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Why knowing your FICO Score is important: What’s the difference between credit scores out there?

The following post has been sponsored by our partner, FICO. The analysis and opinions in the story are our own and may not reflect the views of FICO. Learn more about our editorial policy

If you recently applied for a new credit card or other kind of consumer loan from a major bank or credit union, there’s a good chance the lender viewed your FICO® Score and may have shared with you the FICO Score obtained at the time of application.

While many lenders have ongoing programs to share updated FICO Scores, you may have also seen free educational three-digit credit scores through lenders or other companies.

Most big credit card issuers offer some kind of free score to customers. Some lenders, such as Discover, are even more generous, offering free scores to anyone willing to supply their information. Discover offers a free FICO® Score to the general public, while some educational sites and card issuers share VantageScore.

But what is the difference between the versions? Why are they different when applying for an auto loan or mortgage or applying for a credit card? Also, what is the difference between FICO® Scores and educational credit scores?

Sallie Mae’s research released in 2019 found that one’s credit score is not top of mind for many young adults noting that many are less likely to be aware of their FICO® Score and the factors that impact one’s score, let alone what sets their different scores apart.

Here’s a closer look at the most widely used consumer credit scores, how lenders use them and what makes each score unique.

See related: Which credit scores do mortgage lenders use?

How credit scores are used by lenders

For nearly three decades now, consumer credit risk scores have played an important role in lending. They not only help lenders efficiently assess/gauge new borrowers, they also give other interested parties, such as landlords or cellphone companies, a window into your credit health.

Most lenders use third-party credit scores, such as the FICO® Score (used in 90% of lending decisions), for soft credit checks before you’ve even submitted an application. A lender will then use these scores to help assess if the applicant meets the lender’s credit criteria. Most lenders also use internal credit risk tools to help assess an applicant’s creditworthiness and determine a borrower’s terms.

For example, a lender may use a FICO® Score distributed by credit reporting agencies in conjunction with their own internal scoring models.  These internal risk tools may take into account additional financial information included in your application, such as your income and housing payment.

(Contrary to some persistent credit myths, your income is not shown on your traditional credit reports, nor is it included in your FICO® Score.)

See related: How debt-to-income ratio affects credit card applications

Which credit score is your lender considering?

It varies by lender. There’s a good chance, though, that your lender is using some version of a FICO® Score, since FICO continues to be the most widely used credit score. FICO has designed various FICO® Score versions that are used by different industries due to different requirements. For instance, across the three credit bureaus, FICO® Auto Score 8 is widely used in auto financing, mortgage lenders often rely on FICO® Scores 2, FICO® Score 4 and FICO® Scores 5, and credit card issuers tend to check FICO® Bankcard Score 8 or FICO® Score 8.

FICO is considered the standard in credit scoring, trusted by lenders for decades. FICO is an independent data analytics company, meaning it’s not a credit bureau and not controlled or owned by any of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). It has been an industry standard for over 30 years.

the FICO® Score Open Access program (if your lender is enrolled). This way, you will be able to stay on top of your credit score and it is a free resource.

Otherwise, you will find out which score a lender used if the lender declines to make an offer of credit or offers less-than-the most favorable terms because of your credit score. Lenders are required to disclose the score that influenced the outcome of your application and key factors (if declined). The lender must also provide you with brief explanations of their decision.

What influences varying credit score models?

It depends on the score. Technically, there are many different types of FICO® Scores, in addition to educational credit scores that are intended specifically for consumers who want to get a quick read of what their credit health might be, rather than provide the precise same number that lenders will review.

It’s also important to remember that credit score developers revisit the credit score models on a regular basis following changes in data or consumer behavior. However, lenders have the option to migrate to newer credit scoring models or use multiple FICO® Score models for different credit products so you may wish to inquire what FICO® Score version your lender will be using as part of the credit decisioning process.

For instance, while broad-based scores address the vast majority of applicants, credit scoring models that use alternative data sources such as FICO® Score XD that utilizes telecom data are available for entry-level credit products (reliably expanding credit access for over 200 million consumers), if there’s insufficient data at the credit bureau to provide a traditional FICO® Score.

The FICO® Score 8 and Score 9 models (the most widely used versions by lenders) rely on information that appears in your traditional credit reports, such as your loan payments and accounts. The UltraFICO™ Score, on the other hand, allows consumers to connect their checking and savings accounts cash flow data to potentially improve their score based on positive financial behavior.

Credit score versions matter

Making things a bit trickier, newer versions of your credit score may also look different from older versions of the same score, due to revisions in the way the scores are calculated. For example, a newer version of your credit score may treat a recent late payment with more weight than an older version.

As a result, the parts of your credit history that count most toward the success of your application will not only depend on the type of credit score that a lender uses. It may also depend on the version of that score your lender is using.

FICO® Score 10, which was released in 2020, is the first FICO scoring model to incorporate trended data, and the UltraFICO™ Score is the first score to consider recency and frequency of bank transactions and the consistent amount of cash on hand.

