The Average Cost of Home Insurance

We’ll get straight to the point: The cost of home insurance varies widely, but the average American homeowner pays $1,249 a year in premiums, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s 2018 figures, the most recent available.

(This is based on the HO-3 homeowner package policy for owner-occupied dwellings, 1 to 4 family units. It provides all risks coverage (except those specifically excluded in the policy) on buildings and broad named-peril coverage on personal property, and is the most common package written.)

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In this article

Home insurance premiums can vary widely in part because of:

  • Your location
  • Your history of claims
  • Your credit score
  • The age and condition of your home

However, there are ways that homeowners can save money on their insurance costs, which we’ll get into. We’ll also walk through which areas in the U.S. are the cheapest and most expensive, typical coverages and more.

[ Read: Home Insurance Quotes, Explained ]

How much does home insurance cost by state?

As you can see below, the average home insurance premium varies widely by state. As you might expect, weather events figure big in the average annual premium by state, although there are other factors, of course, such as your credit score and the age of the home. The figures in this table come from 2018 data provided by the Insurance Information Institute.

State Rank Average annual premium State Rank Average annual premium State Rank Average annual premium
Ala. 13 $1,409 Ky. 26 $1,152 N.D. 18 $1,293
Alaska 36 $984  La. 1 $1,987 Ohio 44 $874
Ariz. 46 $843 Maine 42 $905 Okla. 4 $1,944
Ark. 12 $1,419 Md. 32 $1,071 Ore. 51 $706
Calif. 31 $1,073 Mass. 10 $1,543 Pa. 40 $943
Colo. 7 $1,616 Mich. 38 $981 R.I. 5 $1,630
Conn. 11 $1,494 Minn. 14 $1,400 S.C. 19 $1,284
Del. 45 $873 Miss. 8 $1,578 S.D. 20 $1,280
D.C. 21 $1,264 Mo. 15 $1,383 Tenn. 23 $1,232
Fla. 2 $1,960 Mont. 22 $1,237 Texas 3 $1,955
Ga. 17 $1,313 Neb. 9 $1,569 Utah 50 $730
Hawaii 27 $1,140 Nev. 48 $776 Vt. 41 $935
Idaho 49 $772 N.H. 36 $984 Va. 34 $1,026
Ill. 28 $1,103 N.J. 24 $1,209 Wash. 43 $881
Ind. 33 $1,030 N.M. 30 $1,075 W.Va. 39 $970
Iowa 35 $987 N.Y. 16 $1,321 Wis. 47 $814
Kansas 6 $1,617 N.C. 28 $1,103 Wy. 25 $1,187

Based on the HO-3 homeowner package policy for owner-occupied dwellings, 1 to 4 family units. Provides all risks coverage (except those specifically excluded in the policy) on buildings and broad named-peril coverage on personal property, and is the most common package written.

Most expensive states in home insurance premiums

Below are the most expensive average home insurance premiums by state, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s figures from 2018. Premiums can vary widely within the state, and of course, there are more factors in your premium than the location of your home.

  • Louisiana: $1,987
  • Florida: $1,960
  • Texas: $1,955
  • Oklahoma: $1,944
  • Rhode Island: $1,630

Cheapest states in home insurance premiums

Below are the cheapest average home insurance premiums by state, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s figures from 2018. Premiums can vary widely within each state, and of course, there are more factors in your premium than the location of your home.

  • Wisconsin: $814
  • Nevada: $776
  • Idaho: $772
  • Utah: $730
  • Oregon: $706

What determines the cost of homeowners insurance?

The cost of an individual homeowners insurance policy is determined by a wide range of factors. Some of those factors are within your control, and some of them are not. 

For instance, home insurance can be more expensive in areas with a high risk of flooding or fires than in places where natural disasters are uncommon. Newer homes often cost less to insure than older dwellings — especially those in need of repairs. Insurance companies also look at your personal credit history before covering your home, so people with good credit histories could receive a lower premium than those with poor credit histories.

Every insurance company calculates rates differently. Some carriers place a higher value on credit score and claims history, while others look more closely at the condition and age of the home. Below is a more comprehensive list of the considerations that might determine your homeowners insurance premium.

[ Read: The Best Homeowners Insurance Companies ]

  • State, city and neighborhood: Some states are more prone to wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes than others.
  • Location of home: This information is pulled for crime and claim statistics in your home’s area.
  • Construction of the home: Is the home made out of wood, brick, or vinyl siding?
  • Heating system: Is the home heated with an HVAC or wood stove?
  • Security system: Homes with security systems might be less likely to be broken into.
  • Previous claims on the home: If the home has a history of water and electrical issues, then the homeowner may be more likely to file a future claim.
  • Homeowner’s previous claims: If the homeowner has a history with other insurance companies, he or she may be more likely file a claim again in the not-so-distant future.
  • Credit score: People with low credit scores may be more likely to file a claim.
  • Nearest fire station: The distance between your home and the nearest fire station can be a factor.
  • Marital status: Married couples are statistically less likely to file claims with insurance companies.
  • Replacement cost: The cost to replace an older home and bring it up to code can be more expensive than replacing a new home.
  • Pets: Certain animals might be considered a greater risk for liability claims.
  • Outside structures: Things like pools, sheds or greenhouses can also affect your policy rate.

Aside from these factors, the cost of an individual policy can also be determined by which features you chose to include in your coverage. A few of the options that can affect the cost are:

  • Deductible amount
  • Extra coverage add-ons
  • Bundled insurance policies
  • Discounts

[ More: Complete Guide to Home Insurance ]

Types of coverage

There are many different types of homeowners insurance coverage. Some coverages, like dwelling and liability coverage, can come standard with most policies. But insurance companies also often sell add-on policies that offer protection in certain areas. Here are some of the most common home insurance coverages you might find:

  • Dwelling coverage is insurance that covers qualified damages to the home itself. If the siding of your home tore off in a major storm, dwelling insurance might cover the cost of repairs. Insurance companies might sell add-ons for roof damage, water back/sump pump overflow, flood insurance and earthquake insurance.
  • Personal property coverage pertains to the cost of replacing possessions in your home, such as furniture. If someone broke into your home and stole personal items, personal property coverage might reimburse you. If you need to protect valuables, your agent might recommend you purchase a scheduled personal property endorsement for higher coverage limits.
  • Personal liability coverage protects against lawsuits for property damage or injury. If a delivery driver slipped and fell on your icy driveway, liability coverage might pay for their medical expenses and court costs if they sued you. Some insurance companies offer add-on policies that extend your liability coverage limits.
  • Loss of use coverage might cover additional living expenses you have after your home has been damaged. This might include hotel stays, groceries and gas while your home is being repaired. If your house is under construction after a covered claim, loss of use coverage might pay for your temporary hotel and food expenses up to your policy’s limit.

Generally speaking, your agent may recommend that your home insurance coverages be based on your lifestyle, where you live and the value of your assets.

Keep in mind that your agent may recommend you add coverage as time goes on. If you adopt a puppy six months after you purchase your home insurance policy, your agent may recommend you add pet coverage when the time comes. Or, if you take on a remote job, you can contact your insurance company and see if you should add home business coverage for a small fee.

Every home insurance coverage has a policy limit. A policy limit is the highest amount of money your insurance company will give you after a covered loss. For example, if your dwelling coverage limit is $400,000, that may limit how much is paid out if your home is damaged or destroyed by a covered peril to no more than $400,000, although factors like your deductible may come into play.

When you purchase a home insurance policy, you may be able to set your own policy limits. As a rule of thumb, you may be recommended to have enough dwelling coverage to rebuild your home in its current state, enough personal property coverage to cover the full value of your personal items and enough liability coverage to protect your personal assets.  

[ Read: What is Dwelling Insurance? ]

Reimbursement coverage types

There are three different coverage options commonly provided by home insurance companies. Each option affects your premium differently.

  • Actual cash value (ACV) is based on the current market value, or how much your home and personal property is worth, with depreciation factored in. Most home insurance policies offer ACV reimbursement by default. It can be the lowest option.  
  • Replacement cost value (RCV) works in the same way as ACV, but without depreciation factored in. That means you might get a higher payout after a covered claim. RCV home insurance policies can be more expensive than ACV policies, and you may need to purchase an endorsement to get it. Your agent may recommend this if you own valuables or have an expensive home.
  • Guaranteed replacement cost (GRC) is also referred to as extended replacement cost (ERC), and this option can cover the complete cost of rebuilding the home, even if that cost exceeds the policy limit. GRC can be the most expensive replacement cost type, and not all insurance companies offer it. Your agent may recommend this if you live in areas with extreme weather, wildfires, earthquakes or any place where home destruction is more likely. 

