Couples and Money: What Type of Debt Should We Pay Off First?

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What debt should you tackle first?  We've got some tips from CommunityAmerica Credit Union!

Weighing our options.

What type of debt should my spouse and I pay off first?

The answer to this question depends on the type of debt you’re carrying. If you’re hauling around credit card debt at 15 to 18 percent interest, you need to pay that off pronto. Student, car and home loans need to be attended to as well, but the interest on these loans doesn’t hold a candle to credit cards. Carrying credit card debt or missing payments does a number on your credit score, too. If you have multiple cards or debts, use the snowball repayment method to figure out which to pay off first.

When you and your spouse are making a choice to pay off debt, it’s also important to remember that if you’re married, it’s not his debt or her debt; it’s your debt, together. You’re a team and punishing the other isn’t going to help the situation. Work together and you’re bound to see results sooner.

Tips To Save On Party Supplies

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Parties can be fun and are a great way to get together to celebrate.....but the decoration costs can sky rocket quickly!  Check out this list of tips to help save money on those items you want to help make your party fun!!

Summer is officially here! Yay! However, summer brings parties, entertaining and other costs that you may not incur as much of in the other months. You can host a successful party with adorable decorations without breaking the bank! So what are the best tips to save on party supplies?

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are the tips which were shared by our readers.

 

“Dollar tree! And if it’s a family or neighborhood gathering, we do potluck and everyone bring something like cups, plates, etc. We go easy on decor.” –  Matt/Amber T.

Make a menu and decide on one or two things for each category of food instead of ten lol. You dont need three pasta salads and seven meats. Seeing it on paper shows you how much food you are already going to have.

Also I try to make my own decor and
work it into being purposeful. Like a dressed up sunday bar. It serves and is pretty. I made my own pin the tail game for my sons birthday which was dinosaurs. I did pin the horn on the triceratops and made the whole sign festive and awesome. So it was decorative and a party game. We also always make a choice between more variety or more people. If we want more people we do more generic stuff. For borthdays we usually want more specific food and we like doing thank you bags (usually cookies although one year my son had a farm animal themed birthday and the partiers got a planter I got on sale and some seeds and gardening gloves) so we only invite very close people. We keep it to the kids direct aunts and uncle in the area and grandparents and cousins. That allows us to go a little more all out then if every third cousin and friend of a friend were there. And our kids enjoy themselves more.” – Lacey J.

Dollar tree, clearance isles, Dollar stores, and walmart/target for decorating. Then make a food list and study it to see what to actually get. I usually make to big of a list, so I have to cut it down
Make invitations, banners and decorations on your own.” – Mindy S.

“We only buy the character tablecloth. The rest is coordinating solid colored stuff from the dollar store.” – Lisa B.

“Make the decorations yourself. Don’t buy the pre-made stuff.” – Katie H.

“Pinterest is your friend. Get creative. We used a two dollar table cloth from Walmart and decorated it with stars, and turned it into a photo booth.” – Steff/Randi N.

Instead of paying for a fancy (aka expensive) theme cake, buy a large sheet cake from Walmart and decorate it yourself. For example, if you have a Lego themed party, you can put Legos on the cake, etc. We wanted a Minecraft cake last year, but to have one made for the large number of people we were going to have would have cost a small fortune. We bought a white sheet cake and used edible paper to make a creeper face. Much cheaper, and it turned out cute!” – Debi O.

“I look for printable party supplies online that are free. You can find pretty much any theme and they are super cute. It just takes some time to print and cut everything but once you do that and put it together it comes out quite nice. Also, if it’s not free online there is usually a small fee and you can have a 100% themed party with more decorations than you could even buy at the store. It’s definitely worth it.” – Danielle P.

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!

 

10 Awesome Kitchen Hacks!

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There are lots of amazing kitchen hacks out there  -- and many are truly amazing!  We've put together a list of TEN hacks - all of which will save you money!!!

