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6 Lessons In Kindergarten That Will Help You Develop Great Financial Habits

little girl holding moneyWe can all benefit from good financial habits. In fact, we all want to make sure that our children start learning them early. This is why it is encouraged that parents teach kids about smart money management skills. When you let your kids develop the right financial behavior at an early stage, they will most likely bring that with them as they age. When you mold them to become great money managers at an early stage, you can be assured that they will make the right financial choices as they mature. And even if they make mistakes, it is okay. They will know how to get themselves out of the mess that they put themselves in.

While you can teach your kids a lot of things about money, did you know that they can also teach you a couple of things as well? There is this poem by Robert Fulghum titled All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. The same author also wrote a book that expounded on the ideas on this poem. This literary piece enumerated a couple of lessons that we learned in kindergarten. These lessons are something that we can implement even as we age. It tells us of how simple things really is for a kindergarten. In fact, even something as complicated as money can be simplified if you try to look at it through the eyes of a young one.

This is why we tried to search for tips that we can use to help develop financial habits in this literary piece. If you broaden your mind, you can actually see 6 different lessons that you can use to help improve your behavior when it comes to money. Since these are supposed to be lessons in kindergarten, you can probably use this to teach your kids about the proper way to handle their finances.

6 lessons in Kindergarten that can improve your financial behavior

So what financial lessons for kids can you use as an adult? Here are the 6 lessons we got from the poem by Robert Fulghum.

When you go out into the world, watch for traffic.

Everytime you cross the street, it is important that you look both ways before you step off into the busy street. When you watch out for traffic, you will know where you are, what is coming for you and what awaits you. The same is true when it comes to money. Before you make a decision, it is important that you know the whole situation first. You need to know where you stand financially. You also have to find out what will happen when you make a particular decision. Finally, you need to know you want to go it can influence the decisions that you will make about your money.

Everything you need to know is there somewhere.

This is in relation to the previous lesson. If you want to learn something, you will always find it somewhere. If you are persistent and determined to learn, you will find a way to get the information that you need. In today’s digital age, you can easily research something over the Internet. If you do not trust what is one the web, you can always find a professional that will tell you what you need to know.

Put things back where you found them.

This is a lesson that you can use if you want to learn financial habits that you can use every time you borrow money. If you used something, it is very important that you put it back if it is not yours. The same is true for any money or object that you borrow. You need to learn how to return it. You need to pay it back. This lesson mentioned that you need to put it back where you found them. In the same way, you need to return what you borrowed in full – including interest if that is what you agreed upon when you loaned the money.

Hold hands and stick together. This is a great advice for those people who are working towards a common financial goal. You may have goals with your spouse, partner, family or friends. Whatever it is, you need to work hard to meet them together. Cooperate and remember that two heads is better than one. Even if you have set your goals on your own, it helps to find someone that you trust and respect to confide in. This person is the one who will support and encourage you as you try to reach your financial goals.

Say you’re sorry.

This is a great advice for couples handling money together. At one point, you will make mistakes when it comes to handling your money. Since you are a couple, your mistake is bound to affect the other. Learn how to apologize and work with your partner to get past the error that you made. Try not to fight about it. If your partner gets angry, do not react negatively. Be humble about it and do not add fuel to the negativity of the situation.

Share everything.

You are not really required to share everything – but you are encouraged to share. This is not really something that will improve your finances – but it will make the growth of your wealth worthwhile. It does not really matter how much you give. As long as you share with those who are less fortunate than you, then it will add to your motivation to improve your finances.

Tips to develop the right money habits

Developing the right financial habits cannot happen overnight. It is a process that you need to patiently work on. Here are a couple of things that you need to do in order to make this happen.

  • Educate yourself. This is the first step. According to the NFCC.org financial literacy survey, 3 out of 10 Americans reveal that they are not confident with their financial knowledge. If you think that you belong to this statistic, you may want to start researching about the financial concepts that will make you more confident about making decisions.
  • Observe the financial habits that you currently have. Once you have done your research or while you are doing it, observe the habits that you currently have. You need to understand your current situation before you can make improvements.
  • Identify what needs to be improved, retained or removed. Based on what you find out from the first two tips, you need to think about the habits that you need to develop. What are the current habits that you need to improve, retain or remove? And beyond that, are there any habits that you need to add? Determine what these are before you proceed.
  • Practice the habits you want to develop. After you have identified everything, it is time to implement them. In developing new habits, you need to practice them repeatedly. According to an article published on 99u.com, a habit is developed through the practice of three things: setting cues, going through the routine and earning a reward. If you do it repeatedly, you can train your brain to unconsciously do something. That is how you develop a good habit.
  • Always keep yourself informed. Lastly, you need to keep adding to what you already know. It is not enough that you develop the financial habits that you need to use to make your life better. You have to see if there are new habits that you need to form. This is why you need to continue educating yourself.

Follow these tips and you should be able to develop the financial habits that will help you improve your current financial situation.

7 Personal Finance Mistakes You Avoid Like The Plague

couple going over billsIn the not very long ago managing your personal finance was relatively simple. Just ask your parents. When they were young they probably had checking and savings accounts and that was about it. They used a combination of their checking account and cash to pay for their day-to-day expenses and whenever there was money left over they deposited into their savings account. If they had any credit cards they probably had just one and paid off their balances at the end of every month. They probably also had a mortgage, which they paid monthly by check.

But things have changed considerably. The world of personal finances has become so complicated that if you don’t manage yours very carefully you could take a big hit your financial health as well as your retirement fund.

Here are seven personal finance mistakes you should never make as they would definitely ding your finances.

Not taking advantage of online money transfers

There are two places where you will never earn much interest on your money. They are your checking and savings accounts. This is why you should have a money market account at your bank or a high-interest savings account linked to your checking account. After you have done this, you should never make a deposit directly into your checking account. Deposit everything into that higher interest account instead. Then as you need money, move it from that account into your checking account using online transfers. Move only the amount of money you need to cover whatever checks you write.

Keeping your money in a savings account at your bank

This dovetails with what we said in the above paragraph. The interest you would earn on a bank savings account today is nearly zero. This is why you should never deposit any of your money into one. If you do, the interest you’ll earn will probably be less than the rate of inflation. This means you’re actually losing money when saving money. Put whatever cash you need to have available into a bank money market account where you’ll at least earn somewhat better interest and many of these accounts come with free check-writing privileges. Don’t overlook those online banks for your cash investments. Most are FDIC insured just as is your brick-and-mortar bank.

