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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



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



The Best Student Loan Companies For Refinancing

Refinancing your student loans can make good financial sense, and that’s especially true if your current loans are stuck at a high-interest rate. With a new loan at a lower APR, you could save a bundle of money on interest each month and ultimately pay your student debt off faster. Consolidating several loans into one new one can also simplify your financial life and make keeping up with bills a lot easier.

College Ave and Earnest topped our list, but since student loan refinancing is an incredibly competitive space, you’ll also want to spend time comparing student loan companies to see who offers the best deal. Many lenders in this space offer incredibly low APRs, flexible payment options, borrower incentives, and more. This means it’s more important than ever to shop around so you wind up with the best student loan for your needs.

What You Should Know About Refinancing Federal Student Loans with a Private Lender

The lenders on this list can help you consolidate and refinance both federal student loans and private student loans. However, there are a few details to be aware of before you refinance federal loans with a private lender.

Switching federal loans to private means giving up federal protections like deferment and forbearance. You also give up your chance to qualify for income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Income Based Repayment (IBR). Income-driven repayment plans let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income for 20 to 25 years before ultimately forgiving your remaining loan balances, so this perk isn’t one you should give up without careful thought and consideration.

Best Student Loan Refinancing Companies of 2021

As you start your search to find the best student loan for your lifestyle, take the time to compare lenders and all they offer their customers. While there are a ton of reputable companies offering high-quality student loan refinancing products on the market today, there are also companies you should probably steer clear of.

To make your search easier, we took the time to compare most of the top lenders in this space in terms of interest rates offered, fees, borrower benefits, and more. The following student loan companies are the cream of the crop, so you should start your search here.

Our Top Picks:

  1. Splash Financial
  2. College Ave
  3. Earnest
  4. SoFi
  5. CommonBond
  6. LendKey
  7. Wells Fargo
  8. PenFed Credit Union

Student Loan Refinancing Company Reviews

1. Splash Financial

Splash Financial may be a newer company in the student loan refinancing space, but their offerings are competitive. This company lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and their variable rates currently start at just 2.25% APR.

Not only are interest rates offered by Splash Financial industry-leading, but the company has a 95% customer satisfaction rate so far. Their cutting-edge technology also lets you apply for your loan and complete the loan process online, meaning less hassle and stress for you as the borrower.

Check Out Splash Financial’s Low Rates

2. College Ave

College Ave offers student loan refinancing products that can be tailored to your needs. They offer low fixed and variable interest rates, for example, and you’ll never pay an application fee or an origination fee. You can even qualify for a discount if you set your loan up on autopay, and a wide range of repayment schedules are available.

College Ave also offers a wide range of online calculators and tools that can help you figure out how much student loan refinancing could help you save and whether the move would be worth it in the end. Considering their low variable rates start at just 2.74% APR, there’s a good chance you could save money by refinancing if you have excellent credit or a cosigner with great credit.

Get Started with College Ave

3. Earnest

Earnest is another online lender that focuses most of its efforts on offering high-quality student loans. This company lets you consolidate debt at a lower interest rate than you might find elsewhere, and you get the option to pick a monthly payment and repayment period that works with your budget and your lifestyle.

While you’ll need excellent credit to qualify for the lowest interest rates, loans from Earnest come with variable APRs starting at 1.81% and low fixed rates starting at just 3.45%. To qualify for student loan refinancing with Earnest, you’ll need a minimum credit score of 650 and a strong employment and income history. You also need to be current on all your bills and cannot have a bankruptcy on your credit profile.

Refinance and Save with Earnest

4. SoFi

Also make sure to check out student loan refinancing company SoFi as you continue your search. This online lender offers some of the best student loan refinancing products available today, including loans with no application fee, origination fee, or hidden fees.

SoFi lets you apply for and complete the entire loan process online, and they offer live customer support 7 days a week. You can also check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, which makes it easier to see how much you could save before you commit.

Get Pre-Approved with SoFi in Less than 2 Minutes

5. Commonbond

Commonbond is another online student lender who lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. With student loan refinancing from Commonbond, you could easily save thousands of dollars on interest with a new fixed interest rate as low as 3.21%. Repayment terms are offered for 5 to 20 years as well, letting you choose a new monthly payment and repayment timeline that works for your needs.

You can apply for your new loan online and note that these loans don’t come with an origination fee or any prepayment penalties. Your loan could also qualify for forbearance, which means having up to 24 months without payments during times of financial hardship.

