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8 Safe Investments for People Who Hate Risking Their Money

Think back to what the stock market looked like to you in March 2020, aka, the apocalypse. Did it look like:

A.) The biggest bargain sale you’ve ever seen in your lifetime? 

or

B.) A burning pit of money that was about to incinerate your life’s savings?

If you answered “B,” you probably have a low risk tolerance. You worry more about losing money than missing out on the opportunity to make more of it.

Being cautious about how you invest your money is a good thing. But if you’re so risk-averse that you avoid investing altogether, you’re putting your money at greater risk than you think.

Do Safe Investments Actually Exist?

When you think about the risks of investing, you probably think about losing principal, i.e., the original amount you invested. If you keep your money in a bank account, there’s virtually no chance of that happening because deposits of up to $250,000 are FDIC insured. 

But consider that the average savings account pays just 0.05% APY, while in 2019, inflation was about 2.3%.

So while you’re not at risk of losing principal, you still face purchasing power risk, which is the risk that your money loses value. Your money needs to earn enough to keep up with inflation to avoid losing purchasing power. If inflation continues at 2.3%, buying $100 worth of groceries will cost you $102.30 a year from now. If you’re saving over decades toward retirement, you’ll be able to buy a whole lot less groceries in your golden years.

There’s also the risk of missed opportunity. By playing it too safe, you’re unlikely to earn the returns you need to grow into a sufficient nest egg.

Though there’s no such thing as a risk-free investment, there are plenty of safe ways to invest your money.

8 Low-Risk Investments for People Who Hate Losing Money

Here are eight options that are good for conservative investors. (Spoiler: Gold, bitcoin and penny stocks did not make our list.

1. CDs

If you have cash you won’t need for a while, investing in a CD, or certificate of deposit, is a good way to earn more interest than you’d get with a regular bank account.

You get a fixed interest rate as long as you don’t withdraw your money before the maturity date. Typically, the longer the duration, the higher the interest rate. 

Since they’re FDIC insured, CDs are among the safest investments in existence. But low risk translates to low rewards. Those low interest rates for borrowers translate to lower APYs for money we save at a bank. Even for five-year CDs, the best APYs are just over 1%.

You also risk losing your interest and even some principal if you need to withdraw money early.

2. Money Market Funds

Not to be confused with money market accounts, money market funds are actually mutual funds that invest in low-risk, short-term debts, such as CDs and U.S. Treasurys. (More on those shortly.)

The returns are often on par with CD interest rates. One advantage: It’s a liquid investment, which means you can cash out at any time. But because they aren’t FDIC insured, they can technically lose principal, though they’re considered extraordinarily safe.

3. Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS)

The U.S. government finances its debt by issuing Treasurys. When you buy Treasurys, you’re investing in bonds backed by the “full faith and credit of the U.S. government.” Unless the federal government defaults on its debt for the first time in history, investors get paid.

The price of that safety: pathetically low yields that often don’t keep up with inflation.

TIPS offer built-in inflation protection — as the name “Treasury Inflation Protected Securities” implies. Available in five-, 10- and 30-year increments, their principal is adjusted based on changes to the Consumer Price Index. The twice-a-year interest payments are adjusted accordingly, as well.

If your principal is $1,000 and the CPI showed inflation of 3%, your new principal is $1,030, and your interest payment is based on the adjusted amount. 

On the flip side, if there’s deflation, your principal is adjusted downward.

4. Municipal Bonds

Municipal bonds, or “munis,” are bonds issued by a state or local government. They’re popular with retirees because the income they generate is tax-free at the federal level. Sometimes when you buy muni bonds in your state, the state doesn’t tax them either.

There are two basic types of munis: General obligation bonds, which are issued for general public works projects, and revenue bonds, which are backed by specific projects, like a hospital or toll road.

General obligation bonds have the lowest risk because the issuing government pledges to raise taxes if necessary to make sure bondholders get paid. With revenue bonds, bondholders get paid from the income generated by the project, so there’s a higher risk of default.

5. Investment-Grade Bonds

Bonds issued by corporations are inherently riskier than bonds issued by governments, because even a stable corporation is at higher risk of defaulting on its debt. But you can mitigate the risks by choosing investment-grade bonds, which are issued by corporations with good to excellent credit ratings.

Because investment-grade bonds are low risk, the yields are low compared to higher-risk “junk bonds.” That’s because corporations with low credit ratings have to pay investors more to compensate them for the extra risk.

6. Target-Date Funds

When you compare bonds vs. stocks, bonds are generally safer, while stocks offer more growth. That’s why as a general rule, your retirement portfolio starts out mostly invested in stocks and then gradually allocates more to bonds.

