• Student Loan Refinancing Explained

    I just finished refinancing student loans through a lender I found on Credible to get the best rate so I could save money while paying off debt. After mentioning this on my YouTube channel, I thought I’d share more about student loan refinancing in general since many people reached out with questions like:

    Why did I refinance? What is student loan refinancing? Can student loan refinancing help you save money? How does student loan refinancing help you pay off debt?

    In this post I’m covering everything you need to know about student loan refinancing with an easy explanation of student loan debt refinancing and how it can benefit you.

    My Student Loan Refinance Experience

    I recently went through the experience of refinancing the Parent Plus student loans left from my debt snowball.

    I chose to use Credible to save time with applications for refinancing since it compared multiple rates for me and they included offers from SoFi and other top lenders.

    Because I’m refinancing Parent Plus loans into a new loan in my name my experience has been slightly different than a traditional student loan refinance. I was unable to use certain companies and I’ve had to sign additional paperwork saying I was taking over the loan.

    The main reason I refinanced was to get a lower rate which would save interest in the long run. I actually plan to pay these loans off very quickly but wanted to still save a few hundred dollars in interest during this time.

    I’ve learned a lot about student loan refinancing during this process both through my own experience and many of my audience sharing their stories with me as well.

    What is student loan refinancing?

    Student loan refinancing is when you refinance your student loans with a private lender in order to either consolidate multiple loans or just to get a lower interest rate.

    Refinancing is one way you can work to pay off your student loan debt faster.

    Student loan refinancing is good for:

    • People who have good credit.
    • People who want a lower interest rate on their loans.
    • People who have federal and private student loans.
    • People who have private student loans.
    • People who have a consistent monthly income.
    • People who want one monthly payment instead of multiple.
    • People who want to pay less interest on their student loans.

    Student loan refinance is not good for:

    • People with bad credit.
    • People with unstable income or low income.
    • People who have low interest rates already.
    • People who want to use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

    Refinancing is not for everyone! You have to look at your situation and determine if student loan refinancing would actually make sense for you. For most people it does make sense but in certain situations it does not at all. Look at your specific numbers and situation to decide.

    Student loan refinancing vs. Student loan consolidation

    If you are not sure whether you want to refinance or consolidate your loans, then it is important to understand the differences between them.

    First, student loan consolidation is a program from the federal government. It’s run through the Federal Student Aid off where you are able to combine multiple federal student loans into one new loan.

    Student loan consolidation can be a good option if you want to move to one payment and can achieve a lower interest rate on average. It also can keep you on the path toward various forgiveness programs offered from the government.

    Student loan refinancing allows you to combine federal loans and / or private student loans into one new loan. Refinancing your student loans is done with a private lender (you can find various lenders to compare through sites like Credible that list multiple and compare offers for you).

    Refinancing your student loans can get you an even lower interest rate than the government will offer you and that lower interest rate can help you pay off your loans faster.

    Is there a downside to refinancing student loans?

    There are a couple cons to refinancing student loans and one big downside to refinancing student loans.

    The biggest negative to refinancing student loans can be the loss of federal repayment protections. When you refinance your federal student loans you walk away with private student loans that lack the deferment and forbearance options available from the federal government.

    Refinancing also removes any potential paths to loan forgiveness from the federal government. Refinancing companies do not offer forgiveness options for student loans. So if you are counting on a forgiveness option you will be giving it up with refinancing.

    Who is eligible to refinance?

    Student loan refinancing companies require borrowers to be creditworthy with good credit scores. If you don’t have good credit then you will likely not be approved. (This is another reason to work on improving your credit!)

    To qualify for student loan refinancing you have to have good or an excellent credit score. Most refinancing companies will require a 660 or above for your credit score to qualify.

    Luckily many student loan refinance companies offer instant online rate quotes so you can see if you are eligible before going through a full application.

    How do you get approved for a student loan refinance?

    If you are trying to refinance your student loans you will want to look at the things that will help you get approved for a new loan.

    Each student loan refinance is actually creating a new student loan and these loans are approved based on each individual’s background and unique financial circumstances.

    Here are some of the things companies look at to determine if you can refinance your loans with them:

    • Credit score: do you have good credit? What’s your credit score? Refinance options are generally not available to people with bad credit so you should check your credit and work on improving your credit score if you want to refinance your loans. Aim for a 700 credit score of higher for the best chance of approval with the best rates.
    • Income: In order to get approved a lender will want to see that you have income sufficient to pay off your student loans. You’ll have to prove that you have stable recurring monthly income that an service the loans which means you will need to provide paystubs proving your income sources. If you have unstable income you will likely be denied but can improve your chances by finding a cosigner with stable income.
    • Debt-to-income ratio: Your other debts like a mortgage, credit cards, and car loans will factor into your refinance application. Lenders will want to see how much of your income you spend monthly to service your debts. Lenders focus on your debt-to-income ration which means the ratio of your total monthly income compared to your monthly debt obligations. The lower your debt-to-income ration the better you will look when you apply. To improve this before trying to refinance you can increase your income or pay off your debt or do both!
    • Employment: Just like having a stable income, lenders want to know that you have stable employment. You will need an existing job or a written job offer or contract in order to refinance your student loans. Sometimes they will require work experience but some companies will refinance your loans while you are in school or residency in special situations.

    Those are some of the things that will be considered by the company writing your new loan so these are things you can work on improving if you want to qualify for a refinance.

    Where To Find Student Loan Refinance Offers

    So where do you actually refinance student loans? One of the best options for refinancing is SoFi. They have been the leader in student loan refinancing for a few years and many people have successfully used them to refinance.

    SoFi (top lender)

    SoFi has established themselves as one of the top refinancing companies and a very trusted source. Most of the people I know personally and who watch my channel have refinanced their loans through SoFi.

    If you want recommendations, my comment section is full of recommendation comments like these:

    • “I went with Sofi. I paid it off in five months so the interest rate wasn’t really a concern for me. They gave me money for funding my account.” – Sandy
    • “will be going with SoFi because unemployment protection. I currently have them and they been nothing but helpful. I got this off the website and this is why the rates are slightly higher but not by much. Plus, the process is quick to refi.” – Sarah

    One benefit of SoFi is you can also create accounts to invest, get a personal loan and do more beyond just refinancing. They have expanded their offerings to go beyond just student loans.

    Another benefit is that SoFi gives out bonuses to people who refinance through them. If you use my referral link in this post you will get $100 when you refinance.

    Check your potential refinance rate at SoFi and get a $100 bonus!

    You may also want to check rates for multiple student loan refinancing offers in order to get the best deal. Below are a few companies you might want to use to get refinancing offers and compare the options for your refinance.

    Credible (Compare rates)

    Credible allows you to get multiple prequalified quotes from companies (including top private student loan lenders) in just a few minutes. I personally used Credible after hearing about them from another YouTuber and shared the step by step of my process getting refinancing rates.

    Check out your student loan refinance options on Credible (does not affect credit) and get a bonus gift card if you refinance!

