More Ways to Lower Your Holiday Gift Expenses

lower holiday gift expenses

In part one of this multi-part blog series, we went over some basic tips for those on a somewhat tight budget this holiday season. While the holidays involve increased spending for many in areas like gifts and special meals, those struggling with their finances are regularly looking for ways to celebrate the season without going overboard on their costs.

At 1st Choice Money Center, we’re here to help. Not only do we offer a variety of short-term loans, from auto title loans to signature loans and several other personal loan types, but we also provide our clients with basic expertise and tips on how to manage their money throughout the year, including during holiday season. Today’s part two of our series will dig into a few more areas to keep a close eye on with regard to holiday spending.

lower holiday gift expenses

Cards Over Gifts

Are you the type who likes sending some kind of holiday greeting or gift to a large number of people in your life? If so, and if you’re looking to keep the budget reasonable, one great method here is only selecting pricy gifts for the top few people (usually family members) on your list – then sending cards or greetings to everyone else.

This is a way to let people know you’re thinking of them without running up a huge spending tab. To go the extra mile, hand-write each individual card or note, showing friends and family that while you may not have endless funds to devote to them, you’re giving them the gift of your time and effort.

Online Discounts

One area that’s relatively obvious, but that we wanted to mention anyway, is taking advantage of online discounts. Various “Black Friday” sales and deals begin as long as a month before Thanksgiving for many online retailers, and there are numerous avenues to finding great discounts on the items you’re looking for. Many are able to save upwards of 50% on what they would have spent at another time of year, all without leaving the computer.

Wrapping Themes

For those you do purchase gifts for, a handy money-saver is in the realm of wrapping. Instead of spending big on brand new paper and other design elements, head over to a local dollar or thrift store – they’ll have numerous ideal wrapping options, many of which look good-as-new despite costing a fraction of other options. And as we noted above, if you combine these themes with hand-written notes and personal care, it will show those you’re buying gifts for that you truly care about them even if you haven’t spent a fortune on their gift.

For more on how to budget properly for holiday shopping, or to learn about any of our personal or installment loans to help with financial strain this time of year, speak to the staff at 1st Choice Money Center today.

Early Budgeting and Themes for Holiday Shopping, Part 1

budgeting themes holiday shopping

The weather outside may not quite indicate holiday season, but take a look at the calendar – it’s practically right around the corner. For those who like to purchase significant gifts and cards for friends and family during the holiday portion of the year, especially those who are tight on funds for any reason, it’s nearing time to begin budgeting for this theme.

At 1st Choice Money Center, we’re proud to offer a variety of short-term loans to assist those in need of a bit of financial boost, from car title loans to installment loans, signature loans and many other alternatives to payday loans – which are predatory and not offered here. In addition to providing many clients with a financial outlet to assist them with minor expenses like holiday spending, we’re also happy to offer tips and expertise on budgeting properly for this time. This multi-part blog series will go over a wide swath of approaches we recommend.

budgeting themes holiday shopping

Tighten Up Now

You might be thinking: It’s only October! Why begin holiday budgeting so early?

Well, because every penny counts, especially for anyone dealing with financial strain. Funds you save now on top of your normal budgeting will feel like found money when you need them for holiday gifts or decorations. In addition, settling yourself into a general theme of frugality is a great way to save a few bucks here and there and get into this helpful pattern.

Budget and Basic Lists

On top of being more frugal and looking for savings wherever possible leading into holiday season, take a few minutes well ahead of time to go over a general list of things you’ll want to purchase. Start with major gifts for those closest to you and work your way down to those who you only want to send cards or other greetings to. This will help you avoid impulse spending when the time comes, a major factor in saving money around holiday time.

Once you have a decent grasp of your general list, begin pricing out items and setting a budget. If you discover your list is too extensive for your budget, you have plenty of time to consider it and pare things down.

Budgeting Tools

There are a couple excellent modern tools available to assist you with holiday budgeting:

  • Online research: From online shopping to the ability to compare prices between several brick-and-mortar outlets without ever leaving home, online research is enormously beneficial.
  • Budgeting apps: There are a number of budgeting apps out there, from general ones to those specific to the holidays. They allow you to set budgets, track your spending down to the dollar and even receive automatic updates.

