The difference between thrift stores and consignment shops

Consignment and antique shops are great, but they tend to be pricier because their collections are curated. These stores do all the hunting down and fixing up for you, and that service is offset via higher price tags. While consignment shops are more likely to have highly sought after antiques from pedigreed brands, you can still certainly find hidden gems at nearly any thrift store — you just may have to put in more effort to find what you’re looking for. Balance the odds of what you want being there with the price range you’re willing to pay when deciding where to shop.


Getting what you need while giving back to the community

Many of your favorite causes run thrift shops to help fund their programs and services. Prime Thrift near Fair Park benefits American Veterans (AMVETS), Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and other local and national charitable organizations, while Out of the Closet in Oak Lawn benefits the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Genesis Women’s Shelter, a nonprofit that provides safety, shelter and support for women and children who have experienced domestic violence, operates two thrift stores: one in Oak Lawn and another in South Oak Cliff. There are four Soul’s Harbor locations throughout the metroplex, with proceeds going toward its programs to help men break the cycle of homelessness and addiction. Some of these shops even have exclusive relationships with estate liquidators, increasing your chances of finding treasures among their wares.

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If you’re looking for a bit more than just decor, check out your local ReStore, which benefits Habitat for Humanity. There, you can find actual building materials, such as tile, cabinets, wood flooring, windows, doors or even vintage brick. In addition to these, they also have plenty of new and vintage home furnishings, large appliances and more. With 10 locations across D-FW, it’s a convenient alternative to big-box stores when shopping for your next home design project.

Choose your shopping days wisely

For donation-based thrift stores, Mondays and Tuesdays are typically the best days to shop, because most people tend to drop off items early in the week after spending the weekend cleaning. Signing up for emails is a great way to stay on top of the latest finds and deals, but there’s just no substitute for going in regularly. It works the same with searching online, whether it’s eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. “I’m a huge fan of Facebook Marketplace” says Whitney Marsh, an interior designer and business owner who furnished her Oak Cliff coffee shop, B-Side, with thrifted finds. “I also really love Souls Harbor in Waxahachie,” Marsh notes.

Whitney Marsh, an interior designer and business owner, furnished her Oak Cliff coffee shop B-Side with thrifted finds, including this handmade tile she found for less than $100.(Whitney Marsh)

Have a strategy before you start shopping

There are two ways to go about hunting vintage pieces. Either have a piece or project in mind and know what you want to pay for it, or be able to spot a good deal. This can involve researching brands, pieces, and eras to be able to find your ideal mix of quality pieces that aren’t in demand. Marsh says that’s her strategy. “I know what I like, and I also know what brands are known for quality goods,” she explains. “I definitely have a style. I’m drawn toward leather furniture, solid wood, wool rugs and unique art.”

Marsh created this seating area using chairs thrifted from Soul’s Harbor and a unique brass ship she found through Facebook marketplace.(Whitney Marsh)

For example, you may love midcentury modern (MCM) pieces, but the popularity of decor from that era means there’s more demand, and unscrupulous sellers may assign that label to random items in order to get them to sell. You may find more success by researching some favorite brands or designers from the MCM era and looking for those specifically to avoid fake listings and inflated prices. Be aware that people will list items online with a famous brand name keyword to get more hits, such as saying a “Pottery Barn-style” rug or “MCM-style lamp.” If you’re shopping in person, don’t be afraid to ask the store’s staff about an item you’re looking for; they may have something similar that just hasn’t been put out yet. Or, they might be willing to take down your name and keep an eye out for items on your list — especially if you’re a regular customer.

Simple design rules to consider

In this area Marsh designed for a client, she paired a thrifted console with a modern lamp and abstract art to create balance.(Whitney Marsh)

Once you’ve found that unique piece you’ve been searching for, how do you style it? Thrifted pieces bring character into a space, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing, says Marsh. “I like to pair thrifted pieces with more high-end textiles. I love an old leather sofa that’s worn in against a very bold luxury wallpaper.” If you buy a well-worn piece and want to play up that lived-in aesthetic, try to surround it with items that are clean and modern. Too much rusticity can end up looking like neglect. Same goes for smaller items, such as pots, frames or books — space them out in designed vignettes throughout your home instead of clustering them all together. Also, keep in mind that pairing thrifted furniture is easier when they share some similar elements. For example, mismatched nightstands look more cohesive if they are roughly the same size and color.

Thrifting can be a way to save big, depending on when and where you shop, and what you’re looking for. “I definitely shop with a specific corner or space in mind. I also really only pull the trigger on things that seem like they’re good quality and the right price,” says Marsh. But if you’re patient, persistent and know what you want and what you’re willing to pay for it, it’s just a matter of time before you find it.

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Hey, I’ve just been featured on CNBC and I want to say hello to all of my new readers. You can read the CNBC article here – I made $40,000 a month from 3 income streams during a 4-month cruise around the world—here’s how If you are a new visitor – welcome to Making Sense…


I’ve just been featured on CNBC and I want to say hello to all of my new readers.

You can read the CNBC article here – I made $40,000 a month from 3 income streams during a 4-month cruise around the world—here’s how

If you are a new visitor – welcome to Making Sense of Cents!

I have received many emails about how I was able to afford this trip. I have a free How To Start A Blog course that you can sign up for here. I also talk about this below and how I’ve been able to earn over $5,000,000 blogging over the years.

If you want to read more about my world cruise trip, I recommend reading Around-The-World Cruise With A Kid (25+ Countries In 4 Months!).

Here are some blog posts that you may find helpful and enjoy:

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or send me an email.

Thanks for stopping by.

-Michelle Schroeder-Gardner


In addition to reading the CNBC article linked above, I also want to talk about how I grew a blog that has earned me over $5,000,000. I know I will get a lot of questions, so I figured it’s best to lay it all out right here 🙂

What started as just a hobby turned into one of the most life-changing things I’ve ever done – that’s starting my blog, and learning how to make money with it.

Since learning how to monetize a blog over 10 years ago, I have now earned over $5,000,000 from my site. This is still hard for me to believe, and I’m the one who’s lived it!

In the beginning, all I was doing was tracking my own personal finance progress as I finished school and started paying off my student loans. Blogging was a very new concept to me at the time – I heard about it from a magazine – and people were just learning how to monetize blogs back in 2011.

Most bloggers started back then with display ads and sponsored posts, but the options have only increased. 

Because of all of the new ways to make money blogging, like affiliate income and selling your own products, you can make somewhat passive income as a blogger. 

Passive income is my favorite way to make money because it makes blogging even more flexible and something I can do as I work from home, travel, and work whenever I want. 

Blogging has changed my life for the better, and I’m now earning thousands of dollars a month doing something I love.

Learning how to monetize a blog takes work and time, but it’s 100% possible to do. I started earning money after just six months of blogging, and I didn’t even set out to make money when I created Making Sense of Cents. Just think of the potential if you start out knowing that making money blogging is possible!

Starting my blog is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my work, personal, and financial life. And, I urge anyone who is interested to start a blog and learn how to monetize it.

How I earned my first income from blogging

Many of my readers have heard this story, but I love sharing it because I started out like many of you, except I had no idea that blogs could make money. When I started Making Sense in August of 2011, I simply wanted a way to keep track of my financial progress and meet others who had similar goals.

As I started getting to know other bloggers in the community, a blogger friend of mine connected me with an advertiser who was willing to pay me $100 for an advertisement.

I couldn’t believe someone would pay me $100 to advertise on my site! 

While it wasn’t a lot of money, especially considering the amount of time and work I put towards my blog in those 6 months, it was very motivating to see that something I loved doing could actually make money.

After that first $100, I started doing a lot of research on how to monetize a blog, and my blogging income quickly grew from there.

One year after I started my blog, I was earning around $1,000 a month, and I was making around $10,000 monthly two years after I started Making Sense of Cents.

My income only continued to grow, and I am still earning a healthy income from this website today.

How To Start A Blog FREE Course

If you want to learn how to monetize a blog and you haven’t started your blog, then I recommend starting with my free blogging course How To Start A Blog FREE Course.

Here’s a quick outline of what you will learn in this free course:

  • Day 1: Reasons you should start a blog
  • Day 2: How to determine what to blog about
  • Day 3: How to create your blog – in this lesson, you will learn how to start a blog on WordPress, and my tutorial makes it very easy to start a blog
  • Day 4: How to monetize a blog – this is where you learn about the many different ways to make money blogging!
  • Day 5: My tips for earning passive income from your blog
  • Day 6: How to grow your traffic and followers
  • Day 7: Miscellaneous blogging tips that will help you be successful

This is delivered directly to your email inbox, and you will learn how to grow a blog from scratch.

