5 Things to Consider Before Getting a Personal Loan

Consider This Before Getting a Personal Loan – SmartAsset

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It’s a new year and if one of your resolutions is to get out of debt, you might be thinking about consolidating your bills into a personal loan. With this kind of loan, you can streamline your payments and potentially get rid of your debt more quickly. If you plan on getting a personal loan in 2016, here are some key things to keep in mind before you start searching for a lender.

Check out our personal loan calculator.

1. Interest Rates Are Going Up

At the end of 2015, the Federal Reserve initiated a much anticipated hike in the federal funds rate. What this means for borrowers is that taking on debt is going to be more expensive going forward. That means that the personal loan rates you’re seeing now could be a lot higher six or nine months from now. If you’re planning on borrowing, it might be a good idea to scope out loan offers sooner rather than later.

2. Online Lenders Likely Have the Best Deals

The online lending marketplace has exploded in recent years. With an online lender, there are fewer overhead costs involved, which translates to fewer fees and lower rates for borrowers.

With a lower interest rate, more money will stay in your pocket in the long run. Lending Club, for example, claims that their customers have interest rates that are 33% lower, on average, after consolidating their debt or paying off credit cards using a personal loan.

Related Article: How to Get a Personal Loan

3. Your Credit Matters

Regardless of whether you go through a brick-and-mortar bank or an online lender, you  likely won’t have access to the best rates if you don’t have a great credit score. In the worst case scenario, you could be denied a personal loan altogether.

You can check your credit score for free. And each year, you have a chance to get a free credit report from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. If you haven’t pulled yours in a while, now might be a good time to take a look.

As you review your report, it’s important to make sure that all of your account information is being reported properly. If you see a paid account that’s still showing a balance, for example, or a collection account you don’t recognize, you’ll need to dispute those items with the credit bureau that’s reporting the information.

4. Personal Loan Scams Are Common

As more and more lenders enter the personal loan arena, the opportunity for scammers to cash in on unsuspecting victims also increases. If you’re applying for a loan online, it’s best to be careful about who you give your personal information to.

Some of the signs that may indicate that a personal loan agreement is actually a scam include lenders who use overly pushy sales tactics to get you to commit or ask you to put up a deposit as a guarantee against the loan. If you come across a lender who doesn’t seem concerned about checking your credit or tells you they can give you a loan without doing any paperwork, those are big red flags that the lender may not be legit.

Related Article: How to Avoid Personal Loan Scams

5. Not Reading the Fine Print Could Cost You

Before you sign off on a personal loan, it’s best to take time to read over the details of the loan agreement. Something as simple as paying one date late could trigger a fee or cause a higher penalty rate to kick in, which would make the loan more expensive in the long run.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/DragonImages, ©iStock.com/Vikram Raghuvanshi, ©iStock.com/MachineHeadz

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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Source: smartasset.com

7 Things That Are More Likely Than Winning Friday’s Lottery

Surprised lottery winner holding cash
Wpadington / Shutterstock.com

Friday’s Mega Millions lottery drawing will be the second-biggest jackpot ever, at an estimated $970 million.

But before you rush out and buy a ticket, understand that the odds are stacked against you. In fact, your chances of winning the jackpot are a bit under 1 in 303 million.

How unlikely is that? Following are several events where the odds are much better than winning the lottery.

1. Becoming a millionaire

Wealthy businessman with cash
jesterpop / Shutterstock.com

Your odds of becoming a millionaire depend on various factors, including your age and education level. Another influential factor is race, according to numbers that the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis ran for Bloomberg in 2016.

For example, here are odds of becoming a millionaire by race for a middle-aged, college-educated American:

  • Asian: 22.3% (about 1 in 5)
  • White: 21.5% (about 1 in 5)
  • Hispanic: 6.8% (about 1 in 15)
  • Black: 6.4% (about 1 in 16)

Want to improve your odds? Start by reading “The 10 Golden Rules of Becoming a Millionaire,” written by Money Talks News founder and self-made millionaire Stacy Johnson.

2. Being struck by lightning

Lightning
Daniel Sockwell / Shutterstock.com

If you live to age 80, the odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are 1 in 15,300, according to the National Weather Service. Your odds of being struck by lightning in any given year are much lower — about 1 in 1.2 million — but still much better than your odds of hitting Friday’s jackpot.

3. Getting a hole-in-one

Golf course
Isogood_patrick / Shutterstock.com

An amateur golfer’s odds of getting a hole-in-one on a par 3 hole are roughly 1 in 12,500. For a pro, the odds of making the same ace are around 1 in 2,500.

4. Being killed in a shark attack

Alessandro De Maddalena / Shutterstock.com

Your odds of dying in a shark attack are about 1 in 3.7 million.

5. Having identical twins

Father carrying baby twins
Zoia Kostina / Shutterstock.com

Identical-twin pregnancies account for 0.45% of all pregnancies. That translates to odds of about 1 in 222.

Identical twins are more common in pregnancies conceived with fertility treatment, accounting for 0.95% of such pregnancies. That’s about 1 in 105.

6. Drawing a flush

Royal flush
clownbusiness / Shutterstock.com

Your odds of getting a royal flush — that is, a 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace of the same suit — in a poker game are about 1 in 650,000.

For a flush — any five cards of the same suit — your odds are about 1 in 505.

7. Bowling a perfect game

Bowling
nd3000 / Shutterstock.com

For the average bowler, the odds of rolling a 300 game are 1 in 11,500. For a pro bowler, they drop to 1 in 460.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

I taught English in China to pay off my student loans

Hello! Here’s a guest post from a reader, Nick. Nick was feeling stuck a few years ago and wasn’t making progress on his student loans. He ended up researching a lot about salaries and the cost of living for English teachers in China and realized that he would be able to save far more money in China than back home. Even without teaching experience, and still living very comfortably, including taking vacations, it has been easy for him to save $20,000 in a year. For him, it had a huge impact on his life and financial freedom. Enjoy his story on how to teach English in China below!

I taught English in China to pay off my student loans #teachenglish #movetochina #makeextramoney

I taught English in China to pay off my student loans #teachenglish #movetochina #makeextramoneyIt must have been about 4.5 years ago. I remember walking out of an interview in Chicago feeling completely dejected.

The interviewer mentioned the salary, and along with it, how most new hires take on a second job during the weekend. 

I wasn’t expecting to find an amazing job, but this was just too much. None of my past decisions looked particularly good on a resume. I had just returned from a 3.5-year stint traveling around Latin America while earning a very modest living playing online poker.

But, I was burnt out, making no progress on my student loans, and realizing it was time to get a normal job. I was actually really excited to do so but job hunting was incredibly frustrating and when I realized how little money I’d be earning, I began looking for alternative options. 

Somewhere along the way, I had heard about teachers in Asia making good money and motivated by the frustration of the job search, I began looking into it more seriously.

After spending countless hours reading online, I ended up settling on China as that seemed to be where it’d be easiest to save the most money. 

I’ve since been in China for four years, paid off my student loans, and finally feel comfortable with my finances. 

Without a doubt, moving to China isn’t for everyone or even most people. However, for those that are a little bit adventurous, not opposed to working as a teacher, and want to save money fast, it’s an option worth considering. 

It’s not at all difficult to save $20,000 per year, without needing to be particularly frugal, and still have plenty of vacation time. 

Related articles on how to make extra money:

How to start teaching English in China.

