Budgeting

Financial Advice Keeping You Broke & In Debt

The post Financial Advice Keeping You Broke & In Debt appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Financial advice is great – when it is the right type of advice.  There are tips and strategies that can make you money.  However, there is also a lot of advice that will do nothing but keep you broke and in debt.  These are things you don’t want to listen to.

I remember when I was younger, my mom told me that I had to get a credit card because it would be important for any emergencies which came my way.  I followed her advice and got a credit card. And, wouldn’t you know it, the first time I used it was for an emergency. Or, what I thought was an emergency.

I woke one snowy morning and someone had hit my car — and fled. No note on my windshield.  Just a dented door with green paint. I was devastated.  I had worked so hard to afford that car.  Now, here I was having to pay money to get it back to the condition it once was.  Since I was broke, I followed my mom’s advice.  I used my credit card.

I remember watching it go through the reader.  I signed my name and I was done.   When the bill came the following month, I paid that minimum payment. I decided that credit cards were pretty slick!  They were simple to use and it was the way to get what I wanted now and I could just pay for it later.

In hindsight, my mom would have been better to teach me the importance of saving.  That way, I would have cash on hand to cover my emergencies and not rely on plastic.

Sadly, this is the way many people live their financial life. The take the advice of friends and family and follow it rather than listening to financial experts.  Here are some common financial advice myths.

 

BAD FINANCIAL ADVICE YOU MAY BELIEVE

1. Some debt is good to have

I hear time and time again that you have to have debt in order to have a good credit score.  That type of financial advice is pure nonsense.

There is no such thing as “good debt.” Debt is money you owe someone and it is never a good thing. It is, however, sometimes necessary in order to purchase a house or a vehicle.  While not what one would call good debt, it may be a debt you need to have in order to live.

The type of debt no one should have is credit card debt.  Ever.  There should never be any instance where you owe more on your credit card in any given month than the amount of money you have in the bank to pay it in full.

Continuing to accrue debt that you can not pay in full each month makes no sense at all.

 

2. You need a credit card for an emergency

My story above is all too common for many.  The opposite is true.  You can have a credit card, but should not use it only for an emergency.  However, if that is how you plan to pay for emergencies, you are setting yourself up for financial trouble.

We all know that emergencies will happen.  There is nothing we can do to prevent them.  However, the smart thing to do is to plan ahead for the unknown.  This is why a fully funded emergency account makes more sense than a credit card.

If you think about it, having to deal with the stress of the situation is bad enough.  Add to it the thought of increasing your debt in order to deal with it just makes the situation a work.  Now, you not only had to deal with the broken furnace but now, you will have to find a way to pay for it as your monthly bills just went up.

Your emergency fund will come to your rescue when it is needed.  Knowing the funds are there to help cover those expenses will instantly make you feel better when dealing with a stressful situation.

 

3.  Leasing a vehicle is better

This is the one that makes me scratch my head.  When you lease a vehicle, you never own it.   Instead, you are stuck in perpetual car payments. How does that make any sense at all?

The common reason many say they lease is that they don’t have to worry about having an older vehicle.  They know that they are driving a new vehicle every few years.  The truth is, if you take care of your car, your vehicle can last you for years.  I drove our minivan for more than 13 years!  And, when I was ready for an upgrade, my vehicle was 3 years old.  Nothing new here!

If you lease a vehicle for 3 years at $300 a month, you will pay nearly $11,000 to drive the vehicle.  At the end of 3 years, you give it back. You have nothing to show for it.  You have just thrown away $11,000.  Now, you have to either lease again or decide to purchase your vehicle.  You are starting over on those payments.

However, had you purchased a vehicle that would offer you the same monthly payment of $300 for 3 (or even 4) years, you would own your car.  You now have $300 a month income freed up to do with what you wish.

The smart move would be to save that $300 monthly amount so that in 8, 9 or even 10 years when you need a new car, you can pay for it in cash.  This money will also more than cover some of the repairs that may be needed as your vehicle ages.

 

4.  Renting is throwing your money away

If you rent, you probably this financial advice frequently.  It is common for people to feel that it makes more sense to buy a house as your money is going to build up equity in your property.  And, truthfully, for some people renting is a waste of money.

But not for all.

There are situations where you do not have the funds for your down payment.  It could also be a time in your life when you know there will be the potential for relocating to a new city or venturing down a new career path.

By renting, you also avoid the additional costs of home maintenance, insurance, and other expenses which go with owning a home.

The best way to know this one is to look carefully at your own budget and personal situation. If renting works for you, then that is the path you should follow.

 

5.  You should always buy a new car

Turn on any television program and you will see ads sharing low-interest rate payments to lure you into wanting that new car.  These ads make it sound extremely affordable and tempting.  But don’t fall for it.

The truth is that when you purchase a new car, it will depreciate most quickly in the first few years you own it.  In fact, most cars will lose half their value every four years.  For instance, if your car is $25,000 brand new, in just four years it will be worth $12,000.  Add another four years and now the car is worth just $6,000.

