This Tool Helps Find the Perfect Real Estate Agent for You

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As housing demand continues to grow and buyers are putting offers on homes as quickly as they come on the market, Homes.com wanted to create a streamlined process to make building your real estate team easier than ever before. As every homebuyer and seller knows, having trusted real estate professionals on your side is one of the most important steps in the homebuying or selling journey. But finding those professionals sometimes can feel overwhelming. In order to find an agent that best suits your needs, Homes.com has introduced, and upgraded, our “Agent Search” feature.

couple searching on computercouple searching on computer

Start building your real estate team now with Homes.com!

Now, buyers and sellers can find an agent that’s most suitable for their specific needs. Not only can you find trusted agents in your area fluent in your language or with special knowledge of different real estate practices, but you can also identify agents with rapid response time, those who are Homes.com preferred, and even read through endorsements from other buyers the agent has worked with in the past. We’ve also introduced a “Search by Specialty” function to ensure you find the right agent for your journey. 

Search by Language

As a champion of diversity and inclusion, Homes.com introduced the “Search by Language” feature in order to provide buyers and sellers with a real estate professional who will be able to communicate with them clearly and in their preferred language.

search by language homes.comsearch by language homes.com

In addition to narrowing down your ideal real estate agent by language, you’ll also be able to identify those who are “Rapid Responders.” “Rapid Responder” eligibility requires an agent or office to have a dedicated specialist answering phones during normal business hours,” says Chris Horton, Director of Product for user experience. “For home searchers, what this “Rapid Responder” credential means is that they will easily be able to speak to their agent during their homebuying or renting process.” 

Search by Specialty

There are plenty of reasons people may be looking to move, so if you’re looking for an agent with a specific specialty, then this is the way to go. Homes.com provides its users with a way to narrow their agent search through the “Search by Specialty” feature. If you’re looking to sell your home, you can find trusted agents within that field. Service members can find agents who specialize in military family home search, and you can even filter by agents who specialize in finding senior communities for those who are searching for their retirement home. Other specializations include new construction, property management for those who like to invest, and luxury homes to make your team tailored to you.

search by specialty homes.comsearch by specialty homes.com

Start Your Home Search Journey Today!

With Homes.com, your home search has never been easier. We’ll be with you from every step of the way. You can start browsing available properties on our homepage, search for the ideal real estate team using our new search functionality, find the best lender near you to assist in your home financing, and even visit our How To section to find an entire step-by-step guide on the buying, selling, renting, or financing process.


Content Marketing Assistant at Homes.com | See more posts by this author

As Homes.com’s content marketing assistant, Sydney gets to combine one of her favorite pastimes with her job– keeping up with pop culture. Outside of work, she enjoys stepping away from her phone and computer and spending time with her friends, whether it’s just hanging out or traveling. Trying new foods, going snowboarding, and long road trips are some of her other favorite things to do, but what does she loves the most? When people read Homes.com’s blog articles, of course!

Source: homes.com

Stock Market Today: Investors Head for Safety Amid Another Selloff

Stocks stumbled for the second consecutive day Tuesday, and they did so again amid a fairly slow drip of news.

Both domestically and globally, a pickup in COVID-19 cases is fostering worries about the size and pace of the economic recovery, though at the same time, the world’s number of vaccinated continue to grow.

“Stocks are dropping again today with no clear catalysts. Markets are a little stretched at this point, so we may see stocks take a small step back here and there. That’s normal, and we’d expect any dip to be bought quickly,” says Callie Cox, senior investment strategist for Ally Invest, who points out that recent action has come amid low trading volume. “As long as volume stays low and news is quiet, we may see this wandering market continue to search for direction.”

When investors were buying, they were choosing safety: Utilities (+1.3%) and real estate (+1.1%) topped all other sectors Tuesday.

But the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.8% to 33,821. The Dow was led lower by the likes of Nike (NKE, -4.2%) which was downgraded on concerns over boycotts in China, and Boeing (BA, -4.1%), which dropped after CEO David Calhoun said its dividend likely won’t be returning in the short term.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 lost 0.7% to 4,134, and the Nasdaq Composite declined by 0.9% to 13,786.

Sign up for Kiplinger’s FREE Investing Weekly e-letter for stock, ETF and mutual fund recommendations, and other investing advice.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • Apple (AAPL, -1.3%) declined despite announcing a number of new products and updates Tuesday. The company unveiled more powerful iPads and thinner iMacs, both using M1 chips; a tile-like item tracker called AirTags, an updated Apple TV+ box and more.
  • International Business Machines (IBM, +3.8%) gained after the company reported its first quarter of revenue growth in more than a year and beat earnings expectations.
  • Johnson & Johnson (JNJ, +2.3%) beat top- and bottom-line estimates; meanwhile, the European Union said that while J&J’s COVID-19 does appear to be linked to blood clot risks, its benefits outweigh those risks.
  • The Russell 2000 dropped 2.0% to 2,188.
  • U.S. crude oil futures dropped 76 cents, or 1.2%, to settle at $62.67 per barrel.
  • Gold futures added $7.90, or 0.5% to settle at $1,777.30 an ounce.
  • The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) jumped another 8.2%, following a strong advance Monday, to reach 18.71.
  • Bitcoin prices recovered a little, up 1.0% to $56,650. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)
  • Netflix (NFLX) was off by more than 11% in early after-hours trading after a wide miss on first-quarter global subscriber numbers. Specifically, global paid net subscriber additions of 3.98 million were well below the 6.2 million expected. The company did beat revenue and earnings projections.
stock chart for 042021stock chart for 042021

4/20: A Buzzkill for Cannabis Investors

You might not have been aware, but today was a holiday for some: 4/20 is a date widely celebrated by marijuana aficionados … and increasingly, investors.