Start with a plan for your blog

Sure, you can start on a whim, and that’s kind of what I did, haha.

But, I do think that creating a plan is a good idea if you want to learn how to monetize a blog. This can help you get an organized start, identify your blog’s niche, decide on your blogging goals, find opportunities for blogging income, and more.

It wasn’t until 2015 that I finally created a blogging plan (that’s 4 years after I started!), and my blog income grew significantly after that.

I credit that growth to creating a plan!

Having a plan would have been a huge help in the beginning, and I wish I would have started with one. I probably missed some income opportunities because I had no real plan or direction in the first couple of years. 

Since creating a blogging plan, I became more focused on goals and motivated toward improving and building Making Sense of Cents.

Here are some questions that you may want to ask yourself when creating a plan for your blog:

  • What will you write about on your blog?
  • How do you want to make money with your blog?
  • What will you do to reach readers on your blog?
  • What are your goals for your blog?

Thinking about, researching, and answering these questions will help guide you on your journey and help you decide what to do next.

Write high-quality and engaging blog posts

Your blog’s content is extremely important. This will be what attracts your readers, has them coming back for more, earns you blogging income, and more.

Now, you don’t need to be an expert or need a degree to start talking about a subject, but you do need to be knowledgeable or interested in what you are talking about. And, always be truthful! This will show in your writing and actually help your readers.

To write high-quality content on your blog, here are some tips:

  • Figure out exactly what it is that you’d like to write about and why you think the content is important. Being passionate about a subject will give you the motivation to write content that people want to read. Just think about it: If you don’t enjoy writing your content, then why should you expect someone else to want to read it?
  • Ask your audience what they want you to write about. Many of my best ideas come from expanding on reader questions.
  • Research your blog topics by reading news articles, going to a library, searching for statistics and interesting facts, and more. 
  • If your blog posts are more personal in nature, then dig deep and share your thoughts, and be personable in your writing – your readers want to hear your story!
  • Write long, helpful content. Sure, some great content may only be a few hundred words, but to be as helpful as possible, long content is usually the best. My content is usually over 2,000 words, and this article is around 5,000. Now, you don’t want to just write a lot of fluff content in order to get more words in – you want to actually be helpful!
  • Reread your content. I used to read my content 10 times or more before I would publish it. Now, I have an editor who makes sure I’m always publishing high-quality content.

Network, network, network

If you want to learn how to monetize a blog, then networking can be extremely helpful.

Networking can mean:

  • Making friends with other bloggers
  • Attending blogging conferences
  • Sharing content that other bloggers have written
  • Following other bloggers in your niche on social media
  • Signing up for other bloggers’ newsletters
  • Joining blogging groups on Facebook

Some bloggers don’t do any of these things and purely see other bloggers as competition. I don’t believe this is the correct way to approach blogging because you will hold yourself back immensely!

Networking is important because it can help you enjoy blogging (friends are nice to have, right?!), teach you new ideas (such as how to make money blogging or how to grow a blog), make valuable connections, and more.

Keep in mind that networking is even how I earned my very first $100 blogging. My blogging friend connected me with an advertiser, which helped changed my blogging journey.

I have learned a lot about blogging from the blogging community, and the people I’ve connected with have been a tremendous support as I’ve grown my blog.

Be prepared to put in a lot of hard work

Starting a blog is relatively easy. But, growing and learning how to monetize a blog takes a lot of work. 

You’ll have to:

  • Start a blog, design it, create social media accounts, and more
  • Write high-quality blog posts
  • Attract an audience of readers
  • Monetize your blog
  • Continue learning about blogging
  • And more

Even when I was just a new blogger and had no plans of making money blogging, I was still spending well over 10 hours a week on Making Sense of Cents.

When I was working my full-time day job and earning an income from my blog, I was working around 40-50 hours a week on my blog on top of my day job!

Now that I blog full-time, my hours vary. Some months I hardly work, and there are other months that I may work 100 hours a week.

It’s not easy, and there’s always something that needs to be done.

But, I absolutely love blogging, which makes the hard work a little less tough. 

How to monetize a blog: 4 different ways

There are many different ways you can monetize your blog, including:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Advertisements and sponsorships
  • Display advertising
  • Create your own product, such as an ebook, course, physical or online products, and more

You could choose to monetize your blog using all of these methods, or even just one. It’s just a personal decision.

For me, I like to be diversified and monetize in many ways, so I do them all.

Below, I am going to dive a little deeper into each way to make money blogging.

1. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing can be a great way to make money blogging because if there is a product or company that you enjoy, all you have to do is review the product and share a unique affiliate link where your readers can sign up or make a purchase. 

In fact, this is my favorite way to monetize a blog. I enjoy it because it can be quite passive – I can create just one blog post and potentially earn an income from it years later. This is because even though a blog post may be older, I am still constantly driving traffic to it and readers are still purchasing through my affiliate links.

Affiliate marketing is a blog monetization method where you share a link to a product or company with your readers in an attempt to make an income from followers purchasing the product through your link. 

Here are some quick tips so that you can make affiliate income on your blog:

  • Use the Pretty Link plugin to clean up messy-looking affiliate links. I use this for nearly all of my affiliate links because something like “” looks much better than the long, crazy-looking links that affiliate programs usually give you.
  • Provide real reviews. You should always be honest with your reviews. If there is something you don’t like about a product, either don’t review the product at all or mention the negatives in your review.
  • Ask for a commission increase. If you are doing well with a particular affiliate program, ask to increase your commissions.
  • Build a relationship with your affiliate manager. Your affiliate manager can supply your readers with valuable coupons, commission increases, bonuses, and more.
  • Write tutorials. Readers want to know how they can use a product. Showing them how to use it, how it can benefit them, and more are all very helpful.
  • Don’t go overboard. There is no need to include an affiliate link 1,000 times in a blog post. Include them at the beginning, middle, and end, and readers will notice it. Perhaps bold it or find another way for it to stand out as well.

You can learn more about affiliate marketing strategies in my course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

Advertisements and sponsorships example

2. Advertisements and sponsorships

Advertising on a blog is one of the first ways that bloggers learn how to monetize a blog. In fact, it’s exactly how I started!

This form of blogging income is when you directly partner with a company and advertise for them on your website or social media accounts.

You may be writing a review for them, a tutorial, talking about their product or company, taking pictures, and so on.

If you want to learn how to increase your advertising-income, I recommend taking my Making Sense of Sponsored Posts course. 

Display advertising example

3. Display advertising

Display advertising is one of the easiest ways to make money blogging, but it most likely won’t earn you the most, especially in the beginning.

I’m sure you’ve seen display ads before. They may be on the sidebar, at the top of a post, within a blog post, and so on.

The ads are automatically added when you join an advertising network, and you do not need to manually add these ads to your blog.

Your display advertising income increases or decreases almost entirely based on your page views, and once you place the advertisement, there’s no direct work to be done.

If you want to learn how to monetize a blog through display advertising, then some popular networks include Adsense, MediaVine, and AdThrive.

Personally, I use AdThrive for my display advertising network. I don’t have many display advertisements on my blog, but it is easy income.

Sell your own product example

4. Sell your own products

Another popular way to monetize a blog is to create a sell your own products. 

This could be an online product, something that you ship, and so on, such as:

  • An online course
  • A coaching program
  • An eBook
  • Printables
  • Memberships
  • Clothing, candles, artwork, hard copy books, and anything else you can think of

And the list goes on and on. I have seen bloggers be very successful in selling all kinds of things on their blogs.

What’s great about selling your own product is that you are in complete control of what you are selling, and your income is virtually unlimited in many cases.

I launched my first product about 5 years after I created Making Sense of Cents, which was a blogging course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I regret not creating something sooner because this has been an excellent source of income and has helped many people along the way.

Have an email list

If you really want to learn how to monetize a blog, I recommend that you start an email list from the very beginning.

I waited several years to start my email list, and that was a huge mistake!

