Categories
Homeownership

4 Proven Ways to Save Money as a Renter

This post is sponsored by Fidelity Investments®. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Fidelity does not adopt, endorse or sponsor any other content on this website, including links to other third-party websites and is not responsible for any views expressed outside of this sponsored post.

Renting an apartment can be both an exciting and slightly stressful experience. Having a place of your own will grant you freedom but many financial responsibilities will be added to your plate as well.

Given the high market rent rates throughout the country, along with expenses like utilities, food, parking fees and a security deposit, many first time apartment renters are searching for a way to cut back on costs so they can avoid struggling financially.

Consider some of these money saving tips before looking for your next place.

Choose an Affordable Area

Location is very important when you’re trying to get more bang for your buck. The area that you choose to live in can significantly affect your rent. Most of the time, housing in a large city is going to be more expensive than in a small suburb.

But apartments closer to shopping malls, tourist attractions, and popular high-traffic areas of a city or suburb are going to cost more. The idea is that people who choose to live near these conveniences are willing to pay more.

Skip All the Amenities

Apartment complexes that have a gym, pool and clubhouse are nice, but if you’re trying to save money on rent, they may not be the best option. The apartments with the most amenities and luxury features will have higher rent because the tenants are expected to help pay for the extra add-ons.

If you leased an apartment at a complex that has a private gym and a hot tub, you may be paying an extra $100 in rent for luxuries you don’t often use. If you think your car will be safe parked outside of your apartment year-'round, then opt out of spending the extra $20 or $30 per month for a parking space.

It’s nice to have these things nearby but by choosing a basic apartment that has everything you need and little extras can really help you knock $200+ off your monthly rent. That will help you save $2,400 a year or more. That extra cash can go toward debt repayment or even help boost your savings.

When it comes down to it, you have to ask yourself what you value more and choose an apartment that fits your expectations in value, quality and affordability.

Get a Roommate

Living with a roommate can significantly lighten the financial burden that comes along with renting your own place for the first time. When you split the costs of rent and other bills, you’ll both save some money and you won’t be expected to pay for everything yourself.

If you choose to get a roommate, you’ll have to be okay with sharing your living space. Make sure you pick someone you can get along with and who has similar goals and values as you. Drafting up a brief agreement would be a good idea to lay out ground rules and make sure you and your roommate are on the same page. You’ll also want to make sure that both of your names are on the lease so you’ll both be equally responsible for paying the rent each month and maintaining the apartment.

Lower Your Utilities and Bills

As a renter, your landlord may cover some of the utilities like garbage and water and make a few repairs here and there, but you will likely be responsible for paying your own way as well covering your electricity, internet, gas and so on.

It’s very rare that a landlord will pay your electric bill because this utility can vary a lot based on your usage and it’s usually the most expensive bill you’ll have. Therefore, it’s important to do a quick sweep through the house before you leave for the day to make sure everything is turned off and if you have programmable thermostat, set it to automatically reduce heat or air at certain times during the day or night.

Budget

Delay turning your heat on for as long as you can during the fall and do the same with your air conditioning in the spring. Be very conscious of how often you use certain things in your home and try to conserve energy, water usage etc. You can also reduce your cable expense by opting for the most basic cable package. You can track your spending and saving using a tool like Cinch from Fidelity. With Cinch you can see your spending in one place and create a customized savings target. I can think of several times that I missed a payment because I didn't pay attention to all of my spending. Cinch helps with this.

Living on your own for the first time is full of financial challenges making it crucial that you prioritize your spending and cut expenses however you can.

Figured out the renting thing and looking to take the next step? Use this helpful tool from Fidelity to see if you should rent or buy.

Learn more about MyMoney, a website created by Fidelity Investments® to help you make sense of your personal finances. Fidelity Brokerage Services Member NYSE, SIPC.

Originally posted 2016-03-14 09:00:34.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

3 Simple Ways to Travel on a Budget

At some point in your life the travel bug hits you. For some people it happens earlier than for others. I remember always wanting to travel. So much so that my career ambition was to be a travel agent. After speaking with my guidance counselor, I learned that my career of choice was not as viable as I had hoped. So I decided to travel for fun instead. I traveled out of the country for the first time while attending college.

In college I signed up for a study abroad program. If you are still in college I highly recommend this way of travel as a first timer out of the country. It's an easy way to get acquainted with the whole process of leaving the country. Spending time outside of your natural habitat and in unfamiliar surroundings really helps you grow as a person. But travel can be expensive and as a college student or recent graduate, you have to watch every penny. So here are some tips to travel on a budget.

