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Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

If left unchecked, extensive amounts of credit card debt can cripple your finances. The good news is there are many ways to handle debt, though each requires a dedicated effort on your part. But if you can manage to consolidate credit card debt, you will reduce your burden relatively quickly. In the process, you’ll avoid the exorbitant interest rates that accompany most credit cards. Below we take a look at some of the most effective techniques you can use to make this goal a reality.

Find Out Your Credit Score

Before you can work on improving your credit and minimizing your debt, you have to know where you currently stand.

Many credit card issuers allow cardholders to see their FICO® credit score free of charge once a month, so check out if any of your cards include that free credit score. The three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – also give out free annual credit reports. If that’s not enough, websites like Credit Karma™ and Credit Sesame provide a free look at your credit score and reports as well.

It is vital to review your credit report with a fine-tooth comb to ensure the accuracy of the information. If you find errors be sure to let the credit bureau in question know so the issue can be eradicated as soon as possible.

Zero Interest Balance Transfer Cards

Although it might seem counterintuitive to apply for another credit card to lessen your debt, a zero interest balance transfer card could really help. These cards typically include an introductory 0% balance transfer Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for six months or more. This ultimately allows you to move debt from one account to another without incurring more interest. However, once the introductory offer concludes, any leftover balances will revert to your base APR.

These offers aren’t totally free, though. Most cards also charge a balance transfer fee that’s usually between 3% and 5% of the transfer. Even with this initial payment, you will almost always still save money over leaving your debt where it stands currently.

If you want to consolidate credit card debt, here are three different balance transfer credit cards you could apply for, with varying introductory interest rates and transfer fees:

Balance Transfer Credit Cards Card Intro Balance Transfer APR Balance Transfer Fee Chase Slate 0% APR for first 15 months; then 16.49% to 25.24% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $5 or 5% of each transfer, whichever is greater Citi Double Cash Card 0% introductory APR for 18 months from date of first transfer when transfers are completed within 4 months from date of account opening; then 15.49% to 25.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness $5 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater BankAmericard® credit card 0% APR for first 15 billing cycles; then 14.49% to 24.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $10 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater Take Out a Personal Loan

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

The thought of taking out another loan probably doesn’t sound too appetizing to consolidate credit card debt. But a personal debt consolidation loan is one of the speediest ways to rid yourself of credit card debt. More specifically, you can use it to pay off most or all of your debt in one lump sum. That way, your payments are all merged into a single account with your lender.

The APR and length of the offered loan and the minimum credit score needed for approval are the main factors that should go into your final decision on a lender. By concentrating on these three components of the loan, you can map out what your monthly payments will be. As a result, you can more easily implement them into your financial life.

Applying for a personal consolidation loan can have a detrimental effect on your credit. Unfortunately, most institutions will run a hard credit check on you prior to approval. However, many online lenders don’t do this, which might ease your mind depending on the severity of your debt situation.

These loans are available through a wide variety of financial institutions, including banks, online lenders and credit unions. Here are a few examples of some of the most common debt consolidation lenders:

Common Debt Consolidation Lenders Banks Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Fifth Third Bank Online Lenders Lending Club, Prosper, Best Egg Credit Unions Navy Federal Credit Union, Unify Financial Credit Union, Affinity Federal Credit Union Auto or Home Equity Loan

If you own assets like a home or car, you can take out a lump-sum loan based on the equity you hold in them to consolidate credit card debt. This is a great way to reuse money you paid toward an existing loan to take care of your debt. When paying back your auto or home equity loan, you’ll usually pay in fixed amounts at a relatively low interest rate. Even if this rate isn’t great, it’s likely much better than any offer you’d receive from a card issuer.

Equity loans are technically a second mortgage or loan, meaning your house or car will become the loan’s collateral. That means you could lose your house or car if you cannot keep up with your equity loan payments.

Create a Budget

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

To build a budget, you first need to figure out your approximate monthly net income. Don’t forget to take into account taxes when you’re doing this.

You can then start subtracting your variable and fixed expenses that are expected for the upcoming month. This is where you will likely be able to identify where you’re overspending, whether it’s on food, entertainment or travel. Once you’ve completed this, you can begin cutting back where you need to. Then, use your surplus cash to pay off your debt one month at a time.

It shouldn’t matter if you’re dealing with substantial credit card debt or not. A monthly spending budget should always be a part of how you manage your finances. While this is likely the slowest way to eliminate debt, it’s also the most financially sound. At its core, it attempts to fix the problem without taking funding from an outside source. This should leave very little financial strife in the aftermath of paying off your debt.

Professional Debt Counseling

Perhaps since you’ve found yourself in serious debt, you feel like you want professional help getting out of it. Well the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) is available for just that reason. The NFCC® has member offices all around the U.S. that are certified in helping you consolidate credit card debt.

These counselors won’t only address your current financial issues and debt. They’ll also work to create a plan that will help you avoid this situation again in the future.

Agencies that are accredited by the NFCC® will have it clearly displayed on their website or at their offices. If you’re not sure where to look, the foundation created an agency locator that’ll help you find a counselor nearby.

Borrow From Your Retirement

Taking money early from your employer-sponsored retirement account obviously isn’t ideal. That’s means borrowing from your retirement is a last-ditch alternative. But if your credit card debt has become such a handicap that it’s affecting all other facets of your life, it is a viable option to consolidate credit card debt.

Because you are technically loaning money to yourself, this will not show up on your credit report. Major tax and penalty charges await anyone who has trouble making payments on these loans though. To make matters worse, if you quit your job or are fired, you’re typically only given 60 days to finish paying it off to avoid incurring a penalty.