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Discounts and ways to save on home insurance

Homeowners insurance can be costly, so before selecting a plan, shop around to find the best deal based on your needs. It can be helpful to consult an insurance agent, read consumer reviews and check online insurance quotes to find companies with the lowest rates. Here are some other ways to save money on home insurance:

  1. Ask about available discounts: Some companies offer discounted policy rates if your home is in a gated community, if you bundle with your car insurance or if you’re part of a homeowner’s association.
  2. Bundle your insurance policies: Oftentimes, companies that sell home, auto and life coverage may deduct up to 15% off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them.
  3. Make your home safer: Some providers may offer a discount if you install fixtures that make your home safer, such as smoke alarms or a security system, that reduce the likelihood that damage or theft will occur in the first place.

How do past claims impact home insurance cost?

It depends on the nature of the claim. Just how much a claim raises your premium varies in part on the provider and the nature of the claim.

There are also further complications when you make the same type of claim twice. Not only can this increase what you pay each month, but, depending on you and your home’s history, it’s possible the provider may even decide to drop you.

Though your premium may increase if you are found at fault, it’s also possible for your monthly bill to increase even if you’re not found to be liable. Your home may be considered riskier to insure than other homes.

Home insurance cost FAQs

No, states do not require homeowners to get insurance when they purchase a home. However, if you choose to get a mortgage loan, most lenders will require you to have some insurance.

To determine how much coverage you should purchase, talk to your agent about your home inventory, your overall worth, and of course, comfort level. Also discuss factoring in the location of your home, and evaluate risks based on weather, fires and other events that could potentially damage or destroy your home.

There are a few ways to potentially get home insurance discounts. Discount options include things like:

  • Bundling your home insurance policy with another policy (such as auto).
  • Going claims free for extended periods of time.
  • Making certain home improvements.
  • Living in a gated community.
  • Installing a security system.

In 2018, 34.4% of home insurance losses were wind and hail related, 32.7% were fire or lightning related and 23.8% were water damage or freezing claims. Only 1% of claims were related to theft, and less than 2% of losses were liability claims. These figures are according to the Insurance Information Institute.

In Florida the most common claims may be related to hurricanes, wind damage, water damage and flooding. In California, earthquake, flood and wildfire claims may be more common. When you purchase insurance, talk to an agent about the specific risks in your area and ask about separate insurance policies you might need, like flood or earthquake coverage.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at with comments or questions.


How to Install String Lights on Your Patio | ApartmentSearch

Close up image of stringed lights

Make those warm summer evenings on the patio with friends even cozier with the right lighting. String lights can make your apartment balcony or patio dreamy, but do you know how to hang up outdoor string lights without damaging the walls? It can be challenging! Before you start, you’ll need to do a little research. These are the methods you need to know when hanging up string lighting on your apartment balcony or patio.

Adhesive-Backed Hooks

Best for: vinyl siding, brick

Trying to figure out how to hang patio lights without nails so you can transform your apartment balcony into its own little haven? Adhesive-backed hooks make attaching lights to vinyl siding or brick as easy as 1-2-3!

  1. Make a mark where you want to secure your lights.
  2. Stick the adhesive side to the wall.
  3. Drape the lights over the hooks.

Hot Glue

Best for: vinyl siding, brick

Wondering how to hang string lights on an apartment balcony without ruining the exterior siding and incurring a damage fee? Hot glue may be a surprising option. There are two ways to attach string lights using hot glue, depending on the type of bulb.

For larger bulbs:

  1. Apply a small drop of glue to the side of each bulb socket, on the side opposite from the socket’s clip. Gluing the base of the socket can cause the socket to detach from its cord.
  2. Press the socket firmly into the wall and hold it in place until the glue dries.

For twinkle-style lights:

  1. Hold the light cord in place against the wall.
  2. Squeeze a drop of glue onto the cord and wall.
  3. Hold in place until the glue dries.

Gutter Hooks

Best for: stucco

Gutter hooks are S-shaped hooks that hang on the gutter. There is no permanent installment so you can adjust as you go. These hooks are easy to install so you can light up your night in no time!

  1. Thread the light string through one end of the hook.
  2. Slide the other end of the hook over the lip of your gutter.


Best for: wood

We’re talking a heavy-duty staple gun—think Clark Griswold, minus the mishap. When securing string lights to a wood wall or post, staples are a simple, easy option.

  1. Mark the spots where you want to attach the lights.
  2. Carefully hold the light strand in place (watch your fingers!).
  3. Press the staple gun firmly over the strand and staple into the wood, making certain to not puncture the wire when you fire the staple gun.

Metal Cup Hooks

Best for: wood

Cups hooks screw into the wall and have a cup shape, making it easy to hang and adjust the light strands so you can keep your patio fresh.

  1. Mark where you want to secure the cup hooks to the walls.
  2. Pre-drill small, shallow holes with a wood-bearing drill bit (should be slightly smaller than the hooks) at each mark.
  3. Twist the hook into each hole.
  4. Drape the lights over the cup hook and tweak the slack how you prefer.

Screw Eye Hooks

Best for: wood

Screw eye hooks screw into the wall similar to cup hooks. The difference is that while cup hooks are only a semi-circle, screw eye hooks have no opening. This means you will need tiny metal carabiners or simple zip ties to attach the strand of lights, which is more secure.

  1. Mark where you want to secure the screw eye hooks to the walls.
  2. Pre-drill holes with a wood-bearing drill bit at each mark.
  3. Twist a screw into each hole.
  4. Attach the strand of lights with the preferred method.

Extra Tips:

Decide on design. Will you hang the lights around the perimeter of the patio or start at one point and fan out multiple strands? Do you want the lights taut against the wall or drooping in between? The closer the anchors are to each other, the tauter the lights will be; securing them farther apart will allow for slack in between.

Measure first. Take measurements for both the string(s) of lights and the dimensions of the patio where you are going to hang the lights.

Plot points. As you measure, plan out where you will secure the lights and make sure the spot can handle the hanging method you choose. Mark the placement as you go.

Plan the power source. Make sure the plug is nearest to a power outlet and can either reach the outlet itself or with an extension cord.

Remove the bulbs before hanging. This will help prevent them from breaking or getting glue on them if using it.

Save energy. If you plan to use your lights frequently, also have a plan to conserve energy. LED bulbs are recommended because they help save energy, stay cool, and last longer. An outlet timer that turns the lights on and off automatically is also a good idea to ensure the lights aren’t on unnecessarily.

Choose the best bulb. Twinkle vs. café style, soft white vs. yellow … there are all kinds of combos to choose from and you can’t go wrong whatever you decide. Do look for shatterproof bulbs instead of glass if possible and opt for LED.

Ready to upgrade your outdoor living space? Search for apartments with a large patio or balcony with ApartmentSearch!



Daylight Saving Fall 2013: 5 Things to Remember in Your Apartment

Don’t forget: Daylight Saving Time ends on the first Sunday in November. That’s this weekend! As we prepare to welcome earlier sunsets, take the opportunity to take care of a few things around your apartment:


1. Set the clocks back an hour.

Obviously, this is the most important thing you have to do, or else you’ll be an hour early for everything. However, you don’t have to worry about it if you live in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, or most of Arizona – these places don’t observe Daylight Saving Time.

Fun fact: Indiana used to be divided on the DST issue – half the state would observe it, the other half would not. But since 2006, the entire state has changed the clocks twice a year, just like most of the country.

2. Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector.

When you change the clocks, the National Fire Protection Association recommends you also take precautions to guard your safety in case of a fire or carbon monoxide leak. These devices can save your life, so you want to make sure your batteries are functioning properly.

3. Make a few energy-efficiency improvements.

The end of Daylight Saving Time means winter isn’t far away, so take on a few DIY projects to keep your apartment cozy during the cold months without running up your energy bills. After all, Daylight Saving Time was invented to save energy!

  • Cover your windows with insulating curtains that keep cold drafts out.
  • Wrap your water heater in an insulated jacket so water stays warmer with less energy.
  • Replace the weather stripping under your exterior doors and windows.
    Keep candles and matches ready in case there's a power outage.Keep candles and matches ready in case there's a power outage.
    Keep candles and matches ready in case there’s a power outage.

4. Make an emergency kit for your apartment.

Snowstorms and other inclement weather in the wintertime can lead to power outages, and sometimes they last a while. Make sure you have everything you’ll need if you’re stuck inside with no power: Blankets, bottled water, flashlights, extra batteries, candles, and a good book.

5. Take care of yourself!

Even though it’s just one hour, a time shift can confuse your body. Those who are susceptible to erratic sleep patterns should be extra careful to give themselves enough time to rest.

Speaking of health, we have more tips to keep yourself healthy this winter:

See you on March 9, 2014, when we move the clocks forward again!

How do you feel about Daylight Saving Time? Love it or loathe it? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Photo credit: Shutterstock / karen roach, GoodMood Photo




What Are Comps? Understanding a Key Real Estate Tool

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, comparing similar homes can yield a wealth of helpful information.

“Comps,” or comparable sales, is a term anyone on either side of a real estate transaction should know well. It refers to homes located in the same area and very similar in size, condition and features as the home you are trying to buy or sell.