Paying your bills too quickly

One thing you want to do for sure is hang on to your money as long as you can so that it’s earning interest. The way you do this is by setting up a system to pay your bills just before or on the day they’re due. If your bank doesn’t offer a system for paying bills online, you will need to go to your creditors as most of them do. Of course, you don’t want to pay them late as this would hurt your credit standing. And you definitely don’t want to make late payments on your credit card bills because of the oppressive interest rate that you will be required to pay.

man looking frustratedFailing to shop for better interest rates

Thanks to bank deregulation banking has become very competitive. Whether you’re paying or receiving interest it’s important to shop around. You will likely find wildly different interest rates and bank charges. When you find something better than what your current bank is offering, jump on it. Don’t stick with the bank just because you’ve been with it for “forever” if it isn’t competitive.

Overdrawing your account

One of the ways that banks are trying to increase their revenues is by making you pay a big penalty for a small error. As an example of this, let’s suppose you have $300 in your checking account and you write three checks. You write the first one for $20, the second for $30 and the third for $290. Did you know that some banks process checks in order of size and not in order received? In this case, that $290 check might be processed first so that all three checks would end up bouncing. You would then be hit with three overdraft charges that could add up to as much as $105. This is because some banks are actually charging, believe it or not, $35 for each check you overdraw.

Not managing cash flow with the help of your computer

You should definitely let your computer takeover every aspect of your personal finances including your investments. Software products such as Quicken® and Money® are now much easier to use than they were just a few years ago and they can help you gain the greatest advantage in your personal finances. These programs will produce reports at the touch of a button that can show you exactly where you stand financially and what you need to do to maximize things. There is also a wealth of apps available for both iPhones and android phones that make it much simpler for you to manage your money. The most popular of these is probably Mint.com, which will track your spending and help with your budgeting as well as monitoring your investments and credit cards. If it finds a better product than what you’re currently using it will even alert you by email.

Staying with the wrong bank

Have you noticed the “merger mania” that’s been going on in the world of banking? This is why you could wake up one day and find that the bank with which you’ve been doing business for so many years is no longer around as it has been merged into a strange new bank that now holds your accounts. It’s likely that this new bank will be one of the new megabanks, which brings up the question of will it treat you better? The answer to this is forget about it. Many of these megabanks are just raising inefficiency to a new level as well as dumbing down their customer service. The good news is that you can solve this problem very easily. Just look for the smallest bank in your neighborhood that’s FDIC insured and move your business to it. You’ll get more personal attention from a small bank then you ever will at one of those megabanks and you’ll have exactly the same insurance protection. Plus, there’s just something nice about being able to walk into your bank and be recognized, not just as another 10-digit number but as an actual, real live person.

How To Rebuild Your Reserve Fund After An Emergency

red crisis fund boxYour reserve fund is meant to be used for emergencies. Let us assume that after you have spent months saving up for your emergency fund, you have finally reached your target amount. This is a great feat because saving can keep your finances from flying apart. Whatever amount you have in this fund can help you get out of another tight spot.

But that is the challenge here. How can you build up your emergency fund once you have spent it for an unexpected event?

When you have an emergency fund, you are actually better than 62% of Americans. Bankrate.com, asked survey respondents what they would do if they are faced with an unexpected emergency that will cost them $500 to $1,000. It is revealed that 57% of the respondents will not use their savings. To be specific, 26% will reduce their spending on other things, 16% will borrow from other people, 12% will use credit cards, and 3% will think of something. $1,000 seems like a very low target for a reserve fund and it appears like a lot of Americans do not even have this amount in their savings.

If you have just spent your emergency fund – you may be in better shape than all these people. Of course, you are no longer as secure as you once were because you blew out your savings. This is why you need to work as fast as you can in rebuilding your reserve fund.

How to build up your emergency fund after spending it

There are a couple of things that you can do in order to get back the amount that you spent in your last emergency. You may be feeling relieved because you had that money saved up when you needed it the most. Imagine what would have happened if you didn’t?

Well to give you an idea, here is a video from Forbes that discusses what it can cost you if you do not have a reserve fund to get you out of tight spots.

We all know that it is difficult to not have the money to get out of tight spots. What you learned from the video should give you some motivation to build it up quickly.

Here are some tips that we have for you.

Revisit your budget.

The first thing that you need to do is to look at your budget plan. If you have to save up for something fast, you need to make sure that it is aligned with your budget. The good thing about putting your saving goals in your budget plan is you can ensure that your allocation will be there each month. If you put it in your priority list, you will be reminded that you have to put aside money for your reserve fund.

Now revisiting your budget would help you identify if you have enough income to set aside to rebuild your emergency fund. If not, you can figure out your next steps in order to reach your saving goal.

Be a smart spender.

The next step on your to do list is to take a look at your spending and to improve it. Since you have to continue spending in order to survive, you should learn how to be a smart spender. Take note that our definition of smart spending is not only saying no to expenses that you cannot afford. That is already a given. If you really want to be smart when it comes to your expenses, you need to learn how to say no – even when you can afford to pay for something. You need to stick to the expenses that are necessary at present. The rest should be invested in your future. Your reserve fund is one of the investments that you can make. Remember the video we shared earlier? Think about what it will cost you if you did not have the emergency fund to spend on unexpected expenses. If you eliminate the unnecessary spending, you can increase the amount that you can save.

Increase your income.

To help you put more money in your emergency fund, you should also look for ways to increase your income. In case your income is not enough to help you build up your funds immediately, you can look for ways to boost your monthly cash flow. If your intention is to simply rebuild your reserve fund, this increase can only be temporary. You do not really have to get a second job or something. But if you can set up a source of passive income that you can make permanent, then that would really help your finances in the long run. However, if you can only set up a temporary financial boost, then that is alright. Among the things that you can do is to declutter your home and sell off things that you do not need. The profit that you will earn can be sent towards your reserve fund.

These three should be enough to help you rebuild your emergency fund as fast as possible. As you work diligently in saving, just pray and hope that no unexpected expense will happen in the near future.

How much money should you put aside for emergencies

After the emergency that you had to go through, you may want to ensure that the next unexpected expense will no longer wipe out your savings. If this means you have to increase your reserve fund target, then that is what you should do.

However, this is something that you need to be careful with. You need to set a reasonable emergency fund target – but at the same time, you do not want to overdo it.

