Lower Monthly Bills with 6 Easy Steps

With the cost of living skyrocketing in most US cities, we have compiled 6 simple ways to lower your monthly bills and increase the extra money in your pocket. With all the money you save we encourage you to pay off your debt or take a family vacation this summer!

Refinance Your Car

Refinancing your car can help your finances in more ways than one. It can lower your interest rate, monthly payment, and the lifetime interest that you will pay over the life of the loan. Refinancing your car can save you an average of $81/month. Consider how the extra money can help you pay off credit card debt, enjoy a summer vacation, or even save for a rainy day.

RateGenius is a nationwide, web-based vehicle refinance company. With more than 150 lenders across the country, we can find you the most competitive vehicle interest rate to refinance your car, truck, or SUV. Apply online and start saving today!

Bundle Auto and Home Insurance

Bundling your auto and home insurance can lead to discounts that may lower your monthly payments by a sizable amount. Don’t own a home? Look for ways to bundle your renters and auto insurance through your auto insurance agency.

If you aren’t looking to bundle, you should also consider reevaluating your current policy. There may be another company out there that can offer the same service at a discounted rate. Why pay more?

Cut back on your Electricity

Every night before bed, turn off lights, fans, and even unplugging or turning off appliances can help you cut back on your usage. Unplugging unnecessary appliances before leaving your home is another way to maintain a lower monthly bill.

Carpool or Use Public Transportation

Leave your car at home and opt for riding the bus or carpooling with co-workers. If you live in a city with ample public transportation, take advantage of it and save yourself from the rush hour traffic frustration. Ask co-workers who live near you to meet a few days a week at a close location and rotate driving each other. This will help you save gas, mileage, and potential wear and tear on your car.

Cancel Your Gym Membership

With summer just around the corner, this is the perfect time to drop your gym membership and opt for outdoor or in-home workouts. Soak up some sun on a brisk walk or run and end with lunges, squats, and arm exercises for a well-rounded workout! Too hit where you live? No worries, pick up a cardio or yoga video at your local grocery store and get moving!

Cook at Home

Preparing meals at home can save you time and calories! Meal prepping helps to plan your meals in advance and is a great way to ensure you have food when you need it. Treat yourself to your favorite restaurant once a week, but cut back throughout the week by making simple and delicious meals at home.

Find us on Facebook and tell us how you are saving money this month!

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4 Ways to Shop for Less

Several people holding shopping bags

Let’s face it, spending money is fun for us, but can be dangerous for our bank accounts. We are weighing in on some ways to spend less money without losing the thrill of shopping!

Subscription Services
Subscription services have taken the world by storm. Today, you can go online and sign up for a TV subscription like Netflix or Hulu and music subscriptions like Spotify or Tidal. Gone are the days of CD and DVD purchases. Maybe we are all better for it. Think about it, to purchase one CD, you will pay at least $12. Now, you can listen to thousands of CDs and custom playlists for as little as $10/month. Subscription services offer us much more than music and movies at our fingertips, it gives us access to the world at a minimal cost.

Beauty subscription services allow you to test new products that you may not purchase on your own. Monthly boxes that are delivered to your door can range from perfume and make-up to socks and clothes. Check out some of 2016’s hottest subscription boxes:

Dollar Stores
Sure, there are some items that should not be purchased at the dollar store. But many of the items are the same products that are sold in your local grocery store. Some items to stay away from include; toys, batteries, detergent, and tools. Consider purchasing cleaning supplies, bread, coloring books, and spices the next time you visit the dollar store. Also, if you are the party coordinator at your office, this is a cheap way to stock up on party supplies, balloons, and greeting cards.

Thrift Shopping
Thrift stores offer customers the opportunity to buy gently used and sometimes new items at a fraction of the cost. Most thrift stores offer clothing, toys, furniture, shoes, and more. Some local thrift stores will even offer you a Sunday discount if you spend a certain amount during the week. Shop til’ you drop friends!

Garage Sales
If you have the time to peruse garage sales, you are in for a treat. Garage sales are perfect because many times, people are selling quality items that they have just outgrown or no longer need. You can find treasures at the right garage sale, so be sure to pay attention to yard signs and neighborhood garage sales. Be on the lookout for formal attire, art, exercise equipment, and jewelry. Take the time to strike up a deal and you could walk away a winner!

