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10 Ways to Cut Expenses and Rid of Debt

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Do you know how much you spend on groceries every month?

Do you understand the way your monthly home bills add up?

These are just a couple of questions to ask yourself when figuring out how to cut expenses. Better budgeting doesn’t mean you live a boring, restricted life or have to feel weighed down by money. It’s actually the exact opposite!

When you have a deeper understanding of your savings and expenses, you’re able to do more with less. You can still enjoy your life within a reasonable means of spending, while also putting more money away in your personal savings.

If this sounds like the answer your bad credit score has been looking for, keep reading. Here are 10 simple ways to cut expenses and create more financial freedom in your life.

1. Take Care of All Your Late Payments

First things first, you have to get all of your late payments in order. These will come back to haunt you if you keep putting them off. The longer you wait to pay bills that are past due, the higher the late fees become.

Sit down and take care of every single one of your bills. Pay off the ones that are late right away and set a schedule to pay your next cycle of bills ahead of time. This is the best way to keep yourself from falling behind.

2. Avoid Paying Interest on Debt

Keep in mind that your minimum billing payment may not be the total amount you owe. This is common for things like credit cards and other big amounts of debt.

Instead of just paying the minimum, commit to paying off all of your debt every month. If you don’t, you risk accruing interest which can sometimes be just as bad as a late fee.

Keep in mind that long-term loans – like for cars, homes, and higher education – work a little differently. But, there are still ways to lower your interest rate.

3. See if Some Plans Can Be Lowered

Another option you have is to lower your monthly expenses altogether. You may be paying more than you need to for a lot of your services. Consider how much of your phone plan you really use, for example, or how often you take advantage of having cable.

It’s worth talking to your respective providers and seeing what kind of options are available to you. This goes for everything from your phone and cable bill, internet expenses, and insurance plans (for home, health, and auto). Even your water and electric bills can be lowered with smarter habits at home.

4. Refinance Your Mortgage

Speaking of home-related bills like water and electric, how’s your mortgage doing? This is one of the highest average household monthly expenses most people have to budget for.

But, it doesn’t have to be as costly as it currently is! You can refinance your mortgage to create a better monthly payment.

Keep in mind that this may extend the period of your mortgage loan or change your interest rate. It’s also not a way to cut spending that you should do all the time. Still, it’s an option worth looking into to better allocate your monthly funds.

5. Stop Buying Coffee Every Day

There are the big ways to cut expenses like refinancing your mortgage and avoiding late fees, then there are smaller habits that add up.

Your morning coffee doesn’t seem like much if you only spend $2-5 on it. But, if you’re buying coffee every single day (M-F) instead of making it at home, you’re not making the best use of your money.

The average American spends over $1,000 on coffee every year. That’s a thousand dollars you could better allocate to your mortgage, car payment, or savings account.

6. Eat at Home More Often

Coffee isn’t the only expense that can sneak up on you. Eating out as a whole is a big expense for most Americans. Between grabbing breakfast on the go when you’re running late and going out to dinner with friends, you’re probably spending more on eating out than you think.

It’s not like you have to eat at home for every single meal from now on. But, it is smart to create an eating out and entertainment budget and stick to it. This will help you enjoy yourself without worrying so much about your personal finances at the end of the month.

7. Shop Store Brands

Eating at home means you’re going to be frequenting the grocery store a lot more. You’ll start to learn how to stretch your grocery budget even further and create delicious dishes with seemingly simple foods.

More so, you’ll realize just how much you can save by buying store brands! Store brands are equally as good as name-brand products, if not better. They’re cheaper, too – and saving a dollar here or a few bucks there as you go through each aisle makes a difference when you’re checking out at the cashier.

8. Buy Items on Sale or Secondhand

The next way to cut spending is to lower the amount of money you spend shopping for things like new clothes, home decor items, and other miscellaneous goods.

Try to shop secondhand for these things before you drive to the mall. You can do so at thrift stores and pawn shops, or you can go online and check out all kinds of re-sell sites that specialize in everything from clothing to auto parts.

If you do have to go to the store for something, at least try to find a discount code or go during a sale to make your efforts worth the cost.

9. Set up Automatic Savings

Two of the best ways to start using automatic savings are either with your paycheck or your debit card.

If you have direct deposit, you can set up your paycheck so that a certain amount of it goes into savings right away. This will lower your temptations to use your money on miscellaneous things or “splurge” because it will already be put away.

With your debit card, you can look into your bank’s cashback options or use a personal finance tool to help you make the most of every transaction you swipe for. These can help you better understand where your money is going and put some more money away, too.