The demand for teachers in China

Chinese parents spend an average of $17,400 per year on extracurricular tutoring for their children. 

More than 60% of students receive tutoring outside of school at an average of six hours per week and English is among the most popular subjects for after school tutoring. 

While these numbers look insanely high from my Midwestern American point of view, it barely scratches the surface for the demand for English tutoring in China. 

In fact, English is a required subject in Chinese schools. Private schools often take this a step further, with many classes and programs taught exclusively in English. Meanwhile, the online tutoring industry has created lots of opportunities to teach English online

Chinese parents are obviously willing to pay for English education. This demand for English teachers becomes even more apparent when you consider just how huge of a country it is. With a population of over 1.3 billion people, there are 32 cities with more people than Chicago

The requirements to be an English teacher

It’s not difficult to become an English teacher in China. The huge demand has made for relatively lax requirements. These are…

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Two years of work experience
  • 120 hour TEFL certificate
  • Clear criminal background check
  • Pass a health check
  • Native English speaker

The bachelor’s degree doesn’t need to be in any specific subject, nor do the two years of work experience. The 120-hour TEFL is easy and pretty cheap to do online. 

Of course, having these doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to get a great job right off the bat. Some of the best schools will have a very rigorous hiring process. However, even a standard first job in China can allow you to save a lot of money. 

The types of English teaching jobs in China

Most foreign teachers in China come to teach English. However, there are other opportunities as well, such as with teaching sports, a specific subject, or as a homeroom teacher who teaches a variety of subjects. 

There’s a wide range of salaries and teaching environments, with the main positions being in kindergartens, public schools, international schools, training centers, and universities. Salaries, working hours, and work environment can vary quite a bit depending on the type of school.

Additionally, the chosen city will have a large impact on your life with bigger cities paying more but also having a higher cost of living. ESL Authority has a good breakdown of the different salary ranges for different school types and locations. 

My teaching experience in China has exclusively been in Beijing at two public schools and one international school. I’ll share a bit about my experiences and salary at these schools. 

Teaching at a public school in China

Public school teaching jobs typically focus on oral English, meaning you’ll help students with their speaking and listening comprehension. The class sizes tend to be quite large. I often had 30-40 students in a class and would see each class only a couple of times per week, while often teaching multiple classes and different grade levels. In a given week I’d see 200-300 students. 

At the public schools I taught, I earned around $1,600 per month, which included a round-trip plane ticket to America, and housing. A typical schedule for public schools would be Monday-Friday, from 8 am – 4 pm, with 16-20 classes per week, with each one lasting around 45 minutes. There would be a lot of down-time during the day which I used to study Chinese

Many public schools, but not all, will let foreign teachers leave if they don’t have classes. Both public schools I taught at while in Beijing allowed me to leave when my classes were finished, which meant I’d often be done for the day around 2 pm. 

Vacation time is very generous, exceeding 3 months for summer and winter vacation, plus all of the national holidays during the year. Both public schools I’ve taught at allowed foreigners to finish the semester earlier and start later than their Chinese counterparts which makes sense as foreign teachers aren’t usually responsible for grading homework or preparing exams. 

The salary at public schools is more than enough to live comfortably and save quite a bit of money. Still, many teachers use their substantial free time to teach extra on the side with private students or at training centers. Doing so can be quite lucrative with an average rate of around $30 per hour. 

Having said that, it’s not exactly legal to teach with a different school than the one that sponsored your visa. If you got caught, it could get you in trouble and you could have your visa canceled and your time in China cut short. But, it’s one of those things that nearly everyone does and almost nobody gets in trouble for. So, if you choose to teach on the side, you should be aware of the risks. 

It isn’t difficult to teach an extra six hours per week during the ~8 months of the school year. This would earn an extra $5,760. Teaching 20 hours per week during 2 months of the summer/winter vacation would earn an extra $4,800. Combining these with the public school salary would make your yearly after-tax income $29,760 – with housing already paid for.

Plus, you’d still have close to two months’ vacation throughout the year. 

While I didn’t keep good track of my earnings and expenses while teaching at the public schools, these numbers are very close to my own experience. 

My experience teaching at an international school in China

If you’re more interested in teaching a subject like history or math, as opposed to English, an international school would be your best bet. 

These are the schools where wealthy Chinese and expats typically send their children to study. Teaching positions at some of the better schools can be very competitive, often requiring a teaching license, graduate degree, and a number of years of experience. Of course, those who qualify for these positions will earn higher salaries. 

However, a large number of international schools don’t have any additional requirements for teachers above the bare minimum required to teach in China. 

The work at these schools can be very demanding, much like teaching in America would be, requiring things like communicating with parents, creating exams, giving and grading homework, and plenty of meetings. Vacation periods are typically shorter than those for public school teachers. Likewise, working hours may be from 8 am – 5 pm, but most international school teachers will find themselves with very little downtime throughout the day. 

On the plus side, class sizes are generally much smaller and salaries higher. While teaching at an international school, I earned around $2,800 per month or $33,600 per year after taxes, with housing and a round-trip plane ticket included. 

However, due to the shorter vacations and more tiring day-to-day work, I didn’t have any interest in tutoring on the side. 

What does a typical budget look like for an English teacher?

This can be hard to say as everyone has a different lifestyle and things they’re willing or not willing to spend money on. I’ll share my budget below. 

Housing and Healthcare – $0/mo – In China, especially in the bigger cities, rent would make up the largest portion of a budget. Fortunately for foreign teachers, most schools include housing or a housing allowance. Housing would typically be a one-bedroom apartment, which may be on or off-campus, depending on the school. Some teachers may choose to add some of their own money to the housing allowance so that they can stay in a nicer place. But, I’ve been happy with the provided accommodation and didn’t pay any extra.  Health insurance is also provided and many schools have gyms on campus that you can use for free. 

Food – $350/mo – You can spend a lot of money on food or not much at all, depending on your preferences. Cheaper meals can be had for under $3 but you could easily spend $30 on a meal if you choose to go to fancier places. It also depends on how much you cook vs eat out and whether you like buying imported groceries. Most schools will offer free lunch to their teachers. Even so, I tend to spend quite a bit on food but am cheaper in other areas, so my food budget would be something like:

Groceries: $150

Restaurants: $200

Entertainment – $100/mo – Being the old man I am, I rarely go out for drinks at bars and my preferred entertainment is also the cheaper kind – hanging out, eating, and playing games with friends. Still, my wife and I will go to the occasional show. 

Transportation – $60/mo – Public transportation in China is fantastic and a single trip on the subway or in a bus can cost less than 50 cents. Shared bikes are everywhere and extremely cheap. Even using Didi, the Chinese version of Uber, is very affordable.  This is another area where I spend more than necessary, often taking a Didi out of laziness when there are cheaper options. 

Utilities – $15/mo – I think most schools typically pay for household utilities, like electricity and water. At least, the schools I worked at did. So, the only expense here is my phone which is on a pay as you go plan.

Travel – $250/mo – Living in China and working as a teacher opens up lots of travel opportunities, both within China and around Asia. Unfortunately, although plentiful, teacher’s vacation time is usually during national holidays when the cost of tickets is a bit higher.  Still, I tend to go on at least one international trip a year and also like to travel within China. Plus, almost every school also provides a round-trip ticket to your home country. If I were to guess, I probably spend around $3,000 per year on travel. I know people who spend much more and others who spend much less, so this cost will depend a lot on each individual’s preferences. 

