What Should My Credit Score Be?

If you are not one to check not only your credit score, but your credit report in general, now is the time to start.  Credit is the most important factor for a lender to decide our worthiness to get loan approval, whether it is for an auto loan or a mortgage purchase or refinance.  It is surprising how many family and friends that I hear do not know where they stand with their credit, or even just assume they have great credit.

A way to start would be to pull a Free Copy of your Credit Report.  You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year from the three major bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian.  Although pulling a free copy of your credit report will not give you a credit score, you can purchase one for an additional fee of usually under $10, or if you currently have a credit card, you can find your credit score on the monthly statement, whether you receive paper copies in the mail, or have an online account, you can click to see your score when logged in, as most credit card companies are providing an updated score each month.  When you view a copy of your credit report, double check to make sure everything is accurate, as far as the number of accounts open, addresses, and balances.  Keep in mind that reports are usually a month behind, so if you have charged or made a large payment or even open or closed an account it will not show up for an additional month or two.

Now what about the score?  Credit scores range from 301 the lowest to 850 the highest, with ranges falling in between, as “Poor” to “Excellent”.  “Excellent” scores would be those that are above 750, and thus getting the best possible rates available, and getting less favorable as you go lower in score, while those at the bottom cannot be trusted borrowers and would be declined.  “Good” are those between 700-749, “Fair” 650-699, “Poor” 600-649, and “Bad” anything below 600.  In order to make sure you get the most favorable rates and no trouble getting approval for a loan, you would need to make sure you get at least in the higher end of the “Good” range and above. Your credit score might come in handy if you ever needed liquidity and wanted approval for car title loans for quick cash. Your credit score affects just about every part of your financial life.

If you find your scores are low, you will need to make sure you continue to pay bills on time, balances are paid down to free up more available credit, and you avoid continuous new credit lines.  With patience and discipline, scores will rise.

Do You Have to Sacrifice Fuel Efficiency for Lower Insurance Premiums?

You want to save money and help reduce greenhouse gases so naturally, you are in the market for fuel-efficient vehicles. The good news is that there are more cars and trucks designed for fuel efficiency than ever before, thanks to the growth of hybrids and advanced technology. The bad news is that many of these are in the luxury category, which tends to attract higher premiums. On the other hand, gas guzzling SUVs are rewarded by many insurers, but use large amounts of energy and create significant emissions. Do you have to choose between fuel efficiency and affordable auto insurance?
Vehicles with Low Insurance Premiums
If you like piling the entire family into a huge SUV or minivan, such as the Toyota Sienna, your insurer will reward you with lower premiums. These cars suffer less damage when there is a collision, and tend to be easy and relatively inexpensive to repair. Since many of these vehicles are created with families in mind, they have additional safety features which also score brownie points with insurance companies. The downside is that these are the vehicles which are avoided by those who are concerned about the environment and about paying high prices at the pump.
Vehicles That Save Fuel
The advent of hybrids has been a boon to green-oriented drivers, but they require a significant investment. These cars tend to be priced higher and they also command significant premiums. In addition to luxury cars that are not commonly owned and require specialty parts, hybrids have a complex structure that makes them more costly to repair, and therefore, more expensive to insure. In addition, smaller engines are more fuel efficient, but the smaller the car, the less well it may fare in a collision, and therefore, premiums will be higher.
Finding a Compromise
You don’t have to give up energy efficiency to save on auto insurance or vice versa. It helps to look at premiums in your area, for instance, San Antonio auto insurance on certain brands and models and make another list of the most energy-efficient cars. By comparing the data on both lists, you will be able to identify cars that are energy efficient and carry reasonable premiums. The U.S. Department of Energy has a resource that can aid in identifying energy-efficient vehicles.
There are a number of cars that fare well on both lists. A Ford Escape non-hybrid represents a fair compromise between inexpensive insurance and fuel savings, as well as the Chevrolet Silverado. You can find your own fair compromises through cross-referencing, and may come up with a few surprises. In addition, keep in mind that your auto insurance premium quoted may not be the last word. There are ways to negotiate lower premiums, such as through taking a defensive driving course, having past fines and tickets removed from your record, driving less than the national average and searching for insurance discounts.
While there are some crucial choices to make in the search for an energy efficient car with affordable insurance premiums, it is not too difficult to find vehicles that meet both criteria. Buying a hybrid car isn’t the only way to save on fuel and to cut down on carbon emissions. You may find a car that fits fuel and affordable insurance standards and drives like a dream.

