How Much Money Should I Keep In My Checking Account?

Young lady pulls money from her wallet for a cash purchase.There’s lots of talk in the world of personal finance about how to best manage a savings account. You might read up on financial experts who recommend keeping three to six months’ worth of living expenses in your savings account, or maybe you’ve seen a tip about socking away enough money to cover larger expenses. Either way, there’s lots of discussion about the ideal amount of money to keep in a savings account.

But what about our checking accounts? Most of us use these accounts on a daily basis. Every swipe of a debit card, every bill we pay and every personal check we write takes money out of our checking account.

How much money should we be keeping in these super-convenient accounts? Let’s find out.

What’s your magic number?
According to a 2019 NerdWallet survey, the average American checking account balance is approximately $2,900 but this number may not be right for you.

Everyone’s financial realities are different, and because of that, we have different answers to the question of how much money we should be keeping in our checking accounts. The general rule of thumb is to try to have one or two months’ of living expenses in it at all times. Some experts recommend adding 30 percent to this number as an extra cushion.

To determine your exact living expenses, track your spending over several months, including all bills and discretionary spending. Be sure to include seasonal and occasional expenses as well.

Why keep that much money in your checking account?
Your checking account is your transactional account. This is where you’ll draw the money for all of your spending throughout the month, so you’ll want to be sure you have enough funds to cover those expenses. But it goes deeper than that. Here are three reasons you want to keep your checking account well-padded at all times:

1. Avoiding overdrafts. Even high-income earners can miscalculate their spending and end up with an overdrawn account. Why risk being charged overdraft fees for every transaction when you can easily avoid this mistake? [Here at Advantage One Credit Union, you can sign up for overdraft protection to ensure you never again pay a fee for an overdrawn account.]

2. Providing a cushion for pre-authorization holds. Some merchants, including those that operate gas stations, hotels, and car rentals, will place a pre-authorization hold on your debit card until you complete a transaction. Pre-authorizations can reduce your available checking account balance by up to $100 per hold. Once your transaction clears, the hold is released and the funds are available to you again. However, until then, the money is tied up. Keeping your checking account well-funded allows you to comfortably agree to pre-authorization holds without fearing an empty or overdrawn account.

3. Keeping liquid funds available. A robust checking account means access to cash is just an ATM transaction away. While most vendors accept various forms of payment, it’s helpful to know you have cash available if and when you need it.

Can I be keeping too much money in my checking account?
While it’s great to keep your checking account well-padded, taking it to the extreme is not recommended. Having an overstuffed checking account means you’re possibly missing out on the higher returns you can earn if you were to keep those same funds in a Advantage One Credit Union Money Market Account or in a Savings Certificate.

Once you’ve determined exactly how much money you should be keeping in your checking account, look into other options for the rest of your funds. You can speak to an FSP at Advantage One Credit Union to learn about our available options and other high-yield options to find the one that’s right for you.

Here at Advantage One Credit Union, we take the stress out of money management. Optimize your Advantage One Credit Union Checking Account by learning the ideal amount of money to keep in your account at all times.

Your Turn:
How much money do you keep in your checking account? Tell us what works for you in the comments.

money.com

nerdwallet.com

fool.com

11 Ways To Save On Back-to-School Shopping

Mom and young boy shopping for school clothes at a department storeAh, summer! It’s the season of fireworks and fireflies, road trips and rocky road ice cream, baseball and beach balls, flip-flops and ice pops.

But, just as you’re settling into the laid-back summer routine, retailers start rolling out their back-to-school displays, which may open that pit of dread into your stomach. Supply lists. New clothing. Backpacks, jeans, laptops and school shoes: It’s endless. And it’s so expensive!

In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, the average American parent will spend upward of $700 per child this shopping season.

If that’s enough to put a damper on your summer plans, take a deep breath and relax. You don’t need to spend yourself into debt just because everyone else seems to be doing it. Instead, take a proactive, mindful approach when shopping for the new school year and spend hundreds less than the national average. Let Advantage One Credit Union show you how!

Here are 11 creative ways to save on back-to-school shopping costs.