Miscellaneous – $50/mo – These are other expenses such as buying household appliances, clothes, and other random things. I’m not a big shopper, but random things do come up. 

Total Expenses – $825/mo or $9,900/year

Although I’m conscious of my spending, I wouldn’t say that I’m especially frugal while in China. Far much less than I’d be if I were still living in Michigan. 

Some people might consider my spending extravagant while others might think I’m cheap. For me, it’s a good balance of comfort and enjoying my lifestyle with saving for the future. 

How much money can you save teaching English in China?

In my experience, I earned between $29,760 and $33,600 per year with expenses around $9,900 per year. This led to savings between $19,860 and $23,700 per year. Unfortunately, I didn’t track my exact earnings and spending each year, but these ballpark numbers are pretty accurate. 

It’s not particularly difficult to save $20,000 in a year of teaching in China while still living comfortably, traveling, and leaving yourself with enough free time to pursue other interests.

Plenty of people save more than this each year. There are also opportunities to increase your earnings as you gain more experience. 

However, like most places, life can be as expensive as you make it. If you’re bad with money back home, it’s unlikely you’ll suddenly become good with money by moving abroad. In fact, the money may disappear even faster than it would back home as there are lots of exciting ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities. 

But, if you’re somewhat frugal and work fairly hard, you’ll have no problem saving a lot of money. 

How to find a job teaching English in China

There are tons of websites with job listings for English teachers in China. I can’t comment on most sites as all the jobs I found started with a search on the eChinacities job board

The start of your job search can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re still not sure where you’d like to live in China. This isn’t helped by the fact that a lot of recruiters will earn more money if they can get a teacher to accept a lower salary. 

I’ve known teachers that came to China and received terrible salary packages, earning less than half of what a typical salary would be and with an apartment far from the school. These people tended to not do enough research beforehand and accepted the first offer they received.

I would strongly recommend talking with lots of recruiters before accepting any position. Be sure to ask tons of questions, and be willing to say no to a jobs that don’t fit your criteria. There is no shortage of opportunities, so be patient when looking for your ideal position. 

Before accepting any position, be sure to do your due diligence on the school.

Most schools are fine and professional, but there are some sketchy ones. You won’t always find much information online about the school, but if they’ve done shady things in the past, you’ll probably see people talking about it.

Asking to speak with any current or former teachers can give you a bit more insight into the school as well.

Final thoughts on teaching English in China

Not everyone will be excited to live in China and I can understand that. It’s far from home, the language is difficult, and many people have a negative perception of the country. 

However, I’ve really enjoyed my life here and the experience has been exceptionally positive. Sure, there are small annoyances, but these will happen anywhere. Plenty of people worry about air quality, and while still not great, it has been improving every year

Beijing is extremely modern with no shortage of interesting and unique things to do. Moving here has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. 

I came here with only a few thousand dollars in the bank and what felt like an endless pit of student loan debt. In only a few years, I’ve been able to completely turn around my finances, pay off my loans, and save up a nice nest egg. 

I know that it’s not for everyone, but if you’re open to new experiences, can see yourself enjoying teaching, and want to save a lot of money, moving to China to teach English is an option worth considering. 

Nick Dahlhoff is an English teacher living in Beijing. Since moving there in 2016, he’s paid off his student loans, studied Chinese, gotten married and started a blog. At All Language Resources, he tests out lots of language learning resources to help language learners figure out which resources are worth using and which ones are better off avoiding. 

Would you take a job in another country to pay off your debt? Would you start teaching English in China?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

How Is Early Retirement Even Possible?

What is considered an early retirement?

What is considered an early retirement?Early retirement has been extremely popular lately, and I’m sure you’ve been hearing about it a ton.

Between “Why I Hate the FIRE Movement,” says Suze Orman (from Afford Anything), Mr. Money Mustache, and any of the other amazing FIRE blogs, early retirement has been in the news a lot lately.

And, I love it!

But, I know there are a lot of people who are confused or even skeptical of what early retirement is and whether or not it is a real thing.

First, if this is the first time you have heard of FIRE, it stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early, and it can mean a lot of things to different people. But, the basic idea is that you work towards financial independence– either having enough saved and/or enough passive income to cover your expenses. You can then choose whether or not you want to work.

That sounds pretty amazing to me!

For most people, though, retirement means something that only older people do after decades and decades of working at a full-time job. However, there are many out there who sadly aren’t saving enough money when preparing for retirement at the traditional retirement age of 65-67. And, as pensions become a thing of the past, saving for retirement will become even more important.

According to one survey, 56% Of Americans Have Less Than $10,000 Saved For Retirement. According to a different survey done by Bankrate, 36% of people in the U.S. have absolutely nothing saved for retirement.

Even though it’s obvious that there are many people out there who need to make saving for retirement a priority, there are lots of people criticizing those who are making it a goal to retire early.

I see this a lot when I read articles about people who have retired early. I always scroll down to the comments of these articles because I find it interesting to see what people have to say about early retirement. I probably shouldn’t because I am always shocked, and saddened, when I read all of the negative comments.

People say that those who retire early won’t be prepared for emergencies and how boring it would be to retire early.

Really, what could feel better than working hard to your save money, investing it well, and then realizing the financial freedom you have to quit your day job so you can live your dream life!?

Whether you want to travel, continue working (Yes, you can continue working! There’s no rule that you have to quit all together.), spend more time with family, or whatever else, early retirement gives you the ability to choose your own future.

I have saved enough to retire whenever I would like. Yes, I earn a high income, but I also save a large part of my income and watch any wasteful spending.

And, don’t worry, I love my blog too much to retire anytime soon, but knowing that I can retire early just means that I am prepared for whatever might happen in the future. As you know, I’m a worrier, and I would much rather be safe than sorry. There are so many what ifs, like there could be a medical emergency, the industry may change, I may change, and so on.

To me, having the ability to retire early is all about freedom and flexibility.

Plus, early retirement can happen at whatever age you want it to happen, as long as you are prepared! A lot of the big stories about early retirement are about people in their 30’s, but you can retire early at age 60, and that’s still awesome!

The point of early retirement is really about striving to better yourself financially. It means getting out of debt, spending less than you earn, and saving for the future.

There are a lot of amazing people who are doing extreme early retirement, like those in the FIRE movement (who I love!). I have heard of people who have sold all of their possessions and moved into a van so that they can retire early, but I know that isn’t for everyone.

Not all early retirement paths have to be that extreme, some can actually be quite normal. It’s just about getting rid of your debt, lowering your expenses (which will automatically happen when you get out of debt), spending less than you earn, and investing money for your future.

Many people can still live a normal life while they prepare for early retirement too. Planning for your future just starts with being realistic about your income and spending, then you can set whatever early retirement goal suits you from there.

Related content:

How is early retirement possible?

How to calculate the amount you will need to retire early.

Planning for early retirement means that you will have to very carefully consider all of your different expenses. For most early retirees, that starts by creating a budget that allows them to really know their expenses and save for them well into the future.

A person planning for early retirement is thinking about what ifs and emergencies as well. No one is going to have their calculations correct down to the penny, but you can factor in possible future expenses.

Still, many people don’t believe that early retirement is possible. There are lots who think that $1,000,000 – $5,000,000 isn’t enough to retire young, and that early retirees aren’t thinking about future expenses, when they really are.

