Archive for Savings

3 steps to an excellent credit score


An excellent credit score can unlock low interest rates on mortgages, auto loans and credit cards. In many states, a good score is also the key to lower auto insurance premiums. Although there are hundreds of credit scores out there, FICO remains the industry standard and isn’t shy about telling people how to improve their scores. If you want to have an excellent score, you should follow these three steps.

Always Pay On Time

The single most important part of your credit score is making payments on time. Even a single missed payment that becomes thirty days late could take 90 points or more from your credit score. Banks use credit scores to predict whether or not you will make payments on time in the future. It should not be surprising that the most important part of a score is how often you have made payments on time in the past.

To make sure you never run the risk of missing a payment, sign up for automatic payments with your creditors. By automating your monthly payments, you can ensure that you avoid a big, unexpected hit to your score.

In addition, be particularly careful with your medical bills. If you don’t pay your doctor or hospital bill on time, it could quickly end up with a collection agency and on your credit report. Even a small medical bill can have a big negative impact on your score.

Keep Your Credit Card Balances Low

The second most important part of your credit score is the total amount of debt that you have. FICO tends to treat some debt as good debt, and other debt as bad debt. Mortgages, auto loans and student loans are considered good debt. Credit card debt is considered bad debt. In particular, you can lose a ton of points if you max out your credit cards.

FICO uses a measure called “utilization” to determine how risky you are. You calculate utilization by dividing your current statement balances on all of your credit cards by your credit limits. If you have $10,000 of credit limits and a $1,000 balance, your utilization would be 10%.

In general, people with the best credit scores have a utilization ratio of 10% of lower. To keep your utilization low, you should pay down credit card balances and avoid closing old credit card accounts. If you close an unused credit card, you will be reducing your credit limit and increasing your utilization.

Feed Your Score With “Good” Activity Every Month

Do you remember your days in elementary school, when you would get a “gold star” for a job well done? Your goal with your credit score is to accumulate as many “gold stars” as possible. And that means using a credit card each month responsibly. Ideally, you will use less than 10% of your available credit with transactions each month. You will then pay your statement balance on time and in full every month. By doing that, you are showing that you …read more

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Boost your wardrobe with Memorial Day sales — Savings Experiment


The Memorial Day sales frenzy is fast approaching. To separate the legit deals from the spending traps, you have to know what to buy. Here are a few bargains to hit — and a few to skip.

First, avoid buying summer items. While it may be tempting, items like BBQ grills and patio furniture don’t typically reach their lowest prices until the end of summer, so hold off until then if you can.

TVs and laptops are also cheaper towards the end of the year. Go for laptops during back-to-school sales in September, and TVs during Black Friday in November if you want to score bigger savings.

So what do you buy?

If you’re looking for the best deals, spring clothing and accessories is the way to go. You’ll see discounts ranging from 40 – 90 percent off at stores like Macy’s, H&M, J.C. Penney and Eddie Bauer. Plus, designer brands like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Steve Madden will also be slashing prices by up to 75 percent off.

Lastly, don’t overlook the stackable coupons and promo codes that typically accompany these sales and can take up to 40 percent off the already discounted price.

So make the most of your time and money this Memorial Day, because knowing what to buy can make all the difference.

Related: 6 best things to buy at Memorial Day sales

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Category: best deals, memorial day sales, Savings Experiment

Genius money-saving home decorating ideas — Savings Experiment

Did you know: Using tape can be a low-cost way to decorate your home?

Washi tape is a Japanese masking tape made of rice paper, and comes in all types of patterns and colors. Since the tape can be used and repositioned easily without damage to surfaces, the decorative options are endless.

Walls, cabinets, window blinds — even your furniture and shelves can be completely transformed with the colors and patterns you choose. And for only around $4 a roll at most office and art supply stores, it’s a small cost with big possibilities.

So get creative, and break out the tape!

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Category: did you know, home decor, interior design tips, Savings Experiment

Supercharge your garden with this miracle ingredient

Did you know: Epsom salt can be your garden’s greatest ally?

You can easily find this miracle ingredient at your local pharmacy for about $4 for a 3-lb bag.

While it’s typically used for pain and stress relief, it’s the magnesium found in Epsom salt that actually works wonders for plant growth.

