Thanksgiving Hacks To Save Time, Stress And Money

View from inside of oven - young man removes perfectly baked turkey from oven.Thanksgiving prep stressing you out? Wondering how you’re going to get everything done in time for the big day and stick to your budget at the same time?
We’re here to help! Whether you’re travelling home for the holiday or hosting a houseful of guests, we’ve got you covered. Advantage One Credit Union is proud to present 15 clever Thanksgiving hacks to save you time, stress and money as you prepare for Turkey Day.

1. Book your flight early
If you’re flying home for Thanksgiving, book your flight as early as possible – preferably in September. According to travel app, SkyScanner, booking a Thanksgiving flight in September can save you 4 percent off the ticket price.

2. Travel light
You likely won’t be gone for long. Plus, if you’re going home, you can always dig up something to wear if you haven’t packed for every occasion. Why waste all that time packing and pay for extra bag-checking?

3. Get an accurate guest count as early as possible
If you’re hosting, this should be your first step – even before you start thinking menus and recipes. Find out exactly how many guests you’re expecting for Thanksgiving dinner so you don’t overcook or need to run out at the last minute for more groceries.

4. Plan your menu early
Draw up an exact menu as early as possible before you start stocking up on ingredients. This way, you won’t pick up random food items just in case you may end up needing them.

5. Take stock of your pantry and fridge before shopping
Don’t buy a thing until you know what you already have at home, this way you won’t be unpacking three cans of pumpkin filling from your grocery bag only to find you already have four cans sitting in your pantry.

6. Shop early and shop the sales
Most supermarkets spread their sales weeks before the big day.. Save big by picking up what you need, as it gets marked down in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. As always, be sure to monitor coupon sites like Coupon.com, Flipp.com and RetailMeNot, as well as local circulars, to see what’s on sale before hitting the stores.

7. Use a cooler as a fridge
As you cook your way through your menu, refrigerator space will become a precious commodity. Make room by using a cooler to store bottles of salad dressing and condiments you don’t need for Thanksgiving. Fill the cooler two-thirds of the way with ice so your banished foods don’t go bad, and keep it in the garage until your fridge is roomy once again. Use the space these items leave behind in your fridge to store the dishes you’ll need for the great feast.

8. Use pennies instead of pie weights
You need to pre-bake your pie shells before filling them, but you don’t want the shells to puff up and crack. Professional bakers recommend using a pie weight to keep this from happening, but there’s no need to waste money on yet another kitchen gadget. Instead, line your pie shell with foil and then fill the center with pennies or dried beans to keep the dough weighed down as it bakes.

9. Keep your mashed potatoes in your slow cooker
No one wants cold and lumpy mashed potatoes with their turkey, but how do you keep yours soft and smooth when every burner on your stovetop is occupied in the hours leading up to Thanksgiving dinner? With this hack, of course! After preparing your potatoes, spread some butter on your slow-cooker insert, add some heavy cream or milk and then pour in the potatoes. Keep the temperature on low and stir occasionally to keep the spuds soft and creamy.

10. Use aluminum foil instead of a roasting rack
There’s no need to rush out and buy a pricey roasting rack so your turkey can cook evenly. You can get the same results by fashioning a rack out of aluminum foil. Twist some foil into thick ropes and weave them across the bottom of your roasting pan until they’re strong enough to hold your bird.

11. Spray-paint plastic fruit instead of springing on expensive décor
You can find fake fruit for super-cheap at dollar stores-or you may already have some at home. Spray-paint the fruit in gold, silver or any colors that match your décor for a festive look that doesn’t break the budget.

12. Buy a frozen turkey
Frozen turkeys are a lot cheaper than their fresh counterparts, and if you prepare it well, no one will be able to tell the difference.

13. Buy in bulk
You can save a ton on your ingredients by buying in bulk. If you can’t see yourself using up a mammoth sack of potatoes or an enormous amount of cranberry sauce, find a friend who is also hosting Thanksgiving dinner and ask about splitting the cost and the item. You’ll still save a ton off the regular price.

14. Skip the appetizer
Appetizers can take a ridiculous amount of time to prepare, and you don’t want your guests filling up on miniature fried wontons before you bring out your turkey with all the trimmings. Consider skipping the appetizer this year and just starting with a tossed salad.

