Dear Penny: My Sister Moved in With Dad, Says She Can’t Be Evicted

Dear Penny,

I am a 30-year-old who has built a stable and happy life after growing up in a family that was often unstable emotionally and financially. I love them, but as I become more successful, my family needs more and more of my support. 

My sister and her son moved into my father’s one-bedroom apartment in July, which is against the lease. I was very against this living situation because it’s way too small for two adults and a rambunctious child. My sister said she had no other options because she has terrible credit, little savings and an eviction. She was laid off for not having child care and is collecting unemployment. My father was struggling to pay for his apartment, as well. 

Their relationship has deteriorated. I don’t think they can continue living together. My aunt  co-signed for my father’s apartment and says my father can stay in her spare bedroom if he works with her to fix his finances. My aunt has been trying to help me, as she knows I am overwhelmed mediating their arguments and finances.

I told my sister we will need to find another place for her to live after April, and that I would co-sign if she sat down with me to go over her finances. She cried and said it would be impossible to find a place being unemployed, and that no one cares about her ending up homeless. 

She said she will refuse to leave the apartment if management doesn’t let her take over the lease. She believes that since she is a single mother with a child, they won’t be able to evict her. I’ve explained there could be negative consequences on her tenant record and for my aunt since she’s the co-signer,  but my sister says everything will be fine. 

I don’t want to hold my sister’s past mistakes against her, and COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted single mothers. She has been better with her money the last three months, but she has been very irresponsible in the past. (Example: paying for breast implants.) She can’t stay with me because I’m a head of house in my alma mater’s dorm, which grants me and my partner a free apartment. 

How should I proceed with my sister? Am I being too supportive, or not supportive enough? I feel guilty even having my own financial goals when my family is struggling. 

Sister Struggles

Dear Sister,

When someone tells you they’re about to behave terribly, listen. I don’t care if your sister has been more responsible for three months. She obviously doesn’t plan to be responsible moving forward. She’s also made it clear that she’s up for a fight. Please don’t co-sign for her and let her take down your credit in the process.

This is a problem between your sister, your dad and your aunt. I certainly feel for your aunt. I get that you’re both trying to help each other work through this mess. But you’re both ascribing magical thinking to your fix-it powers for your dad’s and sister’s financial messes. Nothing in your letter suggests that either one is interested in help.

If I were your aunt, I’d talk to an attorney who specializes in tenant law ASAP. You can suggest she do so. You also need to tell your sister you’re no longer in a position to co-sign. She’s going to cry and scream about how you’re ruining her life. Tell her by phone so you can hang up if things get out of hand.

The beauty here is that your living situation legitimately gives you a reason your sister and nephew can’t move in. I’d urge you to hang onto this arrangement as long as you can so you can develop firm boundaries. It’s OK to use dorm rules as an excuse while you get comfortable making it clear that you’re done bailing out your family.

Your signature probably isn’t the only thing standing between your sister and homelessness. Maybe she’s eligible for public housing, or she has friends who will let her couch surf. I’m not going to waste any energy exploring these options, though, because this is not your problem.

But here’s the trade-off: You don’t get to have an opinion even if you’re “very against” whatever living situation your sister comes up with. The second you weigh in, you’re throwing your sister a lasso. Don’t allow her to drag you back in.

This may seem like a money problem, but deep down it isn’t. Yes, life would be easier if you could buy your dad and your sister separate homes on opposite sides of town. But I suspect they’d still leave you emotionally drained. Emotional vampires always do.

Your financial goals are completely unrelated to your family’s struggles. The sooner you can separate the two, the better off you’ll be. Please don’t feel guilty for using your money to make good decisions for yourself instead of enabling your family’s bad ones.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Finally, ‘Fixer Upper’ Is Back! Watch Chip and Jo Tackle One Hot Mess of a House

fixer upperDiscovery+

At long last, Chip and Joanna Gaines and their smash hit show “Fixer Upper” have returned, although with some changes. For one, the show is now called “Fixer Upper: Welcome Home”—and the season premiere has them faced with renovating the messiest house we’ve ever seen them tackle.

In the episode “A Neglected Home for Newlyweds,” Chip and Jo meet Laney and Lucas, an engaged couple in Waco, TX, who have bought a house filled, quite literally, with trash. The Gaineses will need to work hard to give the couple the honeymoon home they deserve, and have a $150,000 renovation budget to do it.

Here’s how they whip this wreck of a house into shape, which suggests that this season of “Fixer Upper” will be filled with surprises and inspiration galore.

Use indoor windows for a creative way to open up sightlines

office
This window cleverly connects the office to the kitchen.

Discovery+

The house includes a large front room, which Lucas plans to use as an office.

While workspaces are normally private, Jo and Chip want to open up this space and improve the home’s sightlines. So they install industrial windows into the office that look into the kitchen and living room.