As it happened, weed stocks admittedly wilted under the spotlight today, despite yesterday’s House passage of a bill that would let banks provide services to the industry in states that have legalized marijuana use. The AdvisorShares Pure US Cannabis ETF (MSOS), for instance, declined 3.2%.

However, many marijuana plays are still sitting on strong returns year-to-date, and several drivers still point to big long-term potential.

“With more states considering legalizing cannabis, combined with the future uptick in sales from states such as New York and New Jersey that have recently legalized recreational cannabis, I expect that cannabis sales will continue to experience strong growth,” says Jason Wilson, cannabis and banking expert at ETF Managers Group, the issuer of the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ, -4.5%). “In the longer term, as the cannabis industry continues to mature, I would expect to see the strongest sales growth in derivative products, such as cannabis-infused beverages.”

If you’re feeling “canna-curious,” start out by learning which red flags you should be watching for in this emerging industry.

If you feel you’re ready to go, consider this list of 10 marijuana picks – complete with traditional stocks, but also real estate investment trusts (REITs), special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) and even a couple funds for those interested in a more diversified approach.

Kyle Woodley was long BA and MSOS as of this writing.

Source: kiplinger.com

20 Cheap and Easy Meals That Cost Under $10

The average American household spends more than $6,600 per year on food, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. That makes up roughly 10% of the median household income in America.

This is particularly noteworthy from a personal finance perspective because food is one of the major household expenses for which frugal choices can make a huge difference. Committing to preparing most meals at home, coupled with a smart and sensible grocery store strategy, can significantly cut the amount of money spent annually on food. Even cutting your food spending by 30% can save $2,000 per year.

The challenge, of course, is time and effort. For busy families, food preparation is a task that is often relegated to others simply by grabbing takeout, getting delivery, or buying premade meals. The solution isn’t to abandon them entirely, but to move toward a greater reliance on very inexpensive and easy to prepare meals. The easiest way to do this is to center your meals on low cost and easy to prepare ingredients, such as beans, rice, eggs, chicken, pasta and oatmeal, and accentuate them with a wide variety of flavorings and ingredients. If the core of your meal is inexpensive, then your whole meal will be!

Prices listed in this article were taken from Walmart.com at the time of writing, in order to approximately standardize nationwide pricing. The recipes themselves are ones used in our own family kitchen, mostly from handwritten notes.

In this article

Breakfast meals

Breakfast meals are inexpensive and fast meals our family uses that work well for family breakfasts, centered on using eggs, oatmeal, yogurt and other inexpensive ingredients. These can be used for other meals as well, but these often come out at the start of a school day, as the children are getting up and ready for their day.

Scrambled eggs

Simply crack several eggs into a bowl (three per person is a good number) and rapidly stir them with a fork until the yolk is well combined with the egg white. Add a small amount of salt: just a pinch. Put a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted, then pour in the eggs. Every minute or so, gently scrape the bottom of the skillet with a spatula to pull the cooking eggs off of the bottom (so they don’t burn). When the eggs appear to be moist but solid, serve them. You can sprinkle some cheese or other flavorings on at the end, as per your choice.

1 dozen eggs – $1.99
1 tablespoon butter – $0.12
1 cup shredded cheese – $0.80
Total cost to serve four – $2.91

Slow cooker steel cut oats

This uses a small slow cooker. Just put 1 1/2 cups steel cut oats, 2 cups of milk and 4 cups of water into a slow cooker just before bed. To that, add whatever flavorings you like. We often add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, 2 or 3 overripe mashed bananas, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, as our family loves peanut butter-banana oatmeal. Aside from the oats, milk and water, you can add pretty much anything you like. Just set the slow cooker on low just before you go to bed and you’ll wake up to perfect oatmeal.

1 1/2 cups steel cut oats – $0.26
2 cups milk – $0.30
Flavorings of choice – $1.00 (est.)
Total cost to serve four – $1.56

Egg and bean burritos

Make the scrambled eggs in advance, as described above. Along with them, set out a package of flour tortillas, some heated beans, some shredded cheese, and some salsa, and allow people to assemble their own egg and bean burritos. These are very portable for a grab-and-go breakfast.

Scrambled eggs with cheese – $2.91
15 oz. black beans – $0.58
Salsa – $0.94
8 flour tortillas – $1.63
1 cup shredded cheese – $0.80
Total cost to serve four – $6.86

Overnight oats

This is another extremely simple overnight breakfast that’s great during the summer, since it’s a cool breakfast. Pull out a large drinking cup or a jar, add 1/2 cup rolled oats, then add whatever ingredients you like, followed by 1/4 cup yogurt and 1/2 cup milk. Cover the cup and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, it’s delicious. For flavoring, any and all fruits, nuts, and nut butters will work – again, we often use peanut butter and bananas with a bit of vanilla flavoring.

2 cups rolled oats – $0.52
2 cups milk – $0.30
1 cup yogurt – $0.85
Flavorings of choice – $1.00 (est.)
Total cost to serve four – $2.67

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Soups and stews

Soups and stews usually take advantage of our family’s trusty slow cooker, as you can dump in the ingredients for a soup early in the day, turn the slow cooker on low, and enjoy a nice soup in the evening. The recipes here that include beans utilize dry beans, which, if soaked overnight in water the night before and cooked with additional liquid as per the bean package directions, turn out incredibly well.

Lentil stew

Note that dry lentils do not require soaking like other beans! You use dry ones right off the bat with this recipe. Just mix these ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low for six hours. It’ll produce a fairly thick stew.