15. Cook most things from scratch
Convenience is important, especially when your to-do list outpaces your available time, but some shortcuts are just not worth the cost. Instant mashed potatoes and store-bought gravy don’t come close to the authentic version and can be a real waste of money.
Sometimes, though, if preparing something yourself means purchasing a pricey item for a small end-product, like pumpkin pie filling or cranberry sauce, you’re better off going with the pre-made stuff.

If you don’t think you can possibly do it all without buying as much premade as you can, split the smaller items on your to-do list with a neighbor or a friend who is also hosting dinner, and share the goods. We promise not to tell your guests.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday from all of us here at Advantage One Credit Union.

Your Turn:
Do you have any genius Thanksgiving hacks? Share them with us in the comments.

Learn More:
foodnetwork.com
makinglemonadeblog.com
moneypantry.com

Can I Buy A House When I’m Paying Off A Student Loan?

A young couple sits on the lawn of their modest home watching their two young children play in the yardQ: I graduated college with a huge student loan debt. Since then, I’ve landed a decent job and I’ve been making steady payments toward paying down my loan. Is it possible for me to buy a house while I’m still paying off this debt?
A: Student loan debt that is managed responsibly should not hold you back from purchasing a house. There are several important factors to consider before making this choice and steps you’ll want to take before you start house-hunting.
Are you really ready to buy a house?
Before you take a look at your finances to determine if you can pull off this purchase, make sure this goal is in your best interest.
For starters, do you really know which city or neighborhood you’d like to live in at this point in your life? You are likely just starting out in your career and you might be better off with the flexibility that comes with renting. This way, if an excellent employment opportunity requiring a move arises, you’ll be free to accept it. You also may or may not have settled down in terms of a life partner. It generally does not pay to buy a home you’ll only live in for a few years before selling.
Next, think about the financial ramifications of this purchase. Are you really comfortable taking on another huge loan right now? Also, you will likely have to live with a bare-bones budget to meet your mortgage payments without neglecting your student loan debt. Do you really want to live with a no-frills spending plan in the foreseeable future?
Consider these questions carefully before making your decision.
Getting started: Boost your credit
Once you’ve determined if it would be beneficial for you to purchase a home right now, you’ll want to start improving your credit. Your credit wellness is the primary factor that home lenders consider when deciding if you’re eligible for a mortgage. It also figures into the rate they will offer you.
Here are some ways you can boost your credit score in the months leading up to your mortgage application:
  • Pay all your bills on time. Set up automatic payments to make it effortless.
  • Keep your credit utilization at less than 30 percent.
  • Pay your credit card bills in full, and before they’re due.
  • Don’t close old accounts or open new cards. You want your credit history to be lengthy, and both of these steps can significantly bring down your average.
How high is your DTI?
Lots of young college graduates think it’s impossible, or difficult, to obtain a mortgage when carrying student loan debt. In fact, a 2018 Student Loan Hero survey found that 43% of college-educated Americans with student loans postponed buying a home because of their student debt.
Lucky for you, there is very little truth to this concern. As mentioned above, a student loan that is handled well should not be a deterrent to getting a mortgage. To make sure you’re managing your student debt responsibly, set up automatic monthly payments on your loan so you never miss a payment or a due date.
In addition, make an effort to pay your student loan back as quickly as possible so it doesn’t reflect badly on your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Since taking out a mortgage means accepting more debt, lenders are careful to check that you aren’t carrying too much other debt. Ideally, your total debt payments, including your mortgage, should account for less than 36 percent of your income.
If your DTI is on the high side, you may not be eligible for a mortgage just yet. Consider refinancing your student loan to a loan with lower interest rates so you can pay it off sooner and then apply for a mortgage when your DTI improves. You can also look for ways to increase your income to tilt your debt ratio in your favor.
If you’re carrying any other debt, such as credit card debt, you’ll want to pay it down as quickly as possible as well.
Determine how much house you can afford
Before you start shopping for a home, find out how much house you can actually afford. The best way to obtain this information is by applying for a preapproval from a home lender. This will tell you exactly how high you can go while showing sellers that you’re serious about buying.
If you won’t need your pre-approval just yet, but you’d like an idea of how much you’ll need to save for a down payment, you can use an online mortgage calculator to get your magic number.
Start saving for a down payment
Once you have your numbers worked out, you’ll need to save up for a down payment. Trim your budget in any way you can and look for side hustles to boost your income and make saving simple. Then, set up an automatic monthly transfer to your Advantage One Credit Union Savings Account so your money can grow while you sleep.
At this point, you may want to look into a local down-payment assistance program or a federal loan program, such as an FHA loan, which only requires a down payment of 3.5 percent. If you live in a rural area, you might qualify for a USDA loan, and if you’ve served in the military, you’re likely eligible for a VA loan.
[When you’re ready to take this step forward, call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union to find out about our home loans. Our rates and hassle-free pre-approval process make a Advantage One Credit Union home loan an excellent choice!]
Your Turn: Do you think it’s a good idea for college graduates to buy a house while they’re paying off a student loan? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Learn More:

