Second-Hand Shopping: How to Save at Thrift Stores and Consignment Shops

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Over the past two years, my husband and I have spent less than $400 per year on clothing. Our secret? We buy most of our clothes secondhand.

And clothing is just the tip of the iceberg. We prefer to shop secondhand whenever possible for nearly everything we buy — furniture, books, tools, even materials for home repair. No matter what we need, we always check out secondhand sources like thrift stores, yard sales, and Craigslist before resorting to buying new.

Shopping that way isn’t just good for our budget. With each great find, we’re saving money and helping the environment. And with the right shopping strategies, you can do the same.


Where to Shop Secondhand

There are many kinds of secondhand stores specializing in different types of goods. On top of that, there’s a wide variety of apps for buying and selling used stuff, both in your local area and across the country. 

With so many options, it’s possible to pick up almost anything secondhand if you know where to look.

Thrift Stores

There are two primary kinds of thrift shops: for-profit and nonprofit. For-profit thrift stores, like other retailers, are in business to make a profit. 

For-profit thrift store chains include Savers (known as Value Village in the Northwest), Red White and Blue, MyUnique.com, Plato’s Closet, and Once Upon a Child. Chains like these often focus on higher-quality merchandise that’s more likely to sell.

Nonprofit thrift stores are run by charitable organizations like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. In my experience, these stores usually charge lower prices than for-profit ones. For instance, at a local church thrift shop, I’ve bought T-shirts for $1 and jeans for $2. However, a lot of the garments on the racks are worn or damaged.

The most common item sold at thrift stores is clothing. However, most stores sell other types of goods as well. Nearly every thrift shop I’ve ever been to had at least a shelf or two loaded with dishware, little knick-knacks, and household goods like pots and pans. Depending on the store, you may also find books, videos, toys, games, and even furniture.

Consignment Shops

Like thrift stores, consignment shops typically specialize in clothing. But they operate on a different business model. 

At thrift stores, people can either donate their garments or sell them to the store at a low price. At consignment shops, people give their garments to the store in exchange for a cut of the sale price.

Along with clothes, consignment stores sometimes sell small furniture and home decor. They generally deal in higher-quality merchandise than thrift stores, making them an excellent place to buy designer clothing on a budget. However, their prices are typically higher than most thrift shops’.

Goodwill Outlets

At the opposite end of the price scale for secondhand goods are Goodwill Outlet Stores. 

These are locations where Goodwill unloads all the merchandise that hasn’t sold in its retail stores. After they’ve been on the shelves a specified length of time, local Goodwill staff ships them to an outlet location to be sold by the pound to thrifty buyers.

Goodwill Outlet Stores aren’t like ordinary thrift shops, where merchandise is sorted onto racks or shelves by type, size, and color. Instead, everything’s usually just piled into huge bins you can rummage through. 

They’re not the best place to hunt for something specific. But they’re a fantastic place to find cheap goods you can resell online as a side hustle.

Vintage Stores

Vintage clothing stores deal in the garments and accessories of past decades. Some focus on garb from a specific era, such as the 1960s, while others offer clothing spanning a wide range of periods. But everything in the store is at least 20 years old. 

Unlike thrift stores, vintage stores typically feature rare goods that command a higher price tag. They often focus on well-known brand names, including retired brands like Gunne Sax. 

Vintage stores charge a lot more than thrift stores. But shop wisely. In some cases, their garments cost more than brand-new ones sold at regular retail stores, though you can find few-of-a-kind garments for less than high-end designer duds. 

For women’s clothes, one thing to watch out for when shopping vintage is the sizing. Women’s clothing sizes have changed over the years, so your size in vintage clothing is likely several sizes larger than in modern clothes. 

Antique Stores

Antique stores take vintage to the next level. They sell goods from bygone eras, including furniture, home decor, clothing, and jewelry. While the merchandise in vintage stores can be as little as 20 years old, antique stores deal primarily in goods that are at least 100 years old.

Like vintage stores, antique stores aren’t usually a good place to shop if your main goal is to save money. But you can find some unique pieces that are cheaper than buying new high-end goods if you know how.

Flea Markets

A flea market, also known as a swap meet, is a big open-air market where lots of vendors set up booths to sell secondhand wares. Furniture and home decor are the most common goods sold at flea markets, but you can find a vast array of other stuff as well, from clothing to musical instruments. 

Flea markets vary widely in size, selection, and prices. Some markets are vast tent cities covering acres of ground, while others are merely a dozen or so booths set up in a warehouse. Depending on the market, you may also find vendors selling new or handmade wares, such as artwork.

Reuse Centers

If you’re seeking materials for a home remodeling project, check out reuse centers such as Habitat for Humanity ReStores. They carry furniture, appliances, and building materials like lumber, tile, and paint for around half the retail price. 

Some supplies have been torn out of demolished or renovated buildings, while others are left over from building projects.

Architectural salvage stores are similar to reuse centers, but they skew a bit higher-end. They specialize in antique furniture and fixtures you can’t find in a typical home center, such as carved woodwork and vintage lighting fixtures. 

They’re a fantastic place to look if you’re renovating a period home and want to find materials that match its original style.

Specialty Secondhand Stores

There are many other kinds of secondhand stores that focus on specific types of goods. For instance, used bookstores sell secondhand paperback and hardcover books at prices that can often beat Amazon’s. Used record stores deal in secondhand vinyl LPs, and some offer CDs as well.

Online Resale Sites & Apps

There’s a huge variety of websites and apps devoted to connecting sellers of secondhand merchandise with buyers. You can find an online secondhand market for almost anything you want to buy.

Clothing

If you can’t find the right garment in the right size at your local thrift store, try shopping online thrift stores and consignment stores like ThredUp and Swap.com. These sites offer a more extensive selection and make it easy to search for exactly what you want. 

Some online resale sites specialize in specific types of clothing. For instance, Tradesy, Poshmark, and The RealReal deal in designer clothes at prices up to 70% off retail, while Stillwhite provides a market for used wedding dresses.

The biggest downside of shopping at online thrift stores is that you can’t try on clothes before buying. You have to rely on the description and measurements provided by the seller. Most sites accept returns, but you usually have to pay a shipping or restocking fee. 

Furniture

You can find vintage furniture, home decor, and artwork online through Chairish. This site focuses on high-end appointments costing hundreds or thousands of dollars, so it’s more useful for finding unique pieces than for saving money. 

There are several ways to search listings on Chairish. You can look for a particular category, such as rugs or rocking chairs, or a particular style, such as art deco or midcentury modern. 

You can also narrow your choices by price and by location. And with the Chairish app, you can get a preview of how a piece will look in your home before buying. And once you choose, you can have purchases shipped to your home or arrange a pickup with a local seller.

Electronics

It’s hard to be sure used electronics work. But you can eliminate any purchase risk by choosing certified refurbished. The manufacturer or a reseller has thoroughly repaired them to ensure they work like new for a fraction of the cost. They even come with warranties.

Good sites for buying refurbished gadgets include Back Market, Decluttr, and Gazelle. You can also buy refurbished electronics directly from manufacturers like Samsung and Apple and retail sites like Amazon Warehouse.

Another site worth checking out is Swappa. While Swappa doesn’t technically refurbish the devices it lists, it reviews them to ensure they’re functional and meet company standards.