    Splash Financial (Dave Ramsey Endorsed)

    Splash financial uses  leading technology lets you find your new, lower interest rate for your loans in under 3 minutes. They are endorsed by Dave Ramsey which makes them pretty trustworthy and I’ve seen people have major success refinancing their loans through Splash Financial.

    Check out your student loan refinance options on Splash Financial (does not affect credit) and get a $250 check if you refinance!

    I like both of these platforms because they compare multiple rates for you and also offer bonuses if you do end up refinancing with one of the companies they have shared with you.

    Using either Splash Financial or Credible lets your compare who has the best student loan refinance rates since they compare multiple student loan refinancing rates from multiple companies.

    Tips For Student Loan Refinancing

    If you are planning to refinance your student loans, here are a few tips to consider:

    • Apply to multiple lenders. I like Splash Financial and Credible because they handle this for you, but applying to multiple lenders gives you the best chance to get a low rate.
    • Apply to multiple lenders within 30 days. Any time you apply for a new loan you have roughly 30 days to get different quotes so it will show as a single hard inquiry on your credit report.
    • Check your credit report before applying. Make sure you remove any errors by disputing false claims. You can get your credit reports for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.
    • Get a cosigner if you are worried you might not be approved. If you have a big negative factor against you then try to ask a spouse or family member close to you to be a co-signer. I generally recommend never cosigning for someone’s debt but this can often make the difference for many applications and many student loan lenders do offer a co-signer release which releases co-signers of financial responsibility meeting certain qualifications (check with your lender for details and requirements on this).

    Those are just a few tips to keep in mind when you are refinancing your student loans.

    Refinancing Student Loans Isn’t A Debt Quick Fix

    Just because you refinance your student loans doesn’t mean they will be paid off. You are still in debt!

    Refinancing the loan itself doesn’t get you out of debt – it just gives you a boost by either changing your payoff plan or lowering your rate to save you money.

    Refinancing is not the get-out-of-debt secret or quick fix. You need to make sure that when you are refinancing it is the right move for you and it is the next step you will be taking to get out of debt faster!

  • Shopify For Beginners

    I recently began selling products with Shopify and then loved it so much I helped a friend set up their business with a Shopify store too. The ease of creating a store and immediately beginning to sell your products makes Shopify one of the best platforms for selling online today.

    In this post I cover everything you’ll want to know about Shopify and how to get started with your own Shopify store. I am a Shopify affiliate so you can use this link to open your store which will help support my work here.

    Shopify 101

    Shopify is an online platform that allows you build your own online store where you can sell physical or digital products.

    You might be wondering is Shopify legit? They’ve been in the news and had crazy speculative stock prices lately, but is their product actually good? The answer is yes! Shopify manages to make creating your online store easy but also robust which is why it’s trusted by over 1 million businesses.

    In fact, large multi-million dollar businesses like Harry’s Razors and Gymshark use Shopify to power their stores as well as many small businesses and online content creators.

    Shopify offers customizable themes to make your storefront look just the way you want it. They also offer apps and tools that put it far above any Shopify competitors. From inventory management to email marketing, Shopify gives you the tools to make your store a success.

    Try Shopify for free!

    How Does Shopify Work?

    Shopify works by providing both a front end (what your customer sees) and a back end (what you see and manage behind the scenes).

    Your customer will see your beautiful and streamlined storefront when they are shopping and once they’ve made a purchase all interactions will continue on the backend where you control everything.

    In the very comprehensive back end of Shopify you have control over your products, inventory, pricing, orders, payments, analytics, finances, and more. They give you every tool you might need and even some that you probably won’t use at first.

    In addition to all of this Shopify also has an app store with plugins for every possible thing you could think of to add to your shop.

    Who is Shopify for?

    Shopify is for aspiring sellers all the way up to large multi-million dollar brands. Shopify’s pricing plans range to suit all sizes of ecommerce companies and their starter plan makes powerful online selling possible for individuals and small shops.

    You can also open any number of types of stores with Shopify:

    • traditional ecommerce
    • digital product sales
    • dropshipping

    If you are eager to grow a large store or create a huge brand then Shopify is definitely the right tool to grow with you.

    Shopify Pricing

    Shopify costs vary depending on which plan you use.

    Here are the three pricing plans currently offered:

    • $29/month for Basic Shopify: All the basics for starting a new business
    • $79/month for Shopify: Everything you need for a growing business
    • $299/month for Advanced Shopify: Advanced features for scaling your business

    However, right now, they are offering 90 days for free!

    You can sign up, set up your store, and pick a payment plan later once you’ve settled in. This is a fantastic offer and allowing a lot of people to jump into ecommerce without any upfront costs or risk.

    You can get your 90 day free trial here.

    Shopify Fees

    If you can’t tell from the basic pricing model with Shopify, it means there are no additional platform fees to pay for selling your products.

    This gives Shopify the edge when comparing it to other store building platforms because it caps off the amount of money it takes from creators which allows store owners to keep more of their money.

    There are going to be payment processing fees when you sell on Shopify but that is true of even platform you use to sell online. In order to accept any payment online for your products you will have to pay someone to process your payments. That might be from incorporating Paypal or Stripe or another payment processor.

    Shopify Review

    Do I recommend Shopify? If you couldn’t already tell from this review, then yes! It’s truly the top option when you are trying to create a store online.

    It’s easy to use and lets beginners start a shop in no time at all. It’s got an amazing support team, room for you to grow, and lots of features with each plan they offer.

    Beyond that the sheer amount of flexibility and features Shopify offers blows away every other online store platform. Things like multiple payment options, multi-channel selling across physical stores or social media or marketplaces, abandoned cart recovery, and more make it far and away the top option when you are comparing different platforms for creating an online store.

    Try Shopify for free and see what you think for yourself!

    Shopify Vs Etsy

    Shopify and Etsy are entirely different types of platforms you can use to sell digital products or physical products. Because these are the two of the three platforms I’ve used to sell online I feel that I’m able to compare these well.

    Shopify vs Etsy Customer Traffic

    Etsy has the advantage in being able to bring customers to your shop. Your Etsy shop will automatically be in front of more people just because it is on Etsy and that is because Etsy is a marketplace. There are already buyers on Etsy who are looking for things to buy.

    Shopify on the other hand, provides the tools you need to sell online but it does not currently provide the level of marketplace activity that Etsy does. This may change in the future but at the moment creating a Shopify store means you will have to do your own marketing and bring in your own customers.

    That trade off is very small if you already have an established following and can drive your own traffic to your shop.

    Shopify vs Etsy Fees

    Since Shopify does not add on any transaction fees like a site like Etsy does, this means you will only pay for your monthly Shopify bill and payment processing fees. The payment processing fees on Shopify lower with the higher paid plans but for online credit card rates they charge 2.9% + 30¢. Any other payments you decide to use besides Shopify Payments start at 2%.

    Etsy on the other-hand, charges a large number of fees. They charge a listing fee of 20¢ any time you list a product and then another 20¢ to renew that listing once an item sells. They also charge a 5% transaction fee for every item you sell. In addition to this they also have started charging you 12-15% for any item that sells due to their offsite advertising. All of these fees are also applied to whatever you charge for shipping. This can lead to 20% or more of your item price being eaten up by fees.

