Can I Afford to Have a Hot Girl Summer?

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

After a year spent indoors, everyone wants to have a hot girl summer in 2021. But when your financial situation is still recovering from the pandemic, can you really afford to?

Whether you’re struggling to get by or just looking to save a few bucks, use these tips to go big this summer – without going over budget.

Cash in rewards points

Millions of Americans stocked up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectants during the pandemic. But many consumers inadvertently hoarded another item: credit card rewards points.

If you’re planning to reunite with high school friends or travel to a bachelorette party, cash in your points and miles to save on the trip. If you had to cancel a vacation due to the pandemic, redeem any remaining travel credit.

If you have more rewards points than you need, you may be able to redeem them for cash or as a statement credit on your card, which you can then use toward your trip.

Don’t have any rewards cards? Now may be a good time to sign up. Chase is currently offering a 100,000-point bonus for new cardholders who apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, or a 60,000-point bonus for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Depending on where you’re going, that’s enough for a couple of flights or hotel stays.

Invite friends over for a swap

My new favorite tradition with friends is to host a swap. Everyone brings items they no longer need, and we take turns picking new-to-us items. Last time I got three dresses, a pair of Madewell overalls, a curling iron, and a dog bed.

You’re not limited to clothes at a swap. I encourage my friends to bring anything, including books, kitchenware, makeup and home decor. It’s a free way to get new items, and it encourages you to declutter your house.

Drink like a college student

Back in college, most people would have a couple drinks at home before venturing to the bars. If you’re going out with friends, consider starting with a drink or two at home.

Another money-saving trick is to eat a full meal before you go out, so you’re not tempted to grab pricey appetizers. If you’re getting drinks with your friends, limit yourself to basic cocktails instead of specialty cocktails, or stick to the draft list instead of buying a fancy bottle.

Create rules for yourself

Now that the world is opening up, it’s tempting to throw your budget away and treat yourself to everything you missed during the pandemic. Before doing that, set up some ground rules to keep yourself from going overboard.

For example, make a rule that if you’re getting dinner or brunch with friends, you won’t get take-out that week. These basic rules will help you spend less without having to give up what really matters.

Use a cash budget

Instead of bringing your credit card with you on a night out, only take the amount of cash you want to spend. You can still use your phone to order an Uber or Lyft, but you won’t have the temptation of a credit card. Decide how much you’re comfortable spending and only bring that amount.

Join a sports league

Group sports leagues like softball, soccer, or kickball are one of the most affordable ways to hang out with friends and get some exercise at the same time.

Most group leagues cost between $50 and $75 a person, depending on the sport, and usually last around six weeks. Sometimes you’ll even get a discount at a local bar where you can hang out afterwards.

Plan a budget-friendly trip

For the past few years, my college friends and I have met up every summer at my in-law’s lake house. The house is located near a small town in Indiana, only a few hour’s drive for most of us.

Instead of picking a more exotic locale, we prioritize saving money. It’s free to stay there, and we split the cost of groceries. I usually spend about $100 on gas, food, and drinks for a three-day trip.

If you’re considering a getaway with friends, get creative. Don’t automatically book a trip to Vegas or Miami. Pick a spot that’s close enough to drive, or near a popular airport where flights will be less expensive.

If you’re not lucky enough to have access to a family vacation home, look on Airbnb and VRBO for affordable destinations. Find a house with a stocked kitchen so you can cook most of your meals.

Pro tip: Use Mint’s free travel budget calculator to help you plan your next adventure.

Budget for it

When the world shut down last year, most of us got used to spending less on gas, bars, and new clothes. But as things start to open up, you may find your spending ramping back up.

Use this time to revise your budget and allocate money toward restaurants, rideshare services, and new outfits. As things return to normal, you may have to change your budget a few times before finding a happy balance. Give yourself some grace, as circumstances may change rapidly.

If you find budgeting for one month at a time difficult, give yourself a weekly allowance to use for non-essential purchases. Redirect some of your pandemic habits, like ordering take-out a few times a week, to your rediscovered social habits, like getting dinner with your friends.

Talk to your friends

While some consumers survived the pandemic without getting laid off, millions of Americans lost their jobs and remained unemployed for months. So while your friends may be ready to party, you might be focused on rebuilding your savings.

If you suffered financially during the pandemic, you may not be able to keep up with your friends this summer. Even though it may seem awkward to discuss your money problems openly, it’s better than making excuses.

If you lie about why you can’t hang out, your friends will think you’re avoiding them. But if you’re honest, they may accommodate you by suggesting budget-friendly activities. Give them the chance to understand, even if it means having an uncomfortable conversation. Who knows – one of them might be struggling as well, but too afraid to speak up.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Zina Kumok

Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins. More from Zina Kumok

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

There are so many fashion trends that come and go; but what does that mean for your pockets? You’re left overspending, making impulse decisions, or buying items because others are doing the same thing. Remember, fashion is a personal experience. It’s unique to each one of us as we all express our personal style in different ways. The cost of living along with everyday essentials are on the rise; what are a few ways to remain stylish while making sure it’s budget friendly? Use the following tips to build a classic wardrobe that’s always on trend – no matter the occasion.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe consists of a set of tops, bottoms, outerwear, shoes, and various accessories that are versatile and can be mixed based on occasion to create a multitude of looks. The focal point of a capsule wardrobe is to own more on quality pieces that can transcend through the various seasons.

