Data Facts Blog


Spending Mistakes Smart People Make Over the Holidays

empty-pocketDecember is a time for families and friends to come together over the holidays. However, the last month of the year can also be a big budget buster that can leave you broke and in debt if you aren’t careful.

We have created a breakdown of mistakes smart people make over the holidays that result in January being hard to bear.  Avoiding these actions can help you make certain you roll into January with some money left in your pocket and your credit score intact.

The “I’ll pay it off next month” blunder.  Perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself is to set a budget for the holidays, and pay for those plans with cash. Using a credit card for holiday purchases sets you up to overspend. Paying for gifts you bought in December all the way through April is nobody’s idea of fun. Not to mention the negative affect those credit card charges could have on your credit score.

The “I’ll know it when I see it” shopping plan. Scour sales papers BEFORE your shopping trip to get an idea of the items you will be buying, and the cost. Shopping without a plan is like going into the grocery store hungry; it sets you up to overspend on impulse items.

The “it’s a bargain” trap. Don’t fall for the deep discount prices and one-day only ads. These ploys can break your budget and rack up lots of credit card charges. If the item wasn’t on your list and included in your budget, don’t buy it.

The “open a credit card today” ambush. Sure, an extra 10 or 15% off for simply opening a store credit card sounds great. However, don’t be taken in by this offer. A new credit card will show up as an inquiry on your credit report, and will give you the urge to use it lavishly. Just say no.

Now, those are goofs that deal with shopping. However, other activities can be budget breakers during the holiday season.

The “this dress makes me look skinny” argument. While we all like a new outfit, do you really need that new dress, new purse, or new cufflinks for your holiday party? Do you really not already own an outfit you can wear? Make sure you don’t overspend on clothing for the holidays that will end up only being worn once.

The “eat, drink, and be merry” boo-boo. Holidays inspire quality time with friends and family. However, expensive meals and overindulging in alcohol can tank your budget. Plan ahead for nights out, and suggest less expensive venues if your budget is tight.

Being aware of these holiday budget saboteurs is the first step to success. By avoiding these mistakes, you can keep your bank account and credit score high! Don’t let money mistakes over the holidays turn HO HO HO into NO NO NO!

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company.  Data Facts provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

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Credit Score Health: Common Conditions that can Tank your Score

Posted in Budget,Credit Score,FICO,Uncategorized by datafactssolutions on October 31, 2011
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A credit score is a measurement to determine your credit worthiness, and we should all strive to keep ours as HIGH as possible. This means managing our payments, watching our credit card balances, and not frivolously applying for new credit.
However, certain seemingly innocent actions can result in credit score decreases. Do you recognize yourself as having any of these “conditions”?
The “I gotta have it-ache”. A new fishing rod, a great pair of heels, a beach vacation. We all have the budget breaking Achilles heel. While splurging every now and then won’t be detrimental, a habit of treating yourself to everything that catches your eye can damage your credit score. Overspending can result in maxed out credit cards, which can lower your credit score (remember, credit utilization accounts for 30% of your score). Another result of over-extending can be not being able to pay your bills on time. If you begin paying bills late, your credit score will definitely pay the price.
The “I’ll worry about it tomorrow-itis”. Procrastinating on making a budget or delaying facing your mounting bills is a sure fire way to sink your credit score. A few missed payments along with a few bad purchases can cause a mess that will take you months (or YEARS) to recover from.
The “I can’t miss a deal-phobia”. 20% off if you open a credit card! Ends today! If either of these speaks to you, this may be a problem. Department stores often offer discounts for opening a new credit card, and these show up on your credit report as an inquiry. Too many of these can have a very negative effect on your credit score.
The “It will work itself out-flu”. Collection calls, liens, lates, OH MY! These are credit score tankers and they need to be dealt with thisveryminute! There is a chance that they are erroneous, and could be removed from your credit report with a little effort on your part. Letting them linger on your credit report will send you straight out of 700 and 800land into 600 or 500ville. And nobody wants to live there.
The best remedies to get and keep a high credit score?
Think about your purchases. Being impulsive with money is going to lead you down a debt-ridden path. If the object of your desire costs more than 1% of your monthly income, think about it for at least 24 hours and figure out how you are going to pay for it.
Always keep your budget on your mind. Write out a monthly budget so that you know how much extra money you can spend every month. This will keep you making your payments on time and your debt manageable.
Just say no to marketing. Don’t be swayed to buy something or open credit lines you don’t need because of a great sale or discount. If you weren’t looking for it before you walked into the store, chances are you can live without it, no matter how great the ‘deal’. Your financial future is more important than saving a few bucks.
Keep your head out of the sand. Big credit problems such as collections and liens will not vanish by themselves. Make sure you are checking your credit report regularly. Never assume that creditors will realize they have made a mistake and then take steps to correct it on their own. Jump in and get any erroneous information handled immediately.
     The health of your credit score depends largely on your ability to control your impulses when shopping. Keeping a handle on spending and seeing your big financial picture will help keep your credit score healthy and in top form.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product solutions to lenders nationwide.