Similarly, the VantageScore 4.0 model expands from prior versions by placing significantly more weight on your total credit usage and your debt-to-credit-ratio than on your payment history. But VantageScore 3.0 – which is still in circulation – places more weight on your overall payment history than on any other component of your score. In addition, VantageScore 4.0 gives less weight to medical collections and it ignores new collection accounts that are younger than six months.

this page for the list of authorized FICO® Score retailers, as well as institutions and lenders that share FICO Scores with their customers through the FICO® Score Open Access program.

Bottom line

Although the term “credit score” is often used interchangeably, no matter what version is used, there’s no such thing as a universal score. The truth is you have many different credit scores – including from the same scoring developer.

But despite the differences between scores, the basic components of a good credit score remain the same: pay your bills on time, limit your credit usage, don’t close your oldest revolving account and don’t go wild applying for a whole bunch of credit at one time.

If you follow those basic rules of thumb, you should be able to build a credit score that you’re proud to show off to any lender.

 

Source: creditcards.com

How to Get Approved for Credit in a Financial Downturn

In a recession it’s common for many people to rely on credit cards and loans to balance their finances. It’s the ultimate catch-22 since, during a recession, these financial products can be even harder to qualify for.

This holds true, according to historical data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. It found that during the 2007 recession, loan growth at traditional banks decreased and remained deflated over the next four years. 

Credit can be a powerful tool to help you make ends meet and keep moving forward financially. Here’s what you can do if you’re struggling to access credit during a weak economy.

Lending becomes riskier in a weak economy. Does this mean you’re completely out of luck if you have bad credit? Not necessarily, but you might need to take the time to understand all of your alternatives.

How Does a Financial Downturn Affect Lending?

Giving someone a loan or approving them for a credit card carries a certain amount of risk for a lender. After all, there’s a chance you could stop making payments and the lender could lose all the funds you borrowed, especially with unsecured loans. 

For lenders, this concept is called, “delinquency”. They’re constantly trying to get their delinquency rate lower; in a booming economy, the delinquency rate at commercial banks is usually under 2%. 

Lending becomes riskier in a weak economy. There are all sorts of reasons a person might stop paying their loan or credit card bills. You might lose your job, or unexpected medical bills might demand more of your budget. Because lenders know the chances of anyone becoming delinquent are much higher in a weak economy, they tend to restrict their lending criteria so they’re only serving the lowest-risk borrowers. That can leave people with poor credit in a tough financial position.

Before approving you for a loan, lenders typically look at criteria such as:

  • Income stability 
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Credit score
  • Co-signers, if applicable
  • Down payment size (for loans, like a mortgage)

Does this mean you’re completely out of luck if you have bad credit? Not necessarily, but you might need to take the time to understand all of your alternatives.

5 Ways to Help Get Your Credit Application Approved 

Although every lender has different approval criteria, these strategies speak to typical commonalities across most lenders.

1. Pay Off Debt 

Paying off some of your debt might feel bold, but it can be helpful when it comes to an application for credit. Repaying your debt reduces your debt-to-income ratio, typically an important metric lenders look at for loans such as a mortgage. Also, paying off debt could help improve your credit utilization ratio, which is a measure of how much available credit you’re currently using right now. If you’re using most of the credit that’s available to you, that could indicate you don’t have enough cash on hand. 

Not sure what debt-to-income ratio to aim for? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests keeping yours no higher than 43%. 

2. Find a Cosigner

For those with poor credit, a trusted cosigner can make the difference between getting approved for credit or starting back at square one. 

When someone cosigns for your loan they’ll need to provide information on their income, employment and credit score — as if they were applying for the loan on their own. Ideally, their credit score and income should be higher than yours. This gives your lender enough confidence to write the loan knowing that, if you can’t make your payments, your cosigner is liable for the bill. 

Since your cosigner is legally responsible for your debt, their credit is negatively impacted if you stop making payments. For this reason, many people are wary of cosigning.

In a recession, it might be difficult to find someone with enough financial stability to cosign for you. If you go this route, have a candid conversation with your prospective cosigner in advance about expectations in the worst-case scenario. 

3. Raise Your Credit Score 

If your credit score just isn’t high enough to qualify for conventional credit you could take some time to focus on improving it. Raising your credit score might sound daunting, but it’s definitely possible. 

Here are some strategies you can pursue:

  • Report your rent payments. Rent payments aren’t typically included as part of the equation when calculating your credit score, but they can be. Some companies, like Rental Kharma, will report your timely rent payments to credit reporting agencies. Showing a history of positive payment can help improve your credit score. 
  • Make sure your credit report is updated. It’s not uncommon for your credit report to have mistakes in it that can artificially deflate your credit score. Request a free copy of your credit report every year, which you can do online through Experian Free Credit Report. If you find inaccuracies, disputing them could help improve your credit score. 
  • Bring all of your payments current. If you’ve fallen behind on any payments, bringing everything current is an important part of improving your credit score. If your lender or credit card company is reporting late payments a long history of this can damage your credit score. When possible speak to your creditor to work out a solution, before you anticipate being late on a payment.
  • Use a credit repair agency. If tackling your credit score is overwhelming you could opt to work with a reputable credit repair agency to help you get back on track. Be sure to compare credit repair agencies before moving forward with one. Companies that offer a free consultation and have a strong track record are ideal to work with.

Raising your credit isn’t an immediate solution — it’s not going to help you get a loan or qualify for a credit card tomorrow. However, making these changes now can start to add up over time. 