While some designers might have busted down the office walls to give the whole house an open layout, these windows are a creative alternative to demolition.They make the office feel less isolated while still giving Lucas the quiet and privacy he’ll need when working.

When the room is finished, Joanna is happy with not only the function, but also the clean, industrial design.

“The industrial window looks amazing, and I think the idea of trying to bring in a little bit of that industrial feel to this, really kind of modern, minimal space, feels really unique,” Joanna says.

A dark stone fireplace lends an industrial look

fireplace
Joanna Gaines needed to bring some style into this living room.

Discovery+

When Chip and Jo first see Lucas and Laney’s new house, they’re not only shocked by the mess, they’re also disappointed by the old-fashioned design.

The living room is especially dated, with a fireplace that desperately needs a refresh. Jo plans to update the feature with a sleek, dark stone that’s perfect for Laney’s industrial tastes.

fireplace
Laney wanted wood storage in her new fireplace, even if it wasn’t in the original design plans.

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Yet instead of keeping the slab looking plain and minimalist, Laney makes a change to Jo’s design, requesting a cubby for wood storage. This doesn’t necessarily go with the industrial look Jo planned for, but this designer is willing to make a change. In the end, the wood ends up making the fireplace look even cozier than before.

Centered windows give a room balance

window
Chip and Jo realized, at the last minute, this window wasn’t centered.

Discovery+

Chip and Jo want to give this young couple a cozy dining space, so they design a built-in banquette with midcentury modern charm. However, in the middle of renovation, they realize that the window isn’t centered on the wall, making the space feel awkward.

They know that the wonky window will make the new table look strange, so they put in the extra effort to move the window. They finish the room with the banquette, a midcentury-inspired light fixture, and a beautiful wood table. The furnishings look great and they’re all perfectly centered—giving the room a balanced look.

table
This centered window makes the space look larger.

Discovery+

When the dining space is finished, Joanna explains that the new window placement makes the space feel so much bigger.

“This window is really close to this door here, and everything was, like, shoved this way, so we had to center your window,” she says. “Now, I feel like the space was really tiny, but now you’ve got space.”

Use wood paneling as an accent wall

bedroom
This bedroom was a catastrophe when Jo and Chip found it!

Discovery+

Laney loves simple, Scandinavian looks, but also digs midcentury modern style. So for the bedroom, Joanna installs a feature wall that works for both styles.

“I like the idea of this really cool focal wall, really minimal but highly textural,” Joanna says.

bedroom
The wood paneling gives this bedroom that midcentury modern look Laney and Lucas love.

Discovery+

She uses vertical wood paneling, which are reminiscent of paneling from midcentury homes, while choosing a light color and a simple black handle for the hidden bathroom door, which is in line with Scandinavian design.

The feature wall ends up looking gorgeous. It brings so much style to the room while seeming versatile enough to work with almost any style.

Dark colors in the bathroom add a moody vibe

bathroom
This bathroom was covered in wallpaper.

Discovery+

Laney says she likes dark tones, so Joanna wants to give Lucas and Laney’s master bathroom a moody makeover in dark green. She chooses a deep green paint color, then pairs it with green tile and wood vanities, and lightens it all up with light floors and counters.

When the room is painted and nearly finished, it looks great, but Joanna isn’t satisfied with the ceiling.

“When I walked into the bathroom, I really love what’s going on with all the textures and the pattern and the colors. Then when I look up, when I see the white ceiling, it’s almost like we stopped,” Joanna says. “The ceilings are kind of cut in a weird angle, and I don’t want to highlight that.”

So she has the ceiling painted dark green to match the walls.

While Chip is concerned this will make the space feel too dark, once the room is finished, it’s clear that painting was the right choice. The darker ceiling gives the space a cozy but glamorous feel that highlights the beautiful tiles and clean, white bathtub.

bathroom
This dark green color makes the white finishes stand out.

Discovery+

The post Finally, ‘Fixer Upper’ Is Back! Watch Chip and Jo Tackle One Hot Mess of a House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

How to Buy a Used Car, Step By Step

New cars are sleek, shiny, full of impressive tech and smell amazing — mmm, new car smell. But they also come with price tags that can take your breath away — and not in a good way.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price of a new car in November 2020 was more than $39,000. Yowser.

If you’re in the market for a set of wheels that’s more affordable, steer your sights over to the used car lot to save a little money. Or even a lot of money.

Why Buying a Used Car Is a Smart Money Move

If you’ve ever heard someone refer to a car as a depreciating asset, it’s true. The longer you have a car, the less it’s worth. The first year of owning a new vehicle is when depreciation really packs a punch.

Jim Sharifi, formerly a content editor at Carfax, said research shows a new vehicle can lose as much as 10% of its value within the first month.

“In the first year of ownership, depreciation can continue, and that same car could be worth up to 20% less than its original sale price,” he said.

