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How to Avoid Racking Up Debt During the Holidays

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The holidays bring a lot of excitement and cheer. But is also a time characterized by a lot of spending. Statistics show that holiday spending goes up every year in the last few years. Unfortunately, holiday expenditure can take a big chunk out of your credit card.

It may feel great while the holidays last but the feeling may not last when you find yourself up to your neck in debt accrued during the holidays. Debt can mess up your life and interfere with your plans especially at the beginning of the year. The question is; can you still enjoy the holidays and still manage to keep off unnecessary debt? Yes indeed! Here are proven ways on how to avoid racking up debt during the holidays.

Avoiding Debt During the Holidays

Work with a Budget

A budget helps you to plan for the available resources and keeps you from doing spontaneous shopping. In your budget, categorize your spending and set money allocation for each item. This can help you have a general figure of the amount that you want to spend and also help you to know where to give more weight. A budget would be worthless if you don’t stick to it; be sure to strictly adhere to it and you will be grateful.

Use Cash to Pay for Expenses

Holiday debts result from credit cards and other loans. Research shows that people who use credit cards for shopping are likely to use many times more money than those that pay cash. There are different ways in which you can put aside some cash for the holiday:

  • Sell stuff that you don’t need in the house. This can be furniture, play gear for kids, electronics, kitchen gadgets, etc. As long as they are in good condition and someone can put them into good use, they are better off bringing you some cash.
  • Set up a holiday account early in advance
  • Use your Christmas bonus to boost your expenditure.
  • Cut cost on your normal expenditure to save for the holidays

Adopt Cost-Effective Holiday Events

Taking your family for a cruise around the Caribbean Islands and lodging in 5-star hotels is a great idea. However, if you will still be struggling to pay the debt come next year; it is time to re-evaluate your options. You can still have a memorable holiday with your family and friends without necessarily breaking the bank. Here are some cost-effective options:

  • Spend time with your family and friends at home and in the process share meals and gifts
  • Plan for traveling at a time when it is likely to be less expensive and save towards it
  • Consider Picnics and Parties

Save on gifts

Buying gifts for all your family, friends and other important people in your life can turn out to be one big expensive affair and especially if you don’t have enough cash set aside to cater for this. However, you can also make the gifts genuine, thoughtful, and memorable at a relatively low cost using the following tips:

  • If you are in the service industry, offer a free session of your services as a gift
  • Get creative and make gifts such as cards for your children’s teachers, boss, workmates etc.
  • Instead of buying a gift for each of your friends, bring them together and cast lots where each buys a gift for one and gets one from another
  • When coming up with a list of gifts to buy, include other options of about the same cost to avoid spending more in case the first choice goes out of stock or is unavailable

Shop Early

Shopping early helps to spread out your spending and also gives you time to shop for great deals. Since holidays are already fixed, come up with a list of everything you need to buy and start buying. Be on the lookout for discounts and offers such as the end of summer sales and stock up on items with the best deals.

The Bottom Line

The Holidays don’t have to leave you with the bitter after taste of racked up debts. With proper planning, a few adjustments, and being flexible enough to accommodate cost-effective ideas, you can still enjoy your holiday without disrupting your future financial plans.

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What is a Mortgage Pre-approval & What Are the Benefits?

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When shopping for a mortgage, you need to have any and all information that will expedite the process. Knowing what limits you are working with can also help you during the negotiation process; this is where mortgage pre-approval comes in.

Mortgage pre-approval is a certified letter from a lender indicating how much you can borrow. It also states the different kinds of loans that you may be eligible for and the interest rates that you should expect. The letter is valid for around 60-90 days, after which you need another pre-approval assessment for your mortgage shopping.

Mortgage Pre-Approval

Requirements for a Mortgage Pre-approval

Being a financial assessment of your mortgage eligibility, the pre-approval process involves looking at the health of your credit. Among the requirements that lenders will ask for include;

  • Social Security Number
  • Permission to access your credit report
  • Recent pay stubs
  • W-2s
  • Federal Tax Returns
  • 2 months bank statements (all accounts types)

It’s important to note that a pre-approval letter is not a contractual agreement between you and the lender. It’s just an assessment and not a commitment to give you the loan.

Benefits of Mortgage Pre-approval

  1. Saves on time

Pre-approval provides you with an overview of the amount of loan that you qualify for. It also helps you to narrow down the types of mortgage programs that are available to you. This comes in handy in shortening the time that you may have spent on mortgage shopping.

