If you are looking to make your financial situation even the slightest bit better, this is a good place to start.
- Credit Scores
- Budget Management
- Assistance Programs
- Blog Posts
Checking your credit scores gives you an idea of where you rank in the financial world. If you haven’t already done this, pull your credit report from a reliable source. You can get your information for free from Experian, TransUnion, your bank, etc. When you first look over your reports, make sure to review every bit of them. If anything is incorrect, you can dispute it. They say it can take a month to go through the process, but I’ve seen things removed sooner.
Once you’ve made sure your information is correct, you should keep an eye on it, in case things change. I check mine really often, but then I’m obsessed with increasing my credit score at the moment. A lot goes on that you don’t even realize. I’ve seen accounts get removed, then added again later, under a different company name. While you’re reviewing it, carefully choose ways to help build your credit without hurting it.
Please don’t apply for every card that comes your way. The loans and cards may help at the moment, but you now have additional payments to manage later. If you’re able to, set up automatic payments on any cards you do have. Late payments will only prevent you from catching up. It’s also best to keep your charges below a third of your credit. If possible, make an additional payment to bring it back down, as needed.
I tend to use Credit Karma the most to view my basic information, and also to dispute items. A few times, I’ve taken their advice and it worked out well for me. I’m comfortable with CK, so it’s my go-to. But, when I’m seriously working on my credit, I look at all of my reports just to make sure I don’t miss anything. One report may be different from another.
- No Credit
We all started out with no credit, and it can be a very difficult place to be in. You can get a secured card, or two, to help build your credit. Utility bills can then be added to your boost your score. Again, just be careful not to set yourself back in the process.
There’s different degrees of managing bills. There’s those people that never take a receipt at checkout. I’m always behind them twitching for a bit, hoping they at least check their card statement. And then there’s me, looking like Gollum, protecting my precious receipts. I keep a somewhat strict budget, and log every single transaction. It seems tedious to some, but it can be very helpful in viewing your whole financial picture.
I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to be complacent with their bills. They may just be comfortable dealing with the same company, or not want to bother contacting them regarding any issues. Some don’t want to go through the process of switching companies. Meanwhile, their bill is going up, and they may not even realize it. That was me, for a while.
- Evaluate Bills
A while back, I went through all of my accounts to see how much I was paying. Depending on the bill, I contacted the company to review it and see if it could be reduced. It doesn’t hurt to ask. In some cases, changes could be made, discounts applied, and even credits were given. It’s definitely worth the extra time spent doing this. Since that’s done, and I set everything up on auto pay, I just have to peek at my accounts every so often to make sure nothing has changed.
- Bill Services – DIY
There’s a few companies that will evaluate bills, cancel subscriptions, negotiate bills, and more. You can do all of these things yourself without relying on them. Definitely don’t pay them to do any of it. I wouldn’t sign up for the free trials either. They are easily forgotten about, and then you’re stuck paying the monthly charges if you can’t get out of them.
Some companies will offer a discount for using autopay. It also ensures that your bill is paid on time, which means you avoid a late fee if you forget to pay it on time. Be sure to line up your payments with your income pay dates accordingly, so you don’t cause fees for insufficient funds.
Keep track of any subscriptions you may have. They may only be a few bucks here and there, but they add up quickly. A while ago, I cancelled cable to save money. I then added multiple streaming services which ended up costing more. I had to make a few changes to reduce my costs.
- Receipt Errors
Check your receipts for errors. Also, verify that your coupons were used. I absolutely hate doing any of this, I really do, but I have found so many mistakes that were costing me. If I notice it at checkout, I’ll have them fix it. Otherwise, I’ll call the store right away. The next time I go in, they give me a refund.
*** Submit your receipts to get cash back. There’s more info about this on the Scan Receipts page.
Anyone can struggle at any time, for any reason. If you need the help, see if there are any assistance programs in your area and if you qualify. I can’t vouch for anywhere else, but I know that in Pennsylvania you can get food stamps, heating assistance, rental and home owner rebates, medical assistance, and more. It goes according to household size and income.
The following are posts that I’ve previously written regarding some financial basics.