You should not be a car that is too old.  Instead, purchase a late model car with lower miles. It will cost less to operate and will more quickly pay for itself.

 

6.  You must go to college

Many high school students believe that they must go to college when they graduate. However, that is not necessarily the right decision for everyone.  Not all careers or jobs will require a college education.  And, if you do not have the funds to pay for it, you can certainly rack up quite a bit of student loan debt.

If you happen to select a career that requires a secondary education, then it can be worth the cost. But, make certain you have the passion needed to carry you through.  Otherwise, you may find yourself amongst the nearly 60% who drop out, you will find yourself left with a mountain of student loan debt and nothing to show for it.

Rather than attend a college, consider a trade school instead.  Or, if you know for sure you do want to go to school, spend some time trying different jobs to figure out where your passion lies.  There is no rule that says you have to start college immediately after you finish high school.  Know what you want to do and then decide where to go for your education.

Getting financial advice from family and friends, be it solicited or not, can be helpful.  However, just make sure that what they say makes sense and do your homework.  Following what they say can often lead you down a path of increased debt and unhappiness.

Please note that I am not a certified financial advisor and the information shared on this site is based on my personal experiences.   It is important you consult with a tax or financial professional for assistance for your financial situation.

The post Financial Advice Keeping You Broke & In Debt appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Budgeting

Wondering What to Do With Overripe Pears? Try These 11 Recipes

Few things compare to the deliciously sweet taste of a perfectly ripe pear.

But what happens when they’re past that point of ripeness? You know — when they start to form brown spots and become mushy and unappealing.

Don’t throw away those mushy pieces of fruit! Here are 11 recipes that are perfect if you’re wondering what to do with overripe pears.

1. Freeze for Smoothies

Do you love to make smoothies? Yes? OK, good, because overripe fruit is perfect for freezing and using in smoothies. Cut off any parts of the pear that have gone bad, cut up the rest, seal it in a zip-close bag and put it in the freezer.

2. Pear Jam

If your pears are just slightly overripe, you can cook them into a pear jam. You need a lot of pears for this recipe — about three pounds — but the only other two ingredients are lemon juice and sugar.

Store the finished product in Mason jars, and spread it on toast, add it to desserts or yogurt or even cook it with meat. There are so many ways to use jam it’s not even funny.

3. Pear Crumble

Pear crumble is not only delicious, it’s also easy to make. Besides pears, the rest of the ingredients are staples you probably already have in your pantry or fridge. For this recipe, the mushier the pears, the better.

Pro Tip

Save money on groceries with these savvy shopping tips.

4. Mash Into a Pancake Topping

Kitchn.com suggests mashing your browning pears and using them as a pancake topping or folding them into your batter. Fruit is always a delicious complement to breakfast foods.

You could also use the mashed pear on top of ice cream. Sundaes, anyone?

5. Blend Them Into a Salad Dressing

Blend them with some olive oil, vinegar and seasoning for a salad dressing that’s a little on the sweet side. Perhaps try out this delicious pear vinaigrette. Hint: The sweetness pairs well with salty toppings.

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6. Bake Into Fruit Leather

This is pretty much a homemade Fruit Roll-Up.

Slow-bake your fruit into pear and cinnamon fruit leather. Although it does take a while in the oven (six to seven hours), it’s worth it.

7. Pear Ice Pops

Who doesn’t love ice pops? There’s no baking required for this recipe — these spiced ginger pear frozen pops only require a blender and some ice pop molds. You could also get creative and add in whatever fruits or flavors you want.

Do you like fruit and wine? Make some adult frozen pops with Riesling and overripe pears. These boozy popsicles sound amazing for a party or even just an afternoon treat.

8. Vanilla Spiced Pear Butter

This vanilla spiced pear butter goes perfectly on toast, muffins, oatmeal and ice cream. This recipe uses seven pounds of pears and yields four pints of butter, but you could halve or quarter the recipe.

If you’re feeling ambitious and decide to make the full recipe, you can freeze the rest and have pear butter year-round.

9. Pear Muffins and Bread

If you love to bake, use your overripe pears for pear and cinnamon muffins — this one’s fun to make with kids.

Much like mushy brown bananas make for delicious banana bread, mushy pears are great for pear bread.

10. Pear Bourbon Cocktail

I’m not one for baking, so I’m not sure I could conquer pear muffins and bread, but this cocktail? It looks too delicious to not give it a try.

Using the past-its-prime pear, smash and strain your way to this pear bourbon smash cocktail.

11.Pear Sauce

Instead of applesauce, try some homemade pear sauce. All you need besides pears is sugar, water, lemon juice and (optional) cinnamon spice. You could make a large batch and freeze some to use as easy healthy snacks.

Don’t throw away other perfectly good produce. Here’s what to do with mushy bananas, brown avocados, overripe peaches, slimy spinach and often-neglected parts of fruits and veggies.