10. Take Advantage of Free Things

Last but not least, don’t hesitate to take advantage of free things when they’re available to you! This goes for everything from free food at work to free flu shots at the pharmacy down the street. But mostly, free entertainment is what you can save the most with.

You don’t have to go on fancy date nights every week or do expensive things to treat yourself. There are all kinds of ways to cut back on entertainment spending without lowering how much fun you get to enjoy.

How to Identify the Best Ways to Cut Expenses

As great as all the ways to cut expenses above are, they’re better when you utilize them one by one. If you try to wake up tomorrow and do everything on this list, you’re going to be overwhelmed. But, prioritizing the financial decisions that are most beneficial to you is a completely different story.

This makes you more comfortable with taking on debt and improving your personal finances as a whole. Before you know it, many (if not all) of the things on this list will feel natural to you!

For more tips and tricks to improve your financial stability as a whole, click here.

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Credit Repair

5 Things You Can Do Now To Improve Your Credit In The Long Term

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Many people ask “how can I improve my credit now” looking for tips that will help them put 100 points on their credit score in a month. Now, depending on your credit score situation, you may be able to do this. However, if you’ve got a 680+ credit score, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to be able to add so many points in such a short amount of time.

Instead, think about how you can improve your credit in the long term in order to get closer to that coveted 850 credit score. Here are some tips to help you improve your credit.

  • Start snowballing your debt.

    Snowballing your debt is a debt elimination strategy espoused by personal finance expert Dave Ramsey. This strategy essentially has you pay off your debts starting with the smallest balance. What you do is simple: set up minimum payments for all your current debt except your smallest debt balance. You pay as much over the minimum as you can afford on your smallest debt balance. This way, you start eliminating debt one at a time. When one piece of debt is paid off, you take what you were paying on that debt and allocate it toward the next smallest balance.

    This debt elimination strategy is effective for several reasons. First, it focuses on getting rid of each debt item and freeing up more cash to pay down the larger debt balances. Second, it takes your mind off of the more expensive debt and keeps you focused on the long term goal: being debt free.

    As an added tip: paying down credit cards will have a bigger effect on your credit score than paying down nearly any other type of debt. If you’re concerned with your credit score, get rid of your credit card debt as soon as possible!

  • Set up automatic payments for as many bills as possible.

    35% of your credit score is determined by your payment history. Most people have a lot of different bills they need to pay, and it can get hard to manage. Automatic payments takes the brainwork out of paying your debt obligations. Whether you’re paying the minimum balance or you’re trying to get rid of the debt ASAP, automatic payments can help make sure that you never miss a payment.

    A good payment history isn’t just important for preventing your score from dropping. The longer you go without missing any debt payments, the better it is for your credit score. Most people should see their credit score increase over time so long as they’re making all their payments on time and not being overzealous with their borrowing.

  • Request credit limit increases (but don’t change your spending)

    Another part of your credit score is based on how much debt you owe in relation to your available credit, or your credit limits (when referring to credit cards). The ratio of your card balances and your credit limit is called your credit utilization ratio. If you have a credit limit of $5,000 and you currently owe $2,000, your credit utilization ratio is 40%. The lower this ratio, the better, and generally speaking you want a credit utilization ratio under 30%.

    Increasing your credit limit is a way to “hack” this. Although getting a credit limit increase will reduce your credit score in the short term, the reduction to your credit utilization ratio will be beneficial in the long term so long as you don’t change your spending habits! For this reason, many financial advisors don’t actually recommend this because some people may believe that they have more money available at their disposal. You, however, should know that this is not true and that just because you have more credit doesn’t mean you should borrow more.

  • Dispute any items on your credit report that seem suspicious to you.

    Sometimes, credit bureaus and lenders make mistakes. People often pay for these mistakes and don’t even know it because their credit report might have errors that they’re unaware of!

    In order to have as much control over your credit as possible, you need to be aware of what’s actually on your credit report. If you haven’t, get your free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. You’re entitled to receive a credit report from each credit bureau once per year by law. Learn more about the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)!

    Once you’ve taken a look at each of your credit reports, look for items that you don’t recognize. If you see any, it’s time to start the dispute process. To do so, you’re going to need to call each of the credit bureaus that is reporting the item in question and file a dispute claim. This process can take some time. If the item in question is indeed incorrect or fraudulent, then you can have that item removed.

  • Freeze your credit if you don’t plan on taking out new loans in the next year.

    One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the best way to prevent problems from occurring on your credit report is to make sure that nobody can take out debt in your name.