When you buy a used car, the original owner has already taken that initial hit on depreciation and the price you pay accounts for that, so you don’t have to shell out as much cash.

Just because you’re buying a car at a lower price point doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with a clunker that was manufactured decades ago. Cars that are just two or three years old often hit dealership lots when their previous owners reach the end of their lease.

Those vehicles often have low mileage and are in great condition, having had only one previous owner. Sometimes they even still retain a hint of that new car smell.

So that covers the why. Now let’s get into how to buy a used car.

The Best Time to Buy a Used Car

RobertCorse/Getty Images

Unlike new car releases, used cars come on the market throughout the year. It all depends on when their previous owners end their leases, put them up for sale or decide to trade in their vehicles.

However, there are certain times when you’re more likely to score a better deal.

Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor for Kelley Blue Book, said when dealerships host big sales events for new models that can also benefit used car shoppers.

“[Dealerships] will have more used vehicle inventory as a result of those types of promotions,” he said.

Think of the big sales that fall around holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.

The end of a model year — around September or October — is another good time to shop, DeLorenzo noted, as salespeople are looking to make deals to clear out their used vehicle stock to make room for new inventory.

It’s best to avoid shopping for a car on the weekend when there’s an influx of customers and sales staff is spread thin, Sharifi said. You’ll get more attention from the sales team by visiting on off hours, specifically on weekdays.

“The end of the month (or the end of a quarter) can also be a good time to strike a deal, since dealerships may need to hit monthly or quarterly sales goals,” he said.

Of course, when you need a car might not align with a particular sale or time of month. Shopping for a vehicle before you’re in critical need of one will allow you time to search for the best deal rather than having to settle for something quick.

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Where to Shop for a Used Car — and Where to Avoid

Where you shop for a used car matters so you can avoid purchasing a lemon.

DeLorenzo recommends shopping at franchised car dealerships that have certified pre-owned cars — used vehicles that have been thoroughly inspected and typically come with some type of warranty coverage. Non-certified cars aren’t bad — and they’ll typically cost less — but they’re more likely to have higher mileage and more maintenance needs.

Be wary of independent car lots that boast they can make you a deal regardless of your credit or circumstance.

“Typically they’ll try to get you in with a low price, but you may not be getting the best quality car,” he said. “The other thing is that if you get your financing through those types of dealers, they typically charge you a much higher interest rate.”

Pro Tip

DeLorenzo recommends pre-qualifying for a loan at a bank or credit union before visiting a dealership. You can compare the offer with the dealer’s financing terms for better negotiating leverage.

For any dealer you visit, do some due diligence and check customer reviews online. If you know others who’ve recently purchased a car, ask for recommendations.

Outside of dealerships, look for cars online at trusted sites like Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Carfax or Edmunds — or buy from a private seller.

When you’re buying from a private party, you may be able to get more accurate information about how they’ve driven and maintained the vehicle and what particular issues it might have, said Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.

However, you also need to be OK with buying the vehicle as-is and securing your own financing. And be sure the owner has clear title to the car — in other words, don’t let anyone sell you a car they don’t legitimately own.

If cost is your primary concern, a private seller is likely to offer a lower price. A dealer folds overhead, repairs and marketing into its price.

What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

GreenPimp/Getty Images

Knowing when and where to buy a used car is just half the battle. Figuring out how to vet a used car can be tough, especially if you have little to no car knowledge.

These tips will give you some guidance to make a good choice.

1. Find a Vehicle That Fits Your Needs

It’s easy to focus on the numbers — age of the car, mileage and cost — but you also want to make sure you’re buying a car that’ll fit your needs for however long you expect to have it. If you have a growing family, you might want to rethink that two-door coupe or compact vehicle.

“You want to make sure there’s enough room for you,” Montoya said. “Take a look at the cargo area. Take a look at how easy it is to see out of the vehicle. Test out the entertainment system.”

2. Determine How ‘Used’ You’re Willing to Go

The older a car is, the cheaper it’ll be — but the more it’s likely to have issues requiring repair. Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to what they’re willing to handle. A general rule of thumb is that a car is driven about 12,000 miles per year. A higher average could mean the car has more wear and tear.

Montoya said used car buyers must strike a balance between the age of the car, the amount of miles and what price they’re willing to pay.

Buying an extended warranty or service plan can give you peace of mind that certain repairs or maintenance jobs will be covered.

Pro Tip

Montoya said plans sold by auto manufacturers or reputable dealerships are better options than those sold by third-party companies. Make sure you understand exactly what your plan covers.

3. Make Sure The Price is Right

Before you accept a sales price, research the value of the car to make sure you’re not overpaying. Carfax, Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds all have price appraisal tools online.

You can also compare similar vehicles on the market to get an estimate of a car’s value, but keep in mind, no two used vehicles will be the same due to how they were driven and maintained. Use all this information when you sit down to negotiate — and don’t be afraid to walk away if you don’t think you’re getting a fair price.