5 Apps To Download Before The Holiday Shopping Season

Before you start making your lists and checking them twice, check out our list of free apps that can help you save boatloads of money and stress this holiday season. It just may make holiday shopping fun again!

The Coupons App
Look up deals, coupons and special online promo codes from over 100,000 retailers on this nifty, free app. You can also find thousands of exclusive deals and offers at local chains and restaurants; sign up for alerts so you can be the first to know when your favorite stores and eateries are holding sale events or offers and get calendar reminders when your saved coupons are about to expire. Sign up now to find out why millions of happy users have trusted The Coupons App to help them save more since 2008.


Shopular
Another favorite coupon app, Shopular, gives you the latest scoop on deals and coupons as well as location-based notifications. The app prides itself on getting you the best price wherever you are, and will alert you to a retailer’s trending deals as soon as you walk into the store. Redeem coupons and deals on your phone, and join the Shopular community to share savings tips and tricks with thousands of cost-conscious shoppers.

 


Santa’s Bag
Kick off your holiday shopping this Black Friday with Santa’s Bag, a handy Christmas gift list app. This free app allows you to create and store your lists, monitor your holiday budget, track your purchases and count down the days remaining until Christmas. Never forget a gift or go over budget again with this popular ad-free app!

 

 


Price Cruncher
Love saving on gifts but hate the math it takes to figure out which deals are worthwhile? Try Price Cruncher, the app that does the dirty work for you. For a one-time fee of just $1, Price Cruncher compares different sales to let you know which is actually the better deal; helps you calculate the price per product when purchasing items in bulk and tells you what the final price of a for-sale item will be after all discounts and coupons are applied. Use the app’s integrated shopping list for an all-in-one experience that makes shopping easy!


Slice
If you hate elbowing your way through crowded shopping malls and you do most of your holiday shopping online, this is the one for you! Slice will organize all the receipts that land in your inbox and track your packages so you know exactly how much you’ve spent. The app will remind you of Groupons and other deals or coupons you might want to use based on your online spending habits, and will also send you alerts about price adjustments for products you’ve been searching for. Best of all, the app safely stores all of the order numbers, tracking information and descriptions of your purchases so you can easily pull them up when you want to check an order’s status or delivery time. No more digging through dozens of emails to find out when that gift will arrive on your doorstep!


Download these apps and start saving on your holiday shopping today!

Your Turn:
What’s your favorite shopping app? Tell us about it in the comments!

Learn More:
nerdwallet.com
shopular.com
paypath.com
slice.com
thecouponsapp.com

 

Do My Child’s Activities Really Need To Make Me Go Broke?

man standing with three young kids on a soccer field sidelineIt’s back-to-school season and you’re just about ready to zip that backpack closed before tossing that supply list into the trash. You’ve been shopping for weeks to get the right pencils and pens, binders and the dozens of other must-haves. This, of course, is in addition to the perfect school shoes and autumn wardrobe. But now you’re done, done, done! Your sanity and your budget are ready for a breather – at least until the holiday shopping season starts.

But then your darling daughter comes home breathless from school telling you she’s made it onto the school’s soccer team. She’s thrilled and can’t wait to start attending practices and games! Oh, and did she mention she’ll need some money for her uniform and equipment?