For more on budgeting early for the holidays, or to learn about how any of our short-term loan products may assist you here, speak to the staff at 1st Choice Money Center today.

Loan Process for Those With Poor Credit Ratings, Part 2

loan process poor credit ratings

In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over some general tips on how to obtain a loan despite having a poor credit score. Credit score is a big factor in obtaining loans, to be sure, but there are loan types and methods to take to secure loan funds even if your credit is not in the place you’d like it to be.

At 1st Choice Money Center, we’re here to help. We offer several excellent loan types for those in various situations, from car title loans to numerous bad credit personal loans and alternatives to predatory payday loans. In today’s part two of our series, we’ll go over a few additional tips we can offer for obtaining a loan despite a bad credit score or history.

loan process poor credit ratings

Prove Repayment Capability

There are some cases where your credit score may be in the process of being rebuilt, but is still on the low end – but meanwhile, your overall financial situation has improved significantly. If you can prove you will be able to repay a loan amount based on new income changes, bank statements and related factors, there’s a better chance you’ll be lent the funds you need.

One possible related alternative here is having a cosigner, or someone who helps you guarantee the debt will be paid back. This must be someone with whom you have mutual trust, however, as a failure from you to repay the loan will land on your cosigner when creditors come looking for their funds.

Look Out for Scams

Sadly, there are a number of predatory individuals and companies who attempt to prey on those with poor credit scores or other financial deficiencies. Many of these will offer “payday” loans that have been recognized as predatory, while others will stick to a variety of outright advance-fee loan scams that pull money straight out of your pocket. If you’re unsure about a given lender, contact your state’s Department of Banking or Department of Financial Regulation – or the Better Business Bureau.

Reputable, Quality Lender

Down similar lines, it’s important to make sure you’re taking your loan out from a quality lender who not only has a strong reputation, but also offers the ideal loan program for you. There are several such programs, and which is best for you will depend on several factors, including not only your credit score but also other financial and need factors. A quality lender like ours will help you evaluate your situation and choose the best loan option based on it.

For more on how to obtain a loan despite not having ideal credit, or to learn about any of our signature loans, installment loans or related services, speak to the staff at 1st Choice Money Center today.

Loan Process for Those With Poor Credit Ratings, Part 1

: loan process poor credit

Recently in this space, we went over some of the top loan options available for those with limited or poor credit scores or credit histories. While finding loan funds can be a bit more difficult for those in this position, there are still several loan types available to meet your needs.

At 1st Choice Money Center, we offer numerous such loan types as alternatives to payday loans, such as car title loans, personal loans and several others. In addition to identifying the proper loan program to meet your needs if you’re in a poor credit situation, there are several additional steps you should be taking during this process. This two-part blog series will go over several of the steps and themes you should consider for procuring a loan despite bad credit.

: loan process poor credit

Collect and Review Personal Information

For starters, you should take the time to gather and review all your personal information as it pertains to a potential loan. This begins with your actual need for the loan to begin with – evaluate your finances comprehensively to determine that you need a loan, plus the general amount you require.

From here, take a close look at your credit score in particular. Credit scores run up to 850, but you don’t need a score anywhere near this maximum to obtain many personal loan types. If your score is under 580, though, you may be limited to certain specific loan types in many cases.

Credit Score Improvement

If you check your score and discover it’s below this range or another you require for a given loan application, take some time to try and improve your score before applying. Methods here include paying down old loans, disputing errors that might be present and limiting new credit inquiries or major spending. If you’re able to raise your credit score by just a bit, you may see your range of loan options increase significantly.

Terms and Factors

As you move toward the loan options available to you, take the time to go over the specific terms and factors involved in the conversation. Look closely at APR, which stands for Annual Percentage Rate – this is the total annual cost of the loan including all interest and fees, which gives you the widest overall picture of what you’ll be paying. If you do not look at APR and choose instead to look at individual rate areas, you may miss one or more in your calculations and end up paying far more than you were planning, which could further damage your credit in the process.

For more on how to evaluate loan options and terms when you have poor credit, or to learn about any of our installment loans or related services, speak to the staff at 1st Choice Money Center today.

