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How To Prevent Your Card Being Canceled By Credit Grantor

Not everyone uses their credit cards on a regular basis. Imagine the shock of needing to use your credit card only to find that it has been canceled by a credit grantor. You hear horror stories of people vacationing overseas and discovering this problem, then spending hours trying to fix it.

Unfortunately, the credit card grantor reserves the “right” to cancel or change the terms and conditions at any time. While they are supposed to notify you, this could be lost in the mail, sent to your email spam folder, or simply overlooked.

There are a few main reasons why your credit card might be canceled by a credit grantor. Let’s review the most common ones to prevent this from happening to you.

Not Using Your Credit Card Enough

A credit card company issues a card to you so that they can make money. Not only will they make money when you pay interest and fees, but they do make a small amount of money on each transaction that you use the card for.

This is the most common reason for a credit card to be canceled.

When you do not use the card at all, or only for emergencies, the credit card company makes no money from having you as a customer. Fortunately, this is a problem that is extremely easy to avoid. Simply use the card for the occasional purchase. Try to use it at least once every few months so your account will remain open and active.

You can always use one of the best credit cards with no annual fee to help you keep your account active without having to worry about coughing up the money for any fees.

New Debt

Have you recently taken on new debt? Bought an expensive car or a new home? These are changes that can quickly raise your debt level, change your credit utilization ratio (how much of your available credit you owe), and affect your credit score.

The credit card company may see this new debt and quickly cancel your card. New debt on a credit card changes your credit utilization. But taking out a large loan may affect you as well. The credit card grantor may determine that you have too much outstanding debt to pay promptly.

Changes in Your Credit Score

Any time that your credit score changes or drops, you are at risk for having your credit card canceled by credit grantor. This is one of the most important reasons to keep regular tabs on your credit score. You can avoid having your card unexpectedly canceled. It’s also good to know in case of identity theft.

They Don’t Need a Reason

As mentioned before, credit card companies have the right to cancel your card, for no reason, at any time. Having a credit card is not actually your “right.” The credit card company gets to decide who they want to extend credit to. While this might be you, it could change at any time.

They are supposed to give you notice, but, might not always do so. Sadly, getting a credit card canceled, for any reason, looks pretty bad on your credit report. You definitely want to try and avoid having this happen if you can.

What You Can Do To Prevent Being Canceled By Credit Grantor

First, make sure that you at least occasionally use your credit card so that the account does not go completely dormant. Second, make sure that you keep an eye on how much you owe. Keep your credit utilization as low as you possibly can. Third, follow your credit report on a regular basis (at least once per year) to ensure everything is accurate.

Your credit is important and should be treated as such. You can prepare yourself for the unexpected by following all of the rules and staying on top of your debt carefully.

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Tips to Raise Your FICO Credit Score

Your FICO credit score is one of the major factors a lender will consider when determining whether or not to approve you for credit. There are many things that go into your FICO score, which means that there are things that you can do to improve it. Careful attention to your FICO score can help you build your credit.

Here are tips that can help build and raise your FICO score

Apply for credit cards

You may be wondering if applying for credit cards can hurt your credit, but, just the opposite is true when you use them responsibly. The same goes for installment loans. Those with no credit will be a higher credit risk than someone who has demonstrated responsibility by making payments regularly and on time.

Make every payment on time

When you make your payments late, this shows up on your credit report. Lenders do not like to see you making a habit of late payments. As your FICO score is computed, 35% of the score is dependent upon you making timely payments for credit cards and loans. Never missing a payment is the best way to get the most from this factor. The longer the history that you have of making payments on time, the better this part of your score will be.

Pay off balances in full each month

While this is difficult for some, especially those who have accumulated large amounts of debt, making the largest payments you can afford is smart. This will help you lower the balances. Once you get your credit cards paid off, try to pay the entire amount that you owe each month. Never make less than the minimum payment required. The lower your overall balance, or credit utilization, the better your FICO score will be.