3 carrots, cut into discs – $0.43
3 celery stalks, sliced – $0.46
1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70
2 tablespoons olive oil – $0.06
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning – $0.10
1/2 teaspoon paprika – $0.06
1 1/2 cups dry green or brown lentils – $0.80
4 cups water – $0.00
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes – $0.87
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes – $0.72
1 tablespoon salt – $0.01
Total cost to serve four, with lots of leftovers – $4.21

Chili

Chili without meat is an incredibly inexpensive and simple meal to make, whether in a slow cooker or on a stovetop. Chili con carne (chili with meat) adds to the price, but not unbearably so. There are lots of variants to chili, but almost none of them are pricy. Here’s the one we use, which cooks in a slow cooker for about six hours after the beans soak overnight. If you don’t want to do that, use 2 cans of cooked beans to replace 1 cup dry beans. If you want extras to serve with the chili, like crackers or cheese, that will add a bit to the cost, but it’s still a great low-cost meal.

1 cup dry black beans – $0.54
1 cup dry pinto beans – $0.54
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes – $1.44
1 15 oz can tomato sauce – $0.72
1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70
1 packet chili seasoning – $0.50
2 cups water – $0.00
4 cups additional water (if using dry beans) – $0.00
Total cost to serve four, with lots of leftovers – $4.44
Optional – 1 lb. cooked ground beef – $2.67

Ham and beans

This is the best use of leftover ham after the holidays, and a great reason to cut up any leftover ham and freeze it for the future. You can buy a single pound of ham and cube it yourself for $3-$4, which is still cheap, but using leftover ham is the real trick to making this cheap. Just soak the beans overnight, drain them, then cook this recipe in a slow cooker on low for six hours.

1 lb leftover ham, cubed – $0.00 (or $2.98)
1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder – $0.11
1/2 teaspoon salt – $0.01
1/2 teaspoon black pepper – $0.01
1 lb dried great northern beans – $1.89
6 cups water – $0.00 (optionally, use vegetable broth)
Total cost to serve four generously – $2.72 (or $5.70)

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Making your own tomato soup is simple. Just take an onion and chop it to size (I like to cut it into wedges, because I like big pieces of onion — the smaller you cut it, the better). Get out a large pot, put it over medium heat, and melt a whole stick of butter in there. When the butter is melted, add the onions and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes. Then, add the crushed tomatoes, raise heat to high until it’s bubbling, then drop it to medium-low so that it’s just barely bubbling, and leave it for 40 minutes. While that’s going, make sandwiches. Just butter one side of eight pieces of bread, assemble cheese sandwiches with the butter side outwards, and cook them each over medium heat in a skillet, flipping halfway through when the bottom is golden.

For the soup:
1 stick butter – $0.74
1 yellow onion, cut up – $0.70
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes – $1.74
Dash of salt to taste – $0.01
3 cups water – $0.00
Total cost to serve four very generously – $3.19

For the sandwiches:
8 slices bread of choice – $0.57
2 tablespoons butter – $0.21
8 slices cheese of choice – $1.40
Total cost to serve four – $2.18

Pasta meals

These are very simple and quick weeknight meals that my family frequently enjoys. These are almost always very cheap, and always accompanied with a side or two, which you can read about at the bottom of the article.

Three-ingredient mac and cheese

This is based on J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt’s amazing three-ingredient mac and cheese recipe. Our home version is slightly tweaked, but it makes enough for the five of us with leftovers for lunch the next day if served with a couple of sides. It’s so easy and so much better than boxed mac and cheese. Get out a large saucepan or small pot, add the mac, add water until the macaroni is just covered, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir constantly while boiling for six minutes, then add the evaporated milk, then stir constantly for three more minutes. Stir in the shredded cheese and serve. This stuff is amazing.

1 16 oz box elbow macaroni – $0.78
1 12 oz can evaporated milk – $0.70
4 cups shredded cheese of choice – $3.50 (can vary depending on cheese choice)
Total cost to generously serve four – $4.98

Spaghetti with marinara sauce

This is as simple as it gets. Boil a box of pasta according to package directions. Drain the water. Add a jar of marinara sauce of your choosing. Serve. My family loves this and it’s simple enough that my children often prepare it for dinner (we have our children fully take charge of some meal preparation in its entirety as a teaching tool).

1 16 oz. box spaghetti – $1.28
1 20–27 oz. jar marinara sauce – $1.28
Total cost to serve four – $2.56

Chickpea pasta

This is a pasta meal that’s a bit more complex than the spaghetti with marinara sauce, but follows the same idea. You’ll need a blender and a saucepan in addition to the pot for cooking pasta. Just cook a package of angel hair pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, put two cans of chickpeas, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons cumin, a dash of salt and pepper, and the juice of a lemon into a saucepan and cook over medium heat for five minutes. Put half of the chickpeas and all of the liquid into a blender and puree it, then mix the chickpeas, liquid and pasta all together and serve.

1 16 oz. box angel hair pasta – $1.28
2 15 oz. cans chickpeas – $1.76
1/4 cup olive oil – $0.38
1 lemon – $0.40
2 teaspoons dried cumin – $0.08
Dash of salt and pepper – $0.02
Total cost to serve four generously – $3.92

Cheese lasagna

We often assemble this in the morning, pop it in the fridge, and bake it in the evening. All you need is a box of no-boil lasagna noodles, a small container of ricotta or cottage cheese, 4 cups shredded mozzarella, and a large jar of marinara sauce. We’ll often add a layer of vegetables, too – I particularly like adding a layer of mushrooms.