Lowering Grocery Bills on a Tight Budget, Part 2

lowering grocery bills tight budget

In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over some basics on how those faced with a tight financial budget can save money within the food and grocery realm. Costs in this area can add up over a given month, but with the right attention to detail and discipline, you can reduce your grocery bills significantly and save funds for other needs like debt repayment.

At 1st Choice Money Center, we’re here to help with a variety of advance cash loans for those who may be in a temporary financial bind, including signature loans, car title loans and several other great alternatives to predatory payday loans (which we don’t offer). In today’s part two of our series, we’ll go over a few other belt-tightening methods we can recommend when it comes to food and groceries to help you limit your spending and keep your overall finances in a good place.

lowering grocery bills tight budget

Food Inventory

Where possible and realistic, look to build up a stockpile of certain foods or ingredients. We’re talking mostly about non-perishable items that won’t spoil if you save them for a period of time, including rice, pasta, beans, canned items and several others.

You can even hit this same theme with many perishables that can be frozen, such as bread, meats, poultry and many vegetables. Creating a stockpile of these items limits the need for you to hit the grocery store often – this, in turn, limits your impulse spending and also the gas you use going to and from your grocer. If possible, you want to build up an inventory that will last at least a couple months.

Weekly Menu

Down similar lines, using both your long-term inventory and recently-purchased items, spend some time each week either formulating a specific menu or at least outlining many of your major at-home meals. While it’s fine to have an impulsive meal here or there, you’ll save yourself time and money if you have some recipes set out in advance. If you live with family, get their input and ensure everyone has their say on the weekly menu.

Minimize Food Waste

Finally, one major area to consider here is limiting your wasted food. A shocking statistic reveals that in the United States, roughly 40% of the food produced is thrown away – but you can do much better than this with a diligent effort, and save yourself some big money in the process. Think about the other areas where you could apply funds if you reduced your wasted food down to 10% or something even lower.

For more on how to save money on monthly groceries to improve your finances, or to learn about any of our installment or short-term loans, speak to the staff at 1st Choice Money Center today.

Lowering Grocery Bills on a Tight Budget, Part 1

lowering grocery bills budget

For many Americans out there, getting by financially is a struggle. Many of us live paycheck-to-paycheck and may struggle with certain emergency costs when they crop up, and might be looking for resources in the event this happens.

At 1st Choice Money Center, we’re here to help. We offer a variety of short-term loan products for those in need of a quick cash infusion, including signature loans, auto title loans and several other alternatives to payday loans. In addition, we’re happy to offer basic tips on common day-to-day financial areas and what those in a financial bind might be able to do to limit certain expanses. One major area here: Groceries, which everyone needs but can vary pretty widely in terms of your spending. This two-part blog will go over several tips we can offer on lowering your grocery bill, either temporarily or permanently, to fit a tight budget.

lowering grocery bills budget

Make a List

For starters, one theme that’s been proven across numerous studies (and is backed by simple common sense): The less time you spend in a grocery store, the less money you’re likely to spend. This is why it’s vital to make a detailed shopping list in advance of your trip, keeping you focused on the proper items you need.

This also keeps you from being distracted or tantalized by too many of the tasty-looking treats certain to be present as you move through the store. Impulse buying is something that hurts many consumers, both in grocery stores and other purchasing situations, but having a list and sticking to it is a great way of avoiding this practice.

Utilize Coupons

There are numerous sources of coupons and various discounts for grocery stores, and you should capitalize on these whenever the opportunity presents itself. Look for grocery store fliers and other mailers you may receive, plus keep your receipt from previous purchases – they often contain discounts.

In addition, look online for numerous printable coupon resources. On top of this, pay attention to when your store is offering sales on certain items, then combine these with your coupons for even better savings.

Keep a Tally

Not only should you keep your list handy, you should also have a target budget – and a method for tracking how close you’re coming to it. Nearly every modern smartphone has a calculator on it, and you can bring your own from home if you do not have one. As you move through your various items on the list, keep track of your budget and do your best not to go over it.

For more on saving money on groceries to help your finances, or to learn about any of our installment or other short-term loans for those in need, speak to the staff at 1st Choice Money Center today.