Communicate with creditors if there are problems

If you fall on hard times financially, contact your creditors before you begin to miss payments. Often they can work out a temporary solution, or negotiate a payment plan with you before your credit is adversely affected. When you are making regular payments, even when you are struggling financially, you can often keep your credit score from dropping too far.

Don’t rush to close credit cards to raise your FICO score

Closing credit card accounts can actually have a negative impact on your FICO score, especially if you have had the credit card for a long time. If you close credit cards that are paid in full, yet you still have others open that you carry a balance on, then you are going to see your credit score drop because your credit utilization will increase. This means that you will be using a higher percentage of your available credit. You are going to be better off keeping cards open when they have a zero balance, particularly if you have a long history with that creditor.

Keep track of your credit utilization

If you have a high credit utilization or a high debt-to-credit ratio, contact your creditors to see if you can have your credit limit raised. This can help improve your ratio and also your FICO score.

Don’t open too many accounts too close together

This is especially important for new credit users. When you are just starting out, one or two cards is plenty. Even if you have well-established credit, opening too many credit cards in too short a time period will have a negative impact on your FICO score.

Make sure your creditors know how to reach you

Always notify your credit card companies if you have an address change. If you miss a bill because they moved, it will not be their fault. You will likely see a change in your FICO score as a result. This is a common mistake, and one that is completely avoidable.

Immediately report if your card is lost or stolen

Reporting a lost or stolen card as soon as you are aware of it is crucial. Most credit card companies will not hold you liable for unauthorized purchases under these circumstances. If you do not promptly report it, you could be held responsible for large purchases. This will also affect your FICO score.

Check your credit report regularly

You should check your credit report at least once a year. Make sure that there are no inaccuracies. Most free credit reports will get information from the three major credit bureaus—TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Checking your credit report will not hurt your credit score. It will help you keep tabs on any accounts that you are responsible for. If you notice any inaccuracies, contact those creditors immediately to have the issue resolved.

Your FICO score is important. You should know what it is and make efforts to keep it solid or improve it. Use these tips to keep your credit great!

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You May Be Eligible For A Credit Card Retention Bonus

Earning miles and points from your credit card is fun—especially when the annual fee is waived for the first year. Once that anniversary comes around, however, you may be required to pay an annual fee—which might not be what you planned. Since you have earned tons of points, you don’t want to simply cancel the card. Let’s talk a little bit about your options and what might be available to you.

Consider the Retention Bonus

Many of the bigger credit card companies will offer you a special “retention bonus” on your anniversary date. This can range from a tidy sum of extra bonus points to a free baggage check, to a free night in a hotel, and more. Often the value of the retention bonus is far greater than the cost of the annual fee—so consider this part carefully when you are thinking of canceling the card. It might be well worth it to keep the card. While there are some cards that have pretty hefty annual fees, taking a look at what you get is a wise move. See if it is worth it to keep.

Consider the Credit Impact

Closing a credit card can negatively affect your credit score, so consider this move carefully. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should automatically keep a card with an expensive annual fee just because you don’t want a short-term ding on your credit. But, you should not be opening and closing credit cards on a whim if you want your credit to stay clear and clean.

Take an inventory of all of the cards you have and consider the fees and benefits. Also, consider your history with them and your available credit. Then, and only then, should you determine whether or not to close a card when your annual fee is up. Don’t rush to close a card simply because the fee is due.

Make Your Plea

You may not realize this, but you can actually request that the fee is waived for another year. Keep in mind that if you are a good customer, the credit card company will not want to lose your business. They may agree to waive the fee for another year. Sure, that will put you in the same position next year, but that gives you time.

Ask for a Downgrade

Many credit cards offer no-fee versions of their more expensive cards. The perks are fewer, but you don’t have to close the card and take the hit on your credit score. If you have a good history with the credit card, consider this option. When you can keep the line of credit open for free, and not have a hit on your credit card, this is really a win-win.

