8 Unique Ways to Spend Mother’s Day

Mother's Day Activities

When Mother’s Day arrives on May 9 will you be ready?

Will you be presenting mom, grandma, your wife, or whoever is the most important woman in your life with the same old gift of breakfast in bed, or a fuzzy bathrobe?

While these things are wonderful presents, maybe it’s high time you do something a little different, something off the beaten path, out of the ordinary, unique, unusual.

Yes, make this Mother’s Day super memorable for your mom who has had an impact on your life.

Like what? What’s unique? What’s cool and different?

Well, here are 8 unique ways to spend Mother’s Day this year to help you get started in your efforts to make Mom’s Day truly remarkable.

1. Take her hot air ballooning

Most cities have hot air balloon companies that would be more than happy to take your mom along with you and other family members high above the clouds on a sunny day. Be sure to start checking around now as these places get busy fast.

2. Take her to a DIY ceramics place

Here she can make a plate, a mug, a sculpture, and paint it herself the way she wants.

3. Cooking

If you want to be unique hire a personal chef to come into her home and prepare a full feast or show her some cool cooking skills she’s wanted to learn over the years.

4. Wine

If your mom likes wine pick her up and take her for some wine tastings in your neighborhood.

5. Flowers, fruit more

Ask mom if she’d like to go pick flowers, fruits, and veggies. Most cities have “u-pick ‘em farms.”

6. Be creative, be a wordsmith

Sit down and write mom a long letter (or sit her down and tell her verbally) as to why you love her and what she means to you. Either frame it or hand it to her on a pretty piece of stationary. It’s coming from the heart so it truly will be a one-of-a-kind gift.

7. To the Moon

For $29.99 you can buy her an acre on the moon, and she’ll feel like she’s just gone to outer space without ever leaving the house. Put up some outer space-themed party décor in her house to complete the theme.

8. Get her a pet

Go to an animal shelter and let mom pick out a dog, cat, or rabbit. She’ll love the idea of having a new four-legged friend she picked out herself and saved at the same time. Look up your local animal shelters or humane society and make an appointment before you go.

Do It Up!

Mother’s Day only comes once a year so be sure you honor mom with something that means a lot and a gift she can savor year-round.

3 Steps To Clean Up Your Credit Report

how to clean your credit report

Spring is here! While everyone begins this time of year with spring cleaning their homes and garages, it’s also a great time to clean up your credit report and work on rebuilding your credit.

If it’s been more than a year since you last checked your credit report, you may find unwanted or incorrect information accumulated over time. There are several things to look at beyond just accuracy, such as making sure that your credit cards and loans are the best ones for your current circumstances.

On top of that, if you’ve had a serious blow to your finances, such as defaults or bankruptcies, it can take quite some time to clean that stuff up and recoup any damages to your score. Start today, and you’ll have a head start now rather than when you find yourself wishing you’d done it sooner.

How To Clean Up Your Credit Report

1.  Get A Free Copy Of Your Credit Report

Free weekly credit reports have been extended for another year, so there’s no reason to hold off here. The first step to cleaning up your credit report is to have the report in front of you. Sites like CreditKarma and FreeCreditReport make it easy to see your report and understand how you can impact it.

NOTE: You’re going to want to pull the whole credit report, from all three bureaus – not just the scores.

2.  Thoroughly Check Your Credit Report(s)

Depending on your credit history, this could take a while, or it could be pretty quick. Either way, making sure that your information is correct and up to date is critical to building, rebuilding, repairing, and maintaining good credit.

Since lenders can choose which bureau they send info to, and how often, there will be slight differences on each report and that’s normal. But when you next apply for a loan or credit, different lenders look at different reports, so an error on one may not come up on another and you want to be prepared if the lender comes back to you with something like that.

3.  Resolve Errors By Filing A Dispute

Easy fixes: Credit inquiries stay for two years, but missed payments, delinquencies, and tax liens can stay on your report for seven. If it’s been longer than legal timelines, these items should have done what’s called “aged off” and not be on your report anymore.

You also want to look out for items that are flat-out inaccurate, such as your name and address, or worse, someone else’s name on your report, along with accounts you did not open yourself.

So be sure to get those errors corrected right away. You can dispute directly with each of the credit bureaus. If your dispute is valid, they are legally obligated to correct your report. It’s easy to dispute, by the way. You can do so online or via mail.

TransUnion Consumer
Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
 Chester, PA 19016
Equifax Information Services P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374Experian P.O. Box 4500
 Allen, TX 75013

In your letter (or in the form online), explain what information you think is inaccurate and why you’re filing the dispute. Ask for the error(s) to be removed or corrected, and try to include any evidence you have that can be used to back up your claim (payment receipts, for example). Credit bureaus have 30 days to review and take action, so make sure to check again to ensure they followed through.

