18 Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

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Most students have to borrow student loans to go to college. But very few know anything about them. That’s pretty scary considering you’re likely to take on several tens of thousands of dollars in debt. And making mistakes with that much money could cost you just as much. 

Take it from me. I borrowed six figures to get a doctorate to work in a notoriously low-paying field. And thanks to taking advantage of years of deferments, forbearances, and an income-based plan designed to help borrowers with high debt and low income, I now owe twice what I originally borrowed. 

Don’t make my mistakes. Instead, learn about the most common student loan borrowing and repayment errors. That way, you can avoid an overwhelming amount of student loans and get out of debt faster.

Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

Most student loan borrowing and repayment mistakes deal with misunderstanding what you’re borrowing, how interest works, how to pay off debt quickly, and how to avoid default. Steer clear of these top mistakes to ensure you borrow smartly and don’t end up in over your head. 

Mistake 1: Applying for Aid at the Last Minute

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the gateway to qualifying for all financial aid of any kind. That includes federal grants and student loans as well as state grants and most institutional aid — the grants, scholarships, or loans offered by your school. 

The FAFSA opens for applications every Oct. 1, and you must complete it by June 30 before the academic year you need aid for. You must complete a new FAFSA every year you plan to enroll in school.

Many colleges and universities also require additional forms, such as the CSS profile (short for the College Scholarship Service profile), which dives even deeper into your family’s financial situation. So check with the financial aid office to find out what they are, and stay on top of deadlines. 

But note that states and colleges have limited grant resources. And those resources tend to go to the students who apply early. In other words, they’re first come, first served. So the earlier you get your applications in, the better.

And while the federal government is unlikely to run out of education loan funds, if you miss the FAFSA deadline, you’ll have to resort to private loans, which are costlier and feature less favorable repayment options.

Apply as early as possible to ensure you get as much grant and scholarship aid as you can qualify for. The more grants you can get, the fewer loans you’ll need to borrow.

Mistake 2: Borrowing Too Much

It’s possible to borrow every cent you need to finance your education anywhere you want to go to school. But it’s crucial to ask whether you should. Getting in over your head with student loan debt can have catastrophic consequences. I’m living proof.

I needed a doctorate for my original career plan of teaching college. But few college professors earn enough income to manage the types of monthly payments I had along with other living expenses. That’s how I ended up in the deferment-forbearance cycle.

And it’s not easy to get out of. 

Thanks to a loophole in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program I was counting on and how colleges operate, my teaching position doesn’t qualify me for forgiveness. Additionally, discharging student loans in bankruptcy is currently so difficult it’s nearly impossible. And settling federal student loans isn’t any easier. 

The first step to reducing overwhelming student loan debt is to exhaust every other means of paying for college, including scholarships, grants, and work-study. Search online for scholarship aid using a national scholarship database like Fastweb.

And never count on options like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Historically, the government’s made it nearly impossible to get. Do your homework to increase your chances of getting it and apply for it if you qualify. But don’t base your student loan repayment strategy on it.

Additionally, consider less expensive colleges. State schools tend to give most students the best value. It only matters where you go to college for a select few graduates, such as those looking to build connections with specific financial or law firms. 

Finally, do a cost-benefit analysis. I found out the hard way all degrees don’t pay off, so as much as you want to pursue your passion, it might not be worth it financially.

Search sites like Glassdoor or PayScale to find out how much you can reasonably expect to make in your chosen field and compare that to the cost of school. As a rule, don’t borrow more than you can expect to earn as your annual salary your first year out of school. That ensures you can pay it off in 10 years or less. 

Mistake 3: Not Understanding How Loan Forgiveness Works

Historically, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program has been notoriously difficult to qualify for. The program was overhauled in the fall of 2021. But until then, only 2% of applicants who believed they qualified had their loans forgiven.

Much of that is likely due to bureaucratic mismanagement, hence the overhaul. However, the mismanagement led tens of thousands of borrowers into making payments under the wrong repayment programs. 

On Oct. 6, 2021, the government announced Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which allows previously nonqualifying payments to be counted toward loan forgiveness as long as those payments are certified before Oct. 31, 2022.

But moving forward, it’s crucial that borrowers are clear about the rules of loan forgiveness. You don’t want to find out after 10 years that your application is ineligible and you have to start all over.

To qualify for loan forgiveness, you must:

  • Have Federal Direct Loans. Private loans don’t qualify for forgiveness, nor do other types of federal loans, such as Perkins loans. If your federal loans aren’t direct loans, you can consolidate them into a direct loan to qualify. 
  • Work Full-Time for the Government or a Nonprofit. Payments only qualify while you’re employed full-time for an American federal, state, local, or tribal government or qualifying 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. That includes military service, Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps but excludes labor unions and partisan political organizations.
  • Enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment Program. No other repayment options qualify. But even if your income is so low your calculated payment under the plan is $0, being enrolled qualifies you. 
  • Make 120 Qualifying Payments. They don’t have to be consecutive, but they must qualify, meaning you have to make them under an income-based plan.
  • Submit the Forgiveness Certification Form Regularly. You must fill out and submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program certification form yearly and each time you switch employers. While not required, doing so ensures the payments you’re making qualify for forgiveness and allows you to make any changes you need to before you’ve made too many nonqualifying payments.

See all the rules at StudentAid.gov. 

Mistake 4: Taking Out the Wrong Type of Loan

There’s more than one type of student loan. But it’s generally best to exhaust your resources for federal aid before turning to alternatives. 

That said, while rare, some students may find the caps on how much you can borrow in federal direct loans don’t cover the total cost of attendance. 

Fortunately, graduate students and parents of undergrads can borrow PLUS loans up to the total cost of attendance. So there’s no need for many students to resort to other sources. If that’s not an option for you, students can sometimes borrow from their state government or the school they plan to attend. 

But the primary source of alternative loans for student borrowers is private student loans from banks or credit unions.

Federal student loans almost always win out over private student loans because of their lower fixed interest rates, flexible repayment options, borrower protections, and the potential for forgiveness.

But if you’re planning to borrow PLUS loans and definitely won’t qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, it’s worth it to find out whether you could get a better deal on a private loan if you have excellent credit. 

Mistake 5: Not Shopping Around for the Best Interest Rate & Terms

If you decide to borrow private student loans, always shop around for the best loan you can qualify for.

Private lenders compete for your business. So going with the first lender you find could mean leaving a better rate on the table.

Use a comparison site like Credible, which matches you with prequalified rates from up to eight lenders with only a soft inquiry on your credit report, which doesn’t affect your credit score. That way, you can compare all your student loan options in one place. 

But it’s not only interest rates that should matter to your bottom line. The best private student loan companies offer various borrower perks in addition to low rates.   

For example, most lenders reduce your interest rate when you enroll in autopay. And some reduce your rate even further with loyalty discounts for doing other business with them, such as opening bank accounts or taking out personal loans. 

Some lenders also offer perks for specific borrowers, such as special payment plans for medical and dental students during their residencies. And some even offer unique perks like free financial coaching or career planning services.  

Just remember to read all the fine print so you know exactly what loan terms you’re agreeing to before you sign. For example, it may lack options for deferment if you fall on hard times or a co-signer release option. Don’t be lured by a shiny interest rate on its own.  

Mistake 6: Not Understanding How Variable & Fixed Interest Rates Work

The rate is only one piece of the interest puzzle. How that rate works also affects how much accrues over time. 

For example, all federal student loans come with fixed interest rates set each year by law. That means the rate stays the same for the life of the loan, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on the interest rate during the year you borrowed. 

But some private student loans have variable interest rates. These fluctuate with market conditions. Although the variable rates are generally the lowest offered rates, it’s because the borrower is assuming the risk that the rate won’t go up, which is likely if you take 10 or more years to repay your student loans.

If you already have a variable-rate private loan, look into refinancing to a fixed-rate loan while rates are low. 

And once you start making payments, contact the student loan company to find out if there are any ways to lower the interest rate, like signing up for an autopay discount.

Mistake 7: Not Understanding Interest Accrual & Capitalization

Another factor to consider is when the interest begins to accrue (accumulate). On subsidized federal loans, that doesn’t happen until after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Thus, whatever you borrowed is what you owe up until the day you’re no longer enrolled full time. 

But interest on unsubsidized federal and private loans starts the moment you get the money. So on graduation day, you owe a higher balance than you originally borrowed.

Worse, that interest is capitalized (added to the principal balance as though it were part of what you borrowed) once you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Since interest accrues according to the principal, that means you’ll then be earning interest on the interest.

Fortunately, you can reduce or even eliminate the burden interest can cause. Make small monthly interest payments while you’re still in school. That ensures none accrues and capitalizes on graduation. 

If you have to, take on a part-time job. As long as you keep it to part-time hours, it shouldn’t interfere with your studies, and a well-chosen college job comes with numerous benefits, like teaching you the money management skills you need to pay off those loans after college. 

Mistake 8: Co-Signing a Loan Without Understanding the Consequences

In some cases, a co-signer can help a student qualify for a loan or get a lower interest rate. 

But co-signing their loan comes with a great deal of risk. You’re taking on equal responsibility for the loan. That means if they make a late payment or miss one entirely, it could impact your credit score. And if they default on the loan, the loan company will come after you for the balance.

And it doesn’t matter how responsible or well-intentioned the borrower is. No one can predict the future, and they could fall on hard times. 

There are several programs designed to help people who have trouble paying back federal loans — if they enroll in them. But private lenders are especially hard to work with. Either way, there are risks associated with co-signing for a student loan. 

If you do agree to co-sign, ask them to look for a company with a co-signer release option, which absolves you of responsibility for the debt after the student makes a certain number of on-time monthly payments.

If not getting help means they can’t attend college, a parent PLUS loan gives you more control than co-signing a private loan. You can borrow up to the total cost of their attendance, but the loan will be in your name. 

If you want, you can still agree that they’re responsible for paying you back (though that agreement isn’t legally enforceable). Plus, if you experience financial hardship, you have access to federal repayment plans and borrower protections.

However, don’t sacrifice retirement savings or go into debt paying for your kids’ college. It could leave you unprepared, potentially placing a financial burden on them later.

Mistake 9: Putting Off Making a Repayment Plan

Many borrowers get lulled into thinking they can wait until after they graduate and their six-month grace period ends before they have to start worrying about their student loans. But you need to prepare your budget long before then.

A student loan payment could easily be $400 per month (maybe more). That’s a hefty chunk of anyone’s take-home pay. But recent grads won’t make as much as established professionals in any field. 

And if you don’t think about it for the first six months post-graduation, it’s easy to establish a post-college life that doesn’t leave room for it, such as upgrading your apartment or buying a new car.

Before you graduate, find out what your monthly payment will be. You can check your student loan balance by creating a student account at StudentAid.gov.