When you’re budgeting for a car purchase, make sure you’re factoring in all the associated costs, like sales tax, insurance and getting the car registered.

4. Check the History of the Car

Sometimes just looking at a car will give you some idea of its history. Rust, worn out pedals and a side panel painted in a different color are red flags.

But don’t just assume a car’s history. Getting the car’s history report, such as through Carfax, is a crucial step when buying a used car.

You’ll have to purchase the report if you’re buying from a private seller, so wait until you’re seriously interested in a particular vehicle. If you’re buying from a dealership, the salesperson should provide a copy of the vehicle history report for free.

Sharifi said to watch out for discrepancies with the odometer reading and if there’s a branded title, which indicates that the car has been significantly compromised in some way.

“Severe accidents and instances where a car has been declared a total loss should signal the buyer to use caution,” he said. “That said, a small fender bender shouldn’t always mean that a buyer should walk away from a great deal.”

5. Go for a Test Drive

Always, always, always take a car for a spin before buying it. If you can bring a mechanic with you, even better.

“Some general things you can do on your own without being super knowledgeable about cars is [to] turn off the radio [and] listen for any strange noises,” Montoya said. “See if the steering wheel stays straight when you drive down the road. Does it pull to one side? Look at the tires to see how old they are.”

Pro Tip

Don’t just look at the tires’ tread. Each tire should include a four-digit number marking the month and year it was manufactured. Tires older than six years can be dried out and need replacing.

For any used car purchase, but especially if you’re buying from a private seller, have your mechanic inspect the vehicle before committing to buy.

Knowing the ins and outs of how to buy a used car will make the whole process less stressful and, most importantly, save you money.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Former staff writer Carson Kohler contributed to this post.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

With the growing use of paperless forms, electronic information transfers and storage has become the norm. This is true about our medical information as well. So, how do we know that our sensitive medical records are being kept private? Thanks to a federal law entitled Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), health plans, health care providers, and health care clearinghouses are required to abide by a set of standards to protect your data. While this law does offer protection for certain things, there are some companies that are not required to follow these standards. Keep reading to find out where the loopholes are and how you are being protected by this law. 

What is the HIPAA Law and Privacy Rule?

Although HIPAA and Privacy and Security Rules have been around since 1996, there have been many revisions and changes over the years so to keep up with evolving health information technology. HIPAA and the HIPAA Privacy Rule set the bar for standards that protect sensitive patient information by making the rules for electronic exchange as well as the privacy and confidentiality of medical records and information by health care providers, health care clearing houses, and health plans. In accordance with HIPPA, Administrative Simplification Rules were created to safeguard patient privacy. This allows for information that is medically necessary to be shared while also maintaining the patient’s privacy rights. The majority of professionals in the health care industry are required to be compliant with the HIPAA regulations and rules. 

Why do we have the HIPAA Act and Privacy Rule?

The original goal of HIPAA was to make it easier for patients to keep up with their health insurance coverage. This is ultimately why the Administrative Simplification Rules were created to simplify administrative procedures and keep costs at a decent rate. Because of all the exchanges of medical information between insurance companies and health care providers, the HIPAA Act aims to keep things simple when it comes to the healthcare industry’s handling of patient records and documents and places a high importance on maintain patients’ protected health information. 

HIPAA Titles

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law which was designed to safeguard healthcare data from data breaches, has five titles. Here is a description of each title:

  • Title I: HIPAA Health Insurance Reform: The objective of Title I is to help individuals maintain health insurance coverage in the event that they lose or change jobs. It also prevents group health plans from rejecting applicants from being covered for having specific chronic illnesses or pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title II: HIPAA Administrative Simplification: Title II holds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for setting national standards for processing electronic healthcare transactions. In accordance with this title, healthcare organizations must implement data security for health data transactions and maintain HIPPA compliance with the rules set by HHS. 
  • Title III: HIPPA Tax-Related Health Provisions: This title is all about the national standards regarding tax-related provisions as well as the general rules and principles in relation to medical care.  
  • Title IV: Application and Enforcement of Group Health Plan Requirements: Title IV elaborates further on issues related to health insurance coverage and reform, one key point being for patients with pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title V: Revenue Offsets:  This title has provisions regarding company-owned life insurance policies as well as how to handle situations in which individuals lose their citizenship due to issues with income taxes. 

In day to day conversations, when you hear someone bring up HIPAA compliance, they are most likely referring to Title II. To become compliant with HIPAA Title II, the health care industry must follow these provisions:

  • National Provider Identifier Standard: Every healthcare entity is required to have a 10-digit national provider identifier number that is unique to them, otherwise known as, an NPI. 
  • Transactions and Code Sets Standard: Healthcare organizations are required to follow a set of standards pertaining to electronic data interchange (EDI) to be able to submit and process insurance claims.  
  • HIPAA Privacy Rule: This rule sets national standards that help to protect patient health information.
  • HIPAA Security Rule: This rule establishes the standards for patient data security. 