Just pour 1/3 of the jar of sauce into the bottom of a 9″ by 13″ pan, put a layer of no-boil noodles on top, then 1/3 of the cottage or ricotta, then 1/3 of the vegetables if using, then 1/3 of the mozzarella. Just repeat those layers twice more — sauce, then noodles, then cheese, then vegetables, then ricotta. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour covered with aluminum foil, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes to brown the cheese a little.

1 16 oz. box no boil lasagna noodles – $1.97
1 20–27 oz. jar marinara sauce – $1.28
4 cups shredded mozzarella – $3.20
1 15 oz. container cottage or ricotta cheese – $1.17
8 oz. sliced mushrooms – $1.96 (or another vegetable)
Total cost to serve four generously with a full meal of leftovers – $9.58

Bean and rice meals

These meals rely on beans and rice, two of the most inexpensive staples in your kitchen. Dry beans and rice are easy to prepare (you mostly just add water, put them over low heat, and wait) and provide tons of nutrition for the dollar. We invested in a rice cooker because we cook rice so often; a good rice cooker makes rice incredibly simple to make.

Sticky rice, vegetables and soy sauce

This is incredibly simple, yet my whole family enjoys it. This often turns up as a quick lunch, one that my kids often prepare. Simply cook two cups of uncooked rice according to the package directions. Take a package of frozen vegetables and cook them according to package directions. Then, add three tablespoons of soy sauce to the cooked rice and mix in the steamed vegetables. It seems comically simple… but it’s tasty and fast and cheap!

2 cups uncooked rice – $0.52
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables – $1.19
Soy sauce – $1.99 (full bottle, you’ll have lots of leftovers)
Total cost to serve four – $3.70

Red beans and rice

There are some wonderful pre-made kits for this — basically a mix of seasoning, dry red beans and dry rice — and I highly recommend them, especially on sale. If you want to make your own any time, it’s easy.

Just bring two cups of water to a boil, add 1 cup uncooked rice, reduce heat to low, cover, and let it sit on low heat for 20 minutes. Get out a skillet, add 1 pound of sliced kielbasa, and cook over medium-high heat for five minutes. Add a chopped onion, chopped bell pepper, 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, and a 15 oz. can diced tomatoes. Add a dash of oregano, salt, pepper and garlic powder and let this all simmer together for 15 minutes. When the rice is done, you can either mix it all together or serve the beans over rice.

1 cup uncooked rice – $0.26
14–16 oz kielbasa – $2.87
1 yellow onion, chopped – $0.70
1 green bell pepper – $0.88
2 15 oz. cans kidney beans – $1.76
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes – $0.88
Dash of oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic powder – $0.02
Total cost to serve four – $7.37

Cheesy risotto

This is an extremely kid-friendly recipe that we sometimes serve as the main course with a few sides. It also works as a side for something else, if you’d like.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until melted. Add the onion and stir regularly for 8 minutes, seasoning with the salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of broth and stir regularly for 10 minutes, then add the rest of the broth and lower heat to a simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring once about halfway through. Stir in the grated Parmesan and serve!

3 tablespoons butter – $0.31
1 yellow onion finely chopped – $0.70
Salt and pepper – $0.02
1 cup uncooked rice – $0.26
4 cups chicken broth – $1.98
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese – $0.50
Total cost to serve four – $3.77

Fried rice

This is our family’s favorite use of leftover rice and why we don’t sweat it if we cook extra rice. Just take three tablespoons of butter and melt over medium-high heat in a skillet. When it’s melted, add four whisked eggs and cook until scrambled, and then remove the scrambled eggs to a separate plate. From there, add a bag of chopped frozen mixed vegetables right to the pan and cook for 6 minutes. Then, add four cups of leftover cold chilled rice and 4 tablespoons of soy sauce and cook for 3 more minutes. Mix the eggs back in and serve.

4 cups leftover cooked rice – $0.50
3 tablespoons butter – $0.31
4 eggs – $0.66
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables – $1.19
Soy sauce – $1.99 (full bottle, you’ll have lots of leftovers)
Total cost to serve four – $4.65

Chicken and tuna meals

These four meals are focused on chicken and tuna, which are the least expensive meat staples consistently found in grocery stores. If you want a bargain, canned tuna and whole chickens are the best deal. Tip: If you have a recipe that calls for cooked chicken, consider buying a whole rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and tear it apart. You can get cooked chicken for as little as $1 per pound doing this.

One-pot chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole

This is a comfort food that my parents made when I was younger and we now enjoy as a family. It’s also a great use for cooked rice. Just mix the following in a casserole dish and bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

4 cups leftover cooked rice – $0.50
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese – $3.20
1 lb. cooked chicken (rotisserie) – $1.25
2 cups chicken broth – $0.99
1 cup milk – $0.50
2 tablespoons melted butter – $0.20
Total cost to serve four – $6.64

Chicken noodle soup

Egg noodles, cooked in chicken broth, with some diced chicken added. It’s so simple and yet, so delicious. You can add diced vegetables as desired — carrots, celery and onions all work here. Just get a 16 oz. package of egg noodles and cook according to package directions using 6 cups of chicken broth as the liquid and adding the chicken and vegetables before cooking.

6 cups chicken broth – $2.97
1 lb. cooked rotisserie chicken – $1.25
1 16 oz. package egg noodles – $1.98
1 bag diced frozen mixed vegetables – $1.19
Total cost to serve four – $7.39

Tuna melts

This is one of my family’s favorite meals, and it’s super easy. OK, so this one goes a bit over $10, but it’s oh, so good. Just mix up tuna, mayonnaise, and pickle juice, then put a large teaspoon of the mix on each hamburger bun. Top with cheese, wrap each sandwich in aluminum foil, place the sandwiches on a baking sheet, and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Delicious!