Leave us a note and tell us how you are getting the most bang for your buck!

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Developing Refinance Guidelines that Work

Car (automobile) insurance and collision damage waiver concepts. Businessman with protective gesture and icon of car.

As auto refinance has gained popularity in the last few years, lenders are realizing these portfolios perform 2 to 3 times better than a standard indirect program and are asking, how do we acquire more?

Reevaluating lending guidelines, relaxing credit minimums, and allowing for higher loan-to-value gives credit unions more opportunity to bring on new borrowers. Managing pre-determined performance metrics—delinquencies, charge-offs, and yield—is the key to ensuring that your program stays on track long term.

When taking on new borrowers, credit unions typically want to see two years of credit history and prefer borrowers who are in higher credit tiers. If a potential borrower has a solid payment history, exception to standard underwriting guidelines should be considered. When considering exceptions for capacity ratios like debt-to-income it’s important to note that you’re placing the borrower in a better financial position by refinancing their loan so the likelihood that the loan will perform well is high.

Flexibility with higher loan-to-value (LTV) ratios is an essential part of running an auto refinance program. Higher LTVs are common with refinanced auto loans as the borrower may have purchased the car at a higher interest rate, causing minimal dent in the principal loan balance. Higher LTV’s may also be a result of vehicles depreciating at a higher rate because borrowers have rolled in negative equity and back end products to their original purchase. Use this to your advantage. Those who owe more on their auto loans are less likely to pay off their loans early. These borrowers will stay on your books longer and make your program more profitable.

Additionally, many institutions have strict LTV ratios due to the fear of total loss. However, backend products such as GAP and Vehicle Service Contracts can actually help protect your institution from a loss. While the loan balance may be greater, your institution is now protected from a car that is a total loss, or a consumer who would normally stop paying due to unexpected car repairs.

With proper guidelines in place, lenders are in the position to scale their auto refinance program to maximum profitability. Developing these guidelines is an important step to creating a profitable program.

Auto Refinance Best Practices in Action

Credit unions looking to grow their auto refinance program and increase profitability should develop a realistic plan to implement these best practices. Partnering with rateGenius is a simple and effective way to ensure refinance program success.

RateGenius provides end-to-end auto refinance services for its nationwide lender network. The company offers a high-touch and efficient loan fulfillment process that provides lenders with complete and consistent document packages, as well as guaranteed title work. RateGenuis allows its lender network to maintain full control of their underwriting guidelines.

With its full service marketing service, RateGenius brings new members to its lenders, creating more opportunities to cross-sell. This service helps lenders increase share of wallet with current members by recapturing their auto loans, and promoting additional products, such as credit cards or mortgage offers.

To learn how you can develop an auto refinance program that adheres to industry best practices, contact lenders@rategenius.com or call 866-413-5976.

About rateGenius

RateGenius is a nationwide web-based vehicle refinance loan broker. With more than 150 competitive lenders, rateGenius can find customers the most competitive vehicle interest rate to refinance their loans on cars, trucks, SUVs and specialty vehicles, such as RVs and motorcycles. Visit www.rategenius.com to learn more.

5 Ways to Establish or Repair Your Credit This Year

Credit Report concept formula on a chalkboard

Understanding the countless factors that affect your credit score can seem overwhelming. The only way to improve or establish your credit score is to start making small changes today.

Secured credit cards
Do you have as little as $500 available in your savings account? We suggest putting that amount in a secured loan or credit card. A secured account means that you are borrowing against your own money. This helps to establish payment history and can help combat negative credit history. Generally, these accounts have very low interest rates. Make sure you send at least 6 on-time payments to make a difference. Ask your credit union how to get started with a secured account now.

Pay everything on time
Paying your bills on time increases your creditworthiness and reflects a good payment history, which is important to creditors. If you have a low credit score, your goal is to take positive strides in increasing your credit score over time.