    This tip isn’t really going to improve your credit score: instead, it’s going to prevent it from going down in case your identity gets stolen. If your credit is frozen, it means that nobody (not even you) can take out new debt in your name. This means that you can’t open new credit cards, get a new mortgage, or borrow any more money.

    To freeze your credit, you will need to contact each of the three credit bureaus. To do so, click the below links to be redirected to the Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion websites and follow the directions provided.

    If this sounds detrimental, don’t worry: it’s not. You can unfreeze your credit at any time by contacting each of the three credit bureaus, similarly to how you froze your credit initially. It takes some time before your credit can be unfrozen, but once it is, you’ll be able to take out loans and open new credit cards again.

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    How To Build Your Credit If Your Credit Is Bad

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    Bad credit affects millions of Americans and many of them don’t know how to get out of the hole. Having bad credit can prevent you from getting home loans, car loans, an apartment, and could even bar you from getting certain types of jobs. People with bad credit end up paying higher interest rates on loans, as well. Needless to say, bad credit could make your financial life much harder.

    There are ways for people to repair their credit, even if they are having trouble keeping up with their debt. Here’s how you can start over and rebuild your credit, even if your credit score is currently in the dumps.

  • Get your credit reports and read them in detail.

    Your credit report has all the information you need to start repairing your credit now. It’ll include your payment history, as well as any items that are past due, in default, or in collections.

    There are three major credit bureaus in the United States: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. All three of these bureaus are required by law to provide you with a free credit report once per year. If you’re ready to start repairing your credit, then get all of these reports and read them.

    Without reading your credit report in detail, you can’t possibly know what is affecting your credit score. The biggest problems that you might find on your credit report are items in collections, items in default, past due items, missed payments, and high utilization ratios on your credit cards.

    Other issues that can affect your credit score drastically are tax liens, foreclosures, and bankruptcies. However, these are almost never a surprise to anyone. If you unexpectedly find these items on your credit report, or any other item that you don’t recognize, then it’s time to start the dispute process.

  • Dispute any items on your credit report that you don’t recognize.

    Credit bureaus are run by people who get information from other people who work for loan servicers and lending institutions. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for people to have items on their credit report that should not be there.

    Typically, these amount to clerical errors or mistaken identity. If you see anything that shouldn’t be on your record, it’s time to start the dispute process. Before you do, we recommend that you contact the loan servicer and ask them about the loan in question. They should be able to confirm whether or not the loan belongs to you, and if it doesn’t, then you can start the dispute process with the credit bureau with confidence that it will eventually be removed.

    However, you may find debt on your credit report which DOES exist in your name, even though you may have no recollection of taking out that debt! This is a tell-tale sign of identity theft, and in this instance, it’s time to take action. Contact the credit bureaus that are reporting the fraudulent debt and have them begin the dispute process. In the meantime, ask them to freeze your credit so that no more loans can be taken out in your name.

  • Settle any items in default or in collections.

    Items in default or collections can have a major negative effect on your credit score. As a result, it’s important to make sure that you get the debt settled right away.

    Settling the debt does not necessarily mean making payments toward it! Making those payments won’t make any difference to your credit score as you’ve already got a black mark on your report. Instead, you want to make sure that you have an agreement with the owner of the debt. You’ll have to negotiate these items with the lender by calling them directly. If an item is in collections, it means that the original lender is no longer servicing the debt and you’ll have to go to the collections agency that is responsible for collecting the money.

    In general, companies would rather get some of the money back rather than none, which gives you some room in negotiations. They’re generally understanding of a difficult financial situation and simply want to get as much of their money back as possible. By negotiating with the agency you may be able to reach an agreement to pay off the debt for less than you owe.

    You may be able to get some of these items removed by asking the creditor, but in general, items in default or items that go into collections will stay on your credit report even after you settle them. They go away after 7 years, though, so they won’t be around forever, and the more time that passes from the original date of delinquency, the less weight it carries.

  • Calculate the remaining debt that you have.

    Now that you understand the contents of your credit report, it’s time to get an estimate of how deep in debt you really are. Your credit report will also have some important information about your debt balances. They may not be 100% accurate, but that’s okay: simply contact the lender responsible for the debt and they will be more than happy to tell you how much you owe them.

    Tally up all your debt and see how much you owe. You can only move forward when you know exactly what you owe. From here, it’s time to make a plan to pay it off.

  • Make a plan to pay off your remaining debt.

    Paying down your debt is the next step to improving your credit score. Your credit score is based in large part on your payment history and the amount of debt you owe. By creating a good payment history and reducing your overall debt burden, you will see positive changes in your credit score that add up over time.