Apply Online with Commonbond

6. LendKey

LendKey offers private student loans and flexible student loan refinancing options to serve a variety of needs. You can repay your loan between 5 and 20 years, and their refinance loans don’t charge an origination fee.

You can use this company’s online interface to check your rate without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and variable APRs start at just 2.01% for graduates with excellent credit. LendKey loans also receive 9.3 out of 10 possible stars in recent reviews, meaning their customers are mostly happy with their decision to go with this company.

Save Thousands by Refinancing with LendKey

7. Wells Fargo

While Wells Fargo is mostly popular for their banking products, home mortgage products, and personal loans, this bank also offers student loan refinancing products. These loans let you consolidate student debts into a new loan with a low variable or fixed interest rate, and you can even score a discount for setting your loan up on autopay.

Terms for Wells Fargo loans are available anywhere from 5 to 20 years, meaning you can choose a repayment schedule and monthly payment that suits your needs. Wells Fargo also lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Get Started with Wells Fargo

8. PenFed Credit Union

PenFed Credit Union offers unique student loan products powered by Purefy. You might be able to qualify for a lower interest rate that could lead to enormous interest savings over time, and PenFed lets you choose a repayment term and monthly payment that fits with your budget and lifestyle.

You can apply for student loan refinancing on your own, but PenFed Credit Union also allows cosigners. Low fixed interest rates start at just 3.48% APR, and you can check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Learn More about PenFed Credit Union

What To Look For When Refinancing

If you decide you want to refinance your student loans, you’ll be happy to know the refinancing market is more robust than ever. A variety of lenders offer insanely attractive loan options for those who can qualify, although you should know that student loan companies tend to be very finicky about your credit score. Some also won’t let you refinance if you didn’t graduate from college, or even if you graduated from an “unapproved” school.

While you should be aware of any lender-specific eligibility requirements before you apply with any student loan company, there are plenty of other factors to look out for. Here’s everything you should look for in a student loan refinancing company before you decide to trust them with your loans.

Low Interest Rate

Obviously, the main reason you’re probably thinking of refinancing your loans is the potential to save money on interest. Lenders who offer the lowest rates available today can potentially help you save more, although it’s important to consider that you may not qualify for the lowest rates available if you don’t have excellent credit.

Cosigner Requirements

Also consider that most lenders will offer better rates and loan terms if you have a cosigner with better credit than you have. This is especially true if your credit isn’t great, so make sure to ask family members if they’re willing to cosign on your new student loan if you hope to get the best rate. Just remember that your cosigner will be jointly liable for repayment, meaning you could quickly damage your relationship if you default on your loan and leave them holding the bag.

Low Fees or No Fees

Student loans are like any other loan in the fact that some charge higher fees or more fees than others. Since many student loans come with an application fee or an origination fee, you’ll want to look for lenders that don’t charge these fees. Also check for hidden fees like prepayment penalties.

Discounts Available

Some student loan companies let you qualify for discounts, the most popular of which is a discount for using autopay. If you’re able and willing to set up automatic payments on your credit card, you could save .25% or .50% off your interest rate depending on the lender you go with.

Rate Check Option

Many of the top student loan refinancing companies on this list make it possible to check your interest rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This is a huge benefit since knowing your rate can help you figure out if refinancing is even worth it before you take the time to fill out a full loan application.

Flexible Repayment Plan

Also make sure any lender you go with offers some flexibility in your repayment plan and your monthly payment. You’ll want to make sure refinancing aligns with your long-term financial goals and your monthly budget, and it’s crucial to choose a new loan with a monthly payment you can live with.

Most lenders in this space offer repayment timelines of up to 20 years, which means you could spread your payments over several decades to get a monthly payment that makes sense with your income. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll pay more interest over the life of your loan when you take a long time to pay it off, so you may want to consider prioritizing a faster payment plan.

The Bottom Line

Student loan refinancing may not sound like a lot of fun. However, taking the time to consider all your loan options could easily save you thousands of dollars. This is especially true if you have a lot of debt at a high interest rate. By consolidating all your student loans into a new one with a lower APR, you could make loan repayment easier with a single payment and save a ton of money that would otherwise go to straight to interest without helping you pay off your loans.

The first step of the loan process is the hardest, however, and that’s choosing a student loan refinancing company that you trust. The lenders on this list are highly rated, but they also offer some of the best loan products on the market today.