Reduce balances on credit cards
Avoid maintaining high balances on your credit cards, as it can significantly reduce your credit score. Minimize the accounts you apply for and do not close any accounts while in the process of paying off your debt. Making your payments on time and paying above the minimum payment are all ways to show positive change on your credit report.

Keep in touch with creditors
It is important to keep in touch with creditors when you are making late payments. Giving a promise-to-pay can sometimes keep them from reporting negative activity. Sure, you may not want to answer their calls, but explaining your situation and providing them with a payment date can make all the difference.

Create a payoff schedule
List out your debt balances and interest rates to help create a payoff schedule. Start with the highest interest rates and focus on paying off one balance at a time. To do this, you will want to make the minimum payments on all balances, except the one you are working on. After you pay off the first one, you can move on to the next debt. Remember to focus on line of credit accounts first, such as; credit cards, personal loans, etc. Save the car and student loans for later as they generally carry a lower interest rates.

Rebuilding and establishing your credit takes time and patience. The best way to stay on top of changes to your credit report and address any issues that may arise is to request your annual free credit report . Refinancing your auto loan can also lower your monthly payment to make extra money available to pay off credit card debt quickly.

RateGenius is a nationwide, web-based vehicle refinance loan broker. With more than 150 lenders across the country, rateGenius can find you the most competitive vehicle interest rate to refinance your car, truck, or SUV.

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How to Plan Your Summer Vacation on a Budget

Beach-fam

Summer is just around the corner, and we encourage you to see the world. Don’t let your pocketbook ruin your vacation plans. Follow these guidelines for a fun and budget friendly family vacation.

Know the best time to buy
Knowing the best times to buy can save you hundreds! Tuesday mornings tend to be the best time to purchase tickets for most airlines. If you’d like to guarantee an upgraded suite or business class flight, you should book your vacation in advance. If you are open to standard accommodations, you should follow rate trends and purchase a bit closer to your trip.

Travel in groups
Plan a vacation with your closest friends and/or family members and you all can save big this year. If you plan on driving, gather 3-4 of your closest friends and split the car rental and hotel or condo accommodations. Everyone saves and you all create new memories together!

Use rewards points or miles
If you are planning your trip in advance, enroll in a rewards program and save them to purchase a flight or use them towards car rentals or hotel stays. You can save points for as long as needed, just be sure not to cash out before your big trip!

Cruise the open sea
Cruise deals are out there for you to find! Food, drinks, and entertainment are all at your fingertips 24/7. Taste dishes you wouldn’t try at home, sunbathe on the deck, or catch a show in one of the ballrooms before a night cap. During certain times of the year, you can find a killer deal for a 3-7 night cruise. Visit an exotic island and spend the day in the sun. Use this as an opportunity to scout a location for your next land visit.

Skip the hotel, find a condo
While there are many luxuries that accompany hotel rooms, the condo seems to be the best bang for your buck. Sometimes these are apartments or homes that are rented out on sites like Homeaway or Airbnb while others may be part of a timeshare network. Either way, do your research and plan to enjoy a lower rate for a week long stay!

Find low-cost entertainment
If our family enjoys learning history, you can enjoy museums for little or no entry fee in most cities. If you are near the coast, find a public beach and relax while the kids play in the water. Is there a park nearby? Stop by the store and pick up some snacks and a frisbee or kite and enjoy a picnic. Everyone can appreciate low cost quality time with loved ones!

Where do you plan to vacation this summer? Share your story in the comments or on our Facebook Page.

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Credit Union Perks That You May Not Know About

There are many reasons to choose a credit union to help you achieve your financial goals, but did you know about the unpublicized perks that can make your life easier? Follow along as we give you the scoop.

Shared Branching
With changes in technology, you can now access your local credit union account while traveling across the US. Need to deposit money while on vacation? Ask your credit union if they participate and you can start enjoying the perks today.

Use cash back cards
Cash back or point rewards debit cards are the newest way to make your money work for you. Ask your financial institution if they offer a debit card that pays you for swiping and signing. Be sure to look out for monthly fees and restrictions.

Mobile banking and online check deposits
If you are one of many Americans that still receives a paper check; mobile check deposits are sure to be a game changer for you. You can snap an image of your check with your smartphone, check your balances, and use the saved time to focus on the things that matter most to you.

