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How to Comfortably and Successfully Live Within Your Means

How to Comfortably and Successfully Live Within Your Means

With millions of Americans struggling to find financial freedom, discover simple ways to comfortably live within your means.

Financial freedom is a big goal for most Americans these days, but there always seems to be a dozen things in the way.

When it comes to gaining that financial freedom, the best thing you have control over is finding a way to live within your means. What does this mean? How do you do it?

Today we’ll cover a quick and simple guide on how best to live a comfortable and successful life well within your means.

Quality Ways to Live Within Your Means

Frugality is a learned skill. To pull it off you need to have a firm grasp of your financial limits, your financial ability, and the little tricks to manage both.

There are many ways to go about living within your means. Often you will need a bit of each strategy to make it work for you. Take these strategies to heart and think about how the basic concepts can mold to the specifics that fit your life.

Track Your Expenses and Know Your Income

The first major step towards any financial understanding is to track all the numbers involved. You can boil down your finances into two categories: income and expenses.

Your income is all your sources of money. Your job is often a big part of that but doesn’t have to be the only source. This could be side jobs, freelance work, even selling off items you don’t use.

Be careful of recurring income versus one-time income. Getting your taxes back or doing a garage sale is one-time income. You can’t do this every month, so it should not factor into your budget.

Items like payday advances or personal loans can help out with big one-time expenses, but shouldn’t be a constant way to up your income.

Next, calculate your expenses. Your rent, utilities, groceries, entertainment. If things are going well, your usual expenses should be less than your usual income.

Keep a constant tab on these numbers. While a steady job and steady rent will keep things constant, the numbers may fluctuate. Keep an eye on them fluctuating out of control.

What You Need In Life

To get a grip on your expenses, the biggest hurdle for many is separating out a want from a need. To live within your means, you may need to look at what you need in life and consider trimming down the rest.

The wants in your life are items you should consider cutting back on when your expenses get too high.

1. Determine a Want From a Need

The difference between wants and needs often boils down to tiers of usefulness. Not everything is a cut or dry yes or no, so you need layers to showcase how each item fits.

The absolute needs are food, shelter, clothing, and any absolute requirements of your livelihood. That means a way to get to work, as well as items for work.

The next level is useful items, but nothing you can’t find a way to live without. This often includes items of convenience. If your apartment comes with a stove but not a microwave, then a microwave isn’t a needed addition.

The last level is more in the want category. These are items of entertainment or comfort. You don’t need a TV or game system, so they fit into the want category.

A big thing to keep in mind is that wants and needs have a lot of variables and can change from person to person. If you are in a place of extreme heat, then an air conditioning unit can go from a convenience to a definite need.

2. Don’t Compete

It can be easy to put wants in as needs when everyone else has them. The best advice in this situation is to ignore what others have and focus on what benefits you.

Build yourself up in a smart manner instead of throwing yourself forward to keep up.

Cash Makes Overspending Harder

Now that the basics are down, here are a few tips to balance out your income and expenses.

Use cash for as many purchases as you can. This is best for when you are out shopping. You can keep only a certain amount on you and this can force you to not overspend. You can’t spend what you don’t have.

Your Savings In Mind

Always keep an eye out or a way to save money.

When grocery shopping, take a bit of time to cut out coupons. As well, look for store brand versions of your groceries. Most store brands are identical to name brands.

When in doubt, cook at home. From coffee to a meal, getting food items outside of a grocery trip can rack up a lot of little expenses.

When you can, look for second-hand stores. There are a lot of items that are almost new in thrift stores.

You can also commute to work or take the bus, which can save tons on car payments and insurance.

Emergency Funds

As you build up stability, look towards keep an emergency fund at all times. You will never know when something bad will happen. Your car can break down, you may become ill, or you may need time off work for family matters.

No matter what happens in life, prepare for the worst. It is best to have about 3 months of expenses in an expense fund. Keep it separate and only access it when you have to.

Increasing Income

Cutting costs is one thing. Everyone can buy cheaper stuff or cut out frivolities. The best way to cover your expenses, though, is to increase your income.

This may sound like oversimplifying it, but it may be easier than you think. Working for a raise or bonus at work is nice, but picking up a few odd jobs can be easy.

Any extra bit of cash can go a long way. Donating plasma, picking up more hours, or starting a side business can all help add a few bits of financial padding to your pockets.

When it comes down to it, if your job is also not giving you the money you need, do what you can and look for another job that will treat you well.

