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!

8 Side Hustles Anyone Can Do

Young lady drives young men to their destination in her minivanWho wouldn’t love some extra pocket money? These freelance jobs don’t require any experience and can be done by practically anyone. Plus, some of them might pay you for tasks you’re already doing! Read on for eight easy side hustles and to find those that may be right for you.

1.) Play with dogs
This job is for true animal-lovers. Why not earn some extra cash watching your furry friends? When you offer your services as a dog-walker or pet-sitter, you can charge as much as $25 an hour, depending on the going rate in your area. To get the word out, you can hang up flyers to advertise your services or sign up with Rover, an Uber-like service that matches up pet-owners and sitters for a small fee.

2.) Social media guru
Yes, your Facebooking talents and clever tweets really are marketable skills. You can offer your services to local and remote businesses as their social media brander. Depending on your skill set, you can write the company blog posts, manage their Facebook page, post new pics on Instagram and send out their tweets. You’ll need to get a feel for the core values and mission statement of the company you represent, but otherwise, it’s just doing what you love on your favorite social media platforms!

3.) Yard work
Do you wield real power with a weed-whacker? Are you an expert lawn mower? Get paid for tending to people’s yards. You can charge by the hour or per job. You may also want to do a survey of other local yard workers to get a good idea of fair asking prices.

4.) Take online surveys for pay
Make the time you spend online count by taking surveys on sites like Survey Junkie, Inbox Dollars and Swagbucks. Most of these sites are easy to use and will pay you as soon as you complete a survey. It’s a quick, easy way to pad your wallet with extra cash.

5.) Turn trashed items into treasure
If you’re crafty and love working with your hands, this one’s for you!

Late spring is the perfect time for finding discarded pieces of furniture in the trash. Take a spin around the neighborhood, scouring each block for curbside furniture in decent condition. Haul your finds home and get to work, refinishing, painting, changing drawer pulls and more to give the tossed piece of furniture new life. When you’ve finished glamming up your treasure, put it up for sale at a local flea market, sell it to a second-hand or consignment shop or market it online through eBay or Craigslist. If you really work at it, you may be able to turn a trashed piece of furniture into several hundred dollars.

6.) Work for Uber
The ride-sharing giant gives the term “flexible job” new meaning by allowing you to set your own schedule and decide just how many hours you want to devote to driving passengers.

If you don’t like the idea of strangers riding in your car, you can work for Uber Eats instead. With this sister service of Uber, you get paid to pick up fast-food meals and deliver them to customers. Uber Eats offers the same flexibility and great terms as the original Uber and, in some locations, you can even deliver the food on a bike or scooter. It’s a fantastic way to boost your income without committing to long hours or hard work.

7.) It’s fair time!
Summer is the season for local fairs of all kinds. Spend some time researching community fairs in your town and the surrounding areas. Is there one scheduled that features a special talent of yours? If you know you can bake a mean pie or you’ve been told your caramel fudge is to die for, try your hand at competing in a fair that features these competitions. You can earn hundreds of dollars in award prizes just for doing something you enjoy. Plus, there’s no limit to how many fairs you can enter each summer, so you can do this over and over again.

8.) Teach and tutor
Are you a geometry whiz or a genuine science buff? Offer your services as an individual tutor for school-aged children this summer and you’ll have a meaningful way to earn extra money. You can help a struggling student work through summer homework or pass makeup exams so they earn their promotion to the next grade. You’ll be using your brains to make a difference in a child’s life while making good money on the side.

If you’ve got a spectacular talent outside the classroom, you can use it to make money this summer by teaching it to students who want to learn how to do it, too. Specialized instructors like guitar teachers or art coaches can charge a pretty penny per session.

While it helps in some cases, you don’t need special training or credentials for earning extra pocket money. Use this list to find the side hustle that works for you and start boosting your income.

