7 Apartment Winter Maintenance Tips for Renters

Winter always seems to sneak up on us, year after year. Because most climates experience the most dramatic change in weather during the colder months, it’s important to understand what apartment winter maintenance or preparatory tasks you’ll be responsible for at your rental property.

While some tasks fall on the shoulders of your landlord or property manager, there are certain steps you can take as a renter to ensure a safe and comfortable winter at home.

1. Check in with your landlord or property manager

Before the winter hits, touch base with your landlord if you’re unclear on what are tenant responsibilities and what are landlord responsibilities. Who’s responsible for removing snow and ice at the property, and what are the expectations?

Some states have local snow and ice removal regulations regarding public sidewalks or other public areas. Discuss acceptable de-icing measures to make sure you aren’t causing damage to any surfaces.

thermostat

2. Test out the heat

While it’s your landlord’s responsibility to have heating and cooling systems serviced regularly, it’s helpful to turn on the heat a bit early for a short period of time to make sure everything is functioning properly.

It’s always better to learn about any issues ahead of time instead of discovering a winter maintenance problem in your apartment when the cold temperatures set in.

3. Avoid unwanted guests

Cooler weather and more precipitation means bugs, rodents and other pests are looking for a warm place to call home. An easy way to attract unwanted pests is by providing them with a food source, so be sure to take a few preventative steps, especially now that many of us are cooking at home more than ever before.

Store your dry, perishable food items inside air-tight containers that pests can’t chew through. Try to take trash containing food scraps out as soon as possible instead of letting it sit. Aim to wipe down countertops at least once each day to get rid of crumbs and food remnants.

4. Prevent frozen pipes

Be sure to follow all of your landlord’s instructions to avoid frozen or burst pipes due to cold weather. Most landlords or property managers will provide guidance on temperature levels and other preventative measures to avoid this issue.

If you’re leaving on vacation or will otherwise be away from your rental for a period of time this winter, give your landlord a heads up and ask if they want you to set the temperature at a certain point or leave a couple of faucets on a slow drip.

woman with blanket and coffee

5. Stay warm and save money

Of course, you want to be comfortable in your own home, but keeping a few things in mind when it comes to turning on the heat can have a dramatic impact on your monthly bill. Experts say you can save up to 10 percent on your yearly heating expenses by turning down the thermostat just 7-10 degrees for approximately eight hours per day, like while you’re at work or while you’re sleeping.

Ceiling fans are an excellent tool to help distribute heat evenly. Many models have a switch that forces blades to spin clockwise, which will push warm air down into a room.

6. Be prepared for emergencies

If you live in an area where winter weather and storms are a frequent occurrence, it’s wise to make sure you’re prepared ahead of time for any worst-case scenarios. Sign up for weather and emergency alert systems to stay informed about any potentially threatening storms and actions should take. In general, stay indoors during major storms and avoid road travel until it is safe to do so.

7. Notify your landlord of any issues as soon as possible

Common winter issues like ice dams, frozen pipes or issues with the heating system can quickly spiral out of control. It’s important to keep tabs on your home and alert your landlord of any potential issues as soon as possible so they can be taken care of as quickly as possible.

Winter is coming

Whether you’re dreading winter or it’s your favorite season, taking the time to prepare your apartment for winter maintenance will help set you up for success as a renter. Come to a clear and established understanding of what your responsibilities are and what your landlord is responsible for, and make sure to hold up your end of the bargain.

The post 7 Apartment Winter Maintenance Tips for Renters appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

7 Myths About Work From Home Jobs & What It’s Really Like

I have been working from home or while traveling full-time since around 2013, and since then I have heard so many myths about work from home jobs.I have been working from home or while traveling full-time since around 2013, and since then I have heard so many myths about work from home jobs.

Some of the things that I’ve heard over the years include:

“Working from home must be boring.”

“You must have so much free time to get chores done!”

“Aren’t all work from home jobs scams?”

“Working from home isn’t a real job”

Whether you work for yourself and your office is in your home, or if you telecommute and work for someone else, I’m sure you’ve heard some of these myths about work from home jobs as well.

Truth is, so many people think that working from home is something different, until they get to experience it.

And, this is something that many people are learning in 2020 due to current events!

Now, I want to say that I absolutely love and enjoy working from home.

I would not change a single thing about working from home.

However, some people have said certain things to me that really make me laugh. I think part of that is because they’ve never worked from home before, and the reality is that working from home is still work.

Working from home can be different for everyone because we all have different jobs. Also, what your work from home situation is like makes a big difference too. 

