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What to Know Before Buying a Foreclosed Home

If you’ve been keeping your eye on real estate home listings, you might’ve seen more foreclosed properties for sale at a reduced price. 

With record levels of unemployment and underemployment, many homeowners are falling further behind on their mortgages. Currently, there’s a federal moratorium on the most common mortgage programs through December 31, 2020. Unless further homeowner protections are in place, the foreclosure market will see an unfortunate rise.

In fact, according to mortgage and real estate analytics company Black Knight, 2.3 million homeowners are already seriously past-due on their mortgages. 

As devastating as it is to have more homes undergoing foreclosure, it also means that prospective home buyers, who were otherwise priced out of buying a home, might have greater access to homeownership. Here’s what you should know if you’re thinking about buying a foreclosed home.

Buying a Foreclosed Home 

There are many ways you can buy a foreclosed home, depending on what stage of the process the foreclosure is in:

  • Pre-foreclosure. Many homeowners are willing to sell before they’ve officially been foreclosed on. Depending on how much equity they have, they might need to do a short sale. 
  • Short sale. Homeowners can seek approval from their lenders to sell you the home for less than they owe on the mortgage. The bank will get less than it’s owed, but it still often approves short sales since they usually cost less than a foreclosure. 
  • Auction. Once a home is foreclosed it’ll often be auctioned off by the bank. But you’ll need cash on hand for this, and that’s not an option for most folks who need mortgage financing. 
  • Real-estate owned (REO) properties. Alternatively, banks can simply sell the foreclosed home through more traditional markets, just like a normal home.

It’s usually easiest to buy the foreclosed home once the bank takes over and it becomes an REO property. That’s because you can take your time and go through the mortgage underwriting process. You can also work with a realtor, and — importantly — write contingency clauses in the contract that let you pull out of the deal if a home inspection reveals more repairs than you expected. 

7 Caveats to Buying a Foreclosed Home

Buying a foreclosed home isn’t exactly the same as buying one directly from the homeowner. You’re potentially buying a home from a bank who took over after the previous homeowners were unable to afford the home anymore. This introduces a few twists into the home-buying process for you. 

1. You’ll Need a Realtor Who Specializes in Foreclosed Homes

The world is full of realtors, even including your Uncle Bob and Cousin Carolyn. But not everyone is equipped to handle the nuances of buying a foreclosed home. There are a lot of issues that can crop up — unplanned property damage, squatters, homeowners who settle the bill and try to reclaim ownership, etc.

If you’re serious about buying a foreclosed home, seek out a realtor with extra experience in this area. There are even special designations that some realtors can get, such as Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource (SFR) or Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE).

2. Houses Are Sold “As-Is”

With a typical home sale, you have the change to get the property professionally inspected before signing on the dotted line. It’s not uncommon for new issues to arise, and in a normal home buying transaction, you can often negotiate with the sellers to either fix the damage or discount the price. 

That’s not the case when you buy a foreclosed home. If a home inspection reveals unexpected damage — like the need for a full roof or a septic system replacement — banks often aren’t willing to negotiate. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it sale. 

3. Expect to Put In Some Work

The above point is especially important considering that most foreclosed homes do, in fact, need a lot of fixing up. 

Think about it: the previous homeowners lost the house because they couldn’t afford the mortgage. There’s a good chance they also weren’t able to keep up with routine maintenance either. From their perspective, even if they did have the cash, what’s the point of spending money on repairs, if they know they’ll lose the home in a few months?

You can save money by putting in some sweat equity (HGTV, anyone?), but even then you’ll need the cash to pay for materials. This also means that the home might not be move-in ready. If you do move in, you might need to put up with construction debris for a little while. On the bright side, though, this does give you a chance to upgrade the home to your own aesthetics. 

4. You Might Need Creative Financing

This brings up another issue: how do you pay for those renovations? Generally, you can’t just ask for a bigger mortgage to cover the necessary repairs. Most lenders will only lend you as much as the current home appraisal is worth, minus your down payment. 

You have a few options, though. You can hold some money back from your savings to pay for it in cash, but this means you’ll have a smaller down payment. An alternative is getting a loan from a different lender, like a personal loan, a 0% APR credit card, or even a home equity loan or line of credit if you’re lucky enough to start from a position with equity. 

Finally, there are some special “renovation mortgages” available through Fannie Mae and other lenders. These mortgages actually do allow you to take out a bigger mortgage so you can pay for renovations. You might need to provide a higher down payment or have a higher credit score to qualify, however. 

5. Watch for Liens on Foreclosed Homes at Auctions

If you have a big pot of cash and can pay for a home on the same day, an auction might be your best bet. But then you have to worry about a new factor: liens. 

If the property had any liens attached to it (such as from the previous homeowners not paying their taxes, or a judgement from unpaid debt), you’ll inherit that bill, too. 

This is usually only the case for auctioned homes. If you buy a foreclosed home as an REO sale, the bank generally pays off any liens attached to the property. Still, it may be worth double-checking if you have interest in a specific property. 

6. Be Prepared to Act Fast

You’re not the only one with the bright idea to get a low-priced, foreclosed home. Chances are good that there are a few other buyers interested in the property, which increases competition. Even though the home is listed at a big discount, this competition can still drive prices up. You might need to be ready to act fast, just the same as in any hot real estate market. 

