Archive for Finances

10 HACKS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE HITTING THE MALL

Holiday Shopping Hacks

family shopping for holiday gifts in a mallQ: When the holiday season rolls around, I practically take up residence at the mall. There’s so much shopping I need to do and the mall is the best place to pick up most of my gifts. And yet, the experience causes so many headaches—and it’s expensive! Is there a way to spend less at the mall and to make the entire experience more pleasant?

A: You’re not the only one who feels like skipping out on their mortgage this month and paying rent at the mall instead. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, the crowds at the mall can be as dense as the foot traffic on a street in Manhattan.

There’s more than just the thick crowds you have to battle at the mall, though. There’s also heavy manipulation by retailers priming you to overspend. Kit Yarrow, PhD and professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University, says the red and green décor that covers the malls this time of year urges us to splurge. Red energizes us and green is perceived as an optimistic, lucky and wealthy color. Both colors will push us into going over budget.

The crowds and the endless spending can take a toll on anyone. No worries, though; we’ve got 10 incredible mall shopping hacks to make your trip a little easier on you and a bit lighter on your budget!

  1. Map out a route

The less time you spend at the mall, the better off your budget will be. Before spending yet another afternoon roaming aimlessly until you find what you’re looking for, jot down a short list of your intended purchases before heading out and then create a route of the stores you’ll hit to look for them. Most malls offer a printable map on their websites to make this task a little easier.

Have your route pre-planned and do your budget a favor. As a bonus, you might even make it home headache-free!

  1. Turn it up

Plug into your favorite playlist while scouring your favorite stores for fantastic finds. You’ll be calmer and less stressed—and a lot less likely to overspend.

  1. Cash only

If you can’t seem to stick to a budget at the mall, leave the plastic at home and only bring along the amount of cash you plan on spending. It’s hard to feel the hole a swipe makes in your pocket, but slipping the cashier a pile of bills actually feels like you’re spending money—and you’ll spend less of it. You’ll also be forced to stick to your budget no matter how tempted you are to overspend.

If you dare, consider only bringing newer, high-denomination bills, like 50s and 100s. You’ll think three times before breaking up those crisp, large bills.

  1. Find the hidden cashier

Skip the endless lines in the bigger stores this holiday season by seeking out the cashiers set up in out-of-the-way spots of the store. You might find these quieter checkout lines near the lingerie department, in a far-off corner or near the fitting rooms. Zip in and out of the store in minutes!

  1. Box it

When a cashier offers to box your purchases for you, say yes! It might mean a bit more time for you at the checkout, but you’ll get a head start on all that gift wrapping and save money on wrapping paper, too. Ask for a box even if your purchase isn’t a gift and then use it to wrap another gift item when you get home.

  1. Shop late in the day

Skip the crazy crowds by shopping right before closing. The malls usually see the fewest shoppers during the late evening hours, so you’ll be able to shop quickly without jostling your way through the crowds.

Also, many stores stay open an extra hour after the mall closes in the weeks leading up to the holidays. Hit the mall first, and then shop the extended hours at the department stores to get a whole lot done in one stress-free trip.

  1. Shop in heels

Leave your comfortable flats at home! A Brigham Young University study found that shoppers spent a lot less money when their minds were focused on staying balanced. If you don’t like teetering through the mall, you can hit the shops after a yoga class or after riding an escalator for a similar effect.

  1. Don’t become fast friends with the checkout clerks

According to Forbes, shoppers tend to overspend when they feel a kinship with the cashier. Be cordial and be polite, but don’t get too chummy with the checkout clerks this season.

  1. Carry a snapshot of your financial goal

What’s your financial dream? An Alaskan cruise? A luxury car? Print out a photo of your dream and stick it into your wallet. Pull it out whenever you’re tempted to bust your budget on a purchase and it will help you keep your mind on your goal.

  1. Suck on a mint

Did you know that stores use scents to manipulate shoppers into spending more? Suck on a mint or chew a piece of mint-flavored gum to help you block out the store’s smells and stick to your budget.

Don’t get stressed or go broke at the mall this season! Follow our hacks for a budget-friendly and stress-free shopping trip.

