, and chances are your favorite theme park is on there too! Try following them on their social media sites to see if you can find some great deal. Sometimes companies like to target their social media followers with deals.

3. Consider packing your own lunch
Theme park food prices can be through the roof. Instead of paying way too much for a meal, consider packing a lunch for the family. Sometimes theme parks do not allow you to bring outside foods, however, keep a cooler with your lunch in the car. When everyone is hungry, take a break and eat in the car. When everyone is full, go back and enjoy the rest of the park.

4. Consider taking a bus to the theme park
If you are staying in a hotel close to a theme park, many offer free transportation to and from the park. Take advantage of this service so you do not have to spend money on gas or pay for parking.

5. Visit parks on their off-season
Theme park prices tend to be cheaper when it isn’t their prime time. Usually, ticket prices are higher during the summer months and holiday weekends. Consider going during the week or when the theme park would be less crowded. You will be able to save some money by cutting these corner.

6. Check for discounts
Many theme parks offer discounts to state residents or annual pass holders. See if your state theme parks offer that kind of discount. This can save you lots of money in the long run!

Retirement Daze

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RETIREMENT. For some, it is just a few years away. For others, retirement is something that will be achieved decades from now. However, whatever position you may be in, it is never to late to start planning or saving for your retirement. With plans such as 401(k)’s and IRA’s, saving for retirement is pretty much a done deal. Here are some easy ways for saving for your retirement.

1. Invest in your company’s 401(k)
Find out if your company offers a 401(k) plan. It is one of the easiest ways to save for your retirement. If they do offer a plan, have them deduct it from your paycheck. This way, you don’t see the money coming out of your check. Also, many companies that offer a 401(k) plan match up to a certain percentage of what you contribute. That right there is free money! If your company will match up to 6% of your contribution, take advantage of it! Sit back and watch your money grow through the years!

2. Consider opening an IRA
Many banks have IRA accounts that accrue interest over time. Think about opening up an IRA with your bank and contribute to it as often as you can. You can contribute up to $5,500 a year in your IRA, and even more if you are over 50. Just don’t dip into that account unless you REALLY need to. IRA’s are meant for you to save until you are ready for retirement. Dipping into that account can cost you interest, withdrawal penalties or losing tax benefits.

3. Save and Keep Saving!
Retirement can be expensive. To maintain your standard of living with no income coming in may be a challenge. That’s why it is important to save as much as you can while you are able to work. The more you save, the more better off you will be when your retirement day comes.

It is never too early or too late to start saving!