I believe this has a lot to do with the fact that many people don’t understand compound interest and investing. Both of these things let your money work and grow for you, well into the future, meaning that an early retirees’ retirement funds are most likely going to grow and will cover annual expenses and emergencies.

Early retirees aren’t just multiplying their annual expenses by 25 and assuming that will be enough money for the rest of their life. They know how investments work, are staying diversified, and have backup plans if necessary.

When you save enough of your money and only live off of a designated percentage of your savings or invested income each year after you retire early, you will find that early retirement is possible.

Before throwing the whole idea out, you may want to see how you are prepared for retirement and how early retirement may be possible for you. 

Whenever I read an article about someone who retired early, I always scroll down to the comments because I find it interesting to see what people have to say about early retirement. After all, just a few years ago, I myself, didn't even know that retiring early was a thing. However, once I realized that people were doing it and living financially free lives - I knew I wanted it as well.

Retirement Calculator: https://networthify.com/calculator/earlyretirement

As you can see from the above:

  • With just a 1% savings rate, it would take you 98.9 working years until you reach retirement.
  • A 5% savings rate means that it would take you 66 working years to retire.
  • A 20% savings rate means that it would take you 37 working years to retire.
  • A 50% savings rate means that it would take you 17 working years to retire.
  • A 75% savings rate means that it would take you 7 working years to retire.

So, by saving more of your money, you are likely to retire sooner. Makes sense, right?

And, that’s what early retirees are doing! They have gotten out of debt and live off of less than they earn so that they can save at a much higher rate.

Related content: Do You Know Your Net Worth?

You’ll find plenty to do in early retirement.

I have heard from so many people that retiring early isn’t something they want because they’ll be too bored.

To be honest, I think this is just crazy!

If you are looking to retire early, you probably aren’t the type to just sit around all day. I mean, if that’s your plan for retirement, that’s totally fine because you get to choose. But, for many, early retirement still means working to some extent, while also having the freedom to spend your time pursuing your passion, traveling, spending more time with friends and family, and more.

With all the extra time you have after retiring early, you could volunteer, pursue a passion, find fun things to do, take up a hobby, and more.

Early retirees aren’t lazy and just looking for a way to escape the work world. I actually believe they are very hard workers, who want to live life on their own terms.

Heck, you could even continue working like many early retirees do, if that’s what you truly desire. Knowing you can retire early just gives you choices in case something changes in the future.

For me, if I chose to stop working one day, I could easily find time to fill my day. I could travel even more, go on more long hikes, be more fit, read more, learn more (I’ve been wanting to learn a new language), find a passion project, spend more time with friends and family, etc. The list is endless!

The average early retiree, that I know, has a very active and meaningful life.

You can still enjoy life while saving for early retirement.

I think this is one of the hardest things for people to understand about retiring early.

Just because you are saving for retirement doesn’t mean you are eating ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

There are plenty of ways to have frugal fun, eat on a budget, and so on. You can even see the world, while you are saving for early retirement.

Remember, the best things in life are free. The outdoors, spending quality time with those you love, laughing, and more are all FREE.

When do you want to retire and when WILL you retire? What do you think of early retirement?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

How to Save Money on Groceries Without Clipping a Single Coupon

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

The number one money-saving tip people search for on Google is “how to save money on groceries.” Of course it is, food is one of the few things you need to survive and eating at home is way cheaper than eating out.

But it’s also easy to go to the grocery store unprepared and walk out with way more than you can realistically eat. That’s why saving money on groceries is an easy way to drastically cut your spending, pay off debt, and reach your financial goals faster.

If you like this topic I cover this and much more in my book The No-Spend Challenge Guide. Check it out to help you save more, spend less, and make the most of your time paying off debt.

empty grocery cart in the middle of aisle at grocery store

Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries

I’ll start by mentioning I’m not a huge fan of couponing, sometimes I feel like I spend more money just trying to make use of them. So here are the tips I use to cut grocery my grocery bill without using coupons.

1. Shop at the store with the best value

I have to start with this one because it has been the ultimate money saver over the past two years. Before shopping at Aldi I was a die-hard Publix shopper. For those unfamiliar, it’s similar in price to Raley’s, Kroger, or Ingles. It’s not Whole Foods but it’s not conducive when you’re trying to pay off $78,000 in debt.

I love Aldi because the quality you get for the price is unbeatable compared to everything else in my area. If you don’t have an Aldi near you other comparably priced stores include:

The first step in saving money on groceries is making sure you’re shopping at the store with the lowest price. Sure shopping is a pleasure at Publix but if I’m cutting out pedicures to save money why would I pay to have someone offer to take my groceries to my car for me?

2. Meal plan around sales

Those fliers you get in the mail are for more than wrapping dishes in when you move. They tell you all the sales going on so you’re able to meal plan around them. Meal planning is your defense against impulse grocery shopping and planning meals around sales is next level.

I’m looking at one right now that has blueberries, strawberries, and cantaloupe on sale. It’s looking like a great week to add blueberries to my overnight oats and strawberries in my spinach salad. I can also try that no-churn cantaloupe sorbet recipe I pinned forever ago.

3. Grocery shop online

I started grocery shopping online and picking up my groceries when I had Kai. He would melt down in the grocery store before I could finish shopping and it was a total disaster.

Now in the age of coronavirus I still do all my shopping online or through the Walmart grocery app.

I mentioned it above but seriously, don’t miss out on $10 off your first Walmart Grocery Pickup.

Pick-up is free, it’s a safer way to shop, it helps me keep track of my total bill without carrying around a calculator (I have been known to do that) and I’m not tempted by impulse buys.

I’ve also shopped Aldi via the Instacart app but pick-up is $1.99 and because the prices are comparable and the variety wider, I’ve been shopping at Walmart more. (But don’t get it twisted, I deal with Walmart but I LOVE Aldi.)

Click here to get $10 off your first Instacart order!

One quick tip: When shopping Instacart, make sure the store you’re shopping says “Everyday store prices” and not “higher than in-store prices” at the top. 

4. Use up your pantry

Could you go a whole month just shopping your pantry? We’re pretty minimalist and I know we could go at least a few weeks. 

Emptying out your pantry can tell you a lot about your spending habits. Is your pantry full of good intentions quickly forgotten, new things you took a chance on but have been avoiding, or stuff your mother-in-law sent you home with on your last visit?

5. Buy frozen

You can save extra on produce by buying out-of-season fruit and veggies in the freezer aisle. You can usually tell what’s in season by what’s on sale. 

Buying frozen also cuts time in prepping, lessens the dish load, and cuts down food waste. We’re all guilty of buying stuff that goes bad before we can eat it. With frozen fruits and veggies, unused portions can be placed in a freezer bag and come back to whenever.

6. Use Ibotta for cash back

Ibotta has a weekly $.25 cash back rebate on any item or receipt. It has a wide variety of stores you can redeem this rebate at so it’s easy to make a little extra spending cash every year.

All of the major grocery stores are on it including all the affordable stores I mentioned above. Aldi is on there occasionally but it’s only for the “any receipt” rebate and I end up using that one when I go to Target or Walmart.

When you sign up for Ibotta they’ll give you $10 for redeeming a brand-name bonus within 14 days. Definitely worth checking out if you shop at any of their partner stores because it takes virtually no time and who doesn’t need an extra $20?

7. Go generic

As I look around my house I don’t see any brand name products. When I think about my last shopping trips, I can’t remember any brand name purchases. Surely I’m preaching to the choir here but you HAVE TO stop wasting your money on name brand stuff! Most of it is the same and when it’s not, it serves it purpose just fine.

