January 9, 2019
10 Tips to Help You Recover from Holiday Debt
Your credit report acts as your financial references when you apply for new credit. Whether you’re trying to build credit for the first time or want to re-build your credit standing, the only way to build a strong credit history is to use credit wisely. Following are 10 tried and true tips to Live Credit Smart:
1. Assess your overall financial situation.
Before you do anything else, it is important to examine your entire financial situation, including your monthly budget and your short and long-term financial goals. Make a list of all of your debts, payment due dates, minimum payment amounts, interest rates and the timeframe in which you would like to pay down your debt. Don’t forget to consider the other financial goals you may wish to accomplish.
2. Select a payment strategy that works for you.
Consider paying down the credit cards with the highest interest rates first. If that seems too daunting, try paying down your smallest balance first so you can see your progress toward eliminating your bills right away. Pay more than the minimum payments, if you can, but most importantly – always pay on time. If you need additional help managing your debt, you might consider reaching out to an accredited credit counselor such as a member of The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (http://www.nfcc.org/).
3. Stop spending frivolously.
While it may sound simple, an important step is to curtail unnecessary spending. Put yourself on a financial diet and try not to spend money on non-essential items until you catch up on any extra debt you incurred during the holidays. Using coupons and comparison shopping for essential items and cutting extra expenses, can really make a big a difference in your monthly budget. In fact, simple lifestyle changes can help you save thousands of dollars over the course of a year.
Here are a few ideas of how you can start saving:
Cut back on your daily expenses by carpooling to work, making coffee at home, bringing your lunch to work, switching to reusable water bottles and doing your own nails instead of going to the salon. Together those changes could total more than $5000 in savings per year.
Review your monthly reoccurring expenditures like cable and mobile phone bills to make sure you have the plan that is giving you the most bang for your buck. Determine whether you really need unlimited text messages or if you’re really watching all the channels you’re paying for and modify your plans accordingly.
Take advantage of free leisure activities – Instead of spending money on a movie ticket or going out to dinner, invite your friends for an afternoon hike, take the kids to the park or visit a free museum or art exhibit. Try organizing a pot luck dinner in your neighborhood or take a free class at a local community center. Consider taking advantage of free concerts or outdoor movies in the summer.
Getting involved with a local charity and spending some of your free time volunteering is a great low cost activity with countless rewards.
The money you can save by cutting back on items like these can go toward paying down your debt or saving for next year.
4. Use tax returns and holiday bonuses wisely.
Holiday bonuses and tax returns are two larger lump sums of money that can be used to make a dent in debt, if used wisely. Make sure you are taking full advantage of extra income by putting it toward credit card debt or using it to save for next year’s holiday expenses. Don’t look at these things as free money to spend – rather, use them to pay down debt and boost your credit score to help meet your goals.
5. Start proactively saving for next year’s holiday shopping.
It’s never too early to start saving for next year. Make a holiday shopping budget and set aside money specifically dedicated to it. If you put away $50 each month, before you know it, you’ll have $500 to put toward holiday gifts and travel. The more you can pay in cash, the less you’ll have to worry about paying back this time next year.
6. Know what you want to buy and the best time to buy it.
Write down all of the people you need to buy for and start listing ideas for potential gifts. Have an idea of what you want to buy well in advance of the holidays and keep an eye out for those gifts over the course of the year. Carefully review your favorite stores’ weekly ads or use a service such as pricegrabber.com, which allows you to compare prices on thousands of items including electronics, furniture, books, movies, and even groceries to help you get the best prices.
Take the time to research the best times to buy big ticket items. For instance, bicycles and sports gear often go on sale in January and February while big home appliances can usually be found at discounted rates during September and October. Knowing what you want to buy will give you plenty of time to take advantage of sales and avoid marked up prices as the holidays near.