5 Things You Can Do to Save Big in 2016

2016 has made its way into our lives and we are already almost through the first two months. There is no better time to start saving money to set ourselves up for financial success than right now. We have about 10 months to save as big as we can, but wait! How will we save big?

One of the hardest parts about saving money is that you do not want to see a huge loss of money fly from your hands, so it can be hard to set aside hundreds of dollars a month. Below, we will go over some awesome ways to make saving a substantial amount of money painless this 2016!


  1. Limit How Many Fees You Spend

One of the worst things about saving money is not having the money to save, but when you start to think about all of the fees you spend to maintain accounts and withdrawal money, you will quickly see you are throwing a lot of dough out the window.

For example, if you use an out of network ATM, you will spend anywhere between one to five dollar to withdraw the money from the chosen ATM and then your bank will charge you ANOTHER service fee on top of this. Therefore, just to withdraw $100, you are paying $110. If you do this often, you are quickly tossing money out.

In addition, consider other things you may be paying fees for such as paper statements, pinless debt charges, etc.


  1. Student Loan Refinancing

If you want to painlessly save thousands of dollars this year, then look directly at your student loans coming – after all, they won’t see it coming. Student loan refinancing is a great way to keep money in your pocket while paying down the debt that you owe.

Student loan refinancing is designed to help get you a better interest rate on your student loans, which will save you a ton of money. For example, switching from a seven percent interest rate down to a three percent interest rate is a big leap and you can place this saved money right into your bank account.


  1. Avoid Eating Out

One way that you can save big this 2016 is to commit to eating at home more often. When you eat out, you are paying for convenience and a meal for two can easily be $30 at a restaurant. Imagine going out to eat five days out of the week, that is $150 just for dinner! You could spend that $150 at the grocery store and feed your family for the week.

When you can, use coupons for the items you buy too. If you have the extra time to do so, you can match up the coupons with some of the local ads and really save some bucks at the store.


  1. Avoid the Movie Theater

Alright, alright, maybe once or twice, but seriously, you should stop heading to the theater on date night. While you may not realize it at the time, your movie ticket is costing you up to $15 PER. If you visit the movies once or twice a month, this really adds up.

You could rent a movie or two from Redbox and spend significantly less than you would if you went to the movies. In fact, the rentals at Redbox are just a buck.


  1. Utilize Power Wisely

One area that people tend to spend the most is on their utility bill. This bill includes your power consumption and sometimes your gas consumption as well. If you take some time to turn lights off, keep the AC off, and use minimal power, then you will notice that your utility bill drops in price and you can set aside the additional money you would have been sending to the power company.

If you are looking to save a lot of money this year, consider the five tips above to help you. It is important that you eliminate things that you do not need from your budget or find alternatives, such as buying a generic brand and so on.

We believe you can start saving more than you think! Ready for the challenge? Let’s do it together!



Starting a Restaurant on a Server’s Salary

Even though it is one of the toughest professions to exceed in, it is still one of the most rewarding. As long as you know where to begin and know things to avoid (like having champagne taste on a beer budget) then opening your restaurant could be as easy as opening a can of soup (okay, maybe not that easy).

Location, location, location

Obviously you want to have your new restaurant in a prime spot, maybe on a busy street in a popular city or town. The problem with this is that the more “idea” the location is, the more likely the higher the rent. I’m not saying you need to start a business in the middle of nowhere to save a few pennies, but just be smart. For example, pick a location that was previously a restaurant. This way, a lot of the things you need – stove, dishwasher, bar – is already in place. This will save a ton of money on having to put these items in. Also, maybe look for a neighborhood that is up and coming, this way your rent will stay cheap while the area grows in value.

Spend smart

Once you have to start stocking your restaurant with all things needed, you will be overstimulated by how many options are out there. The best way to make sure you have everything you need – from menus to paper towel rolls – is to find a trusted partner. Restaurant Discount Warehouse is one of these vendors who can stay with you through the lifecycle of your restaurant. You will save money on things like menu covers, so you can spend more on upgrading your bar or oven.

As long as you remain smart about the decisions you make regarding opening your restaurant, you can be a successful entrepreneur. You just have to take the first step!

How to Avoid Payday Loans This Holiday Season

The stresses of affording gifts and other holiday items typically begins at the beginning of October. The kids start talking about what they want before Halloween and all parents see are dollar signs adding up in front of them. Those that are under-employed or minimally employed do have options to make extra cash for the holidays without having to take out one of those quick loans or other similar options.

Participate in Holiday Craft Shows

Learning a craft or taking items that you already know how to make for participating in craft shows is a great way to earn extra holiday cash. Many craft shows do allow food items to be sold as well. This is the best time to sell packaged family recipes. Make sure to follow the guidelines set forth by the directors.

