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Credit Score 101

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by homeis

Credit Reports and Credit Scores

Your credit history is important to a lot of people: mortgage lenders, banks, utility companies, prospective employers, and more. So it’s especially important that you understand your credit report, credit score, and the companies that compile that information, credit bureaus. This brochure provides answers to some of the most common, and most important, questions about credit.


Your Credit Report

What is a credit report?

A credit report is a record of your credit history that includes information about:

  • Your identity. Your name, address, full or partial Social Security number, date of birth, and possibly employment information.
  • Your existing credit. Information about credit that you have, such as your credit card accounts, mortgages, car loans, and student loans. It may also include the terms of your credit, how much you owe your creditors, and your history of making payments.
  • Your public record. Information about any court judgments against you, any tax liens against your property, or whether you have filed for bankruptcy.
  • Inquiries about you. A list of companies or persons who recently requested a copy of your report.


Why is a credit report important?

Your credit report is important because lenders, insurers, employers, and others may obtain your credit report from credit bureaus to assess how you manage financial responsibilities. For example:

  • Lenders may use your credit report information to decide whether you can get a loan and the terms you get for a loan (for example, the interest rate they will charge you).
  • Insurance companies may use the information to decide whether you can get insurance and to set the rates you will pay.
  • Employers may use your credit report, if you give them permission to do so, to decide whether to hire you.
  • Telephone and utility companies may use information in your credit report to decide whether to provide services to you.
  • Landlords may use the information to determine whether to rent an apartment to you.


Who collects and reports credit information about me?

There are three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—that gather and maintain the information about you that is included in your credit report. The credit bureaus then provide this information in the form of a credit report to companies or persons that request it, such as lenders from whom you are seeking credit.


Where do credit bureaus get their information?

A: Credit bureaus get information from your creditors, such as a bank, credit card issuer, or auto finance company. They also get information about you from public records, such as property or court records. Each credit bureau gets its information from different sources, so the information in one credit bureau’s report may not be the same as the information in another credit bureau’s report.


How can I get a free copy of my credit report?

You can get one free credit report every twelve months from each of the nationwide credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—by

You will need to provide certain information to access your report, such as your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.

You can order one, two, or all three reports at the same time, or you can request these reports at various times throughout the year. The option you choose will depend on the goal of your review. A report generated by one of the three major credit bureaus may not contain all of the information pertaining to your credit history. Therefore, if you want a complete view of your credit record at a particular moment, you should examine your report from each bureau at the same time. However, if you wish to detect any errors and monitor changes in your credit profile over time, you may wish to review a single credit report every four months.


Who else is allowed to see my credit report?

Because credit reports contain sensitive personal information, access to them is limited. Credit bureaus can provide credit reports only to

  • lenders from whom you are seeking credit;
  • lenders that have granted you credit;
  • telephone, cell phone, and utility companies that may provide services to you;
  • your employer or prospective employer, but only if you agree;
  • insurance companies that have issued or may issue an insurance policy for you;
  • government agencies reviewing your financial status for government benefits; and
  • anyone else with a legitimate business need for the information, such as a potential landlord or a bank at which you are opening a checking account.

Credit bureaus also furnish reports if required by court orders or federal grand jury subpoenas. Upon your written request, they will also issue your report to a third party.


Does the credit bureau decide whether to grant me credit?

No, credit bureaus do not make credit decisions. They provide credit reports to lenders who decide whether to grant you credit.


How long does negative information, such as late payments, stay on my credit report?

Generally, negative credit information stays on your credit report for seven years. If you have filed for personal bankruptcy, that fact stays on your report for ten years. Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. Information about criminal convictions may stay on your credit report indefinitely.


What can I do if I am denied credit, insurance, or employment because of something in my credit report? What can I do if I receive less favorable credit terms than other consumers because of something in my credit report?

If you are denied credit, insurance, or employment—or some other adverse action is taken against you, such as lowering your credit limit on credit card account—because of information in your credit report, the lender, insurance company, or employer must notify you and provide you with the name, address, and phone number of the credit bureau that provided the credit report used to make the decision. You can get a free credit report from this credit bureau if you request it within sixty days after receiving the notice. This free report is in addition to your annual free report.

In addition, lenders may use a credit report to set the terms of credit they offer you. If a lender offers you terms less favorable (for example, a higher rate) than the terms offered to consumers with better credit histories based on the information in your credit report, the lender may give you a notice with information about the credit bureau that provided the credit report used to make the decision. Again, you can get a free credit report (in addition to your annual free report) from this credit bureau if you request it within sixty days after receiving the notice.

