12 Easy Ways to Add Value to Your Home This Year

When my husband and I bought our home over 2 years ago, I’m been slightly obsessed with adding value to our home. We did a lot of work on the house initially but a lot of it was cosmetic changes I wanted to make to improve the look and feel. After a while, we focused on projects that would actually add value since I know we won’t be in this home forever.

When you buy a house, the value of your area may go up but there are also some specific things you can do to add value to your home yourself. You don’t have to be or hire a contractor to do many of these projects either. So consider starting with a few of these simple projects.

Paint the Walls

Painting is one of the first projects you might find yourself doing when you move in. It’s also a great way to boost your home’s value. We spend around $75 or less to paint a room and DIY it with tools from Home Depot. Experts say that painting the interior of your home can easily increase its value by $2,000.

Plus, depending on which colors you use, painting can make the room seem larger and brighter. Talk to employees in the paint section at the store to get advice and tips on which paint type and color to use. You can also review information online or play around with virtual design tools to predict how the room will look when the job is done.

Replace Your Bathroom Vanity

Homeowners can expect to recoup about 50% to 60% of the costs associated with doing a bathroom remodel. But a bathroom remodel can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 depending on the size of the room, the scope of the project, and materials.

If you don’t have the budget to remodel your entire bathroom, start with a small fix by replacing your bathroom vanity. You can buy one for a few hundred dollars and install it easily. Also, consider other bathroom projects like reglazing your bathtub or install a backsplash.

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Change Your Cabinet Hardware

Kitchen cabinets need a facelift? Consider installing new cabinet hardware along with repainting your cabinets. It may not sound like a big deal but replacing the handles and hardware for your kitchen cabinets can change the overall look and feel of this often heavily used area of the house.

It’s no secret that updating your kitchen in any way can add value to your house. Kitchens and bathrooms often sell homes. Amazon has tons of affordable kitchen cabinet hardware options to choose from ranging anywhere from $20 to $60.

Trim Your Trees

I have mixed feelings about trees and homeownership. Personally, I would love for my next home to have fewer trees as it would save us money. It has been expensive removing trees from our yard. Yet, I also understand how trees could be great for shade and curb appeal.

According to Angie’s List, a mature tree can add an appraised value of anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 to your property. Other sources claim that a tree in front of a house increases the home’s sale price by $7,130. That said, if you have a tree or two that is not causing you much trouble, consider trimming it regularly and keeping it healthy.

Energy-Efficient Systems

Buying energy-efficient systems may not be the cheapest way to add value to your home, but it’s well worth it in the long run. Whenever it’s time to replace an appliance or system, aim to buy the most energy-efficient version. Last year, we had to replace our washer so we decided to buy an energy-efficient one that uses less water and runs quieter.

New buyers are often interested in homes with energy-efficient appliances already there. Plus, when you buy some of these items, you can get a rebate and earn some money back on your purchase.

Install Outdoor Lighting

Installing outdoor lighting is an easy project that you can do in just an hour or two. You can also stick to your own budget seeing as how there are many low-end and high-end lighting options. Plastic material won’t last long, but it could still look nice and could run you around $40 to $50.

Outdoor lighting can set your home apart from others and make it appear more welcoming and high value.

Replace Your Entry Doors

A new front door can improve curb appeal and be a smart investment, especially if your home’s current door is showing signs of wear. Replacing your front door often adds an estimated 96% value compared to the cost which is pretty high.

Plus, it will add perceived value which is also important among potential buyers. It’s important to realize that while your appraisal should be reasonably high, buyers also purchase homes based on emotional attachment to some of the finishes and changing out your front door can definitely help you appeal to this.

Change a Light Fixture

Outdated light fixtures can take away from the value of your home. Be sure to update your lightbulbs and replace old fixtures as you see fit. You can even consider installing a light fixture with a ceiling fan in some rooms.

Our old apartment had ceiling fans and I miss if because our new house doesn’t have any so this may be a project that we tackle down the line.

Plant Some Perennials

A well-landscaped home has the potential to sell for much more than a home with no landscaping plan at all. The good news is, you don’t have to rush out and hire a landscaping company or landscape architect just yet. Use sites like YouTube or home design websites to brainstorm some simple ideas for your outdoor landscape.

Also, start planting some perennials as opposed to annuals since they will last longer. Perennial flowers and greenery may cost a little more on average, but you’ll get your money back since they last longer and you won’t have to replant every year.

RELATED: Why Can Starting Your Garden Now Save You More Money?

Refinish the Floors

Many people prefer hardwood floors in their main living area so if you already have them, you’re in luck. Consider refinishing your floors to refresh your entire space and add value to your home.

Home Depot has a great guide to help you refinish your floors. The best part is that you can DIY this project with just a few tools.