What information is protected by HIPAA?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule safeguards all individually identifiable health information obtained or transferred by a covered entity or business associate. Sometimes this information is stored or transmitted electronically, digitally, on paper or orally. Individually identifiable health information can also be referred to under the Privacy Rule as PHI. 

Examples of PHI are:

  • Personal identifying information such as the name, address, birth date and Social Security number of the patient. 
  • The mental or physical health condition of a person.
  • Certain Information regarding the payment for treatments.

HIPAA penalties

Health industries and professionals should take extra caution to prevent HIPAA violations. If a data breach occurs or if there is a failure to give patients access to their PHI, it could result in a fine. 

There are several types of HIPAA violations and penalties including:

  • Accidental HIPAA violations could result in $100 for an isolated incident and an upward of $25,000 for repeat offenses.
  • Situations in which there is reasonable cause for the HIPAA violation could result in a $1,000 fine and an upward of $100,000 annually for repeat violations.
  • Willfully neglecting HIPAA can cost anywhere between $10,000-$50,000 and $250,000-$1.5 million depending on whether or not it was an isolated occurrence, If it was corrected within a specific timeframe. 

The largest penalty one could receive for a HIPAA violation is $50,000 per violation and $1.5 million per year for repeated offenses.

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Here Are 6 Easy, Healthy and Cheap Breakfast Ideas

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the Most Important Meal. But when it’s 7 a.m., you’ve got hungry kids who need to be fed and out the door and your brain simply can’t deal with constructing another meal — you might easily resort to the usual: cereal & milk or frozen waffles. And by “you,” I mean, “I.”

So I turned to nutritionists who offered healthy, cheap breakfast ideas for everyone who is too frazzled to create their own (me!).

Cheap Breakfast Ideas and Advice, from Nutritionists

Here’s what the experts told us.

Why is breakfast important? 

“You’re literally breaking a fast and restoring your body with all the nutrients and energy it needs to take on the day,” says Rachel Naar, a registered dietician in New York.

What should you always include in your morning meal?

Aim to get whole foods and whole grains, Naar says. Plus, you should get a carbohydrate and a protein: You are the most insulin-resistant in the morning, so protein helps with blood sugar stabilization/ glycemic control, she says.

What ingredients should you always have at home for a budget-friendly breakfast?

Old fashioned rolled oats, eggs, milk, plain yogurt, frozen fruit, frozen spinach, nut butter and toast, says Rebecca Clyde, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Salt Lake City.

“I love these ingredients because I can make yogurt bowls, overnight oats, smoothies and eggs, all of which are quick and portable.”

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Six Simple Breakfast Recipes

Some of these can be made ahead.

Overnight oats

By Rebecca Clyde

½ cup of dry Old Fashioned Oats oats

½ cup milk (any type)

½ cup of Greek yogurt

Optional: ½ sliced banana, 1 tsp peanut butter powder and chia seeds, ½ cup frozen berries

Directions: The night before (or a few days before), put the fruit and oats into a mason jar. Pour the milk over it. Seal. Put it into the refrigerator. Make this up to four days before eating. Eat cold, or warm it up in the microwave.

Whole grain toast with nut butter, topped with fruit or honey and cinnamon

By Rachel Naar

Whole grain toast

Nut butter

Any fruit

Honey or cinnamon

Directions Self-explanatory

Smoothie

By Monica Ruiz-Noriega, of Vigeo Nutrition

1 cup of frozen berries

Handful of fresh or frozen spinach

¼ of a banana

½ avocado

Scoop of protein powder

1 cup plain yogurt or liquid of choice

Directions Blend everything together. Make the night before if desired.

Oatmeal muffins

By Melissa Schuster, registered dietitian nutritionist based in New York

3 ripe bananas

2 cups oats

1 egg

¼ cup milk of choice

½ tbsp baking powder

½ tbsp cinnamon

1 cup blueberries

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Directions Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Line muffin tins with liners or oil spray. Bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy with melted peanut butter or tahini, or top with Greek yogurt.

Egg vegetable quiche cups

By Melissa Schuster

1 bag of frozen pepper

1 bag of frozen spinach

12 eggs

Directions Defrost the spinach and peppers. Whisk the eggs, and mix them with the vegetables. Ladle everything into muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through. These can be cooked ahead of time.

Yogurt with mix-ins

By Len Lopez, nutritionist and chiropractic sports physician

12 oz whole plain yogurt

Optional: hemp seeds, pecans, dark chocolate chips, cinnamon, raw honey and milk.

Directions Mix yogurt with your choice of toppings. Prepare ahead if desired.

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What is a credit card statement credit?

A recent trend in credit card rewards is increased flexibility in how you can redeem your cash back, points or miles. You can book travel, invest, get gift cards and more – but one of the most common ways a credit card company will issue rewards is as a statement credit.