1. Go crazy for coupons
Why pay full price when you can get it for less? Use coupon sites like RetailMeNot.com, CouponCabin.com and Coupons.com for percentage-off or money-off coupons that will help you save big.

2. Shop the dollar store
Before hitting the big-box stores and their big-box prices, scour your local dollar store for school supply treasures that will only cost a buck.

3. Get backpacks at Hollar.com, eBags.com or 6PM.com
Don’t spend a fortune on your child’s bookbag without checking out these sites. If your child is set on having a character backpack this year, check out Hollar.com for a great selection at crazy-low prices. Does your little one have designer taste? Try eBags.com or 6PM.com for brand-name bags at a fraction of their regular price.

4. Shop tax-free
Many states offer tax-free holidays on clothing, footwear, and/or school supplies during the back-to-school shopping season to ease the financial burden of cash-strapped parents. Take full advantage by shopping during these days.
Here are the tax-free dates for back-to-school season, 2019:

Alabama: July 19-21
Arkansas: August 3-4
Connecticut: August 18-24
Florida: August 2-4
Iowa: August 2-3
Maryland: August 11-17
Mississippi: July 26-27
Missouri: August 2-4
New Mexico: August 2-4
Ohio: August 2-4
Oklahoma: August 2-4
South Carolina: August 2-4
Tennessee: July 26-28
Texas: August 9-11
Virginia: August 2-4

5. Shop on Sunday and Monday
Weekly sales on school supplies will go live at the beginning of the week – and the hottest items will be grabbed up first. Shop early in the week to score the best deals.

6. Utilize in-store price matching
Many stores you may be visiting this season offer in-store price matching or will even match/beat a competitor’s lower price.
Read through this list so you know when to ask for a better price:

  • Staples will match a lower price on an identical item and throw in an additional 10 percent discount.
  • Kohl’s will offer you the same price as a competitor as long as you bring in the competition’s ad.
  • JCPenney will give you back 5 percent of your purchase price if you find an identical item with a lower price elsewhere.

7. Use discounted gift cards
Don’t start your shopping until you check out Raise.com or GiftCardGranny.com for gift cards that give you more monetary value than you paid for them. It’s a super-easy way to save!

8. Coordinate with friends
If you’ve got a bunch of friends who are also slogging through an endless list of school supplies, see if you can work together to save more. You can divide and conquer, letting each friend shop a different store for their best offerings and picking up enough supplies for the entire group, or even offer to swap supplies you already have at home. This way, you’ll be making fewer trips and keeping more money in your wallet.

9. Follow stores on Twitter and Facebook
Your smartphone is going to be your BFF this season. Use it to follow your favorite stores on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll be gifted with notices about sale events, plus coupon links to help you save more.

10. Compare prices
When shopping for big-ticket items, like laptops, don’t buy until you’ve done a thorough comparison-shop. You can use an app or a website like ShopSavvy, Price.com or PriceGrabber to help you compare prices with just a quick barcode scan.

11. Time your shopping
For the best budget mileage, learn the markdown cycle of your favorite stores, especially clothing shops. For example, Target offers discounts on children’s clothing every Monday, TJ Maxx posts new markdowns on Wednesdays, and you’ll want to hit Kohl’s between 3 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday to take advantage of their “Power Hour” super-deals.

Your Turn:
What’s your secret back-to-school shopping hack? Share it with us in the comments.

Learn More:
businessoffashion.com

thekrazycouponlady.com

goodhousekeeping

moneycrashers

How To Save On Your First Set Of College Textbooks

Young woman searches through shelves of books in a large bookstore or libraryPurchasing every textbook you need for class can take a big bite out of your budget. We’re talking huge amounts here: According to the National Association of College Stores, the average college student spends upward of $80 on each new textbook and can sometimes drop as much as $175 on one volume.

No worries though; you can get your hands on all the books you need for class while also keeping your budget intact!

Read on for 6 ways to save on textbooks this semester.

1. Skip the college bookstore
If you’re looking for an overpriced place to pick up your textbooks, be sure to hit the on-campus bookstore. Otherwise, stay as far away as possible. You’ll be paying through the nose just for the convenience of getting your books on campus.

2. Shop for used books online
Anything new will always cost more, and unless you’re shopping for a math book with specific page numbers and examples, you can usually get away with an older, used edition of the textbook you need for class.

