Posted in Buying Your Dream House, Credit Cards, Debt Free, Financial Freedom, Winning with Your Money, You and Your Money

The Credit Score Game – Part 1

credit-score-report-historyWhen I was getting out of debt, I was told numerous times, credit scores mean nothing.  However, I learned that that is not exactly true.  Your credit score is your financial reputation – plain and simple.  When necessary, it shows people how you handle your finances – the good, the bad and the ugly.  I agree that your primary focus in your financial life should not be your credit score.  However, when you make positive financial decisions, your credit score will reflect that and in essence take care of itself.

In order for you to understand how that happens, you need to understand how the credit score works and what positive, on purpose money decisions you can make to help your score along.  So for the next 3 blog posts, we are going to cover the top 3 most important factors of your score and I will share tiny tips that you can do to raise your score simply and easily.  When I started focusing on getting out of debt and making positive decisions, my score went up 100 points in just one year – some take longer, some are quicker, but you have to start somewhere.  So here we go!

Part 1 – 35% of your score is your payment history.  That is over 1/3 on just this one thing.  And this is where many of us go way wrong.  Anytime you are overextended financially, someone doesn’t get paid.  If you don’t have the right health insurance and emergency fund, medical bills don’t get paid and end up in collections.  When you go credit card crazy and look up and owe hundreds every month that you don’t have, bills end up in turmoil.

Your payment history is very important to your financial reputation.  It shows people whether you have it together or not.  People don’t have to look at your bank accounts to know if you have a proper emergency fund – they simply need to look at your credit report.  You don’t have to show anyone your budget for them to know if you are doing one or not.  It is all reflected in your credit report.  Many people fall on hard times and if you are not properly prepared, it will affect your credit history and your financial reputation.

But don’t worry – it is never to late to fix it.  The first thing you need to start doing is get on a budget and pay every bill’s minimum payment every month on time or early.  If a bill is due on the 20th, pay it no later than the 15th – I mean the payment posts on the 15th.  Online payments usually posts within a day, but mailed payments can take 10-20 days to post.  Take this into consideration.  If you have to start with one, then another, then another and so on.  This is better than every single bill being late every single month.

Once you have everything being paid on time or early, begin to work on cleaning up any collection items that may be sitting out there.  They are already being reported as not being paid, but once you settle them (even if it is for a written settlement partial) it will show paid and raise your score.

The one thing you need to know about all of the parts of your credit score is that what is done is done.  You can’t go back and change it.  However, you can make better decisions going forward which will begin to outweigh the bad ones.  Trying to do it all can seem very overwhelming which is why I wanted to talk about the top 3 factors so that you can begin there.  You may not be able to start paying everything on time immediately if you have struggled with this for a while, but there is no better time than today to sit down, list out all of your bills with their minimums, set up a budget and begin to make it happen.  You can do it!  I was $200,000 in debt making just $10,000/year with a 560 credit score when I started the process.  And look at me now – debt free, making way more than 10 grand, and my score is over 800.  It is not impossible and I hope that these small tips that I will be sharing will help you to start the journey now.

Credit is a part of life – we need it for things other than debt in today’s world.  It is your financial reputation.  And it’s okay if your reputation is scared a little right now.  Just make the decision to start over – start today making one better financial decision, pay one bill on time, anything!  Today is your day!

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Posted in Building Wealth, Buying Your Dream House, Debt Free, Financial Freedom

Money Can’t Buy Happiness or Can It?

Grandma

This beautiful lady is my grandmother.  I was thinking of her yesterday as I do everyday.  Yesterday would have been her birthday.  She is in heaven now, but she lived 102 wonderful years here on this earth.  Having lived that long, she obviously did a lot of things right.  The thing I remember the most is her smile.  She always had a smile.  Even if she was fussing at my daddy in her later years, she would smile while doing it.  She was happy no matter where she was – when she lived alone because my grandfather was in a nursing home, when she lived alone after he died, even when she was in a nursing home.

Now I’m sure she had moments – my family tells stories sometimes that I find hard to believe.  But this is because her overall demeanor was happy and positive.  When I began my journey to go from $200,000 in debt to financial freedom, my grandmother was one of the first people I looked to to learn from.  Not because she had money, but because she didn’t.

How could she be so happy and be poor?  At the time, I couldn’t understand it, but now I can.  She was happy with life.  She lived everyday to the fullest and I believe this contributed to her living longer.  She also was very content.  Even when she needed clothes, she always wanted that money to be spent on someone else, usually a grandchild.  She didn’t need “stuff”.

I just read a great post from the @DebtFreeGuys about whether you are a “TP” or an “EP” – things person or experience person.  Most people can’t afford to be both and they go broke trying.  That is what happened to me.  I was trying to own everything my parents owned as well as take trips and do things that I enjoyed and convinced myself that I deserved.  Today, having gone through everything I went through – from bankruptcy to financial freedom – I can truly say I am an “EP” just like my grandma.

Now to answer the question posed in the title – money cannot buy happiness, but many times it takes money to do what makes you happy.  It takes money to buy things and it takes money to have some experiences.  What makes me the happiest is the beach (or the lake).  For me to go there and to hopefully one day live there, that will take money.  But how I do it will determine how much.  I don’t need granite countertops, 3 bedrooms, fancy amenities – I just need a bed, a bath, a kitchen and oceanfront.  This will cost me less than trying to have the experience and the stuff.

Determine your dreams – what makes you truly happy – and set up your finances accordingly.  Budget, set goals, and save to pay cash for those dreams because debt can turn a dream into a nightmare in about 3 seconds.  Live the dream and be happy – live to be 102!

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Posted in Budgeting for Everyone, Building Wealth, Buying Your Dream House, Debt Free, Marriage and Money, Saving for Your Future, You and Your Money

The Tiny House Phenomenon

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This week is Tiny House Hunters week on HGTV.  I love watching all of the cool homes they show and how different they all are.  My husband and I have actually considered a tiny home for a lake lot in the future.  Would you ever consider living in a tiny house?  Here are 4 good reasons to include a tiny house in your future plans:

Saving money – When living in a tiny house, you are saving considerable money in several areas.  You save on the utilities, you save on the taxes and other home costs and you can even save on groceries (not as much cabinet or refrigerator space).  The money you save by choosing tiny house living can be used to pay off debts, invest in your future, or finally have the career you want.

Downsizing – Many people have way more home then they need or can afford.  Buying a tiny home might be just what you need to hit the reset button and start over.  What I love is that is gives you more nature and less house.  Who wants to clean a 3 bedroom/2 bath house anyway when you can be swimming, boating, hiking or making smores?

No mortgage – Most tiny homes are priced low which gives you the ability to pay cash and be debt free.  Can you imagine what it would be like to not owe a mortgage/rent payment every month?  Talk about financial freedom.  I saw nice homes last week that cost less than a 20% down payment for an average home.

Contentment – One of the biggest keys to wealth and financial freedom is contentment.  Owning a tiny house is the ultimate form of contentment.  You only have 200 – 600 square feet in which to put everything you own.  This makes you step back and look at what is truly important to you.  I think if you had to, you would be very surprised at what you could live without.

Tiny houses are not for everyone.  But like with any success story, you need to know all of your options and what it could mean for your bottom line.  For me, it could be a viable option in the future because of all of the reasons mentioned above.  I guess I’m showing my age, but sitting by the lake enjoying a sunset puts a smile on my face and cleaning a 1500 square foot home does not.  But everyone is different. My goal today was simply to give you something to think about and talk about around the water cooler.

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