Books

There are several good sites for buying books secondhand. You can find used copies of many volumes at online booksellers like Amazon and Alibris, and ThriftBooks deals in used books specifically. 

You can also swap your old books for new books from other users at PaperBackSwap and BookMooch.

To save money on textbooks, look to sites like Amazon, eCampus.com, CampusBooks, and Chegg. You can buy textbooks for up to 90% off the cover price and resell them when you complete the course to recover part of the cost.

Everything Else

Practically anything is available on eBay, including clothing, household goods, art, electronics, toys, and office equipment. It’s also a fantastic place to look for rare vintage finds. But eBay sellers also stock new goods, so check the listing before adding it to your cart.

Another good marketplace for all kinds of secondhand goods is Mercari. Like eBay, it offers both new and used goods in a wide range of categories. For oversize merchandise that’s too heavy to ship economically, such as furniture, you can use Mercari Local.

Local Listings

You probably already know about Craigslist, a marketplace for secondhand goods of all kinds from sellers in your local area. However, there are several other peer-to-peer marketplaces for local sales, including Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and 5Miles.

Users can buy and sell almost anything through these sites. But what’s available through your local group depends on where you live and can vary daily. Prices also vary widely depending on the item and the location. 

One nice perk of buying local is being able to see the merchandise in person before handing over your money.

Pawnshops

A pawnshop is a store where people can trade their high-value goods for quick cash. The store pays only a fraction of their value, but it gives the borrower the right to reclaim their belongings within a month for a fee. If they don’t, the merchandise goes up for sale.

Pawnshops are an excellent place to find higher-end items. Jewelry, electronics, bicycles, firearms, power tools, and musical instruments all show up on their shelves. 

The prices on the tag aren’t always that much cheaper than retail. However, it’s usually possible to haggle. And pawnbrokers are more willing to offer you a good price if you pay in cash.

Yard & Garage Sales

Yard-sale shopping is a hit-or-miss proposition. You can find all kinds of stuff at great prices — typically no more than one-third of what you’d pay for a similar new item. However, the selection and pricing vary widely from sale to sale. 

The downside is that you can never be sure of finding exactly what you want at any given sale. But if you visit enough sales, you’re almost certain to find something interesting at a reasonable price.


Going to a resale shop or yard sale isn’t like shopping in a department store. You can’t decide what exact item you want to buy down to the model number and color. 

Think of secondhand shopping more like a treasure hunt. On some trips, you may search the shelves for an hour and find nothing useful. But the occasions when you strike it rich — finding the perfect sweater for $5 or a great end table for $10 — make it all worthwhile.

Moreover, there are ways to improve your chances of finding treasure. By adapting your shopping strategies and behaviors, you can find the best values and make the most of your shopping excursion.

1. Choose the Right Store

Just like a real treasure hunt, a successful thrifting excursion starts with knowing where to look. If you’re looking for brand-name clothing, a consignment shop is probably the best place to search. If you want the lowest prices on kids’ clothes for back-to-school, you’re better off shopping at a nonprofit thrift store or yard sale. 

For books, try a secondhand bookstore. For jewelry, try a pawnshop. And for home furnishings, consider flea markets, antique stores, and reuse centers.

The location can also affect the selection. Stores in wealthier parts of town tend to carry higher-end merchandise, while shops in working-class neighborhoods are more likely to have rock-bottom prices.

If the stores in your neighborhood don’t carry the kinds of goods you’re looking for, try branching out to other parts of town. Ask friends about secondhand stores in their area, or do an online search to see what’s available. Then check online reviews to learn more about what each store has to offer.

2. Know Your Local Store

You can shop more efficiently when you’re familiar with your local secondhand options and their policies. Useful things to know include:

  • Store Layout. If you know how the store is organized, you can go straight to the section that carries your size or the type of goods you’re looking for. That saves you time on every shopping trip.
  • Return Policies. At many secondhand stores, all sales are final, even if an item is defective. If your store doesn’t accept returns, it’s good to know that upfront so you can be extra careful about what you buy.
  • Sale Schedule. Some resale shops have end-of-season clearance sales. Others sometimes give you a flat rate to fill up an entire bag. Some, like Goodwill, regularly mark down the oldest wares. By learning when and how sales work, you can show up on the right day to score the best deals.
  • Delivery Schedule. Some stores always receive or put out new merchandise on a specific day and time, such as Monday mornings. Learning when new goods show up lets you get there before other shoppers have picked them over.
  • Available Discounts. Some shops reduce their prices for older people, students, or military members and first responders. Others offer a discount when you buy a lot at once. Always ask about discounts so you get the price you’re entitled to.

There are several ways to get the inside scoop. If they have a contact list, sign up to receive email or text alerts about sales and special deals. You can also follow the store on social media.

But perhaps the best way to know what’s going on is to make friends with the staff. Take a little extra time to chat and get to know them instead of just bustling out with your purchases. 

If they know and like you, they’re more likely to let you in on secrets other customers don’t know. They may even be willing to set stuff aside for you or at least give you a heads up if they know what you’re looking for.

3. Join the Loyalty Program

Some secondhand stores, such as certain Goodwill and Habitat ReStore branches, offer customer loyalty programs. Members earn points they can cash in for coupons or discounts.

If your local thrift store or resale shop has a loyalty program, it’s definitely worth signing up for it. In fact, if you shop at multiple stores that all have loyalty programs, there’s no reason not to sign up for all of them. It costs nothing, and it allows you to earn rewards every time you shop.

4. Use Teamwork

It isn’t always easy to find what you want at resale stores. Racks and shelves can be disorganized, and the selection changes frequently. If you’re not in the right place at the right time, you could miss out on the exact product you’re looking for.

That’s why it helps to have a partner — or several — in your thrifting endeavors. Let your friends know what’s on your shopping list, including details like the brands you like or the size you need, and learn the same about each of them.

That way, whenever you hit the secondhand store, you can shop for each other. If one of you finds something that’s on a friend’s wish list, you can text them a photo to let them know where to find it. They can come in for a quick look or ask you to pick it up for them. 

Another perk of teamwork is that it gives you a fresh perspective. Sometimes, your friends alert you to finds that aren’t on your list — perhaps even things you wouldn’t have thought to buy for yourself. But as soon as you see them, you realize they’re perfect for you.

5. Inspect Merchandise Carefully

Since most secondhand goods are sold as is, you have to scrutinize them before you buy. If you’re buying clothing, check it for rips, stains, odors, or missing buttons. Minor damage isn’t necessarily a deal breaker since you may be able to repair it. But you should take the problems into account when deciding how much you’re willing to pay.

When buying furniture, the most important thing to check is whether it’s sturdy and well made. Examine all the joints to see if they feel secure, and open drawers to see if they glide effortlessly. Sit in chairs to check their comfort. Basically, test it out the way you’d use it in your own home.

With anything that runs on electricity, it’s essential to plug it in and test its function. Check the power button and all controls, and ensure all the accessories and attachments are included and work. If possible, put the item to a full test right there in the store — for instance, put a record on the turntable you want to see how it plays.

