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Archive for the ‘How To & Helpful Hints’ Category


How to Get a Copy of Your Credit Report

Oct 16, 2008 Author: Susy Hwang | Filed under: How To & Helpful Hints, Investments

In America, it helps to have a great credit score. Credit scores are numerical summaries of your credit- worthiness based on information from credit bureaus. Having a good credit score is important because it can help you secure a job and secure prime financing rates (lower interest rates) for large purchases such as: homes and cars. Insurance companies as well as prospective landlords may want to see your credit score before offering their services to you.

Employers want to see your credit score because they think that your credit score reflect stability and responsibility. Banks want to see your credit score to see if have handled your bills properly in the past before they will extend credit to you. Landlord and insurance companies also want to make sure that you are a desirable customer as well.

Don’t forget that you need to sign a release stating that it is ok for prospective employers or financiers to obtain your credit score.

There are currently 3 major credit reporting agencies, they are: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can request your credit report from any of these companies, for a small fee.

Before you pay for any credit report from the top three agencies I suggest checking out AnnualCreditReport.com. AnnualCreditReport.com gives you the option of pulling one report at a time from all three agencies or pulling all three reports concurrently.

If you haven’t checked your credit score in over a year and you haven’t exercised using your free AnnualCreditReport.com pull all three, just so you know where you stand. Next year, you can stagger your credit reports using AnnualCreditReport.com to pull one report at a time every 4 months. For example: pull Experian in January, then pull TransUnion in May, lastly pull Equifax in September.

If you have already used your AnnualCreditReport.com, you can always contact the three agencies separately to request a credit report.

If you haven’t checked your credit score in over a year I suggest pulling your credit report from all three agencies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax at the same time or pulling all three free reports from AnnualCreditReport.com. Start with a clean slate to see where you stand.

Be careful of of imposter sites AnnualCreditReport.com’s front page should look like this.

Keep track of your credit report, it can help you find out if other people have used your identity to obtain credit in your name, aka identity theft.

If you do catch something fishy in your report notify the following agencies:

TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834 Fax: 714-447-6034

Equifax Credit Information Services
Consumer Fraud Division
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348

Experian’s National Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013

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How To Buy A Car

Sep 21, 2008 Author: Susy Hwang | Filed under: Car Care, How To & Helpful Hints, Investments

Last year I got into a major car accident and my car was totaled. For about 2 weeks I was in a rental car courtesy of my insurance company, but that went sour when I got a call on a Friday afternoon saying that my rental car was due the following Monday. I had a deadline: I had to test drive and buy a car in 3 days.

These are the steps I took to buy and finance a car in three days. Did I mention I went by myself? By the way, I look like I am 16 so just make sure you are informed and I’m sure you score huge!

  • Get a recent copy of your credit report. There are currently 3 credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Your credit score determines what kind of interest rate you qualify for (the better your credit score the better (and lower) your interest rate).
  • You are also entitled to a free annual credit report at annualcreditreport.com (or by calling 877.322.8228), this is a credit reporting website jointly operated by the 3 credit reporting agencies mentioned above. If all this internet stuff freaks you out go here to www.ftc.gov for an actual form or for government endorsed info. (Please note you should be checking your credit regularly). Note: the information between the three reporting agencies can widely.
This is the LEGIT site. Don't be fooled by imposters!

This is the LEGIT site. Don't be fooled by impostors!

  • Take your score and look at it. Is there anything you can work on to improve your score before buying your car? Paying off/ or paying more than the minimum due on your installment loans and revolving balances can add points your credit score if you have a few months time before purchasing your car.
  • Once you are financially sound: you got your credit score and it looks good, you have started saving for your down payment for the car, and you have figured out if you want to go with new or used car? (Don’t look at your car as an investment, cars depreciate too fast to be considered an investment. Used cars depreciate less because you buy them for less moola. However, used cars are not for everyone.)
  • Find out how much car you can afford. I did this by first applying for an auto loan with my bank, Bank of America. I figured they would give me a pretty good parameter of how much car I can actually afford, since they know how much I deposit and withdrawal. With the amount that BofA quoted me, I chose to go the conservative route (since at the time people were getting pre-qualified for way more than they could afford *cough cough the housing crisis*). I took the amount that I was pre-qualified for and reduced it by $3000 to make sure my monthly payments wouldn’t wipe me out. Getting your car repossessed can’t be fun.
  • After looking at Bank of America’s high interest rate I chose to shop around for better interest rates than what BofA had offered me. If you do all of your inquiries all at once, it does not affect your credit score. So try to shop around all at once.
  • I headed to www.bankrate.com to finish my search for the oh so low interest rate that I deserve. It is extremely important for you to get pre-qualified for a loan before stepping inside a dealership. (Dealerships bring in a lot of money by screwing the people they finance, in- house or by brokering deals to other banks). I use www.bankrate.com to find out what the auto rate interest rate for the day is. (Interest rates fluctuate much like the stock market, so make sure you are getting a competitive rate by checking www.bankrate.com). Here is an example:
NATIONAL OVERNIGHT AVERAGES   TODAY +/- LAST WEEK
36 month new car loan 6.71% 6.70%
48 month new car loan 6.50% 6.49%
60 month new car loan 6.51% 6.51%
72 month new car loan 6.44% 6.44%
36 month used car loan 7.08% 7.07%
  • Type in your zip code and a whole bunch of banks that service your area will pop up. You can do a sort by interest rate or discounts with automatic debit bill pay. (After BofA’s outrageous interest rate I chose Capital One for my financing, they sent me a blank check via overnight mail). And looking on bankrate.com today, Capital One has the best rate at 5.54% for new car financing, term 48 months.
  • Remember you are trying to get the lowest car price at the dealership and the lowest interest rate from a bank that will qualify you. Goal: You want to win not lose to the “man in the financing department”.
  • You might also want to try credit unions, they usually have better interest rates than your regular big brick and mortar bank such as Bank of America. Why? Credit unions are cooperative (members only) financial institutions, and low financing rates are a perk.