There is an article published on GetRichSlowly.org that tells us something about putting too much money in your savings. This article hinted that you could waste money if you put too much in your emergency fund. This is money that you usually put in your savings account because you want to be able to access it immediately when you need to. The problem with savings accounts is that it only gains you a small interest. If your retirement or children’s college fund earns 23% (as was stated in the article), you might feel bad about the money you have in your reserve fund.

So here is another challenge, how much money should you put aside for your reserve fund?

The answer to that will depend on your personal situation. Your emergency savings will depend on what you need to spend on. According to an article published on BusinessInsider.com.

You need 3 months worth of monthly expenses if…

  • You are a healthy individual.
  • You do not have dependents.
  • You can live well within your means.

You need 6 months worth of monthly expenses if…

  • You have a dual-income family.
  • You have dependents.
  • You rely on variable or commission-based income.

You need 8 months or more worth of monthly expenses if…

  • You have a single-income family.
  • You have or one of your dependents have a health problem.
  • You are old or retired.

This is something that you need to consider if you want to be able to save just the right amount of money in your reserve fund. It helps to just start with your budget. Analyze what you need to do and be very honest with what you need in your financial life. By doing that, you can set up a fund that is enough for what you may require if an emergency happens.

Having A Baby Can Ruin Your Credit Score: Here’s How

baby holding moneyCan you believe that having a baby can ruin your credit score? It seems unlikely right? How can your bundle of joy ruin anything in your life?

It is difficult to blame babies when it comes to your finances but if you think about, there is some truth to the statement. Having a baby changes a lot about your life. As unfortunate as it may sound, your baby will ruin your sleep. They will ruin your social life. They will ruin even your moment of intimacy with your spouse. In fact, they can ruin every waking moment of your life. Everything changes once the little one is brought home from the hospital.

Of course, we do not mind all the things that babies ruin. We love them that much! But even if that is true, we can take control of certain things that they are bound to change.

Take for instance our finances. This is a major concern for a lot of people – starting with the hospital bills. WomensHealthMag.com compiled accounts from several women about their experience after giving birth. As they struggled with the coming of a new baby, they had to deal with the medical bills that started to pour in shortly after. If you look at the real stories provided, you will see how even those with health insurance are forced to pay huge sums after giving birth. It is surprising to see that those with similar procedures done had to deal with different costs. These differences were sometimes caused by varying health practitioners and insurance coverages.

If you look at the article, you will realize that having a baby can be very expensive. Take note that this is just the beginning. You still have a lot of expenses before you. From the baby equipment, clothing, vaccinations, check-ups, and the toys – all of these expenses can add up. If you factor in the child-care costs, you will feel a bit overwhelmed with the financial burden of raising a child.

It is quite a lot to take in – that is true. But even after all of these changes and responsibilities, you are probably still wondering – how does your credit score fit into all of these?

Different ways that your credit can be ruined after you have a baby

Believe it or not, your credit score is in danger after you have a baby. While your little one is not directly to blame, the changes in your situation can lead to certain mistakes that can cost you a good credit score.

Here are some of the things that you need to look out for because they can increase the chances of you getting a bad credit record.

Setting unrealistic baby costs

It is understandable that you have no idea how much your baby costs would take. However, it is your responsibility to find out. If you fail to consider the amount that baby expenses would cost, you might find yourself using your credit card a lot and failing to pay it off in time. Set realistic baby costs and include it in your budget so you can allot funds for it. This is how you avoid using your credit card on these expenses. According to BabyCenter.com, among the expenses that you need to consider includes the following:

  • Formula (up to $100 per month). You can save a lot by breastfeeding as long as you can.
  • Diaper (up to $85 per month). You can save by using cloth diapers instead. It is messier but a lot cheaper. Or you can buy diapers in bulk.
  • Childcare (up to $1,000 per month). This will depend on what you will choose. Babysitters cost less but is not as reliable as daycare centres – which will cost up to $1,000 a month. It is difficult to save on this especially if you really need to work. If you live near a relative, it may be possible to ask them to look after your child.
  • Baby gear (varies). You can save by opting for second hand gear – as long as these are not broken and you clean them very well.
  • Clothes (up to $50 per month). This is another purchase that you need to buy second hand. Babies grow out of their clothes so fast that buying them new will waste your money.
  • Food (up to $100 per month). This is an expense that you have to deal with after a few months. To save, you may want to make your own baby food. That will be cheaper.
  • Toys, books and DVDS (up to $40 per month). This can also be bought second hand. As long as it is not broken, clean and safe to use – buy them used.

Failing to pay bills on time.

Another way that your baby can make you ruin your credit score is by keeping you too busy! This is expected because babies do need a lot of care and attention – especially during the first year. Your lack of sleep, feeding, bathing and other baby needs that has to be met every now and then will really take its toll on you. This will make you forget a couple of things – including bills payments. When you forget to pay the bills, your credit score will suffer in return. Set up reminders to make sure this will not happen.

Being overcome by medical bills.

As mentioned earlier, your hospital bills will be a major concern months after you gave birth. This can be overwhelming at times. Although recent developments made medical bills less of a problem, it is not something that you should put in stride. With a few tips, you can probably keep your hospital bills from becoming too much of a burden. For instance, you need to double check with your insurance company the details of your coverage. You should also double check what is written on your bill. According to the Women’s Health article, 30% to 40% of medical bills usually contain errors. So take a look at yours. Do not be afraid to ask questions if there are things that you need to clarify. Even if they insist and you believe that there are entries that should not be there – dispute your bill. Do not pay for something that was not given to you.

Eating out all the time.

It is a given that expenses usually bloat when a baby gets in the picture. But some of the expenses does not have to happen. One of the bloated expenses involve food because new parents usually develop a habit of eating fast-food instead of cooking at home. There are two reasons why you need to stop this habit. First is the cost. It is more expensive. The second reason is it is unhealthy. Meals cooked from scratch at home will always be the better option. But we all know that the baby usually takes most of your time – that means you cannot cook as much as you used to. This bloated expense could wreak havoc in your finances that could end up compromising your credit score too. This does not have to be a problem if you implement some time management skills. There is this show – Rachael Ray’s Week In A Day, that teaches you how to make meals for the whole week in just one day. When your spouse or partner is at home, you can allocate this time to make your meals for the rest of the week and then store it in the freezer. It just takes a bit of time management for this to happen.

