How to Cut Down Your College Credit Card Debt

by John LeBlanc on October 11, 2013

We’re well into the start of a new semester and for most college students, that means saying goodbye to their personal finances.

For many college-aged kids, being faced with the high cost of the college lifestyle all on their own, the simplest solution to their sudden seemingly huge and insurmountable funding problem is a small plastic card. Of course, many students who try out their brand new credit card at the college bookstore could end up relying a little too much on it and, come the end of their first month out on their own, find themselves up to their stunner shades in credit card debt. Just like a real grown-up.

Now, while those unfortunate students find themselves having to take remedial classes on credit card utilization, anyone who paid half as much attention to their spending habits as they did the cute brunette sitting in the row in front of them won’t feel the immediate need for credit card debt relief. Don’t fret too much though, if you do find your credit card bill dwarfs every other invoice you get this month.

While you may have thought living on a strict budget of cash on the barrelhead was the only possible way to go (and an impossible path to tread at that, when you don’t really have any cash to speak of), there are ways to make it through college with your credit history intact. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

• Cut the spending. We’ll begin with the obvious step. If you want to save yourself some time and the hassle of credit repair, you can start by cutting any and all unnecessary expenses. That means canceling the HD-DVR you ordered for your new digs and switching to store-brand cereal instead of the fancy stuff. I know that probably stings (how will you stay up to date on True Blood now?!), but this is the easiest and fastest way to save yourself some serious cash.

You can save even more by reevaluating your living situation. If school’s too far from home to make the commute, and all the dorm rooms are taken, gather some friends and consider renting a house. You’d be surprised how much money you’ll save on a house by cramming as many people as you can into it. Of course, that’ll likely cut down on study time quite a bit, but hey, that’s part of the college experience too.

• Screw the cards, switch to money orders! If you can’t trust yourself enough to take a credit card with you out shopping (and who honestly could at that tender age?) you can handle big expenses like rent, car, and tuition payments with a money order. You can find these for an extra dollar or two at most supermarkets or check-cashing places. These are a great way to pay the bills you absolutely need to pay and avoid having to pay more for it later.

• The kitchen: Your new 4-star restaurant. Get ready to switch from eating Panda Express to a ramen-only diet to save those duckets. If you’ve never cooked a day in your life, make the Food Network your new favorite channel and start building a menu of your own. Just don’t go too extravagant with the food items and cut back on the bags of junk food, and you’ll be able to keep your belly well-fed without breaking the bank.

• Everybody into the carpool. Finally, we come to the biggest financial strain on anyone’s – not just college students’ – budget: gas. If you’re living with a group of other students, you might suggest carpooling to school, assuming everyone’s class schedules are relatively close together. Switching driving duties between housemates every day can save all involved on trips to the gas station. Barring that, look into bus or train passes to save on gas money, or go full-on green and ride a bike to school every day. Not only will this cut down on gas entirely, but you’ll get a good workout in too, and who at that age doesn’t want to look as fit as possible?

Keep these tips in mind when the bills start to roll in and they seem a little too high for comfort.

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Credit Repair Tips for Getting a Mortgage Loan

by John LeBlanc on October 8, 2013

So you say you’re ready to become a homeowner, like a full-fledged adult with real grown-up responsibilities. Well, there’s no better time than now to gain admittance into mortgage club – after all, it’s not like they’re really hurting for new members these days, is it?

But before you run off to a loan officer to see whether or not you qualify for a home loan, run through this quick checklist from the leader in credit repair services to make sure all of your credit information is looking as good as it can so you’ll get that mortgage you’ve always dreamed of being responsible for:

1. Fix your bad credit! This kinda goes without saying – especially from a credit repair services company – but if you want to make sure you get the best deal on a home loan (or even get one at all), you’ll need a credit score of at least 620 to qualify as a “subprime” borrower. Consumers in the subprime category are generally susceptible to higher interest rates and a larger down payment, so it obviously pays to make sure your credit score’s looking good for lenders.

2. Make sure you’ve got living expenses on file to back you up. You know how most apartment leasing agents recommend you make enough money in a month to cover the cost of your rent for the current month and half of the next? The same basic rule applies for home ownership, except you’ll want to make sure you’ve got at least 6 month’s worth of living expenses available in your bank account when you apply, not including the down payment.

3. Negotiate broker fees. Before you go running off choosing a broker to house-shop around for you, ask any one you run across if they’ll give you a good faith estimate of all of your fees as well as closing costs. Look over their terms and contracts carefully for places to negotiate their prices.

4. Don’t expect the nicest house at that price. It’s likely you don’t have your sights set on the biggest house on the block – certainly not the most extravagant – but you might be surprised what kind of price even the most humble abode fetches these days. We’ve heard stories from first time buyers finding houses that should be in their price range, only to learn from a broker that the mortgage limit doubled both of their income. Much like in tip #2, a good rule to live by is to make sure your mortgage and other housing expenses (such as utilities) don’t demand anymore than 30% of your income. Remember also that monthly housing costs tend to fluctuate and almost never remain fixed, so factor that into your plan for searching for a home as well.

5. Read all contracts VERY carefully. Worried you might not be able to reclaim your deposit because you couldn’t get the proper financing in time? Or that the seller won’t give you the best deal if you don’t go through one of their “preferred lenders?” Did either of these questions ever even cross your mind? Before you sign anything, make sure you read the fine print. Lenders and sellers sometimes limit who they’ll work with to get you into your new house, which can make shopping around a hassle.

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