Cleaning up your credit report today will ensure your credit is ready for your next goal, no matter what time of year it is, so be sure to stay on top of it all year round!

How Does Social Media Affect Financial Decisions?

Social Media Affects Financial Decisions

Social media influences society in an assortment of ways. Within the past decade, related platforms have swayed elections, outed celebrities’ poor behavior, and controlled much of the public discourse. It even has a significant impact on people’s moods.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that social media also affects many US citizens’ financial decisions. But how much clout do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and all other platforms carry regarding money?

This blog will examine social media and its sway over financial decisions:

Social Media’s Financial Influence is Generational

In 2021, consumers gather financial product information from places such as Facebook. They might double down with a blog to inform themselves more.

However, the stats skew toward proceeding with caution with regards to trusting sources. Only 23% of surveyed consumers are very confident that social media information about financial products is accurate and reliable.

Furthermore, consumers only click on social media financial product advertisements 15% of the time. This number pales compared to the 34% of the timepeople click on ads for other items.

It does appear that older consumers are responsible for swaying these percentages. Millennial – and younger – consumers have far more confidence in the financial information they access on social media. They’re also likelier to click on advertisements for relevant institutions.

This difference between generations probably results from familiarity and comfort with technology. It also likely results from more eagerness to learn about what’s out there in the world of finance.

People Are Spending More Recklessly Because of Social Media

Financial decisions aren’t solely based on products from a bank, an accountant, or overall investing decisions. Finances are involved whenever somebody spends money.

In that vein, social media brings with it some negatives. Namely, 35% of respondents to one survey claimed to spend more money than they could afford to share experiences with friends. Moreover, these decisions were directly influenced by what they saw on social media.

In bringing this blog back to the generational theme, younger people were more impacted by the above problem. 48% of Millennials and 41% of Gen Z fell victim to overspending because of social media’s somewhat nefarious influence.

People must keep in mind the social media often paints a very one-sided picture of people. Sure, your friends could be vacationing in Spain—but they might be maxing out their credit card to do so. Or they’re neglecting their retirement savings.

Social Media’s Impact on Your Finances Depends on How You Use It:

Social media is a double-edged sword for finances. Provided you allow it to influence overspending because you want to fit in with your friends, it will turn into a negative by accumulating credit card debt.

Conversely, social media brings with it the following financial advantages (if you do your research):

  • Find better deals on products you need
  • Receive discounts from your preferred stores
  • Market a crowdfunding campaign
  • Learn about DIY ideas instead of spending on a service
  • Perform product research to make purchases that bring you value

It’s through the above methods that social media can become a positive force for your financial future.

Forced to Retire Early? Follow These Five Tips

Retire Early

Sometimes, we may be forced into a position where we have to retire early. While this may cause some initial problems, it might benefit you in the long run. However, preparing for an early retirement will involve some difficulties. Due to this, we want to share five steps you should take if you need to retire earlier than you expected.

Think About Pensions and Social Security

As you worked at your job over the years, you most likely put money into social security, and you may have a pension. This means you will need to strategize your pensions and social security to get the most out of your benefits. Each of these will provide you with a certain amount of money. While social security benefits automatically accumulate as you pay taxes, you will need to see if you have a pension. 

Identify A Location

As you plan to retire, you need to find the best location available. You will still need to pay certain bills and taxes, so you need to find a location with a low cost of living. On top of this, you should purchase the home you want to live in to avoid paying rent. Once you identify the location you want to move to, you can create your plans around that idea.

Look at Investments

Many people will have different investments they contributed to as they worked. This can include IRAs, 401k plans, and purchasing stocks that increased in worth. You will need to review your investments to see how much money you earned through all of them. From here, you can add these investments into your funds alongside your pensions and social security. This will help you see how much you will have during retirement.

Create a Budget

Once you know how much money you will have, you can create a budget. Depending on the options you have available, you could easily identify how much money you will have access to each year. From here, you can divide your money to see how much you can spend each month. This will assist you as you plan for your retirement.

Make Necessary Life Changes Immediately

If you plan to move, get a new home, or anything else that will change your life, you should do it immediately. If you hold off on these changes, they will become major expenses later on. Since you will most likely receive your money in portions, you won’t be able to pay them all off at once. Due to this, it’s better to make those changes as soon as you can.

