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.
Getting Pre-Approved for a Home Loan-The Ins and Outs
The process of obtaining a mortgage loan and purchasing a property is lengthy and involves a large number of steps. You’ll need to have the funds for a down payment on hand, as well as prepare your financial documentation for submission to your lender. You’ll need to ensure that your credit score is good enough to inspire confidence in your lender, and if it isn’t, you’ll need to begin improving it.
While finding a home that you and your family adore is a vital initial step in the home-buying process, it is far from the first. It’s critical to be prepared in today’s more competitive housing market. Unless you’ve been pre-approved for a loan, you may be disappointed if you locate a home you adore, even if it’s within your budget.
The first and most important step in purchasing a home is to conduct research. If you’re new to the process, you’re sure to have a lot of questions, such as what pre-approval entails and how it differs from actual approval. You may also be curious about the difference between pre-approval and pre-qualification, as well as the paperwork required. To assist you in your home purchasing process, we asked lending specialists to address some frequently asked issues about acquiring the mortgage for your dream home.
What is pre-approval, and how is it different than loan approval?
When you are approved for a loan, the lender will send you a commitment letter outlining the conditions of your mortgage agreement and loan, including the monthly payment and annual percentage rate on your loan. Additionally, you’ll learn about any conditions that must be met prior to the sale being finalized, such as obtaining homeowner’s insurance.
However, before you may obtain permission, you must obtain a pre-approval.
Consider the pre-approval process as an annual physical examination for your financial health. When you go through the pre-approval process, your lender will examine your income, credit score, assets, and obligations to determine whether you qualify for a loan and, if so, the maximum loan amount and monthly payment that you may qualify for. The specific documents you will need to submit and the loan amount you may qualify for will vary depending on your condition and the lending business you choose.
“Not all pre-approvals are created equal,” according to Peter Boomer, a PNC Bank mortgage official. “There are pre-approvals that demand little detail and simply a soft credit pull,” which is a brief examination of your credit history that does not temporarily decrease your score, “but do not require verification of critical buyer information.”
Consider that mild form of pre-approval as a means to run your financial status by the numbers. It may be beneficial if you’re just getting started in the home market and want to get a sense of what’s realistic for you. Once you have a feel of that, you can proceed with a more comprehensive pre-approval. “A full pre-approval is a more thorough examination of the buyer’s credit history and demonstrates the buyer’s ability to repay the mortgage, which includes a comprehensive underwriting evaluation of income, employment, and assets necessary for the down payment, as well as reserves,” Boomer continues. “This demonstrates to the seller that the prospective buyer possesses the financial resources to make the acquisition and has the mortgage in hand.”
Additionally to serving as a provisional promise from your lender when you find the proper home, Boomer notes that a pre-approved will expedite the rest of the process, including the eventual complete approval.
“Frequently, a pre-approval implies that the closing process can be accelerated, with only the appraisal and inspection remaining,” he explains. “Being pre-approved for a mortgage makes the bidder a more attractive homebuyer to the seller, which is critical in today’s competitive housing market when homes frequently receive multiple bids.”
What is the difference between pre-approval and pre-qualification?
While the terms “pre-approval” and “pre-qualification” are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not synonymous. Pre-qualification is a considerably simpler process than pre-approval.
You will be prompted to provide information about your income, debt, and the amount of money saved for a down payment, but this information will not be checked. Following that, your lender will inform you of the types of loans for which you may be eligible. Because there is often no obligation on either end, this is an excellent method for you to evaluate your lending company and see whether they are a suitable fit for you.
“One of the most beneficial things a prospective buyer can do—long before they begin touring homes—is to locate a reputable lender and obtain pre-approval,” says Ryan Dibble, COO of real estate company Flyhomes. “Pre-qualification provides an estimate of how much you can afford based on the information you provide regarding your down payment, assets, credit score, and income, and might reveal any barriers you may face in receiving your financing. Bear in mind that pre-qualifications are based on educated guesses.”
What about pre-subsidy?
The underwriting procedure is sometimes the longest and most stressful portion of the home buying process. This is when the lender will thoroughly vet your finances to ensure that everything is in order and that you are not at excessive risk. If you made any errors or omitted any critical information, the underwriting procedure is likely to trip you up.
If you choose a pre-underwriting method, you may begin this potentially lengthy process early and avoid any surprises down the road. This also makes you a more attractive prospect to homeowners looking to sell, since it demonstrates that you’re a safe bet and serious about concluding a sale.
“Getting pre-underwritten is the first step that all homebuyers should do to completely understand their budget, strengthen their offers, and ensure a smooth closing process,” Dibble explains. “With pre-underwriting, the lender thoroughly evaluates your ability to repay the loan before involving a property. Simply said, pre-underwriting is the only way to obtain an accurate response to a significant question: ‘how much can I spend on a home?’ It is a formal confirmation from a mortgage lender of the loan amount and program for which you are qualified.”
Dibble continues, “once pre-underwritten, you may purchase a home instantly and quickly close within 30 days in the majority of markets.”
When is the best time to obtain a pre-approval?
Once you’ve determined that you’re serious about purchasing a home, you should begin the process of obtaining a pre-approval before proceeding. If you decide to pursue a loan after finding a home that you like, you risk setting yourself up for disappointment.