7. Be Prepared to Wait

On the flip side, there’s a lot of extra bureaucracy involved in buying a foreclosed home once the seller accepts your offer. There’s often extra paperwork to fill out or other complications. 

For example, the home appraisal might come back lower than expected, which might make it harder to get enough financing for the agreed-on purchase price. If it’s a short sale, it might also take longer for the bank to approve the lower sale price for the home, based on what the homeowner’s mortgage is currently worth. 

Pros and Cons of Foreclosed Homes 

Buying a foreclosed home isn’t necessarily a good or bad idea on its own. It all depends on your own goals — for example, are you willing to figure out financing for repairs to get a deal on the home purchase price? Also consider how important it is for you to have a “move-in ready” home with no hassle. 

Weigh these pros and cons carefully, and what’s most important to you when buying a home. 

Pros Cons
Can get a deal that’s lower than market price Property is sold “as-is” and might not be move-in ready
Can customize the home to your specifications with repairs and upgrades Likely needs a lot of repairs and upgrades 
Requires creative financing for repairs and upgrades
Foreclosure process is long and might fall through 

The Bottom Line

Buying a foreclosed home can be a win-win situation. You get a home at a good price, and (usually) you can bring the property back to good, working order by fixing it up. As long as you go into the deal knowing that it’s not the same experience as a typical home purchase, buying a foreclosed home is a great way to launch into homeownership or real estate investing.   

The post What to Know Before Buying a Foreclosed Home appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com



Gardening Tips That Save You Green

If you’re a gardener, chances are you know how rewarding growing your own food can be. Whether you run an at-home farm, tend to a small patch of blueberry bushes, or have an apartment window herb garden, you know how satisfying that harvest of something you’ve grown is. Gardening has been linked to some serious health benefits, too—even significantly lowering levels of cortisol and feelings of stress.

Turns out, growing your own food at home offers much more than a chance to get outside and get your hands dirty. Growing your food can be an incredibly cost-effective hobby, with a 600 square-foot garden producing about 300 pounds of fresh produce worth around $600 annually. When packs of seeds cost around $3 each, the opportunity to grow your investment, literally and figuratively, is clear.  

Just by planting and tending to tomatoes, lettuce, or potatoes, you could save some serious money as a result. The average American spends close to $6,800 a year on food, which equals 12.6 percent of their total spending. Of that, $760 is spent on fruits and vegetables. By spending under $100 to build up your own plot of fruits and veggies, you could save around $800 a year—money that you could then save or invest in more seeds to save even more at the grocery store!

You don’t need a green thumb to see how that math adds up. If you’re worried about a black thumb ruining your chances of saving some serious green yearly, learn more about gardening tips that will turn even the smallest of garden plots into a bountiful harvest. Plus, read up on the many benefits of gardening on your health and overall happiness—you’ll be grabbing gardening gloves and mulch before you know it!

Sources: Country Living | An Oregon Cottage | Balcony Garden Web | The Penny Hoarder | Earth Easy | PSECU | Good Housekeeping | AARP | Money 

The post Gardening Tips That Save You Green appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com



What Are Mutual Funds? Understanding The Basics

If you’re one of those investors with very little time to research and invest in individual stocks, it might be a good idea to look into investing in mutual funds.

Whether your goal is to save money for retirement, or for a down payment to buy a house, mutual funds are low-cost and effective way to invest your money.

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What is a mutual fund?

A mutual fund is an investment vehicle in which investors, like you ad me, pool their money together. They use the money to invest in securities such as stocks and bonds. A professional manages the funds.

In addition, mutual funds are cost efficient. They offer diversification to your portfolio. They have low minimum investment requirements.

These factors make mutual funds among the best investment vehicles to use. If you’re a beginner investor, you should consider investing in mutual funds or index funds.

Investing in the stock market in general, can be intimidating. If you are just starting out and don’t feel confident in your investing knowledge, you may value the advice of a financial advisor.

Types of mutual funds

There are different types of mutual funds. They are stock funds, bond funds, and money market funds.

Which funds you choose depends on your risk tolerance. While mutual funds in general are less risky than investing in individual stocks, some funds are riskier than others.

However, you can choose a combination of these three types of funds to diversify your portfolio.

  • Stock funds: a stock fund is a fund that invests heavily in stocks. However, that does not mean stock funds do not have other securities, i.e., bonds. It’s just that the majority of the money invested is in stocks.
  • Bond funds: if you don’t want your portfolio to fluctuate in value as stocks do, then you should consider bond funds.
  • Money market funds: money market funds are funds that you invest in if you tend to tap into your investment in the short term.
  • Sector funds. As the name suggests, sector funds are funds that invests in one particular sector or industry. For example, a fund that invests only in the health care industry is a sector fund. These mutual funds lack diversification. Therefore, you should avoid them or use them in conjunction to another mutual fund.

Additional funds

  • Index funds. Index funds seek to track the performance of a particular index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of 500 large U.S. company stocks or the CRSP US Small Cap Index. When you invest in the Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund, you’re essentially buying a piece of the 500 largest publicly traded US companies. Index funds don’t jump around. They stay invested in the market. 
  • Income funds: These funds focus invest primarily in corporate bonds. They also invest in some high-dividend stocks.
  • Balance funds: The portfolio of these funds have a mixed of stocks and bonds. Those funds enjoy capital growth and income dividend.

Related Article: 3 Ways to Protect Your Portfolio from the Volatile Stock Market

The advantages of mutual funds

Diversification. You’ve probably heard the popular saying “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Well, it applies to mutual funds. Mutual funds invest in stocks or bonds from dozens of companies in several industries.