Aldi has mostly generic brands so we’ve had a few memorable snafus with generic. I once bought 20 rolls of the cheapest toilet paper and it took years (ok, 6 months) of suffering through to finish it off. Now I buy the second cheapest toilet paper, but it’s still generic.

Another time I bought trash bags that kept falling into the trash can. My husband tied a knot at the top to tighten the bag around the can. Problem solved!

Suffice to say, you don’t have to buy the cheapest of everything when you buy generic but if you choose to there’s always a solution. And whether you do everything on this list or just one or two you’ll be well on your way to making a big dent in your grocery allowance.

<img data-attachment-id="4113" data-permalink="https://www.modernfrugality.com/how-to-save-money-on-groceries-without-coupons/7-tips-to-save-on-groceries-without-coupons/" data-orig-file="https://i0.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/7-Tips-to-Save-on-Groceries-without-Coupons.jpg?fit=1000%2C1500&ssl=1" data-orig-size="1000,1500" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta=""aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"1"" data-image-title="How to Save Money on Groceries Without Clipping Coupons- Tips from a Frugal Expert" data-image-description="

Do you want to save money on groceries without becoming an extreme couponer? Here are 7 tips from a frual expert to help. #savemoneyongroceries #howtosavemoneyongroceries #moneysavingtips #moneysavingideas #savingmoneytips #frugalshopping

” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/7-Tips-to-Save-on-Groceries-without-Coupons.jpg?fit=200%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”http://www.hanovermortgages.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/how-to-save-money-on-groceries-without-clipping-a-single-coupon-1.jpg” loading=”lazy” width=”1000″ height=”1500″ data-pin-description=”Do you want to save on groceries without spending hours cutting coupons? Here are 7 tips to save money without clipping! #moneysavingtips #savemoneyongroceries #savemoneyongrocerieswithoutcoupons #tipstosavemoneyongroceries #savemoneyongroceriesapps” data-pin-title=”7 Best Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Clipping Coupons” src=”http://www.hanovermortgages.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/how-to-save-money-on-groceries-without-clipping-a-single-coupon-1.jpg” alt class=”wp-image-4113″ srcset=”http://www.hanovermortgages.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/how-to-save-money-on-groceries-without-clipping-a-single-coupon-6.jpg 1000w, https://i0.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/7-Tips-to-Save-on-Groceries-without-Coupons.jpg?resize=200%2C300&ssl=1 200w, https://i0.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/7-Tips-to-Save-on-Groceries-without-Coupons.jpg?resize=400%2C600&ssl=1 400w, https://i0.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/7-Tips-to-Save-on-Groceries-without-Coupons.jpg?resize=768%2C1152&ssl=1 768w” sizes=”(max-width: 980px) 100vw, 980px”>

<img data-attachment-id="3913" data-permalink="https://www.modernfrugality.com/how-to-save-money-on-groceries-without-coupons/save-on-groceries-2/" data-orig-file="https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Save-on-Groceries-.jpg?fit=1000%2C1500&ssl=1" data-orig-size="1000,1500" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta=""aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"1"" data-image-title="7 Best Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Clipping Coupons" data-image-description="

Do you want to save on groceries without spending hours cutting coupons? Here are 7 tips to save money without clipping! #moneysavingtips #savemoneyongroceries #savemoneyongrocerieswithoutcoupons #tipstosavemoneyongroceries #savemoneyongroceriesapps

” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Save-on-Groceries-.jpg?fit=200%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Save-on-Groceries-.jpg?fit=400%2C600&ssl=1″ loading=”lazy” data-pin-title=”7 Best Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Clipping Coupons” data-pin-description=”Do you want to save on groceries without spending hours cutting coupons? Here are 7 tips to save money without clipping! #moneysavingtips #savemoneyongroceries #savemoneyongrocerieswithoutcoupons #tipstosavemoneyongroceries #savemoneyongroceriesapps” src=”http://www.hanovermortgages.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/how-to-save-money-on-groceries-without-clipping-a-single-coupon-2.jpg” alt=”empty grocery cart in the middle of aisle at grocery store” class=”wp-image-3913″ width=”396″ height=”595″ srcset=”http://www.hanovermortgages.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/how-to-save-money-on-groceries-without-clipping-a-single-coupon-5.jpg 400w, https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Save-on-Groceries-.jpg?resize=200%2C300&ssl=1 200w, https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Save-on-Groceries-.jpg?resize=768%2C1152&ssl=1 768w, https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Save-on-Groceries-.jpg?w=1000&ssl=1 1000w” sizes=”(max-width: 396px) 100vw, 396px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>

<img data-attachment-id="4992" data-permalink="https://www.modernfrugality.com/how-to-save-money-on-groceries-without-coupons/mf-7-genius-ways-to-save-money-on-groceries-without-spending-hours-clipping-coupons/" data-orig-file="https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/MF-7-Genius-Ways-to-Save-Money-On-Groceries-without-Spending-Hours-Clipping-Coupons.jpg?fit=600%2C900&ssl=1" data-orig-size="600,900" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta=""aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"1"" data-image-title="Want to save money without the hassle of couponing?" data-image-description="

If you want to save money on food (on of your largest expenses), read this. All of my frugal tricks to save money at the grocery store without clipping thousands of coupons first. #moneysavingtips #moneysavinghacks #moneytipsformillennials #howtosavemoneyongroceries

” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/MF-7-Genius-Ways-to-Save-Money-On-Groceries-without-Spending-Hours-Clipping-Coupons.jpg?fit=200%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/MF-7-Genius-Ways-to-Save-Money-On-Groceries-without-Spending-Hours-Clipping-Coupons.jpg?fit=400%2C600&ssl=1″ loading=”lazy” width=”400″ height=”600″ data-pin-title=”Want to save money without the hassle of couponing?” data-pin-description=”If you want to save money on food (on of your largest expenses), read this. All of my frugal tricks to save money at the grocery store without clipping thousands of coupons first. #moneysavingtips #moneysavinghacks #moneytipsformillennials #howtosavemoneyongroceries” src=”http://www.hanovermortgages.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/how-to-save-money-on-groceries-without-clipping-a-single-coupon-3.jpg” alt class=”wp-image-4992″ srcset=”http://www.hanovermortgages.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/how-to-save-money-on-groceries-without-clipping-a-single-coupon-3.jpg 400w, https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/MF-7-Genius-Ways-to-Save-Money-On-Groceries-without-Spending-Hours-Clipping-Coupons.jpg?resize=200%2C300&ssl=1 200w, https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/MF-7-Genius-Ways-to-Save-Money-On-Groceries-without-Spending-Hours-Clipping-Coupons.jpg?w=600&ssl=1 600w” sizes=”(max-width: 400px) 100vw, 400px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>

Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.

Source: modernfrugality.com

Pros and Cons of 0% Interest Balance Transfer Credit Cards

sWoman credit card

Woman credit card

Transferring your debt to 0% interest balance transfer credit cards seems like a no-brainer right?

You’ll pay no interest for a promotional period of time so 100% of your payment will go to the principal.

Sounds like a win to me.  And quite often it is a win.

But not always.

When you know all the pros and cons, you can accurately determine if transferring your debt to a balance transfer card makes sense for you.

With that in mind, I’ve put together this complete list of pros and cons to help you decide if you should transfer your balance.