Here’s why you need an email list right away:

  • Your newsletter is YOURS. Unlike social media sites, your newsletter and email subscribers are all yours, and you have their undivided attention. You don’t have to worry about algorithms not displaying your content to readers, and this is because they are your email subscribers. You aren’t fighting with anyone else to have them see your content.
  • The money is in your email list. I believe that email newsletters are the best way to promote an affiliate product. Your email subscribers signed up to hear what YOU have to write about, so you clearly have their full attention. Your email list, over any other promotional strategy, will almost always lead to more income and sales.
  • Your email subscribers are loyal to you. If someone is allowing you to show up in their inbox whenever you want, then they probably trust what you have to say and enjoy listening to you. This is a great way to grow an audience and a loyal one at that.
  • Email is a great way to deliver other forms of content. With Convertkit, I am able to easily create free email courses that are automatically sent to my subscribers. Once a reader signs up, Convertkit sends out all the information they need in whatever time frame I choose to deliver the content.

Attract readers

As a new blogger, you’ll want to find ways to attract a readership to your blog and your article.

No, you don’t need millions and millions of page views to earn a good living from blogging. In fact, I know some bloggers who receive 1,000,000 page views yet make less money than those with 100,000 monthly page views.

Every website is different, but once you learn what your audience wants, you can start to really make money blogging, regardless of how many page views you receive.

Having a successful blog is all about having a loyal audience and helping them with your content.

Even with all of that being said, if you want to learn how to monetize a blog, learning how to improve your traffic is valuable. The more loyal and engaged followers you have, the more money you may be able to make through your blog.

There are many ways to grow your readership, such as:

  • Write high-quality articles. Your blog posts should always be high-quality and helpful, and it means readers will want to come back for more.
  • Find social media sites to be active on. There are many social media platforms you can be active on, such as Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, and others.
  • Regularly share new posts. For most blogs, you should publish content at least once a week. Readers may forget about you if you go for weeks or months at a time without a blog post.
  • Guest post. Guest posting is a great way to reach a new audience, as it can bring new readers to your blog who will potentially subscribe to it. 
  • Make sure it’s easy to share your content. I love sharing posts on social media. However, it gets frustrating when some blogs make it more difficult than it needs to be. You should always make sure it’s easy for readers to share your content, which means your social media icons should be easy to find, all of the info input and ready for sharing (title, link, and your username tagged), and so on. Also, you should make sure that when someone clicks on one of your sharing icons the title isn’t in CAPS (I’ve seen this too many times!). 
  • Write better titles. The title of your post can either bring readers to you or deter them from clicking over. A great free tool to write better headlines is CoSchedule’s Headline tool.
  • Apply SEO strategies. SEO (search engine optimization) is not something I can teach in this small section, but I go over it below in another section.
  • Have a clean and user-friendly blog design. If you want more page views, you should make it as easy as possible for readers to navigate your blog. It should be easy for readers to find your blog homepage, search bar, blog posts, and so on.

Now, I also want to talk about helpful resources, courses, and more that can help you to learn how to grow your page views on your blog.

Below are some of my favorite blogging resources to help you improve your traffic:

Grow through SEO

SEO (search engine optimization) is how you get organic search traffic to your blog. 

When you search a phrase on Google, you’ll see a bunch of different websites as the results. This is the result of these websites applying SEO strategies to their blog.

This is a great way for readers to find your blog, and SEO is important to pay attention to as you learn how to monetize a blog!

Below are some of my favorite SEO resources:

  • Stupid Simple SEO: This is my favorite overall SEO course, and one of the most popular for bloggers. I highly recommend taking it. I have gone through the whole course, and I constantly refer back to it.
  • Easy On-Page SEO: This is an easy-to-follow approach to learning on-page SEO so your articles can rank on Google. I have read this ebook twice, and it is super helpful.
  • Easy Backlinks for SEO: This ebook will show you 31 different ways to build backlinks, which are needed for SEO.
  • How To Get 50,000 Pageviews per Month With Keyword Research: This ebook shares the steps for keyword research so that you can get SEO traffic to your website.

Common questions about how to monetize a blog

Below, I’m going to answer some questions I’ve received about how to start a blog such as:

  • How many views do you need to monetize a blog?
  • How do beginner bloggers make money?
  • Why do bloggers fail?
  • How many posts should I have before I launch my blog?
  • How many times a week should I post on my blog?

How many views do you need to monetize a blog?

The amount of page views needed to make money blogging varies, and there is no magic number that you should be aiming for.

This is because it depends on so many factors, such as how you will monetize your blog, your niche, the number of email subscribers you have, the quality of your website, and more.

You may see success with 10,000 page views a month, or you may see success with over 100,000 page views a month. It simply depends on the factors above.

How do beginner bloggers make money?

Beginner bloggers can make money in many different ways, such as display advertising, affiliate marketing, creating their own products, and sponsorships.

You can start any of these right from the very beginning.

Display advertising is usually the easiest way to begin monetizing a blog, but the payoff is not very high, especially in the beginning when your page views are not high.

How many posts should I have before I launch my blog?

I recommend just launching your blog as soon as you have one blog post and a design. Building a huge backlog of blog posts isn’t usually needed, and it can prevent you from ever getting started!

How many times a week should I post on my blog?

The more blog posts you have, then the more traffic you may get. That’s because it’s more opportunities to show up in Google searches or share your posts on social media.

I recommend publishing a new blog post at least once a week. Anything less isn’t advised.

Publishing blog posts consistently is smart because readers know to expect regular content from you.

Why do bloggers fail?

Bloggers fail for many different reasons. These reasons may include:

  • Giving up too soon. It takes time to make money blogging, and sadly, many people give up just a few months into starting a blog.
  • Not publishing consistently. I recommend publishing content at least once a week, as described in the previous section. Some new bloggers may go months without publishing, and this will take them much longer to make money blogging as they are simply not dedicating enough time to their blog.
  • Not spending enough time learning about blogging. Blogging is not as easy as you may think. There is a lot to learn in order to make it work. You may need to learn about how to grow your blog’s traffic, how to monetize a blog, how to write high-quality content, and more.
  • Not having your own domain and self-hosting. If you want to make money blogging, I highly recommend owning your domain name and being self-hosted. The longer you put this easy step off, the longer it will most likely take for you to make money blogging. You can learn more at How To Start a WordPress Blog.

And much more. Blogging is like any business – there are things to learn, things to improve on, and more.

How do I start a blog?

If you have any other questions related to starting a blog, I recommend checking out What Is A Blog, How Do Blogs Make Money, & More. In this article, I answer more questions related to blogging such as:

  • How do I come up with a blog name?
  • What blogs make the most money?
  • How do you design a blog?
  • How many views do you need to make money blogging?
  • How many blog posts should I have before launching?
  • How do I get my blog noticed by Google?
  • How long until a blog makes money?
  • How do blogs make money?
  • How do bloggers get paid?

And more.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

Thanks for reading!


Apache is functioning normally

Louisiana has a rich mix of culture, history, and natural beauty. From the vibrant jazz rhythms that echo through the streets of New Orleans to the historic charm of Baton Rouge, the state captivates visitors with its unique blend of Creole and Cajun influences. Whether exploring the lively French Quarter or meandering along the serene bayous, Louisiana offers a sensory feast for the adventurous traveler. However, living in Louisiana comes with its own set of challenges. In this ApartmentGuide article, we’ll go through the pros and cons of living in Louisiana, providing you insight on what life is like in the state.

Renting in Louisiana snapshot

1. Pro: Rich cultural heritage

Louisiana’s cultural heritage is evident in its diverse architecture, vibrant traditions, and exuberant festivals. For example, the French Quarter in New Orleans stands as a living testament to the state’s colonial past, with its picturesque streets lined with historic buildings dating back centuries. Annual events like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest epitomize Louisiana’s multicultural influences, drawing visitors from around the globe.

2. Con: Hurricane risk

Louisiana’s geographical location along the Gulf Coast exposes it to a significant risk of hurricanes, which can result in catastrophic damage to homes, infrastructure, and communities. For instance, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 left a trail of destruction in their wake.

3. Pro: Culinary scene

Louisiana’s culinary scene is renowned worldwide for its tantalizing array of flavors and dishes that reflect the state’s cultural melting pot. From iconic classics like gumbo and crawfish boils to innovative fusion cuisine blending Cajun, Creole, and international influences, Louisiana offers a gastronomic adventure for food enthusiasts. For instance, the West Bank area of New Orleans is celebrated for its Vietnamese-Cajun cuisine, where dishes like pho and crawfish are creatively combined to create unique culinary delights.

4. Con: Mosquitoes and pests

Louisiana’s warm and humid climate provides an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests, which can be a persistent nuisance and pose health risks to residents. From pesky mosquitoes swarming during outdoor activities to invasive species like Formosan termites wreaking havoc on homes and structures, you’ll want to try preventative measures to mange them.