Thus, your risk is spread. If a stock of a company is not doing well, a stock from another company can balance it out. While most funds are diversified, some are not.

For example, sector funds which invest in a specific industry such as real estate can be risky if that industry is not doing well.

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Professional Management.

Mutual funds are professionally managed. These fund managers are well educated and experienced. Their job is to analyze data, research companies and find the best investments for the fund.

Thus, investing in mutual funds can be a huge time saver for those who have very little time and those who lack expertise in the matter.

Cost Efficiency. The operating expenses and the cost that you pay to sell or buy a fund are cheaper than trading in individual securities on your own. For example, the best Vanguard mutual funds have operating expenses as low as 0.04%. So by keeping expenses low, these funds can help boost your returns.

Low or Reasonable Minimum Investment. The majority of mutual funds, Vanguard mutual funds, for example, have a reasonable minimum requirement. Some funds even have a minimum of $1,000 and provide a monthly investment plan where you can start with as little as $50 a month.

Related Article: 7 Secrets Smart Professionals Use to Choose Financial Advisors

The disadvantage of mutual funds.

While there are several benefits to investing in mutual funds, there are some disadvantages as well. 

Active Fund Management. Mutual funds are actively managed. That means fund mangers are always on the look out for the best securities to purchase. That also means they can easily make mistakes.

Cost/expenses. While cost and expenses of investing in individual stocks are significantly higher than mutual funds, cost of a mutual fund can nonetheless be significant.

High cost can have a negative effect on your investment return. These fees are deducted from your mutual fund’s balance every year. Other fees can apply as well. So always find a company with a low cost. 

How you make money with mutual funds.

You make money with mutual funds the same way you would with individual stocks: dividend, capital gain and appreciation.

Dividend: Dividends are cash distributions from a company to its shareholders. Some companies offer dividends; others do not. And those who do pay out dividends are not obligated to do so. And the amount of dividends can vary from year to year.

As a mutual fund investor, you may receive dividend income on a regular basis.

Mutual funds offer dividend reinvestment plans. This means that instead of receiving a cash payment, you can reinvest your dividend income into buying more shares in the fund.

Capital gain distribution: in addition to receiving dividend income from the fund, you make money with mutual funds when you make a profit by selling a stock. This is called “capital gain.”

Capital gain occurs when the fund manager sells stocks for more he bought them for. The resulting profits can be paid out to the fund’s shareholders. Just as dividend income, you have the choice to reinvest your gains in the fund.

Appreciation: If stocks in your fund have appreciated in value, the price per share of the fund will increase as well. So whether you hold your shares for a short term or long term, you stand to make a profit when the shares rise. 

Best mutual funds.

Now that you know mutual funds make excellent investments, finding the best mutual funds can be overwhelming. 

Vanguard mutual funds.

Vanguard mutual funds are the best out there, because they are relatively cheaper; they are of high quality; a professional manage them; and their operating expenses are relative low. 

Here is a list of the best Vanguard mutual funds that you should invest in:

  • Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Funds
  • Vanguard 500 Index (VFIAX)
  • Total International Stock index Fund
  • Vanguard Health Care Investor

Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund 

If you’re looking for a diversified mutual fund, this Vanguard mutual fund is for you. The Vanguard’s VTSAX provides exposure to the entire U.S. stock market which includes stocks from large, medium and small U.S companies.

The top companies include Microsoft, Apple, Amazon. In addition, the expenses are relatively (0.04%). It has a minimum initial investment of $3,000, making it one of the best vanguard stock funds out there.

Vanguard S&P 500 (VFIAX)

The Vanguard 500 Index fund may be appropriate for you if you prefer a mutual fund that focuses on U.S. equities. This fund tracks the performance of the S&P 500, which means it holds about 500 of the largest U.S. stocks.

The largest U.S. companies included in this fund are Facebook, Alphabet/Google, Apple, and Amazon. This index fund has an expense ration of 0.04% and a reasonable minimum initial investment of $3,000.

Vanguard Total International Stock Market

You should consider the Vanguard International Stock Market fund of you prefer a mutual fund that invests in foreign stocks.

This international stock fund exposes its shareholders to over 6,000 non-U.S. stocks from several countries in both developed markets and emerging markets. The minimum investment is also $3,000 with an expense ratio of 0.11%.

Vanguard Health Care Investor

Sector funds are not usually a good idea, because the lack diversification. Sector funds are funds that invest in a specific industry like real estate or health care. However, if you want a fund to complement your portfolio, the Vanguard Health Care Investor is a good choice.

This Vanguard mutual fund offers investors exposure to U.S. and foreign equities focusing in the health care industry. The expense ration is a little bit higher, 0.34%. However, the minimum initial investment is $3,000, making it one of the cheapest Vanguard mutual funds.

Bottom Line

Mutual funds are great options for beginner investors or investors who have little time to research and invest in individual stocks. When you buy into these low cost investments, you’re essentially buying shares from companies.

Your money are pooled together with those of other investors. If you intend to invest in low cost investment funds, you must know which ones are the best. When it comes to saving money on fees and getting a good return on your investment, Vanguard mutual funds are among the best funds out there.

They provide professional management, diversity, low cost, income and price appreciation.