If you receive one of these notices, it’s a good idea to get your free credit report and review the information in it right away. If you think your credit report contains inaccurate or incomplete information, follow the steps in Credit Report Errors below, to try to resolve the issue. For tips on how to improve your chances of being granted credit, or to improve your chances of receiving credit on better terms, read the Federal Reserve’s 5 Tips for Improving Your Credit Score (available online at https://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/creditscore/creditscoretips_2.pdf).


I’ve been receiving unsolicited credit offers. Why? Can I opt-out of receiving these offers?

Credit bureaus may sell the names and addresses of consumers who meet specific credit criteria to creditors or insurers, who must then offer them credit or insurance. For example, a creditor could request from a credit bureau the names and addresses of consumers who have a credit score of 680 or higher and then offer credit to those consumers. You can have your name and address removed from these lists by opting-out of the listing. This will reduce the number of unsolicited offers you receive. To opt-out, call 888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or visit optoutprescreen.com. You will need to provide certain information in order to opt-out, such as your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. You have the ability to opt-out of receiving offers either for five years or permanently. If you want to opt-out permanently, you will need to fill-out, sign, and mail-in a form. The form is available by either calling the toll-free number or visiting the website. You can reverse your opt-out decision at any time to start receiving offers of credit and insurance again by calling the toll-free phone number or visiting the website.


Your Credit Score

What is a credit score? How is my credit score calculated? A credit score is a number that reflects the information in your credit report. The score summarises your credit history and helps lenders predict how likely it is that you will repay a loan and make payments when they are due. Lenders may use credit scores in deciding whether to grant you credit, what terms you are offered, or the rate you will pay on a loan.

Information used to calculate your credit score can include:

  • the number and type of accounts you have (credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, etc.);
  • whether you pay your bills on time;
  • how much of your available credit you are currently using;
  • whether you have any collection actions against you;
  • the amount of your outstanding debt; and
  • the age of your accounts.


What can cause my credit score to change?

Because your credit score reflects the information in your credit report, changes to your credit report may cause your credit score to change. For instance, if you pay your bills late or incur more debt, your credit score may go down. However, if you pay down an outstanding balance on a credit card or mortgage or correct an error in your credit report, your credit score may go up.


How can I get my credit score?

In some cases, a lender may tell you your credit score for free when you apply for credit. For example, if you apply for a mortgage, you will receive the credit score or scores that were used to determine whether the lender would extend credit to you and on what terms. You may also receive a free credit score or scores from lenders when you apply for other types of credit, such as an automobile loan or a credit card.

You may also purchase your credit score from any of the credit bureaus by calling them or visiting their websites.

Equifax: Call 1-800-685-1111 or visit equifax.com/compare-products

Experian: Call 1-888-397-3742 or visit experian.com/consumer-products/person…

TransUnion: Call 1-800-493-2392 or visit transunion.com/corporate/personal/cre…


How can I improve my credit score?

To find out steps you can take to improve your credit score, read the Federal Reserve’s 5 Tips for Improving Your Credit Score (available online at https://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/creditscore/creditscoretips_2.pdf).


Credit Report Errors

How can I correct errors found in my credit report?

If you find errors in your credit report, you may dispute the information and request that the information be deleted or corrected. To do so, you should contact either the credit bureau that provided the report or the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit bureau.

To contact the credit bureau, call the toll-free number on your credit report or visit their website:

To contact the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit bureau, look on your credit report, in an account statement, or on the company’s website for contact information for handling such disputes.

When disputing information on your credit report, you should:

  • Provide information about yourself, such as your name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number;
  • Identify specific details about the information that is being disputed and explain the basis of your dispute;
  • Have a copy of your credit report that contains the disputed information available; and
  • Provide supporting documentation, such as a copy of the relevant portion of the consumer report, a police report, a fraud or identity theft affidavit, or account statements.


What happens once I send in information to correct information in my credit report?

If you submit your dispute through a credit bureau or directly to the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit bureau, your dispute must be investigated, usually within thirty days. If you provide additional information during the thirty-day investigation, that investigation period may be extended an additional fifteen days in some circumstances. When the investigation is completed, either the credit bureau or the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit bureau must give you the written results of its investigation. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit bureaus so they can correct the information in your credit report. You can get a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. This free report is in addition to your annual free report. If an item is changed or deleted, a credit bureau cannot put the disputed information back in your credit report unless the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit bureau verifies that the information is, indeed, accurate and complete. You can request that the credit bureau send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. A corrected copy of your report can be sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.