  • Work with College Ave, our top pick, to refinance your student loan.

Start your search here and you’re bound to wind up with a student loan you can live with. At the very least, you’ll have a better idea of the loans that are available and how much you might save if you decide to refinance later on.

The post The Best Student Loan Companies For Refinancing appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com



5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

One of the lessons I’ve learned as I continue to work my way out of debt is that you need to treat yourself and celebrate your little successes along the way so you can avoid debt fatigue down the road. Celebrating small milestones, like getting another $1,000 knocked off your debt total, starting to put money aside for retirement or paying off a credit card balance, is important for both your sanity and your family’s sanity.

Find out now: How much money do I need to save for retirement?

I don’t have kids, but several of my personal finance blogger friends do, and they have talked about how kids don’t always understand how they can contribute to the family financial goals since they don’t earn any money. Plus, sometimes kids don’t understand why there is a sudden need to cut back on expenses they have come to know as normal- things like going out to eat or having a night out at the movies with friends. Allowing yourself and your family to celebrate your financial wins as you work your way out of debt will help them understand that while your family is now living on a different budget, it’s still okay to enjoy the present.

With that in mind, here are five frugal ways you can celebrate your financial successes, so you don’t erase all your progress!

1. Go out for Dessert

As a kid, whenever we’d go out for dessert after a home-cooked meal, it felt like a real fancy treat. Now I know that this was mom and dad’s way of having a celebration without spending a lot of money on paying for a whole meal.

2. Rent a Movie

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

This may not seem like a treat if you rent movies all the time, but if you are living on a very strict budget and don’t often rent movies, this could be a treat for you and your family. Make it the full experience – popcorn, candy, etc. Renting a movie and making popcorn at home is a fun way to celebrate, and it’s still a lot cheaper than going to the theater.

12 Affordable Ways to Have Fun on a Tight Budget

3. Hit a Matinee

Wait, didn’t I just say to avoid the theater to save money? Yes, but sometimes movie theaters offer cheaper matinee movies earlier in the day. Often showings before noon can be as little as half price. This is a more budget-friendly way to enjoy a new movie.

4. Buy a Book or Magazine

One of the first things that got cut from my budget when I started focusing on financial goals was my magazine subscription. Most of the time I don’t miss it as I have plenty of things to keep me busy, but sometimes it’s nice to somewhat mindlessly flip through a magazine in the evenings. Buying yourself a new book – maybe one of these investing books – or magazine is a fairly cheap way to entertain yourself and if it’s a rare occasion, it can serve as a reward too.

Frugal Summer Fun for Adults

5. Go on a Day Trip

5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes

If you aren’t traveling too far, the most expensive part of the trip is usually the overnight accommodations. By taking a day trip instead to the beach or somewhere else, you can get out of town and away from the norm without having to shell out for an expensive hotel room.

What other frugal ways can you think of to celebrate your debt successes?

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/andresr, Â©iStock.com/sdominick, Â©iStock.com/AleksandarNakic

The post 5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate Your Debt Successes appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com



Your Car Insurance Company is Probably Planning to Rip You Off — Unless You Do This

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Watch out for your wallet! Do you live in one of the five U.S. states where car insurance rates are going up this year?

According to industry reports, rates are going up this year in Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. For example, New York rates are expected to rise by 1.2%, and Indiana’s by 1.1%. Annoying, isn’t it? Here you are, probably driving less than ever, and they want to raise your car insurance premiums.

They’re ripping you off. The good news? There’s something you can easily do about it.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices and make sure you’re not getting ripped off. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Are you driving less than 50 miles a day? Do you have zero DUIs on your record? You could qualify for discounts.

Using Insure.com, people save 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.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He lives in one of these five states, and he’s mad about this.

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



Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips

According to a YouGov Parent Survey in 2019, a quarter of parents entered the 2019 holiday shopping seasonstill paying down debt related to 2018 holiday spending. Deloitte numbers put holidayretail salesgrowth in 2019 at 4.1% year-over-year. In 2020, Deloitte predicts growth of between 1% and 1.5% year-over-year for the holiday season.

It might be that some people no longer want to pay for holiday gifts, decorations and food a year down the road. But it’s also true that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit consumerwallets and some people might be cutting back this year.

That doesn’t mean that people aren’t shopping. Google and other thought leaders note that changes to shopping habits and the need for social distancing and other measures will likely spread the holiday shopping season out longer. Shoppers are also likely to turn to online shopping.