Then, build the rest of your post-college budget around your monthly student loan payment. That ensures you won’t take on more financial obligations than you can afford. Unfortunately, that may mean living that ramen-eating college lifestyle for the first couple of years after you graduate. 

Mistake 10: Choosing the Wrong Repayment Plan

The automatic student loan repayment schedule is 10 years of fixed payments, but it’s not the best option for all borrowers.

You don’t want to string out payments for decades unless it’s necessary. But income-driven repayment plans, which forgive any remaining balance after you make 240 to 300 (20 to 25 years) of qualifying payments, may be a saving grace for borrowers with high debt and low income. 

And for those entering public service fields, an income-driven repayment plan is the gateway to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which forgives any remaining balance in as few as 120 qualifying payments. 

But even if you stick to the standard 10-year plan, you still have options. 

For example, you can repay your loans on a graduated plan, which lets you make smaller payments at the beginning. Your payments then gradually rise every two years. This plan is ideal for those who must start in a lower-paying job but expect their income to increase substantially as they gain work experience.

Use the loan simulator at StudentAid.gov to see how much you can expect to repay under different repayment plans. It shows your monthly payments, total amount owed, and any potential balance you could have forgiven under an income-driven repayment plan as well as the date you can expect to have your loans paid off.

Use this information to weigh your options. Ask yourself: 

  • Is it better to pay off your loans as quickly as possible by sticking to the standard 10-year plan? Is that realistic at your current income? 
  • How big will your payments be 10 years down the line if you opt for graduated repayment? Are you likely to make enough money for that to be practical? 
  • Is it better to make your current situation more manageable through an income-driven or extended repayment plan? 

Lowering your monthly payment will have consequences since it means more interest will accrue. But the loan simulator can give you an accurate picture of what those consequences will look like. 

Mistake 11: Only Making the Minimum Payment

The longer you sit on debt, the more it costs you thanks to the interest. So if you have any wiggle room in your budget, put whatever money you can toward your student loans to pay them off as quickly as possible. 

Even small amounts can make a big difference.

For example, if you borrowed $40,000 in student loans at 6% interest, your monthly payment would be $444. But if you paid $500 a month instead — a difference of only $56 — you’d save $1,957 in interest and have them repaid a year sooner.

If you can, opt for a side gig or cut your expenses. Additionally, put any windfalls — like tax refunds, gifts, or inheritances — toward your loans.  

But this is key: When you make any extra payments toward your loans, ensure you indicate the company should apply it to the principal. The more you pay down the principal, the less interest accumulates.

Mistake 12: Refinancing Without Considering the Pros & Cons

Refinancing is a common strategy for lowering the cost of debt, whether it’s a mortgage refinance or a student loan. But while refinancing can score you a lower interest rate, interest rates aren’t the only consideration.

When you refinance a student loan, you can only do so through a private refinance lender. That means you lose access to all the benefits of federal student loans, including federal repayment plans, borrower protections, generous deferment and forbearance options, and federal loan forgiveness. 

It may still be worth it to you, depending on the rate you can get. But it’s crucial to weigh that against all you’d be giving up.

Even if the private interest rate is lower, the future is unpredictable, and you never know if you could need those federal benefits. And you’ll lose all access to federal loan forgiveness with a refinance.

On the other hand, if you have private student loans, there’s no reason not to refinance. 

Mistake 13: Postponing Payments Unnecessarily

Both federal and private student loans have multiple options for deferment and forbearance. These allow you to temporarily suspend payments for various reasons, including full-time enrollment in school, economic hardship, military deployment, and serving in AmeriCorps. 

Sometimes, deferment or forbearance makes sense, such as while you’re enrolled in school. But prolonged use of these options just increases your overall balance because interest keeps piling up. 

Interest accrues on all but subsidized federal loans during deferments. And it accrues on all loans during forbearance. Additionally, that interest is capitalized (added to the principal balance) at the end of the deferment or forbearance. 

Only use these options when absolutely necessary. And if possible, make interest payments during periods of deferment or forbearance to prevent its accrual. 

If you’re deferring or forbearing for economic hardship and anticipate the hardship will last longer than a month or two, apply for an income-driven plan instead. 

Depending on the severity of your situation, your monthly payments could be calculated as low as $0. And some plans don’t capitalize interest and even have interest subsidies, which means the government covers the interest on your loans for a specified period.  

Additionally, those $0 “payments” count toward potential student loan forgiveness. But only periods of economic hardship deferment count toward the forgiveness clock. No other form of deferment or forbearance qualifies. And there’s a cap on how long you can defer for economic hardship.

Plus, if your financial situation changes, you can always change your repayment plan. 

Mistake 14: Missing Payments

Missing payments can result in late fees. The student loan company tacks these onto your next month’s minimum payment. So if you had a hard time paying this month, it won’t be easier next month. 

Plus, when you make your next payment, your money covers fees and interest before going toward the principal. So multiple fees could mean paying your principal down slower. And interest accrues according to the principal balance, so the higher you keep that balance, the more interest you pay.

Worse, if you miss enough payments, it can result in a default of your loans, which comes with severe consequences, such as damaged credit or wage garnishment or seizure of your tax refunds, Social Security benefits, or property. 

There’s never a reason to miss a payment on a federal student loan if you’re facing financial hardship. Simply call the company and let them know. Depending on what you qualify for, you can choose from multiple options, including deferment, forbearance, or an income-driven repayment plan.

Private lenders are tougher to work with, as fewer repayment options are available. But many are still willing to work with you if you explain the situation. Most of the top lenders have limited programs for deferment or forbearance in times of economic hardship. 

Mistake 15: Keeping Your Assigned Payment Due Date

Student loan companies allow you to adjust your monthly due date. That can be helpful if you’re having trouble stretching your dollars from one paycheck to the next.

Plus, if your bills are anything like mine, most of them are due at the same time of month. Thus, if you get paid biweekly, adjusting your due date to a different time of the month can make things easier.  

If you want a different due date, contact the company handling your student loans and ask if you can adjust your due date to one more beneficial for you. You may even be able to change it through your online account.

Ensure you get confirmation of the new date in writing. That protects you if you get hit with any late fees in error. Additionally, ask when the new date takes effect. It could take a billing cycle or two, depending on the lender. 

Mistake 16: Falling for Student Loan Scams

Many borrowers have reported receiving phone calls, emails, letters, and texts offering them relief from their student loans or warning them federal forgiveness programs will end soon if they don’t act now.

But the services these scam debt relief companies offer usually steal borrowers’ money or private information rather than grant any actual relief. 

Other student loan scams take fees for helping students apply for income-driven repayment plans or consolidate their loans. However, borrowers never have to pay to sign up for any federal repayment programs. They only need to contact the company in charge of their loan.

In general, if someone contacts you, avoid giving them any personal information. No matter who they claim to be, either tell them to send their request in writing or say you’ll call them back. Then verify their story by contacting your student loan company at their listed phone number or through their website.

Additionally, never pay an upfront fee for student loan services. The government doesn’t charge application fees for any of their loan programs. They also won’t claim an offer is only available for a limited time since all the terms are set by law every year and are available to all students.

For more red flags to watch for, check out the Department of Education’s tips on avoiding student loan scams. 

Mistake 17: Forgetting to Update Your Contact Information

You are responsible for making all your loan payments whether you received the bill or not. Additionally, the lender in charge of your loan can change, and you need to ensure you’re able to receive that information so you always know who to contact about paying and managing your loans.

Thus, it’s on borrowers to ensure the company in charge of their student loans has all their current contact information, including mailing address, email address, and phone number. That’s especially the case if you moved after you graduated or listed a parent’s address on your application forms.

Log into your student loan account to ensure your contact information is current. 

If you don’t know who services your student loans, check with your school’s financial aid office. For federal loans, you can always create an account on StudentAid.gov.

Then, each time you move, get a new email address or change your number, update that info with the company handling your student loans.

Mistake 18: Not Asking for Help

Paying off student loans can be overwhelming, especially if you’re dealing with low income or a large amount of debt. Depending on your circumstance, it could feel like you’re drowning and may never escape.

Trust me, I know how it feels. And I’m hardly alone. A simple online search reveals dozens of stories of borrowers who’ve consistently paid on their loans yet owe more than ever thanks to the compounding effects of interest, which often feels like quicksand. 

But paying late or not at all only makes the situation worse. Damage to your credit report can make it difficult for you to rent an apartment, buy a car, or even get a job. And default can leave you subject to wage garnishment, steep collection penalties, and even lawsuits.  

But hope isn’t lost. There is help. Resources exist for borrowers who need an extra hand.

The first step is to reach out to the student loan company. See if there’s a payment plan that’s manageable for you. Even if there isn’t, let them know what payment you can afford, and go from there. 

If the company is uncooperative, contact the federal student loan ombudsman. 

Borrowers can also reach out to nonprofit student loan counselors, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or The Institute of Student Loan Advisors. These organizations work with borrowers to help them figure out the best strategies for dealing with their loans and overall financial health. 

Alternatively, if you’ve reached the point of needing to settle your student loans or file for bankruptcy, seek an attorney who specializes in student loans. For private student loan help, try The National Association of Consumer Advocates. For federal student loans, search the American Bar Association.


Final Word

The United States is currently experiencing a student loan crisis because of how the debt has impacted American lives.

It’s affected borrowers’ ability to save for retirement and buy a home. It’s also impacted people’s ability to start a family or even choose a job for passion over a paycheck.

And it can do so for decades. Many millennials who’ve entered middle age continue to face debt repayment. And many feel college wasn’t worth it as a result.

But you don’t have to be one of these statistics. I write about student loans precisely to help others avoid my mistakes. Learn from this list so you can borrow wisely and avoid overwhelming student loan debt.  

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Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She’s also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Simple Tips for Baby Proofing Your Apartment

Baby proofing your apartment is the best way to ensure your child is safe and avoids injury within the walls of your own home.

Choosing a name, decorating a nursery and buying tiny clothes are all part of the process of welcoming a new baby into your home. While this is the fun part, it’s essential to baby proof the apartment, too.

When you have a newborn that simply eats and sleeps on repeat, the apartment is generally safe as-is. However, time moves quickly and soon, that tiny newborn will be a curious baby and then a toddler who wants to explore every room and everything in it.

By baby proofing your one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment before the baby starts crawling, you’ll help keep your beautiful child safe, secure and happy.

Easy ways to begin baby proofing your apartment

So, are you curious exactly how to baby proof your apartment? A baby proofing checklist will go a long way to teach you about all the hazards in your home and show you how to secure your young children against them. And as any parent will attest, anything that helps you remember things when you’re on the sleep schedule of a brand-new mom or dad is a great idea!

Here are some of the most important things to do as you baby proof your apartment.