6. Only Buy What You’ll Use

If you’re new to secondhand shopping, it’s easy to be bowled over by the amazingly low prices. You can end up loading up a cart with stuff you don’t need just because the prices are so irresistible. 

Then, you get it all home and realize you have no use for a slow cooker, you’re never going to wear a bright-orange sweater, and those jeans are so tight you can’t sit down in them.

Keep your needs and your preferences firmly in mind while you shop. Consider the clothes in your closet and the furnishings in your home, and think about which colors and styles you love the most. Focus on those, and don’t be tempted by “bargains” that aren’t right for you.

Likewise, be careful about falling for clothing that doesn’t quite fit. If you find a slightly too-big garment you love, a tailor may be able to take it in for you. But if it’s too small, don’t buy it hoping to lose weight. Chances are it will just sit in your closet making you unhappy every time you see it. 

If you’re trying to lose weight, wait until you’re down a size before hitting the resale shops. That way, you can try on everything. And since prices are so low, you can pick up a whole new wardrobe for your smaller size without blowing your budget.

7. Shop Out of Season

If you’re shopping for clothing, you can sometimes find better deals on off-season clothes. If you’re shopping for shorts in summer or sweaters in winter, you’re competing with other secondhand shoppers looking for the same garments. The merchandise at thrift shops and yard sales is picked over, and anything you find is likely to be more expensive or less desirable.

To save money, switch it up and look for cool-weather clothes in summer and warm-weather clothes in winter. You’ll have more pieces to choose from, and they’ll probably be cheaper.

This strategy doesn’t work everywhere. For instance, some thrift shops and consignment stores rotate their selections, displaying only season-appropriate clothes.

However, you can still improve your odds of finding good clothes by shopping around the start of the season. In September, when the cool-weather clothes have just appeared on thrift-store shelves, you’ll see everything they have. Wait until February, and you’ll be left with other shoppers’ dregs.

8. Avoid Big Names

When shopping at antique stores, you’re likely to pay more if you focus on big-name manufacturers. For example, an authentic Thomas Chippendale sofa is likely to cost more than a sofa of comparable age and quality from a maker who’s less well-known.

Likewise, at vintage stores and consignment shops, designer clothes and well-known brands are likely to have higher price tags than similar styles from no-name brands. By choosing a knockoff, you can get the look you want for less.

9. Give In to Impulse Buys

Most of the time, impulse buying is a bad idea. If you see something you like but don’t need, it makes more sense to skip it. Often, after taking a few days to think about it, you decide you don’t want it. And if you still want it, you can always go back and buy it.

But at the resale store, you can’t count on today’s great deal to be there tomorrow. These shops usually only have one of each item in stock, so if you leave something behind, someone else could buy it before you have a chance to come back.

That means getting the best values when secondhand shopping sometimes means giving in to impulse purchases. If you see something you love and know you’ll use and the price is right, grab it while you have the chance. 

Even if you end up deciding you don’t love it, you’ve only lost a few bucks. That’s better than spending the next several years searching the stores for that one perfect item you missed out on. And if you decide you don’t want it, you can resell it to recover the money you spent.

10. Negotiate

At many secondhand stores and nearly all pawnshops and yard sales, it’s possible to negotiate a better price than the one you see on the tag. That’s particularly true with oversized items like furniture or appliances. If they’ve been sitting unsold for a while, the manager may decide they’d rather free up the floor space than hold out.

However, stores that allow haggling don’t always advertise it. The only way to find out for sure is to try it. For example, if you’re buying $13 worth of goods, ask if they’d accept $10 for all of it. The worst they can do is say no, and if they do, you haven’t lost anything.

Note that in some establishments, only the owner or manager has the authority to change the prices. If a clerk says no, you can try asking to speak to a manager. But if they’re not available, don’t press the issue. But if you find yourself dealing with a different person on your next visit, try again. You might get a different answer next time.

11. Be Patient

When you shop secondhand, you can’t be sure you’ll find what you’re looking for. Sometimes, you have to walk out empty-handed because there wasn’t a single pair of pants in your size or a single chair that was comfortable to sit in.

Experiences like that can be frustrating, but you shouldn’t let them sour you on thrifting in general. For every frustrating trip, there’s another when you magically seem to find everything on your list — or something amazing you weren’t even looking for.

The key to making this resale magic happen is to give yourself as many opportunities as possible. Stop by your local thrift shop often, whenever you’re in the neighborhood. That gives you more chances to see new goods as they arrive and grab that special piece before it disappears. And hit the brakes for every yard sale you see.

It also helps to keep an open mind. Don’t get stuck on a specific idea of what you want, such as “navy blue L.L. bean turtleneck with whale pattern.” 

Instead, think in general terms about what you need, such as “turtleneck shirts.” That frees you up to consider more goods and find something that wouldn’t have been on your radar otherwise.


Final Word

The thrill of finding bargains at the resale shop can be intoxicating. But it’s best not to get carried away. 

It’s not a good idea to buy used every time. For example, used bike helmets and car seats may present safety hazards. In these cases, stick to brand-new items.

But for many things, secondhand shopping is an easy way to save money. It’s a particularly smart move for people who want to choose sustainable clothing but can’t afford eco-conscious brands. By making your local thrift store your first stop for clothes shopping, you can keep your wardrobe green while sticking to a budget.

If you want to take your secondhand shopping skills to the next level, expand your searches to include secondhand goods that cost nothing at all. By visiting free stores, swap parties, and websites like Freecycle and the Buy Nothing Project, you can get new-to-you stuff for no money at all.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

Buying a Car With a Personal Loan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the Seller an Individual or a Car Dealer?

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

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

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

Differences Between Car Loans and Personal Loans

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

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

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

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

Determining the Value of a Car

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

•   Edmunds offers a True Market Value guide.

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

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

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

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

Negotiating the Car Purchase

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

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

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

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

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

What Are the Costs of Car Ownership?

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

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

•   10% in the first month.

•   20% in the first year.

•   40% after five years.

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

The Takeaway

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

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

Check your rate on a SoFi Personal Loan.


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

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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Source: sofi.com

Understanding Property Valuations

If you’re applying for a mortgage, you probably expect the lender to take a look at your income, debt, credit history, employment, and assets.

There’s another loan element the lender will consider that may be less familiar: an objective property valuation.

What Is a Property Valuation?

Sellers may use a property valuation to determine how much their house is worth and how much they can charge on the open market.

A mortgage lender’s property valuation is slightly different. It helps the lender determine the value of the property you’re hoping to buy based on factors like size, location, condition, and demand.

Why would lenders require this type of home appraisal? They want to know that the loans they offer are backed by a sufficiently valuable property so that if a borrower were to default on the loan, they can recoup their losses.

Consider this: Sellers can choose any listing price they want — whatever they think someone is willing to pay. But if the buyer needs financing, the selling price must be supported by market value (what comparable homes have recently sold for in the area) before a lender will pony up the cash for a loan.

If the home you want to buy is appraised for less than the sales price, the seller would need to lower the price to the appraised value, you would have to make up the difference, or you’d exit the deal.

Who Carries Out a Property Valuation?

A lender’s property valuation typically will be carried out by a professional appraiser assigned by a third party.

The lender, buyer, and seller are not to have any relationship with the appraiser so that the valuation is unbiased. Buyers can hire an independent appraiser, but the valuation would not be official.

