Why Payday Loans Don’t Make Financial Sense

Life happens. The washing machine dies in the middle of a load, or you discover that your last visit to urgent care wasn’t covered by insurance. It’s not always possible to pay for these surprise expenses on the spot. This is when payday loans may become tempting. Here’s what you need to know about payday loans and why they shouldn’t be part of your financial strategy.

Life happens. The washing machine dies in the middle of a load, or you discover that your last visit to urgent care wasn’t covered by insurance. It’s not always possible to pay for these surprise expenses on the spot. This is when payday loans may become tempting.

Here’s what you need to know about payday loans and why they shouldn’t be part of your financial strategy.

What’s a payday loan?

Payday loans are small, short-term loans, often of $500 or less. They’re usually due within two weeks, or on your next payday. Many borrowers choose them because they’re so easy to get: Lenders don’t require collateral and rarely run credit checks. But you will pay for the convenience.

Most lenders charge a fee of $15 per $100 borrowed, according to a study done by the Pew Charitable Trusts. To be approved, you must allow the lender access to your checking account or submit a post-dated check for the amount you’re borrowing, plus the fees.

What’s so terrible about 15%?

Maybe you’re wondering what the big deal is: 15% sounds comparable to credit card interest. With payday loans, though, that 15% is due by your next payday, making your annualized interest rate almost 400%. If you can pay it back on time, one payday loan won’t bankrupt you, but if you don’t have that cash in two weeks, you can easily get trapped in costly ongoing debt.

In fact, more than 80% of payday loans are renewed or followed by another loan, with the borrower paying additional fees. This creates a vicious cycle of debt for those who can least afford it.

Statistically, people who take out payday loans are more likely to have relatively low incomes and long-term cash flow challenges.

Are there alternatives?

Payday loans are a bad deal, and if you need fast cash, you often have better options:

• Church-backed loans: Your church, temple, synagogue or mosque might offer small, low-interest emergency loans.
Life insurance loans: You might be able to borrow against an existing cash-value policy at low interest. You have your whole life to pay back these loans.
• Family/friend loans: Someone close to you might be willing to help.
• Payroll advances: Your employer might offer a cash advance on your salary.
• Personal loans: These installment loans are available through credit unions, banks and lending companies. They generally have fixed interest rates, don’t require collateral and provide comfortable repayment terms.
• Retirement accounts: The government allows you to withdraw funds from your IRA or 401(k) penalty-free, provided you put the money back within 60 days. This option only makes sense if you’re absolutely sure you can pay it back in time.
• Account or credit card advance: Your bank, credit union or credit card company might provide cash advances. Interest rates tend to be high, but are still lower than those for payday loans.
• Peer-to-peer lending: These online loans usually have high interest rates, but they’re also more affordable than payday loans.

Expenses often pop up at the worst possible times, but you don’t need a payday loan to bail you out. By exploring more affordable alternatives, you really can make it through today without stepping all over tomorrow.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

YToxOntzOjE3OiJ0cmlnZ2VyX3JldmlzaW9ucyI7czoxOiIxIjt9

Take advantage of the My Rewards™ platinum debit card and gain access to convenient short term loans!|fa-money|792|Short-Term Loans|1

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Internship

Internships give students the opportunity to explore career paths, get resume-building experience and show a company what they can do. Nailing an internship can also be the difference between struggling to find a job or sailing straight into one when you graduate. Use these five tips to get your employer’s attention during your internship so you’re first on their list when an entry-level job opens up.

Kristen Purdy studies environmental science at Portland State University, but her coursework alone didn’t inspire her to pursue a career in sustainability. She’s also done four environmental services-related internships in the past three years.

“My internships and my work experience have been so closely related to my career goals that they’re almost as important as the education itself,” says Purdy, 21.

Internships give students like Purdy the opportunity to explore career paths, get resume-building experience and show a company what they can do. Nailing an internship can also be the difference between struggling to find a job or sailing straight into one when you graduate: More than 70% of employers said their primary goal in bringing on an intern was to hire them as a full-time, entry-level employee once the internship ended, according to a 2015 report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Use these five tips to get your employer’s attention during your internship so you’re first on their list when an entry-level job opens up.

1. Be realistic about how much you can take on.

Internships are often less competitive during the school year than over the summer, and you can try out different companies if you work your fall or spring semesters in addition to summer break.