    One popular strategy is called snowballing. Made popular by financial guru Dave Ramsey, snowballing your debt is when you pay the minimum payments on all your debt except for the smallest balance, which you put as much money into paying off as possible. Once that balance is done, you move onto the next smallest balance. Keep repeating this until all your debt is paid off. This process can take years for some people.

    But, sometimes the debt you owe is simply too much. Your interest rates might be too high, or you might not be able to afford even the minimum payments. Don’t worry: you have options.

  • Options to help you pay down debt:

    1. Refinancing:

      this is when you and the lender agree to a new loan with different terms, usually with a different payment schedule and interest rate. This can be a good option if your payments are high due to a very high interest rate.

    2. Debt consolidation:

      this is where a company lends you money to pay off your previous loans so you’re only responsible for one large loan to the consolidation company. This can be a good option if you need lower payments on your debt.

    3. Balance transfers (for credit cards):

      Some banks allow you to put the balance of one credit card onto another, often with low introductory interest rates, so that you can more easily pay off that card. Make sure to read the fine print of the balance transfer agreement!

  • Pay any and all payments on time, no exceptions.

    Once you’ve committed to making payments on your debt, make sure that you make those payments! Missing a payment could seriously harm your credit score. If at all possible, set up automatic payments with your lender and your bank so that you never miss a payment.

    If you can’t make a payment due to lack of funds, make sure to speak with your creditor. They will likely help you, since they’d rather get something now rather than nothing. They may be able to change your payment date or agree to accept a larger payment later on. You never know until you ask, and it’s much better than simply leaving a debt to go into default.

    If you’re wondering why you should spend the time and effort repairing your credit, learn about the benefits of having an 850 credit score!

    Summary

    How To Build Your Credit If Your Credit Is Bad

    Article Name

    How To Build Your Credit If Your Credit Is Bad

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    Learn how to build your credit if your credit is bad. Having bad credit can prevent you from getting home loans, car loans, an apartment, and much more.

    Author

    Jason M. Kaplan, Esq.

    Publisher Name

    The Credit Pros

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    What Credit Score Do You Need To Qualify For A Mortgage?

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    If you’re gearing up to purchase your first home, or you’re looking to move out of your starter home and into a larger place, you may have questions about how to qualify for a mortgage. Mortgages are one of the most common types of loans. However, they’re treated a bit differently than other loans, even those of a similar size such as business loans.

    One of the criteria that bankers use to determine whether or not someone qualifies for a mortgage is their creditworthiness. Your credit score is a numerical value meant to indicate your level of creditworthiness, so it stands to reason that people with low credit scores are unable to qualify for a home loan.

    So what credit score do you need to qualify for a mortgage? Is there a minimum credit score requirement for a mortgage? Let’s find out.

    How Mortgages Work

    What Is A Mortgage?

    A mortgage is a loan backed by the property you’re purchasing. The home that you are buying acts as collateral and, in the event that you default on your mortgage, the lender can take back the house through foreclosure. Mortgages are paid back in installments with interest.

    The first thing to understand is that we are referring only to mortgages in the United States. Other countries do mortgage loans differently, as they have different laws that govern how banks and other lending institutions can provide mortgages. If you live outside the United States, some of these won’t apply.

    Mortgages are not a new invention, but they didn’t become commonplace for average citizens until the late 20th century. The mortgage as we know it was first created by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), who created mortgages with low down payments in order to allow more people to afford a home. The down payment is a lump sum paid upfront to reduce the amount of the loan. A typical down payment is 20% of the value of the home, but there are mortgages that require lower down payments.

    How Are Mortgages Paid?

    When you pay for your mortgage, you pay for the principal (or the money borrowed), the interest, property taxes which are held in escrow, and insurance. Private mortgage insurance is also part of the payment if you put down less than 20% of the home’s value.

    Mortgage loans, just like most loans paid in installments, amortize. Amortization is the gradual repayment of interest accumulated with the payment of the principal. You start by paying mostly interest, and then over time, more of the payment goes to the principal. This is important to understand because this affects how much equity you have in your home as you pay down your mortgage. Equity refers to your home’s value, minus the amount of principal (not interest) you still owe on your mortgage.

    Mortgages and Interest

    Mortgages tend to be very long-term loans. The most common mortgages are 15-year, 20-year, and 30-year mortgages. These mortgages are popular because your monthly payment gets lower the longer you stretch out the mortgage term. Because of this, though, many mortgage lenders will end up paying more than the value of the home (at the time of purchase) in interest.