Final Thoughts

You will hear about loopholes and how you can exploit the system by getting a retention bonus just before the anniversary and canceling. Alternatively, you can pay the annual fee for a huge retention bonus and then cancel and keep the bonus. But the reality is, many of the best credit cards out there will offer you some sort of incentive to stay.

Whether you get a companion certificate, bonus points, or something else, it is up to you to determine if that is worth it for you to stay. Don’t impulsively cancel a credit card. You may regret it when it hits your credit score. As with any decision related to your credit, be careful and do your homework to figure out what is going to be the best decision for your personal situation. Often you won’t be able to reapply for a card once you cancel, so make sure it’s really what you want to do!

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Why Your Credit Score Might Dip When You Pay off Your Debt

When you start reading the advice of financial advisors, you will discover that most of those experts agree that the first step toward getting out of debt is paying off your credit cards. This will make your budget more flexible when you do not have to make credit card payments each month.

But what they don’t tell you is that your credit score may drop a little as a result. Doesn’t make sense? Well, there are a few reasons why it happens. However, it is not usually a serious problem. Let’s discuss some of the reasons so that you can understand and be prepared if this happens to you.

How Good Your Credit Score Is Matters

If your credit score is already high (over 720), then you probably have nothing to worry about when you pay off your credit. You might see a slight, temporary dip in your credit score, but when you have a solid credit history you have nothing to worry about.

Having an 850 is not necessarily required. There is a range when it comes to “excellent” credit. Generally anything in the mid-700s and above will get you approved for any financing you need.

Why Does A Credit Score Drop?

It might seem strange to have your credit score drop when you show that you can pay off what you owe. But, when you understand the various things that go into figuring a credit score, and you understand the concept of credit utilization, it might make more sense.

For most of the credit bureaus, 30% of your credit score is based on credit utilization. While you should aim to keep this figure low—by owing no more than 30% of what you can borrow, having no credit utilization is not necessarily the best thing.

What Should I Do To Keep My Credit Score High?

For the best credit scores, it is wise to utilize your credit cards regularly. Do so within the appropriate credit utilization recommendations, and pay off your credit card monthly. When you do this, your credit score will stay high. Plus, you will show that you are responsible and creditworthy. You will not suffer by having to pay any interest charges.

Applying for more and more credit is not a good idea though. Keep a small number of cards, and choose them well (i.e., based on terms and conditions, rewards, or whatever factors are most important to you). Monitor your credit report regularly to ensure that it is accurate. Immediately address any problems should there be any.

What’s the Bottom Line?

The bottom line is that, when it comes to good credit, you have plenty of control. Make wise credit decisions. Don’t spend beyond what you can pay off. Make every single payment on time. Don’t have more credit than you need.

This is how you can get the best credit score, or raise a poor credit score most effectively! Don’t worry too much if your score dips slightly when you pay off your card. Simply get back to your good credit habits and you will be fine.

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What Effect Do Student Loans Have on Your Credit Score?

should i refinance my student loans

It’s no surprise that the average college student graduates with well over $30,000 in student loan debt. However, too many people fail to realize that not paying their student loans, or not paying them in a timely manner, can seriously hurt their credit. A student loan is just like any other loan. It must be paid back according to the terms and conditions that were agreed upon at the time the loan was given.

Paying a student loan is a great way for college grads to build up credit. A good credit history makes it easy to get a car loan or qualify for a nice place to live. A good credit history can also help students qualify for a credit card.

Making Your Student Loans Work In Favor of Your Credit

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magical solution to this. One of the best things that you can do for your credit is to pay your student loans on time and pay off your student loans as agreed. So, for those who feel frustrated by paying student loans, realize that there is something very positive that can come from having student loans.

Additionally, when you make your student loan payments on time each month, the three major credit bureaus will be notified. You will appear to be a responsible, low-risk borrower. That will open more opportunities for you.

What If You Cannot Make Your Payments?