Baby reaching for baby gate

Baby reaching for baby gate

1. Install one baby gate or several

Baby gates are a great way to keep the baby safe and out of a dangerous place. Baby gates help kids steer clear of stairs and avoid dangerous falls. However, you can also use them for more than blocking steep staircases.

You can place safety gates really anywhere in the house. If you’re cooking in the kitchen and want the kids to stay out of that area, you can place a baby gate in ceratin door frames to keep them out. Some parents may prefer to place their child in an enclosed playpen instead of installing a baby gate. But, for renters with stairs or pet areas that need blocking, a baby gate is a great option.

Most rental communities are fine with simple hole-drilling (you’re already hanging pictures and other things in your home) but double-check your lease. Oftentimes, it’s just as easy to keep some of your home’s paint on hand and, if moving, spackle and paint any holes to ensure you get the security deposit back. Pressure-mounted gates are a good substitute but aren’t suitable for use near stairs because they are easier to push over.

2. Cover all outlets

Every room in an apartment has electrical outlets on the wall. Children can electrocute themselves if they stick their fingers in outlets, so to prevent this, place outlet covers on all the plugs. You could also place furniture in front of plugs as another way to cover them. Just remember that children can pull furniture onto themselves so you’ll want to secure the furniture, too.

3. Secure all cabinets

Babies love cabinet doors. They open and close and are fun to bang shut. Unfortunately, they’re a potential danger as they often store products that are harmful to children. Here are all the cabinets you need to secure in your rental property:

  • Medicine cabinet
  • Liquor cabinets
  • Kitchen cabinets
  • Bathroom cabinets
  • Cleaning supplies and cleaning chemicals cabinet
  • Water heater cabinet

Because each cabinet is full of potential hazards, you can either place all hazardous materials out of the baby’s reach or, you can buy cabinet locks so that roaming toddlers can open them. Do both for extra safety.

Baby grabbing pan off stove

Baby grabbing pan off stove

4. Assess the kitchen

Make sure to baby proof the kitchen because it’s a dangerous room for children. Spilled food on the floor can pose a choking hazard and the hot stove and oven can cause burns. Make sure you have stove knob covers and if possible, cook on the back burners instead of the front burners so it’s out of the child’s reach.

Place locks on any kitchen cabinets that contain glass or cleaning products. One pro parenting tip is to have an open bin or drawer in the kitchen full of old Tupperware, measuring spoons and/or plastic bowls. This is a fun way to include your child in the kitchen while keeping them safe.

5. Secure the bathroom and laundry room

The laundry room and bathroom are the most dangerous places in the house because of small objects, sharp edges, electrical outlets and water sources like the toilet and tub. To keep your baby safe, make sure to place locks on any cabinet that contains cleaning chemicals in these rooms.

Always remember to drain the bathtub entirely and never leave a child unattended in the bathroom. Lastly, close the toilet bowl and buy a lock that can seal the toilet shut.

Toddler climbing on a bookshelf

Toddler climbing on a bookshelf

6. Scan the living room and bedroom

You may need to make permanent changes as you walk through each room of your apartment. Anything that’s at floor level is fair game for babies. If it’s at their height or on the floor, they can easily access it.

When you’re proofing the living room and bedroom, start by looking at the windows. Are there window guards or locks on each window? Make sure they lock.

Next, secure the window treatments and make sure the blinds don’t have long cords hanging down that could pose a strangulation hazard. You can also use paper clips to bind the cords and keep them away from children.

Take a look at your furniture to see if the baby could pull it down easily. Check the coffee table or dining room table for sharp edges. Buy edge guards which can help prevent cuts and bruises.

Make sure your changing table is in a place that’s convenient and safe. You could even consider changing your child on the floor so they can’t fall. Vacuum regularly and use things like solid panels to help baby proof the apartment.

7. Lock the front door

As your toddler grows, they’ll become more curious. You need to make sure you always lock the door so the child can’t walk out and explore the apartment complex without adult supervision.

It’s also smart to shut other doors in the apartment so your toddler can’t slam their fingers in them. If you’re not using the room, close the door as an extra precaution.

8. Check all toys

Most toys must meet certain safety guidelines — like never using lead paint — before they’re sold to consumers. However, toys can break or fall apart on the floor posing safety threats for children.

It’s smart to check your toys on a frequent basis to keep babies safe as they play. Look at the toy batteries and make sure they don’t leak acid. If a toy breaks or pieces go missing, it might be smart to discard it so no one gets hurt.

Baby on an unsecured deck

Baby on an unsecured deck

9. Look at the patio or balcony

First-floor apartments don’t have the same fall issues as those up higher up, but patios — often lined with landscaping — can still be hazardous. If applicable, find out what sort of plants surround yours and whether they pose any risks, then take appropriate action.

And if you have a balcony you’d like to enjoy with less worry, rail guards – made of mesh or other materials – will prevent children from slipping between bars.

Baby proof for added peace of mind

Securing your apartment takes time, but it’s well worth it to keep your babies and toddlers safe. We hope these tips on how to baby proof were helpful and give you peace of mind. Just remember: even in the safest surroundings, adult supervision is always mandatory!

Source: rent.com

How to Become a Babysitter and Find Jobs Caring for Kids

Still, it’s always best to meet in-person or over Zoom before you formally accept an offer. Doing so lets you discuss your hourly rate, responsibilities, house rules and expected duties in more detail.
A babysitting class will teach you how to deliver compassionate care to infants and young children in fun, age-appropriate ways. Plus, it looks great on your resume.
You obviously need to love children — and have some real-life experience caring for them.
If things progress to the interview stage, prepare the night before by brainstorming potential questions. Bring a copy of your references and resume with you, even if you’ve already emailed it to the parent beforehand.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.
You generally need to be certified in first aid and CPR before you can land a babysitting job.
When a parent first makes contact with you, be prepared to discuss basic details about yourself, like your availability, limitations and prior experience.
Now what?

Babysitter Requirements: What You Need to Get Started

It also gives you one last chance to decide if you really want to work with these parents and babysit their child.

Age and Education

When creating your profile on babysitting sites, include more than the basic facts to attract parents who are looking for specific work history and personality traits that are a good match for their family, according to Fong.
Each state has its own laws covering daycare, and you’ll want to make sure you’re on the right side of them.
You can find many of these resources online with a simple Google or YouTube search. Another option is enrolling in an online class at a community college.
If you do decide to babysit children in your home, you might be classified as a daycare operator, in which case you may need a license and have other legal complications.
Depending on your location, you may find opportunities posted on Monster.com and Indeed.com. You can advertise your services for free on Craigslist and NextDoor.
The American Red Cross is one of the best places to start your babysitting certification and training search. The nonprofit organization not only offers first aid and CPR training, they also offer three different babysitting certification courses.
Make sure to mention your qualifications, availability and maximum distance you’re willing to travel for babysitting jobs.

Need a banking service that’s built for gig workers and freelancers, helping you save for taxes and keep track of your expenses? Check out Lili. (It’s free!)

Certification and Training

When you’re just getting started, word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to boost your babysitting business and find new customers.
You generally want at least two solid references you can show potential clients. Families want to make sure you come highly rated and have prior child care experience.
Make sure to share other experiences or extracurricular activities that involve children, such as reading to kids at the library, volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters or tutoring younger children.
However, age can still impact the type of jobs you get.
On the flip side, adults typically earn higher rates, which can make babysitting a profitable side hustle for grown-ups, too.
Babysitting can be a great side hustle to earn quick money. But this popular child care job isn’t for everyone.
You may also want to consider getting a driver’s license if you don’t have one.
Most babysitting jobs require a minimum age, some safety certifications and key interpersonal skills.
According to the IRS, babysitters need to report their income when filing taxes.

Other Helpful Things to Have Before You Start Babysitting

You can search for local Red Cross safety courses by entering your city and selecting the type of class you want to take. You can also register for these courses online.

References

Creating a list of references can be challenging if this is your first professional babysitting job. Technically, you can list anyone — including family members and friends — as a reference. However, the more relevant your references are, the better it looks to prospective parents.
For example, you must be at least 11 years old to take the American Red Cross babysitting course (more on that later). Many parents and agencies look for this type of training when hiring a babysitter.
“Share information beyond, ‘I like caring for kids,’” Fong said. “[Babysitters should] include more specific details such as their years of experience, the types of responsibilities they have had, and special skills or passions that may help with the job.”
You can also post about your babysitting services on Facebook. Look for parent groups on the site along with classified and community groups in your area.

  • The person’s name
  • Their job title (or their relationship to you)
  • Their company and address
  • Their contact phone number or email address

Resume

“Taking introductory courses can help aspiring sitters learn the key skills to babysitting, like responsibility, problem-solving, decision-making and leadership,” said Connie Fong, vice president of brand at Care.com.
On the day of your babysitting shift, be prompt and don’t ask to reschedule unless it’s a true emergency. A good babysitter shows up on time. After all, first impressions go a long way — especially with this side gig.

Driver’s License

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After brief introductions are over, be confident and ask questions. Gather basic information you’ll need, like how many children they have and the shift they want you to cover.
Both offer free membership options as well as paid versions that include background checks and improved placement.
Some families look for babysitters who can drive their kids to after-school activities or doctor appointments. Obtaining your license helps you prequalify for a wider range of jobs.

Continuing Education

It’s also a smart idea to create a resume if you don’t already have one. A good resume will showcase your certifications, training, education and prior experience watching children.
Most babysitting jobs don’t require formal education or a college degree, making them ideal gigs for teenagers, college students and other young adults.
Other good questions to ask parents:
You’ll probably receive a handbook as part of your babysitting certification course. Hold onto it. Guides like this offer valuable information you can refer back to once you start babysitting.

A little girl waves to a person while standing next to her babysitter.
Getty Images

How Much Money Can Babysitters Make?

You can also try babysitting apps, such as Bubble, Sitter and Bambino.
These certifications usually require completing online coursework as well as passing a hands-on in-person class to master skills.

  • Location. You can charge more in cities with a higher cost of living. The Care.com calculator suggested rate for babysitting one child in San Francisco is $21 per hour, while in Toledo, Ohio, the going rate is $13.50 an hour.
  • Number of children. You can typically charge $1 or $2 more per hour, per child.
  • Age of sitter. Adults earn more money. So do more experienced babysitters.
  • Time. Late night and on-demand schedules typically result in extra money. You can also charge more to provide child care services on New Year’s Eve and other holidays.
  • Additional qualifications. Most parents are willing to pay more for a babysitter with CPR and safety training.
  • Additional responsibilities. You can charge a higher rate for going above and beyond basic care and regular babysitting duties, such as picking the kids up from school, helping prepare meals or assisting with homework.