    If you sell at a high volume level Shopify ends up being a much cheaper platform than a site like Etsy that charges 5% transaction fees as well as listing fees and offsite advertising fees.

    Shopify vs Etsy Pricing

    Etsy does not charge anything to open a shop and it does not charge anything ongoing to run one. It provides all of it’s tools “free” in exchange for the higher fees they take from sales you make. This model makes it easy for new sellers to get started with very little risk.

    However, that model quickly runs out of positives for anyone selling expensive items or selling massive amounts of volume.

    Shopify offers three different plans ranging from a reasonable $29 per month to an advanced price of $299 per month. You are able to start with a $29 plan and scale up as you need to in order to support your growing business. But as you grow you’ll get all the tools you need for $299 per month without worrying about giving over 5% of your overall sales volume.

    In the end Etsy pricing is great to get started but if you plan to sell your products seriously then you will end up better off with Shopify.

    Moving Your Etsy Shop To Shopify

    If you are currently selling on Etsy and want to leave due to high fees and lack of control, I highly recommend moving your Etsy shop over to Shopify. It’s incredibly easy and Shopify allows you to import all of your Etsy data so you don’t have to start over.

    This video shows you the process of moving over my Etsy shop to Shopify when I decided to start selling on my own website instead of just with Etsy.

    While you will have to drive traffic to your Shopify store, you will be also freeing yourself up for more control over your marketing and success.

    Moving from Etsy to Shopify is something I think most Etsy sellers should do and many have done so in 2020. There has been a large exodus of Etsy sellers for Shopify stores because of Etsy’s high fees and introduction of mandatory off-site marketing.

    How To Get Started On Shopify

    If you plan to start a store to sell your products online then Shopify is likely where you will want to start. You can have a beautiful shop up and running in minutes.

    You can currently get a 90 day free trial of Shopify which is an amazing way to get started selling without any risk. Definitely give it a try and if you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email of dm!

    Start your free trial with Shopify!

  • How To Make Money With The Erin Condren Affiliate Program

    If you are a planner girl who creates plan with me videos on YouTube or Instagram you could be making hundreds of dollars a month doing what you love by joining the Erin Condren affiliate program.

    In this post I’m sharing how you can make money as an EC affiliate and why you should go sign up for ShareASale and join the Erin Condren affiliate program right now!

    The Erin Condren affiliate program is one of the best affiliate programs available for anyone making planner content. Even if you use a different style planner it is likely that your audience will love Erin Condren planner products.

    How To Sign Up For The Erin Condren Affiliate Program

    The Erin Condren affiliate program is run by the affiliate network ShareASale.

    ShareASale is an affiliate network which means it is a platform where you can sign up for multiple affiliate programs within it. There are a couple great programs within ShareASale but for this specific niche of planning and budget planners the best one is Erin Condren.

    In the video below I walk through how you can sign up for the Erin Condren affiliate program on the ShareASale affiliate network.

    Benefits Of The Erin Condren Affiliate Program

    So why is the Erin Condren affiliate program so amazing for planner related content creators?

    The Erin Condren affiliate marketing program gives you 10% of each sale you refer to them which is often quite high since their average sale is $73.71 and your viewers are likely to be planning to buy there anyway.

    As a planner you are likely already using Erin Condren products or related items so you will be showcasing and recommending their products in your content. The affiliate program they run through ShareASale allows you to earn 10% of whatever your audience buys through your links. It’s additional money for you as a commission for sharing how much you love Erin Condren products.

    Things you can recommend from Erin Condren are planners, stickers, and other related accessories. It’s a great program and I routinely earn money from it even though I don’t use Erin Condren products! If you do you should get paid for your efforts instead of only getting free products through referrals. 

    To promote Erin Condren you should go start an account with ShareASale and search for Erin Condren under merchants or in the top ranked merchants since they are always near the top.

    Why Use Affiliate Marketing

    If you have a planner related blog, Instagram account, or YouTube channel then you can monetize your content through affiliate marketing especially the Erin Condren affiliate program through ShareASale.

    I’ve been making money from my budgeting YouTube channel for a while and because of this I get a lot of questions from new YouTubers about how to make money or grow their channels. I always suggest using affiliate marketing for products they already use and love.

    Affiliate marketing has made my channel more most months than I’ve made on ads. It makes this amount of money because people love to click through and purchase the budget stickers I used in my planner. 

    When you create a channel about something you are passionate about you probably have a dedicated audience that will support you by using links where you can make a commission. In fact, affiliate marketing is the BEST way for new content creators to get started because you don’t need huge amounts of views or followers.

    All you need is a passion for the products you are sharing and if you are a planner you likely already have a huge passion for Erin Condren products because they are amazing.

    What is affiliate marketing?

    Affiliate marketing is where you promote products to your audience and then earn a commission when someone makes a purchase through your unique affiliate link. 

    You earn money by selling other people’s products.

    The commissions for those sales can range from 4% to 70% of the product sales price.

    As you can see, you can earn major amounts of money when you are earning 50% or more of a product price without having to create the product.

    Affiliate marketing works in the same way as many old school referral programs and allows people to earn money through their blog or social media platforms by talking about things they love. It actually works well for all parties involved because you are only paid when you make a sale, it does not increase consumer cost, and the company providing the product does not have to pay upfront in case you don’t provide sales. 

    There are affiliate programs for all types of products and in every industry. There are affiliate programs where you can earn money promoting clothing, makeup, crafts, credit cards, bank accounts, ebooks, online courses and more. Regardless of what you plan to talk about online there will be an affiliate marketing program that will fit into your niche.

    Affiliate programs will pay commissions in three different ways:

    1. Pay per sale – You will earn a commission only when someone makes a purchase through your affiliate link.
    2. Pay per lead – You will earn a commission if someone signs up for a free trial or creates a free account or somehow otherwise gives a company their email address as a lead.
    3. Pay per click – This style of program is where you are paid money whenever someone clicks through one of your links.  

    There are many types of affiliate marketing programs but the most common one is pay per sale. That is what I will be referring to and giving tips to since it is what I use the most. 

    How is affiliate marketing different from referral programs? 

    People are very used to “referral links” where someone recommends a product or service they use via a link inside their account. In return for the referral you may get a free month or other benefit from the referral. It’s a common way apps grow their user base.

    An example of a referral program you can promote in order to earn free products is Erin Condren.

    Within the Erin Condren website you can get a referral link where customers can get a credit and you get a credit too. This allows you to buy more Erin Condren products but it doesn’t earn you an income that goes into the bank.

    I’m amazed by how many passionate content creators I see using this referral program so they get free products but not using the affiliate program where they can earn actual income.

    In contrast, you can earn money with the Erin Condren affiliate program through ShareASale.

    Affiliate marketing programs are different because they are special partnerships that not everyone has access to. Many have special requirements like a certain number of followers or website traffic and some even require a certain number of signups per month.

    Affiliate marketing programs most often give affiliates cash or a similar form of compensation for their work to create sales through driving traffic through their links. An example of affiliate programs are when someone signs up for a program I’ve shared and I receive $50 in return. 