Tips To Consolidate Credit Card Debt

  • If you take the time to come up with a budget, don’t let it go to waste. While you might find it tough to stick to, especially if you’re trying to cut back, it is the best way to manage your money correctly. Even if a budget becomes habit, stay vigilant with where your money is being spent.
  • Although a financial advisor will cost money, he or she might be able to help you keep your finances in check while ultimately helping you plan for the future as well. However, if this isn’t an option for you financially, stay on track with your NFCC® debt counselor’s plan.
  • There are so many ways to gain access to your credit score that there’s virtually no excuse for not knowing it. It doesn’t matter if you do it through one of the top three credit bureaus, FICO® or one of your card issuers. Just remember to pay attention to those ever-important three digits as often as possible.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Liderina, ©iStock.com/ferrantraite, Â©iStock.com/cnythzl

The post Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Don’t Panic! 3 Money-Saving, Last-Minute Tax Tips for Homeowners

last minute tax tips for home ownerskroach/iStock

It’s heeeere: tax time.

Granted, this year, the coronavirus pandemic prompted the Internal Revenue Service to extend the usual April 15 deadline to July 15. That might have seemed like plenty of time—and yet here we are, with a mere two weeks to go and a filing window that’s closing fast.

We get it. Maybe you’re a procrastinator. Or maybe you’re a homeowner who, rather than taking the easy-peasy standard deduction, generally tries to save a bundle by itemizing your deductions instead.

Whatever your reason, if you’ve put off filing your taxes until now, don’t panic! You still have options.

Here are three last-minute tax tips for homeowners that could save you plenty of money, headaches, and more.

Tip No. 1: Grab Form 1098

Form 1098, or the Mortgage Interest Statement, is sort of like your home’s W-2: a one-stop shop for your possibly two biggest tax breaks.

  • Mortgage interest: “The biggest real estate tax deduction for most people will be the interest on their home loan,” according to Patrick O’Connor of O’Connor and Associates. Single people can deduct the full interest up to $500,000; for married couples filing jointly, the limit is $1 million if you purchased a house before Dec. 15, 2017. If you bought a home after that date, you will be allowed to deduct the interest on no more than $750,000 of acquisition debt—that’s a loan used to buy, build, or improve a main or secondary home. (Here’s more on how your mortgage interest deduction can help you save on taxes.)
  • Property taxes: This is the second-biggest deduction for most homeowners. Just remember the total amount you can deduct is $10,000, even if you pay way more—and that includes state and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax. (Here’s how to calculate your property taxes.)

You might be eligible for other real estate–related deductions and tax credits, but these are the biggies for most people. If you’re down to the wire on filing, you might just deduct these two and call it a day.

Just remember to make it worth your while. These numbers need to add up to more than the current standard deduction, which jumped to $12,200 for individuals, $18,350 for heads of household, and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly.

Tip No. 2: File an extension

If you still need more time to get your taxes together, it’s totally simple and penalty-free to file for an extension until Oct. 15. But don’t get too excited; the IRS still requires you to pay your estimated tax bill by July 15, or else you’ll pay interest on what you owe down the road.

The IRS makes it easy to file for an extension, either online or by mail. On the form, just estimate how much tax you owe. If you’re filing an extension because you need more time to figure out your itemized deductions, one easy shortcut is to just take the standard deduction now—or the same amount you claimed last year. All in all, it’s better to overestimate what you owe, because then you won’t pay any interest. Once you file for real, anything you’ve overpaid will come back to you.

But what if you need an extension because you can’t pay your tax bill? It’s still better to file for an extension with fuzzy numbers than to not file at all.

The IRS has payment plans that can help if you are short on cash. Just file something—blowing the deadline entirely will open you up to penalties as well as interest on your bill. And maybe an audit, too.

Tip No. 3: Hire some help

If you make less than $69,000 a year, you qualify to use free tax prep software from the IRS. Even if you make more than that, there are lots of free or low-cost online tax prep options that should work for anyone with relatively straightforward taxes.

Of course, another option is to find yourself a good accountant.

If paying for a tax preparer sounds extravagant, keep in mind that, according to the U.S. Tax Center, the average cost of getting your taxes done is only $225. This, generally speaking, is money well-spent.

A good accountant can actually save you money by spotting deductions you might not have found on your own, and helping you plan to minimize the next year’s taxes. All in all, that may add up to the best few hundred bucks you’ve ever spent!

Another timesaver: Rather than snail-mailing your accountant your tax forms, snap pictures of them on your smartphone; some apps like CamScanner can do so with scanner-style quality. Accountants don’t need the originals to file.

For next year, remember to prepare

OK, so this year you waited too long and stressed yourself out. If you don’t want a repeat ordeal next year, now is also the time to mend your ways and start tax prep early. Nobody wants to be thinking about taxes all year, of course. But as a homeowner, you can do some things to be better prepared.

So before you do any home maintenance, upgrades, or renovations, research whether there are any tax deductions you could be eligible for.

Start now, and you’ll be sitting pretty to collect on all the various tax perks that come with owning a home rather than pulling out your hair at the last minute.

The post Don’t Panic! 3 Money-Saving, Last-Minute Tax Tips for Homeowners appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student

The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

 You are getting ready to send your child off to college. Before you start helping them pack their belongings, there is one thing you need to do.

You need to help them create a budget. You need to teach them how to manage their money so they can learn the tools they’ll use long after they graduate.

WHY DO COLLEGE STUDENTS NEED A BUDGET?

The truth is everyone needs a budget. It does not matter your age. If you are dealing with money, a budget is necessary.

  1. Allows you to control your money. Rather than your money telling you what it wants to do, you get to tell your money where it needs to go. You are always in control when you have a budget.
  2. It teaches financial skills. A budget helps ensure that expenses such as rent, tuition, food, insurance, transportation, and housing are paid – before spending money on the fun stuff. (It also helps to make sure you don’t spend more than you make.)
  3. Makes you aware of where your money goes. When you use a budget, you see how you spend. It is very simple to see if too much is going toward dining out when you should be building your savings.
  4. Helps you track your goals. You need to cover expenses but you should also work on building savings at the same time. Your budget allows you to not only see those goals but track them in real time.

DOESN’T A BUDGET MEAN YOU CAN’T HAVE FUN?

Not at all! If anything, your budget will allow you to have guilt-free fun.

