Tag Archives: credit cards

8 Essential Black Friday Shopping Tips

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Shopping on Black Friday is clearly not for the faint at heart.  You’ve undoubtedly seen hideous videos of the masses literally trampling each other at various ‘Marts’ around the country, but the unfathomably succulent savings still call out to you, siren-like.  So, if you truly are ready to face the hordes of rapacious sale-mongers, please abide by these money, time (and possibly, life) saving tips.  

Know why you’re there.

Under no circumstances should you just saunter into the mall to “browse”; you’ll be shoved to the gleaming floor like a sack of leftover sweet potatoes.  Read up on the internet (and whatever promotional materials were mailed to you) about what sales are happening where.  Like a thrifty Santa, make a list and check it thrice; compare and contrast what certain stores are offering, online and off.  Here are some sites that actually compile the best Ebony Day After Thanksgiving options for you: bfads.net, DealNews.com, gottadeal.com, theblackfriday.com.

Get an early jump on it. 

Since the whole idea behind this day is for the stores to do stellar business (they’re obviously thinking quantity over quality), many businesses try to get a leg up by offering supreme deals before Friday even hits.  At this very moment, there are tons of shops that are offering beyond competitive deals in an effort to pre-beat out their competitors.  Do a quick search right now and possibly do some pre-emptive consuming; you may get the same low prices as on Friday and you won’t need to wear full contact football equipment to remain unscathed.   

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Even if a price looks good, it can be beat.

Don’t just fall prey to the first low marked item you see; just Google that guy and check if there are any better prices in the near vicinity.  You may be shocked to see that a competing retailer across the street is offering a way better deal – and even more surprised to learn that the store you’re currently in has a ‘match-price’ policy.  That means that if a warring chain offers an identical piece of merchandise at a lower price, they will meet that price right there on the spot, so you don’t have to burn precious gas and/or calories chasing it down.  Score! 

Loyalty pays.

If you have any shops that you frequent, there’s a good chance you can rack up points (aka ‘discounts’) by enrolling in whatever sort of rewards program they have.  If you’re the type of person who, understandably, doesn’t like filling out boring forms and receiving annoying promo emails, perhaps you should temporarily reconsider your position on the matter when dealing in this particular Black Friday milieu.  Rewards Members typically are given first dibs on B.F. deals, via discount codes and the like. 

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“Like” ‘Em.

Aside from mailing lists you may be on, you can also bolster your B.F. amalgamation of sale options by following and ‘liking’ certain brands on social media.  There’s a host of companies that offer extra special savings codes when you like, heart, retweet, tag, pin, hashtag, hashmark or hashbrown them.  

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Stick to it. 

Just as mentioned in our Holiday Savings Tips post, create a budget with strict limitations and do not deviate from it.  This is not the time to ‘see what’s out there’ and, heaven forfend, make impulse purchases.  

Don’t Accessorize. 

One of the ways that stores recover the money ‘lost’ during the feeding frenzy of low-priced B.F. items is by the inevitable ‘additional’ purchases that people make while in the store.  You’ve just saved 200 hundred smackers on a TV – but then, high on the adrenaline of having ‘saved so much,’ you turn around and buy a superfluous rotating wall mount that costs 300 dollars.  Be smart.  Know when you’re victorious and leave on a high note (like after winning a big hand in Vegas).  No extra items!

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Cheapest is sometimes just that…

Just because a particular piece is at a jaw-droopingly low rate doesn’t mean it’s going to be an intelligent purchase.  The manufacturers are acutely aware of what goes down on B.F., so they sometimes create products specifically for the day that resemble their fully functioning brothers, but are blatantly inferior in quality.  You’ll notice these can take the shape of electronics that do not come with all the features that their regularly priced counterparts offer, or dolls that are missing limbs.

So, prepare yourself for a whirlwind shopping experience for the ages.  Registers clamorously clanking along to the merry holiday tunes inundating your eardrums, elderly shoppers elbowing your ribcage and tryptophan infused lethargy will be no match for you if you stick to these tips.  Happy deal-sealing; let’s make this the blackest friday yet!  