Financial Tips for Applying Tax Return Funds

tips applying tax return funds
At 1st Choice Money Center, the name of the game for us is helping our clients with their finances through smart, non-predatory short-term loans like personal loans, title loans and other alternatives to misleading payday loans. In addition to providing such loan services, we also offer expertise and basic financial tips to many of our clients who may be in a bit of a bind. With tax season on the horizon, one area our clients are often wondering about this time of year is what to do with an impending tax return and the funds it offers. While you may be tempted to go out and get a new flatscreen or a new pair of shoes, there are more productive ways to put these funds to use, especially if you’re had any recent financial issues. Let’s look at some intelligent ways to apply your tax return money this year to improve your overall financial picture. tips applying tax return funds

Debt Payoff

If you’ve been trying to pay down debt for months or even years but barely making an impact, a cash infusion like your tax return could be a great chance to make some progress. Especially if you receive a significant amount you were not entirely expecting, this is money you won’t necessarily miss – but it could have a huge impact on lowering your interest payments and allowing you to dig out from debt. One note here: If you have major debts, we recommend paying them down before contributing toward a retirement account. Such accounts only tend to yield between 4 and 5 percent interest, where credit cards charge between 15 and 20 percent interest.

Retirement Funds

If you do not have major credit card debt, on the other hand, retirement funding is a great outlet for tax return money. The sooner you start compiling these savings, the easier it will be to save up and ensure your retirement years are simple and comfortable. There are several retirement account types to consider if you haven’t already got one open.

Emergency Stockpiling

If you don’t already have an emergency fund started, one that’s available for things like a car accident or a natural disaster, this could be a great opportunity to get one started – or to contribute to an existing emergency fund if it’s getting low. In most cases, financial advisors recommend having at least three months of expenses saved up in case of emergency.

Side Gig

Finally, are you attempting to kickstart a side gig or some other kind of pursuit? If your other finances are in order, using your tax return funds here could be a good way to open yourself up to further avenues of income. For more on potential avenues for intelligent application of your tax return money this year, or to learn about any of our installment loans, speak to the staff at 1st Choice Money Center today.

Loan Types for Those With Bad Credit Ratings

loan types bad credit
For those with bad credit who are in need of additional funds for a variety of potential reasons, the process can be stressful. Whether you need money for an emergency medical procedure, a period of unemployment or any other reason, you may be worried your bad credit will keep you from getting it. At 1st Choice Money Center, we’re here to reassure you that this isn’t the case. We have several bad credit personal loans, title loans and installment loans available for borrowers in this position who may not have the requisite credit needed to get approved for other loan types. Let’s take a look at what each of our primary types does and why it might be the right choice to fill your monetary needs. loan types bad credit

Personal Loans

A personal loan is one that’s provided in a lump sum format to the borrower, and the borrower has complete control over what they do with the money. Personal loans can range widely in terms of their value, from lower amounts like $1,000 or even less all the way up to $50,000 in some cases. Several factors play a role in how much you can borrow on a personal loan, including your credit rating. While a select few personal loans may be secured against collateral, most are not. Rather, they are unsecured loans based on your word and the details of your income and other financial areas.

Title Loans

Title loans, also called car title loans, do use collateral: Your vehicle. While you continue to drive the vehicle like normal, you put the title up as collateral against the amount you’re borrowing. These loans are popular for several reasons, but in large part because they do not utilize credit rating in any way as part of the approval or qualifying process. They can also be approved very quickly in most cases, and can be used for a wide range of monetary needs, even tiny ones in some cases. You can use a car, truck, SUV, RV, ATV or even a motorcycle as collateral for a title loan, and there are even situations where you don’t have to completely own the vehicle.

Installment Loans

We also offer installment loans, which differ from personal loans in that you repay them based on a schedule over time rather than in a single lump sum. For those who need a bit more time or may have to take additional steps to recoup the final funds, installment loans are often highly valuable due to their simple scheduling. For more on great loan options for those with bad credit who need some quick cash, or to learn about any of our alternatives to payday loans, speak to the staff at 1st Choice Money Center today.

