Tips for Smart Shopping this Holiday Season

Plan it Out
This is a simple step in the process of shopping for others, or even for yourself. The reason behind this is simple. If we create a plan, we typically know what we’re going to purchase, which eliminates those spur of the moment spends. When you plan to buy an item, you typically know what price range to expect, however, with an impulse purchase the odds are against you.

Spending is Not Saving
Sales are not a phenomenon. They have been happening since the dawn of retail sales, so when you see a ‘sale’ – don’t think you need to rush out and purchase items you don’t need at bulk. This ties back into planning, if you don’t need 20 pairs of socks, don’t buy them. Most retailers are experts at selling us things we might not really need, so consider everything when you see another ‘sale’ advertisement. Don’t worry, there will always be another one just around the corner.

Save Time & Gas
Online shopping is one that many people already take advantage of each and every day. It’s convenient, safer and often more cost-effective. How? When you consider fluctuating fuel costs, your personal time, wear and tear on your vehicle and safety – it’s typically less costly to order online. Time is a commodity that we all have a limited amount of in life. Shopping online allows us to prioritize how we spend our minutes and even save money while doing so. Many people in rural areas can spend a full day between driving, shopping and eating out 2-3 meals. It all adds up fast.

Black Friday
Black Friday comes every year with a bang, and poof – we’ve spent all our money! Hacking Black Friday is possible, but guess what?  You’ll need a plan. That’s right, we’re going right back to our first tip. Why? Just about every online retailer gets in on Black Friday sales, and they are all competing for sales dollars, but whose will they get? Planning ahead will give you time to focus on the details, and they are very important. Are all sales final? Warranty? Return policy? Shipping? Taxes? These are just a few things to consider when making a Black Friday purchase. Buying electronics? If so get your product model number saved to your smartphone or write it down, that way you know the prices you’re seeing are for the exact same devices. In short, plan out big-ticket items and search carefully by considering all the variables.

Cyber Monday
This is probably my favorite time to shop. Why? Well depending on many variables, like how Black Friday went, Cyber Monday can come through with bigger savings. Is there a risk in waiting? Well, sure – but typically the deals you saw on Black Friday are going to resurface on Cyber Monday, and usually with even more savings. Both of these shopping days get our emotions heightened with all the possibilities and savings. We’ve all seen items like smartphones and smart TVs go on sale at huge savings. However, technology ages very fast – there’s an improved version of your brand new device being made as we speak, making it outdated nearly the same month you buy it. Temper your feelings and your spending, and stick to the plan. 

Compare and Check Prices
Never assume you are getting the best deal from any particular retailer. Their goal is to sell and make a profit, yours is to buy what you need and save when and where you can. There are several tools out there for the avid shopper, like Amazon’s Price Checker app, which lets you scan barcodes to your heart’s content while comparing prices at the same time online. Reverting to planning here is helpful too. Why? Because you become focused on the select items you’re after and save money in the process. Avoid distractions and stay the course. 

There are dozens of tips, tricks and gadgets out there to help you on your mission to save. In the end, it’s about a little preparedness and planning, the rest is living and shopping within your size, budget, and scope. Do your best to not get swept up into a sales frenzy that will leave you in a less than ideal financial situation. Just like grocery shopping, plan it out and always remember the reason for the season! 

As always, if you’re in need of cash, feel free to apply today. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates!

7 Ways to Quickly Improve Your Credit Score

To begin, let’s look at what the word “credit” means. Credit is defined as “the ability of a customer to obtain goods or services before payment, based on the trust that payment will be made in the future.” That stated, credit is based on trust and the ability of a given person to follow through on their promise to repay debt. Debt is something we all accrue throughout our lives and it directly impacts our credit health and worthiness. Together, let’s explore some ways you can improve your credit score. 

  1. Clean up your credit report. A credit report laden with inaccurate information can cost you interest points on each loan you get. This will cost you thousands over your lifetime, which is why it’s so important to manage and maintain.  To get started, request copies of your credit report from places like Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. You may also be able to obtain one from your financial institution. Once you have it, review it and be sure everything is accurate. If not, be sure to address those issues in a timely manner. 
  2. Pay down your balances. This seems like common sense, but what this is speaking to is better money management. Try not to use your credit cards unless you have to. Many consumers get caught with one balance for years on end, which costs them thousands in interest. This happens over time as new charges are made coupled with minimum payments creating revolving debt. Eat in a little more, save where you can and it will pay off big when you need it most. 
  3. Submit payments twice a month. This is difficult but very worthwhile. Create a challenge for yourself to not spend everything you bring in, then send a little more to your creditor. It’s not easy, but it’s proven to increase your credit score as well as decrease your debt. It’s truly a win-win! 
  4. Request a credit limit increase. This method might work for you, but be careful. Often consumers see their increased limit as money they can spend, which only increases your debt. Should you increase your limit, our advice is – turn a blind eye to it. Continue paying down your debts and living within your means and ability. 
  5. Open a new account. It’s easy enough to open a new account at a bank or even with a mobile phone provider. Aside from the benefits that these businesses offer, simply having an open and active account with them adds to your creditworthiness. However, be sure you stay focused on why you opened the account. If your strategy is to increase your credit score, stick to it. 
  6. Negotiate balances that are outstanding. Some financial institutions will allow it’s customers to negotiate or settle on debt. These conversations are never easy, but may save you thousands in the long term. Paying back what you borrow is still the best option. 
  7. Pay your bills on time or early. This proves to be difficult for a lot of consumers for one reason or another. However, the money you earn is coming in and ultimately – going out. Utilities, groceries, car payments and healthcare add up, we know. Take the time to make a spreadsheet of your recurring expenses, and pay your bills as soon as you get your paycheck. This will ensure your bills get paid on time and help improve your credit health and score.

Now that you know how to gain control of your credit and improve it, what steps will you take to move forward? Hopefully, all of them. Creating a simple spreadsheet in Google, accessible by setting up a free Gmail account, can bring visibility and clarity to your financial well being. Month to month, enter your bills and set out a budget to live within, and you’ll be on your way before you know it. It only takes a few minutes and can potentially save you thousands. 

As always, if you’re in need of cash, feel free to apply today. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates!