finance-related issues discussed

What Credit Score Means and How to Improve It

Are you as confused as most people when it comes time to understand what your credit score means?

It can be a little difficult to figure out what the numbers mean, and more importantly, how the credit bureaus use these scores when you need credit.

Here is some help in understanding the process as well as some tips on improving your credit rating.

Credit scores, or FICO scores as they are also known as are numbers that are assigned to you based on your credit history. FICO is short for Fair Isaac and Company.

understanding credit scoresThe information that is used in determining your FICO score comes from a variety of places including the major credit bureaus, credit card companies that have issued you a credit card, banks and other financial institutions where you have loans, and other databases that have consumer data on them.

The numbers are added up and your score is the determining factor in whether you qualify for low-cost credit, higher-risk credit, or no credit at all.

The way the scoring range works, the higher your numbers are, the better your credit is. This translates into lower interest rates on loans or other credit items.

On the other hand, if you have a low score you will pay higher interest rates, or possibly be turned down completely.

Generally speaking, FICO scores run from the 300 point range all the way up to 850 points. These points are then separated into point groups as follows:

720 – 850
700 – 719
675 – 699
620 – 674
560 – 619
500 – 559

Anything below 500 will usually be declined credit, or be forced to pay extremely high interest rates. These six-point groups are used by all the major credit card issuers, auto finance companies, and mortgage companies.

Naturally, the very best interest rates and prime lending goes to those in the top category.

Although most consumers fall into the middle ranges, there is a lot of competition among credit card issuers, which means you can still get some very good deals.

So, how do you improve your credit score? First, let me be clear in saying that there is no overnight magic solution to adding 100 points to your credit score.

It will take a little time, but you can make some dramatic short term improvements:

1. Open up a savings account if you don’t already have one. Even if you can only begin at $100, it can add 30-40 points to your credit score.

2. Pay your bills on time. Did you know that 35% of your FICO score is base on payment history? The more frequent you pay your bills on time, the more your score will rise.

3. Don’t max out your credit cards. Having a 50% balance is optimum. It shows you’re responsible and able to handle credit cards.

4. Don’t open a lot of new credit card accounts. This may seem like a good idea, but financial institutions look at it differently. It sets off all sorts of red flags.

5. Check your credit report frequently and correct any errors. Many times people will have an error on their credit report that is adversely affecting their credit score.

Now, the next time you hear someone say their credit score is 605, you’ll better understand what they are talking about, and perhaps offer them some suggestions in being able to raise it.

Money Saving Tips for Scrapbookers

Scrapbooking has become a million-dollar industry with new products coming out each year.

It’s hard to resist the fun packaging and bright cheerful colors of stickers, ribbons, and paper that companies come out with.

It can get pretty expensive if you try and keep up with all the new gadgets that are made.

I have come up with some scrapbooking tips that will give you the look you desire but will save you money as well.
The biggest tip I have is to try and resist the urge to buy the latest gadget or trend.

Companies are counting on you wanting to buy the product as soon as you see it, so the price tends to be very high.

Wait a couple of months when the newness dies down and then if you really have to have it, that’s when you buy it.

You’ll save even more by using a coupon as well. Most stores like Michaels and Joann’s put out flyers with coupons usually on a weekly basis.

Stickers and embellishments are another money eater. If you have a die-cut machine such as sizzix or quickutz, you can save lots of money by making your own stickers.

Die-cut the shape you want and then use paper glaze, I recommend Aleen’s Paper Glaze, which gives the paper a shiny glass look and gives the appearance of a sticker.

You can even sprinkle it with glitter or beads to add dimension.

When buying alphabet stickers, get the most out of your money by not only using the letter but cut around the empty space where the letter was and use it for a reverse sticker look. You’ll get double usage for your money.

If you are like me, you have plenty of scrap paper.

I use these as photo mats and to die cut smaller objects. Most paper has color on one side and white on the other. Don’t waste your money buying white cardstock or paper, just use the back of a scrap piece. The color won’t even show through.

Adhesives can be pretty costly if you use it a lot.

Try using different techniques to attach things to paper such as staples, brads, eyelets and photo corners.

If you like using adhesive better, then check around on-line.

Many companies will sell it in bulk which will save you lots of money in the long run rather than buying individually.

Printing your own photos at home may seem convenient but it is actually more expensive.

Most on-line companies such as York, Shutterfly, and Winkflash to name a few have 4×6 prints for as low as 8 cents and the quality is just as good.

Most companies will give you free prints just for signing up on their site as well. Delivery is pretty fast too.

I have used on-line services frequently and I usually have my pictures back in just a couple days.

If you have to go to your local scrap book store, make a list and stick to it. Don’t spend too long there or you will fall into impulse buying.

kit scrapbookingYou will end up buying something that you will absolutely have no use for but it looked cute hanging there so you had to have it.

Don’t just look in specialty scrapbook stores for supplies. Check your local office supply store for items such as tags, paper, markers, and colored pencils.

Not only will they be cheaper, you usually will get more for your money. Look around your house for everyday objects that can be used as embellishments.

Extra buttons from new clothes, the little safety pins that some labels are attached with, ribbon from packages you receive and the paper backing in various products.

Just open your eyes and soon you will find a treasure trove in your very own house.

Preserving your memories should be a fun and creative adventure, not an expensive one.