Defaulting on your loan, or just not paying it, is the least desirable option. Defaulting on a loan has terrible consequences for your credit. A loan default will leave you struggling with your credit for years. Not only will it affect your ability to get loans and credit, but some employers and landlords check credit to see how trustworthy you are. Seeing a defaulted student loan doesn’t leave the best impression.

If you find that you are struggling to make your student loan payments, you should contact the lender before you actually fall behind. If you explain your situation, you might be able to negotiate a smaller payment or even get a temporary deferment. When you try to work with the lender, you may be able to protect your credit, which you definitely will not be able to do if you default on the loan.

What About Interest Rates?

You should realize that when you defer on a loan, the interest continues to accumulate. Hence, you will end up paying more in the long run. But, when you can’t make the full payments, or any payments at all (which is more common than you might think), paying what you can and getting through is important enough. In some cases, it can help justify the deferment.

You’ve spent the last several years carefully attending your classes, completing your projects, and making sure you had a great GPA. You don’t want to disregard the next part of your life—becoming a responsible adult with a good credit score. Make your student loan payments on time each month. Slowly but surely, the amount you owe will go down. Someday it will be paid in full!

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5 big changes that can significantly reduce your monthly outgo

Although big changes are the most difficult ones to make, they hold the potential of completely changing your financial life for better. Here are the 5 big changes that can possibly save you hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of dollars every year:

big changes for personal finance

Getting rid of your car

Many people residing in cities consider switching from car travel to public mode of transport, and occasional use of services like car rentals or Uber for moving around, at some point of time.

Regardless of how you look at it, car travel is always expensive. Even if you get past the monthly loan repayments, you’ll need to bear the fuel cost, insurance cost, registration cost, parking charges and those occasional/frequent traffic tickets. Going by the AAA’s estimates, the average cost incurred by a US citizen for owning and operating a vehicle works out to $ 8698 per year.

Just think how much you’d be saving by ditching that car! All major cities have efficient public transport systems that provide monthly passes at reasonable rates. Majority of such passes can be bought at around $ 80 – $ 100 depending on how far you stay from the central points. If you manage to effectively use public transport for meeting all your travel needs, you’d be actually dropping down your annual transport expenses from $ 8700 to around $ 1000. That’s a lot!

Although you may need transportation services like taxi, Uber and/or car rentals from time to time, they’ll not increase your monthly/annual outgo by a lot. Whichever way you look at it, you’ll be the eventual winner!

Moving into a smaller place

Another big change that can save you plenty of money every year is relocation to a smaller home. Staying in a home full of unused spaces, especially if you’re the homeowner, can be a very taxing affair. Moving into a smaller place can provide you with plenty of financial advantages such as lower maintenance costs, lower association fees, lower utilities, lower property taxes and much more!

Although the exact amount of savings may vary from place to place, in most cases opting for such downsizing option is guaranteed to save you at least a few thousand dollars per annum, apart from freeing up a good amount of home equity you would have built over a period of time.

Furthermore, despite the fact that you may need to incur costs associated with such a move, such as the ones involved in moving to the new location, selling the old house, purchase of the new one and the costs resulting from the change in place of commute, the overall pros would still outdo the cons.

Getting a roomie

The cost of utilities and rent can be quite a lot if you stay in a one bedroom or a studio apartment all by yourself. So, it may make a lot of sense to move into a two bedroom house in order to cut your costs and split the expenses with a roommate.

In general, the rentals of two bedroom homes are around 12% – 34% higher compared to the one beds, depending on the place under consideration. Assuming that the overall cost is 30% higher including all sorts of expenses like garbage, parking, sewer, rent, electricity and others, it would mean that you’d need to incur 130% of your current total cost if you make the move. Getting a roomie to split that with you would mean that you’d only need to shell out 65% of your current expenses. Not a bad arrangement at all if you ask us!

Let’s see how that translates into real dollars and cents! Presuming that you stay in an area where a regular one bedroom apartment can be rented for $ 1200 per month, it’d mean that your total cost would go up to $ 1560 for a two-bedroom place. Now when you split the cost with a roommate, your half would come to $ 780, saving you a good $ 420 every month. That sums up to around $ 5000 per year – a pretty good deal!

