Now that April 15 has come and gone it is time to get your credit in order.
Doing your taxes helps you get a better understanding of what income you receive and what expenses you are paying. While it sounds pretty fundamental, it's important to know this information as you manage your personal finances.
Having a good credit history is so important when it comes to your money. Your credit score is used in many ways including getting a decent rate on homeowner's insurance, a car loan or even a new job.
For these reasons it is imperative to protect your score by doing all the things that positively affect it. How is your score determined? The most commonly used scoring system for credit scores is FICO, developed by Fair Isaac Corporation. Credit bureaus use this formula to evaluate how much risk you pose to potential lenders, based on the following factors:
■ 30 percent — What you owe: Your debt balance as well as the ratio of your debt to your credit limit.
■ 10 percent — New accounts: Opening many new accounts and spreading debt around can negatively affect your score.
■ 35 percent — Payment history: Do you pay your bills on time?
■ 15 percent — Types of credit: Which credit cards you use and loans you carry.
■ 10 percent — Length of credit history or how long you've had credit.
You are entitled to receive at least one free credit report every 12 months from each of the nation's three main credit bureaus. Start at Annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. If you find errors, contact the credit bureau directly.
Be cautious of other websites and services advertising "free" credit reports. This may be an attempt to sell you something else, or it could be a scam to collect personal information. If you'd rather just have an estimate of your score, you can get a free estimate at Whatsmyscore.org.
Don't wait until you are applying for a loan to work on improving your credit score. Improve your score by building a good credit history. If you don't have any credit accounts, open one and use it wisely. Always pay monthly bills on time. Late payments will lower your score. Don't max out your credit cards. If your debt is more than 25 percent of your total credit limit, your credit score will begin to drop. Avoid opening new accounts to spread debt around. This will negatively affect your score.
Your credit history is a measure of how responsible a human being you are. Banks believe that credit scores, or past financial behavior, is a good indication of an individual's future financial behavior. Increasing your score by making smart financial choices throughout the year will help your bad credit.
■ Build a free Lego Star Wars Mini TIE Fighter or Lego Star Wars Mini X-Wing at Toys "R" Us from noon to 2 p.m., on May 3. The event is intended for children ages 5 and older. Event materials are available while supplies last and are available only to participating children. http://bit.ly/1rkkKzf
■ Honor your hero with a free dozen original glaze donuts when you buy one dozen at regular price on April 28 at Krispy Kreme.
■ Celebrate Frisch's Big Boy Founder's Day on May 3. Dress like Big Boy, get a Big Boy burger free.
■ Get a $5 Walmart Gift Card with $15 John Frieda product purchase until June 23. Send receipt to John Frieda program, C/O FDM Marketing, 81 Oak Hill Road, Red Bank N.J. 07701 or email@example.com by July 7.
■ Receive $15 off when you sign up for updates from Bombay Company. Your minimum to purchase is just $15.01. Receive a promotional code through email. http://bit.ly/QEGCI9
■ Save $20 on your first order of $40 at HSN.com. Use promotional code 148145 at checkout.
■ Become a member of Harper Collins "I Can Read" club and receive a free I Can Read! fan club membership kit. You can also sign up to receive targeted I Can Read! newsletters with information geared toward your child's reading level. Icanread.com
■ Create a wedding registry at Kohls.com. Add 15 items to the registry. Use promotional code MSWEDDINGS before June 24 and you will receive an email within about 14 days with your code for a $25 credit valid on any in-store purchase.
■ Get a $20 VISA gift card when you buy two Treat products and one Soothe product during the same shopping trip. http://bit.ly/RLs36U
■ It's time to print out those Easter photos and if you create a new photo account at Walmart you receive 25 4-by-6 prints free. http://bit.ly/1myVYJI
■ Let your child know it is time to take a potty break with a reminder call from Mike or Sulley, the stars of Monsters University courtesy of Huggies Pull-Ups. http://bit.ly/1lF7JkC
■ Register for a free National Night Out kit to start a community event. National Night Out is an annual crime prevention event held on the first Tuesday of August. Natw.org/about
Deborah Morris' weekly column, The Fru-Gal, can help you get through these economic hard times a little more easily. If you know of a way to save some money, feel free to share it on The Fru-Gal blog on BluegrassMoms.com and visit her Web site, Fru-gal-friends.com.