Target-date funds make that reallocation automatic. They’re commonly found in 401(k)s, IRAs and 529 plans. You choose the date that’s closest to the year you plan to retire or send your child to college. Then the fund gradually shifts more toward safer investments, like bonds and money market funds as that date gets nearer.

7. Total Market ETFs

While having a small percentage of your money in super low-risk investments like CDs,

money market funds and Treasurys is OK, there really is no avoiding the stock market if

you want your money to grow.

If you’re playing day trader, the stock market is a risky place. But when you’re committed to investing in stocks for the long haul, you’re way less exposed to risk. While downturns can cause you to lose money in the short term, the stock market historically ticks upward over time.

A total stock market exchange-traded fund will invest you in hundreds or thousands of companies. Usually, they reflect the makeup of a major stock index, like the Wilshire 5000. If the stock market is up 5%, you’d expect your investment to be up by roughly the same amount. Same goes for if the market drops 5%.

By investing in a huge range of companies, you get an instantly diversified portfolio, which is far less risky than picking your own stocks.

8. Dividend Stocks

If you opt to invest in individual companies, sticking with dividend-paying stock is a smart move. When a company’s board of directors votes to approve a dividend, they’re redistributing part of the profit back to investors.

Dividends are commonly offered by companies that are stable and have a track record of earning a profit. Younger companies are less likely to offer a dividend because they need to reinvest their profits. They have more growth potential, but they’re also a higher risk because they’re less-established.

The best part: Many companies allow shareholders to automatically reinvest their dividends, which means even more compound returns.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

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Why Refinance Rates Are Higher Than Purchase Loan Rates

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What Are the Best Car Loans When You Have Bad Credit?

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If a Mortgage Lender Reaches Out to You, Reach Out to Other Lenders

Posted on November 9th, 2020

A lot of homeowners are looking to refinance their mortgages at the moment. That’s abundantly clear based on the record volume of refis expected this year, per the MBA.

And while mortgage rates are in record low territory, thus making the decision to refinance an easy one for most, it still pays to shop around.

I think we all have a tendency to care less about prices when something is on sale, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t strive for even better, regardless of how cheap something is.

Look Beyond Your Current Mortgage Lender

  • New technology is making it easier for lenders to improve borrower retention rates
  • This means using the same lender for life even if their interest rates aren’t the lowest
  • But like most things loyalty often doesn’t pay when it comes to a home loan
  • So take the time to shop around and negotiate like you would anything else

Thanks to emerging technology, it has become easier for mortgage lenders, mortgage brokers, and loan officers to improve their customer retention.

This means if and when a past customer looks to refinance their home loan or purchase a new home, they might be notified if they pay for such services.

There are companies that can keep an eye on your data over time to see if you’ve applied for a home loan elsewhere, if your home equity has increased, or if your debt load has gone up.

The same goes for your credit score, which if it’s improved enough, may prompt a call or email from a lender or broker you worked with in the past.

While this in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing (sure, data collection is getting a little aggressive), it’s how you react to the sales pitch if and when it comes your way.

Ultimately, if you receive an inbound call or email regarding a mortgage refinance, HELOC inquiry, or even a referral from a friend or family member, don’t stop there.

They are just one of the many individuals/companies you should contact and consider before finalizing your home loan decision.

What If You Receive a Mortgage Mailer?

  • Consider an inbound solicitation a starting point if you’re considering a refinance
  • Don’t simply call the individual/company back and call it a day because they can offer a low rate
  • There are hundreds of mortgage companies out there and competition is fierce
  • Your mortgage will be paid for decades so every little bit matters if you care about saving money

I get mortgage solicitations all the time – and they’re often from a broker, lender, or loan servicer I worked with in the past.

They’re certainly appealing, don’t me wrong. Who doesn’t want to save potentially hundreds a month for simply redoing their home loan, especially if it’s from a trusted source?

But why stop at that mailer? Why not use that as a stepping stone to reach out to other lenders and get additional pricing and offers, then make your decision?

When we’re talking about something as important as a mortgage, which you pay each month for decades, the price you pay matters.

And even a small difference of say an eighth of a percent can equate to thousands of dollars over the life of the loan term.

As noted, companies are getting smarter every day when it comes to customer retention. Unfortunately, a customer retained is likely to miss out on even bigger savings elsewhere.

Don’t simply take the path of least resistance. Put in the time and you should save money.

This is even more critical for low-credit score borrowers, as a wider range of mortgage rates are quoted for those with lower scores.

But all homeowners can benefit from multiple mortgage quotes, as pointed out in a survey from Freddie Mac.

Those who gather just one additional mortgage quote can save between $966 and $2,086 over the life of the home loan, while those who take the time to get 5+ can save nearly $3,000.

