What Can You Use Student Loans For?

To attend college these days, many students take out student loans. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to afford the hefty price tag of tuition and other expenses.

According to U.S. News & World Report, among the college graduates from the class of 2020 who took out student loans, the average amount borrowed was $29,927. In 2010, that number was $24,937 — a difference of about $5,000.

Student loans are meant to be used to pay for your education and related expenses so that you can earn a college degree. Even if you have access to student loan money, it doesn’t mean you should use it on general living expenses. By learning the answer to, “What can you use a student loan for?” you will make better use of your money and ensure you’re in a more stable financial situation post-graduation.

Recommended: I Didn’t Get Enough Financial Aid: Now What?

5 Things You Can Use Your Student Loans to Pay For

Here are five things you can spend your student loan funds on.

1. Your Tuition and Fees

Of course, the first thing your student loans are intended to cover is your college tuition and fees. The average college tuition and fees for a private institution in 2021-2022 is $38,185, while the average for a public, out-of-state school is $22,698 and $10,338 for a public, in-state institution.

2. Books and Supplies

Beyond tuition and fees, student loans can be used to purchase your textbooks and supplies, such as a laptop, notebooks and pens, and a backpack. Keep in mind that you may be able to save money by purchasing used textbooks online or at your campus bookstore. Hard copy textbooks cost, on average, between $80 and $150; you may be able to find used ones for a fraction of the price. Some students may find that renting textbooks may also be a cost-saving option.

Recommended: How to Pay for College Textbooks

3. Housing Costs

Your student loans can be used to pay for your housing costs, whether you live in a dormitory or off-campus. If you do live off-campus, you can also put your loans towards paying for related expenses like your utilities bill. Compare the costs of on-campus vs. off-campus housing, and consider getting a roommate to help you cover the costs of living off-campus.

4. Transportation

If you have a car on campus or you need to take public transportation to get to school, work, or your internships, then you can use your student loans to pay for those costs. Even if you have a car, you may want to consider leaving it at home when you go away to school, because gas, maintenance, and a parking pass could end up costing much more than using public transportation and your school’s shuttle, which should be free.

5. Food

What else can you use student loans for? Food would qualify as a valid expense, whether you’re cooking meals at home or you’ve signed up for a meal plan. This doesn’t mean you should eat out at fancy restaurants all the time just because the money is there. Instead, you could save by cooking at home, splitting food costs with a roommate, and asking if local establishments have discounts for college students.

Recommended: How to Get Out of Student Loan Debt: 6 Options

5 Things Your Student Loans Should Not Cover

Now that you know what student loans can be used for, you’re likely wondering what they should not be used for as well. Here are five expenses that cannot be covered with funds from your student loans.

1. Entertainment

While you love to do things like go to the movies and concerts and bowling, you should not use your student loans to pay for your entertainment. Your campus likely offers plenty of free and low-cost entertainment like sports games and movie nights, so pursue those opportunities instead.

2. A Vacation

College is draining, and you deserve a vacation from the stress every once in a while. However, if you can’t afford to go on spring break or another type of trip, then you should put it off at this time. It’s never a good idea to use your student loans to cover these expenses.

3. Gym Membership

You may have belonged to a gym at home before you went to college, and you still want to keep up your membership there. You can, as long as you don’t use your student loans to cover it. Many colleges and universities have a gym or fitness center on campus that is available to students and included in the cost of tuition.

4. A New Car

Even if you need a new car, student loans cannot be used to buy a new set of wheels. Consider taking public transportation instead of buying a modest used car when you save up enough money.

5. Extra Food Costs

While you and your roommates may love pizza, it’s not a good idea to use your student loan money to cover that cost. You also shouldn’t take your family out to eat or dine out too much with that borrowed money. Stick to eating at home or in the dining hall, and only going out to eat every once in a while with your own money.

Student Loan Spending Rules

The federal code that applies to the misuse of student loan money is clear. Any person who “knowingly and willfully” misapplied funds could face a fine or imprisonment.

Your student loan refund — what’s left after your scholarships, grants, and loans are applied toward tuition, campus housing, fees, and other direct charges — isn’t money that’s meant to be spent willy-nilly. It’s meant for education-related expenses.

The amount of financial aid a student receives is based largely on each academic institution’s calculated “cost of attendance,” which may include factors like your financial need and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your cost of attendance minus your EFC generally helps determine how much need-based aid you’re eligible for. Eligibility for non-need-based financial aid is determined by subtracting all of the aid you’ve already received from your cost of attendance.

Starting for the 2024-2025 school year, the EFC will be replaced with the Student Aid Index (SAI). The SAI will work similarly to the EFC though there will be some important changes such as adjustments in Pell Grant eligibility.

Additionally, when you took out a student loan, you probably signed a promissory note that outlined what you’re supposed to be spending your loan money on. Those restrictions may vary depending on what kind of loan you received — federal or private, subsidized or unsubsidized. If the restrictions weren’t clear, it’s not a bad idea to ask your lender, “What can I use my student loan for?”

If you’re interested in adjusting loan terms or securing a new interest rate, you could consider refinancing your student loans with SoFi. Refinancing can allow qualifying borrowers to secure a lower interest rate or preferable terms, which could potentially save them money over the long run. Refinancing federal loans eliminates them from all federal borrower benefits and protections, inducing deferment options and the ability to pursue public service loan forgiveness, so it’s not the right choice for all borrowers.

The Takeaway

Student loans can be used to pay for qualifying educational expenses like tuition and fees, room and board, and supplies like books, pens, a laptop, and a backpack. Expenses like entertainment, vacations, cars, and fancy dinners cannot generally be paid for using student loans.

If you have student loans and are interested in securing a new — potentially lower — interest rate, consider refinancing.

There are no fees to refinance a student loan with SoFi and potential borrowers can find out if they pre-qualify, and at what rates, in just a few minutes.

Learn more about student loan refinancing with SoFi.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF JANUARY 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Source: sofi.com

How to Get the Best Price on a Rental Car – 10 Simple Steps

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

Do you recognize this scenario? You’re planning to rent a small car for a vacation or business trip. Yet somehow, when you walk away from the car rental counter, you’re holding the keys to a much bigger car with a much bigger price tag. 

If this has happened to you, it was no accident. You were a victim of upselling — one of the many tricks car rental companies use to squeeze more money out of you. They lure you, scare you, or badger you into driving away with a bigger car than you planned. 

To save money on car rentals, you need to beat the agencies at their own game. First, do some research to figure out exactly what car you need. Then, shop around and use discounts to make sure you pay the lowest possible rate for it. 

How to Get the Best Price on a Rental Car

Getting the best rate on your car rental is largely a matter of doing your homework. You have to know what kind of car you need, when to book it, and where to shop for the best prices. You also need to know how to avoid tricky upsells and hidden fees.

1. Know What You Need

If you’ve ever rented a car before, you know rental companies often try to upsell you. When you arrive to pick up your vehicle, they don’t hand over the keys right away. 

Instead, they suggest you upgrade to a larger model than the one you booked. Often, they say it will offer more comfort, more power, or even better gas mileage. 

That last statement is unlikely to be true. In general, bigger cars use more gas than smaller ones. If you let the rental clerk talk you into a bigger model, you’ll end up paying more for gas and the car itself.

As for the extra room and extra power, they probably don’t matter. If you’re driving by yourself or with just one or two other people, a compact car should have enough space. And you’re unlikely to need more power unless you’re planning to drive up steep mountain roads or in deep snow.

If there’s any doubt in your mind about how much car you need, do some research before you book. Look for reviews of the model you’re considering and see what owners say about its comfort, mileage, and power. 