The kind of valuation required by lenders depends on factors such as the type of home you’re looking to buy, the type of loan you’re applying for, your credit score, and whether you’re buying a single-family or multifamily home.

Home Appraisals, Explained

The most common kind of property valuation is an appraisal.

How Does a Home Appraisal Work?

An appraisal is an independent estimate of the home’s value by a licensed or certified real estate appraiser.

Appraisers weigh factors like location, the condition of the home, size and layout, the year it was built, and any renovations that have been done. They also consider “comps” — what similar homes in the neighborhood recently sold for — tax records, and zoning.

The appraisal will determine a market value that is either “as is” or “subject to” certain conditions, such as completion of repairs or upgrades.

Lenders rely on the appraiser’s market value to come up with the loan-to-value ratio of a property, which influences the amount they’re willing to lend and the terms of the loan.

When Does an Appraisal Happen and What Does It Cost?

The federal government no longer requires appraisals for homes that cost less than $400,000, allowing simpler evaluations to stand in their place. That said, most mortgage lenders probably will still require an appraisal.

The appraisal typically occurs once the seller has accepted an offer and is normally performed within the loan contingency date of the purchase contract, usually 21 days.

The buyer pays for the appraisal ordered through the lender. The cost depends on the type of property, city, size, and features, but for a single-family home it averages $348, according to a national survey from HomeAdvisor, an online platform for home services professionals.

A desktop appraisal may cost much less than that.

What If You Get a Low Appraisal?

If the appraised value is as much as the agreed-upon price or more, that encourages the lender to move forward with the home loan, assuming that the other aspects of the property and your application are in order.

If the appraisal comes in under the agreed-upon price, the lender may reduce the amount of the loan it’s willing to offer.

You or the sellers can dispute the appraisal with the lender or ask for a second appraisal. If the value is still too low, there are three routes:

•   You can agree to contribute the difference in cash.

•   You can try to get the seller to reduce the price.

•   You and the seller may agree to split the difference.

Buyers can back out of the deal if the contract includes an appraisal contingency. A clean offer, one with as few contingencies as possible, caught on in the recent hot market, but buyers take risks in dropping contingencies.

Alternatives to a Full Home Appraisal

In certain situations or stages of the homebuying process, you may not need to go through a full formal home appraisal. Here are some alternative methods lenders use for home valuations.

Automated Valuation Model

Algorithms take into account the size of the home, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, comps, and other factors to estimate property value.

Some lenders of conventional mortgages using Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac’s automated underwriting systems may receive a waiver for a full appraisal, thanks to robust sales in the neighborhood to support the purchase price, the amount of the down payment, strength of the borrower, or the type of transaction.

Some lenders also use automated valuation models when deciding whether to extend or adjust a home equity line of credit.

Drive-by or Exterior-Only Appraisal

A drive-by appraisal (also known as a summary appraisal) refers to an inspection that only looks at the exterior of a home. The appraiser will photograph the front and sides of the home, as well as the street in both directions.

The appraiser takes notes on the neighborhood and the condition of the home and looks at comps when coming up with an estimated value.

Desktop Appraisal

Never having to leave the desk, an appraiser uses property tax records, comps, and other public record data in lieu of a physical property inspection.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency made desktop appraisals, implemented in March 2020 amid lockdowns and social distancing, permanent for purchase loans starting in early 2022.

That means both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow appraisals to be conducted remotely.

Broker Price Opinion

A broker price opinion is an estimate of a property’s value determined by a real estate agent or broker, rather than a licensed appraiser. A client may request this estimate to underpin a home’s listing price.

A lender may request a broker price opinion when a borrower is behind on payments, and will use the unofficial assessment to see whether the home value is below the amount of the loan, potentially making the borrower eligible to negotiate a short sale.

Broker price opinions can also be used to buy and sell mortgages on the secondary market. Lenders prefer them in these cases because a full appraisal isn’t required, and because the valuations are fast and generally less costly.

The Takeaway

An unbiased professional appraiser determines real estate valuation based on factors like home size, condition, location, and comparable sales. When big money is at stake, a lender needs to determine the true property valuation.

Before you get to the home valuation stage, the first steps to becoming a homeowner may be getting prequalified and preapproved for a mortgage loan.

SoFi offers home loans with as little as 5% down, competitive rates, and flexible terms.

It’s quick and easy to find your rate on a SoFi mortgage.


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

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Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Source: sofi.com

What Is the Bancor Network Token (BNT)? How Does It Work?

Developers created the Bancor blockchain to help provide liquidity for token swaps. It does this by providing economic incentives (money) to users who lock up their crypto in pools. The incentives come in the form of fees paid by traders who buy and sell the locked-up tokens.

All of this happens automatically via smart contracts, without any financial institution managing the system. Cross-chain conversion is what’s known as an automated market maker (AMM), a cornerstone of the decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem. AMMs like Bancor aim to make more niche altcoins that have smaller market caps more liquid by making it lucrative for users to sustain pools of tokens, and allowing for the swaps to take place without relying on a large exchange.

Bancor has one feature other DeFi platforms do not – interoperability. Bancor works across both the EOS and Ethereum blockchains, whereas most DeFi protocols only work on Ethereum or another, similar smart contract platform.

Having launched in 2017 when DeFi was still new, Bancor is one of the more established AMMs. Other types of cryptocurrencies and platforms that leverage more than one crypto or blockchain were less common back then.

Here in this guide to crypto, we’ll explore how the Bancor cryptocurrency works.

History of the Bancor Network Token (BNT) Crypto

In 2017, the Bancor project raised $153 million in a token sale, managed by Bprotocol Foundation, a Swiss non-profit organization. Participants of the token sale received half the tokens, while the other half went to the founders of the project, Galia and Guy Benartzi. Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper is also an investor in the project.

How Does BNT Work?

Bancor automates its service by incentivizing users to deposit crypto into pools. A pool has two components – a token trading pair and a reserve of the BNT crypto.

Users deposit coins into a pool and receive new pool tokens in exchange. These pool tokens allow the user to get back their original funds they’ve locked away in the protocol.

BNT crypto serves as an intermediary between the trades of each token. In other words, the first token converts to BNT, and then BNT is converted to the second token. Because the process happens through a smart contract, some people refer to BNT as a “smart token.”

These automated features of the network may appeal to some traders as a security feature, since the crypto market is still largely unregulated.

Bancor also allows users to lock in one token at a time as opposed to a pair. Other AMMs sometimes require users to lock up pairs of tokens in certain proportions to each other. In a Bancor liquidity pool, users have the option to deposit ETH or DAI, for example. Some alternatives to Bancor would require a deposit of both ETH and DAI.

It’s worth noting that users also have to deposit BNT into the Bancor pool of their choice.

Using liquidity pools and the BNT token in this manner differentiates Bancor from some other decentralized applications, which require each trade order to match with another order. Instead of having to wait for a buyer or seller, Bancor users can access liquidity right away, thanks to the BNT smart token.

Developers overhauled the platform in 2020 to make it more user-friendly.

The Use of Price Oracles

In order to access accurate pricing information for the coins locked into the protocol, Bancor V2 uses a solution called an “oracle.” Oracles send real-time price information from an external source into an existing blockchain.