4 5-ounce cans tuna, drained – $5.43
4 tablespoons mayonnaise – $1.59 for the full bottle
2 teaspoons pickle juice – $0.05
8 hamburger buns – $1.59
8 slices cheese – $1.29
Aluminum foil – $0.15
Total cost for 8 sandwiches – $10.01

Tuna patties

These simple tuna patties fry very well in a skillet. Just add a tiny bit of oil and fry these in a skillet over medium heat until golden brown on both sides, 5–6 minutes per side. The patties are made by mixing the below ingredients and forming them into patties. You can serve them on the plate or on bread or buns as a sandwich (with a slice of cheese on top).

2 5-ounce cans tuna – $2.71
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard – $0.17
4 slices white bread torn into small pieces – $0.26
1 raw egg – $0.17
Dashes of salt, pepper, hot sauce, and lemon juice – $0.05
Total cost for four patties – $3.36

What about sides?

These 20 meals can each provide a main course, but what about side dishes? We usually pair our main dishes with two of the following items, depending on what pairs well and what’s on sale.

Flash frozen vegetables in a microwave steamed bag, which usually cost $1.29 and are often found on sale for $0.99. We usually cook them for about a minute less than the directions on the bag then season them extensively with salt, pepper, and other odds and ends.

Fresh fruit including apples, bananas, grapes, oranges — whatever’s on sale that week.

Fresh vegetables from our garden are almost always our side dishes during the summer months.

Baked potatoes just need to be wrapped in foil and baked in the oven at 350 F for up to an hour, depending on size. They’re cheap and are wonderful topped with butter or sour cream.

A side salad, usually a kit from the store when they’re on sale, is commonly on our table. Kits provide a side salad that’s adequate for our family for $2 when on sale.

Yogurt is often on sale, and we just buy whatever’s on sale. Containers of yogurt are an inexpensive finish to many meals.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

Here are 5 Ways 2021 Will Try to Rip You Off, and 5 Ways to Fight Back

Wouldn’t it be useful to get an alert when you’re about to overpay? A polite little alert, not an obnoxious one. That’s exactly what this free service does. These free alerts can be added to your browser.
The pandemic has changed how we shop, and that’s expected to carry over into 2021. More of us are shopping online now — including nearly 70% of Americans, according to a new NPR poll. Of those, more than 90% have bought something from Amazon.
Prices don’t normally go down. But in 2020, car insurance companies cut their rates because the market demanded it. Customers who were quarantined in their homes figured that, because they were driving so much less, they should be paying less.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

1. Watch Out for Car Insurance Rate Hikes

All you have to do is connect your current insurance, then Savvy will search hundreds of insurers for a better price on the same coverage. It’ll even help you cancel your old policy and get you a refund from your current insurer.
Before you check out on Amazon, Target or Best Buy, it’ll check other websites, including eBay, Walmart and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. It’ll even apply any available coupon codes to your order automatically.
It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to ,000.
The USDA predicts that grocery prices will rise by at least 1% to 2%, and restaurant prices will rise by 2% to 3%. That may not seem like a lot. But over a whole year, that’s really going to add up.
How about 2021? Is 2021 coming for us, too?
If you find a better deal, you can switch right away and don’t have to wait for your next renewal or even your next payment.

2. Don’t Get Ripped Off While Shopping Online

Privacy Policy
You don’t have to take that! That’s why 2021 will require you to shop around for car insurance like never before.
Credit card debt is the most expensive kind of debt because of the high interest rates. Unfortunately, the pandemic and its shutdowns and its job losses have forced more Americans to fall back on their credit cards to pay their bills and pay for necessities like food. That’s carrying over into 2021.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
If you’re looking to buy a home in 2021, do everything you can to save money on your mortgage. A good credit score will make a big difference in how much interest you’ll pay on a mortgage or car loan. That could easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a mortgage.

3. Watch Out for Rising Food Prices

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So, 2020 was a really terrible year, am I right? This pandemic has stolen all kinds of things from us. It took millions of jobs, hundreds of thousands of American lives, and countless hours of in-classroom school instruction. It emptied our bank accounts and shredded our peace of mind.
Could you imagine waking up with no credit card debt? A free website called AmOne can help you wipe out your credit card debt even faster.
Some purchases are optional, but food isn’t one of them. Unfortunately, the price of food is expected to rise in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 
You can download the free Fetch Rewards app here to start getting free gift cards. Over a million people already have, so they must be onto something.

4. Don’t Overpay for a Mortgage

Here’s how it works: After you’ve downloaded the app, just look for products branded with the Unilever “U.” Then take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased an item from one of the participating brands. For your efforts, you’ll earn gift cards to places like Amazon or Walmart.
The median price of homes sold in January 2021 was nearly 4,000, a 14% increase compared to January 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s the highest January price that the Realtors have ever recorded.
So far, this free tool has saved users more than 0 million in the last year. You can get started in just a few minutes and see if you’re overpaying online.
Try using a free website called Credit Sesame. Within two minutes, you’ll get access to your credit score and personalized tips to improve it. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).
In summary: Hopefully 2021 will be better than 2020. At the very least, you’re likely to get a COVID-19 vaccination at some point.

5. Beware of Expensive Credit Card Debt

When it comes to money, we’re firm believers that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Ah, but it’s a whole new year. And as Americans gravitate back to their old driving patterns, auto insurance rates are expected to climb back up, according to industry observers.
Here are five ways 2021 will try to rip you off — and five ways to fight back.