Working from home with kids can make things more challenging. Some jobs keep you tied to your laptop, some require extreme concentration, some are more flexible, etc.

Still, it’s all work!

Today, I want to talk about some of the most common work from home facts and myths. I’m going to explain the misconceptions of working remotely and what’s really happening when people work from home.

Now, I hope today’s article doesn’t come across as a big complaint. Instead, I simply want to shed some light on the topic and explain the truth about working from home.

Content related to myths about work from home jobs:

  • 12 Work From Home Jobs That Can Earn You $1,000+ Each Month
  • Ways To Make An Extra $1,000 A Month
  • 9 Work From Home and Travel Careers
  • 15 Outdoor Jobs For People Who Love Being Outside

Here are common 7 myths about work from home jobs.

 

Myth: You can run errands for everyone during the day

“You must have so much free time to get chores done!”

When I first started working from home, I received so many phone calls from people asking me to do favors, and almost every single time it started with “since you have nothing else to do during the day…”

While I don’t mind helping others around me, I know I’m not alone – this is something that many, many people who work from home have an issue with.

It can be so hard saying no.

Many people think that if you work from home, you don’t actually do anything all day. This sometimes leads to friends and family members asking for favors from those who work from home.

I know friends who work from home who have been asked to babysit, pick things up from the store, grab dry cleaning, bring a pet to the groomer, and more. 

If you have the time and you want to, by all means say yes to every favor. It does feel good to help others.

But, don’t feel like you have to jump on every request just because you work from home.

 

Truth: People who work from home still have to stick to a schedule

One of the reasons people believe that last myth is because working from home is so flexible, and they’ve probably heard that before.

The truth is, while it’s flexible, many people who work from home still try and stick to a normal-ish schedule. 

That’s because if you have other people in your life that keep regular 9-5 hours or have kids in school, working during “normal” hours makes the most sense. It’s probably the only time you have to get any work accomplished. 

Be honest with the people around you and explain the situation. More importantly, be realistic with yourself. It feels nice to help other people out, but running errands all day for others can prevent you from completing work, force you to work late in the evening or weekends, and it can also cost you money.

It also helps to set some boundaries with those around you. Tell the people in your life if there are certain times they shouldn’t bother you, that you might not pick up the phone right away, etc.

Not everyone will understand, some people will get it, and some people probably aren’t sure what working from home means.

But, most people will happily respect your boundaries once you tell them what they are.

 

Myth: Working from home is boring

“I could never work from home, I would be too bored.”

I hear this all the time, ever since I first started working from home.

This is one of the myths about work from home jobs that people believe because they think they would miss working with other people. I understand that – I remember having lots of fun with some of the people I used to work with.

Many people believe this myth because it might sound boring to stay in your house all of the time. It can be, that’s not always the case.

 

Truth: Working from home can be both exciting and boring

Some people would probably think that blogging is boring whether they did it in an office or from home. That’s probably true for lots of jobs.

Your job can be exciting, boring, stressful, calm, easy, difficult, etc. And, it can feel like all of those things over the course of the day. 

Another thing is that while working from home might sound boring to some people, I look at what it allows me to do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and I don’t find it boring, at all. 

But, I also love that working from home allows me to travel full time. I have gotten to visit so many amazing places. And, I can choose when I work.

Still, there are some days when I’d rather be doing something other than working, but that doesn’t make working from home boring.

If you’re struggling with this, think about what your situation allows you to do. Focus on the positives.

Some people love what they do, and others love what their job allows them to do.

 

Myth: All work from home jobs are scams

When I tell people what I do, they usually don’t believe it. Many people think that home businesses are scams.

While this myth has eased a little bit over the years, a LOT of people thought working from home was a scam just about a decade ago.

Things have changed a lot in the last several years!

According to Stanford, 42% of the U.S. labor force currently works from home full-time in 2020.

Not all work at home jobs are scams. I have a legitimate business! Just like anyone else who has a business, mine is a business as well.

There are many, many work from home jobs that exist and are legitimate.

 

Truth: There are work from home scams

Unfortunately, there are still some scams out there. 

There are scams that say a company will pay you $10 for every envelope you stuff. There are some scams where a person says they’ll send you a big check up front, but you have to forward part of that check back to the business.

Work from home scams do exist, but that’s not at all the case with the majority of them.

Please head to How To Spot Work From Home Job Scams And Avoid Them At All Costs to learn more.

 

Myth: It’s easy to separate work and life

When you work from home or have your own business, it can be very difficult to completely stop working.

Whenever we go on a trip, I almost always continue working the same amount that I do when I am at home. When you are a business owner, especially in the beginning, you want to bust your butt off to make your business successful. 