But if you overcommit yourself, both your work at your internship and your GPA could suffer, says Taren Crow, director of liberal arts and sciences career services at Iowa State University.

“You really need to look at your course load and make sure that it’s manageable, maybe even speaking with your instructors before the semester starts,” she says.

You also need to consider your financial limitations as well, such as whether you can afford to take an unpaid internship. They’re especially prevalent in fields such as journalism, nonprofit management and entertainment, though it’s not feasible for everyone to work for free.

“In some industries it is really common, and it is the best way to get your foot in the door. But see if you can negotiate a little less time in the internship,” Crow says. If you’re offered an unpaid internship that requires a commitment of 40 hours a week, for instance, ask your employer if you can cut it down to one or two days. That way, you can make money elsewhere to cover living expenses.

2. Treat a challenging project as a way to test yourself.

This summer Purdy was an intern at Recology, a San Francisco-based recycling and waste management company. She learned about supply management and resource recovery, which includes recycling residential and commercial materials and debris. The field was new to her, and so were the projects she worked on.

“I was actually doing stuff that involves web design, which is totally not my field,” she says. But she stayed confident and enthusiastic, and she viewed her internship as a way to learn what she was capable of.

“I’m like, ‘OK, this is three months, I’ve got a mentor, I’m supported.’ But at the same time, I can kind of test myself.”

Getting thrown into a new environment without much experience can be scary, but internships are ideal places for you to try a new skill or role without the weight of a class grade on your shoulders. And when you show your employer that you’re willing to take on every project with positivity, no matter how big or small, you’ll demonstrate how valuable you’d be as a full-time employee.

3. Meet with your supervisor regularly.

Some internships are highly structured and build regular check-ins with supervisors into the experience. But if your internship is less organized, it’s up to you to seek feedback. That will not only help you improve your work while you’re there, but you’ll show you’re thoughtful and eager to progress in your field.

A strong relationship with your supervisor and co-workers also means you’re more likely to be considered when a job becomes available. When you build a friendly rapport with others, they’ll remember you’re someone they’d want to work with again.

“It’s good to make sure that you really meet people while you’re there so you have people to go to bat for you when they may be making a hiring decision,” Crow says.

4. Let your boss know you’re interested in a job.

If you loved your internship and want to work at the company in the future, tell your boss before you leave. It might seem direct, but it’s worth putting yourself on your boss’s radar while you’re still at the company.

“Your supervisor can’t read your mind, and so they may not know that you’re even interested in that,” Crow says.

As your internship is concluding, she recommends telling your supervisor: “I really enjoyed my experience here and I’m hoping I could be eventually hired full-time. Are there any opportunities I could be considered for?” Let your supervisor know when you’ll graduate, and if it’s more than a few semesters away, tell him or her that you’ll follow up as the date gets closer.

5. Keep in touch when your internship ends.

Former internship supervisors and colleagues are hugely valuable members of your professional network. They know your work and can vouch for you not only for jobs at their company, but also when you apply to other companies, too.

Purdy got a letter of recommendation for her Recology internship from a former supervisor at the electric-car advocacy organization Drive Oregon, where she interned her sophomore year. She also emails her former bosses a few times a year to let them know what she’s doing as she progresses in school.

“They really like that. I get lots of good emails back,” she says. “I can’t wait til someday when I’m older and I start getting those warm, fuzzy emails from students that I’ve mentored.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published at USA Today.

 

6 Smart Ways to Travel Cheaply

Memorable vacations can come with a price tag you’d rather forget. But with proper planning, smart research and a flexible attitude, you can travel cheaply and still have an experience worth remembering. Here’s how.

Memorable vacations can come with a price tag you’d rather forget. But with proper planning, smart research and a flexible attitude, you can travel cheaply and still have an experience worth remembering. Here’s how.

1. Cut transportation costs

Before planning your trip, have a rough budget in mind. A vacation calculator can help. If you know how much you’re willing to spend on airfare, this map can give you ideas for destinations that are within your budget.

Traveling cheaply isn’t just about cutting costs — it’s also about getting the most out of what you spend. You may discover, for example, that the $400 you thought could pay only for a flight within the U.S. can actually take you to Paris and back.