    How To Create Affiliate Links To Erin Condren

    Once you’ve signed up for the Erin Condren affiliate program at ShareASale then you will then need to create the affiliate links you will share in order to make money from commissions.

    Creating links to Erin Condren products can be done a few different ways:

    • copying affiliate links in ShareASale that Erin Condren created
    • using the deal and coupon links created
    • posting ad banners that use affiliate links
    • creating custom links to Erin Condren products you love
    • making a page showing multiple Erin Condren products

    Creating these links is as easy as copying and pasting in most cases. The video below shows you how you can create affiliate links in several different ways.

    You will create the type of link that fits your need best depending on the strategy you want to use to promote your affiliate links.

    Affiliate Marketing Tips For Erin Condren Affiliates

    After you sign up to be an Erin Condren affiliate you may be wondering how to promote the program in order to earn money.

    Here are a few of my favorite tips specific to promoting Erin Condren products as an affiliate.

    • use Erin Condren products in your video/photos and link to that specific item by creating a custom link
    • create a page using ShareASale datafeed tools to recommend your favorite Erin Condren products on a page on your blog
    • share your hauls of new Erin Condren products and link to the new products
    • offer coupon codes for your audience from the coupon / deals section
    • show off how you organize your planner items and promote Erin Condren products and content that show how to organize items
    • connect with your affiliate marketing manager – Erin Condren has a dedicated affiliate marketing manager you can contact through the ShareASale program and they can help you with tips and tricks
    • create content with affiliate marketing in mind instead of as an afterthought – this will allow you to craft content around promoting certain items
    • show off your planner layouts each week either on Instagram and YouTube along with your EC links in the description or bio

    These tips and ideas should get you started for promoting the Erin Condren affiliate program!

    Affiliate Marketing Tips For YouTubers

    If you are a YouTuber with a budgeting related channel and want to start use affiliate marketing to earn money then here are some of my favorite tips:

    • Mention your links in the video and direct your audience to your description box.
    • Include an affiliate disclaimer link in your description box that is clear you will make a commission.
    • Link to specific products you use instead of the general page. The less steps between a buyer and the purchase the better. Specific links convert better than generic ones.
    • Use products in the programs that you are promoting as an affiliate. If you have a choice to use products in the program or not, use the ones you can promote as an affiliate. People always want to know where you got things.
    • Leave a link to what you used in the video in a pinned comment.
    • Respond to any questions where people ask where you got something and give them the affiliate link. (This is just polite practice as well that builds trust with your audience.)

    Those are just a few of my best tips for how I’ve managed to share products I love like Erin Condren and my favorite budget stickers shops and cash envelope makers while also earning income for doing it!

    If you have any questions about affiliate marketing or want to learn more, sign up for my email list where I share tips and tricks about how to monetize your YouTube channel.

  • Best Personal Financial Niche Affiliate Programs

    If you are a financial YouTuber looking to earn money from your channel beyond ads, you should consider affiliate marketing. Promoting good financial services and products is a great way to increase your revenue.

    I’ve written before about the best affiliate networks for budgeting YouTubers and how to use affiliate marketing on Youtube, but today I’m going to cover some of the best affiliate programs for personal finance niche YouTube channels or blogs.

    Best Financial Affiliate Programs For Personal Finance Niche YouTubers & Bloggers

    Below I’m listing my favorite personal finance niche affiliate programs, most of which are from the affiliate network FlexOffers.

    If you are a personal finance blogger or YouTuber who has not yet signed up for FlexOffers to find affiliate programs then you should use my referral link and do it right now! It’s a goldmine for programs that convert well and are actually high quality and helpful for your audience.

    I do not belong to or promote all of the affiliate programs below because I’ve limited my number of affiliates to promote at once but I do promote 6 on this list and love the others!

    This is a list from May 2020 so payouts and terms of these programs may have changed, check them out today to see if things have changed!

    Investing Affiliate Programs

    These affiliate programs are amazing for investing focused content creators and have amazing payouts.

    Acorns

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $8.00 per lead.

    Description: “Acorns offers a micro investing app that helps people save and invest for their future. Over 3 million Americans use Acorns to help set aside a little from their everyday purchases. This program has a 30-day cookie duration.”

    Blooom

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is a flat fee of $12.00 on free analysis leads.

    Description: “Blooom is a group of experts dedicated to managing users’ 401k online in a simple, affordable way — giving people the confidence to make smarter decisions with their hard-earned dollars.This program offers a 30-day cookie duration.”

    M1 Finance

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $80 of qualified fundings.

    Description: “M1 is the future of finance in a sleek, modern app. Rated #1 for both Sophisticated Investors and Socially Responsible Investing by Investopedia, users can enjoy: free investing, high yield checking, low rate borrowing, automation, and optimization. This program offers a 30 day cookie duration.”

    Motley Fool

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $112 on sales.

    Description: “The Motley Fool is dedicated to helping the world invest — better. Founded in 1993 by brothers Tom and David Gardner, The Motley Fool helps millions of people attain financial freedom through our website, podcasts, books, newspaper column, radio show, mutual funds, and premium investing services. This program offers a 45-day cookie duration.”

    Stash

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $4.00 per lead.

    Description: “Stash is on a mission to empower a new generation of investors, offering different types of accounts in which everyone can access to new financial opportunities. This program offers a 15-day cookie duration.”

    Personal Finance Affiliate Programs

    These general personal finance affiliate programs are great for multiple different kinds of channels and content.

    Credible

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $225 (accepted refinanced student loan offer), and $112.50 (accepted student loan offers or accepted personal loan offers). Loan funds must be disbursed and not cancelled beyond three days.

    Description: “Credible empowers consumers by bringing transparency and simplicity to the process of borrowing and refinancing debt. Borrowers can receive personalized, pre-qualified offers from multiple lenders across student loan refinancing, private student loans, and personal loans in under two minutes. This program offers a 45-day cookie duration.”

    MyFICO

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $12.00 per purchase of the Ultimate 3B monthly or quarterly report product, $4.00 on a 1B product purchase, $8.00 on a 3B product purchase, $80.00 each time the annual 3B product is purchased, and between 8.4%-12.64% on particular SKU List products (a sale under $4.00 will receive no commission).

    Description: “myFICO is the leading expert in providing actual credit reports, scores and information to consumers online. This program offers a 30-day cookie duration period.”

    Payoff

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $120 when a customer gets funded within 30 days of the application.

    Description: “Payoff consists of a team of financial services professionals, research and clinical psychologists, data scientists, neuroscientists, member advocates, and technology experts working together to better understand and accelerate people’s journey towards financial wellness. For customers, Payoff consists of an easy online application, personal service from start to finish, and attainable loans at competitive rates. This program offers a 45-day cookie duration.”

    Personal Capital

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $100 per qualified lead (links at least $100,000 in investable assets to Personal Capital’s Free Financial Dashboard).

    Description: “Personal Capital is wealth management for the Internet Age. Their online platform combines digital technology with highly personalized service to provide a holistic view to a unique financial picture. The Personal Capital affiliate program offers a 60-day referral period.”