Then, when the clerk starts trying to sell you on a bigger model, you can say with confidence that the one you booked is just fine for your needs.

2. Book Early, Especially During Peak Travel Times

Car rental companies have a limited number of cars in their fleets. During peak travel times, every vehicle is in demand as customers flock to travel destinations. And when demand outstrips supply, prices go up. That’s simple economics.

So if you’re traveling during a busy travel season, reserve your car as far in advance as possible. You’ll avoid paying a premium for booking during the busy season or, worse still, finding the vehicle you want is unavailable.

3. Take Advantage of Discounts

Never pay full price for a rental car without checking for discounts first. There are all kinds of programs that can offer you a better price on a rental, including:

  • Military Discounts. Many car rental companies, including Alamo and Budget, offer discounts for military service members and veterans. Some also have special deals for other government employees or first responders, such as firefighters and police. If you belong to any of these groups, always ask about discounts when booking a rental.
  • USAA Rates. If your spouse or parent is in the military, you could get a discount through USAA. This financial provider serves active military members, veterans, and their spouses and children. Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz have special USAA rates. 
  • Senior Discounts. Several rental car agencies work with AARP to provide discounts for older adults. AARP members can save up to 30% at Avis, Budget, and Payless. And all travelers over 50 can get lower prices from Hertz through its Fifty Plus program.
  • Corporate Codes. Many businesses have partnerships with car rental companies. Their employees get better rates, and the agencies benefit from the extra business. Check your corporate travel site to see if your company has such a program. 
  • University Codes. Universities also cut deals with rental car agencies. Both students and alumni can get lower daily rates and other perks, such as a free additional driver. Check the student benefits or alumni deals page for rental car discounts.
  • Frequent Flyer Programs. Some frequent flyer programs can get you a reduced rate on a car rental. For instance, United MileagePlus members enjoy discounts and earn bonus miles when they rent through Hertz.
  • AAA. Being a member of AAA gets you discounts on all kinds of services, including rental cars. Currently, members can save between 8% and 20% off the base rate with Thrifty, Dollar, or Hertz. Check your local AAA website for the latest deals.
  • Costco. This warehouse club offers discounts on a lot more than groceries. One of the many benefits of Costco membership is its discounts on car rentals from Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise. Visit the Costco Travel site to access the latest exclusive deals.

4. Join a Loyalty Program

Many rental car agencies have loyalty programs that offer various discounts and perks. Most loyalty programs are free to join, and it takes only a few minutes to sign up.  

Joining one of these programs could get you benefits like:

  • Free upgrades
  • The ability to skip the line when you pick up your rental
  • A guarantee the car you sign up for will be available
  • An account that stores your rental preferences for future use
  • Rewards points you can cash in for free rentals or upgrades

And there’s nothing to stop you from signing up for multiple programs. You could join one for each rental agency you use. In fact, if you’ve already reached elite status with one company, you can usually carry over that status when you sign up for another agency’s program as well.

Some agencies, such as Avis and Hertz, also have special programs just for small-business owners. If you own a small business, these programs can give you a percentage off the base price every time you rent a car.

5. Compare Prices

Joining a loyalty program doesn’t mean you have to be loyal to one car rental company. It always makes sense to shop around and see if another company can offer a better price.

You could do that by calling several companies for quotes, but you don’t have to. There are several websites you can use to check rental prices across multiple agencies. 

One leading comparison site is AutoSlash. This free site factors in discounts from AAA and Costco and searches for online coupons to cut your rental price. It even notifies you if the rental rate drops after you book your car. That allows you to cancel it and rebook at the lower price.

However, AutoSlash isn’t the only site in the business. Other places to look for deals include CarRentals.com, Kayak, and Priceline.

6. Check Smaller Car Rental Companies

When you’re comparing prices, don’t limit yourself to the major rental car agencies. Small off-brand agencies such as Fox Rent A Car can offer significantly lower rates than the big companies.

These small agencies aren’t available everywhere, and they may not show up in results from sites like AutoSlash. But if there’s one in your area, it’s worth a call to see if they can beat the big companies’ prices. To find small local agencies, search the Internet for “car rental near me.”

7. Look for Coupon Codes

When you’re searching for rental car prices, do an extra search for coupon codes you can tack on at checkout. With the right code, you can save as much as 50% off the regular rental rate. 

On top of that, you can often combine these coupon codes with other discounts. For instance, they sometimes stack with savings from loyalty programs or frequent flyer programs.

If you shop through AutoSlash, it automatically seeks coupon codes for you. Other places to look for deals include Groupon and LivingSocial. Also, money-saving browser extensions like Capital One Shopping search for coupon codes and apply them every time you shop. 

8. Read the Fine Print

It’s not unusual to see online ads promising car rentals as low as $15 per day. These prices sound too good to be true — and they are. The price you pay is usually much higher due to taxes and fees excluded from the advertised rate. 

You can’t avoid all these extra fees. However, you can at least be aware of them to avoid any surprises. And you can always say no to extraneous car rental fees.

When comparing prices, look at the final price with all taxes and fees included. That way, you know you’re comparing apples to apples. 

9. Prepay

Most car rental companies offer two different daily rental rates: one for prepayment and a higher one for paying when you pick up the car (or simply renting on the spot). For instance, Budget charges rates up to 35% less when you pay ahead.

But despite the savings, prepaying isn’t always the smart move. If you prepay for your car and have to change your plans, you could get hit with a hefty cancellation fee. 

For instance, Alamo charges $50 for canceling a prepaid rental or $100 if you cancel with less than 24 hours’ notice. Canceling a regular reservation is only $50 with less than 24 hours’ notice and free if you cancel earlier than that. 

To avoid these fees, don’t prepay for your rental unless your travel schedule is fixed.

10. Use a Rewards Card

Once you’ve decided which car to rent and where, there’s still one more way to save: by choosing the right card to pay with. Many travel rewards credit cards, such as Chase Sapphire Reserve, offer special perks and discounts on car rentals. 

Depending on the card, you could pay a lower daily or weekly rate or earn extra rewards points. You could also get perks like free upgrades, free rental car insurance, a free additional driver, or a grace period on late returns.

Moreover, if you already have rewards points on one of these cards, you can sometimes get a bonus by cashing them in for travel deals, including car rentals. If your card offers a 50% bonus on travel, you could book a $30-per-day car rental with only $20 worth of rewards.


Final Word

There’s one tip that could potentially save you more than anything else. When planning your trip, think carefully about whether you need a rental car at all. 

In some cases, you can get by without a car. Instead, you can rely on a combination of rides from friends, public transportation, and ridesharing. 

That works particularly well if you only need the vehicle to get to and from the airport. In that case, paying by the ride is probably cheaper than renting a car that will spend most of the trip parked.

Another option is to take advantage of the sharing economy. It’s often possible to get a car through a peer-to-peer service like Turo for much less than a traditional rental. 

These services can offer access to vehicles rental agencies don’t have, such as sports cars or electric vehicles. And you don’t have to deal with any high-pressure sales tactics at the rental counter.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

The Best Cities for Public Transportation

If you’re looking to have an easy commute or just want to spend less time in your car, these cities are great options for using public transportation.

According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Americans board public transportation 34 million times. Every. Single. Weekday.

That adds up to a whopping 9.9 billion trips per year. And why not? Beyond the obvious savings of traveling by bus, train, trolley or metro — both financial and environmental — leaving the driving to someone else allows you to kick back and text, read, work, or snooze to your heart’s content. And let’s be honest, road rage is for suckers.

If you’re one of us in-the-know commuters, you’re going to want to check out our list of the best cities in America for public transportation.