  • Now that you have all the financing out of the way, aren’t you relieved? You can now chose a car that fits your $$$ parameter. Since I only had 3 days to test drive and buy a car I headed over to CarMax (since they have all makes and models of cars) to test drive about 15 cars that were around my price range (or what I was pre-qualified for).
  • I picked 1 car out of the 15 cars I test drove and went straight to the dealership the next day. Note: if you have your eyes on a few cars call your insurance company and get quotes on how much your insurance will be. This might help you narrow your choice if you are torn between two- three cars. After all do you really want a car that is going to cost $4000 a year to insure?
  • If you are looking at used cars Carfax.com is a great resource. You can get the vehicles history before you buy. Some dealerships will give you a carfax.com report for free but private sellers might not. You can always subscribe for a month.

  • Talk car first, talk financing later. Pick the car you want and mentally set the price you are willing to pay for it. Get them to agree to a compromising price before crunching numbers at the financing department.
  • But don’t sweat it, you are savvy! You don’t need their financing because you are PRE- QUALIFIED already. Remember your goal is to talk salespeople down, whilst they are talking you up. ALWAYS LOW LOW LOW BALL so you have more room to compromise to your advantage. The salespeople are always going to HIGH HIGH HIGH BALL you. Low ball so you have more room to barter and meet at a price point that is closer to what you want. Negotiate your brains out! Haggle the salesperson to get the best deal, the worst they can say is NO. (Like you didn’t hear that enough from your mom growing up).
  • I haggled and haggled I even had another dealership on the phone with me negotiating a car that I had previously looked at. As we were slowly chipping away at the price. My friend was online at home looking up market prices and MSRP (be aware of wholesale and retail prices on cars) on Kelly Blue Book and Yahoo! Autos, just to make sure they didn’t pull a fast one over me. Apparently it worked.

  • Also, don’t let them know how much you can afford in monthly payments. Unless you are really savvy with a financial calculator, the dealership will most likely rape you once you give them this number. My blank check came in a booklet and it had helpful parameters such as: $30,000 car for 48 months would be $560 payments monthly. (This is what I used as a reference point to see what my monthly payments would be).
  • Toward the end, however, the dealership wanted to run my credit report (note: they need your permission to run your credit). Being the bargain shopper (with good credit) that I am I had them run my credit report to see if the dealership would beat my financing with Capital One. The dealership beat Capital One’s interest rate. If I wanted to be really thorough you could have called Capital One to see if they would beat my dealership’s interest rate. =D
  • Read everything before signing and make sure they don’t add any extra fees onto your invoice. Ask to borrow their calculator when in doubt.
  • I walked out of the dealership with a car that was below market price. Oh, how I love saving money! I WON! Or at least I think I won.

Additional resources:

Forbes/ Yahoo

Auto: How Stuff Works

Fool.com

BankRate.com

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Ever rummage through your drawers only to find a button? You raise your arms up in a half shrug, look around, and wonder, where the bleep did this come from? Where does this button go? What coat does it belong to? Does it belong to my BCBG work top? Dammit, it looks like that small button for that cheap cotton tank from Target… And you wonder how a little piece of plastic can get you all undone.

After I am done shopping I make it a big deal to take that extra button (in the ziploc/ or sewn onto a strip of cloth) and I write a little note on either the tag or on a separate piece of paper, stating the button’s rightful owner. My tags would say something like: button for red dress, sample sale 06/08. I will then staple the note to either the cloth or the ziploc that holds the button. I also keep all the buttons/and or zippers I have accumulated in a designated container.

