How to get your credit report totally FREE on AnnualCreditReport.com

 

You’ve pressed the reset button on the year and by now you’ve hopefully determined what your financial goals will be for this year..

If improving your credit score is one of those goals, knowing and understanding your credit report details are crucial to improving your credit score. My reason for starting My Fab Finance and embarking on my financial journey was to improve my credit. Think of the credit report as your roadmap for making that happen.

While I won’t discuss the various sections of a credit report in  this post, I will provide a tutorial so that you can access yours for free. There are several companies, including FreeCreditReport.com, who swindle consumers into paying for their report when your report is available absolutely FREE.

If you would like help understanding your credit report refer to the Credit Report Post. It’s long, but hella informative.

The following instructions are for accessing your Equifax report.

Lets get started!

1.Make sure you go to annualcreditreport.com. If the page doesn’t look like this (with the exception of the slider image) you are probably in the wrong place.

Step 1

Click on the red box at the bottom that says “Request your free credit reports”

2. On this next page all you have to do is click “Request your free credit reports” again
Step 2
3. This page is officially step one. Here, you will enter your personal information. Be sure to double check for accuracy. If you have not lived at your current location for more than a year, be prepared to enter your previous addresses as well. Once you’ve entered your information, proceed to the next page.

Step 3

 

4. On this page you can decide which credit bureau you’d like to retrieve your report from. As you know, there are three credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. I recommend pulling one from each site every few months. For example pull Equifax in January, Experian in June, and Transunion in November. While information can differ from one report to the other, for the most part they are the same. Pulling every few months will allow you to monitor new items, disputes, possible mistakes, and items that might have fallen off.

Make sure you keep a record of the date in which you accessed each credit report bureau’s website.

5. The next page will prompt you to verify the last 4 digits of your Social Security number. If all info is correct, you can proceed to the next page.

6. I call this the trick questions page. On this page you will be asked questions to verify your identity. Please be aware they do throw false information into the mix. Some or all answers could be “None Of The Above”. It is important to answer correctly. If you answer any of these questions incorrectly, you will not gain access to your online credit report. You will also have to go through the time consuming process of requesting it by mail.

Step 6

After you have provided your answers proceed to the next page.

7. This is the page with your credit file number. Be sure to notate your transaction code – which will be provided in the first sentence. From this page, you will click on the box that says view and print your report (the box next to the pink arrow).

 

Step 7

 

8. You will finally receive your credit report! Before you do anything, print and/or save your report as a PDF. (the box next to the pink arrow)

Step 8

Again as stated, if you need additional help navigating your report, please refer to our Understanding your Credit Report Post.

4 Strategies for Radically Successful FREE Fitness Results

Today’s guest post comes from motivational speaker and life coach, Stacey Flowers. After watching her transformation before my eyes via Instagram, I knew we had to get her here on My Fab Fico. If Stacey’s Gym-less transformation doesn’t motivate you I don’t know what will.

StaceyDay1

Right now many people are signing up for gym memberships in hopes of sculpting their dream body. But instead of mastering health and fitness, they end up with a financial contract and limited results.

People experience disappointment with a gym membership because a membership won’t give you the pictured results– but working out will.

For me, the proof is in the pudding and the pudding was achieving the pictured results without a gym membership. Hopefully these steps and my results can inspire you to achieve your fitness goals and save you a little money this year!

Four strategies for radically successful FREE fitness results:

4. Document your progress (even the small changes)!

staceyDay7

 

I started the squat challenge because my friends commented on how flat my butt was. I didn’t really care to pay that much attention, but my best friend and I took a few bikini photos and to my horror my butt looked like a grandma spoof Instagram picture.

Seeing that snapshot told me I had to do something and fast! So I searched for a solution, and found Jen Selter , a woman with a similar body build as my own and a workout routine for my rump.

By day 7, I was astounded that my bottom was actually beginning to take shape. But it’s only because I mastered strategy 3.

3. Follow the instructions

When it comes to working out for free and getting great results, you must follow the instructions to a T. You are not a trained professional so when you deviate even a little from the outlined plan you sabotage your results.

Most at home routines are designed to get progressively harder. So if you add heels (when the instructions don’t tell you too), your body won’t retain the results.

Which brings me to strategy 2.

