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The Best Ways to Get Out of Debt and Increase Your Credit Score

Whether you are trying to get out of debt, increase your score, or both, it can feel like you don’t know where to start. This is by design. If you don’t know how to get out of debt or increase your credit score when you don’t have a borrowing history, there are some things you can do. It doesn’t matter where you are financially. Do you need to take out a loan or pay back the ones you’ve already had access to? What about your credit? Do you have a credit card? Do you need to pay it off? Whatever your situation, below are the best ways to get out of debt and increase your credit score. Read more

How Can You Keep a Minor Car Accident from Costing You a Bundle?

If you’ve ever found yourself involved in a minor car accident, you know that it doesn’t necessarily feel so minor. Especially to your car or your wallet. But, a minor car accident doesn’t have to necessarily cost you a bundle, as long as to follow the proper protocol. As someone who’s been in more than her fair share of car accidents, I’ve got an inside line on how to get your car fixed and keep more money in your pocket. If you follow these steps, you should be good to get back on the road for little to no money out of pocket.

#1 Stay Put

Any time a car accident occurs, you should stop your car where the accident happened. This is true as long as it is safe to do so. If your car is blocking the flow of traffic it could be a major risk to other motorists. Since stopping at the scene of the accident is actually required by law, this practice should be followed whenever possible.

And keeping your vehicle in the exact position it landed in due to the accident makes recording the accident easier.

#2 Injury Assessment

Once you have exited your vehicle, begin performing an injury assessment on yourself and any other passengers in the car. In most cases, minor car accidents don’t result in many injuries, but you should never assume that you don’t have any. After an accident, it is normal for your adrenaline to be pumping and for you to not notice that you’re hurting. In fact, I’ve had quite a few spinal injuries from minor car accidents that I didn’t feel until the following day or two.

The things I typically check for after a minor car accident are:

  • Minor cuts or scrapes
  • Neck pain
  • Changes in vision
  • Changes in hearing
  • Pain or tingling in the legs, arms, and/or chest

If you have any of these, then your accident may not be as minor as you thought. You should immediately call 911 and ask for medical assistance.

#3 Contact Information Swap

After the first 2 steps have been completed, it’s time to swap contact information with the other parties involved in the accident. I’ve found that sometimes this can be easier said than done. Typically the times that have been more difficult to get information out of the other driver was when the driver was uninsured.

No matter what, it’s best you can to get all of the contact information possible and write it down in a secure place.

I recommend recording the following information about the other driver:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address (whenever possible)
  • Car Insurance company
  • Policy number
  • Driver’s license number and expiration date
  • Make, model, and year of their vehicle

I like to take a picture of the other driver’s license and insurance card, whenever possible. This way I ensure the information I have is correct.

#4 Take pictures

While I’m doing that, I take pictures of all cars involved and the damages for my own records. The things I do my best to make sure I include are:

  • My car
  • Specific damage to my car
  • The other driver’s car
  • Specific damage to the other driver’s car
  • The surrounding area
  • Witnesses near the accident
  • The positions of both cars
  • Any stoplights, stop signs, or traffic nearby
  • The weather conditions

All of these things can come be very helpful for both the police report and when dealing with the insurance companies.

#5 Police

And speaking of the police, now is the time to call them to get them dispatched to the scene. By calling the police, you are ensuring that there is a record of the accident on file. Plus the scene of the accident can be better secured. By having this documentation, it makes the insurance process much easier. And by doing so, you have a much better chance of getting the repairs needed to your car in a more expedient manner.

Where I live, we are in an at-fault state, which means that every car accident has a party at-fault. If you aren’t the at-fault party, then the other person’s insurance has to cover the cost of all repairs.  However, if you don’t file a report with the police in an at-fault state, your insurance will have to foot the bill.

#6 Call insurance company

And speaking of insurance, it’s extremely important to report all accidents to them. In a lot of cases, if you don’t report the accident to your insurance company, they will automatically you are the at fault party and will therefore become responsible for all damages.

Personally, I like to call my insurance agent directly whenever I’m involved in an accident. This is the easiest and most direct way to get the ball rolling. Plus, my agent gives me advice as to whether or not he feels I should be filing a claim in the first place.

Since this is one of the things I pay my agent for, I always greatly appreciate the insight and assistance. If you have a relationship with a trusted insurance agent, I highly recommend giving them a call before you call your provider’s general claims line.