Shop online for the best prices on the books you need, using popular platforms like Amazon, eBay, book.ly and Chegg to get the hottest deal.

3. Rent
If you only need to use a textbook for a short amount of time, or you know you’re going to toss it after the course is over, look into renting instead of buying the book. You can save up to 90 percent off the cost of a new textbook this way, and 50 percent off what you’d pay if you’d purchase it used. Check out sites like Textbooks.com and CampusBooks.com to get started.

4. Share
Are you and your roomie taking the same course? Why not buy one textbook and split the cost?

This arrangement can work well if your prof doesn’t ask you to bring the textbook to class and you only need to occasionally reference it for homework and supplemental reading.

5. Go digital
If you have an e-reader, you can save a tidy sum by choosing to download your textbooks in ebook format. You’ll find ebooks available for many works of fiction, historical texts or essays you might need for class. Just make sure the ebook you choose is easy to navigate or you might wind up regretting the purchase.

6. Hit the library
Before spending a penny on textbooks, check out the school library to see what they have in stock. You might be pleasantly surprised at the broad selection of books available for students, especially works of fiction and non-fiction for liberal arts classes.

Don’t blow your budget on textbooks! Use our hacks to save a bundle on the books you need for college.

Your Turn:
How do you save on textbook purchases? Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments.

Learn More:
money.usnews.com
creditkarma.com
clark.com

Step 7 Of 12 Toward A Debt-Free Life: Create A Debt Snowball

hipster man checks finances on computer while at trendy eateryYou’ve organized your debt, you’ve set up an emergency fund and you’re working on spending less. You’re now ready to start getting rid of that debt…for good!

Choose the debt you’d like to pay down first. Financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests starting from the smallest debt and working your way up. You can also choose to start with the debt that carries the highest interest rate. Either way, once you’ve paid down the first loan or line of credit, you’ll move onto the next and continue to work your way through all remaining debt until you’re completely debt-free.

For now, paying off this debt will be your top priority. Be sure to pay the minimum payments on all other debts, but any extra money you have at the end of the month goes towards the first one. Start with the minimum payments you were making anyways, and add the money that was previously going towards setting up your savings account to create your debt snowball. Whenever possible, try to add money to your snowball to accelerate your progress.

Doesn’t this feel great? You’re on your way to a debt-free life!

Your Turn:
Did you choose to start with your lowest debt or the one carrying the highest interest rate? Share your choice and your reasons with us in the comments.

Beware Emergency Scams!

collefge age girl shares a meme on her phone with her grandmother while they have lunch at a cafe“Grandma? Is that you?”

“What’s the matter, honey?”

“Grandma, you gotta help me! They’re going to arrest me if I don’t pay the fine — and I lost my wallet! I don’t have a penny on me or any ID. Can you wire me some money?”

Does this sound like a phone call that can really tug at your heartstrings? It’s actually more like a diabolical plot by devious scammers. There’s no emergency, no imminent arrest and no lost wallet. In fact, it isn’t even your grandchild on the line; you’re speaking to a criminal who wants to get their hands on your money.

Family emergency scams, often referred to as “grandparent scams,” are some of the most nefarious around. They prey on the elderly and take advantage of the natural affection a grandparent has for their grandchild. They’re usually pulled off in the guise of a frantic phone call, though they sometimes show up as an urgent email, text, or social media post using the same panicky message.

Don’t be the next victim of this ruse! Read on to learn how to identify an emergency scam and what to do if you’ve been victimized.

3 ways to spot an emergency scam:

1. The caller will insist upon absolute secrecy
Once your “grandchild” has had their say, the scammer will then take the phone, impersonating an authority figure who is out to make the arrest and demanding that payment be made immediately. They’ll stress the importance of keeping the entire business hush-hush so nobody gets hurt. But, of course, the real reason behind their need for secrecy is to keep you from doing too much digging and identifying the scam for what it is. Any true law enforcement officer would have no request for such secrecy.

2. The “authority figure” will only accept certain means of payment
If you ever receive a phone call insisting that you wire money, send a prepaid debit card, cashier’s check, or certified check in return for helping your grandchild from a distressing situation, you can be certain it’s a scam. Criminals love these payment methods because they provide the victim with very little recourse once they’ve discovered the scam.