4. Find an Online Lender or Credit Union

Although traditional banks can be strict with their lending policies, some smaller lenders or credit unions offer some flexibility. For example, credit unions are authorized to provide Payday Loan Alternatives (PALs). These are small-dollar, short-term loans available to borrowers who’ve been a member of qualifying credit unions for at least a month.

Some online lenders might also have more relaxed criteria for writing loans in a weak economy. However, you should remember that if you have bad credit you’re likely considered a riskier applicant, which means a higher interest rate. Before signing for a line of credit, compare several lenders on the basis of your quoted APR — which includes any fees like an origination fee, your loan’s term, and any additional fees, such as late fees. 

5. Increase Your Down Payment

If you’re trying to apply for a mortgage or auto loan, increasing your down payment could help if you’re having a tough time getting approved. 

When you increase your down payment, you essentially decrease the size of your loan, and lower the lender’s risk. If you don’t have enough cash on hand to increase your down payment, this might mean opting for a less expensive car or home so that the lump sum down payment that you have covers a greater proportion of the purchase cost. 

Loans vs. Credit Cards: Differences in Credit Approval

Not all types of credit are created equal. Personal loans are considered installment credit and are repaid in fixed payments over a set period of time. Credit cards are considered revolving credit, you can keep borrowing to your approved limit as long as you make your minimum payments. 

When it comes to credit approvals, one benefit loans have over credit cards is that you might be able to get a secured loan. A secured loan means the lender has some piece of collateral they can recover from you should you stop making payments. 

The collateral could be your home, car or other valuable asset, like jewelry or equipment. Having that security might give the lender more flexibility in some situations because they know that, in the worst case scenario, they could sell the collateral item to recover their loss. 

The Bottom Line

Borrowing during a financial downturn can be difficult and it might not always be the answer to your situation. Adding to your debt load in a weak economy is a risk. For example, you could unexpectedly lose your job and not be able to pay your bills. Having an added monthly debt payment in your budget can add another challenge to your financial situation.

However, if you can afford to borrow funds during an economic recession, reduced interest rates in these situations can lessen the overall cost of borrowing.

These tips can help tidy your finances so you’re a more attractive borrower to lenders. There’s no guarantee your application will be accepted, but improving your finances now gives you a greater borrowing advantage in the future.

The post How to Get Approved for Credit in a Financial Downturn appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

5 Great Ways to Increase Remote Working Productivity

When the COVID lockdowns started, most business owners probably didn't think much about the efficiency of their remote working solutions as long as they were able to keep the lights on. As we head into 2021, we can see that remote working is going to become a permanent feature of our business lives. With more than half of employees reporting frustrations with their remote work solutions, now is a good time to think about getting the best software and apps in to help your team stay productive.

Remember, too, that many of your people will find working at home a very lonely experience and so things like video conferencing can help alleviate the mental health impact of a lockdown.

Let's look at some of the products that are available to help you stay in touch and remain effective no matter what 2021 throws at you!

Workflow boards

One of the things that many people have reported is difficulty in keeping motivated and understanding what needs to happen and when.

When you're in an office, it's easy to simply lean across the desk and ask what is going on. But what happens when your team is all working remotely?

Using Kanban boards like Trello and Asana allows you to posts jobs, tasks, and subtasks and then allocate them to individual staff members or team so that everyone knows where they are and what still needs doing.

Remote access software

Remote access software can have some real benefits for users across the organisation and doesn’t need to be confined to your IT helpdesk.

Modern remote working can give users a virtual desktop, which is the same wherever they log on. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can also increase security.

Remote access software can also include functionality that enables video conferencing, chat functions, shared word processing, and file sharing, along with resources for troubleshooting in a pinch.

If you’d like to find out more about what it can do for you, check the best options in this excellent remote access software review by Neil Patel.

Remote shared storage

Many companies rely upon having drives readily available to all staff, and when you're all working in the same office, this is a simple matter. But when your team is spread out, then you need to think about organizing remote storage.

Google Drive and Dropbox are probably the most well-known offerings, but there are many more. They all provide you with the ability to have shared drives that are accessible based on your own organization’s security protocol.

Remote storage is a very competitive area, so prices have dropped over the last few years. So in many cases, you are better off subscribing to a best-in-class cloud storage solution (especially if it includes remote access desktops as above) rather than upgrading your on-premise servers.

Business-class video conferencing

For many businesses, this is one area where they just had to get a solution in place quickly so everyone could carry on working. But it really is worth choosing a business-class video conferencing system.

Having a better system makes life easier for your staff, but it also portrays a professional image to your customers and suppliers.

Free systems are great, but they will always come with limitations. Zoom, for instance, limits calls to 45 minutes on its free version. Other free solutions reduce video quality.

With paid solutions, the cost for a group subscription is often very reasonable when compared to the cost of losing even one customer.

Collaboration and sharing tools

When you can just pass files and papers across a desk, life is easy. But if you're miles away from your co-workers, contractors, and customers, how can you possibly collaborate effectively?

Many of the really good systems bundle in storage, video conferencing, Kanban boards and collaboration tools that help your teams act like teams rather than a collection of dispersed individuals.