What if an investigation does not resolve my dispute?

If an investigation does not resolve your dispute, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your future credit reports. You also can ask the credit bureau to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past, but you may have to pay a fee for this service

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Indian Accountants

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by homeis

Our community recommendations for reliable and efficient accountants who understand your needs better.

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Indian Immigration Lawyers

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by homeis

The List of all your recommended Indian immigration lawyers

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Kinjal  Sakhida
Vinodh Thomas
Geethanjali Krishnappa
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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — the federal law enforcement agency in charge of arresting, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants or documented immigrants with criminal convictions — is reportedly begiun nationwide raids, potentially impacting thousands of immigrant families.


Dealing with law enforcement can be stressful, so it’s important to know your rights before you’re face-to-face with ICE agents. While there’s never any guarantee that law enforcement officers will follow the law, here’s what they can and can’t legally do to you and what you can legally demand.


Don’t Open the Door:

Like police, ICE can’t enter your home without a warrant signed by a judge. You can ask ICE to slide their document under the door, if they have one, to determine whether or not it's a judicial warrant.


Ask to Speak to a Lawyer:

A good immigration lawyer can help guide clients through the complicated and often confusing system of immigration law, so find one in your area and discuss your status with them, not with law enforcement. If you're at risk, try to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Immigration Lawyer Search lets you specify what kind of immigration law you need help with, i.e., “Deportation - Removal,” and search your local area if you enter a city name or zip code; you can even search by last name if you’re familiar with a lawyer in your area by name but not sure how to find them.


Remain Silent or Tell ICE You Wish to Do So:

You have the right to remain silent in any interaction with an ICE agent, and you can tell them so. What you say can be used against you in immigration court or deportation proceedings, so always be cautious of what you say to ICE or law enforcement and ask to speak to a lawyer before any communication takes place.


Don’t Sign Anything:

Unless you’ve already spoken to a lawyer who advises it you shouldn’t sign any documents ICE asks you to. According to the Miami Herald, signing a document provided by ICE may mean you’re signing your own deportation order.


Don’t Lie or Provide False Documents:

Lying to ICE agents can be dangerous. Providing false documents can be used against you in court proceedings.


Don’t Flee or Resist Arrest:

If you run from ICE, the results can be deadly not just legally dangerous. People who help an immigrant escape ICE can be charged with things like obstruction of justice by the Department of Justice, as was the case with a judge who let an immigrant escape after a court hearing. People who attempt to physically stop an arrest can also be charged with resisting a public officer.


You Don’t Have to Tell Them Where Someone Else Is:

You’re under no obligation to tell ICE where someone they’re looking for is, but you shouldn’t lie. Instead, ask the agents to leave contact information.


You’re Allowed to Ask for an Interpreter:

If an immigrant placed under arrest is not an English-speaker, they can ask for an interpreter during their detention process with ICE.


You Should Make a Plan With Family or Loved Ones:

In the event you are detained, it’s wise to have an action plan in place to handle any immediate concerns like child and pet care, and long-term issues like home maintenance and collecting mail. Attorneys also advise that loved ones have on hand the name and contact information for an attorney so they can make contact in the event of an arrest.


Keep Learning and Building Networks:

No one resource can prepare you for every possible ICE raid. But massive compilations of resources that cover workplace considerations, community preparedness, and more are available online from the information service Informed Immigrant and as collaboration projects between immigration groups.


Stay Safe homeis!

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When you are immigrating to the United States, it is natural to want to land on strong financial footing. However, all immigrants face a common barrier: a lack of US credit history. This can impede your ability to get approved for a credit card, apply for a mortgage, or engage in other types of financial transactions. While it’s possible to use cash day-to-day, it is a good idea to begin building a credit history as soon as possible. Building credit can make it easier to apply for a mortgage, get a car loan, rent an apartment, or get a rewards credit card. Even if you aren’t looking to do those things now, you might want to in the future.