Takeaways about the best cities for public transportation

You’re used to looking at route maps, right? Yeah, we know. This is why we created this interactive map to highlight the top 150 cities for public transportation. Can you guess which cities made our top 10? You’re probably not too far off.

Dashboard 1
  • The Northeast region has the strongest representation among our top 10.
  • The No. 1 city boasts a whopping 1,148 stations across the city.
  • Providence, RI has the lowest price for a monthly unlimited pass.

These are the 10 best cities for public transportation

The best cities for public transportation are mostly urban centers with fantastic infrastructure. So, don’t expect to see a “city” like Des Moines make the cut.

And while the East Coast may have the slightest overall edge, you’ll find at least a couple of cities in every major region of the country represented here. Read on to find out which U.S. cities are the best for public transportation.

10. Minneapolis, MN

minneapolis mn

minneapolis mn

Minneapolis is serious about keeping its citizens warm and comfortable. Take, for example, the Minneapolis Skyway, a 9.5-mile network of enclosed heated walkways. And while that makes traveling on foot a breeze — even in the dead of winter — sometimes, you need to travel farther than your own two feet will take you.

And for those trips, there’s the METRO light-rail, along with 18 bus lines to choose from, including fare-free “Free Ride” buses you can hop on along Nicollet Mall.

Even for the rides that aren’t free, your public transportation budget will go far in Minneapolis — the second cheapest city in our top 10 for transport (monthly unlimited).

Think living in this half of the Twin Cities is your speed? Get the scoop on the best neighborhoods in Minneapolis, find an apartment and stock up on some serious winter wear.

9. Miami, FL

miami fl

miami fl

Is Minneapolis too chilly (OK, frigid) for your taste? Perhaps you should consider the opposite tip of the country. Down in Miami, the vibe is endless sunshine and permanent vacation mode. And while traffic is no joke (understatement), public transportation is a stress-free way to get around the city.

First, you’ve got the charming free trolleys, which come every 15 minutes. If no-charge sounds pretty good, you’ll also love the Metromover, which you can pick up in Brickell or Downtown. Trying to get down to Coral Gables, Coconut Grove or South Miami? Hop on the Metrorail. And for getting around Miami Beach, the bus is your best option. Get up to speed on everything you need to know about living in Miami and start searching for your South Florida apartment.

8. Philadelphia, PA

philadelphia pa

philadelphia pa

Living in Philly gives you all the East Coast arts, culture, education and sports you can handle — without the N.Y.C. price tag. You get a lot more bang for your buck in Philadelphia, and you’ll still find a public transportation system that rivals that of the Big Apple.

The Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is the country’s sixth-largest public transit system. More than 1.3 million people ride SEPTA’s train, subway, trolley and bus lines every day. The extensive system makes it simple and convenient to explore all that both Philadelphia and the surrounding areas have to offer.

7. Providence, RI

providence rhode island

providence rhode island

If you live in Providence, you’ll enjoy the cheapest price for a monthly unlimited travel pass among our top 10. The capital of our nation’s smallest state is home to Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Getting around town is a breeze for co-eds, commuters and everyone in-between.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) provides low-cost bus and trolley services around the city. In the summer, there are even routes to the beach. Better yet, all of the buses have bike racks so you can explore Rhode Island on two wheels. And if you want to really soak up the scenery, take the hour-long ferry ride from Providence to Newport.

Plus, Providence is a stop on one of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) commuter rail lines, so you can get to Boston in just over an hour.

6. Seattle, WA

seattle wa

seattle wa

Have you ever gazed out over the Puget Sound at the majestic Cascade Mountains on one of those magical sunny days in Seattle? It’s the kind of scene you don’t soon forget. And while those sunny days are somewhat rare, there’s a lot to love about living in Seattle, from the coffee culture to the ease of getting around on the fantastic public transportation system.

Grab an ORCA card and hop on the city’s easy-to-navigate streetcars, light rail and busses. Not only are there ferries from which to soak up those amazing views, but Seattle also boasts a monorail. Considering a move to Emerald City? Scope out the best neighborhoods in Seattle, then start searching for a place to live.

5. Chicago, IL

chicago il

chicago il

Even if you’ve never ridden it before, you’ve probably heard of “the L.” Short for “elevated train,” locals and visitors alike love the L because it’s both cheap and easy to use. And here in a city with two airports, easy public transportation is key.

Take the L’s Blue Line to O’Hare International Airport (ORD) or the Orange Line to get to Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW). The Chicago Transit Authority also has an extensive bus system, while the Metra regional train system will take you through downtown Chicago and to the suburbs and cities beyond. Whether you’re looking to live large in a luxury apartment building, or you’re looking for a budget-conscious ‘hood, you’ll find a wide range of apartments in Chicago.

4. San Francisco, CA

san francisco ca

san francisco ca

Here’s the thing about living in San Francisco. As far as cities go, it’s fairly compact, so nothing is too far away. Which makes it seem like you’ll probably be fine on foot. But there’s one huge consideration — the hills. Depending on how big your calf muscles are, and how hard you want them to work, you’re going to need to lean on public transportation at some point to cruise you up those inclines.

Fortunately, you can travel in style on the city’s iconic trolleys. Or, take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), a rail system that will take you all around the Bay Area. If you’re staying in the city, MUNI has you covered with an extensive network of trains, buses and cable cars. If there’s one place you don’t need a car, it’s San Francisco. Plus, the city is expensive enough without paying for your own set of wheels.

3. Washington, D.C.

washington dc

washington dc

OK, let’s start with the bad news: Washington, D.C. is the third-most congested city in the country. Boo. But that’s exactly why you don’t want a car here, or really need one for that matter. The best way to escape road rage? On the subway. The Metrorail is the most efficient way to get around Washington, D.C. There’s also the Metrobus and the D.C. Circulator if you want to brave the roads — and prefer your public transportation with a bit of natural sunlight.

And since there are so many sights to see, even locals can appreciate the more tourist-oriented modes of transportation. Spend a sunny day on a boat ride across the Potomac, or hop on one of D.C.’s trolley tours to soak up the sights without stress. Fancy living in the nation’s capital? Take a quiz to find out which Washington, D.C., neighborhood is best for you.

2. Boston, MA

boston ma

boston ma

Beantown is an excellent city to traverse on foot. And when you’re not walking, you’re going to want to hop on the “T.” More formally known as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), the five-line system has subways, trains, buses and trolleys that connect you to all of downtown Boston’s neighborhoods.

And who doesn’t love water taxis? Cruise across Boston Harbor on a boat and pat yourself on the back for avoiding some of the country’s worst traffic. Warming up to the idea of an East Coast move? Get up to speed on the cost of living in Boston, then find your perfect Boston apartment.

1. New York, NY

new york ny

new york ny

No surprise here, right? New York has long been the best city for public transportation in America. Of course, there are the iconic yellow taxis, but you simply can’t get much more connected than New York’s subway system. This impressive 24-hour network goes well beyond the city to shuttle commuters to both Long Island and New Jersey. With 1,148 train stations and 1,224 station lines, New York is untouchable when it comes to public transportation.

Having a car in N.Y.C. is not only near impossible (financially and otherwise), it’s simply not necessary. Put all of the energy you save in navigating the roads into your New York apartment search. It’s no secret that the Big Apple requires a big budget, and finding an affordable apartment is going to take some research. Start by figuring out which New York neighborhood is best for your lifestyle.

Methodology

To find the best cities for public transportation, we looked at metrics related to public transportation usage, accessibility and cost.