Ranging from between 25 – 75 pieces (or more; just depends on your preference) the key is to be able to identify all your clothing items easily and severely cut down on the time it takes to decide what you’re going to wear from day-to-day. Your new wardrobe should be able to reflect you personally while also remaining super functional.

Step 1: Take an assessment of your closet

Before we get started with hitting our favorite stores or buying everything online; take note of what’s currently in your closet. Begin to create a few mounds of clothes – keep, purge, and repurpose piles. What are the items that no longer fit? What items don’t necessarily fit your personal style anymore?

Be honest with yourself during this exercise. For example, if the clothes fit but you haven’t worn them within the past six months, chances are you may not be in love with them like you thought during the initial purchase. Also consider gently used clothes that are still in good shape to donate or sell to a consignment shop. The funds made from items already in your closet can go toward new pieces for your capsule wardrobe! Consider your current lifestyle as well – are you self-employed, working a 9-5 or a stay-at-home parent? All of this will impact your personal decisions as it relates to clothing.

To streamline this process even further, take pictures of the items you’re going to keep and have them all in one album on your phone. This way, you’re able to track each piece you have before making any new purchases. We often believe we have nothing to wear when it’s time to get dressed – when we really are just unsure of what we have. Reprogram your mind to utilize what you already have versus spending out of impatience and frustration.

Step 2: Identify your personal style and experiment

Social media exposes us to so many people, their personal styles and fashion inspirations. When you take a step back from everyone else’s thoughts and opinions; who inspires you? Create a mood board with outfits that pique your interest, that are classic in nature and are flattering to your body type. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are these pieces something I’m going to love years from now?
  • Will I feel confident no matter the occasion?
  • Does this fit my work and personal lifestyle?
  • Am I committed to investing in quality items?

Answering these truthfully are a great baseline to tailoring your wardrobe for you – regardless of what’s ever changing on social media. Next is the fun part; begin experimenting with what’s in your closet! Make sure all your items are in one area in your closet or buy a fashion rack so you’re able to easily identify your growing capsule wardrobe. Using either of these methods should not only cut down your decision time when getting dressed, it gives you the opportunity to create multiple looks with the same pieces. The main goal is functionality – make sure it’s adaptable to your lifestyle and its’ demands.

Step 3: Spend wisely and fight the urge against fast fashion

Quality over quantity is the mantra to live by when wanting to build a capsule wardrobe. Think about it in this way – how can you remain timeless while also having a distinct personal style?

When you’re looking for items to add to your capsule, focus on durability and quality. There’s no point in buying a lot of clothes that can’t withstand a few cycles in the washing machine (lack of quality) or shopping for one specific event (non-functional pieces). Refer to the pictures that’ve been taken of your current items so they’re handy during any shopping trip. Don’t forget to leverage consignment shops or thrift stores during this process. Bulkier, yet timeless items such as trench coats or vests with neutral colors can often be found. If you find that shopping for each season initially is too difficult, begin offseason shopping. During the summer, fall and winter clothes can be reduced heavily in price; use these opportunities as a cost savings.

Step 4: Take your time and have fun!

Transitioning from your current wardrobe to a fully functional one isn’t easy. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to finalize each piece in your closet over a designated amount of time. Not only is that not realistic, but it’s also expensive (which partly defeats the purpose) and stressful. This should be a fun, experimental, yet intentional time.

Take note of the outfits you enjoy the most. What about them makes you confident? You’ll discover you love every item in your closet versus simply dealing with pieces to complete an outfit. Take a note of items that may be currently missing from your wardrobe that can be worn at least three ways.

Taking this into account, you’ll be able to add those items into your rotation easily. Every purchase should be strategic and purposeful. While others are chasing trends that change every season, you’ll be peaceful and empowered with a wardrobe distinctly curated by you and your wants.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Marsha Barnes

Marsha Barnes is a finance guru with over 20 years of experience dedicates her efforts to empower women worldwide to become financially thriving. Financial competency and literacy are a passion of Marsha’s, providing practical information for clients increasing their overall confidence in their personal finances. More from Marsha Barnes

Source: mint.intuit.com

What Is Inflation (Definition) – Causes & Effects of Rate on Prices & Interest

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Additional Resources

People have always grumbled that a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to. But these days, that complaint is truer than ever. No matter where you go — the gas station, the grocery store, the movies — prices are higher than they were just a month or two ago.

What we’re seeing is the return of a familiar economic foe: inflation. Many Americans alive today have never seen price increases like these before. For the past three decades, inflation has never been above 4% per year. But as of March 2022, it’s at 8.5%, a level not seen since 1981.

Modest inflation, like what we had up through 2020, is normal and even healthy for an economy. But the rate of inflation we’re seeing now is neither normal nor healthy. It does more than just raise the cost of living. It can have a serious impact on the economy as a whole. 

Recent inflation-related news:


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  • In March 2022, the U.S. inflation rate hit a 40-year high of 8.5%. 
  • Prices for gasoline have increased nearly 50% over the past year.
  • Retail giant Amazon has added a 5% fuel and inflation surcharge for sellers.
  • The Federal Reserve is planning a series of interest rate hikes to cool the overheated economy.

What Is Inflation?