Conclusion

While you will face some problems when you need to retire early, these steps will help you out. Following them will let you see the amount of money you will need to retire alongside any other preparations you should consider. These steps will get you on the right track as you prepare for your early retirement. Make sure you review and apply them to make your retirement process as easy as possible while ensuring you have enough money for your needs.

5 Affordable Easter Basket Ideas

Affordable Easter Ideas

Children love Easter and some of us never grow out of this yearly joy. Easter is not just a holiday where people wear fun pastel colors or attend a dawn service. It’s also the first real spring holiday where kids run around, share candy, and generally have a great time. We all remember our own wonderful experiences decorating eggs and doing the yearly egg-hunt, and many families also have an Easter basket gift tradition.

So how can you make this Easter just as delightful without financially splurging on Easter baskets? Don’t worry, Easter is one of the most DIY-friendly holidays on the calendar.

 Where to Get the Baskets

  • Garage Sale Baskets
  • Construction Paper Basket Weave
  • Bunny Bag or Bunny Box
  • Hot Glue Basketry
  • Garden Planter Basket

First, get yourself a few fun Easter baskets. They don’t have to match. In fact, traditional easter baskets rarely match and make for delightfully chaotic decor when stacked together. You can find baskets in garage sales and thrift stores for cents on the dollar if you want wicker or wire baskets. Or you can make your own by getting creative. Make a bag or box into a bunny with homemade ears for a bunny-basket. Or hot-glue things to a bowl to make it into a basket when it wasn’t already. Or repurpose a plastic garden planter that you decorate for Easter.

 Affordable Easter Basket Fill Ideas

Now let’s quickly dive into a few awesome affordable ideas to fill your Easter baskets.

1. Homemade Easter Cookies

Never underestimate the joy of iced cookies. A box-mix or tube of cookie dough, icing, and food coloring are all you need to fill every Easter basket to the brim with adorable Easter-themed cookies.

2. Wildflowers and Seeds to Grow at Home

Easter is all about spring and renewal, so bring some of that springtime joy to the easter baskets. Include packets or shaped ‘bombs’ of wildflower seeds and then stuff your baskets with beautiful locally picked wildflowers for the nature-lover in your family.

3. Dollar-Store Prizes in Plastic Eggs

Plastic eggs are THE tradition for Easter joy, especially for children. If you’re planning an egg-hunt or just to fill a basket with plastic eggs, fill them with dollar-store prices. You can go all-out with candy, but most kids love the discovery of whether there’s a quarter, a parachute-man, or a bounce ball in every one of those little eggs.

4. Make Rabbits Out of Everything

Short on time, supplies, and stuffed animals? No problem! Find creative ways to make rabbit ears with cardboard, paper, and cloth to turn everything into an Easter surprise. If you’re adept at hotel towel folding, you might even make a towel-bunny for the giggling delight of your young relatives.

5. Hand-Decorated Easter Eggs

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget egg decoration. For normal hard-boiled eggs, all you need is crayons, food dye, and your ceramic mug collection. But you also don’t have to stick to real eggs. You can personally decorate anything egg-shaped and non-perishable eggs might even become precious keepsakes to remind your loved ones of the special Easter you spent together.

Easter doesn’t have to impact your finances this year when it’s one of the most DIY-fun holidays to share with your family.

How to Pay Down Credit Card Debt in 2021

The average American has $5,700 in credit card debt, so if you’re struggling with high card balances, you’re not alone. Knowing how to get out from under this debt load can be challenging, though — especially with high interest rates adding to your balance every month.

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to pay down credit card debt. You can do some of it on your own, and other strategies require you to seek help from a lender or a company that focuses on helping people like you.

Are you ready to get free from credit card debt? Let’s dive in.

Create a Repayment Strategy Yourself

The easiest way to handle credit card debt is to set up a repayment strategy that fits your lifestyle. One of the most common is to focus on your smallest debts first. As they are paid off, you put your payments toward larger debts.

Over time you create momentum and end up with more money to put toward larger balances. If you can handle your minimum payments and still have a little bit of cash left over, this could be a great way to pay down debt.

Consolidate Your Debt

One of the biggest problems with credit card debt is that the interest rates are very high. The average credit card interest rate is between 14% – 18%. If you have a low credit score, it could be even higher.

This interest is added to your balance every month, making it very difficult to get out of debt. Fortunately, interest rates on other types of loans are much lower. As a result, you can get a consolidation loan and use the money to pay off your credit cards. Then, you pay a single monthly payment at a much lower rate.

This can help you reduce the amount you owe each month even as you pay down your debt balances. Just be sure to remove the credit cards from your wallet so you don’t build the balances back up.