How to keep your child-related costs from destroying your finances

Raising a child is a lot of hard work and it is expensive but the rewards that it will bring to your life is so great that you wouldn’t really mind. However, that does not mean you should let it turn for the worse. You need to learn how to disaster proof your personal finances so you can build a better future for your kids.

This is the reason why couples are warned against being unprepared for parenthood. You may feel like you are physically and emotionally ready for a child. However, if you are not prepared for it financially, then you might end up ruining what you have built so far.

According to the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), a couple is expected to spend a quarter of a million to raise a child – at least until they reach the age of 18. What is surprising is that this amount does not even include college expenses. An infographic published on USDA.gov revealed that the $245,340 worth of expenses are divided into the following:

  • 30% housing
  • 18% child care and education (excluding college)
  • 16% food
  • 14% transportation
  • 8% health
  • 6% clothing
  • 8% miscellaneous

With college costs averaging at $18,390 (public) and $40,920 (private), you need to be prepared to spend up to $300,000 for each child.

Obviously, this is a very big amount. You don’t have to save up for it before you have a baby. But it is evident that you need to implement some serious financial management skills to keep your child from ruining your finances and in effect, your credit score. Here are some tips that you need to implement:

  • Follow a budget plan. This will help you keep your expenses from being more than your income.
  • Setup saving goals. These goals should be for both short term and long term. You need to think about what you child will need in 5, 10 or 15 years. Anticipate what expenses you will have and if possible, start saving up for them.
  • Invest for your children. This is obviously referring to their college education plans. When you start early, you do not have to save too much for them.
  • Build up your emergency fund. If you think that you can forego a medical treatment because you do not have the money, this might be a difficult option if it is your kid who is sick. Eliminate the possible instances that you will borrow money. Save for emergencies so your kids will not have to suffer.
  • Get a life insurance. This is very important. Life is fleeting. One moment you are here enjoying your baby and the next, life plays a cruel joke on your family. Make sure that any unexpected passing will not leave the whole family wanting. Insure yourself so your kids will be financially taken care of.

All of these will help you overcome a lot of difficulties while you are raising your child. Of course, practicing the right financial habits will not only do your personal finances some good. It will also allow you to set a good example for your children.

How To Manage Your Finances If You Are Financially Supporting A Loved One

elderly couple with family in the backgroundLearning how to manage your finances is sometimes, not just for your own benefit. It is also for others who are depending on you.

As a family, we usually try to be there for each other. We try to be there for emotional and moral support, physical assistance, and even financial help. It is nice to know that when you are in deep trouble, you can count on your family to bail you out or at the very least, give you that little push towards the right direction.

It seems that relying on our loved ones became more popular after the Great Recession. Take for instance the new graduates. In the past, young adults who graduated would move out of their parents and live on their own. They will pursue their own life and take care of their own needs. In recent years, this practice is steadily decreasing. While it is not done by the majority, a lot of Millennials are moving back in with their parents. According to the data gathered by PEWSocialTrends.org, the rate of young adults living with their parents is up to 26% in 2015 – a 2% increase since 2010. The age bracket of this group is currently 18 to 34 years old. Only 67% of them are living independently – a 2% decrease since 2010.

You may think that these young adults are moving back in because they have failed at financial management. That may seem like the case but a new study shows that it is not entirely true. At least, not anymore. Apparently, some of these young adults are actually at home because they have opted to financially support their aging parents.

Dealing with the financial issues when you are providing financial support

A recent study released by TC Ameritrade revealed that more Americans are supporting their loved ones than before. For some, they support their aging parents. Others support their adult children. There are also others who are supporting both.

Now when you intend to financially support someone else, you need to learn how to manage your finances so you can take care of both of your needs. It is not something to be taken lightly. Even if your financial resources are going well, you need to keep yourself from splurging. Instead, you have to ensure that you will prepare for the times when your resources become limited. In case something happens to your finances, you will not be the only one that will be affected. Even the loved one depending on you financially will also suffer the consequences.

According to the study published on AMTD.com, one out of 5 Americans serve as financial supporters of a loved one. On an average, they spend $12,000 in the past 12 months. Surprisingly, Millennials have spent more – averaging at $18,000 in the past 12 months. It is revealed that in most cases, mothers receive the most financial support from their children. These financial supporters also take on the burden, usually, because they were asked to. Based on the survey done, these supporters are happy with what they are doing. But when it comes to choosing between an aging parent or an adult child, most of them would choose to support their parents and leave their adult children to financially fend for themselves.

Of course, you know that helping out financially has its limits. This is why you need to manage your finances well because if not, you will be forced to make some sacrifices that can cost you a secure future. While your intentions are noble, you do not want to become a burden yourself when you retire. The respondents admitted that they had to make the following sacrifices:

  • Delaying life milestones. Since they have to put their extra money into helping their loved one, a lot of the financial supporters delayed major milestones. These milestones included buying a home, retirement, getting married and having kids.
  • Borrowing more money. Because the financial load is greater, some of the financial supporters end up owing a lot of debt. The average debt that they owe amount to $100,000 – including mortgage. In terms of credit card debt, they owe an average of $22,000.
  • Living a frugal lifestyle. Another sacrifice – that may or may not be one, is to live a frugal lifestyle. If you have the right perspective, you can actually look at this as a blessing in disguise. There are many advantages to living frugally and you may be able to learn a lot as you are forced into this lifestyle.
  • Using up their savings. The last sacrifice that they admitted to making is to use up the savings that they have put aside all this time. It is bad enough that they cannot save for their future. Having to dry up their existing savings is a really great sacrifice to make.

To avoid these sacrifices from ruining your future, you may want to manage your finances well so you can maximize what limited resources you have.

Financial management practices to help you support a loved one financially

There are couple of things that you can do in order to help in your money management efforts. That way, you can continue to help your loved one without making it too hard for your finances to carry. Here are some tips you should implement.