#7 Talk to witnesses

Lastly, whenever possible, it’s great to speak to anyone who may have witnessed the car accident. Witnesses can be extremely helpful when it comes to piecing the accident back together. So do your best to get a statement from everyone who saw the accident happen. When you do, it’s best to collect the following information from them:

  • Full Name
  • Contact Information
  • What they were doing at the time of the accident
  • Where they were in the relation to the accident
  • What they saw

These statements could be written or recorded on your phone, but should always be given to the police when they arrive for documentation.

Minor car Accident Summary

Overall, getting into a car accident of any magnitude isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. But, if you follow these basic steps that are laid out, it can really help. Streamlining the process and making sure your car and yourself are taken care of are the most important parts.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a minor car accident, what steps did you take to help move the process along and keep more money in your pocket?

Is a Gym Membership Really Worth It?

At the beginning of every new year, gym memberships soar. And while they have typically dropped off significantly by now, there are still plenty of gym goers all year long. As someone who has been a member of a few different gyms in my lifetime, I’m no stranger to the circuit. But, in all reality, is a gym membership really worth it for most of us?

Why?

First and foremost, you should be asking yourself why you want to join a gym. What do you think you will get out of it? Both in the short term and long term. Is this something you can realistically stick with as a routine, or do you have a history of new things fizzling out? And what is your main goal of joining a gym? Is it to lose weight, tone up, get rid of baby weight, look good for summer or a wedding? The list can be endless. But, no matter what your why is, you should first tease that out before making any commitment.

Gym membership Actual costs

A lot of gyms will get you in the door with extremely low advertised monthly rates. I’ve seen some as low as $5 per month, which is crazy! But, I’ve also learned that those rates don’t last for life, but a generally just temporary to get you in the door. Once they have you signed up and inside their domain, then it’s time to start throwing add-on’s at you.

A lot of these include fees for things such as:

  • Towels
  • Lockers
  • Sauna
  • Pool
  • Steam room
  • Personal training sessions
  • Dietary plan
  • Spin classes
  • Zumba/Dance classes
  • Private classes with smaller numbers

These additional costs can really add up over time. And even if they don’t, the average cost of a bare bones gym membership runs approximately $60 annually (depending upon where you live, of course). This equates to approximately $720 per year, which can easily be a week long vacation for us. And if this is something that I’m not sure I’m going to fully commit to, or have the time to do, then I certainly don’t want to throw a week long vacation away.

other options

It’s also entirely possible that your budget doesn’t have the extra wiggle room for this kind of extra fee. I know that mine didn’t for a large part of my adult life. So, instead of joining a gym, you could consider some other really great options that don’t cost anything (or very minimal) to participate in. Some of my favorite alternative options to a gym include:

  • Hiking (one of my long time favorite go-to’s)
  • Biking
  • Speed walking
  • Yoga
  • Trampoline (Yes, we have a big one for the kids but I’ve also used it for workouts)
  • Workout at home with free weights, jump ropes and a heavy bag

One of my regular workout options at home is to walk around the pool in the backyard with some free weights. I do different arm exercises while I weave around the many dogs that are with us for boarding or doggy daycare. The dogs love it too!

group environment

While I am typically very good at doing things all by myself, a lot of people need a bigger support system. This type of network can help to create positive change. This is where a gym membership can really shine if you fall into this camp.

People who work out at the same gym have a tendency to create gym relationships that assist with their individual goals. When we feel the societal pressure to be accountable to others, we have a higher rate of success, because we don’t want to fail those in our accountability groups.

In fact, just having somebody to be accountable to, increases our level of success by 65%, according to a study ran by the American Society of Training and Development. That’s huge! And if this is what you need to help you create the change you want, then figure out a way to make it work.

Gym Membership summary

Overall, whether a gym membership is worth it all depends on you. The biggest questions to ask yourself before signing on the dotted line are:

  • Do you have a strong why for wanting to join a gym?
  • Is this a long-term or short term why?
  • How much is it going to cost you monthly to join a gym?
  • Will your budget allow for this increased cost?
  • Are there FREE alternatives you could use instead?
  • Do you need a group or network in order to achieve success?

Once you have the answers to all of these questions, then the decision should be pretty clear.

For somebody with my crazy lifestyle and lack of any regular time, it is simply not worth it. I would be one of the 67% of the gym membership population who is paying for something that I’m not using. And since I don’t like setting my money on fire, I opt to use the free options available to me instead.

