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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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Financial advice

Spring Wedding? Tips on Saving Money on Your Destination Wedding

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Are you planning for a spring wedding? You are not alone; many love birds like planning their destination wedding for this time of the year. Spring is that unique season of the year where love is in the air, flowers are blooming as plants are blossoming.

Unfortunately, a wedding budget can kill your dream of a spring wedding before it sees the light of day. The question is; can you still enjoy an awesome wedding on a tight budget? Indeed you can. Our tips on saving money on your destination wedding have got you covered.

Spring Destination Wedding

Choose a Resort Offering an All-Inclusive Bundle

All-inclusive wedding bundles will enable you to get a flat rate on your whole wedding package. In fact, they can save you hundreds and even thousands on your wedding if done right.

These bundles may include food, sporting activities, drinks, makeup services, spa services as well as other guest events. As for drinks, you can have any of the three below:

  • Cash bar
  • Open bar
  • Consumption bar

A consumption bar can help you strike a balance between your guests getting some free drinks and paying for extra ones. You can make the bar open to your guests but set a spending threshold or a time limit with the owner. If the guests hit the limit or reach the set time, it can then be converted to a cash bar. This will save you money.

Another advantage of wedding bundles is that costs involving decoration, parking, photo sessions, and transport are reduced since your location is the same.

Combine Your Wedding and Honeymoon

Some resorts will offer you incentives and discounts if you combine your wedding with your honeymoon. Having your destination wedding and your honeymoon in the same location will help you save on traveling and other costs

You should, however, visit the place prior to the wedding to make sure it is diverse and interesting enough for both occasions. Another way to save would be to pack travel-sized items that you will need for your honeymoon to avoid buying from vendors.

Slash your Guests List

Naturally, a destination wedding doesn’t attract hundreds of guests; this ultimately reduces the financial pressure that comes with your wedding. Still, if there is a way you can further slash the guest list, do it by all means. 

Select an Offseason Date For Your Wedding.

Offseason wedding dates attract low rates and costs charged on weddings by resorts. Find out places which offer discounts for weddings on certain dates. As good as it sounds to your pocket, it is important to make sure that the dates you choose for your wedding won’t lead to a low turnout.

Additionally, for wedding festivities, you can choose a weekday to ensure even as guests come they won’t be overstaying as they also need to get back to their commitments.

You can also save your wedding costs by scheduling your wedding for a less traditional time of day. If for example the ceremony is planned for a weekday afternoon, the venues will charge less as compared to a Saturday afternoon event. Your guests might even drink less.

Consider Local Lenders for Your Wedding Supplies

Not everything you need for your destination wedding can be found where you are going to wed. You may need additional items and services. Consider local vendors who can offer reasonable prices from the wedding location rather than bringing vendors from home.

If you come with your vendors you have to cater for their travel and accommodation costs. Furthermore, if they are bringing items with them to a different country, you will have to cover the shipping cost directly or they will be indirectly included when you get priced.

Make sure you get recommendations from family and friends about the best vendors from where you are going to wed. You can also use Google and social media to find good vendors in advance.

The Take-Away

Destination weddings are the trend nowadays; this doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to have one. With proper planning, flexibility, and any of the above tips that suit you, you can whisk your love away to say ‘I Do’ in a destination of your dreams.

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Improving Your Odds of a Lower Interest Rate

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Getting a Low Mortgage Interest RateHomeownership is a huge financial responsibility you have to be prepared for. Everyone knows that buying a home can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to save on this purchase. Considering how much your interest rate can tack on to the cost of your home, homebuyers should do what they can to get a low rate.

Here are a few things you can do to improve your chances of getting a better interest rate on your home loan.

Consider a larger down payment

Homebuyers pay a down payment when they are purchasing a home. You’ll see many homebuyers making a down payment between 3% and 20%, sometimes more. Paying a larger down payment can lower your mortgage interest rate because it will decrease the loan amount. Since the down payment will be subtracted from the loan amount, which is equal to the cost of the home plus closing costs, you won’t need to actually need to borrow the full cost of the home.

Improve your credit score

Lenders use credit scores to get a better idea of an applicant’s financial health, habits, and stability. High credit scores are much more favorable than lower scores when it comes to borrowing because a high score makes lenders believe that person is less of a risk. Since your credit score is one of the factors used to determine your mortgage interest rate, before applying for a home loan, take a look at your credit report and see if there is room for improvement.