What Does Means Really Mean

In the end, living within your means is straight forward, but filled with little details to micromanage. In the chaos and the stress, always remember one thing: living within your means does not mean you have to suffer.

If you have a nice, balanced budget but are a nervous wreck with no entertainment or time to live, then what was it all for?

Trim the excess but remember that happiness is a thing worthy of a space in your budget. Take time for entertainment, for friends and family, and for yourself. The sanity will be well worth the expense.

Solid Financial Security

With a bit of persistence, and following this nifty guide, being able to live within your means seems closer than ever. Time to put this knowledge into practice.

From handy guides towards solid financial numbers, First Financial has everything you need to get ahead. Need more information? Contact us today!

Why College Students Need Credit Card

Why College Students Need Credit Cards

Learning responsibility while establishing credit is a rite of passage for most college students. Explore the benefits of obtaining a credit card.

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The transition from high school to college comes with an assortment of new burdens and responsibilities. In all the hubbub to register for classes and work out a schedule, many college students overlook the finer details. For example, how many are preparing for their financial lives beyond graduation?

Not enough, according to recent statistics. Only 56% of college students owned credit cards in 2016. That means almost half of the year’s graduating class entered the professional world at a severe disadvantage.

Credit cards provide immediate and long term benefits. The sooner you get one, the better. Here’s why college students need credit cards.

1. Student Credit Cards Start a Credit History

American society is structured around credit lending. The quality of a credit score can determine where people reside, live, and drive. High credit scores also mean lower rates and more credit capacity, making it easier to respond to financial mishaps.

The fact of the matter is college students need good credit scores, even if they don’t need them right this second. So why not start now? There are many ways to start building credit right out of high school.

College student credit cards are the traditional way to establish a credit history. Even if students rarely use the credit card, they’ll still be better off than those who went without.

The reason is your credit history accounts for 35% of your credit score. So long as college students make payments on time — however few — they’ll be well on their way to a better credit score.

2. College is the Best Time to Build Credit

Many college students are fresh from high school and still live or correspond with their parents. This means they may not immediately need a great credit score in their everyday lives. And since their parents are still in the picture, they can assist with the credit card process.

That’s why college is the best time to get a credit card. It’s better for college students to get a head start on their credit score before they graduate. Otherwise, they may not have the credit they need to move into an apartment or purchase a vehicle.

College students can qualify for student credit cards on their own if they know where to look. Otherwise, their parents can help them qualify by co-signing for the line of credit. They may also have parental oversight to track credit spending and help them learn good habits early on.

3. A Credit Card Can Resolve a Financial Emergency

We’ve all been victims of a financial emergency or surprise. Whether there was an unexpected expense or medial disaster, your credit was there to keep you afloat. Unfortunately, even college students can experience financial emergencies.

A credit card is their first line of defense, especially if they’re living in a dormitory hundreds of miles away. What if a student needs an urgent flight back home or a medical checkup?

Parents aren’t always equipped to disburse additional funds to their children. And even if they are, they may not have a financial system in place to make the transaction. A wire transfer could get the job done, but not without a hefty surcharge.

When something goes wrong, college students should rely on the autonomy of a credit card. They’ll savor the financial flexibility and their parents will enjoy the peace of mind.

4. College Students Need Experience With Credit

As wonderful as credit cards are, they also have the potential to wreak havoc. Poor spending habits, such as failing to pay off the credit card at the end of the month, can lead to mounting debt.

It’s best to help college students acclimate to credit cards early on. Good student credit cards won’t have a massive line of credit. This means if something does go wrong, it should be a relatively easy fix.

What kinds of credit habits should students learn? For one, always pay the bill on time to avoid interest. Most credit cards have personalized payment periods, so be sure to learn the end of yours.

To optimize your credit score, aim to utilize 30% or less of your total credit limit. And lastly, consider creating an emergency fund. This can prevent you from putting massive charges on the credit card and racking up interest payments.

For more information, look at these ways to prepare for your first credit card.

5. Good Student Credit Cards Offer Rewards

Developing a payment history and credit score doesn’t sound fun, does it? Well, there are some immediate perks to using credit cards, too. That’s why they’ve become so ubiquitous in the first place.

Even student cards offer enticing incentives such as cash back or bonus rewards. 1% or 2% cash back doesn’t sound like much. But since college students are always strapped for cash, these perks can provide some rare discretionary income.

Some of the best college student credit cards go even further. There may be cash bonuses for earning a respectable GPA. Others know college students are still learning the ropes and are happy to forgive the first missed payment.

