Establish your credit history with the right loan

Consider a situation like this: When they first were married, Mike and Carla lived with family members. Now, through their hard work, they are ready to move out and start a family. When they went to look for an apartment, they were turned down because they don’t have a credit history or a credit score.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reports that 45 million people in the United States either don’t have a credit history or it is insufficient. And the example of Mike and Carla reflects the reality that many people face: Establishing a credit history can be difficult.

Options for people with no credit history

Folks like Mike and Carla can find it hard to get a loan from a bank, a place to rent, a credit card, maybe even a cell phone. Without a credit history, they face options such as having to ask a family member to co-sign their rental application, or needing to take out a higher cost payday loan.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

How to establish your credit history with Oportun

At Oportun, customers are not required to have a credit history or score to be approved for a loan. And Oportun reports customer accounts (payments and non-payments) to two of the three major credit bureaus to help customers establish their credit history.*

How a loan from Oportun helps your family’s financial future

While the word “debt” can sound like a bad thing, that is not always the case. Debts handled the right way — by making payments on time and not borrowing more than you can pay back — can help you pay for unanticipated expenses. It can also help you establish your credit history, which can help your family’s financial future.

A loan from Oportun offers affordable monthly payments. As you make your payments on time, over time you can establish your credit history.  Having a good credit history could put you in a better position to rent that apartment. Also, you could even buy a house for your family, purchase a car, get cell phones for your children, and much more.

There are times when asking for a loan is a wise decision. And paying your loan on time benefits you and your family by helping you build your future together.

*Oportun reports account payment histories to credit bureaus. Late or missed payments may have a negative impact on credit history or credit score. If you do not have a Social Security number, the credit bureaus may not be able to report your credit history completely and accurately.  

This blog is an advertisement and is not meant to provide personal financial advice. Please speak with your accountant or financial adviser for personal financial advice.  

Saving money on tires

Good tires are extremely important for road safety. They can also be expensive, so you should be infomed on when to replace tires and how to save money when you do.

When is it time to buy new tires?

Most tires last between 5 and 10 years, but they can wear out faster if you drive a lot. The older the tire, the more safety risks they pose.

Find the manufacturer’s name on the side of the tires. Then check the manufacturer’s website to see when your tires should be replaced. Cracks, cuts, and flats all mean that the tires are wearing out.

You can check tread depth using the George Washington quarter and the Lincoln penny tests. Stick the coins into the tire’s tread groove, with the top of the head going in first. If you can see the top of Washington’s head on the quarter, it’s time to shop for tires. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head on the penny, you need new tires right away.

Where should you buy tires?

Shop around, both locally and online.

Many online stores, such as America’s Tire and Tire Rack, let you compare prices and features on different brands. Be sure you’re looking at options for the correct make and year of your car. Consider shipping costs as well as tire prices.

Once you’ve found the best deal online, see if a local store will match that price. Or just buy the tires online and have them shipped to your preferred body shop for installation. Before having the work done, ask about any other charges, such as balance and alignment, that may be added to your bill.

Used tires are cheaper than new, but they’re also riskier. If you want to buy used tires, be sure to get your mechanic’s expert opinion on their safety.

What kind of tires do you need?

It’s smart to get something similar to those already on your car. Consumer Reports’ Tire Buying Guide recommends staying with the size and speed rating printed on the side of the tires.

You may also want to look at tire reviews, recalls, and complaints at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.

How can you prolong tire life?

Weather, road quality, and air pressure all affect your tires. Consumer Reports recommends that you

  • Check air pressure each month.
  • Don’t fill tires all the way to the maximum PSI printed on the side.
  • Replace tires that have cracks or cuts.
  • Examine the wear on your tire treads. Wear at the center of the tires means they are overinflated. Wear the edges means they’re underinflated. If the wear is only on one side, your tires may be misaligned.
  • Do the George Washington quarter test to determine tread depth.

Above all, stay safe on the roads!

The best budget apps for beginners

Thinking about using a budget app for the first time? We recently wrote about the pros of using mobile apps to keep track of your finances. Here are four recommendations for free options that are awesome for beginners. They are easy to set up and easy to use, and none sync to a bank account.