Your Turn:
Do you have a side job you love? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/part-time-jobs-to-boost-income-4126475

https://workfromhomehappiness.com/internet-jobs/

https://financebuzz.com/ways-to-make-extra-money/

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

6 Ways To Save Money On Gardening Equipment And Supplies

Family planting a garden in their backyardAs spring deepens and vibrantly colored flowers blossom everywhere, you might be dreaming about a garden of your own. You’ll till the soil, pat the fertilizer into place and plant your young shoots with tender care. You’ll make sure they get just the right amount of sunlight and water, and you’ll be careful to keep out unwanted pests with strong fences and natural pesticides. And you’ll be rewarded with beautiful flowers and fresh vegetables, straight from your very own garden.

But when you hit the stores to start shopping for your garden, the sticker shock can be alarming. There’s so much to buy—and it’s all so expensive! There’s specialized equipment, must-have tools, frequent runs for seeds and fertilizer and a steady supply of weed killers and animal repellents. You might be wondering: Can I really afford to have the garden of my dreams?

Yes, you can! Save on gardening costs this year with these six creative hacks:

1.) Share equipment
You won’t be able to care for your yard and garden without the proper tools, but that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to get all that equipment. Instead, speak to your neighbors about sharing some of your gardening gear. Let your neighbor use some tools you own, like your weed-whacker, trimmer and spreader, in exchange for free use of your neighbor’s gardening tools. If you dare, consider sharing your larger, more expensive tools like a lawn mower and rototiller as well.

To make it easier, consider tending to your gardens and yards on different days of the week so you know you’ll have your equipment available when you need it.

If you and your neighbor both need to purchase a new tool or machine, talk about splitting the cost and then sharing the tool.

You can also work out a bartering system with your neighbors, exchanging extra gardening supplies, like leftover seeds and fertilizer.

2.) Purchase used gear
You can save big on gardening equipment by looking for second-hand tools and machines. Check out sites like Craigslist, Freecycle and eBay for quality equipment at bargain prices. Be sure to give the pre-owned tool a test run before finalizing a sale.

3.) Rent equipment
Instead of shelling out big bucks on expensive tools you’ll only use once or twice a season, consider renting them as you need them. Home Depot rents out a wide variety of gardening tools at excellent rates, and lots of smaller hardware stores have a similar garden tool rental service during the spring and summer months, too. You’ll have access to quality equipment when you need it at a price you can afford. Plus, you won’t have to worry about storing bulky gardening tools all year long.

4.) Shop the dollar store
Before hitting the big chain stores, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, for gardening supplies, check out your local dollar store. You’ll find loads of gardening supplies, like seeds, markers, buckets and planters, at rock-bottom prices in stores like Family Dollar and Dollar Tree.

5.) Shop the sales
Like every retail product, gardening equipment and supplies have their season for markdowns and sales, and the wise consumer knows how to time their purchase in order to save big.

Larger gardening equipment, like mowers and tillers, usually sees steep discounts at Memorial Day sale events, making the start of summer an excellent time to stock up on pricey garden tools.

Flowerpots, garden décor, lawn furniture and select plants will retail at blowout prices during the clearance sales at the end of July. If you’re hankering after a new set of Adirondack chairs for your garden, or you want to spruce up your yard with some garden gnomes, this is the time to buy them.

You’ll also see some wilting flowers on sale now; don’t let those drooping leaves scare you. If you find a marked-down perennial past its blooming window, check for strong roots and stems. A firmly rooted perennial planted late in the season might not bring you colorful blossoms this year, but if it’s well cared-for, it will likely recover by next spring and reward you with beautiful, healthy flowers.

Whenever you decide to buy your tools and supplies, be sure to check coupon sites like RetailMeNot and CouponCabin before making a purchase.

6.) Buy seeds
Purchasing young transplants is a lot easier and a lot quicker than starting from scratch, but the difference in price can be enormous. You can pick up a packet of flower or vegetable seeds for less than a dollar in many nurseries and through gardening catalogues. You’ll also have a much broader choice of plant when you buy seeds instead of being limited by the store’s pick of transplants. Finally, raising a plant from seedling to vegetable or flower is a uniquely rewarding experience.