With a ton of shopping opportunities, a longer holiday shopping season and pent-up pandemic energy, it might be easy to overspend and create debt you’ll deal with into the future. Follow these tips to prepare for holiday shopping so you can protect your financial standing, save money and make the most of the resources you have this season.

1. Check your credit scores

Begin by checking your credit scores and reports. They tell you where you stand if you want to apply for credit. They also give you a baseline of where you are so you know if your score goes up or down later with no explanation.

An unexplained drop in your credit score can be a sign your financial information is compromised. Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for many scammers. Using a service, such as ExtraCredit’s Track It feature to keep tabs on 28 of your FICO scores, helps you know when you need to act to protect your credit.

2. Ask for a credit limit increase

If you have existing credit cards and you’re a cardholder in good standing, the months prior to the holidays can be a good time to ask for a credit limit increase. You’re not asking so you can spend more-it’s typically advisable to keep spending in line with your budget no matter how much credit you have.

You’re asking for a higher limit so you can spend what you already planned to without hurting your credit utilization. Credit utilization is the second-most important factor in determining your credit score-second only to payment history. It’s the ratio between your credit limit and how much of that credit you have used.

If you have a card with a limit of $1,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of 30%. But if you get approved for a credit limit of $2,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of only 15%, which is better for your score.

3. Apply for a credit cardwith a 0% APR introductory offer

Those with good or excellent credit might want to consider applying for a card with a 0% APR introductory offer. If you qualify for such a card, you typically have one or two years to pay off purchases made during the introductory period without accruing any interest.

This can be a way to finance your entire holiday without paying anything more for the privilege of doing so. However, it’s still important to maintain your budget and not overspend just because you won’t be paying the balance off until later. Otherwise, you make this season’s holiday festivities next season’s problem.

4. Pay down debt before-and after-the holidays

Speaking of last season’s debt: If you can pay it down before you start spending this season, that’s a great accomplishment. It also frees up your credit and your budget so you can better enjoy the current holiday season. If you’re paying $100 a month on your debt, that’s $100 a month that might go toward gifts or celebrations that you don’t have to put on a card this year.

If you do use credit to pay for the 2020 holidays, have a plan for paying it down as soon as possible. That’s especially true with 0% interest cards. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you’ll miss the introductory period and potentially be on the hook for a lot of interest expense.

5. Create a holiday spending budget

Whether you’re using cash or credit-or a mix of both-enter the 2020 holiday shopping season with a plan. Take an honest look at your personal budget. If you don’t have a budget, create one before you move forward. Then decide how much you can realistically spend during the holidays.

Consider which gifts you want to buy and which events you want to host or attend. You might not be able to do everything, and that’s OK. Be honest with yourself, your family and your friends about what you can afford to do with your time and money this year.

Then make a list and assign each item a monetary budget. That can include:

  • Gifts as a total
  • Gift extras, such as wrapping and tags
  • Shipping, both for receiving items you buy and for shipping gifts to others
  • Food and drinks
  • Travel
  • Decor
  • General festivities, such as tickets to holiday events

Once you assign a dollar amount to a category, stick to it. That’s a good idea even if you’re spending with credit.

6. Align budgeted spendingwith credit cardrewards

Once you know how much you want to spend, decide how best to spend it. If you’re using credit cards for the holidays, check your accounts to see if any offer cash back or rewards points. If they do, double-check which categories or stores you can shop in to earn the most points with each card.

For example, some travel rewards cards offer 6x points when you shop at supermarkets. You could use such a card to cover the food-and-drink portion of your holiday budget and reap the biggest rewards possible from that spending. You might also be able to maximize rewards when purchasing gift cards.

7. Guard your financial information and identity

As you enjoy holiday shopping, be on guard. Don’t use debit card PIN numbers unless you have to, and shield the keypad when you enter your information. Keep a close eye on your wallet or purse, and check your credit card statements regularly to ensure all charges are yours. You can also use ExtraCredit’s Guard It feature to help keep your identity and account information safe during and beyond the season.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

The post Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com



9 Ways To Successfully Balance School And Work

Advice For Balancing School And Work #balancingschoolandwork #timemanagementtipsMore and more people are choosing to attend college and work at the same time. This can be those who are going straight from high school to college or adults going back to college. Whichever applies to you, balancing school and work will be an important part of how successful you will be.

Whether you are working a part-time or full-time job, balancing school and work can be tough. There are many working students in college who are able to manage both, but there are also many who aren’t able to.