Want to check for yourself? It’s free and only takes about 90 seconds to sign up.
AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan to pay off all your credit cards at once. Its interest rates start at 3.99% — way lower than the 20% or more you’re probably paying your credit card company. That could save you thousands in the long run. Plus, you’ll be debt-free that much faster.
Just watch out for all the other ways that 2021 will try to rip you off.
We’ve got a way for you to get some of the money back. A free app called Fetch Rewards will reward you with gift cards just for any of hundreds of items at the grocery store. Right now, it’s even offering shoppers a gift card when they spend on dozens of Unilever products at the grocery store. You can do this five times, or up to . <!–

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Sure, it’ll be convenient to have boxes of stuff appear on your doorstep all through 2021. But no matter what you’re buying online, you may be paying too much for it. In many cases, there might be a better deal somewhere else. It just feels like a pain to look for it.

How To Plan a Frugal (Not Cheap) Wedding for Less Than $4,000

The average wedding and reception in 2019 (the most recent pre-COVID year for which data is available) was $28,000, according to The Knot Real Weddings Study. Given that the median American household income charts in around $69,000, (according to the Census Bureau), that means the average wedding devours nearly half a year’s worth of income.

Many people dream of a beautiful, unforgettable wedding, but not many long for the financial aftermath. The best solution is to take a serious look at all of the expenses involved with a wedding and find realistic, frugal ways to cut back on the expense without tinkering with the magic or the memories. The strategies below can collectively shave away 10s of thousands of dollars from the budget of an average wedding.

According to our calculations, a typical American wedding comes to about $28.5k, which we detail below. By paring down here and there, we got it down to $3,950, if you go with a guest list of 50. (The Knot Real Study says the typical wedding has 131 guests.) If you follow all of our ideas, you’ll reach under $4k in your final tally.

Different people look for different things in their wedding, so go through the list below and choose the ideas that work for you.

In this article

17 steps for a frugal (not cheap) wedding on a budget

Start planning early

The more time you give yourself to plan, the easier it becomes to identify bargains and help make them into a reality. Since so many wedding features are expensive, investing more time yourself can cut those costs down quickly.

Strategy: Give yourself an extra few months between the start of planning and the event
Savings: $0 directly, but it gives you time to implement the strategies below

Choose a location near your guests

Choose a location for your wedding that’s close to the largest number of your guests. While this won’t directly save you money, it will make the next tip much more likely to succeed.

Strategy: Choose a location that’s very convenient for most of the guests
Savings: $0 directly, but it enables some of the strategies below

Ask for wedding help instead of wedding gifts

Talk to some of the friends and family you’re inviting to the wedding and ask them if they would be willing to provide help at the wedding in lieu of a gift. This is particularly true if you have someone on the guest list with a particular talent.

Guests for your wedding might be able to help with photography, provide emcee services, tend the bar at the reception, or perform any of the other endless tasks that a wedding entails. While some guests may prefer not to do this, others will relish the chance.

Many of the roles at our own wedding were provided by family and friends. From our perspective, we felt that everything would be much more meaningful if people we loved were actually involved with the ceremony in some way, and many of them jumped at the chance. Some of them provided supplies as their wedding gift, while others provided discounts.

Getting even a little help can easily shave 5% off of the total cost of the wedding.

Strategy: Ask family and friends for assistance at the ceremony in lieu of gifts
Savings: $1,400

With all that money you’ve saved on your big day, turn to your next big step in life: Buy the home you’ll love as much as each other. Compare mortgages below.

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Hold the ceremony at home or outdoors

According to The Knot, the average wedding venue costs $10,500, adding up to around a third of the total cost of the big day. While trimming the guest list can certainly help reduce this cost, another approach is to think outside the box with your venue.

You might consider hosting the wedding at someone’s home, particularly if they have a nice yard or plenty of space. If your guest list is small, that’s much more feasible.

Strategy: Have the wedding and reception at a friend or family member’s property
Savings: $10,500

Another approach is to see if you can use a public park for the wedding and utilize any structures the parks and recreation department may have for a reception. Many such departments have nice older houses near parks that can be used for events like this. Contacting local parks services in my area found that such venues were available with a range of $1,000 to $4,000, though there would be some additional costs to help set up some services. While there will still be a notable cost involved for this, it’s often significantly lower than paying for a full-service venue.

Strategy: Have the wedding and reception at a park
Savings: $6,500

Do the catering yourself or hire a family-owned restaurant

While trimming the guest list saves quite a bit on catering, you can save more by finding a low-cost catering option. According to The Knot Real Weddings Study, the average cost per catered plate is $51, so if you have 50 guests, that’s $2,550 in meal expenses even with a reduced guest list.

For our own wedding, catering was provided by family and friends, who prepared and served the meal in lieu of (and in addition to) a wedding gift. This may work for you if you have someone who is interested in stepping up to that task.

Strategy: Have friends and family cater for you in lieu of a gift
Savings: $2,550

If not, try asking a local family-owned restaurant to cater for you. They might be hesitant to cater a large event, but if your guest list is already relatively small, they may be willing to do this and work with you on a less expensive option. If a local family-owned restaurant can cater and save 25% per plate, that’s still a nice savings.

Strategy: Ask a locally owned restaurant to cater the meal instead of a wedding catering service
Savings: $638

Buy a small cake or cupcakes from a grocery store

Brides Magazine reports that the average cost of a wedding cake is $350. This is an area where the cost can easily be trimmed by having something a bit more simple. Rather than heading straight to a wedding cake specialist, see what options are available for a smaller, simpler cake from a grocery store. In my area, the local grocery store chain, Hy-Vee, offered an enormous variety of cake options, ranging from very classy tiered wedding cakes that almost matched the $350 tag to much simpler options that would serve 50 guests for around $100.