Features were normalized and then weighted based on the following scale:

Usage: 25 points

  • Percentage of public transportation users: 25 points

Accessibility: 50 points

  • Bus Lines per density: 10 points
  • Public transit stations per density: 10 points
  • Number of tracks: 10 points
  • Transit lines per density: 10 points
  • Number of transit systems: 10 points

Cost: 25 points

  • Price for a 30-day pass: 12.5 points
  • Percentage of pass cost related to local mean income: 12.5 points

Transit system info was from citylines.co. Transit cost was from ValuePenguin. Bus lines were from a database of 8 million commercially available business listings. These listings may not reflect recent changes to bus line availability. Usage is from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory as of October 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.

The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

Source: rent.com

How to Financially Prepare for a Child – 13 Steps to Take

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Additional Resources

Stressed about how much it costs to have and raise kids?

Having extra mouths to feed barely scratches the surface of the expenses to come. From larger housing to larger cars, higher health care costs to higher education, diapers to child care, strap in for a costly ride.

But like everything else in life, it helps to be prepared. The better your financial planning, the better you can navigate the costs without derailing your current lifestyle. 

How to Financially Prepare for a Child

If you tried to make every ideal financial move before having kids, you’d reach retirement age before even trying. So don’t think of these as prerequisites for trying to get pregnant. 

Instead, think of them as parts of your larger financial plan that apply more than ever as you start having children.

1. Reconsider Your Income

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing low-paying work you love. I never believed my mother — an educator — when she said, “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” She proved me wrong by achieving a seven-figure net worth through frugal living, working a side hustle (tutoring), and consistent investing. 

But your motivation matters. There’s a difference between choosing a modest-income career because you’re passionate about it and being stuck in one due to inertia. 

I know teachers who love what they do and wouldn’t want another job even if someone offered to double their salary. Others coast their way through every tedious lesson plan. 

If you don’t love what you do, go back to the drawing board. That goes doubly if you also don’t love your salary. 

Brainstorm jobs that provide fulfillment and meaning to you personally. Then get creative and explore remote positions, jobs that provide free housing, or jobs that pay well even without a college degree. 

Choose a career that fulfills you both personally and financially. It doesn’t need to pay a huge salary, but aim to get up every morning happy with the career choice you made. 

2. Enroll in Health Insurance

Pregnancy is expensive. So are delivery, infant checkups, and pediatric health care in general. If you do nothing else before your baby arrives, get health insurance. 

Fortunately, not having insurance through your employer doesn’t mean you have to go without it. Explore options for health insurance without employer coverage. There are even part-time jobs that provide medical insurance. 

Note that families with a high-deductible health insurance plan may well burn through every dollar of that deductible over the course of pregnancy, delivery, and the first few months of life. Plan accordingly. 

Low-income families can explore the Children’s Health Insurance Program as another option.

3. Revamp Your Budget

Once upon a time, I spent more money on happy hours, dinners out, concerts, and entertainment in general. My budget looked different before I got married, and then it changed again after my wife and I had children. 

That’s normal. Your budget isn’t static. It’s a living thing that evolves over time alongside your life. And if you do it right, you can save more money even after having children. I managed to do it through a mix of house hacking, getting rid of a car, and moving overseas. 

If you don’t have one, create a formal budget. If you do have one, look over all your budgeting categories and start brainstorming ways to spend less and save more. 

4. Check Your Emergency Fund

You never know when an emergency or unexpected job loss could leave you without an income. And when you have children, the stakes are higher. 

As you prepare for the responsibility of a family, set up an emergency fund to cover two to 12 months’ worth of expenses. 

How much you need depends on the stability of your income and expenses. The more variable each is, the more months of living expenses you should stash away. An average person needs three to six months’ expenses, but people with inconsistent incomes or living expenses need closer to a year’s worth. 

You can always temporarily cut out costs like entertainment or a gym membership to save on expenses. But needs like electricity and food are nonnegotiable. 

And while some of your expenses may go down while you’re unemployed (such as gasoline), others may go up. For example, if you spend $200 per month on employer-subsidized health insurance, that expense may rise while you’re unemployed, as you may be forced onto a new plan or required to pay for your current plan in full.

5. Get Serious About Paying Off Unsecured Debts

Many people have unsecured debts, such as credit card debt, personal loans, and student loans. And those often come with high interest rates that exceed the long-term returns you can earn by investing. 

That makes paying off your unsecured debts a high priority. Follow a structured plan to pay them off quickly, such as the debt snowball method. 

Once you incur the added expenses that come with having kids, you’re less likely to have room in your budget to chip away at that old debt. Plus, the interest on it can make the expenses your child requires that much harder to manage.

While baby-related expenses tend to be significant initially, they don’t completely go away once your children are done with diapers. In fact, school-age kids can cost more than infants because they require more expensive clothing and food as well as money for activities like soccer lessons and ballet classes.

6. Plan for Child Care

Child care is the elephant in the room when planning the financial costs of having children. 

Explore all your child care options, from nannies and au pairs to day care to relatives and friends. If one parent doesn’t love their job, you can explore becoming a single-income family, with one parent staying home for the first few years of your children’s lives. 

Whatever you decide, plan and budget accordingly — because parental leave will be over before you blink. 

7. Plan for Baby Essentials

My wife wouldn’t let me try this experiment, but I believe you could get everything you need for an infant for free — or almost anything. 

Diapers cost money, and there are some things you should never buy used for safety reasons. Everything else you can get either free through services like Freecycle or inexpensively used via eBay, Craigslist, or local garage sales. 

Whether you buy used or new, get creative to save money on baby gear. See this baby supplies checklist from The Bump to ensure you plan for every need. 

8. Update Your Will

Your estate plan does more than tell your family and friends who gets your autographed guitars after you die. It also makes provisions for child care if you die prematurely. Your will can include provisions for an unborn child, which you can amend after they’re born.

You have a couple of options for creating a will (or any other estate planning documents):

  • Do It Yourself. You don’t need a lawyer to create a valid will. You simply need to be 18 or older and of sound mind. You also need to sign your will in front of two witnesses and ensure it’s accessible once you die. You can use an online service like Trust & Will to draft one affordably.
  • Hire an Attorney. The cost is significantly more, but a lawyer handles all the details for you. Expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $1,000 for a basic will. If your assets and estate are complex or you need to establish a trust, it could cost upward of $10,000.

Optional Financial Moves to Consider

Some moves could help you feel more ready for kids, though they aren’t strictly necessary. If you can’t do them, no need to worry. In fact, some people may decide holding off on these is smarter than doing it before they have kids. 

So consider this type of financial planning purely optional: a list of ideas for thought rather than more reasons to fret. 

9. Reevaluate Your Housing

You can care for an infant in a studio apartment. They certainly won’t know the difference. But that doesn’t mean you’d enjoy it. 

As a long-term planning exercise, think about what type of home you want to live in for the next few years. You don’t need extra bedrooms or bathrooms right away, as infants can sleep in the same room as you for a while. Even when they move out of your room, they could move into a room with an older sibling. 

But you may decide you want a larger home, so start thinking about what that looks like and how to pay for it. Only buy a home if you plan to stay for at least a few years, as closing costs on either end of the transaction make it cheaper to rent otherwise. 

10. Reevaluate Your Transportation

If you and your spouse each drive two-seat sports cars, one of you may need to swap it out for a more family-friendly option. 

Of course, you don’t always need a car. My wife and I don’t have one. We simply take the car seat with us when we hire an Uber. I also installed a baby seat on my bike so I can transport my daughter that way too. 

Consider the public transportation, walkability, and bikeability of the area you live in. It’s possible you could live without a car too.

But most Americans drive cars as their primary means of transportation, so if yours is either too small to fit your whole family or unreliable, it’s probably time to get a different one. But explore used cars first as a more budget-friendly option. 