If your travel dates are flexible, you may find an even bigger selection of places you can afford to visit. If you’ve already picked a destination, changing the departure dates could lower your airfare.

Setting up alerts for when prices drop should also be a part of your strategy. Try apps such as Yapta or Hopper, which will send you price notifications on flights you’re tracking. (Booking fees may apply.) You can also follow Twitter handles like @theflightdeal or @FareDealAlert for limited-time deals. If you find a price you like, scrutinize the airline’s baggage policy before booking. Some offer cheaper ticket prices, but have strict carry-on requirements or tack on sizable fees for overweight and oversized luggage.

If your destination is within driving distance, consider hopping in a car instead of on a plane. Use a trip calculator, like this one, to make sure it’s worth the tradeoff. Add in the cost of renting a car, if necessary.

2. Compare lodging options

Finding a cheap hotel room can be tricky and takes a bit of effort. Start by shopping around on sites like Expedia, Priceline.com and Kayak to find hotels in the area, and then search for hotel promotion codes online. Contact hotels directly to negotiate a lower price. Also consider staying in a hotel outside the center of the city and looking for last-minute deals.

If you’re open to alternatives, skip the hotel and book a room through a site like Airbnb, Homeaway and OneFineStay. Not only could those be more affordable, but often you’ll stay with a local resident who can point you to cheap restaurants and activities that aren’t in travel guides. Hostels can also be a money-saver if you’re OK with bare-bones accommodations and potentially sharing a room. Keep in mind that they may have age restrictions.

3. Eat wisely (and not just healthy)

Many travelers underestimate the costs of meals, snacks and tips, says guidebook author James Kaiser. He advises bringing your own food or buying it at a store when you arrive at your destination to save money.

That doesn’t mean you have to skip restaurants altogether and haul groceries around. Dining out is one of the most enjoyable parts of travel. The trick is knowing when to indulge and when to save.

Start by looking at your itinerary. Break down your meals each day and identify the times you want to splurge. Then look for ways to save money on the other meals. For example, you can avoid inflated prices at the airport by bringing food and an empty water bottle that you can fill once you’re past security (passengers are prohibited from bringing more than 3.4 ounces of liquids, per container, in carry-on bags at U.S. airports). For breakfast, pack energy bars so you can save time and money in the mornings.

Your spending will likely fluctuate from day to day, so remember to adjust your budget to avoid overspending.

4. Research your currency options

If you’re traveling abroad, find out if the country you’re visiting is plastic-friendly. If so, a debit or credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees could be your best bet. Otherwise, research your currency exchange options to avoid the poor rates and numerous fees common at airport kiosks. Those will shrink your vacation fund before you’ve even had the chance to unpack.

Visiting your bank or credit union to exchange money before you leave may be the best option. Assuming it has that currency, you’ll likely get better exchange rates and lower fees. And, just in case you end up needing more cash once you’re abroad, ask if your financial institution has international branches or a partnership with a bank overseas. If so, you may be able to withdraw cash from those ATMs with low or no fees.

5. Get a prepaid phone or SIM card

A cell phone can be useful for navigating new cities, as well as staying connected to travel companions and life back home. But for international travelers, it may also come with data roaming fees. You’d save the most money by ditching the phone during your trip, but that may not be realistic. Your best option will likely be buying a prepaid phone once you arrive or having your carrier unlock your phone, if possible, so you can use a foreign SIM card when you land.

6. Keep souvenir spending in check

Like everything else, set a budget for souvenirs. Also consider doing some research on the best souvenirs and shops, so you’ll have a sense of what you might buy and the prices to expect.

If you find yourself on the verge of an impulse purchase, try an abbreviated version of the 72-hour shopping rule, in which you put off buying something for three days to see if you still want it. That amount of time is probably impractical when you’re on vacation, but if your schedule allows you to return to the store the next day or even later that same day, you may find that you can easily live without that $150 wool sweater from Iceland. You were only going to wear it once, anyway.

Article originally appeared on NerdWallet.

 

Top 5 Things to Do About Your Student Loans After Graduation

Your student loans are easy to forget about when you’re busy celebrating college graduation, looking for a job and perhaps preparing to move to a new city. But the summer after graduating is the perfect time to take charge of your loan payments and create your personal action plan to get out of debt.