Any drawbacks that come to your mind? Well, the obvious one would be the company of a roommate who may/may not have a completely different lifestyle. Furthermore, you may need to move to a new location, which may result in life changes like in terms of your travel route.

Letting go of your gym membership

The average gymnasium membership cost in the United States is anywhere between $ 40 and $ 70 per month. Let’s say you’re paying $ 60 each month for nothing but an occasional run on the treadmill. Cutting out that $ 60 per month cost would lead to annual savings of $ 720.

However, please keep in mind that dropping your gym membership doesn’t necessarily mean doing the same with your exercise routine. Instead, you may have to come up with a novel and customized workout regime that includes exercises that can even be done at home.

Let’s take the best case scenario – you’re someone who does nothing more than a few cardio exercises in the gym. Now, shifting your running routine from gym to actual track, and performing all those cardio exercises outdoors would result in flat $ 720 savings per annum.

Even if you’re into heavy weights and need to invest into appropriate equipment and weights (costing around $ 1000), apart from freeing up some space for the exercises, you’d still save $720 every year after recovering that cost.

Cutting off your cable connection

An average American household spends around $ 99 per month on cable TV expenses. It’s a bill that a lot of people would happily like to get rid of. And for a large number of customers, it’s something doable too.

Replacing the regular cable TV connection with a streaming service such as Netflix that costs as less as $ 9 per month ($ 108 per annum) and/or over-the-air free TV channels, can save you in the vicinity of $ 1000 per year.

Although you may need a fairly good home Internet connection, it’d be no additional cost if you already have one. You’d only need to pay extra for the Netflix membership. The savings would still be impressive even if you opt for multiple streaming services apart from Netflix. Paying $ 30 per month is way better than shelling out $ 100.

While you work on the above 5 changes to improve your financial life, here are the 5 common financial mistakes you should be aware of and guard yourself against.

 

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Top 8 financial steps you must take before sending your kids to college

Let’s get straight to the steps!

Create a solid financial footing for yourself

No matter how much your kids may mean to you, you must not support them at the cost of your own financial well-being. Hence, it’s important to create a solid financial footing for yourself first before thinking of spending any money on your kids’ college education.

In fact, your kids can obtain and pay for their college education in several different ways:

  • By opting for student loans
  • By earning scholarships
  • By going to less expensive schools
  • By studying and working simultaneously and more

But for you, there’s only one way to secure your financial future, and that is by saving and/or investing today. Putting yourself first in this way will not only help you support yourself in your later years, but also ensure that you don’t have to depend on your children for anything.

financial-steps-kids-college

Decide the extent of your contribution

This task will become much easier if you do your work well in the step detailed above. It basically comes down to your affordability keeping your own financial footing in mind.

You must figure out what all you can fund exactly. Please note, it’s not just the tuition fee, there’ll be other expenses like room and boarding, books, sorority/fraternity expenses, general living expenses and many more. You’ll need to talk to your kid about the exact ones and which ones you’d be willing to bear. Thereafter, you’ll need to discuss the contribution made by the kid himself/herself.

The whole idea is to be as realistic as possible about the financial obligations of both parent/guardian and the child.

Ascertain the actual goal

College education is considered the default path for almost every American student because anyone having a college degree earns almost twice the ones who don’t. However, before you write that check to send your kid to the most expensive and prestigious college in the US, take a step back and think about the actual goal. Are you sure that your kid will do well in the conventional four-year college set up? Or is a technical or trade school a better fit for him/her?

Take your spouse and child into confidence and have a healthy and constructive discussion about it first.

You must know the actual goal before making any major financial commitment.

Evaluate various options

Once you’ve worked out the actual goal with your family, take a look at the various options available to you. When evaluating colleges, you must pay attention to the cost, type of program, location, travel distance, scholarships and other important factors.

Also pay attention to alternatives like online education, investing/learning in/from a business, attending a trade school, taking a gap year and more.

