Know Thy Credit Score

They say knowledge is power, and that couldn’t be more true than when dealing with your personal finances.  A major part of personal finances is your credit score.  Your credit score affects many major events in your life, such as applying for a mortgage or a car loan.  The better your score, the lower your interest rate.  Yet many don’t have any idea what their credit score is.  Knowing this, and how to improve it, can save you a ton of money and financial hardship throughout your life.

 

What is a credit score?

 

Your credit score generally comes from the Fair Isaac Corporation, or FICO.  It’s a number between 300 and 850, the higher the better.  Generally, those with a score of 760 or above will qualify for the best interest rates on loans.  If your score is too low, you’ll end up paying a ton of interest, or even risk being denied a loan at all.

 

What goes into my credit score?

 

It’s important to remember that the matrixes used to determine credit scores vary on your personal history and the type of loan you are applying for.  For example, when you’re applying for a car loan banks will generally consider your past history with paying off car loans more heavily than other lenders.  If you have a short credit history, opening up a bunch of new accounts in a short time frame is going to hurt you worse than someone who has a long, established history.  But in general, these weights are applied to each sector of your credit history:

 

 

  • Highest Weighted: Payment History- This is the singular most important part of your credit history to FICO.  In the past, have you paid your accounts on time?  If so, you’re really helping out your credit score.  If not, figure out how to start doing this to bring your number up.
  • Second Highest Weighted: How Much You Owe- If you owe a lot of money right now, odds are your credit score isn’t looking great.  When using credit cards especially, you want to think about your debt:credit ratio.  If you have a lot of credit extended to you, you’re probably doing all right if you are carrying a balance in small proportion to the amount you could be spending.  If you’re maxed out, your number is being dragged lower.  Installment loans such as car loans are a little bit different.  The further into the loan you are the better your credit score will look as long as you’re keeping up payments, but FICO takes the type of loan into account when figuring out your credit score.
  • Third Highest Weighted: Length of Credit History- How long you have had your accounts open also factors into your credit score.  This means age is your friend.  If you’re young, there’s not much you can do to change this one, but one thing you can do if you’re considering applying for a loan in the near future is to not open up any new credit cards.  Doing so lowers the average age of your account, and will lower your score.
  • Equally Rated (Though at the Lowest Percentage): Types of Credit and New Credit-  New credit doesn’t just lower the age of your account.  If you apply for a lot of new credit at once, it tells lenders that you may be a credit risk.  This is reflected in your score.  However, if you only have one type of credit extended to you, you may want to diversify your lending history.  For example, if you have only ever had a car loan, your score may be helped by opening a line of revolving credit (like a credit card) as long as you use it responsibly, paying it off every month, preferably in full to avoid going into debt.

 

 

What to Do With Your Knowledge

Now you have the information you need to figure out why your credit score looks the way it does.  Before you can apply that knowledge, you have to know what your score actually is.  Check out our myFICO deals to not only find your number, but also to check out their credit monitoring services that notify you if something fishy shows up on your report, which could be an indication of identity theft.

Shopping Frozen Food Month In Line With Your Health and Budget

There’s danger lurking in your grocer’s frozen aisle this month.  It’s masked behind big savings and an event called “National Frozen Food Month.”  It happens every March, and it could be detrimental to the health of your family.

 

Frozen foods can seem great:  they’re convenient, they’re simple, and they save us a lot of stress.  But most of the time they are not so good for your health.  Think about what lives in the frozen food aisle:  frozen pizzas, TV dinners, ice cream, and pre-made entrees.  None of them are good for you, and the ones that look like they could be would be healthier and cheaper to make yourself, even with the incentivizing sales this month.

 

There are two exceptions to the frozen aisle quandary. They are fruits and vegetables.  It’s true that fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables from the produce section contain a slightly higher amount of vitamins and minerals.  But during each product’s off-season, fresh items are usually picked before they can fully mature, making the frozen aisle a better place nutritionally.

 

What Produce to Buy

 

When you hit the store this month, the best deals for your family’s health and pocketbook will be off-season, frozen fruits and vegetables, combining nutrient-optimization with the sales of National Frozen Food Month.  That makes your best options:

 

  • Frozen Corn
  • Frozen Green Beans
  • Frozen Peas
  • Frozen Peppers
  • Frozen Berries (With the exception of strawberries!  These are in season starting this month in the prime strawberry-growing locales in the country.)
  • Frozen Peaches
  • Frozen Cherries

 

If you’re buying local, these seasons may alter slightly depending on your climate.  But a vast majority of produce sold at grocery stores is sadly not local, and March falls during off-season for the above produce in growing locales.