With this price data, the pools on Bancor can automatically adjust token proportions in alignment with changes in price. Liquidity providers can then withdraw tokens of the same value they originally deposited.

BNT Coin Price

At the time of writing, BNT was the #104 cryptocurrency by market cap and trading at $4.29 per BNT. This represents an approximately 150% increase year-to-date, as the token began 2021 trading at around $1.30.

The all-time high for the BNT price was about $9.30, reached in January 2018. The all-time low was about $0.14, reached in March 2020. That kind of volatility could make a difficult coin to HODL long-term.

How to Use BNT

You can use BNT tokens to exchange one type of crypto for another without needing a third-party. This may help traders who hold low liquidity tokens that don’t have a lot of trading volume on large exchanges.

BNT holders can also earn interest by locking up their tokens in the protocol. Those who stake tokens receive a portion of the trading fees incurred by traders using the platform.

BNT Coin Storage

BNT holders can keep their coin in any crypto wallet that supports ERC-20 tokens. ERC-20 is a type of standard for tokens that run on the Ethereum network. Many utility tokens fall under this category. Popular Ethereum wallets like MyEtherWallet support storage of ERC-20 tokens like BNT.

Traders might also hold their BNT tokens on an exchanged-hosted wallet. After buying coins on an exchange, the exchange will automatically hold it in a wallet on behalf of the investor. This method of storage is only as secure as the exchange itself, and is generally not advised for large amounts of funds held over the long-term.

Recommended: Cold Wallet vs Hot Wallet: Which to Choose?

How to Buy BNT Cryptocurrency

Buying Bancor network token is similar to buying other digital assets. Doing so involves a few simple steps.

•   Step 1: First, choose an exchange that supports BNT trading.

•   Step 2: Sign up for an account on the chosen exchange.

•   Step 3: Fund your account. Make sure the exchange supports a trading pair of the currency you deposit. For example, if the exchange only supports BTC/BNT, you will have to deposit bitcoin. If it only supports USD/BNT, you will have to deposit U.S. dollars, and so on.

•   Step 4: Place a buy order for BNT. Doing so could work differently depending on the exchange. Beginner-friendly exchanges allow users to simply place an order for a certain amount of BNT and have it instantly executed at the current market price. Other exchanges require users to select an existing ask (sell) order from the order books, and buy at that price, or create a new buy order at a price of their choosing.

•   Step 5: Optionally, users can then move their BNT off of an exchange, into their own crypto wallet.

•   Step 6: As with all assets, traders must keep track of their transactions so that they can declare the value of their crypto holdings at tax time.

BNT can also be acquired directly through the Bancor smart contract. Users can convert any supported ERC-20 token on Bancor’s web app.

The Takeaway

BNT is a smart token that facilitates decentralized trading through an automated market maker by functioning as a reserve currency. It may be a way for some investors to bet on its technology, or to build a diversified portfolio of cryptocurrency.

An easy way to get started trading cryptocurrency is by opening a brokerage account on the SoFi Invest® crypto trading app. You can use the app to securely buy and hold crypto assets, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Cardano, and BNT.

Photo credit: iStock/gradyreese


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments. Limitations apply to trading certain crypto assets and may not be available to residents of all states.
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Source: sofi.com

Top 22 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Shopping Apps for Android & iPhone

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

Whether you skip into the holidays on a cushion of unbridled glee or grudgingly face it with stoic resignation, you know what you’ll be doing at some point between the middle of November and the last week or so of December: steadily accumulating gifts for family, friends, coworkers, and people to whom you’re obligated for one reason or another.

If you’re a savvy shopper, you know that using a little modern technology can go a long way.

The Right App Makes All The Difference

Holiday shopping is now an omni-channel affair. The vast majority of holiday shoppers now do at least some of their shopping online, whether with all-digital retailers like Amazon or hybrids like Walmart or Best Buy. Of the millions of shoppers who still hit the stores in November and December, most bring their smartphones. Deloitte’s 2017 holiday shopping survey found that 40% of holiday shoppers planned to use a retailer’s shopping app that year, and another 36% planned to use a mobile payment app. holiday shoppers use mobile devices to enhance the in-person retail experience.

Mobile aids really come in handy on the two most hectic days of the early holiday shopping season: Black Friday, the day immediately following Thanksgiving and the purported genesis of the “doorbuster” sale; and Cyber Monday, the original digital shopping holiday the following Monday.

All the apps listed here have features designed to simplify and enhance the holiday shopping experience, especially on chaotic, deal-ridden days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A few are specifically designed for the two big days, but most are just shopper-friendly digital aids that offer clear advantages over desktop e-commerce sites.

Unless otherwise noted, these apps are all free to download and require no ongoing membership fees. Some retailers or app owners may have paid membership programs and clubs, but app users are under no obligation to join.

While you’re at it, please take a few minutes to read our tip sheets for better shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping.

Retailer Apps

These apps are all backed by major U.S. retailers. All pair up with brands mentioned in our twin holiday shopping guides: the Black Friday 2019 shopping guide and Cyber Monday 2019 shopping guide.


1. Amazon

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Amazon’s main shopping website isn’t very mobile-friendly. That hasn’t stopped Amazon from growing into North America’s unquestioned retail behemoth, but it’s a deficiency nonetheless.

Good thing there’s the Amazon app, a mobile-friendly distillation for iOS (including Apple Watch) and Android. Newer versions of the app are equipped with Alexa, Amazon’s voice-modulated AI assistant, making for a (nearly) hands-free experience.

Check in the day before Thanksgiving, and again on Black Friday itself, for the complete lineup of Thanksgiving weekend deals. Don’t miss Amazon’s Cyber Monday and Cyber Week sales, which stretch through the week following Thanksgiving.


2. eBay

Enjoy bidding for holiday gifts, but not willing to park at your desktop for the second half of November and most of December? The eBay app for iOS and Android can help.

The eBay app’s handy price and bid alerts put an end to superfluous logins – you’ll know when it’s finally time to pull the trigger and when you need to bid again (if your budget can handle it) without checking your eBay account or even opening your email suite. Use the watchlist feature to check in on your gifting shortlist – and, when the time is right, bid or buy.

If you need some extra cash this holiday season, you can always downsize and declutter your life while padding your holiday gift budget. For more, check out our guide to selling stuff on eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon.


3. Best Buy

The Best Buy app is one of the slickest and most comprehensive on this list. Unlike many retail apps, it’s clearly built with the brick-and-mortar shopping experience in mind. That makes it a great addition to your Black Friday arsenal.