For example, the budget may allow you to spend $50 a week dining out. That means you can go to dinner with friends once (possibly twice) a week and enjoy yourself. You won’t be left wondering how you are now going to make rent.

WHAT TYPE OF BUDGET SHOULD YOUR STUDENT USE?

There are various methods of budgeting such as the 50/30/20 and the zero-based budget. For most college students, the zero-based is the simplest and easiest to follow.

The reason is that you track everything. You give every penny a job. That means if you earn $1,500 for the month that you “spend” the entire $1,500.

You will first cover the needs (food, shelter, transportation) and then your wants. If there is money “leftover” after this is done, it can be added to your savings.

You can use other types but if you have never budgeted before, using this method is the simplest.

WHAT SHOULD A COLLEGE STUDENT INCLUDE IN A BUDGET?

The budget will vary for each person, as the income and expense will be different. However, these are the most common categories that need to be included in a budget:

  • Rent
  • Renter’s insurance
  • Car payment
  • Car insurance (also saving for annual renewal fees)
  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Utilities (phone, electricity, gas, water, etc.)
  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Entertainment (movies, games, concerts)
  • Dining out
  • Emergency fund savings

Again, you may have items that are not included above or see some that you do not need.

However, the most important thing of all is that every penny is given a job. Account for everything you will spend each month so you never have too much month and not enough money.

HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF YOUR BUDGET?

For most college students, apps or digital trackers are the best options.  But, before you rush and sign up, keep the following in mind.

  1. Cost. Many apps are free and they will work perfectly fine. Other apps have a monthly fee attached to them. If you plan to use one of them, make sure you include that as one of your regular expenses. However, do not let the cost alone be a single factor when it comes to clicking the sign-up button.
  2. Security. Your security trumps all else. You need to make sure the app uses encryption as well as two-factor authorization.

Some of the best apps include:

  • Mint
  • You Need a Budget (YNAB)
  • PocketGuard
  • Mvelopes

However, your student may also like the traditional paper and pencil method – and that is OK as well.

Find the right one that works best for your student. That is all that matters.

TEACHING THEM TO BUDGET

Knowing you need a budget and where to track it is just the beginning. You need to teach your child how to budget.

Start by looking at each category that they need on their budget. You may already know the cost for each category but if not, you may need to make phone calls or do research to know.

For example, you know the rent for the apartment is $850 a month but how much are the average utilities? Ask the manager for these costs so you can include them in the budget.

Next, decide how much they want to allow themselves to spend on food. Show them how much a meal costs for a single person at each restaurant you eat at so they can create an average.

You will then have them decide how much “fun money” they want to include as well. You can base this on them wanting to go to the movies two times a month, one concert a month, or attending three events.

Now you can see the expenses for your student. Add their income to the budget and deduct the expenses. They will see if they are operating in the black (money left over) or in the red (spending more than they make).

Show them how to adjust the numbers by increasing their savings or lowering the amount they can spend on clothes – until the budget equals zero. Zero meaning they are spending every penny they earn.

And making them keep track now will help ensure they stay on track well into the future.

 

 

 

The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Things To Do While You’re Stuck In Your Apartment

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Things To Do While Stuck In Your Apartment During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By now, almost everyone in the country is under some kind of shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders from government agencies due to the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities stress that this is the main way to try to flatten the curve of new infections.

OK, so what can you do while cooped up in your apartment. The options aren’t quite unlimited, but they are numerous. Take advantage of the space you have and undertake any activity that will be good for your mental or physical well-being. Here’s a look at some of the most popular:

1. Do a jigsaw puzzle

This has become quite popular around the country, with people finishing a jigsaw puzzle and then posting a picture of it on social media. The more pieces, the better, say, 1,000 or more. How long you’ll be able to do this to remain occupied depends on how many puzzles you have on hand, or how many times you’re willing to do the same puzzle over again.

If you don’t have jigsaw puzzles, maybe you have a Rubik’s Cube or a book of crossword puzzles. You can also find crossword puzzles online and in your daily newspaper, if you still subscribe.

2. Exercise!

If you have a set of weights in your apartment, use them. Or maybe you’re a packrat and still have exercise routines on VHS tapes or DVDs. If not, there are plenty of routines you can find for free online. 

If you can leave your apartment, go for a walk or a jog, as long as you observe the social distancing rules that are now the new normal. If you don’t want to go outside, walk up and down a stairwell or walk up and down your hallway. Again, give others their personal space.

Short of that, you can go old-school and do crunches, sit-ups and push-ups on your floor. You can also do isometric exercises using a rolled-up bath towel. For a refresher on the techniques, check out these workouts you can do in your apartment and then get to work. 

Whatever you chose, mix it up and keep it fresh as you stay in shape. 

3. Binge-watch

OK, the first two suggestions will put your mind and body to work. At some point you’ll feel like being a couch potato, so why not catch up on a series you’ve been meaning to watch on Netflix, Disney Plus or one of the many streaming services available? You’ve never had a better excuse than now. 

“Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” has become all the rage on Netflix. It was released in mid-March and has given people something to do in the age of coronavirus. It is a true-crime documentary television series about the life of former zoo operator Joseph Maldonado-Passage.

If that’s not your thing, there are favorites such as “Narcos: Mexico” and “Stranger Things” on Netflix. If you’ve already seen them, what’s the harm in starting over? On Disney Plus you can watch “The Mandalorian,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “The Simpsons.”

4. Spring cleaning

It’s spring, and you have a lot of unexpected time on your hands. Now’s a great time to get in some spring cleaning of your apartment. Cut through the clutter and organize your closet and dresser. Most importantly, regularly clean and disinfect important areas such as kitchen surfaces and appliances that are used often. You should also keep your bathroom clean. 

5. Other stuff

There are plenty of other things you can be doing, such as catching up on your reading, playing a musical instrument, writing emails to friends and family and getting plenty of rest.

Read Things To Do While You’re Stuck In Your Apartment on Apartminty.