    SuperMoney

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: Payout of up to $750 per funded loan / sale. Payout applies to all financial services verticals on the SuperMoney website.

    Description: “SuperMoney helps people compare financial services. In fact, to date we’ve helped millions of people shop for loans, investments and other financial related products.  As a financial services aggregator, SuperMoney partners with the world’s leading banks and financial service companies to empower consumers with a KAYAK-like comparison shopping experience.”

    TransUnion

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $48 of sales.

    Description: “Millions of consumers use TransUnion’s products to manage their credit online & through our apps, protect their identity day & night, and make meaningful progress toward their financial goals. This program offers a 30 day cookie duration.”

    Truebill

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $6.80 on sales

    Description: “Truebill is an app that helps people gain awareness about their spending habits and better manage their money. Truebill makes it easier than ever to manage subscriptions, lower your bills, and stay on top of finances  & budgeting. This program offers a 30-day cookie duration.”

    Money Saving Affiliate Programs

    These affiliate programs are great for people are are wanting to save money. If you have a frugal or savings focused audience, these are for you!

    Honey

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout per New Desktop Installs only (no re-install) is $0.8 per US customer.

    Description: “Honey is a browser extension that finds the best discount codes/makes sure you never overpay. Shop like normal and when you’re ready to checkout, we’ll instantly find and apply the Internet’s best codes directly to your cart.  It only takes two clicks and it’s 100% free. This program offers a 30-day cookie duration.”

    Trim

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $4.50 (user connects financial account).

    Description: “Trim is a virtual personal assistant that constantly works to save users money. Trim adds value in such ways as canceling old subscriptions, setting spending alerts, checking how much users spent on ride-sharing apps the previous month, and automatically fighting fees.”

    Side Hustle Affiliate Programs

    These affiliate programs are great for the side hustle and make more money niche.

    Instacart

    Affiliate network: FlexOffers

    Payout: The payout is $20 per Shopper Activation.

    Description: “Shop and deliver everyday essentials with Instacart, the go-to service for quick and effective grocery shopping. Set your own schedule, be a household hero, and earn money quickly. Customers select groceries through a web application that gives them access to their favorites stores online. Full-service shoppers receive these orders through an app on their smartphone, then shop and deliver groceries to the customer’s door. This program offers a 30-day cookie duration period.”

    Referral Programs

    You can also promote many referral based products where you can earn free items or cash but it’s not strictly an affiliate program. I’ve listed my favorite referral programs below.

    Rakuten

    Payout: Earn $25 for each referral.

    Description: “Since our founding in 1997, Rakuten has helped shape the way people shop online, offering Cash Back, deals and shopping rewards on the world’s largest selection of products and services. To date, our 12 million members in the U.S. have earned over $1 billion in Cash Back at their favorite stores.”

    Robinhood App

    Payout: One free stock for each referral.

    Description: “Robinhood, a pioneer of commission-free investing, gives you more ways to make your money work harder. Make unlimited commission-free trades in stocks, ETFs, and options with Robinhood Financial, as well as buy and sell cryptocurrencies with Robinhood Crypto. “

  • How To Use Affiliate Marketing On Budgeting YouTube Channels

    If you have a budget blog or budgeting YouTube channel then you can monetize your content through affiliate marketing. Today I’m going to share the best ways to make money from affiliate marketing on your channel (or in your blog, there are affiliate links in this post!).

    I’ve been making money from my budgeting YouTube channel for a while and because of this I get a lot of questions from new Youtubers about how to make money or grow their channels. I’m happy to share the information I know so today I’m giving away all my secrets on how I’ve monetized beyond ads.

    Why Use Affiliate Marketing

    Affiliate marketing has made my channel more most months than I’ve made on ads. It makes this amount of money because people love to click through and purchase the budget stickers I used in my planner. 

    When you are a small channel you likely won’t have enough watch time to make money with ads but you probably have a dedicated audience that will support you by using links where you can make a commission. In fact, affiliate marketing is the BEST way for new YouTubers to get started because you don’t need huge amounts of views.

    Affiliate marketing income from my channel has helped us pay down debt and I want to share this tip with all of you!

    Best Affiliate Marketing Programs For Budget Planner Channels

    There are three specific affiliate networks with multiple affiliate programs I’ve used very successfully that I want to share for any channels looking to monetize.

    ShareASale

    ShareASale – ShareASale is an affiliate network which means it is a platform where you can sign up for multiple affiliate programs within it. There are a couple great programs within ShareASale but for this specific niche of budgeting planners the best one is Erin Condren.

    The Erin Condren affiliate marketing program gives you 10% of each sale you refer to them which is often quite high since their average sale is $73.71 and your viewers are likely to be planning to buy there anyway.

    Things you can recommend from Erin Condren are planners, stickers, and other related accessories. It’s a great program and I routinely earn money from it even though I don’t use Erin Condren products! If you do you should get paid for your efforts instead of only getting free products through referrals. 

    To promote Erin Condren you should go start an account with ShareASale and search for Erin Condren under merchants. 

    Below is a video showing how to sign up for the Erin Condren program:

    And here is a video about how to create links to Erin Condren products as an affiliate:

    I’ve also written all about how to utilize and make money with the Erin Condren affiliate program!

    Awin

    Awin – This is another affiliate network where you can sign up for multiple programs in one place. There are many good programs here and Awin consistently earns me hundreds of dollars monthly, but mainly from one program: Etsy.

    That’s right, Etsy has an affiliate marketing program! They offer their affiliates 4% of anything someone purchases through an affiliate link. While 4% isn’t much, it can really add up if people are buying budget sets monthly and more.

    I highly recommend you use the Etsy affiliate program to link to your favorite budget sticker shops on Etsy. You get a small 4% kickback but it doesn’t cost the shop or the customer anything extra. It comes from Etsy’s fees and is a great way for you to earn money by promoting small businesses on Etsy.

    To promote Etsy sticker shops you should go start an account with Awin and search for the Etsy affiliate program. 

    FlexOffers

    FlexOffers is an affiliate network that is geared toward many financial affiliate programs so it’s a great option if you have a channel about budgeting or any financial topic.

    Within FlexOffers there are a number of financial programs on multiple topics about money:

    • banking
    • budgeting
    • credit repair
    • credit reporting
    • debt services
    • home loans
    • investment services
    • tax services
    • wealth advice

    Clearly FlexOffers is the place to be if you are running a channel about personal finances and want to find affiliate programs to promote!

    To promote these financial products you should go start an account at FlexOffers and search for any of the programs in the

    What is affiliate marketing?

    Affiliate marketing is where you promote products to your audience and then earn a commission when someone makes a purchase through your unique affiliate link. 

    You earn money by selling other people’s products.

    The commissions for those sales can range from 4% to 70% of the product sales price.

    As you can see, you can earn major amounts of money when you are earning 50% or more of a product price without having to create the product.

    Affiliate marketing works in the same way as many old school referral programs and allows people to earn money through their blog or social media platforms by talking about things they love. It actually works well for all parties involved because you are only paid when you make a sale, it does not increase consumer cost, and the company providing the product does not have to pay upfront in case you don’t provide sales. 

