Saving up for the big holiday sales

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Now that you have your Halloween party out of the way, you have bigger, and more exciting things to plan for. The holiday seasons are right around the corner and the holly jolly, big holiday sales (Black Friday and Cyber Monday) are approaching quickly. The good news is that you still have time to start saving.

Here are some tips on what you can start doing today to save big for the holiday sales:

Set a Goal

Before you start saving, set a goal for how much you are willing to spend on your holiday shopping, including the amount of money you’re willing to spend for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. That way, you have an idea of how much money you need to start a budgeting plan. Setting a budget is essential when it comes to saving for huge purchases during the holidays. That way you can slowly start putting money aside weekly to reach your goal.

 

Lookout for deals

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great days to take advantage of the huge deals stores have. For Black Friday, many stores will open their doors the evening of Thanksgiving. Taking advantage of the early time the stores open is a good way to stock up on items you need to purchase before they sell out. Also, Amazon has limited-time sales during their 12 Days of Deals in December where you can save huge on some of the most popular items! Be quick, because items will sell out!

 

Unlock your creativity

If you’re willing to save more money on Christmas gifts, you can use your creativity and create DIY gifts for your friends and family. Pinterest and Instagram are great social media accounts to turn to for some great ideas on what to make. Once you have an idea of what you want to make, you can head over to Dollar Tree or Dollar General to get some great supplies at a low cost! Now is a good time to have some ideas of what you can make so that you can be prepared. It doesn’t hurt to start early!

Novembers events that are FREE

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The holidays are closer than ever and the stressful, yet exciting holiday shopping will begin soon. Don’t stress out, because there are plenty of free events going on throughout the Chicago-land area this month! Below are a list of family-friendly places that you can spend the day with your friends and family.
 

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony (Nov. 17)

Gather around with your friends and family and many other Chicagoans on this festive night and enjoy this holiday tradition of lighting up the really tall, beautiful Christmas tree in Millennium Park.

For more information on this event, visit https://www.choosechicago.com/event/christmas-tree-lighting-ceremony/19987/

Christkindlmarkt (Nov. 17)

Beginning on November 17, experience the traditional German American Holiday Market! This European tradition has amazing vendors, merchandise, and events that you can check out and the admission is free!  

For more information, visit http://www.christkindlmarket.com/

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival (Nov. 18)

This is a really exciting event for the kids. Experience Michigan Ave being turned to winter wonderland this holiday season to get you into the holiday spirit! Witness all the beautiful lights on Michigan Ave., an exciting parade, and fireworks! If you’re taking the “L” or the bus to get to downtown, don’t miss out on your opportunity to ride the Holiday Train/Bus!

For more information, visit https://www.choosechicago.com/event/magnificent-mile-lights-festival/41929/

Thanksgiving Parade (Nov. 23)

Start off your Thanksgiving morning with your family by attending a parade! Experience some fantastic marching bands, giant balloons, amazing acts, and more!

For more information about this exciting event, visit https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/parade5.html

ZooLights (Nov. 24)

Beginning on November 24, celebrate the holiday by experiencing beautiful light displays, activities, and fantastic ice sculptures throughout Lincoln Park Zoo that’s free for all! They have many festive activities, including free crafts for children!

For more information about the dates and activities that are hosted, visit http://www.lpzoo.org/zoolights-presented-comed-and-powershares-qqq-invesco

Check your credit score at least once a year

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The Consumer Financial Protection bureau advises consumers to check their credit reports at least once a year.

Why should I check my credit report?             

·         To look for mistakes to fix that could hurt your ability to get credit.

·         To make sure your information is correct and up-to-date.

·         To protect you against identity theft.

What are common mistakes found in credit reports?

·         Loans and credit accounts you’ve never opened.

·         Wrong social security number, address, or number, and misspelling your name.

·         Accounts wrongly listed as late, closed accounts listed as open, or accounts listed more than once.

·         Incorrect balances, credit limits, or delinquency dates.

Mistakes in your credit reports, or fraud caused by an identity theft, can make borrowing more expensive or even prevent you from getting credit.

What do I do if I find a mistake?