Each reference should include:

Babysitting Taxes: How They Work

Many people start their babysitting careers at a young age by watching their own siblings or family members.
You need to be a leader and problem solver with excellent communication skills. You’ll also need to educate yourself about child care and get certified in first aid and CPR.
Curious about how to become a babysitter? Here’s everything you need to know.

You’ll need to take a written test, a driving exam, complete an application and pass a vision test to get your driver’s license.
If you’re a new babysitter in high school or college, you can send Facebook messages to friends of your parents who have small children.
Most first aid and CPR certifications last two years, so you’ll need to renew them regularly. A combined CPR/first aid certification from the Red Cross averages around while babysitting classes with the nonprofit range from to .
There’s plenty of responsibility involved with watching other people’s children, so babysitting shouldn’t be a job you enter into half-heartedly.
If you want to be a professional childcare worker or expand your babysitting career, it’s wise to learn as much as possible about child development and early education.
However, the IRS says, “A worker who performs child care services for you in his or her home generally is not your employee.”

Where Can You Find Babysitting Jobs?

If you don’t want to go it alone, there are online platforms specifically set up for connecting parents and babysitters, including Care.com and Sittercity.
But the truth is you can make money babysitting at almost any age. Babysitting jobs are accessible to younger adults and teens because they don’t require a college degree or formal education.
Your pay rate will depend on a variety of factors, including:
Brush up on topics you’re interested in, like gentle parenting skills or conflict resolution between younger siblings.
Likewise, some parents may not be comfortable handing their child over to a preteen. Each family has their own preferences, so you may need to be at least 16 or 18 to land certain babysitting jobs.
Websites like Care.com — one of the largest job posting sites for caregivers — also sets age requirements.

Babysitting Apps and Websites

So babysitting in your own home makes it clearer that you’re an independent contractor and that the parents won’t need to deal with payroll taxes.
If you earn more than ,100 per year from one client, then the IRS considers in-home caregivers to be household employees, which means your employer has tax-compliance responsibilities like payroll taxes.
While a resume or driver’s license isn’t required to become a babysitter, these assets will help you land more jobs.
How old you need to be to babysit is also pretty flexible. In all but one state (Maryland), there is no legal minimum age required to babysit.
Some states let you get your driver’s permit as early as age 14, but the average age range is 15 to 16 years old.
Parents may want to hire you right after the first phone call or email. That can be exciting, especially if it’s your first babysitting job.

How to Make Contact With Families and Land a Babysitting Job

Also ask for a contact number so you can reach parents immediately if an emergency arises during your shift.
If you don’t land the babysitting job you wanted, don’t give up. It’s normal to face rejection in the beginning. Stay positive and keep honing your skills to find the right job.
Consult a tax specialist if you’re in doubt about your status.
According to a March 2021 post, users must now be at least 18 years old to create a Care.com account and register as a caregiver.
Remember: You can always negotiate a higher pay rate with families. Still, it’s always helpful to have a starting figure in mind when you apply for any babysitting job.
If you don’t get paid more than ,100 by any one client in a year, you’ll normally be considered an independent contractor, which means you’ll need to pay the self-employment tax along with your income tax.

  • Do you normally get home on time or should I prepare to work later?
  • Are your children potty trained?
  • Do any of your children have special needs?
  • Do you need me to take care of any pets?
  • Am I responsible for any light cleaning or other household duties?
  • Are there any foods or snacks that are off-limits for your children?
  • When is their bedtime?

Babysitting websites and apps make it easy to find work, but there’s a catch. Most handle payment transactions through their online platform — and many take a cut of what you earn.
According to 2021 data from Sittercity — a major job posting site — the average rate for babysitters in the U.S. is about per hour.
Having a good set of references improves your chances of snagging the babysitting job you want.
You can also seek advice from other babysitters, or observe friends and family with small children.
Other community organizations also offer babysitting and CPR training, including local hospitals, YMCAs, churches and community centers.
An interested parent just reached out to you — that’s great!
Provide great service to friends, family and neighbors, then ask them to refer you to their network of parents. It’s one of the easiest ways to land more babysitting jobs.
For example, child care laws in Illinois specify that you need a license from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) if you care for more than three children (your own are included if they’re under 12 years old). So if you live in Illinois and want to avoid the need for a daycare license, simply limit your service to watching three or fewer kids.

What to Buy at Dollar Stores for the Holidays to Save Money

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Would you shop at a dollar store to save money during the holidays?

It might sound tacky but you are missing out on some great deals if you pass up dollar store deals. This is especially true this year when you may be gathering with more people after last year’s pandemic holiday shutdown. More people, more presents, more food to prepare and serve and that all means more money.

Dollar stores like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General may not supply all of the gifts on your shopping list, but they’re great sources for the extra items like cleaning supplies and cookware that are easy to forget about when you’re budgeting for the holidays.

And you’re also likely to find some pretty decent stocking stuffers for the adults and kids on your gift list, along with updating your holiday decorations.

Dollar stores are also a good place to stock up on gifts if you are donating to shelters or are otherwise helping supply gifts to holiday efforts by houses of worship or non-profit agencies.

Oh, about that dollar thing. In November 2021, Dollar Tree announced that it will raise prices on most items to $1.25 in the first quarter of 2022. That extra quarter, says Dollar Tree, will allow them to bring back some customer favorites that 1 buck couldn’t buy. For now, Dollar General and Family Dollar are holding steady at $1.

What to Buy at Dollar Stores to Save Money for the Holidays

There are many things you can buy at a dollar store to get more bang for your holiday buck, including decorations, gifts, gift wrap, cards and even bakeware.

1. Holiday Decorations

The dollar store is a great place to find the makings of DIY holiday decorations at a fraction of the cost of even what you might find at discount giant Walmart. Look for ribbon, bows, candles and candleholders for just $1 each.

If you want to spruce up side tables for the holidays, search your local dollar store for snow globes, miniature trees, festive figurines, decorative baskets and tabletop signs that remind everyone to be merry.

You can even get tabletop trees if you want to decorate your work desk (home or in the office) or the entry table by your front door. Dollar stores also sell a wide variety of ornaments and tinsel to decorate your tabletop (or full-size) tree without breaking the bank.

Finally, you can deck out the exterior of your house or apartment with a dollar-store wreath and wreath hanger. If you’re into DIY, you could even use a dollar-store wreath as a base and make it extra fancy by adding ribbons, bells, or tinsel.

2. Gifts for Kids

For many kids, the excitement of opening gifts outweighs whatever is wrapped inside. And you can get all kinds of children’s toys, books and crafts at a dollar store for much cheaper than you’d pay at big box stores or online. This year, buy a bunch of small gifts at the dollar store so your child has plenty of presents to unwrap.

A cheap whoopee cushion can provide hours of laughter (although you might end up confiscating it after four straight hours of poofs). If your kid is into bubble popping toys, you can stock up on a few different ones to help keep them occupied during the school holidays.

You can even get dolls, stuffed animals, race cars and action figures at your local dollar store.

The quality will definitely be different from the more expensive versions, but what little kid is going to notice that when unwrapping that cuddly unicorn they’ve been asking for all year?

Two women hug while exchanging gifts on Christmas.
Getty Images

3. Gifts for Adults

When you’re making your gift list this holiday season, you probably don’t think of dollar stores as must-visit places for gifts for the adults on your list. But don’t write them off completely. Dollar stores actually have quite a few options for your friends and family.

If you’re buying for a crafty person, you’ll have a lot of options to choose from. Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar all have a wide variety of art and craft supplies, including yarn, paint, beads and craft kits.

Even if your loved one isn’t into crafts, there are still plenty of dollar store options available. For the writer in your life, stock up on pens and notebooks. Or pick up a pack of socks to keep as an emergency gift for anyone you forgot.

Dollar stores also sell a selection of puzzle books you can give to someone in your life who likes being challenged, or paperbacks to give to readers.

If all else fails, pick up some assorted candy and make a sweet gift basket to brighten someone’s day this holiday season.

Pro Tip

Make your gifts extra special with some personal DIY touches and repurposing items around the house for cheap gift wrap.

4. Gift Wrap and Bags

Beautiful presents in fancy wrapping make a lovely sight under the tree. But that expensive wrapping is torn apart in a matter of minutes and thrown away, making it a costly waste.

Instead of splurging on the expensive paper, pick up cheaper alternatives at the dollar store. Reuse gift bags or let the kids color pictures or write personalized messages on the wrapping paper.

Make your gifts extra special with some personal DIY touches or by repurposing items around the house for cheap gift wrap.

5. Holiday Greeting Cards

The important part of a holiday card is the message inside, right? Unlike (maybe) the gifts or food, your friends and family aren’t judging your holiday greetings based on the caliber of card you send them.

You can pick up a box of 20 cards with envelopes at Dollar Tree. Compare that to spending $8-$20 for a box of cards at Walmart (some of those only have 12 cards!).

6. Cleaning Supplies

Added visitors and lots of cooking means extra cleaning before, during and after the holidays. But it doesn’t have to be an extra expense.

Load up on one-time-use cleaning supplies at the dollar store to prepare for the task.

You may have to use a little more because some cheaper cleaners are more diluted than their name-brand counterparts. But they’re just as effective with more elbow grease and can be an affordable solution during this busy — and expensive — time of year.

7. Disposable Bakeware

Only cook this much once a year? If you don’t have the space to keep the variety of bakeware you need to prepare a holiday meal, buy disposables for a buck apiece. A warning, if you’re roasting a turkey, you may want to double up on aluminum bakeware to make sure it’s strong enough to hold the bird.

What a stress reliever it will be to just ball up that giant roasting pan and toss it in the trash after dinner! No more worrying about how to clean it, where you’ll store it — or how you’ll afford to get it in the first place.

Ohio-based Catherine Hiles is a British writer and editor living and working in the U.S. She has a degree in communications from the University of Chester in the U.K. and writes about finance, cars, pet ownership and parenting. Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar contributed to this report.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Find Remote Jobs at These 31 Work-From-Home Companies

Since March 2020, more and more Americans have been working from home thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, with vaccinations available widely, many workplaces are asking their employees to return to the office.

Or, at least, management is talking about returning while keeping an eye on the Delta and Omicron variants and ever-changing infection numbers around the country before making a firm decision.

If the thought of giving up your WFH life fills you with dread, it’s time to look for a new job that allows you to work remotely 100% of the time.

To help your search, we have put together this list of companies that regularly offer WFH positions. This list is not exhaustive; a lot of companies who previously only had in-office positions are moving toward more WFH jobs in order to attract qualified candidates and to save money on office rentals.

31 Companies With Work-From-Home Jobs

We do our homework on companies before sharing them with our readers by vetting them. Here’s a list of work-from-home companies with regular job opportunities.

Adobe

Adobe is known for several products, including Acrobat, Photoshop and Illustrator. The company, which employs more than 21,000 people, has offices in cities around the world but also offers numerous work-from-home opportunities.