2. Be stronger than your strongest excuse AND get an accountability partner.

StaceyDay21

 

The truth is fitness and happiness don’t cost us as much monetarily as we think, but we use money as our primary excuse for not creating healthier happier lives.

You can overcome this excuse by finding accountability partners. You’ll need someone to vent your pain, compare notes and push you to keep going.

Which brings us to the final strategy for radically successful fitness results.

1.    Respect your body – it’s the only one you get!

I’ve received mixed reviews about my progress because people believe that since I started with a leaner frame my bootylicious results weren’t real.

My response: You don’t have to wait until you’re drastically unhealthy and unfit to upgrade things in your life. Sculpting a better bottom was about respecting my body. I am working out at home out of respect for my body, my bank account and my mental health.

I shared my results because to me healthy is happy.

Below is the 30 day squat challenge I participated in.

SquatChallenge

Stacey Flowers is an inspirational speaker known for teaching people the true meaning of happiness. Her mission is to infect the world with happiness by teaching others the tools for building a happy life despite the tough circumstances it can bring.

To find out more about Stacey and her work, be sure to checkout her website.

 

 

 

 

Health on a Budget- Yoga At Home

About 3-4 months ago I became obsessed with Yoga.

While Yoga has numerous health benefits, I became interested because I am extremely inflexible and wanted to increase my flexibility. I also wanted to challenge myself. I admire the straight and agility of my instafriends who are able to loop and intertwine their bodies into intricate Yoga pose and I wanted to push myself.

One thing I know about myself is that I become fascinated with things and have a tendency to abandon them just as quickly. Rather then going out an dropping money on Yoga classes I wanted to make sure I liked it and that it was something I could stick with. As well as I wanted to get my weight up before I walked into a Yoga studio looking crazy and weak. I wanted to at least make sure my downward dog was on point.

I began doing at home Yoga by watching videos and fell in love. At the beginning of my practice with a difficult job. I found that Yoga reduced my anxiety and stress levels. I was consistently in a  better mood and my body felt amazing. And lets not even speak about Yoga before bed. Try it. Best Sleep of your life!

Over the past few month I’ve noticed increased strength and flexibility. Here’s my latest progress pic. This week I finally got into Crow pose:) (Excuse my tramp stamp. It was my first tattoo)

Crowpose

YouTube is an excellent resource for Yoga instructors. If you don’t like one find another. And if you really like one, you can subscribe to their channel and watch their other videos. I recommend it to each and every person I have the opportunity to speak to about fitness. My YouTube fitness isn’t limited to Yoga, I’ve also done kickboxing, dance fitness, and basic routines at home. It’s great for someone who isn’t quite ready to hit the gym yet or simply doesn’t have time to go to the gym on a regular basis. All it cost me was a Yoga mat which I got from Marshall’s for $8.99

Below are two of my favorite YouTube Channels for Yoga.

and

I’m huge on health and believe that health in itself is wealth. Have you turned to a gym alternative to keep your fitness regimen costs down? I’d love to hear about it as well as your progress.

Saving money during visits from Family & Friends

It’s a well known fact that budgeting is not my strong suite. Building credit and using it to your advantage is where I am a superstar. But budgeting. Im still learning to excel at that. While I have minor  budgeting victories on a day to day basis such as choosing to take the subway instead of a cab or opting not to upgrade my phone to that extremely beautiful Gold iPhone, budgeting is an ongoing issue for me.

You know what magnifies that?!

Out of town visitors and birthdays. This weekend I had the pleasure of both.

One of the best things about living in a city as remarkable and legendary as New York City is that you don’t have to go visit many people because everyone is dying to come to NYC. This weekend I hosted my very close friend from high school whom I call my brother. He decided to spend his birthday weekend with me and I was absolutely honored. So of course I had to make sure he had a blast.

saving money, saving money strategy, saving money tricks, shameless money saving tricks, tricks to save money, Picking Marquise up form JFK

Picking Marquise up from JFK

 

I didn’t spend as much on items as I thought I would but I did splurge on the additional birthday celebrations and birthday shots at restaurants. I exceeded my weekly eat out budget by about $75 and had to tell everyone at establishments that it was his birthday. NOTE: You might want to ask if the birthday celebration is complimentary. People will smile and say OKAY, then all of a sudden you find a $15 charge on the bill that wasn’t discussed.