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-Joe Leone

Trick Yourself into Saving More Money

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While you may not have gotten a raise, you can still save more money if you introduce smart saving habits into your daily lifestyle. Being able to save really just means you take a closer look at the ways you manage and spend your money, then find avenues for putting cash away. Creating rules to follow and developing smart habits will change the way you think about your cash flow, and can be a great way to trick yourself into saving more money.

Use Cash

Striving to use only cash will cause you to force yourself to pay closer attention to how much money you really spend every time you go out, to the grocery store or clothes shopping. The trick is to put your plastic away so you feel like you don’t even have it to use. You may also want to consider removing your credit cards from easy pay and 1-Click settings from your online accounts to make it harder to make purchases. You might be surprised at how much less you want an item you see online when the added difficulty of typing in your 16-digit credit card number is in your way.

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Check Your Credit Card Statement Every Month

Your credit usage may have run away from you because you are like the thousands of other people who do not check their credit card statement every month. Looking at how much money you spend and the places you spend it is a good way to make yourself think about your choices in a more deliberate manner. Seeing that you spent $80 at the bar instead of the $40 you planned may shock you into being a little more careful next weekend, or realizing you spend half of your paycheck on new threads may encourage you to create a budget for your wardrobe.

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Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Attorney Leslie Tayne who writes for Fox Businesses advises you wait five days before making a big purchase. While that hot tub sale is enticing, give yourself five days to ponder whether a hot tub purchase is really in line with saving for your kids’ college tuition. Thinking about what you want to buy is a great way to prevent yourself from spending too lavishly on items you don’t need. A bonus benefit of waiting to buy something is that it gives you a chance to find a better deal, whether you look online or in competitors’ stores.

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Ignore Extra Income

Even though your surprise income may look like it has “jet-ski” written all over it, try instead to imagine it saying “Save me!” and put it away into an account you don’t use immediately. Tayne advises that you only rely on the money you make regularly to make big purchases. That means you should take that big fat tax refund or even the $10 you found in the parking lot and put it toward debt or into a savings account. Extra income is anything outside of the realm of your weekly or monthly income, including cash you make from selling your unneeded wares, (like diamonds that you sell with us!) By putting that extra cash away, you’ll never be tempted to dump it down the drain on something you don’t need. The unexpected kind of money is best spent by not spending it at all.

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Automate Everything

Investopedia advises against taking care of your financial business on a day-by-day basis. Instead, get your employer to deposit portions of your paycheck not only into your checking account, but into your savings account and IRA as well. In addition, set up your credit cards to pay off the balance each month, not just the minimum. A penny paid off is a penny and a half earned in the credit world, because each time your balance equals zero, that means you don’t have to pay annoying off bank fees later in life.

Saving money is really just about changing the way you look at money. If you don’t let it burn a hole in your pocket and instead let it burn a hole in your debt or build your savings, you’ll be on your way to securing a bright financial future in no time.

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How to Choose the Best Credit Card

Consider something called "e-mail."
Consider something called “e-mail.”

Getting mail was exciting when you were a kid because it was usually something fun like a present or an invitation. And as an adult, sometimes it probably feels like you got accepted to Hogwarts when you open your mailbox, so many letters fly out.  The child inside you gets excited but soon you realize they’re all emblazoned with the Bank of America, Discover, or Citi emblem, not the Hogwarts seal. As a grown up, sometimes it seems like the only people who send mail anymore are the multitude of banks vying for your application for a new credit card account and the occasional magazine company that really, really misses you. When your junk mail reaches the point of utter chaos, it can be so overwhelming that you end up throwing it all away or making a hasty, uninformed decision when you need new credit.

But don’t let the inundation of information overwhelm you, nor the disappointment that you still are not a wizard in training. Whether you’re a first time borrower or a seasoned veteran at getting late notices, it’s a good idea to compare what’s out there to select the best credit card for your needs.