Source: blog.apartminty.com

Unlocking the Secret of Apartment Keys

You signed the lease. You cut the check for the security deposit. And the truck with all your stuff just pulled in. The leasing agent welcomes you and hands you the keys to your brand new place. But the key looks like a weird piece of plastic. And you’re not actually sure how it locks and unlocks doors. When did apartment keys get so complicated?!

Different types of keys mean different types of security. And that makes it harder for just anyone to gain access to buildings and units.

Many buildings now have electronic locks that log when a door was opened and whose card was used to open it. Others keep security by keeping close track of who has keys. Some use keycards and what the heck is RFID?

The good news is any combination of any of these locks, when used correctly, is a tested, secure and effective way to protect you and your home. And each method of security brings with it its own set of guidelines.

Metal keys

metal keys

Tried and true, metal keys will go through the wash and dry cycle and come out just fine. You can drop them, lose them, toss them and they’ll never let you down. Metal keys are the reason we don’t really think about them much. Cheap to make and as long as you can keep an eye on them, they’ll last forever.

But are they really your keys? Or are they the property of your landlord? You’ll want to check your lease, especially if you want copies made. Are you even allowed to get copies of your keys made? Well, if you look closely on your key, and see the words DO NOT DUPLICATE, you think you’d have your answer. But the truth isn’t that open and shut. (Open and shut. Get it? Because of doors? Never mind.)

You may need to go through your leasing office or landlord before you make the trip to the hardware store. Your landlord may have spares for free. And what happens if you lock yourself out of your apartment? Can your building’s superintendent come by and let you in? Or do you need to call a locksmith? As with all things for your apartment, check with your landlord.

Key cards

key cards

Convenient, skinny jeans-friendly, inexpensive to replace, the keycards you use to get into your building are just like the ones you use to get into your office. The only thing missing is an embarrassing photo of you on your first day. But not all key cards are the same.

Key cards are programmed by entering your information onto a card that’s read when it’s swiped or scanned. That information is either encoded on a magnetic strip on the back of the card or it’s loaded onto what’s known as a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip in the card.

A small chip containing your information is inserted into a plastic card and is powered by an induction circuit. When the card comes close to the scanner, it converts the electromagnetic field emitted by the scanner into electricity. That electricity powers the chip, which is then read by the computers. RFIDs are more secure than magnetic strip cards because the strips can become damaged more easily.

Key fobs

key fob

The key fob is just like an RFID keycard, only smaller. The fob is meant to be clipped onto your keyring so it’s always with you. These are quickly becoming a popular option with many new construction buildings, not only for garage and mailroom access but also for individual units. The fobs are small and also use a tiny induction circuit, so there’s never a need to change batteries or reprogram them.

The downside is these little plastic doodads can be expensive to replace. And you have to remember to have your keys with you all the time. So, if you’re the kind of person who frequently loses things and locks yourself out of your house, this may not be the option for you. And make sure you don’t lose it! Replacing these things can be expensive. Your landlord could charge a few hundred bucks for a replacement.

Key codes

key access code

Sometimes your apartment key might not be a key at all — but instead a code. Apartment communities have been using access codes for years for visitors to dial into your building. Some are using this same technology outside of your door.

Simply punch in your code, just like you would at an ATM, to unlock your door and enter your unit. In most cases, you’ll be able to select your own code. Just make sure it’s one that you’ll remember!

Bluetooth-digital combination

bluetooth phone key

This is the high tech solution many landlords are now considering. Besides your keys, what’s the one item everyone takes with them everywhere now? Your phone. In this case, your phone acts like a fob. Except instead of a small induction circuit powering it, it’s simply your phone that connects to the door lock via Bluetooth. Digital locks like these often use a backup code to get inside if you ever accidentally lock yourself out.

But as great as these digital locks sound, they aren’t perfect. Digital lock scanners need to be hard-wired to the building’s main electrical system in order to work. So, if the power goes out, that will be a problem.

And if they’re not connected to the main electrical system, they can also operate on small backup batteries built into the units. But there’s no telling how often those batteries or replaced, so you could find yourself locked out.

Safe home, happy home with apartment keys

Whether your apartment keys are old school or new, they should help keep your home safe and secure — provided you use some basic common sense and good practices.

The post Unlocking the Secret of Apartment Keys appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

The Most Common Renter Complaints That Landlords Hear

The landlord-tenant relationship can be a difficult one to navigate, especially if it involves a lot of renter complaints.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to build a strong foundation with your landlord. Both parties have a lot at stake.

For you, it’s your home and your security deposit, and for your landlord, it’s their income and the property in which they have invested time and money. It’s not uncommon for tension to arise at some point, but how you handle difficult situations can make or break the relationship with your landlord moving forward.

The best initial step you can take to avoid a less-than-stellar landlord is to include an assessment of your potential landlord as part of the decision process when searching for a new place to live. Have they been easy to contact so far? Have they answered your questions and addressed your concerns? Do some background research and see if you can find any reviews from past tenants.

If you do find yourself experiencing one of these common renter complaints, there are steps you can take to try and resolve the situation.

poor communication

Common renter complaint #1: Poor communication

Many renters deal with a lack of communication from their landlords and feel that they’re unaware of certain rules or expectations as they relate to the property. Maybe you sign your lease agreement, move into your new home and never really hear from your landlord again. Or, maybe you’re having trouble with your landlord’s responsiveness to issues like maintenance requests, noisy neighbors or other important questions.

Early on in the relationship with your landlord, ask if they can walk through the lease agreement with you and point out any rules or expectations that are especially important to them (something a good landlord should do on their own.) As a tenant, it’s your responsibility to read through the lease agreement in its entirety and bring up any questions you may have.

Do your best to keep lines of communication open with your landlord — make timely contact about any issues or questions that arise and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your landlord lives in the same building or is frequently on the property, be sure to be friendly and say hello when you cross paths. Establishing this relationship from the get-go will build trust.

maintenance issues

Common renter complaint #2: Maintenance issues

Maintenance issues and repairs are one of the main reasons you’ll have to get in touch with your landlord throughout your rental experience. Whether it’s something minor like a lighting fixture fix or something major like a water leak, your landlord should be responding and repairing your requests in a timely manner.