  • Use a budget plan. This is always a big help regardless of your financial situation. This plan will help you understand your income and expenses. It will give you more control so you can decide what your financial priorities are and you can ensure that they will always be met.
  • Track your spending. Another tip that you need to implement is to track your spending. This should be an easy task if you have a budget plan. This will help make you a smart spender because you are more cautious of what you are spending on each month. You can cut back on the expenses that you think is unnecessary.
  • Lower expenses. Once you have tracked your spending, you should be able to identify those that you can live without. There are various ways to slash your expenses so you leave more room in your budget for the unexpected expenses.
  • Plan for your future. Although your finances are tied up at the moment, that does not mean you should stop planning from your future. If anything, this is the right time for you to do that. You need to manage your finances not just for the present expenses, but for your future too. If you think that it is hard to financially support someone, you do not want to be on the other end when you retire. After all, you cannot be sure that someone would be selfless enough to make the same sacrifices that you are doing right now.
  • Save up for retirement. As you plan for your future, the most important task that you need to do is to save for your retirement. There are a lot of retirement plans out there that you can tap into. Choose a plan that your budget can afford.
  • Research benefits you can get as a financial supporter. When you are supporting other people, you need to research certain benefits that you can avail because of that financial responsibility. You can look into Medicare and Medicaid to see if you can get health assistance. You can also visit sites like ElderCare.gov to find out where you can get help.

These should help you manage your finances so you can create a more secure financial position for yourself and those relying on you.

6 Ways To Give Yourself A Raise

happy woman with raining moneyIf you have one of those typical, 9 to 5 jobs you’re probably fortunate if you get one raise a year. And if you’re really good at your job you might see a raise of 2% or even 3%. That can be kind of disheartening. You work your posterior off for 12 months and then see your income increase by just a few dollars a week. As an example of this lets suppose you currently earn $65,000 a year. A 3% raise would be $1950 – before taxes. Divide this by 52 and that’s just $37.50 a week before taxes or hardly enough for dinner at a nice restaurant

But there’s an alternative. You could give yourself a nice raise practically immediately and here are six ways to do it.

Buy a franchise

You could make a big pile of money by buying the right franchise. This is where you pay to use an established company’s name, trademark and way of doing business. There are franchises available for health clubs, hair care studios, cleaning services, food and financial support services. As a general rule the franchisor will provide you with expertise in starting the business, marketing and managing it and with the requisite training. This makes it relatively easy for you to hit the road running. Of course, the good franchises require a minimum amount of cash to even begin the discussion. This could come from equity in your home, savings, your stock portfolio or 401(k). As an example of this, the Subway sandwich shop requires you to have $12,500 in available cash but your total investment to get one of these stores going varies from $92,050 to $222,800. On the other hand there are franchises such as YoNaturals that offers vending machines stocked with organic snacks and might be a better choice if you want a home-based business and not one where you’d be running a sandwich shop seven days a week. The important thing is to do your due diligence before you sign any franchise agreement. While one of these businesses is not a certain thing successful ones can easily generate six figures a year.

Share your expertise

One of the best ways to give yourself a raise is through part-time gigs you could do nights and weekends. Do you speak a second language? You could offer classes at your local community center or local library. If you’re great at math, physics or chemistry start tutoring and earn as much as $60 an hour. Are you a talented writer? Offer workshops on creative writing. When you stop to think about it the opportunities for these part-time jobs are almost limitless. With a little bit of effort you could generate as much as $500 per month and if you have mad IT skills you should be able to double that. Web designers can get anywhere from $500 to several thousand dollars to create company websites and IT consultants generally charge around $80 an hour or more.

Get a roommate

This could be tough if you’re married and raising children but if you’re flying solo you might think about renting out your basement or spare bedroom. How much you could earn will depend, of course, on your town or city and the features you have to offer. However, it’s likely you could bring in $500 to $1500 a month and that’s without doing much of anything. Of course, you will want to be careful whom you take in. Be sure to do a criminal background check and get referrals from her or his former landlords. You should also check credit scores and confirm their employment yourself.

Become a public speaker

If you are scared of public speaking it would be good to get over this and do it quickly. People who can attract a crowd like politicians, celebrities and best-selling authors can get $50,000 or as much as $100,000 per speaking engagement. Of course, if you don’t fall into any of those three categories you might have to settle for $500 to $5000 per engagement but you will need to have a new and fresh topic or at least a new take on an old one . And be prepared to start speaking for free until you build a reputation. Think about your areas of proficiency to create subject matter. Don’t make the mistake of limiting yourself to motivation lectures or financial workshops. Think about your hobbies and how they might be turned into subject matter for seminars. You could sign up with a speaker’s bureau that would get you opportunities but they will take a cut of your fee, which will probably be 30%.

Make stuff and sell it on Etsy

This website now has more than 30 million members worldwide. It’s become a strong competitor to eBay but is different in that it specializes in handmade and vintage items. If you can draw, paint, sculpt, throw pots, crochet, knit or find collectible items from the 1950s and 60s you could make good extra money selling the stuff on Etsy. And if you can make really unique items you could price them really high because you would have no competition.

If the idea of making and selling things on Etsy appeals to you, here’s a brief video, courtesy of National Debt Relief, with 10 tips that could help ensure your success.

home with a dollar signEarn passive income

If your goal is to achieve financial freedom you need to find passive sources of income. This means things that generate income with very little involvement on your part. Examples of this include publishing royalties, dividends from equities, rental income and profit from business partnerships. Of course, it would require a large upfront investment to buy a rental property but the potential payoff can be huge. Also, experts say it’s best to buy multi-family units instead of single-family homes. If you were to buy a four-unit property you could make $400-$600 a month whereas a single-family rental would likely earn you only $100-$150 a month after property taxes, insurance and maintenance. Of course, over time your income should increase while your expenses remain about the same – assuming you get a fixed-rate loan to finance your purchase(s). And one of the best parts of this is that you would have someone else helping you pay off an appreciating asset.

8 Out Of 10 Americans Have Debt – But The Majority Is Good Debt

businessman with dollar signs on top of his headDo you believe that there is such a thing as good debt? A lot of people believe this to be true. In fact, there are experts who tell us that there is such a thing. Debt can be good for your finances if you know how to identify one.

According to the data released on PEWTrusts.org, 8 out of 10 Americans are currently in debt. However, the data showed that the most frequent debt that is owed are home loans – which is considered to be a good kind of debt. This is considered good because it helps people increase their personal net worth. Although you start by being in debt, the more you pay towards the mortgage, the more equity you build for yourself. Equity is basically the value of the home that you own – because you paid for it already. The growing equity increases your personal net worth. In essence, that is what makes mortgages a good debt.

While this is true, do you really think that it is right for us to put ourselves through debt in order to increase our financial wealth? Is it necessary to be in debt just to set the motions that will lead towards our financial growth?

It is a difficult concept to grasp, after seeing how much grief debt cost a lot of Americans during the Great Recession. If you think that people would learn their lesson by staying away from debt, you are mistaken. Consumers continued to borrow money because of this thing called “good debt.”