Small Bathroom Updates 

In some people’s eyes bathrooms are what can sell a house. If you have any outdated bathroom changes are potential buyers might be turned off. Now it’s understandable if you can’t afford a full remodel but doing things like changing your wallpaper or even your sink or tub faucet can go a long way to adding value to your home.

Power Wash

Power washing your home can add anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 of value to your home should you decide to sell according to the National Association of Realtors. If your home has never been power washed before, now could be a great time to do it.

Just like other surfaces in your home, the exterior of your home needs to be cleaning thoroughly and it’s also the first thing people see. You can try your hand at power washing your home on your own or you can hire someone to do it for $40 to $5o per hour.


If you live in an older house and want to add value to your home these tips will be ways to do that. They are all reasonable things that you might even be able to do yourself. Some houses could really use these updates and the change should really make a difference. If you’re thinking about moving consider making some of these small changes that can end up making a big difference.

Have you done any of these updates? Are there any that we missed? 

Source: everythingfinanceblog.com

The Best Renters Insurance in Chicago, Illinois

It’s hard to deny the appeal of Chicago — the culture, the sports teams and the deep dish pizza. And with 2.7 million Americans now calling Chicago home, this beloved Midwestern city continues to draw in more people each year. This also means increased rental housing and a greater demand for renters insurance in Chicago. While renters insurance may not be the compelling reason people flock to Chicago, it is still a much-needed financial tool for Chicagoans.

Thankfully, renters insurance remains affordable in the Windy City, and we used our SimpleScore methodology to compare prices and features of both national and local renters insurance companies in Chicago.

America’s top-rated renters insurance

  • Policies starting at just $5/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork
In this article

The best renters insurance companies in Chicago, Illinois

Best for low premiums – Lemonade

As refreshing as the summertime classic, Lemonade offers a straightforward, affordable approach to renters insurance in Chicago.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


Standard & Poor’s



3.6 / 5.0

SimpleScore Lemonade 3.6

Discounts 1

Coverage Options 3

Customer Satisfaction 5

Accessibility 5

If you thought all renters insurance was boring and predictable, think again. Lemonade is an online-only insurance company offering the convenience of digital tools and low premiums for renters. Plus, your personal belongings are insured anywhere in the world, whether it’s a friend’s apartment in Paris or a storage unit in Wicker Park. If you’re looking for a basic renters insurance policy, coverage through Lemonade costs as little as $5 per month.

Another standout feature of Lemonade is how it operates with an entirely different business model versus other providers. Once Lemonade pays out expenses and claims, any leftover money is donated to charity.

Best for customer service – State Farm

A hundred years later, State Farm still offers great customer service and convenient tools for managing your renters insurance policy.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


Standard & Poor’s



4.2 / 5.0

SimpleScore State Farm 4.2

Discounts 3

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 5

Accessibility 4

Since 1922, State Farm has operated as a giant in the insurance industry. Strong financial ratings, overall customer satisfaction and multiple policy options are a few reasons why State Farm is the largest insurer in the United States. Plus it’s easy to purchase a policy online, the app, through an agent or customer service. 

The renters insurance through State Farm offers the standard protections, including personal property, loss of use, inflation coverage and liability — plus a range of additional options and discounts. You can even add coverage for specialty items, such as cyber events, to round out your policy.

Best for add-on coverage options – Nationwide

Nationwide is a great carrier to have on your side. You can pick from numerous policy options to get the exact coverage you need in Chicago.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


Standard & Poor’s



3.8 / 5.0

SimpleScore Nationwide 3.8

Discounts 4

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 2

Accessibility 4

Nationwide offers numerous policy options, including coverage for damage to personal property and contents from events like fire, lightning, windstorms, hail, frozen plumbing, theft, vandalism or even vehicle impacts. Personal liability, medical payments to others and building alterations are included in policies, too. Your Chicago renters insurance policy from Nationwide covers unauthorized credit card charges and forged checks, which isn’t standard with other carriers.

You can further customize your policy with Nationwide with add-ons such as Valuables Plus (for your high-value items not covered by a basic policy), water damage, theft extension and Brand New Belongings coverage.

Best local agent network – Erie

Erie may not be as well-known as other carriers on this list, but the coverage options and customer service reputation are worth getting familiar with.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


Standard & Poor’s



2.4 / 5.0

SimpleScore Erie 2.4

Discounts 1

Coverage Options 2

Customer Satisfaction 3

Accessibility 3

Erie requires customers to work through a local agent for all quotes and policy purchases, but Erie continues to receive some of the highest overall customer satisfaction ratings for renters insurance, indicating this approach works. Erie offers basic coverages for renters insurance, but allows you to customize your policy extensively with options such as full value replacement and disaster protection.

Other policy add-ons include sewage and drain backup coverage, earthquake and watercraft damage. If you bundle with an auto policy with Erie you can save an additional 20%, which can offset the additional cost of your renters insurance.