For more savings tips, connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube!

SOURCES:

https://www.seventeen.com/fashion/style-advice/tips/a37264/money-saving-shopping-hacks-that-will-you-money-at-mall-stores/
http://ourfinancialpath.com/spend-less/
https://www.rd.com/advice/saving-money/psychology-tricks-spend-less-shopping/
http://www.coupons.com/thegoodstuff/shop-smart-12-mall-shopping-hacks-you-should-know/

CREDIT CARD FRAUD IN 5S

Financial Self Defense against Credit Card Fraud

An image of someone typing in credit card information into the computerWhodunnit? When we’re talking about credit card fraud, everyone’s pointing fingers at everyone else. Consumers tend to blame the credit card issuer, but the vulnerability usually lies with the point-of-sale terminal.

Tampering with a credit card reader takes just a few minutes and can be done with an inexpensive device that’s available on Amazon. There are lots of other ways your information can be skimmed, too. However, none of that points to a security deficiency with your credit union or credit card company.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent and recognize credit card fraud before it happens. Read on for all you need to know about credit card fraud.  

5 ways your card can be frauded 

  1. It’s physically lifted from your wallet.
  2. A restaurant or bar server skims it while it’s in their possession.
  3. A terminal you use is compromised.
  4. An online breach puts your information on the black market.
  5. Your computer has been hacked. 

5 signs a terminal’s been compromised 

  1.    The security seal has been voided. When the pump is safe to use, the label has a red, blue or black background. A breached seal shows the words “Void Open” in white.
  2.    The card reader is too big for the machine.
  3.    The pin pad looks newer than the rest of the machine.
  4.    The pin pad looks raised.
  5.    The credit card reader is not secured in place. It should fit tightly and not be easily rattled. 

5 times you’re at high risk for credit card fraud 

  1. You lost your card.
  2. You’ve patronized a business in an area that’s unfamiliar to you.
  3. A company you use has been breached.
  4. You shared your information online with an unverifiable contact.
  5. You downloaded something from an unrecognizable source. 

5 ways to protect yourself against credit card fraud 

  1. Check all card readers for signs of tampering before paying.
  2. Never share your credit card information online unless you’re absolutely sure the website is authentic and the company is trustworthy.
  3. Check your monthly credit card statements for suspicious activity and review your credit reports on a frequent basis.
  4. Use cash when patronizing a business in an unfamiliar area.
  5. Don’t download attachments from unknown sources. 

5 steps to take if your credit card’s been frauded 

  1. Lock the compromised account.
  2. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
  3. Consider a credit freeze.
  4. Alert the FTC.
  5. Open new accounts. 

At Section 705 Federal Credit Union, we’ve always got your back! Call, click, or stop by today to ask about steps you can take to protect your information from getting hacked. 

SOURCES:

https://www.thebalance.com/how-credit-card-skimming-works-960773

https://www.thebalance.com/more-at-risk-of-credit-card-fraud-960780

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/credit-card-fraud-works-stay-safe/

http://gizmodo.com/home-depot-was-hit-by-the-same-hack-as-target-1631865043

6 COMMON TAX MISTAKES TO AVOID

Image of Uncle SamIt’s Tax Time!

It’s that time of year again! Get ready to break out the calculator and pencils; dig out the enormous pile of receipts, tax forms, and pay stubs, and get to work. Whether you choose to go it alone, use a tax-prep computer program or hand it all over to an accountant, start with checking out our handy list of common mistakes people make on their tax returns.

1.) Faulty math

One of the most common errors on filed taxes is math mistakes. A small miscalculation can throw off all your numbers and get you into trouble with the IRS. However you choose to prepare your taxes, be sure to triple-check the math before filing.

2.) Name changes and misspellings

When preparing your taxes, you’re thinking about numbers, but don’t forget to pay attention to everything else on your form! If you use a name that’s different than the one the IRS has on file for your Social Security number, or even if you spell it wrong, that can mean trouble for you and your taxes. If you’ve recently changed your legal name, be sure to let the Social Security Administration know.