So while your old company may make it easy for you to refi, you might be better served looking someplace else.

Read more: Mortgage Rate Shopping: 10 Tips to Get a Better Deal

Don't let today's rates get away.
About the Author: Colin Robertson

Before creating this blog, Colin worked as an account executive for a wholesale mortgage lender in Los Angeles. He has been writing passionately about mortgages for nearly 15 years.

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

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Budgeting for Beginners: These 5 Steps Will Help You Get Started

Setting up a budget is challenging. Doing it forces you to face your spending habits and then work to change them.

But when you decide to make a budget, it means you’re serious about your money. Maybe you even have some financial goals in mind.

The end result will bring you peace of mind. But if you’re creating a budget for the first time, remember that budgets will vary by individual and family. It’s important to set up a budget that’s a fit for YOU.

Budgeting for Beginners in 5 Painless Steps

Follow these basic steps and tailor them to your needs to create a monthly budget that will set you up for financial success.

Step 1: Set a Financial Goal

First thing’s first: Why do you want a budget?

Your reason will be your anchor and incentive as you create a budget, and it will help you stick to it.

Set a short-term or long-term goal. It can be to pay off debts like student loans, credit cards or a mortgage, or to save for retirement, an emergency fund, a new car, a home down payment or a vacation.

For example, creating a budget is a must for many people trying to buy their first home. But it shouldn’t stop there. Once you’ve bought a home, keep sticking to a budget in order to pay off debt and give yourself some wiggle room for unexpected expenses.

Once one goal is complete, you can move on to another and personalize your budget to fit whatever your needs are.

Step 2: Log Your Income, Expenses and Savings

You’ll want to use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or another budget template to track all of your monthly expenses and spending. List out each expense line by line. This list is the foundation for your monthly budget.

Tally Your Monthly Income

Review your pay stubs and determine how much money you and anyone else in your household take home every month. Include any passive income, rental income, child support payments or side gigs.

If your income varies, estimate as best as you can, or use the average of your income for the past three months.

Make a List of Your Mandatory Monthly Expenses

Start with:

  1. Rent or mortgage payment.

  2. Living expenses like utilities (electric, gas and water bills), internet and phone.

  3. Car payment and transportation costs.

  4. Insurance (car, life, health).

  5. Child care.

  6. Groceries.

  7. Debt repayments for things like credit cards, student loans, medical debt, etc.

Anything that will result in a late fee for not paying goes in this category.

List Non-Essential Monthly and Irregular Expenses

Non-essential expenses include entertainment, coffee, subscription and streaming services, memberships, cable TV, gifts, dining out and miscellaneous items.

Don’t forget to account for expenses you don’t incur every month, such as annual fees, taxes, car registration, oil changes and one-time charges. Add them to the month in which they usually occur OR tally up all of your irregular expenses for the year and divide by 12 so you can work them into your monthly budget.

Pro Tip

Review all of your bank account statements for the past 12 months to make sure you don’t miss periodic expenses like quarterly insurance premiums.

A woman with a dog reviews financial docements spread out on the floor.
Getty Images

Don’t Forget Your Savings

Be sure to include a line item for savings in your monthly budget. Use it for those short- or long-term savings goals, building up an emergency fund or investments.

Figure out how much you can afford — no matter how big or small. If you get direct deposit, saving can be simplified with an automated paycheck deduction. Something as little as $10 a week adds up to over $500 in a year.

Step 3: Adjust Your Expenses to Match Your Income

Now, what does your monthly budget look like so far?

Are you living within your income, or spending more money than you make? Either way, it’s time to make some adjustments to meet your goals.

How to Cut Your Expenses

If you are overspending each month, don’t panic. This is a great opportunity to evaluate areas to save money now that you have itemized your spending. Truthfully, this is the exact reason you created a budget!

Here are some ways you can save money each month:

Cut optional outings like happy hours and eating out. Even cutting a $4 daily purchase on weekdays will add up to over $1,000 a year.

Consider pulling the plug on cable TV or a subscription service. The average cost of cable is $1,284 a year, so if you cut the cord and switch to a streaming service, you could save at least $50 a month.

Fine-tune your grocery bill and practice meal prepping. You’ll save money by planning and prepping recipes for the week that use many of the same ingredients. Use the circulars to see what’s on sale, and plan your meals around those sales.

Make homemade gifts for family and friends. Special occasions and holidays happen constantly and can get expensive. Honing in on thoughtful and homemade gifts like framed pictures, magnets and ornaments costs more time and less money.

Consolidate credit cards or transfer high-interest balances. You can consolidate multiple credit card payments into one and lower the amount of interest you’re paying every month by applying for a debt consolidation loan or by taking advantage of a 0% balance-transfer credit card offer. The sooner you pay off that principal balance, the sooner you’ll be out of debt.