Inflation is more than just rising prices. Prices of specific things we buy, from a gallon of milk to a year of college tuition, rise and fall all the time. These price increases affect individual consumers’ lives, but they don’t have a big impact on the entire economy.

Inflation is a general increase in the prices of goods and services across the board. It drives up prices for everything you buy, from a haircut to a gallon of gas. Or, to put it another way, the purchasing power of every dollar in your pocket declines.

Most of the time, inflation doesn’t disrupt people’s lives too much, because prices rise for labor as well. If your household spending increases by 5% but your paycheck increases by 5% at the same time, you’re no worse off than before.

But when prices rise sharply, wages can’t always keep up. That makes it harder for consumers to make ends meet. It also drives them to change their spending behaviors in ways that often make the problem worse.


Causes of Inflation

Inflation depends on the twin forces of supply and demand. Supply is the amount of a particular good or service that’s available. Demand is the amount of that particular good or service that people want to buy. More demand drives prices up, while more supply drives them down. 

To see why, suppose you have 10 loaves of bread to sell. You have 10 buyers who want bread and are willing to pay $1 per loaf. So you can sell all 10 loaves at $1 each.

But if 10 more buyers suddenly enter the market, they will have to compete for your bread. To make sure they get some, they might be willing to pay as much as $2 per loaf. The higher demand has pushed the price up.

By contrast, if another seller shows up with 10 loaves of bread, the two of you will be competing for buyers. To sell your bread, you might have to lower the price to as little as $0.50 per loaf. The higher supply has pushed prices down.

Inflation results from demand outstripping supply. Economists often describe this as “too much money chasing too few goods.” There are several ways this kind of imbalance can happen.

Cost-Push Inflation

Cost-push inflation happens when it costs more to produce goods. To go back to the bread example, cost-push inflation might happen because a wheat shortage makes flour more expensive. It costs you more to make each loaf of bread, so you can’t afford to bake as much.

As a result, you bring only five loaves to the market. But there are still 10 customers who want to buy bread, so they must pay more to get their share. The higher cost of production drives down the supply and thus drives up the price.

In the real world, cost-push inflation can result from higher costs for anything that goes into making a product. This includes:

  • Raw Materials. The wheat that went into your bread is an example. Higher-cost wheat means higher-cost flour, which means higher-cost bread.
  • Transportation. In today’s global economy, materials and finished goods move around a lot. Transporting products requires fuel, which usually comes from oil. So whenever oil prices go up, the price of other goods rises as well. 
  • Labor. Another factor in production cost is labor. When schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents had to stop working to care for their children. That created a worker shortage that drove prices up.

Demand-Pull Inflation

The opposite of cost-push inflation is demand-pull inflation. It occurs when consumers want to buy more than the market can supply, driving prices up.

Typically, demand-pull inflation results from economic growth. Rising wages and lower levels of unemployment put more money in people’s pockets, and people who have more money want to spend more. If the booming economy hasn’t produced enough goods and services to match this new demand, prices rise.

Other causes of demand-pull inflation include: 

  • Increased Money Supply. Another way people can end up with more money in their pockets is because the government has put more money in circulation. Governments often do this to stimulate a weak economy or to pay off past debts. But as the money supply increases, the purchasing power of each dollar shrinks. 
  • Rapid Population Growth. When the population grows rapidly, the demand for goods and services grows also. If the economy doesn’t produce more to compensate, prices rise. In Europe during the 1500s and 1600s, prices soared as the population grew so fast that agriculture couldn’t keep up with the new demand.
  • Panic Buying. Early in the COVID pandemic, consumers started buying extra groceries to fill their pantries in preparation for a lockdown. This led to shortages of many staple products, like milk and toilet paper. As a result, prices for those goods went up.
  • Pent-Up Demand. This occurs when people return to spending after a period of going without. This often happens in the wake of a recession. It also occurred as pandemic restrictions eased and people returned to enjoying movies, travel, and restaurant meals.

Built-In Inflation

When consumers expect prices to be higher in the future, they often respond by spending more now. If the purchasing power of their savings is only going to fall, it makes more sense to take that money out of the bank and use it on a major purchase, like a new car or a large appliance.

In this way, expectations of high inflation can themselves lead to inflation. This type of inflation is called built-in inflation because it builds on itself. 

When workers expect the cost of living to rise, they demand higher wages. But then they have more to spend, so they spend more, driving prices up. This, in turn, reinforces the belief that  prices will keep rising, leading to still higher wage demands. This cycle of rising wages and prices is called a wage-price spiral.


Effects of Inflation

Inflation does more than just drive up the cost of living. It changes the economy in a variety of ways — some harmful, others helpful. The effects of inflation include:

  • Higher Wages. As prices rise with inflation, wages typically rise as well. This can create a wage-price spiral that drives inflation still higher.
  • Higher Interest Rates. When the dollar is declining in value, banks often respond by raising interest rates on loans. The Federal Reserve also typically raises interest rates to cool the economy and rein in inflation, as discussed below.
  • Cheaper Debt. Inflation is good for debtors because they can pay off their debts with cheaper dollars. This is most useful for loans with a fixed interest rate, such as fixed-rate mortgages and student loans.
  • More Consumption. Inflation encourages consumers to spend money because they know it will be worth less later. All this spending keeps the economy humming, but it can also drive prices even higher.
  • Lower Savings Rates. Just as inflation encourages spending, it discourages saving. Higher interest rates can counter this effect, but they often don’t rise enough to make a difference.
  • Less Valuable Benefits. High inflation is worse for people on a fixed income. They face higher prices without higher wages to make up for them. Benefits such as Social Security change each year to adjust for inflation, but higher benefits next year don’t help when prices are rising right now.
  • More Valuable Tangible Assets. Inflation reduces the purchasing power of the dollars you have in the bank. Tangible assets like real estate, however, gain in dollar value as prices rise.