Jacquelyn Pica is a former SEO specialist at The Penny Hoarder. 

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

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Late Payments, Credit Scores and Credit Reports

A missed credit card or loan payment can have a seriously detrimental effect on your credit report. The golden rule of using a credit card is to make your payments on time every time, building a respectable payment history, avoiding debt, and keeping your creditor happy.

But what happens when you fall behind with your monthly payments; what happens when you miss a single loan or credit card payment as a result of a mistake, an oversight or a lack of funds? How will your creditor react, how quickly will the credit reporting agencies find out, and what options do you have for getting back on your feet?

How Late Payments Affect Your Credit Score

A late payment can reduce your credit score significantly and remain on your report for 7 years. It won’t impact your score throughout that time and the longer you leave it, the less of an impact it will have. However, the impact could be significant for individuals with good credit and bad credit.

As an example, if you have a credit score of 750 to 800, which is towards the upper end, a late payment could knock up to 710 points from your score. More importantly, it will remain on your payment history for years to come and reduce your chances of getting everything from a student loan to a credit card and mortgage.

How Soon do Late Payments Show on Credit Reports

You won’t be hit with a derogatory mark as soon as you miss a credit card payment. The credit card issuer may charge you a fee, but by law, they are not allowed to market it as a missed payment until it is 30 days due. And this doesn’t just apply to credit card debt, it’s true for loans as well.

Providing you cover the payment within 30-days, you can avoid a missed payment mark appearing on your credit report. But as soon as that period passes, your lender will inform the major credit bureaus and your score will take a hit.

Some lenders wait even longer before reporting, so you may have as long as 60 days to make that payment. Check with your creditor to see when they start reporting missed payments.

What About Partial Payments?

Many lenders treat a partial payment the same as a missed payment, especially where credit cards are concerned. If you’re struggling to meet your payment obligations, contact your creditor in advance, tell them how desperate your situation is and inform them that you can meet part of the payment.

They may offer you some reprieve, they may not, but you won’t know if you don’t ask. However, it’s worth noting that this will only impact your score if you don’t cover the remaining credit card payment before the 30-day period is up.

To avoid confusion, we should also mention that this only applies to the minimum payment. Some credit card users get confused with the difference between a balance and a minimum payment.

Simply put, the balance is what you clear at the end of the month to avoid accumulating debt and paying interest. If you fail to pay that balance on time, your debt will simply roll over to the next month, after which you will be required to meet a minimum payment on your debt. If, however, you miss that minimum payment, then you’re at risk of your credit report taking a hit.

Reporting agencies don’t record the difference between a rolling balance and a debt. If you spend $3,000 on your card every month but pay it off without fail and without delay, you won’t accumulate interest and technically, you won’t have debt. However, at the end of the month, the reporting agencies will show that you owe $3,000 on that card, just as they would show if you had accumulated a balance of $1,000 a month for three months and let it rollover.

How Long Does a Late Payment Stay?

A late payment will remain on your credit report for 7 years. But herein lies another confusion. Just because it reduces your score by 100 points and remains for 7 years doesn’t mean you will suffer a reduction of 100 points for those 7 years. 

It generally stops having a major impact on your score after a couple of years and while it will still have an impact in that 7-year period, it will be infinitesimal by the time you reach the end.

How Many Late Payments Can You Make Before it Reduces Your Score?

One late credit card payment is all it takes to reduce your score, providing that late payment was delayed by at least 30-days. However, that doesn’t mean you can forget about it once the 30-day period has passed and it definitely doesn’t mean that all the possible damage has been done.

It can and will get worse if you continue to avoid that payment. Your credit report will show how late the payment is in 30-day installments. When it reached 180 days, your account will enter default and may be charged-off, which will reduce your score and your chances of acquiring future credit even more.

Your creditor may sell your account to a collection agency. If this happens, the agency will chase you for repayment, seeking to establish a repayment plan or to request a settlement. Accounts are often in this stage when a consumer goes through debt settlement, as creditors and debt collectors are typically more susceptible to accepting reduced settlements because the debt has all but been written off.

How to Remove Late Payments from Your Credit Report

Although rare, it is possible to remove late payments from your credit report. There are also numerous ways you can reverse late payment fees, and we recommend trying these whenever you can as it will save you a few bucks.

Here are a few options to remove late payments and late payment fees:

Use Your Respectable History

The quickest way to get what you want is to ask for it. If you have a clean credit history and have made your payments on time in the past, you can request that the fee/mark be removed. 

Write them a letter requesting forgiveness, explain that it was an oversight or a temporary issue and point to your record as proof that this will likely not happen again. Creditors may seem like heartless corporations, but real humans make their decisions for them and, like all companies, they have to put their customers first.

Request Automatic Payments

Lenders have been known to remove late payment fees if the debtor signs up for automatic payments. It makes their job easier as it prevents issues in the future and ensures they get what they are owed, so it’s something they actively promote.