Plan Your Travel Budget

If you are a recent college graduate, then you may not have the money to blow on a five-star vacation to Dubai. But if travel is important to you then you should at the very least have a travel budget. I have a separate 'savings' account that is specifically for my spontaneous travel and each month I put aside 25 dollars. This process is as simple as setting an automatic transfer and at 25 dollars it doesn't affect my normal budget significantly. If there is not enough in my normal discretionary spending for a plane ticket, I can tap my travel savings account. I also try to deposit extra money in that account when I have it. This is savings in addition to my 401k and emergency account savings so I feel absolutely no guilt about emptying it every few months. I recently went to the Bahamas for my birthday and I emptied my travel account to enjoy a dolphin encounter. It was amazing! And I am already beginning to save for my next trip.

I want to make two important notes here. Nothing should trump your normal savings plan and you shouldn't 'dip' into normal savings for a trip. Secondly, it's OK to enjoy what you've worked so hard for! Just don't let it put you off track of your ultimate goal. But traveling doesn't have to be expensive and I'm going to tell you exactly how to budget for travel.

Search for Deals to Fit Your Travel Budget

While saving money for travel is beneficial, it’s important to stretch that travel dollar as far as it will go. Searching for deals on flights and hotels can help you save even more money. Try Kayak.com to find flight deals leaving from your city. You can also set an alert to track the flight prices as they fluctuate. I search for flights with Kayak and watch the confidence meter. It estimates whether the price of a flight will increase or drop over the next seven days. And snagging a good deal while it’s hot is a great method to stretch your travel dollar.

BONUS: Maximize Your Travel Budget

One of the best ways to travel on a regular basis is by using points or Miles that you earn with everyday purchases. For example, with the Discover it® Miles card, you can earn 1.5X Miles on every dollar spent. The card also allows you to fly any airline at any time. And you can also redeem your Miles for a variety of travel purchases including hotels or rental cars! As a new cardmember, Discover will automatically double all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year on your Miles card. Now you can travel even more.

Traveling as a college student or recent college grad does not have to be expensive. If you take the time to search for travel deals and put money aside into a travel fund, you can travel more often this year. And by using a card like the Discover it Miles card, you can even maximize your travel budget.

This post was created in partnership with Discover.

Originally posted 2016-01-27 16:58:57.

Categories
Investing

How to Create an Automatic Investing Plan

This post is sponsored by Fidelity Investments. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Fidelity does not adopt, endorse or sponsor any other content on this website, including links to other third-party websites and is not responsible for any views expressed outside of this sponsored post.

Let’s face it, learning to invest can be scary. The thought of investing can often seem like giving away your money with no idea when that money will return. On the other extreme, it could feel exciting, like you are on the verge of earning a large payday. While it’s natural to be apprehensive when you’re just learning to invest, letting your emotions get the best of you could cause you to withdraw your money from the markets before you have a chance to earn anything. On the flip side, becoming overly-excited or confident could cause you to make irrational decisions as well. As a general rule, it’s best to leave emotions out of the equation when it comes to investing. One way to do it involves a strategy called automatic investing.

Automatic Investing Like an Intelligent Investor

A few years ago, I read a book and it has shaped the way that I invest ever since. In the book, the author Benjamin Graham, recommends a diligent, steady approach to investing. For example, income investors diligently consider future dividends when looking for dividend paying stocks. Choosing to automate your investment plan following a diligent, steady approach can help to remove emotions from your investment strategy, and help you become a more intelligent investor.

How To Invest on a Regular Schedule

Investing on a regular schedule makes the process of investing an automatic activity. As measured by the S&P 500, over the last ten years, the broad market index has returned 6.8% on an annual basis, including dividends. While past performance is no indicator of future results, and all investing involves risk of loss, this example can help paint the picture. An investor that chooses to buy and sell based on concern and excitement, might see investment returns different from the broad market index; especially since the market has seen some significant highs and lows over the last ten years. Let’s take a look at how a monthly deposit could change things.

Depositing on a Regular Basis

Depositing just $100 per month on a consistent basis is better than sporadic deposits. Here’s why. Automatic investing removes the human element. The easiest way to create a monthly deposit plan is to use the percentage system. With this system, you portion out your necessary expenses, rent, utilities, etc, and then you take a percentage of the remaining income for goals. If you have $500 per month remaining after your bills are covered, then a twenty percent investing goal would allow you to put $100 away each month for investing.