Your student loans are easy to forget about when you’re busy celebrating college graduation, looking for a job and perhaps preparing to move to a new city. But the summer after graduating is the perfect time to take charge of your loan payments and create your personal action plan to get out of debt.

“Whatever debt you have, don’t treat it as a friend you have around,” says Phil Schuman, director of financial literacy at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. “You should be mad at it. You should be doing everything you possibly can to get rid of it as fast as possible.”

Follow this five-step plan to understand, streamline and attack your loans, starting now.

1. Know your loans inside and out

Before you can manage your debt, you’ll need to understand how much you have to repay. Log in to the National Student Loan Data System to review the federal student loans you’ve taken out. Create a Federal Student Aid ID to log in if you don’t already have one.

There you’ll see a list of your loans and what date they were disbursed, the amount that’s left to repay (known as the “outstanding principal”) and the interest that’s already accrued. Click on the number of each loan in the left-hand column to view each loan’s interest rate and the name and phone number of its current servicer, or the company that manages the loan on behalf of the federal government.

If you have private loans, the financial institution that lent them to you (Discover, Wells Fargo or Citibank, for example) keeps track of your loan information. Make sure the lender has your current email and snail-mail address on file so they can send you all the updates you’ll need as repayment inches closer.

2. Talk to your loan servicer

Once you know what loans you’ll have to pay off, learn about your repayment options the old-fashioned way: Call your servicer. That’s the company that either lent you the money or that is now contracting with the federal government to manage your loans.

In many cases, your servicer will automatically place you on a 10-year standard repayment plan, which is one of the fastest ways to pay off your loans. If you have a lot of debt but not a lot of income, this could mean your payments are tough to make initially. For federal loans, you’ll usually have a post-graduation grace period of about six months before repayment begins — sometimes less for private loans. Take time at the start of your grace period to build a comprehensive understanding of your loans before you start paying them off.

Make a list of questions to ask your servicer so you understand the basics:

When is my first payment due?
Where do I send it?
How much will I owe per month on my current repayment plan?
What other repayment options do I qualify for?
How do I switch repayment plans?
Are discounts available if I sign up for automatic debit or take advantage of other repayment features?

Take detailed notes and keep them in a specific folder, either in Google Drive or in a physical place where you also store mail your loan servicer sends you. It’ll be easier to keep track of your loan details if you stay organized and do your best not to get overwhelmed.

3. Pick the right repayment plan for you

Now comes one of the most important parts of managing your loans: deciding how you’ll pay them off. Federal loans have some options to choose from beyond standard repayment, including income-driven plans that take into account how much you earn after graduation. There’s also the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for graduates who work in the public interest, which will make your remaining loan balance disappear after 120 on-time payments on your federal loans.

“The nice thing about federal loans is it’s very consistent as to how it operates,” Schuman says.

Plug in your loan and income information using the Federal Student Aid website’s Repayment Estimator to see how much you’ll pay per month on each plan. If your loans will be more manageable on a graduated, extended or income-driven repayment plan, call your servicer and ask for more information about your eligibility.

Private loans work differently. Private companies aren’t required to offer specific alternative repayment options to borrowers like the government does, but various lenders may work with you to provide an interest rate reduction, extended repayment plan or a longer grace period if you foresee having trouble repaying your loans. Your best bet is to call your lender before any payments are due to discuss your options.

4. If you can, start paying during your grace period

With your long-term repayment plan squared away, consider ways to start bringing your debt down now, Schuman says.

“Don’t let the lending company tell you when you should start paying back your loans,” he says.

If you have the means during your grace period, you could make a one-time payment toward the interest that accrued on your loans while you were in school before it capitalizes, or is added to your loan balance. Another, more powerful option is to start making payments toward your principal as soon as you graduate, while you’re technically in your grace period. If you ignore your student loans for six months after graduation you’ll get used to having more money in your checking account than you will once repayment begins, Schuman says.

“You’re getting the opportunity to develop six months of bad habits,” he says.

It’s important to note that if you start paying off your loans during your grace period, you should ask your servicer to apply your additional payments directly to your principal instead of toward a future monthly payment. That will ensure that the extra you pay brings your balance down faster.

5. Treat your loan like another monthly bill

Repaying your loans isn’t optional: It’s absolutely necessary for your financial well-being. Missing payments and eventually going into default has serious consequences, so you should think of your loan payments as just one more monthly cost that you budget for.