Interested in some advanced features or want to sync your budget app to your bank? Check out our review of synced-apps.

These apps don’t sync

Don’t have a bank account? Don’t worry. You’ll add each income and expense to these budget tracking apps yourself. This has the benefit of raising your awareness of your own finances. The drawback is that you’ll need to stay on top of adding your expenses. If you forget to add one, your tracking will be off.

App: Presupuesto Diario Original

Excellent if you want to control your budget every single day

PROS AND MAIN FEATURES

  • Spanish-language app for Spanish speakers
  • Very simple and intuitive to use
  • Does not require previous registration – just download and track!

The awesome part is that this app turns your finances into a game and “challenges” you to “win” by saving money every day.

The first time you log in, they will ask about your income and recurring expenses like rent and cell phone bill, and your monthly savings goal. You can change this information later if your financial situation changes.

Then, they will work out your maximum daily budget (i.e $50/day.) From there, you add each expense as you spend money, and it will calculate how much more money you can spend that day. You should adjust your spending so you don’t go over the daily maximum. However, the more you save one day, the more funds you will have in your budget for following days.

CONS

The app offers a limited choice of categories to classify your expenses (i.e. grocery, entertainment, rent…). Once you get the hang of using the app and you find you need more categories, you can consider upgrading to a paid account. It comes with some extra services, as well.

As with all free apps, you will see some advertisements when using the app.

App: Spending Tracker

Excellent if you want the big picture of your finances

PROS AND MAIN FEATURES

  • Designed for long-term financial planning
  • Allows for customized categories
  • Can add recurring monthly expenses (rent, cellphone bill)

This budget app does a great job creating graphical views of your finances. Just turn your cellphone horizontally. You can also set an alarm through the app so you don’t forget to check your budget status. Finally, it enables you to export your budget tracker information to other backup systems like Dropbox.

CONS

The advertisements on this app are more frequent than other apps.

App: Receipt Box

Excellent if you think simplest is best

PROS AND MAIN FEATURES

  • Super simple format
  • Two ways to view your budget: balance sheet and pie chart
  • More than 35 expense categories

Do you want a basic tool where all you do is add and categorize your expenses to see the final monthly balance according to your income? This app works like that, as if you were writing it down in notebook. Except you will use icons to represent your expense categories, for example, an eggplant represents the category of food.

It also allows you to track the way you paid, such as cash, PayPal, or your debit card. Finally, you can add notes to each expense. So, you can categorize a grocery run as food and tag it for something special, like you purchased cake for someone’s birthday.

CONS

This app does not allow you to plan future or recurring expenses, like rent, or to establish saving plans. It is also focused on a monthly budget instead of a daily one.

As always, it has ads.

App: Everydollar

Excellent if you use a desktop computer and mobile device

PROS AND MAIN FEATURES

  • Syncs to an account that can be accessed from your computer
  • Many more services and customizations than the above apps
  • Allows you to track your debt

To use this budget app, you need to create an account. This is necessary to be able to access it through a mobile device or desktop.

Everydollar is a kind of “Spending tracker” with so many extra services and possibilities for customizing your experience.

App: Goodbudget

Excellent if you think in categories

PROS AND MAIN FEATURES

  • Syncs to an account that can be accessed from your computer
  • Creates mini-budgets for your categories of expenses

You must create an account for Goodbudget as well, since it can be access from the mobile device or computer.

Goodbudget classifies your expenses by “envelopes” as if you had physical cash stored in envelopes with different labels. You set a maximum budget for each envelop and adjust your monthly spending to that envelope. For example, your food envelope might have a $300 per month max. Record all your food expenses in that envelope until the envelope reaches zero or the month ends. If you have money left over, add it to your savings!

Now it is time for you to choose the budget app that works best for you! Good luck!

Thanksgiving on a budget

There is so much to celebrate this time of year, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s! But when you’re in charge of the budget, festivities can quickly get expensive. Here are 15 ideas to reduce costs so you can focus on what really matters—gratitude.

The best bet: Think outside the box

Don’t let tradition limit your creativity. Who said you have to cook a huge turkey or dress the table with fancy china and cutlery. Think out of the box!