They may make this offer themselves, but if not, contact them and ask them if there is anything you can do to remove the late payment. They should bring this up; if they don’t, you can. It doesn’t hurt to ask and the worse they can do is say no.

Claim Difficulties

If you claim financial difficulties or hardships and make it clear that a late payment will make those difficulties much worse, the lender may be willing to help. Contrary to what you might think, their goal is not to make life difficult for you and to destroy you financially. 

It’s important to see things from their perspective. If you borrow $15,000 and your balance climbs to $20,000 with interest, their main goal is to get that $15,000 back, after which everything else is profit. If you pay $10,000 and start slipping-up, the risk of default will increase. The worse your financial situation becomes, the higher that risk will be. 

If they eventually sell the account to a debt collector, that remaining $10,000 could earn them just a couple of hundred dollars, which means they will lose a substantial sum of money. They are generally willing to help any way they can if doing so will increase their profits.

How to Avoid Late Payments

A late payment can do some serious damage to your payment history so the best thing to do is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. It’s a no-brainer, but this is a common issue and it’s one that countless consumers have every single year. So, keep your credit card and loan payments stable with these tips.

Set Automatic Payments

Occasionally, consumers forget to pay. Life is hectic, they have a lot of responsibilities to juggle, and it’s easy for them to overlook a single payment. If this happens, it should be caught and fixed before the 30-day period ends and the credit bureaus find out. But even then, fees can accumulate, and problems escalate.

To avoid this, set up automatic payments so your minimum payment is paid in full every month. You can do this for all debt, including student loan payments. Just make sure you have the money in your account to meet this minimum charge, otherwise, you could be paying for debt on one account by accumulating it on another.

Set a Budget

A credit card is designed to encourage you to spend money you don’t have. You’re buying things you can’t afford now in the hope or expectation that you will cover them later, only to realize that you’re struggling so much you can’t even cover the minimum payment.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, it’s time to analyze your finances and create a sensible budget. You may feel like you have a good idea of what you’re spending each month and how this compares to your gross income, but the vast majority of consumers seriously underestimate their expenses.

Improve Your Credit by Fixing Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Calculate your debt to income ratio by comparing your total debt (credit card payments, student loans) to your gross income. The higher this is, the harder you need to work, and the less you need to spend on your credit card. 

Your debt to income ratio should be your central focus when seeking to improve your credit score, because while it’s not considered for loan and credit card applications, it does play a role in mortgage applications and is important for calculating affordability.

Conclusion: It’s Not the End of the World

A late payment can strike a disastrous blow to your credit report, but it’s not the end of the world and you do have a few options at your disposal. Not only do you have up to 30 (and sometimes 60) days to make the payment and prevent a derogatory market, but you can file a claim to have it removed in the event that it does appear.

And if none of that works, a little credit repair can get you back on track. Just keep making those payments every month, talk with your lender when you find yourself in trouble, and remember that nothing is unfixable where credit is concerned.

Late Payments, Credit Scores and Credit Reports is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Auto, Student Loans

4 Practical Ways to Leave College Debt-Free

A college student looks down at her notebook and smiles because she'll leave college debt-free.

The following is a guest post by Lisa Bigelow, a content writer for Bold.

When it comes to paying for college, the anxiety about how to leave college debt-free starts early. And for thousands of grads who are buckling under the weight of monthly student loan payments that can cost as much as a mortgage, that worry can last for as long as 25 years.

According to EducationData.org and The College Board, the cost of a private school undergraduate education can exceed $200,000 over four years. Think you can avoid a $100k+ price tag by staying in-state? Think again—many public flagships can cost over $100,000 for residents seeking an undergraduate degree, including room and board. And with financial aid calculators returning eye-poppingly low awards, you’d better not get a second topping on your pizza.

In fact, you’d better hope that you can graduate on time.

The good news is that you can maintain financial health and get a great education at the same time. You won’t have to enroll as a full-time student and work 40 hours a week, either—each of the methods suggested are attainable for anyone who makes it a priority to leave college debt-free.

Here are four practical ways you can leave college debt-free (and still get that second pizza topping).

1. Cut the upfront sticker price

Don’t visit schools until you are certain you can afford them. Instead, prioritize the cost of attendance and how much you can afford to pay. Staying in-state is one easy way to do this. But if you have wanderlust and want to explore colleges outside state lines, an often-overlooked method of cutting the upfront cost is the regional tuition discount. Many US states participate in some form of tuition reciprocity or exchange programs. You can explore the full list of options at the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators website.

Let’s explore how this works. As a resident of a New England state, for example, you can study at another New England state’s public university at a greatly reduced cost if your home state’s public schools don’t offer the degree you want. So, for example, if you live in Maine but want to go to film school, you can attend the University of Rhode Island and major in film using the regional tuition discount.