3. Your “grandchild” does not know basic information about themselves or family
It’s hard not to be duped into helping out your grandchild when they sound so stressed on the phone. It can also be hard to recognize your grandchild’s voice over a phone that has iffy reception, or from an overseas phone call if your grandchild is abroad. To make it even more complicated, scammers will use any information they can find about your grandchild’s life to appear legitimate. If the scam is carried out through email, they may even hack your grandchild’s email account so their missive appears to be coming directly from your grandchild.

If you ever receive a call or an email like the one described above, simply ask the caller about some personal details that a stranger would not be able to scrape off of your grandchild’s social media accounts. Ask about specific family memories or even jokes that will immediately let you know who you’re really dealing with.

If you’ve been scammed
If you’ve gotten a frantic phone call from your grandchild and you believe it to be true, don’t react just yet. You’ll be urged to act quickly, but take a minute to call your grandchild on your own to verify his or her whereabouts. You can also call the grandchild’s parents to ask where they might be at this time. You may be surprised to learn that your grandchild is safe at home!

If you’ve fallen for the scam and you’ve only recognized the ruse after you’ve sent your money, you may still be able to reclaim some or all of your funds by reporting the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). Even if you can’t reclaim your lost funds, you’ll be doing your part to help the authorities put those crooks behind bars.

Grandparenting is a wonderful experience. Don’t let scammers abuse your relationship with your grandchild by pulling the wool over your eyes. Stay one step ahead of them by being alert and knowing how to spot these scams. Show them that no one messes with grandma!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by an emergency scam? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/07/scammers-create-fake-emergencies-get-your-money

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0204-family-emergency-scams

https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/family-finance/articles/most-common-phone-scams

7 Steps To A Mid-Year Financial Checkup

middle-aged man checking finances on a laptop while sitting by the poolIt feels like you just packed away the holiday decorations yesterday, but believe it or not, 2019 is already half over. As we sail into the season of barbecues and beaches, take a few minutes to give yourself a mid-year financial checkup. A small investment of time can spur important changes that can affect your financial wellness for the rest of 2019 or even for years to come.

Use the seven steps detailed below to guide you through your checkup.

Step 1: Revisit Your Budget
Remember sitting down in December and crunching all those numbers? There’s no need for such a detailed job again, but take some time to review your monthly budget. Are you sticking to the planned budget for every category? Are you overspending in some categories or under-spending in others? Do you need to adjust your allotted budget in some areas or maybe trim your discretionary spending across the board?

Review your spending over the last few months and make any necessary changes so your budget can continue working for you. Be sure to account for any significant life changes that may alter your financial needs, such as a marriage, the birth of a child, a divorce or a job change.

By reviewing and adjusting your budget, you will avoid falling into the mindless spending trap and you will be taking proactive steps toward staying on top of your finances for the rest of 2019.

Step 2: Anticipate Large Expenses
Now that you’ve updated your monthly budget, take a moment to list any large expenses you anticipate having in the next six months. This can include household appliances that may need replacing, expensive car repairs that will likely become necessary or an anticipated medical expense that is not fully covered by insurance.

Once you have this information in hand, determine which spending category you will take the money from to cover these expenses. Do you have a rainy-day fund that can pay for one or several of these costs? Can you use the money in your emergency fund? Make the decision about sourcing this money now so you don’t make the wrong choices when you’re stressed and pressed for time in the future.

If you do not have enough money set aside for these expenses, build a savings plan into your monthly budget now so you have the funds available when you need them.

Step 3: Review Your Tax Withholdings
Review your tax withholdings to see if they need any adjusting. If taxes and numbers are not your thing, ask your accountant for assistance with this step. Your goal here is to pay the perfect amount so you’re not hit with a huge tax bill at the end of the year but also not lending the government your money interest-free.

Step 4: Check Your Credit Score
Your credit score is like your money grade, indicating the degree of your financial wellness and responsibility. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

If your score has gone up in the last six months, you’re doing great! Keep up the good work.