Tending a garden and watching it grow is one of life’s last remaining pleasures that remains unaffected by the encroachment of technology. Use these tips to bring your dream garden to life without draining your wallet.

Happy gardening from all of us here at Advantage One!

Your Turn:
How do you save on gardening supplies? Share your best tips and tricks with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/slideshows/10-ways-to-save-while-gardening

https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/planting-and-maintenance/5-surprising-ways-to-save-money-on-gardening-supplies

https://www.thegraciouswife.com/tips-to-save-money-on-gardening-supplies/

https://www.littlehouseliving.com/5-ways-to-save-money-gardening.html

Which Features Should I Look For In A New Car?

Proud family accepts keys ot their new carQ: I’m in the market for a new set of wheels, and the choices are making me dizzy. How do I decide which features to look for in a new car and which to skip?

A: Shopping for a new car can be complicated—but it doesn’t have to be that way. With a bit of research and some time spent determining what’s important to you, you can make a choice you’ll be happy with for years to come. To help you out, we’ve created a list of key features you might want to consider in your new car, as well as a list of features you can skip.

Must-have safety features

  • 360-degree camera:
    This camera takes the risk factor out of backing up by giving drivers a bird’s-eye view of the car. This way, drivers can see the entire area surrounding their vehicle and check for children and objects in their way.
  • Evasive steering: Keep yourself safe even in the event of surprises on the road with this handy new feature. Evasive steering will provide you with additional steering support when you’re in danger of colliding with another vehicle and your own steering efforts are not sufficient.
  • Blind spot alert: This feature alerts the driver when there is an object or pedestrian in direct line of their blind spot.
  • Forward collision warning: If you’re prone to distraction while behind the wheel, you might want this feature. It provides a visual and/or audible alert when your vehicle is heading toward a forward collision.
  • Automatic emergency braking: Stay safe with this feature, which automatically applies the brakes when it senses a vehicle in your car’s way. Some systems include pedestrian detection as well.

Convenient features

  • Automatic keyless entry: This feature was created for those moments when you’re staggering toward your car with armfuls of grocery bags: it automatically unlocks a car’s doors when it senses a nearby fob.
  • Head-up display: You don’t have to risk swerving every time you want to check out your car’s display. With a head-up display, you can see important information, like your fuel level and speed, right on your windshield. Displays are dim enough so they don’t block your visibility, but clear enough to easily read.
  • Power tailgate: If you plan on hitching a boat, ATV, or another large vehicle to the back of your new pickup truck or SUV, you might want to shop for this feature, because it lets you lower and raise your tailgate with the push of a button.
  • Multi-zone climate system: Family road trips are peaceful again with this feature, which allows for different climate controls throughout the car.
  • Speedy USB-charging outlets: No more unbearable waits for your gadgets to power up! You can now buy a car that charges your device super-quickly.
  • WiFi hotspot: Stop eating up your phone’s data—just plug into your car’s WiFi instead. Some in-car hotspot services charge a monthly fee after a complementary introductory period, but these tend to be cheaper for unlimited data than a similar data plan through a mobile phone carrier.
  • Heated steering wheel and driver’s seat: This one is for those frosty mornings when your car can’t get warm quite fast enough.
  • Wireless charging pad: Leave the wires at home! Just place your phone on one of these pads and it will start powering up. These super-techy gadgets use induction to charge your device and work with most new smartphones. If your phone is aging and won’t charge on an induction pad, you can buy a special case to bring it up to speed.