Buyers look at comps when deciding what price to offer on a home, and sellers use comps to figure out how to best price their home for the market. Real estate agents look at comps all day long as a way to keep on top of their local market. If you are a buyer or seller, it’s helpful to have a strategy to analyze comps, because all comps aren’t created equal.

Location is the highest priority

If you are trying to price a home or figure out its value, you need to look nearby. The market is based on location, so keeping as close to the subject property as possible — meaning, within the same neighborhood — is the most effective approach.

If you can’t get enough comps nearby, it’s fine to keep expanding out. But there will always be a boundary, like a school district, that you need to stay within.

Timeframe matters

The best comps are homes that are currently “pending.” Why? Because a pending home is a piece of live market data. A pending home means that a buyer and seller made a deal, and that deal will reflect the most up-to-the-minute stats on the market.

A good local real estate agent, leveraging her network, can get a fairly accurate idea what the ultimate sale price or range is for a pending deal. Try to stick with sales in the past three months, and never go more than six months, because older data is not reflective of the current market.

Factor in home features

Once you have location and timeframe, it is key to look for homes with similar features that have sold, as opposed to comparing price per square feet. While the latter is helpful, it won’t consider factors like views, a new designer kitchen or a finished basement vs. unfinished.

If you have all three bedrooms on the top floor, look for something similar. Try to compare your subject property to like properties when it comes to traits like total size, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the size of the lot. You can make adjustments once you have found similar homes.

Don’t overanalyze the comps

Putting your trust in a good local agent will keep you from agonizing over the petty details of each comparable home. Your agent is likely familiar with some of the recent sales, and can help shed light on why one comp fares better than another. You may not know that one home was next to a fire station or across from a parking lot, or that another didn’t have a real backyard, but your agent will. These small nuances will affect the home’s value.

Find your home on Zillow to see your Zestimate® home value with your comps.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.


What to Pack in a 72-Hour Emergency Kit: Printable Checklist

Prepare a disaster now before it’s too late.

If you want to prepare for an emergency but don’t know which supplies you need, download our printable checklist PDF to help you assemble a 72-hour emergency kit.

Emergency supplies to pack in a 72-hour “go bag”

With the frequency and severity of natural disasters increasing every year, emergency preparedness is more important than ever.

In an emergency, the federal government’s readiness website recommends being prepared with a disaster kit (also called a “go bag” or “bug-out bag”). The kit should contain enough food, water and emergency supplies to survive for at least 72 hours after a disaster.

72 hour emergency kit supplies

10 basic survival kit supplies

  1. Water (1 gallon per person per day)
  2. Food (3-day supply per person)
  3. First aid kit (bandages, ointments, gauze pads, cold/hot packs, tweezers, scissors, hand sanitizer, isopropyl alcohol wipes)
  4. Medications (prescription medications plus over-the-counter pain relievers, allergy medicines, antacids, anti-diarrhea medications, laxatives)
  5. Flashlight or headlamp and batteries, plus light sticks
  6. Pocket knife and multi-tool
  7. NOAA weather radio (battery-powered or hand-crank), plus extra batteries
  8. Waterproof matches or lighter in a waterproof container
  9. Cellphone, backup battery and extra charger (solar charger, if possible)
  10. Cash (small bills), credit cards, prepaid phone card

Some emergencies, such as imminent snowstorms or hurricanes, create circumstances in which supplies are difficult to secure even days beforehand. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us just how difficult it can be to get certain supplies during severe outbreaks of illness.

Other emergencies, such as ice storms that wipe out power lines or earthquakes that block roads, make it impossible to get supplies. Power outages may close stores (or they may work on a cash-only basis). Wildfires, floods and tornadoes sometimes require quick evacuations with minutes’ notice.

It may be days or longer before help arrives, roadways are cleared or you get clearance from safety officials to return home. Assembling a bug-out bag containing the items listed in our 72-hour kit can help you prepare for most types of emergencies.

Additional personal supplies

Personal supplies are essential for security and comfort in compromised conditions, whether you’re in populated or isolated places. For instance, if you evacuate to a shelter, supplies may be limited or bedding inaccessible. In an isolated area, you might need tools to open cans of food or build a DIY shelter against the elements.

Keep in mind that you may lose electricity or cell service in an emergency. GPS may be unreliable, or you might lose your phone contacts. Have “old-fashioned” backups written on paper so you can reach people or know where you need to travel.

Carrying copies of important documents also can make it easier to prove your identity, access assistance, and stabilize finances after a disaster. Besides ID documents, consider packing copies of your marriage certificate, tax return, insurance policies, deeds, wills and medical records.

A lot depends upon the crisis you’re preparing for, but careful and proactive planning will cover the basics for most scenarios.

Bedding and clothing

Tools and equipment

  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Manual can opener
  • Hatchet
  • Collapsible shovel
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)

Documents and paperwork

  • Emergency phone numbers for family members
  • Local maps
  • ID documents (driver’s licenses, passports, birth certificates)
  • Legal documents (power of attorney, wills, trusts)
  • Financial documents (tax returns, deeds, insurance policies)
  • Medical info (medications, chronic conditions, immunizations, allergies, surgeries)

Personal hygiene and sanitation

  • Dust mask
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Toiletries (soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, feminine hygiene items)
  • Plasticware for food storage
  • Prescription glasses, contact lenses, saline solution
  • Plastic bags
  • Alcohol or bleach
  • Garbage bags and twist-ties
  • Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Paper towels and toilet paper

Specialized items

  • Note pads, markers, pens, pencils, crayons
  • Books, games, puzzles for small children
  • Bottles, formula, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream for infants
  • Assistive equipment for elders
  • Pet food and extra water, medication and leashes or crates for pets

Download and print our 72-hour kit checklist PDF

Download and print this 72-hour kit checklist PDF to keep handy during preparation. Once you’ve built your kits, store a copy with each one for easy refilling and repacking.

Download the 72-Hour Emergency Kit Checklist

Customize your kits as needed, with different supplies for different emergencies. If you’re sheltering in place, for example, you might need plastic sheeting and duct tape. For evacuating from your home, sleeping bags and pillows would be more important.

Also, different areas experience different disasters, requiring different items in emergency kits. Specific weather emergencies require corresponding supplies.

Hurricane preparedness kit

In hurricane-prone regions, an emergency kit is vital. You may have to evacuate several days in advance and be stuck in traffic. Or, after the hurricane passes, it could be days or weeks before you can return home.

So create two plans: one for evacuation, the other for sheltering in place. Print and laminate each, if you can.

There’s a chance you’ll be evacuating or sheltering for a long time, depending upon regional damage. Plan to include rain gear (raincoat or poncho, waterproof boots), extra changes of clothing and waterproof matches or lighters. Also, seal your important documents — including cash — in a waterproof plastic bag.

Additional hurricane kit items can include water purification tablets, towels, duct tape, scissors and work gloves. Once an impending hurricane is announced, people often panic, making it difficult to gain access to even the most basic supplies.

Earthquake kit

Earthquakes often happen without any notice at all. You may need tools to quickly shut off utilities. Also, consider a fire extinguisher in case falling debris severs gas or electrical lines.

Extra dust masks can protect you against breathing in dust from falling debris. You might also need other tools, such as a shovel, ax, broom and rope.

If you live in a building with upper floors, have a rope ladder handy for a quick escape. Pack each person a pair of sturdy shoes with thick soles to protect feet from broken glass, wood splinters, nails and other debris.

72-hour kit tips

Store your emergency kit supplies in duffel bags, rolling bins (including coolers or suitcases) or other easy-to-grab containers. Watertight is best.

Be sure household members will be able to lift any emergency containers. The idea is to “grab and go” with the most essentials you can carry, in case evacuation is necessary.

Keep your kit in a dry area of your home. Refresh the contents every year. Make sure foods aren’t expired, clothing still fits and medications haven’t reached their expiration dates. Routinely refill and replace medication and food as needed.


Emergency Preparedness Guide and Checklist [Download]

Emergency preparedness can mean the difference between weathering a disaster and finding yourself vulnerable in a long-term crisis. From power failures to hurricanes, emergencies strike every day, often without warning. By the time they do, it’s too late to start planning.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do now to prepare yourself and your family for a future emergency. But it can be an involved process, and it’s easy to forget something. That’s why it’s a good idea to start with an emergency preparedness checklist.

These recommendations will help you create your own family emergency plan, including a checklist of steps to take and supplies to pack in a disaster supplies kit in the event of an emergency.

Download our printable emergency preparedness checklist

This printable emergency preparedness checklist can help you take the steps needed for creating an emergency plan to keep yourself and your family safe and secure.

emergency preparedness checklist download buttonemergency preparedness checklist download button

1. Understand the risks for your area

Start getting prepared for emergencies specific to your location by assessing the risks of your particular location. Though there are basic requirements for preparedness, each type of natural disaster also requires its own specialized preparations.