Strategy: Look at grocery stores for cake options
Savings: $250

Another option is to simply buy cupcakes. You can buy large numbers of cupcakes from many bakeries for as little as $1 each. Pair that with a $30 cake stand and you can provide 70 cupcakes with a beautiful display for just $100.

Strategy: Buy cupcakes and arrange them yourself
Savings: $250

Go minimal with the flowers

Wedding Wire reports that the average cost of flowers at a wedding is $1,500. That’s a lot of money!

Keep the flowers simple! Stick with a simple bouquet and simple arrangements at the wedding, then reuse them as part of the reception. The bouquet itself averages $160, but you can drastically cut your floral expense in other ways by simply having minimal arrangements, relying on seasonal flowers, and using lots of greenery. Wedding Wire’s estimates for less-expensive floral setups range from $175 to $700, so if you simply get into that range with these tips, you’ll be doing great.

Strategy: Cut back on the flowers
Savings: $900

Make your own invitations

Again, according to The Knot, the average cost for wedding invitations is $590. This cost can easily be trimmed, however, by getting a DIY wedding invitation kit and printing them yourself.

My wife and I did this for our own wedding after balking at the hundreds of dollars for more traditional invitations. We chose a nice DIY kit that cost around $70 for our guest list and printed them ourselves. If you have access to a professional-quality printer and can do basic layout, you can easily create a very classy wedding invitation on your own for $100, with another $50 for any extra inserts and $50 for postage.

Strategy: Print your own wedding invitations
Savings: $390

Consider skipping attendants and have them involved in other ways

Rather than having several attendants for the bride and groom, consider trimming that number down to a single attendant for each, or none at all. This not only reduces the complications of the event, including hard choices about who to include, but can also eliminate small incidental costs such as bridesmaid bouquets. You can include people close to you in other ways, such as asking them to do a reading during your ceremony.

Strategy: Minimize your wedding party
Savings: Small, but helps with the next tip

If you do have attendants, go minimal with attendant gifts and make them personal

According to The Knot, the average wedding expense includes $400 in gifts, including party favors. However, most of that $400 goes toward gifts for the attendants. By keeping the wedding party small, you can cut out most of the cost, and with the smaller number, you can be more thoughtful and selective when it comes to a gift.

Strategy: Minimize attendant gifts and make them personal
Savings: $200

Borrow stereo equipment or use yours from home

If you’re having a small event anyway, hiring a DJ might be overkill. Wedding Wire reports that the average DJ cost is $1,000, so you may be able to forgo that cost by setting up your own speakers attached to a computer for a small dance. For music, you are legally allowed to use a music streaming service like Spotify (but such events may violate the terms of service of such services depending on specifics). For emcee services, ask your most outgoing friend to help.

Strategy: Do the DJing yourself
Savings: $1,000

Stock the bar yourself

A wedding bartender typically costs $35 per hour, but that doesn’t include the cost of the alcohol, which adds up to $2,300, according to The Knot. You can save a lot of money here by simply hiring someone to bartend and providing the alcohol yourself, provided the venue is OK with that (check with them). You can save as much as 50% by sourcing your own alcohol.

Strategy: Source your own alcohol and hire a separate bartender (or ask a friend)
Savings: $1,150

Contact the local university

If you’re looking for live music for the ceremony or want a professional photographer, one approach to consider is to contact the local university. There may be music students or budding photographers who would love an opportunity to get started in the field and may charge a very reasonable price as they don’t yet have a large resume to lean on. Often, new people in a field are excited to prove themselves, so they’ll not only charge a reasonable price, but they’ll go the extra mile to perform well and build a reputation. Simply trimming even 20% off of the average wedding musician cost and the average wedding photographer cost adds up. There’s a risk, of course, when using a new person, but they’re also going to be very focused on the task at hand, as this is an opportunity for them.

Strategy: Contact the local university to find budding photographers or musicians who may want the opportunity
Savings: $800

Split the cost of decorations – and consider buying used

Non-floral wedding decorations can cost $600. This can be a perfect opportunity to go minimal by looking for used decorations. If you know someone who is getting married, you may be able to split the cost of decorations with them so that you both use them, cutting the cost by half. If you know of any recent weddings, you can also contact them and ask what they did with the decorations.

Strategy: Split the cost of decorations or buy them used
Savings: $300

If you’re getting married in a church, ask the auxiliary for help

If you’re getting married in a church or in the hall of a civic organization, ask if the auxiliary club associated with that venue has suggestions or ideas. While they might not be able to directly provide a lot of savings, they may be able to offer ideas and small services that can save a little, and they sometimes can point you to something unexpected that can be a huge savings.

Strategy: Ask the auxiliary club associated with the church or other organization where your wedding is being held for help
Savings: Small, but potentially big

Buy the wedding dress off the rack and on sale, or borrow and modify

The Knot reports that the average wedding dress costs $1,600, which is a tremendous cost for an item you’ll likely wear once. A much better idea? See if anyone in your family or among your close friends has their old dress and, if possible, see if you can borrow it. It may need some modifications to make it work well, but spending $200 on adjustments is better than $1,600 on a dress. If this isn’t an option, look for a used dress and modify it similarly — this will still be cheaper than buying a new one.

Strategy: Borrow or buy a wedding dress
Savings: $600-$1,400

Choose affordable, simple wedding rings

According to the Brides American Wedding survey, the average wedding ring pair cost $1,610. This is on top of the engagement ring, of course. A simple wedding band might be a great option, however. A simple band is low cost, understated, and won’t snag on clothing. If you go simple and simply cut 25% off of the cost of the rings, that’s a nice savings.

