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Posts Tagged ‘finances’

What Is a Credit Score and Why Is It So Important?

Posted by Dress for Success Midwest Professional Women's Group on November 19, 2010

Why Should I Care About My Credit Score?

You may not care about it, but lenders and even some employers do. The better your credit score, the lower the interest rates will be on any loans or credit cards you decide to apply for. There are a lot of low-cost services online that enable you to check all three-credit scores at any time. I’d recommend using sites with calculators that show an approximate interest rate for a car or home loan based on your score. That way if you need to develop smart debt you are sure to know you’re getting a good deal.

What Affects My Score?

Are you making payments on time? What is your debt-to-income ratio? In other words, how does your income relate to the amount of unsecured debt you own? The length of credit history can also play a big factor. Keep in mind that five years is still considered short. You’ll need credit history for at least a decade before you’re in the ideal area for lenders. The amount of credit you have is a factor, as is when you took out that credit. If it was recent, it could have a negative effect on the score.
A late payment can hurt your score, but if this happens only on rare occasion, then the impact is minimal. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, and judgments can devastate your score.

How Does Mine Look?

The most widely known type of score is a FICO score. FICO is short for Fair Isaac Corporation and is considered by many to be the most accurate. The three major credit-reporting agencies are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, who also calculate credit scores.

In general this is how lenders tend to view your score:

Excellent credit = 720 and above
Good credit = 660 to 719
Fair credit = 620 to 659
Poor/bad credit = 619 and below

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10 ideas for entertaining without breaking your budget

Posted by Dress for Success Midwest Professional Women's Group on September 15, 2010

Damaris Karanja, MA
Nutrition & Health Education
Specialist
University of Missouri Extension, St. Louis County

As the holiday season approaches, opportunities to plan entertaining gatherings increase. In these tough economic times, we face the daunting task of keeping our family traditions without breaking our family budget.

The good news is that by being creative and planning carefully, you can still make this season fun and memorable. Saving money does not equate to missing out on all the fun.

A good part of the budget is spent on purchasing food for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Passover or other religious holiday. The following budget-friendly tips can help you to save money and have fun at the same time.

1. Planning comes first. Establish what your budget is and how much you can afford to spend. Design a menu around your budget and what is on special and seasonal at your grocery store. Next, write a list of who will be invited. Your budget will guide you on the number of guests you can comfortably invite.

2. Keep a grocery list. Having a list makes it less likely you’ll make an impulse purchase. It also saves gas for extra trips to the store in case you forget to purchase an item. Stick to your list for added savings, but stay flexible if you encounter a sale.

3. Plan ahead for how to use leftovers. We lose money whenever we toss food because it spoiled. If leftovers go bad because they’re left out too long, we’re putting money into the garbage can. Make planning to avoid tossing foods a priority.

4. Coupons, coupons, coupons! In most cases, grocery stores have great sales on holiday staples such as turkeys and hams. Their goal is to lure you into their stores with the hope you will purchase lots of other products that are not on sale. Use this to your advantage, but only buy items you need. It doesn’t hurt to visit more than one grocery store. Check for online coupons as well. Start with the Web site of the store where you shop or of products you use. Shopping on double or triple coupon days can save you a lot of money. Word of caution: Use coupons only for foods you plan to use, rather than for “extras.”

5. Buy in bulk. If the price is right and the larger size fits your criteria, go for it! Prices can be deceiving, so pay attention to unit prices to ensure you are getting the best deal. Bigger is not always cheaper. Make sure you will use the food while the flavor is still good.

6. Save on store brands. Buy generic and you could save up to 40 percent a year on your grocery bill. In taste tests, most consumers cannot identify the difference between generic and store brands.

7. Shop high and low. Bargains are usually on the top or bottom shelves. The worst deals are at eye level (kids’ eye level if you’re in the cereal aisle).

8. Pay attention at the checkout. Don’t lose out on a great deal because an item scans incorrectly.

9. Ask for help. If you are hosting a holiday gathering, ask for help with meal preparation. This will help relieve some of the financial burden. Contact everyone on your holiday guest list and see who can bring a dish to share. Guests traveling from out of town may not be able to bring perishable items, but they can grab some nonperishables on their way in. Make sure you coordinate who’s bringing what to avoid an overlap.

10. Include a variety of meatless dishes. These are usually cheaper and, as a bonus, generally healthier, too.

Finally, save by serving the poor. How about serving some homemade food or giving a grocery store gift certificate to a family in need? This is the greatest investment you can make for your money during the holiday season.

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4 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

Posted by Dress for Success Midwest Professional Women's Group on September 10, 2010

It seems like identity theft is on everyone’s mind these days. In addition to zealously guarding credit card information and being on the alert for cyber theft, there are other effective ways to prevent people from capturing your data.