Some universities offer different types of regional discounts and scholarships that appear somewhat arbitrary. The University of Louisville (in Kentucky) includes Connecticut in its regional scholars program. And at the University of Nebraska, out-of-state admitted applicants are eligible for several thousand dollars in renewable scholarship money if they meet modest academic standards.

If you already have your heart set on an expensive school and you’re not likely to qualify for reciprocity, financial help, or merit aid, live at home and complete your first two years at your local community college.

Here’s another fun fact: in some places, graduating from community college with a minimum GPA gives you automatic acceptance to the state flagship university.

2. Leverage dual enrollment and “testing out”

When you enroll in a four-year college it’s pretty likely that you’ll spend the first two years completing general education requirements and taking electives. Why not further reduce the cost of your education by completing some of those credits at your local community college, or by testing out?

Community college per-credit tuition is usually much cheaper than at four-year colleges, so take advantage of the lower rate in high school and over the summer after you’re enrolled in your four-year college.

But beware: you’ll probably need at least a C to transfer the credits, so read your institution’s rules first. Also, plan to take general education and low-level elective classes, because you’ll want to take courses in your major at your four-year school.

If you’ve been given the opportunity to take Advanced Placement courses, study hard for your year-end exams. Many colleges will accept a score of 3 or higher for credit, although some require at least a 4 (and others none at all). Take four or five AP classes in high school, score well on the exams, and guess what? You’ve just saved yourself a semester of tuition.

3. Take advantage of financial aid opportunities

After taking steps one and two, you probably have a good idea of what the leftover expense will be if you want to leave college debt-free. Your next job is to figure out how to cut that total even more by using financial aid. There are four types to consider.

The first is called need-based aid. This is what you’ll apply for when you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Known as the FAFSA, this is where you’ll enter detailed financial information, and you’ll need at least an hour the first time you complete this form. Hint: apply for aid as soon as the form opens in the fall. It is not a bottomless pot of money.

There is also medical-based financial aid. If you have a condition that could make employment difficult after graduating from college, you may be eligible, and qualifying is separate and apart from financial need and academic considerations.

The third type of aid relates to merit and is offered directly by colleges. Some schools automatically consider all accepted applicants for merit scholarships, which could relate to academics or community service or, in the case of recruited athletes, athletics. At other universities, you’ll need to submit a separate scholarship application after you’ve been admitted. Some merit awards are renewable for four years and others are only for one year.

If you didn’t get need-based or merit-based aid then you still may qualify for a private scholarship. Some require essays, some don’t, and some are offered by local community organizations such as rotary clubs, women’s organizations, and the like. Don’t turn your nose up at small-dollar awards, either, because they add up quickly and can cover budget-busting expenses such as travel and books.

4. Find easy money

Small-dollar awards really add up when you make finding easy money a priority. Consider using the following resources to help leave college debt-free:

  • Returns from micro-investing apps like Acorns
  • Tax return refunds
  • Browser add-ons that give you cashback for shopping online
  • Rewards credit cards (apply for a travel rewards credit card if you’re studying out of state)
  • Asking for money at the holidays and on your birthday
  • Working part-time by capitalizing on a special talent, such as tutoring, photography, or freelance writing

Leave College Debt-Free

Finally, if you have to take out a student loan, you may be able to have it forgiven if you agree to serve your community after graduation. The Peace Corps is one such way to serve, but if you have a specialized degree such as nursing, you can work in an underserved community and reap the rewards of loan forgiveness.


Lisa Bigelow writes for Bold and is an award-winning content creator, personal finance expert, and mom of three fantastic almost-adults. In addition to Credit.com, Lisa has contributed to The Tokenist, OnEntrepreneur, College Money Tips, Finovate, Finance Buzz, Life and Money by Citi, MagnifyMoney, Well + Good, Smarter With Gartner, and Popular Science. She lives with her family in Connecticut.

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Breaking News, Cash Back

Activate Chase Freedom cash back categories for Q1 2021 now

Chase has announced the 5% cash back categories on the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the retired Freedom card for the first quarter of 2021.

From Jan. 1 through March. 31, 2021, Freedom and Freedom Flex cardholders can earn 5% cash back on select streaming services, internet, cable and phone services and wholesale club purchases (up to $1,500 in combined purchases) after activation.

Besides that, the new Flex card offers 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases and 1% on everything else. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.

See related: Chase to launch new Freedom Flex card, add new categories to Freedom Unlimited

Activation for first-quarter categories on both the Freedom and Freedom Flex launched on Dec. 15, 2020, and will be open until March 14, 2021.

Here’s what you need to know at a glance:

  • Activation of first-quarter bonus categories begins on Dec. 15 for both the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex.
  • Cardholders must activate by March 14 to earn the bonus rate.
  • From Jan. 1 to March 31, Freedom and Freedom Flex cardholders can earn 5% cash back on eligible streaming services, internet, cable and phone services and wholesale club purchases.
  • The 5% cash back bonus is capped at $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter.
  • As of Jan. 12, 2020, Chase Freedom cardholders earn 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.