Offer Winterization Services

Helping the elderly and those with busy schedules or disabilities prepare their homes for winter is a great money maker too. Many are not able to climb ladders or use their hands to make tight seals around windows and doors. This is a valuable service that does not require any particular licensing to be in place.

Types of services to offer for winterization:

  • Installing weather stripping around doors
  • Using heat shrinking plastic on the windows
  • Check vent airflow
  • Look for leaky faucets
  • Bringing plants indoors
  • Preparing the ground for winter

These services can be billed hourly or on a fixed rate agreement.

Open a Holiday Item eBay Store

There is still plenty of time before the 2015 holiday season. It is a great time to open an eBay store with specialty holiday décor and hot gift items. The money comes quick when you are competitive and there are several companies that you can sign up with for free that offer warehouse direct shipping so that all you have to do is place the items for sale on eBay. You don’t have to go to the post office; you just sit back and watch your items sell. Choose the items wisely.

Making money for the holidays is possible when you explore your capabilities. In many parts of the United States it snows far before Christmas. Take advantage of this and offer snow plowing or shoveling services for extra cash. If you have a large pickup truck, you can offer pulling services for those that slide off the road. Use these options rather than taking payday loans and get ahead instead of playing catch up this holiday season.

Tech For Teachers: The Number One Skill Needed – File Organization

It does not matter if you use or prefer a Mac, a PC or any other operating system. You must be able to quickly locate the material that you have saved on your computer.  I have been both a teacher and spent half a lifetime in the technology field.  In fact, for some time I was a network administrator and technician for a large school district, taking care of the tech for teachers.  I understand how most of them work.  One of their worst habits, we used to our advantage. It was their horrible file organization.

We had several thousand PC computers sitting on teacher’s desks, with a staff of less than 10 to maintain them all.  We found that with only a handful of exceptions, every file important to individual teachers was dumped all willy-nilly into that black hole of a folder called “My Documents.”  We played a bit of a trick on them to protect them.  Each teacher of course had a network/computer login.  We used that to change the physical location of their personal “My Documents” folder.  It really wasn’t on their hard drive at all. It was in a secure building across town!  (We didn’t even tell them.) We would often get a panicked call about a crashed computer and arrive to see a teacher literally in tears, thinking they had lost everything they had saved for years, including precious photos, student papers, grades, and essential paperwork.  I would sit a new computer on their desk, plug it in, turn it on and say, “Now log in.” then “Now look in your “My Documents folder. You did not lose a single file.”  The range of looks of utter shock, disbelief, relief and even confusion were amusing.  “How did you do that?” they would always ask, as if I performed a magic trick, which was usually followed by profuse thanks and even hugs and kisses.  Those teachers were lucky, because of their particular environment.  But it perfectly illustrates a lack of skill number 1, file organization.

Think of your computer’s hard drive being like an old fashion file cabinet, with drawers, those dividers, cardboard hanging folders, sometimes with other folders inside of them, and pieces of paper (files) within the folders.  That analogy is EXACTLY how a computer is organized and how your data should be treated.  If you had a real file cabinet, the drawers, dividers and folders would have different titles, depending upon what type of business you did or your work style.  Imagine a business, such as a doctor’s office, with everything paper, from patient records to billing. Someone says, “File this please.” They open a door to a large room and throw the paper in the air and it lands in a big pile.  That is what one does by putting everything in that one “My Documents” folder, all out in the open.

It is ok to put things there, but if you do, make that the outer container, like the file cabinet itself.  How you divide the rest up, and organize it is completely up to you. (To make a new folder in Windows, just right click and click “new”, then choose “folder” and give it a name.)  You could have folders based on dates, folders for lectures or teaching materials, students’ work, personal folders, you name it!  Try to come up with a system that is standardized to you, which you use on all your computers in your life. Be sure to make your backup hard drives or flash/thumb drives use the same system. The prices of external hard drives are quite good at Office Depot.  Have a system of how you name files and life will become even easier.  For example, if someone asked to see a paper, that a student named Jimmy Smith wrote 10 years ago, about frogs. You could find it in 5 seconds or less.  When you can do something like that, you have mastered tech skill #1.

3 Things that Are More Fun if You Do Them at Home

Are you bored? Do you feel like going out to a pub, to see a movie, or just drive around for hours without a specific purpose? Well, these are all great – but if you are a frugal individual like yours truly, you might want to keep the expense of these to a minimum. And the minimum in this case is zero – if you find the right activities to do. The list below has some of the activities I love to do at home – as I find them much more fun than the ones that need me to leave home. With friends, of course.