Before you can finish digesting this piece of news, your son barrels through the door and announces he’s decided to take drum lessons. It’ll only be, say, $600 for the drum set, plus the price of lessons. But that’s not a big deal for you, is it?

Extracurricular activities are an important part of a child’s development. They allow students to shine in ways that may not be possible for them in the classroom. Plus, it helps kids step out of their social circles to forge new and lasting friendships. They serve as a creative outlet and can improve your child’s physical and cognitive health. If you have a real prodigy in your family, they may even be your child’s gateway to a college scholarship, and possibly a lucrative career.

But there’s no getting around the truth: Extracurricular activities are expensive. If you’ve got several school-aged children at home and each one wants to participate in two activities, you can be looking at an investment as high as $10,000 or more because of fees, equipment, uniforms, instruments and supplies.

No worries, though; you don’t have to choose between your budget and your children’s happiness. Here are some ways you can save on your kids’ extracurricular activities this year:

1. Limit the number of after-school activities you allow for each child
If you’ve got several over-ambitious young ones at home, consider limiting extracurricular activities to just one per child. You’ll actually be doing your children a favor by forcing them to pick one activity of focus where they’ll be channeling all their energy in one direction.

They’ll also be more dedicated to perfecting their game or hobby when they own their choice. Plus, it’ll be easier for them to keep track of just one practice and performance schedule – and a lot easier on your carpool calendar, too! Finally, you’ll help your children avoid taking on too much so they are less likely to wind up neglecting their schoolwork or not having any time to spare for family and friends.

2. Register early
Lots of children’s’ sports programs offer discounts of up to 30 percent just for signing up early. Speak to your children about after-school programs and sports teams months before the official season launch so you can register early and snag those early-bird specials. You might also be able to net a discount by pre-paying for the entire season instead of paying on a monthly basis.

3. Purchase used equipment
Save big on sports gear by purchasing gently used equipment from sites like PlayItAgainSports and SidelineSwap. Some of these sites also allow you to sell your own used equipment.

4. Swap equipment
If you have friends with kids who are (or were) also into sports and music, see if you can swap equipment and instruments from year to year. Maybe your friend’s son was into guitar last year and baseball this year, while your daughter’s interests ran in the opposite direction. Swapping with friends allows you to save on expensive equipment while putting your own unused gear to good use.

5. Rent musical instruments
If you’ve got budding musicians at home, consider renting the instrument they’ve taken up this year. There’s no way to tell if that burst of passion they’re currently nursing for the oboe is just a passing phase or the beginning of a hobby that will last a lifetime. Why blow hundreds of dollars on an instrument only to see it lying forgotten in the attic in a few months time? Some instruments, like the French horn, can cost as much as $1,000 but can be rented for as little as $50 a month.

If your child is convinced they’ve found their instrument of choice or you’ve already been renting one for a while, you can purchase gently used musical instruments from resale sites like Craigslist and eBay or through Reverb, a site devoted entirely to selling musical instruments.

6. Volunteer your time
If you’ve got the time to coach or manage a team, or even just to walk around selling refreshments during games, you might be able to nab a discount on the program’s fees and equipment.

Don’t let a tight budget stand in the way of your child’s creative and physical development. By making smart, frugal choices, you can turn your children’s dreams into reality without draining your wallet.

Your Turn:
How do you save on your children’s extracurricular activities? Share your own tips and tricks with us in the comments.

Learn More:
goodhousekeeping.com

moneycrashers.com

parents.com

PlayitAgain sports

Sideline

Step 8 Of 12 Toward A Debt-Free Life: Boost Your Income

Increase your income this month to help you pay down debt.

Young woman checking job posts on a bulleing boardThere are a handful of practical ways to accomplish this. For instance, consider asking for a raise or promotion at your current workplace or seeking employment elsewhere if you feel you’ve reached your maximum earning potential at the company. You can also freelance for hire, take on a side job on weekends or a seasonal job for just a few weeks a year. You might also consider offering consulting services in your particular field.

Remember:
any extra money earned goes straight towards your debt snowball!

Your Turn:
How did you boost your income this month? Share your success story with us in the comments!