3.) Omitting extra income

Many people neglect to include secondary sources of income on their tax forms. This may include freelance work and any other side work they may have done throughout the year. If you’ve taken any side jobs in 2017, fill out a 1099-MISC and file it along with your taxes.

4.) Deducting funds donated to charity

Charity laws are complicated! First, only donations given to an organization with a tax-exempt status can be deducted from your taxes. Second, if you’ve donated food items or used clothing, they had to have been in decent shape to be eligible for a write-off. Finally, calculate the value of your non-monetary donations according to what they would be worth if you’d sell them now. Don’t forget to include those charity tax receipts when you file!

5.) Using the most recent tax laws

The current administration has made some major changes to the tax code. While most of these changes won’t take effect until you file your first taxes for 2018, there are some changes that are effective for this year, including the following:
  • The standard deduction increased to $6,350 for single, $9,350 for head of household, and $12,700 for married filing jointly.
  • The maximum earned income tax credit increased to $6,318.
  • The maximum income limit for the EITC increased to $53,930.
  • The foreign earned income deduction increased to $102,100.
  • Annual deductible amounts for Health Savings Accounts increased for individuals only, to $3,400.

6.) Signing your forms

If you’re filing through the USPS, be sure to put your signature wherever necessary, and get a mailing receipt. If filing online, you can use a PIN instead. Most places that require a signature will need to be dated as well.
 
Check your forms for errors before submitting and file with confidence.

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Can Living Frugally Make You Happier Than When Living Lavishly?

Do you believe money is the key to happiness?

girl blowing bubbles

Photo Credit: http://ow.ly/fZf030eATAm

Somewhere deep inside, we all know that money cannot buy happiness. Many people overspend and rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt to live a lifestyle they believe will make them happy, only to discover they are living beyond their means. This, in turn, adds stress and worry … causing unhappiness. Believe it or not, living frugally can actually make you happier than living lavishly.

 
Living a frugal lifestyle isn’t necessarily about pinching pennies and denying yourself things you want. It’s about making your life easier and worrying less about money.
 
If you’ve decided it’s time to start living more frugally, ask yourself why you want to do it and establish a goal. Without a reason to change your spending habits and a goal to work toward, it’s easy to fall back into old habits. Maybe you’d like to retire early, or travel the world or buy your dream home. Maybe you’d like to work less and spend more time with your family. Whatever your reason, write it down. Place reminders of your goal where you’ll see them often.
 
Once you’ve started your new frugal lifestyle, you may be pleasantly surprised at your newfound happiness. Below are some benefits of living the frugal lifestyle that can lead to more happiness and better money management.
 
  • You’ll learn to appreciate what you have. You’ll become thankful for your resources and learn to make the most of them. Rather than throwing away old items, you learn to repurpose them and let little go to waste.
  • You’ll tend to choose experiences over objects. Rather than going to the mall and purchasing a new outfit or the newest video games, you’re more apt to go for hike, to the beach or play board games with friends or family. These experiences provide memories and happiness that can last a lifetime. Conversely, that new outfit or video game will provide only temporary happiness.
  • You’ll start to notice your debt diminishing. The burden of debt often ties people to jobs and locations that they hate because they feel they have no other choice. Once your debt disappears, you’ll have the freedom to choose a profession and location that makes you happy.
  • You will have more leisure time. Once you’re able to pay down debt, you won’t need to work as many hours to make ends meet. This will give you more free time to spend on hobbies and other leisurely pursuits.
  • Living frugally may put you on the path to early retirement. Rather than spending your golden years working, you could be gardening, traveling, enjoying your grandchildren or any number of more pleasurable things. Being able to put more funds away for retirement will help you reach a financially comfortable level long before many of your colleagues.
  • You might find joy in helping others. By reducing your own expenses and saving money, you are able to give more to others and support social causes that are important to you.
 
Now, you may be thinking – the frugal lifestyle doesn’t sound all that bad, but how do I get started? The key is to start small. Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish, how much money you’ll need to achieve it, and formulate a plan. Figure out expenses you can live without. Instead of buying high-priced gourmet coffee at a drive-thru in the morning, brew your coffee at home. Brown bag your lunch rather than eating out. Make a weekly meal plan and cook your meals at home. These items alone can potentially save you hundreds of dollars a month.
 