Keep Reading:

myrawealth.com/insights/an-immigrants… 

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MAY 22, 2019 Financial Education Debt Credit Handling Debt Efficiently – Until It’s Gone It’s no secret that making purchases on credit cards will result in paying more for those items over time if you’re paying interest charges from month-to-month. Despite this well-known fact, the average American now owes over $6,000 in credit card debt.* For households, the number is much higher, at nearly $16,000 per household. Add in an average mortgage of over $200,000, plus nearly $25,000 of non-mortgage debt (car loans, college loans, or other loans) and the molehill really is starting to look like a mountain. The good news? You have the potential to handle your debt efficiently and deal with a molehill-sized molehill instead of a mountain-sized one. Focus on the easiest target first. Some types of debt don’t have an easy solution. While it’s possible to sell your home and find more affordable housing, actually following through with this might not be a great option. Selling your home is a huge decision and one that comes with expenses associated with the sale – it’s possible to lose money. Unless you find yourself with a job loss or similar long-term setback, often the best solution to paying down debt is to go after higher interest debt first. Then examine ways to cut your housing costs last. Freeze your spending (literally, if it helps). Due to its higher interest rate, credit card debt is usually the first thing to tackle when you decide to start eliminating debt. Let’s be honest, most of us might not even know where that money goes, but our credit card statement is a monthly reminder that it went somewhere. If credit card balances are a problem in your household, the first step is to cut back on your purchases made with credit, or stop paying with credit altogether. Some people cut up their cards to enforce discipline. Ever heard the recommendation to freeze your cards in a block of ice as a visual reminder of your commitment to quit credit? Another thing to do is to remove your card information from online shopping sites to help ensure you don’t make mindless purchases. Set payment goals. Paying the minimum amount on your credit card keeps the credit card company happy for 2 reasons. First, they’re happy that you made a payment on time. Second, they’re happy if you’re only paying the minimum because you might never pay off the balance, so they can keep collecting interest indefinitely. Reducing or stopping your spending with credit was the first step. The second step is to pay more than the minimum so that those balances start going down. Examine your budget to see where there’s room to reduce spending further, which will allow you to make higher payments on your credit cards and other types of debt. In most households, an honest look at the bank statement will reveal at least a few ways you might free up some money each month. Have a sale. To get a jump-start if money is still tight, you might want to turn some unused household items into cash. Having a community yard sale or selling your items online can turn your dust collectors into cash that you can then use toward reducing your balances. Transfer balances prudently. Consider balance transfers for small balances with high interest rates that you think you’ll be able to pay off quickly. Transferring that balance to a lower interest or no interest card can save on interest costs, freeing up more money to pay down the balances. The interest rates on balance transfers don’t stay low forever, however – typically for a year or less – so it’s important to make sure you can pay transferred balances off quickly. Also, check if there’s a balance transfer fee. Depending on the fee, moving those funds might not make sense. Don’t punish yourself. Getting serious about paying down debt may seem to require draconian measures. But there likely isn’t a need to just stay home eating tuna fish sandwiches with all the lights turned off. Often, all that’s required is an adjustment of old spending habits. If your drive home takes you past a mall where it would be too tempting to “just pick a little something up”, take a different route home. But it’s important to have a small treat occasionally as well. If you’re making progress on your debt, you deserve to reward yourself sometimes. All within your budget, of course! Sources: El Issa, Erin. “2017 American Household Credit Card Debt Study.” NerdWallet*, 2017, nerd.me/2ht7SZg. WFG2194224-0718u wfgconnects.com/palasamudrum/blog

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Types of Visas

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by homeis

The purpose of your intended travel and other facts will determine what type of visa is required under U.S. immigration law. There are various types of nonimmigrant visas for temporary visitors to travel to the U.S., if you are not a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident. It's important to have information about the type of nonimmigrant visa you will need for travel, and the steps required to apply for the visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.


B-1/B-2 Tourist/Visitor Visas

Available to individuals who are coming in for medical treatment, domestic employees or nannies (must be accompanying a foreign national employer), athletes, amateur and professional (competing for prize money only) and all visitors coming to the U.S for business or pleasure. B-1 business visitor visas are for a short duration and must not involve local employment. Nationals of certain countries may be eligible to visit the US for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.


C Transiting the United States

Available if you are traveling in immediate and continuous transit through the United States en route to another country.


E-1/E-2 Treaty and Investor Visas

Investors and traders and their employees may receive visas to carry on their businesses in the US if their home country has a commercial treaty with the US conferring visa eligibility.


F-1 and M-1 Student Visas  

Students seeking to pursue a full course of study at a school either as academic and language students in the United States may be eligible for a visa for the course of their study plus, in some cases, a period for practical training in their field of study.