Benefits: Adobe has a substantial benefits package that includes medical insurance, 401(k), dependent care FSA, unlimited PTO and tuition reimbursement. The company also offers employee resource groups to help workers from similar backgrounds connect.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Go to the Adobe careers page and type “Remote” in the search bar to see all current remote positions.

Alorica

Alorica provides customer service and customer relationship management across a variety of industries, including healthcare and retail. The company employs more than 100,000 people and hires WFH customer service positions. There are a variety of shifts available, so it’s ideal if you’re looking for a flexible schedule.

Benefits: Alorica’s employee benefits include health insurance, tuition reimbursement, bonus potential, paid vacation and retirement planning.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: On the Alorica jobs page, select “Work at Home Agents” in the “Job Category” drop-down menu, then choose your current location to see what opportunities are available in your area.

Need a banking service that’s built for gig workers and freelancers, helping you save for taxes and keep track of your expenses? Check out Lili. (It’s free!)

Amazon

A person carries Amazon boxes to deliver
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

There’s no need to explain what Amazon does; it’s one of the best-known companies in the world. Amazon employs  almost 1.3 million people, according to a July 2021 article from NBC News. Want to be one of those people? Amazon has an entire page that lists work-from-home jobs in several areas, including HR, software development and sales.

Benefits: Amazon’s benefits package for employees includes health coverage, 401(k), paid parental leave, adoption assistance and employee discounts.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: See a list of open WFH positions here.

Anthem

Anthem is a health insurance company that offers various part-time and full-time positions in a remote capacity. WFH jobs at Anthem include nurse reviewer, behavioral health care manager and customer care representative

Benefits: Benefits at Anthem include 100% paid preventative health care, six weeks of parental leave at 100% of pay, adoption and surrogacy assistance, paid time off and back-to-school assistance.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Search for remote jobs here and narrow your search down by career area to see what options are available to you.

Appen

Appen is a software company that counts training data and data collection among its solutions. The company serves numerous industries, including technology, automotive, government and healthcare. It has various remote job roles that include part-time to longer-term projects as well as full-time corporate positions in management, engineering and more. Appen was named the most remote-friendly company in the U.S. by FlexJobs.

Benefits: Full-time employees enjoy a variety of benefits, such as health insurance, 401(k), parental leave, tuition assistance and volunteer time off. Part-time or contract associates are not offered any benefits.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Go to the Appen job portal to see current WFH opportunities.

Cigna

Nurse tending patient in intensive care
Getty Images

Cigna is a medical insurance company that employs more than 73,000 people. The company is headquartered in Connecticut but offers various positions in a remote capacity, including sales administration, financial analyst, business analyst, claims professional and engineer.

Cigna also focuses on recruiting veterans and runs a Veterans Enterprise Resource Group called Salute.

Benefits: Cigna’s main benefits fall into one of four categories: Personal health, family health, community health and financial health. That includes medical insurance, 401(k), paid time off and tuition reimbursement.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: See a list of remote positions by typing “Remote” into the search bar on the Cigna careers page.

Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank is one of the oldest and largest financial institutions in the country. The company’s headquarters are in Providence, Rhode Island, but it hires remote associates for positions like mortgage underwriter, software engineer and account executive.

Benefits: Citizens Bank offers a comprehensive benefits package that includes health insurance, 401(k) with company match, educational assistance and discounts on financial products like mortgages and savings accounts.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Browse remote jobs at Citizens Bank by typing “Remote” into the search bar.

Concentrix

Concentrix is a customer experience outsourcing company that employs people in more than 40 countries, many of whom work from home full time. Most available positions are in customer service.

Benefits: Benefits at Concentrix include health insurance, individual and team rewards and performance-based pay.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: See what WFH jobs are available here and apply through the Concentrix website.

CVS Health

CVS Health is known for its pharmacies in states across the country, but it also offers a lot of WFH positions. Remote roles at CVS include social worker, pharmacy technician, customer service representative and outreach coordinator. Some positions require you to be located within certain states, but others can be done from anywhere in the U.S.

Benefits: CVS Health offers a wide range of benefits, including medical insurance, a stock purchase plan, tuition reimbursement and an employee discount at CVS stores.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Apply for remote positions via the CVS jobs website.

Dell

Dell is best known for its range of personal computers. Headquartered in Round Rock, Texas, Dell employs more than 165,000 people worldwide, including many remote employees. As of October 2021, Dell listed more than 450 open WFH positions on its job website.

Benefits: Dell’s benefits package includes health coverage, employee pricing on Dell products, employee referral bonuses and professional counseling.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Browse WFH jobs by using the keyword “Remote” in the search bar on Dell’s job portal.

HCA

HCA Healthcare is made up of 185 hospitals and over 2,000 sites of care in 20 U.S. states and the U.K. Sites of care include freestanding ERs, surgery centers, urgent care centers and physician’s offices. The company employs more than 275,000 people in total, both within its facilities and in a remote capacity.

Remote opportunities at HCA include clinical statistical programmer, placement specialist PRN and clinical team lead.

Benefits: Benefits at HCA include tuition reimbursement, health benefits, time away from work policies, adoption reimbursement and 401(k).

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Browse WFH jobs by selecting the checkbox under the “Remote” option in the left-hand toolbar on Dell’s job portal.

Hopper

Hopper is a website and app that helps you find good deals on flights, hotels and car rentals. While Hopper isn’t as large a company as many on this list, it offers a lot of opportunities for those who want to work from home, specifically in customer service.

Benefits: Benefits at Hopper are typical and include health coverage, paid time off, 401(k) and company stock options.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Browse Hopper’s customer service jobs to see what’s available in your field.

Hubstaff

Hubstaff is a fully remote company that offers monitoring services, such as time-tracking software, to other companies with remote workforces. Hubstaff lists customers such as Groupon and Instacart on its website.

Remote opportunities at Hubstaff are vast and include customer service, digital advertising, engineering and more.

Benefits: Benefits at Hubstaff include annual retreats, generous PTO and paid parental leave. However, health insurance isn’t listed as an offered benefit, possibly because Hubstaff hires on a contract basis.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Browse Hopper’s remote jobs to see what’s available in your field.

Humana

Humana is a health insurance company offering medical, dental and vision coverage. The company has long believed in the power of a remote workforce — Humana reports that 47% of its workforce is remote during “normal” times, though this has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Available remote job roles include medical director, case manager and sales support.

Benefits: Benefits at Humana include medical insurance, 401(k) with 125% company match up to 6%, paid volunteer time and life insurance.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Check the box that says “Work at Home” under “Work Style” in the Humana job listings site to see what’s available in your field.

Intuit

You might not have heard of Intuit directly, but you’ve certainly heard of its products, which include TurboTax, QuickBooks and Mint. Intuit hires remotely for positions such as talent acquisition, service and support and loan servicing.

Benefits: Full-time employees at Intuit enjoy benefits like healthcare, professional counseling, fertility benefits and dependent care FSA.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: WFH jobs are denoted with a green circle on the Intuit careers website.

Kaplan

A teacher and students using computers and a touchscreen tablet
Courtesy of K12

Kaplan provides learning resources such as test prep, career advancement and foreign language instruction for students of all ages. Kaplan has a global presence but is headquartered in the U.S. and has many remote job openings. Positions are available in multiple areas such as marketing, accounting, recruiting and IT.

Benefits: Kaplan offers the usual benefits — health, 401(k), etc. — in addition to its Gift of Knowledge Program, which offers free or discounted courses to employees and their immediate family through the Kaplan platform.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Browse Kaplan’s remote job listings by selecting “Remote/Nationwide, USA” under “Locations.”

Kelly Services

Kelly Services is a staffing agency that hires internally as well as for its business partners. Kelly’s specialty areas include education, technology, engineering, science and government.

Benefits: Benefits vary based on the position.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Click to see available WFH job listings through Kelly Services.

Lionbridge

Lionbridge provides content, testing and translation services to multiple industries, including life sciences, automotive, gaming, banking and travel. The company operates in 28 countries and employs thousands of people worldwide.

Lionbridge has plenty of remote job openings in positions like content editor, web production engineer,, product manager and production artist.

Benefits: In addition to typical benefits like health insurance and 401(k), Lionbridge lets employees take their birthday off and encourages employees to volunteer by offering paid time off for this purpose.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Click here to see a list of current remote positions at Lionbridge.

Liveops

Liveops offers virtual call center services to companies in multiple industries, including  healthcare, retail, insurance, energy and travel.

While corporate jobs at Liveops are based at the company’s headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, the company hires work-from-home agents on a contractor basis. This allows you to work as much or as little as you want, and whenever you want.

Be prepared for some upfront costs, including providing your own equipment and paying for your own background check.

Benefits: Because Liveops agents are independent contractors and not employees, no benefits are offered.

Pay: Earnings are dependent on call volume, incentives, utilization and how many hours you can commit, but most agents earn between $12 and $17 per hour.

How to Apply: Click here to see current openings for Liveops agent positions.

Nielsen

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Nielsen is known for its TV ratings, but the company offers so much more. Its suite of solutions includes audience measurement, audience outcomes and Gracenote content services.

Nielsen’s remote positions include product manager, software engineer, call center, account manager and analyst.

Benefits: Benefits at Nielsen for full-time associates include health coverage, 401(k), unlimited vacation time and paid parental leave.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: You can view a list of current remote opportunities at Nielsen by clicking here.

Qurate Retail Group

Although you might not recognize the name, Qurate owns home shopping network titans HSN and QVC. The company employs remote associates mostly in customer service positions. Though remote, these employees must be located in certain cities with local phone numbers, and they must supply their own equipment (like computer, headset and phone).

Benefits: Qurate focuses its benefits on its employees’ physical health, financial health and work-life balance.

Pay: Customer service positions at HSN start at $13.25/hour with increases every 3 months for the first year, and every 6 months after that.

How to Apply: Check out opportunities in your area at the Qurate website.

Salesforce

Salesforce is a customer relationship management company that serves a huge variety of industries. It’s one of the best-known CRM providers out there right now, and the company is always hiring for new positions, many of which are remote.

Benefits: Benefits at Salesforce include medical coverage, flexible spending accounts, 401(k), employee stock purchase plan, educational reimbursement and paid parental leave.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: To see current remote job listings at Salesforce, click here, then select United States of America and your state followed by “Remote” in the left sidebar.

Stride K12

Stride K12 is an education company that offers online, in-person or hybrid learning. The company caters to homeschooled kids, military families and those looking for learning opportunities beyond their local public K-12 schools.

Stride K12 has virtual jobs in several areas, including teaching, HR and marketing.

Benefits: Benefits include health coverage, parental leave, flexible spending accounts, paid time off and 401(k).