Measuring Inflation

The most common measure of inflation is the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) determines the CPI based on the cost of an imaginary basket of goods and services. BLS workers painstakingly check prices on all these items each month and record how each price changes.

To calculate the annual rate of inflation, the BLS looks at how much all prices in its basket have changed since a year earlier. Then it “weights” the value of each item based on how much of it people buy. The weighted average of all items becomes the CPI.

The BLS then uses the CPI to calculate the annual rate of inflation. It divides this month’s CPI by the CPI from a year ago, then multiplies the result by 100. This shows how the purchasing power of a dollar has changed over the last year. The result is reported monthly.

Other measures of inflation include:

  • Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCE). This inflation measure is published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Like the CPI, it’s a measure of consumer costs, but it’s adjusted to account for changes in the products people buy. The Federal Reserve uses the PCE to guide its monetary policy, as discussed below. 
  • Producer Price Index (PPI). The PPI measures inflation from the seller’s perspective, not the buyer’s. It’s calculated by dividing the price sellers currently get for a basket of goods and services by its price in a base year, then multiplying the result by 100.

Historical Examples of Inflation

A little bit of inflation is normal. But sometimes inflation spirals out of control, with prices rising more than 50% per month. This is called hyperinflation, and it can be devastating for an economy.

Hyperinflation has occurred at various times and places throughout history. During the U.S. Civil War, both sides experienced soaring inflation. Other examples include Germany in the 1920s, Greece and Hungary after World War II, Yugoslavia and Peru in the 1990s, and Venezuela today. In most cases, the main cause was the government printing money to pay for debt. 

The last time the U.S. had prolonged, high rates of inflation was in the 1970s and early 1980s. The inflation rate was nowhere near hyperinflation levels, but it spiked above 10% twice. Eventually, the Fed hiked interest rates to double-digit levels to get it under control.

Although high inflation can be destructive, zero inflation isn’t a good thing, either. At that point, an economy is at risk of the opposite problem, deflation. 

When prices and wages fall across the board, consumers spend less. Sales of products and services fall, so companies cut back staff or go out of business. As a result, jobs are lost and spending drops still more, worsening the problem. The Great Depression was an example.


The Federal Reserve, or Fed, is the U.S. central bank — or more accurately, banks. It’s a group of 12 banks spread across the country under the control of a central board of governors. Its job is to keep the economy on track, reining in inflation while trying to avoid recessions. 

The Fed maintains this balance through monetary policy, or controlling the availability of money.

Its main tool for doing this is interest rates. When the economy is weak, the Fed lowers the federal funds rate. This makes it easier for people to borrow and spend. 

When the problem is inflation, it does the opposite, raising interest rates. This makes it more costly to borrow and more worthwhile to save. As a result, consumers spend less, slowing down the wage-price spiral.

The Fed has other tools for fighting inflation as well. One option is to change reserve requirements for banks, requiring them to hold more cash. That gives them less to lend out, which in turn reduces the amount consumers and businesses have to spend.

Finally, the Fed can reduce the money supply directly. The main way it does this is to increase the interest rate paid on government bonds. That encourages more people to buy bonds, which temporarily takes their money out of circulation and puts it in the hands of the government.


Inflation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you keep seeing stories about inflation in the news, you may have some other questions about how it works. For instance, you may wonder:

What Is Hyperinflation?

Hyperinflation is more than just high inflation. It’s a wage-price spiral gone mad, sending prices soaring out of control. As noted above, the usual definition of hyperinflation is an inflation rate of at least 50% per month — more than 12,000% per year. However, some economists use the term to refer to an inflation rate of 1,000% or more per year.

What Is Disinflation?

Disinflation is a fall in the rate of inflation. This is what the Federal Reserve and other central banks try to achieve through their monetary policy, such as raising interest rates.

Disinflation is not the same as deflation, or falling prices. During a period of disinflation, prices are continuing to rise, but the rate at which they rise is slowing down.

What Is Transitory Inflation?

When the first signs of a post-COVID-19 inflation spike appeared, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell described it as “transitory.” By this, he meant that the rise in prices would be short-lived and would not do permanent damage to the economy. 

However, in November 2021, Powell declared it was “time to retire that word.” Based on the growth in prices, he had concluded that inflation was more of a long-term trend. The Federal Reserve responded by planning to fight inflation harder, buying more bonds and plotting out a series of interest rate hikes.

What Is Core Inflation?

Measuring inflation can be tricky because prices for some products fluctuate more than others. Food and energy prices, in particular, can shift a lot from month to month. Including these products in the CPI can lead to sharp, but temporary, spikes or dips in the inflation rate.

