Personal Finance Goal Ideas for 2020

When it comes to financial planning some people want to run the other way, while others make a list that they never apply to their situation. But plans are nothing without specific goals to achieve before that year is out. You’ll find too that even if you’re unable to achieve a goal – you’ll have set yourself up to getting closer to it just by knowing your endpoint and moving towards it. With that in mind, let’s look at some practical ideas that help you move forward.

Raise your credit score __ points. You decide how many points feel feasible. This goal is helpful because instead of just saying better your credit score – you can measure your success. Don’t know how or where to start? We’ve got you covered with some ideas on how to build your credit.

Save a certain amount. Pick a number and set up the guidelines of how to reach it. Base it off of your budget and income – don’t reach for something unrealistic, but don’t make it easy either. Have something in mind for what you’ll save. Think something like: saving to pay off a piece of debt, to pay for a home update, to fix a car, to be generous, or to give a special gift. Starting from scratch? Let’s get that budget figured out!

Pay extra towards the principal of a piece of debt. We all know interest is crippling, right? So, why not try to get ahead of it a little bit? Some loans will allow you to allocate where your money goes. You might try to allocate an extra $50 to your monthly payment directly at your principal. This reduces the overall amount and lessens what you pay interest on. It can also cut time off the life of your loan.

Write down purchases/ balance your checkbook. Tracking what you spend isn’t a blast, I get it. However, with the digital transformation of our money it’s so important to keep track of where it’s going. Not only is this a good habit to combat over-drafting or cutting it close, but also it can help you realize your spending habits. Sometimes we don’t realize what we regularly spend on that isn’t needed. This is a good place to trim the budget.

Spend less in one specific category. If you discover that you overspend in one area or you already know a problem area, give yourself guidelines for how to do better in that certain area. Either cut yourself off completely, make a budget for how much you can spend, or make smarter purchases within that category.

Start with simple investing. Investing can seem hard to get into but there are low-impact things you can do first. Start by researching, asking someone you trust how they invest, or consult a professional. Never make an investment you feel unprepared for.

We hope that these ideas get you inspired and hopeful about reaching accurate and helpful goals. Remember a step is a step and we commend any progress. Take a step by focusing on your financial planning.

Get Some Help With These Strategies!

Why Checking Your Credit Report is the Best First Step

Honestly, I didn’t care about credit until I went to buy a home. Then it mattered – greatly. Unfortunately, I found it to be true “no credit is equal or worse than bad credit”. It’s a good idea to check out your credit score and report before buying a home. After reviewing your credit report and score, you might choose to pursue a home purchase or you might try improve your credit score first.

By law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Unfortunately, some folks don’t know this and end up paying for what they didn’t have to. Also, some websites claiming to sell credit reports and scores are not legitimate. Be sure to check out this site to be sure you don’t get fooled by an impostor website.

You can visit one website to get your free credit reports from the three major credit reporting companies – AnnualCreditReport.com. You’ll have to input some of your personal info to retrieve your report. This is the same if you call or mail your request. If you create a myEquifax® account, you can get two free credit reports a year.

Credit reports offer you a lot of details – from debts and when you paid them to old addresses. Plus, things like payments, accounts, and actions within them that you may not know about. That’s why credit reports are always good to look at– because they may show information about potential fraud or identity theft and things that you may not be aware of. This may help you protect your credit score and history by letting you see whether all the information and account details are accurate. Then, if they are not, you can freeze your credit, place a fraud alert, or dispute inaccuracies.

What you may be surprised to find out is that credit reports do not list your credit score! Weird, huh? You’d think for sure it would.

According to Equifax®, there are a couple of ways to see your credit score.

  1. You can contact your credit card company or bank as sometimes they may provide your credit score to you as an account feature.
  2. You can purchase your credit score directly from any of the three major credit reporting companies.

Find More About Credit Scores!

5 Actions That Will Help You Start Tackling Your Debt

Don’t wait for a resolution, a life-change, or more money – create the discipline of paying on your debt now. Even if you can’t pay as much as you’d like, doing the smallest amount and setting yourself up in other areas will make an impact.

So, we are looking at five practical actions you can start that will put you on the track to staying on top of your debt and ultimately, paying it off. If you’ve been waiting for a sign to start your game plan – this is your flashing neon light.