Obviously, the big player here is Microsoft. But you can get excellent results with apps like Zoho Connect, Winio, and Wire. If you only really want chat capability, then look at Slack.

Take advantage of trials

What works for some people may not work for you and your company. But the good news is that pretty much every system mentioned here has some form of free trial.

The best advice is to take the developers up on their offer and test these solutions out. Get feedback from your employees and take into account how easy the apps are to use, the support available, and of course, the annual cost.

Don’t be swayed by attractive-sounding initial reductions. If the system is good, you’ll be using it for a long time. It is much more important to get the right features for you rather than buying something that isn't well-suited to the task because the developer was offering a half-price sale.
 

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!)

The post How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

One question I see time and again is “How much should I spend on groceries for my family of four ?” — or three, five, etc.

When you’re making a household budget, it’s easy to know how much you need to include for most of your living expenses, like utilities, student loans, and even fuel. But when it comes to your average grocery bill, how much should you expect?

As much as I wish there were a simple answer, a family’s grocery budget will be different for every household. There’s no right or wrong number, but finding yours is key to keeping your grocery spending in check.

Here’s a guide to help you figure out how much you should spend on food each month.

Calculator and receipt in shopping cart for grocery budget

WHY YOU NEED A GROCERY BUDGET

It may sound like it should go without saying, but you need a food budget because it will force you to think about money when you’re grocery shopping. After all, your income is a certain amount, and that means you only have a certain amount of money you can spend on food for your family.

The other reason you need a frugal food budget is to make sure you don’t spend too much money for the food your family needs (and to save money by not buying food you don’t need). You become smarter about your spending and think twice before adding impulse purchases to your shopping cart.

HOW MUCH TO BUDGET FOR FOOD

It can be tough to figure out how much you *should* budget for food vs. what you’re currently spending on your meals. There is not a right or a wrong number, but you must find the right amount so you don’t overspend.

Here are some tricks you can try to help you figure out exactly how much to spend on food per month.

Budgeting Hack 1: Use the National Average

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average household spends about 6% of its income on groceries each month. However, the study also shows that the average American also spends 5% of his or her disposable income on dining out. That makes your food budget 11% of your overall income — a significant expense!

If you want to keep things simple and use the national average to calculate your monthly grocery budget, then plan on spending 6% for groceries and an additional 5% for dining out.

Here is an example: If your take-home pay is $3,000 a month, you will budget around $180 for groceries and $150 for dining out. Of course, if $180 won’t cover your needs, then you need to commit to a more thrifty plan: Scale back on eating out and use any additional money toward your grocery needs.

Budgeting Hack 2: Use Your Actual Spending

A more realistic way to figure out how much to budget for groceries is to look at your current grocery spending. An easy way to do this is by completing a spending form.

Here’s how it works. Review all your purchases over several pay periods. You should include food spending, fuel, dining out, entertainment — everything. Having all the numbers in front of you will help you calculate the average of how much you’re spending on groceries (and all your other budget categories!) every week.

If you think your expenses for food add up to too much money, you can try to reduce your spending. Just keep in mind that your family will have to adjust the way you eat.

Budgeting Hack 3: Use a Grocery Calculator

Sometimes, you want to get specific help when figuring out how much to budget for food. There is a simple to use, online grocery budget calculator; you can use it for free.

Fill out the information for all of your family members, then hit calculate. It will return an average you should plan on budgeting for your family.

I ran this report for my family, and the result said we should plan on $219.35 for an average grocery budget for our family of five. That is more than we spend. On average, I spend $125 – $150 per week on everything our family needs.

While using a budget calculator can be helpful, it might end up doing the same thing for you: Suggest an amount that is higher than what you know you spend — or is higher than what you can afford. Use this calculator as a guide, but not the only factor when determining your budget.

Budgeting Hack 4: Look at the U.S. Average

Another way to reach a grocery budget amount is to look at the plans created by the USDA. The most recent plans are on their website. They provide the weekly cost for a thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost and liberal plan on a weekly and monthly basis. The amounts are broken down by gender and age. You will need to total the numbers listed for the people in your family.

For example, the average grocery budget for a family of four is about $871, per this report. The amounts will be lower, of course for a family of three or higher if you need to budget for a family of five.

Once again, these numbers should be a guide. Once you start grocery shopping for your family, you may find that you spend much less – or even more – than what the average family spends on groceries.

Don’t Forget Special Dietary Needs

If you have a family member who cannot eat gluten or who has other dietary restrictions, these can affect your budget. Make sure you keep these foods in mind when developing your budget as they can cost much more than average foods or require trips to a specialty grocery store.

TRICKS TO MAKING A MONTHLY FOOD BUDGET

There is no magic formula or grocery budget app that will pull the numbers together for you. The key is to make sure that you put forth the effort in the right manner to make it work for you. Keep the following in mind when figuring your monthly food budget:

1. Consider Your Current Spending

Before you can make any changes, you have to know where you are starting. That way, you can see what you currently spend on your groceries so you can start cutting back.

Need help figuring our your average grocery bill?

You can use the Spending Worksheet and go back to find your spending on food over the past 8 weeks. Look at every transaction in your bank statement and total it. Then, divide that amount by two. You know have an average your family spends on food every month.