Refinance loans. Refinancing your mortgage, student loan or car loan can lower your interest rates and cut your monthly payments. You could save significantly if you’ve improved your credit since you got the original loan.

Get a new quote for car insurance to lower monthly payments. Use a free online service to shop around for new quotes based on your needs. A $20 savings every month is $20 that can go toward savings or debt repayments.

Start small and see how big of a wave it makes.

Oh, and don’t forget to remind yourself of your financial goal when you’re craving Starbucks at 3 p.m. But remember that it’s OK to treat yourself — occasionally.

A couple organize tax-related paperwork.
Lindsey Cox and Jonathan Tuttle dig into income- and expense-related paperwork as they prepare to file their taxes at their home in Temple Terrace, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

What to Do With Your Extra Cash

If you have money left over after paying for your monthly expenses, prioritize building an emergency fund if you don’t have one.

Having an emergency fund is often what makes it possible to stick to a budget. Because when an unexpected expense crops up, like a broken appliance or a big car repair, you won’t have to borrow money to cover it.

When you do dip into that emergency fund, immediately start building it up again.

Otherwise, you can use any extra money outside your expenses to reach your financial goals.

Here are four questions to ask yourself before dipping into your emergency fund..

Step 4: Choose a Budgeting Method

You have your income, expenses and spending spelled out in a monthly budget, but how do you act on it? Trying out a budgeting method helps manage your money and accommodates your lifestyle.

Living on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or splurges, and fortunately many budgeting methods account for those things. Here are a few to consider:

  • The Envelope System is a cash-based budgeting system that works well for overspenders. It curbs excess spending on debit and credit cards because you’re forced to withdraw cash and place it into pre-labeled envelopes for your variable expenses (like groceries and clothing) instead of pulling out that plastic. 
  • The 50/20/30 Method is for those with more financial flexibility and who can pay all their bills with 50% of their income. You apply 50% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 30% to personal spending (vacations, coffee, entertainment). This way, you can have fun and save at the same time. Because your basic needs can only account for 50% of your income, it’s typically not a good fit for those living paycheck to paycheck.
  • The 60/20/20 Budget uses the same concept as the 50/20/30, except you apply 60% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 20% to personal spending. It’s a good fit for fans of the 50/20/30 Method who need to devote more of their incomes to living costs.
  • The Zero-Based Budget makes you account for all of your income. You budget for your expenses and bills, and then assign any extra money toward your goals. The strict system is good for people trying to pay off debt as fast as possible. It’s also beneficial for those living to paycheck to paycheck.
A hand writes financial-related labels on envelopes.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Budgeting Apps

Another money management option is to use a budgeting app. Apps can help you organize and access your personal finances on the go and can alert you of finance charges, late fees and bill payment due dates. Many also offer free credit score monitoring.

Step 5: Follow Through

Budgeting becomes super easy once you get in the groove, but you can’t set it and forget it. You should review your budget monthly to monitor your expenses and spending and adjust accordingly. Review checking and savings account statements for any irregularities even if you set bills to autopay.

Even if your income increases, try to prioritize saving the extra money. That will help you avoid lifestyle inflation, which happens when your spending increases as your income rises.

The thrill of being debt-free or finally having enough money to travel might even inspire you to seek out other financial opportunities or advice. For example, if you’re looking for professional help, set up a consultation with a certified financial planner who can assist you with long-term goals like retirement and savings plans.

Stephanie Bolling is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips

October 29, 2020 &• 5 min read by Constance Brinkley-Badgett Comments 0 Comments

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Disclaimer

According to a YouGov Parent Survey in 2019, a quarter of parents entered the 2019 holiday shopping seasonstill paying down debt related to 2018 holiday spending. Deloitte numbers put holidayretail salesgrowth in 2019 at 4.1% year-over-year. In 2020, Deloitte predicts growth of between 1% and 1.5% year-over-year for the holiday season.

It might be that some people no longer want to pay for holiday gifts, decorations and food a year down the road. But it’s also true that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit consumerwallets and some people might be cutting back this year.

That doesn’t mean that people aren’t shopping. Google and other thought leaders note that changes to shopping habits and the need for social distancing and other measures will likely spread the holiday shopping season out longer. Shoppers are also likely to turn to online shopping.

With a ton of shopping opportunities, a longer holiday shopping season and pent-up pandemic energy, it might be easy to overspend and create debt you’ll deal with into the future. Follow these tips to prepare for holiday shopping so you can protect your financial standing, save money and make the most of the resources you have this season.