Strategy: Go with simple wedding bands
Savings: $400

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

The Wrong Way to Achieve Wealth

“Mr. Beaver, I am finally starting to earn real money in my medical practice but don’t know the first thing about investing. I need concrete advice on handling money, building wealth, but don’t want to become a slave to money.

“I have met with financial advisers, but lack a grasp of the terms they use and, frankly, am afraid of looking stupid, so I don’t ask them to explain. Do you know of a book that is meant for people like me, who need a basic education in personal finance, but that has a ‘human’ touch as well? Thanks, Karl.”

I just finished reading the answer to what Karl is searching for.  It’s Your Total Wealth: The Heart and Soul of Financial Literacy, by former university business professors Lyle Sussman, Ph.D. and David Dubofsky, Ph.D., CFA.

For anyone starting out in life, Your Total Wealth is the ideal read. It is the most unique and accessible financial advice resource I’ve ever seen and goes well beyond how to make money.

The authors give us a window into what “total wealth” means, how to achieve it, and demonstrate that it is much more than mere numbers. Total wealth is greater than the “stuff” we own or the balance in an investment account.

I wish that I had this book years ago, or as I tell my friends, “When I had hair.”

Applying Financial Definitions to the Real World – An Emotional Annuity

Your Total Wealth has a feature that I’ve never seen before. Pages on the left provide definitions, such as, Margin, Short Selling, Dollar Cost Averaging, Leverage – terms that most people do not understand, with examples. Pages on the right give readers a life lesson connected to the term just defined.  Here’s an example from the book:

Annuity: A financial annuity is a predictable payment stream, such as a retirement annuity offered by insurance companies, designed to pay for as long as you live.

The Life Lesson: An emotional annuity is a predictable, human bond of caring, commitment and concern. It says, “I’m here for you.” The next time you see an elderly couple walking down the street with smiles on their faces, holding hands, you are witnessing an emotional annuity payment.

When adult children take care of aging parents, those children are making an emotional annuity payment.

Your Total Wealth is filled with insights like that, financial terms and life lessons that get you thinking about living a richer life.

The Search for Monetary Wealth Has Its Own Costs

I asked the authors to discuss some of the things people do in the pursuit of financial wealth that lead to disappointment and failure in life.

Sussman: Failure to understand the cost of obsessively focusing on monetary wealth.

Consequences: Think of the Midas touch parable. If you are consumed by making money and greed, realize the cost you’ll pay. You lose family, self-esteem, happiness. These things often become unintended consequences of acquiring financial wealth.

Yes, we need money to live comfortably, but studies show that when our basic needs are met, more income does not mean greater happiness. I have met millionaires who admit missing something despite their great monetary wealth.

Dubofsky: Failure to be happy in your job and constantly chasing higher-paying jobs.

Consequences: You will pray for Fridays and hate Mondays! People with total wealth understand they must actively earn money in a way that does not result in losing the things they enjoy, friends and family.  If you are madly working just to pay one bill, another will be due later in life. 

It is the one that asks, “Did you achieve a balance between acquiring financial wealth and personal fulfilment? Did you wake up every day happy to go to work”?

It is the fortunate person who realizes early in life what results from being dedicated to income alone. They have the wisdom to look into the future, when they are older. And they ask, “What will be my legacy?”  

Sussman: Using credit for the wrong purposes. Borrowing money to go on an expensive vacation. Buying something unnecessary that you can’t afford.

Consequences: You will forgo future financial security. Borrowing money for a house is a sound use of credit, but not for an unaffordable vacation.  Leasing a car is fine – but don’t go overboard and lease something well beyond your means just to look successful. There are lots of “successful” people in bankruptcy court.

After reading the book, I can see it has a lot of sound advice that can help many types of people. Your Total Wealth is about living and how to use money to improve our lives and the people we care about. Giving a copy to young, new clients, would be a great way for a financial adviser to begin a professional relationship.

Attorney at Law, Author of “You and the Law”

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California’s Kern County District Attorney’s Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, “You and the Law.” Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. “I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift.” 

Source: kiplinger.com

[Update] Chase Credit Cards To Include “Cash-Like Transactions” as Cash Advance (Could Include Bank Funding)

(Update 4/18/21: Reposting this since it recently went into effect. I haven’t heard any practical ramifications yet, seems it was more of a warning shot. We’ll see.)

Chase sent out an email blast today on both consumer and business credit cards indicating that beginning in April they’ll broaden the cash advance category to include many ‘cash-like transactions’. These transactions would incur a cash advance fee, and won’t earn credit card rewards.

The new rule could make things funding bank accounts, buying crypto, lotto/gambling, P2P payments on Venmo or Paypal, PayPal Key, and even using bill payment services to be considered cash advances. (Plastiq is pretty good at figuring out when their transactions will be cash advance, and I expect they’ll let us know if there are any changes.)

Cash-like transactions will be treated as cash advances. Cash-like transactions include, but are not limited to, the following transactions to the extent they are accepted:

• purchasing travelers checks, foreign currency, money orders, wire transfers, cryptocurrency, other similar digital or virtual currency and other similar transactions;
• purchasing lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, race track wagers, and similar offline and online betting transactions;
• person-to-person money transfers and account-funding transactions that transfer currency; and
• making a payment using a third party service including bill payment transactions not made directly with the merchant or their service provider.

The effective date for this change is either April 10th or 16th with some people seeing one date and some seeing the other. We won’t know for certain how all this will all play out until we get there and see what happens on the ground. Most people got this on Chase business cards, but some are getting this on personal cards too, so it seems it’ll be true across all cards.

Source: doctorofcredit.com