Think of it this way; without a shopping list, you waste time by going up and down the aisles in a supermarket trying to locate what you might need. With a list at hand, you pick specific things, and in a short while, you are done. Pre-approval works in basically the same way; you spend time rate-shopping only on the specific loan(s) that you qualify for.

  1. Lenders take you seriously

Real estate is a very competitive industry. Lenders don’t want to waste time on people who are not serious about homeownership. It’s easy for them to dismiss your application if they are not confident in your commitment.

A pre-approval letter goes a long way in adding weight to your loan application. It shows that you a prospective client and that your offer demands serious consideration.

When a lender takes you seriously, your approval gets a boost. They will speed up the process since you have already demonstrated the ability and serious intent of purchase. Yours becomes a done deal and your application gets a head-start in closing. The appraisal can begin immediately which can lead to a shortened closing period; by a week or two.

  1. Gives you negotiation power

When a lender is negotiating with you, he will offer rates depending on the seriousness of your application. This means that he may offer somewhat prohibitive rates because he is banking on someone else who might also be lined up for the home. This is a genius business move on his side since it’s all about making the sale.

Pre-approval is a sure way to avoid this kind of frustration. The letter gives you an edge on the negotiating table. Your application will be carrying more merit and the lender will be more inclined to offer you cheaper rates. Pre-approval may also allow you to negotiate the rates to the lowest allowable for your loan amount and credit score.

  1. Knowledge of other costs

Apart from the principal amount and the interest that a mortgage will attract, there are other additional costs to contend with. Knowledge of these costs allows you to plan better and shop for a loan that you are able to sustain. Pre-approval allows you to have an idea of what these costs entail.

You will be provided with a list of additional costs that are to be expected. These include closing costs, homeowner’s association fees, taxes, and other government fees. This is important especially to those in the market for the first time. It will come in handy when you have to make a decision on a home that might require restorations or upgrades once bought.

The Take-Away

Getting pre-approved for a loan is an important step when shopping for a mortgage. It allows you to only concentrate on the property that you can afford. Lenders also get to take you seriously when you are bargaining on the rates. Your mortgage application also gets to be hastened since the pre-approval letter shows your income’s ability to pay off the loan.

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How Does Student Loan Debt Affect a Mortgage Approval

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Are looking forward to owning a house? You should know that mortgage companies comb through your credit history to evaluate how much of a risk you are. As such, if you have an outstanding loan, qualifying for a new loan facility can be tricky. So, exactly how does student loan debt affect a mortgage approval?

Basically, loan debts impact the two main factors that go into credit approval:

  • Debt-to-income Ratio (DTI)
  • Credit Score

How Student Loan Debt Affects Your Debt-to-income Ratio

Student Loan Debt Affects Mortgage ApprovalBefore your mortgage application can be approved, lenders check your financial records for your total debts against your income. This is what is known as the debt-to-income ratio. It factors your total monthly debt repayments and your pre income total.

Total debts include all income deductions that appear on your credit record. Such include child support, student loans, auto loans, personal loans, and credit card payments. It follows that the more indebted you are the higher your DTI will be and the riskier you are to lenders.

Suppose your monthly income is $3,000 and a recurring debt of $1,200 monthly. Your DTI is 40% ($1,200 divided by $3,000). Generally, lenders look for a DTI of between 36% and 43% or less. So, in this scenario, you will be in a prime position of getting approved.

However, if your student loan pushes your monthly debt to $1,500, your DTI rises to 50%  ($1,500 divided by $3,000), and getting a mortgage from a private institution becomes next to impossible. Your only reprieve is to try for a government-backed loan facility, such as FHA mortgages that accept up to a DTI of 50%.

Even then, you will be faced with stringent terms for the application to go through:

  • Large down payment
  • A large savings account or cash reserves
  • Extra income apart from the one used during loan application. This could be part-time payment or income from a seasonal contract.

How Student Loan Debt Affects Your Credit Score

If you are looking for a mortgage then you must have come across credit scores. These are 3-digit numbers that sum up your creditworthiness. One of the main credit scoring services, FICO, summarizes your financial risk on a range of 300 to 850 points.

Typically, lenders accept credit scores of 670 and above.

Below that score, you present too much a risk and creditors will be less likely to approve your mortgage application. Also, your credit score determines the rates that are available to you.

A score of 670 – 739 is good and will get you an ‘okay’ APR (annual percentage rate). Between 740 and 799, your score is indicative of ‘very good’ credit and gets you a mortgage at a much lower APR. However, for the best rates in the industry, you need a score of 800 and above which is considered ‘exceptional’.