To adjust for this, the CPI and PCE have a separate “core” version that doesn’t include food or energy prices. This core inflation measure is more useful for predicting long-term trends. The  main versions of the CPI and PCE, known as the “headline” versions, give a more accurate picture of how prices are changing right now.

What Is the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

As noted above, the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, is the main measure of inflation in the United States. The BLS calculates it based on how much prices have risen for an imaginary basket of goods and services that many Americans buy.


Final Word

A little inflation in an economy is normal. It can even be a good thing, because it’s a sign that consumers are spending and businesses are earning. The Fed generally considers an annual inflation rate of 2% to be healthy.

However, higher inflation can cause serious problems for an economy. It’s bad for savers whose nest eggs, including retirement savings, shrink in value. It’s even worse for seniors and others on fixed incomes whose purchasing power has fallen. And it often requires strong measures from the central bank to correct it — measures that risk driving the economy into a recession.

If you’re concerned about the effects of inflation, there are several ways to protect yourself. You can adjust your household budget, putting more dollars into the categories where prices are rising fastest. You can stock up on household basics now, before the purchasing power of your dollars falls too much. 

Finally, you can choose investments that do well during periods of inflation. Stock-based mutual funds and real estate investment trusts are both good choices. Just be careful with inflation hedges like gold and cryptocurrency, which carry risks of their own.

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GME is so 2021. Fine art is forever. And its 5-year returns are a heck of a lot better than this week’s meme stock. Invest in something real. Invest with Masterworks.

Amy Livingston is a freelance writer who can actually answer yes to the question, “And from that you make a living?” She has written about personal finance and shopping strategies for a variety of publications, including ConsumerSearch.com, ShopSmart.com, and the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. She also maintains a personal blog, Ecofrugal Living, on ways to save money and live green at the same time.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Camping This Summer? Here’s What Gear Is Worth It

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

With summer upon us, it’s a great time to go outside and get away from it all. While figuring out which gear to bring may seem overwhelming, it really doesn’t have to be that complicated. Before you hit the road, let’s talk about the basics as well as a few items worth spending a little more on to help you and your family or friends enjoy a memorable trip in the great outdoors.

9 Essential Pieces of Camping Equipment

Here are 9 pieces of equipment that you’ll definitely want to have before going camping

  • Tent — even if you plan on sleeping under the stars, it will make sense to have a tent in case of inclement weather or emergencies.
  • Water bottle or hydration system — Staying hydrated while camping is a crucial part of being safe. A good rule of thumb is to bring two gallons of water per person per day if you don’t have a reliable water source at your camping location
  • Weather-appropriate clothing — Packing the right clothing for the weather conditions can make the difference between an enjoyable camping trip and pure misery. Having layers and a rain jacket is ideal to ensure you’re covered no matter the weather.
  • Lantern, flashlight or headlamp — Even if you have a fire going it’s always good to have a flashlight on hand to ensure you can navigate safely in the dark.
  • Cooler — Having a good cooler to keep food and drinks in can make a big difference especially on multi-day camping trips. Upgrading to a cooler that can retain ice for 4-5 days is worth it and can be found for under $50.
  • Portable grill or camping stove + fuel — Always check the campsite to see if they have grills available. If not, you’ll want to bring something to cook your food and remember to bring extra fuel. If you plan on using the campfire to cook having a grill rack will do the trick.
  • Toilet paper and hand sanitizer — Even if your campsite has bathrooms it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be toilet paper or soap.
  • First aid supplies — This is a must-have. It’s best to be prepared with a standard first aid kit, even for minor cuts and splinters.
  • Graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows —  Got to make sure that you have something fun to do over the nightly campfire!

Camping Equipment to Splurge on

When it comes to camping gear, there are certain things that you’ll want to splurge on. This is especially true if you are a frequent camper or are planning on using it a lot. With some types of camping equipment, it just makes a lot more sense to spend a little more upfront for something that will last longer rather than something cheaper that will break after a few uses.

The first is a good tent. This is something I learned the hard way when I brought a pop-up tent thinking the ease of setup was most important. While set up was easy, it was also easy for the wind to blow the tent down and collapse the tent on us while we were sleeping. Spending a little more on a sturdy tent is well worth it.

Another thing where quality can really make a difference is in a sleeping bag or sleeping pad. After all, you’ll be spending 6-8 hours a day with it, so you’ll want to make sure it’s comfortable and protects you from the elements.

Consider Renting Camping Gear (Instead of Buying)

The cost of buying all new camping equipment can add up quickly. And if you’re on a tight budget, you might be looking for ways to go camping on the cheap. If you don’t want to sacrifice on quality, one possibility is to rent camping gear. There are many companies (both online and local) that allow you to rent things like backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags. This allows you to get high-quality gear for a lower price than buying it outright.

Another option to consider is borrowing, sharing, or buying used equipment. While you might not want to share a sleeping bag with someone else, sharing a tent can make a lot of sense. Many outdoor enthusiasts have a TON of gear and would be happy to let you use or borrow it. This can give you an idea of whether camping is going to be more than a one-time thing, and what gear you’ll need.