It is my hope that the above tips will be of some use to you and through the process, I am sure you will come up with your own money-saving tips.

Have fun and Happy Scrapping!!

4 Uncommon Money Saving Tips

Due to the rising cost of necessary expenditures, it can be difficult to find ways to cut corners on the monthly budget.

You’ve already given up your morning latte just to offset the rising cost of gas, but how else can you make the bottom dollar budge?

Here are four uncommon money saving ideas to help you squeeze more savings out of your paycheck:

1. Purchase Health and Beauty Aids at the Pharmacy

Most people purchase shampoo, toothpaste, and other health and beauty aids at the grocery store and could be missing out on great savings offered at pharmacies. CVS, for example, offers customers a savings card.

Whenever a purchase is made and the card is swiped, a coupon is generated on the receipt.

The coupon generally can be used on any future purchase, unlike most grocery store receipt coupons.

When buying revolving items such as health and beauty aids, the savings from these coupons can quickly add up.

You can receive a coupon up to $10 or more off your next purchase.

2. Alternate You Grocery Shop

alternate grocery shopIf you prefer certain brand items and you buy them on a regular basis, it might pay to visit your grocer’s competitor.

Grocery stores near each other often run sales on items on alternating weeks.

For example, if the local newspaper ad shows that Pepsi is on sale this week at your favorite grocery store, it won’t be on sale next week.

More than likely, it will be on sale next week at the grocery store down the street.

Alternate shopping between grocery stores each week to take advantage of these sale items and shave dollars off your next grocery bill.

3. Shop Upscale Neighborhood Garage Sales

Your children want the latest hot brand-name clothes but your wallet is on a diet.

The next time you get the Sunday paper, take a look at the advertised garage sales and visit one in a nearby upscale neighborhood.

Chances are you’ll be able to find gently used brand-name clothes at a huge discount.

This works very well especially when children are young and grow out of clothes before they have a chance to break them in.

4. Buy Cleaning Supplies at the Dollar Store

Many cleaning products and supplies can be purchased at a deep discount at the local Dollar Store.

cleaning suppliesSponges, buckets, laundry detergents and other cleaning supplies are often sold for a lot less than what they are at the grocery store.

Since these items have no resale value, there is no point in spending more than necessary on them.

These savings tips, although they seem small, can add up to significant savings over a short period of time.

Even by using just one of these tips, you may be able to add your morning latte back into your routine and contribute more money to savings.

Money Savings Tips in Your Home

Many of us are tightening our belts and trying to find new ways to save money at home.

Even if we’re financially stable, the recent years have taught us we need to save more money.

Others are in dire straights and absolutely need to find extra ways to cut costs in the home.

Here are some quick and easy ways to cut your expenses right now at home.

Phone Services

Do you really need both a cell phone and a landline?

My household had 4 cell phones, so we decided to get rid of the landline, saving us $300 per year.

I also took a closer look at voice mail, call waiting and other features.

I didn’t need them, so I shaved them off and saved quite a bit more.

Plants and Air Conditioning

air conditionerYou can cut down on the use of air conditioning by adding a lot of plants to your home.

Wide leaf house plants in every room will cool the air.

Choose ferns and large plants with big leaves, even indoor house trees. Also, plant extra trees around the outside of your house.

When you do need air conditioning, confine it to one or two rooms, and don’t cool down the whole house.

This will save you a bundle on your electric bill – and it’s eco-friendly!

Movies and Entertainment

When was the last time you saw a really good movie?

Are most of the movies you see worth the $9 price of admission?

Rent movies instead, and spend $2.50 for the whole family to watch a DVD instead of $9 per person. Also, look at your cable TV bill.

I was spending $80 per month on a gold package, but when I looked closely – I rarely watched the channels.

I cut my cable package down to the basic $19 and rented a few extra movies each month.

I saved $61 on my cable bill and spent $10 extra on rentals – $612 saved each year! I was able to watch additional programming online.

Natural Light

Use natural light whenever possible. Install extra windows, or work outside.

It used to amaze me to visit my neighbor’s house at 3:00 in the afternoon, with the sun shining high in the sky, and find them at home with several lights on.

You can save a lot on electricity by working near a window and using natural sunlight for your benefit.

For the evening, use solar lights and fluorescent bulbs.

Bank Fees

Get rid of all bank fees.

Find a bank to bundle all of your services, and get a free package.

Since interest rates are low for savings accounts, it’s better to keep extra cash in your checking account if it will cause a fee waiver. I get free checking if my balance is over $2000.

That saves me $60 a year – better than the $8.45 I was making in savings interest on the same $2000.

I also got my annual credit card fee waived by having a package deal with the same bank.

Bad Habits

If you stop smoking, you’ll save tons!

You might even save your life. Also cut down on alcoholic drinks – they’re expensive.

Have a wine once in a while with dinner, but not every night.

Shop Around

Window shop before you buy any medium or large purchase.

You’d be surprised how much you can save by comparing costs.

We often buy mid-priced items on a whim, but saving $20 on a $100 item can go a long way.

I bought an unbranded MP3 player for $70 that’s still running strong after 3 years.

My friend spent loads more cash for an iPod that’s already outmoded and skipping tracks.

Don’t be suckered into brand names. Look for coupons, rebates, and special offers, too.

Don’t easily throw your money around, even on small items.