The Better Business Bureau points out that some forms of unsolicited mail can put consumers at risk of identity theft. Who knew??? Here’s what you should do.

First, opt out of all “free” credit card offers. Pre-approved credit cards are an easy target for identity thieves because they can steal incoming mail and open fraudulent accounts under your name. And you don’t want to just shred the contents of the envelope (by the way, never simply tear the letter in half and toss it in the trash). You can call 1.888.567.8688  or log onto www.optoutprescreen.com and opt out of credit card offers for at least three years.

If unwanted catalogs are jamming up your mailbox, you can spend time contacting each company individually or you can stop mass mailings by emailing Abacus, an alliance of catalog and publishing companies, at optout@abacus-us.com. Be aware that some catalog companies give your name to others, so you could receive unwanted mail indefinitely if you don’t take this step.

Some mail can be stopped by contacting the Direct Marketing Association, an organization representing 5,200 companies that use phone, mail and the Internet to pitch products directly to consumers. It can take up to six months for unwanted mail to stop, but it’s worth logging on to www.dmachoice.org.

I happen to love coupon packs but I know many people who don’t. If you’re in the latter group, go to www.coxtarget.com/mailsuppression/s/DisplayMailSuppressionForm and get off the list. And if you’re getting unwanted “resident,” “occupant” or “our friends at” mailings, call Valassis, formerly known as ADVO Inc., at 888.241.6760 or go to www.advo.com/consumersupport.html.

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Cheap Alternatives for the Must Haves in your Life Pt. 1 of 3

Posted by Dress for Success Midwest Professional Women's Group on September 8, 2010

Admit it. Being frugal isn’t something that you look forward to, after all it means that you’ll be giving up or cutting back on some or all of your favorite activities. What if you found a way to cut back without giving up those things completely? And best of all save money? I’ve compiled a list of [tag]cheap[/tag] alternatives for the must haves in our lives and its pretty good if I do say so myself!

Retail Therapy Shopping

Gather a list of websites that put together the [tag]look for less[/tag], here are a few of my favorites:

Also, try out this list from Fashion Under $100. These stores provide trendy options without breaking the bank:

Tip: Check out annual and semi-annual sales and buy clothes at certain times of the year. For example, after Christmas/New Year’s and at the end of every season many department stores seek to unload their inventory so we benefit because of the deep discounts.

Cable TV

[tag]Apple[/tag]/[tag]iTunes[/tag] is your friend. If you’re always on the go and never at home to watch your favorite episode anyway, dump the Tivo and your cable company then plug in to iTunes. iTunes allows you to watch your favorite television shows online for a small fee, $1.99. For example, Lost, Greys Anatomy and Boston Legal can be bought per episode for $1.99 which equals $24 per month. A benefit for you is that you get to watch them sans commercials and on your own time. Apple also now offers movie rentals from $2.99-$3.99 and HD for a dollar more.

If that doesnt work for you then hang out at a friend’s house, go to your local sports bar, or join a meetup.com group that gets together to hang out and watch popular network shows. This option really appeals to me as I am moving towards not scheduling my life around entertainment in an effort to become more productive.

Tip: Most major network shows can be watched FREE on their respective sites such as ABC, NBC and the like. Youre able to catch up on all the episodes you missed without paying hefty cable access fees.

Automobile

One thing I love about living in a major metropolitan area is that we have so many options for getting around town. Zip Car is an option for those of us who only need a car infrequently which doesnt warrant taking on a car payment, insurance, gas and maintenance which can be costly. Makes sense right? [tag]Zip Car[/tag] rates start at $50 per month for the extra value plan, 9/hr or $66/day for occasional driving.

Here’s a map with their current locations:

This way you’re able to have the convenience of a car without the monetary commitment. The access fees pay for gas, parking and insurance! You can’t beat that!

Other options include biking to work, using public transportation and carpooling. The latter brings to mind an awesome service facilitated by Erideshare.com. Just pull up your state and connect with others [tag]carpooling[/tag] in your area. From the website: “you’ll find this service a good way to commute or travel inexpensively, and maybe even make a few friends.” I think it’s a neat idea, especially if you’re new to town and looking to save money, this is a great option.

Now if you must have a car, then buy it used or another kind of used car becoming popular amongst the frugal, [tag]Beater Car[/tag]s. Why? According to Beater Review, buying new is for suckers! Love that! But with a new car depreciating 20-30% in the first year it makes perfect sense. Check out this review of the Mazda Miata, the ultimate chick car, or not. This saves you extra money on insurance and in most cases won’t have a car payment. Also, check out this article on MSN Money-20 ways you waste money on your car.