Increase Your Credit Score: High Tech and Low Tech Ways

Protect your credit score! Whether you are a high tech smartphone addict or barely use email, here are some everyday tips that you can put in place. These routine practices will boost your credit score to the top of the charts:
1: Make sure your credit report is accurate. If your credit score is being calculated from incorrect information, it may be suffering greatly. It’s estimated that 25% of credit reports contain some sort of error.
High tech way: You may request a copy of your credit report from http://www.annualcreditreport.com once every 12 months free of charge. This website is provided by the 3 main credit bureaus. Reviewing your credit report is a great way to catch any mistakes BEFORE they damage your credit.
Low tech way: You may request your credit report by phone or by mail. By phone:  call 1-877-322-8228 and you will go through a simple verification process. Your report will then be mailed to you within 2 -3 weeks. By mail:   download and complete the Request Form (available on the website) and mail it to

 Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Your report will be delivered in 2-3 weeks
2: Pay your bills on time. Payment history is 35% of your credit score, so paying your bills on time needs to be a top priority.
High tech way: Techies have many options of apps that can be used to track spending and bill pay. http://www.mint.com and http://www.pageonce.com are 2 of the many apps that can set up all of your bills in one place. These apps remind you when bills are due, track spending, etc.
Another way to make sure you don’t miss any payments is to set up automatic payments from your online banking to your mortgage, auto, and credit card providers. This will ensure that you don’t rack up any late pays, which can tank your credit score.
Low tech way: If you are still walking to the mailbox to get your bills, put this practice in place; pay your bills the day they arrive. This may sound a little hard core, however, paying them when you receive them has its benefits. The bill won’t get a chance to lose itself in the pile on your desk, AND you don’t have to think about it anymore.
Another low tech option is to have a desk calendar that has all of your monthly bills marked on the date they need to be mailed (not the date they are due). Put the calendar in a place where you can see it every day, so the due date doesn’t sneak by you.
3: Keep your credit card balance low: Behind paying bills on time, account balances are the most important factor in your credit score (30%). Running up those credit card balances close to the limit has a dramatically negative impact on your credit score. Don’t let this happen to you!
High tech way; as mentioned in #1, there are many apps that can help you track you spending and budget. By following a budget, you can see where your money goes, and plan for bigger expenses (new furniture, vacations, etc) without charging up your plastic.
Low tech way: get a pencil and paper and make a budget. Track you spending to make sure that you know where your money is going. Open all of your credit card statements the day they arrive, and try your best to pay off your balances every month.
High tech and Low tech tip: While using credit cards responsibly DOES help raise your score, it’s a good all-round financial practice to make sure you are not racking up useless debt.
If you do end up using your credit cards and can’t pay the balance off every month, MAKE SURE you do not charge up more than 30% of your limit (ex: on a credit card with a $10,000 limit, never charge more than $3,000). Keeping your balances low will go a long way toward boosting your credit score.
4: Don’t close, lose, or ignore those old credit cards. Length of credit history is 15% of your credit score. The optimum credit history is 30 years long! Work hard to make sure those old credit cards are doing their job to raise your score.
Remember, credit cards must be used once every 6 months to be included in your credit score.
High tech way: set up one of your bills to automatically charge to your oldest credit card. It does not matter how small the amount. Any new balance will update that credit card at the credit bureaus so that all that great long credit history is showing up on your credit report.
Low tech way: carry your oldest credit card in your wallet and be sure to use it once a month to buy either gas or groceries. This purchase will keep your card active and counting positively in your credit report. Pay it off at the end of the month so you are not hit with any finance charges.
Putting some or all of these tips into place can go a long way toward maximizing your credit score and ensuring the best rates on your mortgage, car, and credit card loans. And, whether we are high tech or low tech, this should sound good to all of us.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product solutions to lenders nationwide.