If you’re paying down multiple credit cards, look into consolidating them into one loan or to a single, lower-interest credit card. This can give you significant savings on interest charges. [Check out Section 705’s low interest credit card option and apply here.] Once you’ve consolidated your credit card debt, keep your your oldest credit card, but use it infrequently and close all others. Keeping your oldest card open may positively impact your credit score. Leaving the others open, though, may lead to a temptation to use them again, thus defeating the purpose of paying them off.
 
Learn to stretch your money as far as you can. When purchasing groceries, clip coupons and look for sales. When purchasing clothes or other non-grocery items, check thrift stores, yard sales and clearance racks for the best possible deals.
 
Look for ways to lower your monthly bills. Are you paying a huge bill for cable TV? Could you live without it? Many people pay a large cable bill and only watch a handful of channels. Check to see if there is a cheaper package available. Is your electric bill higher than it should be? Try hanging your clothes outside to dry rather than using your clothes dryer whenever possible. Also, washing your clothes in cold water instead of hot will save your hot water heater from working as hard – and your clothes will still get cleaned. Another good habit to get into is unplugging electronic devices when you’re not using them.

Give living frugally a try! You have nothing to lose but debt and can gain some unexpected happiness along the way.

SOURCES:

http://www.wisebread.com/how-living-on-a-tight-budget-makes-you-happier
https://www.thebalance.com/frugal-living-4074014
https://toughnickel.com/frugal-living/101-Frugal-Living-Tips-You-Need-to-Know
https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/life/frugal-living-rich-life/
https://www.thebalance.com/lower-your-electric-bill-1388743

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6 Ways To Save On Your Summer Vacation

beach

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com (http://ow.ly/ZTc030dvgXF)

Vacation Time!

The ocean is calling – and so is the open road. Your dream vacation awaits! But first, you need to work out the financial details. How are you going to pay for your getaway? How much can you realistically spend? Where is the money for your vacation going to come from?

Ideally, a plump vacation fund that’s fed throughout the year is the way to go. Unfortunately, though, we often don’t think about how to pay for vacation until it’s a few weeks away. To make things even worse, according to LearnVest, an alarming 74% of Americans go into debt to pay for a vacation.

Don’t become part of that statistic! Be proactive in planning your vacation by saving up for it in advance. Forgo some luxuries in the months or weeks leading up to your vacation and save the extra cash for your getaway. Consider running a yard sale featuring all of your forgotten treasures and use the profits to fund your trip. Skip your weekly dinner out for a while and put the money in your vacation budget.

Now it’s time to plan your vacation! When you’ve got the money saved up, create a realistic vacation budget. These six vacation saving tips will help you plan the perfect getaway while staying well within your budget.

1.) Timing is everything
 
Be a savvy shopper. There is an ideal window for buying everything, and booking airline flights is no exception. Flight prices generally fluctuate until departure day, but experts say the sweet spot is 54 days before your travel date. If you don’t want to be busy checking prices all day, sign up for emails from a savings alert site. Let them know which dates and locations you’re interested in, and they’ll let you know when a flight goes on sale so you can book your discounted tickets before they’re sold out.
 
2.) Clear your cache
 
Hotel and airline sites use cookies to determine what you’re shopping for. They’ll see which days you’re searching and raise their prices accordingly. Beat the system by clearing your cache before every new search so they can’t read into your browser history. You might see as much as a 50% drop in prices when searching with an empty cache!
 
3.) Sweet-talk your way to savings
 
Just because your hotel room is pre-booked, it doesn’t mean you can’t save. Don’t be shy about asking for an upgrade at check-in. About 78% of hotel guests who request an upgrade at the front desk actually receive one. Some face-to-face schmoozing can go a long way!
 
Also, by 6 p.m., most hotels know which rooms will be filled for the night. If you check in later in the day, you’ll have a better chance at getting the keys to the room with the incredible view – even with your economy-class price tag.
 