Note-Taking Apps

You aren’t seriously still scribbling your to-do list on plain paper, are you? Get with the times and choose one of these popular note-taking apps to help you do the job. Your scrawls will never be the same.

EverNote logo, stylized elephant head on white backgroundEvernote
Stop misplacing your to-do lists by moving all your notes to the cloud with Evernote. This note-taking app is a favorite among 200 million users worldwide, thanks to its impressive array of features.

Evernote’s incredible versatility appeals to all kinds of note takers. If you’re the fastidious type, you’ll love Evernote’s notebooks, which allow you to group your thoughts into 250 self-divided categories. You’ll also rejoice in the tagging feature, which lets you sort notes, crosslink them and insert your own checklists and tables into your notes.

Are you more of a verbal sort? Get your thoughts on file using Evernote’s audio recording feature, which is available for both desktop and mobile.

If your note-taking involves lots of research, use the app’s web clipper to attach any link.

Evernote makes collaboration easy, with the option to share notebooks via email and a handy chat feature for live communication.

Evernote has three different plan options. The Basic plan is free, but places bandwidth limits on monthly uploads and can be insufficient for some users. Subscriptions to paid plans start at $3.99/month and go up to $7.99/month, with significant savings offered for a full year’s commitment.

Best Features: While Evernote has many distinctive features, the software really shines with its notebooks and note tags, making organizing your thoughts a breeze. Another nifty feature, called optical character recognition (OCR), sets Evernote apart by allowing you to search for text in both your written notes and inside of images.

Glaring Glitches: Evernote features fall short by lacking a built-in video note capability. There’s also a monthly bandwidth limit of 60MB of uploads a month on the free version and a 250 cap on the number of notebooks you can open on the app. Another downfall is the lack of an ink-to-text conversion feature.

Evernote is a somewhat clunky piece of software with lots going on. New users will need to invest a good chunk of time learning their way around the app before they can start creating, saving and sharing notes.

 

OneNote logo File folder icon with N on purple backgroundOneNote
Microsoft’s contribution to the world of note-taking tools comes close to Evernote’s versatility and convenience, even topping it in some areas.

The app allows you to create and store text notes, voice notes, pictures and more. Unlike Evernote, OneNote includes a video note feature. You can also create as many notebooks as you’d like—or at least until you run out of storage space. OneNote integrates seamlessly with most voice-recognition software, so you can speak and let the app transcribe your notes for you. You can even have the app change “ink” notes, such as a handwritten note or even an entire whiteboard of notes, into plain text.

Like Evernote, OneNote allows you to clip web pages using a browser add-on tool for assistance in compiling research. Unlike Evernote, though, the app also allows almost unlimited flexibility when creating your notes, including rich formatting options and the ability to add diagrams, scribbles and more. You can also share notes directly from the application, choosing to share them via email or by creating links.

Best Features: Unless you want to pair the software with Microsoft’s Office 365, OneNote is completely free. As another plus, OneNote allows you to organize your notes in any way you’d like, exactly as you’d be able to do with an actual paper notebook.

Glaring Glitches: OneNote’s biggest shortcoming is its lack of at-rest encryption for consumer accounts. This means that anyone who gains access to the cloud server can access your notes without an encryption key. This can be worrisome for anyone who’d rather keep their private notes private.

Some users also complain about OneNote’s basic functionality, claiming it constantly crashes, does not sync properly and consequently causes users to lose their precious notes.

 

Google Keep logo, white lightbulb on goldenrod fieldGoogle Keep
Google’s digital notebook, Google Keep, is miles behind Evernote and OneNote in available features, but it still deserves recognition for what it is: a completely free note-taking tool that does its job well.

You won’t find a plethora of formatting tools and organizational features, like notebooks, on Google Keep, but the app offers unlimited notes that won’t eat up your Google Drive space. The notes themselves do have a 20,000-character limit, which comes to approximately 4,000 words. There’s also no ink-to-text conversion capability.

Google Keep is not completely without fun features. You can use the app to create bulleted lists; attach reminders to notes; add “collaborators” to notes and assign them tasks; add images and drawings using a pen tool and label notes to sort them.

You can also utilize the Chrome extension embedded in the app to clip web content; however, you’re limited to clipping select text and images. Google Keep integrates with all of Google Suite, so you can import your notes directly to Google Docs, Sheets and more.