House of Credit Cards
House of Credit Cards

Below is an overview the basic types of credit cards you can choose from based on the benefits each one offers.

Low Interest: The focus of a low interest card is to make it easier to carry a balance from one month to the next without having to make continuous balance transfers or open new lines of credit. A lower interest rate will result in lower fees each month while you pay off your card or accrue new debt that you plan to pay off later. The interest rate on these cards sometimes increases after a promotional period, which makes them useful for balance transfers or short term hardships.

"I found this card in the food court at the mall!"
“I found this card in the food court at the mall!”

Balance Transfer: Balance transfer cards can help you pay down a credit balance that you have been carrying. Many balance transfer cards have a promotional period during which the interest is at zero or low percentage rate. Balance transfer cards are popular for people who want to consolidate their debt in order to make their payments easier or lower, as well as people who have one credit card with a high balance and a high interest rate. With balance transfer cards, there is usually a one-time balance transfer fee added to the total balance.

Cash Back: Cash back cards give you cash in return for making purchases on your credit card and paying off the balance. Cash back cards reward people who are dedicated to paying off their balance each month and the reward can go toward the balance itself or be redeemed in a checking account or a check. Cash back cards often offer special promotions with particular restaurants or retailers, as well as higher cash back percentages in certain categories. Cash back cards are popular for people who like to charge most things on a credit card, but are good at paying off the balance each month.

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“I’d like to purchase twelve thongs, please.”

Rewards Points: Points cards are similar to cash back cards, except the account holder get points in return for purchases instead of cash. The points can usually be used toward purchases through an exclusive shopping site for cardholders or converted to payments on your credit balance. Some points can be converted to cash. Some points cards offer hotel or airline rewards points, which often offer bonuses for purchasing travel during various times or give a large amount of points to new card holders. Points can be used for free airline tickets or even free hotel stays.

Whether you’re an avid traveler, a lover of saving money, or a fan of getting rewarded for your diligence, you have choices that will suit your spending style and your financial needs. Most banks offer multiple cards, so it may be a good idea to choose the card type that fits your lifestyle first, then compare each bank’s offerings to choose one that makes sense for your financial goals.

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“You ruined my credit…why am I smiling??”

 

Dealing With Money after Divorce

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People can sometimes get nasty during divorce, and you might see sides of your former partner’s personality that you never thought you’d have to deal with. A lot of that nastiness arises during discussions of money and the valuables you once owned together, things people sometimes feel possessive about during the divorce negotiations. If you’re going through a divorce, it’s never too early to analyze your investments and create a financial plan and budget for your future. But before you think about the future, you have to think about the past and protect any wealth you have already worked hard to acquire.

Here are a few facets of your financial situation that are important to think about as you move forward with your life:

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Bank Accounts: According to DailyFinance.com, one of the first things you should do once you are divorced is ensure that you have all your own bank accounts, whether that means opening up entirely new accounts or simply ensuring your existing accounts are in your name only. If you don’t have one already, getting a credit card in your own name should be considered paramount, especially to help you adjust in the short term. If you have an outstanding balance on a joint credit card that you are unable to pay off immediately, you can call the credit card company to tell them not to allow any future payments on the card.

Insurance: Married couples often receive insurance discounts, so it makes sense to combine contracts at first, but after divorce, things can get confusing. For your health insurance, under a COBRA plan, you have the right to coverage if you are legally separated, but not if you are divorced. Other insurance policies to examine include homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, car insurance, and life insurance.

Beneficiaries: Evaluate your named beneficiaries to make sure none of them are your ex-spouse or his or her family members. While it might not seem like an immediate concern, changing the beneficiaries on your 401(k) and your IRA is one of those tasks that often gets put on the back-burner during the chaos that is divorce paperwork and the emotional rollercoaster you’ll be riding.

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Safety: Having a safety account is always a good idea; especially during divorce proceedings. This isn’t a hidden, secret Swiss account that you can use when you run away, it’s simply an account you can add to and withdraw from without having to worry whether your former partner is partaking in what belongs to you.