Although employers give a lot of weightage to college education, you must keep an open mind about the specific goals of your children, and only then evaluate the different options available.

Ensure that the child also understands and assumes the financial responsibility

Considering that it’s your child’s future that you’re trying to create, it’s not unreasonable to expect him/her to contribute to it too. In fact, paying for his/her own education will make him/her more responsible and give him/her more ownership of the decisions.

Your kid can contribute in several different ways, starting by doing some part-time work during the years leading up to college or applying for grants and scholarships. Although there’s no need of putting it all on him/her, his/her involvement in the process can be highly beneficial for everyone involved.

Put a savings plan in place

Once everything detailed above is done and the funding targets become pretty clear, you must start saving money for your kid’s college education. If your child is still very young, you must open a dedicated college savings account for him/her as it’ll be most helpful in providing him/her with conventional college education. This is because the tax-deferrals offered by such accounts will get more time to deliver their results. However, if the state you live in offers income tax deductions for certain education contributions, they can be helpful even during the years leading up to college admission.

You may even open a normal investment account if you want as it’ll offer plenty of flexibility. You’ll be able to use the money for both college as well as any other life stage goals.

Learn as much as you can about the student loans

Student loans are most likely to be a part of your overall college funding strategy for your kids. That’s not bad either because good education comes at an incredibly high cost these days, and incurring some debt to make that happen can indeed be a smart move.

However, what’s important here is that you do it with a proper understanding of student loans and not just because there’s no other alternative. United States today has a great multitude of students who’re graduating with stupendous amounts of student loan debt on their shoulders, much more than they should’ve actually taken on, mostly owing to a lack of understanding about the nitty-gritties of student loans.

Therefore, take out some time and acquaint yourself with all the pros and cons of the funding options in front of you. In the end, the decision must be entirely based on the actual needs of your child and a practical assessment of your affordability.

Make use of scholarships and grants

Although it may take some work, it’s not impossible that your child may qualify for a major sum of money in the form of college scholarships and grants. Availing this option can not only be a lifesaver when it comes to the overall financial burden, but can also be an excellent means for your child to help his/her cause financially, without making you use a major chunk of your savings.

Such college scholarships and grants can be applied for right from the middle-school years. At the latest, your kid must prepare for such applications during the first year of his/her high school.

 

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9 Important personal finance rules that Americans rarely follow

Here are the 9 most important personal finance rules that a large majority of Americans don’t care about and rarely follow:

Paying oneself first

Giving your wants a higher priority than your savings/investments may although give you immediate satisfaction, but leave you penniless at the end of every month. This is the reason why majority of financial advisers suggest paying oneself first, implying that you must set aside a specific amount of money after every payday for your savings/investments before allocating any to your necessary/desired expenses.

So, take out that amount and put it into a dedicated savings account right away. Use only the leftover amount for meeting your general monthly expenses.

americans-pf-mistakes

Waiting 24 hours prior to a big purchase

Many financial experts recommend practicing a 24-hour rule before making any big purchase. This is all the more applicable to shopaholics. As evident, what it means is that you must force yourself to wait for at least 24 hours before making any big purchase, giving you ample time to reconsider your decision. Often, such thinking time helps people in talking themselves out of such purchases, sometimes even forgetting them altogether! You can push this rule even further and make your wait one week-long if you think it may help.

Diversifying one’s investments

There’s an old saying that you must never put all your eggs in one basket! The key to becoming successful in the personal finance game is by diversifying your investments.

Normally, it is asset allocation or the decision between bonds and stocks, foreign and domestic investments etc. that come to mind whenever we talk about diversification. However, you must think of it at a broader level, taking into account all your income streams.

Living below one’s means

Think about it – no matter how much money you make each month, it’s always easy to spend every last bit of it.

However, have you ever thought what may have happened if you had spent less?

What if you had stuck to your guns and saved at least a small percentage of your income at every stage of your working life; no matter what?

