All posts by Clare Louise Al-Aufi

Credit Score: Is it Time to Check Yours?

Have you been weighing up your options for taking out credit? Or have you perhaps been baffled by why you have been turned down for a loan or card?

Whatever the case, it is always great to be more knowledgeable about lending and how you score with credit companies. We have created an article that is aimed at helping you to learn more.

What are the most common forms of consumer credit?

credit-card-1520400_640

Credit is a luxury for many. It is a means of affording what we otherwise couldn’t. It allows us to be able to purchase products by getting an advance on the cash needed in order to pay for them.

One of the most common forms of consumer credit is a credit card. You can use the cards in order to buy the things you need — then, later on, you pay the company that issued you the card. This is a great way of being able to purchase items you would otherwise never be able consider buying.

This is a means of purchasing items can also have an adverse effect, as you could  end up going out of your limits with borrowing, so it is an area that needs great responsibility.

Non-Installment Credit

This is a way of getting credit that is either secured, or unsecured. It depends on the company that provides you with the credit to begin with. It does not come with a set figure for the monthly repayments, and instead is due in one lump sum, for the full amount that was borrowed. When this type of credit is issued, it is usually done so in a short timeframe, usually, say in the space of one month.

Installment closed-end credit

This is a form of credit that allows consumers to buy multiple items, or one particular item. Car loans are closed-end credit, as they do not go beyond the price of the car. Also, the borrower can pay back the credit in installments over a period of time instead of paying it back in one lump sum.

Revolving open-end credit

Consumers usually find this kind of credit via credit cards. Consumers have a certain amount of credit available at their leisure, and a set amount has to be paid off each month. This credit never closes, unless the company shuts down the account, hence the credit is ‘revolving.’

What does my credit score mean?

Your credit score is a figure  calculated via how likely you are to be offered loans to companies. It is the figure a lender will assess when asking for a loan.

So how is this calculated? It looks at your payment history, the amount you owe, and the length of time it took you to pay off previous loans. It can affect a lot of things, like how much interest you must pay to the lender.

It can be the difference between getting a loan — or even being rejected for a loan.

Basics of credit scores

Your credit score helps lenders assess the risk that you pose to them if you borrow cash. Many different credit scores are on offer — one popular one is Vantage Score, which was developed by three popular credit lenders, Experian, Equifax and Transunion.

Another is FICO, which ranges between 300 and 850. Vantage Score credit reports have a range of between 501 to 990. The higher you score, the better chance you have of getting a loan. A high score means that you are low risk to the lender.

An ‘Excellent’ score: 720-850

If you are lucky enough to have a credit score in this range, you are considered very responsible when managing repayments.

You’ve had no late payments, and all of your balances on credit products are low as well. As a result, you could be offered lower interest rates! This is what you need to aim for.

‘Good’ credit score – 690 to 720

If you have a ‘Good’ credit score, credit companies will deem you responsible with your cash and repayments. Your balances will be low, and you are a good candidate to get a loan.

‘Problem’ credit score – 650 to 690

If your score is here, you have a bad credit history. You may have struggled to repay loans to more than one company, and it could show you have loan default. You are likely to be declined for more credit as you are deemed a risk who will not make your payments in a timely manner — or at all (in the eyes of the credit card company).

‘Poor’ credit score ratings – 350 to 650

You are ‘damaged goods’ to lenders. Several lenders have found you have issues with paying them back on time — or you have declared yourself bankrupt. Unfortunately, this will stay on your report for around 10 years.

If this is your credit score, you should talk to someone in finances in order to get advice on how to repair your damaged credit.

Having no credit

This means you haven’t yet borrowed cash.

Good for you — but not so good to the companies. You must establish a credit history, and when you have been approved for your first loan, make sure  you pay back the installments on time to gain a good credit report.

The ability to take out a loan is a good thing; sometimes as it can help you balance your cash. It’s all about making sure you can take steps to pay it off each month and be responsible with your repayments.

Why is my credit score important — also, how can I get a better score?

If you have any form of credit, you should take active steps to improve it. It affects mobile phone contracts, car loans, insurance payments, bank accounts and much more. Credit ratings are always shrouded by myths, but we will tell you what you need to know when it comes to getting a better score.

First of all, each lender rates you with a different scoring method. Just because one lender has turned you away does not mean another one will. Credit scores are not universal.

Secondly, you must borrow money to get a good credit score — quite often, those who have had bad credit scores have not ever borrowed cash. You can start to take out credit with small baby steps, like getting a mobile phone contract, or signing up for a store card to pay off purchases via a monthly statement.