6 Amazing Places to Camp

And now that you’ve got all that great camping equipment, here are a few places to consider trying out on your camping trips this summer

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee — several different kinds of camping are allowed in the Great Smokies, and you’ll be close to many other types of attractions as well.
  2. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia — amazing views of waterfalls and forests within driving distance of much of the Eastern United States.
  3. Arches National Park, Utah — if you’re a hiker who appreciates amazing views, you’ll want to be sure to check out Arches National Park.
  4. Glacier National Park, Montana — amazing views of the eponymous glaciers are the big draw here.
  5. Acadia National Park, Maine — commune with nature featuring over 17 million acres of forest and 6,000 lakes and ponds.
  6. Big Bend National Park, Texas — kayaking, rafting, and canoeing along with plenty of backcountry camping are a feature of this remote national park.
  7. Los Padres National Forest, California — the redwoods and views of the pacific ocean,

If you’re just getting started, hopefully, these trips can provide some inspiration for a lifelong joy of nature.

The Bottom Line

Going camping with your friends or family doesn’t have to break your budget. While there are some camping essentials you’ll want to splurge on, there are other areas where you can stretch your dollars. This can include renting equipment instead of buying it, borrowing, or sharing with friends. No matter what your outdoor adventures look like, make sure to have a plan for it and fit it within your budget.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Dan Miller

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids. More from Dan Miller

Sources

Before you hit the road, let’s talk about camping equipment to help ensure a relaxing trip in the great outdoors.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Thinking about Rolling Your 401(k) into an IRA? 7 Deciding Factors to Consider

The Department of Labor has outlined new rules for advisers to follow when rolling over retirement plans. Whether it is a 401(k) to an IRA or an IRA from one custodian to another, there are several considerations that need to be evaluated before making a change. If you are initiating a rollover on your own, it may be beneficial for you to evaluate these items as well.

You should be able to get all the information you need on your plan from your statements, Annual Participant Fee Disclosure and Summary Plan Description. If you do not have access to these documents, you can usually request them from your human resource department.

All-In Fees and Expenses

Before deciding whether to do a rollover, you will want to compare the fees within your 401(k) plan vs. the fees for the IRA. Fees in the 401(k) could include any mutual fund loads, plan expenses and any underlying fees. Sometimes the fees may be higher in your 401(k), but there may be additional benefits to keeping your funds in the 401(k) wrapper.

It would be up to you to decide whether any benefits are worth the fees. For example, if you are opening an IRA and moving over to an investment adviser there will be additional management fees paid to your adviser, but you may also receive financial advice, retirement planning or wealth management services.

Available Services

Some retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, provide added creditor protection, the ability to take out a loan or take hardship withdrawals, which are not available with IRAs. In certain circumstances you may be able to keep some asset protection if 401(k) funds are rolled into a separate IRA and not commingled with other IRA funds. Some 401(k) providers provide investment education to participants that may be valuable if you are a younger investor.  You will also want to look at your vesting schedule and company match to determine whether they may be affected. In addition, some retirement plans offer Roth 401(k) contributions, which may not be available to you otherwise.

Available Investments and/or Products

Several 401(k)s offer participants limited investment options. On one hand, that could be viewed as a positive, because when there are too many choices it can confuse participants and make it harder to manage the plan. However, some plans’ limited options may be  more expensive, such as actively managed funds, and they might not offer any low-cost index options.

If you roll over funds into an IRA you then have access to a much wider universe of investments. That said, this should not be your only decision criteria. Some company retirement plans offer a “BrokerageLink” option, which allows you to move funds from the “core” 401(k) account to a brokerage account –  another way to access more investment options. Some plans have restrictions on what can be invested in a BrokerageLink so you would want to consult the plan document before deciding.

Guaranteed Income/or Interest Rates

Are you invested in anything earning a guaranteed interest rate that you will lose by moving from a 401(k) to an IRA or other plan? For example, TIAA CREF’s 401(k) offering has TIAA Traditional, which could be earning 3%-4% –  a great return in this environment. You may not want to roll out funds into an IRA and lose access to this option.

Tax Considerations

If you are required distribution age but still working past retirement (providing you are not an over 5% owner in the company), you can defer taking money out of your 401(k). Unfortunately, if you have an IRA on the side, that IRA is subject to required distributions at age 72, even if you continue to work. If you leave the funds in the 401(k) you can still contribute and don’t have to take money out.

One caveat related to the Roth part of a 401(k): If you are age 72 and a greater than 5% owner or retired you have to take a distribution from the Roth side. A way to get around this is to roll the Roth 401(k) balance into a Roth IRA prior to age 72.

Also, if you happen to be in a zero-income year and all you have is retirement funds and need cash, it may make sense to take a taxable distribution rather than do a rollover.

Distribution Considerations

If your 401(k) retirement account is invested in an insurance product or annuity you will want to evaluate whether there are any surrender charges. Usually annuities cannot be moved to IRAs in kind. Some annuity products may have certain benefits that will be lost if liquidated, so you will want to make sure you understand how your product works before making a decision.

Some plans may offer annuity options rather than a lump sum, which would be lost if you roll your 401(k) over to an IRA. You will want to look at the financial implications of the lump sum vs. the annuity options to see which option is better for your situation, especially if you have a spouse who can receive survivor benefits.

You will also want to check if there are any in-service distributions options or guaranteed payment options.

Beneficiary Considerations

If you are married, your 401(k) must list your spouse as beneficiary unless your spouse signs a waiver. You can list anyone on an IRA as a beneficiary, so you may want to review your estate planning and beneficiaries if you make any changes.

