Credit Bureaus

There are a few things I make sure to do at the beginning of each year. Not any of those pesky resolutions we never seem to be able to commit to for more than a few weeks. I’m referring to some personal finance tasks. The two most important things I think you can do for yourself when it comes to personal finance are rebalancing your investments and checking your credit report. I’ll talk about rebalancing later. For now, lets talk about credit reports.

Thanks to an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act back in 2003, consumers are able to receive one free credit report per year. That includes one report from each of the three major reporting agencies. And getting your report couldn’t be easier. was established to make requesting reports easy. A word of caution: there are several “look alike” sites where you can pull your report, and some may even want credit card information to set up monitoring. These aren’t the official site. Be sure you’re at the Federal approved website where you don’t need a credit card to get your information. If you’re at a site where they’re asking for one, you’re in the wrong place. Sure, you could get monitoring if you’re that worried, but if you’re careful in your personal business and monitor your reports regularly, I don’t think it’s necessary.

When you go to the site and request your report, you will need to provide some personal information. After all, they do need to verify you are who you say you are! The thing I like most about the site is you can request all three reports at once or one now and the rest later. I like to do one at a time then a few months down the road another. This spreads them out throughout the year. It’s a matter of preference; do whichever way makes you most comfortable. Also, you won’t see your credit score, just the report. You will need to subscribe to a service such as Credit Karma to obtain your score. Here’s a bonus for Discover card carriers, they have a new feature where they provide your credit score on your monthly account summary which is a nice perk.

After reviewing your credit report, the agencies offer ways to correct any information that is not accurate. If there are any errors, be sure to follow-through on getting the information corrected. You’ll need something more than an email from you saying “I paid this” so be prepared to provide proof. They will get the information corrected if it’s inaccurate; just be patient with the process.

Don’t underestimate your credit report. Whether you’re looking at purchasing a house, a new car, or opening a bank account or credit card, or even car insurance, they all check your credit report. And they all base your rates on how good (or bad) your credit is. Do yourself a favor and check yours.


Speedy Rewards

Speedway (a gas station) has a great reward program called Speedy Rewards (go here for details). For all you users, here’s a way to build your points even faster. Speedway is offering 500 reward points for every $25 in gift cards purchased. Instead of putting the gas on your credit card at the pump, pick up a gift card to get the extra points. And there’s a plus – when you’re at the pump using the gift card, you can also use your Speedy rewards card to get your regular points too!

If you use Speedway and their rewards card, you may as well take advantage of this “double dipping” and rack up points faster! And if you’re not, what are you waiting for? Sign up now so you too can earn points that can be used toward gas, food/drinks, gift cards, and merchandise.



Tis the season. Not that season! I’m talking about open enrollment time. The time of year where workers across the country go through the process of signing up for the next year’s benefits by reviewing health plan options (especially with the Affordable Care Act), life insurance, dental and vision plans. I mean, who doesn’t like talking about accidental death and dismemberment?

There are also the flexible spending accounts. Where I work I’m always surprised of the number of employees who do not take advantage of the flexible spending accounts my company offers. Nicole and I have taken advantage of medical flex spending for years. No, it won’t make you rich, but it will certainly save you money. You like money, don’t you? I’m going to speak to the medical/health flexible spending account since this is the one we take advantage of. There are other accounts such as dependent care FSA (yearly contribution max, $5k) and a commuter FSA (contribution max varies).

First, to give you an idea of what it can save you let’s use a yearly contribution of $1k to your flex spending account. The money is deducted from your paycheck over the course of the year. And the $1k comes out of your paycheck pre-tax. So if you’re in the 25% tax bracket you’re saving $250!

There’s a couple catches, but they’re easy to deal with so don’t let this stop you! First catch, you’re limited on what you can use that money to pay for. They need to be qualified medical expenses. This link covers the other types of flexible accounts depending on what your employer offers. The biggest use for a medical flex spending account is to use it for expenses such as co-pays, medical bills left after the insurance portion, contacts/glasses, and prescriptions. For those with kids, this can add up quickly.