It can go the other way too. If you are working from home and see dirty dishes in the sink or unfolded laundry, you can easily get distracted from what you’re doing and stop working. 

It’s also easy to get distracted by personal emails, phone calls, social media, etc. 

This is something I still struggle with.

 

Truth: You can make a better work from home environment

One of the things that may help you separate work from the rest of your life is making sure you set boundaries and create a good physical and mental space to work.

I recommend setting work hours for yourself, making time for vacations, taking breaks throughout the workday, and so on.

Even though you are working from home and you probably don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder to see what you are doing all day long, I still recommend having clear work hours. This will help you manage your time, complete your work, and “leave” work for the day.

If you get distracted by what else is happening in your house, try to make some space that is only for working. You don’t need an office – it can be as simple as a clean dining room table. Or, do the dishes and fold the laundry before you start working.

 

Myth: You’re not actually working when you’re at home

Working from home is still working!

You still have a job and tasks still need to be completed.

This is one of the myths about work from home jobs that gets me the most.

For some reason, many people associate working from home with not doing any work at all. Boy, are they wrong!

I have even had people not believe me and then ask for a full schedule of what I do each day to prove myself.

If me and the millions of other people weren’t actually working when they were home, how would we be holding jobs and getting paid?

 

Truth: People successfully work from home every day

The reality is that the only real thing that changes when you work from home is that the location is different.

People run multi-million dollar businesses from their home. Some hold side hustles, freelance, run Etsy shops, dog sit in their home, work jobs in the corporate world, and much more.

Sure, there are distractions and you may find more time to spend on non-work tasks, but working from home is still working.

 

Myth: You will be lonely when working from home

I’m often asked if I get lonely working from home, and this is one of the most common myths about work from home jobs.

People think that when you work from home that you have absolutely no contact with anyone else. But when I worked in an office, I hardly ever had human contact, except during meetings. That honestly felt more lonely than working from home.

Now, I talk to people all day long. I talk with other bloggers, I answer emails from my readers, and I interact with people on social media. I probably talk with more people now than I did when I worked in an office.

 

Truth: It can be lonely to work from home, but there are ways to make it less lonely

If you do start feeling lonely when you work from home, I have a couple of suggestions to beat the lonely feeling.

You can start a Slack chat with those that you work with or hop on a video call. There are also meetups you can attend that relate to work or your hobbies. There are also lots of online groups, like Facebook groups or subreddits, where you can network with others in your field.

Working from home doesn’t have to feel lonely all of the time.

 

Myth: You will spend all of your time in pajamas

When I first started working from home, I spent a lot of time in my pajamas.

However, that’s not the case anymore.

Now that we live on a boat and have to walk the dogs regularly, I have to go outside often and I’d prefer if everyone around me didn’t have to see me in my pajamas all the time, haha.

 

Truth: It’s okay to work in your pajamas

Some people get completely dressed up for work every day, even though they work from home full-time. It helps get them in the mood for work, and I completely get that.

Some put on a nice top, but still wear athletic shorts or pajama pants.

You will have to find what works best for you.

But, if you want to work in your pajamas, do it. That’s one of the perks of working from home. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about wearing pajamas if that’s what you want.

 

What are the pros and cons of working from home?

I am a big fan of working from home. You can probably tell that now, haha!

The reasons these myths about work from home jobs bother me is because I love what I do and I love helping other people realize that they can work from home too.

Being able to work from home is one of the best things I’ve been able to do. Some of the pros are:

  • It allows me to spend more time with my family
  • I can travel full-time
  • My schedule is flexible
  • I can make a great income from home, and more

Now, what are the negatives of working from home?

Some of the cons are:

  • It can be hard to separate your work and life
  • Some people may find it lonely
  • Some people in your life may struggle with the boundaries you set
  • It can be a big adjustment if you’ve never done it before

The reality is that there are pros and cons about any kind of job. The negatives don’t just apply to work from home jobs. It’s about finding what works for you.

 

Is working from home right for you?

After reading all of the above, you may be wondering how you can make working from home work for you.

Here are some of my tips:

  • Set working hours for yourself
  • Create a dedicated work area
  • Hire help if you need it
  • Cut out distractions
  • Socialize with others
  • Don’t run errands for others all day long
  • Take time off work when you are sick

I recommend reading My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed to learn more about how you can work from home most efficiently.

Even with talking about all of the myths above, there are still many benefits to working from home.

Being able to work from home is one of the best things I’ve been able to do, and I know many people who feel the same way.  I know it can be hard at times, but it’s all just the reality of working from home.