Dispute the mistakes you find.

Your credit report will include the information about how to dispute a mistake that you found. When you’re disputing a mistake, it should clearly explain what you think is wrong and why. Be specific, state the facts, and request that it can be corrected. When you’re sending your dispute letter to your creditor, make sure that you include copies of the documentation that support your position, and highlight the items that are relevant in your credit report. Your dispute letter should be sent to both the credit reporting company and the creditor.

If your dispute doesn’t get resolved, then you can ask that the statement of the dispute be included in your credit file and in future credit reports.

If your dispute information is wrong or cannot be verified, then the creditor is responsible for changing or deleting the information and provides a correction to the credit reporting companies that received the disputed information.

Do I have to pay for credit monitoring?

NO. You don’t need to pay for credit monitoring. By law, you are entitled a free credit report once a year from each of the credit reporting companies. There are a few different ways you can get your reports. In January, you can visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get your Experian report. In April, go back and check your Equifax report, and in August you can get your TransUnion report as well. This allows you to keep an eye out for all your credit records for FREE.

In addition, you also don’t need to pay a credit monitoring service to stop thieves from opening accounts with your information. You can prevent this buy putting a freeze on your credit reports. A freeze prevents other people from accessing your credit files and it prevents other people from opening an account in your name. You can simply just contact Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to put a freeze on your reports.

Moreover, if you believe that you’re about to become a victim of identity theft or fraud, you can place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Doing so will require lenders to take steps to verify your identity before opening a new account in your name.

How to save big for Halloween

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Halloween is an exciting time of the year for both kids and adults. There’s plenty that goes on: from decorating your house into something haunting, to scaring your loved ones, to dressing up as your favorite character - what’s there not to love? Unfortunately, there’s a price for all that; however, it can all be done at a cheap price! 

Stores like Dollar General or Dollar Tree are your best friends when it comes to shopping for Halloween or any other festive holidays!   

Witch way to the candy?

You don’t have to go out of your way and spend big bucks on large bars of name-brand chocolate bars. Kids will eat and appreciate any type of candy you give them. Dollar General offers plenty of mixed bag varieties of chocolate and candy at a low price! It gives you many different options to give to trick-or-treaters, so that you won’t have to buy a dozen different bags of different types of candy. A couple of those and you’ll be good to go!

Dont trick yourself

On top of that, you can buy many crafts from Dollar Tree at an incredibly low price and DIY your Halloween decorations! You’ll save money and have a good time putting together spooktacular decorations with your family, which the kids will find very fun!

Be scary for cheap

When shopping for costumes, try to avoid the ones that will be the most popular of the season. Those will be priced much higher than other costumes since they’ll be in such high demand. Incorporate the clothes and makeup you already have at home and turn it into a faboolous costume. Use what you have and make your own costume, which is more cost effective than buying it. If you need any additional items, such as a jersey shirt, or maybe leggings, go to a thrift store and you’ll find them for cheap!

 

Inexpensive places to buy Halloween costumes

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Halloween is right around the corner. Find an affordable but awesome outfit can be a big BOO!  Here are some SPOOK-tacular stores that are known for great savings, EVERY DAY!

Dollar General

Located in most of the Chicago neighborhood areas, Dollar General is a great store for affordable costumes.  Their costumes range from a killer bear to Darth Vader. The children costumes are even greater! Witches and super heroes are always in style. Something unique that Dollar General is doing is also offering face paint and graphic effects makeup. You can create any look from just painting on a cool design.

Family Dollar

Starting at $5 and up, Family Dollar is ideal for Halloween decorations and costume accessories. Fake teeth, squishy rings, and trick or treat bags are on the list this year for Halloween novelties. Want to be a zombie or a clown? Family Dollar has makeup kits for the whole family with instructions and multiple colors.

Dollar Tree

You can never go wrong with Dollar Tree! Everything is A DOLLAR. Dollar Tree Halloween accessories include children costumes where your child can be a pirate, witch, princess, Tinkerbelle and much more. It can even be the cheap pick up stop for candy and party decorations.

Make Halloween memorable and most importantly make it affordable. Spend your money wisely and effectively this fall to prepare for financial success this winter. 