The next step is going to be finding a way to not only spend that amount going forward but try to find ways to spend even less if you can.

2. Put It in Writing

The next things you need to when creating your budget for food is to put it in writing. Once written down, you are more willing to commit to the process. Make sure your spouse or partner is also on board so you can work together to ensure you don’t overspend.

3. Start Using Cash

If you really want to stick to a tight budget, you need to use cash. Each payday, get cash from your bank for the amount you’ll need at the grocery store. That is all you have to spend until the next payday. No cheating! That means you can’t whip out your debit card if you run out of money.

You’ll quickly learn better ways to be smart and strategic when figuring your budget and sticking to it. (Read more about how to start using a cash envelope budget ).

4. Commit to Using Your Budget

You can have the greatest intent to use a budget, but if you aren’t ready to do so, it will never work. It is just like dieting. You may know you want to shed pounds, but if you are not willing to put in the effort, the weight will never come off.

Once you know the amount you have to spend at the grocery store, you need to stick to it (this is another reason to use cash). You have to make the conscious decision that you want to budget and then do all you can to make it work.

Your spouse or partner needs to be on board, too. It will never work if one of you is committed to making your grocery budget work and the other is not. Have a long heart to heart talk and make sure you are on the same page.

Read more: How to talk to your spouse about money

GROCERY SHOPPING ON A BUDGET

If you’ve tried all these ideas and still need to save money on groceries, here are some simple tricks you can try.

Reduce Your Dining Out Budget

Stop eating as many restaurant meals. That’s an easy way to find money to add to your grocery shopping budget, especially if this means you’re cutting back on alcohol spending at restaurants.

Use Coupons

While they are not for everyone, coupons are the simplest way to save money on the items you need. Even if coupons aren’t available for the grocery items you need, you can find them for household products you use, like toilet paper and laundry detergent, thereby reducing your spending and increasing the money you can spend on the foods you want.

Stick to Your List

Never shop without a list and only purchase the items on your list. Put in writing or use a grocery list app and don’t be tempted to add extra items to the cart.

Make a Meal Plan

Create a meal plan before you grocery shop. That way, you have a plan for the week not only to know what you will eat but also to make sure the ingredients will be on hand when it’s time for meal prep (reducing those frequent drive-thru meals). Meal planning saves you time, money, and the stress of figuring out “Mom, what’s for dinner?” without resorting to frozen pizza.

Keep a Price Book

Start watching the sales cycles at your grocery store and you’ll learn when it is time to stock up on your pantry staples, so you always pay the lowest price. Keep track of the prices in a price book for every item your family needs. (Bonus: When you get good at identifying your store’s food cost cycles, you can plan a meal or two around the fresh foods on sale in any given week.)

Add a Meatless Meal

One item that can quickly increase your grocery bill is meat. Try having a meal without meat every week (like Meatless Mondays), and you’ll find that you spend less.

Vegetables are cheaper than meat and can be just as filling. Having vegetables for your main course at dinner is not only healthy but can also help with saving money. Try loaded sweet potatoes, pasta with veggie sauce, or cheese and vegetable pizza for a delicious meal.

If veggies are a hard sell for your family, try fruit salads or breakfast for dinner — pancakes and French toast are cheap and fast!

Buying fresh fruit and vegetables that are in-season can help you save even more on your monthly grocery bill. And frozen vegetables and fruit are often cheaper (and tastier) than “fresh” produce that’s not in-season.

  • Pro tip: When you’re buying meat, remember that cuts like chicken thighs are often significantly cheaper than chicken breasts, and they have more flavor. Get more tips on saving money on meat, produce, and dairy products.

There’s an App for That

There are many grocery savings apps that can help you keep tabs on food prices and create a smarter shopping list. What is great about an app is that you always have it with you on your phone, so no worry that you left a coupon at home or in your car.

Steer Clear of Mistakes at the Grocery Store

When you grocery shop, there are temptations around every corner (and I don’t just mean the ice cream and chocolate chip cookies). There are sales on the end caps, fancy signs and different tricks stores use to make you spend more money. Learn about the ways grocery stores get you to spend more money so you can avoid them.

Avoid Haste and Waste

One of the biggest ways people waste money when it comes to food is through waste. People often buy food that goes bad before they get around to eating it.

You might also waste money buying convenience foods. (That frozen meal might seem like a deal when you’re running low on time, but you’ll save more if you prepare big batches of homemade, healthy food and freeze some leftover portions for later.)

These are two ways you are killing your grocery budget. Study your habits and find ways to make changes so you aren’t wasting money on food.

  • Pro tip: One convenience food I occasionally give into is a rotisserie chicken. It’s ready to eat when I get home from the store, and you can use it in a few other meals during the week.

NOW GO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR GROCERIES!

Take the time to create a grocery budget that is both frugal and feasible for your family. Don’t try to make the dollar amount so low that it is unrealistic, or it will fail month after month. But if you pay attention while you’re shopping and keep an eye on how long the food lasts your family, you’ll soon discover that having a realistic grocery budget is the tastiest way to save money!