Fun-to-have features

  • Home assist device connectivity: Telling your phone to crank up your AC or to shut off your oven is old news. But, did you know you can now do the same for your car’s controls? Some new cars allow you to use remote voice control with home assist technologies, like Alexa, for your car. You can tell the assistant to set the temperature in your car, unlock doors and even get your favorite playlist going while your hands are busy making lunch.
  • Rear entertainment systems: No more backseat fighting! This feature gives the rear seat of your car a completely separate entertainment system.
  • Sound enhancement: If you’re an incurable gearhead who needs to actually hear your car revving up, you’ll love this feature. It simulates the performance experience of your vehicle, even in a car that is built to be quiet, so you can listen to your engine roar itself to life.
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay: Leave your phone in the cup holder and avoid dangerous distraction with these features. Both will sync your smartphone’s interface with your car’s infotainment system so you can use the car’s screen for controlling your phone and keep your eyes on the road.

Features you can skip

  • Bigger wheels and thinner tires: The look might appeal, but the ride will be less comfortable. Plus, your wheels will be more prone to damage from potholes and other obstructions on the road.
  • Built-in navigation systems: Please don’t pay extra for a navigation system when you know you’re going to use Waze or Google Maps most of the time anyway. Also, most built-in navigation systems require constant and tedious updates.
  • Lane keeping assist: This feature automatically steers or brakes your car when your vehicle crosses lane markings without turning on a blinker. It sounds tempting, but in real life, it’s more annoyance than convenience. Often, you’ll need to suddenly cross a lane marker for good reason, like moving over for an emergency vehicle or for a cyclist on the shoulder of the road. Plus, according to Consumer Reports, there is no data that proves this feature has any safety benefits for the driver.

[Before you start shopping, call, click, or stop by Advantage One to hear all about our auto loans! We’d love to help you get behind your new set of wheels!]

Your Turn:
Did you buy a new car recently? Tell us about the features you chose and why they made it to your list.

SOURCES:

https://www.consumerreports.org/automotive-technology/must-have-features-to-get-in-next-new-car/

https://www.hotcars.com/must-have-car-features-for-2019/

https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/cars-with-the-most-high-tech-features-for-the-money

Ways Your Credit Union Can Help You Fund Your Summer Vacation

womans legs and beatiful, tropical beach, water and mountains in the backgroundIf you’re like most Americans, as soon as you see ads announcing Memorial Day sale events, you start thinking summer. Summer means flip-flops and sandy beaches, sunscreen and baseball, fireworks and ice cream—and expensive vacations.

Perhaps you’re really needing to get away this summer, so you have the perfect vacation all planned out in your mind.

But how are you going to get around the steep price tag on your dream getaway? Do you pull out the plastic, make it happen and worry about paying your credit card bills only after you return home? Do you beg a loan off family and friends, putting your most important relationships at risk? Do you live off pasta in the weeks leading up to your vacation and use the money saved on groceries to cover the cost of your trip?

You don’t have to take extreme or irresponsible measures to fund the perfect summer vacation. As a member of Advantage One, you have access to a variety of convenient products that can help you cover the costs of your trip with minimal effort on your part.

Read on for ways Advantage One can send you packing for your dream summer getaway.

1. Vacation Savings Account

It’s easier to save up for a specific goal when you separate the funds you’re earmarking for that goal from all your other savings. When you open up a secondary savings account at Advantage One with the express purpose of using it to accumulate funds for your summer vacation, you’ll always know exactly how much money you’ve saved up for your getaway. Plus, your money will grow, so you’ll reach your goal sooner.

You may have already started saving up for summer expenses in your regular savings account. Move that money into your summer savings account now so your vacation funds are in one easy location.

To be certain you’re socking away enough money to cover your getaway, create a vacation budget now. Realistically, how much money will you need to cover the costs of your trip? Next, determine when you’d like to go and count the number of weeks or months left until your vacation date. Work out the exact amount you’ll need to save each week or month by dividing your total vacation budget by the number of weeks or months left to go before your trip. You can trim your budget, sell some stuff you don’t use anymore or take on a side hustle to come up with the necessary savings. Finally, link your checking account and your designated vacation savings account – and set up a direct deposit – so that your summer savings can grow almost effortlessly.

2.) Personal Loan

If you think you can’t possibly save up enough money to fund your vacation in time, consider taking out a Sunsational Summer loan instead.