One of the best features you’ll find on Google Keep is the ability to dictate notes and allow the app to transcribe them for you. Since Google’s speech recognition software is considered better than average, you’re more likely to be satisfied with the results than frustrated.

Best Features: The no-frills app is simple and can be learned and operated in just a few minutes.

Glaring Glitches: Since Google Keep’s notes are uber-simplistic, there are almost no formatting options at all.

But most concerning is Google’s notorious lack of security. Since Google’s main revenue stream is advertising, the company’s practices of scraping information from search histories and email content to compile data used for target marketing is fairly common knowledge. While Google has not confessed to doing the same with information stored on Google Keep, it’s not that far of a stretch from its current practices. If this sounds worrying to you, you may want to give Google Keep a miss.

 

How they stack up

App NameGenerous Free VersionVideo NotesInk-to -Text ConversionEasy to LearnSecurity Issues
EvernoteNoNoNoNoNo
OneNoteYesYesYesNoYes
Google KeepYesNoNoYesYes

 

Your Turn:
What’s your favorite note-taking app? Tell us about it in the comments!

 

SOURCES:

https://evernote.com/

https://www.cloudwards.net/evernote-vs-onenote/

https://www.cloudwards.net/evernote-review/

https://www.cloudwards.net/google-keep-review/

https://beebom.com/evernote-alternatives/

https://www.cloudwards.net/onenote-review/

https://www.onenote.com

Meet The Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living

Meet the Frugalwoods book coverUnless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few decades, you’ve no doubt absorbed society’s message that you can buy your way to a happier life. From the minute we wake up until our eyes close at bedtime, we’re bombarded with splashy ads and commercials promising us the world—for a price, of course.

Elizabeth and Nate Thames were an archetypical couple of our consumerist world. In 2014, this pair of professionals was holding down high-powered jobs, living in the city and pulling in big bucks. The world was theirs for the taking.

But one day, they decided they’d had enough of that lifestyle. They were sick of wishing away their workdays and desperately counting down until the weekends. They wanted to start living genuinely and enjoying each day to the fullest.

Together, they hatched a plan: They’d sock away as much money as possible to become modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont. They called themselves “the Frugalwoods,” and as soon as they put their plan into action, starting by saving more than 70 percent of their income, Elizabeth began documenting their progress on the couple’s popular blog. In less than three years, the Thameses had achieved their goal and reached financial independence at the age of 32. They are now living on a 66-acre homestead in Vermont, together with their little girl.

In her book, Meet the Frugalwoods, Elizabeth retells the eye-opening story of how her financially comfortable family disengaged from the race of keeping up with the Joneses and drastically scaled back their spending to live their dream life. The book is a compelling read that will make spenders of any level stop and think about the choices and financial habits that direct their lives.

You don’t need to be harboring a secret dream of quitting your day job and moving to the woods to enjoy this book. Most of us can stand to cut back on our consumerism for living with a bit more frugality. Meet the Frugalwoods encourages readers to examine their possessions and physical comforts, as well as to determine which of those add genuine joy and value to their lives. Only things that are truly valuable to you are worth holding onto. As Elizabeth says, the process of cutting back and bowing out of society’s peer pressure is enormously liberating.

Thousands of readers have found Meet the Frugalwoods to be an inspiring and motivational tale, but many others find it to be preachy and condescending. A widely-voiced complaint is that the couple is still pulling in a handsome salary and cannot comprehend what it means to truly struggle. Nate works from home and earns over $200K a year, while Elizabeth authors their personal finance blog. While it’s admirable that they were able to pull out of the spending trap and now wear second-hand clothing, knowing they have a huge financial cushion to fall back on greatly diminishes their “sacrifice.”

However, lots of readers find it truly inspiring that a couple who can afford to live large has managed to untangle themselves from the web of consumerism that ensnares most of society.

You may not want to live as frugally as the Thames family, but by reading their story and incorporating some of its lessons into your own life, you, too, can learn to lead a simpler and more meaningful life.