Statement credits may seem simple, but they’re handled a little differently by each rewards program, and there’s a lot to consider when you’re trying to decide if they’re the best way to redeem cash back or other rewards.

See related: What is cash back?

What is a statement credit?

Put simply, a statement credit is money credited to your account. In its most basic form, a statement credit is not much different from a payment. Like a normal monthly payment, a statement credit is deducted from your card balance, reducing the amount of money you owe. But where cardholders are responsible for payments, credits come from either a merchant or card issuer.

rewards cards also allow you to redeem the points or miles you’ve earned as statement credits. While some cards allow you to use a statement credit to reduce your balance with no restrictions, others only apply credits to your account after you meet certain criteria or make purchases in specific spending categories.

Statement credits on cash back cards

Cash back cards usually make it easy to redeem your points as a statement credit. In most cases, all you need to do is meet the card’s minimum redemption criteria, then choose a statement credit as your redemption method. Once a credit is applied to your account, your card balance decreases accordingly.

If, for example, you were to spend $3,000 with a flat rate 1 percent cash back card, you’d earn a $30 credit; and if you were to redeem this entire credit, $30 would be deducted from your account balance.

While many cards give you the option to request your cash back in the form a check, some only allow you to redeem as a statement credit – so be sure to read your issuer’s terms carefully. After all, when you get your cash back as a check or direct deposit, the money is yours to spend or save as you’d like. With a statement credit, however, the funds are “trapped” in your account and only impact your card balance. If you stop using your card or close your account, you could lose any cash back or points you haven’t redeemed.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, for example, allows you to book travel through the rewards center at a rate of 1 cent per mile. But if you redeem your miles for cash back as a statement credit, their value is cut in half to just 0.5 cents per mile.

If you prefer to redeem your rewards as a statement credit, make sure doing so doesn’t dilute the value of your points or miles, as each rewards program grants and values statement credits a little differently.

Statement credits for an introductory bonus

Statement credits also frequently appear as part of a card introductory or annual bonus, when issuers offer to reward you if you spend a certain amount of money within a given timeframe. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, offers a $250 bonus after you spend $1,000 with your new card in the first 3 months. Instead of simply sending you a check for $250, however, American Express credits your account $250 after you’ve met the conditions of the offer. Once received, the credit will cover the next $250 you charge.

Statement credits for card benefits

Many cards also award extra perks in the form of a statement credit. The United Explorer Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, each offer up to a $100 credit to cover the cost of a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application.

In these cases, a statement credit is applied to your account only after you make the eligible purchase and cannot be used for anything else.

How statement credits work with the major rewards programs

Here’s how some of the major rewards programs treat statement credits:

Rewards program Can you redeem rewards as a statement credit? Minimum redemption Rewards rate when redeemed as a credit
Discover cards Cashback Bonus Yes None 1:1
Bank of America Cash Rewards Yes None ($25 for automatic redemptions) 1:1
American Express Membership Rewards Yes $25 1:0.6
Chase Ultimate Rewards Yes $20 1:1

Should I redeem my points as a statement credit?

Once you know what a statement credit is and how it’s treated by your rewards program, you’ll probably wonder if it’s smart to redeem your points or miles in this form. While the answer will depend on your spending habits, goals and financial situation, it makes more sense in certain circumstances.

If you’re trying to decide whether you should redeem your points as a credit statement, consider the following:

  • Are you going to carry a balance? If you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to pay off your balance in full by the due date, redeeming your points as a statement credit makes sense. You’ll knock a chunk off your balance and make it easier to pay in full and avoid interest charges. Keep in mind, however, that statement credits are not usually considered payments, so if you can’t help carrying a balance, you’ll still have to make a minimum out-of-pocket payment.
  • Does your card offer an incentive for redeeming points as a statement credit? Some cash back cards offer redemption bonuses when you opt for a statement credit over “true” cash back in the form of a check or direct deposit. If that’s the case, and you plan to continue using the card, go with a statement credit to get more mileage out of your cash back rewards.
  • Are your points worth less when redeemed as a statement credit? If you’re using a card with a more flexible rewards program, redeeming your rewards as a statement credit is likely possible, but not necessarily wise. Check your issuer’s terms to see if your points lose any value when redeemed as a statement credit. If 1 point is worth 1 cent when used for travel purchases, but only 0.5 cents when redeemed as a statement credit, you’re missing out on a lot of the value you’ve earned. If you have no interest in travel, see if you can get full value out of your points in a roundabout way, like redeeming points for gift cards at stores you frequent.