Three ways to avoid a default on your loan

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Staying on top of your payments can be challenging. Especially if you begin falling off track of your payment plan. Losing track can place your loan in default before you know it. Getting into default is the last thing you want on your plate. Here are three ways you can prevent being in default:

 

Be Careful

Once your loan is out of default, be careful not to end up in the same spot again. Hopefully, you’re now on a manageable payment plan that lets you repay without missing payments and falling behind again. But it’s possible that could change. The key is to be proactive and get help if you do run into problems—before you end up joining collections again.

Budget Your Expenses

Budgeting is crucial when it comes to saving money. It’s best for you to budget so that way you can keep track of how much you’re spending. It will allow you to set a certain amount of money aside so that you can pay off your loans. It’s important to make your payments on time, and if you can, make your payment earlier than the due date.

Read our blog on the best apps to help you start budgeting today!

 

Let Your Lender Know Ahead of Time

Communication is essential when you run into financial trouble. Let your lender know if you’re having a hard time making payments and at risk of default. From your lender’s perspective, they can either get a heads up and can possibly work with you, or see that you’ve simply stopped paying, and start making efforts to collect

Given the consequences, it’s best to avoid default. Doing so keeps your options open, but cleaning up after it happens is a challenge.

 

October events that are FREE

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Summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to be. There are still plenty of FREE events going on in Chicago that you can enjoy with your friends and family. Saving money is crucial when certain circumstances arise, but you don’t always have to spend money to treat yourself to a fantastic day with your loved ones.

Here are some free events that you can attend in the Chicago-land area:

Explore the Museums

One advantage that we get as Illinois residents is attending some of the best museums and cultural institutes in Chicago for free on certain days. Whether it’s being able to touch stingrays at the Shedd Aquarium, appreciate beautiful art creations at the Art Institute, or even discover what it’s like to be in space at the Adler Planetarium - they’re all family-friendly!

Visit https://chicagoonthecheap.com/free-chicago-museum-days/ to see when you can take your next visit at any of the Chicago museums for free!

 

Cultural Center

We all love listening to music, but it’s unfortunate that concerts can be so expensive when we would like to experience it live. Fortunately enough, the Chicago Cultural Center hosts free events such as blues, jazz, and classical music concerts, and more! Take a visit at this beautiful, historical landmark that offers more than just free concerts. It also has free public events of dance and theater, films, lectures, and art exhibitions for all your friends and family!

For more information, visit https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_culturalcenter.html

 

A Night of Improv Comedy

Do you appreciate the fine arts and are a fan of improv? Every Sunday night at 7:30pm at The Playground Theatre, “The Free for All" is a FREE improv show for all put on by some fantastic, passionate people. A night full of laughter with your friends and family would be a great way to end your weekend.

For more information, visit http://theplaygroundtheater.com/

 

Movies in the Park

Parks throughout the Chicago-land area host movies, ranging from classics to the latest box office hits that are free for all! Sit back, relax, and have a picnic at the park with your friends and family as you watch one of your favorite movies.

Visit http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/events/movies/ to see the list of movies that will be screening at the parks!

 

 

Take a Hike

With technology taking over, people barely go out to enjoy nature nowadays. Put those phones and tablets away and go out to enjoy a hike to appreciate the beauty of nature. At the North Park Village Nature Center, you can hike through beautiful trails and learn more about the wildlife. On top of that, there are exciting events that go on specifically for your kids!

For more information, visit http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks/North-Park-Village-Nature-Center/

 

Take a breather and enjoy one of these many, or even all, free events that go on in Chicago! Take a break from the real world and explore something extraordinary.

How to build your credit

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Building credit is one of the most important factors to financial wellness. Whether you have just started building your credit or need to rebuild your credit, here are some quick and easy tools for you to use to successfully build a sustainable credit score.

Apply for a credit card

For you to have a credit history you need to have credit. That can be a personal loan, student loan, utilities, mortgage, or credit card. A credit card is a great way to build credit if you borrow responsibly. Applying for a small credit card and keeping the balance under 30% can give you a great start to building good credit. After maintaining your first card for at least a year, apply for another credit card. This will show anyone who is looking at your credit history that you have multiple accounts that you can manage and have had the credit line open for years.  This not only shows them responsibility but also accountability. You have shown that you financially can maintain credit and know how to budget your income effectively.