5. Pro: Natural beauty and outdoor activities

Louisiana’s natural beauty is as diverse as it is breathtaking, encompassing swamps, bayous, and coastal marshes teeming with wildlife. Residents have many opportunities to immerse themselves in the picturesque scenery, whether it’s embarking on a swamp tour to encounter alligators and herons, kayaking through the tranquil waters of the Atchafalaya Basin, or birdwatching in the pristine habitats of the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge.

6. Con: Poor infrastructure

Louisiana ranks as one of the top 10 states with the worst infrastructure. The state faces ongoing challenges, including aging roads, bridges, and levees, which are susceptible to damage from hurricanes and other natural disasters. For example, the state’s transportation network may suffer from congestion, potholes, and delays, impacting residents’ daily commutes and hindering economic development.

7. Pro: Vibrant music scene

With genres ranging from jazz and blues to zydeco and Cajun music, Louisiana’s music scene is known around the globe. Cities like New Orleans and Lafayette are great cities to find some live music, where residents can revel in performances by local musicians and renowned artists. From the soulful melodies of jazz bands in Frenchmen Street to the infectious energy of zydeco dance halls, Louisiana’s music scene is an integral part of its cultural identity.

8. Con: Traffic congestion

Urban areas in Louisiana, particularly New Orleans and Baton Rouge, grapple with heavy traffic congestion, especially during peak hours, leading to frustration for drivers and increased pollution levels. From gridlocked highways to bottlenecked intersections, navigating the city streets can be a daunting and time-consuming task, impacting productivity and quality of life for residents.

9. Pro: Sports culture

Louisiana residents are fervent sports enthusiasts, with football reigning supreme as a source of community pride and camaraderie. Whether it’s cheering on the New Orleans Saints in the electric atmosphere of the Superdome or the LSU Tigers at the iconic Tiger Stadium, sports culture unites fans across the state in a shared passion for their teams.

10. Con: High humidity

Louisiana’s subtropical climate brings high humidity levels, especially during the hot and humid summer months, which can make outdoor activities uncomfortable and exacerbate feelings of heat exhaustion. From sticky, sweltering days to muggy nights, coping with the oppressive humidity can take a toll on residents’ physical comfort and well-being.

11. Pro: Festive atmosphere

You’ll find a festive atmosphere year-round in this state, with a calendar brimming with cultural celebrations and events that showcase Louisiana’s way of life. From the colorful pageantry of Carnival season with its elaborate floats and masked revelers to community festivals celebrating everything from seafood to music, there’s always something to celebrate in Louisiana.

12. Con: Limited public transportation

Outside of larger cities like New Orleans, public transportation options in Louisiana may be limited, leaving residents without access to personal vehicles at a disadvantage. For instance, rural areas may lack reliable bus services or commuter rail connections, making it challenging for residents to access essential services, employment opportunities, and educational institutions.

Methodology : The population data is from the United States Census Bureau, walkable cities are from Walk Score, and rental data is from ApartmentGuide.


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As the temperatures rise and flowers begin to bloom, it’s the perfect time to breathe new life into your home with the latest spring decor trends. Whether you’re looking to add a pop of color, add natural elements, or simply refresh your space, we’ve got you covered with this guide to trending spring decor.

Embrace Soft Pastels

Welcome in the soft, warm colors of spring. Pastel shades such as blush pink, soft lavender, and baby blue are perfect for adding a fresh and airy feel to any room. Consider incorporating these colors through accent pillows, throws, or artwork to instantly lift the mood in your space.

Bring the Outdoors In

Embrace nature by incorporating natural elements into your decor. Think lush greenery, botanical prints, and earthy textures like rattan and jute. Hanging planters, potted succulents, and botanical-inspired wallpaper can help create a sense of serenity.

Play with Patterns

Add visual interest to your space by mixing and matching different patterns. From bold florals to geometric designs, experimenting with patterns can add depth and personality to any room. Try layering patterned rugs, mixing throw pillows, or introducing patterned wallpaper for a more eclectic look.

Opt for Light and Airy Fabrics

Say goodbye to your heavy drapes and opt for lightweight fabrics that allow natural light to filter through. Sheer curtains, linen upholstery, and cotton throws are perfect for creating an airy atmosphere. Not only do these fabrics add texture to your space, but they also help create a sense of openness.

Incorporate Sustainable Elements

With a growing emphasis on sustainability, eco-friendly decor is more popular than ever. Look for furniture and accessories made from sustainable materials such as reclaimed wood, bamboo, or recycled glass. Not only will you be reducing your environmental impact, but you’ll also be adding a unique touch to your space.

Add a Touch of Charm

Inject a sense of playfulness into your decor with unique accents and unexpected details. Whether it’s a fun vase, a vibrant piece of artwork, or a bright accent pillow, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. These unexpected touches can add character and charm to your space.

Cover Photo by Rikonavt


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If you’re trying to save some money, trimming some discretionary spending categories from your budget can be a good way to start.

But it isn’t necessarily the only or best way to save — especially if reducing or removing things like streaming services, concerts, or monthly massages from your budget makes it harder to stick to your plan.

Instead, it may make sense to track where your money is going for a few weeks and then take a look at all your spending categories to determine which cuts could have the biggest impact.

What Are Spending Categories?

Spending categories can help you group similar expenses together to better organize your budget. They can come in handy when you’re laying out your spending priorities, deciding how much money to allot toward various wants and needs, and determining whether an expense is essential or nonessential.

Many of the budgets you’ll see online use pretty much the same spending categories, such as housing, transportation, utilities, food, childcare, and entertainment. But you may find it’s more useful to track your spending for a while with a money tracker, and then create some of your own categories. You may choose to drill down to specific bills or go broader, breaking down your budget into just the basics.

By personalizing your spending categories, you may be able to put together a budget that’s more manageable — and, therefore, one you’re more likely to stay with.

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How Do Spending Categories Work?

To customize your spending categories, it can help to gather as much information as possible about where your money is actually going.

You can start by looking at old bank and credit card statements to get a good picture of past spending. Your bigger spending categories should be easier to figure out. Those bills are often due on the same day every month and are usually about the same amount. But you’ll also want to keep an eye out for expenses that come just once or a few times a year (such as taxes, vet bills, etc.). And, if you use cash frequently, you’ll want to determine where that money went, too.

A tracking app can help you grasp the hard truth about your spending as you move forward. That cute plant you bought for your windowsill? Pitching in for a co-worker’s going-away gift? Those little splurges can add up before you know it.

Once your spending picture comes into focus, you can divide your expenses into useful personal budget categories, and start thinking about what you might be able to trim or cut out altogether.
💡 Quick Tip: When you have questions about what you can and can’t afford, a spending tracker app can show you the answer. With no guilt trip or hourly fee.

Examples of Spending Categories

Although it can be effective to organize your spending categories in a way that’s unique to you, there are a few basic classifications that can work for most households when making a budget: They include:

Essential Spending

•   Housing: This category could include your rent or mortgage payment, property taxes, homeowners or renters insurance, HOA fees, etc.

•   Utilities: You could limit this to basic services like gas, electricity, and water, or you might decide to include your cell phone service, cable, and WiFi costs.

•   Food: This amount could be limited to what you spend on groceries every month, or it could include your at-home and away-from-home food costs.

•   Transportation: Your car payment could go in this category, along with fuel costs, parking fees, car maintenance, car insurance, public transportation, and DMV fees. You could also include the cost of Uber rides.

•   Childcare: If you need childcare while you work, this cost would be considered necessary spending. If it’s for a night out, you may want to move it to the entertainment or personal care category.

•   Medical Costs and Health Care: This could include your health insurance premiums, insurance co-pays and prescription costs, vision and dental care, etc.

•   Clothing: Clothing is a must-have, of course, but with limits. You may want to put impulse items in a separate category as a nonessential or discretionary expense.

Non-essential Spending

•   Travel: This category would be for any travel that isn’t work-related, whether it’s a road trip or a vacation in Paris.

•   Entertainment: You could get pretty broad in this category, but anything from streaming services and videogames to concerts and plays could go here.

•   Personal: This might be your category for things like salon visits, your gym membership, and clothes and accessories that are more of a want than a need.

•   Gifts: If you’re a generous gift-giver, you may find you need a separate category for these expenses.

Other Spending

•   Savings and investments: Though it isn’t “essential” for day-to-day life, putting money aside for long- and short-term goals is a must for most budgets.

•   Emergency fund: This will be your go-to for unexpected car repairs, home repairs, or medical bills.