H-1B/H-1C Specialty Occupation (Professionals) Visas

Professional workers for example physicians with at least a bachelor's degree (or its equivalent work experience) may be eligible for a non-immigrant visa if their employers can demonstrate that they are to be paid at least the prevailing wage for the position or employed in specialty occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge. Nurses traveling to areas short of health care professionals are granted H-1C visa.


K-1 Fiancé (e) Visas

A Fiancé (e) of a US citizen is eligible for a non-immigrant visa conditioned on the conclusion of the marriage within 90 days.


J-1/J-2

Available for Exchange visitors or their children (under age 21) or spouse, professors, short term research scholars, teachers who are participating in an approved exchange programs.al


L-1 Intra-company Transfer Visas

Available to executives, managers and specialized knowledge employees transferring to their employer's U.S. affiliate. As an executive and manager, you may be eligible for permanent residency without the need for a labor certification.


O-1 Extraordinary Ability Worker Visas

This visa is aside for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business or athletics and includes entertainers, athletes, scientists, and businesspersons.


P-1 Artists and Athletes Visas

This category covers athletes, artists and entertainers.


R-1 Religious Worker Visas

Religious workers may be eligible for an R-1 visa.


TC and TN NAFTA and US-Canada Free Trade Agreement Visas

A special visa category has been set up for nationals of Canada and Mexico under the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement.


PERMANENT RESIDENCY VISAS ("GREEN CARDS")

Family Sponsored Immigration Visas

U.S. citizens may petition for spouses, parents, children and siblings. Permanent residents may petition for spouses and children.


Employer-Sponsored Immigrant Visas

EB-1 Foreign Nationals of Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Professors and Researchers and Multinational Executives and Managers

Individuals in this category can petition for permanent residency without having to go through the time consuming labor certification process.


EB-2 Workers with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability in the Sciences, Arts or Business

Available for people who must have a job offer and the potential employer must complete the labor certification process which involves a testing of the job market to demonstrate that the potential visa holder is not taking a job away from a U.S. worker.


EB-3 Skilled Workers and Professionals

Visa holders in this category normally must have a job offer and the potential employer must complete the labor certification process.


EB-4 Special Immigrant Visas for Religious Workers

Ministers of religion are eligible for permanent residency.


DV-1 Visas (the "Green Card Lottery")

55,000 visas are annually allotted in a random drawing to individuals from nations underrepresented in the total immigrant pool.


Other Statuses

Refugee and Asylum Applications

Available for persons with a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Temporary Protected Status

Available to individuals from selected countries which the U.S. currently recognizes as unsafe and allowing individuals to remain in the U.S. for the duration of their status, though it doesn’t lead to a visa.


TN Status

Allows certain Mexican and Canadian workers to avoid the visa application process by proceeding directly to a U.S. port of entry and presenting the necessary documents.

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Ever wonder why you’re paying the premium you’re paying? It’s not arbitrary. Read on to take a peek into some factors that can determine the amount you’ll pay. An insurance company acts as source of money to pay benefactors in case an insurance contract is triggered. Insurance companies use statistics and probability projections to determine how much money someone should pay into the pool based on the probability that person will make an insurance claim. There are many factors that play into this premium amount, but typically those who are more likely to make a claim are required to pay more into the pool. How insurance works The concept itself is relatively simple: bad things happen sometimes and people want to avoid financial ruin that could arise from those bad things. To maintain peace of mind, or sometimes by law, people and/or companies will obtain insurance to reduce the risk of ruin. People also use insurance to “make themselves whole” again after financial issue, such as a car accident or the loss of income. All those who want to obtain an insurance policy apply to be part of a pool. The insurance company then calculates how many people are in the pool, how much money they’ll probably need to pay insurance claims, then calculate each individual’s risk to the company. For example, let’s take 500 people who want car insurance, and they drive similar cars in similar driving styles. Out of these 500 people, the company analyzes historical data from the pool and then anticipates that three people per month will make claims. Additionally, the company calculates the claim amounts based on past data and the characteristics of pool members, like driving style, location, and type of vehicle. Then the insurer adds up those claims, divides the amount by the number of members (500 here), and tells each member to pay 1/500th of the claim amount. The result is that no single person is devastated by a single catastrophic event, all 500 people have a way to cover themselves if that event happens to them, and each person only pays 1/500th of a claim each month. Which factors affect premiums Which factors affect premiums on an insurance policy vary widely across insurance types. Driving style and vehicle value are obvious determining factors in car insurance. But so are other factors you may not be able to change, like location: those who commute to work spend more time in their cars and thus increase the probability of having an accident, simply for being in the car longer. Health and life insurance focus on healthy lifestyles. If you’re more likely to live longer and require less medical attention, the lower your premiums. Renters and homeowners insurance consider the value of the property and the contents therein. Insurance policies will also vary based on the amount of coverage they offer. If your fire insurance only covers $2,000 worth of possessions, all things being equal, you’re probably going to pay a lower premium than someone who wants $20,000 of coverage. Reducing your premiums To avoid frequently making lower-risk members pay for the claims of higher-risk members, not everyone is thrown together in the same pool. If you can adjust your personal factors so that you’re entered into a different pool, you might see substantial reductions in your insurance premium. Your insurance company or agent should be able to help you identify which factors you score high for in riskiness so you can try to reduce your costs. For example, if you smoke, quitting may greatly reduce your premiums (although you may have a waiting period like 12 months after you quit in order to qualify as a non-smoker). If you have several speeding tickets, ask how much a driving school certificate might help reduce your premiums. The takeaway here is that your riskiness is based on a quantification of factors and the probability that any one of those factors will trigger a claim. The expected cost of covering the claim is then multiplied by the probability the claim will occur. Similarly risky people will be grouped together, then asked to pay their portion into the pool of expected claim payouts. Changes you can make in your lifestyle may add up to significant savings with your premiums.
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Budgeting 101-Where should I start