To improve seed germination, simply add 1 cup per 100 square feet of tilled soil, or sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons into the hole before dropping in your seeds. This will not only lead to stronger seedlings, it will also encourage blossoming and fruit production, without the need for costly chemical fertilizers.

And to help deter slugs, snails and other vegetable bugs, try sprinkling some Epsom salt around the garden for natural pest control.

So give Epsom salt a try, and watch your garden — and savings — flourish!

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Category: did you know, gardening, pest control, Savings Experiment

Save bundles by tracking supermarket sales cycles — Savings Experiment

By Savings Experiment Staff
Grocery shopping is pretty routine. Week after week, we go in and buy the same items without thinking too much about it.Filed under: Savings Experiment
But you should be wary of shopping on autopilot. Chances are, you’re overpaying — sometimes by as much as 50 percent. The secret lies in the store’s sales cycle, and the sooner you learn it, the sooner you save.

There are two types of sales cycles. The first is seasonal. A lot of seasonal sales are common sense; canned pumpkin is cheaper in October, chocolate sells for less in February. But there are a lot of other seasonal items that go on sale during months you wouldn’t expect — like oatmeal in January, and peanut butter in September.

The next type is a rotational sales cycle. These sales are typically used to rotate the stock on the shelves every 6 to 12 weeks.

This may seem complicated, but with some time and practice, you can learn how to keep tabs on the best deals.

Start by making a list of the top 10 items you most often buy at the store. Then, start tracking those prices week to week. Grab a circular if there’s one handy. After 6 to 12 weeks, you’ll start to see a point where the price drops noticeably lower than the other weeks. This is when you should shop for this item, and potentially even buy in bulk. Remember, each item will have its own cycle, so track each product individually for the most accuracy.

So if you want to maximize savings in the long run, start tracking your store’s sales cycle. Some codes are definitely worth cracking!

Related: Stop supermarket overspending

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Category: grocery store, Savings Experiment, supermarket sales

Do you know how a tax refund can boost your credit score

By Robert Berger

Filed under: ,

During tax season, conversations about how to use that always-anticipated tax return pop up all over the internet. Many who get a refund use it on vacations and other big ticket items. And while this isn’t always a bad idea, it may not be the wisest choice you can make for your tax refund.

One option is to use your refund with an eye toward increasing your credit score. A good score can save thousands of dollars in interest on a new mortgage or enable a homeowner to refinance to a lower rate. A high FICO score also helps consumers qualify for cash back, travel, and other rewards credit cards. It can even lower your car insurance premiums.

Whatever your financial goals, here are some tips on using your tax refund to increase your credit score:

1. Catch up on late payments

Your payment history is the single most significant factor in determine your score. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score, according to the good folks at FICO. This means that a single late payment can have a disproportionately large effect on your credit score. It also means that the best way to maintain good credit is to make your payments on time, every month.

If you’re behind on any of your debt payments, use a portion of your tax refund to catch up as soon as possible. While it will take time for that late payment to fall off of your credit record, the sooner you catch back up, the more quickly you can boost your score.

2. Pay down maxed out credit cards

The next most important piece of your credit score is the amount you owe. This makes up about 30% of your overall FICO score. This section looks primarily at your debt-to-credit ratio, or how big a balance you’re carrying compared with your overall credit limits on credit cards and other revolving loans.

So your next most efficient tax refund move is to pay down credit card and revolving loan debt. The starting point is tackle cards that are maxed out. The credit scoring formula views a maxed out card as a sign a consumer is at the end of their rope. Paying this debt down can have a positive effect on a consumer’s FICO score.

3. Pay down other revolving debt

If you aren’t maxed out on a card, or if you’ve dealt with it already, consider paying down the rest of your revolving debt. This may include not only credit cards, but also lines of credit such as a HELOC. As a general rule, the lower your credit utilization the better. While FICO doesn’t publish explicitly guidelines on what makes the ideal credit utilization, Tom Quinn of FICO has suggested that 10% or less is ideal.