What common myths about work from home jobs have you heard?

The post 7 Myths About Work From Home Jobs & What It’s Really Like appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee and How Can You Avoid It?

Foreign transaction fees are irritating little charges that every traveler has faced, and most credit card users have questioned. They are the bane of a frequent flyer’s life and if not managed carefully, could result in some serious charges. But what are these charges, why do they exist, what’s the average fee, and how can you avoid them?

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee?

A foreign transaction fee is a surcharge levied every time you make a payment in a foreign currency or transfer money through a foreign bank. These fees are charged by credit card networks and issuers, often totaling around 3%.

For example, imagine that you’re on holiday in the United Kingdom, where all transactions occur in Pound Sterling. You go out for a meal and use your credit card to pay a bill of £150. Your credit card issuer first converts this sum into US Dollars and then charges a foreign transaction fee, after which the network (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) will do the same.

If we assume that £150 equates to exactly $200, this will show on your credit card statement first followed by a separate foreign transaction fee of $6.

When Will You Pay Foreign Transaction Fees?

If you’re moving money from a US bank account to an international account in a different currency, there’s a good chance you will be hit with foreign transaction fees and may also be charged additional transfer fees. More commonly, these fees are charged every time you make a payment in a foreign currency.

Many years ago, foreign transaction fees were limited to purchases made in other currencies, but they are now charged for online purchases as well. If the site you’re using is based in another country, there’s a good chance you’ll face these charges.

It isn’t always easy to know in advance whether these fees will be charged or not. Many foreign based sites use software that automatically detects your location and changes the currency as soon as you visit. To you, it seems like everything is listed in dollars, but you may actually be paying in a foreign currency.

Other Issues that American Travelers Face 

Foreign transaction fees aren’t the only issue you will encounter when trying to use American reward credit cards abroad. If we return to the previous example of a holiday in the UK, you may discover that the restaurant doesn’t accept your credit card at all.

In the UK, as in the US, Visa and MasterCard are the two most common credit card networks and are accepted anywhere you can use a credit or debit card. However, while Discover is the third most common network in the US, it’s all but non-existent in the UK. 

Discover has claimed that the card has “moderate” acceptance in the UK, but this is a generous description and unless you’re shopping in locations that tailor for many tourists and American tourists in particular, it likely won’t be accepted.

There are similar issues with American Express, albeit to a lesser extent. AMEX is the third most common provider in the UK, but finding a retailer that actually accepts this card is very hit and miss.

Do Foreign Transaction Fees Count Towards Credit Card Rewards?

Foreign transaction fees, and all other bank and credit card fees, do not count towards your rewards total but the initial charge does. If we return to the previous example of a $200 restaurant payment, you will earn reward points on that $200 but not on the additional $6 that you pay in fees.

How to Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees

The easiest way to avoid foreign transaction fees is to use a credit card that doesn’t charge them. Some premium cards and reward cards will absorb the fee charged for these transactions, which means you can take your credit card with you when you travel and don’t have to worry about extra charges.

This is key, because simply converting your dollars to your target currency isn’t the best way to avoid foreign transaction fees. A currency conversion will come with its own fees and it’s also very risky to carry large sums of cash with you when you’re on vacation. 

Credit Cards Without Foreign Transaction Fees

All credit card offers are required to clearly state a host of basic features, including interest rates, reward schemes, and annual fees. However, you may need to do a little digging to learn about foreign transaction fees. These fees can be found in the credit card’s terms and conditions, which should be listed in full on the provider’s website.

To get you started, here are a few credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees:

  1. Bank of America Travel Rewards Card: A high-reward and low-fee credit card backed by the Bank of America.
  2. Capital One: All Capital One cards are free of foreign transaction fees, including their reward cards, such as the Venture card.
  3. Chase Sapphire Preferred: A premium rewards card aimed at big spenders. There is an annual fee, but not foreign transaction fees.
  4. Citi Prestige: One of several Citi cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees, and the best one in terms of rewards. 
  5. Discover It: A solid all-round credit card with no foreign transaction fees. However, as noted above, the Discover network is rare outside of the United States.
  6. Wells Fargo Propel World: An American Express credit card with good rewards and low fees, including no foreign transaction fees.

Summary: One of Many Fees

Foreign transaction fees are just some of the many fees you could be paying every month. Credit cards work on a system of rewards and penalties; you’re rewarded when you make qualifying purchases and penalized when you make payments in foreign currencies and in casinos, and when you use your card to withdraw cash.