Get Better Credit Cards

Perhaps the credit cards you have now have fees or extremely high interest, but you qualify for better offers than you used to. If that’s the case, you can apply for new credit card accounts and transfer the balance.

If you have good credit, you may find that balance transfers have 0% interest for a year or more. This can give you time to make payments and get rid of that debt without having the balance grow.

You may also choose to have a single credit card you use and pay off each month. If you do, you might enjoy having one that gives you cashback, travel points, or other perks. Shop around to find the best deal!

Home Equity Loans

If you have owned your home for a while, you’ve probably built up equity. Equity is the value of the house that you own versus the amount you owe the bank. For instance, if your home is worth $200,000 and you owe $150,000 on it, you have $50,000 in equity.

You may be able to take out a line of credit based on the $50,000 in equity. However, it’s best not to borrow more than you need because you have to pay the money back, and you don’t want to risk losing your home if something goes wrong.

Another idea is to refinance your home entirely. This would give you a new loan of $200,000, you’d pay off $150,000 to the old lender, and you’d have $50,000 in the bank. Of course, there are fees when you refinance, but it can be a big win overall if you can lock in a lower interest rate.

Debt Settlement

If you’re struggling with credit card debt and none of the other options work, you might decide to work with a debt settlement company. These companies will work with your creditors on your behalf to reduce your debt.

Debt settlement companies charge a fee for their services, but it’s worked into the monthly payment for your plan. Settling debt in this way does impact your credit score, but you can build it back up over time.

If you’re at the end of your rope, debt settlement is often a better option than outright bankruptcy. You can settle your entire balance much more quickly than you ever could making minimum payments.

Make 2021 Different

Take advantage of these strategies to pay down your credit card debt. You’ll feel freer with less debt to manage, and your

5 Ways to Avoid Overdraft Fees

What?!?

How did this happen to you…again?

You were certain you had enough money in your checking account to make that purchase. Unfortunately, you forgot about that automatic car insurance payment that came through yesterday and brought your available balance down lower than you thought.

Now, you’re stuck with yet another overdraft fee — not something you appreciate much when you’re already having a hard time making ends meet.

Only a kind-hearted customer service rep at the bank can save you now from that fee. However, there are many ways that you can avoid more of these fees in the future.

Check out these 5 ways to avoid overdraft fees.

1. Decline Overdraft Protection

This might sound backwards, but you read that right. Overdraft protection programs allow you to swipe your debit card for a purchase that will overdraw your account. So if you have $25 in your account and buy something for $50, the bank will loan you the extra $25 — and slap you with an overdraft fee in the ballpark of $35. Average overdraft fees in 2020 were $33.47 according to Bankrate.

What’s more, you might not even know that you overdrew your account. Plus, you can rack up multiple overdraft fees if you make multiple purchases before you realize what has happened.

So, overdraft protection saves you the embarrassment of not having money at the checkout counter, but the cost may not be worth it.

2. Set a Low-Balance Alert

You can set up alerts with your bank, so you’ll receive an email or text when certain things happen. For example, you can be notified when your account balance drops below a certain dollar amount.

3. Monitor Your Account

Even with a low-balance alert set up, you should still keep an eye on your account. It’s still possible to overdraw, particularly when making a large purchase. For example, you might have arranged to be notified when your account balance drops below $200. But if you buy something for $250 and have $225 in the bank, you’ll still overdraw.

Additionally, you might not have noticed when the alert came through. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking your account regularly, particularly before making a large purchase.

4. Use a Credit Card

Another way to avoid overdraft fees is to not use your debit card for purchases. You can use a credit card instead. As a bonus, you can make money in rewards for each purchase if you choose a card with these benefits.

However, we mention this strategy with a caveat. Monitor your purchases and ensure that you can pay off your entire credit card balance each month. This allows you to enjoy the rewards of using a credit card without being saddled with a bunch of unneeded credit card debt.

5. Find a Bank That Doesn’t Charge Overdraft Fees

Newer competition is in the market and there are some banks that don’t charge overdraft fees. These tend to be online banks that have a smaller overhead and don’t have to charge their customers as many fees to make money. Additionally, the interest they pay on savings accounts may be higher — another benefit.

Another possibility to check out is your local credit union. Some are restrictive about who can join, but many pay higher interest and charge fewer fees. All it takes is a bit of research.

Stay Free from Overdraft Fees

Nobody wants to find out they’ll have to pay a hefty fee for a small oversight. Thankfully, by following these 5 tips to avoiding overdraft fees, you can stay overdraft fee-free and enjoy keeping your money where it belongs — in your bank account.