Whenever I am missing a button I can do a 5 second catalog check of my button library before rushing out the door to take the pile of clothes to be cleaned and mended at cleaners.

And all of my tops have their original buttons. =D

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save $$$ on dental bills

Saving money doesn’t have to hurt like pulling teeth or pulling the skin off your retina, but I want to inform you about this handy dandy little thing that I use to save money. 
  
A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a benefit that many employers now offer as a part of their benefits plan. A FSA is a pretax benefit allowable under IRS section 125, section 125 is also another name for FSA.
 
This plan is awesome because you can set aside a specific pretax dollar amount for the year to help pay for: medical, vision, dental, over- the- counter items, and dependent care expenses. Think of your FSA as a savings account for medical expenses your insurance won’t cover. However, you cannot use your FSA to pay for health insurance premiums.
 
Pretty nifty, huh?
 

The pretax dollar amount that you contribute to your FSA for the year, is pretax money funneled directly from your paycheck and into your FSA. Note: the money that is deducted from your paycheck is not taxed.

Woo hoo! Uncle Sam can’t pillage that chunk!
 
Example: Jane makes $100 a week. She then decides she wants Lasik (to check out all the hot guys at the beach), sometime before June 2009. At the end of 2008 Jane peels herself from her chair and walks over to her Human Resource department. Jane is going to put aside $800 into her 2009 FSA to pay for her upcoming Lasik surgery on January 2, 2009. Jane’s company then calculates a $15.39 deduction from each paycheck ($800 aka 2009 FSA designated contribution/ 52 checks she gets a year = $15.39 a rough contribution for 52 checks). Jane then goes to the hospital on January 2, 2009 and she will get reimbursed for her Lasik bill with money in her FSA. I bet you are thinking, she has only had one deduction of $15.39 taken off her checks so far. Is the money in her FSA available? It doesn’t matter, the money is ready to use, even though she hasn’t worked hours yet. HAHAHAHA! 

Jane came up:

  1. Putting $15.39 of un-pillaged by Uncle Sam (tax free money) for necessary healthcare. Sassy!
  2. Getting taxed on the $84.62 a week instead of $100. Flashy!
  3. Throw in using a credit card with (mileage or cashback) benefits to pay for the medical bill until you are reimbursed. Classy!
  4. Coupled with the INTEREST FREE LOAN, hedged against future earnings. Woo hoo!

Oh yeah baby, you just saved yourself a discount equivalent to your tax bracket, to pay for a medical bill, you didn’t really want to pay in the first place. For people that don’t use a FSA you are paying your medical bills with money that Uncle Sam already took a bite out of, thus decreasing your buying power.

One major drawback is that if you lose it if you do not use, (usually) by March 15 the next calendar year. Verify this with Human Resources department since employer’s plans vary. Don’t forget you can always be conservative and designate a small amount.
 
You also need to let your HR department know how much you want to direct into your FSA, it is $5000 a year for those with dependents and $2400 for reimbursable medical expenses. Yes, you can pay for child’s daycare this way, or condoms and birth control pills. Whichever route you take these are all covered under your FSA. =D.

Repeat: Tax free discount equivalent to my tax bracket, money that acts as an interest free loan, so I can pay for medical bills that my crappy health insurance won’t pay! Me likey!

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Can I get a Hand?

 

Sometimes while I’m at work I wish I was an octopus, I wish I had 8 hands to help me with whatever I need to accomplish that day/ week/ or month… As I am daydreaming, I can feel myself floating out of my body and suddenly I’m the Master Pussy, Octopussy to be exact! Master orchestrator of all! Ruler of the office! The one that got it all planned out…

Until my bubble pops, with the ring of the phone and then I realize I have wasted 20 minutes, when I should have been arranging all of my tasks, deadlines, and errands into some kind of coherent and efficient manner that doesn’t involve 39 post- its. 

I wish someone can just email me during the day to remind me to, “Stop daydreaming and focus!”

And I found her!

Her name is Sandy and she’s a personal email assistant and she’s FREE!

Booyah!

Sandy can help you while you are at work by reminding you about tasks and deadlines. She will do the dirty job of text messaging you to buy milk. She even syncs with outlook. Sandy doesn’t stop there; she provides support by offering suggestions like: enjoy the day and take a walk along the neighborhood. She also knows her way around twitter. Oh, she can also keep a contact list handy. I also heard she can text your boyfriend/ hubby to buy you birthday flowers. How’s that for free 99?

With Sandy’s help, I can no longer say, “I’m sOo Sorry I forgot your birthday, I totally had my head up my butt”.

Me No Mo With Sandy's Help

Me No Mo With Sandy's Help

 

http://iwantsandy.com/

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