4.) Never pay full price
 
You can score a deluxe vacation without the deluxe price tag – all it takes is a little research. Check sites like coupondivas.com, entertainment.com and Groupon.com for amazing deals and deep discounts for local eateries and entertainment centers. You can also find cheaper tickets to nearby amusement parks by looking for sellers on Craigslist. Also, if you’re traveling with kids, don’t forget to look up restaurants with “Kids Eat Free” promotions.
 
5.) Freebie fun

Challenge yourself to enjoy one day of your vacation without spending any money at all. Search local sites and blogs for write-ups about fantastic free things to do nearby. You might find a charming family farm, a gorgeous waterway, a fun splash pad for the kids or a scenic hiking trail. Or, just spend the day at the closest beach!

Don’t eat out on this day either. Many hotels include a continental breakfast – take full advantage. For lunch, you can picnic on sandwiches. Dinner can be something effortless and delicious that you brought from home or pick up at a local supermarket. Consider packing a travel grill or panini maker for easy meals. You can heat up some hot dogs or burger patties, or bring some baguettes and an assortment of sliced cheeses for fresh paninis. Round off the meal with some pre-sliced veggies.

You’ll be surprised at how much fun you can have without spending a penny!

6.) Save your mega event for the last day

The taste of dessert is what lingers after the meal is through. End your vacation on a sweet note by saving your most exciting event for your last day away.

If you’re unsure of how you’re going to fund your getaway, call, click or stop by Section 705 FCU to ask about taking out a personal loan or opening a vacation club savings account. We want to help you make your dream vacation come true!

Financial Tips For Single Parents

Single parenting brings unique budgeting challenges.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that it costs an estimated $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child to age 18 – and many single parents 

shoulder that responsibility alone. Even with adequate child support, it’s smart to be proactive about financial matters as a single mom or dad.

Mother going over bills with young daughter

Estate planning should be your first priority. It’s essential to make arrangements for your children should you become incapacitated. Draw up a will, designating a guardian for your children, and a “power of attorney,” giving someone the legal right to make decisions on your behalf.
 
Consider setting up a trust – a legal structure that is overseen by a trustee, in which your assets can be held for your children. Also, ask your employer about disability benefits. Generally, you will receive a smaller income when you claim disability, however, ensuring even partial income is crucial for single parents who don’t have another source of income to cover a gap.
 
Taking out a life insurance policy is equally important. The policy you purchase will depend on your finances; a term policy is most economical because it offers a straightforward death benefit.
 
Health insurance is essential. Premiums may be sky-high, but if you’re uninsured, a serious medical procedure can be financially crippling. Comparison-shop for policies at your state’s marketplace or at HealthCare.gov.
 
Don’t forget about tax breaks! If you’re a single parent, file as head of household. You’ll pay less and claim a higher standard deduction – you can claim exemptions for yourself and each qualifying child. You also might qualify for the earned income tax credit, the child and dependent care credit, and the child tax credit.
 
Here are a few more tips for daily financial decisions:

1.) Credit cards

While credit cards may seem like the obvious solution for filling the gap created by a second income, they’re also the number one way to spiral into a life of debt.

2.) Shopping

Single parenting is tough. While retail therapy may be a tempting salve to pull yourself out of a funk, the added debt you’ll incur will make you feel worse. Plan all shopping carefully and avoid impulse purchases.

3.) Holidays

Guilt causes many single parents to spoil their children, even when they can’t afford to. This is especially true during the holidays and for birthdays. Set designated amounts for gifts, and keep within the budget.

4.) Ask for Help

Check with Section 705’s certified financial counselors  for financial advice. There are also many non-profit organizations with programs specifically designed for single parents.
 
Emergencies happen. Whatever your income, it’s important to give yourself a safety net. Put aside a bit of money from each paycheck to set up an emergency fund for car repairs, broken refrigerators and other unexpected expenses. It’s best to have six months’ worth of non-discretionary expenses saved up for emergencies.
 
SOURCES:
 

Newlyweds: Don’t Let Financial Stress Take the Cake

How Newlyweds Should Talk about Money

There are so many things to think about when you’re just married, or about to be, and no one would rate finances as the most exciting of them. In fact, studies show that money (not relatives) is the number one reason couples argue. Those financial arguments (again, not relatives) are one of the top predictors of divorce.
 