•   Debt repayment: Student loan payments, credit card debt, and other balances you’re trying to pay off could fit in this category.

Pros and Cons of Spending Categories

The idea of making a budget can be daunting, particularly if you’re trying to fit your needs and wants into spending categories that aren’t suited to how you live. Here are some pros and cons to using categories for spending that might keep you motivated and help you avoid potential budgeting pitfalls.


•   More control: Creating a budget with spending categories that match your lifestyle can help you put your money toward things that really matter to you.

•   Less stress: If you’re living paycheck to paycheck even though you know your income is sufficient to cover your needs, a budget with realistic spending categories can help you see where your money is going.

•   Better planning: Whether you’re trying to save for a vacation, wedding, house, retirement, or all of the above, including those goals in your spending categories will help ensure they get your attention.


•   May feel limiting: Working with a budget can feel restrictive, especially if you’ve been winging it for a while or aren’t including enough discretionary spending.

•   Time consuming: It might take some trial and error to find a budget system that works for you. And if you’re budgeting as a couple, you’ll likely have to work out some compromises when determining your spending categories.

•   Requires maintenance: Budgeting isn’t a one and done. You’ll be more likely to succeed if you consistently track your spending to make sure you’re hitting your goals.

Common Spending Categories to Cut First

Often when you see or hear budgeting advice, it tends to focus on cutting back on small extras — $6 daily lattes at your favorite café, for example, or those weekly Happy Meals for the kids. Some other top spending categories that traditionally are among the first to hit the chopping block include:

•   Gym memberships

•   Dining out

•   Subscription services you don’t use anymore

•   Cable

•   Personal care services you can do at home for less, such as manicures and pedicures

•   Alcoholic beverages

•   Cigarettes and vaping products

•   Vacations

But it can also be useful to review, and potentially cut back on, how much you’re budgeting for basic living expenses, such as:

•   Clothing and shoes

•   Utility bills

•   Groceries

•   Insurance

•   Cars

•   Cellphones and computers

•   Rent

Tips for Customizing Your Spending Categories

As you create your spending plan, keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s. If you track your expenses and use that information to create your personalized budget, you may have a better chance of building a plan you can stick with.

Here are some more steps to consider as you get started:

•   Be realistic. It may take a while to get to your goal, but doing even a little bit consistently can make a difference. Know yourself and do what you can.

•   Don’t forget irregular expenses. Bills that you pay every month can be easy to remember. (You might even put them on autopay to make things more convenient.) But infrequent expenses such as tax bills can get away from you if you don’t include them in your spending categories.

•   Avoid spending more than you have. Knowing how much you’ll have left after taxes each month is an important part of successful planning. An emergency fund can help you stay on track when unexpected expenses pop up.

•   Leave room for fun. Eliminating date nights and small splurges completely could make it much harder to stay with your plan.

•   Pay yourself. Make saving and investing goals a separate spending category.

•   Find a budgeting method that works for you. Whether it’s the popular 50/30/20 budget — which divides your after-tax income into needs, wants, and savings — or a detailed spending breakdown with multiple categories, try various budgeting methods until you find one that motivates you.

💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

The Takeaway

Want to save some money but know you need to make some changes? Monitoring where your money is going every month can help you create a spending plan with categories that are customized to your needs, wants, and goals. A plan that’s realistic, but not too restrictive, can give you the kind of control and motivation you need to get and stay on track financially.

Take control of your finances with SoFi. With our financial insights and credit score monitoring tools, you can view all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

With SoFi, you can keep tabs on how your money comes and goes.


What are the four main categories in a budget?

The four main spending categories for most budgets are housing, food, utilities, and transportation. Once you’ve established how much you’ll need to cover these costs, you can move on to planning for other expenses.

What is the 50/30/20 rule of budgeting?

The 50/30/20 rule is a budgeting method that allocates your take-home income to three main spending categories: needs or essentials (50%), wants or nonessentials (30%), and saving or financial goals (20%).

What are the four characteristics of a successful budget?

A successful budget usually includes accurate income and spending projections, realistic and personalized spending categories, consistent and frequent check-ins, and solid savings goals.

Photo credit: iStock/mapodile

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Renting in South Carolina snapshot

1. Pro: Beautiful beaches

South Carolina has an abundance of beautiful beaches that cater to every beachgoer’s taste. From the bustling shores of Myrtle Beach, offering entertainment and excitement, to the serene and unspoiled landscapes of Hunting Island State Park, there’s a beach for every mood. Even historic Charleston boasts its own share of sandy havens like Folly Beach, where residents can unwind and enjoy breathtaking sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean.

2. Con: Hurricane risk

Living in South Carolina comes with the inherent risk of hurricanes, especially for coastal residents. Cities like Charleston and Myrtle Beach are particularly vulnerable to storm surges, flooding, and wind damage during hurricane season. For example, Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 caused widespread destruction and displacement, highlighting the importance of preparedness and evacuation plans for residents in hurricane-prone areas.

3. Pro: Golfing paradise

For golf enthusiasts, South Carolina is nothing short of paradise, with a plethora of world-class courses set against stunning backdrops. The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort stands out as a challenging masterpiece, having hosted major championships like the PGA Championship. In Myrtle Beach, golfers can indulge in endless rounds amidst picturesque fairways and lush greens, with options ranging from championship courses to budget-friendly layouts.

4. Con: Pollen levels

South Carolina’s lush landscape contributes to high pollen levels, particularly during the spring months, which can exacerbate allergies and respiratory issues for some residents. Areas with abundant vegetation, such as the Upstate region and the Lowcountry marshes, often experience elevated pollen counts.

5. Pro: Culinary delights

South Carolina’s culinary scene is a melting pot of flavors, drawing inspiration from Southern traditions and Lowcountry ingredients. Charleston, often hailed as a culinary capital, boasts acclaimed restaurants like Husk, where diners can savor elevated Southern fare crafted with locally sourced ingredients. In Columbia, foodies can explore the vibrant food truck scene or indulge in hearty Southern staples like shrimp and grits at renowned eateries such as Motor Supply Co. Bistro.

6. Con: Insect pests

South Carolina’s warm climate provides a haven for insect pests year-round, ranging from mosquitoes and ticks to fire ants and termites. Residents may contend with mosquito-borne illnesses, especially in coastal and marshy areas. Additionally, invasive species like the emerald ash borer and the Asian tiger mosquito pose threats to local ecosystems and public health.

7. Pro: Mild winters

Mild winters in South Carolina offer residents a welcome respite from harsh northern climates, making the state an attractive destination for those seeking year-round comfort. With temperatures rarely dipping below freezing in most areas, outdoor activities like hiking, golfing, and exploring the state’s natural beauty can be enjoyed throughout the winter months.

8. Con: Limited public transportation

Rural areas and smaller towns often lack comprehensive public transit systems, making it challenging for residents without access to a car to commute to work or run errands. For example, the absence of commuter rail services and limited bus routes in regions like the Upstate and the Midlands suggest the need for alternative transportation solutions to alleviate traffic congestion.

9. Pro: Rich history

South Carolina’s rich history is woven into  its towns and cities, with historic landmarks and preserved sites offering glimpses into the past. Charleston’s cobblestone streets and stately homes tell the story of the city’s colonial heritage, while the Charleston Museum provides an immersive journey through the state’s history. In Beaufort, residents can explore the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, preserving the unique culture and traditions of the Gullah people.

10. Con: Traffic congestion

Major urban centers in South Carolina, such as Charleston and Greenville, grapple with traffic congestion during peak commuting hours and tourist seasons. Growing populations and infrastructure contribute to gridlock on highways and arterial roads. For instance, I-20 and I-26 in the Midlands is known as the “Malfunction Junction,” experiences chronic congestion, leading to delays.

11. Pro: Proximity to major cities

12. Con: High humidity

South Carolina’s subtropical climate results in high humidity levels, particularly during the summer months, which can make outdoor activities uncomfortable for residents. Coastal areas like Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach experience oppressive humidity, with heat indices often exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Inland cities such as Columbia and Florence also contend with muggy conditions, prompting locals to seek relief indoors.

Methodology : The population data is from the United States Census Bureau, walkable cities are from Walk Score, and rental data is from ApartmentGuide.