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: See a list of virtual jobs in corporate and teaching by selecting “Virtual” under “Company Location.”

Sutherland Global Services

Sutherland Global Services is a process transformation company that specializes in helping its customers bring their processes into the digital age. The company serves clients in more than 140 countries and in over 40 languages. Sutherland hires remotely for numerous roles, including customer service, software development, sales and IT.

Benefits: Sutherland’s benefits package includes paid time off, paid training, medical benefits, flexible scheduling, performance incentives and career advancement opportunities.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Search for remote roles at Sutherland by clicking here.

Trusted Health

Trusted Health matches travel nurses with jobs that fit their requirements, preferences and location. When you sign up for an account with Trusted Health, you’ll see personalized job matches based on your license type and clinical specialties. When you get a match, you will see information about the facility, the pay and the assignment (length, shift, etc) so you can determine whether it’s a good fit.

Benefits: Benefits depend on the assignment you are contracted for.

Pay: Varies based on assignment.

How to Apply: Sign up for Trusted Health by clicking here.

TTEC

TTEC is a customer experience software as a service company whose employees help solve problems and provide support for their customers’ customers. TTEC hires remotely for positions such as customer service, IT, consulting, marketing and sales.

Benefits: Benefits at TTEC include medical, dental and vision coverage; 401(k); pet insurance; paid leave; and tuition reimbursement.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Search for available WFH jobs on the TTEC careers portal.

Tutor.com

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Tutor.com is a service of the Princeton Review that offers personalized tutoring services for students in all stages of their education. Tutor.com offers work-from-anywhere opportunities for tutors who want flexibility and regular payments with no invoices required.

Benefits: No benefits are offered to tutors, as they are considered independent contractors rather than employees.

Pay: Tutor.com does not list its hourly rate, but tutors report an average of $12-$13 per hour on Glassdoor.

How to Apply: Click here to apply to be a tutor.

UnitedHealth Group

UnitedHealth Group primarily provides medical insurance policies through United Healthcare. It is also the parent company of Optum, which is a health information and technology firm. UnitedHealth Group hires in many areas, including clinical, consulting, corporate, healthcare, project management and technology. Many of these jobs are remote.

Benefits: Benefits include medical plans, savings and retirement plans, tuition reimbursement, adoption assistance and paid time off. UnitedHealth Group offers medical and wellness benefits to full-time employees, as well as part-time employees who work 20 hours or more per week.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: To see a complete list of remote job openings at UnitedHealth Group, click here.

Working Solutions

Working Solutions provides customer service through its virtual contact center network. Companies that use Working Solutions include Shell, Intuit, Pfizer, Sprint, Peloton, Zillow and Expedia.

Agents at Working Solutions are all WFH and can work when and where they want. Because of that, agents are considered independent contractors instead of employees.

Benefits: Because agents are not employees of Working Solutions, there are no benefits offered.

Pay: Working Solutions reports that its agents earn an average of $15 per hour.

How to Apply: Search for available jobs here, and click the button to apply.

Xerox

Xerox has been around since the early 1900s and offers printers and supplies, 3D printing and various business solutions. The company is headquartered in Rochester, New York, but employs over 8,000 remote associates through its Virtual Office Program. This program employs associates in customer care, tech support, quality control, systems development and more.

Benefits: Benefits at Xerox include paid holidays, healthcare, life insurance, retirement savings plans, employee assistance programs and resources for childcare and eldercare.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: Click here to search for open jobs at Xerox.

Zoom

Zoom has been providing cloud video conferencing since its initial release in 2012, but thanks to the pandemic pushing all meetings to virtual, it became the fifth-most-downloaded app worldwide in 2020. Zoom is hiring for many positions, including some that are fully remote (and, presumably, meet with their teams via Zoom).

Remote positions at Zoom include enterprise sales associate, data scientist, software engineer and visual/web designer.

Benefits: Zoom offers benefits like health insurance, 16 weeks paid parental leave, generous PTO, personal finance coaching and book reimbursement.

Pay: Varies by position.

How to Apply: View remote job listings at Zoom here.

Ohio-based Catherine Hiles is a British writer and editor living and working in the U.S. She has a degree in communications from the University of Chester in the U.K. and writes about finance, cars, pet ownership and parenting. Information from contributor Danielle Braff and former staff writers Kaitlyn Blount and Matt Reinstetle is included in this report.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Student Loan Deferment vs Forbearance – Differences Between Them

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Additional Resources

The federal government has put federal student loan repayment on hold until Jan. 31, 2022, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But the current administration has announced that will be the final extension. Moreover, if you’ve got private student loan debt, your payments haven’t been on hold. 

Whether you’re dreading the impending deadline on your federal loans or are living paycheck to paycheck and can’t pay your private loans, you may be wondering how to postpone your payments. That’s especially true if you’re facing a period of unemployment or reduced income and can’t find a way to lower your monthly student loan payment.

If you only need to pause your monthly payment temporarily, you have two primary options: deferment and forbearance. While people often use the terms interchangeably, there are some key differences. And knowing what these are could impact how costly your student loan becomes.

What Is Student Loan Deferment?

A deferment allows you to temporarily suspend making payments on your student loans for reasons specified by your lender. Exactly how it works differs based on whether your loans are federal or private student loans. 

Federal Student Loans

Deferment is available on all federal student loans, which are loans from the United States Department of Education (ED). In addition to allowing you to suspend making payments, interest doesn’t accrue on any of your direct subsidized loans, the subsidized portion of direct consolidated loans, subsidized federal direct Stafford loans, the subsidized portion of FFEL (Federal Family Education Loan program) consolidation loans, and federal Perkins loans. 

All your unsubsidized loans continue to accrue interest. And any unpaid interest that accumulated during the deferment may be capitalized (added to the principal balance) at the end of the deferment period. Loan servicers (the companies who manage your loans for the government) only capitalize unpaid interest on direct loans and FFEL loans, never on Perkins loans. You can pay the interest during deferment to prevent capitalization.

You can defer federal student loans for a variety of reasons. The length of allowable deferment varies, depending on the reason for the deferment.

Deferment options include:

  • In-School Deferment. You can defer making payments for an unlimited amount of time as long as you’re enrolled at least half-time at an eligible college or career school. And if you’re a graduate or professional student who borrowed a PLUS loan, you qualify for an additional six months of deferment after you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment. In-school deferment is typically automatic. If it doesn’t happen automatically, complete an in-school deferment request form.
  • Parent PLUS Borrower Deferment. If you’re a parent and took out loans for your child’s education, you can defer those loans while they’re attending school at least half-time. As with in-school deferment, there’s no limit on the length of deferment as long as the student remains enrolled.
  • Graduate Fellowship Deferment. You can defer payments for the total amount of time you’re enrolled in a graduate fellowship program. To qualify, you must be enrolled in an approved fellowship program. There’s no limit on the length of deferment as long as you remain in the fellowship.
  • Economic Hardship Deferment. You can only receive this deferment for up to three years if you’re experiencing financial hardship. To qualify, you must work full time but earn income below 150% of the poverty guidelines for a family of your size in your state of residence. Or you must be receiving a means-tested benefit like welfare.
  • Unemployment Deferment. You can defer making payments up to three years if you’re unemployed, receiving unemployment benefits, or looking for full-time employment.
  • Active-Duty Military Service Deferment. You can use military deferment as many times as applicable. You must be on active duty in connection with a war, military operation, or national emergency. The military deferment ends when you resume enrollment in school at least half-time after active duty (but it switches to in-school deferment). Or it ends 13 months after active duty and any applicable grace period.  
  • Cancer Treatment Deferment. You can defer making payments for the total amount of time you’re in treatment and up to six months after treatment.
  • Rehabilitation Training Deferment. You can defer making payments for the total amount of time you’re enrolled in a rehabilitation training program for alcohol or drug abuse or for a program intended to provide mental health or vocational treatment.

Unlike private loans, federal loans let you use as many deferment conditions as you qualify for. For example, you could defer making payments for four years while in college, another three years for economic hardship, an additional two years to get a master’s degree, and another year for cancer treatment. And then you could go back to school to get a doctorate and defer again for another four to eight years. 

Private Student Loans

Deferment with private lenders is substantially different from the ED’s offerings. While deferment does suspend payments, most private lenders don’t suspend interest.

As with federal student loans, the conditions for deferment could include school enrollment, participation in a medical residency, military deployment, or economic hardship. But there are often fewer conditions for deferment with private lenders, and the conditions vary by lender.  

Additionally, private lenders typically have less generous caps on the amount of time you can defer payments over the life of your loan. For example, your loan might specify a cap of 12 months of total allowable deferment, including in-school deferment. 

Generally, the deferments for private lenders are also aggregate — meaning if you defer your loan for 12 months while in school, you use up all your allotted deferment time. You can’t later defer for another three months if you experience economic hardship. 

But private lenders’ terms vary. Some of the better private student loan companies have deferment conditions that aren’t aggregate. Always read the fine print before you accept any period of deferment so you know what you’re agreeing to.   


What Is Student Loan Forbearance?

As with deferment, forbearance allows you to suspend making payments for a set period. But there are some slight differences between the two. One particular difference makes deferment the better option if you can qualify for it: the way the options handle interest.

Federal Student Loans

Both deferment and forbearance allow you to stop making payments on your federal student loans temporarily. But only deferment suspends the interest on your subsidized student loans. 

Thus, even though you don’t have to make payments during a forbearance, interest continues to accrue on all your federal loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized. And the loan servicer will capitalize it on all direct loans and FFEL loans (not Perkins loans) at the end of the forbearance period. That means you end up owing a higher balance after the forbearance.

You can prevent that by making interest payments during the forbearance, although it’s not required.

There are two types of forbearance: general forbearance and mandatory forbearance. General forbearance is at the discretion of your loan servicer, but your servicer must grant mandatory forbearance. 

If you don’t qualify for a deferment but need to suspend your monthly student loan payments temporarily, you can request a general forbearance under the following circumstances:

  • You’re experiencing financial hardship
  • You have excessive medical expenses
  • You’ve experienced a change in employment
  • You’re experiencing any other circumstance that makes it temporarily difficult to repay your loan, which your servicer accepts as a reason to grant the forbearance

Because a general forbearance is at the discretion of your loan servicer, it’s ultimately up to them whether to grant it. However, it also provides the servicer with a lot of leeway, meaning they can grant you a temporary suspension of payments for nearly any reason as long as it seems reasonable.

You can only receive a general forbearance for 12 months at a time. At the end of 12 months, if you’re still experiencing financial hardship, you can request another forbearance. However, you can’t forbear your loans under a general forbearance for more than three years in total.

