8 Healthy Financial Habits You Should Start Today

Healthy Financial Habits

Finance is one aspect of your life that’ll affect every other part. Financial security and freedom can make every other facet of your life, including your health and personal relationships, significantly better. And for that, what you need are healthy financial habits.

The earlier you get serious about your personal finance, the better off you and your loved ones will be. To help you with that, here are eight financial habits for financial security and freedom that you can start today.

1. Make a budget

Nothing else will fall else in place unless you make a budget. Calculate your income and expenses based on your financial statement from the past few months. If you want to change your financial situation, you should know where you really stand. And there are so many budget apps available that can make budgeting easier.

2. Limit your expenses

Now that you know how much you spend every month, put an upper limit on your expenses. Unless it’s a healthcare or family-related unavoidable expense, you shouldn’t go beyond this limit.

3. Automate savings

With automatic withdrawals, you can start setting up a savings fund. Setting up one will take a few minutes and once you’re done, the system will automatically deduct it from your salary. When you don’t have access to that money, you’re less likely to spend it.

4. Pay credit cards in full

Credit card interest rates are among the highest in the industry. Keep that in mind whenever you use your card and make sure that you pay your monthly payments in full. Any leftover will carry exorbitant interest rates.

5. Reduce your rent

Rent is one of the biggest expenses that most of us have to make. Ask yourself whether you need a big apartment, especially if you’re starting out. Move to a smaller apartment or get roommates.

With remote work getting regularized, you can also move further away from your office, if it’s possible.

6. Imagine paying in cash

Here’s a neat little trick to help you cut down on your spending. The next time you’re about to buy something, imagine paying it in cash. That will suddenly feel heavier.

If you’re already paying in cash, imagine someone offering you either that product or service or that much cash. What would you choose?

7. Start investing

Earning makes you comfortable, investing makes you rich. Most people can’t comprehend the power of compounding but know that the earlier you start investing the bigger your returns will be.

Spend a couple of hours every day for two weeks to learn about index funds and retirement savings. Next step? Talk to a financial advisor.

8. Develop a secondary source of income

You can only reduce expenses to a certain extent. With an extra source of income, you’ll have more to save and invest in. If you can offer a service, you can find a market through the internet.

You don’t have to start all eight on the list immediately. Pick any two for the time being and focus on them. The rewards will encourage you to stick to every other financial habit.

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.

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.

6 Money Habits for a Richer 2021

Money Habits

It’s the New Year, and for many, a time to reflect and set new goals. According to a recent survey on spending habits, “63% of respondents lived paycheck to paycheck in 2020.” Developing effective money habits are crucial for a healthier, wealthier future and something anyone can achieve with discipline and practice. Below are our top six money habits that will set you on a path to financial health in 2021. 

Identify Your “Why”

Before you do anything else, carve out time to identify why you want better money habits. Do you need to get out of credit card debt? Are you hoping to retire early? Do you want to provide a better future for your kids? Travel the world? Your why will be that little voice keeping you on track when you want to stray from your goals. 

Track Your Spending

This is a must-do if you hope to have better spending habits. Find a time every month, week, or even day to go over your spending in relation to the money coming in. Create separate categories for different kinds of expenses. You will likely have a fixed category for expenses that do not change like your mortgage or car payment. Develop other categories for expenses such as going out to eat, entertainment, and shopping. You might be shocked at how much you are spending in some categories!

Set a Budget

Now that you understand your spending patterns, set a budget for each of your categories. Paying in cash or with a debit card is much easier to track and keeps you from the constant debt cycle that comes with using a credit card. Keep your budget accessible so you can refer to it when you need to. Mint is a great app for keeping track of your budget. 

Create Small, Achievable Goals

Instead of making one goal for the entire year that might be abandoned 6-months in, make a 90-day goal with clear directions on how to achieve it. Some examples could be paying down a specific debt, saving a certain amount of money, or any other tangible goal that aligns with your “why.” By creating a deadline, you are holding yourself accountable and breaking down what may feel like a large, daunting task into bite-size pieces. Your goals may change throughout the year, so re-evaluate them every 90 days. 

Pay Yourself First

This piece of advice, made famous by Robert Kiyosaki’s famous work, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” feels counterintuitive but is a life-changing habit to adopt. Each time you get paid, put a percentage of that money in savings first before anything else. While challenging at first, you’ll be amazed at how your spending adapts over time. You may also surprise yourself with how much you saved over the year!

Learn About Money

Lastly, healthy money habits are a continuous learning process. Read a book, attend a seminar, surround yourself with financially savvy people. Invest in your financial education and you will see results. 

How to Market Your Business While Maintaining Your Budget

Marketing a business

Marketing your business can be difficult to say the least. With 2020 posing challenges for many small businesses, it may be time to consider ways to market to a wider audience while also saving money. From business closures due to the pandemic to paying your employees, it may seem like you can never catch a break.Thankfully, due to the digital era, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the internet to market your business successfully. 

Need some great ideas to help you make marketing a priority? We’re here to give you a list of inspiration!

1. Social Media

With Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn becoming popular social media platforms, it is an excellent move to make a business account on these platforms. There are also exclusive features for businesses on these sites. Start by building an audience and following other local businesses or loyal customers you are in touch with. You can potentially partner with other businesses and ask them for a shoutout or to tag you on a post. 