Is there really a debt that will do us good?

According to an article published on USNews.com, good and bad debt is just a myth. There is no such thing. There is only debt. This is specifically mentioned by David Bach, the author of the book “Finish Rich.” He said that when it comes to debt, there is only better debt or worse debt.

Here are a couple truths that we know about debt.

Debt will always lead you to waste your money.

In a way, the author probably has a point. Debt cannot be good because you are wasting your money by paying off the interest of that loan. Instead of saving that money or better yet, investing it, you are making your creditor or lender rich. So it is really difficult to perceive something as good if you know that it will make you waste what little financial resources you already have.

Society wants us to be in debt.

If you do not believe this, then why do you think there is so much importance placed on credit scores? When you have a bad credit score, it is usually frowned upon in the financial industry. The negative effects of a bad credit score goes beyond being given a high interest rate on future loans you will apply for. Utility companies may ask you for a deposit before providing their service. Landlords can deny you access to their unit for rent. Even employers may look differently at you when they find out your credit reputation leaves a lot to be desired. This is why people are usually encouraged to be in debt at some point.

Debt causes stress.

Another truth that you need to know about credit is that it causes us money stress. This is one of the reasons why it is hard to believe that there is such a thing as good debt. When you are in debt, even if it is considered a good one, it will cause you to feel stressed. You know that you need to work hard because you need to meet those payments. Take for instance home loans. This is considered to be a good type of debt. But even if you know that every payment increases your equity, the long payment term and the high amount associated with this type of loan can be daunting. If something threatens your source of income, it can become stressful because you know that you have this loan obligation to fulfill each month.

It is a sad reality that people are forced to be in debt because they feel and know that it is sometimes the only way they can jumpstart their plans to improve their finances. Sure a handful of people are testifying that they do not use credit and they are fine with the consequences of that choice. But the majority of consumers cannot make the sacrifices necessary to stay away from debt – even if it is a good debt.

Borrowing rules if you want to keep your debt from turning bad

Did you know that the average American is actually in a worse debt situation than Greece? According to an article published on Fortune.com, the debt-to-income ratio of Greece is 177%. Do you know how the average American compares? They have a whopping 370% debt-to-income ratio! Americans have an average debt of $204,992 – a combination of mortgage, credit cards and student loans. The median income of every household in the country is currently at $55,192. That puts us at a very huge disadvantage. If you are not careful with your borrowing habits, you could be one mistake away from a financial crisis.

But even if you decide to continue being in debt, that is okay. Being in debt will not guarantee that you will eventually ruin your finances. The key to keep debt from ruining your life is to be wise about credit.

It all boils down to your financial habits. If you do not react or respond well to debt, then you will get into trouble. Thankfully, there are a couple of tips that you can follow in order to ensure that you will only owe “good debt.” When we say good, we mean the debt that will be instrumental to improving your financial position.

There are 4 simple borrowing rules that you need to implement to ensure that you are being wise about debt.

  • Borrowing when there is no other way. Some people may not agree to this and would counter that you should save for an emergency instead. We agree to that. But the point here is that you need to exhaust all other options before you decide to borrow money to get yourself out of a tight situation. Do not make it your first solution when you run into a problem.
  • Borrowing to put money in your pocket. Another rule that you need to follow is to borrow money if it will put more into your pocket. For instance, applying for a home loan that you can rent out is one way to put money in your pocket. If you price the rent correctly, you can use the money paid by your tenant to pay for your monthly amortization and still have extra to increase your cash flow.
  • Borrowing lower than your payment capabilities. The lender or creditor will always look at your ability to pay before granting you a loan. However, it is important that you set your own rules too. It is not enough that you borrow within your payment capabilities. You need to borrow lower than your payment capabilities. Just because you are allowed a $500,000 loan, that does not mean you should get everything. Be wise about the amount that you will borrow so all your extra money will not be tied to your loan payments. Leave some for your savings and emergency expenses.
  • Borrowing with a plan. Lastly, you should always borrow with a plan. This is actually how you can keep your good debt from turning bad. Make sure you have a sound plan before you borrow money. This does not only involve a plan of paying off your loan. You need to have a plan about how you will adjust your budget to accommodate this loan. You need to have a plan that will let you know what to do in case your primary source of income fails you.

Try to follow these rules if you want to borrow money wisely. Here is a video featuring Robert Kiyosaki and other financial experts as they describe how eliminating debt is ridiculous. They all believe that there is such a thing as good debt. In this video, they mention that debt is not the problem. The problem that people have that leads them to financial disasters is lack of financial education. Watch the video to learn more.

7 Apps For Putting Your Personal Finances On Autopilot

Smiling man and woman facing camera resizedOne of the best things about technology is what it does to make our lives easier. Don’t like to vacuum your floors? Get a Roomba or a V-bot to do it for you. Too tired to get up and turn off the lights? Just let your smart phone turn them off. Want to know what today’s weather will be? Ask the Amazon Echo. Love to have a hot cup of coffee waiting for you first thing in the morning? Just set the timer on your programmable coffeemaker. And these are just a few of the ways that technology makes life easier.

Make it easier to manage your money

If you’re like most Americans you already take your smart phone pretty much for granted. Sure, it was new and exciting a few years ago but now it’s become just a part of your everyday life like your one-cup coffee maker or your TV remote. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that today’s smart phones are smarter and can do more than the computers that were aboard the Apollo space flights. And one area that’s often overlooked where your smart phone could make your life a lot easier is in managing your money.

Start with Mint

If you’d like to put your finances on autopilot a good place to start would be signing up for Mint. This is a free app from Intuit and might just be the best-known online personal finance tool. When you sign up for Mint it will track your monthly spending, divide it into categories and then send you email alerts anytime you overspend if any of them. It will provide you with an overview of your entire financial picture and will give you real-time information about your credit cards, bank accounts and your 401(k) portfolio. For that matter, Mint will even send you an alert if it finds a financial product that’s better than one you’re currently using.

Automatically save with Acorns

If you have a problem saving money as do many Americans then you should get the app Acorns. You connect it to your checking account and credit cards and then when you buy something, Acorns will automatically round up your purchase to the next dollar and then invest the difference in the ETF (Exchange Traded Find) you’ve chosen. For example, if you were to buy something for $8.49 Acorn would round this up to $9.00 and then deposit $.51 in your ETF. This is a great “set it and forget it” app and a neat way to save money practically painlessly.