So, how can you avoid becoming a statistic? Here are some tips.

Talk to Each OtherCouple laughing over a cup of coffee

A poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 68% of engaged couples held a negative attitude about discussing money. 45% considered it “necessary but awkward,” while 7% said it was “likely to lead to a fight.” Five percent said they thought it would cause them to call off the wedding.
 
The result? Couples just don’t talk about finances. A Fidelity survey said more than one-third don’t even know their partner’s salary. The irony is that 72% of those same couples said they communicate “very well” about financial matters.
It’s not surprising, when you think about it. What’s romantic or sexy about debt, budgets, taxes, wills, and the like? But, while there isn’t a plan to keep every newly married couple happy, experts agree: Don’t wait to talk about money.
 
Taxes, for example, are boring (and scary), but they may be important right now. If you and your spouse are employed, the “marriage penalty” may force you to pay more taxes when married than while you were single. So, think about marrying in January rather than December. But if one spouse earns most of the money, you’ll enjoy a “marriage bonus” and pay less than two singles; a December wedding might be wise in that scenario.
 
Speaking about money now is definitely important, but so is how. A 2004 study by SmartMoney found that more than 70% of couples talk about money at least weekly. So what’s the problem? “Most of us don’t know how to talk about money,” says Mary Claire Allvine, a certified financial planner. “People tend to be emotional and reactive, not strategic.”
 
Whether you talk about money weekly, monthly or on some other schedule, what matters is that you agree on a system and stay open to changing it.

Get Started

Taking the first step can be difficult, so start off easy, with questions like “What’s your first money memory?” or “How did you spend your allowance?” Then move on to some of these:

  • “Are you a spender or a saver?” – If one of you is a saver and the other a spender, create a budget that considers both styles. Studies show that men and women spend differently. Women often take care of daily expenses (groceries, utilities, clothes) while men make larger purchases, such as TVs, cars or computers. The amounts might be the same, but the perceptions are very different. About 36% of partners don’t talk to each other about big purchases, and that’s a recipe for disaster.
  • “Are you in debt?” – ATD Ameritrade survey found that 38% of couples were “only somewhat” or “not at all” aware   of their partner’s debts. When you get married, your spouse’s debt doesn’t automatically becomes yours, but what he or she owes will affect both your choices. For instance, heavy credit card debt could make it more difficult to buy a home. Make reducing debt a priority.
  • “What are your financial goals?” or “Where do you want to be five or twenty years from now?” – People who identify specific goals make faster progress toward savings and investing targets. But first, you need to agree on what those targets are: buying a home, starting a family, being debt-free? List your individual goals, then share them with each other and make a joint plan.
Know what’s important to each of you. What do you value more, things you can keep or experiences to remember?       Maybe one of you wants to buy a house while the other thinks saving for retirement is essential. Get these things out in the open early.

Trust Each Other

A recent Money survey revealed that couples who trust their partner with finances feel more secure and argue less. That level of trust, though, isn’t common among newlyweds. “We’re intimate with our partners in so many ways before marriage, and yet money remains off the table,” says Paula Levy, a marriage and family therapist.

Be honest. If you made a purchase you shouldn’t have, own up to it. Some 40% of men and women confess they’ve lied to their spouse about the price of something they bought, and lying about money can have huge repercussions.
 
Support each other. Retreating doesn’t help, and neither does finger-pointing. Work together to come up with a game plan.

You’re Still Individuals

Celebrate the differences. If your partner is a bargain-hunter, put him in charge of the spending while you invest the savings. And decide on a monthly amount each of you can spend, no questions asked. The average amount couples say this should be, according to Money, is $150.
 
There are pros and cons to opening a joint bank account. SmartMoney found that 64% of couples put all of their money in joint accounts, while 14% kept everything in separate accounts. For many newlyweds, the ideal choice may be both: yours, mine, and our accounts. Once you’ve determined shared living expenses, both of you can contribute your portion of those costs to the joint account based on your share of household income.