Senior Financial Adviser, Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial Wealth Management

Roxanne Alexander is a senior financial adviser with Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial handling client analysis on investments, insurance, annuities, college planning and developing investment policies. Prior to this, she was a senior vice president at Evensky & Katz working with both individual and institutional clients. She has a bachelor’s in accounting and business management from the University of the West Indies, she received an MBA at the University of Miami in finance and investments.

Source: kiplinger.com

Should I File a Home Insurance Claim? Pros, Cons, When It Makes Sense

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You love the big cherry tree in your home’s front yard. Each spring, it explodes in a riot of bright pink flowers. Each summer, it drops sour fruit that perks up nicely in a sugary pie. 

Until it doesn’t. One summer day, your family comes home to find one of the cherry tree’s limbs in your living room, felled by a strong thunderstorm. The damage is extensive: two broken windows, a caved-in window sill, and serious water and impact damage to the living room floor and furniture.  

Once the initial shock wears off, you prepare to file a home insurance claim. But then, you start to ask questions. What if your insurance company denies the water damage portion of the claim? What if my home insurance premiums spike? How much will I have to pay out of pocket due to your policy’s high deductible? Should I even file this claim? 


Should I File a Home Insurance Claim?

The fact that a seemingly serious event like a tree falling through your house is such a close call teaches us an important lesson about homeowners insurance: It’s not always in your best interest to file a claim. Even when they cause short-term financial pain, some incidents aren’t worth filing over. 


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Plus, standard homeowners insurance policies exclude certain types of incidents that can cause serious financial stress for homeowners, such as floods and earthquakes. You need separate insurance policies if your home is at risk of these uncovered perils.

Pros & Cons of Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim

If you’re considering filing a homeowners insurance claim, you’re probably facing a hefty bill for cleanup and repairs or a long list of damaged items to replace. Or perhaps you’re staring down a lawsuit brought by a guest or worker who sustained serious injuries on your property.  

In any case, you need to figure out whether it makes sense to go through with your claim — and fast. That means objectively assessing the pros and cons of doing so.

Pros of Filing a Home Insurance Claim

Depending on the circumstances, filing a home insurance claim has significant financial benefits.

  1. It Helps You Pay for Repairs. If your claim is approved, you can use the payout to offset the cost of repairs and restore your home to its previous condition. Without this financial assistance, you might find yourself cutting corners or making ill-advised financial moves to cover the cost, such as dipping into your 401(k). 
  2. It Helps You Replace Damaged or Stolen Goods. Your homeowners insurance policy could help offset the cost of replacing possessions damaged in a naturally occurring incident like a storm or fire. If your home was burglarized or vandalized, the proceeds could cover the cost of replacing stolen property as well. Depending on your policy, you could receive the items’ actual cash value or replacement cost, which is the cost of buying them new.
  3. Repairs Help Maintain Your Home’s Value. Homebuyers don’t pay top dollar for properties with fire-damaged siding, broken windows, or gaping holes in the roof. Your home insurance payout helps restore your home’s value with minimal out-of-pocket cost.

Cons of Filing a Home Insurance Claim

Filing a claim on your homeowners insurance policy isn’t always a slam dunk. The claims process has some hidden and not-so-hidden pitfalls that could leave you worse off than when you began.

  1. Your Insurance Premium May Go Up. Although this isn’t guaranteed, your homeowners insurance rates could rise after you file your claim. Exactly how much depends on the type of claim you file, the size of the claim, and your previous claims history. Generally, liability claims bump premiums more than claims related to fire, vandalism, or natural disasters.
  2. Too Many Claims Mean Your Policy May Not Be Renewed. A rate increase is unwelcome but manageable. A canceled policy is far more serious. If insurers see you as riskier than the typical homeowner, you could have trouble getting coverage on your own. Your lender might need to step in and take out a policy on your behalf — often at a much higher premium than your old policy.
  3. If You Get a Claim-Free Discount, You Could Lose It. Once you file a home insurance claim, your claims history is no longer spotless. That matters because many home insurance companies offer claim-free discounts for homeowners who never file claims.

When You SHOULD File a Home Insurance Claim

So, you’re thinking about filing a home insurance claim. How can you be sure you’re making the right call?

Use these tests to assess your would-be claim. The more that apply to you, the stronger your position.

Repair or Replacement Costs More Than Your Deductible

This is the first test your would-be claim must pass. If it doesn’t, there’s no point in filing a claim.

Your deductible is the amount you must pay out of pocket before your home insurance kicks in. Your policy documents should clearly specify this amount. It’s either expressed as a flat dollar amount or a percentage of the policy’s total coverage amount.

Dollar amount deductibles typically range from $500 to $2,500, with $1,000 being a common value. Some policies have more than one deductible, depending on the type of property damage. Separate “wind and hail” deductibles are common, for example — and often higher than the standard deductible.

If your home sustained significant damage or loss, your claim value should easily exceed your deductible. For example, if you expect repairs to cost $20,000 and your deductible is $2,000, your insurance company covers $18,000 — 90% of the total cost.

On the other hand, if you expect repairs to cost $3,000, your insurance company only covers $1,000 — 33% of the total cost. That’s a closer call because filing a claim could result in higher home insurance premiums that eventually offset your payout. 