The second catch is that it’s a “use it or lose it” account. Expenses need to be incurred during the plan year. You can submit receipts (as long as they’re in the plan year) up until March 15th of the following plan year. Using 2013 as an example, if you have an expense from November 2013, you have until March 15th of 2014 to submit that expense against your 2013 account.

There have been some recent changes allowing up to $500 to “roll over” into the following plan year. Employers also have that as an option along with extending a grace period. They can opt for either but not both. Check your plan for your details.


If you’re anything like me, you spend quite a bit of time on the internet each day. And if you’re also like me, you have multiple devices and are hit left and right each day by the number of apps out there all wanting space on your device. I’m either fortunate or cursed in that I have both Android and iOS devices for apps. And I actually live by both; my Galaxy S4 is my personal phone, but when I’m at home I primarily use my iPad. I also have an iPhone for work as well as another Android tablet.

I thought I would give a quick rundown of a few of the apps I use the most. These are available on both iOS and Android, and best of all they’re free. These apps can also be accessed from any good old fashioned web browser (that’ll be another article later, my favorite web browser).

So off we go!
Pinterest is hands down my favorite app today. I don’t really understand why more guys haven’t jumped on Pinterest. It’s perfect for our short attention span. It’s all pictures with only a little reading – what’s not to like about that?! Pinterest has everything categorized really well and with tag searches there’s something to find that interests you. I stick to many of the same categories; DIY, GEEK, HEALTH & FITNESS, FOOD AND DRINK and HUMOR. There is so much food pinned you can go for days looking through it all. The Mrs. and I have tried quite a few recipes with great success. There’s a social aspect to Pinterest as well. You can connect with your friends and see things they’ve pinned as well as find new people to follow who you’ve come across. There’s a tie-in with Facebook for easy sign-in as well as seeing who in your friends list are already on Pinterest. Check it out. Right now. Seriously, if you don’t already have it, GO!

If you’re a business professional I think a LinkedIn profile is a must-have. For those of you not familiar with LinkedIn, it’s like Facebook for your career. But you have to remember, this is all about you professionally, your career, and livelihood. There’s no discussion about how much fun you had drinking with your buddies last weekend. People (read: future employers) really do look at your profile. This is where you need to have your act together; time for your professional game face. LinkedIn is a great place to make connections, get your resume/profile out there, and keep in touch with industry news. Often, moving up in your career is about connections and networking; LinkedIn is a great place to keep you moving in the right direction.

Flipboard is a basically a news reader. Flipboard gets its name from the way you “flip” through the abbreviated article pages. It puts together news by category, i.e. Business, in a nice Readers Digest like format. As you go into a category, Flipboard gives you article after article, along with the beginning of the article. When one looks interesting, you just touch the article and head into the full read. Flipboard is the main way I receive news. I only have to read the articles of which I have interest. Flipboard is also customizable with what categories are shown and even has a nice tie-in with Facebook. It’s a really good way to organize your news.

Looking for a new notification sound or maybe a new ringtone? Zedge has it, including my current text message notification, a Minion saying “Bow Chicka Wow Wow”. It’s all user submitted and there’s a huge library of media for your devices. As I look at the app on my S4, there’s 11k wallpapers, nearly 2k live wallpapers, over 600k ringtones, and 124k notifications. Zedge is searchable, so if there’s something specific you’re looking for it’s easy to find. Everything is good quality and the wallpapers look great on my retina display iPad. If you’re savvy enough to make your own wallpapers or ringtones, upload and share them!

What about you? What are your favorite apps? Share some in the comments!


Welcome to our site!

We’re Joe and Nicole, a married couple living in the Chicago suburbs. We decided to start our own blog because we get a kick out of helping others and thought what better way to do that than through a blog?

We’ll be the first to say we’re not experts in regards to anything you may read here, nor do we claim to be. However, we will be using this blog as a way to share experiences, opinions, thoughts, and suggestions which may be useful to others.

We’ll be primarily writing about finances, frugality, saving time & money, product reviews, marriage, and life lessons.  We encourage you to share your opinions in the comments or by submitting a question you’d like to see answered.

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