The post How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

10 Money Management Tips to Teach Your Kids About Finance

Knowing how to handle finances is one of the most basic and important life skills. When you understand how to handle your money, you can avoid falling into financial problems and risks. So teaching your children about money is a key step in preparing them for adulthood. Teach them values and terms, such as saving, and they will grow to possess good money habits even up to adulthood. Broaden your knowledge of finance and money matters and pass them to your kids by reading up. Read LoanStart blog for financial advice and learn the intricacies of financing and loans and how they can help benefit your current financial situation.

1. Integrate Money Into Daily Life

Get your children involved with money. For example, you can have a young child join you at the grocery store to help with shopping. Ask them to compare prices of similar items and discuss why the items may be different. For older children, you might allow your child to watch or participate when you pay bills. Explain the process to them. Let your child know how much money comes in each month and how much you spend on expenses. Show to them how expenses add up.

Involving your children in household finances will help build their financial knowledge at an early age.

2. Give Your Child an Allowance, But Consider the Frequency and Amount

There are several benefits to giving an allowance. For one thing, when your child has money of their own that they can spend at their discretion, they will be incentivized to learn how to handle it. Once the allowance is gone, your child will have to save up to buy necessary items. You can teach your child to be responsible for money management and living within their means by sticking to the rules. Disperse allowance on a regular schedule, and never extend "credit."

Some financial experts recommend giving out an allowance to be budgeted once a month rather than once a week. This gives the child a longer amount of time on how to manage a given amount of money. Also, the larger the amount of money, the more management skills are to be learned.

3. Model Good Financial Behavior

Your children look up to you, so your decisions with money will set an example. Are you late on your bills? Are you living beyond your means? Get your financial situation in order and be honest with your children. Let them know the reason behind your financial behavior so that you can discuss financial planning and management as a family.

4. Teach Your Children About Choices

Let them know the reason behind your financial behavior and embark on sound financial planning and management as a family.

Make sure your children know that there are more ways to use money beyond just spending it. Teach your child to save, invest, or donate to charity, and explain why these options are worth the effort, even if they do not offer the short-term satisfaction that comes with making a purchase.

5. Provide Extra Income Opportunities

Occasionally, you can offer your child an opportunity to make a small amount of extra income by having them do some chores around the house. This will teach them early on about the value of earning money. You can then help them decide what to do with the extra money they have earned.

6. Teach Your Child How to be a Wise Consumer

Before your child buys something new, discuss with them the alternative ways of spending money to emphasize the value of making choices. Teach them to compare shops and items for prices and quality. Show them how advertisers persuade people to buy their products. Encourage your kids to be savvy and critical of ads and commercials.

7. Teach Your Child a Healthy Attitude Towards Credit 

Teach your child how to handle credit. When you think they are old enough to understand what credit is, allow them to borrow an extra amount of money from you to make a major purchase. Talk to them and negotiate how much amount your child will pay you each week from their weekly allowance, and then collect the money and keep track of the remaining balance each week until the debt is repaid.

8. Involve Your Child in Family Financial Planning

Let your child see how you plan your budget, pay bills, how you shop carefully, and how you plan major expenditures and vacations. Explain to them that there are affordable choices, and allow the kids to participate in the decision-making process. You can set a family goal that everyone can work towards.

Explain to your kids that there are affordable choices, and allow them to participate in the decision-making process.

9. Avoid Impulse Buys

Children are prone to impulse buys when they find something cute or eye-catching. Instead of giving in and buying the item for them, let your child know that they can use their savings to pay for the item. However, encourage your child to wait at least a day before they purchase anything above a given benchmark–for example, 15 dollars. The item will still be there the next day and they will have properly decided with a level head if they still want the item.  

10. Get Them Saving for College

College is an important phase that can affect the future of your child. There’s no time like the present to have your teen saving for college. If they plan on working a summer job you can take a portion of that amount and put it on a college savings account. Your child will feel more responsible since their future is at stake with how much they save.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

What You Need to Know About Budgeting for Maternity Leave

Prepping for a new baby’s arrival might kick your nesting instinct into high gear, as you make sure everything is just right before the big day. One thing to add to your new-baby to-do list is figuring out how to financially prepare for maternity leave if you’ll be taking time away from work.

Lauren Mochizuki, a nurse and budgeting expert at personal finance blog Casa Mochi, took time off from work for the births of both her children. Because she had only partial paid leave each time, she says a budget was critical in making sure money wasn’t a source of stress.

“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time,” Mochizuki says.

But the question “How do I budget for maternity leave?” is a big one. One thing’s for sure—the answer will be different for everyone, since not everyone’s leave or financial situation is the same. What matters most is taking action early to get a grip on your finances while there’s still time to plan.

Before you get caught up in the new-baby glow, here’s what you need to do to financially prepare for maternity leave:

1. Estimate how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last

To financially prepare for maternity leave, you need to know how long you plan to be away from work without pay.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave from work per year for certain family and medical reasons, including for the birth of a child. Some employers may also offer a period of paid leave for new parents.

The amount of unpaid maternity leave you take will determine the budget you’ll need while you’re away.

When estimating how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last, Mochizuki says to consider how much unpaid leave you plan to take based on your personal needs and budget. For example, you could find you’re not able to take the full period offered by FMLA after reviewing your expenses (more on that below) and how much you have in savings.

Even if your employer does offer paid maternity leave, you may decide to extend your time at home by supplementing your paid leave with unpaid time off, Mochizuki says.