You may be surprised at how quickly paying down revolving debt can boost your credit score. And this strategy comes with another advantage: lower payments. Since your revolving debts likely carry the …read more

Read more here: Do you know how a tax refund can boost your credit score

Category: credit cards, credit sc, FICO score, fnance, money, pay off debt, tax refund, taxes

What to sell — and what not to sell — at consignment shops — Savings Experiment

By Savings Experiment Staff
Did you know? There are places called consignment shops where you can buy and sell your unwanted items. With a few easy tips, you can boost your profits on your next visit.Filed under: Savings Experiment
First, find a shop that stocks items similar to the ones you’re trading in. The easier they can sell it, the more they’ll pay.

Clothing resale shops tend to pay best for things that are in season, so bring in those tank tops in the summer if you want the best deal.

And don’t forget to clean up your items before you bring them in. This can get you up to 25 percent more on your sale. Any stains, scuffs or missing pieces like buttons or laces can not only hurt your profit — stores may even decline your trade-in entirely.

So no matter what you’re trying to sell, just a little know-how can get you big bucks.

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Category: consignment shops, did you know, Savings Experiment, selling your old clothing

A Mixed Bag for Social Media Stocks (FB, LNKD)

Potential stocks trades and outlook for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The charts show that not all social media stocks are equal. Between Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s a mixed bag. Each stock has a distinct trend, outlook, and tendency.

Facebook, Inc. (FB) is still in an uptrend, respecting the rising trend channel it has been in for the last two years. In early 2016, the price bounced off channel support before rallying to a high of $117.59. That high overshot the top of the channel and was followed by a swift decline to channel support. The March high was $116.99, and as of April 5 has dropped slightly off that level, trading at $112.22, The trend is still up, but the price has shown a strong tendency over the last two years to pull back after reaching the top of the channel. Therefore, buyers will likely find a better entry point near channel support, currently near $100. The exit for such a long trade is along the top of the rising channel, at $117.50 currently.

With two highs in a similar location—$117.56 and $116.99—a decline below the February 9 swing low of $96.82, creates a potential double top. A double top is a reversal signal, indicating continued selling to a target of $76.65 (height of double top minus breakout price). In the short-term, if the price drops below $110, that breaks the 2016 rising trendline and indicates a pullback toward the bottom of the channel.

Facebook stock near top of rising trend channel

LinkedIn Corporation (LNKD) continues to face problems. Its April 5 closing price of $113.68 is less than half of its 2015 high of $276.18. The stock reacts strongly to earnings announcements, which create huge price gaps. The most recent one occurred in February when the price dropped almost $90 in a single day. The selling continued after that, with the stock hitting a low of $98.25 on February 10. That fall also saw the price break below the 2014 low of $136.02. There isn’t much to be bullish about on either the long-term or short-term charts.

From a short-term trading perspective, watch the price area that has developed since late February, between $122.37 and $106. A move outside that range provides some indication of short-term direction. A drop below $106 will likely see the price fall below $98.25. The next support region is between $95 and $88 (a series of lows from 2012). A rally above $122.37 will still need to get through resistance at $129, but above that is the open space from the gap. In that case, while the trend would still be down, at least, the bulls would have the possibility of the price eventually filling that gap.

LNKD daily chart in long-term downtrend

Twitter, Inc. (TWTR) is also weak, creating a series of lower swing highs going back to 2013 (peaked at $74.73). The long-term downtrend is entrenched, and there isn’t much to indicate amajor reversal yet. Short-term there are some bullish signs, though. In February, the price hit a low of $13.91, then rallied to $20.32 on March 4. The price then pulled back, but in late March, the selling stalled out just above $15.30. With the price edging back above $17 that could be considered a higher low, triggering longs in the $16 to $17 region with a stop loss below $15.30. The trade sets up a short-term move higher into $21 to $22. This pattern is similar to the one that played out between August and October of last year. Ultimately, though, whether the price rallies to the $22 region, or falls back below $15.30 and/or $13.91, the sellers remain in control. Potential short trades include a false breakout above the March 4 swing high of $20.32, and or a drop back below $15.33. Downside target is $13 to $12, and could extend down to $10 over the longer-term.