When you take out a Sunsational Summer loan at Advantage One, you’ll get the funds you need to send you off on your dream getaway. And best of all, with our affordable rates, you won’t go broke paying it back! Speak to us today to find out more about this fantastic option.

3.) Skip-a-Payment

If you’re desperate for a vacation in more ways than one, consider taking a break from some of your financial responsibilities this summer. Advantage One allows qualifying members to skip one loan or credit card payment during this expensive time of year. By choosing Skip-a-Pay, you’ll get the break you need without hurting your credit or defaulting on the loan. However, your loan or balance payment plan will extend for another month, and the interest on the skipped payment will be integrated into the principal of your loan or bill.

Skipping a payment is not recommended for members who are struggling to get on top of their finances. But, if you’re in a financially comfortable place and just need some extra breathing room this time of year, skipping one monthly payment can be a great way to help you cover the costs of your summer getaway.

Get your vacation plans off the ground by stopping by Advantage One today. We have a broad range of products that can turn your dream vacation into a reality!

Your Turn:
Which Advantage One product helps you fund your summer vacation? Share your top pick with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.moneycrashers.com/save-up-fund-summer-vacation

https://www.theworkathomewoman.com/fund-your-summer-vacation/

https://www.fool.com/amp/retirement/2018/06/03/3-tips-to-save-for-your-summer-vacation.aspx

https://www.everydollar.com/blog/plan-your-vacation

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/skip_payment_mortgage.asp

Twitter:

8 Ways To Avoid Getting Scammed On Craigslist

woman visibly upset and closing eyes while on the phoneThe arrival of spring and the deep house cleaning it inspires means more people are putting their old furniture, devices, sports equipment and clothing up for sale. That’s why the amount of items like these on sites like Craigslist swells considerably during this season. If you have the time and patience to sift through the offerings, there are wonderful treasures to be found. Conversely, if your own spring cleaning unveils hordes of sellable stuff you don’t use anymore, you can make good money selling them online.

Unfortunately, though, when there’s money to be made, the scammers are never far behind. Craigslist is riddled with scammers looking to make a quick buck off people’s naivety. Stay one step ahead of scammers and keep your money safe by following these eight tips when using Craigslist.

1.) Be familiar with Craigslist and the services it offers
Lots of Craigslist scams can be avoided by knowing basic information about the site. Before using Craigslist, make sure you know the following:

The Craigslist URL is http://www.craigslist.org. Scammers often use fake sites to lure buyers into paying for items that don’t exist. Always check the URL before finalizing a purchase.
Craigslist does not back any transaction on its site. If you receive an email or text trying to sell you purchase protection, you’re looking at a scam.
There is no such thing as a Craigslist voicemail service. If a contact asks you to access or check your “Craigslist voicemails,” you’re dealing with a scammer.

2.) Deal locally.
The “barely used” couch that’s up for sale a couple of states over might be better-priced than the one being sold just a 10-minute drive away, but it’s always safer to deal with locals on Craigslist. According to the site’s advice on avoiding scams on their platform, you’ll avoid 99% of the scams on Craigslist by following this rule.

Keeping your transaction local will enable you to finalize a sale in person. Plus, there’s less of a chance of there being a language barrier blurring the details of the deal.

3.) Examine the product(s) before finalizing a sale.
Never rely solely on pictures to get the full scope on what you’re buying. Ask to look at the item in person. If you’re purchasing an electronic device or something else that needs to work in order to be valuable, ask to try it out as well.

4.) Don’t accept or send a cashier’s check, certified check or money order as payment.
Fraudulent checks can be impossible to fight. Also, a bad check can seem to clear on sight, so you’ll agree to the sale and use the money that’s supposedly in your account. A few days later, though, you’ll realize the check bounced. By that time, the buyer has vanished with your goods, leaving you responsible for covering the funds you used while presuming it cleared.

On the flip side, if you pay for an item with a money order or wire transfer, you’ll have no way of recouping your loss if the seller fails to come through with the goods.