What’s Next: 5 Mistakes People Make When Hiring A Financial Advisor

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond knowing which of the best Vanguard mutual funds to invest, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
  • Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
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The post What Are Mutual Funds? Understanding The Basics appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com



What Credit Score Do I Need to Buy a Car?

What Credit Score Do You Need to Get An Auto Loan?

Article Updated July 18, 2018.

If it’s time to purchase a new vehicle, you may be wondering about one obstacle that could get in your way: your credit. Maybe you’re unsure how good your credit is, and you don’t know what credit score is needed to buy a car either. It is better to educate yourself with the knowledge you need to move forward with the car buying process to help alleviate any frustration or challenges you may find along the way to car ownership.

No matter your credit score, you can probably find a way to finance a car loan if you absolutely must buy a new vehicle. The real question is what your credit score will cost you when you make the purchase. The better your credit score, the better your chances may be of receiving a cheaper and more affordable interest rate and payment per month.

So, while there’s no minimum credit score required for car loans, your credit history and credit score can definitely make a big difference in the car buying process.

Bad Credit Scores Mean Much Higher Interest Rates

According to data from Experian Automotive, the difference in interest rates on a new car loan for someone with excellent credit versus someone with very poor credit is over 11 percentage points.

In fact, 2.84% was the average interest rate someone with a super-prime (excellent) credit score paid in the first quarter of 2017, while those with deep subprime (very poor) credit paid an average interest rate of 13.98% or higher.

To illustrate this difference, consider that you apply for a 60-month loan on a car that costs $25,000. With a 2.84% interest rate, the total cost of your car would be $26,847 with payments of $447 per month. Not too shabby.

For the same loan but an interest rate of 13.98%, your car loan would cost you $34,887, and you’d pay $581 per month. That’s more than $8,000 extra! Clearly, poor credit can result in you paying a lot more for your new vehicle.

The difference was even starker in comparison to those financing used cars. Those with super-prime credit paid an average rate of 3.56%, while those with deep subprime credit paid an average of 19.62%—more than 16 percentage points higher.

Average New Car Loan Rate by Credit Score (Q1 2017)

  • Super-prime (781–850): 2.84%
  • Prime (661–780): 3.77%
  • Nonprime (601–660): 6.60%
  • Subprime (501–600): 11.05%
  • Deep subprime (300–500): 13.98%

Note that the credit labels above represent Experian’s credit ranges. Other credit reporting agencies use different scales and labels so the information may differ between each credit bureau.

Experian uses a scoring model of 300 to 850. You will find the prime borrowers on the top of this spectrum, and the deep subprime borrowers are at the lower end of the spectrum.

Even if your credit score doesn’t fall into the average ranks as outlined below, you may still be able to qualify for a vehicle loan with a score of between 600 and 660.

Average Used Car Loan Rate by Credit Score (Q1 2017)

  • Super-prime: 3.56%
  • Prime: 5.29%
  • Nonprime: 9.88%
  • Subprime: 16.48%
  • Deep subprime: 19.62%

The dealer may also evaluate your credit using another type of credit score called VantageScore. VantageScore, which was developed by all three of the major reporting agencies, assigns different weights to different parts of your credit history, such as on-time payments, balances, and utilization.

Some people may benefit from a lender using their VantageScore, while others may be at a disadvantage.

Subprime Auto Loans

If you find that you are ineligible for a traditional car loan because you have a low credit score or less than perfect credit, or your income is below where it needs to be, then you will need to look into a subprime auto loan.

Subprime auto loans tend to be a lot riskier than regular or traditional car loans, and they typically come attached to much higher interest rates and fees, and you are paying for much longer terms.

Subprime lending is also often referred to as near-prime, subpar, non-prime, and second-chance lending. However, instead of using this type of high interest loan, if available, you should instead improve your credit, so it is no longer less-than-perfect-credit. You could also see if you could instead qualify for in-house financing at the dealership, so you do not have to be a subprime borrower and risk putting yourself under even more financial strain.

Where to Start If You’re Unsure

If you’re nervous about letting a car dealer check your credit—but even if you aren’t—it’s helpful to check your score yourself in advance. You can check your credit report for free to make sure you don’t have any surprises and to find mistakes.

Note that the credit scores an auto lender uses may be slightly different because it will be tailored for an auto loan. Still, it’s a good start—if your general credit score is strong, you can also bet that the score the dealer uses is strong.

We also recommend that you try to get pre-approved for a car loan from a bank or credit union before setting foot in the dealership. With a set interest rate in hand, if the dealer can offer you a better rate, perfect! If not, you’ll be prepared to pay what your bank approved you for.

How to Get Pre-approved for a Car Loan

You can apply for pre-approval for a car loan easily online, in person, or even over the phone. The lender will perform a hard credit check to see the state of your credit, and they will then gather all of your financial information such as your monthly income, and they will then have a better idea about whether or not they will provide you with the car loan.

All of these factors will figure into the interest rate, monthly payment, loan amount, and even the length of the loan. There is also something called pre-qualification, but this process will not be as accurate as the pre-approval process because they are not able to take such a close look at your credit.

If and when you are pre-approved, the lender will provide you with an offer statement in the form of a letter, certificate, or another form of proof so you can take it to the car dealership of your choice and begin the car buying process.

Remember, even if you are pre-approved, you will want to set a very realistic budget for yourself prior to looking at cars so you will have a better idea of what you can afford and what you should be looking into.