Give yourself more flexibility by choosing three to five models you’d be happy to buy, and shop around among both dealerships and individual owners to find the ideal used car for you and your growing family.  

11. Buy Life Insurance or Disability Insurance

In households with one breadwinner or a partner who significantly outearns the other, life insurance makes sense. You want to ensure your family would survive financially if it lost that primary breadwinner. 

Life insurance policies come in two broad buckets:

  • Term Life Insurance. Term life offers coverage for a specified period. It’s generally cheaper and comes with a guaranteed set death benefit. With term life insurance, your premiums increase at preset intervals, such as 10, 20, or 30 years.
  • Whole or Universal Life Insurance. Also known as permanent life insurance, whole or universal life insurance death benefits never expire as long as you pay premiums. These policies often also provide certain living benefits, such as the ability to borrow money against the policy.

As a rule of thumb, your death benefit should be six to eight times your annual salary. But there are other considerations to take into account, such as your homeownership status and anticipated number of dependents as well as how much you can afford. 

If you’re unsure about your coverage needs, talk to an independent financial advisor and shop around for the right plan. You can compare policies on sites like Policygenius and GoCompare.

The same concepts apply to long-term disability insurance. Both protect against the risk of the breadwinner losing their ability to earn. 

Granted, not everyone needs life insurance or disability insurance.

For example, my wife and I live on one income even though we both work. We live on her income and save every dime of mine. And we don’t have life or disability insurance because we maintain low living expenses relative to our income and a high savings rate to build our net worth quickly. 

If either of us kicked the bucket tomorrow, each of our incomes would be enough in itself to support ourselves and our child, and the surviving spouse would have a hefty nest egg to fall back on in a crunch. 

Avoiding the need for life insurance and disability insurance by “self-insuring” are two of the many hidden benefits of pursuing a financially independent lifestyle. Once you build enough money, you can opt out of life and disability insurance. 

12. Double Down on Retirement Investments

I joke that my backup plan for retirement is my daughter. If she were old enough to get the joke, she wouldn’t laugh. 

The worst thing you can put on your adult children is asking them to take care of you in retirement. It adds a burden on them in an already hectic time of their lives, when they’re trying to start and raise their own families. 

Before you even consider setting aside money for their college education, take a closer look at your retirement investments. If you have the slightest worries about them, put more money into your tax-sheltered retirement accounts long before saving money for your kids’ college tuition. 

They have many other ways to pay for college, but you only have one way to pay for your retirement. 

Invest money now so it can start compounding, and decide what to do with it later. You can withdraw contributions from a Roth individual retirement account tax- and penalty-free to put toward any costs, but you can only use 529 plans or ESAs for education costs.

13. Invest to Help With College Costs

Not paying your kids’ college tuition doesn’t make you a bad parent. Young adults who pay for their own college education often take the experience much more seriously. And many parents question whether to help with college even when they can afford it. 

Even small amounts invested when your child is young can compound into significant sums by the time they turn 18. If you decide to chip in, you have several tax-friendly options to do so. 

  • 529 Plan. Your 529 college savings plan earnings grow and remain tax-free if you spend them on qualified educational expenses. 
  • Coverdell Education Savings Account. A Coverdell ESA works similarly to a Roth IRA for education expenses. There are income limits ($110,000 for single filers and $220,000 for married), and the maximum allowable yearly contribution is $2,000, regardless of your income.
  • Upromise.Upromise allows you to earn cash back to use to pay for college. Unlike 529 plans and ESAs, you don’t have to contribute additional money. Rather, you earn cash back on expenses like online retail purchases and restaurant meals.

In all cases, you can open the accounts early and designate your child as a beneficiary after birth.


Final Word

As much as I preach fiscal responsibility, I know firsthand that putting off children doesn’t always make sense, financially or otherwise.

My wife and I married in our early 30s and agreed to spend one year building a foundation for our marriage before having children. Then one year became two, then three. 

I started a business, and my wife worried about money. Then we went through a rough patch in our marriage. We survived it but had reached our late 30s by that point. 

When we finally started trying in earnest, nothing happened, which kicked off a stretch of infertility questions and interventions. Eventually, we did have a child, but not all couples are so lucky. 

Many of my friends haven’t experienced the joy of having children despite spending large sums of money — not to mention enduring immense heartache — trying to do so. In one of life’s bitter ironies, many delayed trying for children because they worried about money. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I know plenty of parents without much money who have multiple children. And every one of them finds a way to make it work.

There’s no perfect time to have children. They disrupt your life in every possible way. But like billions of parents with less money than you have, you’ll find a way to make it work too.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

31 Ideas for Doing Thanksgiving Inexpensively

If you’ve ever hosted Thanksgiving dinner, you likely know how easy it is for costs to spiral. Between appetizers, drinks, the turkey, sides, and pies, you can easily rack up (multiple!) large tabs at the grocery store.

Even if you’re just traveling to have Thanksgiving with family or friends, you can end up putting a big dent in your spending account. Airlines and hotels often charge a premium during high-demand times like Thanksgiving weekend.

To avoid overspending just a few weeks before gift-giving season, read on. We’ve got 31 ways to keep your Thanksgiving costs under control.

Thanksgiving on a Budget: How to Save

Here are some simple strategies for doing Thanksgiving inexpensively this year. Bonus: They can also help you save time — and stress.

1. Stocking Up as Stuff Goes on Sale

Throughout November, stores typically have different Thanksgiving dinner items on sale. Grabbing nonperishables whenever you see them on discount can save a bundle, and also help spread out the cost of the meal.

2. Making It a Potluck

Whether you’re celebrating with family or friends, you can make Thanksgiving inexpensive by asking your guests to each contribute a dish. You can coordinate who is bringing what in advance to make sure there are no overlaps or gaps.

3. Checking Coupon Sites

Before heading out to the grocery store, you may want to check out coupon websites like Coupons.com , LOZO , and CouponMom to find deals on the items on your shopping list.

4. Going to Manufacturers’ Websites

A few major brands likely produce many of the items on your Thanksgiving shopping list. It can be worth checking websites like Butterball and General Mills for coupons and seasonal promos.

5. Getting Your Grocery Store’s App

Many supermarkets have apps that offer coupons and deals. Sometimes you can get a reward just for signing up.

6. Hitting More Than One Store

Going to just one supermarket is obviously more convenient. But if you check the circulars, you may see different items on sale at different stores. Going to a few different grocery stores could lead to significant savings.

7. Buying a Store-Brand Frozen Turkey

Typically, a turkey makes up about 40% of the cost of the Thanksgiving meal. Opting for a store-brand frozen bird, rather than a fresh one, can significantly lower your total outlay for the meal.

8. Splitting the Costs

You may want to consider teaming up with a sibling or other family member to co-host this year’s gathering. That way you can spit all of the costs, rather than foot the entire bill.

9. Buying Basics in Bulk

Buying staples like flour, potatoes, eggs, cream, and butter from a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club can help you spend a lot less on food, as long as you’re not buying more than you need or will use up after Thanksgiving.

Recommended: How to Buy in Bulk: Beginners Guide

10. Going Generic

Many times, generic or store-brand products are just as good as the brand name version, and the only real difference is price.

11. Asking Guests to BYOB

Wine, beer, and other alcohol can add up quickly. One easy way to save money is to ask your guests to bring their favorite beverage. That way, everyone will get to sip something they love, and you won’t have to shell out all that extra money.

12. Sticking With Seasonal Produce

Vegetables that are in season in November, such as sweet potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts, and white potatoes, will typically cost a lot less than out-of-season picks, such as corn, asparagus, and green beans.