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Cybersecurity, TPO, Verification Tools; Tech Tracking Whereabouts; Why Rates Are Where They Are

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Cybersecurity, TPO, Verification Tools; Tech Tracking Whereabouts; Why Rates Are Where They Are


Fri, Apr 19 2024, 11:33 AM

It is “Take Your Child to Work Day” next Thursday which, if you work from home, is probably like a day off from school for the tyke. (I won’t be bringing my son Robbie to work, who, as I write this, is pedaling from Chicago to New York and bunked down last night in Union Home’s Bill Cosgrove’s humble abode.) I do not track his exact whereabouts, but we all know that, in having a smart phone, one gives up pretty much all of their privacy. For example, a new working paper posted to the National Bureau of Economic Research sought to examine the polling data that indicates 22 percent of Americans reported attending religious services on a weekly basis. They did this by looking at geodata from smartphones of 2 million people in 2019, and found that while 73 percent of people did indeed step into a place of worship on a primary day of worship at least once over the course of the year, just 5 percent of Americans studied in fact did so weekly, significantly smaller than the data people reported to pollsters. (Found here, this week’s podcasts are sponsored by Optimal Blue. OB’s smart solutions automate critical functions like pricing, hedging, trading, and social media. More originators and investors rely upon Optimal Blue’s integrated solutions, data, and connections to support their unique business strategies, no matter how complex. Hear an interview between Robbie and me on a variety of topics in mortgage that are germane to the Daily Commentary.)

Lender and Broker Products, Software, and Services

Operations leaders! You don’t want to miss this event if you care about improving your operations! Join Femi Ayi, EVP Operations at Revolution Mortgage, Brooke Smith, Senior Manager, Loan Sourcing Digital Solutions at Fannie Mae, and Jodi Eberhardt, Strategic Integration Director at Freddie Mac, and Richard Grieser, VP, Marketing at Truv, as they highlight different strategies to provide customers with a more transparent, efficient borrowing experience. Freddie Mac’s Loan Product Advisor® asset and income modeler (AIM) and Fannie Mae’s Desktop Underwriter® (DU®) validation service play a critical role for lenders committed to streamlining origination processes and improving loan quality. However, the key to optimizing borrower verification workflows and ensuring compliance is partnering with the right provider that helps lenders improve loan quality and save hundreds of dollars per loan compared to traditional verification providers. Come join us! “Minimizing Risks with GSE Borrower Verifications”, April 24 2:00 PM ET Use code TRUV100 to participate FOR FREE, even if you are not an MBA member! Register now.

“AFR Wholesale® is thrilled to announce the renewal of our partnership with AIME for 2024, underscoring our commitment to the wholesale channel. As we continue our collaboration, we are committed to providing essential resources, comprehensive training, and robust support to independent mortgage professionals and the wholesale channel. This partnership will allow AFR to set new industry standards, promote best practices, and deliver exceptional services to our clients and partners. We also will look to spearhead innovative initiatives aimed at boosting operational efficiencies and enhancing customer experiences. Reflecting on a history of successful collaborations, we are excited about the potential for even greater achievements. This announcement is just the beginning, as AFR plans to unveil several exciting partnerships and updates in the coming weeks. Join us in driving change in mortgage lending. To get involved, contact us at [email protected], 1-800-375-6071, visit AFR.”

In the wake of frequent breaches within our industry, we are reminded of the precarious position mortgage lenders and their customers’ data are currently in. These repeated security incidents emphasize an undeniable truth: robust cybersecurity defenses are not merely an option; they are imperative. A breach can mean the difference between a thriving business and a devastating collapse. There is a very real risk to mortgage companies right now; you’re not just guarding data, you’re safeguarding trust, livelihoods, and the very integrity of the financial system. It’s a responsibility to take seriously, and it’s time to double down on cybersecurity. Richey May’s cybersecurity team is here to help: Check out the latest post detailing the often-overlooked risks in the industry.

Capital Markets

One can’t ignore the U.S. Federal Reserve’s role in interest rates. (The current STRATMOR blog is titled, “Relying on the Fed: How Did This Happen?”) The “experts” have been predicting multiple rate cuts in 2024. Sure enough, the much-awaited Fed pivot has materialized, but it’s not what investors had been expecting. The Fed change was supposed to signal a reverse of its contractionary monetary policy path, keeping rates high, which has been in place since March 2022.

But that is not the message, especially after three consecutive months of stronger-than-expected inflation readings. Fed Chair Jay Powell said, “The recent data have clearly not given us greater confidence and instead indicate that it’s likely to take longer than expected to achieve that confidence. Last year, rebounding supply supported U.S. growth in spending and also employment, alongside a considerable decline in inflation. The more recent data show solid growth and continued strength in the labor market, but also a lack of further progress so far this year on returning to our 2 percent inflation goal.”

As always, the Federal Reserve is watching the data as it comes out. But things will be higher for longer. At least the next rate move is still forecast to be a cut. Things could get rocky for lenders and borrowers if that shifts to a hike, which could happen if price pressures resurface and put a so-called soft landing into doubt. And now we have the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note up at its highest level since November, above 4.6 percent versus a yield of 4.25 percent in the last week or two and starting the year at 3.88 percent, meaning that the 10-year is now nearing a full point rise for 2024!

As today’s podcast interview alluded, it’s been pretty quiet out there in terms of market-moving news. Weekly jobless claims showed no change from last week’s level and there was a better-than-expected Philadelphia Fed survey for April yesterday, which prompted some selling. Investors bought plenty of Treasuries to close 2023 and open 2024, betting on several rate cuts this year from the Fed. However, Fed speakers hammering home patient rhetoric on interest rates (several more Fed speakers reiterated yesterday that they do not feel urgency to cut rates at this time) due to a reluctance of the U.S. economy to cool, has forced investors to abandon bets on a rally, giving way to a wave of selling.

Accordingly, mortgage rates surged in the latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey from Freddie Mac, with the 30-year rate above 7 percent for the first time this year. For the week ending April 18, the 30-year and 15-year mortgage rates jumped 22 basis points and 23 basis points versus the prior week to 7.10 percent and 6.39 percent, respectively. Those rates are 71 basis points and 63 basis points higher than this time last year.

Inflation is back below 3 percent, but hotter-than-expected readings for the rental category of housing in the first few months of the year are a big reason the Fed has held back on the rate cuts that Wall Street has been hoping for. Markets seeing the biggest rent declines are the ones where there’s been the most construction. The Northeast and Midwest have experienced lingering high inflation, while the West and South have seen it moderate rapidly.

Existing-home sales fell 4.3 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.19 million, a widely expected decline given the recent slip in purchase mortgage applications and solid gains registered in the first two months of 2024 from increased supply and a temporary dip in mortgage rates. Sales were down 3.7 percent from the previous year. The median existing-home sales price rose 4.8 percent from a year ago to $393,500, the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year price gains and the highest price ever for the month of March. The inventory of unsold existing homes grew 4.7 percent from one month ago to the equivalent of 3.2 months’ supply at the current monthly sales pace.

There is no data of note on today’s economic calendar, though there is one Fed speaker, Chicago President Goolsbee. For capital markets folks, today is Class D 48-hours. We begin the day with Agency MBS prices better by .125-.250, the 10-year yielding 4.59 after closing yesterday at 4.65 percent, and the 2-year is at 4.96.


“At Evergreen Home Loans, our mission is simple: equip our clients with affordable strategies to not only buy a home but to make a winning offer. Our unique approach helps families secure their futures and build generational wealth. As we navigate a fluctuating housing market, Evergreen Home Loans remains committed to innovation and client success. Our tailored solutions emphasize stability and long-term prosperity, ensuring that homeownership is a reality for first-time buyers and seasoned investors alike. By fostering a supportive environment and providing strategic financial guidance, we empower our clients to turn their dreams of homeownership into tangible assets that benefit generations. We’re expanding our team and invite skilled loan officers and branch managers to explore the career opportunities we offer. Join us in making a difference and shaping the future of homeownership. To view all openings visit: Careers.”

Synergy One Lending continues to reemerge as one of the industry success stories in 2024. The addition of 12 new branches and the successful expansion of the company’s footprint into several new markets has provided an even stronger foundation of profitable growth as it prepares for even more ahead. A vision with a P&L structure built to grow market share, relentless execution and adoption of leading-edge technology and a culture that is focused on their 3 core values (delighted customers, inspired employees and a pristine reputation) are leading indicators of the company’s trajectory. Be part of it and Make Your Mark by reaching out to Aaron Nemec at (208) 794-7786 or Eric Kulbe at (303) 717-0293.

Geneva Financial, operating in 48 states, announced that Jessie Ermel has joined its leadership team as Chief Compliance Officer where Jessie will drive quality control and compliance for the company’s mortgage operations.