 

Other Tips to Maximize Nutrition

 

There can be a temptation to buy in bulk whenever you see a massive sale.  When you’re shopping for frozen fruits and vegetables, this is not the best method.  Buy only what you think your family will eat in the upcoming month or two; hold onto them too long, and the nutrients will start to deteriorate.

 

Another thing to consider is the product’s USDA grade.  Frozen produce must meet USDA standards, and will display the department’s signature shield along with a rating.  You’ll want to look  for “Fancy” or “Extra Fancy” if you’re trying to load up on those nutrients that make vegetables so good for you.  While eating the lower grades (which are all numbered) is probably still better than not eating vegetables at all, it’s not going to get you the most bang for your buck when it comes to preparing healthy meals.

The Yoga Pants Craze

A tame option from Victoria’s Secret ($39.50)

Is it cool to wear yoga pants even if you don’t do yoga? Can EVERYONE wear yoga pants? Are yoga pants acceptable to wear everywhere? There are no easy answers to these questions. Yoga pants have taken the world by storm. High school girls are petitioning for their right to wear yoga pants. Lululemon front man, Chip Wilson has resigned because of comments he made about yoga pants not being appropriate for every woman. American women were outraged, Wilson had no choice but to move on. Yoga pants have taken on a life of their own.

A few years ago, it was a leggings craze, led by Lindsay Lohan, if memory serves. But hey, at least you could dress leggings up or down. At least there were options. Yoga pants are decidedly casual, because, well, they are meant to wear to exercise, or at least look like you exercise. The term for this look is: “athleisure,” which frankly, sounds more like an illness than a fashion statement. They’re SO popular that the sales of jeans dropped by 6% last year! Women turn to yoga pants for comfort these days while those stiff old jeans collect dust.

Lululemon ($79-179)

BBC News recently did an article on whether yoga pants are a “threat to public decency.” BBC News is a British News Organization and it’s interesting to consider that the decency of yoga pants slash leggings may differ across cultures. Still, BBC New reports that law makers in Montana proposed a bill that would deem yoga pants “indecent.” As of now, the bill has been postponed, but the dialogue has been opened.

After all, Lululemon did have to recall a line of their yoga pants in 2013 because prolonged wear led to sheerness…and high school girls roaming the halls in skin tight, sheer pants presents a problem. Sheer or not, non-supporters argue that you can see such a clear outline of the buttocks (and sometimes the front-ocks) that there is nothing left to the imagination. When women are out running errands at the grocery store or thirteen year olds are flaunting the goods in front of vulnerable teenage boys, this might be a valid criticism. Have we nothing left to hide? Literally? And what about plus-sized women? Are there different rules? Some say yes. Other say, even plus sized women have a right wear what they’re comfortable in–and maybe that’s the point.

If you’re a yoga pants supporter, check out Lululemon for super duper priced apparel, or Atheleta (a Gap brand) for mid-level priced pants.

Ready to Trade Snow for Sunshine?

Shopping for Your Destination

Punta Cana

Need a little warmth in your life? We found some great deals on the hottest winter vacation spots. Check out these spots now for a great deal.

  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Check out Hotel Barcelo. This place is a five star, four diamond hotel that sits along the Pacific Ocean, with a sea of mountainous backdrop. Check out before booking your room.
  • Miami Beach is always a fun spot and it’s ALWAYS WARM! Some our reasonably priced hotel picks are: the Fountainbleu, Loewes, Courtyard Cadillac. Check out coupons for fun things to do.
  • Costa Rica is one of our favorite getaways because it’s cheap. The most you’ll pay is for airfare, but once your there, it’s definitely a budget vacation.
  • Costa Rica

    Punta Cana is another great pick for those of us on a budget. Lush white beaches and emerald seas give Punta Cana a heaven-on-earth feel. There are always great deals being offered for this Dominican Republic vacation spot.

What You Should Know Before Purchasing Your Airline Ticket

But first, follow these useful tips:

  • Browse the sites, but then delete your cookies. There is growing evidence that websites can be tracking your habits in order to drive up price.  Then, purchase on another computer. This might sound all conspiracy theorist-y, but you just never know.
  • Do not buy too early UNLESS you are planning to travel on a holiday or other high airline traffic day. Book about 45 days out for domestic flights and no more than 60 days for international flights, Greenberg suggests.
  • Whenever possible, travel on “off peak days.” Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days on which to book your flight. While it might be inconvenient, it’s the cheapest by hundreds.
  • Consider the time of month.  Many of us book right after being paid (the first and fifteenth, most popularly). Try to book on a day like the 7th, when traffic on the websites are slower, driving down prices.
  • If you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person (no pun intended), wait until just before the departure date or even on it, and try to find a good deal on an empty seat. No guarantees on this though. Some airlines drive the prices up, in anticipation of emergencies. But on the day of? Empty seats are yours for next to nothing.