13. Going With Frozen Veggies

If you want to use veggies that aren’t in season, you may want to choose the frozen versions, which are generally much cheaper than fresh.

14. Baking Your Own Bread

Baking bread can be fun, and typically involves spending a lot less than buying rolls or loaves at a bakery. You can also make bread ahead of time and stick it in the freezer until the big day.

15. Going Simple with Sides

It can be tempting to try a new gourmet recipe you saw online or in your favorite food magazine, but fancy recipes often require specialty ingredients — and can end up costing a lot to make.

16. Not Going Overboard

You may love the idea of giving your guests a cornucopia of options, especially when it comes to appetizers and sides. But making a lot of different dishes can lead to a much longer and costlier grocery bill. And, much of that food may end up going to waste.

17. Getting a Bigger Turkey Than You Need

Yes, this sounds like a way to increase costs. Going with a larger bird, however, can pay off by giving you several additional meals, like turkey sandwiches and turkey pot pies, you can make later without going back to the store, or spending another dime.

18. Considering Pre-Made Dishes

Sometimes store-made dishes and desserts can actually be cheaper than buying all of the ingredients and making these things yourself. It can be worth doing some quick math at the store. This move can also save you time, as well as stress.

19. Shopping Your Pantry

You may already have quite a few shelf-stable items in your pantry (maybe even from last Thanksgiving) that you need this year. It can be well worth the time and effort to give your cabinets a once-over before you head to the market.

20. Watching a Movie at Home

Though many people have a tradition of going out to the movies on Thanksgiving, theater tickets and concessions can be pricey. Instead, you may want to consider renting a movie from a streaming service (or finding a free one) that everyone can watch together on Thanksgiving night.

21. Not Going to the Mall

The average American dropped about $312 going shopping over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation . If you don’t want to be tempted by Black Friday bargains, your best bet may be to avoid stores and stay off-line.

Recommended: How to Cut Back on Spending

22. Using Up Airline Points

If you need to travel by plane over Thanksgiving, you may want to consider using any points you’ve racked up with the airlines or on your credit card to score a free or discounted ticket.

23. Going on a Staycation

While taking a vacation over the Thanksgiving holiday can be fun, it could add up to thousands of dollars between the flights, hotels, and rental car, depending on where you go. You may want to consider staying home and planning a series of local adventures instead.

24. Staying in an Airbnb

If you normally stay in a hotel when you visit family or friends over Thanksgiving, you may be able to save by going with an Airbnb instead, especially if you can share it with other people who are coming in from out of town.

25. Checking Warehouse Clubs for Travel Deals

Before you book any Thanksgiving travel, you may want to check for deals offered by your local warehouse club. If you are a member, you may be able to access discounts on hotels, rental cars, vacation packages, and more.

26. Asking for Travel Discounts

Whether you’re renting a car or staying in a hotel over Thanksgiving, it can be a good idea to ask if you are eligible for any discounts when you book. You may be able to score a lower price if you’re a AAA member, a student, a resident of the state, a member of the military, or over age 55.

Recommended: 27 Tips For Finding The Top Travel Deals

27. Making a Budget

Whether you’re hosting or heading out of town, it can be a wise idea to come up with a total amount you can afford to spend on Thanksgiving. You can then make a list of expected expenses, and determine how much you can realistically spend on each item.

Recommended: Building a Line Item Budget

28. Going DIY with Decor

A fun way to save money on Thanksgiving is to recruit the kids in the family to create your decorations. They could collect and paint pine cones, create cut-out turkeys (using their hands to trace them), or make a craft paper tablecloth where everyone can write or draw what they are thankful for.

29. Handing the Reins to Someone Else

Hosting can be fun and rewarding, but if you need a reprieve from the work — and expense — you may want to see if someone else wants to step up this year. You can offer to bring your famous balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes to make the host’s job easier.

30. Going Out to Eat

Local restaurants may be offering Thanksgiving specials to bring in customers. You could save big if you go out to eat (and split the tab) rather than host everyone at your home.

31. Volunteering for the Holiday

Helping out at a local soup kitchen can be a great way to get into the holiday spirit and have a chance to focus on giving back, rather than spending.

TheTakeaway

You can enjoy Thanksgiving (and the upcoming December holidays) without running up expensive credit card debt that you may struggle to pay back.

One great way to keep your holiday costs under control is to set up a simple budget and then make sure you stick to it by keeping track of your expenses as you go.

With a SoFi Money® cash management account, you can easily track and categorize your weekly spending right in the dashboard of the SoFi Money app.

Learn how SoFi Money can help you keep tabs on spending this holiday season.

Photo credit: iStock/GMVozd


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Source: sofi.com

11 Side Hustles That Can Make You Money

We could all use a little extra money, and a good side hustle is one way to get it. A side hustle could help you save enough for a down payment on a car or house, fund that vacation you’ve always wanted, boost your investment portfolio, help you pay down debt or whatever you need some spare cash for.

In an ideal world, you could put your money to work and enjoy a truly passive income, or your side hustle would be so lucrative that it could finally become your main gig. But even if you have to keep your day job, a side hustle can make you money in an area you’re passionate about.

A side hustle is something you do in addition to your main job, so the best ones don’t require a lot of time, give you flexibility in when you work and can help you earn a decent amount of cash. The ideas below include a mix of low or flexible time commitment and good value for the amount of effort likely needed.

Top side hustles ideas to help you earn more

1. Walking dogs

Walking dogs sounds so old school, but it can offer a better payout than you might think. Plus, you can scale the business at least a little. Pet owners are likely to be wealthier than average (according to at least one study), and a busy pet owner in a city might not have time to walk their pooch. So they may be willing to pay you to do the job regularly — and if you coordinate things right, you may be able to walk a few dogs at a time, doubling or tripling the money you make in the same period.

If pets aren’t your thing, you could take a turn as a house sitter. While some homeowners may pay in cash, others may be away for months and offer you a place to stay, helping you save on what is probably your biggest expense.

2. Selling in an online marketplace

People are familiar with third-party selling sites such as eBay, Etsy or Amazon, but you can take it upscale by selling on a site such as Poshmark, which offers new and used fashion items. An advantage of going higher end is that you may be able to earn more for the same amount of work.

You could sell items from others who don’t have the time or ability to do it themselves. But when you develop a deeper knowledge of the market, you could take it a step further by buying the top items directly from clients and then earning that profit margin yourself.

3. Speaking engagements

Are you a master of motivation, a doyen of design or a ninja of cybersecurity? Take your expert skills and knowledge to an audience that’s willing to pay for your time. You’ll need to establish authority (through social media, blogs, books, videos or something else) and likely grow your audience first, but then you may be able to monetize that. Find a conference that’s willing to pay you to talk about what you love and then repeat the gig at new venues and for new audiences.

4. Tutoring

Everyone wants to ace the SAT or ACT or even just their next exam. Take your knowledge of the subject area and teach someone how to achieve success there. Nowadays you may even be able to do it from the safety and comfort of your own home through Zoom or other video conferencing software. If you have skills for standardized entrance exam tests for professional schools such as the GMAT or LSAT, you might be able to take things upmarket and turn an even greater profit on your time and skills.

5. Freelance writing

Freelance writing can be an attractive side hustle if you’re looking to fit in some work when you have time. It’s an even better setup if it’s in a specialized field with few competitors so that wages remain higher. Find a niche to write about, establish a reputation for turning in clean copy that needs few changes and then scale up as much as you want. You could turn that side hustle into writing about something you love or even a full-time position when you’re a known authority.

Is writing not your thing? Do the equivalent in media as a freelance video editor. Establish your credentials and then specialize in a subject area or two that you love.