    There are generally two types of mortgage loans: fixed-rate mortgages, and adjustable-rate mortgages. Fixed-rate mortgages charge a flat interest fee that never changes throughout the life of the loan. Once you get a fixed-rate mortgage, your interest rate is locked in for the term. Adjustable-rate mortgages have interest rates that change with the market.

    Both types of loans have pros and cons. Fixed-rate mortgages have higher initial interest rates, but they allow for a stable home loan payment that doesn’t change regardless of market conditions. Adjustable-rate mortgages tend to have lower at the outset, but if something happens (such as the Fed raising interest rates, or a credit crisis) then you can see your rates skyrocket.

    Adjustable-rate mortgages have gotten lenders into trouble in the past when interest rate changes mean that they can no longer afford their payment. Home loan defaults were a major contributor to the 2008 financial crisis, and this caused many lenders to look at the riskiness of the loans they gave out. As a result, mortgages started to have more stringent requirements, one of which is good credit.

    How Credit Scores Work

    Your credit score is a 3-digit number between 300 and 850 that aims to assess how creditworthy you are to a lender. You don’t just have one credit score: you have multiple credit scores, all used by different lenders. However, the credit scores you’re given by credit bureaus and credit score sites such as CreditKarma will give you a good idea of what other lenders see.

    Your credit score uses data from your credit report to calculate your score. Credit scores are calculated using 5 components, which are:

    1. Payment history. Have you made all your payments on time? Do you have past due payments? Are you currently in default? Lenders care most about whether or not their loans were paid on time.
    2. Amounts owed. How much of your available credit are you borrowing? How large are your loans in total? The more you’re borrowing, the less creditworthy you are.
    3. Length of credit history. How long have you been borrowing for? How old on average are your credit accounts? How old is your oldest and newest account? The older, the better.
    4. Credit mix. Do you have a variety of different types of loans? A wider variety of loans indicates creditworthiness, as it shows that the borrower can handle different types of debt.
    5. New credit. Do you have a lot of new credit accounts? Too many new credit accounts can hurt your credit score.

    The higher your credit score, the more access to credit you have. There are benefits to having a perfect 850 credit score! However, your credit score is far from the only factor used in determining whether you qualify for a mortgage.

    How To Qualify For A Mortgage

    What Do Lenders Like To See?

    • Stable income for at least two years. Employment is generally seen as a plus, although self-employment can be used if you have proof of stable income over the past two years. The more, the better, particularly during times when credit is tight.
    • A low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which is the percentage of monthly gross income that is used for debt payments. Typically, mortgage lenders won’t give a mortgage to someone with a debt-to-income ratio above 43%, but that’s an absolute max with 36% being seen as more attractive. Mortgage lenders want to see a DTI ratio of much lower than that, particularly if you’re not making a substantial down payment.
    • A clean payment history. If you’re missing payments, particularly credit card, rent, or previous mortgage payments, this could be a knock on your application and could prevent you from getting a loan. Generally, they’re looking at the past two years of your credit history (rather than the 7 years that your credit report keeps).
    • A high credit score. We’ll discuss this further in depth in the next section.

    What Credit Score Do You Need To Qualify For A Mortgage?

    For most private loans, there is no absolute minimum credit score that you need to qualify for a mortgage. The best interest rates are given to people with credit scores above 760, or people with “excellent” or better credit. A good credit score can save you a significant amount of money on interest over the life of your loan.

    There are some types of loans that do have a credit score requirement, though, and most of them come from the government.

    FHA Loans

    To get a low down payment FHA loan (3.5% down) as a first-time home buyer, you need a FICO score of at least 580. You can qualify for an FHA loan with a lower score, but you’ll need to put at least 10% down. You can do this with properties that have 4 or fewer units in them, and you must live in the house you purchase.

    VA Loans

    VA loans don’t have a minimum credit score, however the government is not the issuer of VA loans. Instead, they simply guarantee them. A typical VA lender will look for someone with a credit score of at least 580 to 660.

    If you want a home loan, but think your credit score is preventing you from qualifying for one, you may need credit repair. Check out The Credit Pros’ credit repair options to see if credit repair is right for you!

    Summary

    What Credit Score Do You Need To Qualify For A Mortgage?

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    What Credit Score Do You Need To Qualify For A Mortgage?

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    If you want a home loan, but think your credit score is preventing you from qualifying for one, you may need credit repair. Click to read more.

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    Jason M. Kaplan, Esq.

    Publisher Name

    The Credit Pros

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