After you’ve built an audience you can work to keep them engaged by creating fun content. For instance, Instagram has a story feature where you can post for 24 hours until it expires. Stories appear at the top of a users page– meaning they are more likely to see it over a post. On the other hand, LinkedIn is great for networking and making business connections. If you are able to manage your time correctly, you can use as many social media sites as you’d like for free.

2. Google My Business 

Google My Business (GMB) offers small businesses a free account– essentially Google wants your business to succeed and be able to compete with larger businesses. When you create a GMB account, you have access to enter all the necessary information your business needs like the address, phone number, and name. You can connect with customers through Google search or maps and create a great first impression. With Google being the largest search engine in the world, creating a business page will most definitely get your name out there in your local area. 

Make sure to fill out all the necessary information on Google My Business. Additionally, optimize your business page by using keywords you want your business to show up for. For example, if you are a yoga studio you may want to include “hot yoga” “yoga membership” or “ vinyasa yoga”. That way, when users are searching for any of these terms, your business listing will show up!

3.  Create a Blog 

Blogs are great opportunities to extend your digital marketing strategy by implementing keywords and building your SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization and with more keywords, you could rank higher amongst other businesses. A blog is a great way to build your SEO and get more potential customers to visit your website– meaning more future sales.

4.  Build Reviews 

Reviews are a driving force behind consumer decisions. A positive online reputation is so important these days. Yet, with so many review sites out there, it can be difficult to keep up. Most review sites offer free business profiles. Everyone has heard of Yelp reviews; they seem to run supreme as one of the biggest review platforms in the US. Yelp cannot be overlooked as the company made over $900 million in revenue in 2019 alone. Additionally, sites like Google and Facebook also offer customers to write reviews for your business– meaning you will reach a wider audience. 

5. Create Ads

Once you feel you’ve built an audience on social media and the internet, you can begin making ads. There are many different types of ads that are available to your business. Facebook and Google are your best bets to target the customers you truly want. The best part is you can put a small amount of money towards your ad spending in order to experiment with what works and what doesn’t.  

If you’re feeling intimidated or confused by ads you can hire a digital marketing agency to help you get started. For instance, if you are a law firm that handles DUIs, you can invest in DUI lawyer marketing to get the ball rolling. You can also work with someone to get a low rate!

6. Offer discounts and create great customer service

Lastly, customers love discounts, so try to offer an incentive to get them to start business with you. Anything that gets customers talking about your business and the great deals they’re getting! Additionally, once a customer decides to do business with you, ensure that they are pleased with their service. There is nothing worse than having a first-time customer leave a bad review on something that could have easily been avoided. 

5 Ways to Save Money on Home Repairs

Doing home repairs

Believe it or not, home repairs don’t have to be incredibly expensive. There are plenty of ways that you can save money on essential fixes.

1. Set a Budget and Keep to It

First, set up a dollar amount that you’re comfortable with spending. Next, contact your contractor and see how much a repair will take. If it ends up going over your budget, see if the repair can be done with cheaper materials while ensuring that more affordable doesn’t mean shoddier. If it’s an essential repair that you can’t live without, like a burst pipe or broken furnace, then see if your contractor will set up a payment plan that fits your needs and wallet.

2. Have Repairs Done During the Offseason

Demand for certain home improvement services goes up and down throughout the year. Because of this, homeowners can save money by opting for services in the offseason. Take repair services for heating and cooling in Santa Rosa, for example. If you need AC repairs, try having them done when temperatures are cooler. If you need furnace repairs, late spring or summer is a good time for them. Insulating your plumbing can be done in the summer before frozen pipes become an issue. This way, you’re more likely to get a good deal for the job since these are in lower demand.

3. Perform DIY Repairs Whenever Possible

Simple fixes, like snaking your drain or repainting peeled paint, can be done without the need of an expensive professional. Even replacing window panes can be done by yourself with little difficulty. All you need to do is keep your skills and limits in mind. If you don’t know how to do something safely or can’t learn too easily, then a professional may be a better option. If you can learn quickly, however, you can look up simple fixes on YouTube videos or a whole host of websites.

4. Keep Preventative Maintenance a Priority

DIY preventative maintenance can cost money, but it costs a lot less than a massive repair job down the line. Cleaning gutters and sealing cracks can prevent roof leaks and basement flooding. Taking care of pests can keep you from repairing structural damage caused by termites or carpenter ants. Fixing pipe leaks can keep you from having to undertake expensive plumbing replacements. Changing an AC filter every month can also keep unnecessary repairs away while cutting down energy costs.

5. Prioritize Your Repair Needs

Not all repairs have to be done right away. Before you contact a professional, think about whether or not the issue at hand will lead to more significant problems down the road or if it’s just an inconvenience that you can live with. Is the issue an immediate safety hazard? Can it cause bigger issues if left unaddressed? If any of these can happen, then contact a professional right away. If not, leave it until you can save enough money to have it done without breaking your bank.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll not only save a lot of money on repairs, but you’ll prevent a lot of repairs from happening in the first place. You’ll also gain the skills necessary to undertake simple repairs yourself and save hundreds of dollars by not calling a professional contractor.