Keep in mind that despite all of your budgeting for maternity leave, your health and the health of your baby may also influence how much unpaid time off you take and how long your maternity leave budget needs to stretch.

As you’re financially preparing for maternity leave, make sure your spouse or partner is also considering what benefits may be available to them through their employer. Together you should know what benefits are available for maternity or paternity leave, either paid or unpaid, and how to apply for them as you jointly navigate the budgeting for maternity leave process. You can then decide how to coordinate the amount of time each of you should take and when that leave should begin.

Contact your HR department to learn about your company’s maternity leave policy, how to apply for leave and whether there are any conditions you need to meet to qualify for leave. Ask if you’re able to leverage sick days, vacation days or short-term disability for paid maternity leave.

2. Babyproof your budget

When budgeting for maternity leave, make sure you review your current monthly budget to assess how budgeting for a new baby fits in.

In Mochizuki’s case, she and her husband added a category to save for maternity leave within their existing budget for household expenses (e.g., mortgage, utilities, groceries).

“We treated it as another emergency fund, meaning we had a goal of how much we wanted to save and we kept working and saving until we reached that goal,” Mochizuki says.

Figure out what new expenses might be added to your budget and which existing ones might reduce to financially prepare for maternity leave.

As you financially prepare for maternity leave, consider the following questions:

  • What new expenses need to be added to your budget? Diapers, for instance, can cost a family around $900 per year, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. You may also be spending money on formula, bottles, wipes, clothes and toys for your new one, all of which can increase your monthly budget. And don’t forget the cost of any new products or items that mom will need along the way. Running the numbers with a first-year baby costs calculator can help you accurately estimate your new expenses and help with financial planning for new parents.
  • Will any of your current spending be reduced while you’re on leave? As you think about the new expenses you’ll need to add when budgeting for maternity leave, don’t forget the ones you may be able to nix. For example, your budget may dip when it comes to commuting costs if you’re not driving or using public transit to get to work every day. If you have room in your budget for meals out or entertainment expenses, those may naturally be cut if you’re eating at home more often and taking it easy with the little one.

3. Tighten up the budget—then tighten some more

Once you’ve evaluated your budget, consider whether you can streamline it further as you financially prepare for maternity leave. This can help ease any loss of income associated with taking time off or counter the new expenses you’ve added to your maternity leave budget.

Becky Beach, founder of Mom Beach, a personal finance blog for moms, says that to make her maternity leave budget work—which included three months of unpaid leave—she and her husband got serious about reducing unnecessary expenses.

Find ways to reduce costs on bills like insurance and groceries to help save for maternity leave.

Cut existing costs

As you budget for maternity leave, go through your existing budget by each spending category.

“The best tip is to cut costs on things you don’t need, like subscriptions, movie streaming services, new clothes, eating out, date nights, etc.,” Beach says. “That money should be earmarked for your new baby’s food, clothes and diapers.”

Cutting out those discretionary “wants” is an obvious choice, but look more closely at other ways you could save. For example, could you negotiate a better deal on your car insurance or homeowner’s insurance? Can you better plan and prep for meals to save money on food costs? How about reducing your internet service package or refinancing your debt?

Find ways to earn

Something else to consider as you budget for maternity leave is how you could add income back into your budget if all or part of your leave is unpaid and you want to try and close some of the income gap. For example, before your maternity leave starts, you could turn selling unwanted household items into a side hustle you can do while working full time to bring in some extra cash and declutter before baby arrives.

Reduce new costs

As you save for maternity leave, also think about how you could reduce expenses associated with welcoming a new baby. Rather than buying brand-new furniture or clothing, for example, you could buy those things gently used from consignment shops, friends or relatives and online marketplaces. If someone is planning to throw a baby shower on your behalf, you could create a specific wish list of items you’d prefer to receive as gifts in order to offset costs.

4. Set a savings goal and give every dollar a purpose

When Beach and her husband saved for maternity leave, they set out to save $20,000 prior to their baby’s birth. They cut their spending, used coupons and lived frugally to make it happen.

In Beach’s case, they chose $20,000 since that’s what she would have earned over her three-month maternity leave, had she been working. You might use a similar guideline to choose a savings goal. If you’re receiving paid leave, you may strive to save enough to cover your new expenses.

Setting a savings goal and tracking expenses before the new baby arrives is an easy way to save for maternity leave.

As you make your plan to save for maternity leave, make sure to account for your loss of income and the new expenses in your maternity leave budget. Don’t forget to factor in any savings you already have set aside and plan to use to help you financially prepare for maternity leave.

Once you’ve come up with your savings target, consider dividing your maternity savings into different buckets, or categories, to help ensure the funds last as long as you need them to. This could also make it harder to overspend in any one category.

For instance, when saving for maternity leave, you may leverage buckets like:

  • Planned baby expenses
  • Unexpected baby costs or emergencies
  • Mother and baby healthcare

“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time.”

– Lauren Mochizuki, budgeting expert at Casa Mochi

Budgeting for maternity leave—and beyond

Once maternity leave ends, your budget will evolve again as your income changes and new baby-related expenses are introduced. As you prepare to go back to work, review your budget again and factor in any new costs. For example, in-home childcare or daycare may be something you have to account for, along with ongoing healthcare costs for new-baby checkups.