The more you borrow — providing the payments are met in time — the more your credit score will increase.

Credit scoring is a means lenders use to predict your payments in the future; it doesn’t indicate you will or will not meet the loan payments. Most of the behavior is based on how you’ve performed in the past.

Another weird thing — sometimes the bad guys get higher credit scores! If you are going to pay off your cards religiously before the end of the loans, then this means you will not offer the companies a lot of leg room to gain profit from you.

The whole idea of credit companies, and what makes them tick, is to loan cash to make you pay back interest. If you pay off loans before they are due back, then this could have an adverse effect on your credit scores.

Where can I go for more information?

In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency, and it will help you learn how credit ratings work.

You can also write to the Annual Report Request Service and request a copy of your credit report at PO. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA, 30348-5281.

Of course, here at Uninkable we are not promoting going into debt, or getting credit cards. However, if you can maintain your finances responsibly, then a credit card, loan, or the like could be the answer to your prayers.

This article has been designed to help you learn more about credit scores — before you apply for credit! Good luck!

How to Cook Turkey for Thanksgiving

How to Cook Turkey: Three Favorite Methods

Thanksgiving is this week, and there is nothing more important on Thanksgiving day than a perfectly cooked turkey! How to cook turkey is up to you, but we’ve chosen a few of our favorite methods, just in case you still haven’t made up your mind!

How to cook turkey

 

Choosing Your Turkey

You can’t decide how to cook turkey if you haven’t chosen what kind of turkey you want to cook!

Choosing a turkey can be as simple as grabbing a prepackaged bird from the supermarket, but if you have the time and a little extra money, you might consider buying a premium variety.

Raising your own animals for food is probably the best way to ensure quality, but that’s a lot of work, and probably not very practical for most home cooks! The next best option is to source a local producer; they’ll be happy for your business, and you’ll be happy with the taste!

You can also try looking for a free-range or certified organically raised turkey. These usually cost more, but are often raised on higher quality feed, making a healthier, tastier meal for your Thanksgiving table.

Smoked Turkey

Smoking a turkey is about having a passion for food!

You’ll need a barbecue full of charcoal, and you need to light it with lighter fuel, leaving the charcoal to go red as you prepare your turkey.

Preparation

Next, take your defrosted or fresh turkey and start prepping it.

Take out the giblets from the turkey. This part can really gross you out, but trust me, it pays off!

I like to remove the giblets and then rinse the inside of the bird (as politely as possible, though–it’s a bird’s butt, show some respect).

You can do this under the tap for the best results. This is not for the faint of heart, as it can really be gruesome with all the blood and gore.

Seasoning

Next is the fun part! Take an orange and chop it into two, then stuff the orange inside the turkey, where the giblets used to be. If smoked turkey with orange is not your taste, you can swap the orange for cranberry!

Now, the spices that you use are totally up to you, but salt and pepper are a must, and be sure to use plenty of butter! Turkey is a really dry animal, so the more butter the better, as far as I’m concerned.

Completely melt the butter, then turn the turkey in the melted butter, making sure that it is completely drenched. You then can use the salt and pepper and sprinkle to taste in an even coating all over the bird.

Smoking

Check that the barbecue is hot and that the coals are red, and then put your turkey on its way to smoking heaven.

The trick is to make sure that you turn the bird regularly. Depending on the size of this bird, it can take a long time to cook.

Enjoy some great company, and make sure that you have a few cans of beer or a glass of wine to keep you entertained as you smoke your turkey!

Some Extra Smoking Tips and Tricks

There is another method of smoking a turkey, which is a little bit of a cheat: you can use leftover meat from a previously cooked bird, and add it to your barbecue to add some flavor from the original recipe that you used to cook it.

The plus side is that it does not take long at all, since you are just reheating leftover meat, so it can be a great starter dish to hand around to people as you are prepping the other food.

Also, if you’ve never cooked with smoke before, and are worried about sanitation or cooking temperatures, the USDA has a helpful video to help walk you through:

Fried Turkey

Now, if you are not a barbecue type of guy or chick, then you can actually make some tasty turkey by frying it!

Frying things is a little lazy, but it can make the animal taste moister, and of course, more like fast food. It’s not for everyone, but some vastly prefer fried turkey over other methods.

A Word on Frying

Frying anything involves high temperature and hot oil. Separating your bird into smaller pieces will make cooking easier, faster, and safer. You can get your local butcher to chop up the turkey into pieces for you, pretty much like KFC, and then you can prep it for frying.