Have you joined a gym and found the costs to be exponentially worth it for you? If so, why?

4 Ways to Push Your Frugal Christmas Budget

It comes the same time every year, and I can’t believe it’s almost here again. Time flies when you’re having fun, or just trying to make it through a worldwide pandemic. Even with all of that going on, we still try to stick to a frugal Christmas budget every year. And that seems to be getting more and more difficult with supply chain issues. However, over the years I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks that have really helped us keep things frugal. And we all still have a really good holiday season with each other. Which is really what matters the most anyway.

FRUGAL CHRISTMAS PLANNING

I don’t know about you, but our kids want something new ALL the time! And they have a really difficult time with delayed gratification, like most children do. But, this means we have no shortage of ideas when it comes to Christmas gifts for our kids at least.

At this time of the year though, there isn’t much time left to get moving. Proper planning throughout the year has really gotten me out of some gift giving jams in the past.

The first tip is to take a picture of each kid with items they say they really want throughout the year. I try to get a price tag in the picture with the kid and the item so that I have a frame of reference throughout the year, whenever possible. And this gives me a jumping off point so that I know when I might be getting a good deal.

The second tip is to have the kids send an email with links to all of the items they are interested in, with sizes and colors. This way I have the links in my inbox and can purchase them when the time comes, or if they end up on sale.

I have a few extensions on my computer that help me save even more money by either telling me where a better deal can be found, automatically applying coupons, or giving me a rebate. My current favorite go-to money saving apps are:

  • Honey – which alerts me when any of the items on my saved list drops in price and automatically applies coupons
  • Rakuten – gives me a percentage of my purchase price back in rebates and automatically applies coupons
  • Acorns – puts a percentage of my purchase price into my investment account

SELL STUFF

One of my favorite ways to push our frugal Christmas budget is to sell old and/or broken things that we no longer want or need. Since we have 5 kids, they have a tendency to outgrow their things fairly regularly.

There are a few different ways I do this. Typically, I try to sell their things through Facebook Marketplace groups first. Sometimes this works out well, but it does require quite a bit of work since a lot of people just don’t seem to communicate well these days. When it’s this close to Christmas, it can sometimes be much easier to get people to respond though, since everyone is on a tight deadline. So, if you have some things you’re considering getting rid of, I would highly suggest trying now. You will probably be able to get more money for the items also. Bonus!

The other way I try to get the most money for our kids old things is by using the Amazon Trade-In site. They typically only take things of the electronic variety, but we don’t have any shortage of that around here. I don’t usually get a ton of money from this form of selling, but the money goes directly into my Amazon account so that I can use it to pay for this year’s Christmas presents. And every little bit counts towards keeping our frugal Christmas budget.

Christmas NAME DRAW

this is a trick I’ve been using for years. It took a little while for our whole family to get on board. But once our family grew to a certain size, gift giving for everyone just became daunting and expensive. Once that happened, the whole family jumped on board with the idea of drawing names instead of buying for everyone.

Even if you aren’t together right now, there are plenty of random name pickers you can use to draw names. Once you have drawn names, then your family will need to set a budget for each gift. In our family, we set the budget at $25 for kids and $20 for adults.

The next most important step is to get each family to send an email with links of what each person would like. I usually ask for 3 or 4 items for each person, that way I have a choice. And it’s more of a surprise when they open our presents also, which we like. While it sounds like this might be more work, we have found that it actually makes holiday gift giving much less stressful. And it also helps us stick well within our holiday budget too.

Homemade GIFTS

As a person who used to own a gluten free bakery and has a Chef for a spouse, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Most people we run across just can’t get enough of our food, so it stands to reason that we might as well put it to work for us this time of year.

I’ve been making my toffee for longer than I can remember now and it’s one of the fan favorites at the holidays. So, I decided to start handing some of it out as Christmas presents, and it goes over like gangbusters.

Not only is it delicious and really easy to make this, but it only costs about $1.43 per person. I can go to the Dollar Tree and buy a 10 pack of fancy candy bags with the twist ties for $1.00, which only increases the cost by $.10 per gift.

However, even if baking isn’t really your thing, there’s probably something else you’re great at that people absolutely love. So just think outside the box and get creative with some homemade Christmas gifts this year. For me, I appreciate these kinds of gifts more than the store bought kind.

Frugal CHRISTMAS BUDGET

When it comes to sticking to a frugal Christmas budget, it can be done. It may be a bit trickier so close to Christmas, but I know you can do it. Just get creative, sell some old things, make some things, draw some names and/or find some great deals. And above all, spend time with your loved ones.