Here are ways that you can save money when loved ones are in town.

1) Find Free/Cheap Attractions. Your city is bound to have free attractions. Think about it, it may not be exciting to you, but for someone who has never experienced it, it could be awesome. we opted to go to the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Which is totally free every single day. It was really informative and thoroughly enjoyed the current exhibits.

2) Flex your culinary prowess. To cut back on costs we cooked all of our home meals on Saturday. The day started with me preparing a huge breakfast and concluded with a wonderful dinner prepared by my boyfriend. While out we spent $2.99 on smoothies to hold us over.

3) Just walk. The temptation to fill the visit with exciting activities will be there, but some of the best moments will come from just walking through scenic areas of your city and talking. Chatting about life, catching up, and enjoying being in each others company will provide more enjoyment thank you can imagine. Plus you never know what you will stumble upon. We happened to stumble upon a shop that was going out of business and an owner who shut the doors and held a private 15 min party just for us. One of the highlights of my weekend.

saving money, saving money strategy, saving money tricks, shameless money saving tricks, tricks to save money, Storeclosing

My friends getting down at our random private party.

3) Plan Wisely. I think you should dine out at least once while hosting a visitor from out of town. Take advantage of Travelzoo Local deals and Groupons. While visiting my sister in DC she scored an unlimited brunch for 4 Groupon for $60! That equaled out to $15 for each of us. You can also score show tickets, attractions tickets, etc by keeping your eyes for deals before their visit.

saving money, saving money strategy, saving money tricks, shameless money saving tricks, tricks to save money, We dined at the famous LIPs NYC Drag Bar and enjoyed a show, unlimited Mimosas, and our meal for $25.

We dined at the famous LIPs NYC Drag Bar and enjoyed a show, unlimited Mimosas, and our meal for $25.

Down the line I will will probably create an extended list but these are a few notes that came to mind while my brothers visit was fresh (he left about 4 hours ago).

So tell me my fabulous friends, what are some of the ways you cut cost  when hosting friends and family in your city?

You May Need a Credit Card to Raise Your Credit Score

*Disclaimer, this article is primarily for those of us who don’t have a fab Fico just yet. This one is for the readers with, and I say this with love, a foul Fico. 

If your credit score is considered low or poor ( in my gracious opinion this is anything under 610), you know its very hard to get approved for a card whose APR isn’t going to be through the roof. Pretty much no one but Capital One is willing to throw you a bone. Don’t worry, there is hope, the irony is that you may actually NEED a credit card in order to raise your score. Let me introduce you to  *Drum-roll Please*

The Secured Credit Card

A secured card works the most like a debit card. You must have the cash up front. You make a deposit into a CD account- let’s say $1,000. That deposit now becomes your line of credit. With your new $1,000 credit line, you now have the chance to prove yourself, by making payments on time and paying off your entire balance every month. The Secured card reflects on your credit report as any other line of credit, and it doubles as a savings account as well. Honestly in my eyes this is a credit rebuilding WIN-WIN.

There are a few things to look out for to make sure you are getting the most out of this secured card.

1. Your  card needs to report to all 3 credit bureaus. You need all three  to see that you are doing your thing with this new line of credit. Don’t assume that every trade line is reported to all three- that is the reason you have 3 different scores in the first place.
2. The card should have low or no annual fees and no application fee. You are already coming out of pocket for the credit line, get the most out of your investment.
3. The card issuer should have other credit cards available that are unsecured. You should be on the path to upgrading to an unsecured card with higher limits as your credit improves.

In my research I really like the secured card USAA offers. (Yes that’s Tonya’s bank) This whole time she has been gushing over them, I thought they were for military people only. Fortunately their services extend to the rest of us.

Another card to consider is the First Progress Platinum Elite Master Card Secured Cardsacurity.

Go ahead and comment below with your favorite secured card offer!

Beauty on a Budget

Today’s guest post comes from one of my close friends, Naja Matthews. She’s vibrant, beautiful, glamourous, and her make-up is always on point. I adore her and she has introduced me to a few of my favorite Cheapies but Goodies, so of course I had to tag her for a guest post on MyFabFico. 