Free Financial Education
Many credit unions offer monthly or quarterly financial education classes for their members. Find a credit union near you and start learning about mortgage loans, credit score tips, and much more.

Free Shred Days
Credit Unions host these shred days to protect their members’ personal information and teach the importance of shredding important documents instead of throwing them in the trash. Remember to help prevent identity theft, never throw away any document that has any of your personal information such as; social security number, credit card numbers, phone number, etc.

Savings accounts for kids
In many cases, you can open a savings account for your child for a low minimum deposit. This is a great way to teach your children about money and save for their future expenses. Many times you can even set restrictions on withdrawals to ensure the money is available when they need it.

Coin counting machines
If you are saving your pocket change as we suggested in [5 effortless ways to save money] you will find this perk very useful. After you have collected your coins for a few months, take them to your local branch and cash them in with little to no fees.

We’d love to hear from you! Is your credit union making the cut? Let us know.

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GAP Insurance: Protecting Yourself During a Crisis

Guaranteed Asset Protection, better known as GAP insurance, is an optional insurance coverage that activates in the event your vehicle is totaled.

What does this mean for you?

Suppose you find the car of your dreams. It’s fully loaded with all of the bells and whistles you could ever imagine. Now envision a treea large treefalling on your car during a thunderstorm. No worries, you just call your insurance company to start what you are sure will be a seamless process with your full coverage insurance coverage. The adjuster arrives a few days later to examine the damage and to your dismay, deems your car a total loss.

Now, let’s say your loan balance with the bank is $15,000. The insurance company calls to inform you that they can only pay the actual cash value of the car which is $13,000. ACV—actual cash value—is the cost of your car when it was new, with deductions for the mileage, car age, physical condition, and other varying factors.

How does that happen?

There are many reasons why the ACV and loan balance can be different. We’ve named a few for easy reference:

  • Little or no down payment at the time of purchase
  • Vehicle depreciated quickly
  • High interest rates caused the majority of payments to go towards interest instead of principal
  • High mileage caused by exceeding the average miles per year

That can’t be right, can it?

The insurance company is only required to pay the ACV of the car, not the value of your car loan. Without a GAP policy you will be required to pay the difference; and in this case that would be $2,000. Who wants to pay for a car they cannot drive? Our guess: No one.

In walks your GAP insurance policy. It will pay the difference between the loan balance and the ACV up to a certain percentage. Some lenders require GAP insurance on your loan, while most do not. It is in your best interest to consider adding GAP insurance to your next new car loan or refinance.

Can I add GAP insurance if I already have a loan?

Yes! In most cases you can simply refinance your current loan and add GAP insurance to the new loan. In the process, you may even find a lower interest rate that can help protect you from being upside-down on your car and lower your monthly payments!

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5 Effortless Ways to Save Money

Studies show that over 70% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Saving money can seem impossible if you are barely making ends meet, but it is possible. Follow these simple tricks that will help put money back in your bank account and prepare you for unexpected expenses.

Piggy Banks
Remember when we talked about how to create a budget and using cash to track your spending? Following that advice, you can simply put the change from each purchase into your piggy bank at the end of each day. Perhaps some of us are a little too old for piggy banks, but it doesn’t matter how you store it. Save for a month or a year and then buy yourself something nice, or pay off a small bill.

Cash back accounts
Some financial institutions have created checking accounts that deposit a set amount into your savings account every time you swipe your debit card. Think about it; you swipe your card for a $10 movie ticket and magically a $2 deposit shows up in your savings account! The amount you save is up to you, call your financial institution and you can have this set-up in less than a week.

Two words: Rewards Programs!
There are so many rewards programs that give you points or cash back for using their loyalty program. This is a great way to pay yourself for services you are already using. I have listed some of my favorite programs below:

Pay yourself first
On your payday, set an automatic transfer that will deposit a set amount to your savings account. Once your deposit comes in, your bank will automatically transfer the amount your request into your savings. This is a great way to ensure you are considering your future and any emergencies that may come up without ever seeing the money in your account. If money is tight, begin with $10 and work your way up every few months. Imagine how nice it would be to see an extra $1,200 in your savings account at the end of the year.