1. Check your credit scores

Begin by checking your credit scores and reports. They tell you where you stand if you want to apply for credit. They also give you a baseline of where you are so you know if your score goes up or down later with no explanation.

An unexplained drop in your credit score can be a sign your financial information is compromised. Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for many scammers. Using a service, such as ExtraCredit’s Track It feature to keep tabs on 28 of your FICO scores, helps you know when you need to act to protect your credit.

2. Ask for a credit limit increase

If you have existing credit cards and you’re a cardholder in good standing, the months prior to the holidays can be a good time to ask for a credit limit increase. You’re not asking so you can spend more-it’s typically advisable to keep spending in line with your budget no matter how much credit you have.

You’re asking for a higher limit so you can spend what you already planned to without hurting your credit utilization. Credit utilization is the second-most important factor in determining your credit score-second only to payment history. It’s the ratio between your credit limit and how much of that credit you have used.

If you have a card with a limit of $1,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of 30%. But if you get approved for a credit limit of $2,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of only 15%, which is better for your score.

3. Apply for a credit cardwith a 0% APR introductory offer

Those with good or excellent credit might want to consider applying for a card with a 0% APR introductory offer. If you qualify for such a card, you typically have one or two years to pay off purchases made during the introductory period without accruing any interest.

This can be a way to finance your entire holiday without paying anything more for the privilege of doing so. However, it’s still important to maintain your budget and not overspend just because you won’t be paying the balance off until later. Otherwise, you make this season’s holiday festivities next season’s problem.

4. Pay down debt before-and after-the holidays

Speaking of last season’s debt: If you can pay it down before you start spending this season, that’s a great accomplishment. It also frees up your credit and your budget so you can better enjoy the current holiday season. If you’re paying $100 a month on your debt, that’s $100 a month that might go toward gifts or celebrations that you don’t have to put on a card this year.

If you do use credit to pay for the 2020 holidays, have a plan for paying it down as soon as possible. That’s especially true with 0% interest cards. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you’ll miss the introductory period and potentially be on the hook for a lot of interest expense.

5. Create a holiday spending budget

Whether you’re using cash or credit-or a mix of both-enter the 2020 holiday shopping season with a plan. Take an honest look at your personal budget. If you don’t have a budget, create one before you move forward. Then decide how much you can realistically spend during the holidays.

Consider which gifts you want to buy and which events you want to host or attend. You might not be able to do everything, and that’s OK. Be honest with yourself, your family and your friends about what you can afford to do with your time and money this year.

Then make a list and assign each item a monetary budget. That can include:

  • Gifts as a total
  • Gift extras, such as wrapping and tags
  • Shipping, both for receiving items you buy and for shipping gifts to others
  • Food and drinks
  • Travel
  • Decor
  • General festivities, such as tickets to holiday events

Once you assign a dollar amount to a category, stick to it. That’s a good idea even if you’re spending with credit.

6. Align budgeted spendingwith credit cardrewards

Once you know how much you want to spend, decide how best to spend it. If you’re using credit cards for the holidays, check your accounts to see if any offer cash back or rewards points. If they do, double-check which categories or stores you can shop in to earn the most points with each card.

For example, some travel rewards cards offer 6x points when you shop at supermarkets. You could use such a card to cover the food-and-drink portion of your holiday budget and reap the biggest rewards possible from that spending. You might also be able to maximize rewards when purchasing gift cards.

7. Guard your financial information and identity

As you enjoy holiday shopping, be on guard. Don’t use debit card PIN numbers unless you have to, and shield the keypad when you enter your information. Keep a close eye on your wallet or purse, and check your credit card statements regularly to ensure all charges are yours. You can also use ExtraCredit’s Guard It feature to help keep your identity and account information safe during and beyond the season.

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Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Credit Cards

I‘ve always been a proponent of using credit cards sparingly on this site. I believe when you depend on credit too much, it can quickly become a crutch and an excuse for poor planning.

With that said, I do believe there is a place for the responsible use of credit cards, especially if you’re paying them off with cash on hand every month.

If you do your research, make a plan for your credit card spending and play the game responsibly, credit cards can be a useful tool.

So what are some things that you can do in order to get the most of out of your credit cards?

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credit cards to sign up for, it pays to take the time to first sit down and think about how you’ll primarily be using the card.

Is the card going to be mainly used for everyday expenses like groceries and gas?  Is it a business card to be used for business expenses?  Do you plan on doing a lot of travel?

Think about how you’re going to be spending, and what type of a card – and card benefits – will be the best for you.

tips for getting the most out of your credit card

tips for getting the most out of your credit cardIf you’re going to be doing a lot of travel, you may want to consider signing up for a travel rewards card with mileage signup bonuses or other travel perks.

If you just want to get cash back, do your best to find the card with the best cash back percentage.