Get financial advice from Level Money

Here’s an app that actually gives you financial advice. You connect it to your bank account and it will then calculate your recurring bills and income and tell you what your spending should be daily, weekly and monthly. One of its really sweet features is that Level Money will not only tell you what you should be spending but also what you should be saving. You can also use it to auto-save money, which is a great way to put your financial security on autopilot.

Plan your retirement with RetirePlan

The purpose of this app is to help you determine just how much you need to invest for your retirement. It can help you answer questions such as, “How much money will I need if I live to 90?,” and “when can I retire?” One of its best features of RetirePlan is that it will allow you to play “what if” scenarios. For example, you could plug in a worst-case scenario such as when the stock market crashes and a best-case scenario like when it soars or something in between. You could then play around with the numbers until you find a scenario that meets your expectations and plan accordingly. RetirePlan will also tell you when you should get professional advice.

smilling woman with laptopSave money with Digit

One of the easiest ways to save money is by saving money you never had. Probably the foremost example of this is to have money taken out of your paycheck to fund your 401K account. Since you don’t actually “see” the money you don’t miss it as much as if you had to write a check. Digit is another way to do this. It reviews your income and spending patterns, determines how much money you can afford to put away and then saves it for you. This is just a very cool way to automatically build a nest egg.

Manage your spending with Goodbudget

Have you ever heard of the envelope method for budgeting? This was an old-school approach where you would take a bunch of envelopes and label them based on your budget categories such as groceries, utilities, clothing, etc. When you got paid you would divide the money into the envelopes based on what you had budgeted for each of your categories. The Goodbudget app is based on this but puts it into digital format. You can use it to set up an “envelope” for each of your budget categories and then deposit a certain amount of money in each of them. It will nag you if you spend more than you had budgeted in any category. While this might seem like a sort of rudimentary approach it is a great way to see how much money you’re spending in certain categories. Plus, it offers a helpful reminder when you spend too much.

Get your credit score free from CreditKarma

One of the most important things this app does is give you your credit score free. Credit Karma will also monitor your credit card accounts and then recommend better cards or loan programs that will save you money – mostly on interest. It includes a suite of services that will advise you about auto insurance and mortgages. It’s a great tool when you want to do some comparison-shopping to save money and do a better job of managing your finances.

You don’t have to do all of these at once

If the idea of downloading and learning to use all seven of these apps seems a bit overwhelming, relax. Start with one of them like Mint, learn to use it until you’re comfortable with it and then add a second app such as Acorns or RetirePlan. In other words, don’t try to do everything at once. In fact, you may find you don’t even need all seven of these apps. The important thing is to give them a try, learn what works best for you and then sit back knowing your personal finances are now resting comfortably on autopilot.

No College Degree? No Problem. Check Out These Great Jobs That Don’t Require One

How many times have you heard in the past month that everyone needs a college education? We feel like we hear it at least once a week. But the fact is that not everyone needs or should have a college education. It’s possible to even make the case that some college degrees are not worth the paper they were written on. For example, a degree in Early Childhood Education will earn you a median annual wage of just $39,000. A degree in Studio Arts is worth only about $42,000 a year and one in Human Services and Community Organization will get you a median annual salary of just $41,000. In comparison, you could be an LPN or Licensed Practical Nurse and enjoy a median annual salary of $41,974. And you could get licensed probably in about a year.Smiling doctor in front of his team

There are some other good jobs available where a college degree is not required. First, there is the aforementioned Licensed Practical Nurse where the projected job growth is 11.1%. There is a high demand for healthcare professionals and as noted above, you don’t have to invest half a lifetime in becoming one. Since you’re investing less time and money to become an LPN you will earn less than, say, registered nurses or nurse practitioners but thanks to our aging population you will still have a very bright career.

Surgical Tech

Another job that taps into our country’s increasing need for healthcare professionals is Surgical Technologist. The occupations that are classified as “technician level” are one of the biggest secrets in America. It would take you only about 18 months to become certified and the median annual salary for these people is $42,786. That would put you several thousands of dollars ahead of someone who spent four years earning a degree in Early Childhood Education. What does a Surgical Tech do? They assist surgeons by passing them instruments and related supplies. And if you were to advance to surgical first assistant, which would require some extra training, you would be allowed to assist in surgical procedures.

Computer User Support

The job growth for this occupation is projected to be 19.8%. Most companies prefer people with degrees but it’s pretty typical for people to take paths to this career who aren’t degreed. Computer user support specialists help their coworkers fix their computer problems from set up to shut down. A lot of employers prefer to hire computer support people that have certification that proves their skills. It generally costs only about $145 to take the exams required to earn this certification and when you do you could look forward to a median annual salary of $46,592.

Electrician repair of electric power cable on hydraulic platform

Electrician repair of electric power cable on hydraulic platform

Electrical Power-line installer

There continues to be a great demand for these jobs due to the our increasing population and expanding cities. In fact, the job growth for electrical power line installers is projected to grow 13.7% in the years 2014 to 2024. These jobs offer a median annual salary of $64,168 and require just a high school diploma or the equivalent. However, you will need to do an apprenticeship that typically takes five years. Apprenticeships are actually a good path to a great career. Not only would this eliminate the cost of going to college but you would probably earn about $50,000 a year while apprenticing.

Commercial pilot

If you thought you would need a college degree to become a commercial pilot think again. Pilots employed by airlines typically do need a bachelor’s degree to get started. However, you could become a commercial pilot with just a high school diploma. Of course, you will need flight training that will be both expensive and expansive. This begins with getting a private pilot’s license, which can cost anywhere from $3000 to $9000. You would then need to have at the minimum another 250 hours to get a commercial pilot’s license, plus you would need more licenses to fly multi-engine planes and to get an instrument rating. However, what you get in return is a median annual salary of $73,528. The job growth for commercial pilots is also excellent as its projected to be 15% between the years 2014 to 2024.

Insurance sales agent

Everyone needs insurance. If you’re selling it, whether it’s property and casualty, health, life or long-term care, you should be able to have a good career as job growth is projected to be 9.8% between now and 2024. If you choose to sell long-term or health insurance you should do especially well thanks to our aging population. The median annual salary for an insurance sales agent is $47,632 and the job requires only a high school diploma or the equivalent. However, you will need to take some coursework and learn about finance, business and economics. It will also be helpful if you are good at public speaking as this would increase your career prospects. Depending on the state where you live it’s likely you’ll need to be licensed to be an agent, which will mean passing an examination and continuing to take classes that focus on consumer protection, insurance laws and other areas of the business.