Check your credit score regularly

Consistently check your credit score. You want to make sure that credit bureaus and other accounts you have open are accurate. Make sure that there aren’t any open debt collections and if they are, be sure to pay them off. Getting rid of debts or bankruptcies are key to higher points on your credit report. You don’t want things to incorrect on your account. Incorrect credit accounts could lower your score. Make you are aware of your credit score and keeping track of lost or gained credit points.

Minimize as many credit pulls as possible

Applying for a house, car, new credit card or anything else that requires a credit report can cause your score to drop. Minimize as many credit pulls as you can. Make sure to ask the company before they process your application if they will be running a credit report. Make sure to also check your credit report yourself to make sure that the company you applied with is the only company that appears on your report at that time. Know the difference between a soft credit pull and a hard credit pull. Soft credit pulls rarely show up on your credit report. Hard credit pulls ALWAYS show on your report and can lower your score for a few points. It is hard to get away from pulling these reports when companies are requiring your credit history. To avoid a lower credit score, make sure when you apply to these companies that your score is high enough that if it does drop your score that you are still in good standings. Don’t apply for multiple things at once that will pull your credit. Your credit history will show you are applying to multiple places and either taking a large loss on your credit score or are trying to find options for financing. You want to be able to apply to one thing at a time and be approved instead of denied.

Under-use your credit card

Although it’s hard, don’t max out your credit cards. Maxing out means higher payments. This can financially ruin your credit if you are not able to pay any of this back. Remember to always keep your credit card usage at 30%. Meaning if your credit limit is $500 then to only finance $150. This will keep your payments low and comfortable for you as you pay the card off.

Pay off your debts

Any debts such as hospital bills or collection accounts that are on your credit truly affect your score. Open collection accounts can result in a denial for a home, loan, or even a car. Make sure to pay off all your debts to ensure your history is clean. Focus on setting up a payment plan for your accounts that are open. The company will report that the account is active and that you are making payments. Making payments are much better than not making payments at all.  

Pay 100% on payments and pay on time

The most important factor to having great credit is also paying on time. Late payments or falling behind on a payment are two of the main ways a credit score can quickly drop in one month. Forgetting a payment date or payment can be the worst. Try to schedule in your due dates for your payments in a planner or calendar to stay up to date on your credit cards.  Paying the amount in total and on time will greatly benefit you and your credit score.

3 Budgeting Apps to Download Now

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Do you sometimes lose track of your budget plan? We all have bills to pay, finances to record, and savings to track. Taking a vacation or buying our dream car is something that we all want, but it is not always easy to accomplish. However, budgeting is a great way to help you save money and accomplish your long-term goals.

Planning a budget is important when it comes to organizing how much you are spending and saving. Keeping track of your budget continuously helps you remain up to speed with your monthly payments and keeps you on a financially stable path. Although this process can be stressful and tedious, there’s help right at your fingertips.

Here are three FREE apps you can download now to learn how to budget:

1.      Goodbudget Budget Planner: Money & Expense Tracker

This virtual budget program will help you stay organized and keep you on track with the time-tested envelope budgeting method. You just enter your monthly expenses, such as a car payment or rent amount, with a budget cap of how much you’re willing to spend the entire month and Goodbudget will give you a red notification if you over spent or went over your intended monthly budget. At the end of the month, you are also able to see a report of your spending and savings. It even allows you to add transactions every time you spend to show you how much you have left in the budget for a certain bill or expense. Goodbudget teaches you how to be accountable for the monthly and annual goals you set financially.

2.      Mint: Budget, Bills, Finance

With Mint, you can have easy access and management over all your finances in one place. You’re able to see where you stand financially by having your bank accounts, credit cards, bills, and investments all together in one place. It’ll show you how much you’re spending, where you can save money, keep track of your credit score, and even stay on top of your bill payments! The app is also partnered with InTuit, an accounting and tax software, which can later help you with filing your own taxes.