Minimize dining out
Schedule the days you will eat out and try to stick to it. If you dine out 4 days a week, cut back to two. You can also try to pack your lunch during the week and prepare your meals in advance. Meal prepping is good for your wallet and your figure.

Tell us how you save money, we’d love to hear from you!

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Understanding Pre-qualifications and Pre-approvals

Young Couple Signs a Contract For the Purchase of a New Car

Have you ever gotten a letter in the mail that says you are pre-qualified for a new or used auto loan and thought that it meant you were approved and ready to start car shopping?

We have all received these letters at some point in our lives. It is important to know what this means and what steps should be taken to get the loan application completed.

What is a pre-qualification?

Pre-qualification is the possibility of approval given a set of unverified information. Loan pre-qualification is not a full analysis of your credit report. Instead, it is an assumption that based on information provided regarding your approximate credit score and income, you could meet lending guidelines.

There is no hard inquiry on your credit for a pre-qualification. Therefore, if you want to apply for a loan your approval will be required to run your credit and establish creditworthiness.

What is a pre-approval?

A pre-approval is the most accurate at establishing your credit worthiness. The lender will analyze the information you provide regarding your income, residency, and your credit history according to your credit report. There will be a hard inquiry on your credit for a pre-approval and your consent is necessary.

Many times, a pre-approval letter that you can take to a dealership will be provided if the financial institution has indeed reviewed and approved your credit report.

A pre-approval may fall through if, for example, the car you wish to purchase is actually worth less than the loan amount requested. It is important to talk to your lender while you are shopping for a car to ensure you are purchasing a car that is priced relative to its value.

Remember, neither a pre-qualification or a pre-approval is a guaranteed loan offer.

We would love to hear from you, share your experiences with us!

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6 Tips to Create a Successful Budget

The new year is in full swing, but it is not too late to start your 2016 budget! Grab a pen and paper so we can review some tips to create your best budget today.

Analyze current spending

Take anywhere between a week and a month to track your spending trends. An easy way to do this would be to use the same debit or credit card to pay for everything you purchase and analyze the statement to find areas to cut back. This can often be eye opening to how much money you spend on coffee, lunch, or entertainment. Use this as a basis for tip #3.

Money in, Money out

The most important step in creating a budget is simply to establish how much you make and how much you spend. Write down your income and subtract all of your recurring expenses to identify your bottom line. When looking at this number, make sure you are living within your means.

Bills have evolved into much more than mortgage and car payments. We’ve compiled a list of common monthly expenses that you should not forget to include:

List your priorities and make cuts

After analyzing your spending, as tip #1 suggests, you should prioritize your needs and identify your wants. Treat yourself to a coffee or a danish for breakfast, but be mindful of how you are spending your hard-earned cash. Give yourself an entertainment allowance that will give you the freedom to enjoy some of the things you love, but the discipline to not overindulge.

You should have an emergency fund and a savings account

An emergency fund is not the same as a savings account. An emergency fund should be used to save for a rainy day. If you have car repairs or medicine that you need to purchase, use your emergency fund.

A savings account should be considered an account that you do not withdraw from unless absolutely necessary. It can be used for a mortgage down payment or a medical emergency, but should not be used for everyday emergencies.

Build up your emergency fund and then begin to add small amounts to your savings account.

Leave your debit card at home

This is 2016, there is no way we could ask you to use cash, right? Wrong. Cash is the easiest way to make better purchase decisions. If you are handing $40 to the cashier, does it feel different than swiping your card? Well, it is. Swiping your card makes money seem endless, while handing someone cash immediately triggers the reality of how much is left.

You should be safe and never carry too much cash or pull out a stack of bills in public.

Live your life

Yes, it’s important to save money and pay all of your bills on time, but you should never forget to live your life! There will come a time when you have spent all of your fun money for the week, but then a friend you haven’t seen in a while comes into town. What to do? Go and see your friend! Spend wisely, but enjoy your time with loved ones. We spend so many hours working that we can forget to spend time with the ones we love most.

A budget should not restrict your life, it should enhance it. So, write your budget, allow for hiccups, and let us know how you are getting closer to your financial goals this year!

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