On the flip side, if your score has dropped, review your report in detail. Are there any errors you’ll need to contest with the Federal Trade Commission? Is there a credit card bill or another line of credit you’ve been neglecting that is dragging your score down? Are you having trouble remembering to pay your monthly bills in a timely manner? Take the necessary steps to fix your score today, whether that means contesting a charge, setting up an automatic payment on some of your bills or lowering your credit utilization rate by paying with plastic less often.

Step 5: Review Your Investments
Now is the time to review and adjust all of your investments. This includes your contributions to your retirement funds, any stock investments, bonds, trust funds or savings certificates at Advantage One. Make sure you are maximizing your contributions when possible and that your other investments are performing according to plan, making adjustments as necessary.

Step 6: Tackle Your Debt
List every single outstanding debt you carry, including credit card debt and loans. Designate one debt to tackle first, either choosing the one that carries the highest interest rate or the one with the lowest balance. Next, work on a plan to get rid of your chosen debt, being careful not to neglect the others. See if you can trim your budget or boost your income in any way to increase your payments on this debt. Once you’ve paid it off, move to the next one on your list so you’re on your way to a debt-free life.

Step 7: Review Your Financial Resolutions and Long-term Goals
Which financial resolutions did you jot down at the end of 2018? What are your dreams for the future? Did you want to start socking away another $200 a month? Is your goal to retire comfortably at 55?

Take some time to review these goals and to determine whether you are indeed taking the steps necessary for making them happen. If you’ve been neglecting them for the first half of 2019, create a plan for working toward them for the rest of the year. Remember: With determination and proper planning, nearly any financial goal is possible!

Now that you’ve given yourself a thorough financial checkup, you can kick back and enjoy the sweetness and the sunshine of the season, guilt-free. Happy summer!

Your Turn:
What’s on your list for your mid-year financial checkup? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://money.cnn.com/2016/07/28/investing/financial-checklist/index.html

https://onebiteblog.com/its-time-for-your-mid-year-financial-checkup/

8 Things To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen

Here are eight important actions you can take if you ever become the victim of identity theft.

  • Lock the compromised account.
    • Dispute any fraudulent charges on your compromised accounts and ask to have them locked, or even shut down.
  • Older man looking concerned as he browses files on his laptopPlace a fraud alert on your credit reports.
    • This helps alert creditors that someone may be trying to open accounts in your name.
  • Consider a credit freeze.
    • This will make it impossible for the scammer to open a credit line or loan in your name.
  • Alert the FTC.
  • Strengthen your passwords.
    • In addition to changing them, use strong and different passwords for all your online accounts.
  • Check your account statements.
    • It’s best to do so frequently to look for suspicious activity.
  • Open new credit cards and accounts.
    • Replace compromised accounts that you’ve shut down so you can be inconvenienced as little as possible.
  • Repair your credit.
    • Be extra careful about paying your bills on time and keeping your credit utilization low.

Your Turn:
Have you ever been the victim of credit card fraud? Share your story with us in the comments.

4 Vacation Scams To Watch For This Summer And How To Avoid Them

young parents with two kids taking a selfie picture while on vacationWith summer in full swing, you might be planning and packing up for the vacation of a lifetime. Before you load the car and head out, though, read through our list of four common vacation scams and learn how to avoid them. You don’t want to take a permanent vacation from your hard-earned money!

1. The bogus prize vacation
In this scam, you’ll receive notification via snail mail, phone call or email, that you’re the lucky winner of an absolutely free vacation stay. You’ll eagerly start planning your trip, only to find that you’re constantly asked to pay various “prize fees,” “taxes,” or “reservation deposits” as the departure date draws near. Your “free” vacation isn’t really free at all!

You might get suspicious and pull out. Or, you might be too deeply ensnared in the trap and only realize that, when you arrive at your destination, you’ve been conned. The vacation destination will either not exist at all, or be so substandard that you’ll need a vacation from your vacation when you get back home.

2. The dream-priced rental
You’re scrolling through Airbnb, searching for that perfect vacation rental house when you suddenly strike gold. There it is! The rental you’ve been looking for — and at a dream price!