Do your due diligence and weigh all the pros and cons of a balance transfer credit card to make sure it will really help you save money while paying off your debt faster.

Table of Contents

how you transfer your debt to a balance transfer credit card the right way.

A 0% balance transfer card can save you money

Clearly paying less interest on your credit card debt will save you money.

Just remember to run the numbers, taking into account the balance transfer fee and the promotional and standard interest rates.  I recommend using a good credit card payoff calculator.

Here’s an example of good balance transfer numbers:

Say you have $5000 in credit card debt which requires you to pay 30% interest.

If you pay $300 a month, you will pay off that card in 22 months.  It’ll cost you $1,549 in interest for a total of $6,549.

On the other hand, if you transfer that balance to an 18-month, 0% interest credit card your numbers would look like this:

You would pay the same $300 a month for only 17 months, paying $0 in interest for a total cost of $5,000.

Most credit card companies charge a 3% balance transfer fee, which in this example works out to $150.

That means you would save $1,549 dollars minus the $150 balance transfer fee for a total savings of 1,399 with the added benefit of paying off your debt 5 months sooner.

In the interest of balance, we’ll run the numbers on a balance transfer that doesn’t add up to such an obvious benefit once we take a look at the cons.

You can enjoy better terms and even get rewards

The credit card landscape is extremely competitive, and companies are trying harder than ever to capture your business.

Why does this matter?

If you have lousy terms with your current credit card, such as high fees or a short grace period, you can dump that credit card and enjoy better terms with someone else.

Shop for not only the best introductory interest rate but also for a better interest rate once the promotion period ends.  Also look for credit card rewards on new purchases.

Here’s the thing:

If you’re going to go through with a balance transfer, make sure the new company treats you better than your current one.

Consolidate your credit card debt to make your finances simpler

Consolidating your credit card debt makes budgeting a little easier and more convenient.  Just having all your debt in one place makes it easier to manage and pay down your debt. What’s more, transferring your balance to a 0% card can create space in your budget, which is ideal if you’re trying to stop living paycheck to paycheck.

The Cons of Balance Transfer Credit Cards You Need To Know

The APR is only temporary

Never forget, the banks are making a bet on you.

They are willing to give you an attractive promotional rate and they are counting on you not paying off your balance on time.

If you don’t pay off your debt before the promotional rate expires, you’ll be hit with the considerably higher revert rate.  Don’t be surprised if this rate is in the 25%-30% range.

But you don’t have to get stuck with this rate.  Instead, do your homework ahead of time and make sure the revert rate is not excessive.

Even better, only get a balance transfer rate if you know you can pay off the balance during the promotional period.

Balance transfer accounts can be very expensive

Typically banks charge a balance transfer fee of 1% to 3% as well as the annual service fee.

In the “Pros” section above, we showed you an example of a balance transfer credit card which saved you money.

Now let’s take a look at a balance transfer that’s not quite a slam dunk like before.

Let’s say you have a credit card with a $3,000 balance in which you are paying 20% interest.

If you are paying $140 per month, you will pay off the debt in 27 months, including $742 in interest.  In total, you will pay $3,780 in this scenario.

But what if you found a balance transfer credit card offering a 12-month promotional period with 0% interest and a standard 3% balance transfer fee.

You could transfer your balance for $90 and pay down $1,680 of your debt in the first 12 months.

Your balance (initial $3,000 plus the $90 transfer fee) of $3090 would be $1,320.

Now the bad news:

The promotional period ends and the bank pumps the interest up to 30%.

If you continued paying $140 per month, you would pay off the debt in a total of 23 months.  Your total out-of-pocket expenses would be $3,320, including only $204 in interest fees.

To recap this scenario:

Current credit card: You would pay a total of $3,780 over 27 months with your current credit card at 20% interest.

Balance transfer credit card:  Including the balance transfer fee, you would pay $3,320 over 23 months.  You would save 4 months payments and save $460 dollars.

Don’t get me wrong, $460 is a nice sum and at first glance, and it may seem worth it to do the transfer.

But when you consider all the potential cons we’ve mentioned, $460 may not be enough of a benefit to outweigh the other factors.

The point is, run the numbers and make sure the risk/reward ratio works in your favor.

Balance transfers are not always included.

Don’t assume every 0% APR offer is good for balance transfers.  Nearly all of these offers are good for new purchases made on the card.  But the same is not always true for balance transfers.

In other words, sometimes the 0% APR offer applies to balance transfers, sometimes it doesn’t.

I can’t emphasize this enough;

Before you consolidate your debt on a new card, check the terms and conditions carefully to ensure balance transfers are also eligible for the promotional rate.

Balance transfers can potentially hurt your credit score

Your credit score can take a hit when you open a new card.  Your score will drop if the balance of the new card is over 30% of the card’s limit.  Not to worry, making your payments on time will negate this penalty soon enough.

Here is another credit score consideration:

In order to minimize the risk of running up debt, many people close their old account after the balance transfer is completed.

This is wise and it is what we usually recommend.

But there is one exception:

If you’re going to be applying for a home loan in the near future, it’s probably smarter to keep the old account open because closing accounts usually hurt your credit score.

Final credit score consideration:

Closing accounts with zero balance will actually raise your credit utilization percentage, the amount of balance you carry versus the amount of credit you have available to you.

The truth is, the lower your credit utilization – the better your credit score will be.  So, closing your old card could hurt your credit score.

That’s not all.

Closing an old account may hurt your length of credit history, which can also negatively affect your score.

In other words, closing your first credit card account may hurt the length of credit history and, consequently, your score.  Conversely, closing a more recent account would not affect your score in this way.

Bottom line?

If you’re not getting a mortgage anytime soon, you probably shouldn’t worry about the credit hit too much.

Paying off debt, and staying out of debt, are the bigger, more important goals here.

Late payments can kill your APR

Sadly, that enticing 0% promotional interest rate can be lost in the blink of an eye.  All it takes is one late payment.

Read the disclosures carefully to make sure you understand the terms of a credit card offer.  The card issuers often have the sright, to not only end the introductory period but also to hit you with a hefty penalty APR, usually in the staggering neighborhood of 30%.

You are exposing yourself to potentially more debt

As I mentioned before, the banks are betting that you won’t be able to resist making more purchases and racking up more debt.

So if you’re going to do a balance transfer, vow to yourself that you are doing so strictly to help you pay off your debt.

Cut up your cards, or hide them in a safe place, so you won’t be tempted to use them for impulse buys.

Should you get a balance transfer credit card?

Transferring your debt to a 0% interest credit card only makes sense if the purpose is to pay down debt.

Even then, there are pros and cons to consider when deciding if you should or should not get a balance transfer credit card.

The Bottom Line About Balance Transfer Pros and Cons

The truth is, if you’re considering transferring a credit card balance for any other reasons besides saving money and getting out of debt faster, you probably should not do it.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the balance transfer is all that needs to be done to get your finances back on track.  If you don’t have a plan to pay down debt and stay out of debt, a balance transfer card will probably be counter-productive and lead to more debt.

But the bottom line is this:

When it’s done the right way as part of a debt reduction plan, and only after you have run the numbers and read the terms and disclosures, a balance transfer credit card can be a very effective tool to save money and pay off debt faster.

Like it?  Share it!

Was this article helpful?  If so, please consider sharing it so that others can benefit from it too.  Thanks!