Frying the whole bird at once can be dangerous, but if you really want to give it a try, constructing a fry derrick like Alton Brown’s might be a safer alternative:

Preparation

Leaving the skin on is best. As with all meats, you’ll need to rinse it before prepping and frying.

Once the meat has been rinsed, a great trick to making sure that the meat is soft and does not go dry is to soak it a little in a pan full of laban, a kind of fermented yogurt milk. Buttermilk is also fine.

After an hour or so of soaking, you can get your salt and pepper shakers and let loose! You can also add some chili powder to the mix if you want to spice things up a little and not be as traditional.

Frying

It is best to deep fry using vegetable oil, and to use a good fry pan with netting inside..

As you fry your turkey, the trick to getting the best results is to keep the vegetable oil inside the pan, and make sure that it is heated up before popping the meat inside.

When  the oil is heated, add the turkey, and make sure that you keep checking the turkey pieces as they fry, turning them around so they are evenly cooked.

Once the meat is crispy, take it out, let it settle on paper towels, and pat to remove the excess oil. You can serve this with vegetables, chips, or roast potatoes. It is completely up to you!

Roast Turkey

Turkey roasting is an art! The trick to getting a finely roasted turkey is overnight preparation, a lot of foil, and butter!

The result is a pure classic. When people think about Thanksgiving, the image of a beautifully crisp, brown, roast turkey is often first to mind.

Preparation

Make sure that you get your turkey ready! Much like the previous methods, you’ll want to clean it, remove the giblets, and wash it.

Choose the desired flavors that you would like to stuff your bird with. You can use an orange or some cranberries, but adding in some stuffing is a great method, too.

The Stuffing

While some prefer to cook the stuffing outside the bird, and then add it to the platter as a garnish, cooking the stuffing inside the turkey can add extra flavor to both dishes.

Just remember that more mass means longer cooking times, and it’s easy to burn the stuffing or under-cook the turkey without realizing!

If you do decide to use stuffing, you don’t have to be fancy. A basic stuffing is comprised of pieces of bread and seasonings, as well as a liquid to hold it together. Seasonings vary wildly based on region, taste, and tradition, and the liquid can be anything from water, to milk, to stock, etc.

In a pinch, you can even use instant stuffing; just add water to the stuffing flakes, and they are ready to put inside the turkey.

Keeping the Turkey Moist and Juicy

Another secret to making sure that the turkey is not dry and tasteless is to get a knob of butter and completely melt it. Put foil into the roasting dish, add the turkey on top of the foil, and butter the outside of the bird, ensuring that it reaches everywhere on the turkey skin.

Next, pour a jug of chicken or vegetable stock all over the bird. Don’t worry if it looks like your turkey is taking a swimming lesson! You want the meat to be kept as moist as possible.

Alternatively, you can use Gordon Ramsay’s method, which involves stretching the skin of the turkey, and then stuffing seasoned butter underneath:

Adding strips of bacon over the top helps trap in moisture, while also giving extra flavor to the gravy.

Seasoning and Roasting

Add salt, pepper, and any other the seasonings that you enjoy. Wrap the top of the turkey in foil, making sure that it is sitting tight inside the pan, and pop it into the oven!

Roast turkey is so delicious, but it will take a long time to roast, so you need to have patience! You will need to stay in the house as it roasts and keep checking throughout the day.

There is no dead set method with regards to timing, as it depends on the size of the initial turkey, what oven temperature that you use, and of course the type of oven. But as a reward for waiting, your house will smell like a bistro!

When the turkey is done, take a knife and make sure to check that the meat is fully cooked and not displaying any redness or blood in the middle. If the knife comes out clean, remove the turkey.

Be sure to let the bird rest for a while before carving; this will allow the meat to cool slightly, and reabsorb some of the juices.

Enjoy!

Now that you have some ideas of how to cook turkey, feel free to mix and match techniques to your heart’s content! There’s no “perfect” way to prepare a Thanksgiving feast, so find the way that works best for you, and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Clare Louise Al-Aufi is a UK-based writer with a passion for all things Internet, and the owner of Freelance Content Creation. She can be reached at freelancecontentpayments@gmail.com.

Starbucks And Their Not So Festive Christmas Cup

Starbucks Christmas Cups Are Back

It’s time to wave goodbye to all the trick-or-treating and get ready for the holiday season, and what better way to get into a festive mood than by sipping a nice hot cup of Starbucks?

Last week, the coffee giant launched a new, limited-edition green cup–a design that the company said, “celebrates community”.