It isn’t easy to live below one’s means, primarily because it forces you to make certain compromises every day. Nevertheless, following such rule is critical to the success of any personal financial plan, and can go a long way in helping you lead a financially responsible life. Once you master the art of spending lesser than your earnings, you’ll always find more and more money to save and invest.

Avoiding procrastination

This is by far the most significant personal finance rule that determines several aspects of your financial health. When it comes to money matters and tasks such as retirement planning, budget creation etc., you must complete them at the earliest possible, without any delays. In fact that’s the only way they’ll be most helpful.

Furthermore, you must confront your financial situations and issues upfront, as if your life depended on it. If you don’t, you may soon find yourself losing out in the personal finance game.

It’s probably not affordable if you can’t avoid financing it

Although perceived as a fairly conservative personal finance rule, this one can deliver excellent results. If there’s something you can’t presently buy in cash, there’s a high likelihood that you’re in no position to afford it as well.

Think about not opting for car finance and instead saving up all that money for your home renovation. You’d be able to save so much each month if you didn’t have to pay hefty sums in loan repayments, credit card payments and interest.

Even though this rule may seem difficult to implement at first, it can leave you with plenty of disposable income if you apply it diligently. So, the next time you feel the need of financing something, ask yourself if you can buy it cash down instead. If not, avoid it altogether.

Automating investments and general finances

Although majority of people feel all gung-ho about investments and personal finances initially, they rarely act upon their intentions. This is the main reason why financial advisers recommend automating investments and finances.

Ideally, you must automate your income, expenditures and savings to the maximum extent possible. Doing so can not only help you in paying yourself first, but also leverage the automation’s power, for meeting your other important monetary obligations.

Differentiating between wants and needs

Before you go ahead and buy something, you must always ask yourself whether you truly need it or not. More often than not, we can borrow something similar and avoid incurring a hefty expenditure; or can find something similar at home. Some other important questions you must ask yourself before any purchase are:

  • Have I shopped around for cheaper alternatives?
  • Can this purchase be delayed?
  • Can I buy a used item instead?
  • Is there some way I can make it on my own?

You can save lots of money and avoid many unwanted purchases by asking yourself these questions more and more often.

Treating retirement savings like a regular monthly expenses

Considering that we’ll all retire one day, why is it that so many of us keep delaying their retirement savings? There’s no way you’ll have all that money available upon your retirement, if you don’t start saving now. The keyword here is ‘now’ and you must start right away, no matter how young or old you are.

In case your employer offers some job-sponsored plan wherein he matches the amount contributed by you, that’d be the best way to start. By opting to save a certain amount from your paycheck each month, and making your employer contribute an equal amount, you’ll be slowly building a nest egg that’ll come in pretty handy during your retirement years.

Final Thought

Americans love to consume more and more, and bury themselves in piles of debt. It’s high time that we start thinking and put ourselves on road to financial recovery. Abiding by these rules can help us exactly do that.

 

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Review of the Best Online Budget Software

Very few actually enjoy the task of budgeting. Understanding and maintaining a cash flow system for income, bills and savings each month takes equal parts effort and time – and when the numbers fail to create a surplus, the big bad “b” word turns into a despised chore. Fortunately, the fusion of technology and innovation in the realm of personal finance has birthed a number of online budget software solutions, meant to reduce the time spent on and pain inflicted by managing your cash flow. While this list is not all inclusive, it represents the top three picks for online budget software based on ease of use, features and cost.

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Mint

By far and large, Mint.com is the queen of online budget software. Established in 2006 and currently serving more than 10 million users, Mint is a no-cost personal financial management tool that leaves conventional budgeting in the distant past. With access both online and via mobile, Mint works to help individual users track where their money is going, for better or worse, by providing account aggregation and real-time updates on spending, saving and bill management. Once the simple set-up process is complete (which consists of signing up with an e-mail address and password), users have the ability to add bank accounts, credit cards and debts from multiple financial institutions in a single place. Why does this matter? Well, customizable budgeting is made substantially less daunting when all of your financial data is in a single location and tracked – without a spreadsheet or checkbook balancing – every minute of every day.