    There are affiliate programs for all types of products and in every industry. There are affiliate programs where you can earn money promoting clothing, makeup, crafts, credit cards, bank accounts, ebooks, online courses and more. Regardless of what you plan to talk about online there will be an affiliate marketing program that will fit into your niche.

    Affiliate programs will pay commissions in three different ways:

    1. Pay per sale – You will earn a commission only when someone makes a purchase through your affiliate link.
    2. Pay per lead – You will earn a commission if someone signs up for a free trial or creates a free account or somehow otherwise gives a company their email address as a lead.
    3. Pay per click – This style of program is where you are paid money whenever someone clicks through one of your links.  

    There are many types of affiliate marketing programs but the most common one is pay per sale. That is what I will be referring to and giving tips to since it is what I use the most. 

    Is affiliate marketing scammy?

    Affiliate marketing had a really bad rep for a while because some people abused the system in bad faith but generally affiliate marketing is now a much more popular and regulated industry. It is a great way to earn money and to help your audience connect with the products they need that you do not provide. 

    By recommending products you actually love and trust you are adding value for your audience.You are connecting them to something they need but didn’t know about until you made the introduction. 

    Personally I only ever recommend products I love or have used myself and think will add value to my audience. My motto is “if I wouldn’t recommend it to my mom, I won’t recommend it to you.” This lets an audience know that they aren’t stumbling through products by chance but instead are able to trust your recommendation.

    If you are wondering whether you not you should promote an affiliate product, a great rule of thumb is to consider whether you would share it with your friends or family or not.

    Affiliate marketing is amazing because you get paid for telling people why you love something!

    Is affiliate marketing legal? 

    Affiliate marketing is a legal and common online practice where content creators and major companies earn revenue. 

    There are guidelines from the FTC about what you can and can’t do with affiliate links. You will need to include disclaimers on your site and disclose that your content has affiliate links included in the content. 

    The guidelines from the FTC mean you should disclose you are making a commision for the links on your site. It must be:

    • Clear and conspicuous where it can be seen
    • Easy to notice by anyone using your site
    • Easy to understand and not confusing legal jargon
    • Free of distraction

    As long as you are being upfront and sharing information about your affiliate links then you have nothing to worry about when doing affiliate marketing.

    How is affiliate marketing different from referral programs? 

    People are very used to “referral links” where someone recommends a product or service they use via a link inside their account. In return for the referral you may get a free month or other benefit from the referral. It’s a common way apps grow their user base.

    An example of a referral program you can promote is Erin Condren. Within the website you can get a referral link where customers can get a credit and you get a credit too. This allows you to buy more Erin Condren products but it doesn’t earn you an income that goes into the bank.

    In contrast, you can earn money with the Erin Condren affiliate program through ShareASale.

    Affiliate marketing programs are different because they are special partnerships that not everyone has access to. Many have special requirements like a certain number of followers or website traffic and some even require a certain number of signups per month.

    Affiliate marketing programs most often give affiliates cash or a similar form of compensation for their work to create sales through driving traffic through their links. An example of affiliate programs are when someone signs up for a program I’ve shared and I receive $50 in return. 

    What are the benefits of affiliate marketing? 

    There are so many benefits to using affiliate marketing as a way to monetize your online business / YouTube channel / blog. It’s a great source of income for content creators like bloggers and YouTubers (I know from experience with both).

    A few of the benefits of affiliate marketing:

    • Easy to get started. It’s the easiest way to get started making money online. You find affiliate programs you want to join either directly or through affiliate marketing program marketplaces (many listed below). 
    • Passive income. Once you’ve created your content containing affiliate links you are done with the upfront work. You can create one piece of content like a blog post that continues to earn you money every month because it gets good amounts of traffic and has affiliate links. 
    • Great for newbies. Affiliate marketing is amazing because it is one of the best ways to earn money before you have a huge audience. If you have a very niche audience or just a small audience because you are new then you can still earn a decent amount of money with affiliate marketing. 

    Those are a few of the biggest benefits of affiliate marketing. It is definitely one of the best ways to monetize as a beginner and many people earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars withing a short time frame. 

    Why is affiliate marketing a great way to monetize for beginners?

    I always recommend beginners start monetizing with affiliate marketing because it’s the best way to earn money with the best risk and reward ratio.

    I say this because most new YouTubers or Bloggers are not getting much traffic so adding ads to their content results in very low rewards. It’s easy to use but ads do not earn much.

    Creating products on the other hand is much harder, requires a lot of upfront work, and may flop because as a beginner you don’t have an audience.

    Enter affiliate marketing, where you don’t have to create a product yet can earn a large commission if you can sell the product.

    Affiliate marketing is also great because as a beginner it lets you try out different things. You can try multiple different affiliate programs and try promoting different products. Maybe you promote something and no one is interested, but that’s ok because it’s not your product and you can just move on to the next one.

    Once you find something that works you can replicate your success and continue to grow your income with affiliate marketing. The great thing is that all the things you’ve done in the past that worked can be passive income as you continue to grow! 

    Affiliate Marketing Tips For YouTubers

    If you are a YouTuber with a budgeting related channel and want to start use affiliate marketing to earn money then here are some of my favorite tips:

    • Mention your links in the video and direct your audience to your description box.
    • Include an affiliate disclaimer link in your description box that is clear you will make a commission.
    • Link to specific products you use instead of the general page. The less steps between a buyer and the purchase the better. Specific links convert better than generic ones.
    • Use products in the programs that you are promoting as an affiliate. If you have a choice to use products in the program or not, use the ones you can promote as an affiliate. People always want to know where you got things.
    • Leave a link to what you used in the video in a pinned comment.
    • Respond to any questions where people ask where you got something and give them the affiliate link. (This is just polite practice as well that builds trust with your audience.)

    Those are just a few of my best tips for how I’ve managed to share products I love like my favorite budget stickers shops and cash envelope makers while also earning income for doing it!

    Why share which affiliate programs I use?

    The affiliate marketing programs I shared here are the top two programs I’ve used to monetize my budget planner channel and they’ve worked very well for me. I’ve made thousands of dollars over my two years of being on YouTube from these two programs in those affiliate networks.

    Yes, giving them away does mean I have more competition for the links but I’ve also found that helping more people eventually benefits me as well. I will earn a small amount if you sign up for those affiliate networks as well which will help make up for some revenue I’ve lost. Plus, I like having good deeds on my side.

    I also, really, really like helping people figure out ways to earn income online and improve their lives through doing things like affiliate marketing or making digital products. I’ve got a passion for helping other people make money! 

    Learn More About Affiliate Marketing

    If you want a deep dive into how affiliate marketing works for both bloggers and YouTubers too you can take a more in depth class: Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing I took Michelle’s course when I wanted to grow my affiliate income on YouTube and it’s helped me grow that income source a lot even though I already understood the basics of affiliate marketing.