For example, an ice storm might cause an extended power outage, so you may want to install a portable generator. In an earthquake or tornado, you’ll need to know how to find the safest place to shelter. (In both cases, stay away from windows, near the center of an inside room.)

And different regions are prone to different disasters: Texas has been hit by freezing weather, hurricanes, floods, hail and fires. In California, earthquakes and fires are common threats. Oklahoma is in “tornado alley,” and is often hit by ice storms.

Consult relief agencies in your area to get information about emergency alerts for the community, evacuation routes from the area and special assistance options for elderly people and those with disabilities. Ask at your workplace and your children’s schools or daycare to learn about each facility’s emergency plan.

Monitor weather and fire reports via NOAA weather radio. Download a reliable weather app, and sign up for emergency alerts. Wireless Emergency Alerts sent to your smartphone will signal you with a unique tone and vibration, then brief text messages explaining the type of alert and recommended action.

2. Write down emergency contact numbers

Important phone numbers should be available in multiple locations and formats. It’s a good idea to post them on the fridge — along with your home number and address for reference — as well as near any landline telephones. Also, program these numbers into the cellphones of every household member.

Choose a primary emergency contact and at least one secondary contact to call if your family gets separated. One should live out of state, and one should live locally. Tell your family members and loved ones which to call during each possible type of emergency. Remember that sometimes during a crisis, it’s easier to get through to out-of-state numbers than local ones.

It’s also a good idea to know which emergency management and response organizations you may be dealing with following a disaster, such as FEMA or the American Red Cross. Post these numbers, as well, and store them in your contacts.

Program emergency services numbers into your phone and put them near the top of your list, so you can find them right away. Hint: Most phones list contacts alphabetically, so you might want to list emergency contacts with “AA” or the number 1. Then write them on a small card to place in your wallet, in case you’re away from the list you’ve posted, your phone isn’t charged or your WiFi is down.

Here are some numbers you should include:

  • Fire / paramedics
  • Police
  • Local relief agencies
  • Area utilities
  • Work
  • School
  • Child care
  • Relatives
  • Poison control

3. Identify escape routes

Draw out the floor plan of your house and determine which escape routes would be safest for a quick getaway in each type of emergency. Escape routes also should be practical for pets, if you have any.

Post escape route plans in a central location in your house, preferably alongside the important contact numbers, and in each bedroom. Consider loading these directions into your smartphone, too.

It’s important to know when to get out and when to take cover where you are. Fires can occur in any climate and are the most common type of emergency that require escape or evacuation routes; if you’re indoors during a tornado or earthquake, you’re better off staying put.

Strategically store any equipment that could help you escape more quickly, such as collapsible ladders in upstairs rooms or window breakers for shatterproof glass. If your windows or doors have security bars, be sure they’re equipped with emergency releases so you can get out quickly if you need to.

And if you have pets, make pet carriers easily accessible so you can load them up quickly. (Herding cats is even more difficult in a crisis.)


4. Locate emergency meeting places

Designate two different locations where family members can gather to find each other after leaving your home. One should be directly outside the home in the event of a fire. Identify a location that’s a safe distance from the house, such as a neighbor’s home, mailbox or nearby stop sign.

The other designated meeting place should be outside the neighborhood in case of an evacuation. In the event of a major disaster that requires an evacuation, tune in to local media and be on the lookout for alerts about where to find help at emergency shelters.

You might also designate an out-of-state meeting spot if it’s common for your whole area to be evacuated, as in hurricane season. Make sure your family members have these addresses and phone numbers among their emergency contacts.

Include all locations in your escape route plan, clearly marked on a map. Post the meeting plan alongside the important contact numbers and escape routes.

5. Practice escaping, responding and meeting with family

Discuss with household members what to do during a fire, storm, earthquake, etc. At least two people in your home should know how to shut off utilities and respond to power outages. At least two should be familiar with first aid procedures to address personal injuries.

Make sure your household takes time to review the escape routes and practice using them so your whole family will be ready in the event of an emergency. Hold periodic drills the way schools, businesses and other public facilities do, to be sure everyone can get out of the building. If you can, have your family meet up at the designated local emergency meeting spots.

6. Pack an emergency supplies kit

Have a go-bag or preparedness kit ready that includes family records and other important documents (stored in a safe portable container), along with survival essentials that you may need during an emergency. Refer to the emergency preparedness checklist below for supplies to include in your emergency kit.

“Go bag” supplies

“Go bags” are emergency kits that contain the essentials for people to stay safe and secure in a crisis. Most items listed will apply across the board. However, you can decide whether you need to pack other essentials that address special needs — for instance, specialized medical supplies, prescription medications, spare eyeglasses, personal hygiene items or pet food.

For more information, check with the U.S. government’s official emergency preparedness website,

Essential survival supplies

  • First aid kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlight
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pocket knife
  • Sleeping bag/tent
  • Drinking water
  • Protein bars
  • Canned food
  • Manual can opener

Additional supplies

  • Cellphone
  • Cellphone charger
  • Credit cards
  • Birth certificates
  • Garbage bags
  • Insurance policies
  • Traveler’s checks
  • Contact information
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Sleeping bags
  • Face mask
  • Rain gear, if applicable

Tool kit supplies

  • Pliers
  • Pocket knife
  • First aid kit
  • Duct tape
  • Can opener
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries]

Personal hygiene and health supplies

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Prescription medications
  • Feminine supplies
  • Extra change of clothing
  • Washcloths
  • Household chlorine bleach
  • Clean wipes or towelettes

Food and drink supplies

Plan on having a 3-day supply of non-perishable food in a waterproof container, plus a supply of water. Keep a gallon of water per day for each person for several days, to be used for drinking and sanitation. Pack as lightly as possible without leaving out essentials. Foods like protein bars are great space- and weight-savers.

  • Drinking water
  • Peanut butter
  • Granola bars
  • Vacuum-packed meats
  • Canned foods
  • Crackers
  • Protein bars

Stay safe with our emergency preparedness checklist

It can be a complicated process to create an emergency plan and assemble a kit of supplies for your family. But it’s an endeavor that’s worth every moment of effort when your preparations keep your family safe and secure during a disaster.




13 Ways a Food Vacuum Sealer Can Save You Money on Groceries

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. Virtually no market has been left untouched, and that’s especially true of Americans’ grocery shopping and food-related habits.

People are eating at home more often and even baking their own bread. And food preservation systems like vacuum sealers are surging in popularity, according to The Business of Business magazine. It makes sense. With all the stocking up we have to do to limit the number of grocery trips we take, we now need a way to keep all our spoils from spoiling.

With an initial investment of between $20 and $100 or more, depending on type and quality, plus the cost of vacuum-seal bags or storage containers, it costs a little to get started. But ultimately, they can save you much more money in the long run.

Ways a Vacuum Sealer Can Save You Money

One of the selling points of vacuum sealing is that it can help you save money. But can it really save you enough to justify its expense? That depends on what you’re currently doing to save on food and other goods. But if any of these cost-cutting measures would help, the vacuum sealer is probably worth much more than its weight in gold.

1. Eliminate Food Waste

Food waste is a significant problem in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans discard between 30% and 40% of their food.

A separate 2020 study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (and covered by Forbes) backed that up, finding that the average household wasted 31.9%. Those researchers estimated this waste to cost the average household $1,866 per year. A family that can cut food waste in half can save nearly $1,000 per year.

And a vacuum sealer can help you do that. For example, you can buy a large package of meat, cook half of it, and vacuum-seal the rest for later in the week.

You can do something similar with other foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables or cheese. Use only the amount you need, then seal the rest for later, and you’ll finally manage to get through every last bite before it goes bad. But wrap cheese in parchment or wax paper before sealing it to absorb the cheese’s natural moisture (which can cause it to deteriorate) and prevent sticking.

For foods you plan to reach for frequently, such as cheese and fruit, use a plastic vacuum-seal container or reusable plastic bag with a handheld model. For foods you plan to use all at once, such as meat, you can use a traditional countertop model with bag rolls, which allow you to create custom-size bags.

2. Buy in Bulk

If you’ve ever been to a warehouse store like Costco, you’re familiar with the absolutely massive packages of food they sell. Buying meat in 20-pound bulk packages can be cheaper than buying it in a grocery store, but what family can eat 20 pounds of beef before it goes bad?

There are just some things you shouldn’t buy in bulk if you can’t eat them quickly enough. But a vacuum sealer changes the game by extending the shelf life of what you buy.

Using a countertop sealer and custom bags from rolls, you can seal and store many kinds of food long term if you follow the best method for each.