Through Mint, users pick and choose which accounts to add to the dashboard, and the platform syncs transaction data as money is earned and then spent. Mint users can categorize any transaction under the program’s preset list of purchase types or by creating unique categories of their own. The more detailed users are in categorizing money movement, the better the budgeting tool works. Mint allows each user to create unique budgets for an endless number of categories, all which are easily changed as financial habits or obligations shift over time. One of the best parts of Mint is the alerts and advice that come with the software – if you’ve overspent in one category or failed to save toward an established goal, fret not. Mint will let you know.

In addition to intuitive budgeting and categorization, Mint offers a robust set of features to its users. Access to a free credit score every few months helps users stay on top of changes, and investment tracking highlights performance and growth over time. Additionally, Mint offers helpful tips and opportunities to save money as users continue to utilize the software. For instance, if your credit card has recently assessed a finance charge, Mint may offer a suggestion for a lower-interest-rate card or balance transfer offer from one of its partners.

And in case you missed it, Mint.com is free. Users do experience a relatively heavy ad presence throughout the site, but focusing on the tools available make that only a slight annoyance. The combination of these features and the ability to track money movement against designed budgets makes Mint.com one of the strongest online software applications for personal financial management.

YNAB

You Need a Budget (YNAB) comes in as a close second to Mint for online budget software options. Created in 2004, YNAB is an online budget software based on four foundational rules:

  • Give every dollar a job – categorize where money is spent and how much
  • Know your true expenses – incorporate quarterly, semi-annual and annual payments into a monthly budget
  • Be flexible – establish overspending “buckets”
  • Break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle – pay bills as they come in and work toward living off money earned last month

YNAB offers users a different experience than Mint based on its underlying principals, but the software platform works in a similar manner. Users of the online budget software simply sign up through the website and are immediately given access to both the desktop and mobile applications. Thousands of financial institutions can be synced with the YNAB software, from checking accounts to credit cards, making the task of budgeting far easier. YNAB updates regularly, so users have the flexibility to check progress in terms of sticking with a budget anywhere, at any time.

One clear difference between YNAB and Mint is the cost. While enrolled students can utilize the power of YNAB at no cost for one year, all other users are assessed a fee for access. The monthly option is billed at $5 while paying in full for the year equates to a $50 charge. Part of the justification for the cost of YNAB can be linked to its educational resources provided to users. Classes on budgeting and money management are made available, offering expert advice and tips on how to effectively utilize not only the software but create new habits as well. YNAB also maintains a blog which goes into depth on budgeting topics in a lighthearted but educational way. Through the site, users also have access to a number of guides focused on debt management, prioritizing financial goals, and aging your money. Individuals looking for a more hands-on approach as it relates to budgeting may consider YNAB a better choice than Mint.

Level Money

Touted as a financial GPS, Level Money is another online budget software meant to lend a digital hand when it comes to spending. Unlike Mint and YNAB that focus on the basic principals of budgeting – establishing category limits for spending and sticking to it – Level Money replaces a user’s bank account balance with a spendable amount each month. Users sync bank accounts and credit cards like they would in Mint or YNAB, but Level Money focuses more on how much one has to spend based on bills and savings goals input into the software.

Level Money provides users the opportunity to establish simplistic trackers for a wide variety of spending habits, like dining out, ride shares (Uber, Lyft or cab service), travel and gas. These trackers work to inform users of ongoing spending habits on either a month-to-month or annual basis. In addition, Level Money offers intuitive predictions as it relates to bank account balances and upcoming bills to make it easier to maintain control over spending. Like Mint, Level Money is available via desktop and mobile at no cost.

Budgeting is one of the critical components of sound financial management, but without outside help, the task often becomes a chore. Utilizing one of the online budget software options listed here can help take the pain out of budgeting, no matter your goals or spending habits, paving the way for a much better understanding of how your money works for you.