Tips on Budgeting and Saving Money During the Holidays

budgeting saving money holidays
For several reasons, those with budgetary concerns or in need of a bit of a cash infusion often feel the effects most strongly during the holiday season. Whether due to a need to buy gifts or year-end expenses coming up, this is a common time of year for many people to be in need of just a few extra funds. At 1st Choice Money Center, we’re here to help. We offer various installment loans and title loan programs, a variety of solutions that serve as great alternatives to harmful payday loans. We’ve helped many individuals meet their holiday or year-end financial needs with a quick cash infusion, and we’ll be thrilled to do the same for you. In addition to some of our loan options, here are some basic tips on how to limit your holiday spending to keep it within a reasonable range this time of year. budgeting saving money holidays

Budget and Shopping List

We all know how tempting it can be to overspend during the holiday season, especially once you’re inside stores doing their very best to draw you in. To help avoid impulse spending, make a specific holiday shopping budget for yourself well in advance, plus a general list of the things you want to try and get for those on your list. If possible, place a rough dollar amount next to each person or item. As you set out on your shopping, whether in-person or online, keep the list with you and stick to it.

Secret Santa

If you have a larger extended family or group of friends, one way to save everyone some needed money over the holidays is to do a Secret Santa gift exchange rather than purchasing gifts for everyone. If you haven’t done one before, a Secret Santa is a program where everyone receives a single individual to buy a gift for at random (and in secret), then buys the gift within the budgetary limits you’ve set up as a group. This is a great way to make sure everyone close to you gets a gift, but no one goes overboard on spending.

Cards Over Gifts

For extended family or friends who you don’t see that often, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a nice, personalized holiday card rather than splurging on gifts for everyone. Holiday cards can be bought in bulk for an affordable price, making them a great alternative in many cases.

Discount Options

Finally, always be on the hunt for the kinds of discounts that are plentiful this season. Shop yard sales and flea markets if they’re available in your area, plus look for online discounts or coupons to use in stores. You can even consider going to the dollar store for wrapping paper instead of more expensive options. For more on how to limit your holiday spending, or to learn about any of our short-term loan options to assist you over the holidays or any other time of year, speak to the staff at 1st Choice Money Center today.

Credit and Other Tips for the Best Short-Term Loan

credit best short-term loan

For any type of short-term loan you might be considering to give you a quick financial boost, you want to secure yourself the best terms possible. Whether we’re talking loan amount, interest rate or several other factors, putting yourself in position to get a great loan term is vital for ensuring you’re able to repay it promptly and properly.

At 1st Choice Money Center, we offer a variety of short-term loans that serve as alternatives to payday loans, including personal loans, signature loans and title loans. One of the key factors in getting the best possible such loan: Having good credit. Let’s go over the basics on credit score and the factors used to calculate it, plus how credit history matters and why it’s vital to ensure you’re working with a reputable loan company.

credit best short-term loan

Credit Score and Factors Involved

Your credit score is a number used by any financial institution that will potentially be lending you money, with the goal of weighing the risk of lending to you. Credit scores range from 300 on the lowest end to 850 on the highest end – the lower the number, the greater the risk to the lender. Your score is made up of several factors:

  • Payment history (35% of your score): Whether you’ve been paying bills on time, have missed any payments, etc.
  • Credit utilization ratio (30%): The percentage of your available credit that you’re actively using – generally speaking, you want to keep this number below 40%.
  • Credit history (15%): How long you’ve had accounts open with a strong repayment history.
  • Credit types (10%0: Mortgages, car loans, personal loans, credit cards, etc.
  • New credit (10%): Don’t open several new lines of credit at once, as it can have a negative impact.

Credit History

While we do have bad credit loans available, your potential for a great loan increases if you build up your credit history. Spend several months or years paying your bills on time and lowering your utilization ratio to give yourself the most available options.

Viable Loan Company

Finally, another important factor here is working with a short-term lender that is reputable and has a proven track record in the industry. Sadly, there are some in this world who are not trustworthy, including those who actively look to prey on those with short-term cash needs – this is often what happens with payday loan lenders in particular, and why we at 1st Choice Money Center go out of our way to provide alternatives to these often-harmful loan types. Working with a strong lender who cares about your needs and will help you get the best loan possible is vital.

For more on securing a great short-term loan, or to learn about any of our installment loan products, speak to the staff at 1st Choice Money Center today.