Other ways to redeem your credit card rewards

Many cards offer several other options for redeeming your rewards. In addition to statement credits, you may be able to redeem cash back, points, or miles for:

  • A direct deposit – You can link your bank account so that when you hit “redeem,” that money goes directly to your account. For some, this is more satisfying than receiving a statement credit.
  • A check – If you don’t mind waiting, many credit card issuers will mail a check for the value of your rewards.
  • Gift cards – Some credit cards allow you to exchange your points or cash back for gift cards. Make sure that you’re getting the same or more value before you choose this option – sometimes the dollar value of gift cards is different from what you would get redeeming for a statement credit or direct deposit.
  • Merchandise – Credit card issuers sometimes have shopping portals that give you the option to use your cash back or points to pay for merchandise. This is another option that you should approach with caution. Do the math to make sure you’re getting the same dollar value as you would with a direct deposit or statement credit.
  • Travel – Travel redemption options vary from card to card, but there are two main methods, one of which is receiving a statement credit for travel purchases you’ve already made. The other is using the issuer’s portal to book travel, such as flights or hotels, online.

Final Thoughts

A statement credit is just one way you can receive bonuses and redeem the rewards you’ve earned. If you’re using a cash back card, it could be a smart, low-maintenance way to reduce your balance and build good spending habits. If you’re using a more flexible rewards or travel card, though, make sure redeeming as a statement credit still gets you fair value for your points or miles.

Source: creditcards.com

Store Brand vs. Name Brand: How to Save Money on Everyday Stuff

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
A shopper at Publix would save .72 or about 35% by buying the store-brand version of these eight items over their name-brand alternatives. A shopper at Walmart would save .10 or nearly 45%.
Most store-brand products are made to closely compare to their name-brand products. If you check the ingredients, sometimes you’ll find they’re made of the exact same stuff — though the recipes may differ slightly. What the decision really comes down to is preference.
We often default to certain brands when shopping simply because of the name on the package — and the reputation that comes along with it, thanks to clever advertising.
“I will use generic for anything but my hair products,” said community member KellyFromKeene.”Otherwise, [with] food, clothes [and] household supplies, I will get the generic if the ingredients are the same.”
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Ultimately, the decision to buy a store-brand product or your favorite name brand is a subjective one. There’s trial and error involved, and in some cases you might land right back on the premium paper towels because you find that they really do pick more up, and quicker.

Comparing the Cost of Store Brand Vs. Name Brand

But on the shelves next to those items you can often find a comparable store-brand version that costs less — sometimes significantly less. We often refer to these as generic products. Sometimes these rival versions are even made in the same manufacturing facilities and have little to no noticeable differences.
The greater the grocery haul, the greater the savings by choosing the cheaper alternative. And since you likely go shopping more than once a month, you could see a significant difference in your monthly budget by swapping out name-brand items.

Product Store Brand at Publix Name Brand at Publix Store Brand at Walmart Name Brand at Walmart
Oreos $2.59 $3.89 $1.63 $2.72
Jif peanut butter $2.39 $2.72 $1.58 $2.22
Cheerios $1.93 $4.19 $1.23 $2.82
Kraft cheddar cheese $3.85 $4.19 $2.08 $2.38
Diet Coke, 2-liter $0.75 $2.19 $0.68 $1.74
Dove body wash $3.99 $6.81 $3.47 $5.58
Adult extra-strength Tylenol $6.99 $10.29 $1.98 $9.47
Children’s Motrin $4.99 $7.49 $3.94 $5.97
Total $27.48 $41.77 $16.59 $32.90

We buy Bounty paper towels because they’re the “quicker picker-upper” and Frosted Flakes because “they’re gr-r-reat.”
When deciding between store brand and name brand, keep these things in mind:
(Note: Prices were sourced on Feb. 19, 2020 at stores located in St. Petersburg, Florida. Sales tax was not factored into this example.)
But before your next shopping trip, it’s worth considering how much money you could save if you take a few name brand items off your list.

Store Brand Vs. Name Brand: How to Decide


“Recently, I tried my store’s brand of peanut butter,” Sthom continued. “I’m partial to smooth [Jif] but the store’s organic smooth brand was less than .00 — around .18, unbelievably — and was just as good if not better.”
“I definitely try to choose store brand, at least initially. Sometimes, I can tell the difference,” said community member Sthom. “For example, I tried my store’s brand of filters for my Brita: I could tell the difference immediately, so I switched back. That happens sometimes.
Sometimes going with the store brand is a matter of trial and error.
Community member Jobelle Collie said she’s partial to Dove bar soap, Olay moisturizer and Palmolive green dishwashing liquid but buys generic trash bags, office supplies and kitchen staples like salt, pepper and sugar.
Since store-brand merchandise costs less money than name-brand counterparts, a common perception is that they’re of lesser quality.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
What’s in a name? A lot actually.
Editor’s note:  This post was originally published in February 2020.
I visited two stores — Publix (a southeastern grocery store chain) and Walmart — to do a little price comparison.

FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

Tips for Weighing Store Brand vs. Name Brand Products

Consider that I only used eight items in this example. When’s the last time you went to the grocery store and walked away with just eight things?