7. Start shopping early.
By shopping early, you will absorb the cost of holiday gifts throughout the year rather than all at once. Your bills will be easier to pay off and you will keep your credit card balances low, yet they will remain active throughout the year – all of which are good ways to strengthen your credit score.
8. Don’t buy big ticket items without a plan to pay them off.
Even if that big screen TV you’ve always wanted is finally on sale, don’t take it home without knowing whether or not it fits into your budget or without having a plan to pay it off. Determine how you can make adjustments and sacrifices in other parts of your budget to help pay for it. Make sure you know how long it will take to pay it off and what funds you will use to pay for any large expenses.
9. Evaluate your credit cards portfolio.
Make sure you’re being wise about what credit cards you’re using and why. Consider eliminating credit cards with annual fees and incorporating more rewards cards into your wallet. Take advantage of the points you can accumulate with a rewards card and put them towards some of your holiday purchases.
10. Check your credit score so you have a benchmark for improvement.
Check your credit report and purchase a credit score so you understand the baseline of where you stand and how your credit may have been impacted by your holiday spending. During times of high activity on your credit accounts, it is also especially important to make sure that your credit report is accurate. Then, after you have had time to achieve your goals and pay down your debt, get another score to see how where you fall in the range of risk has changed once you have paid down your debt.
Article courtesy of Experian
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Adding an Outdoor Structure Today Can Add to Your Home’s Value Tomorrow
Homeowners make improvements to their homes for a myriad of reasons. Reasons include adding additional living space, remodeling to update a space or style, or upgrades to interior and exterior spaces just to name a few. Home improvements are classified as anything that makes a positive alteration to your home or your land. Today many homeowners are adding new decks and outdoor living structures to their list of improvements.
When an appraiser comes to appraise your home before you put your house on the market, he takes a lot of information into consideration before coming up with that magic number. Appraisers look at land size, square footage, age of the home, the numbers of rooms, the type of home it is, the condition and the quality of the home, and the comparable value of all the other homes around you. Any type of home improvement that adds livable space of any kind, whether it is heated or unheated square feet, does increase your home’s value.
Building a deck for example, can greatly increase your home’s value. Some research shows that up to 75% of the deck cost can be recouped if the home is sold within a year of adding the new deck. Even if you don’t have a lot conducive to adding a deck, a patio is also a solid choice for sellers looking to re-vamp their backyard in preparation to put their house on the market.
Covered porches make an impression to appraisers and prospective buyers when selling your home.
Any structure that adds character to your home or land will add value. Any structure that makes you stand out above the competition will add value, and also help get your house shown more often, and thus, sold quicker. You must think in terms of relativity to the competition around you. Adding an outdoor structure such as covered porch, a gazebo or a pergola can add enough character to make your home stand out from all the rest. Think in terms of the potential buyer’s standpoint, they are going over the houses they have been shown and have to choose from in their price range and they come across yours by memory in their conversation…” yes, that was a nice home, lots of open space, well maintained interior, right amount of bedrooms and it had that beautiful backyard with that lovely covered porch, nice”. An addition such as this can often make such a positive impact on your home that the chips will become stacked in your favor.
Keep in mind as well that adding an outdoor space to your home is the most affordable way to expand your home’s value. Mock Property Services can help you decide on the right outdoor structure for you, from planning, to design, to construction. We can help you every step of the way.
Call us today to schedule a consultation for your 2019 project!
First Day of Spring 2019
70 Days and Counting
The spring equinox (also called the March equinox or vernal equinox) falls on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 5:58 P.M. EDT. This event marks the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Enjoy our spring equinox facts and folklore!
WHAT DOES THE MARCH EQUINOX MEAN?
The word equinox comes from the Latin words for “equal night”-aequus (equal) and nox (night).
On the equinox, the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the world.
WHAT HAPPENS ON THE MARCH EQUINOX?
On the March Equinox, the Sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north. It’s called the “celestial equator” because it’s an imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator.
If you were standing on the equator, the Sun would pass directly overhead on its way north.