  • Meat. Seal meat in meal-size portions. According to United Kingdom vacuum-sealer company Grutto, vacuum-sealed meat lasts up to two weeks in the refrigerator and between two and three years in the freezer. According to, that’s double to triple the time compared to storing without the seal. How long a specific meat lasts depends on the variety. But in general, discard any meat that smells off, has undergone a color change, or feels slimy or sticky.
  • Beans. According to USA Emergency Supply, dry beans can stay good for up to 10 years at room temperature. If you vacuum-seal the beans, which reduces the amount of moisture that can reach them, that can extend their shelf by another 10 years.
  • Rice. White rice has a long shelf life, but brown rice can go bad within six months at room temperature. According to USA Emergency Supply, vacuum-sealing brown rice can extend its life to as long as two years and extend white rice’s shelf life to a full decade.
  • Flours and Meals. Flour usually has a shelf life of about a year, but USA Emergency Supply notes that vacuum-sealing it can make it last for up to five years at room temperature. To seal flour, place it in your freezer for four days to a week to kill any insects or bugs in it. Then, place the flour in a brown paper bag. Label the bag if desired and fold the top over, but don’t roll it down (air must be able to escape). Place the paper bag in a vacuum-seal bag and seal it. Wrapping it in a paper bag first prevents flour from getting sucked into the sealer. Note that the vacuum-sealing process compresses your flour, so this method is best used by those who measure their flour by weight (ounces or grams) rather than volume (cups). You can use the same approach to seal other dry powdered or ground goods, such as cornmeal, corn flour, or breadcrumbs.
  • Cheese. Wrap your cheese in some parchment or wax paper to absorb its natural moisture before sealing. According to online cheese seller Cheesy Place, this storage method can extend cheese’s freshness by months or longer. However, soft cheeses don’t tend to freeze well.

Before you run out and stock up on everything on this list, note that you’re only saving money if you’re getting a good deal on things you’d buy and use anyway.

3. DIY Dump Recipes

Cooking after a long workday is a daunting task. Sometimes, all you want is something simple with as little prep work as possible.

On days when chopping, slicing, and cutting sounds like a colossal chore, dump recipes can help you put a home-cooked meal on the table with minimal effort. All you have to do is dump the ingredients into a casserole dish or slow cooker or scatter them on a sheet pan, no other prep required.

With a vacuum sealer, you can make DIY dump-meal packets and toss them in the fridge or freezer until you need them.

4. Batch Cooking

Mornings can be chaotic, especially if multiple people are trying to get out of the house. But taking some time to batch-cook ensures you have a filling breakfast that doesn’t involve golden arches, even when you’re short on time.

Batch cooking involves spending a day or two, usually over the weekend, whipping up large batches of food for the week or month ahead. And a vacuum sealer makes your batch-cooked food last even longer.

For example, spend a Saturday putting together some vacuum-sealed breakfast pouches with nuke-and-go meals like breakfast burritos, pancakes, or mini-quiches for days when time just isn’t on your side. Just pre-freeze anything that might squash when sealed, such as rolls. You can then store them in either the freezer or fridge.

And batch cooking isn’t just suitable for breakfast foods.

At lunch, being limited to an hour-long break makes it tough to avoid popping out for fast food every day. But things like hand pies, soup, chili, and stir-fries all keep well in a vacuum-sealed packet. Freeze hand pies before sealing to keep them from squashing. For liquids like soups and chilies, pour the contents into a regular zip-close bag and freeze them flat. Then remove them from the zip-close bag, and vacuum-seal them, placing them back in the freezer for long-term storage or in the fridge for use that week.

If you store them in the freezer, transfer them to the refrigerator the night before. By the time lunch rolls around the next day, they should be mostly defrosted, and a microwave can finish the job.

You can even use a vacuum sealer to batch-cook weeknight freezer meals for evenings when cooking just isn’t an option. Batch-cook large quantities of dishes like lasagna, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, or meatballs for spaghetti or subs, and vacuum-seal them in meal-size portions.

For lasagna, meatloaf, and mashed potatoes, pre-freeze them in smaller containers before removing them to a vacuum-sealer bag.

5. Long-Term Leftovers

Cooking large meals means having leftovers. But it can get boring to eat the same thing repeatedly, especially if you make a considerable amount.

Having a vacuum sealer means you can seal and store these leftovers for weeks or months instead of days like you can in the refrigerator.

You can also freeze leftovers into homemade TV dinners. For example, instead of freezing a leftover half of meatloaf, quart of mashed potatoes, and leftover veggies separately, put enough of each for one person into several vacuum-seal storage containers. All you have to do when you want something easy to eat is take it out of the freezer and reheat. They’re perfect for lunches or hectic school nights when you’re eating dinner solo.

6. Buy Food in Season

If you visit the grocery store, you can buy many fruits and vegetables year-round, but you may notice the price and quality of some foods varies throughout the year. Even though modern supply chains mean you can buy most food items any time of year, fruits and veggies are seasonal products.

With a vacuum sealer, you can buy food while it’s in season — or pick it from your own garden — when it’s at its cheapest and freshest. When you seal it, you preserve its freshness and quality.

Before vacuum-sealing vegetables, blanch them by boiling them for a few minutes, then dropping them into an ice bath. Dry them thoroughly, and place them in a vacuum-seal bag. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, blanching helps preserve the veggies’ flavor, color, and texture.

According to Food Vac Bags, sealed and frozen vegetables stay fresh for two or three years in the freezer compared to the normal eight to 12 months the National Center for Food Preservation says vegetables can stay frozen without vacuum sealing.

To vacuum-seal fresh fruit, start by cutting (if necessary) and freezing the fruit on a flat baking sheet. That prevents it from getting squashed during the sealing process. Place the frozen fruit into bags (preferably in single-use serving sizes) and seal. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, sealed frozen fruit can stay good for up to 12 months. And according to VacMaster, sealed fruit stays fresh for up to two weeks in the fridge.

7. Store Herbs & Spices

Dried herbs and spices have a long shelf life, but they tend to lose their flavor relatively quickly. If you compare the smell and taste of a new spice jar with one that’s a year or two old, you’ll notice the difference.

People use some spices frequently throughout the year, but others are more seasonal. For example, cloves are a popular component in wintery dishes but may not appear as often during other seasons.

Vacuum-sealing spices can help preserve their freshness longer. If you notice you haven’t used certain spices for a while, place them in a small paper bag with the top folded or a plastic zip-close bag with a couple of small holes in it, then place that bag in a larger vacuum-seal bag. Pre-bagging prevents the spice from getting sucked into the vacuum, which could damage the machine. You can unseal them when you need them and don’t have to worry about them losing flavor over time.

You can also use a vacuum sealer to preserve fresh herbs as an alternative to store-bought dried ones. First, blanch the herbs by dropping them into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds, then immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water. That helps them stay fresh for even longer in a vacuum-sealed packet. Just make sure you let the herbs dry completely before sealing them.

Note that herbs might not look nice after vacuum sealing, so they won’t be good garnishes. Vacuum-sealing just preserves their flavor. According to FoodSaver, frozen, vacuum-sealed herbs can stay fresh for months.

8. Save Space in Your Kitchen

Vacuum-sealing eliminates a lot of bulk. That can save you space in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, meaning you can worry less about space.

For example, vacuum-sealed meats, like ground beef, can have a much slimmer profile than meat packaged in the Styrofoam trays from the grocery store. Repackaging them in your own vacuum-seal bags also lets you control the quantity and shape of each chub.

If you like soup and chili, you can vacuum-seal loads of it without taking up too much room. To save space, spoon it into a zip-close bag, seal it carefully, and place it on a flat surface, like a baking sheet, to freeze. You can then remove the frozen meal from the zip-close bag and seal it in a custom bag. That gives you a flat package that’s easy to store in the freezer, either by stacking multiple bags or storing them straight up and down, like a file folder. The flat freezing method also makes it defrost quickly.

Sealing things like beans or grains lets you customize the way you store your dry goods. Some of these products come in awkward packages that are floppy and cumbersome in tight storage spaces. Vacuum-sealing pulls out all the air, creating a sturdy package that doesn’t shift as you search for other goods. Use reusable bags with a handheld sealer so you can grab what you need and reseal. Or you can use a vacuum-seal canister for even greater stability.

You can also seal bags of frozen vegetables or fruits in a single layer to reduce the amount of space they take up in your freezer. That makes it easier to keep them out of the way until you need them. You can also try sealing vegetables in smaller servings so you can use them in a meal without having to reseal what you don’t need.

9. Marinate Faster

Marinating meat or vegetables before cooking adds flavor. But marinating takes precious time. Many recipes call for placing food in the marinade hours before you cook — or even the night before — hardly ideal for on-the-go parents or professionals.

Vacuum-sealing the food in plastic bags can help you marinate it much faster. Make your marinade and pour it over the food into a custom bag made from a bag roll, then vacuum-seal it. With this method, marination takes only half an hour, though you can leave it longer if you want more flavor or tenderness.

When marinating, avoid letting liquid get into your vacuum sealer. A popular strategy is the paper towel method. Just put a paper towel between the food and the top of the bag. The towel catches liquid before it gets sucked into the vacuum sealer. As an alternative to paper products, you can use cheesecloth or something similar.