Chase 5% cash back calendar 2021

Winter Spring Summer Holiday
January – March

(Activation closes on March 14)

April – June

(Activation closed)

July – September

(Activation closed)

October – December

(Activation closed)

  • Select streaming services
  • Phone, cable and internet services
  • Wholesale clubs

TBA

TBA

TBA

Chase only releases its quarterly bonus categories one quarter at a time, so we can’t yet predict what will be offered in the rest of the quarters in 2021. Here’s a quick look at some of the categories Chase has offered in the last year.

Chase 5% cash back calendar 2020

Winter Spring Summer Holiday
January – March April – June July – September October – December
  • Select streaming services
  • Gas stations
  • Phone, cable and internet services
  • Gym memberships
  • Fitness clubs
  • Grocery stores
  • Select streaming services
  • Amazon
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Walmart
  • PayPal

What is included and excluded in the ‘Select streaming services’ category?

In this category, you can earn 5% cash back on select streaming services, including music and video streaming.  The eligible services include Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Netflix, Sling, Vudu, Fubo TV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube TV.

What is included and excluded in the ‘Phone, cable and internet services’ category?

You can earn cash back on your monthly bills, such as your cable, internet and phone services. To earn 5% cash back in the category, make sure to pay these bills with your Freedom or Freedom Flex card.

Equipment purchases don’t qualify in this category. You may also not receive the bonus cash back if you pay for your phone, cable or internet service at a merchant’s store that’s not classified in the applicable services category.

What is included and excluded in the ‘Wholesale clubs’ category?

In this category, you can get 5% back when you’re shopping at wholesale clubs, including Sam’s and BJ’s. You can also use your Chase Freedom (no longer available for new applications) to earn bonus cash back at Costco. Since Costco only accepts Visa cards, the new Freedom Flex, which is a Mastercard, won’t be accepted. Mastercards are, however, accepted on Costco.com.

See related: Best credit cards for Costco purchases

earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending in rotating categories each quarter, upon enrollment, then 1%.

Chase vs. Discover cash back categories 2021

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Discover it® Cash Back

January – March Select streaming services, phone, cable and internet services, wholesale clubs Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS
April – June TBA Gas stations, Uber, Lyft and wholesale clubs
July – September TBA Restaurants and PayPal
October – December TBA Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com

Which card offers the best deal?

The best card for you depends on where you plan to spend your money in the first quarter of 2021.

Discover it® Cash Back offers bonus cash back at grocery stores at the beginning of the year. Since groceries are regular expenses that can get rather high, especially if you’re grocery shopping for a family, this category can be pretty lucrative.

At the same time, if you have a wholesale club membership, it can be very easy for you to meet the spending cap in this category with your Chase card. This can make up for the other two underwhelming categories.

For the rest of 2021, we can’t predict which card will be best for you, as while Discover has announced its categories for the next year, Chase only releases bonus categories one quarter at a time.

Source: creditcards.com

Family Finance, Home Buying, Mortgage Tips

Bundle Up! Winter’s Home-Buying Game Has Changed. Here’s How To Win

How to buy a house this winterViktoriia Hnatiuk / Getty Images

Savvy home buyers know that winter is typically a good time to embark on a house hunt, since much of their competition stays holed up at home until spring. But this winter, buyers might notice that despite the cold and the holidays, they’ve got company.

Lots of it, in fact.

“Normally winter is a good time for buyers,” says realtor.com® chief economist Danielle Hale. However, since the coronavirus kept buyers on lockdown for much of spring, many are making up for lost time by home shopping hard right now.

“This year’s unusual seasonal pattern means that buyers aren’t getting the usual break from the market frenzy that they typically do in the cooler weather,” Hale explains.

As a result, this winter is shaping up to be a seller’s market, with low real estate inventory, high prices, and bidding wars that could give buyers a major run for their money.

This doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel—just that you’ll have to hone your house hunt in new ways to suit the times. Here are some tactics that will keep you ahead of the pack so you’ll be sitting in a new home by the new year.

Secure your financing as soon as possible

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage and securing financing are an essential first step when buying a home. It gives you a clear picture of how much house you can afford, and lets you make an offer as soon as you find your dream home.

Matt van Winkle, a real estate broker and owner at Re/Max Northwest Realtors in Seattle, says this process is more important now than ever.

“Getting pre-approved for a loan is obviously important, but is there anything else they can do to put themselves in a good position?” he says. “Buyers need to be ready to buy a house before they start looking.”

Too often, buyers don’t line up their financing until they find a home they want to buy, van Winkle says. In the current competitive market, waiting to get pre-approval means you could lose out on purchasing a home you love.

“That creates a mad dash and stress to get everything lined up under pressure,” he says. “Get all your financing secured and ready before you look, that way when you find the right home you’re 100% ready.”