Getting the Best Auto Loan

Getting the best auto loan is important when it comes to affordability and value. It is recommended that you look at options from different banks and credit unions and other online lenders to make sure you are getting the lowest possible interest rate you can get. Finding a car dealership that offers financing may also prove to be a beneficial idea as well; especially if your credit is less than ideal.

When planning to finance a new or used car, it is always best to take your time and plan it out because it is a big purchase and investment. If you are able and have the time, you should consider working on your credit score to improve your credit, so you are able to lock in a much better deal.

Pull your credit report and look through it thoroughly. Always be on the lookout for any errors so you can dispute them and get them removed. It is also important to make sure you are paying all of your bills on time, your credit balances are low, and you are not opening any new lines of credit except when you actually need to.

You will be presented with better financing options if you can show the potential lenders that you are responsible and can pay your bills on time and maintain good credit.

A Word of Caution

Credit inquiries related to auto loans made within a short time frame (usually 14 days, or 45 days depending on the credit score model being used) are supposed to count as a single inquiry. However, some of our readers have found their credit scores dropping after multiple car dealers sent credit inquiries for financing. This is another reason why getting pre-approved before going to the dealership is a good idea.

 

If want to make sure your credit is good enough to purchase a car, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

Here’s What Else You Should Know about Auto Loans:

The post What Credit Score Do I Need to Buy a Car? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com



How to Avoid the Financial Blunders People Make in Their 20s

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Nobody is perfect when it comes to their finances — even millionaires slip up sometimes.

So when you start to think you’re worse off than your parents, or your nephew, or your friends, remember that all 20-somethings have made mistakes that can cost them big time.

But if you’re guilty of making some of these blunders, don’t fret. You can still redeem yourself! Here are some of the worst blunders you can make, and tips to help dig you out of the hole.

Blunder No. 1: Not Getting Free Gift Cards When You Shop

What do you usually do with your receipts? You check out, they hand you a mile-long piece of paper, and you frantically stuff it to the bottom of a grocery bag. Pretty worthless.

But a free app called Fetch Rewards will turn them into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart, Chipotle and dozens of other retailers.

And it’s perfect for those of us who don’t want to put a ton of work into this. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt.

When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt. Then start snapping photos of your recent receipts to see how many points you can earn without a single trip to the store!

Not so bad for a useless receipt, right?

Blunder No. 2: Not Earning Anything On Your Savings

You’ve probably heard the best way to grow your money is to stick it in a savings account and leave it there for, well, ever. That’s bad advice.

But maybe you’re just looking for a place to safely stash it away — but still earn money. Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account won’t do you much better. (Ahem, 0.05% is nothing these days.)

But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back and up to 20 times the average interest on the money in your account.

Not too shabby!

Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

Blunder No. 3: Paying Too Much Interest To Credit Card Companies

If you have credit card debt, you know. The anxiety, the interest rates, the fear you’re never going to escape…

And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

Blunder No. 4: Paying Too Much For Car Insurance

When’s the last time you checked car insurance prices?

You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. Let’s be real, though. It’s probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesn’t have to be.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $540 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

Blunder No. 5: Thinking You Don’t Have Enough Money To Invest

Take a look at the Forbes Richest People list, and you’ll notice almost all the billionaires have one thing in common — they own another company.

But if you work for a living and don’t happen to have millions of dollars lying around, that can sound totally out of reach.

But with an app called Stash, it doesn’t have to be. It lets you be a part of something that’s normally exclusive to the richest of the rich — on Stash you can buy pieces of other companies for as little as $1.

That’s right — you can invest in pieces of well-known companies, such as Amazon, Google, Apple and more for as little as $1. The best part? If these companies profit, so can you. Some companies even send you a check every quarter for your share of the profits, called dividends.1

It takes two minutes to sign up, and it’s totally secure. With Stash, all your investments are protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) — that’s industry talk for, “Your money’s safe.”2

Plus, when you use the link above, Stash will give you a $5 sign-up bonus once you deposit $5 into your account.*

Blunder No. 6: Assuming Life Insurance Is Expensive And Time Consuming

Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income after you’re gone? How they’ll pay the bills? Send the kids through school? Now’s a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a term life insurance policy.

You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that. But your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.

Rates start at just $16 a month. The peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.

1Not all stocks pay out dividends, and there is no guarantee that dividends will be paid each year.

2To note, SIPC coverage does not insure against the potential loss of market value.

For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.

*Offer is subject to Promotion Terms and Conditions. To be eligible to participate in this Promotion and receive the bonus, you must successfully open an individual brokerage account in good standing, link a funding account to your Invest account AND deposit $5.00 into your Invest account.

The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of Stash. 

Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk. 

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com



Should I stay or should I go? Wrestling with the decision to quit a career

J.D.’s note: In the olden days at Get Rich Slowly, I shared reader stories every Sunday. I haven’t done that since I re-purchased the site because nobody sends them to me anymore. But earlier this year, Mike did. I love it. I hope you will too.

Earlier this year, I sent my wife a text message: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how freaked out would you be if I quit my job this afternoon?”

My wife and I had only been married a short while, but she’d known since our second date that I didn’t plan to work in my traditional job until normal retirement age. She also knew that I hadn’t been very happy at work in recent months.

We’re very compatible financially — both savers raised in working-class families that didn’t always have a lot. We make a point of having what we like to call “Fun Family Finance Day” from time to time. On Fun Family Finance Day, we do everything from competitively checking our credit scores to discussing questions that get at the root of our money mindsets to help us create our goals.