Your Turn:
Do you think it is possible to be truly happy and fulfilled while living a life of excessive consumerism? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

SOURCES:

https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/best-personal-finance-books-to-read

https://www.amazon.com/Meet-Frugalwoods-Achieving-Financial-Independence/dp/0062668137

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35068719-meet-the-frugalwoods

Six Figures Under – Dig Out From Your Mounting Debts

Six Figures Under personal finance made publicWhen Stephanie and her husband found themselves looking at a six-figure student loan debt load in 2009, they didn’t know how to start freeing themselves. Their small family’s budget was just barely making it to the end of each month. How would they possibly pay off such an overwhelming amount of debt?

Fast forward to the end of 2016 and that huge, monstrous debt was completely gone.

How did they do it?
On her blog, Six Figures Under (SixFiguresUnder.com), Stephanie shares her family’s ongoing story, detailing the steps she’s taken and the changes she’s made in her family’s lifestyle for paying down their debt while continuing to live financially responsibly. She is brutally honest about her struggles and successes, sharing the mistakes she’s made along the way and the triumphs she’s celebrated. She also offers readers complete transparency into her family’s finances, posting actual numbers about the income her family earns, their fixed expenses, investments and the way they choose to spend their money on non-fixed expenses.

But Six Figures Under is not just about Stephanie’s story. Stop by the blog and you’ll find a large community of active followers joining in on a mission to pay down their debts and live a more financially conscious life.

For 2019, Six Figures Under is on a Debt Smash-athon charge. The blog’s community is invited to share the amounts of debt they’ve paid down each month. The numbers are then tallied and posted on the blog with the big wins singled out with special mentions. In March 2019, the Six Figures Under community paid down a total of $149,866.53 of debt, invested $31,202.12 toward retirement and put away $39,151.21 for big savings goals. The feeling of togetherness motivates members to boost their efforts in paying off their debts.

There’s more than numbers to Six Figures Under. Check out the blog for the following categories and topics:

  • Frugal Living Ideas – Here, you’ll find tips and tricks for saving money on everything from family road trips to grocery bills. Posts are always engaging and packed with actionable tips you can apply to your own life today.
  • Budgeting and Finance –  The blog advocates living on last month’s income—and shows readers how to live this way, plus creating a manageable and realistic monthly budget.
  • Debt – Read up on tips for increasing your debt payments and common mistakes people make when handling their debt.
  • Ideas for Increasing Income – These posts cover a broad range of money-making ideas, from running a killer yard sale to starting a thriving business on Etsy.

Members of the blog get friendly monthly reminders inviting them to share their progress with the rest of the community, as well as frugal living tips and ideas delivered directly to their inbox.

The Six Figures Under blog is an inspirational, friendly place that is packed with money management tips and strategies for doubling down on your debt payments. Check it out today and join the debt-smashing fun!

Your Turn:
Do you have a target date for paying down all debt? Or are you just chipping away at it, month by month? Share your debt-paying strategy with us in the comments.


SOURCES:

https://www.sixfiguresunder.com/

https://www.sixfiguresunder.com/our-story/

http://www.barebudgetguy.com/six-figures-under/

https://www.sixfiguresunder.com/family-budget-update-march-2019/

6 Ways To Save On Summer Vacation

couple in living room packing pool toys for vacation tripHere are some easy to follow tips that can help you save on your summer vacation.

  1. Time it right
    Experts say the sweet spot for cheapest flight booking is 54 days before your travel date.
  2. Clear your cache before every new flight search
    This way, airlines can’t access your browser history and inflate the prices they offer you.
  3. Sweet-talk your way to savings
    Ask for an upgrade at the check-in counter. About 78% of hotel guests who request an upgrade at the front desk actually get one.
  4. Never pay full price
    Check sites like coupondivas.com, entertainment.com and Groupon.com for deep discounts at local eateries and entertainment centers.
  5. Freebie fun
    Search local sites and blogs for write-ups about free things to do near your destination.
  6. Save your mega event for the last day
    Finish your vacation on a high note by saving your most exciting event for the last day of your trip.

Your Turn:
How do you save big while getting the most out of your summer vacation? Share your best hacks with us in the comments!

When Should I Put My House On The Market?

Young family lists house with realtorIf you’re thinking of selling your home, think spring. That’s because the season of blossoming flowers and gentle breezes has traditionally held the designation as the best time of year to sell a home.