Sign up for automatic debit so your payment comes directly out of your bank account, the way you may already pay your electricity or cell phone bill, Schuman says.

Once you’re used to making regular payments, you can also start to be strategic about which loans you pay off. You can apply extra money to high-interest loans so you don’t accrue big interest charges, which can make it seem like your loan balance hardly decreases. Or you can completely pay off smaller loans’ balances when you’re able to, which Schuman calls the “momentum method.” That can feel rewarding psychologically, he says, encouraging you to keep making extra payments so more loans disappear. Make sure your servicer knows which loan you want to apply additional payments to.

No matter how you do it, repaying your loans should be a top priority when you graduate. Pay them off smartly and strategically, and soon they’ll be off your plate and in your past.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published at USA Today.

 

How to Avoid Pay Day Loan Fraud

The bank has noticed an upswing in this type of fraud and would like to help educate our customers as to how this occurs, and what you can do to protect yourself or a loved one from such a scam.

“Pay day” loan fraud is a new trend our bank is seeing where customers apply online for a loan, and as part of the application process, are instructed to enter the online banking ID and password for their financial institution.  Applicants are also asked for the answers to their online banking security questions. The bank has noticed an upswing in this type of fraud and would like to help educate our customers as to how this occurs, and what you can do to protect yourself or a loved one from such a scam.

Once a person enters their banking information into the online application, the unknown fraudster then enrolls in mobile banking on behalf of the applicant, submitting fraudulent checks for deposit through the bank’s mobile app. When the customer comes into the bank to receive their “pay day” funds, they are struck with returned checks that are fraudulent.

Customers applying for loans online that share their sensitive information are not taking into consideration that they have given scammers direct access to their checkbook, including the ability to issue checks from the bill pay feature of online banking.

It is never wise to share online banking credentials! In these cases, an applicant can unknowingly become a criminal suspect themselves as they are referred to as “money mules”, participating in moving money fraudulently. The applicant must then bear the burden of proving that they did not willingly engage in fraudulent activity often involving the police.

When enrolling in online banking, be sure to never share a banking ID, password, or security questions and answers with anyone. A reputable lender will never ask for that information. By following these guidelines, one can avoid a significant loss through a scam.

 

Best Ways to Fund Spring Home Repairs

Now that spring has blossomed into full-on allergy mode, the time we spend outside is even more appreciated — especially with the help of a good antihistamine. The next time you venture out, take a moment to do a walk-around inspection of the old homestead. See some room for improvements? Maintaining, repairing and upgrading a home can range in cost from a minor trickle to a major cash drain.

Now that spring has blossomed into full-on allergy mode, the time we spend outside is even more appreciated — especially with the help of a good antihistamine. The next time you venture out, take a moment to do a walk-around inspection of the old homestead. See some room for improvements? Maintaining, repairing and upgrading a home can range in cost from a minor trickle to a major cash drain.

Paying for minor repairs

If you see the need for only modest repairs, you might be able to tackle them within the bounds of your cash flow. But remember, your emergency fund is best left intact for unexpected cash needs, not for replacing a gutter or downspout.

If you have a bit of a cash cushion in your checking account or in a contingency savings account, small home projects can be covered with your close-at-hand liquidity, even if it means a temporary trim to discretionary spending, such as a couple of “family nights out” spent at home.

If the need exceeds the cash

If your home-repair needs are more costly, you might consider turning to your secondary tier of financial resources: a credit card. While average credit card interest rates are in the double digits, you can do a lot better, particularly with introductory rates that can last more than a year.

When it comes to minor improvements or repairs, having that extra spending power available will allow you to fix what’s needed now, while budgeting the repayment over a period of time. It’s best to keep that payback schedule from extending longer than three to six months.

If you need to spread the payments out beyond that, you might protect your credit score — and pay less interest — by considering our next funding alternative.

Raising the roof on expenses

Larger home upgrades or repairs are going to require bigger investments. A new roof, exterior painting, foundation repairs or other projects will protect your home’s value — and can end up costing more the longer you delay. Under these circumstances, a loan often can get you more than your credit card limit will allow, as well as save you money.

A secured loan will offer a better rate than an unsecured loan, while both likely will offer much better long-term interest rates than a credit card. Longer repayment terms will be favorable for these larger projects, too.