    If you’ve signed up for the affiliate networks above and still feel lost on how to seamlessly use affiliate marketing you might want to try the course. It’s great for beginners to walk you through how to use and grow your affiliate marketing income. I will say that it is geared toward bloggers but the basics are the same for bloggers and youtubers.

    Congrats on learning about and using affiliate marketing to grow the income for your channel! It’s so hard to make content and grow a channel so it’s definitely worthwhile to make sure you also are earning money for the time you are investing in your content!

  • How To Improve Your Credit Score

    My credit score was not great when I first started learning about money, but recently I’ve benefited from multiple refinances where my excellent credit gave me huge benefits and saved me tens of thousands of dollars

    After refinancing our mortgage AND the parent plus loans I’ve been paying, I’m more convinced than ever that you shouldn’t ignore credit. When you have bad credit you can get denied for loans or have to accept bad rates that end up costing you a lot of money.

    Instead we should work to make your credit score better without going into debt. I know not everyone agrees on credit in the personal finance world – everyone gets feisty – but it’s a fact of life for us real life every day people.

    Over the years I’ve been able to raise my low credit score to one that is considered excellent. This excellent credit score has helped save me lots of money in interest rates on my loans and has put me in a much better position financially.

    Learning how to improve my credit score took some work so I’d like to share some of the tips to improve credit scores that I learned along the way.

    Why You Should Improve Your Credit Score

    The unfortunate reality is that your credit score matters. 

    Good credit gets you access to better rates, allows you to pay less on big items like homes and cars, and even determines your ability to qualify for certain jobs or rentals. 

    You don’t have to love debt or need credit card debt to get a good credit score. In fact, I hate debt. But I also live in the real world and out here your credit score is a tool that can open up doors to a better experience in life.

    Having no credit sounds like an amazing idea but in the real world it makes things much harder. You will have access to fewer companies when you apply for a mortgage because many won’t do manual underwriting. You’ll  have access to less rental options because many landlords don’t want to (or can’t) go through the hassle of evaluating your finances and manually approving you. 

    The fact of the matter is that having good credit opens up doors for you.

    Here are a few reasons why building a good credit score is important:

    • Good credit will get you better interest rates when you need credit for financing a large purchase.
    • Good credit means you will pay less overall on those big purchases you have to make on credit.
    • Buying a home requires a credit score with most lenders and the better your credit score, the better loan you will be able to get. 
    • Having bad credit can stop you from being able to buy a home at all until you improve it.
    • Your credit score determines your ability to rent an apartment and many won’t accept below 700.
    • Your credit score can affect getting certain jobs in certain industries where you have to appear trustworthy.

    Clearly having good credit is important. It affects many areas of your life and having bad credit will force you to pay more for the same things others get at a much lower overall cost.

    The good news is your credit score is something you can work to improve!

    We have excellent credit now so we got great rates and had an easy time with our refinance. I got a great rate on our mortgage and I got to move the rate on student loans from 8.5% to just over 3%. Before that? My mom got denied for a refinance because of credit. She’s been working on her credit and debt payoff but in the real world she is still penalized by companies and forced to pay 5% more interest. Or even worse on other products.

    It’s not fair. It’s really not. When you have bad credit you have to pay more when you do need to purchase something with credit. You can also be denied certain jobs, rentals, and more. Pretending like you don’t need good credit might sound cool and counter cultural until you are the one being denied opportunities to make your life better…. because of credit.

    The good thing is that credit is something that can be fixed. It’s a game. There are known things you can do to improve your credit. And if you’re smart you can benefit from it. Pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t work for most of us so I’m more convinced than ever it’s important to understand how credit works, learn to use it responsibly, and benefit from the concept.

    What Makes Up Your Credit Score

    In order to improve your credit scores, you need to understand what makes up your credit score.

    To help you understand how factors affect your credit score, here’s a screenshot of my info in Credit Karma while I have a 823 credit score.

    Here are the things that will affect your credit score from highest to lowest impact:

    1. Payment history – Percentage of payments you’ve made on time
    2. Credit card use – How much credit you’re using compared to your total limits
    3. Derogatory marks – Collections, tax liens, bankruptcies, civil judgements on your credit report
    4. Credit age – Average age of your open accounts
    5. Total accounts – Total open and closed accounts on your report
    6. Hard inquiries – Number of times you’ve applied for credit (in the last couple years)

    These are the things that impact your score the most. Two of them are things that you do automatically when you start budgeting and paying down your debt – you pay things on time and you use less of your available credit.

    So let’s talk more about these factors and how you can use them to actually improve your credit score.

    How To Improve Your Credit Score

    While I don’t take pride in having a great credit score, it has been something I’ve worked to improve over the years and has benefited me greatly. Ultimately a high credit score wasn’t a point of pride but a practical matter that I needed to improve to help myself and my family.

    It is possible to build your credit score but there are some things you need to know about improving your credit score. Having this knowledge is the first step to improving credit and the next will be implementing it. 

    Here are some important things to know:

    • It is possible to rebuild credit responsibly over time.
    • There is no QUICK way to fix credit. Any method will take time.
    • You do not need to pay someone else to fix your credit. You can do it.

    My own credit score went from the low 600s to the high 700s and now to the 800s. This has improved my loan interest rates and helped us get a good mortgage rate which saved us tens of thousands of dollars in interest.

    The Basics Of Improving Your Credit Score

    If you want to improve your credit score, there are some basics you need to know about how to improve your credit and therefore your credit score.

    The basics of improving your credit score:

    1. Check your credit score AND your credit report
    2. Pay your bills on time
    3. Reduce the amount of debt you owe
    4. Increase your credit limit

    Those are the very basics of building your credit over time.

    Of course, there are lots of little things to do with each item and in certain situations so we will walk through them all in the coming sections and action steps. You can do this!!

    For action steps you will want to do the following items:

    • Check your credit score for free with multiple sources.
    • Check your credit report and make sure it is accurate.
    • Pay your bills on time every month and never be late.
    • Keep your balances low on credit cards and revolving credit.
    • Do not close old accounts you don’t use.
    • Apply for and open new credit only as needed.
    • Pay off debt as you can rather than moving it from account to account.
    • Make responsible purchases on credit that you know you can pay off.
    • Don’t obsess about your score, just let it improve over time.

    These are the basics for improving your credit score. I’ll break each one down further below.

    Check your credit score for free.

    Improving your credit starts with knowing your credit score and knowing where you stand with credit. Once you know what you are working with you will know how much it can improve by implementing the basic ideas for improving a credit score.

    You can check your credit score for free from a number of sources these days. You should never have to pay to get your credit score.

    Check your credit score from 3 different sources.

    I recommend checking your credit score in at least 3 locations so you can get an average and see what different scores are saying about your credit worthiness. Different sources will report a different FICO or Vantange score so checking multiple sources gives you a clear idea of what different places are seeing.

    Here are a few places where you can check your credit score for free

    • Experian app
    • Credit Karma
    • Creditwise – offered within Capital One accounts

    Checking your score is the first step because you have to know where you are starting. It may be hard to see and face the facts if your score is very low but finding out where you start is the only way to improve.

    Check your credit report and make sure it is accurate.