I love reading about all of these amazing hacks to make life better.  They usually are things I’d never have thought of myself!  While many are about making life simpler, there are some which actually can save you money!  We’ve put together a list of TEN amazing hacks which are designed to do just that – make your wallet happy!

Just click the link below and you’ll go right to the idea!!  Tell them we sent you their way!!!

 

How to Clean Your Dishwasher with Tang // by One Creative Mommy

How to Remove Rust Stains from Knives with Lemon Juice // by Thrifty Jinxy

DIY Glass Kitchen Canisters // by Penny Pinchin’ Mom

Why You Should Grease Oven Racks // by Thrifty DIY Diva

DIY Bandits Oil Disinfecting Kitchen Spray // by Live Simply

Spray Measuring Cups with Cooking Spray // by Our Best Bites

10 Uses for Ice Trays // by Recipes to Make

How to Clean Your Microwave without Scrubbing or Chemicals // by Simply Stacie

DIY Jet Dry // by The Thrifty Couple

DIY Sponge Icepacks // by My Kitchen Escapades

How to Get The Best Bang for Your Buck with Fireworks!

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If you are able to set of fireworks near where you live, you sure don't want to over spend!  Check out our easy tips to help you get the best "Bang for your Buck" this July 4th!

 

I love fireworks. There’s just something magical about watching your money blow up in the sky for seven seconds. I really do love them, but isn’t that what it feels like sometimes? You buy this huge, $75.00 finale firework, and it lasts maybe ten seconds, and you’re left going, “That was it?” I’ve been working in the fireworks business for twelve years now, and I am going to share some secret tips with you to help you save the most and get the biggest show this year!

1. Price Match.  Did you know that if you find fireworks cheaper somewhere else, most places will price match! I’m not saying, go ask for money back after you’ve purchased, and then found cheaper fireworks elsewhere, I’m saying check prices before you buy!

2. Use Coupons!  Lots of stands will either have coupons available, or will put coupons in your local paper as an incentive to get you in the door. These often are really good deals! Multiple places I have worked with have also price matched another store’s coupon, if you have it with you. It never hurts to ask!

3. Visit a locally owned stand, not the big chain stores.  You will, guaranteed, save more money working with a smaller, locally owned stand, than shopping with big box stores. It seems like they would have the better deals, but they won’t. Some smaller stands can be a rip off too, so make sure you check around before just shopping at the first stand you see.

4. Skip the finale firework.  I know. The cardinal sin. I’m letting you in on something crucial here, so listen to this…or read it, rather. “Finale” fireworks, or 500 grams as we in the industry know them, are mostly a waste of money. 500 grams is the legal limit of firepowder you can have in one residential firework. So ALL of the big fireworks that are typically, $40+ are 500 grams. Even the ones that say they have more than other fireworks that size, just have 500 grams. That being said, buy 200 gram fireworks. You know them as the ones that are $8-$20 each. They’re smaller, but you’ll notice they’re heavier when you pick them up. The tighter the firework is packed, the bigger the boom and higher the burst. So those big tubes on the 500 grams? Actually makes them more lame. When you’re buying reloadables, or artillery shells, also pick up the box and go with the ones that feel heavier as well. The same rule applies to them too! If this is all overhwelming, ask questions, and the stand attendants should be able to help you!

5. Military Discount?  If you’re in the military, or were in the military, first off, thank you. You and your fellow soldiers are the reason we can kep celebrating this holiday year after year! That being said, bring your military ID, and ask for a discount. Most places will give you at least 10% off your purchases, even if it’s not advertised. Again, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

6. Bundling.  Buying package deals, or going in with friends to save some money is a great idea. Please understand as well, that most firework stands get every other person asking for a discount or a deal if they, “buy a lot.” Your definition of, “a lot” and our definition of, “a lot” are two completely different things. If you’re only planning on spending a couple hundred dollars on fireworks, don’t ask for a discount. Tons and tons of people walk through our doors and spend hundreds of dollars without blinking. Make sure you offer reasonable amounts, and understand what it is to be a “big buyer” in this business when you aim to barter. We love to barter, but don’t plan to barter with us if you only want to spend a hundred bucks!