Covering the cost of major upgrades

Your strolling inspection — in, around and outside your home — might have revealed a need for a major upgrade. Perhaps the furnace has heaved its last gasp, or the air conditioning is already struggling with the warmer spring weather. Or it might be time to do a bit of renovation to a bath or kitchen that is well past its “best by” date.

In that case, it might be well worth tapping a home equity line of credit, or HELOC. Accessing the value of your home — up to 100% of your existing equity — will allow you even greater financial flexibility. Once approved for an open-ended revolving credit line, you can draw from it at any time, as needed. And you’ll pay interest only on the balance you’ve withdrawn.

Not only are the variable rates very favorable on HELOCs, but the interest paid may be tax-deductible. Your tax advisor can give you details on that. And repayment terms can stretch as long as 15 years, depending on the amount financed.

From a small repair to a major improvement, there are prudent ways to fund whatever spring home project you decide to undertake.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

YToxOntzOjE3OiJ0cmlnZ2VyX3JldmlzaW9ucyI7czoxOiIxIjt9

A Home Equity Line of Credit from F&M Bank is a smart and flexible way to reach your short and long-term goals.|fa-wrench|589|Special Rate HELOC|1

April is Financial Literacy Month

Pledge to Be More Financially Literate This Year

F&M’s Community Classroom is a free, online financial education program that helps you manage your money more effectively, make personalized decisions that strengthen your financial future and gain confidence in your financial knowledge. Access our Community Classroom during the month of April and enter for a chance to win a $25 Visa Gift Card or a 22 oz. Stainless Steel Tumbler!

Register For a Free Account to Get Started: https://atwork.everfi.net/fmbank

Two entries will be randomly drawn and notified by email on or about May 1, 2017. One winner will receive a $25 Visa Gift Card, and one winner will receive a 22 oz. Stainless Steel Tumbler. No purchase necessary to win.

 

Building a Credit Score from Scratch

Young adults starting out on their own often bump into a cold fact of financial life: Having no credit history can limit your options just as much as having bad credit does. Lenders, rental offices and insurance companies use your financial track record to judge how likely you are to pay debts and bills — and if you’re a blank slate, you’re generally considered a risk.

Young adults starting out on their own often bump into a cold fact of financial life: Having no credit history can limit your options just as much as having bad credit does. Lenders, rental offices and insurance companies use your financial track record to judge how likely you are to pay debts and bills — and if you’re a blank slate, you’re generally considered a risk.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to quickly establish your credit record.

Start with a credit card

One of the quickest ways to develop a positive credit history is with a credit card, which lets you show that you handle small amounts of debt responsibly month after month. Even if you can’t qualify for a card on your own, there are ways to take advantage of this credit-building tool:

• Recruit a co-signer. You might be able to get a card if someone with good credit — such as a parent — is willing to co-sign the application with you. You and your co-signer will be equally responsible for the charges you make, along with any late-payment fees or other penalties if you don’t make payments on time. Also, late or missed payments can damage your credit score and your co-signer’s, too. But every time you make a payment on time, it will shore up your credit history.

• Become an authorized user. Another option is to ask a family member or significant other to add you to their credit account. First, though, make sure their bank reports activity by authorized users to the major credit bureaus — otherwise, this won’t help your credit score. And remember that here, too, your activity with the card can affect someone other than yourself.

Next steps

Once you have a card, your behavior with it will determine how high, and quickly, your credit score rises. To keep moving in the right direction:

• Make on-time payments. The most common credit-scoring model is the FICO score, and it is based on a combination of factors. The biggest, making up 35% of your score, is your payment history. Pay all of your bills (not just your credit card) on time to keep your score rising.

• Keep balances low. Try not to use your card up to or near your credit limit; it looks bad to creditors if your cards are maxed out. A good rule of thumb is to keep your balances at or below 30% of your total credit limit.

• Don’t over-apply for cards. According to a recent NerdWallet study that included an analysis of millennials’ credit scores, many young adults are applying for the wrong credit cards and getting rejected — and that’s hurting their credit, since excessive inquiries can make someone look like a bad credit risk. Apply only for cards you really want, and space out those applications.

• Check your credit reports. You have the right to get a copy of your credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — once a year for free. Review yours and report any errors that might hurt your score.