Starting early could also help you lock in an ultralow interest rate, which could affect your monthly mortgage payment and mean you could afford a more expensive home. As of Oct. 22, Freddie Mac listed rates at 2.8% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

Know what you want before you house hunt

COVID-19 has changed how we live and work. We’re spending much more time at home, and people are looking for different features in their living spaces.

Make a list of your must-haves before you start house shopping—and share your needs with your real estate agent.

Simon Isaacs, broker and owner of Simon Isaacs Real Estate in Palm Beach, FL, says it helps cut down on the number of homes you’ll have to view before finding the right one.

“I would suggest buyers not look at 25 homes,” he says. “If the agent is showing them that many houses, the agent doesn’t know what they want.”

In such a competitive landscape, knowing exactly what you want enables you to act fast when you want to make an offer.

Tour homes virtually first

More real estate agents are embracing virtual tours and remote showings to ease coronavirus safety concerns. In some cases, they’re even limiting in-person showings to the most serious buyers—those with financing already secured, for example.

“Real estate agents in our local market are adjusting to the client’s needs by continuing to provide in-person showings with precautions and also assisting buyers virtually with their home purchases,” says Matt Curtis, owner of Matt Curtis Real Estate in Huntsville, AL.

Virtual home tours, using Zoom or FaceTime, let you view the home from anywhere, and depending on the setup, you might be able to ask questions in real time. So you can narrow down the homes you’re most interested in and physically visit only the ones that best meet your needs.

Don’t dawdle if you want to make an offer

In September, there were nearly 40% fewer homes on the market than during the same month last year, according to a realtor.com report. At the same time, buyer demand has increased, creating an incredibly competitive marketplace. Homes were on the market for an average of 54 days in September, 12 fewer days than last year.

Tracy Jones, a real estate agent with Re/Max Platinum Realty in Sarasota, FL, says the buyers she’s worked with lately have had just a few homes to consider. And, with all the other buyers in a location also looking at those same houses, you’ll need to act fast if you’re interested.

The challenge, she says, is potential buyers have little time to mull things over, and they are pitted against one another.

Isaacs is seeing a similar situation. Wait too long to submit an offer, and another buyer is likely to swoop in with an offer of their own.

“I would say don’t deliberate on buying,” he says. “I’ve had too many clients who were [saying], ‘Should we, shouldn’t we.’ I would say if it’s something that you want to do, do it.”

Make your offer stand out

Since inventory is so low, sellers are getting multiple offers on their homes these days. To make sure yours gets accepted, you’ll need to make it stand out.

Cash offers and inspection waivers are some ways to make your offer more appealing, Curtis says.

A cash offer, if you can afford it, is attractive to sellers because it eliminates dealing with a mortgage lender and often speeds up closings. An inspection waiver comes with lots of risks, since you’re essentially agreeing to purchase a home as is, but the waiver removes any repair negotiations and helps you close faster.

For competitive markets, where you know you’ll be competing directly with many buyers, Jones suggests talking to your agent about escalation clauses. This is a contract addendum where you agree to pay more than other offers (up to a maximum you set).

Bottom line: “Find a strategy to help make your offer stand out amongst the 10, 20, or more offers that may come in on your dream home,” Curtis says.

The post Bundle Up! Winter’s Home-Buying Game Has Changed. Here’s How To Win appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Student Loans

Do College Rankings Matter?

student at college campus mobile

All articles about college rankings should perhaps be read with a grain of salt and primarily through a lens of what matters most to individuals about the college experience and what they’re hoping it will be an investment toward.

Prominent publications and people have conveyed a variety of views about whether college rankings matter:

The editor-in-chief of the Science Family of Journals said no in May 2020. “To any logical scientific observer, the fine distinctions of where schools show up on this (U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges) list are statistically meaningless—but try telling that to a roomful of alumni or parents,” H. Holden Thorp wrote.

Ian Bogost, distinguished chair at Georgia Tech, wrote in The Atlantic in June 2020: “The absurdity of a numerical ranking mechanism for colleges becomes apparent the moment you look at how U.S. News calculates it. The methodology reads like a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet: 8% for class size; 10% for high-school-class standing; 4.4% for first-to-second-year student retention, and so on.”

But just because the consensus leans toward “no” doesn’t mean it should be the last word on anyone’s ultimate decision about where to go to school.

Even U.S. News & World Report says on its best-colleges website: “The rankings provide a good starting point for students trying to compare schools. … The best school for each student, experts say, is one that will most completely meet his or her needs, which go beyond academics.”

What Are the College Rankings?

There is no single, ultimate, etched-in-stone set of college rankings. All over the world, there are entities using a wide array of criteria to appraise universities.

Rather than expecting a “yes” or “no” to the question of whether college rankings matter, it would be more beneficial to understand why “It depends” could be more appropriate.

If you’re aiming for an education from a prestigious school, and money is no object—well, first of all, congratulations and good luck.

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The post Do College Rankings Matter? appeared first on SoFi.

