Yay! You made it on over to the blog.
So glad I was able to convince you to meet me here. So a lot of you probably have no clue what I actually do to be able to go on all these adventures and well quite frankly… afford them. And a lot of you probably wish you had the finances to be able to do the same. Well, I’m here to help. There are a couple reasons that I am able to live the life that I do and it’s not cause I sneak into people’s suitcases. 🙂
1: Not breaking my piggy bank
I have always been an extreme saver. Ever since I was a kid. I remember my mom giving me money to go to the mall with my friends and all my friends would save some of the money they were given to get lunch at the food court. Not moi! I would make sure I saved that “food court” money to put in my piggy bank when I got home. As I got older I dedicated myself to sports because I realized that was my free ticket to college.
Even after getting an athletic scholarship I still lived on campus the majority of my college years to help save money, and because of all these wise saving decisions I was able to buy my first home at the ripe ol age of 30…In Southern California none the less. Yeah budgeting is in my blood!
I also came from a single parent family which really taught me how to budget out money from a young age. I never felt like I couldn’t have the things I wanted but my mom would always lay down rules. “You must shop on the sale rack!” “You don’t need 2 new pairs of pants pick 1!” “Yes, we can go out to eat but you can have desert at home!” These simple rules trained me to become better with money. So for that thanks mom.
And I must say that these types of budget tips seem to be engraved in my head and can be hard to “teach” to someone that doesn’t have a similar mindset. But that leads me to my 2nd reason
2: I do this for a LIVING!
Yep you heard me right. I teach people how to be what I call “SAVVY CONSUMERS” for a living. I’m constantly reading about this material, studying it, and staying up to date to educate my students. I teach formal classes and online classes about this stuff. I focus on areas like fiances/budgeting, home ownership, being an educated consumer, and federal agencies that protect consumers. So not only do I practice it but I also preach it. I can’t describe the feeling I get when I help a student budget out their finances or give them the tools to better their credit score. It’s very rewarding!
So after talking to a good friend of mine I realized that a lot of adults are not aware of what to do to become savvy consumers. They didn’t luck out and have a class about it in college like my students have. So I’m going to share with you 5 tips (that I teach my students) that can help you become a savvy consumer. Let’s get started.
5 TIPS TO BE A SAVVY CONSUMER!
1.Don’t just know your credit score, know how to improve it!
Your credit report summarizes you credit history and also shows your present financial position, and we all know it’s very important to know what our credit score is. And remember that you have access to a free credit report every 12 months with the following (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). (Use this link to get your free credit score once a year.)
So that’s the stuff we all usually know, but now lets focus on some things you may not know.
- You need to build credit, but do it wisely. Having no credit can be just as bad as well… bad credit. So open up a credit card. BUT make sure you find one that fits you needs and make sure you can pay it off monthly. Also I don’t advise using more than 30% of your total credit. (This is recommended by credit bureaus and people have a lot of different views on it, but I say hey! if you can keep it under 30% it’s not harming anything and the more likely you’ll be able to pay it off monthly!)
- It’s a good idea to check your credit score around an important date, say your birthday, a holiday, anniversary, etc. This way you won’t forget to check yearly!
- What causes bad credit? late payments, bankruptcies, opening too many credit cards, and closing credit cards… just to name a few. Limit these offenders as much as possible.
- You don’t need to accept an increased credit limit every time it is offered to you. Remember that even though it is great to be offered more money to spend, this also means you have the potential to incur more debit.
- Can you do anything if something is incorrect on your credit report? YES! The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to not only know your score but also to dispute anything that is incorrect. Here Credit Karma gives you more insight on what to do if you find an error.
2. Know how to budget you money. And I mean like really budget your money.
We all know this is important but very few of us actually practice it. So I have some tips that can make budgeting more user friendly.
- Download a budgeting app on your phone. Preferably one that will link up to your bank account. I personally use Mint. But quite honestly it doesn’t matter what app or website it is as long as you are using something.
- Along with Mint I also use an excel spread sheet. Here I can really dive into the nitty gritty of where my money is going. I save my receipts and update the spreadsheet weekly.
- Use the old (but highly successful) envelope system. What do you do in this system you ask? Buy envelopes, write the name of each budgeting item on the outside of each envelope (For example: Groceries, Entertainment, Coffee Addiction, etc.) then put cold hard cash into each envelope and that’s all you have for the month to spend on that item. Works like a charm. If you have money left over at the end of the month, well then you can put it into saving or go treat yourself. You go Glen Coco!
- Call you cable company, review your phone bill, see if there are any specials at your gym. Just this month I did all of the above items I mentioned (and yes I was on the phone for a total of 4 hours with these companies) and I was able to knock off $140 a month to save. Totally worth the 4 hours. Bam!
3. When buying high priced items, do your research!
So you need a new car, your fridge just stopped working, or you’re buying a pet. Don’t just run out and purchase the first thing. DO YOUR RESEARCH! We’ve already established that you aren’t just buying to buy. So you better do yourself the favor to get the best deal possible.
- Check on-line and look for reviews. If we are talking about a car you have tools like Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.
- Read Consumer Reports! Most people never tap into consumer reports and the beauty of these reports are that they are unbiased and there for you, so utilize them! They put thousands and thousands of items through testing yearly.
- Use the Better Business Bureau to research companies before shopping with them. You can also file complaints here if necessary.
- Make a list of the necessities in the item you’re shopping for and THEN list the wants. You may need a new fridge but having a ice dispenser could be a want!
4. Don’t pay more than 28% of your monthly income towards housing needs.
So this doesn’t just include the mortgage, but it also includes the taxes, insurance, repairs, upkeep, etc. And for first time home buyers you shouldn’t pay over 2 1/2 times your annual income on the home.
5. Don’t forget to allow yourself room to enjoy life!
All these tips are important but you need a goal in mind. I’m able to save and budget because I know I will reap the rewards of an awesome trip once I save enough money. If you don’t have a reason to save and budget you simply won’t be interested in doing it. So find out what you’re passionate about and you’ll have more of a desire to budget or more of a desire to think about your credit score and how to improve it. At the end of the day we work hard to see the rewards of our earnings. So figure out what your rewards are!
*Must give credit where credit is due. Along with my knowledge and experience this textbook Consumer Economics: The Consumer in our Society, basically sitting next to my nightstand. It’s a great bedtime read for the nerdy financially obsessed gal like me and it was used greatly in the making of this post! 🙂