10. Sous Vide Cooking

Sous vide cooking relies on cooking food sealed in glass jars or plastic bags in a water bath at a precisely regulated temperature. You can use a sous vide cooker without a vacuum sealer, but vacuum-sealing yields the best results.

Using a sous vide cooker makes it easy to cook meat to the exact doneness you desire. Since you can set the temperature of the water bath precisely, the food never heats above a set temperature. That means getting the perfect level of doneness every time you cook with no risk of going over. If you like, you can even give it a quick sear on high heat after it’s done.

That’s fantastic news for those pricey steaks you splurged on. But it can also save you money by letting you buy cheaper cuts of meat. According to Serious Eats, sous vide’s low and slow cooking with consistent temperatures tenderizes the meat.

Sous vide machines are perfect for summer cooking since they don’t heat your home the way ovens do. Plus, you can keep the sous vide running while you’re not home.

You can use it to cook almost anything that benefits from cooking at precise temperatures, such as eggs or meat.

And with sous vide, you can cook your sides along with your mains. For example, toss some sliced potatoes, smashed garlic, milk, and butter for mashed potatoes into one vacuum-seal pack and some broccoli, olive oil, salt, and pepper into another and cook those along with a salmon steak or pork roast.

You can even sous vide foods straight from the freezer.

11. Waterproof Your Valuables & Emergency Supplies

If you’re planning a trip to the beach, expecting a large storm, or simply want to keep your valuables safe, you can use your vacuum sealer to waterproof them.

For example, you can seal things like important documents, your kids’ priceless artwork, and comic books or magazines. But be careful, as the vacuum could transfer the ink to other surfaces, make pages stick together, and crimp the edges. Instead, place them between cardboard sheets to prevent damage, then slide them into a custom-size bag from a roll and use the seal-only function. To ensure they’re also protected from fire, place them inside a fire-resistant envelope before sealing.

Vacuum-sealing is also a safe and efficient way to store emergency supplies like matches, candles, batteries, and flashlights. If a storm knocks out your power or damages your home, you’ll have dry equipment you can use while you wait for help. You can also seal away some cash so you have emergency funds to use during a disaster, when credit card networks may be down.

12. Camping & Hiking

Packing for a hike or family camping trip can be challenging, especially if you plan to stay overnight. You can only fit so much in your backpack without it becoming overly bulky, and you want to minimize weight as much as possible.

The vacuum-pack method works best for consumables or things you can otherwise leave on the trail or at the campsite unless you want to use reusable bags and pack a handheld sealer in your backpack.

A vacuum sealer draws the air from your provisions’ packaging, making it easier to carry more supplies. As a bonus, it weatherproofs the things in your bag so you can keep essentials like food and clothing dry, even if you’re hiking or camping in the rain. And it’s cheaper than buying larger bags or more expensive waterproofing equipment.

13. Save Storage Space in Every Room

The kitchen isn’t the only place storage space is at a premium. Vacuum sealers can help you pack away things you don’t use frequently and reduce the amount of space they take up.

If you want to vacuum-seal bulky items, like comforters and winter coats, you must buy special bags that work with your vacuum cleaner. But you can use your regular countertop kitchen vacuum sealer for smaller items.

For example, you can use a vacuum sealer to store seasonal items, like heavy winter socks, mittens and gloves, and scarves, until it gets cold again. You can just put the bags at the bottom of your sock drawer, where they take up a fraction of the space.

You can also use a sealer to seal things for backup or long-term storage, such as old baby clothing you plan to reuse for your next child or extra tea towels, handkerchiefs, or bulk-purchased cotton balls to protect them from water damage and pests, even if you store them in the garage.

Types of Vacuum Sealers

Before you buy a vacuum sealer, it’s crucial you understand the pros and cons of the different types of sealers and the kinds of containers they work with.

  • Countertop. Traditional countertop vacuum sealers are the most versatile. But they need space on your countertop, at least temporarily, which is a negative if countertop or storage space is already at a premium. Countertop sealers are designed to work with bag rolls, which allow you to create custom-size bags. But most also work with generic sealable containers and reusable bags via a hose you can attach to the unit. Countertop vacuum sealers tend to have the most efficient seal of the three when used with the bag rolls. But if you need to access something frequently, such as cheese or snacks, you have to create and seal a new bag each time. And they’re clunky to use with containers and bags if you don’t plan to keep it on your counter. Countertop sealers usually cost between $25 and $50 for a cheaper model, such as the NutriChef, up to $200 or more for a high-end model like the FoodSaver V4840.
  • Handheld. Smaller handheld vacuum sealers don’t take up much space. However, they only work with specially designed boxes or bags that are more expensive than generic vacuum-seal bag rolls. Handheld sealers often run between $20 for a budget unit and $30 for a more powerful sealer like the MXBold. That said, they’re not as powerful as countertop models, and some air will eventually get into the package after you seal it due to points of entry and escape in the sealing hole and zipper. That makes them best for short-term sealing or foods you reach for frequently.
  • Specialized Vacuum Sealers. There are a lot of specialized sealers that are designed to fit different needs. One example of this is the Vacuvita, which starts at $300. It sits on your countertop full time and is intended for frequent sealing and unsealing. It’s also more suitable for things like bread and chips, which a traditional sealer would crush. But it doesn’t lend itself to long-term storage. Then there are chamber vacuum sealers, like the VacMaster chamber sealer. They’re expensive but highly efficient and quieter than many other sealers. They’re great for people who want to customize how they seal food or who have lots of things to seal at once. It can also vacuum-seal liquid like marinades and soups for long-term storage. Chamber sealers are often commercial equipment, but there are comparatively less expensive prosumer (professional-consumer) models for home use.

The solution you seek may rely on having more than one kind of sealer. But you’ll most certainly need more than one type of storage solution. And there are several types to choose from.

  • Bag Rolls. Traditional countertop vacuum sealers work with special bag rolls, which are customizable. They’re essentially long tubes of plastic. You use the vacuum sealer’s seal function to melt the plastic together on one open end of the bag, cut the bag to the size you want, and fill it. Then you use the vacuum-and-seal function to pull out the air and seal the remaining open end. They’re also relatively inexpensive. However, you can’t reuse them, which means you need to restock regularly. These are optimum for long-term storage because they have the best seal and lose less vacuum over time than any other storage method.
  • Reusable Bags. Reusable bags are a fixed size and more expensive than bag rolls. But you can use them more than once, which can save you money in the long run. They’re suitable for foods you plan to use often because you can reseal them rather than discard them and start over like you have to do with bags from rolls. But they aren’t as impervious as the custom bags. The sealing hole and zipper are potential points of air introduction, and they can lose vacuum over time, meaning they’re not ideal for long-term storage. They can be a pain to clean and fully dry, and it’s best to avoid using them for things like raw meat or foods that can stain, such as tomato sauce.
  • Specialized Mason Jar Lids. You can buy special vacuum-seal Mason jar lids to seal jarred foods. For long-term storage, these are best for staples like cereal and dry goods. Vacuum-sealing with them isn’t meant to take the place of proper canning techniques. But they’re fine for short-term storage of things like soup and chili.
  • Plastic Storage Containers. For leftovers and meal prep, you can’t beat vacuum-seal storage containers. They’re expensive but reusable. But over time, these containers’ seals may weaken, especially if the initial seal isn’t good or there’s too much moisture in the container.

Just ensure whatever container you buy works with your sealer model.

Final Word

Vacuum sealers are useful kitchen gadgets that can help you save space and money. However, they’re not one-size-fits-all. You may even need a couple of different types of vacuum sealers to meet your needs.

For example, a countertop model that works with bag rolls can help you vacuum-seal foods for long-term storage. But you’ll probably prefer to keep a handheld model for everyday use, like storing leftovers in the fridge or sealing cheese or deli meat for lunches.

With vacuum sealers, the possibilities are endless. You can vacuum-seal almost anything, so you might find new and interesting ways to save space and safely store things throughout your home.


5 Ways to Prepare Your Apartment for Summer

If you’re like us, you’re enjoying planting flowers and putting away your heavy sweaters as winter gives way to spring. The warmer weather is always welcome – until it gets too hot, that is. Summer’s not far off, and with it will come soaring temperatures that can leave you uncomfortable in your apartment.

You can’t stop the weather, but you can prepare your home ahead of time so those sweltering days don’t bother you too much. Here’s how to ensure you’ll be cool as a cucumber when the heat hits.

1. Have your air conditioner inspected

5 Ways to Prepare Your Apartment for Hot Weather5 Ways to Prepare Your Apartment for Hot WeatherYou don’t want to wait until you really need it to find out your AC is broken. Test your air conditioner sometime this spring. Does it not blow out cool air? Does it make weird noises or seem to work too hard? If there’s any problem at all, call your apartment maintenance crew out to fix it.