Naj

I used to be a faithful MAC girl, until one of the makeup artists at a MAC store let me in on a little secret! Many of the products, from high end to low end have the same ingredients! The packaging and marketing costs account for the huge gap in pricing. True, many of the celebs endorse Mac, but now lower priced brands are being supported by famous faces as well! (If you’re into that sort of thing).

If you are not familiar with NYX cosmetics (pronounced Nix), I suggest you take a look at the website http://www.nyxcosmetics.com/. Although it is not as intricate and expensive looking as MAC’s website, the NYX product assortment is just as fab!  The colors are just as bold and pigmented and the quality is comparable. NYX can be ordered online or found in your local drug store or beauty supply store.

EYES

Check out the drastic price difference in the eye shadows below. They are the exact same size and both have an equal  pigmentation level. Proper application and blending are very important factors in making your look work for you. Start having fun with bold colors and styles. Maybeline and NYX both carry great liquid liners and mascaras. My favorite mascara is Maybelline Voluminous lash! It’s bold and long lasting! If you are in need of further instruction, Youtube has tons of freelance artists that give tutorials on different makeup looks as well. Start your research there!

GLAM SHADOW $4.50 NYX Cosmetics Eyeshadow

mac_eye_shadow$15.00 MAC Cosmetics Eyeshadow

 

FOUNDATIONS

Your foundation is the biggest part of a refined perfect face. As long as you know your skin type, finding the perfect match is no longer considered rocket science. As opposed to $35 coverage products, opt for Maybelline  http://www.maybelline.com/Products.aspx . It’s effective and boasts a hypo- allergenic formula. If you love Mac Studio Fix, try Maybelline’s Queen collection for the same coverage! I’m also a long time user of Matte Mouse by Maybelline. It will forever remain a staple in my beauty routine.

 

BRUSHES   

z_brushesNow that you have all this amazing product, how do you get it on your face? Well, brushes are the deciding factor between a professional look and a poorly done job. One of the best investments I’ve made this year is the Sonia Kashuk brush set from Target. I noticed an EXTREME difference in how my makeup turned out before and after investing $25 on a set of nice brushes. The set includes a foundation brush (not a sponge like I previously used) 5 other useful brushes. I now have a more uniform look because the brush fibers glide fluidly across my skin providing even distribution. If you want minimal use, the key necessity is the multi-purpose brush! It can be used for foundation, blush and bronzer application!

$13 Mutli- purpose brush http://www.target.com/p/sonia-kashuk-core-tools-large-duo-fibre-multipurpose-brush-no-115/-/A-11909446?reco=Rec|pdp|11909446|ClickCP|item_page.new_vertical_1&lnk=Rec|pdp|ClickCP|item_page.new_vertical_1

$25 Brush Set http://www.target.com/p/sonia-kashuk-gilded-cage-holiday-brush-set-6-pc/-/A-14255725#prodSlot=medium_1_14

 

STARTING FROM WITH IN

Your inner beauty is a reflection of your outer beauty, therefore a proper skin care regimen is key. With proper diet, exercise and a special attention to your face, makeup becomes a fun extension of your beauty NOT a necessity.

While at a day spa, I noticed a lady of 70 years+ with unbearably perfect skin. She was void of wrinkles, blemishes and the wear and tear of age. She caught me staring at her and so I was prompted to inquire about her secret to the fountain of youth. She told me that she avoided heavy alcohol all her life and had minimal amounts of red meat (It may be too late for me on these two). She also said that she constantly drinks water and exfoliates every day!

From that day forward, I began exfoliating. I do not do harsh micodermabrasions or peels. I just use a light apricot scrub and a facial brush. I have seen a change in skin texture and I rarely have breakouts because my pores are cleansed thoroughly quite often. Check out this quick clip! It demonstrates how you can get the products you need to start your own $10 facial care treatment.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psAmr7Ddcs8

A good moisturizer also helps in retaining elasticity in the skin. This can be a bit challenging, but remember, no matter your skin type, you should choose an alcohol/fragrance free moisturizer. I’ve tried tons of day creams, night creams and all things in between and I’ll admit that this time, I’ve gotten the best results from the $32 MAC Studio Moisture Cream.  It can be worn at bedtime or you can use it right before you apply your makeup.