If you don’t balance them both well, it may lead to stress, lower grades, low-quality work being produced, and more.

No one wants that and I’m sure you don’t either.

This is supposed to be the time of your life where you are growing and changing, not feeling like you are drowning in everything that is going on around you.

There are ways to many ways to start balancing school and work so that you can graduate college while working a job.

I took a full course load each and every semester (usually 18-24 credits each semester), worked full-time, and took part in extracurricular activities. It was definitely hard and I won’t lie about that. However, sometimes a person doesn’t have a choice and has to do everything at once. Or, you might be choosing to multi-task and are wanting to learn how to better manage your time.

Related content:

  • Should you get an MBA if you want to start your own business?
  • Cutting College Costs: Understanding The Cost And Value Of Your Degree
  • I Thought I Was Too Good For Community College
  • Parents Paying For College – Is This A Good Idea?
  • 21 Ways You Can Learn How To Save Money In College
  • 16 Best Online Jobs For College Students

Working while you are going to college can help you not take out as many student loans, or you may be an adult who has to work to support your family while you are going to college. Either way, time management for college students who are also working will help you succeed at every aspect of your life.

Working while I went to college helped me take out less student loans, and I am so happy I found that balancing school and work was possible.

Related post: How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500

Whatever your reason may be, below are my tips for time management for college students who are also working. The tips below are what helped save me!

My advice for balancing school and work.

 

Find your motivation for balancing school and work.

There are many reasons for why you are both working and going to school, but sometimes you need to remind yourself why you are working so hard.

It can be really easy to watch others around you who aren’t doing both and feel jealous, stressed, or angry. But, remind yourself why you are working so hard.

Your motivation can be any number of things, like avoiding student loan debt, providing for you family if you are going back as an adult learner, and so on. Your motivation will be what you need when you are struggling to balance both work and school.

Related: 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed

 

Carefully plan your class and work schedule.

My first tip for working college students is to carefully plan your class and work schedule.

Some students just choose whatever classes are offered. However, it is much wiser to carefully craft your school and work schedule so that everything flows together efficiently with a minimal amount of time being wasted.

To start balancing school and work with a carefully planned out schedule, you should start by researching when the classes you need are offered and start trying to eliminate any gap that may fall between your classes. Having an hour or two break between each class can quickly add up. Also, if you happen to have time off between classes, then using this time to do your homework and/or study can be a great use of your time.

Another time management tip is to try and put as many classes together in one day so that you aren’t constantly driving back and forth between school, work, and home. Balancing school and work can be hard, but it starts with creating a schedule that uses your time efficiently.

Related post: How I’m a Work-Life Balancing Master

 

Eliminate any time that may be wasted.

There are many time sucks that you may encounter each day, especially as you are balancing school and work and switching back and forth between the two. A minute here and a minute there may add up to a few hours wasted each day.

The time you save could be used towards earning more money at your job, studying, socializing, or whatever else it is that you need or want to do. For working college students, every minute is important.

There are many ways to eliminate the things that are wasting your time, including:

  • Cut down on your commute time. If you can find a job near your college campus then you can eliminate a lot of traveling time.
  • Find a way to work remotely. If you have a job that allows you to work remotely, then this can help you start balancing school and work time even better. You may even be able to work in between class breaks.
  • Prep your meals ahead of time. If you can make your meals in bulk ahead of time instead of individually making each one, you will be able to save a lot of time. Making your own meals is more than just time management for college students, as it means you will probably eat healthier and save money.
  • Be aware of how much time you spend on social media and cutback on TV. The average person wastes many, many hours each day on social media and watching TV. Cutting back on this may save you hours each day without even realizing it. TV and social media can be very distracting too, which is why it is so important to be aware of how it might be negatively impacting how you are balancing school and work.

Related post: 75 Ways To Make Extra Money

 

Separate yourself from distractions.

Time management for college students is hard, but it is even harder for working college students because there may be even more distractions.

Noise in the background, such as leaving your TV on while you study or a party your roommate may be throwing, can distract you from what you need to be doing. If you are trying to study or do homework then you should try to find a quiet place to get work done.

There are going to be so many distractions while you are working and going to college, and learning to separate yourself from those distractions will be one of the best ways to manage your time. I know it can be hard, trust me, but I also know how eliminating distractions can be a huge help.