It can be easier to build up good credit if you have a professional helping you. Consider consulting with a financial institution to help figure out the best way to establish credit and make other important financial decisions.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

YToxOntzOjE3OiJ0cmlnZ2VyX3JldmlzaW9ucyI7czoxOiIxIjt9

Ready to start establishing credit today?|fa-cc-visa|171|Visa Credit Cards|1

19 Ways to Save on a Wedding

First comes love, then comes paying for the wedding. Weddings cost an average of $35,329 nationally — excluding the honeymoon — according to The Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study. That’s the highest reported average cost since the survey began in 2006.

First comes love, then comes paying for the wedding.

Weddings cost an average of $35,329 nationally — excluding the honeymoon — according to The Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study. That’s the highest reported average cost since the survey began in 2006.

But you’re not obligated to spend that much, and many couples don’t. We asked experts how you can set a reasonable budget and cut costs on some of the most expensive elements of your upcoming nuptials.

The Budget

1. Be realistic

Don’t start your marriage in debt, says Anne Chertoff, a trend expert for WeddingWire. “Most couples don’t anticipate how much a wedding is actually going to cost, so they end up underestimating what they’re going to spend and then going over their budget,” she says. Set realistic spending limits from the beginning that account for all areas of your wedding. If you overspend in one area, cut back in another.

2. Use a credit card —  responsibly

It can be smart to use a credit card for wedding-related purchases — as long as you’re not taking on more debt than you can afford to pay off. Chertoff recommends using accumulated points toward your honeymoon, particularly if you have a card with travel rewards.

The Date

3. Consider a winter wedding

Not all wedding dates are created equal. Find out which are most popular on WeddingWire’s wedding date calendar. If there’s more demand for a given date, you’ll usually pay a higher price for a venue. You could score a discount for choosing a less popular month, such as January or February, Chertoff says.

4. Book a Sunday

Saturday is a popular day for weddings, but it’s also generally the most expensive day to get married. You can likely reserve your venue at a lower price if you hold your wedding on a Sunday, or even a weeknight.

The Guests

5. Put a twist on ‘plus one’ etiquette

Instead of giving all guests older than 18 a “plus one,” limit them to couples you socialize with regularly, says Sharon Naylor, author of dozens of wedding books, including “1,001 Ways to Save Money … and Still Have a Dazzling Wedding.” To avoid awkward questions, explain how you’re determining the guest list.

6. Mix up your invitations

You’ll probably want to mail out traditional invitations, says Stephanie Cain, an editor at The Knot. But you can post wedding weekend itineraries on your wedding website and email save-the-date alerts. That’ll save you the cost of printing and postage.

The Dress

7. Check out a prom shop

Brides aren’t finding dresses at just the bridal shop these days, Naylor says. You can pick up a white dress in the prom or party dress section of any department store. The popularity of colored dresses makes formal gowns a nice substitute, too.

The national average spent on a wedding dress was $1,564 in 2016, according to The Knot’s latest Real Weddings study. A simple Google search for white prom dresses pulls up options that cost a fraction of that.

8. Budget for your accessories

There’s more to your dress budget than the dress. Cain suggests taking extras such as tailoring fees, shoes, jewelry and a clutch into account when setting a spending limit. To save on your veil, Chertoff recommends making it your “something borrowed” and wearing a family member’s.

The Venue

9. Negotiate

Lots of unexpected expenses can pop up during planning, including cake-cutting and corkage fees or power for your DJ and photo booth. Naylor says you don’t have to take them as they are. If a cost seems unreasonable, respectfully request to have it removed.

10. Use the venue’s resources

Some venues provide tables and linens, Cain says. If you opt for a backyard wedding, you’ll have to rent items like these. Always read a venue’s contract in its entirety before signing so you know what is and isn’t included.

And keep an eye out for requirements. You might not want to be obligated to use the venue’s caterer, for instance.

The Decor

11. Communicate with your vendors

Naylor says some floral designers have warehouses with excess inventory they’re willing to give away or lend out for free. Once you’ve placed an order, ask about expanding your options.

12. Borrow from other newlyweds

Ask friends who have recently gotten married if you can borrow centerpieces or other items that they have left over.