Many of these cards provide 0% APR for a limited time. This can come in handy during the beginning of a semester, covering things like new textbooks and dorm furniture.

How to Get Credit Cards for College Students

The simple truth is college students benefit from the addition of credit cards on their financial roster. But since they have no credit score or credit history, where should they start?

First Financial has done the hard work for you. We’ve discovered the lending institutions open to borrowers of all shapes and sizes, with or without credit. Apply for a credit card and start building credit today.

Plastic Fantastic: How to Prepare for Your First Credit Card

Plastic Fantastic: How to Prepare for Your First Credit Card

Your first credit card is a real responsibility. Here’s how to know you’re ready and the best practices for being a responsible user.

By the end of 2018, United States Americans owed over $800 billion in credit card debt.

And the same source tells us that 48% of those credit card users make only minimum payments on their credit cards. Those customers typically have rollover amounts each month.

To keep up with friends, almost 40% of millennials spend money they don’t have. And 3 in 10 cardholders don’t even use their rewards.

If you aren’t financially aware, credit cards can be a detriment to your future earnings. But if you use them correctly, they can improve your credit significantly and help set you up for success.

Before you get your first credit card, make sure that you’re ready. Keep reading to determine when you’re ready and to learn some essential tips for being a responsible user.

When Are You Ready for Your First Credit Card?

Getting a credit card is an essential step in almost every person’s life. But before you get one, you should understand the way they work.

Plus, it helps if you already have a bank account. Understanding how to deposit, save, spend, and budget money is an integral step in learning about finances.

When you use your debit card that’s attached to your checking account, you’ll get practice for when you use a credit card.

Do you already have self-discipline? Do you prioritize? If the answer is yes to either, you’re one step closer to being ready for your first credit card.

You should know about how much money you have in your checking account at any given time.

Make sure that you don’t overdraw your account and can manage any regular payments before spending money on anything else.

Do You Save up for Things?

Have you ever saved up for anything, big or small?

It’s good to be in the habit of saving up for things, especially when it comes to bigger purchases.

Don’t think of your credit card as a blank check. It’s a great idea to only buy things on your credit card that you could already pay for with funds from your checking account.

Using a credit card is an excellent way to build credit, especially if you pay it down regularly, and don’t max out your available credit.

Where Do You Get a Credit Card?

There are a few different types of financial institutions that offer credit cards.

1. Your Bank

Your bank is a great place to get your first credit card. While it used to be harder for someone with no credit to qualify, there are now quite a few options for those with no credit.

And applying through a bank where you already have an account may significantly increase your odds of being approved.

2. Retail Stores

Sometimes these cards are easier to get, as you can typically only spend money in the store for which you hold the card. However, many of those stores have different card options, some of which DO work in other venues.

If there’s a particular retail store you frequent often, try there, especially if you have no credit. These are easy to get approved for, but they generally have higher interest rates.

3. Other Financial Institutions

Lenders other than banks also offer credit cards. Some only offer to low to high credit, but some lenders who offer cards to those without any credit yet.

What If It’s Difficult to Qualify?

Getting your first credit card isn’t always easy. If you don’t get an offer on your own, you could always try enlisting a co-signer in your application.

Your co-signer’s credit history and income will be used to determine whether or not you are eligible.

A secured credit card is another viable option, and banks offer them a lot of the time.

The way it works is that you’ll put a deposit on the card first, and the lender may match those funds, or approve you for a certain amount.

It makes things less risky for the lender in choosing to trust someone with no credit.

How Should You Manage Your First Credit Card?

There are a few tips and tricks that will make your first credit card adventure a success.

Make Your Payments on Time

First and foremost, make all of your payments on time. Late payments will only lower your credit rating and put you further into the hole. Plus, there’s no sense in starting with bad habits.

Don’t Outspend Your Pockets

If you can help it, don’t ever spend more than what you could pay in full. If you pay your balance in full every month, you’ll avoid significant interest charges and a lower credit rating.

Plus, when you purchase things you technically can’t afford, you’re borrowing from and making decisions for your future self.

Watch Your Credit Utilization Ratio

Try to keep your credit utilization ratio under 30%. If the amount of credit you’ve used is not significantly lower than the credit you currently have available, you won’t be building good credit.

Be Ready Before You Get Your First Credit Card

Before you get your first credit card, it’s in your best interest to open up and use a checking account with a debit card.

You must know how to manage your money and to put bills and essentials ahead of other purchases.

Plus, you must make your payments on time and make more than the minimum payments. And the lower you keep your credit utilization ratio, the better it is for your credit.

