How to Use Credit Karma to Build and Monitor Your Credit Reports

Your Credit report is a very important part of your financial life in the USA. I have written about this here. One of the services I recommended there is CreditKarma.com. It is a free service that lets you monitor your credit report every week.

Here’s a good explanation of how your credit score is built: https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-scores.

Here’s how to use credit Karma to build and monitor your credit report:

Sign up at CreditKarma.com

It’s easy to sign up at CreditKarma. You just need your email address and create a password to use. You will also need to provide your Social Security Number because that is the information they need to start building your credit reports and send it to you. The awesome thing is that this service is free!

If you decide to sign up with any of their recommended credit cards or personal loan providers, then they make some commission from your business.

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5 Ways to Check Your Credit Score for Free

America runs on credit. Most people use credit cards to buy the things they need and want. To apply for a credit card, a car loan, or any type of loan, for that matter, you will need a good credit score. The credit system in the USA is a well-developed, complex system.

Prior to moving to the USA, I had two credit cards with a combined credit limit of PhP 35,000. I don’t think there is a similar system of credit reporting in the Philippines.

Quick Disclaimer: The content of this post and this website is NOT financial advice but only provided for informational and educational purposes. Please do your due diligence in all matters related to your finances.

What is a credit score?

A credit score is an index, a three-digit number that potentially represents your ability to repay debts. Banks and other lenders consult your credit score to make a decision if they will let you open a credit card or a loan.

A lower credit score means that you are less likely to be able to pay debts. A higher credit score means that you are good at managing your credit and that you are a trustworthy borrower.

Three main credit bureaus in the US create credit reports: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. They use different systems of creating your credit report but it is usually based on several factors such as the number of accounts you have open, timely payments, and a few others.

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How to Save Money on Children’s Toys in the USA

Sometime in 2016, a friend stayed over at our home for an evening. He saw our son’s room and all the toys that he had there. This friend works as a Principal of an elementary school in the Philippines. He said: “Wow, your son’s room and toys look like a full play area for a kindergarten in the Philippines!”

We laughed at his statement at the time. It’s true, our son has a lot of toys. And the good thing is that we did not pay full price for those toys. In most cases, we got those toys at a bargain. If you also have a small child, here are some tips to save money on children’s toys in the USA.

Here are some of the toys we got from different sources and the corresponding price:

Train and Activity table: $40 Craigslist
Hot Wheels Playsets: $20 from Craigslist
Various robots and cars – got it from Goodwill thrift stores

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Going back to the 4-Hour Body, Slow Carb Diet

In late 2016, I discovered the 4-Hour Body, a book by Tim Ferriss where he recommends the “Slow Carb” diet. It is a variation of low carb diet. It has simple rules, easy to adhere to, and it delivers results.

Rules of the Slow Carb Diet from Tim’s blog:

Rule #1: Avoid “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains. If you have to ask, don’t eat it.

Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You already do this; you’re just picking new default meals.

Rule #3: Don’t drink calories. Exception: 1-2 glasses of dry red wine per night is allowed.

Rule #4: Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose –> glycerol phosphate –> more bodyfat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are excepted.

Rule #5: Take one day off per week and go nuts. I choose and recommend Saturday.

For a rice-loving Filipino, this diet could be tough because it means NO RICE except on the weekly cheat day!

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Haircut Problems in America

Getting a haircut is never a problem in the Philippines. For just 50 pesos, you can get one from your friendly neighborhood salon or barbershop like Reyes Haircutters, Bruno’s Barbers, or your friendly neighborhood unbranded barber. If you’re feeling like a star, go to Bench Fix, David’s Salon or some other high-end salons for men and women–either way, you’d probably spend a maximum of P500 for a haircut.

In the USA, the process is more tricky. When we first arrived in Nashville, and I needed a barber, I searched for one on Google Maps. After reading reviews of the closest ones, I picked one and decided to visit the next day.