Your servicer must grant mandatory forbearance under the following conditions:

  • AmeriCorps. You’re serving in an AmeriCorps volunteer position for which you’ve received a national service award. Visit AmeriCorps for more information.
  • Student Loan Debt Burden. You have such an excessive amount of student loan debt that the total amount you owe each month on all your federal student loans exceeds 20% of your monthly gross income. Apply using the student loan debt burden forbearance request form.
  • Medical or Dental Residency. You’re serving in a medical or dental residency. Apply using the service-based forbearance request form.
  • National Guard Duty. You’re a member of the National Guard and have been activated by the governor but don’t qualify for military service deferment. Apply using the service-based forbearance request form.
  • Department of Defense Loan Repayment Assistance Program. You qualify for partial repayment of your student loans through the U.S. Department of Defense’s student loan repayment program. Apply using the service-based forbearance request form.
  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness. If you’re working toward qualifying for teacher loan forgiveness, you can forbear your loans during that time. Apply using the teacher loan forgiveness forbearance form.

Like general forbearances, you can only receive mandatory forbearances for up to 12 months at a time. At the end of 12 months, you can request another forbearance as long as you continue to meet the eligibility requirements. Unlike general forbearance, there’s no cumulative limit on most mandatory forbearances. The exception is the student loan debt burden forbearance, which you can only receive up to a cumulative maximum of three years.

Private Student Loans

A private student loan forbearance operates similarly to a deferment. Since few private lenders suspend interest on student loans for deferments, the difference with forbearance is primarily in the name. But it’s worthwhile to check your lender’s fine print to see if there are any differences in terms.

Occasionally, lenders have different qualification conditions for deferments versus forbearances or different mandatory term lengths. For example, a lender might specify that your loan provides 12 months of deferment, but forbearance is available upon request. So if you use up all your allotted deferment, you may still be able to request forbearance if you experience financial hardship.


Should You Postpone Your Student Loan Payments?

If you’re experiencing temporary financial hardship, deferment or forbearance is a quick and convenient solution. But if your situation is long term, deferment and forbearance aren’t ideal solutions. In fact, sometimes, they’re not ideal even in temporary circumstances.

That’s because the longer you defer or forbear, the more interest accrues on certain loan types. Then, when the loan servicer capitalizes the interest, your balance is even higher and you start racking up interest on the higher balance, meaning you’re now paying interest on top of interest.

Additionally, with the exception of economic hardship deferment, any time your federal student loans spend in deferment or forbearance, they aren’t earning credit toward forgiveness. 

So multiple years of deferments and forbearances could easily cause a manageable amount of student loan debt to spiral into an overwhelming debt burden.

Thus, you’re better off looking for an alternative that better suits your individual needs in most situations. That could include:

For more information on these options, read our article on your options for paying back federal student loans. 


Final Word

Many lenders, from the ED to private institutions, give you a lot of discretion when it comes to postponing repaying your loans. But that doesn’t mean you always should. Deferring or forbearing your loans can be costly due to the accumulation of interest.

However, sometimes unexpected financial emergencies occur that make it difficult or impossible to make your monthly payments. Always contact your student loan servicer immediately if you’re having trouble paying your student loans. Never just stop making payments, as there’s almost always a solution to help you avoid defaulting on your student loans. 

Default comes with serious consequences, including wage garnishment. The federal government can garnish your wages and capture your taxes or Social Security to repay your student loans, interest, and fees without having to sue you first.

Additionally, you generally won’t be able to defer or forbear your loans if you’ve defaulted on previous payments. 

Be aware that you must continue to make payments on your student loans until your servicer notifies you it has granted the deferment or forbearance, which could take 30 days. If you stop paying, your loans could become delinquent. And you may go into default. 

For federal student loans, you’re in default if you haven’t paid on your loans for more than nine months. But private student loans could go into default if you miss as few as one payment.

So to avoid negative consequences, reach out to your loan servicer as soon as you need to miss a payment.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

17 Tips to Save Money on Halloween Candy for Trick-or-Treating

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Additional Resources

Nothing says Halloween like trick-or-treating. Whether you take your kids around the neighborhood or stay home to pass out candy to the visiting ghosts and goblins, the annual event brings out the kid in all of us. That’s why it’s so fun to participate.  

But the price of candy is enough to scare off any Halloween shopper, especially since most of us need multiple bags to ensure we have enough to go around. But never fear! With a few money-saving tips, you can survive Halloween without destroying your budget. 

Tips to Save Money on Halloween Candy

You want to be generous with every adorable princess, superhero, witch, and vampire that comes to your door. But you also don’t want to break the bank. And when you’re buying for the whole neighborhood, the cost of trick-or-treat candy can add up fast. So try a few tricks this year to save on all your Halloween treats.

1. Determine How Much Candy You Need

One of the trickiest aspects of buying Halloween candy is knowing how much you need. And while a little extra means you get to sneak some for yourself, it also means you spent more than you had to.

While it’s challenging to calculate amounts precisely, the first step is to gauge your needs based on the previous year. Generally, you’ll get the same average number of trick-or-treaters every year.

If you’re new to the neighborhood, talk with your neighbors about the expected turnout. And if you live in a nicer neighborhood, you’re likely to get kids from other areas. Parents often bring their kids to trick-or-treat in communities they consider safer, though some kids are there just to score bigger and better candy bars.

But don’t go overboard. Underestimating is better for your wallet. And if you run out of candy, you don’t have to forage through your cabinets for granola bars. It’s OK to turn out your lights or hang an out-of-candy sign.

2. Set a Budget

Once you figure out how much you need, make a budget. Decide on a reasonable amount to spend, and don’t waiver from it no matter how tempting those giant bags of candy seem.

That can include finessing a few bulk-size bags of fun-size candy out of your weekly grocery budget. Alternatively, creating a separate fund for holiday spending is an excellent way to manage these kinds of extra expenses. 

Many of us are used to setting up holiday budgets for buying Christmas gifts but may not think about it for other holidays and birthdays. But having a holiday slush fund ensures there’s always fun money to pull from so you never feel you have to miss out.  

3. Clip Coupons & Use Rewards Points

You don’t need magic spells to conjure substantial savings on candy. Just look out for candy coupons in September and October, when they’ll arrive in abundance. Check coupon websites and mobile coupon apps like Coupons.com and Flipp. 

Flipp allows you to peruse the circulars for all the stores in your area so you can easily compare sale prices across stores. The app also lets you “clip” coupons from the circulars and use them electronically in-store.

Also, keep an eye on the unsolicited coupon circulars that arrive weekly in your mailbox. If you prefer digital methods, the same circulars are typically available on the store’s website. 

You may even score some coupons at the store, from tear pads in the candy aisle to the peel-off kind on the candy bags themselves. And check all your store loyalty accounts, which feature their own online and in-store coupons and rewards points.

4. Use Rebate Apps & Browser Extensions

You can use rebate apps and browser extensions whether you’re shopping in-store or online. Rebates are like coupons in reverse. They don’t help you save money upfront, but they return money to you after your purchase. 

Useful apps for in-store shopping include Ibotta, Checkout 51, and Fetch Rewards. For online shopping, try Rakuten, Capital One Shopping, or Honey. 

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.

5. Shop the Sales

Don’t rush to the store the moment you spot the first sign Halloween is coming. And yes, that could actually be a Halloween candy display in August. 

In the months leading up to the holiday, stores often have multiple sales, from buy-one, get-one to routine supermarket price drops. So shop smart by waiting for them. Be conscious of the typical prices, and buy Halloween candy when it’s anywhere from 25% to 50% off. 

Store sales are typically cyclical. So keep an eye out for candy sales at the end of September, right after back-to-school sales settle and Halloween deals start rolling out. Then check again several days before Halloween. 

6. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

According to a 2017 study by Ibotta, the absolute best sales typically come four days before Halloween. And the worst time to buy candy is the day before. The grocery rebate service attributes the price spike to a lack of selection and last-minute shoppers who are willing to buy whatever’s available. 

So you can wait until the week of Halloween to shop if you know you’ll be tempted to eat the candy yourself before Halloween gets here. After all, if you eat it while waiting for Halloween, you just have to head back to the store, potentially doubling your costs.

Just don’t wait so long you have to take whatever you can get.

7. Match Coupons With Sales & Rebates

To get the absolute best deals on candy, stack everything together — coupons, sales, rebates, and store rewards points. This common extreme couponing strategy can even result in scoring free candy.

If you’re a novice at extreme couponing, all it really takes is some planning. Starting in September, when the candy coupons begin appearing in abundance, clip and save them.

You can rack up even steeper savings by pairing manufacturer’s coupons with store coupons. That’s typically allowable, even at stores that don’t allow coupon-doubling, since they come from different sources.

Then scan your apps for rebates that match up with your coupons. Keep checking back since apps update frequently. And don’t forget you can sometimes stack your rebates across apps. For example, I search Ibotta for rebates on food before I go shopping. And once I have the receipt, I scan it into Fetch Rewards.

Once you spot a sale on candy, head to the store armed with your coupons and rebates. And if you’ve managed to rack up any store rewards points in the meantime, don’t forget to apply those at checkout.

Alternatively, keep an eye on a coupon-watching site like The Krazy Coupon Lady. The team watches all the coupons, rebate apps, and store sales for you and lets you know when everything matches up for an extraordinarily low-cost deal or even freebie.

8. Stock Up Post-Halloween

Even better than waiting until the last minute, the clearance prices on post-Halloween candy are unbeatable. So mark your calendar for Nov. 1 to cash in on discounts up to 75% off. Just don’t wait too long. With such low prices, other shoppers will scoop it up fast.

And don’t worry that it will spoil before Halloween next year. Most candy stays fresh for about a year. Just check the expiration dates and store it in a cool, dry place. 

Alternatively, you can use some types of steeply discounted Halloween candy to save on your Christmas baking. For example, no one will know the difference if the Hershey’s Kisses on your thumbprint cookies came in Halloween wrappers or Christmas ones.

9. Save Candy Throughout the Year

Some candy won’t make it a year. But you can still take advantage of after-holiday sales by stocking up at other times of year. 

Candy is central to most holidays, including Valentine’s Day, Easter, the Fourth of July, and Christmas. Once a holiday is over, stores need to get rid of all the leftover candy on the shelves to make room for whatever holiday is coming next. So clearance sales on candy aren’t exclusive to Halloween. 

And kids don’t generally care if candy is shaped like a bunny, heart, Christmas tree, or pumpkin. They only care that it’s delicious.

10. Purchase in Multiples

Every retailer wants you to buy as much candy as they can talk you into, and one way they do that is to offer incentives to buy more than one bag at a time. In general, this is a shopping trap, a common retail tactic to get you to buy more. 

But if you’re planning to buy more anyway, it’s a win-win. Plus, you can cut down on overbuying by teaming up with another household and splitting the cost and the candy.