If you’re determined to better your credit, here are some life-saving tips that’ll boost your score quickly.

And if you’re ready for your first credit card or have any questions, give us a call.

Click, Click, Apply: How to Find Online Car Financing

Click, Click, Apply: How to Find Online Car Financing

Buying a car doesn’t have to be hours of paperwork in a dealership – sometimes you can get online car financing, learn about it here.

Did you know that you can get online car financing with just a few clicks? Say goodbye to tedious paperwork and a slow approval process with the digital way of getting an auto loan, and drive off in your new set of wheels in no time.

Online financing has made it easy for people to apply for loans. The rates are very competitive, the process is fast, and one of the best thing about such loans is the ability to process bad credit car loans.

In as much as getting a car loan from the comfort of your house sound like a good idea, you need to be careful about who you borrow from. Take your time to find a lender with the best rates, quick approval process, and can accommodate your credit score.

Choosing an Online Auto Finance Company

Just like you took your time to choose the make and model of the car you want, you need to put the same effort when selecting an online auto finance company.

Even though it is possible to apply for an online auto loan with bad credit, you might have to pay a higher interest rate. Make sure you know what you are expected to pay monthly based on your current credit scores, your down payment, loan term, and the much you want to finance.

Here are four tips that you should have in mind:

1. Check for Options

Get quotes from different online lenders. Do not just settle for the first one you come across.

2. Pay Attention to the Fees

Lenders charge many fees that you need to know before settling on one. Be aware of such fees and do not forget to read the fine print so that you do not miss out on anything.

3. How Much Can You Afford?

Stay within your budget. Americans are highly in debt because of auto loans and you do not want to find yourself in this bracket. Therefore, consider all other costs of owning a car such as insurance, maintenance, etc. and factor them in.

Know how much down payment you are required to make and if you can afford it.

4. Your Credit Score

Some lenders do not give bad credit car loans. This means if you have a poor credit score, you need to look for a lender who can be able to accommodate it.

Benefits of Online Car Loans

Getting a car loan from an online lender is a very good option, especially if you have poor credit and need to have a car. There are several benefits of online auto loans:

1. Highly Competitive Interest Rates

Compared to a traditional lender like banks, online auto loans have very competitive rates. This makes it very affordable.

For example, with good credit, the APR on a 60-month car loan can be 2% points higher from a bank than online lenders. It’s a small difference but the interest can add up very fast.

2. Speed and Convenience

The application process for an auto loan is very fast. You can apply for the loan regardless of the time and your location. Some lenders only take 3 minutes to let you know if your application was successful or not.

You can also easily check your auto loan application status online. With this loan, you do not need to go to the dealership to know how much you can afford. You will get to know all that during the application process.

Comparing Online Car Loans

There are so many options to choose from in the market today. However, you want to get a lender who offers not only what you need but also what you can afford.

When comparing online loans, you need to keep in mind that you are going to have a very long relationship with your lender. Therefore, choose to work with a lender that is giving you the best and you are very content with their services.

Here is what you should compare:

Down Payment

Check if the lender can accept a trade-in as part of the down payment. The amount you give as down payment will affect the rates that you will be given and the loan term. Make sure you can afford it.

Application Process

How fast is it? What do they require? A good lender should have a very fast system that can give you an answer in no time.

Documents Needed

Are there any documents that you should send to the lender? Can they be verified online? Remember, online verification saves time, you need a lender who can handle the entire process online.

Total cost

This should be included as the APR. Compare two loans for the same amount given, the fees and interest rates affects the total cost.

Applying for an Online Auto Loan

Even though each lender is different. There are some basic steps that you will need to follow:

  • Find the lender that fits your need
  • Go to their site and select their application page
  • Fill out the application form making sure that you provide all the necessary details
  • Submit your application

Once done, you should be able to get a response within minutes after which. You can check on the loan terms, view the interest rates and any other fees.

You will then sign all the necessary documents and click submit. It is as easy as that. With that, you will be on your way to a dealership, with your financing as your back up and drive off with your new car.

Consider Online Car Financing and Get Your Dream Car Fast

Online car financing is a good option. If you have bad credit, all you need to do is to consider getting a less expensive car. This will make it easy for you to get financing, and manage to pay for the down payment as well as the monthly payments.

We offer online auto loan financing to those who want it irrespective of their credit scores. Check out our website, go to our auto loans page and start the process of applying for your car loan today. We are fast, easy and very professional.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.