Start a passive line of small savings. Whether you’ve been saving or not, always start your seasons of paying with saving. If it’s $5 dollars you save, and $5 dollars you pay – so be it – that’s something, and we aren’t shrugging our shoulders at progress. I favor automation as a way of saving because you can be lazy and benefit from it. Here are some ideas about how to save. You should always be saving. Especially, if you’re spending money. The amount isn’t as important as the discipline.

Pick a piece of debt that you can whittle down. Now that you’ve created a stream of savings that you can pull from, you can decide what debt you’ll diminish. There are tons of strategies, here are a few to get you thinking. Pick what fits you. I personally like hitting the highest interest debt first. That’s what works for me.

Outline how much you want to pay off and how much you’ll pay towards each item. Being specific and honest is the best way to confront your debt. Set a goal or goals for items that you want to pay off/ towards. Then decide how much you’ll allocate to smaller pieces of debt – this will differ based on your strategy. It’s important here to consider your season of life. If it’s in your best interest to make big payments towards something – do it. However, if slow and steady is better for you do it. Movement is movement.

Keep focus. It’s not fun or a good time paying off debt. It can feel easy to cut corners, or stop and wait until another time. However, keep focus and stay consistent. That’s the best thing you can do. It won’t get easy, but you’ll get closer.  You’ll get to a space where you can re-evaluate and focus your goals in more and see what other options you have. That’s one of the best strategies, pay some, zoom in more, and keep repeating until you’re there.

Follow your budget and make long-term decisions. A budget will help you stay on track. Budgeting your debt and how to pay it is vital. Following a plan will help you eliminate being surprised by numbers. When paying off debt you need to think about the future. Obviously, we can only plan with so much understanding of what will happen. Yet, we can we can do the best we can with what we have. Is your budget non-existent or less than stellar? Read up here on how to start budgeting well.

These actions are easy ways to being to chip away at debt and make it approachable. If it seems intimidating break it down and keep doing that until it’s in pieces small enough to assess. You’ve got this.

Set Goals Today!

How Escrow Accounts Work and Why They Rock

If you have a mortgage, then chances are you’ve heard the word escrow thrown around a time or two. But what is it exactly?

An escrow account is a helpful tool built into your mortgage. It allows for funds to be collected monthly to pay for your homeowner’s insurance and/or property taxes. By your mortgage collecting escrow, it ensures that your insurance and property taxes are paid in a timely manner. The benefit to you is you don’t have to worry about fronting hundreds or thousands of dollars all at once for your homeowner’s insurance or property taxes.

The formula is typically simple for finding the amount owed. Let’s say both insurance and taxes are escrowed from each monthly payment. The monthly payment is found by taking the total amount paid to both insurance and taxes for the year and then divided by 12. (The 12 is for 12 months.) That’s it! That would be your monthly payment in addition to your mortgage! Please keep in mind, some lenders may use another calculation that varies slightly and is also permitted by the law. Be sure to contact your lender if you have further questions as to how your escrow is calculated.

Occasionally, your escrow payments may increase or decrease. If that happens, either your insurance or taxes have changed. This will affect what you pay monthly. In most loan types, this is the cause of increase or decrease for monthly payments.

All in all, escrow accounts allow for your insurance and property taxes to be paid on your behalf without much extra work on your end!

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Researched and created by Rachel Mersinger

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5 Ways to Fight Forgetfulness with Your Finances

Having a hard time keeping up with everything? Life is busy. You’re not alone, sometimes it’s quite difficult to keep up with all that’s happening. Yet, when it comes to finances – getting into this pattern can be detrimental to your life. Missing payments can hurt your credit.

So how can you help yourself? How can you remember and make bills the priority, even when your mind can’t? We’re here to help answer that.

  1. Create a bill calendar. Consumer Finance has a great blog post and resources on this topic. Bill calendars can be physical or digital or both. Seeing them mapped out will aid your budget and help you understand where your money is going. Get started with your own bill calendar here.
  2. Organize your due dates (if possible). If you can select your due date, choose a date you’ll remember, stagger, or have them all due at the same time so you know when things are due. This will aid your memory.
  3. Automate. This is hard for some folks. People fear it will draft when there isn’t money in their account. That’s valid. However, keeping an eye on your account and budgeting so you have some room around your bills is a great habit to start practicing. Get more info on automating here.
  4. Make yourself a monthly check in day. Take one day once a month to update your budget and check in on where you’re at. This will keep you accountable and help you act instead of react when it comes to your finances.