You’ll contact the renter and begin making make arrangements for your trip. The renter will offer you an even steeper discount if you pay them through a third-party processing site instead of through the Airbnb website. Their likely preference is wire transfer. You’ll then be asked to pay a deposit or even the full price of the rental before you arrive. While it’s completely expected to pay up front through Airbnb or another rental service, you will not have the same protection if you’re not using the site.

The problem starts when you arrive at your vacation spot — or try to do so, that is. The address you’ve been given does not actually exist and the gorgeous pictures you’ve been looking through belong to another renter. Sadly, you’re now out your money and have nowhere to stay during your vacation.

3. Phony “experiences”
Aside from vacation rentals, sites like Airbnb also allow you to book “experiences,” or days out on the town with locals.

Unfortunately, this platform has become a breeding ground for scammers who offer phony tours to eager vacationers. You might find yourself booking a tour or an experience, and even paying for it, only to find out you’ve been scammed.

4. Travel-club membership with a catch
In these scams, unscrupulous travel companies work hard to persuade you to join their travel club with the promise of significant benefits and kickbacks, including dream vacation stays, discounted cruises or resort tickets and completely free getaways. Unfortunately, once you’ve joined the club, you’ll be charged high dues for perks that are so hard to access, they’re practically worthless. The discounted tickets will only be eligible for certain vacation dates that probably will not align with your own plans, and the “free” trip you were promised also comes with severe restrictions.

How to spot a vacation scam
Now that you know the many ways you can be conned while planning for or being on vacation, let’s take a moment to review the red flags that will clue you in to these scams.

Upfront fees
Whether it’s a vacation rental, a tourist experience or a sweepstakes prize, you should not have to pay more than a small deposit before your arrival. If you’re asked to pay steep upfront fees or even the full amount before your vacation, run the other way and don’t look back.

Specific payment methods
Similarly, if you’re asked to pay via wire transfer only, you can be sure you’re looking at a scam. According to the FTC, a demand for payment by wire transfer is the surest sign of a scam.

Skimpy details and absent reviews
When booking any kind of vacation, do your research. If your contact refuses to provide you with anything more than the most basic of details and you can’t find much info online, you’re likely looking at a bogus vacation.

Prices that are too good to be true
Trust your instincts. If a vacation rental, experience or package is priced ridiculously low, do some digging. Google the travel company or the renter’s name with the words “scam” or “bogus” to see what results come up.

Pressure tactics
If you’re urged to sign on a vacation package quickly or risk losing out on the deal, opt-out. Scams succeed with speed.

Scammers never go on vacation. Keep your guard up when planning your getaway and stay safe!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a vacation scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/05/make-it-scam-free-vacation

https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/vacation.html?CMP=KNC-DSO-Adobe-Bing-FRD-VacationRentalScams-General&s_kwcid=AL!4520!10!73873646340258!73873595875939&ef_id=XQkCmwAAAKChlBOg:20190618160907:s

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0073-timeshares-and-vacation-plans

 

A Guide To Opening Your First Credit Card

Young woman very happy about a paper statment that she is reading in her dining room in front of her laptop.Opening your first credit card is one of the rites of passage into genuine adulthood, but with so much conflicting information, it can all get confusing fast!

Let Advantage One walk you through the process to help you build a strong credit score and credit history that will serve you well throughout your life.

Choosing a credit card
The way people typically build a credit history is by opening a credit card. But ironically, many credit cards won’t accept your application because you don’t yet have that credit history!

You’ll need to build your credit history from the ground up, and many people make the mistake of starting with cards that offer a very low limit but will accept almost any applicants, such as those offered by Capital One or Credit One. We encourage you to stop by Advantage One to ask about the credit cards we offer our members. We specialize in helping those with limited or damaged credit get back on track. If you’re outside our Field of Membership, we’d strongly encourage you to consider a local credit union. You’re more likely to get the personalized service you need at this critical phase of your financial journey.

Don’t apply to just any card that’ll have you. Look for these features when making your choice:

  • No annual fees – You shouldn’t have to pay money to use your card. Sometime in the future, you may want to open up a high-perk card with an annual fee to match, but for now, just concentrate on building your credit score.
  • A low interest rate – For your first credit card, you likely won’t be offered a really low interest rate, but that doesn’t mean you should be taken for a ride. Shop around for a card offering a reasonable rate, maybe only slightly higher than the average rate. If you can find one with a reasonably low fixed interest rate, even better.
  • Incentives for good behavior – Why not earn brownie points for playing by the rules? Look for a card that offers incentives, such as a bonus points, a grace period or no foreign-transaction fees.

