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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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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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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How to buy a car: Guide for Filipinos Who just Arrived in the USA

Public transportation is not very good in the United States. Only the big cities have excellent train and bus systems. In most cities, like Nashville where we live, you need a car to move around.

Here’s a quick guide to buy a car if you have just arrived in the USA.

Borrow or Rent a Car before you arrive.

If you have friends or relatives, borrow a car from them for 5-10 days right after your arrival. If you don’t have any friends or relatives, you can rent a car through RentalCars.com, Expedia.com, or Priceline.com

When we first arrived in August 2015, I rented a car for 5 days. That time frame was enough for me. It meant that I had to visit several dealerships and test drive some cars over this period. But it worked out and before I returned the car, I bought a 2012 Kia Forte.

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How to Pay for PAGIBIG Fund Contribution Online: Guide for Overseas Filipinos

Although I live and work in the USA, I still want to pay for my PAGIBIG Fund contributions. SSS? Nevermind. I am no longer a believer of the SSS. That’s a long discussion so let’s save it for a different post.

If you are an OFW, maintaining your PAGIBIG Fund membership has many benefits. As a PAGIBIG Fund member, you are entitled to apply for a housing loan or a short term loan. The housing loan is very helpful when you decide to buy a lot, a house, or a condo unit. In addition, you can contribute more than the minimum required by law and this could serve as a savings account.

If you registered as an OFW and secured your OEC, you would have been asked to pay for your PAGIBIG Fund contribution at the POEA office. Before you can use the online payment facility, you will need the following;

  • PAGIBIG Fund Membership ID (MID) No.
  • Credit Card (Visa or Mastercard)

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How to Invest in the Stock Market through COL Financial: Guide for OFWs in the USA

I was so disappointed when I learned that OFWs in the USA cannot invest in mutual funds in the Philippines. Thankfully, though, we can still invest in the Philippine stock market. I took the money we earmarked for mutual funds and put it in the stock market through COL Financial.

COL Financial is an online stockbroker that has been around since 1999. It is considered as the number 1 online stockbroker in the Philippines. They are also recommended by Bo Sanchez and his Truly Rich Club.

I have read Bo Sanchez’s short book “My Maid Invests in the Stock Market” some time back and got intrigued with the stock market. I know that it has some risks, but if I study it and treat it as an investment rather than regular stock trading, I should be okay.

Another reason is that investing in the Philippine stock market is a way of supporting our country’s industries and companies. If you want to open a COL Financial account, just follow these instructions.

1. Learn about the stock market.

You need to understand the risks and rewards associated with it. It’s not just about the millions you can potentially get. It is possible to lose money in the stock market. Read books and blogs about it and decide if it is for you.

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How to fill your car with gas

I did not know how to fill my car with gas when I first arrived in the United States. In the Philippines, you just pull up next to a gas filling station. You don’t even need to get out of your car, an employee will go to you. Just roll down your window, tell them how much gas you want and they’ll do it for you.

In the United States, that is not the case. Filling your car with gas is a do-it-yourself process.

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