Some of my favorite Best Buy app features:

  • A QR scanner that you can use to call up detailed product information in-store and build a gift registry or wishlist
  • Full e-tailing capabilities
  • Detailed product ratings and reviews
  • Access to daily deals and promotions, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts
  • Secure Touch ID sign-in
  • Comprehensive help channels, including text and talk

4. Target

The iOS- and Android-compatible Target mobile app is pretty handy. Like the Best Buy app, it’s clearly designed to augment the in-person shopping experience. I’m particularly pleased with:

  • Detailed product listings that include aisle locations in your preferred store (which you set in the app) – a huge time-saver in large-format Target stores
  • User-supplied product reviews
  • Up-to-date store maps
  • Cartwheel, Target’s in-house coupon and deal aggregator
  • Weekly sales flyers, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday scans when available
  • Barcode scanner to pull up product listings

5. Walmart

The Walmart mobile app is also iOS- and Android-compatible. Notable features include:

  • Weekly flyer scans, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday when available
  • Walmart Pay, a house-made mobile contactless payment app that you can use to check out without help from a human or fixed self-scanner
  • Internal receipt storage for easy budgeting and returns (both clutch during the holidays)
  • A mobile pharmacy ordering and pickup app-within-an-app – not directly relevant to Black Friday, but still useful
  • Discounts on in-store pickup for select items – order online, swing by at your convenience
  • Order tracking for ship-to-store and ship-to-home purchases

6. Macy’s

The iOS- and Android-compatible Macy’s shopping app comes with a sweet kick-off bonus: 25% off your first order placed through the app. Other useful features include:

  • Barcode scanner to reveal detailed product listings and check availability on variants (such as different colors or sizes)
  • Online ordering in-store after you try it on – just scan the product code, use your saved payment card information to complete the transaction, and arrange shipping to your home
  • Store directories and maps (though nothing as comprehensive as Target’s aisle directory and map)
  • Weekly flyer scans, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday when available
  • Real-time deal alerts based on your location within the store – if you walk by something Macy’s thinks you’ll link, you’ll know about it

7. Home Depot

The Home Depot app facilitates home improvement projects in any season, but it really shines during the holidays. It does a few things better than most other retail apps I’ve seen:

  • Detailed store maps with exact item locations in aisles – if you’ve ever wandered, agape, through one of these cavernous stores, you know how important this is
  • Near-real-time item availability by product and department
  • Image search – just snap a picture of an unfamiliar item and the program will return a list of probable matches
  • Side-by-side product comparisons with detailed specs
  • Barcode scanner for in-depth reviews and descriptions
  • Create project- or person-based shopping lists – perfect for holiday gift-getting or post-holiday remodeling

8. Lowe’s

Lowe’s has multiple mobile apps, but the flagship is the appropriately named Lowe’s mobile app. It’s compatible with iOS and Android. Highlights include:

  • An in-store product locator with basic aisle maps and a storage system for flagging and “bookmarking” your favorite items
  • Quick Lists, or user-friendly shopping and watchlists ideal for the gifting season
  • Barcode scanners for comprehensive product information and add-to-list functionality
  • Store-specific shopping lists
  • MyLowe’s, a free loyalty program that stores your discount card and Lowe’s credit card (if you have one), plus keeps track of your purchase history

If you’re planning a major home improvement project, or simply want to imagine what could be, don’t miss the Lowe’s Creative Ideas app. It boasts a project database with step-by-step instructions, ideas and tips from Lowe’s network of influential bloggers, and an interactive makeover tool that lets you “remodel” your house on your phone.


9. Menards

The iOS- and Android-compatible Menards app is a comprehensive retail aid that’s equally useful at home and in the store. My favorite features:

  • An augmented reality tool that lets  you visualize Menards products in your home – for instance, a new microwave in its natural kitchen environment or a new lounger just where you want it on the patio
  • Product calculators that tally up the amount of raw materials (and their cost) you’ll need to complete your next home improvement project
  • Barcode scans revealing detailed product information
  • Lists that you can organize by gift recipient, project, or trip
  • Customizable gift registries – definitely a help around the holidays
  • In-store maps with detailed aisle renderings

10. Overstock.com

Overstock.com doesn’t have a physical store to show off in its app, but that doesn’t stop this award-winning, iOS- and Android-compatible product from shining on Black Friday and beyond. Features that really grabbed my attention include:

  • A stunning augmented reality tool that lets you visualize how Overstock products will look in your living space
  • Daily deals (including Black Friday specials) and virtual “scratch and win” coupons that gamify the savings
  • Personalized in-app and email notifications
  • 10% off your first in-app purchase
  • One-click ordering with Apple Pay and Android Pay

11. Wayfair

Wayfair has iOS and Android apps offer targeted access to what Wayfair claims is “the largest online catalog of home furniture and decor.” With more than 7 million SKUs in all, who am I to argue?

The Wayfair app’s most notable features include:

  • Access to daily, time-limited deals, beginning at 12pm Eastern every day
  • Interactive Idea Boards, where you can post and swap decorating and home improvement ideas with fellow Wayfairers
  • App-optimized checkout
  • An augmented reality feature that maps potential purchases on existing indoor and outdoor spaces around your home

Deal-Finding and Discount Apps

Deal Finding Discount Apps

These mobile coupon apps aren’t limited to a single retailer. The deals are all that matter.

12. Capital One Shopping

Capital One Shopping is a free browser extension that helps shoppers save money on online purchases. With just one click, Capital One Shopping searches for better offers from other merchants when you browse a particular online seller. After testing all available coupon codes from hundreds of retailers (including big names like Costco and Target), Capital One Shopping applies the best coupon code from the group and displays the total potential savings.

Capital One Shopping also automatically searches for better offers from other retailers when you browse Amazon. When Capital One Shopping finds savings on a particular product, you’ll see the better price or prices with a summary of the matched product, including:

•  Total price with tax, shipping, and active coupons
•  Price history
•  Return policy
•  Delivery estimate
•  Related product deals from other Capital One Shopping users
•  Product reviews and rankings

Capital One Shopping is available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Safari.

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


13. Ibotta

Ibotta is a cash back app that’s compatible with some of North America’s top retailers, from ubiquitous giants like Walmart and Amazon to regional superstores like H-E-B, apparel and home goods retailers like Under Armour and Kohl’s, and even third-party travel vendors like Travelocity and Booking.com.

Ibotta works year-round, but the volume of available deals and discounts definitely ticks up ahead of the holidays. Unlike many other cash back apps, Ibotta’s money-saving power isn’t limited to digital purchases: You can snap a picture of your in-store receipt to claim your discount retroactively. Use the Pay With Ibotta feature to claim cash back at a wider range of retailers than those found in the classic app.


14. Rakuten

The Rakuten app delivers discounts up to 40% (and higher, in some cases) from more than 2,500 retailers nationwide, including hundreds with blowout Black Friday promotions. The range of opportunities is impossible to do justice in a short blurb, but here’s a sampling:

  • Deep discounts from top online and brick-and-mortar retailers, such as Amazon, eBay, and Samsung
  • Special discounts on Lyft rides – great for beating Black Friday mall traffic
  • Push notifications when new deals come online
  • Exclusive coupon codes and discount opportunities not found anywhere else
  • In-store cash back when you securely add your credit card to the app
  • A $10 welcome bonus with your first order and a $25 referral bonus per new customer referral

15. RetailMeNot

The RetailMeNot app is one of the original digital discounting apps, and it’s still clearly among the best. With up to 70% off on select instant discounts and up to 15% cash back with select partners, RetailMeNot may offer the deepest discounts of any Black Friday app out there. It’s made all the better for its vast aperture: about three dozen shopping categories, ranging from restaurants and groceries to electronics and travel. Highlights include:

  • Up to 12% bonus value when you redeem cash back for a gift card
  • Targeted local offers through the Near Me function
  • Weekly in-store and online coupons, with volume ramping up around the holidays
  • Printable coupons for shoppers who don’t want to rely on smartphone screens

16. BeFrugal

BeFrugal has cash back relationships with more than 5,000 individual retailers and offers coupons with some 50,000 shops and stores, where users claim up to 40% off select products. Like its fellow discounting apps, BeFrugal boasts a wide range of partners, from travel and restaurant vendors to top apparel and electronics brands. Entertainment is a big business here, too, with exclusive offers from StubHub, Ticketmaster, and Fandango. Spread cheer this holiday season with a $10 bonus for each successful referral.