Tip: Make the best choice for you and your situation. Everyone doesn’t live hear a major metropolitan city with the benefits of a Zip Car but buying a car that won’t have much out of pocket expense or carpooling may be another option suitable for you.

Eating Out

We’re guilty of this especially with our favorite restaurant and when we hang out in a new part of town. Cutting back in this area takes discipline and maintaining your perspective: saving money. A few alternatives include:

  • [tag]Potluck[/tag] with friends
    • This is a great way to hang out with friends and try out new dishes. If there are leftovers you can bring on the Tupperware to pick up some leftovers for work or dinner the next day.
    • For the uber frugal-I know a couple who potlucks with friends every other weekend. They get together on Sunday and bring large portions of eat least 3 meals. Of course the larger the group the better the selection. They get together eat, laugh, get merry and help each other save money by cooking in bulk and using it for their lunch and dinners during the week. Some get even more creative by turning leftovers into [tag]planned-overs[/tag].
  • Make your favorite restaurant meal at home
    • There was a time when I was obsessed with anything Jack Daniels at T.G.I Fridays. I would go for a long lunch at work and later during the week for happy hour. It got expensive until I got the recipe and made it from scratch at home. Bingo! Money saved

Tip: Check out J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly, he has great tips on how to save while eating out here.

About the Author

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds is for the woman that wants to take charge of her personal finances. We value budgeting, investing, frugality and remain mindful of our spending habits. Move over and make way for women who are in control of their financial destinies and not afraid to say it. We’re armed with a positive net worth and not afraid to flaunt it while breaking financial ceilings one stiletto at a time!

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10 Ways To Make (or find) $1000

Posted by Dress for Success Midwest Professional Women's Group on September 1, 2010

1. Start a pet sitting business. If you live in a large metropolitan city or even the suburbs, pet sitting and boarding can be a good way to earn extra cash.

2. Provide daycare/aftercare for children in your neighborhood. The best way to go about doing this is to research the costs into getting licensed (if necessary), set up costs (turning the basement or sunroom you never use into the child care area) and determine what your competitors are charging then undercut them but a few dollars while adding a bit more with regards to the services you offer.

3. Secret Shopper. EPMSOnline.com is a great way to get started in secret shopping. It’s really easy. You go to their website, sign up, get verified and then sign up for different “shops” in our near your home or workplace. What yo’re doing is providing secret shopping services for apartment companies that utilize EPMS to help them determine if their employees are providing great service. The typical pay out is around $40 and now most if not all of the paperwork is done online.

4. Reduce your budget. Drastically. Eating out. Shopping for unnecessary items. Limit yourself to 2-3 trips to the grocery store, buy what you need not what you want. Several trips = spending more money you don’t have and don’t need to spend. Cut the happy hours. Personal hobby shopping sprees. Review your budget and cut out the WANTS and leave the NEEDS in place. See how much you save. For some this may be less than and for some more than $1000.

5. Start a blog. This may take you at least 6 months to really start seeing a return but I believe it’s well worth it. Your topic? What are you passionate about? What could you talk about for days and not get paid to do so? That’s it! Find a host, pick a blogging platform, choose your theme and get started. For starters, join this challenge: ProBlogger 31 Days to Build a Better Blog | The Secret to Success.

6. Start an Ebay business. Check out sites like Tradekey.com and Alibaba.com for great prices on wholesale items. Make sure it’s something that you research and know a good deal of information about before you start selling. Customers like sellers who can troubleshoot issues as they arise.

7. Sell unwanted/unused furniture. You might be surprised as they add up once you start listing on sites like Craigslist.org, Ebay.com and Backpages.com. If you have furniture in storage or in a basement somewhere, that $1000 might be calling you!

8. End of summer garage sale. Every weekend in September you can have a themed garage sale. One weekend you sell clothes, another furniture, then antiques or random unwanted items. You choose your theme, make sure the items are clean and presented well. Have your neighbors join you in the fun by hosting garage sales along with you to bring out even more people.

9. Start your own business. This may not be in an area you love or are passionate about but do some market research and figure out where the need lies in your area or online. Where does your expertise lie? What do people need but don’t have? Start there.

10. Add yours here. Share with us in the comments area, how to make or find $1000. You can also share on our Facebook page and Retweet ways to find or make an extra $1000.

About the Author

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds is for the woman that wants to take charge of her personal finances. We value budgeting, investing, frugality and remain mindful of our spending habits. Move over and make way for women who are in control of their financial destinies and not afraid to say it. We’re armed with a positive net worth and not afraid to flaunt it while breaking financial ceilings one stiletto at a time!

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