Then, schedule a regular date going forward to review your budget and expenses as your baby grows. You can do this once at the beginning or end of the month or every payday. Take a look at your income and expenses to see what has increased or decreased and what adjustments, if any, you need to make to keep your budget running smoothly.

Budgeting for maternity leave takes a little time and planning, but it’s well worth the effort. Knowing that your finances are in order lets you relax and enjoy making memories—instead of stressing over money.

The post What You Need to Know About Budgeting for Maternity Leave appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Chase Sapphire cards offering rewards, statement credits for groceries

Ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers have settled into new routines and developed new spending patterns. One of the spending categories that hasn’t lost its popularity is groceries, as many people are cooking more at home and eating out less frequently.

See related: Grocery shopping and COVID-19: What’s changed and how to save money

Credit card issuers are adapting to these new patterns as well.

On Oct. 20, 2020, Chase announced it would be temporarily adding grocery rewards to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card* and Chase Sapphire Reserve®. This comes on top of other limited time offers the issuer has recently added, such as limited time redemption options through Pay Yourself Back and gas and grocery store purchases counting toward the Reserve card’s $300 travel credit.

See related: Guide to Chase Pay Yourself Back

“Throughout this very unique year, we’ve provided our cardmembers flexibility and options to get the most out of their cards …  as well as limited time opportunities to earn more points on certain spending,” Chase said in a statement. “We want to continue to give our cardmembers ways to maximize value where they are spending today.”

On top of that, on Jan. 28, 2021, Chase added an offer for new Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders: a one-time automatic $50 statement credit on grocery store purchases.

How the limited time grocery rewards work

Starting Nov. 1, 2020 and running through April 30, 2021, Sapphire Reserve cardmembers will earn 3 points per dollar on grocery store purchases, and Preferred cardmembers will earn 2 points per dollar, up to $1,000 in purchases per month. According to Chase, this will be automatic for existing and new cardmembers.

See related: Best credit cards for grocery shopping

This provides cardholders with an excellent opportunity to earn some of the most valuable travel points while travel is still limited.

The new offer also makes Sapphire cards more competitive when compared with the recently updated Chase Freedom card suite. In August, the issuer replaced the Chase Freedom with the Chase Freedom Flex and added three new valuable rewards categories to both the Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited, namely bonus cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards and on dining and drugstore purchases.

Considering neither Freedom card charges an annual fee and both earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, some cardholders may be wondering if the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth keeping during a time when most of its premium travel perks might go unused.

Fortunately, all the limited time offers coupled with temporary grocery rewards make it much easier to get value of these popular travel cards – even when you’re not traveling.

How the grocery statement credit works

Another incentive to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card now is the new one-time $50 statement credit on grocery purchases.

New cardmembers will get access to the statement credit automatically and be able to use it for 12 months from the time of account opening. Eligible purchases include purchases made at merchants coded as grocery stores. Warehouse club purchases won’t qualify.

Chase hasn’t announced the offer’s expiration date yet.

Chase Sapphire cards value at a glance

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Newly added limited-time benefits Cardmembers earn more on grocery store purchases: Nov. 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021

  • 3 points per $1 spent
  • Up to $1,000 in grocery store spend per month

Gas and grocery purchases count toward Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit: 

  • Gas and groceries have been added as qualifying purchases, through June 30, 2021
New cardmembers receive an automatic statement credit:

  • One-time $50 statement credit on eligible grocery store purchases available for 12 months from the account opening

Cardmembers earn more on grocery store purchases: Nov. 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021

  • 2 points per $1 spent
  • Up to $1,000 in grocery store spend per month
Existing benefits
  • 3 points per dollar on dining purchases with restaurants – including delivery and pick-up
  • 3 points per dollar on travel – including tolls and parking
  • Complimentary DashPass Subscription from DoorDash, valued at over $100 per year
  • Up to $120 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases – $60 in statement credits through 2020 and another $60 in statement credits through 2021
  • 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides
  • Complimentary Lyft Pink membership, worth a minimum of $199 in value when you activate by March 21, 2022
  • Pay Yourself Back: Points are worth 50% more now through April 20, 2021 when redeemed for purchases in current categories of grocery, dining, home improvement and contributions to select charities
  • Chase Dining: Points are worth 50% more when redeemed through the new Chase Dining hub in Ultimate Rewards, now through April 30, 2021
  • 2 points per dollar on dining purchases with restaurants – including delivery and pick-up
  • 2 points per dollar on travel – including tolls and parking
  • Complimentary DashPass Subscription from DoorDash, valued at over $100 per year
  • 5 points on per dollar on Lyft rides
  • Pay Yourself Back: Points are worth 25% more now through April 20, 2021 when redeemed for purchases in current categories of grocery, dining, home improvement and contributions to select charities
  • Chase Dining: Points are worth 25% more when redeemed through the new Chase Dining hub in Ultimate Rewards, now through April 30, 2021

 

Bottom line

While travel isn’t the most lucrative rewards category at the moment, your Chase Sapphire card can still bring you plenty of value, especially given the temporary rewards categories and other limited time offers.

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.

Source: creditcards.com