 

Check out Naja’s Youtube channel for health, beauty, hair and makeup tutorials! http://www.youtube.com/user/BeautyBar22

You can also check out her blog HERE

Naja Matthews is an author, social critic and lifestyle blogger. She hails from Memphis, TN but can currently be found in Harlem televising the revolution.

NajaFace

Should you enlist the help of Credit Repair Company?

People approach me all the time with this question and I get it, sometimes navigating the credit scoring and repair process can be a little confusing, but I am absolutely against paying someone to correct your credit report.

Namely because as Neal Frankle said in his Huffington Post article, “In truth, there is nothing that a credit repair firm can do for you that you can’t do for yourself, and do so in less time and at less cost. But there is nothing that will hurt your credit score more than working with a credit repair firm that is not reputable — and there are plenty of those.”

There are only three ways items can be removed from your credit.

1. They age off after the statute of limitations has passed
2. The creditor agrees to remove or correct an item on your report
3. The debt is removed after a successful dispute.

This is the only thing they can be done and rather than paying a company to do it, how about you take a Saturday morning to sit down and type up the letters and take them to the post office.  That’s what you’d be paying a legitimate company to do and god knows what you’d be paying an illegitimate company to do.

Now do not confuse Debt Counselors with Credit Repair companies. There is a difference although people use the terms interchangeably. Debt Counselors usually work for a non-profit entity and do not charge you for advice. Credit Repairs Companies charge you immediately. If they are asking you to whip out your wallet for result, that is a BIG RED FLAG!

I’m a film believer in not paying others for things I can do myself and its one of the ways I have really kept my overhead low.

Have you enlisted the help of a Credit Repair Company? What was your experience?

Tonya’s favorite sites & apps for monitoring Progress & Financial Vitals

6Favoritesites

This post is long overdue. Perhaps I encountered difficulty com
Let’s start with the basicspiling this list because every week, new favorites are being added to the list. So think of this as an ongoing conversation.

USAA Online Banking & My Banking App: Almost everyone is signed up for this with their bank, img_online_banking_lgpretty much every bank offers it. I check this if not twice, once a day. I honestly used to go days without checking my account because I was nervous to find a balance lower than what I expected. Browsing through your actual spending helps put things in perspective.  I also pay bills with my banking App. I can honestly say, this is the bank i have been the most happiest with

My Credit Monitoring Service: Signing up for a good credit-monitoring service is helpful in a variety of ways. It allows you to check and review your credit report as needed and also allows you to track changes including new accounts, whether creditors are responding to your request to remove items and monitoring overall credit health. Some services are better than others. I know that a few banks, including mine offer this option to their users for a reduced cost. So check with your bank before going with a service.

Credit Karma: This is an absolutely free and pretty useful resource.  They also have an iphone app. They will provide you with information that is on your credit reports. A score is also provided but it not a real Fico score and not accurate, so it does not substitute your actual report. My Credit Karma score is about 20 points lower than my actual credit score. But it is a helpful and instant way to keep an eye on things such as my utilization, new accounts, inquires, and estimate impact of new actions.

MyFico.com:  Name sound familiar? This was one of the first site I visited when I began cleaning up my credit. The forums are invaluable and filled with people sharing everything from their success calling backdoor numbers (the number you call to ask for a reconsideration if you were denied for a line of credit or an increase) to experience with Goodwill letters and other matters. I even search this site to see what people are saying about certain credit cards such as “How easy is it to redeem the rewards points for XYZ”.

Who Gave Me Credit- Not a very fancy site but before I apply for any new accounts I check Whogavemecredit.com. This site allows you to see what scores are being approved, the amount of credit they were approved for and the interest rate they received by different finance companies. For instance I checked this site out before applying for my Citibank credit card. I am considering buying a car at the end of the year, so I have been looking at what scores are being approved by who, and what the rates were. This also helps prevent you from applying for accounts you most likely wont get approved for.

Learnvest: While this has a few kinks and only works wen you use it, Learnvest is a great way to build1745_learnvest a budget that goes with you. Thinking of going out for dinner and wondering how you are doing on your budget? Learnvest is great for that. They offer several free articles and options as well as paid programs.. I’d say stay away from spending money on the products. See if you can handle the basics like budgeting yourself. I am looking into their Financial planning options.