Ideas to consider:

  • Potluck Thanksgiving: Ask each person to bring a dish to share. Everyone contributes to create a meaningful sense to the celebration.
  • Modern twist on tradition: There’s no need to cook a whole turkey. What about turkey sausages, turkey slices, turkey burgers or even turkey tacos.
  • Share the cost: Discuss splitting expenses with your family and friends in advance. Your gift could be the cooking while everyone chips in on the budget.
  • Give back: Volunteer at a soup kitchen or retirement home in your community. Some organizations even welcome children and give them special roles setting the table or decorating the room.

Setting the mood:

  • Decorate with nature: Create a festive centerpiece with colorful autumn leaves or pine cones.
  • Feel cozy: If you’re in the mood for a fire but don’t have a fireplace, you can stream this eight-hour fire on your TV, complete with crackling noises.
  • Repurpose Halloween: Do you still have a pumpkin from Halloween? Turn the carving against the wall to enjoy the smooth side during Thanksgiving.
  • Double up on décor: Choose decorations that will work throughout the holiday season.
  • Dress to impress: Everyone could dress a little nicer, wear a Fall color or a tacky sweater for laughs. This can give your celebration a vibe that sets Thanksgiving apart from other days.

Thanksgiving feel-goods

Consider activities that make the holiday special

  • Create a Thanksgiving trivia contest or quiz on the history of Thanksgiving.
  • When everyone is seated, go around the table sharing what you are most grateful for this year.
  • Cut out leaves from construction paper and have guests hang them from a branch after writing something they are grateful for on each one.
  • Take advantage of being together to plan a gift exchange for the holidays. Write each person’s name on a piece of paper and everyone draws a name (or use DrawNames.com). Set a spending limit on the gift.

After the celebration

  • Thanksgiving leftovers are delicious: Invite your guests take home what you won’t be able to eat in your household. Make new recipes out of the old, including turkey sandwiches, tacos, and enchiladas.
  • Be careful on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Focus on the spirit of Thanksgiving and being grateful for what you have instead of giving into the desire to spend money on things you don’t really need.

Last wish: Enjoy Thanksgiving and remember… be thankful for what you have!

Tips before buying a used car

In most parts of the US, having a car is a must. For most families, it is also one of their biggest expenses, along with housing and health insurance. That’s why it is important to invest time in researching all of your options, both online and in your general area, to find the best deal, which very well might be a used car.

First question… New or used?

While the idea of a new car is fun, let’s be honest, we have other priorities in life, right? Also, new cars lose their value faster than used ones. The good news: You can find high quality and reliable used cars nowadays.

For families or individuals on a budget (aka all families!), especially one with other important needs, used cars are a great choice. Keep these thoughts in mind before buying yours!

Narrow your options

There are so many options available. To help you narrow down the selection and make the right choice, consider the following:

DAILY USE:

Ask yourself: “What will I use it for?”, “How often?”, “What roads will I drive on?”, “Do I need extra space for kids?”, “How often do I transport or store stuff in my car?”, “Will anyone else need to drive it?”, “How often will I need to take it on long trips?”. Be honest about your primary needs so you can determine:

  • How many miles should be on the used car already? You’ll want a car with fewer miles if you need to drive long distances or have the car last longer.
  • Do you really need all-wheel-drive? If you live in the snow belt, consider getting an extra set of wheels with snow tires mounted instead. It could end up being the same or lower cost, and offer better gas mileage as well as better traction.
  • How many passengers will you be transporting on a regular basis? How many doors and seats do you need?
  • How much “stuff” needs to fit?  Do you need a big trunk or will a small one do? If you only need to haul large loads occasionally, can you borrow or rent a larger vehicle for those times?
  • How important is good gas mileage? The environmental impact?

MONEY:

Think about the maximum budget you can afford and how you might get the money you need. Will you need to take out a loan? If so, ask yourself these 3 questions before choosing a lender. Also know that dealers and retailers have relationships with banks and might be able to help you get a loan.

If you want to pay for the car in cash, how much would you need to set aside each paycheck and for how long, in order to buy the car?