Related: Busted! The Myths of Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Pay Off Credit Cards Sooner With Bi-Weekly Payments (Saves $1000’s)

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Source: incomist.com

Everything You Need to Know About Moving Safely During the Coronavirus Pandemic—If You Must

Packing up and moving has always been remarkably stressful in and of itself. Moving during the coronavirus pandemic, when everyone across the nation is supposed to be staying put to lower their risk of illness? Well, that’s a tricky undertaking, to say the least.

We’re here to help you navigate moving safely with the final installment of our new series, “Home Buying in the Age of Coronavirus.”

First, a note of caution: If you don’t have to vacate your current home, consider staying right where you are. Aim to reschedule your move for when the spread of the coronavirus outbreak slows and the government lifts restrictions on movement.

“During this crisis, many customers are postponing their moves and some are just completely canceling them,” says Lior Rachmany, CEO and founder of New York’s Dumbo Moving and Storage. “However, we’re still receiving a great deal of new customers that need to move at this time.”

So if you are one of those people who absolutely have to move right now—maybe the home you own or rent was recently sold, you have to relocate for a new job, or you just closed on a new home—then here’s some info on how to move safely during this pandemic.

Checklist: Before you move

Make sure moving is allowed in your area or building

Not sure if you can move? According to the American Moving & Storage Association, moving has been deemed an “essential service” by the federal government.

Still, while moving is legal in the big picture, it might not be allowed for your specific circumstances. For instance, some apartment buildings in New York City are not allowing residents to move during the current shelter-in-place order. So check with your local and state governments (and your HOA or condo board, if applicable) before scheduling any move.

Choose car travel over air travel

“In order to be safe and to protect others from possible exposure to the coronavirus, drive instead of fly for your long-distance move,” advises Ali Wenzke, author of “The Art of Happy Moving.”

It may take longer for you to arrive at your new home, but driving is better for the safety of everyone.

Carefully research your movers

Hiring movers should always be a process that involves careful research before signing a contract. Now that missive is even more important. So is using professional movers rather than a cheaper man-with-a-van option, which could involve unknown rental equipment and multiple trips to get everything moved.

These days, many companies have transitioned to contactless moving, which means customers leave their homes while the crew comes in to pack up and load the truck. Many movers are also using video chat technology to see customers’ homes and offer quotes.

At Bellhops, a company that provides moving services in 30 states, “the customer provides instructions and takes a video and sends it to us,” says Luke Marklin, the company’s CEO. “We do a FaceTime walk-through when we arrive and a final FaceTime walk-through to show them the truck and the house, then repeat that process for the unload.”

Make sure to ask all prospective movers about their COVID-19 policies and practices, and make sure to ask the following:

  • Do you provide virtual or digital estimates?
  • Are the trucks and movers equipped with hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves?
  • Will the truck transporting your furniture and boxes be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before your belongings are packed inside?
  • Will all equipment—such as hand trucks and sound blankets—be cleaned before your move?
  • How often are high-touch surfaces in the trucks sanitized?
  • What is your cancellation/rescheduling policy?
  • How are the movers ensuring employees aren’t sick? This could include taking their temperature on the day of the move and asking if anyone in their household is ill or experiencing symptoms.

These best practices don’t just apply to the movers but to you as well.

“We advise that anyone who is planning to move right now to get gloves and masks to wear during the move,” says Rachmany.

Decluttering? Call ahead if you plan to donate

Moving is a natural time to sort through your closets and set aside items to donate. This unusual time period doesn’t have to be an exception to this.

But if you plan to drop off old housewares, clothing, and other items at your neighborhood Goodwill or Salvation Army, call ahead—not all stores are open or accepting donations right now, and you may need to take additional steps to sanitize donated items.

__________

Watch: The Essential Quarantine Supply List

__________

Plan ahead if you need to set up new internet or cable service

If you need a technician to come to your place to set up internet or cable service with a new provider, schedule that installation ASAP so you can get connected as quickly as possible and avoid delays.

Appointments are harder to come by these days, says Jenna Weinerman, vice president of marketing for Updater, a moving app. “You can’t bank on getting an installation appointment as easily as you have in the past.”

Use new cardboard boxes you pack yourself

“In normal times, I recommend using neighborhood sites like Nextdoor or Craigslist to get free moving supplies,” says Ali Wenzke, author of “The Art of Happy Moving.” However, during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s safer to buy brand-new moving supplies.

Don’t use plastic bins, either—the coronavirus can survive up to a day on cardboard, but three days on plastic.

You should also pack your own china, books, and clothing rather than hiring movers to do it. The fewer items the movers touch during your move, the safer you will be from exposure to the coronavirus.

Stock up on cleaning supplies for you and your movers

Don’t pack up your cleaning supplies quite yet. Even though your movers should come equipped with their own supplies, you can help by providing plenty of opportunities for the crew to wash their hands before, during, and after the move—and to wash your own hands before and after making contact with any surfaces.

“At a minimum, you want adequate supplies of antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes on hand,” says Matt Woodley, founder of MoverFocus.com. “You will need to disinfect all common areas before and after your movers arrive, too.”

—————

Checklist: On moving day

Don’t involve more people than necessary

Many moving companies are reducing crew sizes to comply with guidelines to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people. Homeowners and renters should also try to reduce the number of cooks in the kitchen.

“Designate one person to manage and oversee the entire move to ensure best social distancing practices are observed,” Woodley says.

Time your move carefully

If possible, plan your move so that the crew drops off your belongings first, then wait at least 72 hours to move yourself or your family into your new place—by then, the virus is less likely to remain on any surfaces.

If you have to move at the same time as your items, Weinerman suggests packing a designated “open first” box that you drop off before the rest of your items. Fill the box with essentials like disinfectant spray, paper towels, snacks, soap, toiletries, bed linens, phone chargers, and a change of clothes.

“Place the rest of your boxes away from your ‘open first’ box,” she says. “Cover it in colorful tape or use colored markers to make sure it doesn’t get swallowed up in a sea of brown boxes.”

To be safe, disinfect the box and the items inside when you open it.

Disinfect all points of contact

As you come in and out of your new and old places, you’ll need to frequently disinfect doorknobs and cabinet pulls, along with wearing a mask and gloves. Keep windows open to promote airflow and circulation.

If you’re moving in or out of a multiunit building, take extra care in common areas like the lobby or mailroom where your neighbors pass through. Don’t forget to sanitize any surfaces you touch, including elevator buttons.

“It’s really helpful to reserve a dedicated elevator,” Marklin says. “One of the worst situations is to be crammed together in a crowded elevator.” He also suggests scheduling your move early in the day to avoid running into neighbors.

—————

Checklist: After the move

Wipe down your moving boxes and furniture

Even if your movers take every precaution to keep you and your belongings safe, the coronavirus can be spread by asymptomatic carriers. So you will need to thoroughly clean and disinfect everything after the movers leave.

“Even things that are wrapped in moving blankets, like tables or couches, should be completely disinfected before using them again,” says Rachmany.

To play it safe, also give your boxes a good cleaning once they’re placed in the appropriate rooms, and make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after handling any items the movers touched.

Canceling or changing your move if you’re sick

Feeling under the weather? Don’t think twice about canceling or postponing your move; it’s not worth putting others at risk.

In most cases, your agreement with a moving company is nonbinding, Weinerman says, which means you can change your plans without penalty.

“However, if your moving company collected a deposit prior to your move, it may be nonrefundable,” she says. “Contact your moving company about your deposit. Many reputable moving companies will be flexible or make an exception considering the pandemic.”