Before you start prepping your home for a photo shoot that shows it off in the best light, take a moment to consider your particular circumstances and needs. What makes spring so well-suited for house-hunting? Does the seller benefit from this arrangement, or is it only advantageous to the buyer?

Let’s take a deeper look at the sell-in-the-spring rule so you can make an informed decision about when to put your house on the market.

Why spring?

There are two primary factors making spring an excellent season for selling a home: The weather and the time of year.

The beautiful, mild weather of spring showcases the exterior of your home in all its glory. Your yard will be alive with healthy, green grass, your flowers and bushes will be in full bloom, and your property will be free of unsightly piles of leaves or mounds of melting snow. If you have an in-ground pool, there’s a world of difference between presenting it to a prospective buyer when it’s sparkling under a brilliant sun, or pointing to a dark, covered shadow at the edge of your yard surrounded by windswept branches and ice puddles.

The pleasant weather that typically heralds the arrival of spring also makes it easier for you to tend to repairs and upgrades on your property. The cold and the dark tend to lead to neglect. Plus, it’s a lot easier to paint the picket fence, stain the deck, and power-wash the siding when the weather is mild and sunny.

Aside from delightful weather, springtime also brings the end of the school year. House-hunting in the spring often makes the most sense for families that include school-age children. This way, they can be settled into their new homes and schools before the new school year. By listing your home for sale in early spring, you’re making it available for this entire group of house-hunters.

Finally, spring means longer daytime hours. This can be advantageous for shoppers who work full-time and can only spare time for home viewings in the evenings. You can schedule a viewing as late as 7 p.m. and still enjoy the benefits of a daylight showing.

Do homes listed in the spring really sell quicker and at higher prices?
It’s not just hype. There are actually studies proving that houses sold in late spring to early summer are on the market a shorter amount of time than houses listed the rest of the year. Also, they tend to close at higher price points.

Here is a sampling of studies proving this theory:
An ATTOM Data Solutions analysis of 14.7 million homes sold over a span of 6 years proved the best month to sell a home is May. Most homes sold during this month closed at 5.9% above their estimated market value when compared with other months.
A Zillow study showed that homes sold during the first two weeks of May tend to be on the market less time than homes sold any other time of year.
According to Realtor.com, homes listed during the spring are 1% less likely to sell with a price cut than homes listed during the rest of the year.

Does this rule hold true for everyone?
“Springtime to market” might be a good rule of thumb for most home-sellers to follow, but it does not apply in every case. Here are some factors to consider:

The local market.
If your neighborhood is full of for-sale signs and your home does not have any distinguishing features, you may put yourself at a severe disadvantage by listing your home in the spring. Consider waiting until the market cools off in mid-summer, or even in the early fall months.

On the flipside, if your home has one or more features that set it apart, you’ll want to list it when the neighborhood is full of house hunters, to give it optimal exposure.

Your preferred time to move.
When is the ideal time for your family to move to another town? Pick a date and work backward to decide when to list your home. There’s no way to determine exactly when you’ll close on a listed home, but Realtor.com estimates the average home sale takes 50 days to close after going under contract. Add a month for preparing your home for the market, choosing a selling agent, making any necessary repairs or upgrades, and finding a buyer.

Local climate.
Springtime might mean beautiful weather for much of the country, but in some areas, like Southern California, pleasant, mild weather is an all-year-round delight. Conversely, in many northern states, the warmer weather doesn’t set in until early summer, and you’ll want to wait a bit before putting your home up for sale.

Whether you choose to put your house on the market in spring, or you decide you’d be better off waiting until summer or fall, we wish you a smooth sale at the best possible price. Don’t forget to stop by Advantage One to ask about our fantastic home loan options when you’re ready to start searching for a new place to call home.

Your Turn:
Have you sold a home in the spring or summer? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.pennymacusa.com/blog/what-is-best-time-to-sell-house

https://www.housingwire.com/articles/48685-want-to-sell-your-house-list-in-the-1st-week-of-april

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/reneemorad/2018/04/30/the-best-month-and-day-to-sell-a-home/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.fool.com/amp/retirement/2018/05/31/whats-the-best-time-to-sell-a-house.aspx