Take Advantage of Free Money

Your employer can also help you invest on a regular basis. If your employer offers a retirement plan such as a 401(k), check to determine if they also offer a matching contribution. A matching contribution works like this: when you choose to put away a portion of your salary into an employer sponsored 401(k) plan, the employer will choose to contribute as well. The "match" depends on the specifics of the plan. Some employers will contribute dollar for dollar while others may contribute 50 cents for each dollar you contribute. Then, check to see what funds are offered as options in that 401(k). Each time you receive a paycheck, your choice of contribution percentage is automatically deducted from your paycheck and allocated to the funds that you choose. And if your employer matches your contribution, then you are getting additional free money towards your retirement fund.

Emotions can cause you to make irrational decisions when it comes to money. But learning to invest without those emotions is possible. An automatic investment plan can help you begin building your confidence and a nest egg as well.

Learn more about MyMoney, a website created by Fidelity Investments to help you make sense of your personal finances. Fidelity Brokerage Services Member NYSE, SIPC.

Originally posted 2015-12-16 10:00:02.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

What’s the Deal with the New EMV Cards?

Whenever I shop in Target I always have a goal to spend less than $100.

I swear, I try to limit my purchases but I always seem to find something that I need!

I think it's the bull’s-eye that draws me in.

On a recent trip to Target, I was in the self-checkout line and I swiped my credit card. Normally, as soon as I swipe my card, I see the receipt printed a few moments later and I’m on my way; my wallet approximately one hundred dollars lighter. However, this time, the screen prompted me to insert my card. “What?” I immediately thought. What if the machine eats my card? But I inserted my card and my transaction finalized a few moments later.

You might have had a similar experience in the recent months. On October 1, the U.S. credit card industry completed the formal migration to EMV chip-enabled credit cards. When I swiped my card at Target, I was prompted to insert my card in the terminal so that the chip could generate unique, dynamic data. So what is the deal with these EMV chip cards?

The implementation of enhanced security measures such as chip-enabled cards in the United States was prompted by the new “BuySecure” initiative, put into place by executive order. Identity theft is a serious issue. In 2014, the FTC reported identity theft as the top consumer complaint with a total of $16 billion stolen from 12.7 million fraud victims in 2014. The same 2015 Identity Fraud study found that in 2014 a new identity was stolen every 2 seconds. With such a prominent issue affecting Americans, President Obama signed an executive order to protect consumers from identity theft and a component of that “BuySecure” initiative includes implementation of the new chip technology.

Discover has created an EMV resource center to answer questions that you might have as a consumer. Here are a few questions that I had and answers that I learned from Discover.

How does the security of a chip-enabled card compare to a non-chip card?

  • The new chip cards have an extra layer of protection against fraud at point of sale. If you don't have a chip card, or the merchant you are shopping at isn't EMV ready, your magnetic strip card will still work the same way as it always has.

How does the chip-enabled card work?

  • Using a chip card is simple. At chip-enabled terminals, consumers can insert their cards into a terminal and follow the guided instructions on the terminal screen. In the case that a retailer does not have chip-enabled terminal, consumers can use the magnetic stripe on their card as they’ve always done before.

How are EMV cards more secure?

  • The microchip in chip cards generates unique, dynamic data every time a consumer completes a transaction in a store, making it harder for fraudsters to collect their card information. In turn, it is more difficult for hackers to copy and use credit card information.

While it might be an adjustment at first, ultimately, the EMV card technology aims to make each transaction more secure. And even though the technology can’t cure me of my Target shopping addiction, or change how much I spend on each visit, at least I will feel more secure knowing that those purchases are my own.

This post was created as a part of the Discover partnership program.

Originally posted 2015-10-26 10:00:30.

Categories
Earn Extra Income

Top Ways College Students Can Earn Extra Money

Good students spend the extra time to get better grades. Sometimes that means late nights, missing out on fun, and stressful days. But getting good grades can also mean more cash in your pocket. You can often get approved for more financial aid if you have good grades in college, and you may even get scholarships. However, scholarships are not the only way to get paid for good grades. Here are a few more ways to benefit from good grades.

 

Save Hundreds by Skipping College Classes

You can begin earning extra money as early as middle school. If you are a relatively good student and you choose the more difficult classes, you might get an advanced placement in high school. This will allow you to skip some lower level college courses which could save you hundreds. If you skip enough classes, you might even be eligible to graduate early, saving thousands and starting your career early.