5.) Use cash—safely.
The most secure way to pay or collect funds for a Craigslist transaction is with cold cash. If the idea of handing over a large sum of money to a stranger scares you, you can make the exchange of money and goods in a safe place like your local police station or even at Advantage One.

When accepting cash for a sale, bring along a counterfeit detector pen (which can be found at most office supply stores and online) to be certain you’re not getting scammed with bogus bills. These retail for as little as $5, but they can save you from big losses.

6.) Never share your personal information with a buyer or seller.
As always, when online, keep your personal information to yourself. There’s no reason a buyer or seller needs to know your checking account number, your date of birth or even your mother’s maiden name. If a contact is asking too many questions, back out of the deal.

7.) Be wary of fake escrow service sites.
Escrow services, in which a company holds onto a large sum of money for two parties in the middle of a transaction, can be super-convenient when buying and selling things online. However, they can also be a clever trap for unsuspecting victims. Scammers often create bogus escrow service sites to lure victims into dropping their money right into the scammers’ hands. The site will be a copycat of a reputable escrow service site, with some slight deviations you wouldn’t notice unless you looked for them.

When using an escrow service site, it’s best to find the site yourself instead of following a pop-up ad or a link. Check the site carefully for spelling mistakes and poor syntax. Also, make sure the URL is secure and matches the site of the service you intend to use.

8.) Create a disposable number.
When conducting business on Craigslist, you may need to share a working phone number. You can create a cost-free, disposable number on Google Voice instead of giving out your real number. Your Google Voice number will be untraceable and will expire within 30 days of non-use.

Your Turn:
Have you ever been targeted by a Craigslist scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.fraudguides.com/internet/craigslist/

https://www.craigslist.org/about/scams

https://www.thestreet.com/amp/personal-finance/craigslist-scams-14707309

https://www.efraudprevention.net/home/templates/?a=96

Home Improvement Hacks

Young bi-racial couple assembles assemble it yourself furniture in their modern home.You’ve finally finished scrubbing and purging your home from top to bottom in honor of spring. And now, with every surface, closet, and room sparkling clean, you’re starting to see all the areas that could use a facelift. Maybe you’re hankering after a complete kitchen makeover. You might be dreaming of a fresh coat of paint for your bedrooms. Or maybe your window treatments are in desperate need of an overhaul.

The only thing standing between you and your dream home is finding piles of cash for funding it, right?

Maybe not. Lucky for you, you don’t need to spend a fortune this spring to give your house a new look. Read on for our list of home improvement hacks and learn how to upgrade your home on a budget.

1. Cabinet makeover
Instead of dropping a ton of money on replacing your kitchen cabinets, you can give a tired kitchen a fresh new look by replacing just the cabinet fronts. You’ll pay a fraction of the price and no one will know it’s your old, shabby cabinets hiding behind those beautiful new doors.

Want to go even lower-cost? Consider painting the front of your cabinet to upgrade the look without spending much money or time. You can also replace those dated cabinet pulls with something nicer and trendier for a more modern look.

2. Cover your countertops with contact paper
Granite countertops can be gorgeous, but they’re also incredibly pricey. Instead of taking out a second mortgage for beautiful counters, try covering them with pretty, patterned contact paper. You’ll find loads of granite lookalikes at home improvement stores and you can learn how to apply your knockoff covers neatly from DIY tutorials on YouTube. You might even fool your friends and family into thinking it’s the real thing. But don’t worry: We won’t tell anyone it’s fake!

3. Use PVC pipes for curtain rods
Pretty curtains and drapes add a splash of color and personality to any room. You can make your own inexpensive curtains by picking up some fabric from a sewing supply store. The only issue? You’ll need rods to hang up those curtains—and if you need specific measurements and colors, that can get pricey.

Make it happen with this hack: Use PVC pipes instead of curtain rods. You can paint your pipes to match the décor of the room and hang them with inexpensive hooks that fit well. Curtains, done!