Many of these fees are fixed as a percentage of your total spend, but some also charge interest and you will pay this even if you clear your balance in full every month. To avoid being hit with these fees, pay attention to the terms and conditions and look for cards that won’t punish you for the things you do regularly.

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee and How Can You Avoid It? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.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

4 Practical Ways to Leave College Debt-Free

A college student looks down at her notebook and smiles because she'll leave college debt-free.

The following is a guest post by Lisa Bigelow, a content writer for Bold.

When it comes to paying for college, the anxiety about how to leave college debt-free starts early. And for thousands of grads who are buckling under the weight of monthly student loan payments that can cost as much as a mortgage, that worry can last for as long as 25 years.

According to EducationData.org and The College Board, the cost of a private school undergraduate education can exceed $200,000 over four years. Think you can avoid a $100k+ price tag by staying in-state? Think again—many public flagships can cost over $100,000 for residents seeking an undergraduate degree, including room and board. And with financial aid calculators returning eye-poppingly low awards, you’d better not get a second topping on your pizza.

In fact, you’d better hope that you can graduate on time.

The good news is that you can maintain financial health and get a great education at the same time. You won’t have to enroll as a full-time student and work 40 hours a week, either—each of the methods suggested are attainable for anyone who makes it a priority to leave college debt-free.

Here are four practical ways you can leave college debt-free (and still get that second pizza topping).

1. Cut the upfront sticker price

Don’t visit schools until you are certain you can afford them. Instead, prioritize the cost of attendance and how much you can afford to pay. Staying in-state is one easy way to do this. But if you have wanderlust and want to explore colleges outside state lines, an often-overlooked method of cutting the upfront cost is the regional tuition discount. Many US states participate in some form of tuition reciprocity or exchange programs. You can explore the full list of options at the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators website.

Let’s explore how this works. As a resident of a New England state, for example, you can study at another New England state’s public university at a greatly reduced cost if your home state’s public schools don’t offer the degree you want. So, for example, if you live in Maine but want to go to film school, you can attend the University of Rhode Island and major in film using the regional tuition discount.

Some universities offer different types of regional discounts and scholarships that appear somewhat arbitrary. The University of Louisville (in Kentucky) includes Connecticut in its regional scholars program. And at the University of Nebraska, out-of-state admitted applicants are eligible for several thousand dollars in renewable scholarship money if they meet modest academic standards.

If you already have your heart set on an expensive school and you’re not likely to qualify for reciprocity, financial help, or merit aid, live at home and complete your first two years at your local community college.

Here’s another fun fact: in some places, graduating from community college with a minimum GPA gives you automatic acceptance to the state flagship university.

2. Leverage dual enrollment and “testing out”

When you enroll in a four-year college it’s pretty likely that you’ll spend the first two years completing general education requirements and taking electives. Why not further reduce the cost of your education by completing some of those credits at your local community college, or by testing out?

Community college per-credit tuition is usually much cheaper than at four-year colleges, so take advantage of the lower rate in high school and over the summer after you’re enrolled in your four-year college.

But beware: you’ll probably need at least a C to transfer the credits, so read your institution’s rules first. Also, plan to take general education and low-level elective classes, because you’ll want to take courses in your major at your four-year school.

If you’ve been given the opportunity to take Advanced Placement courses, study hard for your year-end exams. Many colleges will accept a score of 3 or higher for credit, although some require at least a 4 (and others none at all). Take four or five AP classes in high school, score well on the exams, and guess what? You’ve just saved yourself a semester of tuition.

3. Take advantage of financial aid opportunities

After taking steps one and two, you probably have a good idea of what the leftover expense will be if you want to leave college debt-free. Your next job is to figure out how to cut that total even more by using financial aid. There are four types to consider.

The first is called need-based aid. This is what you’ll apply for when you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Known as the FAFSA, this is where you’ll enter detailed financial information, and you’ll need at least an hour the first time you complete this form. Hint: apply for aid as soon as the form opens in the fall. It is not a bottomless pot of money.

There is also medical-based financial aid. If you have a condition that could make employment difficult after graduating from college, you may be eligible, and qualifying is separate and apart from financial need and academic considerations.

The third type of aid relates to merit and is offered directly by colleges. Some schools automatically consider all accepted applicants for merit scholarships, which could relate to academics or community service or, in the case of recruited athletes, athletics. At other universities, you’ll need to submit a separate scholarship application after you’ve been admitted. Some merit awards are renewable for four years and others are only for one year.

If you didn’t get need-based or merit-based aid then you still may qualify for a private scholarship. Some require essays, some don’t, and some are offered by local community organizations such as rotary clubs, women’s organizations, and the like. Don’t turn your nose up at small-dollar awards, either, because they add up quickly and can cover budget-busting expenses such as travel and books.