How to find a used car worth your money

Start with an online search to learn about available options on websites for used car retailers, like Carmax, used car dealerships, or through private sales found on Craigslist or eBay.

Check reviews about retailer / dealership businesses online to see which ones seem trustworthy and if other people have had good experiences. In the Google search bar, simply type the name of the company followed by “review”, to find customer opinions.

If you opt for a private sale, try to figure out if the seller is a reliable person. You could also consider buying from a trustworthy friend, a friend of a friend, co-worker, or neighbor.

With a private seller, you might have a better chance to negotiate the price, but it could be riskier in terms of liability, since retailers and dealers might offer warranties.

Once you see that dream car…

No matter how in love you might be with a car, don’t forget to take these precautions before making the commitment to purchase:

  • Safety comes first! Always keep that in mind.
  • Inspect the car by closely looking at windows, seats, tires, suspension, car body, lights, controls, trunk, roof, engine, etc.
  • Take it for a test drive on a highway and in traffic, and in conditions similar to those in which you drive most often.
  • Ask for an independent inspection from a professional mechanic (you should be willing to pay for this). If the seller does not agree to an inspection, think twice before buying it.
  • Look at the miles driven and age of the car.  A car with 12,000-15,000 miles could last many years. If it has more than 100,000 miles driven, it may need repairs more often, but could also still last years. Keep that in mind.If you do decide to buy this car in a private sale, take a picture of the dashboard for a record and in case of any oddities during the pink slip transfer
  • Check if it is a fair price: Using the mileage and year, check the value on Kelley Blue Book’s website.
  • Do internet research to find out if this particular kind of vehicle is affordable to maintain. Look at fuel consumption, for any typical breakdowns, cost of maintenance, etc.
  • Does the car have a warranty? If it does, the seller should show you a written document saying so.

Your car insurance costs could change depending on the auto. Check it out before buying!

Finally: “finance” steps

  • Negotiate. Do not be afraid to discuss the price and conditions. Remind yourself that you are in control and that you must feel convinced about the deal before you take it. If not, push back and leave. It is as simple as that.
  • Ask for the real final price, including registration fees, to avoid surprises.
  • Dealerships sometimes offer extended warranties. Check what the warranty on your car choice covers and double check that your car insurance doesn’t already cover it.
  • Finally, sign the deal and…

LET’S RIDE!

More info and sources at: Federal Trade Commission

4 benefits of saving money in the bank

Do you save your money at home? Have you wondered if you should open a bank account or join a credit union? Here are some of the benefits of saving money in an account.

1. Keep track of your finances

It can be hard trying to remember whether you paid a bill, how much you paid for groceries, or how much money you have left. Banks and credit unions keep track of all your deposits and expenses, so having a record of your finances can be as easy as checking the banking app on your cell phone. Checking accounts come with debit cards, and when you use your debit card, the bank or credit union even keeps track of each expense and where you spent it!

2. Safety of your money

The money you put in U. S. banks is insured by the U.S. Federal government – up to $250,000 — even if the bank burns down or is robbed, your money is backed up and safe.

3. Earning interest

Whether it’s with your local credit union or a national bank, some banks will pay you a small percentage to keep your money with them. Check who has the best interest rates to grow your money over time.

4. Easy access

Most banks and credit unions have ATM access all over the country. So, wherever you are, no matter what time of day or night, you can access your money.

Did you know? During the loan application process, Oportun accepts bank statements as proof of income if you don’t receive or have any paystubs from your employer.

Putting away money for your future is always a good idea, and where you decide to store it is just as important. Keeping it at home may feel safer, but it won’t be safe in case of a flood, fire or a burglary. Keeping your money in a bank or a credit union will help you save for your family’s financial future.

This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to provide personal financial advice. Please speak with your accountant or financial advisor for personal financial advice.

Does Halloween “scare” your pocket? Here are some money-saving tips for this year

The season has changed. Stores seem possessed by the Halloween spirit, with aisles full of decorations, costumes, and special candies conspiring to get you to spend money!

Resist the temptation.  You do not have to spend a lot of money to enjoy Halloween. Here are some terrific ideas that won’t “terrify” your pocket!