But this question wasn’t part of the plan. Not then.

And it was never on any of the lists of questions that we’d discussed with each other. It was like a pop quiz, a pothole in the smoothest relationship road I’d ever traveled…and I was the one putting it there.

Dreams Remain Dreams Without Doing

My wife and I rarely argue, but when we do it’s usually about food. It’s the kitchen and the grocery store that are our battleground. Our finances are fine. Thankfully, when you’re confident in the life you’ve created and the person you chose to build it with, it’s a lot easier to be honest about what’s on your mind.

That still doesn’t always mean you get the answer you want. Or the answer you were expecting. She responded: “Wait what. Kinda. What would you do?”

A completely reasonable and fair question. Not to mention one that I’d probably have to get comfortable answering from a lot more people.

I think my immediate reaction was: We talk about this stuff all the time, where is my, “No worries baby, YOLO!”? (I must have watched too many romcoms back before we cut cable from our lives.)

Being a grownup, it turns out, is actually really hard sometimes. I was about to learn that talking about something, and actually doing it, are a world apart.

Life is full of dreamers and doers. Sometimes those two personalities cross over. But there are plenty of people who go through life talking about so many things they’ll never have the courage to try — or the discipline and determination to follow through with.

Which person was I? The dreamer? The doer? Or that fortunate combination of both?

Standing on the Ledge

There’s a quote perched atop my bucket list of long-term goals:

“At some point, you will need to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself not just if this is something you wanted to do at one point, but if this is something you will want to have done.”

Words are meaningless without action. It was time for me to take that long look in the mirror. I thought back to one of the questions that my wife and I had previously discussed: What does money mean to you? To me, once I grew out of the “stuff accumulation” phase of my early- to mid-20s, my answer had always been freedom. Money meant freedom. To my wife, the answer was security. Money meant security.

You can probably see how freedom can conflict with security. That was the case here. Not only that, but I was asking to change the perfect plan, one that she was comfortable with and excited about.

That’s not one, but two shots against financial security. If I’d thought more about our financial blueprints and how they differ, I might have seen this coming from a mile away!

As I was standing on that ledge, about to quit my job, thoughts started to race through my mind. What did I actually have to lose if made the leap? Lots.

  • A happy relationship and marriage.
  • A secure job with solid income, not to mention a sixteen year investment in my career.
  • Great benefits, including lots of time off, health insurance, 401(k) — even a pension.
  • The ability to afford anything at any time without any real worry. (Our finances were already on autopilot.)
  • My work friends and work prestige.
  • The general day-to-day purpose of a job.
  • The opportunity to create generational wealth. If we worked until 65, the power of compounding would likely make us ridiculously wealthy.

Today at Get Rich Slowly, let’s perform a little exercise. Come stand in my shoes for a minute, won’t you? Join me on the ledge. Do you see the beautiful view? The endless opportunity? The excitement that’s felt only at the beginning of a grand adventure, an adventure where anything is possible?

Or do you get a queasy feeling in your stomach? Do you feel like you’ve lost your balance, like you’re on the edge of some great catastrophe? Do you see a frightening fall from grace? Does it make you want to back away immediately?

Let’s go back to what it felt like to make this decision…

Sitting on the ledge

My Situation

I’m 38 years old. I’ve worked for the same company since I was 22. Corporate insurance is all I know. I’m well paid. I work from home for a solid company with good benefits, plenty of time off, and I really enjoy most of the people I work for and with.

It’s the definition of stability — a solid guardrail protecting me from what lies over the ledge. So what’s the problem?

A year ago, I took a new position that seemed like a great opportunity. Only it wasn’t. The first misstep of my career. A year in, that spot has killed my enthusiasm and engagement. For the first time at work, I’m struggling to get things done.

As an extrovert that derives meaning from helping others, this feels like a prison. My job isn’t hard because it’s stressful. It’s hard because it’s boring me to death! And what are any of us doing thinking about personal finance and early retirement if we aren’t trying to make better use of our limited time on this planet?

There’s a project looming that would require some weekend work once in a while for the foreseeable future, I’ve avoided it in the past, but my luck is running out. My team — and, more importantly, my position — need to take it on. I understand completely. I just don’t want to do it.

At this point in life, my time is way more important to me than money. The weekends and vacations are what I live for. Adventures in the mountains with my friends, quality time with my wife, our dog, and our families – that’s what makes me feel alive.

Insurance? Meh.

No little kid ever said they wanted to work for an insurance company and play with spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations when they grow up. I wanted to be a baseball player, a sports writer, even a professional forklift driver. (Because what’s more badass than a forklift when you’re a little kid and your dad works at a marina?)

A Glimpse of the Other Side

My wife and I just got back from a delayed honeymoon to Alaska. To say it was incredible would be an understatement. Denali. Kenai. Majestic train rides. Fjords. Glaciers. Bears. Bald eagles. Whales. Hikes.

Life slowed down.

I somehow managed to read five books while doing so many other amazing things. During our more than two weeks off, I got to see what my mind was capable of when it wasn’t drowning in useless information and mundane tasks that consume my braindwidth.

We talked to people who had ended up in this wild place through a history of taking risks. Parents that had hitchhiked cross-country and ended up there back in the 70s. Can you imagine? Where we live, a fair number of people never leave their town or state!