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    Planning out your payments is the best way to get ahead!
  5. Pay early when you can. Worried about life getting in the way? Try paying bills that you can early. Once you pay it can stay out of mind for a month. This can also be a great way to cultivate a habit.

Create good habits, help yourself out a little bit, and help support healthy finances. Being prudent with money is a continual work, don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself some grace by setting up some or all five of these ideas to help you get ahead of it.

Kick Start Your Savings!

Common Unexpected Costs Of Mobile Homeownership

The cost of buying a home can be deceiving. You have to have a future mindset as much as possible when buying a home. If you’re stretching your budget just to afford a monthly home loan payment – you probably need to save more before buying. You need to consider more than just the monthly payment when buying a home. If you do not budget for home expenses in addition to the monthly payment, you could possibly end up falling behind on payments or not being able to afford the typical expenses associated with homeownership.

So, as is true with most things – planning, budgeting and education is the best way to prevent future issues! Let’s look at some of the hidden costs of homeownership.

Moving and transport. Buying a mobile home is a great choice. Too often people who are moving their home to a piece of land don’t fully consider the expense of moving and installing the home. This is an expensive process and if the home is not moved and installed properly it can lead to damages and additional expense. Be sure to evaluate all your options such as financing your home delivery and installation costs into your loan amount if permitted by the lender you choose, finding a skilled company to handle your move, and hiring a contractor who can prep your land for a home, water, and electrical.

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Be sure a professional preps your home and land. Here footers being filled with concrete.

Utilities. You may be familiar with paying monthly utilities as part of monthly rent. However, as a home owner, the utility accounts will now be in your name. That means you are responsible for paying the entire monthly bill. So before moving in it is always wise to ask the previous owner or a neighbor what they typically pay in the winter and summer for utilities. This will help you to budget for utilities as part of your monthly expenses.

Repairs. Every home requires maintenance and repairs over time even with a new home or a home that is in great shape. It’s good to save each month toward a home repair and maintenance fund knowing that repairs will eventually be needed. The cost of repairs from ordinary wear and tear will add to your expenses, but saving as you go should help keep you covered.

City/ County taxes. As a homeowner you are responsible for paying local property taxes. Property tax payments are something homebuyers often forget to consider because they are usually paid as part of a mortgage escrow payment – which most people never quite understand. Here’s our explanation of escrow to help you out.

Trash/recycling services. Whether you are living in the city or a suburb, you’ll probably have some sort of trash service which you will have to pay for as part of your local property taxes or as a separate bill. Even if you do not have a trash service because you live in a rural area far from a city,  you’d probably rather pay someone and hire a service to come get your trash instead of having to make frequent trips to the dump yourself.

Potential lot rent. If you live in a mobile home park and own your home but not the land it is on,  lot rent is an extra monthly payment that will need to be considered and budgeted for.

Read More About Unexpected Costs!

5 Quick Tips to Transform Your Outlook on Spending Money

If your anything like me, it can feel like your life revolves around spending and saving money. From hundreds of quick saving hacks, to do this not that, and so many other tips that seem to overwhelm me more than help me. In the past year, I have learned to cut back spending on one of the things society idolizes the most – food.

I have found that by cutting back my spending on food and other habits, I am able to enjoy life and live more. Below are five tips that have changed my mind set.

1. Stop Eating Out

I have realized the amount of money I spend on food for personal and social reasons is absurd. Eating at a restaurant should be saved for special occasions to enjoy, not for you to spend $12 on a salad after work with friends. Even picking up your daily coffee before work will put a bigger dent in your wallet than you think. If you change your mentality about restaurants, your mindset will shift, and your wallet will be fuller!

2. Meal Preparation

Have you been gearing about “Meal Prep”? If not, read up! Meal prepping is going to be a big trend in 2019. It has more advantages than disadvantages over all. Not only does it help your wallet, it also can be an easy, affordable way to keep you and your family healthy! For recipes check out Pinterest!