2. Improve insulation around windows and doors

Most people think of beefing up their insulation when they’re preparing for winter, but the same principles apply during the summer: You want your comfortable, cool air inside and the hot air outside. Block drafts by caulking gaps and installing new weather stripping (you may want to call the maintenance crew to do this for you). Hang curtains and blinds to keep direct sunlight from entering your apartment.

For a fun, easy DIY project that’ll keep you comfortable and save you money, check out our tutorial on making your own draft stoppers.

3. Clean the vents on your dryer

You already know that you should clean out your lint trap after each load of laundry. But you also need to clean the vent that directs excess hot air outside your home about once a year. If you don’t, you’re creating a fire hazard (talk about hot!) and some hot air that should be directed outside may instead blow back inside.

Cleaning your vent is an easy process. Here’s how to do it:

  • Unplug the dryer and pull it away from the wall.
  • Loosen the clamp that attaches the vent to the dryer and pull the vent away.
  • Use the hose attachment on your vacuum cleaner to suck up the excess lint and debris that’s collected in the vent.
  • Reconnect everything.

Another option to save money and keep you cooler is to use a drying rack to let your clothes air-dry instead of using the appliance.

4. Change the direction of your ceiling fans

To cool down a room, the ceiling fan should rotate counter-clockwise. This pushes the air downward, creating a wind chill effect that can make you feel as much as 4 degrees cooler than the room actually is. Creating this breeze is an energy-efficient and easy way to keep your home feeling much cooler. (In winter, you’ll want it to rotate clockwise so the warm air that gathers at the top of the room gets circulated.)

If you don’t have a ceiling fan where you want one, ask your maintenance crew to install one for you. You may have to buy the fan yourself, but they should be able to mount it on the ceiling for you.

5. Have plenty of ice on hand

Whether your fridge has an automatic ice maker or you have to do it the old-fashioned way with cube trays, you’ll want plenty of ice on hand when summer hits. Drinking an ice-cold beverage does a lot to cool down your body temperature, so make sure your freezer and ice maker are in good working order.

How do you keep cool in your apartment during the summer?

Image credit: Shutterstock / Jen duMoulin, You Touch Pix of EuToch




What is PMI and How Can I Get Rid of It? – Lexington Law

private mortgage insurance
For prospective homeowners, there are many things to learn before you even begin the process of searching for a home, especially for first time buyers. One of the most important lessons to learn for those who have less than 20 percent to put down on their home is that of private mortgage insurance (PMI).

What is PMI?

PMI is a type of insurance your lender solicits from you in the event that you buy a home without a 20 percent down payment. It usually ends up affecting Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan applicants, because these applicants are only required to put down 3.5 percent of their total purchase price.

For any buyer who was unable to put down a full 20 percent, you should expect mortgage insurance premiums of roughly .05-1.00 percent of your total loan amount per year. There are several factors that affect the cost of your PMI:

  • Down payment size – The larger your down payment, the lower your PMI premium.
  • Credit score – Higher credit scores earn a lower PMI rate.
  • Loan appreciation potential – If your home is expected to appreciate in value rather than depreciate, your PMI will be lower.
  • Borrower occupancy – If you plan to rent your new home rather that occupy it yourself, expect to pay higher PMI premiums.
  • Loan type – The greater the risk to your lender, the higher your PMI will be. Anyone applying for a loan with a low credit score (500-650) and the minimum down payment might expect to have a higher PMI premium.

Why do I need PMI?

You may be wondering: why would anyone elect to get PMI? The short answer is they would not.

PMI is not the same as car insurance or homeowners insurance. The aforementioned types of insurance are designed to protect consumers in the event of catastrophe, such as a house fire or car accident. PMI, on the other hand, only protects your lender in the even of loan default. Not only will they take over possession of your home, but they will have the additional money you paid into your PMI policy.

How do I get rid of it?

If you are like many FHA loan applicants, there might not be much you can do about avoiding PMI altogether, but you can keep a close eye on your loan balance and request to remove it as soon as possible. Lenders are required by law to remove PMI automatically when you have paid enough to have 22 percent equity in your home. However, when you reach 20 percent, you can call your lender and request to have it removed, and they are required to comply with your request.

There are a few other ways to remove PMI:

  • Refinance your home
  • Get a new appraisal
  • Pay extra on your loan (any extra amount will be applied directly toward your principal loan amount)
  • Consider making additions to your home, which may increase its value.

Ultimately, you should try to remove PMI as soon as you possibly can. It does not benefit you as a homeowner, and you can save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan if you have it removed. For more information on how to improve your finances, including credit repair after buying a home, contact the experts at Lexington Law at 1-833-333-2281 .

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


Early Retirement Extreme: Can You Really Retire in 5 Years?

How long do you need to work to retire? Fifty years? Forty?

According to Jacob Lund Fisker, you may be able to retire in just five years.

One of the early popularizers of the modern FIRE movement (financial independence, retire early), Fisker published his book “Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence” (sometimes shortened to ERE) back in 2007. Some adherents have since used its practices to retire young. The concept has plenty going for it, but like all things extreme, it remains a fringe movement.

Before you start preparing for your early retirement, make sure you understand not just the math, but the more nuanced personal finance notions behind financial independence.

Early Retirement Extreme: The Concept

Although Fisker has since said he regrets using the term “early retirement extreme,” his ideas do strike most people as extreme.

His underlying premise: the average person in the developed world can retire in just a few years if they follow a few simple concepts: slash your spending to supercharge your savings rate, and invest that savings to create passive income.

Spend Less, Save More

Plenty of people think of themselves as “frugal.” But Fisker operates on a different level, living on only $7,000 per year.

He never eats out at restaurants, lives in a very inexpensive home, and splits the expenses evenly with his wife. Additionally, he grows some of his own food using a home garden, makes some of his own furniture, and scores free stuff from resources like Freecycle.

Fisker recommends other ways of cutting down costs, like borrowing Kindle books and audiobooks from a digital library rather than buying them on Amazon, and learning how to take advantage of “loss leaders” at grocery stores.

None of these concepts are earth-shattering; many college students apply a number of these methods to save money. Fisker just suggests extending that hyper-frugality a little longer.

By living cheaply and saving as much money as possible, you can retire much faster. It comes at the problem from both angles: you build wealth faster, and you require less replacement income to live on in retirement.

Invest for Passive Income

Saving money is all well and good, but the real magic happens when you invest that money to compound or generate passive income for you. With enough passive income from your investments, you no longer need to work full-time in order to pay your bills. It’s called financial independence (or financial freedom): you can cover your living expenses without a day job.

For example, I’m a real estate investor. I live on a fraction of my income, and save and invest the rest. Some of that savings goes into buying rental properties, which generate ongoing rental income for me each month. With enough rental income, I no longer need a day job — I can go travel the world with my family. (Which I do, spending 10 months of the year overseas.)

Pro tip: If you’ve been thinking about investing in real estate, you can purchase turnkey properties through Roofstock. You can also invest in real estate indirectly through platforms like Fundrise or Groundfloor.

The Math Behind Retiring Early

The concept is simple enough: build passive income streams from your savings, replace your day job. But how does the math look? Can you really retire in five or 10 years?

The short answer: you can, but it takes a (very) high savings rate. And a higher income certainly helps.

But before breaking down the math of early retirement, you need a few foundational concepts.

From Nest Egg to Passive Income

Most people start their retirement planning by asking the wrong question. They ask, “How much money do I need to retire?” when they should ask, “How much passive income do I need in retirement?” From there, you can estimate how much money you need to retire. But it starts with your target retirement income.

Retirees typically withdraw a certain percentage of their nest egg each year to cover their living expenses. They base that percentage on what’s called a safe withdrawal rate, which varies based on how long they need their nest egg to last. If you retire at 75 and only expect to live another 10 to 15 years, you can pull out money much faster than if you retire at 40 and hope to live another 50 years.

Many retirees follow the “4% rule,” taking a withdrawal rate of 4% of their nest egg each year. Historical returns on bonds and the stock market suggest that a withdrawal rate of 4% should leave your nest egg intact for at least 30 years.

Knowing your future withdrawal rate enables you to calculate how much you need to save for retirement. At a 4% withdrawal rate, you need 25 times your target annual retirement income as a nest egg (4% x 25 = 100%). So, if you wanted $40,000 per year in retirement income, you’d need $1,000,000 as a target nest egg.

Wrinkles and a Wrinkly Example

First of all, note that we can ignore Social Security income, since we’re talking about retiring young.

Now come two wrinkles. First, early retirees need their money to last longer than 30 years. Financial planner Michael Kitces demonstrates that a 3.5% withdrawal rate should theoretically leave your nest egg intact forever. That means early retirees can use a 3.5% withdrawal rate for their planning, regardless of how young they plan to retire. Which, in turn, means you can multiply your target retirement income by around 28.6 to reach a target nest egg. For a $40,000 retirement income, that comes to a nest egg of $1,142,857.