6. Open a mobile business

Consider opening a mobile business for services that a user might not be able to travel to get. For example, consider a mobile service for replacing broken glass for windows in houses or cars. Schedule an appointment ahead of time and show up to fix the issue. You could focus on business outside of normal hours to establish a competitive edge and still keep your main gig.

Another option on the mobile theme could be a car detailing service. Bring your gear and get someone’s ride ready to roll in style.

7. Ride-sharing

Ride-sharing has become popular in recent years, though COVID-19 has helped put a damper on it, at least for the moment. But one benefit is the flexible hours. You may be able to work around your schedule, limiting your availability to nights or weekends, for example. Many people opt for a major ride-sharing player such as Uber or Lyft, or you may also be able to set up with a regional player.

8. Moving stuff

In a growing economy people are moving all the time, even if it’s only across town. Set yourself up as someone who can show up at any time and move that heavy item around the block or to the other side of town in your unused truck. You could expand into storing things for people while they’re in the process of moving from one residence to another.

9. Set up an online store

It’s never been easier to set up an online store through a service such as Shopify, and when you get things rolling, you really can make money while you sleep. It’s tough to beat that flexibility. Of course, the hard part is finding the products that consumers can’t live without and getting that community of people to your site. But building an online store is the kind of thing you could work on in your spare time and build out incrementally as you learn the ropes.

Bottom line

The best side hustles let you earn good money on your own terms, but it can take time to build up your side gig into something worthwhile. You’ll need to inform people of what you offer and show that you reliably deliver whatever you promise. From there you can see how big you can build your side hustle and whether it can become something even more lucrative.

Learn more:

Source: thesimpledollar.com

3 Ways to Make Money from a Leased Car

To make up for the massive deficit of used cars, dealerships have resorted to emailing lessees with whom they are currently under contract, offering to end the lease early and pay a pretty sum for a buyout. San Francisco’s ABC 7 told a story of a woman offered ,000 to end her lease early.
The beauty of buying the leased vehicle from the dealer at the end of your lease is that they can’t jack up the price. Check your lease agreement for the lease buyout wording; in it, the dealership should have spelled out exactly what you will pay to purchase the car from them. This is called the guaranteed purchase option price.
Now is a great opportunity to make some quick and serious cash by selling your lease. But before you sign on the dotted line, consider a couple of caveats:
But what’s happening right now is that leased vehicles are worth considerably more than they were originally estimated to be at the end of their terms. As a lessee, even though you don’t own the vehicle, you hold all the power because that increased equity belongs to you … if you handle the end of lease strategically.

An Auto Shortage Means Higher Prices for Used Cars

Alternatively, you could try other nearby dealerships that sell vehicles of the same make. They may offer you more than the dealer from which you leased the vehicle. That’s the beauty of driving a leased vehicle in this shortage; you have the power to start a potential bidding war.
When you lease a vehicle, you never really own it — the dealer does. So you might think that you have no equity in the vehicle.
An option that lessees have long exercised during their leases has been selling their leases to a third party, like Carvana, Vroom or CarMax. For example, you could take your leased 2020 Honda Pilot and sell the vehicle — lease agreement and all — to CarMax. You’d immediately stop making payments, and you’d have a nice check if the vehicle was able to fetch enough money to cover the rest of your payments and then some.
But you’d be wrong.
And that’s no isolated incident. In January 2019, there were just under 3 million used cars available in the U.S. And earlier this fall? It was down to 2.3 million for a loss of nearly 33%.
However, directly in response to the used car shortage, many lenders (branches of the automakers themselves) have begun to put a stop to this, legally prohibiting lessees from selling their contracts to third parties. Instead, they either have to return the vehicle to the dealership or buy it from the dealership at the end of the lease.
MacDonald does offer one exception: “If you’ve already locked down a new car to purchase, in that case, ending a lease a month or two early may be worth the cash incentive.”

How to Make Money Off Your Leased Car

You will be leaving money on the table if you do. Instead, explore one of these options for making money off your leased car:
So how is this possible?

“Prices are way up,” confirms Johnson. “That car you leased a while back could actually net you a nice profit if you find a dealership that wants to come to the table and strike a deal with you.”
Timothy Moore covers bank accounts for The Penny Hoarder from his home base in Cincinnati. He has worked in editing and graphic design for an automotive marketing agency, a global research firm and a major print publication. He covers a variety of other topics, including automotive, insurance, taxes, retirement and budgeting and has worked in the field since 2012 with publications such as The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, WDW Magazine, Glassdoor and The News Wheel.
We expect this list to grow as the used car shortage continues.

1. Sell the Lease to a Third Party

As of right now, Leasehackr is reporting that the following lenders are prohibiting third-party lease sales:
If you are not part of a multi-car family and do not have access to affordable and efficient public transportation, getting rid of your vehicle may not be the right move.
“When I went to buy a new RAV4, the dealership would only make a deal if I agreed to trade in my 2015 Honda Civic,” says Stewart. “They said they couldn’t handle the loss of a single vehicle on their lot, given the major shortages going on.”
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

  • Acura Financial Services
  • BMW Financial Services
  • Ford Credit
  • GM Financial
  • Honda Financial Services
  • INFINITI Financial Services
  • Lincoln Automotive Financial Services
  • Mercedes-Benz Financial Services
  • MINI Financial Services
  • Nissan Motor Acceptance CompNY
  • Southeast Toyota Finance
  • Volvo Car Financial Services
  • Tesla Finance

Finally, consider if you’re ready to part with the car. At the end of the day, you work hard for a paycheck that affords you nice things. If a car to you is just a way to get from point A to point B and you couldn’t care less what make and model you’re sitting in, sure, end the lease.

2. Buy the Car and Sell It

The fallout from COVID-19 continues to cause supply chain shortages in multiple industries. With steel and computer chip shortages, the automotive industry has not been immune.
If you’re fortunate, you may not have to do much work at all. Don’t scoff when your dealer calls asking to buy you out of a lease early. Take a look at the offer, calculate what you think you could make trying to sell the vehicle on your own and determine if just simply selling the lease to the dealer is the right move.
Chances are good you may leave a little money on the table this way, but it’s certainly much less of a hassle to just sell to the dealer than buying the vehicle and selling privately.
A second word of caution: This strategy applies to a lease buyout at the end of a lease contract. Early buyouts typically do not have guaranteed purchase option prices, meaning the dealer can charge you more for the vehicle. There may also be an early buyout fee.
To put it bluntly, “dealers are hurting for inventory,” says Kyle Johnson, senior editor for The News Wheel.
To determine how much your vehicle is worth, try out Kelley Blue Book, which can estimate the value of your car based on model, year, features and condition. You can also check out dealer websites to see how much similar vehicles are selling for.

3. Sell the Lease Back to a Dealer

A word of caution: You will need to pay sales tax and title fees when purchasing the leased vehicle, and if you can’t immediately sell the car, you need to be OK with the funds you spent to buy out the lease being illiquid until the vehicle sells.
The No. 1 advice we can give: If you are currently leasing a car, do not just turn it in at the end of a lease as originally planned.
In fact, some experts say that taking advantage of dealership incentives for ending leases is a bad idea for this very reason. “My recommendation would be: don’t do it,” says Kyle MacDonald, Director of Operations at Force by Mojio. “No matter how much you can earn in the moment, with the state of the market right now, there’s no guarantee you’d be able to find a replacement easily.”
And because of the huge demand for used cars, your lease vehicle should easily be able to command a large amount of that “and then some” cash when you sell it to a third party.

What to Consider Before Selling Your Leased Car

In fact, if you are currently leasing a car, even if you are just a year in and have several years to go, you might be able to get out of the lease and walk away with several thousand dollars.