Source: sofi.com

Uncategorized

7 Budget Friendly Tips for a Room Makeover

Sometimes the need to redecorate a room doesn’t line up with when the budget allows for a full makeover. In those times, it’s good to have a few budget friendly ideas to spruce up the space. These seven tips are things that can be done even when funds are tight.

1 – Rearrange or Swap with Other Rooms

The most budget friendly thing you can do when redecorating is to look for inspiration from the other rooms in your home. Often times, especially in larger homes, there are pieces of furniture and other décor that could be moved from one room to another to make a free update to the space. If you are thinking about updating your master bedroom, consider using pieces from your office, the living room, and even the outside patio. Taking a piece from another room can provide just the change you are craving in the space you want to update.

2 – Paint Furniture

If you found a piece of furniture in another room that can work based on the shape and size, but it doesn’t quite match, consider painting the furniture. This is also a great option for updating old wood furniture that you’ve had in the room for years, or even furniture that you just found at a thrift store or rummage sale. Changing the color of furniture with spray paint is a quick and easy way to give it an entirely new look in less than a day’s time.

When determining if a piece of furniture can be painted, look for pieces that have good structure and very few flaws to the shape. When you paint, gouges and scratches can become more pronounced, so if you find a few imperfections, fill them with wood filler and sand them smooth before painting. If you are painting metal furniture, make sure to sand off any rust spots to ensure the rust doesn’t spread after you complete the makeover.

3 – Paint the Walls

If you want to make a bigger impact in a space, consider investing in a can or two of paint. Many rooms can be completed with one can of paint, but for more drastic color changes (like from white walls to dark blue walls or vise versa), you may need two cans to allow for multiple coats to get the walls fully covered.

If you don’t want to paint the entire room, consider painting an accent wall to give it a pop of color. If you have more time than funds, you can invest a few hours, a quart of paint, and a roll of painters tape into making a design on a wall instead. You might add a single stripe, a chevron stripe, or some free-hand circles around the room. You can get creative with the accent designs to make the room as fun as you want it to be.


4 – Have a Plan

One of the biggest things you can do to keep a makeover project budget friendly is to have a plan and a little patience. Think about it like this: if your car dies and you need a new car, you are at the mercy of the people who are selling cars at that exact time. If you are able to plan ahead on the purchase of your new car, you have significantly more bargaining power because you don’t NEED to purchase it immediately. You can wait for a better price to come along.

The exact same thing is true when it comes to purchases for your home. If you are determined to buy things on a certain day, you are at the mercy of what’s available on that exact day in the shops you can get to. If you’re able to instead plan the project, decide what you are going to look for, and then purchase when you find the items at the right price, you are in a much better position to find bargain pieces.

5 – Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Once you have your budget makeover plan in place, keep your eyes open for the perfect pieces everywhere you possibly can. Tour your neighborhood on the weekends to see if any of the neighbors are selling the perfect pieces on rummage sales. Search Craigslist and online rummage sale sites to catch when the items you need pop up for sale. Walk through thrift stores on a weekly basis and keep your eyes peeled for the perfect used items. And don’t forget to watch the clearance racks at your favorite stores to see what goes on super sale. I personally love walking through Target on the days they mark down their home décor items. It feels like a treasure hunt to find just the right throw pillows or wall art to fit my plan. When the items are on clearance, it’s an even bigger success knowing that I didn’t spend even close to full price on the perfect pieces.

6 – Change Light Fixtures

If you are handy, or you have a friend who is familiar with electrical wiring, you may want to consider changing out the light fixtures in your home to quickly update the space. Having light fixtures that are decades old often means that they are in an outdated style or finish, which can make the entire space look out of date. By swapping them out with an eye catching light fixture that you found on sale or at a thrift store, you can make a big impact change in that one item. One of my favorite stores to check for items like light fixtures is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Many cities and towns that have a Habitat for Humanity program also have a Restore where they sell good quality home fixtures that have been removed from homes that were remodeled. It is a store where one man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure.

7 – Change Flooring

The final tip is definitely more hands-on, but can make a large impact in a room if you have just a little bit more money to spend and a weekend’s worth of time. Changing the flooring in a room can create a big change for not as much money as you are probably imagining.

Laminate flooring has come a long way in the last 5 years, and you can now buy a variety of great looking laminate flooring for less than $1/square foot. This lightweight, easy to install flooring can be printed with images of wood, stone, or other designs to give your room a totally new feel. Considering most bedrooms in homes are close to 12’ x 12’, that means you could change the flooring in a room for under $150.

If that is outside your budget, you still have options. Consider getting a large area rug to anchor the room. These are typically available at stores like Ross and Home Goods for $50 or less. Not only can they add a pop of color to your floor, but you can move them into new rooms if you ever feel like rearranging in the future.

Having a strict budget shouldn’t keep you from having a space that you love. For under $200 there are a number of quick changes you can make to your home. Mix and match a few ideas and you’ll be surprised at how quickly a little time and a few dollars can change the feel of your home.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com