4. Create a mirrored backsplash
All you need for this fantastic hack is a pack of self-adhesive mirror tiles. These retail for about $15 per 20-tile pack and you can find them online or at a home improvement store. Use your snazzy tiles to create a mirrored backsplash in your kitchen. Decorate with inexpensive decals to up the glam or just leave it bare. The mirrors will give the illusion of greater space and you won’t have to deal with grout and caulking. It’s a super-cheap way to make your kitchen sparkle!

5. Slipcover your sofa
If your sofa is hopelessly stained and you’d love to update it, but can’t spare the cash, try covering it in a slipcover. You can find a leather-look slipcover to match the shape of your sofa for $100 or less. They’re not just for protection; the right slipcover will give you an (almost) brand new couch! Make sure you read reviews before purchasing, because quality really makes a difference here.

6. Let the light in
Light fixtures can really make or break an area in your home, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get it right. Walk through your home and take note of the light fixtures that are relics from a past life, paying close attention to highly visible areas. Then, take a trip to a home improvement store or check out sites like Wayfair and Hayneedle for trendy, striking light fixtures. For less than $100, you can give your house an entire new look!

7. DIY paint
If the walls in your home desperately need fresh coats of paint, look no further than your local home improvement store. No, you don’t have to be a genuine DIYer to get this right; it’s fairly simple. You’ll find loads of painting tutorials on YouTube, and you’ll only have to spring for the actual paint plus a few supplies. Best of all, when you’re in charge, you can get as creative as possible. Using painter’s tape and your imagination, you can paint funky designs on your walls, like diamond contrasts, vertical and horizontal stripes, or, if you’re feeling really artsy, go for a full-blown mural!

These hacks will make your home beautiful this spring for just a bit of money. If you need more major home improvements that require serious cash, though, we can help. Call, click or stop by [credit union] today to ask us about opening a HELOC or taking out a home equity loan. We can make that happen, too!

Your Turn:
Are you making home improvements on a budget? Share your best tips and tricks with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thrillist.com/amphtml/home/home-improvement-hacks-under-50-diy-home-projects

https://diyjoy.com/diy-remodeling-hacks/

http://www.architectureartdesigns.com/15-smart-hacks-that-will-save-you-money-while-remodeling-your-home/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.remodelista.com/posts/apartment-rental-simple-easy-budget-hacks/amp/

Mortgage Rates Are Dropping; Should I Refinance?

a young couple refinances their house at the credit unionQ: I’ve heard that mortgage rates have dropped dramatically since the start of 2019. Should I refinance my mortgage loan to take advantage of these lower rates?

A: Refinancing a mortgage is essentially paying off the remaining balance on an existing home loan and then taking out a new mortgage loan, often at a lower interest rate. It may sound like a no-brainer, but there are many factors to consider before moving forward with a refinance.

Is it a good time to refinance?
Mortgage rates have been falling steadily over the last few months. During the last week of March this year, rates took their biggest one-week nosedive in more than a decade, and mortgage applications rose 39%, as thousands of homeowners sought out their lenders for a refinance.

However, the downward trend has already reversed as of the beginning of April, when rates hit 4.29%. That’s up from 4.17% just one week prior. If you’re thinking of refinancing in the near future, it’s best to do move quickly so you can lock in the lowest possible rate. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars a month if you refinance a loan that currently has a relatively high interest rate.

Is a refinance right for you?
While this is definitely an excellent time to take out a new mortgage, that doesn’t mean a refinance is the right fit for everyone.

Here are two reasons a refinance might be a good fit for you:

  • Your credit is strong and you’d like to lower your monthly payments
    The first, and most obvious, reason homeowners refinance their mortgage is to take advantage of a lower interest rate. The drive behind this reason might be a change in finances, personal life or simply the desire to save money. As mentioned, the current mortgage rates make this an excellent time to refinance into a lower interest rate.

    Don’t try a refinance unless your credit is in good shape, though. Taking out another mortgage with a less-than-desirable credit score can mean getting hit with a high interest rate, even if national rates are dropping.