    When you are trying to improve your credit you have to not only find out your credit score but also check your credit report to see what the credit bureaus are seeing.

    Luckily, once a year you can pull your credit report FOR FREE thanks to the federal laws in the United States. You can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company from annualcreditreport.com.

    There are multiple reasons to check your credit report:

    • Checking your credit report gives you an idea where you can start improving credit.
    • Reviewing credit reports helps you catch signs of identity theft early.
    • It allows you to ensure that the information on all of your credit reports is correct and up to date.

    Here’s how you complete this step:

    Step 1: Check your credit report.

    There is ONE website in the US where you can pull your credit reports for free thanks to this law: annualcreditreport.com

    You don’t need to pay for your report from any bureau or any other website. This is the only website you need! It is the only official site explicitly directed by Federal law to provide them.

    Sign up and enter your information on the website to get your three credit reports.

    Next, review the information. If there is any incorrect information, make a note of it for the next step.

    Compare the three credit reports against each other. Do they match? Where are the discrepancies between the different bureaus? Mark these for your information for future steps.

    Step 2: Dispute and remove any incorrect information.

    Sometimes there may be mistakes on your credit report. That’s why it is important to pull and double check your credit report every year.

    Once a year you can should pull your credit report for free and make sure nothing has changed or been reported incorrectly. Staying on top of your credit makes sure when you do build good credit it will be there for you when you need it.

    Pay your bills on time every month and never be late.

    On time payments is a huge factor in your FICO score and all other credit scores. Paying your bills on time is actually one of the biggest factors in determining your credit score. FICO says it is 35% of their calculation for your score.

    Unfortunately missed payments or late payments will negatively affect your credit score. Paying your current bills on time should be the first active step you take toward improving your credit score.

    If you’re having trouble with late or missed payments, here are a few things to try to pay your bills on time:

    • Make a list of every bill you have to pay. You should have an accurate and up to date list of all bills you owe each and every month. If you have a lot of bills to pay it’s easy to let one fall through the cracks if it’s not listed. 
    • Check your credit report to make sure you’ve included every bill due on your list. Your credit report lists all lenders you owe money to so you can add any debts you’ve either missed or forgotten entirely.
    • Review your bank accounts and credit card statements for recurring bills you pay each month. This will include things like subscriptions, memberships, cell phone bills, etc.
    • Add the due dates to your list of bills to pay. You have to know when bills are due in order to pay them on time or early. 
    • Set up automatic payments for bills. It’s easy to forget a due date when your life gets busy so make sure your bills are paid automatically when it’s an option.
    • Set up payment reminders. You likely can’t pay every bill automatically so you will never to make sure you have a system for making manual payments on time. You can do this on some banks or just use your calendar. Put all your bill due dates into your calendar and set up automated reminders so you can pay the bill on time or double check autopay to make sure it was paid.

    This might seem like a lot of work but always paying your bills on time will help you maintain good relationships with companies and improve your credit score.

    Getting current on your bills and staying current without missing payments or paying lae will help you improve your credit score. The longer you pay your bills in a timely way the higher your credit score will increase and the less your past payment mistakes will count against you.

    If you are truly struggling just to make ends meet or feel like you are drowning in debt, then reach out to a legitimate credit counselor or financial coach. Don’t go to a disreputable credit repair place with big promises but look for help to get out of the hole you’re in right now. This solution won’t hurt your score and will give you a plan to manage your credit by paying on time and improving slowly over time.

    Keep your balances low on credit cards and revolving credit.

    How much credit you are currently using will affect your credit score. If you are only using a small percentage of the credit you could be using then your score will be higher.

    Having a good credit score doesn’t mean you need overwhelming amounts of debt. In fact, having large debt balances usually hurts your credit score because of the credit utilization factor.

    Your credit utilization is the balance of your debt compared to the available credit you have access to. This contributes 30% to FICO score’s calculation which means it is something you need to work on asap. 

    The goal here is to pay off debt while still keeping your credit limits high. This lowers the amount of credit you are using compared to the amount you could actually use. 

    The first step of course is paying off debt so we will focus on that step here. It is one of the easiest areas to work on but it does require discipline, focus, and organization.

    Do not close old accounts you don’t use.

    While this is debated by some in the personal finance world, I found that not closing accounts helped my credit score.

    When I finished paying off a debt or simply moved on to a new credit card for rewards, I never closed the old account unless it had an annual fee.

    If a credit card did have an annual fee, I did close the account but asked the company to roll the credit limit to another card without a fee or to another existing card. This trick helps raise your credit limit drastically!

    Having old accounts still open for use will help increase your credit score since age of accounts is a big factor in your score. You don’t have to use your older credit lines often but just enough to keep them open.

    Apply for and open new credit only as needed.

    Having multiple accounts open for long periods of time can help your credit score but that doesn’t mean more is better.

    You don’t need to open 25 different accounts to get a good credit score. In fact I have less than 10 and have an excellent credit score.

    Be selective in the credit lines that you open. Don’t max yourself out with too many new open lines of credit. It will drop your credit score temporarily and it could potentially put you in a precarious situation.

    If you are in a credit building stage, then you should work on opening new cards strategically over time but never all at once. Wait 6 months or more between opening new credit lines.

    Pay off debt as you can.

    I don’t carry debt balances and pay off all my debt but still keep my credit score high so it is available for me to use if I need it.

    Paying off debt rather than moving it around with transfer balances is a smart move for your overall financial situation. It also helps your credit score because the lower your debt utilization the better your score will be.

    Paying off debt can help improve your score if you are reducing the amount you owe and freeing up space you can use. Debt utilization amounts are a part of the credit score as we discussed before. Your score will rise when you have lower amounts of debt because you are utilizing less of the credit available to you.

    Here are some practical ways to pay off debt:

    • List out all of your debts and make a plan to pay them down using either the debt snowball (lowest balance to highest) or debt avalanche (highest interest rate to lowest).
    • Pay off debt instead of moving it around. Paying off your debt will lower your overall utilization amount which will increase your score.
    • Use extra money in your budget and from side hustles to pay down your debt faster. 
    • Keep balances low on credit cards and any other revolving credit you have open. High balances on credit cards will negatively affect your score.
    • Do not close your unused credit cards when they are paid off unless there is a yearly fee for keeping them open. If you do close a credit card, ask the company to roll that credit limit to another card you have open with them.

    Always make sure you make responsible purchases on credit that you know you can pay off.

    Don’t obsess about your score, just let it improve over time.

    It might be tempting to pay someone to help improve your credit score quickly, but be cautious of these services. Many are not helpful but take your money for something you can do yourself.

    You can improve your credit score over time by following common sense credit guidelines and getting on a budget.

    The less you obsess about your credit score the better off you will be.  Ultimately a credit score isn’t the most important thing in your financial life and there are ways to operate around a bad credit score or no credit score at all.

    If you are planning to use credit less and don’t need it for a future mortgage or car loan or new job then your credit score will be less important.

    Remember that even if you are planning to use credit in the future, you can work with what you already have, pay things on time, use credit responsibly, and build your credit score from there.