The second wrinkle is that withdrawal rates assume you invested all your nest egg in paper assets (stocks and bonds). If you invest in assets like rental properties, they generate ongoing passive income without having to sell off any assets. Plus you can leverage other people’s money to buy them.

Which means you can cheat on the withdrawal rate — if you develop the skills necessary to invest in real estate.

Continuing the example, say you want $40,000 per year in retirement income and aim for half to come from paper assets and the other half from rental properties. To collect $20,000 in income from paper assets at a 3.5% withdrawal rate, you need $571,429 in stocks and bonds.

Rentals are harder to calculate and require some assumptions. Say you’re buying properties at an 8% cap rate, which means an 8% annual yield if you buy in cash. For a $100,000 property, that means you’d pocket $8,000 per year after non-mortgage expenses. But you instead finance 80% of the purchase price, borrowing $80,000 at, let’s say, 5% interest for 30 years.

That drops your investment from $100,000 to $20,000, and drops your annual net income to $2,846 after your mortgage payments. That means you’d need to buy around seven of those properties to generate $20,000 in annual net rental income. In this example, seven of these properties come to $140,000 in down payments.

Your total combined savings target for both your paper assets and your down payments then comes to $711,429 ($571,429 + $140,000), in order to generate $40,000 in annual passive income.

How Much You Need to Save to Retire in 5 Years

Let’s say you’ve decided how much income you want in retirement, and run the numbers to calculate a target nest egg. You want to reach it in five years, then storm out of your workplace and retire.

For the next five years, you invest all your savings in an index fund that mimics the S&P 500. The S&P 500 has returned an average historical return of around 10% since its inception in the 1920s, so we’ll use that to calculate your future returns between now and retirement.

Here’s what you’d have to save and invest each month in order to reach the following target nest eggs in five years:

$500,000: $6,457 per month

$1 million: $12,914 per month

$1.5 million: $19,371 per month

$2 million: $25,827 per month

$3 million: $38,741 per month

So, could you retire in five years? You’d have to earn a pretty penny, and invest the bulk of it, but it’s theoretically possible.

How Much You Need to Save to Retire in 10 or 15 Years

Although still a challenge, it’s more feasible to retire in 10 or 15 years.

Here are the same numbers, with all the same assumptions, to retire in 10 years:

$500,000: $2,441 per month

$1 million: $4,882 per month

$1.5 million: $7,323 per month

$2 million: $9,763 per month

$3 million: $14,645 per month

If you give yourself 15 years, the numbers get even more feasible, although waiting 15 years starts to feel pretty remote to most of us. Here’s how much you’d need to save and invest each month to retire in 15 years:

$500,000: $1,206 per month

$1 million: $2,413 per month

$1.5 million: $3,619 per month

$2 million: $4,825 per month

$3 million: $7,238 per month

Financial Independence vs. Retiring Early

Financial independence means being able to cover your living expenses with passive income from investments (read: work optional). Retiring early means quitting your job and no longer working.

Responsible adults need to be financially independent in order to retire, but they don’t need to retire just because they reach financial independence. Because let’s be honest, as much fun as sitting on a beach sipping margaritas is, it gets boring after a week or two. Most of us don’t actually want to retire at 30 and never work again — we want the freedom to do work we love, even if it doesn’t pay well.

So, don’t get hung up on the “retiring young” component of the FIRE movement. Instead, focus on boosting your savings rate, investing to build your net worth quickly, reducing dependence on your job, and using your financial heft to help you design your perfect life. In other words, use FIRE tactics to help you with lifestyle design.

People love to criticize the FIRE movement for promoting laziness and encouraging young people to quit the workforce. In truth, the FIRE movement uses the “retire early” angle as a marketing gimmick, because everyone can intuit what that means. Most people don’t know exactly what “financial independence” or “lifestyle design” mean, so they make poor rallying cries.

But they’re where the meat of the FIRE movement lie.

Controversies and Criticisms of Extreme Early Retirement

Retiring young comes with real risks and downsides. Here are a few of the most common critiques of the concepts underlying the FIRE movement and early retirement in particular, along with my take on them.

Sacrifice, Delayed Gratification, and Low Quality of Life

Most middle-class people don’t want to live on $7,000 per year, and wonder why anyone would. They don’t want to sacrifice anything from their current quality of life.

Fisker addresses this issue at length in his book, which outlines not only the math behind his retirement strategy, but also the philosophy. In addition to extreme savings, Fisker recommends that a simpler lifestyle can create greater happiness. Forcing yourself to leave consumerism behind can help you learn how to be happy without constantly spending money.

My Take: The average person approaches every financial decision — from buying houses and cars to creating their budget — with the question, “What’s the most I can afford to spend?”

It’s the wrong question.

Instead ask, “What’s the least I can spend and still be happy?” Do you really need that giant SUV, that large suburban house? Does every adult in your household need their own car?

My wife and I no longer have a car at all. Or a housing payment, for that matter, as we found a way to house hack. We walk, bike, or Uber everywhere — and chose our city and home specifically to make that feasible.

You can frame budgeting and spending less as “sacrifice” or “minimalist” if you want. I don’t. I enjoy learning how to cook gourmet meals at home, enjoy using my own legs to get around rather than munching doughnuts behind the wheel of a car.

It’s all in your perspective. From my perspective, I live a fun, adventurous life making fast progress toward financial independence.

Health Insurance Is Expensive Without Employer Coverage

How can you possibly pay for health insurance without employer coverage?

Actually, many Americans get health care coverage without employer-sponsored insurance. But it does represent an additional expense for some early retirees.

When it comes to health insurance, Fisker recommends a high-deductible HSA-compatible plan to cover expensive medical emergencies. He also suggests maxing out contributions to an HSA until the account covers the high deductible on the plan.

My Take: Worst case scenario, you simply budget for health care as a living expense in retirement.

But you have plenty of other options as well. My wife and I live overseas, where health care costs less and we’ve never experienced lower quality care than we had in the U.S.

Or don’t stop working — just switch to a career you love that, ideally, includes health insurance. You can also look for a low-stress part-time job that offers health benefits.

Children Also Cost Money

It costs money to raise a child.

A study by the USDA estimated the average cost to raise a child at $284,570, factoring in inflation. That figure does not include college costs.

Critics contend that the FIRE movement ignores children, and early retirement is only attainable for people without kids.

My Take: First of all, children are an investment, not an expense. And I mean that not just figuratively, but also financially. My children are my insurance against superannuation: if I run out of money in retirement, my children can take me in or otherwise help with my care.

Fisker suggests keeping the costs of raising a child down by not giving them an allowance, encouraging them to save whatever money they get as gifts, buying children’s clothes at thrift stores, and encouraging them to go to a state school instead of an expensive private university. I don’t think you have to do any of that.

Nearly one-third of the cost of raising a child comes from larger housing. But you can avoid paying for housing through house hacking.

I have a child and hope to have a second, and still plan to reach financial independence within five years of when I started taking it seriously.

As for college education, there are many creative ways to help your kids pay for college. None of which require bankrupting yourself.

Only Single/Married/Rich/Educated/Privileged People Can Retire Early

The details don’t matter. The argument simply goes, “That other type of person might be able to retire early, but I can’t because I don’t have the advantages that they have.”

Single people say only married couples can achieve FIRE because they can share expenses. Married couples say only single people can achieve FIRE because they don’t have to worry about a spendthrift spouse. Which one is right? Neither, of course.

Everyone says, “Only people who earn more money than I do can achieve FIRE.” This pattern emerges no matter how much money they actually earn, because as they earn more, they simply spend more, in the never-ending cycle of lifestyle inflation.

And so it goes.

My Take: The average person stays average because they continue spending nearly every dollar they earn. They justify their lack of savings by saying, “I can’t save any more money, because I don’t earn enough. If I earned more, of course I’d save more!” Then when they get a raise, they immediately start spending more.

If you put all your considerable will into retiring young, you’ll find a way to do it. Most people don’t want it enough to do so, so they dismiss the entire concept as impossible.

It’s quite possible — but it does require tradeoffs that you may not be willing to make. Fisker lives on $7,000 a year, after all.

Final Word

Extreme early retirement makes for a sexy concept, but it’s all sizzle and little steak.

The real meat lies in more nuanced and mature concepts like lifestyle design. Learn how to live a happy, meaningful, fulfilling life without spending as much money. Save and invest more of your earnings to build wealth and passive income faster. Find work that you love, regardless of the paycheck.

The more the average person earns, the more they want to earn. There’s no such thing as enough money — people climb onto the hedonic treadmill and run ever faster, exhausting themselves chasing more-more-more. A bigger house. A flashier car. Trendy clothes. A second home. Ever more status symbols to show the world how successful you are and how great your life is.

But when you start looking at your life holistically, through the lens of FIRE and lifestyle design, your perspective shifts. The more wealth and passive income I accumulate, the less I need to earn. And the more free I feel to spend my waking hours doing, well, whatever I want.