Thursday, February 7, 2013

Finance Fridays: Travel

Just returning from a business trip to Chicago made me think of how much more I could have spent while traveling. It is easy to get sucked in all the gift shops, tips to hotel employees, and meals. The most important thing is to stay organized.

Plan the logistics of the trip. If flying, try to avoid driving to your local airport and paying parking fees. If a family member or friend is not available to drive you to the airport, a public bus may get you there. If you have to park at the airport, park in the economy lot. If you are driving, fill up on gas before leaving and avoid stopping unless you need more gas. Stopping at convenience stores or restaurants will entice you to spend more.

Spending on meals can be pricey, especially in a city like Chicago. I purchased crackers and granola bars for the drive and stay so I was not temped by convenience stores. Try to purchase food at restaurants you know are inexpensive.

It is preferred that you tip the valet, bell hop, taxi driver, and room service. A small gesture can go a long way, so a few dollars (less than $5.00 each) is acceptable. A big smile and a strong "thanks" will do.

What tips do you have?


Saturday, February 2, 2013

New Obsession - Country Chic

For the longest time, I thought contemporary interior design was the best. Being a city person, I was never drawn to the country. In fact, I think I went out of my way to avoid a country look. Now, there is just something beautiful and charming about this aesthetic. It speaks to me.

No one does it like Mallory Jane at Hayseed Homemakin'. Very clean and pretty aesthetic. Nothing dirty or dingy about it.

The one who started the design revolution, Shabby Chic. Just look around the site because it speaks for itself.

Finance Fridays: Credit Reports

The first step in understanding your financial health is requesting your three credit bureau reports online at This site, which you can you use once a year for FREE reports, is connected to Experian, Equifax and Transunion. A credit report will display all open, closed and in collections accounts you have.

I cannot stress enough the importance of these reports. Print them and place them in a binder labeled "Credit Reports".

The first time I pulled my free reports, I had a lot of accounts in collections. My debt-to-credit ratio, the amount I owed compared to the amount someone was willing to give me, was bad. What boosts your credit scores, which I'll cover next week, is a good debt-to-credit ratio, as in more credit and less debt.

I have two people in my family with the exact same name - nothing to identify them apart but social security numbers. When they pulled their credit reports, several accounts were crossed. So, we disputed those accounts online through the credit bureaus site (free online to dispute; can also dispute via mail). After some time, the right accounts went to the right person. But, had we not checked, there would have been more problems down the road.

You are judged by banks and other financial institutions by your credit health. Everyone, even apartment leasing offices, pull credit reports. Be vigilant and on top of it because no one else will do it for you.