    Aside from reducing your monthly payments, a lower interest rate can also help you build more equity in your home sooner.

  • You’d like to shorten the life of your loan.
    People sometimes choose to refinance their mortgage because they want to finish paying off their loan sooner. If you have a mortgage that has a really high interest rate but you can easily meet these payments, consider refinancing into a shorter-term option. You may be able to pay off your loan in half the time without changing your monthly payment much at all

When refinancing your mortgage is a bad idea
In the following three circumstances, refinancing your mortgage may not make sense.

  • You’re in debt.
    If you’re looking for the extra stash of cash each month to pull you out of debt, you probably shouldn’t be refinancing. Most people who refinance for this reason end up spending all the money they save, and then some. Without making any real changes to your spending habits, giving yourself extra money is only enabling more debt. While the intention is rooted in sound logic, unless you make an equally sound change in your spending habits, you’ll be right back to your present situation in very little time.
  • A refinance will greatly lengthen the loan’s terms.
    If you’ve only got 10 years left on your mortgage and you want to refinance to stretch out those payments over 30 years, you won’t come out ahead. Any money you save on lower payments will be lost in the cost of the refinance and the extra 20 years of interest you’ll be paying on your mortgage.
  • You don’t plan on living in your home much longer.
    If you plan on moving within the next few years, the money you save might not even come close to the costs of a refinance.

How much will it cost?
Homeowners are often eager to get started on a refinance until they see what it will cost them.

Remember all those fees and closing costs you paid when you first bought your house? Prepare to pay most of them again. Broker fees will vary, but a typical refinance will cost anywhere between 3-6% of the loan’s principal.

Before proceeding with your refinance, make sure you’ll actually be saving money. You can do this by procuring a good faith estimate from several lenders. This will get you your projected interest rate and the anticipated loan price. Next, divide this price by the amount you’ll save each month with your anticipated new rate. This will give you the number of months that will have to pass before you break even on the new loan. If you don’t plan on staying in your home for that long, or you can’t afford to wait until then to recoup your losses, refinancing may not make sense for you.

Rates are still low, and if your finances are in good shape, a refinance can be a great way to put an extra few hundred dollars into your pocket each month. [If you’re ready to talk to a home loan expert about refinancing, call, click or stop by Advantage One today to ask about getting started on your refinance. We’re always happy to help you save money!]

Your Turn:
Have you refinanced? What drove your decision? Was it the right decision for you? Let us know in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.myfinance.com/5-reasons-to-refinance/?utm_source=Millennial+Money&utm_campaign=millennialmoneycru&utm_medium=mfCRU

https://www.consumersadvocate.org/mortgage-refinance/a/best-mortgage-refinance?matchtype=e&keyword=should%20i%20refinance&adpos=1t2&gclid=CjwKCAjww6XXBRByEiwAM-ZUILOeJrx3aTigcckJXeQcxYZ5KC-gPj1HDcbQYQlprrg3zX08LqGaohoCL14QAvD_BwE

https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/refinance/when-and-when-not-to-refinance-mortgage/

https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/refinance/7-bad-reasons-to-refinance-mortgage/

https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/analysis/

https://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/with-mortgage-rate-drop-many-buyers-consider-refinancing/1897961701

Step 4 of 12 Toward A Debt-Free Life: Create An Emergency Fund

Young caucasian woman working at modern deskYou may be feeling impatient to start more aggressively paying down debt, but it’s important to first create an emergency fund. If you don’t have money socked away for unexpected expenses, you’ll be tempted to use the money that’s already earmarked for your debt payments to fund this expense.

Experts recommend keeping three months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund, but you can start with a modest $1,000. Set up an automatic monthly or weekly transfer from your [credit union] Checking Account to your Savings Account until you have a fully padded emergency fund. This may take several months, but no worries, you can continue following the next few steps towards a debt-free life as your emergency fund grows.

Your Turn:
Why do you think it’s so important to have an emergency fund? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.