Which frugal Christmas budget tips have you tried that have worked for you?

Upgrades that are worth the investment.

Four Upgrades To Your Backyard That Are Worth the Investment

With our homes being our havens and the place we want to feel safe and secure, it’s also essential that we feel at peace there. There are easy ways to renovate your home, many of which can be done yourself to save money that turns your home into the oasis you need it to be. Just as important as the interior of your home in your backyard. If you’re like many people, you are hosting friends and family during the summer where you make many of your favorite memories. Let’s take a look at some easy upgrades to your backyard, many of which are DIY friendly and cost-effective too. 

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Do you have a plan to pay off your debt? While it can be a daunting task, check out these six tips for climbing out of debt.

Six Key Tips For Climbing Out of Debt Quicker

Statistics show that the average American household has $135,065 of debt. How much debt does your household currently have? How long will it take you to become debt-free? Do you have a plan to pay off your debt in the near future? While it can be a daunting task, many people are able to achieve this through having a clear plan and discipline to attack the challenge. Keep reading to learn about a few tips to climb out of debt quicker.

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Having a good credit score is important even if you do not care about acquiring the latest card. Check out this article to learn more.

Why Your Credit Score Is Important

In spite of all the credit cards that are out there, many people believe that a person will be happier if they live a credit-free life and only buy the things that they can afford. They may have no credit cards or one credit card that they use for emergencies.

Having a good credit score is important even if you do not care about acquiring the latest card. If you drive a car, you’re going to have to get insurance for that vehicle. Many insurance companies will run your credit score before deciding what premium to charge you. Read more

How Much a Baby Costs in the First Year

Deciding to have a child is a really big, life altering decision. And it’s one that will definitely impact your finances. Not necessarily in a positive way either. Of course, becoming a parent is awesome. But, if at all possible, it’s best to go into parenthood with your eyes wide open about the financial ramifications. Especially because the most recent statistical reports show that raising a child costs between $12,000 – $14,000 annually here in the United States. In this respect, budgeting ahead of time is a great way to embark upon parenthood. Especially if you have an idea as to how much a baby costs in just the first year alone.

In the first year, you are more likely to incur a larger percentage of these costs due to a few fairly common factors.

CHILD BIRTH COSTS

The most expensive part of having a baby is the actual giving birth process. In fact, he majority of the costs come from this category alone. And how much you end up spending can vary widely, depending upon:

  1. Vaginal or C-section
  2. Insured or not, and insurance coverage
  3. The state you live in

If you have a vaginal birth, the range can be between $4,900 – $10,700, if you have insurance. But if you don’t have insurance, then the costs can range between $9,015 – $19,800.

If you have a C-section and have insurance, the costs can range from $7,500 – $15,000. But if you don’t have insurance, then you’ll be looking at a much higher range between $12,600 – $28,500.

I had vaginal births and used midwives for my children, so my costs were actually below the lowest number above. While some things, such as using a midwife or more natural childbirth methods can be within your control, every experience will be different. So, if you want to reduce costs in this category, think about alternative methods to the more traditional hospital, drugs and surgery, whenever possible.

FOOD COSTS

Before children came, our food costs were a bit higher than average anyway. This is due to the fact that I have Celiac, am vegetarian and eat an organic diet. But, once children came around, the costs definitely increased. Luckily, as the children got older, we learned how to save a bundle on groceries but not skimp on quality.

Even though we eventually figured this out, having a new baby in the house can increase the food budget also. This is something that a lot of people don’t even think about, but there are a few reasons why this is.

This is due to a few things:

  1. Breastfeeding requires a higher maternal caloric intake
  2. Formula costs can be astronomical if you can’t breastfeed
  3. Solid baby food can be pretty pricey, even if you make it yourself

For most women who are breastfeeding, the increased caloric intake hovers around an extra 500 calories per day. These extra calories just to account for the body processes needed to produce the milk, which translates to an extra 20% more. Which means that you’ll need to budget an extra 20% into your grocery budget for the extra food needed.

If you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, then you’ll be looking at formula feeding. The costs for this option will certainly be higher than breastfeeding. In fact the average costs to formula feed are between $1,138 – $1,188 per year.