The Event Is Covered by Your Policy

Your homeowners insurance company isn’t obligated to provide reimbursement for every type of damage or loss to your home. In fact, while your policy covers a lot, it probably excludes specific events, known as exclusions.

Common exclusions include but aren’t limited to:

  • Earthquake
  • Flood
  • Damage and liability issues caused by poor maintenance 
  • Insect infestations
  • Mold
  • Personal property losses and liability issues caused by power outages or power surges
  • Intentional damage caused by a resident
  • Damage caused by war or nuclear fallout
  • Injuries caused by aggressive dogs
  • Issues related to or caused by home-based businesses
  • Costs related to building code violations

You may need to purchase separate insurance policies to cover some of these perils. For example, your lender may require you to carry flood insurance if you live in a recognized flood zone. 

Other add-on policies are optional but often a good idea. For example, if you run a business out of your home, you should consider carrying business insurance to protect against inventory or equipment losses or damage to your workspace.

You’ve Suffered Significant Loss or Damage

Often, it’s not a close call. If your home is seriously damaged or destroyed in an event that’s covered by your policy, you absolutely should file a homeowners insurance claim. Otherwise, you’ll be on the hook for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair or replacement costs.

If you have any doubts about the extent of the damage to your home, get a few repair quotes from building contractors in your area. You can also talk to your insurance agent or ask your home insurance company to send out an insurance claims adjuster before you file.

You Haven’t Made a Claim in the Past 5 Years

Approved homeowners insurance claims typically remain on your insurance record for five years after they’re made. 

This record is known as the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) database. When you make a claim, your insurer checks its own records and the CLUE database to see whether you’ve made any other claims in the past five years.

If you have made a claim in the past five years, expect your insurance premiums to spike after your second claim is approved. 

For fire, theft, and general liability claims, the increase could amount to 50% or more of your previous premium. A weather-related claim won’t increase your premium quite as much, but you’ll still notice a jump.


When You Should NOT File a Home Insurance Claim

It’s not always worth it to file a home insurance claim. 

Certain situations, such as minor damage that costs less to repair than your insurance deductible, all but rule out a claim. Others, such as an active claim history, bring an elevated risk of a denied claim.

If any of these situations apply to you, think twice about filing a home insurance claim.

Repair or Replacement Costs Less Than Your Deductible

If the damage or loss is relatively minor, your deductible could be too high to bother filing a claim. There’s no point in filing a claim — and potentially increasing your policy premiums — if you won’t even receive a payout.

Even if it’s a close call, be mindful of the potential for your premiums to go up after a successful claim. A claim worth $20,000 probably makes sense, but a claim worth $3,000 or $4,000 might actually set you back.

Damage Was Caused by Lack of Maintenance or Normal Wear & Tear

An event that appears to be covered by your policy might not be if the insurance adjuster can argue that it was caused by neglect, poor maintenance, or even normal wear and tear.

For example, let’s say your home loses heat during the winter, causing a water pipe to burst in your ceiling. Homeowners insurance policies generally cover this type of event — if the burst pipe was in good condition to begin with. If the pipe was already heavily corroded, your insurer might blame you for not replacing it sooner. They could deny the claim altogether.

The Event Isn’t Covered by Your Policy

It’s often quite easy to figure out whether a particular event is eligible for home insurance coverage. If your home collapses in an earthquake and your policy specifically rules out claims for earthquake damage, you’re out of luck. Hopefully, you have earthquake insurance.

But closer calls are more common than you’d think. If your resident termite colony worsens an existing foundation issue that eventually spurs a costly repair, your insurer could argue that the entire claim falls under the insect damage exclusion. 

When in doubt, it’s worthwhile to begin the claims process anyway. If you don’t like what the insurance adjuster has to say, you can drop the claim without increasing your insurance rates. 

Or you can hire a public adjuster — an independent insurance adjuster who can make a stronger case to your insurance company. Public adjusters usually work on contingency, so they only get paid if your claim is successful.

You’ve Made Multiple Claims in the Past 5 Years

The more homeowners insurance claims you make in a five-year period, the more your insurance rates increase after a successful new claim. 

Make too many claims in too short a period, and your insurance company could drop you altogether. If you’re unable to find replacement coverage, your lender could take out a policy on your behalf. Expect this lender policy to cost a lot more than your old policy.

All that said, you shouldn’t automatically rule out a new homeowners insurance claim just because you recently got an insurance payout or two. If your home is seriously damaged or destroyed by a covered event, it’s probably still worth it to file. Just be ready to pay higher premiums on the back end.


Final Word

Some say the best way to save money on homeowners insurance is not to file a claim at all. There’s a grain of truth to that, but don’t take it too literally. 

If your home is seriously damaged in an event that’s covered by your policy, a home insurance claim is absolutely warranted. Taking the time to file could save you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses, keeping you on track to reach your long-term financial goals.

Still, it’s always a good idea to take stock of the situation before filing a claim. If your home sustains damage due to an event not covered by your policy or the cost of repairs doesn’t exceed your policy’s deductible, a claim isn’t in the cards. And even if filing a claim would be profitable on paper, it’s worth considering the long-term costs — in the form of higher premiums for years to come.

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GME is so 2021. Fine art is forever. And its 5-year returns are a heck of a lot better than this week’s meme stock. Invest in something real. Invest with Masterworks.

Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he’s not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Source: moneycrashers.com