As a Family, Should We Save or Pay off Debt?

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As a family, should we be saving or paying off our debt?

Whether you should be saving or paying off debt depends on what you’re saving for. For example, putting money away for your kid’s college fund is a noble endeavor but if you’re still paying off your own student loans (with interest), you may consider putting the money toward your loans first. The less interest you’re paying every month, the more money you can put toward savings. Simple enough, but often difficult to put into perspective with competing priorities.

However, no matter what type of debt you have, you need to have enough saved to keep your family secure in the event of an emergency. Having two to three months’ salary tucked away for anything from a health scare to replacing a vehicle is crucial. Once you’ve established an emergency fund, you can feel better about sending any extra money toward debt.

 

Tips To Start A Savings Account

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Starting a savings account can be tough - but it is possible!  These are some must know tips to get started on the savings path!!!

 

Saving can be hard… Especially when a lot of people are struggling and living paycheck to paycheck. I’ve been there, we’ve all been there at some point, but how can you make your situation better? Time! A savings account doesn’t grow over night and we know that while pennies don’t seem like dollars now, they will, with time.

Last week I talked about how to curve impulse buys and how you could save $2,600 in a year. This week it’s a bit more simple. So how exactly do you start a savings account when you already live paycheck to paycheck?

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are the tips which were shared by our readers.

 

“So many people buy coffee each morning -make and take your coffee for a savings of $1.50-4 per day.” – Martha K.

This week there wasn’t many responses, not near as many as last week. A few of our readers said they switched to the all cash method and it helped them watch their spending. Another reader mentioned 10% of your income in savings is a great starting place. My only concern about 10% is, if you gross $700 per week you simply may not be able to afford $70 and that’s okay.

Did you know that you can start building a savings account for as little as $2.85 per day or $20 per week! In one years time you could save $1,040! In 5 years time you could have $5,200 and in 10 years $10,400!

Ways to Save $2.85 per day:

  • Instead of stopping for your morning coffee make it at home and put the money you would have spent into savings. (avg. $2-$4 per day)
  • If you smoke, cut back and/or quit and put that into savings. (avg. $4-$6 per day)
  • Car pool to work if you can and put the money you would have put into fuel in savings. (avg. $10 per week)
  • Shop with a list and stick to it. Curve your impulse buys and throw that into savings. (avg $20 per week)

The averages above are guesstimates, but realistic and can help make your goal of a savings attainable!

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!

 

Tips to Curve Impulse Buying

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You know that guilty feeling when you shop?  Maybe it is because it is shopping on an impulse and then overspending.  We've got some simple tips you can follow to help control that type of shopping (which saves yourself a LOT of stress)!!

We’ve all bought on impulse, whether it was a new six hundred dollar television, a three hundred dollar name brand purse and even just a ten dollar pair of earrings. When you head out to the store to buy things that you need how often does something that you want find its way in your cart?

Impulse buying can cost you a lot of money. Let’s say that the average person shops at least one time per week for the sake of this article. In the one shopping trip you spend $50 on impulse buys. If you continue to do the exact same every week for the year you’ve now cost yourself $2,600!! That’s a lot. So how do you curve impulse buying?

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are the tips which were shared by our readers.

“We are saving up to redo our floors, so I ask myself “Do I want this more than my floors being done?” It works most the time.” – Frankie S.

“I just ask myself, “Will my husband be mad I bought this?”” – Erin K.

“I pick things up and continue shopping. The impulse items go on the top so that they’re staring at me. After some time, I put it back…if I can’t put it back, then clearly I want it.” – Marlene A.

“Avoid home sales parties!” – Rachel P.

“If you find something in the store you want but don’t need, don’t buy it. Once you get home write the item down on a piece of paper with the date, in thirty days (from the date you added the item) go back and re-evaluate the item. Do you still want/need the item, If so buy it. If you don’t and you forgot about it, cross it off the list and don’t purchase it.” – Danielle P.