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Category: FB, LNKD, TWTR

7 Habits of Highly Frugal People

By Dr Penny Pincher…

Frugal people who pay off their debt and achieve financial independence don’t succeed by accident. They establish habits that allow them to consistently reach their goals over the long haul.
During the past few years as a personal finance blogger and author, I have noticed that the most successful frugal people tend to follow a common set of habits. These same habits remind me of the traits that Stephen Covey detailed in his popular 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. For this article, I kept the original seven habits, but updated them for achieving financial independence today.
What are the seven habits that allow some people to excel at being frugal?
1. Be Proactive
Frugal people are proactive about their money, taking action to monitor and control spending and maximize income. They find ways to spend less and reduce expenses – even if it requires effort and creative thinking. They direct most of the money they save from reduced expenses into savings and investments for long term goals.
Although the first thing that comes to mind with frugality is saving money, many frugal people maximize income through side hustles or by generating passive income in addition to controlling their spending. An extra dollar saved or an extra dollar earned both contribute favorably to the bottom line.
Frugal people know how much money they have coming in and how much is going out, often with great precision. This is accomplished by creating and following a budget and proactively monitoring spending. They focus on what they can control within their budget to achieve financial success.
2. Begin With the End in Mind
Why do frugal people work so hard to control spending and keep track of their money? Are they simply not interested in buying things? On the contrary, most frugal people are striving to reach financial independence so that they can travel or launch a second career or to have plenty of money to buy the things that matter to them. Frugal people are willing to worry about money now so they don’t need to worry about it later.
Surprisingly, many frugal people care more about their time than their money. Saving money buys financial independence, which buys time to do whatever you want. Frugal people want freedom to use their time as they wish and not be locked into working at a job until they reach old age.
Frugal people begin with the end in mind. The end they want to achieve is financial independence. With that end in mind, they make a plan to reach the goal and follow it every day. The sacrifices along the way are worth reaching the goal.
3. Put First Things First
What is the first thing you pay every month? Do you pay your mortgage first? Perhaps you pay your utility bill or car payment first. Frugal people pay something else first – themselves.
Paying yourself first means that you invest in your retirement fund or other savings accounts first, then you …read more

Read more here: 7 Habits of Highly Frugal People

Category: budgeting, frugal, money, personal finance, saving

Ask These 4 Questions Before You Refinance Your Student Loans

By Nick Clements

Filed under:

Americans now have more than $1.2 trillion of student loan debt.

To help people deal with their debt burden, credit unions, banks and Silicon Valley startups have introduced loans that can be used to refinance existing student loan debt. Companies life SoFi advertise that borrowers save an average $18,936 when they refinance their debt. And SoFi isn’t the only company to offer low interest rates. Interest rates start as low as 2.13% (variable) and 3.25% (fixed).

But before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you ask yourself these four questions.

1. Do you have federal or private student loans?

If you have federal student loans, you are probably eligible for income-driven repayment options from the federal government. With an income-driven plan, the federal government will review your tax return and will cap the monthly payment to a fixed percentage of your discretionary income. Depending upon the plan, your monthly payment could be capped to between ten and twenty percent of your discretionary income. You would continue to make payments for up to 25 years, depending upon which plan you use. At the end of the repayment period, any remaining loan balance is forgiven.

Just remember that you have to renew your enrollment every year. If your income increases, so does your payment. And if debt is forgiven, you will owe taxes on the amount that is forgiven. If your income is low enough, your payment could be as low as $0 per month.

Your interest rate on your federal loans will likely be much higher than the interest rate being made available by companies that refinance the debt. You should think of the higher interest rate as an insurance premium. If you have a high level of confidence in your ability to repay your student loans quickly, and you have an emergency fund in case of job loss, you might not need to worry about income-driven plans. Just think long and hard before making a decision.

2. Do you have a good credit history and verifiable income?

If you want to refinance your student loan debt, you need to have an excellent credit history. Only people with an excellent credit history and good income can qualify. Lenders will look at your credit report and will want to see a history of on-time payments, especially with your existing student loans. In addition, most lenders will perform an analysis of your cash flow and will want to verify your income. Most lenders are targeting “HENRYs,” which are “high earners, not rich yet.” If that describes you, refinancing your debt could make a lot of sense. But if you are struggling to make your payments or have a bad credit history, you would likely be rejected.

3. Do you want a fixed or variable rate?

Variable interest rates are much lower than fixed interest rates. For example, earnest, a Silicon Valley startup, charges variable rates between 2.13% – 5.41% and fixed rates between 3.50% – 7.05%. If you can pay off your debt …read more

Read more here: Ask These 4 Questions Before You Refinance Your Student Loans

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