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Cooking saves money and is an easy way to add health and color to your diet.

3. Purchase Your Gasoline Where You Grocery Shop 

Staying loyal to a grocery store has its perks. Check to see if stores in your area loyalty discounts. By saying true, you are able to receive major discounts on gas and your groceries. Who doesn’t love a win- win situation?

4. Stick to your list

Making a grocery list is only useful if you stick to it! When you purchase items not on the list, you are spending more than allotted. Additionally, when you follow step 2, grocery shopping is made easy with simple, affordable meals. Don’t buy it if it’s not on the list!

5. Shop Alone

I have found shopping alone helps me stick to my list. When you invite others to join your trip, they can encourage you or convince you to buy something you didn’t intend to.

Hopefully, you find these five tips easy to follow and applicable to your lifestyle. By saving money on simple things like food, you are able to save up and splurge on something special.

Try Cultivating These Good Spending Habits!

A Pain Free Guide to Understanding Escrow

Escrow is the final piece to understanding what makes up a mortgage.

What is Escrow?

Additional funds collected by your lender with your mortgage payment that is set aside to pay your property taxes, home insurance, and flood insurance if you have it.

Is it required?

Many lenders do require escrow for taxes and home insurance. Ask your lender what your options are on your loan.

Why is it usually required?

It keeps you from having to save separately for large bills. It allows you to not have to worry about due dates, and rest assured that the payments will be made.

How is it calculated?

Usually, your monthly escrow payment is divided by the estimated annual costs for property taxes and insurance by 12. Then, a cushion amount is added to help make sure there will be enough if the bills go up

What are those calculations based on?

  • Closing documents
  • Insurance company
  • Local property tax rates

What is an account analysis?

Sometimes called an escrow review, this is when your lender or mortgage servicer reviews your escrow account yearly. They compare the collected amount to your current bills for taxes and insurance to be sure the monthly payment is correct.

Can it change the cost of my mortgage?

Escrow does not change the amount of your mortgage, but it may change your monthly payment if your property tax or insurance bills go up or down.

What happens to the money?

The money is used to pay the property tax and insurance bills when they are due. If there is too much or not enough money when your mortgage company does the escrow analysis, they will contact you to review your options.

Learn More About Mortgages

6 Unique Ways to Come Up with Your Down Payment

Sure, 20 percent down payments rock, but what average person has that much money they can let go of at one time? I don’t know many, and I certainly wasn’t one when I purchased my first home. You don’t need to feel discouraged if you can’t fork over that much money for a down payment. There are plenty of borrowing options that include paying less up front.

Need help thinking of creative ways to come up with funds for a down payment? Buying a home is stressful and takes more money than most people realize. Let’s get creative and break convention for a moment as we discover some unique ways to purchase that little slice of freedom!

  1. Assistance programs. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, chances are there’s a program that may help you in either coming up with funds or only requiring a certain down payment. Local programs are the best to look into, but there are a couple federal ones you may qualify for as well.
  2. Yard sale. You’re moving from somewhere, right? Purge the old and make some cash in the process! Sell furniture that won’t fit your space, or items you just don’t like or use. Then you’ll have more money and less to move!
  3. Ditch your car note. I’ve never had a car payment, and I don’t plan on it. Swap out that newer car with a hefty monthly payment for something less glamorous or try to buy a cheaper one out right. This is really important because even if you cash in your car, you may still have room to buy a cheaper car and aid your down payment. That extra cash can go toward your mortgage!
  4. Try a side job. Make the most of a hobby or something easy to do on the weekend to make extra money for your home purchase.
  5. Tax refunds. Other than paying off debts, using a tax refund towards a home purchase is a GREAT idea!
  6. Register for it (sorta). If you’re getting married, having a baby, or moving in with someone, or celebrating any life event where family and friends want to contribute, ask them to contribute to your down payment in lieu of buying presents.

That dream home can be a dream come true home! Think ahead, stick to your plan, and consider the long term affects. Play smart and work hard. Owning a home isn’t easy and paying for it takes responsibility, discipline, and prioritizing, but you can do it!

Still planning to buy that home?

Keep Planning!

 

Oakbur Quill Co.