Set a maximum budget

Do the math and decide how much you can spend for Halloween. Then, figure out which items are worth spending on…Costumes? Candy? Décor? Set a budget.

If you have older kids and plan to buy or make a costume, let them know what the maximum budget is for the costume or the materials to make one. Let them know you expect to stick to it.

Halloween costume: Use your creativity

Halloween is an opportunity to be creative. Try to use old clothes or recycled materials to create something from scratch. You’d be surprised by what you can make out of paper, cardboard boxes, paper roll, duct tape, egg cartons, cans, plastic bottles, etc.

Need ideas? Go online and look up “costumes from recycled materials”, “handcrafted costumes”, or “costumes made from boxes”… There are a lot of fun ideas out there!

Another option: Swap costumes with friends or family.

If you want to buy a costume, try to shop early since prices go up as October 31st draws near. You can also buy small accessories online, at dollar stores, or places like Walmart or Goodwill. Or plan ahead and buy next year’s costume when it goes on sale on November 1!

Look for fun events and activities that are free (or nearly free!)

Spending time with friends and family is what’s important.

  • Check to see if there are free events in local libraries, parks, children’s museums, schools, or community centers. They often organize craft workshops, jack-o-lantern contests, special exhibits or parades.
  • Some neighborhoods go all-out in decorating their homes. Find one near you and walk around enjoying the décor.
  • Visit a pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin for carving. If your kids are too young to carve, go online to find other ideas for decorating pumpkins.
  • Take advantage of the “Early Bird” price in movie theaters to watch a horror movie.
  • Enjoy learning about other traditions, like Día de los Muertos. See if there are related events or exhibits near home.

Have fun at home!

There are countless Halloween activities you can do at home (great if the weather is bad!). Some ideas:

  • Scary movie marathon! Check the TV guide for special TV shows or horror films. Popcorn, blankets and low lights will add to the spookiness. Here are some movies to watch for each age group.
  • Have fun painting faces, playing hide-and-seek with the lights off, handcrafting Halloween decorations, or dancing to the rhythm of Halloween songs… and so many other options.
  • Use that pumpkin: Practice your carving skills, roast the seeds on the skillet for a little Fall snack, and cook delicious pumpkin recipes.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a great Halloween!

3 Questions to ask yourself before applying for a loan

Life is full of surprises, and some of them require extra cash. You may have the opportunity to move into a bigger and better rental apartment, but need cash for the security deposit. Or your car might break down and need repairs. Or perhaps you need money to help a loved one with a health situation. Whatever the reason, you may need more cash than you’ve been able to save. One of the solutions to cope with these “surprises” is to apply for a personal loan. Continue reading “3 Questions to ask yourself before applying for a loan”

Tips to save money in your back-to-school budget

We hope you enjoyed at least a few days of relaxation this summer! But now…let’s get back to reality and schedules. We know it can be tough, but it does not have to be tough on your pocket with this back-to-school budget plan.

Planning, planning, planning

NOTEBOOK AND PEN (OR A COOL BUDGETING APP ON YOUR MOBILE!)

Start by writing down a list of all expenses the school year involves. It may include supplies (pens, crayons, notebooks, binders…), backpacks, clothes, extracurricular activities, lunch money, field trips…

CHECK WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE

Can you re-purpose anything? Maybe you have an old backpack that needs a washing and some cool patching designs, so your kid can be excited to use it. Look for supplies/clothes in those boxes or drawers you haven’t opened in a while. Sometimes we buy new items only to discover we already had them, hiding in unexpected places.

FOLLOW A MONTHLY SCHOOL BUDGET

Plan the amount of money you can afford and make a list of what you will buy with it each month. Think about seasonal sales. For example, most stores offer school supplies in August at a discount, while other items, like shoes, might go on sale in December.

Consider hosting a costume “trade” with other families, looking for easy-to-make costumes online, or buying Halloween costumes the year before since they tend to go on sale right after Halloween. Goodwill is a great place for Halloween shopping!