4. Find easy money

Small-dollar awards really add up when you make finding easy money a priority. Consider using the following resources to help leave college debt-free:

  • Returns from micro-investing apps like Acorns
  • Tax return refunds
  • Browser add-ons that give you cashback for shopping online
  • Rewards credit cards (apply for a travel rewards credit card if you’re studying out of state)
  • Asking for money at the holidays and on your birthday
  • Working part-time by capitalizing on a special talent, such as tutoring, photography, or freelance writing

Leave College Debt-Free

Finally, if you have to take out a student loan, you may be able to have it forgiven if you agree to serve your community after graduation. The Peace Corps is one such way to serve, but if you have a specialized degree such as nursing, you can work in an underserved community and reap the rewards of loan forgiveness.


Lisa Bigelow writes for Bold and is an award-winning content creator, personal finance expert, and mom of three fantastic almost-adults. In addition to Credit.com, Lisa has contributed to The Tokenist, OnEntrepreneur, College Money Tips, Finovate, Finance Buzz, Life and Money by Citi, MagnifyMoney, Well + Good, Smarter With Gartner, and Popular Science. She lives with her family in Connecticut.

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Source: credit.com

How to Include Some Guilt-Free Spending in Your Budget

With so many of us dealing with the coronavirus pandemic (plus the financial fallout from it) and spending more time at home this year, there’s a very good chance your family budget looks different. Our own budget had some big adjustments (transportation costs went down to basically nothing) along with some minor changes (buying supplies and items around the house for projects).

Our money dates have had us reevaluate some things and redirect money to other expenses and savings. Besides making sure that you’re taking care of essential expenses and building up your financial cushion, you want to want to make sure you include another key area in your budget – some guilt-free spending in there as well.

Why Budgets Need to Include Some Guilt-Free Spending

First off what exactly is guilt-free spending? And why should families include it when planning out their budget. Basically, it covers the expenses that you enjoy. Every family has different ways they use that money. It could be travel, eating out together, adding another pair of shoes to your collection, or gadgets. With families having to deal with so many decisions and challenges, there has been an increasing awareness of having proper self-care as part of the routine. Families are now including that in their budgets.

The key part of keeping these expenses guilt-free is that they bring you joy without breaking the bank. These aren’t frivolous spending sprees. They can be meaningful purchases such as supplies for a hobby like painting that enriches your life. Second, these expenses are planned ahead of time and baked into your budget so you’re not taking on debt or upsetting your family’s cash flow.

Why Budgets Typically Fail

One of the reasons why I think having some fun money in your budget is a wise move is because it’ll help make your budget more sustainable. How? If I asked you what the point of a budget is, what would you say? Most tell me it’s to keep their spending in check.

It makes sense to believe that because for most families that’s what it’s about – restrictions. However, the best budgets I’ve seen are geared towards the direction of the money. I’ve interviewed families who have retired early or have knocked out a ton of debt and something they had in common was that their budgets reflected their priorities and circumstances.

Before they put pen to paper (or tap the app), they sat down and defined what goals they wanted to achieve. If you had to break down a budget the three key areas are basically:

  1. Paying your essential bills.
  2. Building long term financial stability.
  3. Have the money you can use now to enjoy.

Many times, the disagreements, arguments, and sometimes sabotage with budgets come from friction on finding a balance between spending money with long term stability and enjoying now. If you skew too much to saving up for the future, one or more of you in the family could start getting resentful. Financial infidelity or set back with keeping the budget can occur for many reasons, but some spouses say one reason is there’s absolutely no wiggle room in the budget for fun. If you’re only focused on the now when something comes up – hello 2020! – you’re left without a safety net.

For families with kids, that’s an additional source of stress they don’t need. I noticed that the families who hit their goals had found a way to balance things. They save towards their long term goals as well as set aside money to enjoy now. How? By redoing how they approached their budgets.

Easy Budget Framework to Use

Let’s go back to those three key goals of any budget – taking care of essentials, saving for the future, and spending on the present. Families looking to include all of these goals need a budget that can weave them together. If you’re just starting out with a budget and are still trying to figure out a framework, an easy foundational budget is the 50/20/30 budget. It divides up your money into those three key goals, with 50% going to necessary expenses, 20% towards financial stability and wealth, and 30% towards discretionary or fun money.