Our industry lost another veteran recently with the death of Alabama’s John Johnson. John was CEO and co-founder of MortgageAmerica, Inc. from 1978 to 2012. But John’s mortgage career began in 1966 at Colonial Mortgage Company and then Molton-Allen & Williams. He served as the Mortgage Bankers Association of Alabama President in 1980-1981 and chaired the organization’s Convention in 1982. John was awarded the Certified Mortgage Banker designation in 1982. was a member of the Board of Directors of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America from 1999-2003, served as Chairman of the Residential Board of Governors in 2001-2002, and was Chairman of the Board of Directors for MERS in 2006. Guys like this helped make our industry what it is today, and he’ll be missed.

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Today’s mortgage rates

Average mortgage rates rose very slightly yesterday. I’m afraid it’s a sign that Wednesday’s moderate fall wasn’t necessarily the start of much happier times.

Earlier this morning, markets were signaling that mortgage rates today could barely budge. However, these early mini-trends frequently alter direction or speed as the hours pass.

Current mortgage and refinance rates

Find your lowest rate. Start here

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30-year fixed 7.29% 7.34% +0.03
Conventional 15-year fixed 6.744% 6.822% +0.04
30-year fixed FHA 7.129% 7.179% +0.21
5/1 ARM Conventional 6.682% 7.918% -0.01
Conventional 20-year fixed 7.15% 7.207% +0.07
Conventional 10-year fixed 6.607% 6.68% +0.02
30-year fixed VA 7.28% 7.324% +0.2
Rates are provided by our partner network, and may not reflect the market. Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions See our rate assumptions here.

Should you lock your mortgage rate today?

I reckon it’s likely to be some months before we begin to see consistently falling mortgage rates. The economy is currently too robust and inflation is too warm for a sustained downward trend. And there are few signs of that changing until the summer or fall — or perhaps even later.

So my personal rate lock recommendations remain:

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • LOCK if closing in 30 days
  • LOCK if closing in 45 days
  • LOCK if closing in 60 days

However, with so much uncertainty at the moment, your instincts could easily turn out to be as good as mine — or better. So, let your gut and your own tolerance for risk help guide you.

>Related: 7 Tips to get the best refinance rate

Market data affecting today’s mortgage rates

Here’s a snapshot of the state of play this morning at about 9:50 a.m. (ET). The data are mostly compared with roughly the same time the business day before, so much of the movement will often have happened in the previous session. The numbers are:

  • The yield on 10-year Treasury notes ticked lower to 4.62 from 4.63%. (Good for mortgage rates.) More than any other market, mortgage rates typically tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields
  • Major stock indexes were mixed this morning. (Neutral for mortgage rates.) When investors buy shares, they’re often selling bonds, which pushes those prices down and increases yields and mortgage rates. The opposite may happen when indexes are lower. But this is an imperfect relationship
  • Oil prices decreased to $82.77 from $82.98 a barrel. (Neutral for mortgage rates*.) Energy prices play a prominent role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity
  • Gold prices rose to $2,398 from $2,393 an ounce. (Neutral for mortgage rates*.) It is generally better for rates when gold prices rise and worse when they fall. Because gold tends to rise when investors worry about the economy.
  • CNN Business Fear & Greed index — nudged down to 32 from 35 out of 100. (Good for mortgage rates.) “Greedy” investors push bond prices down (and interest rates up) as they leave the bond market and move into stocks, while “fearful” investors do the opposite. So, lower readings are often better than higher ones

*A movement of less than $20 on gold prices or 40 cents on oil ones is a change of 1% or less. So we only count meaningful differences as good or bad for mortgage rates.

Caveats about markets and rates

Before the pandemic, post-pandemic upheavals, and war in Ukraine, you could look at the above figures and make a pretty good guess about what would happen to mortgage rates that day. But that’s no longer the case. We still make daily calls. And are usually right. But our record for accuracy won’t achieve its former high levels until things settle down.

So, use markets only as a rough guide. Because they have to be exceptionally strong or weak to rely on them. But, with that caveat, mortgage rates today look likely to be unchanged or close to unchanged. However, be aware that “intraday swings” (when rates change speed or direction during the day) are a common feature right now.

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What’s driving mortgage rates today?


There are no economic reports scheduled for release today. And the words of the sole senior Federal Reserve official with a speaking engagement, Chicago Fed President Austan Goolsbee, are unlikely to affect markets. His boss, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, laid out the central bank’s position on future cuts to general interest rates as recently as Tuesday.

Of course, mortgage rates can still move on days like today. But they’re generally driven by market sentiment or occasionally by important news that affects the economy.

Next week

Next Monday is much like today: zero economic reports on the schedule. Tuesday’s purchasing managers’ indexes (PMIs) could produce some movement in mortgage rates. But that’s typically limited and temporary, a description that applies to Wednesday’s durable goods orders data, too.

Things could warm up next Thursday when the first reading of gross domestic product (GDP) for the January-March quarter is due.

And next Friday should bring the March personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index. That’s the Federal Reserve’s favorite gauge of inflation. So, it can certainly affect mortgage rates.

Don’t forget you can always learn more about what’s driving mortgage rates in the most recent weekend edition of this daily report. These provide a more detailed analysis of what’s happening. They are published each Saturday morning soon after 10 a.m. (ET) and include a preview of the following week.

According to Freddie Mac’s archives, the weekly all-time lowest rate for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages was set on Jan. 7, 2021, when it stood at 2.65%. The weekly all-time high was 18.63% on Sep. 10, 1981.

Freddie’s Apr. 18 report put that same weekly average at 7.1%, up from the previous week’s 6.88%. But note that Freddie’s data are almost always out of date by the time it announces its weekly figures.

Expert forecasts for mortgage rates

Looking further ahead, Fannie Mae and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) each has a team of economists dedicated to monitoring and forecasting what will happen to the economy, the housing sector and mortgage rates.

And here are their rate forecasts for the four quarters of 2024 (Q1/24, Q2/24 Q3/24 and Q4/24).

The numbers in the table below are for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages. Fannie’s were updated on Mar. 19 and the MBA’s on Apr. 18.

Forecaster Q1/24 Q2/24 Q3/24 Q4/24
Fannie Mae 6.7% 6.7%  6.6% 6.4%
MBA 6.8% 6.7%  6.6% 6.4%

Of course, given so many unknowables, both these forecasts might be even more speculative than usual. And their past record for accuracy hasn’t been wildly impressive.

Important notes on today’s mortgage rates

Here are some things you need to know:

  1. Typically, mortgage rates go up when the economy’s doing well and down when it’s in trouble. But there are exceptions. Read ‘How mortgage rates are determined and why you should care
  2. Only “top-tier” borrowers (with stellar credit scores, big down payments, and very healthy finances) get the ultralow mortgage rates you’ll see advertised
  3. Lenders vary. Yours may or may not follow the crowd when it comes to daily rate movements — though they all usually follow the broader trend over time
  4. When daily rate changes are small, some lenders will adjust closing costs and leave their rate cards the same
  5. Refinance rates are typically close to those for purchases.

A lot is going on at the moment. And nobody can claim to know with certainty what will happen to mortgage rates in the coming hours, days, weeks or months.

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You should comparison shop widely, no matter what sort of mortgage you want. Federal regulator the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found in May 2023:

“Mortgage borrowers are paying around $100 a month more depending on which lender they choose, for the same type of loan and the same consumer characteristics (such as credit score and down payment).”

In other words, over the lifetime of a 30-year loan, homebuyers who don’t bother to get quotes from multiple lenders risk losing an average of $36,000. What could you do with that sort of money?

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Mortgage rate methodology

The Mortgage Reports receives rates based on selected criteria from multiple lending partners each day. We arrive at an average rate and APR for each loan type to display in our chart. Because we average an array of rates, it gives you a better idea of what you might find in the marketplace. Furthermore, we average rates for the same loan types. For example, FHA fixed with FHA fixed. The end result is a good snapshot of daily rates and how they change over time.

How your mortgage interest rate is determined

Mortgage and refinance rates vary a lot depending on each borrower’s unique situation.