13. Scout out decorations at craft stores

Look for wedding decorations — especially light-up decor — in places like craft stores. They have “more than glue guns and glitter,” Naylor says.

The Flowers

14. Stick to in-season blooms

You might have your heart set on pink flowers to accent your bridesmaids’ bouquets, but consider settling for a different shade or variety. Local blooms that are in season at the time of your wedding are generally less expensive. Also, “local flowers tend to look fresher because they didn’t have to travel for days,” Cain says.

15. Get the most out of your flowers

A larger flower, such as a hydrangea, naturally looks fuller and takes up more space with fewer stems, Cain says. And you can repurpose ceremony flowers for the reception, instead of buying more. For instance, use a ceremony arch to adorn your sweetheart table at the reception.

The Menu

16. Go for a shorter cake

The more tiers on your cake, the more it’ll cost you. Cain suggests sticking to two tiers and having sheet cakes to serve. The cake you cut for your pictures doesn’t have to feed all of your guests.

17. Cut down on drink sizes

Arrange for the bartender to serve your signature drinks in smaller glasses. “Most people will go and try the signature drink, take a sip, put it down and go back to their regular drink,” Naylor says. Minimize the cost of your bar tab by opting for shooters.

The Rest

18. Choose a charitable favor

Don’t want to buy a favor for each wedding guest? Make a charitable donation on behalf of all your guests, Chertoff says. That way, you can set the amount you’re comfortable spending, donate to a cause you care about and write off the contribution on your taxes.

19. Limit your photographer’s hours

Save money by shaving off some of the time your photographer and videographer are present, Naylor and Cain suggest. You’ll likely want them there for the ceremony, but you might not need footage of the end-of-reception dancing.

Bottom line, these experts suggest keeping a close eye on your wedding spending. “Anybody — whether they have a $10,000 budget or a $500,000 budget — is still working on a budget,” Cain says.

Devote the biggest parts of your budget to the areas that are most important to you and be willing to compromise on the rest.

The article 19 Ways to Save on a Wedding originally appeared on NerdWallet.

YToxOntzOjE3OiJ0cmlnZ2VyX3JldmlzaW9ucyI7czoxOiIxIjt9

Do you really need toasters and sheets for wedding gifts? Why not encourage gifts to help you realize the dream of home ownership?|fa-heart|152|New Beginnings Saver|1

Short-Term Saving Tips for Summer Vacation

With summer drawing closer, your vacation may arrive before you’ve got the money to pay for it. But there are some quick changes you can make now to save or raise money for your trip. Consider these tips:

With summer drawing closer, your vacation may arrive before you’ve financially prepared. But there are some quick changes you can make now to save or raise money for your trip. Consider these tips:

Open a designated savings account

After estimating the overall cost of your vacation, set up a savings account just for the trip. This will help separate that money from your regular savings and make it easier to track progress toward your goal.

Contribute weekly

Look at last month’s account statements from your financial institution to see what you spend in a given week. Then determine how much you can contribute to your vacation fund each week and make that part of your budget. Putting the money away weekly instead of monthly will make this more of a priority in your life.

Track spending with a budgeting app

To pinpoint what’s going out of your account, let a budgeting app be your guide. Many popular apps let you categorize transactions and see overviews of your daily spending in a few taps or clicks.

Create an automatic savings plan

If you still find it difficult to save regularly, set up an automatic transfer from your checking balance to a savings account. This way you can allocate a percentage of your income and remove the temptation to spend money that should be going into vacation savings.

Reduce leisure spending

If vacation is the time to splurge, make the weeks before you go more restrained in your lifestyle. Minimize your trips to coffee shops, restaurants and movie theaters. Instead, brew your own coffee, cook more meals and watch films in your living room.

Get a side job

If you find yourself with extra time in your week, consider taking on a part-time job. See if you can watch any neighbors’ pets or homes while they’re away, or baby-sit. If you’re an avid writer or an academic, look into freelance writing or tutoring. Even a few hours of paid work a week can add up.

Sell unwanted belongings

To raise money more quickly than through a job, go through your home and collect anything you don’t need, from old books to furniture. Then sell your stuff online or in a yard sale.

Preparing for your summer vacation with these seven tactics can help ease the stress of funding all your travel expenses. This way you can stay in control of your finances and have no financial baggage when you return.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Ready to start saving for summer vacation?