17. Drop

Drop is a user-friendly cash back app that rewards shoppers for direct purchases made in the app – an impossibly easy setup that makes earning rewards as easy as clicking “Check Out.” No receipt scanning or plugin activation required. Drop works with hundreds of top retail, dining, and travel brands, and boasts a slew of value-adds:

  • Themed collections tailored to shoppers’ personal preferences, reducing time spent at individual retailers’ websites on Black Friday
  • Opportunities to earn bonus cash back by watching videos or unlocking achievements
  • Referral bonuses for new Drop users
  • Opportunities to redeem rewards for gift cards, which make great last-minute holiday gifts for hard-to-shop-for recipients

18. DealNews

The DealNews app works on iOS and Android operating systems. The app works year-round, of course, but it really shines from Black Friday through Cyber Week, when the typical deal volume (some 300 per day) spikes. DealNews deals are all evaluated by professional deal-spotters who do this stuff for a living, so they’re much likelier to be worth your while than the random deals you’ll find with a cursory Google search.

Though Dealnews’s app isn’t quite as comprehensive as the desktop website, many essential features remain:

  • Today’s Best Deals, a trove of expert-vetted deals curated from around the retailsphere
  • A sophisticated deal-saving feature that lets you save non-time-limited opportunities for later – DealNews spins this as a helpful way to avoid buying products on mobile-unfriendly partner sites
  • A slew of coupon codes for hundreds of partner retailers
  • Shareable deals – perfect for spreading holiday cheer (and alerting people on your gift list)

19. Flipp

Flipp doesn’t go dormant from January through October – it was conceived as a one-stop shop for weekly flyers and ad scans. But its reason for being is definitely the holiday shopping season. Use it to collect and study Black Friday and Cyber Monday flyers as soon as they’re released to the general public: typically a few days before each holiday, depending on the retailer. More than 800 retailers participate, including big guns like Walmart and Macy’s.

The customizable shopping lists and digital clipping feature help you organize your gift list and trim your expenses – though, to be totally honest, there are more efficient apps for these purposes. Check out the coupons stash, which features rotating discounts ranging from 20% to 70% off. Flipp integrates with many retailers’ loyalty cards – just load your digital coupons and save automatically at checkout.


20. Shopkick

Shopkick is an iOS- and Android-compatible shopper loyalty app that earns real rewards on every purchase you make with participating retailers. Reward points – “kicks” – are redeemable for gift cards from Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy, and more. Use the barcode scanner for in-store purchases and the mobile checkout feature for at-home buys.

Earning rates vary by retailer, but Shopkick claims that many new users earn their first gift cards within one week of sign-up. Not bad, considering it costs nothing to take the plunge.


21. Brad’s Deals

The Brad’s Deals app is a bridge between the more impersonal coupon apps of the world and the hard-to-use Consumer Reports-style aggregators of the world. The real value here is at-a-glance access to guaranteed best prices on the latest online deals, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions. Trawl the deals while you have a spare minute at work or during your commute, then save your favorite and buy later at your convenience.


22. TGI Black Friday

The TGI Black Friday app is made for Black Friday – literally. The headline is its vast collection of accurate, up-to-the-minute Black Friday ad scans, but some other features are worth calling out too:

  • Searchable, current-year Black Friday deals database
  • Personalized shopping lists that are sure to help with your holiday gift logistics
  • Push notifications for new ads released by your favorite retailers
  • Price comparisons to ensure you’re getting the lowest advertised price anywhere

Final Word

These aren’t the only apps likely to prove useful this holiday shopping season. While researching this post, I came across a whole bunch of retail apps that weren’t quite discount-y enough to make the Black Friday cut, but still clearly had utility for harried gift-getters.

Like the Santa’s Bag app, courtesy of Clay Pot Software. With intuitive budgeting and storage features, Santa’s Bag is one of the cleverest shopping management apps I’ve ever seen. If your holiday gift recipient list is long, and you have a compatible iOS device, check it out – it’s a big improvement over handwritten lists or boring Excel spreadsheets.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

What Is After-Hours Trading and Who Can Trade These Extended Times

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

The vast majority of trading activity on the stock market happens during the normal trading session, which lasts from 9:30am to 4:00pm Eastern time on business days. However, you might notice a stock you own ends the trading session at one price and starts the next session with the stock up or down to a completely different price. 

How does this happen? Isn’t trading closed once the session is over?

Not exactly! In fact, institutional investors have been active in stock trading after normal business hours for decades, and the trend is starting to pick up with the retail crowd too.

What Is After-Hours Trading?

Regular market hours are set by the two major stock exchanges in the United States, the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). These exchanges will only facilitate trades between the hours of 9:30am and 4:00pm Eastern time. 

However, trading doesn’t stop once normal market hours are over. Instead, there’s a large crowd of investors who make moves in the after-hours session, which starts at 4:00pm and ends at 8:00pm. 

Investors also take advantage of extended hours, trading before normal market hours in a session that starts at 8:00am and ends at 9:30am. This session is known as the premarket trading session. 

During these sessions, stocks aren’t traded on major exchanges the way they are in the general trading session. Instead, these trades are facilitated by electronic communications networks, or ECNs. More on these shortly.

The majority of traders in these sessions are institutions and high net worth investors, but the rise of availability of ECNs has made it possible for the average investor to get involved too. 

If you notice the price of a stock has jumped or fallen drastically in the time between when the market closes one day and when the market opens the next, don’t worry. It’s perfectly normal for prices to change outside of normal market hours because trading continues in these extra sessions when the major exchanges are closed for the day.  


Who Can Trade After Hours?

For decades, the after-hours market was only available to institutional investors and has long been a popular hot spot for mutual funds, hedge funds, and other deep-pocketed market participants. As recently as 1999, institutional investors were the only ones able to access these sessions.

The good news is that technology has changed the way people do just about everything, and investing is no different. Thanks to the invention of ECNs, individual investors now have a trading system that gives them the ability to make moves outside of normal trading hours. 

ECNs are complex trading systems that match buyers and sellers without the need for a traditional stock exchange like the Nasdaq or NYSE. Like a traditional exchange, ECNs provide stock quote data surrounding bid and asking prices and facilitate trades once the buyer and seller agree on the deal.

So to put it simply, today anyone can trade after hours.

However, not all brokerages provide access to these sessions. If you want to trade in the after-hours or premarket sessions, you’ll need to choose a broker that makes it possible to do so. Some of the most popular brokers that offer access to extended trading hours include Charles Schwab, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, Robinhood, Firstrade, and Webull. 


What Order Types Are Accepted After Hours?