Factors that determine your mortgage interest rate include:

  • Overall strength of the economy — A strong economy usually means higher rates, while a weaker one can push current mortgage rates down to promote borrowing
  • Lender capacity — When a lender is very busy, it will increase rates to deter new business and give its loan officers some breathing room
  • Property type (condo, single-family, town house, etc.) — A primary residence, meaning a home you plan to live in full time, will have a lower interest rate. Investment properties, second homes, and vacation homes have higher mortgage rates
  • Loan-to-value ratio (determined by your down payment) — Your loan-to-value ratio (LTV) compares your loan amount to the value of the home. A lower LTV, meaning a bigger down payment, gets you a lower mortgage rate
  • Debt-To-Income ratio — This number compares your total monthly debts to your pretax income. The more debt you currently have, the less room you’ll have in your budget for a mortgage payment
  • Loan term — Loans with a shorter term (like a 15-year mortgage) typically have lower rates than a 30-year loan term
  • Borrower’s credit score — Typically the higher your credit score is, the lower your mortgage rate, and vice versa
  • Mortgage discount points — Borrowers have the option to buy discount points or ‘mortgage points’ at closing. These let you pay money upfront to lower your interest rate

Remember, every mortgage lender weighs these factors a little differently.

To find the best rate for your situation, you’ll want to get personalized estimates from a few different lenders.

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Are refinance rates the same as mortgage rates?

Rates for a home purchase and mortgage refinance are often similar.

However, some lenders will charge more for a refinance under certain circumstances.

Typically when rates fall, homeowners rush to refinance. They see an opportunity to lock in a lower rate and payment for the rest of their loan.

This creates a tidal wave of new work for mortgage lenders.

Unfortunately, some lenders don’t have the capacity or crew to process a large number of refinance loan applications.

In this case, a lender might raise its rates to deter new business and give loan officers time to process loans currently in the pipeline.

Also, cashing out equity can result in a higher rate when refinancing.

Cash-out refinances pose a greater risk for mortgage lenders, so they’re often priced higher than new home purchases and rate-term refinances.

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How to get the lowest mortgage or refinance rate

Since rates can vary, always shop around when buying a house or refinancing a mortgage.

Comparison shopping can potentially save thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Get multiple quotes

Many borrowers make the mistake of accepting the first mortgage or refinance offer they receive.

Some simply go with the bank they use for checking and savings since that can seem easiest.

However, your bank might not offer the best mortgage deal for you. And if you’re refinancing, your financial situation may have changed enough that your current lender is no longer your best bet.

So get multiple quotes from at least three different lenders to find the right one for you.

2. Compare Loan Estimates

When shopping for a mortgage or refinance, lenders will provide a Loan Estimate that breaks down important costs associated with the loan.

You’ll want to read these Loan Estimates carefully and compare costs and fees line-by-line, including:

  • Interest rate
  • Annual percentage rate (APR)
  • Monthly mortgage payment
  • Loan origination fees
  • Rate lock fees
  • Closing costs

Remember, the lowest interest rate isn’t always the best deal.

Annual percentage rate (APR) can help you compare the ‘real’ cost of two loans. It estimates your total yearly cost including interest and fees.

Also, pay close attention to your closing costs.

Some lenders may bring their rates down by charging more upfront via discount points. These can add thousands to your out-of-pocket costs.

3. Negotiate your mortgage rate

You can also negotiate your mortgage rate to get a better deal.

Let’s say you get loan estimates from two lenders. Lender A offers the better rate, but you prefer your loan terms from Lender B. Talk to Lender B and see if they can beat the former’s pricing.

You might be surprised to find that a lender is willing to give you a lower interest rate in order to keep your business.

And if they’re not, keep shopping — there’s a good chance someone will.

Fixed-rate mortgage vs. adjustable-rate mortgage: Which is right for you?

Mortgage borrowers can choose between a fixed-rate mortgage and an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).

Fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) have interest rates that never change unless you decide to refinance. This results in predictable monthly payments and stability over the life of your loan.

Adjustable-rate loans have a low interest rate that’s fixed for a set number of years (typically five or seven). After the initial fixed-rate period, the interest rate adjusts every year based on market conditions.

With each rate adjustment, a borrower’s mortgage rate can either increase, decrease, or stay the same. These loans are unpredictable since monthly payments can change each year.

Adjustable-rate mortgages are fitting for borrowers who expect to move before their first rate adjustment, or who can afford a higher future payment.

In most other cases, a fixed-rate mortgage is typically the safer and better choice.

Remember, if rates drop sharply, you are free to refinance and lock in a lower rate and payment later on.

How your credit score affects your mortgage rate

You don’t need a high credit score to qualify for a home purchase or refinance, but your credit score will affect your rate.

This is because credit history determines risk level.

Historically speaking, borrowers with higher credit scores are less likely to default on their mortgages, so they qualify for lower rates.

So, for the best rate, aim for a credit score of 720 or higher.

Mortgage programs that don’t require a high score include:

  • Conventional home loans — minimum 620 credit score
  • FHA loans — minimum 500 credit score (with a 10% down
    payment) or 580 (with a 3.5% down payment)
  • VA loans — no minimum credit score, but 620 is common
  • USDA loans — minimum 640 credit score

Ideally, you want to check your credit report and score at least 6 months before applying for a mortgage. This gives you time to sort out any errors and make sure your score is as high as possible.

If you’re ready to apply now, it’s still worth checking so you have a good idea of what loan programs you might qualify for and how your score will affect your rate.

You can get your credit report from and your score from

How big of a down payment do I need?

Nowadays, mortgage programs don’t require the conventional 20 percent down.

Indeed, first-time home buyers put only 6 percent down on average.

Down payment minimums vary depending on the loan program. For example:

  • Conventional home loans require a down payment between 3%
    and 5%
  • FHA loans require 3.5% down
  • VA and USDA loans allow zero down payment
  • Jumbo loans typically require at least 5% to 10% down

Keep in mind, a higher down payment reduces your risk as a borrower and helps you negotiate a better mortgage rate.

If you are able to make a 20 percent down payment, you can avoid paying for mortgage insurance.

This is an added cost paid by the borrower, which protects their lender in case of default or foreclosure.

But a big down payment is not required.

For many people, it makes sense to make a smaller down payment in order to buy a house sooner and start building home equity.

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Choosing the right type of home loan

No two mortgage loans are alike, so it’s important to know your options and choose the right type of mortgage.

The five main types of mortgages include:

Fixed-rate mortgage (FRM)

Your interest rate remains the same over the life of the loan. This is a good option for borrowers who expect to live in their homes long-term.

The most popular loan option is the 30-year mortgage, but 15- and 20-year terms are also commonly available.

Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)

Adjustable-rate loans have a fixed interest rate for the first few years. Then, your mortgage rate resets every year.

Your rate and payment can rise or fall annually depending on how the broader interest rate trends.

ARMs are ideal for borrowers who expect to move prior to their first rate adjustment (usually in 5 or 7 years).

For those who plan to stay in their home long-term, a fixed-rate mortgage is typically recommended.

Jumbo mortgage

A jumbo loan is a mortgage that exceeds the conforming loan limit set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In 2023, the conforming loan limit is $726,200 in most areas.

Jumbo loans are perfect for borrowers who need a larger loan to purchase a high-priced property, especially in big cities with high real estate values.

FHA mortgage

A government loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration for low- to moderate-income borrowers. FHA loans feature low credit score and down payment requirements.

VA mortgage

A government loan backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. To be eligible, you must be active-duty military, a veteran, a Reservist or National Guard service member, or an eligible spouse.

VA loans allow no down payment and have exceptionally low mortgage rates.

USDA mortgage

USDA loans are a government program backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They offer a no-down-payment solution for borrowers who purchase real estate in an eligible rural area. To qualify, your income must be at or below the local median.

Bank statement loan

Borrowers can qualify for a mortgage without tax returns, using their personal or business bank account as evidence of their financial circumstances. This is an option for self-employed or seasonally-employed borrowers.

Portfolio/Non-QM loan

These are mortgages that lenders don’t sell on the secondary mortgage market. And this gives lenders the flexibility to set their own guidelines.

Non-QM loans may have lower credit score requirements or offer low-down-payment options without mortgage insurance.

Choosing the right mortgage lender

The lender or loan program that’s right for one person might not be right for another.

Explore your options and then pick a loan based on your credit score, down payment, and financial goals, as well as local home prices.

Whether you’re getting a mortgage for a home purchase or a refinance, always shop around and compare rates and terms.

Typically, it only takes a few hours to get quotes from multiple lenders. And it could save you thousands in the long run.

Time to make a move? Let us find the right mortgage for you

Current mortgage rates methodology

We receive current mortgage rates each day from a network of mortgage lenders that offer home purchase and refinance loans. Those mortgage rates shown here are based on sample borrower profiles that vary by loan type. See our full loan assumptions here.