Equinoxes are the only two times a year that Sun only rises due east and sets due west for all of us on Earth!
While the Sun passes overhead, the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun. (Note, however, that the Earth never orbits upright, but is always tilted on its axis by about 23.5 degrees.)
After the Spring equinox, the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the Sun, which is why we start to get longer, sunnier days.
SPRING EQUINOX FAQ: IS THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING ALWAYS MARCH 20?
A: No, it’s not always March 20. And your answer also depends on your definition of the “first day of spring.” Both are accurate; they’re just a different perspective. We’ll explain …
Astronomically speaking, the first day of spring is marked by the spring equinox, which falls on March 19, 20, or 21 every year. The equinox happens at the same moment worldwide, though our clock times reflect a different time zone. And, as mentioned above, this date only signals spring’s beginning in the Northern Hemisphere; it announces fall’s arrival in the Southern Hemisphere.
Interestingly, due to time zone differences, there isn’t a March 21 equinox in mainland U.S. during the entire 21st century! Plus, we won’t see a March 21 in the world again until 2101.
Meteorologically speaking, the official first day of spring is March 1 (and the last is May 31). Weather scientists divide the year into quarters to make it easier to compare seasonal and monthly statistics from one year to the next. The meteorological seasons are based on annual temperature cycles rather than on the position of Earth in relation to the Sun, and they more closely follow the Gregorian calendar. Using the dates of the astronomical equinoxes and solstices for the seasons would present a statistical problem, as these dates can vary slightly each year.
Q: ARE DAY AND NIGHT EQUAL ON THE EQUINOX?
A: No, but they are close to equal. In reality, day and night are not exactly equal at the equinox for two reasons: First, daytime begins the moment any part of the Sun is over the horizon, and it is not over until the last part of the Sun has set. If the Sun were to shrink to a starlike point and we lived in a world without air, the spring and fall equinoxes would truly have ‘equal nights.’
Read about more fun facts in the Almanac Astronomer’s post, “March Equinox Oddities.”
Q: ACCORDING TO FOLKLORE, YOU CAN STAND A RAW EGG ON END ON THE EQUINOX. IS THIS TRUE?
A: Folklore or not, this egg trick sounded like fun to us. One spring, a few minutes before the vernal equinox, several Almanac editors tried this trick. For a full workday, 17 out of 24 eggs stood standing. Three days later, we tried this trick again and found similar results. Perhaps 3 days after the equinox was still too near. Perhaps the equinox has nothing to do with it. Perhaps we just don’t like to take ourselves too seriously! Try this yourself and let us know what happens.
Q: WHICH DAY HAS THE MOST SUNLIGHT IN NORTH AMERICA?
A: The Summer or June Solstice is called the “longest” day of the year! The date of the longest day actually varies between June 20 and June 22, depending on the year, and the local time zone. By “longest day,” we mean the day that gets the most daylight (versus darkness). See our Summer Solstice page.
HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE THE VERNAL EQUINOX?
The vernal equinox signals new beginnings and nature’s renewal in the Northern Hemisphere! Many cultures celebrate spring festivals, like Easter and Passover.
Observe nature around you!
ANCIENT EQUINOX TRADITIONS: THE SNAKE OF SUNLIGHT
Scientific explanation aside, our ancestors were more connected to the Sun than we are today. They observed its pathway across the sky; they tracked how the sunrise, sunset, and day length changed, using the Sun (and Moon) as a clock and calendar.
There are many ancient sites that mark the equinoxes (and solstices). One of the most famous ancient Spring equinox celebrations was at Chichen Itza in Mexico. The Mayans built a huge pyramid around the year A.D. 1000. The play of the Sun’s light on it signals the beginning of the seasons. On the spring equinox, it looks like a huge snake is slithering down the steps. Mayans called this day “the return of the Sun serpent.”
See more examples of ancient seasonal markers.