Companies like Bellhops have waived cancellation and rescheduling fees for anyone who needs to change plans due to illness.

“This is a pandemic, so all of the previous rules need to be thrown out the window,” Marklin says. “Everything needs to be viewed with heightened care and concern.”

Source: realtor.com

What to Do With a Childhood Savings Bond

February 3, 2014 &• min read by AJ Smith Comments 0 Comments

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Disclaimer

A savings bond used to be a common gift, though not always a welcome one. Well-meaning relatives gifted savings bonds for your birthday or the holidays. The goal was often to help you pay for college in the future. But for us kids, all we knew was it wasn’t the Pound Puppy or Care Bear we really wanted!

Nowadays 529 plans and other higher-interest earning options have replaced the savings bond. But that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared. In fact, they may be sitting at the back of your closet right now. But you are cleaning out your closet or your safe deposit box, and now this long-forgotten and unexpected savings bond can help you clean up your finances.

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It’s Still Good

That savings bond is still worth something. That’s the good news. Savings bonds gain value over time by earning interest and keep earning interest for 30 years. They pay interest every six months until they mature. So depending on how long it’s been since you cleaned your closet, you may still be making money as you read this. Now there are some steps you have to take to get money in return.

What Type of Savings Bond

There are several kinds of savings bonds. So you much determine which kind you have in your possession. Savings bonds are a contract between you and the federal government. If it’s an old bond from your childhood it is probably either an EE or an I bond. It will be clearly specified in the title which one you have.

EE bonds are similar to savings accounts. Paper bonds used to be sold at half the face value (you paid $50 for a $100 bond) and the interest continued to increase even after the face value is reached, so your $100 savings bond is probably worth more than $100 now. Paper EE bonds are no longer available and digital EE bonds are purchased at face value.

I bonds are similar to EE bonds. The chief difference is that the interest earned on an I bond is determined by a combination of a fixed rate and an inflation rate.  So there is some cost-of-living protection for the bondholder.

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Find Out What It’s Worth

Before you decide to cash in the savings bond, you’ll probably want to know what it’s worth. The interest rates and even the way interest rates are determined have changed over the years so it matters when you got yours. The best way to determine the current value of your savings bond is to use the Treasury Direct website. Whether you want to cash in the bond or continue to let it mature is then up to you.

There are some penalties for cashing in the savings bond early. If you redeem the bond early, you will lose three months’ worth of interest during the first five years. There are no penalties after five years. The earliest you can cash in the bond is after one year. If the bond is more than 30 years old, it has stopped earning interest and you should cash it in.

While you will have to pay federal taxes on your bonds, you do not have to pay state or local income taxes. There are some exemptions – most notably when bonds issued after 1989 are cashed in to pay qualified higher education expenses at an eligible institution.

Visit the Bank

Most banks should be able to help you cash your paper bonds. If they aren’t, they should be able to direct you to a financial institution that can. You will have to prove your identity to cash in your old bonds. You will have to fill out an tax form either when you redeem the bonds or at the end of the year. Your tax preparer should be able to help you with this part of the process.

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Pros and Cons of Moving During the Winter

person standing outside in a ponchoShould you stay or should you go? Don’t let freezing temperatures give you cold feet when deciding whether or not to move apartments this winter! There are many positive reasons why moving in the winter months could benefit you — and your wallet. Check out this list of pros and cons to learn if moving during the cold months makes sense for you.

The Pros of Moving Apartments During the Winter

Sure, the weather outside might occasionally be frightful and cold, but the best time of the year to move into an apartment might actually be during those winter months. Why? Here are a few of the benefits.

Less Competition

First of all, if you’re looking to move apartments during the winter, you’re going to have much less competition than if you were looking to move in the spring or the summer. During the warmer months, college students are out of school, graduates are moving to new cities, and families are not relocating to avoid moving their kids during the school year.

When it’s warm, landlords have no problem finding people to fill up a lease and can pick and choose who gets the property. In the winter? Not so much. And this is good news for you, as they’re eager to get you to rent given there’s much less competition.

Lower Rents During the Winter

Landlords don’t like empty apartments, and because fewer people are looking to rent during the winter, that means they may try and entice you with lower rents during this time. In fact, Investopedia goes as far as to say that “individuals renting between the months of December and March typically find the best rental bargains.” In turn, the most expensive months to start a lease are usually between May and October.

Use this to your advantage before demand picks back up in the spring.

Better Negotiations

Along those same lines, you have a distinct negotiating advantage in the winter that you don’t have in the summer when they have dozens of people willing to take the apartment as is for the price they command. During the winter landlords want to fill the vacancy, they tend to be more lenient and open to negotiations.

For example, if the apartment generally doesn’t allow pets, but you have a cat, they might just let that slide, and you and Fluffy can live there with no worries. What else should you negotiate? Ask about a shorter or longer lease term, nicer amenities, associated fees, parking restrictions, and above all — rent! During peak months, you’re at their mercy in terms of this point. But when they’re feeling a bit desperate and want to fill the vacancy ASAP, you might be able to negotiate different rates.

More Attention from Moving Companies

First, if you use a moving company, you’ll have a broader selection to choose from during the winter. Their schedules are lighter, meaning they can often even fit you in on short notice. And once you go with a specific company, you’ll have plenty of time to work out a deal, and the moving crews will have enough time to handle your items carefully, making the winter move more efficient and relaxed for all parties involved.

The Cons of Moving Apartments During the Winter

There are also some drawbacks to packing up your stuff and hauling it to a new apartment when the snow flies. This includes:

Bad Weather

This is by far the most significant deterrent for most people, as snow, ice, subzero temperatures, and even a massive storm are the risks that you take when you decide to move in the winter.

There’s the chance movers will slip and fall on ice and break some of your items; that the freezing temps will not only chill you to the bone but also damage your sensitive belongings; and roads might be closed due to snow or ice, meaning you’re at risk for an accident at the worst and a delay at best.

To combat the winter conditions, you may need to insulate all your belongings and get a climate-controlled moving truck (at an extra cost). Additionally, it may be a good idea to protect all floors and carpets in your old place and your new apartment, and make sure all sidewalks and walkways are clear of ice and snow.

Fewer Options

The tradeoff for having less competition, the upper hand in negotiations, and lower prices is that there’s also less for you to choose from. Why? Most apartment leases end during the summer, meaning summer renters often have more units to choose from.

In the winter, you run the risk of renting the apartment of someone who terminated their lease, was evicted, or left due to other unexpected circumstances. In other words, the listing might be less than ideal. But as long as you know what factors are really important to you in an apartment, you can decide what you’re willing to compromise on before signing on the dotted line.

Busier Season All-Around

We all know the holidays are in the winter, so adding in a stressful move on top of an already stressful season is, well, stressful. You might not even have the time to settle into your new apartment before you’re thrown into holiday shopping, parties, and the general hustle and bustle. Moving will take time away from your holidays, so you have to decide if you want to spend your time packing up boxes of your belongings or packing up and wrapping boxes for seasonal gatherings.

Ready to Make Your Move?

Demand for apartments tends to be lowest in the winter months, making them the best time for renters to find a steal! But moving during winter can come with drawbacks, including horrible weather conditions, so it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons.

Luckily, ApartmentSearch can provide a complete list of available apartments in your area no matter the season! If you’re ready to take advantage of winter rental rates, explore apartment units on ApartmentSearch.com!

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com