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!

 

 

 

Tips to Boost Your Credit Score — Three Simple Things to Try

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If you have less then stellar credit, there are so many things you can do to make changes.  These are the 3 simplest (and best proven) ways to boost that score!!

 

Of all the ways to fix your credit score, these three are the best at boosting your credit and can help you do it in six months!

Christmas will be here before you know it. For a lot of people, that means high interest credit cards and a wave of regret in January. I’m not advocating overspending and giving in to the holiday shopping bug, but if you are going to do it, there’s only one way to save money – fix your credit and get a lower rate on your credit cards.

Credit card rates don’t come cheap with 10% generally considered a low rate and many borrowers with poor credit paying 24% and higher. Still, improving your credit to get that lower rate can save you a lot of money over the long-run. Charge just $1,000 on a card with a 24% rate and you’ll pay more than $239 in interest over two years. Charge the same amount on a card with a 10% rate and you’ll save more than $190 over the same period.

Increasing your credit score doesn’t happen over night. It typically takes about six months to start seeing real improvement. As luck would have it, that’s just about the time you’ve got before Christmas. Check out the three steps below to get started now and saving money by the time ol’ Saint Nick comes down the chimney.

 

Understand your Credit Score

Fixing your credit score starts with understanding what it is and how the three credit rating agencies calculate your score. The exact calculation is a secret but we know that there are five factors that affect your credit score:

Your history of payments is the biggest factor but something you really can’t change. If you’ve missed payments in the past, just resolve to do better in the future. This starts with making a budget you can keep and getting your debt to a manageable level.

The total amount owed on all debt; including home mortgages, car loans and credit cards is another big factor. This feeds into your debt-to-income ratio and the only way to fix it is to either make more money or pay off some of that debt.

Your length of credit history is another that is beyond your control. If you’ve got no credit history, open up a small credit account and use it for regular purchases like groceries. Most credit cards have a 28-day grace period on purchases so pay it off every month and you won’t have to pay interest.

Too many requests for new credit or too many new loans can affect your score so it helps to plan ahead. If you are going to be needing a big loan sometime in the foreseeable future, hold off on any new credit for at least six months so it doesn’t look like you’re taking on too much credit.

Types of credit is really where you can help improve your credit score. Non-revolving debt, loans with fixed-terms that get paid off, are considered better credit by the rating agencies. By comparison, having a lot of revolving-debt on credit cards will drive your score lower.

 

Fixing Credit Report Errors – A long process but big payoff

The first step to improving your credit score is to fix any errors on your credit report. It doesn’t happen often but the Federal Trade Commission estimates that at least 5% of credit reports contain errors. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from annualcreditreport.com, download a copy from each credit bureau and check for errors.

If there are any errors, you will need to contact the credit bureaus to have the item removed. Each reporting agency has a process for removing errors and it generally takes about two or three months. Make sure you have the error removed on each credit report separately and you could see your score increase by as much as 40 points.

Equifax Credit Information Services, Inc
Address: P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
Telephone: 1-888-766-0008
Online: www.equifax.com

TransUnion LLC Consumer Disclosure Center
Address: P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
Telephone: 1-800-680-7289
Online: www.transunion.com

Experian National Consumer Assistance Center
Address: 475 Anton Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Telephone: 1-888-397-3742
Online: www.experian.com

 

Negotiate with Creditors to Remove Negative Comments

There’s also a way you can get negative comments removed from your credit reports as well. If you’ve got any payment that are behind or have been sent to a collection agency, contact the creditor and negotiate a settlement. They really don’t care about your credit score and just want to be paid off so agree to settle the loan, or a portion of it, if they agree to contact the credit reporting agency and have the negative comment removed. Be firm and make sure you get the deal in writing. Keep your end of the deal and check to make sure they keep their side of the deal about a month after the debt is paid.