The order types available to you in after-hours sessions largely depend on what’s offered by your broker. While most brokers that offer after-hours services offer all the same types of orders they would during normal sessions, some restrict order types to the most basic, such as buy orders, sell orders, and limit orders only.  

If there are specific types of orders you’ll need when you trade stocks, reach out to the broker you’re working with to make sure those order types are available in the after-hours and premarket sessions. 


Pros & Cons of After-Hours Trading

Trading outside of regular trading hours comes with pros and cons that should be considered before you begin to participate. 

After Hours Pros

There’s quite a bit to be excited about in the after-hours trading session. Some of the most exciting aspects of trading in the extended session include:

1. Catch the Gap

By taking part in the extended market activity, you’ll never be the victim of wide gaps between a stock’s closing price and its opening price. Because you’ll be active at all times trades can be made, you’ll be able to catch a falling stock before it hits the bottom or jump in on a rising stock before the institutions drive the price to its maximum. 

2. Take Advantage of After-Hours Catalysts

When good news is released about a company, it has the potential to send its stock skyward. Conversely, bad news can send a stock tumbling like a penny dropped from the Empire State Building. 

Unfortunately, the news that’s most likely to cause significant price fluctuations is generally released outside of normal trading hours. That can create a major problem for investors who only make trades during traditional trading sessions. 

For example, when a publicly traded company schedules its earnings report, it will either schedule it to be released before the bell (before the market opens), or after the bell (after the market closes). 

The contents of the company’s report can create big moves in its stock price — often while the earnings call is still in progress — as investors try to pile in or jump ship based on the news. By the opening bell of the next trading session, many investors have already made their move, which will be reflected by the stock’s new price at the open.

By taking part in the after-hours session, you’ll be able to make your trades as soon as the news is released, ditching a stock before its likely collapse or buying in before the masses realize the opportunity. 

3. Trade After Work

The average investor doesn’t work on Wall Street, but rather is a normal person who typically has to work elsewhere to make a living. Making investments in a market that’s only open from 9:30am to 4:00pm when you’re working a 9-to-5 job is hardly convenient. 

Before the after-hours session was available to the average investor, people had to find a way to invest on their lunch break or hire a professional to make their trades during the day for them. Today, ECNs give the average person the ability to trade outside the regular trading session, making investing far more convenient for people with limited availability during the workday.  

After-Hours Cons

While there are plenty of perks that come with trading in extended hours, there are also some significant drawbacks that investors should consider before diving in:

1. Potentially Increased Cost

Because after-hours trading is facilitated by different means than trades made during a normal trading day, costs associated with trading may be higher. Make sure to read all documents provided by your broker to get an understanding of the fees you’ll be charged for taking part in the after-hours or premarket sessions. 

2. Wider Spreads

The spread on a stock is the difference between its bid price and its ask price. These spreads are determined by market makers based on the liquidity of stocks. Stocks in high demand that are largely liquid are charged smaller fees by market makers, making spreads small. 

Because there is much lower volume in after-hours sessions than during regular market hours, spreads increase, leading to higher costs represented as wider spreads. 

Ultimately, with low demand and a lower liquidity, it is difficult for individual investors to buy in at low prices. 

3. Heavy Volatility

The vast majority of investors who trade after hours are institutional and high net worth investors who often buy and sell large blocks of shares. When these large blocks hit the market, and a large institution is willing to sell to another, wide swings in stock prices happen. 

So, while there’s lower trading volume in the extended session, the volume that does take place has the potential to move the needle in a big way, leading to a high volatility. 

4. Delays

Finally, the technology used to process trades in after-hours and premarket sessions is very different from that of regular trading hours. In these extended sessions, trades are more delayed. 

This can create a bit of a problem. 

With fewer traders active in extended sessions, there are already fewer people out there willing to buy or sell shares. Add in lags and other delays in the processing of orders, and some of the orders you place in these after-hours sessions may not even go through. 


Final Word

After-hours trading is simply the process of trading outside of the regular trading session hours. However, there’s far more to this type of trading than initially meets the eye. 

While it may seem convenient to access the market after it closes, most retail investors are better off avoiding the process altogether. 

After all, not only will you pay higher fees to make trades in extended sessions, but retail investors tend to find themselves in David and Goliath-style financial battles with big money institutions. 

While there are benefits to being able to trade the news as soon as it’s released, high volatility, stiff competition, and added fees add to the general risks associated with investing and should be thoughtfully considered before you dive into after-hours trading. 

As always, whether you’re trading in the normal or extended sessions, the foundation of profitable moves in the stock market is quality research. Always be sure to do your research before making any investments. 

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Source: moneycrashers.com

Why You May Have to Take Your Shoes Off at an Open House

It’s been a long week, and now you’re spending your weekend house hunting, running from one open house to another. You’re tired but still hopeful as you step into yet another home, only to be greeted with a command: Take off your shoes. What gives?

It might sound like a ridiculous request, but it’s not. Sellers have good reasons to make their open houses shoeless, but they should also take care not to offend buyers in the process.

What’s the big deal about shoes?

Sellers go through the trouble of making their homes sparkling clean before an open house, paying for that shine from their wallets or with their own sweat. Open houses can attract hundreds of people—and twice that number of feet—so some sellers want to reduce the chance of floor damage, like from the following:

Scuffs: With tons of people coming and going, it’s possible one or more might ding up a hardwood floor with heavy boots or high heels.

Salt damage: When it snows, there’s salt. The same substance that provides traction on slick surfaces can act like sandpaper on hardwood or laminate flooring.

Wet spots: Since there’s not necessarily anyone to clean up after guests, tracked-in water can create a falling hazard. It also dirties up carpets.

Dirt, mud … and worse: How often do you check the bottom of your shoe? Chances are, there’s something gross under there.

Reduce the risk of offense

If you’re a seller, asking buyers to make an effort that’s out of the ordinary carries a risk. Some buyers feel uncomfortable taking off their shoes to show dirty or torn-up socks. Others might simply feel offended by the idea of their shoes being too dirty for admittance. Plus, the inconvenience of having to bend down and untie one’s shoes can diminish the “wow” factor of the front room, slightly sour a first impression, or simply make buyers feel awkward.

So, make the no-shoe rule as convenient as possible:

Put a sign outside: By informing buyers upfront, you’ll save them an awkward confrontation with your listing agent inside. Make the sign apologetic or add a touch of humor to put buyers at ease.

Create a shoe-shedding space: You don’t want buyers forming a line or bumping into one another to get their shoes on or off. If you have a tiny mudroom, consider setting up some chairs in a larger area in the adjacent room.

Keep it organized: Keep those shoes easy to find and out of the way with a shoe rack positioned against the wall.

Provide slippers: Consider buying inexpensive, nonslip slippers or socks for your guests.

Turn on the heat: A cold floor can make potential buyers rush through your house. Keep the heat on a little warmer than usual.

Provide hand sanitizer and towels: Your buyers might end up with mud or dirt on their hands, so have some hand sanitizer and paper towels ready, plus a trash can for the refuse.

Be flexible: You might need to make exceptions. If some buyers have orthopedic needs, it’s best not to press them to take off their shoes or they probably won’t bother coming in. Talk with your agent about how much you’re willing to budge. A large welcome mat can be handy in these situations.

Source: realtor.com