Establish your landlord’s preferred method of communication from the get-go. Can you text them a picture of the issue to make sure it’s catching their attention and not getting lost in an email inbox? Are they not as tech-savvy and prefer you give them a call directly? If you don’t already have a tenant portal, ask your landlord if they would consider setting one up so you can easily submit maintenance requests and your landlord can easily track everything in one place.

Be clear on what your responsibility is as a renter and what your landlord’s responsibility is. Make sure to check in on your local laws to figure out what the expectations are on important maintenance issues like water, heating or other habitability issues.

privacy

Common renter complaint #3: Lack of privacy

Sometimes, a landlord might be on the property without actually entering your home. He might comment on whether or not your front porch had been cleared of leaves or whether or not the recycling bin was too full, and it always felt like an invasion of privacy to have him pop up unannounced.

As a tenant, you absolutely have a legal right to the quiet enjoyment of your home and your landlord is required to provide you with at least 24 hours notice before entering your property (unless there’s an emergency situation). If your landlord is showing up for maintenance or inspections without notifying you first, bring it to their attention right away.

If your landlord performs regular inspections, ask if they would be willing to come on the same day every month or give you a schedule for the entirety of your lease agreement. If language around routine inspections isn’t included in your lease agreement, be sure to ask about it before you sign.

money

Common renter complaint #4: Security deposit refunds

It’s always upsetting to move out of a property and learn that your security deposit refund is much smaller than you were expecting — especially if you followed all move-out instructions and didn’t cause any major damage.

It’s important to understand that typically, landlords are not profiting off of your security deposit — they’re using the finances to repair an issue that occurred when you were the renter. Of course, there are situations where this isn’t the case and legal action is the only feasible option.

Before you move out, ask your landlord to provide you with a move-out checklist or clearly state their expectations. Refer to any checklists or inspection documents that you may have completed upon move in to make sure you’re leaving the property in the same condition you found it.

Ask your landlord if they would be willing to do a property walkthrough with you before you hand over the keys to address any issues that can be fixed or cleaned before you leave. Take pictures upon move out so you have evidence to show your landlord if need be.

If you are charged or your landlord withholds your security deposit, ask for an itemized list of the deductions so you can clearly see where your money is going.

Keep it friendly

Establishing a positive relationship with your landlord from the beginning and keeping lines of communication open will make it easier for both parties to deal with any issues that arise down the road.

The post The Most Common Renter Complaints That Landlords Hear appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

9 Things I Love and Have Learned After 9 Years Of Blogging

I still remember the month I started my blog. I don’t really remember the exact first day, but I remember the first month and how excited I was.

In August of 2011, I started Making Sense of Cents.

That was exactly 9 years ago!

Back then, I had no idea what I was doing, and I also had no goals for my blog.

I didn’t even really know what a blog was, or that they could make money.

I also didn’t even like to write at that time!

In the past 9 years, so much has changed for me.

It’s crazy to think that I started my blog nine years ago, especially when I consider all of the amazing things it has done for my life.

It was something I started and worked on in addition to my full-time day job as a financial analyst, and around two years after I started this blog, I quit my day job to blog full-time.

Some numbers on Making Sense of Cents:

  • My first blog post was published on August 10, 2011. You can read it here.
  • I have published 1,878 articles here on Making Sense of Cents. That number was higher about a month ago, but I recently deleted several hundred articles that I thought weren’t good enough.
  • I have 70,816 comments on my blog posts.
  • I’ve personally replied to 21,080 comments.
  • It took me 6 months to earn my first $100 from Making Sense of Cents.

First, a little backstory on how I began.

You may have heard this from me before, but the funny thing is that I created my blog on a whim after reading about a personal finance website in a magazine. It started as a hobby to track my own personal finance progress, and I honestly didn’t even know that people could make money blogging!

I knew NOTHING about running a website.

At that time, I was working as an analyst at an investment banking and valuation firm. I chugged along working the 8-5, Monday through Friday grind and didn’t see myself having an enjoyable future there. I had a stressful job filled with lots of deadlines and responsibilities that just didn’t interest me. Yes, I know this is the norm for some people, but I just couldn’t imagine myself living like that for 40+ years.

Blogging was an outlet for my stressful day job, and my interest quickly grew, even though it was just a hobby. It gave me space to write about my personal finance situation, have a support group, to keep track of how I was doing, and more. I did not create Making Sense of Cents with the intention of earning an income, but after only six months, I began to make money blogging.

A friend I met through the blogging community connected me with an advertiser, and I earned $100 from that advertisement deal.

That one deal sparked my interest in taking my blog more seriously and learning how to make even more money blogging.

I now earn a great living from my blog, and it all started on a whim, not even knowing that blogs could make money.

Blogging completely changed my life for the better, and I urge anyone who is interested to learn how to start a blog as well.

Blogging has allowed me to take control of my finances and earn more money. It means I can work from home, travel whenever I want, have a flexible schedule, and more!

Related content:

  • How I Successfully Built A $1,000,000+ Blog
  • Welcome To Paradise – We’re Living On A Sailboat!
  • How To Start a Blog Free Course
  • Should I Start A Blog? Here Are The Top Reasons You Will Love Blogging
  • What is a blog post?

And, all of this happened because I started some random blog nine years ago.

I made so many mistakes, and I still make mistakes today. But, I continue to learn and improve, which has shaped this blog into what it is today.

I was so afraid to quit my job when I did, especially for a blog.

So many people thought I was absolutely crazy and making the worst decision of my life. Especially since my husband quit his job at the same time!

Today, I want to talk about the the 9 things that I love and have learned about blogging over the years. I feel like what I enjoy about blogging as well as what I’ve learned go hand in hand.

Oh yeah, if you haven’t yet – please follow me on Instagram.

Here’s what I love and have learned about blogging.

 

1. I love being my own boss.

When I first started my blog and realized I could make an income from it, I quickly learned how much I love being my own boss.