Credit card dos and don’ts
Once you’ve opened your card, or cards, make sure you use them to build and maintain that excellent score. Follow these guidelines and you won’t go wrong:

Do …

  • Pay your bill on time each month.
  • Check your credit score monthly.
  • Review your statements for suspicious activity.
  • Keep your cards in a safe place.
  • Accept offers of a higher line of credit.

Don’t …

  • Pay just the minimum balance due each billing cycle.
  • Open new cards just before taking out a large loan, like a mortgage or auto loan.
  • Use all of your available credit.
  • Allow unsecured websites to save your card information.
  • Share your card information with anyone.

Your Turn:
Did you recently open your first credit card? Share your best tips on the process with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/lucymueller/2018/03/14/the-no-fear-guide-to-getting-your-first-credit-card/amp/

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/11-credit-card/

https://www.magnifymoney.com/blog/college-students-and-recent-grads/a-beginners-guide-to-using-a-credit-card499639894/

Six Figures Under – Dig Out From Your Mounting Debts

Six Figures Under personal finance made publicWhen Stephanie and her husband found themselves looking at a six-figure student loan debt load in 2009, they didn’t know how to start freeing themselves. Their small family’s budget was just barely making it to the end of each month. How would they possibly pay off such an overwhelming amount of debt?

Fast forward to the end of 2016 and that huge, monstrous debt was completely gone.

How did they do it?
On her blog, Six Figures Under (SixFiguresUnder.com), Stephanie shares her family’s ongoing story, detailing the steps she’s taken and the changes she’s made in her family’s lifestyle for paying down their debt while continuing to live financially responsibly. She is brutally honest about her struggles and successes, sharing the mistakes she’s made along the way and the triumphs she’s celebrated. She also offers readers complete transparency into her family’s finances, posting actual numbers about the income her family earns, their fixed expenses, investments and the way they choose to spend their money on non-fixed expenses.

But Six Figures Under is not just about Stephanie’s story. Stop by the blog and you’ll find a large community of active followers joining in on a mission to pay down their debts and live a more financially conscious life.

For 2019, Six Figures Under is on a Debt Smash-athon charge. The blog’s community is invited to share the amounts of debt they’ve paid down each month. The numbers are then tallied and posted on the blog with the big wins singled out with special mentions. In March 2019, the Six Figures Under community paid down a total of $149,866.53 of debt, invested $31,202.12 toward retirement and put away $39,151.21 for big savings goals. The feeling of togetherness motivates members to boost their efforts in paying off their debts.

There’s more than numbers to Six Figures Under. Check out the blog for the following categories and topics:

  • Frugal Living Ideas – Here, you’ll find tips and tricks for saving money on everything from family road trips to grocery bills. Posts are always engaging and packed with actionable tips you can apply to your own life today.
  • Budgeting and Finance –  The blog advocates living on last month’s income—and shows readers how to live this way, plus creating a manageable and realistic monthly budget.
  • Debt – Read up on tips for increasing your debt payments and common mistakes people make when handling their debt.
  • Ideas for Increasing Income – These posts cover a broad range of money-making ideas, from running a killer yard sale to starting a thriving business on Etsy.

Members of the blog get friendly monthly reminders inviting them to share their progress with the rest of the community, as well as frugal living tips and ideas delivered directly to their inbox.

The Six Figures Under blog is an inspirational, friendly place that is packed with money management tips and strategies for doubling down on your debt payments. Check it out today and join the debt-smashing fun!

Your Turn:
Do you have a target date for paying down all debt? Or are you just chipping away at it, month by month? Share your debt-paying strategy with us in the comments.


SOURCES:

https://www.sixfiguresunder.com/

https://www.sixfiguresunder.com/our-story/

http://www.barebudgetguy.com/six-figures-under/

https://www.sixfiguresunder.com/family-budget-update-march-2019/