11. Buy in Bulk

If you’re expecting a lot of trick-or-treaters, buy the big bag of candy instead of several smaller ones. Groceries are almost always cheaper when you buy in bulk — and candy’s no exception. 

Most of the time, a 100-piece bag of Halloween candy is a better deal than buying five 20-piece bags. Occasionally, there are exceptions, as when smaller bags go on sale. So price-check and look for sales. But generally, you’ll save money buying in larger quantities. To find those giant-size bags, visit your favorite big-box store like Walmart or Target. Or check out the offerings at a warehouse club like Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s.

12. Avoid the Dollar Store

You might find your favorite candy at dollar stores like Dollar Tree, but you won’t find them in bulk sizes. In fact, candy is one of the worst dollar store buys — from over-priced candy bars in the checkout lane (no king-size bars for $1 there) to comparatively small movie theater-style boxed candy in the aisles. (You can buy larger movie theater boxes at big-box stores for $1.)

Package shrinkage is the No. 1 way dollar stores justify their prices. Anything name-brand at a dollar store isn’t a deal. It’s just a smaller package. You can almost always find a better deal buying a larger size at a big-box store, warehouse club, or grocery store.

Dollar stores also sell lower-quality off-brand candy. But as with the name-brand candy, it isn’t typically a deal. It never hurts to compare prices, but you’re generally better off buying in bulk, especially if you have coupons and rebates.

13. Team Up With Friends

To cut down on the total amount of candy you buy, pool your resources. Every year, a friend and I take our kids trick-or-treating together while our husbands sit in the driveway and pass out candy. 

Since it’s a joint effort, each of us buys half the candy we would have if we’d gone it alone. Plus, it’s an excellent excuse to get together for a social evening. We get to chat while our kids get a sugar rush.

13. Avoid Chocolate

Candy expenses vary significantly based on the type you buy. For example, at the time of this writing, a mixed bag of 100 Hershey’s fun-size chocolate candies costs about $15 at my local Walmart. But an 80-piece bag of Mars-manufactured fruity candies (including popular brands like Starbursts and Skittles) is only about $7.50.  

And you can save even more if you opt for lollipops. For example, I can get a bag of 300 Dum-Dums for $12, which means I can hand out three times as much candy for less than the cost of the chocolate pieces. 

Old-school Halloween favorites like Tootsie Rolls, SweeTarts, and Smarties are some of the cheapest candies you can buy in bulk. Plus, even if you decide to give more than one piece to each trick-or-treater, ounce for ounce, hard candy beats out chocolate every time. 

For example, you can give two fun-size chocolate candies to each trick-or-treater or a handful of 10 Jolly Ranchers for around the same price. That means you can give a few more pieces, save some money, and the kids will still be thrilled they’re getting multiple pieces of candy — especially since it might give some kids an advantage in post trick-or-treat candy trading. 

According to the official, very scientific candy-trading guide at Cup of Jo, eight Jolly Ranchers are worth two fun-size Twix, Kit Kat, or M&M’s. So kids who prefer fruity candy can get more for their trade.

14. Buy Whatever Is Cheapest

If you’re worried about seeming like the cheap house, don’t. Most trick-or-treaters won’t remember what kind of candy you gave last year unless it was unusual, like a full-size candy bar. So don’t sweat the type of candy. Kids are going to be excited to get it and eat it all the same.

15. Give Non-Candy Treats

Even cheaper than a handful of Jolly Ranchers is a small plastic toy. Online retailers like Oriental Trading sell Halloween toys in bulk. It sells things like plastic spider rings, tiny plush characters, squishies, slime, slinkies, and rubber balls. And the prices can be as low as $0.12 per toy. 

The bigger an assortment you buy, the more you can save per piece. So this tactic works best for neighborhoods that get a lot of trick-or-treaters.

You can buy similar small plastic toys at dollar stores. If you look in the seasonal or party-supply aisles, you can find small toys meant as favors for goody bags. But they work equally well for Halloween. Plus, they come in packs of several, so you can get anywhere from five to 10 toys per $1 bag, making them $0.10 to $0.20 per toy.

Other suitable non-candy goodies are pencils, sheets of stickers, glow-in-the-dark bracelets, and erasers.

And these are an excellent option for trick-or-treaters who have allergies to common candy ingredients like peanuts, chocolate, and wheat. If you go this route, put out a teal pumpkin, which signals that you have allergy-friendly treats. It’s called the Teal Pumpkin Project, an initiative of nonprofit advocacy group Food Allergy Research & Education. 

16. Don’t Buy Candy You Like

If loading up on candy for your own consumption makes you happy, go for it. But if saving money is your aim, skip buying candy for yourself. If you stock up on bags of your favorites, they’re not likely to last until Halloween. And that means running back to the store to keep the neighborhood ghosts and goblins happy.

So buy a type that’s not your favorite for the trick-or-treaters. Then wait for the after-Halloween clearance to load up on candy for yourself at 75% off.

17. Skip It This Year

There’s no rule you have to pass out candy. It’s OK to spend the evening doing something else, whether you curl up with a good book or go out for the night. Just remember to turn off your porch lights so families know to pass you by.

Even if you have kids you take trick-or-treating, it’s still OK to skip passing out candy — especially if you decide to trick-or-treat in another neighborhood.

Alternatively, check out any community Halloween events that feature trick-or-treating. For example, many communities sponsor events during which kids can trick-or-treat from business to business in a major business district. And these events are always free.

Or try a trunk-or-treat event. Community centers or religious organizations typically sponsor them, and they’re generally free. Those who volunteer to pass out candy decorate their cars with fun themes and displays. And the events are typically held in blocked-off parking lots, in the open air, and during the day, making them fun and safe for kids.


Final Word

Celebrating holidays is fun, especially one like Halloween, which lets you act like a kid again, regardless of your age. And you can participate in the festivities no matter your budget.   

Plus, the more you save, the more you have left to spend on other Halloween fun like visiting haunted attractions or going big with your Halloween costumes or decorations. 

Or do like my family does and stock up on candy during those post-Halloween sales and save them for your family movie nights. That way, you don’t have to pay a fortune to snuggle up at home watching scary movies and eating chocolate until the kids are up way past their bedtime.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

Keeping in Touch With Your College Student

As a parent, learning how to communicate with college students can be a challenge. Adjusting to college is an emotional transition for the whole family, but keep in mind that this is an important phase in a young adult’s life that helps to prepare them for the real world.

To help keep the lines of communication open try to support your child without nagging, setting times for catching up, and let them know that they can come to you with any issues. If you maintain a strong connection without overdoing it, they might even divulge more of the good times and you’ll be able to share in the full experience of their new adventure.

Here are some tips for parents on how to communicate with college students and some discussion topics.

Tips for Communicating with College Kids

Be Their Ally

It’s tempting to want to make sure your kid is taking care of themselves: Are they eating enough vegetables? Are they making friends? Are they partying too much?

Your parental instincts are inevitable, but avoid nagging. Try to be their ally instead. Of course, it’s important to check in on them and make sure everything’s okay, but you’d be surprised to find that the more freedom you give them to make their own decisions, the more they may share with you.

Let Them Know They Can Talk to You

Along with being their ally, it’s also important for them to feel comfortable talking to you about more serious things. College is a major transition and many incoming students struggle with the adjustment.

If they are unhappy at their new school, they may be considering the possibility of transferring schools. It can be a good idea to make sure your son or daughter knows that they can talk to you about anything. That’s what parents are for, after all.

Utilize Technology

Video chat is an incredible tool that wasn’t around back when parents were in college. These days there are seemingly endless options to connect via video from FaceTime to Zoom to Google Hangouts and more. Video calls can be especially helpful for students who are far away from home.

If your son or daughter is not one to call you every day, you could set up a time once a week to catch up.

What to Talk About

Academics

While it may be forgotten among all the exciting aspects of college, taking advantage of the incredible educational resources on campus, working hard, and getting a solid education are some of the main reasons for attending university.

Without overwhelming your student, remind them that grades could have an impact on their plans after graduation.

Play to Your Strengths

While we’re on the topic of academics, you can also get involved in your child’s studies, if they ask for help. Aside from reminding them to focus: help them choose classes for their first semester; reread some Nietzsche or Aristotle along with them; or offer to be a second set of eyes for their papers. When they are choosing their major, you could help them realize what it is they’re passionate about.

Grown-Up Stuff

There are some things you should periodically bring up with your student that they likely won’t enjoy talking about, which involves money management, including student loans and budgeting. While these might not be on their list of the best ways to communicate with college students, it’s your duty as the parent to remind them.

It’s considered important to have an ongoing dialogue about student loans and educate them on how not to make their debt even higher.

This is a conversation that can begin in high school when making the decision on which college to attend and what the financial impact will be for them and for you in the years to come.

As for budgeting, know that many young adults make financial mistakes in their early twenties. This is what mistakes are for — to learn from them and adjust your habits moving forward.

But if you can teach your student good spending habits, especially if this is their first time with a credit card, they’ll be thankful to you in the long run.

Future Plans

You may have a son or daughter who has dreamed of going to med school since they were little, but most students are unsure of what they want to do with their futures or what life after graduation will look like. This might be a common thread throughout their four years in college.

Find ways to make this conversation exciting and optimistic without asking the question they’ve heard a million times: “What do you want to do with your life?” The truth is, they might not know, even upon graduation, and that’s okay.

If they are considering graduate school, it would be useful to discuss what’s involved financially. Will they need additional student loans for grad school? Will you be able to help with any costs?

While these are just some guidelines on how to communicate with college students, ultimately, the best approach for you and your child depends on your relationship and your personality.

It’s recommended for a parent to find a healthy balance between staying involved and being overbearing. You can watch with pride from a healthy distance and still experience this exciting time in your child’s journey through young adulthood.

The Takeaway

The transition to college can be an overwhelming one, for both students and their parents. While your student is building their new life at school, parents may find it challenging to keep in touch with them. Try FaceTiming, or setting a time for a weekly catch-up session with your child. Be open and honest with them and make sure they know that they can come to you with any questions, concerns, or issues they may be facing at school.

Part of parenting is providing advice and guidance, and after graduation that may include assisting as your child figures out how to repay their student loans. One avenue you can look into is student loan refinancing. It’s not for everyone — especially if you have federal student loans and you plan to use their benefits and protections, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness or deferment or forbearance. Benefits and protections like these that come with federal student loans are forfeited once federal student loans are refinanced with a private student loan.

Refinancing could help you (or your student) lower monthly payments or shorten the loan term. Note that lowering the loan’s monthly payment generally results from extending the loan term, which may make the loan more expensive in the long run. At SoFi, there are no application fees or pre-payment penalties and SoFi members get access to benefits like career coaching and financial advice at no additional cost.

Learn more about SoFi student loan refinancing today.


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Source: sofi.com