I love being in complete control of what I do, and becoming self-employed may allow you to feel that way as well. I enjoy deciding what I will do each day, creating my own schedule, determining my business goals, handling everything behind the scenes, and more.

I actually have a rule in my life/business where I don’t do anything unless I want to. While I still say yes to many amazing opportunities, I’m not doing anything that feels like a total drag or is against my beliefs. This has really helped improve my work-life balance, which is great because being able to choose how you earn a living amounts to making sure you love everything you do.

I honestly love each and every service I provide – writing online, promoting, networking, interacting with readers, and more.

Running an online business (and being your own boss) may not be for everyone, but it’s something I enjoy.

 

2. A flexible schedule is one of my most favorite things.

One of the best things about working for yourself and being a blogger is that you can have a flexible schedule.

I can work as far ahead as I want to, I can create my own work schedule, and more.

I love being able to work for a few hours in the morning, do something fun during the day (such as a hike), and then work later at night when I have nothing planned. I can also schedule appointments during the day and it’s really no big deal.

I can work at night, in the morning, on the weekends – I can work whenever.

But, this can also be something to be careful with as well, as it can be difficult to have a good work-life balance.

 

3. Location independence is AMAZING.

Being location independent for so many years has been great.

I love being able to work from wherever I am, and it’s allowed me some of the best experiences I’ve had, like living in an RV and now on a sailboat. All I need is an internet connection and my laptop.

The only problem with being location independent is that it can be hard to separate work from the rest of your life. You may find yourself working all the time, no matter where you are, and while that may seem great, being able to take a true vacation can be a hard task.

However, I’m not going to complain because the work-life balance I’m rocking right now is great.

 

4. Remember, success takes time!

Many bloggers quit just a few months in.

In fact, the statistic that I’ve always heard is that the average blogger quits just 6 months in.

I completely understand – starting a blog can be super overwhelming!

But, good things don’t come easy. If blogging was easy, then everyone would be doing it.

It took me 6 months for me to earn my first $100 from Making Sense of Cents. If I would have quit at that time, I would have missed out on so many great things!

Remember, success takes time!

 

5. Don’t write when you feel forced.

One thing I have definitely learned about myself over the years is that I write best when I’m not forced – i.e. when I’m on a deadline.

Instead, I always try to write content ahead of time.

I used to write content for Monday on the night before (Sunday!), and I found that to be super stressful. Even a week in advance was too stressful for me.

I like to be at least a month ahead, as then I can truly write when I feel inspired and happy to write.

 

6. Get ready to learn.

Pretty much everything about having a blog is a learning process.

Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme, and anyone who tells you that it is (or acts like it is) is lying.

Blogging is not easy.

And, you won’t make $100,000 your first month blogging.

Blogging can be a lot of work, and there is always something to learn. Something is always changing in the blogging world, which means you will need to continue to learn and adapt to the technology around you. This includes learning about social media platforms, running a website, growing your platform, writing high-quality content, and more.

This is something that I love about blogging – it’s never stale and there’s always a new challenge.

 

7. Stop seeing other bloggers as competition.

Okay, so this isn’t exactly something that I’ve learned, but I want everyone else to learn!

I have always had this mindset – that there is plenty of room for everyone in the blogging world. However, not everyone feels the same.

So many bloggers see other bloggers as enemies or competition, and this is a huge mistake.

I mostly see this in newer bloggers, and this can really hold them back.

Networking is very important if you want to create a successful blog. Bloggers should be open to making blogging friends, attending blog conferences, sharing other blogs’ content with their readers, and more.

Networking can help you enjoy blogging more, learn new things about blogging, learn how to make money blogging, make great connections, and more. If you want to make money blogging, then you will want to network with others! After all, networking is the reason why I learned how to make money blogging in the first place!

The key is to be genuine and to give more than you take, which are the two main things I always tell people when it comes to networking. I receive so many emails every day from people who clearly aren’t genuine, and it’s very easy to see.

I’ve made great friends who are bloggers and influencers, and it’s truly a great community to be in.

 

8. You don’t need previous experience to be successful.

To become a blogger, you don’t need any previous experience. You don’t need to be a computer wizard, understand social media, or anything else.

These are all things that you can learn as you go.

Nearly every single blogger was brand new at some point, and they had no idea what they were doing.

I’m proof of that because I didn’t even know that blogs existed when I started Making Sense of Cents, and I definitely didn’t know that bloggers could make money. I learned how to create a blog from the bottom up and have worked my way to where I am today. It’s not always easy, but it’s been rewarding!

With blogging, you’ll have a lot to learn, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It’s challenging, but in a good way.

 

9. You can make a living blogging.

This is probably one of the best things that I’ve learned since I first started my blog.

You can actually make a living blogging!

No, not every single person will become a successful blogger (it’s NOT a get-rich-quick scheme), but I know many successful bloggers who started in a similar way as I did – blogging as a hobby and it just grew from there.

For me, I have earned a high income with my blog, and I have enough saved to retire whenever I would like. I am still working on my blog, though, as I enjoy what I do.

 

What’s next?

I’ve never really been much of a planner, so I don’t want to commit to anything HUGE haha.

But, for Making Sense of Cents, I do have some plans. I am working towards improving traffic and readership, and coming up with more and more high-quality content.

I am so grateful to all of you readers, and I want to continue to help you all out by writing high-quality content.

That is really my only goal for now!

If there’s anything you’d like me to write about on Making Sense of Cents, please send me an email at michelle@makingsenseofcents.com or leave a comment below.

Thank you for being a reader!

 

There’s a ton of valuable free resources.

I know I’ll be asked this, so I am going to include this here.

One of the great things about starting a blog is that there are a ton of FREE blogging resources out there that can help you get started.

In fact, I didn’t spend any money in the beginning in order to learn how to blog – instead, I signed up for a ton of free webinars, free email courses, and more.