“If you are considering homeownership, begin the pre-approval process immediately – even if you are thinking six to twelve months in advance,” advises Kim Chichester, Division Manager at Geneva Financial. “Do not go out looking at houses until you have been pre-approved. You are setting yourself up for disappointment or possibly the inability to make an offer on the home of your dreams in a timely manner.”
“What if you find the ideal home for sale for $400,000 only to discover that your maximum loan amount is $350,000?” adds Chichester. “No matter how many homes you inspect, none will ever compare. What if you are not pre-approved for a mortgage, find the home of your dreams, and the sellers will accept offers only from fully pre-approved purchasers until 6 p.m. that evening?”
Why it’s Always a Bad Idea to Borrow Money from a Family Member
If you’ve ever borrowed money from a family member, then you’re probably familiar with all or most of what we’re about to discuss.
Indeed, many people assisted family members with the expectation of being reimbursed. The unfortunate reality is that you may never see that lent money again. What’s more, your relationship with that family member may suffer as a result.
The following are some of the most frequently cited reasons why you should never lend money to a family.
It Can Put Relationships Under Stress
When you lend money to a family member, the borrower may have a less favorable attitude toward the loan than they do toward loans from banks and other lenders. The two parties may have divergent expectations, which may not work out well for everyone.
Money may complicate relationships, and there are times when the resulting harm becomes unmanageable. The tension in the relationship may even result in its termination.
It May Affect Your Financial Situation
When you lend money to family members, your relationship with them is seldom the only thing that suffers. Your credit and bank accounts may potentially suffer significant damage.
As previously said, there is a good probability you will never see that money again. Due to your strong relationship, your family member may view the funds as a gift rather than a loan.
Even if they are aware that it is a loan, they may believe that there is no reason for them to repay it immediately. While this may not be a concern with minor loans, it may jeopardize your future plans and money if larger sums are involved.
Enables Bad Habits
There are occasions when lending money to family members is not the greatest way to assist them, particularly if they are having difficulty managing their finances. While this may provide a temporary solution, it will never resolve their long-term problems.
While you may need to provide them a hand in repairing their roof, for example, and a loan may be necessary, you would want them to develop healthier and more responsible money habits. When kids understand how to manage their money, the likelihood of borrowing becoming their permanent answer decreases, while also maintaining your relationship with them.
It May Leave You Cash-Strapped
If you obtained the funds to lend to a family member, there is a possibility that you intended to spend them for anything else. It could be a portion of your emergency money or savings. Always consider your own financial situation first before lending money to anyone, family member or not, especially if the funds are already designated for personal needs and aspirations. For all you know, you may not have had the spare cash, to begin with.
How Much Should You Save for Retirement? Find Out Here
When you start saving for retirement, you may have a lot of questions. As you search for the answers to the unknown, the one thing you may really want to know is how much money you’ll need to live comfortably during this phase of your life.
Although it is suggested that every year people save between 10% and 15% of their annual income for retirement, you want to be sure that you have enough, and that can be done by examining certain factors.
Examine your current income and expenses
What is your current source of income? How much of that income do you spend every month? As you make your plan for retirement, it is important to know where your current finances stand.
Estimate your future income and expenses
Your current income and expenses can actually be used to estimate your future income and expenses. Yes, retirement is years away, but you should be able to determine your future income and expenses if you know what to expect. If you know your home and student loans will be repaid by the time you retire, then you’ll know that you won’t have to save enough to continue to make monthly payments on these debts during retirement.
Additionally, depending on your source of income at the time, you may be able to calculate how much money you’ll have coming in every month. For example, you can estimate your Social Security payments just to get an idea of all or a portion of your future income.
Consider the potential cost of the unexpected
Retirement does not mean you don’t have to be prepared for the unexpected. You can expect to pay a monthly bill when it arrives, but what about those little surprises that life will throw at you? At any point in time, your car could break down, your roof could need replacing or an accident can leave you with a high medical bill.
Your retirement fund should allow you to live comfortably, but it should also protect you from financial hits that are hard to come back from. If you don’t plan for the unexpected, a good portion of your retirement fund can be wiped out.
Consider your preferred lifestyle and spending habits
People’s lifestyles vary, so what one person may find necessary another may not. If you wish to maintain your current lifestyle and spending habits when you retire, it will be important to consider this fact when you are trying to determine how much to save.
For example, if your annual income of $70,000 allows you to take a few vacations every year, and that is something you would like to continue to do when you retire, then you’ll want to ensure you have the money necessary to afford these vacations.
Consider the amount you currently have in your retirement fund
Have you already started saving for retirement? Whether the answer is yes or no, the amount that you currently have saved should, of course, be factored into the amount you will need to save. However, not having anything in your retirement fund could be a problem because this means that you may have to put a larger amount away when you start to save.
Say you plan to retire in 30 years, if you do not have anything in your retirement fund, rather than saving $300 a month, you’ll have to save $500 a month to ensure you reach your goal.
Saving for retirement is not a priority for everyone. However, not saving for this phase of your life can negatively impact you. As you plan for your retirement, be sure you are considering the right things, so you don’t find yourself re-entering the workforce during a time when you should be relaxing.
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