You may want to close your bedroom door, hide the remote from yourself (trust me, this works!), go to the library, or something else. Sometimes you will have to force the distractions out, but it will help you save time and focus on what needs to be done.

Related: How To Be More Productive: 17 Tips To Help You Live A Better Life

 

Have a to-do list and a set schedule.

Having a to-do list is extremely helpful time management for college students, especially those who are working too. That’s because a to-do list will show you exactly what has to be done and when you need to do it by. You will then have your responsibilities sitting in front of you so that you will have to face reality.

You can have a to-do list that lists out your daily, weekly, or monthly tasks. You can use a planner, a notebook, Post-It notes, you can color code things, use stickers, etc. Just find a system that works for you and stick to it.

Balancing school and work will be much easier if you make a to-do list and keep a set schedule. So, write out what needs to be done each day, and knowing your schedule will keep you on task.

I know that when I am stressed out it can be easy to forget things, so having a to-do list eliminates any valuable minutes that I may waste debating about whether or not I forgot to do something.

 

Be a productive procrastinator.

We all know how bad procrastinating is, but sometimes you can actually waste your time on things that need to be done. I know that sounds strange, but it is actually quite helpful.

Here’s an example of what I mean: If you need to write a paper but find that you are procrastinating, then procrastinate by studying for a test. Now, you will still have to write that paper, but you will have already gotten the studying out of the way.

Balancing school and work is easier if you find tricks like this that make every moment you spend a productive one.

 

Take a break when you really need one.

Good time management for college students who are working often means that you are using trying to use every moment of your day as efficiently as possible. But, there are times when balancing school and work can feel extremely stressful.

In times like those, when you feel like you need a break, take a short one to help you come back refreshed and focused on what you need to do.

You can go for a walk, read a book, get in a workout, take a nap, etc. Taking a break when you need one will help prevent you from feeling burnt out, which is a danger when you are balancing school and work.

 

Find other college students who are doing the same.

I know that you aren’t the only one who is balancing school and work, and it might help you stay focused if you are able to find others who are working and going to school like you are.

Finding a friend who is doing the same can motivate you, they can help you stay on task, and you might even find someone to study with.

 

Working students in college need to be realistic.

While one person may be able to work like crazy and attend college at the same time, not everyone can do that.

If your grades are dropping, then you may want to analyze whether you should drop your hours at work or school. What is more important to you at this time and for your future? We can’t do everything always, and being realistic will help you understand your limitations so that you don’t burn out.

With the tips I’ve listed that help with time management for college students who are also working, you’ll be able to rock both your job and your college classes at the same time. Don’t forget to fit in time for fun as well. Good luck!

Are you one of the many working college students out there? Why or why not? What tips for time management for college students can you share?

The post 9 Ways To Successfully Balance School And Work appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com



Amazon Prime Card offering new Whole Foods card art, limited-time bonus

On Jan. 20, Chase announced a new card design option for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card featuring Whole Foods Market art and added a limited-time sign-up bonus offer for those who prefer to shop at Whole Foods in-store.

Amazon has become a leader in grocery shopping during the pandemic, with consumers avoiding grocery stores due to health safety concerns – not to mention the convenience of shopping from a web browser. Amazon Prime members can enjoy speedy free delivery, as well as get access to online shopping at Whole Foods Market and special member deals when shopping in-store.

They can also count on extra savings if they carry the Amazon Prime Rewards card from Chase – or if they’re looking to apply in the next few weeks.

Here’s what you need to know.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card

Amazon Prime Card Whole Foods

Our rating: 3.8 out of 5
Score required: Good to excellent
Type of card: Cash back
Spending categories: Amazon, Whole Foods, restaurants, gas stations, drug stores

  • 5% back on Amazon.com and Whole Foods purchases
  • 2% back on restaurant, gas station and drug store purchases
  • 1% back on other purchases
  • $70 Amazon.com gift card upon approval or $100 statement credit after spending $100 at Whole Foods in first 2 months
  • No annual fee

Our take: While the Amazon Prime Rewards card offers excellent cash back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, it might not be the best choice for customers who don’t currently have a Prime membership and aren’t looking to subscribe.

A new Whole Foods card design and limited-time offer

Chase introduced a new card design option for new Amazon Prime Rewards cardholders, featuring Whole Foods Market art. New cardmembers with an eligible Prime membership can choose the new design when they apply for the card. If you’re an existing cardholder and would like to switch to the new design option, you can call in to request a new card after Jan. 22.