How to Get a Cash Advance on a Credit Card: 8 Tips You Should Know

How to Get a Cash Advance on a Credit Card: 8 Tips You Should Know

A credit card can be a great source of cash if you need it. Learn how to get a cash advance on a credit card and how to be smart with it here.

how to get a cash advance on a credit card

You use your credit card at the checkout and online, but did you know you can use it as a source of cash?

A credit card cash advance allows you to withdraw a percentage of your credit limit in cold, hard cash. You can get it from the teller at the bank that manages your credit card or request a PIN to hit the ATM.

However, getting a cash advance differs from swiping your credit card. If misused, it can transform your credit card from a helpful tool into a monthly nightmare.

Here’s what you need to know about how to get a cash advance on a credit card (and how to pay it back).

1. Read Your Agreement

Can you get a credit card cash advance? Your credit card agreement spells out the answer.

If you don’t have the original agreement, log-in to your online banking portal and download it a second time. Can’t find it? Request a new copy from your bank.

Under the credit line section, you’ll see two numbers: your total credit line and your cash advance credit line.

If you have a cash advance credit line available, it will be a fraction of the total credit line.

Your cash advance line is part of your total credit line–not an addition to it. If you have a $500 cash advance line, but only $300 available on your entire credit card line, then you can only take out $300 in cash.

2. Request Your PIN

To access your credit line, you need access to your PIN.

You may do this one of two ways depending on your card provider. Most banks now allow you to do this online. However, other banks may require you to call customer service to request your PIN. Either way, your PIN will arrive in the mail.

3. Pay Attention to the Access Fee

No matter what credit card you have, you need to know that your cash withdrawal differs substantially from a typical swipe transaction.

Credit card cash advances usually come with two fees: an upfront transaction fee and an interest rate.

Let’s start with the transaction fee.

For the privilege of taking out cash, you will either pay a percentage of the transaction or a flat fee. You need to know what this fee is and factor it into your withdrawal. Not only is it one more item to pay back, but it will remove the remaining credit you may count on to do things like pay bills.

Most companies charge around 5 percent of the transaction or a fee of $10. The greater of the two applies based on the size of your withdrawal.

So if you take out $50, then your fee would be $2.50. But if you ask for $500 in cash, your payment is $25.

4. Note the Higher Interest Rate

A credit card cash advance almost always comes with a higher interest rate than your total credit line. And if you are in an introductory period that offers a reduced or zero interest rate, then it likely doesn’t apply to your cash advance.

You might think that paying off the cash advance at the end of the month will save you the hassle of the higher APR. However, your credit card doesn’t work that way.

When you make a payment, you pay off the oldest balance first. To pay off your cash advance, you generally need to pay off your card balance in its entirety.

Plus, credit card companies typically start counting interest the day you take the cash out. If you take out a cash advance on the first day of your billing cycle, you will pay a month’s worth of interest if you don’t pay it off until your due date.

5. Factor in the ATM Fee

The final fee is the ATM fee.

If you use an American card, you already know that using an ATM outside your network comes with a fee between $2 and $10, depending on who owns the ATM.

If you use the ATM to withdraw your cash advance, keep the fee in mind when you calculate your balance and your budget.

6. Borrow Pocket Money–Not Hundreds

The combination of all the fees and the interest means that a cash advance works best when borrowing a quick $40. Borrowing hundreds of dollar quickly adds up and puts you at a disadvantage from the day you borrow.

As a result, the best and safest way to use a cash advance is only to borrow what you can pay back after your next paycheck.

7. Pay It Off Fast

A cash advance isn’t a long-term loan or credit option. You need to pay it off fast–as in days, not weeks or months.

Paying it off quickly is the best way to avoid the combined high-interest rates, which turn your one-time need into a month’s long battle.

If you can, don’t wait until your next due date to pay it off. Do it as soon as feasibly possible to avoid growing your balance.

8. Consider an Alternative to a Credit Card Cash Advance

In some cases, a personal bank loan or collateral loan are better alternatives. Both of these loans offer a higher limit and fairer interest applications, which means it will take less time to pay off and cost you less in the long run.

Keep in mind that both these loans also include fees. However, the fee tends to be lower than that of a cash advance once you reach the higher figures. You can also avoid the ATM fees, which saves you at least a bit of cash.

How to Get a Cash Advance on a Credit Card: The Takeaway

Now you know how to get a cash advance on a credit card, but remember, it’s best suited for those who need to borrow $100–not $1,000. Borrowing large lump sums becomes expensive very quickly because the interest rate is not only high but the bank applies it immediately.

Do you need cash quick? Click here to learn about our financial products for all credit types.


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