  1. Try swapping out the name-brand version of single-ingredient items — like flour, rice, milk and eggs — for the store-brand version. You may find there’s less variation in taste or quality than multi-ingredient items like cookies or soup.
  2. Use spices or other ingredients you have at home to dress up a store-brand product — for example, adding basil and garlic to a jar of pasta sauce.
  3. All store brands aren’t created equal. You may dislike the taste of store-brand cereal or the quality of store-brand toilet paper at one grocer, but another store’s products could be more on par with the name brands.
  4. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires generic medications (over-the-counter and prescription) to have the same active ingredient, strength and dosage form as the name-brand equivalent. Both products should be medically equal.
  5. Store sales and coupons can cause name-brand products to cost less than the store version. Store brands aren’t always the cheapest option. This is a great time to indulge in your preferred brand and save money.

One reason name-brand items are more expensive is because it costs money to market those products to the public. Consumers pay the price for those commercial jingles that stick in their heads.
But that’s not always true.
We asked The Penny Hoarder community members about buying store-brand items over name brand. Respondents said they often choose store-brand products to save money but still have name-brand preferences when it comes to certain items, despite any cost savings.

Help, I Need to Get the Cosigner Off My Car Loan!

how to get a cosigner off a car loan

We’ve had many readers write in after a divorce and ask how to split their assets with an ex-spouse. One of the most common questions is how to remove an ex or another cosigner from a car loan and title. Here’s how to go about it.

What’s the Role of a Cosigner?

It can be challenging to remove a cosigner from a loan. To gain a better understanding of why, let’s look at why a cosigner is used at all. Essentially, a cosigner is needed when the borrowers own credit and/or income isn’t enough to qualify for the loan by himself or herself. The cosigner, presumably, has stronger credit and income, and is required by the lender or creditor to help guarantee that the loan will be repaid.

Loans involving a cosigner include a cosigners notice. The notice asks that the cosigner guarantee the debt. This means that if the original borrower fails to make payments on the debt, then the cosigner becomes responsible for the balance. The cosigner then is obligated to make payments until the debt is paid when the borrower can’t.

Co-signing a loan is risky for the cosigner, because it can affect the cosigner’s credit if the borrower doesn’t satisfy the debt and the cosigner has to take over. The debt can ultimately affect the cosigner’s credit scores and access to revolving credit, such as credit cards.

Before co-signing a loan, a cosigner should be sure that he/she is able to comfortably take on the monthly payments if it comes to that. The cosigner should also make sure he/she doesn’t need to get a loan of his/her own over the course of the cosigned loans terms.  Cosigning on the borrower’s debt will affect the cosigner’s overall credit utilization and ability to secure other credit opportunities in the meantime.

Now that you know the role of a co-signer let’s look at what you can do to remove them from a car loan if needed.

Refinance the Car Loan to Get the Cosigner Off

You may be able to refinance a car loan in your own name to get your cosigner off the loan. In essence, you’ll buy the car from your ex-spouse and go through the car buying process again.

The spouse who is responsible for the car loan payments, the primary signer, should ideally assume credit liability for the loan. It’s a also good idea to go through this process right away, regardless of what your divorce decree states.

Divorce decrees (or court orders) don’t release either person from his/her obligations under the original contract of the loan. That means that if you and your ex-spouse have a joint account, like a car loan, and if the spouse who is supposed to pay doesn’t, the negative credit history will end up on both of your credit reports, and those late payments will damage both of your credit ratings. In fact, the other person may not know about the unpaid account until a collection agency calls.

Removing your ex from the car’s title, if the car already paid for, is similar and requires working with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You’ll both need to sign a change of title/vehicle ownership form and return it for processing. You can check online or call your state’s DMV for details and forms.

In some states you can file a transfer of title between family members, if the divorce has not been finalized yet. A transfer of title lets you avoid getting any needed inspections or certifications and paying taxes on the vehicle based on the purchase price. (If you live in the state of California, for example, research changing vehicle ownership versus transferring a car title.)

See if You Have a Cosigner Release Option

Some car loans include conditions that remove the cosigner’s obligation after a specified number of on-time payments are made by the primary borrower.

If you’re unsure if this is an option, talk to the lender and check any loan documents you have. The cosigner release option is probably one of the easiest methods of taking a co-signers name off a car loan.

Pay Off the Loan

Another option to get a cosigner off a car loan is to pay off the loan either directly or by selling the car. If you sell the car, you can use the money to pay off the loan. With luck, the sale value of the car will be sufficient to cover the remainder of the loan.

Be aware that if you are the cosigner, and the primary borrower fails to make payments, you can likely seize the asset and sell it.

This article was originally published February 20, 2013, and has since been updated by another author.

Image: iStockphoto

The post Help, I Need to Get the Cosigner Off My Car Loan! appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com