Month  Budget What Where
August $80 Backpack

Pens

Binders

Goodwill

Discount Grocery Store

September $50 Art class fees

Swimsuit

School

End of summer sale

October $50 Halloween costume

Sports fee

Walmart

School

INVOLVE YOUR KIDS IN THE PROCESS

Education is one of the most important things in their lives, and you can teach them to follow a monthly budget so they can help you stay within yours.

Now yes! Let’s go shopping!

While trying to find the best school bargain, you could consider these tips…

SHOP DISCOUNTS AND SALES!

Dollar stores are a great option, and only buy what you really need. Sometimes “Just $1” is very appealing, but as you know, dollars can add up and get you off budget! Check discount grocery stores, too, since they dedicate full aisles to “back to school” items and sometimes have good deals as well.

PLAN SEASONAL SALES

At the end of August-September, you can find sales on summer clothes that can be used in the transition to Fall (maybe just in warmer states). Planning a few seasons early will save you money next summer.

CHECK IF YOUR STATE CELEBRATES TAX HOLIDAY

(Not all states apply). You will not pay the taxes on certain, important items. For example, On August 10-12, Texan residents don’t pay taxes on clothing, backpacks and school supplies up to $100! If you live in one of these states, take full advantage by gathering coupons.

SHOP USED CLOTHES

You can find pretty cool clothes for your kids at thrift stores. Swap stores even allow you to bring in your clothes in exchange for some new (to you) used clothes, a perfect situation for growing children. Remember as well to check Craigslist, Facebook Market, and other webs/apps where people in your community offer good prices or even items for free!

THINK IF IT IS WORTH TO BUY IN BULK

This could saves you money long term if you have the money to make the purchase and the space to store extra items. Or you could plan bulk purchases with other families. For example: kids need 4 notebooks a year. You can buy a pack of 12 notebooks for 12 dollars. That pack could be divided among 3 families (3 kids) and each family pays just 4 dollars.

EXTEND THE LIFE OF THE ITEMS

Remember your childhood when your parents bought you that large t-shirt saying “Bigger the better! It should last all year and you grow too fast”. The story is the same generation after generation. Also, for any jackets or other goods your kids might lose, help your kids form the habit of always double checking for items through constant reminders. (Label them just in case.) Consider second-hand jackets, either hand-me-downs from older friends and cousins or inexpensive ones from Goodwill or thrift stores.

And now that you are ready with these tips… Let’s rock that school year, family!

New Jersey residents can now apply for affordable Oportun loans!

Hello New Jersey! Hello Elizabeth!

We’re Oportun and we’ve just opened our very first location in New Jersey (and 300th nationwide) – right on Elmora and New Jersey Avenue in Elizabeth.

Don’t live near Elizabeth? You can still apply for our affordable loans online and by phone.

During our 12 years as a personal lending company, we have provided affordable loans to more than a million customers, many of whom had little or no credit history before coming to us.

Our first-time customers save an average of $1,000* when they choose Oportun over alternative lenders like payday, auto-title and pawn-shop loans. That is because our personal loans come with fixed and affordable payments. You’ll know how much you borrowed, how much you owe, and the total cost of the loan before you even sign the contract.

But that is not the only advantage: We can also help you establish credit history by reporting your account to two of the three major credit bureaus.

We are thrilled to be here and excited to help New Jersey residents begin building a better future.

Apply online at www.oportun.com 
Visit our office at 128 Elmora Ave., Unit B, Elizabeth, New Jersey 07202
Call us at (732) 497-3253

*Oportun: The True Cost of a Loan – Based on research commissioned by Oportun and conducted by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), the total savings number equals the difference between the average cost of other widely-available alternative lending products that customers may have used and the average cost of an Oportun loan of the same amount, multiplied by Oportun first-time borrowers. CFSI analyzed the rates, fees, and terms for payday, pawn, auto-title, installment and rent-to-own products for customers in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah, and calculated the total cost of those products for common loan amounts. CFSI considered the loan repayment structure and timeframe for each product, borrower income, the potential for rollovers and refinancing, and legal parameters that prevent or constrain borrowing. Oportun updates the model quarterly to calculate the total amount that Oportun first-time borrowers have saved since 2006 in interest and fees compared to the alternative products. The actual savings for each customer will vary based on specific loan terms and alternative products available in your area.