My barber in the Philippines is a guy named Glenn who worked at GQ Barber Shop at Waltermart North EDSA. I would just tell him I wanted a short-cropped hair–maikli lang sa gilid at naaayusan ng gel sa taas. He understood what I wanted. If I had additional instructions, I would just tell him in Tagalog or demonstrated with my hands.

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Exploring Porto, Portugal on a Bike

In September 2017, I had a chance to visit Porto, Portugal. It’s a beautiful city–Portugal’s second largest after Lisbon–known for its bridges and port wine. I didn’t sample their wine, but I explored the city and saw all its majestic bridges! I did that while riding on a bike.

Rent a bike in Porto, Portugal

Renting a bike in Porto is easy. I simply opened Google Maps on my phone and searched for bike rental shops. After reading reviews and comparing costs, I decided on going with Biclas & Triclas, which is on the bank of the Douro River. I was able to rent a bike online, specified the pick up time, and showed up there the next day. Sweet and easy!

Get a Map and Ask for the Best Places to Visit

Pablo, a friend who also attended the same meeting I was in decided to join me. It made the exploration doubly fun. Before setting off, the owner of Biclas & Triclas briefed us on the nice places to visit, where to get lunch, and where the bike paths were. We hit the road and went to the general direction of the city. There was no uphill pedaling for us. It was all flat roads as long as you stay on the paths near the river and along the beach.

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Where to buy groceries in the USA

In the Philippines, we usually bought our groceries from the Hypermarket at SM North EDSA The Block or at Waltermart Munoz (North EDSA). For fruits and vegetables, we went to the nearby palengke.

After more than 2 years of staying in Nashville, TN, in the USA, we have come up with a system of grocery shopping that involves 4 different stores: Aldi, Kroger, Sam’s Club (or Costco), and Asian Store (or World Market).

We have compared our options for buying the goods we need and looked for the best grocery stores to shop at. Take a look at our family’s grocery list and what we buy from each of the stores below:

What to buy at Aldi

Before we discovered Aldi, we bought our meat, meat products, and most of our groceries at Kroger. But we discovered that several things are affordable at Aldi.

  • Meat (pork, chicken, beef) and meat products (bacon, hotdogs, etc)
  • Eggs and dairy products (eggs, milk)
  • Some fruits and vegetables (cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, carrots, corn)
  • Canned goods

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6 Tips for Parents on Kids’ Use of Smartphones or Tablets

Parents of young kids often wonder how to regulate the screen time of their kids. It’s no longer a matter of whether kids should have access to tablets or smartphones. It’s now a matter of regulating that access.

Kids as early as one are now watching videos so their parents can do their chores or work at home.

Here are some tips for parents on kids’ smartphone use.

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Free WiFi and Other Things I Loved about Flying with Jetblue

Most of my travels are usually with Delta. I have accumulated quite a lot of miles on their Sky Club program, which makes my travel more convenient. I am usually one of the first passengers to board and I enjoy an occasional upgrade.

This time, though, the Portugal Embassy in Washington, D.C. did not send my passport back in time to book a flight with Delta. By the time I received it, the airfare shot through the roof at over $2,500. We explored other options and settled on Jetblue and TAP Air Portugal for my trip to Porto. (I was going to attend a meeting of our partner organization there.) By doing this, we saved $1,000 on my airfare! Not bad for a reservation done, 2 days before the flight.

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Review of Dough Knights and Dragons

Every week I write about the books that we read for my son. He is currently 4 years old and loves a good book! I am not a professional book and illustration reviewer or critic, but I can write about the book, what I think about it, and how our son reacted to it.

What the Book is About

“Dough Knights and Dragons” tells the story of the unlikely friendship between a dragon and a knight. The knight stumbles into the lair of the dragon and starts cooking. Instead of being eaten by the dragon, they developed a friendship through their mutual love of cooking and baking.

But there is a problem. In their world, dragons and knights do not become friends with each other. They are supposed to fight and kill each other. As they cooked and baked, they devised a way to save each other. They baked dough knights and dragons and ate cookies in the shape of knights and dragons. They ended up keeping their friendship, ending the tradition of killing each other, and forged peace and friendship in the land.

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