Feel free to adjust the percentages based on your circumstances, but for many families that three-bucket approach is easy enough to set up and it gives them enough wiggle room where there can enjoy some of their money now. Once you’ve created that budget, you can then take the next step – automating your money. We’ve done this for over a decade and it has been incredibly helpful. We have our bills automated every paycheck plus our savings and investments are scheduled monthly. With those necessary things taken care of first, we know whatever spending we do won’t harm our expenses.

Staying on Top of Your and Budget – The Easy Way

Now that you have a budget and you’re including some guilt-free spending, how do you make sure you’re staying on track? There are some wonderful options out there including money apps like Mint. You can stay on top of your money without losing your mind because the apps can pull that data from your accounts and give you an easy and clear way to see where your money is going. You can also use Mint to track your goals like paying down debt or saving up for a house. With that information in front of you can quickly and easily see how you’re doing anytime.

Another handy tool with Mint is how simple it is to set up alerts on certain spending. So if you have set aside $200 for your ‘fun’ account, Mint can notify you when your spending is getting close to your limit. It’s a more proactive and real-time way to manage your money without having to worry about every single penny.

Your Take on Budgets

As you can see, with a little planning you can be financially savvy and enjoy some fun now. I’d love to get your thoughts – how do you approach your budget? What are some must-have expenses in yours?

The post How to Include Some Guilt-Free Spending in Your Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Chase Sapphire cards offering rewards, statement credits for groceries

Ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers have settled into new routines and developed new spending patterns. One of the spending categories that hasn’t lost its popularity is groceries, as many people are cooking more at home and eating out less frequently.

See related: Grocery shopping and COVID-19: What’s changed and how to save money

Credit card issuers are adapting to these new patterns as well.

On Oct. 20, 2020, Chase announced it would be temporarily adding grocery rewards to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card* and Chase Sapphire Reserve®. This comes on top of other limited time offers the issuer has recently added, such as limited time redemption options through Pay Yourself Back and gas and grocery store purchases counting toward the Reserve card’s $300 travel credit.

See related: Guide to Chase Pay Yourself Back

“Throughout this very unique year, we’ve provided our cardmembers flexibility and options to get the most out of their cards …  as well as limited time opportunities to earn more points on certain spending,” Chase said in a statement. “We want to continue to give our cardmembers ways to maximize value where they are spending today.”

On top of that, on Jan. 28, 2021, Chase added an offer for new Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders: a one-time automatic $50 statement credit on grocery store purchases.

How the limited time grocery rewards work

Starting Nov. 1, 2020 and running through April 30, 2021, Sapphire Reserve cardmembers will earn 3 points per dollar on grocery store purchases, and Preferred cardmembers will earn 2 points per dollar, up to $1,000 in purchases per month. According to Chase, this will be automatic for existing and new cardmembers.

See related: Best credit cards for grocery shopping

This provides cardholders with an excellent opportunity to earn some of the most valuable travel points while travel is still limited.

The new offer also makes Sapphire cards more competitive when compared with the recently updated Chase Freedom card suite. In August, the issuer replaced the Chase Freedom with the Chase Freedom Flex and added three new valuable rewards categories to both the Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited, namely bonus cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards and on dining and drugstore purchases.

Considering neither Freedom card charges an annual fee and both earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, some cardholders may be wondering if the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth keeping during a time when most of its premium travel perks might go unused.

Fortunately, all the limited time offers coupled with temporary grocery rewards make it much easier to get value of these popular travel cards – even when you’re not traveling.

How the grocery statement credit works

Another incentive to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card now is the new one-time $50 statement credit on grocery purchases.

New cardmembers will get access to the statement credit automatically and be able to use it for 12 months from the time of account opening. Eligible purchases include purchases made at merchants coded as grocery stores. Warehouse club purchases won’t qualify.

Chase hasn’t announced the offer’s expiration date yet.

Chase Sapphire cards value at a glance

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Newly added limited-time benefits Cardmembers earn more on grocery store purchases: Nov. 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021

  • 3 points per $1 spent
  • Up to $1,000 in grocery store spend per month

Gas and grocery purchases count toward Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credit: 

  • Gas and groceries have been added as qualifying purchases, through June 30, 2021
New cardmembers receive an automatic statement credit:

  • One-time $50 statement credit on eligible grocery store purchases available for 12 months from the account opening

Cardmembers earn more on grocery store purchases: Nov. 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021