3.      PocketGuard: Personal Finance, Budget, & Bills

PocketGuard allows you to stay on top of your finances and make logical financial decisions that will benefit you and your family. Its “upcoming bills, left to go, and spending limits” features make it easier for you to know ahead of time what expenses are coming. The app also teaches you how to lower your bills and successfully break down your income weekly. PocketGuard can also help you create a savings plan for you to spend safely without going over your limit.

 

Having any of these FREE budget apps on your phone is both beneficial and valuable to your financial life. Everything can be easily accessed on your phone, so you don’t have to worry about loads of receipts and financial statements. Keeping track of your budget performance not only helps you make your payments more efficiently, but will leave you with enough money for the goals that are important to you and your family. 

4 things you can do today to save money

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Saving money can sometimes be the hardest thing to do. But by changing simple habits, small amounts will add up before you know it. You can make these four simple changes in your life to start saving money RIGHT NOW.

 

STOP DINING OUT AND COOK AT HOME.

It’s so easy to grab a quick sandwich from McDonald’s or even a coffee from Dunkin Donuts to get the day going. That $3 sandwich and $2 coffee can easily add up to be $35 a week you can save on just breakfast alone. Lunch and dinner times are the most expensive times in restaurants to dine out. Businesses know that people are too tired to go home to cook. Consumers are used to getting quick and instant food. An average meal with a drink cost anywhere between $10-$25 in restaurants. That’s just ONE serving of food. $10-$15 a day on lunch or dinner can easily be $70-$125 a week you are spending.  One stop at the grocery store spending $70-$125 can give you double or even triple the amount of food. A 64 ounce bag of chicken at Walmart is on average $7. A value meal at Wendy’s is $8. The bag of chicken could last up to a week for dinner portions compared to one day of food from the value meal. Changing this spending habit can not only save you tons of more money, but it can also help you live a healthier lifestyle. Eating just got cheaper!

 

BUY GENERIC BRANDS.

While you’re switching to a healthier lifestyle and healthier eating habits, don’t forget to reduce the amount of how much you’re spending on groceries. You would be surprised at the dollar amount difference you save when ditching a name brand product. Most of the time the upcharge for a product is only because of the name associated with it. Don’t spend more for something that has the EXACT same ingredients in it. Aldi, Save-A-Lot, Ultra Foods, and other discounted priced stores are perfect for being on a budget or saving money. You will get more bang for your buck in the long run. It also doesn’t even have to be just for food. There are generic brands for clothing, medicine, and electronics. The savings are endless.

 

WALK, CARPOOL, OR BIKE.

Gas prices are always fluctuating. Don’t end up on the wrong end of the pump! Walking or bike riding can be more beneficial to your health and to your wallet. Walking or bike riding to work saves money on parking, gas, and repairs to your vehicle. Adjust your time and schedule to riding your bike for the day or walking to that event down the street. Another cool way to save money and have more fun on your way out is to carpool. If someone volunteers to drive or pick you up, ACCEPT THAT OFFER! If a co-worker lives near you and drives the same distance to work, it’s a perfect opportunity to carpool to get to the same location. Achieve a cheaper route by dusting off that old bike or putting on your walking shoes.

 

CANCEL USELESS MEMBERSHIPS/SUBSCRIPTIONS THAT CHARGE A MONTHLY FEE.

Gym memberships are the number one subscription that most consumers have and don’t use. That $20 -$30 amount of money you’re paying for a membership adds up over time without use. Begin working out from home. Use your TV to stream a free work out session on YouTube. You’ll save at least $240 a year in gym membership fees by doing squats and planks at home. Another subscription to cancel is cable TV. Keep your internet plan and purchase a digital media player. AppleTv, Google Chromecast, or even the new Amazon Fire TV Stick can allow you to stream HBO, Netflix, and other shows and movies on your TV by using WiFi. This will not only cut your bill in half but also allow you to only use the resources you need for your entertainment. No more paying for thing that you’re not using.  

 

By following these simple steps to financial savings, you will see an immediate difference in your monthly income. For more tips and advice on saving, be sure to subscribe to receive updates.