You May Be Without a Car

The amount of money you pay for a leased vehicle over the duration of the contract is typically the difference between the car’s initial value and the estimated residual value at the end of the lease term. In that sense, you are merely renting a vehicle from a dealership, and at the end of the contract, the dealership intends to sell the vehicle as a used model.

New and Used Vehicle Prices Are at Record Highs

Don’t let automakers have the final say. An easy enough way around the prohibited third-party lease sales is to simply buy the car from the dealership at the end of your lease and then turn around and sell it to whomever you want.
If you do sell and need to replace the vehicle with something new, be ready to pay those premium prices that you were charging when selling your lease. What goes around comes around.
In fact, this gives you more earning potential. Once you own the car, you can see what CarMax or Carvana will pay for it, but you can also try to sell it privately for even more money.

You Leased That Car Because You Liked It

Megan Stewart of Cincinnati recently purchased a new Toyota RAV4, but the dealer was so desperate for used cars, there was an unusual stipulation to the deal.
That means fewer new cars rolling off assembly lines and thus a larger demand for used cars. The problem? Dealerships cannot keep up with this demand.
According to Cars Direct, the top five selling cars of 2018 are being sold used for over 40% than would have been expected pre-pandemic. For example, a 2018 Nissan Altima has a nearly 50% market value increase which translates to a more than ,000 jump. Think about that if you are turning in a 2018 Altima this year.

Buying a Car With a Personal Loan

Buying a car, whether used or new, is a significant financial commitment. And most people probably don’t just happen to have $25,000 to $45,000 — the average prices of used and new cars in 2021 — in cash lying around. That means you’ll likely need to take out a loan to buy your car. Deciding which car to buy and understanding how to determine a car’s value and how that value depreciates over time are all considerations when making an informed decision about a car purchase.

Another important consideration is how to pay for the car. Do you specifically need a car loan to buy a car, or can you buy a car with a personal loan?

The short answer to this question is “yes,” but there are a few things to take into consideration when thinking about buying a car with a personal loan or a car loan.

If you’re buying a new car from a dealership, the benefits of using dealer financing might outweigh the drawbacks. Automakers offer financing on cars purchased through their dealerships, with low or sometimes even 0% APRs for well-qualified buyers, in an effort to compete with banks and other financial institutions.

Banks or other financial institutions may offer different interest rates, terms, and eligibility criteria than dealerships. According to consumer credit information compiled by the Federal Reserve , the average APR on a 48-month new car loan from a commercial bank in the second quarter of 2021 was 5.28%. For a 60-month new car loan from a commercial bank during the same period, the APR was 5.05%.

Lending money for a used car might be seen as a higher risk by a bank, and their interest rates typically reflect that notion. Older model vehicles are generally seen as a higher lending risk by banks than a new model because they might be less reliable and have a greater chance of failure as they age.

Is the Seller an Individual or a Car Dealer?

An individual who is selling a used car is not likely to offer financing, so a car buyer in that situation would likely need to find their own source of funds.

As mentioned above, banks do sometimes offer car loans on used cars, but the interest rate is dependent on multiple factors. In addition to looking at the applicant’s creditworthiness, which is typical of any loan application, the make, model, and age of the car are also taken into account.

When considering a personal loan to purchase a used car, details about the car aren’t considered during the application process. As the name implies, a personal loan can be taken out for any number of personal expenses — home improvements or a vacation, for example — whereas a car loan can only be taken out to pay for a car.

Differences Between Car Loans and Personal Loans

In essence, a car loan works much like a mortgage. It is paid for in monthly installments and the asset isn’t fully yours until the final payment is made. The car is the asset that secures the loan, which means if you default on payments, the lender could seize your car. The car’s title typically remains with the lender until the loan is paid in full.

Funds from a personal loan can be much more flexible, and can be used not just for purchasing a car, but for the other costs of owning a car as well. Personal loans can be secured or unsecured, with either fixed or variable interest rates. An unsecured personal loan is not tied directly to an asset, i.e., collateral, as a secured personal loan is, so there is no asset for a lender to seize in the case of default. Transferring a car’s title from one owner to another differs from state to state and is generally handled by each state’s department of motor vehicles.

While a car loan from a dealership might be able to be finalized quickly in some cases, car buyers who have a personal loan approval in hand before they go to the dealership can take a step out of the negotiation process.

Refinancing a car loan with a personal loan might be an option in some cases. Perhaps you’ve improved your financial situation since taking out your car loan and you can now qualify for a lower interest rate. Or you’d rather have a shorter-term loan than you currently have, and refinancing with a personal loan might accomplish that.

Determining the Value of a Car

Whether the car you’re considering is new or just new to you, there are a number of well-respected pricing guides to consult for an appropriate price range once you narrow down your car choices.

•   Edmunds offers a True Market Value guide.

•   Kelley Blue Book has suggested price ranges for various cars (particularly useful for used cars).

•   The National Automobile Dealers Association’s guide offers information about new and used cars, including classic cars.

•   Consumer Reports provides detailed reviews and reports about specific makes and models.

These resources simply provide a price range for the car you want. Calling car dealers for price quotes or estimates and looking for any purchase incentives or dealer financing offers are good ways to be prepared before you walk into a dealership.

Negotiating the Car Purchase

Once you know which car you want and what you can afford, how do you pay for it?

For most of us, the negotiation part of buying a new car is the most daunting. This is why you want to go in understanding the price range for your desired car — ideally, you’ll also be equipped with a few comparable quotes from other dealers.

When speaking with a car salesperson it’s a good idea to ask for the actual sales price, which can include taxes, fees, and other charges that may vary depending on the state and the dealership where the car is purchased.

Some car salespeople might talk in terms of monthly payments instead of total purchase price. But talking about monthly payments and payment periods can make it difficult to keep track of the overall price of the car.

Test-driving, negotiating, and finishing paperwork will take some time, and that’s okay. Take your time with all that goes into a car purchase and don’t let an enthusiastic salesperson rush you into making a decision that’s not a good one for you.

What Are the Costs of Car Ownership?

The sticker price, or even the possibly lower negotiated price, doesn’t reflect the true cost of car ownership. AAA’s annual “Your Driving Costs” study found the average cost of owning and operating a new car in 2021 is nearly $10,000 annually. The three biggest expenses of car ownership are depreciation, fuel, and maintenance and repairs. The study found that small sedans were the cheapest to operate, while half-ton pickup trucks were the most expensive.

Depreciation is the decline in value of an asset over time, and it tops the list of largest annual expenses of car ownership. A new car begins to depreciate as soon as it’s new owner drives it off the lot, and the depreciation continues to increase over time. Depending on the make and model of the car, how many miles it’s driven annually, and other factors, a new car could depreciate

•   10% in the first month.

•   20% in the first year.

•   40% after five years.

Another factor when considering the true cost of your car is the potential increasing maintenance costs over five or 10 years. Proper maintenance of a vehicle can go a long way toward not only keeping it in good condition, but can make it safer for the driver and passengers, as well as other drivers on the road.

The Takeaway

The biggest ongoing cost of the car, though, is the cost of the car itself. Choosing what type of loan — car loan or personal loan — generally corresponds to what type of car you’re buying, what interest rate and terms you might qualify for, and what works best for your specific financial situation. Getting pre-qualified for a personal loan before you begin shopping for a used car may help direct your car search toward vehicles that are affordable and fit your lifestyle.

SoFi Personal Loans have low rates and can be used for a variety of purposes, including purchasing a car.

Check your rate on a SoFi Personal Loan.


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Source: sofi.com