1. Instead of going to the movies…

Seeing the movie you have been looking forward to is great – but comes at a price. Drive to the theater, buy a ticket, buy some overpriced snacks – and be annoyed all the time because of the one idiot that didn’t turn his phone off and has a noisy bag in his hand. Has it happened to you? ‘Cause it has sure happened to me – several times.

… host a themed movie night with friends!

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Inviting your friends over for a movie night – especially if you have a big screen TV – can be just as much fun. Of course, most of them will have seen at least some of the movies you plan to show them, but even seeing an old movie is a lot of fun with friends. Prepare the popcorn, chill the drinks, and go for it – you won’t regret it.

2. Instead of visiting Vegas…

Driving to Vegas? Well, that would be an adventure – or would it? Hours of driving, all that fuel money wasted, arriving tired to an overpriced – or overbooked – hotel, crowded casinos and pubs, should I go on? It might be my personal misfortune that my last visit to the Sin City looked exactly like this.

… play your favorite casino games online.

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But why should I drive for hours and stress out because of all the things that go wrong when I can have the best experience without leaving home? I can load up the Red Flush online casino, browse to my favorite game and play it from the comfort of my own home – on the couch, on my phone. I don’t even have to put on pants for it. For me playing casino games online is just as satisfactory as being there in person. Besides, I can always take a walk to the fridge if I need a fresh drink or a snack. The Red Flush has all the games I can think of right at my fingertips. Its specials give me all the play time I need, and its friendly customer service is there for me whenever I have a question… Instead of going out to a restaurant…

… make reservations days ahead, fight for a parking spot, have a clumsy waiter and not be satisfied with your meal… I think this has happened to all of you at least once…

… why not host a dinner party?

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If you love to cook – and have a bit of a chef in you – you can treat your friends and family with a delicious and special meal without the need for an occasion. Sit around the table, have a nice chat and a nice meal, and save yourself the fuss of eating out.

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Top 10 Habits that can increase your fuel economy

Okay, we’ve talked about these gasoline/fuel economy habits many times before, but with the cost of gas still over $3.50 a gallon at many pumps around the country, we figured it was time to write about them again. Enjoy.

First, you should definitely drive slower. The simple fact is that as your speed increases, the “drag” on your car or truck increases as well. For example, if you drive 62 miles an hour rather than 75, you can actually reduce the amount of fuel that your car uses by nearly 15% just because of reduced friction.

When it comes to speeding up and slowing down, neither is good to do in excess. Basically what you need to do is anticipate traffic, traffic lights and stop signs in order to accelerate and brake moderately. This can increase your fuel economy by nearly 20%. This in turn helps you to increase the amount of money in your checking account.

Keeping your tires properly inflated is one of the easiest things you can do to save money at the gas pumps. Simply check the level recommended by either your vehicle manufacturer (in the instruction manual) or the company that manufactured the tires that you purchased to replace the original, factory tires. This can help increase your fuel economy from 1% to 3%.

While the jury is still out on whether or not using the AC increases or decreases fuel economy, it’s definitely well known that having your windows open at highway speeds increases drag and decreases your fuel economy upwards of 10%.

If you can avoid long idling times, especially over one minute, you will definitely save money as idling the car for longer than 60 seconds uses more fuel than stopping and then restarting it.

One of the best things you can do to increase your fuel economy is simply to have your car or truck serviced regularly. Things like dirty air filters, low fluid levels and spark plugs that aren’t functioning correctly will get replaced if you maintain your car correctly.

Another great way to save gasoline is to use cruise control.  If you can maintain a constant speed over a long distance, your car or truck will definitely use less gas.

Keeping the amount of junk in your car to the minimum is also a great way to save on fuel. The heavier your car is the more gas it will use,  so make sure to take out anything you might have put in there over the winter to give you better traction and just don’t drive around with a lot of stuff in your car.

Finally, the very biggest and best way to save money is simply to purchase a car or truck that is fuel efficient.

OK, now you’re all set again.  Don’t make us repeat ourselves for a while if you please, and happy motoring.

The Diverse Market of Alternative Fuel Vehicles

A new infographic from British motor retail dealership Motorparks analyses the diverse market that exists with alternative fuel vehicles.

The visual charts the recent successes of both electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles, which have seen their popularity peak over the past few years and shows that petrol and diesel are no longer the only options people have when purchasing their next car.

As well as looking at the recent history of electric and hydrogen vehicles, the visual also points out that both of these concepts can trace their origins back to the early years of the 19th century.

For more details, view the entire infographic below:

The future of Alternative fuels - v2 (3)

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