 

Use Good Credit to Pay off Bad Credit

Remember that non-revolving debt does not ding your credit score as badly as revolving debt. If you’ve got high-interest credit card debt, pay it off by taking out a home loan or a peer-to-peer loan. Both of these types of loans are non-revolving and generally offer lower rates than credit cards. Only take out enough to pay off your credit card debt and don’t use it as an excuse to go shopping.

Beyond these three steps to fix your credit score, you really need to understand why you’ve got a lower score in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with having a low score because of a lack of credit history or other factors beyond your control. That’s something we all go through as we build our financial future.

If your credit score has dropped from negative marks on your credit report, things like failure to pay on time or at all, then trying to fix your score won’t do much good if you do not fix your spending habits (or start making more money). Learning how to make a budget you can keep doesn’t have to mean missing out on what makes you happy, it just means figuring out where you can save and where you can spend.

The best part about fixing your credit score is that it means more money in your pocket from lower interest rates. Prioritize the steps above for six months and you should see lower interest rates on any new loans. That saved money on lower rates can go a long way and can help put you on the path to financial freedom.

 

 

Joseph Hogue, CFA runs PeerFinance101, a blog where you share your stories of personal finance challenges and success. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to meeting your financial goals but you’ll find a lot of similarities in others’ stories and a lot of ideas that will help you get through your own challenges.

 

Couples And Money: Defining Wants vs. Needs

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2

 

Are you sure?

How do my partner and I divide up our wants vs. our needs?

 

When it comes to wants and needs, you and your partner may have very different ideas about how to categorize your purchases. What you consider a necessity – a certain brand of shampoo, cereal or motor oil – may seem frivolous to your spouse. Before bringing up what you think was an unnecessary purchase your partner made, it’s probably best to take a look at your own checkbook.

 

From there, you and your sweetheart can take a hard look at trimming extra expenses together. Basics like food, shelter (including utilities) and reliable transportation definitely fall into the “needs” category. Frequent eating out, cable television and new wardrobes do not. A good way to separate the two is to set a tighter monthly budget. Staying within these confines will force you both to ask yourselves, “Do I really need this?”

Saving Money When Eating Gluten Free

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If you or a family member needs to follow a gluten free diet, you know it can be very expensive.  Check out these tips which can help you save money - and still eat the way you need to.

 

There are so many people with aversions to Gluten (Celiac Disease).  This can make it very trying to not only make sure that the foods you prepare do not sicken your family, but that you also stay on track with your budget.  Here are some tips to help you do both:

Use coupons.  Believe it or not, there are coupons for Gluten Free products.  Sometimes, the manufacturer sells more than one product, which means you can use the coupon on the items which are Gluten free and still save.  I would also visit Mambo Sprouts for even more coupons.  This site focuses on savings for natural, organic and whole food products – and those are the only types of coupons you will find!

Opt for Less Expensive gluten-free items.  You can stick with items such as corn, rice and gluten-free oats, which are much less expensive.  By opting to eat these items instead of always quinoa, millet or buckwheat, you can cut your food bill.

Watch Amazon. Sometimes, the same Gluten Free products in your store are priced lower on-line at Amazon.  Not only will you save money, but you can also save time by not having to to to the store yourself.  This may not always hold true, but it is a page worth bookmarking and checking back with frequently.

Cook with foods which are naturally Gluten Free. Items such as dairy, produce, meats and poultry are all naturally Gluten Free.  If you skip most of the processed foods, you can eliminate the product from your diet (which means healthier eating for everyone in your family).

Buy in bulk. When you find a sale on those items you need or want, make sure you stock up.  Of course, make sure you don’t overbuy and have items go bad before you eat them, as that may be a waste.

Prepare your own foods. Often, the processed foods cost more, so why not cook your own? You can check out a few great FREE Gluten Free Kindle Books right now on Amazon (keep in mind that prices change quickly, so confirm the price before you click download):

You can also find bloggers which share Gluten Free recipes.  A few of these include:

What tips do you have to share with anyone who may be on a restricted diet?  We’d love to hear them!!