 

 

 

 

I’m sure as I move along this journey there will be other apps and sites that are useful. Whenever I make updates to this list I will post a notice on my social media networks. If you do not follow all or any of them, now is your chance.

I’d love to hear your input whether or not you find these options helpful and others that I might have left off the list.

Credit Series Part 1- The Credit Report

The first step of the entire credit improvement process is getting familiar with your report. It all starts here and by law you have access to one credit report per year. There are a variety of resources out there that provide reports or some type of credit monitoring service. I know you’ve probably seen freecreditreport.com commercials but those aren’t free.

3-credit-bureausAll three reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion, and Equifax)  are available. while different bureaus might have different information, I recommend pulling only one of them. That way you can pull the others at different times of the year, perhaps  in 4-6 ,months and months 9-12 . The best website for your free credit report is annualcreditreport.com.

You will have to answer a series of questions to verify your identity and if you answer them correctly you will be provided with your most recent report. Please note that you will not receive your score. Scores cost money. If your goal is credit score improvement, I recommend paying for it just to see where you are starting from. And do not be alarmed, it is extremely rare that all three, even two of the reports have identical scores.

Once you open your report I recommend printing it or saving it as a PDF on your computer. The free credit report offer only allows you to access it free once a year without paying.

Now for the nitty gritty as my mom used to say.  I am referencing an Experian report for this post. All Reporting bureaus will have differences and similarities .

You will see a guide that let you know what the numbers and abbreviations you will find on your report mean. The report is pretty explanatory. You will find negative items first. It may put you to shame but  Scrutinize this info. Make sure it is correct. I once had a $32,000 account reporting twice. 

On each individual item you will see valuable information such as the creditor and their contact info (you will need this if you plan to challenge any debts), date opened,your highest balance, and account notes such as when you went delinquent, etc.  I say pay straight attention to the Status details. THIS COULD SAVE you money! In this field it will provide info such as when the debts will “fall off” your report, basically no longer be reported, and other info such as disputes etc. We will go into disputes soon as I’ve had success with a few disputes.

The fall off info can save you money because when deciding who to payback you should consider what’s falling off. If you have debt scheduled to fall of in the next 3-6 months I recommend allowing that to fall off and channelling your money into a newer debt or one that’s scheduled to reflect for several more years. I personally had two items fall off my report in December and saw approximately a 15-20 point boost in my credit score and all I had to do was be patient.

Next up are the accounts that are in good standing. This is the section where you get to wipe the look of shame of your face  and pat yourself on the back. Theres not too much to stress here as it pretty much makes you look good. But double check balances and accounts here, you wouldn’t want unauthorized mortgages in your name.

The next section is the inquiries section. There’s “Inquiries shared with others” or Hard Inquiries and “Inquiries shared with only you” called soft inquiries.  There’s mixed sentiments as to how much hard inquiries impact your credit. Some say upwards to 5- 10 points per pull others say 1-3 points, some say none. Rule of thumb though is try not to apply or credit if you don’t have/ need to. I recently went on a credit applying binge because Prime accounts finally opened back up to me. I’ve added a USAA rewards MasterCard, a Citi Bank Diamond Preferred Card, and a Macy’s card (in the name of their good ass coupons) to my portfolio. I plan to grow these cards and use them to further improve my credit standing with by maintaining  low utilization and on time payments  so no more plications for at least 1 year.

The Inquiries seen by only you or soft inquiries,  are often debt collectors looking to see if you’ve come into money and started paying off other debts. Don’t be surprised if you start getting more collection letters from dormant debts as you clean your act up. You’ll also probably see companies and banks who are patrolling for people to send “Pre-Approved ” offers to.

Last you will find your personal information, on Transunion I think this info comes first. But this portion reflects any address that you previously lived at, received mail at, etc.  A gypsy like me has 8 different addresses in this field. There’s a few credit dispute trick for this section that I will save for a later post.

This is a general overview of your credit report and the kick off for the credit report series. Next up is Understanding Scoring then we will get into my favorite tools.

Feel free to post your questions of topics you’d like me to expand upon in the comments section!

ABOUT
Created by nationally recognized millennial money expert Tonya Rapley, My Fab Finance is a leading financial education and lifestyle blog for millennials who want to become financially free and do more of what they love.
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