Once your baby is old enough for solid food to be introduced, you’ll be looking at even more costs. The baby will still be on either breastmilk or formula at this time, so these costs will be in addition to the already aforementioned. Typically, baby food runs close to $1 per jar. And depending upon the age of the baby, they can eat anywhere from 2 – 5 jars a day.

This can translate to an extra $60 – $150 per month for solid baby food on top of the breastfeeding or formula costs. If you want to save a little bit of money in this category, breastfeed whenever possible and make your own baby food at home. Both can be much more time consuming, but can save you a bit of money in the long run for first year baby costs.

insurance BABY COSTS

One the baby is born, you’ll need to add them to your insurance plan. Just this action alone will cause your insurance premiums to increase. But just how much they will increase will depend upon your individual health insurance policy.

Due to each policy being unique, just how much your premium will increase can swing widely. But, the average rate increase per month typically runs between $250 – $400. Which means you can potentially be looking at spending an average of $3,000 – $4,800 more per year!

Please note that this increased cost still doesn’t account for the possible higher deductible you may have due to the increased family size.

CHILD CARE COSTS

Besides the birth of the baby, child care costs usually come in second with regard to overall increased costs. This is especially true if this is your first child. These costs alone are enough to make people start sweating because of the astronomical costs associated.

According to a recent report compiling data regarding child care expenses, the average a married couple spends on child care is 10% of their income. This number drastically increases if you happen to be a single parent to 36% of your income. What this typically means is that the average family is spending between $10,000 – $20,000 per year just for child care alone.

As someone who was a single parent, I can tell you that I certainly couldn’t afford to do this, which is why I only worked part time when I could find free help with my friends and family for my kids.

CLOTHING & Necessities COSTS

For those of you who haven’t spend much time around babies, they tend to require a lot of clothes. They are growing like crazy in the first year of life, plus they have a ton of accidents regularly. This means a lot more wardrobe changes than you may have ever considered could even be possible.

Depending upon the season when your baby is born and where you live, the average cost for baby clothes runs around $60 per month. However, this number doesn’t include other things you need for them such as:

  • Hairbrush
  • Haircuts
  • Blankets
  • Bedding
  • OTC medicine
  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Washcloths

Adding these things into your monthly budget can add an average of an extra $40. This means you may be looking at around $100 per month, or $1200 annually, for clothing and necessities.

Diapers

Don’t forget the diapers, because those can be pretty darn expensive also. I used cloth diapers for my kids, along with the wet washing method. So all I needed were the cloth diapers, a 5 gallon bucket and Borax. Since babies grow so much the first year of life, I needed 2 different sized adjustable diapers. The diapers ended up costing close to $500, which may sound like a lot, but it’s nothing when you compare it to how much disposable diapers cost. The current average cost of disposable diapers runs an average of $846 per year. This doesn’t include the wipes either, of course.

Overall baby costs

Ultimately, the bottom line regarding how much a baby costs in the first year can vary a lot. This depends upon a lot of different variables, such as:

  • Child birth = $4,900 – $28,500
  • Food = $1,320 – $2,988
  • Insurance = $3,000 – $4,800
  • Child care = $10,000 – $20,000
  • Clothing & Necessities = $1,200
  • Diapers = $500 – $846

That is a grand total (on average) of $20,920 – $58,334!

While this may seem like a huge chunk of money, budgeting ahead of time can help reduce the financial stress. And so can finding some good, frugal ways to reduce the overall costs on your end. By getting creative, you get to enjoy your baby and less financial stress.

How much did you find your baby costs to add up to in the first year alone?

Making a home office on a budget.

Creating a Fabulous Home Office on a Budget

Many Americans have spent the past year and a half working from home. This meant that they needed to create a space where they could get stuff done even if their home wasn’t designed for having a home office. You worked on your tables, at the couch, and sometimes even in the bedroom. While this ingenuity is to be applauded, it’s evident that many of you won’t be going back to the office. Whether you’re excited or discouraged by this reality, it’s time to create your own home office. You don’t need a huge budget to create a space to work, but you do need to set aside some money if you want to make a truly fabulous spot where you can get things done. Read more

Unfortunately for many, it means lots of debt. Here are some tips for tackling holiday debt.

Tips for Tackling Holiday Debt

The holiday season is an exciting time of year for many people. It’s a time to spend quality time with family and friends, enjoy delicious food, drink eggnog by the fire, and exchange presents with loved ones! But it can also be a stressful period for some people because they often overspend during the holidays. This article will provide tips for tackling holiday debt so you can have peace of mind this holiday season.

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