Don’t Just Dismiss Cards With An Annual Fee

When shopping for cash back cards some experts will often tell you to eschew signing up for credit cards with an annual fee. But according to David Rubenstein of CreditShout.com, that may be short sighted.

On a recent episode of the Money Mastermind Show (above) he gave a good example, of when this might be the case.

The American Express Blue Cash Everyday card is a good card for those looking to save money on their groceries.  You can get 3% cash back at grocery stores.  The American Express Blue Cash Preferred card, however, gives 6% cash back at grocery stores, but carries with it a $75 annual fee. At first glance many people would avoid the Preferred card because of the annual fee, but if you spend just $2500 at the grocery store in the year (versus 3% cash back version), you’ll make back the annual fee and be in the black after that. Most people, even singles, would likely reach that threshold.  Add to that the cash back you would earn in other categories and it seems the annual fee may be worth it if you spend enough at grocery stores.

Try Negotiating Out Of An Annual Fee

If you want the benefits of a card with an annual fee, but don’t want to pay the fees, there is another option that some have suggested. Negotiate your way out of the fee.

Many cards will waive the annual fee in the first year, but in the second year you’ll have to pay unless you do something about it.   Here are some ideas for how to get the fee waived:

  • Call customer service: Just call and ask nicely for the fee to be waived.  Be firm, but polite, and be willing to cancel the card if they won’t credit the fee. Sometimes the first or second customer service rep may not be able to waive it, you may need to talk with the cancellation department.  Sometimes if the fee can’t be waived, they can offer extra points or rewards which will offset the fee. Sometimes they will offer to downgrade you to a lesser card without a fee.  If you can’t get the fee waived this way, try the next tip.
  • Reach out on social media: If calling doesn’t work, another trick to try is to try talking with the company on social media. Often their social media teams are able to help give customer service and positive PR on social channels. Follow the company’s social media accounts first, and then tweet to them mentioning how disappointed you are in the fee. Often they’ll offer to help you out with the fee that year, or even suppress it moving forward as one colleague told me they did for her.  I’ve found that the more followers you have, the more receptive they are to helping you out.
  • Use un-redeemed rewards to pay the fee: If you have more rewards than you’re using, some cards will allow you to redeem those points to offset the cost of the annual fee.

Credit card issuers often spend hundreds of dollars to acquire new customer, and it’s usually in their best interest to keep you around if they can.  If all else fails, be willing to cancel the card, and sign up for another one that won’t charge a fee (at least in that first year).

Make Sure To Make The Most Of Your Rewards

When signing up for your card, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the most out of your rewards.

Experts at Consumer reports found that cash back cards tend to offer better rewards in general.  They also found that with cards that give points, often end up not using the points. In most instances, getting a cash back card will help you to optimize your returns.

Here are some other tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your credit cards:

  • Find the best bonuses: Take your time to research which cards have the best bonuses.
  • Find the best fit: Sign up for cards with bonuses that fit your needs.
  • Find extra bonuses: Add authorized user if it will give additional bonus.
  • Find your card’s shopping portal: Shop at credit card reward portals to get extra savings.
  • Find bonus rewards: Take advantage of bonus rewards deals that will give you extra cash back during certain months or rewards periods. For example, 5% bonus cash back categories at chase freedom.
  • Find cards and programs that work together: A strategy some folks will use is to couple up credit cards with one issuer, or with compatible cards to maximize their rewards. For example, if you have the Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards, you can use the 5% bonus categories and the Chase Ultimate Rewards site for redeeming the rewards to maximize your points. You could use your Chase Freedom to get 5% cash back rewards and then transfer those points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred card through which you could redeem at a rate of 1.25 cents per point for travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards site. Or if you’re a travel hacker, transfer those points to a frequent flier program to get better deals.

Maximizing Your Spending To Reach Bonus Spending Goals

Often when you sign up for a credit card with an attractive bonus, you have to reach a spending goal within a certain time frame, like $3000 in the first 90 days, or something along those lines. Sometimes that can be tough unless you get creative.  One way to reach those goals is to use credit card rewards to pay for things you’re buying now anyway.

  • Pay medical bills: This is one I hadn’t thought of before because we use our HSA card to pay medical bills. Instead, use the credit card for rewards, then ask for a HSA reimbursement later via your HSA online account.
  • Buy groceries & gas: Most people are paying for groceries and gas anyway, why not put it on the credit card and then pay it off?
  • Pay for recurring bills: Use your credit card to pay Netflix subscriptions, cell phone bills, life insurance payments and any other recurring bill if you can.
  • Part of a car purchase: In buying a car recently I found that you can put a portion of a car purchase on your credit card.  Most dealerships will not allow you to put the whole purchase price on the card because of transaction fees they have to pay, cutting into their margins, but in many cases they’ll allow you to put $2000-5000 or so on a credit card. Just make sure you have the cash to pay it off!
  • Buy gift cards:  One creative trick some people will use to get around spending goals is to buy high dollar gift cards to reach their spending goal – that they can use later on.  To double up they’ll often buy those gift cards at places like grocery stores where they get extra cash back since sometimes those purchases will show up as “grocery” spending.