Taxes: First, keep in mind that a 50/50 split in assets might not be 50/50 after taxes are evaluated. Speak with a tax professional to ensure you are getting a fair deal in the settlement, and remember, when tax season rolls around, you and your ex may still be on the same side for that particular challenge. Be sure to keep copies of everything related to major purchases and finances, even if you are not sure whether they still have anything to do with you. That way, when it’s tax time, you’ll have all of your bases covered should an issue arise.

Other Income: In addition to accounts that directly involve money you already have, consider the value of indirect sources of money—whether that involves income or anticipated savings. Some commonly overlooked concerns include insurance that was paid for ahead of time, tax refunds, and even frequent flyer points.

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Bills: On the flipside, you and your former spouse probably have several joint billing accounts that you pay into monthly, quarterly, or yearly. Look through your records for memberships, subscriptions, and even items that often are forgotten, like EZPass or your state’s toll payment provider. Some people prepay for items out of joint accounts before filing for divorce, while others may simply not worry about future liability, leaving the responsibility on you.

Divorce proceedings are often tedious, and losing that part of your life can be painful, but staying in charge of your financial future is a great way to create some security in your life. Protect yourself from unfortunate financial surprises by looking into what might seem like tiny details before they become big problems.

Fixing Mistakes on Your Credit Report

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Are you one of the 35 percent of people who have never, ever scanned your credit report for mistakes? Do you have complete faith that the credit bureau and your banks have never accidentally put a mark against your credit score that did not belong there? Or, are you maybe one of the whopping 56 percent of people who simply do not know their credit score, and therefore have no idea as to whether your credit score features glaring problems that make you look financially incompetent?

If you are one of those people, it might be time to start finding out more about your credit score. If you are already aware of an error on your credit score, then perhaps you’d like to find out ways you can fix mistakes you’ve discovered. In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission reported that about 20 percent of participants in a study found errors on their credit reports.

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The first thing you should do if there is an error on your credit report is check with other credit reporting companies. For example, if you found the error on the report generated by Credit Karma, check Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You may find that the error is only on one report, which means you only have to deal with that one company. If you find that the error is on multiple reports, contact the credit bureau directly.

According to U.S. News & World Report, identity errors are the number one cause of credit report mistakes. Identity errors are different than identity theft, because they are a simple error made by the credit reporting company. In other words, they think John Doe is the same person as Jon Doe, or they confuse family members who may have lived at the same address. This type of error can result in a huge decrease in your credit score, especially if the person with your same name has been less than responsible. A more subtle credit score identity error may occur if a consumer has ever had a linked account with anyone, or if their name was on another person’s account as an authorized user.

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Identity theft is a common cause of errors—often major errors—on consumer credit reports. IdentityTheft.gov advises victims of identity theft to first call the credit card company and report the fraud. Next, victims should place a fraud alert on their credit report with one of the credit report companies, which is obligated to tell the remaining two. Once identity theft is recognized, it is a good idea to scour the credit report for specific errors in preparation for talking to the Federal Trade Commission and the police. In addition to reporting the problem to the credit bureau, victims should report it to the FTC and the local police department.

Another common credit report mistake might be a little harder to spot: incorrect account information. This may include an incorrect credit limit or an account showing as open when it is closed. While an incorrect credit limit may not seem like a big deal, it is important to correct it so the part of your credit score that calculates the amount of credit you are using is accurate.

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In any situation, try to be as clear and specific as possible with the credit reporting agency or federal department representative with whom you are working. This will not only expedite the process, it will prove to be a less confusing experience for you. Creditcards.com advises against discussing all of the errors in the same letter, and writing each letter from scratch. Using form letters that sound official will not get the consumer any further than a straight-forward, specific letter, and could possibly only result in confusion.

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What happens if you let your credit report go completely unchecked? You may be denied new credit, a credit line increase, or charged higher interest rates. Do your future a favor and check the details of your credit score for errors today.

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