Ask for Help

If you and your spouse find money conversations tough, you might want to bring in a financial planner or other professional. Your credit union can help – that’s why they’re there. Take steps now to ensure that money won’t put rocks on your path to wedded bliss.
 

Want more financial tips and tricks? Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube!

 
SOURCES:

Credit Scores Explained in (Exactly) 250 Words

Credit Score Factors: On-time payments, capacity used, length of credit history, types of credit used, and past credit applications

Photo Credit: http://ow.ly/4vjh30bM8LB

What credit scores are: Three-digit numbers expressing the likelihood you’ll repay someone who lets you use their money (like a loan or credit card).

Who has a credit score: People who have been listed on an account that was reported to any of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. An account can be a student loan, car loan, credit card, credit-builder loan or maybe rent. It represents something you are obligated to pay.

Where the number comes from: Data is collected by the credit bureaus, which get the information from lenders, credit card issuers and public records. Then it is weighted to produce a score, typically on a 300 to 850 range. Higher is better. There are hundreds of scoring models, so most consumers have many credit scores.

How do I get started?

  • If someone with good credit makes you an authorized user on an account that’s reported, that can help.
  • Student loans and sometimes car loans can be relatively easy to qualify for.
  • Credit-builder loans and secured credit cards are made for people building credit or re-establishing credit.

What should I do to boost my credit?

  • Pay all bills on time, every time.
  • Use your credit cards lightly — that is, don’t use more than 30% of your credit limit on any card.
  • Keep old accounts open unless you have a good reason to close them (like high fees).
  • Apply for credit sparingly.
  • Consider having both installment (level monthly payments for a set period) and credit cards.

Bev O’Shea is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: boshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.

The article Credit Scores Explained in (Exactly) 250 Words originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Staying Healthy During Flu Season

5 Healthy Hacks!various medications

This time of year, everyone’s got a sniffle, cough, or worse-the dreaded flu bug! These viruses have evolved to be
 highly resistant to our efforts to contain them.

While we can’t prevent the disease completely, we can help lower the risk of spreading it around. Here are 5 ways to beat the flu this year!

1) Wash your hands

This is the best way to keep the flu from spreading. Your hands are the most likely vectors for spreading disease. You touch something with the virus on it, then touch your eyes,  nose, or  food. Soon, you’re coughing too much.

Regular hand-washing is the first line of defense. Wash your hands after using the bathroom, before meals, and after contact with someone who might be ill. If your job entails lots of public contact, take regular hand-washing breaks. Scrub for 20 seconds with soap and warm water.

If you can’t get to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Accompany the sanitizer with a moisturizer as too much sanitizer can lead to dry, cracked skin and a greater risk of disease.

2) Practice good self-care

Your immune system needs energy to keep your body free of disease. That means getting adequate sleep and proper nutrition.

A good night’s sleep is especially important for preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Eating a diet rich in vitamin C can also strengthen your immune system. Citrus is a great source, as are leafy greens.

3) DAB- destroy all bacteria

“Dabbing,” involves tucking your nose into your elbow. It’s the most sanitary way to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.

Covering your mouth with your hands doesn’t do much since you’re going to touch other things with your hands. Your elbow, though, doesn’t see nearly as much contact.

4) Practice self-quarantine

If you’re sick, stay home. If your children are, keep them home. No one likes missing work or school, but the alternative is even more widespread illness. Staying home will also give you time and rest to recover faster, leading to more productivity when you go back in.

Always wait 24 hours after a fever has broken before returning to work. There’s nothing heroic about “toughing it out” while getting others sick.

If you can’t stay home, at least take steps to prevent diseases from spreading. Avoid prolonged contact with anyone. Wash your hands, and avoid touching things other people regularly touch. Warn others that you’re feeling sick so they can keep a safe distance.

5) Avoid crowds

Wherever lots of people gather, disease follows. If possible, avoid crowded public spaces this time of year.

Remember that travelers from far  may have different strains of the same bugs. Whenever people from multiple communities gather, the chances of infection increase. If you’re entertaining or traveling, double down on  good hygiene habits!

Your Turn: What’s your best health hack? Let us know how you stay safe and healthy!
 
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