Don’t Forget To Take Advantage of Perks

Most credit cards these days have some pretty awesome perks that you can take advantage of. So what are a few?

  • Price protection: Many credit cards now have some sort of price protection built in that allows you to submit a request for a refund if an item you buy with the card drops in price, during a certain time-frame.
  • $0 liability for fraudulent purchases: Having experienced credit card fraud recently I don’t take this one for granted anymore. Having that fraud backstop there is a lifesaver.
  • Extended warranties: Many cards will offer an extended warranty on items that you buy, usually doubling the original warranty of an item.
  • Trip cancellation insurance coverage: If you booked a trip using your card, you can often be reimbursed if your trip has to be cancelled for some reason.
  • Lost luggage coverage: One of my cards gives $3,000 in lost luggage coverage for me and my dependents when the fare was charged to my card.
  • Roadside assistance: Broken down on the side of the road. Many cards offer roadside assistance at no charge, which means you can leave that coverage off your insurance.
  • Car rental insurance: Decline the car rental company’s collision, loss/damage waiver insurance if your card already has this type of coverage.  Why double up?

These are just a few of the benefits that some cards will have. Just make sure you check what perks your card has – and don’t forget to take advantage of them!

A Credit Card Should Fit Your Needs

When it comes down to it, credit cards are a tool. As long as you’re finding the right card for your situation, taking advantage of the rewards and not allowing yourself to carry a balance month to month, using a credit card can be a great benefit.

If, however, you find that you’re becoming lost and unorganized in a maze of points, restrictions, spending goals and so forth, it may not be the right thing for you.

Make sure that the credit cards you sign up for are working for you, and not against  you.

Have any of your own tips for making the most of your credit cards? Tell us in the comments!

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

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9 Ways To Successfully Balance School And Work

Advice For Balancing School And Work #balancingschoolandwork #timemanagementtips

Advice For Balancing School And Work #balancingschoolandwork #timemanagementtipsMore and more people are choosing to attend college and work at the same time. This can be those who are going straight from high school to college or adults going back to college. Whichever applies to you, balancing school and work will be an important part of how successful you will be.

Whether you are working a part-time or full-time job, balancing school and work can be tough. There are many working students in college who are able to manage both, but there are also many who aren’t able to.

If you don’t balance them both well, it may lead to stress, lower grades, low-quality work being produced, and more.

No one wants that and I’m sure you don’t either.

This is supposed to be the time of your life where you are growing and changing, not feeling like you are drowning in everything that is going on around you.

There are ways to many ways to start balancing school and work so that you can graduate college while working a job.

I took a full course load each and every semester (usually 18-24 credits each semester), worked full-time, and took part in extracurricular activities. It was definitely hard and I won’t lie about that. However, sometimes a person doesn’t have a choice and has to do everything at once. Or, you might be choosing to multi-task and are wanting to learn how to better manage your time.

Related content:

Working while you are going to college can help you not take out as many student loans, or you may be an adult who has to work to support your family while you are going to college. Either way, time management for college students who are also working will help you succeed at every aspect of your life.

Working while I went to college helped me take out less student loans, and I am so happy I found that balancing school and work was possible.

Related post: How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500

Whatever your reason may be, below are my tips for time management for college students who are also working. The tips below are what helped save me!

My advice for balancing school and work.

Find your motivation for balancing school and work.

There are many reasons for why you are both working and going to school, but sometimes you need to remind yourself why you are working so hard.

It can be really easy to watch others around you who aren’t doing both and feel jealous, stressed, or angry. But, remind yourself why you are working so hard.

Your motivation can be any number of things, like avoiding student loan debt, providing for you family if you are going back as an adult learner, and so on. Your motivation will be what you need when you are struggling to balance both work and school.

Related: 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed

Carefully plan your class and work schedule.

My first tip for working college students is to carefully plan your class and work schedule.

Some students just choose whatever classes are offered. However, it is much wiser to carefully craft your school and work schedule so that everything flows together efficiently with a minimal amount of time being wasted.

To start balancing school and work with a carefully planned out schedule, you should start by researching when the classes you need are offered and start trying to eliminate any gap that may fall between your classes. Having an hour or two break between each class can quickly add up. Also, if you happen to have time off between classes, then using this time to do your homework and/or study can be a great use of your time.