  • 2 points per $1 spent
  • Up to $1,000 in grocery store spend per month
Existing benefits
  • 3 points per dollar on dining purchases with restaurants – including delivery and pick-up
  • 3 points per dollar on travel – including tolls and parking
  • Complimentary DashPass Subscription from DoorDash, valued at over $100 per year
  • Up to $120 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases – $60 in statement credits through 2020 and another $60 in statement credits through 2021
  • 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides
  • Complimentary Lyft Pink membership, worth a minimum of $199 in value when you activate by March 21, 2022
  • Pay Yourself Back: Points are worth 50% more now through April 20, 2021 when redeemed for purchases in current categories of grocery, dining, home improvement and contributions to select charities
  • Chase Dining: Points are worth 50% more when redeemed through the new Chase Dining hub in Ultimate Rewards, now through April 30, 2021
  • 2 points per dollar on dining purchases with restaurants – including delivery and pick-up
  • 2 points per dollar on travel – including tolls and parking
  • Complimentary DashPass Subscription from DoorDash, valued at over $100 per year
  • 5 points on per dollar on Lyft rides
  • Pay Yourself Back: Points are worth 25% more now through April 20, 2021 when redeemed for purchases in current categories of grocery, dining, home improvement and contributions to select charities
  • Chase Dining: Points are worth 25% more when redeemed through the new Chase Dining hub in Ultimate Rewards, now through April 30, 2021

 

Bottom line

While travel isn’t the most lucrative rewards category at the moment, your Chase Sapphire card can still bring you plenty of value, especially given the temporary rewards categories and other limited time offers.

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.

Source: creditcards.com

What to Do this Weekend: Date Night In Ideas

Date-night-in

We are a month and a half into quarantine and date nights in many households have devolved into, ‘What have we not seen on Netflix yet?’  While we are all ready to get back out and about, there are plenty of fun date night at home options to help you enjoy and appreciate your partner.  This post is partially inspired by the fact that we are celebrating our wedding anniversary tonight and I was already doing so research on what to do this weekend.  I figured if I was already doing the work, I might as well share the wealth with you all!  

Check out a few of our best date night in ideas

Name that Tune

This really is a fun activity that we typically do on road trips, but it works just as well for date night.  Play each other your favorite songs from different eras or events in life.  

What song was popular when you went to your first school dance?  Did you ever learn a choreographed dance to a song?  What was it?  What was your first favorite country/hip hop/punk song?  Did you ever dedicate a song to someone on the radio? Make a mixtape?  First breakup/heartbreak song you listened to 100 times?

Music is such an integral part of our memories.  It is sure to bring out some great stories from your partner that you have never heard before and some great stories from your past that you may have completely forgotten about. All you really need is a Spotify account, your beverage of choice!

Wine Tasting

This is an amusing challenge for the nose and tastebuds.  Taste three (or five–no judgment here) wines and figure out which is which based solely on the tasting notes….you know the ‘hints of pencil lead and cranberry.’  This can be made romantic with dim lights and some candles or you can make this more upbeat with some fun background playlists.

Optional additions to make the night more festive: Cheeses, nuts, olives, crackers, honey

Minute to Win It

Impress each other with feats of strength and balance.  This is an evening bound to be full of laughter.  Check out this video for inspiration! Challenges include…

  • Face the Cookie.
  • Stack Attack.
  • Movin’ On Up.
  • Junk in the Trunk.
  • Suck It Up.
  • Penny Hose.
  • Ping Pong Bounce.

Sweets for Sweethearts

Bake together…even if neither of you is an expert in the kitchen, learning something new together is good for relationships!

Here are some recipes that have videos to go along with them

For easy cooking try these 3 Ingredient Desserts

For all those ripe bananas on your counter

For when you can only be trusted with the microwave

20 Questions

It sounds silly, but this really can be a learning experience. If you’ve been together you may think you know all the answers…but remember people’s tastes and preferences change.  Do you really know that sweet tarts are still his favorite candy? Or is Paris still her number one destination? The answers could surprise you!

Double Date 

Yes! This is actually possible via Netflix Party.  Pick a movie ahead of time, grab the popcorn and candy and chat with your favorite duo.  

Take a trip down memory lane

Look at each other’s pictures from your favorite vacation together.  You’ll be surprised to see the vacation through their eyes and their memories.  You can relive the best times together and appreciate it in a whole new way.  Bring in even more sensory memories by adding a favorite food or drink you discovered during that trip.

Or Take a Virtual Trip

Ever wonder what Venice is like during lockdown?

Join Travel Curious on their next tour with your Venetian born guide, Luca, who will take you on a live virtual walking tour of Venice and will end up in the Venetian mask-maker artisan shop. 

Join for free on their Instagram Live feed on May 15 2020 at 15:00pm BST / 10:00am EST

https://www.instagram.com/travelcurioustours/?hl=en

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Source: blog.apartminty.com