Plumber

The the job of being a plumber has a median annual salary of $48,194. Like the other jobs highlighted in this article it requires just a high school diploma or the equivalent. While there is already a large number of workers in this area, there are expected to be 75,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. One of the best things about this job is that you can get started right after high school or with a five-year apprenticeship that typically pays as much as 50% of what a fully trained plumber earns. Once you complete your apprenticeship you’ll be a journeyman plumber and will be able to do some tasks on your own. Stick with the job long enough and you’ll become a master plumber and will earn even more.

Private detective

Yes, you can become a private dick and earn a median annual salary of $45,698. This job offers great projected growth with openings expected to grow 11.7% between now and 2024. Paranoia has become almost a national pastime and for good reason. With everything going digital there are more and more cybercrimes reported every day including identity theft, which has spurred the need for investigative help. Some detective work requires only a high school education but for others you may need a degree. As an example of this, if you were to specialize in computer forensics or insurance fraud you might need a bachelor’s degree related to them. If you decide to work for yourself, as do many private detectives, you’ll need to learn while you earn and any previous experience related to the job will be a plus. In most states, you will need to be licensed and the requirements for this licensing varies.

Office support supervisor

This job comes with a median annual salary of $50,211. Administrative assistants and secretaries provide those personal touches that can’t be replaced by a machine. As a result, many businesses will continue to need the support of these people. You can generally pick up the skills necessary for an entry-level clerical or administrative position in a few weeks of on-the-job training. However, for a supervisor position you typically will need a few years of related work experience along with evidence of your leadership and organizational abilities. You would then be in charge of coordinating the activities of clerical and administrative workers, of which there are now millions in the workforce.

What You Should And Shouldn’t Put On Your Credit Cards

man holding multiple credit cardsThe answer to what you shouldn’t put on your credit cards is fairly simple. You shouldn’t put anything on them that you can’t pay off at the end of the month or, worst case, the following month. When you start carrying balances forward you fall victim to what some people have termed the most powerful force on earth – compounding interest. You could end up paying interest on interest, which can be a slippery slope towards very serious problems.

Your best friends or worst enemies

Credit cards have gotten a bad rap for good reasons. If you use them sensibly they can be good friends. But if you don’t they can become your enemy and you could end up drowning in debt. According to one recent study the average American has more than $6000 in credit card debt and the average for indebted households is $15,863. If you were to owe that $6.000 at 15% and made only the minimum payment ($125) each month it would take you 284 months to clear the debt. Just think. You’d be paying on that $6,000 debt for more than 23 years!

The benefits of credit cards

There’s no doubt about the fact that there are benefits to using credit cards. You can use them to earn rewards points, free miles, cash back or all three. Plus, when you use a credit card it lets you defer payment for a few weeks or even more than a month. Just keep in mind that you will only enjoy these benefits if you pay off your balance in full at the end of the month. Otherwise the interest you’ll pay could actually offset any rewards you earned.

The best things to put on credit cards

What are the best things to put on credit cards? The first is travel. When it comes to booking flights, rental cars, hotels and other vacation costs credit cards can help you accumulate lots of points or airline miles that you could then use towards upgrades, flights or hotel stays. Some even offer benefits beyond this including concierge services, rental car insurance, travel insurance, lost luggage insurance and access to nicer airport lounges. In the event your credit card is stolen or lost while you’re vacationing you can alert the card issuer to dispute and void any fraudulent charges. When you travel internationally there are cards that will give you more favorable exchange rates. On the other hand, you need to make sure that your credit card is not one that tacks on a fee of 3% for foreign transactions.

Electronics and appliances

Credit cards often offer extended warranties, price protection and return protection. This means it’s good to put big-ticket items like laptops, computers, refrigerators, washers and dryers on your credit cards. Make sure you check to see which services are offered by your particular card. Some MasterCard, Discover and Citibank cards come with a “price rewind” service so if the thing you purchased goes on sale the card issuer will reimburse you the difference.

Online purchasesadd to basket

Credit cards generally offer better protection against fraud than debit cards and checks. This could be the reason why 50% of consumers recently surveyed said they liked to pay for their online purchases with a credit card. In fact, most credit cards limit your liability to $50 in the event of fraud or identity theft and some will even waive the $50. If you do use your card to make online purchases don’t do it when using public Wi-Fi or a public computer. Wait until you are in a secure site.

Fragile items

If you buy a new laptop, cell phone or some other fragile item it’s good to put the cost on a credit card as it probably offers extended warranties for purchases and even replacement services. Some cards will double the manufacturer’ s warranty on your purchase for up to a year, which would eliminate the need to buy an extended warranty from the store.

Special categories

Many of today’s credit cards offer multiplier rewards in special categories such as gas, groceries and dining out. These special rewards can be for a month or a quarter. For example, if you were to dine out in May this could double or triple your points in a rewards program or the amount of cash you get back. You’ll be alerted to these promotions several weeks in advance so be sure to activate them.

Automatic payments

When you put automatic payments on a credit card and there’s any kind of a dispute you would have proof of payment. If you need to hold those automatic payments for any reason or for some period of time all you would need to do is call your credit card company to take care of this. As noted above it will also likely credit your account right away for any erroneous charges or fraudulent activity.

It’s a good time for credit cards

Now’s a really good time for credit cards if you have good credit. Credit cards have become very competitive and banks are getting more creative about getting and keeping their customers. For example, rewards programs have gotten more flexible. This is in response to customers’ complaints about the rigid rules regarding blackout dates or specific retail partners. As a result, the latest rewards programs generally allow you to earn and redeem rewards in a more flexible way.

Cash back programs are getting more generous. While the industry standard for cash back is still 1%, savvy card users can earn 2% or more. For example the Citi Double Cash Card allows customers to earn 1% on purchases and another 1% for paying them off.

Shop around

If you’re not happy with your credit cards and their rewards or if you simply want to see what else is available now’s a great time to shop around as introductory offers have also gotten better. As an example of this, cash bonuses for first timers increased 7.45% over last year and offers based on miles increased more than 10%. So if you’ve been using the same card or cards for the past several years go to a site such as CreditCards.com where you can check out cards based on criteria such as low interest, cash back, no annual fee and points. You may find deals that are much, much better than what you’re getting with your current cards.

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