So, how does your student loan debt figure into all this? The answer has to do with how credit scores are calculated. Your debt repayment history accounts for 35% of the score and lenders look for consistent on-time loan payments.

Further, 30% of your credit score factors into the total amount owed in all of your accounts. Seeing that a student loan debt represents credit that was utilized and never paid, means that your finances are overextended. As such, in the eyes of lenders, you are more likely to miss your mortgage payments, or worse still, default.

The Takeaway

Student loan debts present a challenge when shopping for a mortgage. For starters, you need to get on track with your payments so as to increase your credit scores. Also, consider getting a second job and keeping off new loans to reduce your DTI. Lastly, concentrate on growing your savings for when the time comes to put a down payment for your new home.

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Tips for Paying off Holiday Debt Before it Hurts Your Credit

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Now that the festive season is behind you, what remains with you are the beautiful memories and of course, the huge holiday debt that you accumulated.

As the new year kicks off, two factors can greatly impact your credit; how you pay (or not pay) your debt and how much of your available credit you are using. That said, late or missed payments on your credit cards can hurt your credit and so does using most of your available credit.

To help you stay on the right track, here are tips for paying off holiday debt before it hurts your credit.

1.  Cut Back on Your Expenses

One of the smartest moves in paying off debt is to avoid adding more debt. By slashing your expenses, you put your spending under control and reduce your reliance on credit. Also, you might free up some money which can go towards debt repayment.

Cutting back on expenses can take various forms depending on your spending habits. It may entail:

  • Creating a budget and sticking to it
  • Using cash instead of credit cards to pay for products or services
  • Cooking your own meals instead of eating out
  • Using public transport instead of driving
  • Re-evaluating and canceling subscriptions that you can do without
  • Decreasing your usage of utilities such as power and water
  • Shop around for better deals and lower prices on shopping

2.  Start Paying off Your Credit Card Debt

Your credit card debt is likely to hurt your credit more than any other debt. The reason being, credit cards not only carry high-interest rates but their utilization accounts for 30% of your FICO credit scores.

Credit utilization ratio (CUR) is the percentage of the credit that you are utilizing out of the total credit available.

For example, if the total available credit on all your credit cards is $8,000 and your available balance is $4,000, then your credit utilization ratio is 50% ($4,000/$8,000 X 100).

Higher credit utilization creates the impression of poor debt management. Prioritizing your credit card payments lowers your utilization rate, consequently improving your credit score and saving you money on interest payments.

Tip: Always aim to keep your CUR below 30%, and when looking to build credit, a ratio of 10% and below would be ideal.

3.  Take a Personal Loan

A personal loan is a loan that you take to use at your discretion and usually. It comes with a lower interest rate: While credit card rates can average at 14-15%, you can get a personal loan with interest as low as 6%.

You will, however, need a good credit score (690 and above) and stable income to negotiate a good deal. That said, lower scores will attract more interest but you can still land better rates than with credit cards.

As such, if diligently, such as offsetting your credit card debt, you can use the loan to save your credit in the long run. Also, personal loan lenders are increasing by the day, opening more avenues to shop around.

4.  Get a Balance Transfer Card

If you are faced with several credit cards with high interest, a balance transfer card can help you save on interest and pay your debt faster.

Typically, a balance transfer credit card charges zero or low interest for a promotional period of 12-18 months. This gives you an opportunity to pay off only the principal of your debt or if any interest, at a lower rate.

On the other hand, this type of credit card may also temporarily hurt your credit in two ways:

  • Moving your credit to the new card may increase your credit utilization ratio
  • Opening a new credit card account may result in a hard inquiry which may bring your score a few points lower
  • A new account will affect the average length of your credit history

Nevertheless, the effects of the above factors on your credit are less severe compared to the effects of not eliminating your credit card debt in the long run.

Better yet, you can still do a balance transfer without hurting your credit using the tips below:

  • Ensure that you can clear the debt without fail and within the promotional period
  • Make sure that the balance you transfer does not max out your transfer card or cause a higher credit utilization ratio
  • Avoid adding more debt to both the original card and the balance transfer card until you have cleared your debt
  • Inquire if there is a balance transfer fee and assess its financial impact beforehand

The Bottom Line

It is possible to repay your holiday debt before it hurts your credit. This, however, calls for drastic measures such as change of spending habits, consistency, discipline, and sacrifice. While at it, you might want to start saving up for the next holiday to avoid finding yourself in the same situation come next year.

For further financial advice, credit repair, and consultation, contact Credit Absolute.

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