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by Financial Literacy

It’s the new year so there are bound to be some new resolutions you want to stick to. If one of them is improving your budgeting skills – or maybe just creating a budget in the first place – read on for some guidelines that may help reduce some of your expenses (including what you might call the essentials). Start with debt and interest rates If you have any loans in your name, rest assured there will be interest associated with those loans, unless you’ve got a really nice aunt who loaned you some money interest-free. From the borrower’s perspective, interest is simply the expense of receiving money from a creditor which you’re required to pay back over time. No one wants to pay higher interest than necessary. In contrast to other expenses, like rent, food, or entertainment, interest itself produces absolutely no value for the borrower. The borrowed money may produce value, but the interest itself does not. For that reason, you’re going to want to pay as little interest on your loans as possible. One strategy is to transfer credit card balances to lower APR credit cards – just beware of transfer fees. Read the fine print to make sure the new card actually carries a lower interest rate, as sometimes the rate after the introductory period may go up. If you can refinance any of your loans, like student, auto, or home, consider it. For example, there’s no reason to pay 5% if you can pay 4%. (Again, make sure you understand the terms and any fees involved.) Slim down the essentials This is the time when all items in your budget are going to come under consideration. Everything is on the table. For transportation, any reduction in cost you can make is going to depend on your location. If you live in a high-density urban area and you normally drive yourself or use public transit to get to work or other destinations, ask yourself if you can walk or cycle instead. These options often provide health benefits as well. The key? Look at the essential sections of your budget and mentally run through how you obtain those essentials, like driving to the nearest grocery store or who your landlord is. Then brainstorm alternatives for paying for these items or services – anything is fair game! (For example, would your landlord reduce your rent if you help out with yard maintenance?) Finally, do a little research and analysis to see if those alternatives are cheaper (and feasible). Eliminate non-essentials The next step is to look at each non-essential and determine its utility to you. If you barely think about the actual purchase, you might have simply developed the routine of purchasing that item or service (think: “monthly movie subscription service you never use anymore”). In that case, the hardest part might be combing through your credit card statement and nixing the services you never use. Another example of routine, autopilot spending might be the soda you buy with your lunch. Do you really need it? Maybe not. Switching to tea or coffee that you can brew at home may be cheaper. And water is (usually) free. Repeat this process with every non-essential. Are you really using your 10GB/mo mobile internet plan? If not, look for a lower, more cost-effective GB plan. The key here is to try to distinguish between convenience and necessity. Don’t discount the discount There are discounts everywhere, from loyalty programs to manufacturers’ coupons to seasonal specials. If there is an essential that burns your budget, it may be worth checking to see if you’re eligible for a government program.[i] Some credit cards offer rewards programs, but be very careful to pay off the full amount each month to avoid accruing interest, otherwise your rewards could be negated. Keep the big picture in mind Sometimes it can be hard to justify the time and effort that might be involved to save $2 per day. It’s just two dollars, right? But look at the accumulated savings. Saving $2 per day for a year translates to over $700, or about $60 per month. If you choose to brew that tea instead of buying the soda, maybe you can afford the 10GB plan instead of the 1GB plan. [i] usa.gov/benefits WFG112772-0119

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