Another time management tip is to try and put as many classes together in one day so that you aren’t constantly driving back and forth between school, work, and home. Balancing school and work can be hard, but it starts with creating a schedule that uses your time efficiently.

Related post: How I’m a Work-Life Balancing Master

Eliminate any time that may be wasted.

There are many time sucks that you may encounter each day, especially as you are balancing school and work and switching back and forth between the two. A minute here and a minute there may add up to a few hours wasted each day.

The time you save could be used towards earning more money at your job, studying, socializing, or whatever else it is that you need or want to do. For working college students, every minute is important.

There are many ways to eliminate the things that are wasting your time, including:

  • Cut down on your commute time. If you can find a job near your college campus then you can eliminate a lot of traveling time.
  • Find a way to work remotely. If you have a job that allows you to work remotely, then this can help you start balancing school and work time even better. You may even be able to work in between class breaks.
  • Prep your meals ahead of time. If you can make your meals in bulk ahead of time instead of individually making each one, you will be able to save a lot of time. Making your own meals is more than just time management for college students, as it means you will probably eat healthier and save money.
  • Be aware of how much time you spend on social media and cutback on TV. The average person wastes many, many hours each day on social media and watching TV. Cutting back on this may save you hours each day without even realizing it. TV and social media can be very distracting too, which is why it is so important to be aware of how it might be negatively impacting how you are balancing school and work.

Related post: 75 Ways To Make Extra Money

Separate yourself from distractions.

Time management for college students is hard, but it is even harder for working college students because there may be even more distractions.

Noise in the background, such as leaving your TV on while you study or a party your roommate may be throwing, can distract you from what you need to be doing. If you are trying to study or do homework then you should try to find a quiet place to get work done.

There are going to be so many distractions while you are working and going to college, and learning to separate yourself from those distractions will be one of the best ways to manage your time. I know it can be hard, trust me, but I also know how eliminating distractions can be a huge help.

You may want to close your bedroom door, hide the remote from yourself (trust me, this works!), go to the library, or something else. Sometimes you will have to force the distractions out, but it will help you save time and focus on what needs to be done.

Related: How To Be More Productive: 17 Tips To Help You Live A Better Life

Have a to-do list and a set schedule.

Having a to-do list is extremely helpful time management for college students, especially those who are working too. That’s because a to-do list will show you exactly what has to be done and when you need to do it by. You will then have your responsibilities sitting in front of you so that you will have to face reality.

You can have a to-do list that lists out your daily, weekly, or monthly tasks. You can use a planner, a notebook, Post-It notes, you can color code things, use stickers, etc. Just find a system that works for you and stick to it.

Balancing school and work will be much easier if you make a to-do list and keep a set schedule. So, write out what needs to be done each day, and knowing your schedule will keep you on task.

I know that when I am stressed out it can be easy to forget things, so having a to-do list eliminates any valuable minutes that I may waste debating about whether or not I forgot to do something.

Be a productive procrastinator.

We all know how bad procrastinating is, but sometimes you can actually waste your time on things that need to be done. I know that sounds strange, but it is actually quite helpful.

Here’s an example of what I mean: If you need to write a paper but find that you are procrastinating, then procrastinate by studying for a test. Now, you will still have to write that paper, but you will have already gotten the studying out of the way.

Balancing school and work is easier if you find tricks like this that make every moment you spend a productive one.

Take a break when you really need one.

Good time management for college students who are working often means that you are using trying to use every moment of your day as efficiently as possible. But, there are times when balancing school and work can feel extremely stressful.

In times like those, when you feel like you need a break, take a short one to help you come back refreshed and focused on what you need to do.

You can go for a walk, read a book, get in a workout, take a nap, etc. Taking a break when you need one will help prevent you from feeling burnt out, which is a danger when you are balancing school and work.

Find other college students who are doing the same.

I know that you aren’t the only one who is balancing school and work, and it might help you stay focused if you are able to find others who are working and going to school like you are.

Finding a friend who is doing the same can motivate you, they can help you stay on task, and you might even find someone to study with.

Working students in college need to be realistic.

While one person may be able to work like crazy and attend college at the same time, not everyone can do that.

If your grades are dropping, then you may want to analyze whether you should drop your hours at work or school. What is more important to you at this time and for your future? We can’t do everything always, and being realistic will help you understand your limitations so that you don’t burn out.

With the tips I’ve listed that help with time management for college students who are also working, you’ll be able to rock both your job and your college classes at the same time. Don’t forget to fit in time for fun as well. Good luck!

Are you one of the many working college students out there? Why or why not? What tips for time management for college students can you share?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

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