  1. First, if you don’t have a blog, then I recommend starting off with my free blogging course How To Start A Blog FREE Course.
  2. Affiliate Marketing Cheat Sheet – With this time-saving cheat sheet, you’ll learn how to make affiliate income from your blog. These tips will help you to rapidly improve your results and increase your blogging income in no time.
  3. The SEO Starter Pack (FREE Video Training)– Improve your SEO knowledge in just 60 minutes with this FREE 6-day video training.
  4. The Free Blogging Planner – The Blogging Planner is a free workbook that I created just for you! In this free workbook, you’ll receive printables for starting your blog, creating a blog post, a daily/weekly blog planner, goals, and more.

Do you have any questions for me? Are you interested in starting your own business?

The post 9 Things I Love and Have Learned After 9 Years Of Blogging appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

Due to financial consequences of COVID-19 — and the broader impact on our economy — now is an excellent time to consider refinancing most loans you have. This can include mortgage debt you have that may be converted to a new loan with a lower interest rate, as well as auto loans, personal loans, and more.

Refinancing student loans can also make sense if you’re willing to transition student loans you currently have into a new loan with a private lender. Make sure to take time to compare rates to see how you could save money on interest, potentially pay down student loans faster, or even both if you took the steps to refinance.

Get Started and Compare Rates Now

Still, it’s important to keep a close eye on policies and changes from the federal government that have already taken place, as well as changes that might come to fruition in the next weeks or months. Currently, all federal student loans are locked in at a 0% APR and payments are suspended during that time. This change started on March 13, 2020 and lasts for 60 days, so borrowers with federal loans can skip payments and avoid interest charges until the middle of May 2020.

It’s hard to say what will happen after that, but it’s smart to start figuring out your next steps and determining if student loan refinancing makes sense for your situation. Note that, in addition to lower interest rates than you can get with federal student loans, many private student lenders offer signup bonuses as well. With the help of a lower rate and an initial bonus, you could end up far “ahead” by refinancing in a financial sense.

Still, there are definitely some negatives to consider when it comes to refinancing your student loans, and we’ll go over those disadvantages below.

Should You Refinance Now?

Do you have student loan debt at a higher APR than you want to pay?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes: Go to next question.

Do you have good credit or a cosigner? 

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes:  Go to next question.

Do you have federal student loans?

  • If no: You can consider refinancing
  • If yes: Go to next question

Are you willing to give up federal protections like deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance
  • If yes: Consider refinancing your loans.

Reasons to Refinance

There are many reasons student borrowers ultimately refinance their student loans, although they can vary from person to person. Here are the main situations where it can make sense to refinance along with the benefits you can expect to receive:

  • Secure a lower monthly payment on your student loans.
    You may want to consider refinancing your student loans if your ultimate goal is reducing your monthly payment so it fits in better with your budget and your goals. A lower interest rate could help you lower your payment each month, but so could extending your repayment timeline.
  • Save money on interest over the long haul.
    If you plan to refinance your loans into a similar repayment timeline with a lower APR, you will definitely save money on interest over the life of your loan.
  • Change up your repayment timeline.
    Most private lenders let you refinance your student loans into a new loan product that lasts 5 to 20 years. If you want to expedite your loan repayment or extend your repayment timeline, private lenders offer that option.
  • Pay down debt faster.
    Also, keep in mind that reducing your interest rate or repayment timeline can help you get out of student loan debt considerably faster. If you’re someone who wants to get out of debt as soon as you can, this is one of the best reasons to refinance with a private lender.

Why You Might Not Want to Refinance Right Now

While the reasons to refinance above are good ones, there are plenty of reasons you may want to pause on your refinancing plans. Here are the most common:

  • You want to wait and see if the federal government will offer 0% APR or forbearance beyond May 2020 due to COVID-19.
    The federal government has only extended forbearance through the middle of May right now, but they might lengthen the timeline of this benefit if you wait it out. Since this perk only applies to federal student loans, you would likely want to keep those loans at 0% APR for as long as the federal government allows.
  • You may want to take advantage of income-driven repayment plans.
    Income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income-Based Repayment let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income each month then have your loans forgiven after 20 to 25 years. These plans only apply to federal student loans, so you shouldn’t refinance with a private lender if you are hoping to sign up.
  • You’re worried you won’t be able to keep up with your student loan payments due to your job or economic conditions.
    Federal student loans come with deferment and forbearance that can buy you time if you’re struggling to make the payments on your student loans. With that in mind, you may not want to give up these protections if you’re unsure about your future and how your finances might be.
  • Your credit score is low and you don’t have a cosigner.
    Finally, you should probably stick with federal student loans if your credit score is poor and you don’t have a cosigner. Federal student loans come with fairly low rates and most don’t require a credit check, so they’re a great deal if your credit is imperfect.

Important Things to Note

Before you move forward with student loan refinancing, there are some details you should know and understand. Here are our top tips and some important factors to keep in mind.

Compare Rates and Loan Terms

Because student loan refinancing is such a competitive industry, shopping around for loans based on their rates and terms can help you find out which lenders are offering the most lucrative refinancing options for someone with your credit profile and income.

We suggest using Credible to shop for student loan refinancing since this loan platform lets you compare offers from multiple lenders in one place. You can even get prequalified for student loan refinancing and “check your rate” without a hard inquiry on your credit score.

Check for Signup Bonuses

Some student loan refinancing companies let you score a bonus of $100 to $750 just for clicking through a specific link to start the process. This money is free money if you’re able to take advantage, and you can still qualify for low rates and fair loan terms that can help you get ahead.

We definitely suggest checking with lenders that offer bonuses provided you can also score the most competitive rates and terms.

Consider Your Personal Eligibility

Also keep your personal eligibility in mind, including factors beyond your credit score. Most applicants who are turned down for student loan refinancing are turned away based on their debt-to-income ratio and not their credit score. Generally speaking, this means they owe too much money on all their debts when you compare their liabilities to their income.

Credible also notes that adding a creditworthy cosigner can improve your chances of prequalifying for a loan. They also state that “many lenders offer cosigner release once borrowers have made a minimum number of on-time payments and can demonstrate they are ready to assume full responsibility for repayment of the loan on their own.”

