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A Vacation That Won’t Ruin Your Finances
4/10/2015
Vacations are right around the corner for many families. If you’re not careful, a trip can hurt the family’s finances, making it difficult to pay the bills. To avoid this, the first step to vacation planning is to decide where you want to go, right? Wrong! The first step is to look at your finances and calculate how much vacation you can afford. There’s no sense in looking at a European vacation or Disney cruise if you only have $750 to spend on your family of four. The temptation of window-shopping can be hard to resist, resulting in overspending if you’re not careful.

Once you’ve set a vacation budget you can afford, then start looking around at locations. Shop around for the best prices on hotels and attractions. Pack some of your own food, drinks and snacks. Ask friends and family for their tips on how they saved money on their get away (people love to share their own experiences!)

The main thing is to plan ahead so you will have a lifetime of memories to enjoy without the agony of overspending to sour your wonderful experience.
How To Improve Your Credit Score
3/9/2015
We’re often asked how someone can improve his or her credit. Credit can impact many things, including: Employment, down payments, interest rates, utility deposits and even car insurance. Improving your credit can help you get that job or house you wanted, not to mention possibly saving you thousands of dollars in interest on loans. There’s a lot of information floating around out there and not all of it is accurate. As Abe Lincoln said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” So here are some answers to common questions we hear regarding ways to help you improve your credit:

• Will having a better paying job or putting more money in savings help? It will certainly help impress your loan officer if you apply for a home or car loan, for example. However, your credit score is all about your credit, so more money will not have an impact on your score.

• Won’t paying a company to improve my credit help? Actually, by law there’s nothing that a costly “credit repair” type company can do for your credit that you can’t already do by yourself, and for free!

• Shouldn’t I keep a small balance on my credit cards for the best possible credit score? Actually, FICO credit scoring company says no. The less you owe, the better your score. That being said, if you have credit cards that you rarely use and they just gather dust in a box somewhere, that will not do much to help your score. FICO likes that you have credit and that you use it very conservatively, but that you do actually use it. So perhaps once every month or two you could charge a tank of gasoline to a card and then pay it off in full when the statement comes.

• My card balances are all well under their card limits, not maxed out, so I’m good on those cards, right? Again, FICO likes that you have credit and that you use it, but the less you owe, the higher your score will be. And perhaps the biggest credit scoring surprise that trips up a lot of people is this – if you owe 50% or more of your credit line (such as owing $1,000 on a $2,000 card limit), FICO calls it a score killer! You’re looking at it as the glass is half full, but FICO looks at it as the glass is half empty. So knock down that debt and watch that score go up!

• Won’t a credit counseling Debt Management Program ruin my credit? Just the opposite, actually. Like we’ve mentioned, the less you owe, the better your score. So as you pay your debt down on a DMP, your score will go up. We often pull credit reports on clients before they start the DMP, a few years into the DMP and at the finish of their DMP when they’ve paid off all their debt. What we see reflected in their credit score is that their score goes up and their debt goes down. So don’t let that myth keep you from going on a DMP and becoming debt free! Lastly, 65% of your credit score is how well (on time or not) you’ve paid in the past and how much debt you have. So be sure to pay on time with at least the minimum due and aim to knock down your debt. That will greatly improve your score. Plus, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of financial freedom when you become debt free!
Most Americans Can’t Survive One Month On Savings Alone
2/20/2015
The majority of Americans would not be able to survive for just one month on readily available savings if they lost their paycheck, according to a new report. A recent study from Pew Charitable Trusts shows a bleak picture of Americans struggling with financial stress. Although the national economy has recovered to some extent, American families are still greatly struggling.

The study determined that 70 percent of American households face at least one of the following three problems: insufficient savings, high debt burdens or monthly expenses that exceed income. Emergencies are unfortunately a fact of life. It isn’t a question of IF someone will have one, but WHEN. Having only a month’s salary saved for emergencies is horribly insufficient, like trying to cross the ocean in a canoe. If a family experiences a job loss, a significant cut in work hours, or a medical issue that prevents mom or dad from working for four weeks, it could spell financial disaster for that family. The bills could pile up. The mortgage could fall behind. The car might get repossessed.

As grim as that picture is, it gets worse: Fifty-five percent of households would not be able to cover a month of expenses with funds in easily accessible places like savings accounts. They could only financially survive for a few weeks or less. So just what can families do? Here are a few essential steps to take:

• Take a look at the finances – how much is saved as a financial safety net and how much more does it need to be? :

• Review your expenses – track expenses for one month so you KNOW where your money is going. Not where you THINK it’s going or HOPE it’s going. Big difference. :

• Make changes in your spending/budget – look for ways to reduce or eliminate some expenses. :

• Use that reduction in spending to increase your emergency savings. :

Don’t just wish for better financial security. Be proactive and start working a game plan to improve your family’s financial health today.
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Education Survey
4/10/2015
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Money Check Up
Take the My Money CheckUp! Answer some basic money and credit questions to get a snapshot of how you are doing financially and what areas you may need to work on. Best of all – it’s FREE! Check Up
Help For Homebuyers
5/5/2015
CCOA’s next free Homebuyer Education class is Saturday, June 6, at Washington County Extension Sign Up
Credit Counseling 101
Ever wonder what a credit counseling session looks like, or what exactly is a debt management plan? These short videos show you.
Website Updates
CCOA is committed to continually improving our service to you. Several clients have suggested that we add a new feature to our Web site that allows clients to access their quarterly client statements, rather than receive it in the postal mail. We heard you. This year we have been diligently working on creating this new capability for your convenience. Simply go to our Web site at www.CCOAcares.com and click on the “Client Log-In” tab on the top right of our home page.

Your username is your CCOA client number and your password is the primary’s last name plus the last four digits of the social security number.

If you have any questions please email us at ccoa@ccoacares.com or call 479-521-8877 or 800-889-4916.
Credit Counseling of Arkansas, Inc., Credit & Debt Counseling, Fayetteville, AR