For most of my life, I could afford to use my credit for shopping, cars, and trips. I had finally reached the point where I was saving up for a downpayment on a new house. Unfortunately, there was economic downturn and as a result, I lost my job. I had an emergency fund, but after that was gone, I dipped into my house fund and eventually burned through my savings. Soon after, I found myself buried in debt that I couldn't pay off. Then the phone calls started and I was constantly getting bombarded from debt collectors from unpaid credit card bills and I lost the ability to borrow or any line of credit from a bank. I was on the verge of losing everything I had worked so hard to get.

So, when confiding in some of my buddies about my financial situation, I was surprised to learn about Lexington Law. One of my friends promised they'd be able to help me take control of my financial issues, and get my life back in order, but I was pretty skeptical. He told me their team of lawyers uses legal strategies to challenge creditors about items on your report which helps improve your credit score. With nowhere else to turn, I decided to check them out.

I learned that they are a leading credit repair law firm that systematically uses the law to help eliminate negative entries on credit reports, and they have a method to help drive down credit scores. This all sounded great, but I was still a bit skeptical about how they could help me take control of my finances. After learning that Lexington Law removes an average of 10 items off your credit report in the first 4 months , and has a credit-coaching program teaching clients how to improve and maintain a higher credit score, I decided to give them a try.

Getting started was simple. I gave them a call and the representative answered my questions with patience and knowledge. She made me feel confident about improving my credit score, and explained that Lexington Law would send challenge letters requiring creditors to respond or refute. If they're unable to make a case, the items will be removed from my credit report.

After the first three months, seven items were removed from my credit score. During this time, communicating with my representative was easy with access to my personal online dashboard. The dashboard allowed me to see my credit score from all three bureaus along with the positive and negative items impacting my credit. The best part was that I could even challenge items on my report directly from the dashboard. Each time I made a challenge, my representative would get an alert, and she and her team would begin working on them right away. Watching the items get removed from my credit report made me feel like I was taking control of my finance.

For many people, their credit score does not accurately describe what kind of person they are. Despite being a conservative spender, I have faced many years of financial distress. I'm glad I decided to learn more about Lexington Law and was able to turn around my score. Working with them for even a short period of time, they helped me get rid of the big blemishes on my credit report. My goal this year is to make the next big purchase in my life (buying a house), and Lexington Law has made that possible for me.

Update: Lexington Law is offering our readers a free credit repair consultation, which includes your FREE credit report summary and score. You can follow this link, or call 1-833-334-3499 to take advantage of this no-obligation offer.

Call anytime between 7am and 11:59pm EST to get your free credit report and score!

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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.