If you frequently shop at Whole Foods in-store, the new limited-time introductory offer can also be exciting news for you. Through March 3, new Amazon Prime Rewards Visa cardholders can earn a $100 statement credit after spending $100 in Whole Foods Market stores in the first two months from account opening. Alternatively, they can still choose the standard $70 Amazon gift card offer as a sign-up bonus.

Considering the standard bonus is lower, the new temporary offer might be a better deal. On the other hand, if you avoid shopping in-store or normally use Amazon Fresh for buying groceries, the gift card might make more sense for you.

Should I start shopping at Whole Foods if I have an Amazon credit card?

If you already shop at Whole Foods, the 5% back with the Amazon Prime Rewards Signature Visa and 10% off specially marked items is a good deal. The discounts, though, don’t make Whole Foods cheaper than other grocery stores.

In fact, according to a study from 2019, Whole Foods remains the most expensive grocery store with its prices at 34% above Walmart, which was reported to have the lowest prices overall. If your goal is to save on groceries, Whole Foods is evidently not the best option – even if you carry the Amazon Prime card.

Other cards to consider

The Amazon Prime Card isn’t the only option you should consider if you often shop on Amazon or at Whole Foods.

See related: Which is the best card to use on Amazon.com purchases?

For instance, with the Chase Amazon.com Rewards Visa card, you can get a $50 Amazon gift card upon approval and earn 3% on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% percent at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% on all else. If you don’t have a Prime membership and aren’t looking to subscribe, this is a good option, since the card doesn’t require a cardholder to be a member.

If you do have a membership and shop on Amazon a lot, the Amazon Prime card is a better deal. With 5% for purchases made at Whole Foods and on Amazon, 2% at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% on all else, this card is hard to beat for Amazon and Whole Foods lovers.

If you’re looking for a card to buy groceries, consider the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which could save you more than the Amazon Prime Visa at Whole Foods. Why? Blue Cash Preferred cardholders earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%).

See related: Best credit cards for grocery shopping

Bottom line

You can now stack your rewards at Whole Foods, earning cash back and the limited-time bonus with the Amazon Prime Card, and you can get extra savings from the loyalty program. Whether it makes sense to shop at Whole Foods, even with rewards cards and the loyalty program, is up to you.

Source: creditcards.com



7 Tricks to Cut Down Your Electricity Bill

Tip 1: Pull the Plug on Appliances

Even when you’re not using appliances, they still continue to use energy. So pull the plug when you’re done with the blender, toaster, food processor, and even your television—everything except appliances that need constant power to preserve a special setting.

Tip 2: Insulate Your Outlets

Did you know that you could be losing warm (or cold) air through your electrical outlets? We placed some fireproof foam insulation under our outlet covers and switch plates, and were able to save several dollars a month on our utility bill.

Tip 3: Turn off Unused Electronics

One of the easiest ways to save money on electricity is to turn off electronics when you’re not using them. To make it easier, get a power strip like the SmartStrip, which powers down devices based on the device’s usage. For example, when you switch off your computer, the SmartStrip will cut the power to your monitor, printer, and scanner as well.

Tip 4: Use Lighter Paint

If you’re trying to decide between deep or baby blue for your walls, you should know that lighter colors of paint well help you use less energy, as they reflect the light and heat in a room better than darker hues.

Tip 5: Be a Night Owl

You may not realize that most electric companies charge more for power during the day than at night. Contact your local utility to find out whether this is the case in your area. If it is, make sure to do all your laundry, dishwashing, internet surfing, and other power-intensive tasks during off-peak hours. We noticed the difference on our electric bill, and you will, too.

Tip 6: Use Jars for Heaters

Here’s a neat trick for keeping your house warm without spending a cent in the fall and spring: Pour water into mason jars or glasses (we use cleaned-out salsa jars with their labels removed), and line them up along your windowsill. During the day, the sun will warm the water, which will gently warm any air getting through your window at night. To make the jars even more decorative, add ribbons and bows, or add food coloring to the water for some pretty windowsill reflections.

Tip 7: Watch Out for Cordless Phones

Especially if it’s an older model, your cordless phone can use a lot of electricity. Keep your energy bills down by making sure you dim the lights on the display (if possible), and by not cranking up the volume, which can force the phone’s amplifier to work twice as hard.

Get more great tips on our podcast by subscribing on iTunes or Stitcher! You can also sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our daily tips!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com




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