Before the trip, I had tried to apply for a few positions. For whatever reason, it just didn’t work out. I came home from an amazing glimpse into what life could be to a job that seemed like the polar opposite. (Isn’t that every vacation though?) I’ve felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole for a while now. Maybe normal life just isn’t for me anymore. Maybe I need something just a little less ordinary.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I’ve been practicing the classic tenets of personal finance since I was in my mid- to late-20s. I found an awesome woman in my mid-30s who just happens to be down with this lifestyle as well. We’re probably two to three years short of where we want to be based on our master plan of a fully-paid house and a really comfortable number in invested assets.

We’d likely fall somewhere between Agency and Security on the stages of financial freedom.

I know good jobs don’t grow on trees, especially where we live. The seasons of the economy are always shifting and there’s a chill in the air. Economic winter can’t be too far off. My wife still has a solid job, and we live a pretty simple life — albeit in an expensive part of the country. Our main splurge is travel, but otherwise we live well below our means.

All of this knowledge and preparation comes with a cost. Having options can be a burden too, because then you’re responsible for making hard decisions. And you’re responsible for the outcomes of those choices.

What other options are there?

  • Be a crappy employee/teammate, and still get paid? Plenty of people have played that game. Get a surgery or two, go out on leave, let performance management run its course for however long that takes, and keep cashing checks the whole time. I don’t think I have it in me to put people I respect through that. It’s just not who I am.
  • I work from home, and I still can’t bring myself to abandon my laptop. What if someone needs me?
  • Am I giving up too soon? The finish line seems just around the corner — somehow so close yet so far away.
  • Should I just suck it up and sell a little more of my soul? Slump my shoulders a little bit more as I trade another piece of myself for money I don’t need to buy things I don’t want?

As I go back and forth, sometimes I briefly wish I’d never found the personal-finance community. Like Neo in The Matrix, why’d I have to take the damn red pill? Being a mindless consumer wasn’t so bad. I would have invested 6-10% in my 401(k) with a traditional pension on top of it.

Forty years on autopilot would have produced a comfortable life of work, nice things — and maybe some time in old age to relax and travel.

Facing Freedom

The whole point of everything I’ve done since I started this journey was to be in control of my own life. To not be owned by things or circumstances. To have options. Freedom of choice. F-U money.

I have the corporate battle scars and survivor’s guilt to understand why that’s important.

I’ve sat on the phone while I heard that my old department was closing down. The sadness and tears in the room. Everyone that had taken me in, given me my chance, taught me the job…basically gone, casualties of a business decision.

I’ve seen people get laid off who are petrified because they don’t know how they’ll pay their bills in a couple of weeks. People will be okay eventually though, right?

What about my friend who was struggling last year and left the company? He committed suicide a few months later. Maybe everyone won’t be okay eventually. Depression runs in my family. Am I really built for this? That thought is haunting.

It’s been said that one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make in life is whether to walk away or try harder. Every bone in my body tells me it’s time to walk away, to bet on myself.

The End?

About six months after the text exchange that blindsided my wife, with her support, I hit send on the scariest, most exciting and important one-line email of my professional career. It would also signify the unofficial end of it: “I will be resigning from my position effective Wednesday, June 26th.”

To combine a few lines from my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, some birds just weren’t meant to be caged. It’s time to get busy living, or get busy dying.

Source: getrichslowly.org



8 Money-Saving Tips for Improving Your Bathroom’s Design

I don’t know about you, but for me, a bathroom goes well beyond its practical uses; within the past years, I’ve come to think about it as a sanctuary of sorts, that room of the house that’s dedicated to pampering, relaxing, and deconnecting — a place where I can enjoy some alone time and use that alone time to take care of my skin, hair, body, and mind.

And just like any other space in my house, the more beautiful my bathroom is, the more I can enjoy the time I spend in it. But re-designing a bathroom or remodeling it altogether is quite an investment. That’s why today we’re going to look at a few handy ways in which we can improve our bathroom’s design without having to spend a ton of money in the process. Here are some tips to help you maximize your bathroom’s function and style while saving money — both on the short and long run:

#1 Choose décor materials wisely

When designing your bathroom, one of the most important things to take into consideration is choosing the right materials. And I’m not talking about the tile (which we all know ceramic is the way to go); but rather furniture and appliances. Since this space is expected to be exposed to water, humidity, and moisture, it’s best to use waterproof materials for all furniture, décor items, and appliances.

For example, solid wood or plywood may not be a good choice for furniture, as it will likely warp and crack (and it can even lead to mold). Instead, a way better — and longer-lasting — choice would be PVC, which is extremely durable, completely waterproof and offers a great look and feel as well for bathroom cabinets. When buying blinds for your bathroom windows, choose waterproof blinds because they are stain and mold resistant, as well as fade-free. When picking appliances, make sure to avoid any metal that might rust, and preferably stay away from plastic; some of your best choices are brass, stainless steel, and zinc (or zinc alloys), as they stand the test of time and add a note of style to your bathroom.

Overall, focus on materials that can withstand humidity and water. This way, you don’t have to spend money replacing them and you can rest assured that your bathroom will maintain its clean and brand-new look over the years.

#2 Widen and brighten your space with mirrors

Instead of adding a skylight or a new window to brighten a rather gloomy bathroom (which would call for a pricy renovation), consider using a large mirror, re-painting your walls in a light color, or adding extra light fixtures. These can all help create the illusion of space, making your bathroom look wider and brighter. Obviously, this technique is much more affordable than having to install an additional window to your bathroom space and you’d be surprised at how much of a difference adding a large mirror can make.