Starbucks green "community" cup

Apparently, not everyone wanted to join the celebration–in fact, the internet went on fire the moment coffee lovers were served their new, not-so-festive cups.

But there’s another twist! Just today, Starbucks released not one, but 13 new, red, and highly-decorated Christmas cups, complete with trees, snow, and reindeer!

The question is, if the real holiday cups were red all along, why release the green cups at all?

No Stranger To Creating A Stir

In a press release, Starbucks’ chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz, said that the cup was designed to represent the company’s connection to the community. At the time, many interpreted this as a reference to the unfolding presidential election.

The election is finally over, but it was certainly tough on Americans. Between Trump and Clinton, the insipid debates, and the constant media stream, it’s still setting in for most people that Trump actually won.

But, if the new cup really was a nod to the election insanity, was coffee really the best way to address that issue?

Consumer opinion seems divided. Many think that Starbucks has skipped their holiday duties for years, never quite able to get the cup looking festive enough. Remember the craziness when last year’s cup design launched?

The Man (and Purpose) Behind the Cups

Starbucks’ tradition of rolling out festive cups began in 1997. This year, Shogo Ota was commissioned to design the new green cup.

While some were angry that the cup was not seasonal enough, others were happy that the coffee chain tried to promote peace and unity.

But did anyone actually sit down and think, independently of a press release, that the green cup might just be a teaser, and that there was another cup on the way that would be bigger, bolder and more festive? It wasn’t long before images leaked of one of the new red cups, and Starbucks workers were shown holding a cup with holly leaves, probably in a bid to calm everyone down. Why all the fuss?

Despite the community theme, to me it looks like the green cup was connected to the presidential election. Thankfully, it didn’t show support for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, or urge coffee lovers to vote for either party. Can you imagine the fallout if that had been the case?

But I guess showing community spirit was not such a bad idea. What could be better to stop all the anger and bitterness during the election than a paper green coffee cup? Pardon the sarcasm, but world peace is not going to be created by printing calming, yet disposable cups to drink our much needed wake-up beverage from.

Also, about the festive red cup–it appears that once again, negative or positive, Starbucks has gained a whole lot of free media attention. Almost like they had that part planned all along…

War on Christmas, or Passing Drama?

Some believe Starbucks is swaying from Christmas displays because they’re afraid to offend those who don’t celebrate. They seem to display snowflakes, Santa, and other holiday symbols just fine, but people are bothered by the lack of ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Goodwill Tidings,’ etc.

The “War on Christmas” has been a punditry football for years. There are dozens of Daily Show bits skewering this, from Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah alike. Will the topic ever die, or will it keep coming back year after year, like some kind of holiday zombie?

So what does this say about Americans as a whole?

On the one hand, they complain about the cups not being festive enough, and have ridiculously high standards for what is and isn’t “Christmas-y”.

On the other hand, it’s just a cup. Surely, if someone is really so offended by the design, they could simply boycott Starbucks for a while. Instead, it seems that worldwide we are trapped into a complaining mode that never follows through with action.

Say you went to buy a cup of coffee and it tasted disgusting–would you return to drink the same Joe again? So, if you really, truly, are not happy with Starbucks’ attempts to tap into the festive season, and you wanted change, why not protest by simply bypassing Starbucks until they get the message?

Americans like to use the expression, “Vote with your dollar.” Well, vote!

One cannot help but feel that the message that is given to the super coffee giant is that if you are going to print out cups that we are not happy with, we will still continue to drink out of them, as we are addicted to your coffee, and despite not being happy with the packaging, we will return regardless, as the coffee is spot-on.

Boycott or Keep Sipping

 

Starbucks may seem to have gotten everything wrong in terms of pleasing the consumer, but it doesn’t seem to have negatively effected their sales.

In fact, by creating such a controversial cup each year, all they have done is promote their sales and make sure that they will be a topic of interest.

Hell knows what Starbucks has on the design board for next year’s promo. If consumers are going to complain about cups, but carry on drinking from them, perhaps next year we can look forward to blue cups, or pink cups.

I wonder if the marketing staff behind the scenes knew exactly how the world would react to this launch. Each time we complain about the cup, Starbucks receives free publicity. Each time we blog about the cup, they are taking the internet by storm!

Starbucks CEO, take note–perhaps it’s time to listen to the needs of Christian coffee drinkers, or you may lose them to one of your many coffee competitors! Perhaps it’s time to stand together and bypass the chain once and for all, to call for a full-blown Merry Christmas and Santa picture, to stand in the streets with our Christmas red banner held high!

Or we can just be quiet, and enjoy our decaf soy mocha frappe lattes.