Purchase discount points

Discount points can be purchased at close to lower a buyer’s mortgage interest rate. The cost of each discount point equals 1% of the loan’s amount and reduces the interest rate by 0.25%. So, if your loan amount is $250,000, one discount point will equal $2,500, which will get an interest rate of 5.25% reduced to 5.0%.

Although discount points can get you a lower interest rate, one thing to note when considering purchasing discount points is how long it will take to get your money back from this purchase. It is recommended to only purchase points when keeping the home for a longer period of time because you want to ensure you break even or recoup the cost of the points in savings.

Sign up for AutoPay

You have to pay your mortgage every month, so why not save some money while doing it? Lenders sometimes offer a rate discount when borrowers sign up for Auto-Pay and have their mortgage payments automatically withdrawn from their checking or savings account. In order to maintain the discount throughout the life of the loan, borrowers must remain on Auto-Pay. If removed, the rate discount will no longer be applied and their payments will increase.

Shop around

It is always recommended for homebuyers to shop around. You want to ensure you get the best deal available, and if you only check out one lender, you can’t be sure that another lender could have offered you something sweeter. What some buyers don’t know is that they can ask one lender to match another lender’s offer. If you have quotes from multiple lenders, but there is one you prefer, you can bargain with them and ask them to give you the lower rate that another lender has offered. They won’t want to lose your business, so chances are you’ll get that rate.

Ask for a lower rate

Every lender has certain rates that customers can receive for their mortgage. When you apply for a mortgage, you may not get the lowest rate the lender offers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t. Your lender can be flexible with your mortgage interest rate, but you won’t find out unless you ask.

 

 

 

 

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Does Using Credit Cards vs. Cash Help My Credit Score?

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Cash vs Credit

Building your credit score is a lot like building a good reputation. It takes years of consistency and work. It can be disheartening news if you have a bad credit score, but that doesn’t mean you are completely out of options. The best way to take control of your credit score is to start good habits today, and by making a commitment to those good habits for years to come.

If your credit score is less than favorable, you’re probably looking for ways that you can improve it. You may hear a lot of conflicting advice about the use of cash or credit to help your credit score. We’re here to set the record straight.

How Credit Works

The very first step to understanding your credit score is knowing how it is reported. When you are given a credit line from a credit card company or loan from your bank, you are permitted to use it within the set limitations while paying it back. It is your credit usage, on-time payment history, and credit habits that get reported to three governing credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

A credit bureau is a company that collects information reported by creditors, lenders, and consumers in the form of a report – ultimately determining your credit score. In addition to your payment history and credit usage, your credit score is determined by the number of credit accounts, type of accounts, credit age, and credit inquires. A complex algorithm is then used to determine your unique credit score, which is updated on a monthly basis.

Cash vs. Credit

As you can see, cash is not directly involved in determining your credit score, but that doesn’t mean it should be avoided. Depending on your personal financial standing it might be better to operate with cash over credit. For example, if you have high balances on your cards or you don’t have a particularly positive credit history, it’s better to pay your bills in cash and make payments to get your balances down.

While this doesn’t directly affect your credit score, limiting your credit usage and paying your balances down will help you start down the path to repairing your credit and do wonders in raising your credit score. In general, your lenders and creditors like to see a credit usage less than 30% of your credit limit. This shows responsibility and self-control when it comes to being given credit.

On the other hand, you can’t have a credit score without some type of credit history. If you have no history with lenders or creditors, the three bureaus will not be able to determine your creditworthiness, therefore they will not be able to generate a credit score. If you have never been given any credit, it’s recommended that you start with a secured card or a secured loan, typically meaning they are backed by your savings, to start building good lending habits and trust. Just remember to adhere to all terms of your credit agreement and practice good credit habits in order to prove yourself to lenders when the time comes. It’s also a good idea to start monitoring your credit report to see where you stand financially and develop a strategy to get to where you want to be.

Conclusion

So, is cash or credit better at helping improve your credit score? The answer is, it depends on your personal financial situation. While it is true that you cannot build your credit score without having some type of credit from lenders, cash might be the right choice to take control of the debt that you already have and start displaying positive financial habits. Regardless of the strategy you choose, the first step is knowing exactly what’s on your credit report and monitoring it on a monthly basis.

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