If you feel like you don’t have the space to add an additional mirror to your bathroom, consider replacing the mirror above your vanity with a far larger one. Bonus tip: choosing an unusual shape or a unique frame for the vanity mirror (like the one in the image below) can give an impressive look to your bathroom, and act as the centerpiece of the room.

bathroom vanity with large, unique mirror

#3 Update by regrouting

If you’re looking to update your bathroom quickly and on a tight budget, consider replacing the existing tile grout. Regrouting is a two-step manual process by which you first remove the hardened old grout from the seams, or joints, between the tiles in your bathroom, then apply fresh new grout to make it seem like you have just installed your tiles (here’s a full walkthrough of the process). You’d be surprised how big of a difference this fairly simple update can make — especially since tiles rarely show signs of wear and tear, but the grout’s initial color fades away, and often gives a sense that it’s dirty, discolored and old.

This idea works best if the tiles in your space are still in great shape, that is, they don’t have cracks or missing pieces. Although it may take a bit of work, it’s surely faster and cheaper than a major bathroom overhaul. Fresh grout will make the tiled area look brand new, and you can even apply a new grout color to make a more dramatic change to your bathroom. 

pink bathroom tiles

#4 Get creative with designer tiles

Now, if you’re looking to add a splash of sophistication to your shower or bathroom tiles, but don’t have the budget to splurge on designer tiles, there’s a super easy trick you can turn to: use regular, budget friendly tiles across the walls of your bathroom, then add a pop of design and color in a small area using more expensive designer tiles. 

Or, you can keep it simple and use classic tiles, but arrange them in an unusual pattern or install them at an angle to create an eye-catching effect. If you’re looking for the maximum effect, create an accent wall (preferably right where either the shower or bathroom vanity go, to highlight that space), like the one pictured below. It won’t cost as much as replacing all of your bathroom tiles, but will definitely give your space a great, updated look.

bathroom shower tiles

#5 Try to avoid current trends

We all like to think that we’re aligned with the latest trends and fads. But the truth of the matter is, the best way to waste money is to follow fads that in a couple of years will seem so outdated that you’ll feel the need to renovate your bathroom all over again. You can make your design last way longer if you’ll use natural finishes and neutral colors.

Classics also tend to be considerably less expensive than their trending counterparts, and they’re much more likely to stand the test of time. See below for a marble-themed bathroom that was all the rage a few years back, but that seems a little out of place in the more minimalist-inclined era that we live in today.

marble bathroom with gold fixtures

#6 Use traditional finishes

This goes hand in hand with our last point: using fancy fixtures and embellishments on your faucets and cabinet hardware may seem like a good way to add some personality, but they can turn out to be rather costly without having the desired effect over the years. These kinds of fixtures are pricier than standard ones and their unusual colors, trimmings, and shapes can be more difficult to match with the rest of the décor — and limit any improvements you might decide to make in the near future.

Because of this, you may be forced to buy new coordinating pieces, too. However, if you’ll stick with traditional finishes, it will be simpler for you to create a cohesive look while still sticking to your budget. 

bathroom sink and fixtures

#7 Re-use old furniture to create a unique look

If you have an old desk, table, dresser, or TV stand, consider using it in your bathroom (provided it can withstand humidity and isn’t easily prone to water damage, as we’ve stated above). Repurposing old furniture will give you a chance to show your personality while adding much-needed bathroom storage. Consider doing this as a DIY project, which can help you save money while also being earth-friendly. 

Not sure how to fit old furniture with your bathroom décor? Repurposing doesn’t mean using the piece of furniture in the same way it was intended by its makers; so you can get as creative as you want, by say turning an old desk into a vanity, parts of a table into shelves, an old painting frame into a mirror frame, you name it. See below for a great example of how this stunning bathroom with matching his and hers vanities uses old crates to frame the bathtub.

elegant bathroom with matching his and hers vanities

#8 Refinish rather than replace

Replacing bathroom elements will usually require removing or replacing plumbing fixtures, which comes with additional costs. It can also involve construction changes, demolition work, and new installation. Before deciding on replacing any of these fixtures, determine if they really need replacement. If you’re replacing them for aesthetic reasons, you might have the option to refinish them instead of replacing them altogether. 

For example, you can refinish your old tub with a nice-looking, protective coating instead of completely replacing it. You can also paint your cabinet anew instead of purchasing a new one — and you can even get creative with the color you use. Check out this elegant bathroom below, whose owners chose to refinish the bathtub and paint it in a slight pinkish hue. Isn’t it just lovely?

pink bathtub in elegant bathroom

Final thoughts

The bathroom is one part of the house that needs some upgrading every now and then, and said upgrades can turn out to be quite expensive. However, with some rather small, but well-thought changes, you can spruce up your bathroom design without spending a pretty penny. And if our suggestions are not to your liking, there’s tons of helpful resources out there that can give you some great ideas to get you started.

More interior design tips

Here’s Everything You Need to Set Up a Meditation Corner in Your House
How to Turn Your Kitchen Into Every Coffee Lover’s Dream
Design Trends that Add Extra Flair to Your Fancy Home
How to Add a Touch of Luxury to Your Home without a Costly Renovation

The post 8 Money-Saving Tips for Improving Your Bathroom’s Design appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com




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