 

Get Cash Back on Your Student Loan

If you decide to borrow student loans, consider this: good grades can mean cash. Some student loan servicers offer incentive programs that will give you cash back based on regular payments or auto draft payments. But others will offer cash back simply based on the grades that you earn. Consider the Good Grades program from Discover Student Loans that offers 1% cash back on each new student loan if your GPA is a 3.0 (or equivalent) or higher.

Get Rewarded with Cheaper Insurance

As you begin paying your own bills, you might be surprised to find out that your good grades can earn you cheaper car insurance and even cash back on your credit card. Insurers like Allstate, Nationwide Geico and State Farm, offer discounts up to 25% off your monthly bill. If you pay $100 a month for car insurance, that could mean a savings of up to $300 dollars a year! Add that to the cash back your good grades could earn you via your credit card, and you will have extra cash to grow an emergency fund or save for a short getaway.

 

Get Rewarded with Credit Card Cash Back

The Discover card gives cash back for good grades. Discover card recently launched its Good Grades Reward Program, which exclusively rewards new student cardmembers who apply after July 23, 2015 with $20 in Cashback Bonus® if their grade point average is 3.0 (or equivalent) or higher each year they are enrolled in school, for the first five years from the account opening.

 

The Good Grades $20 Cashback Bonus is in addition to the current rewards structures for the two student credit cards Discover has available:

 

Discover it® chrome for Students offers an automatic 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases quarterly.

 discover it chrome

Discover it® for Students offers 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum in combined purchases, when you sign up.

discover it

Both cards earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

 

Now you have no reason to complain that college only drains your bank account. With these programs you can easily earn extra money as a college student. Making the choice to study on the weekends instead of party? Well, that’s a totally different story.

Originally posted 2015-09-16 10:00:00.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

Get a Free FICO® Credit Score and How to Track Your Credit

The FICO® Credit Score is a credit rating that forms a major part of the information used by lenders in assessing the risks involved in a loan application. This score is used to decide whether to extend a loan or grant credit. FICO® is an acronym for the company that created it, the Fair Isaac Corporation.

The Key Factors to Your FICO® Score

The FICO® Score is computed using various key factors from information available in your credit reports. The components are divided into 5 groups, and each account for a percentage of your overall score:

  • Payment History – 35%.
  • Debts or Amounts Owed –30%.
  • The Age of your Credit History –15%.
  • New credits or inquiries –10%.
  • Types of credit/combination of accounts –10%.

The exact percentages and weights are proprietary to the scoring model; refer to these as approximate weights only.

How Lenders Use Your FICO® Score

The FICO® Score scoring system converts your entire credit history into a three-digit number: lenders use this number to determine your “creditworthiness.” This three-digit number influences the conditions and amounts – if any – that will be offered to you in a credit application. It is used to predict your future behavior; how you will pay, if you will pay, etc.

For lenders, this kind of information is very important. It helps them evaluate how likely a person is to pay his/her bills on time, forecast the accounts which are likely to default, and identify the profitable accounts, among others. In addition, insurance companies often use credit scoring in their business processes to help them to determine which customers are likely to file claims.

In general, payment history and existing loans influence your FICO® Score the most. People who have paid their loans past the due date and are using all of the credit available to them often receive poor credit scores. On the other hand, a missed payment once 5 years ago is unlikely to affect your score greatly. Minor issues, particularly if they happened a few years back, cannot ruin your score.

Where to Get a Free FICO® Score

The credit bureaus that collect and process credit scores; Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, are not required by the law to provide scores to individuals. For this reason, you might conclude that the only way to get your FICO® Score is to pay for it. Fortunately, there are ways to get your FICO® Score or an approximation of it absolutely free.

You can get your approximate FICO® Score by registering for a free service like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma. The score that you see is typically based on the same key factors but it is not a FICO® Score, only an approximation.

Certain credit card issuers offer a FICO® Score for free to customers. For example, as a Discover cardmember you can view up to a year’s history of your FICO® Credit Scores and receive key factors from your credit history impacting the scores – available online and on statements. Discover was the first major credit card issuer to proactively provide free FICO® Scores on cardmembers’ monthly statements. And now with the FICO® Credit Score tracking, you can understand the why behind your personal FICO® Score.

Get a Free FICO® Credit Score and Track Your Credit

Get a Free FICO® Credit Score and Track Your Credit

Have you checked your credit score recently?

 

This post was created as a part of the Discover partnership program.

Originally posted 2015-08-24 10:00:52.