It’s Not “All or Nothing”

Also, remember that you don’t have to refinance all of your student loans. You can just refinance the loans at the highest interest rates, or any particular loans you believe could benefit from a different repayment term.

4 Steps to Refinance Your Student Loans

Once you’re ready to pull the trigger, there are four simple steps involved in refinancing your student loans.

Step 1: Gather all your loan information.

Before you start the refinancing process, it helps to have all your loan information, including your student loan pay stubs, in one place. This can help you determine the total amount you want to refinance as well as the interest rates and payments you currently have on your loans.

Step 2: Compare lenders and the rates they offer.

From there, take the time to compare lenders in terms of the rates they can offer. You can use this tool to get the process started.

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Step 3: Choose the best loan offer you can qualify for.

Once you’ve filled out basic information, you can choose among multiple loan offers. Make sure to check for signup bonus offers as well as interest rates, loan repayment terms, and interest rates you can qualify for.

Step 4: Complete your loan application.

Once you decide on a lender that offers the best rates and terms, you can move forward with your full student loan refinancing application. Your student loan company will ask for more personal information and details on your existing student loans, which they will combine into your new loan with a new repayment term and monthly payment.

The Bottom Line

Whether it makes sense to refinance your student loans is a huge question that only you can answer after careful thought and consideration. Make sure you weigh all the pros and cons, including what you may be giving up if you’re refinancing federal loans with a private lender.

Refinancing your student loans can make sense if you have a plan to pay them off, but this strategy works best if you create a debt repayment plan you can stick with for the long-term.

The post Should You Refinance Your Student Loans? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

10 Ways to Save on College 

The post 10 Ways to Save on College  appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

College is expensive, there’s no debating that fact. The average amount of money borrowed to obtain a bachelor’s degree was $29,000 in 2017/2018, according to the College Board, That’s a whole lotta money (and it’s a number that’s only likely to go up).

If you want to avoid years and years of debt payoff after graduation then it’s up to you to try and keep your costs down. In an effort to help you do that, we’ve compiled a list of 10 ways to save on college.

1. Don’t go to college

This might sound like a joke but it’s not. The point is that before you go off and spend thousands and thousands of dollars on your education you need to make sure that college is the right choice for you. Is it what you really want to do? Are you ready?

Although college has become part of the prescribed life plan (high school — college — marriage — house…), it’s not the only option. You can also choose not to go and pursue other opportunities like entrepreneurship, a gap-year, joining the military or enrolling in a technical school. So, the purpose here is not to deter you from getting a college education but instead to ensure that it’s truly the right choice for the work/life you want to pursue.

2. Live at home

Nothing exemplifies the college experience more than living at home with your mom and dad…right? I know, this might not sound like the most fun way to “do” college. However, if graduating debt-free is a priority then it might be worth it. If you decide to go to a school that’s close to home (and your parents can stand you for another four years) then living with mom and dad can help you to save thousands of dollars on rent, utilities, laundry, and food.

3. Live with roommates

If living at home is not an option then consider renting with roommates. Yes, having your own space can be glorious however, it also comes at a premium price. If you’re serious about saving on college then having a roommate (or five) will help you save on things like rent, utilities, and even streaming services. It will also teach you how to cope with different personalities, which will serve you well when you graduate and enter the real world.

4. Live close to campus

If you live close to campus then you can probably get by without a car. This means no car payments, no insurance payment, and no gas. As an added bonus, you’ll never have to be the designated driver (assuming you’re 21 years old, of course). Instead, take advantage of public transit or bring your bike and get around using your own power.

5. Use your student status

Being a student is expensive but it also comes with a lot of perks! As a student, you’ll often have access to things like free transit passes, free gym memberships, equipment rentals (bike, skis, skates, kayaks), as well as tutoring and counseling services. Your student status might also get you discounted rates to museums, concerts, clothing, car rentals, and technology. To make sure that you don’t miss a student discount opportunity check out this list by Deal Hack.

6. Eat and drink at home

Eating and drinking at a restaurant or bar multiple times a week can get really expensive. Why not learn how to cook (a great life skill!) and save big by eating at home. This is not to say that you should never go out and have fun but if you want to minimize expenses it’s best to avoid multiple nights at the bar and opt for a BYOB potluck at your place.

7. Avoid credit card debt

The last thing you want to do is graduate from school with student loan debt AND credit card debt (a double debt whammy). If you’re going to have a credit card make sure you understand how a credit card works. If you’re not able to pay off your credit card in full each month then it’s probably best to stick to debit or cash.

8. Apply for scholarships

You don’t have to be the best or the brightest to win a scholarship. If you’re willing to put in some time and effort, you probably have a pretty good shot of winning some money. And remember, not all scholarships are based on your GPA. There are scholarships for everything: financial need, athletic ability, minority status, single moms … and so on.

If you’re a high school student — be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s estimated that $2.6 billion in FAFSA went unclaimed by eligible students for the 2018/2019…ouch!

9. Work, work, work

If you can hack it then get a job while you’re going to school. A great way to avoid debt is to have a continual source of income. In addition to the extra money, having a job is good for the resume, it can help you build your professional network (especially if you’re working in the field you’re going to school for), and juggling multiple obligations will teach you how to be organized and efficient.

10. Find a company that will pay for college

Both Starbucks and Walmart have programs that allow employees to get online degrees for nearly nothing. That’s becoming common at large companies and a surprising number of businesses offer at least some help paying tuition. There are also a number of employers that will help workers pay back their student loans.

You may not want to work at Starbucks, Walmart, or any place else that will pay for college, but it might make sense to suck it up and work for four years or so and come out of it with no debt and some solid employment history.

Just do what you can

When it comes to trying to save on college every little thing helps. While college should be fun, don’t lose sight of why you’re there … to get an education! When it comes to making tough financial decisions think about the position you want to be in when you graduate. You want to put yourself in a position to graduate debt-free (if at all possible) or at least put yourself in position to have a clear and easy plan to pay it off within a few years.

–By Jessica Martel

The post 10 Ways to Save on College  appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com