Best coverage for high-value items – COUNTRY Financial

Country Financial combines strong customer service with a wide range of coverage options for your rental in Chi-town.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


Standard & Poor’s



3 / 5.0

SimpleScore COUNTRY Financial 3

Discounts 3

Coverage Options 4

Customer Satisfaction N/A

Accessibility 3

Country Financial is an A+ AM Best-rated carrier offering renters insurance to Chicagoans. You can expect the multiple policy coverage options and discounts from this regional carrier. It’s worth noting while Country Financial is not named in the JD Power 2020 Home Insurance Overall Customer Satisfaction rankings for renters insurance, Country Financial does score the highest marks for the homeowners insurance ratings — earning 855 on a 1,000-point scale.

Country Financial offers the standard renters coverage, such as personal belonging protection and liability. But you can customize your policy with add-ons such as identity theft, flood insurance and earthquake coverage. The high-value coverage is available for a wide variety of items, including watercraft, jewelry and recreational motor vehicles.

Choosing your provider 

When choosing the best renters insurance in Chicago, it’s best to compare policies and quotes from several providers, including national and local carriers if possible. Sure, price is an important factor, but comparing coverage options and customer service response to your policy are equally important.

Local carrier 


  • Understand the unique challenges of local market
  • Strong customer service record
  • Use of a local agent network


  • Lack of digital assets

National carrier 


  • Multiple coverage and discount options
  • Numerous digital assets


  • Not as personalized

How much does renters insurance cost in Chicago? 

For less than the price of a large deep dish pizza per month, you can protect your personal belongings against damage and personal injury with renters insurance. The national average for renters insurance is $180 per year, but Illinois falls well below the average at $167 per year.

The rate for renters insurance one Chicagoan pays versus another is impacted by a number of factors, in addition to location. Factors such as the value of your personal belongings, how much personal injury coverage you need and other options you select will all affect the price of your Chicago renters insurance policy.

[ Read: How Much Renters Insurance Do I Need? ]

What you need to know about renters insurance in Chicago 

A basic renters insurance provides coverage in several areas, including:

  • Personal property coverage: This coverage protects personal items inside your rental and in other locations, such as a storage unit or inside your car.
  • Liability coverage:This coverage helps pay for the cost of lawsuits and your defense if you are involved in an accident or incident that harms others or causes property damage.
  • Medical payments to others: Pays a guest’s medical costs if they’re injured while visiting you in your rental property.
  • Loss of use: This coverage pays for your expenses to live elsewhere if your rental becomes uninhabitable due to a covered peril or loss.

Frozen water and blizzard coverage in Chicago

Renters in Chicago might be concerned about damage from frozen water and blizzards and if renters insurance covers damage from these perils. Damage from hail, wind and storms is typically covered in a renters policy, but it’s important to make sure it includes frozen water and blizzards in the list of covered perils. If it’s not, consider adding this supplemental coverage to your policy.

[ Read: The Cheapest Renters Insurance Companies]

Chicago renters insurance FAQs

No, renters insurance is not legally required in Chicago. However, your landlord can require you to carry renters insurance in order to sign a leasing agreement.

The average cost of renters insurance in Illinois is about $167 per year, but Chicagoans may pay more than that due to location. Furthermore, the price of renters insurance in Chicago can vary depending on several factors, including how much personal injury coverage you choose, add-ons to your policy and the replacement value you select for personal belongings.

Lemonade offers the lowest premiums, starting at $5 per month, and provides easy sign up for coverage through an app or online. In addition to renters insurance with Lemonade, you can customize your policy by adding selections such as a no-deductible option or pet insurance.

We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the insurers we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.



The SimpleScore is a proprietary scoring metric we use to objectively compare products and services at The Simple Dollar.
For every review, our editorial team:

  • Identifies five measurable aspects to compare across each brand
  • Determines the rating criteria for each aspect score
  • Averages the five aspect scores to produce a single SimpleScore™

Here’s a breakdown of the five aspect scores and their rating criteria for our renters insurance reviews.

Why do some brands have different SimpleScores on different pages?

To ensure the SimpleScore is as helpful and accurate as possible, we developed unique criteria for every category we compare at The Simple Dollar. Since most brands offer a variety of financial solutions, their products and services will score differently depending on what we’re scoring on a given page.

However, it’s also possible for the same product from the same brand to have multiple SimpleScores. For instance, if we compare State Farm’s home insurance according to our criteria for the best home insurance, it scores a 3.8 out of 5. But when we compare State Farm according to the criteria for the best auto insurance, it scores higher, since the features the company offers can vary by the type of insurance.


We awarded higher scores to insurance providers with more discounts available on their website.

Coverage Options

We gave providers with more renter insurance coverage options a higher score because they’re more likely to have a policy that best meets your needs.


We awarded higher scores to renters insurance providers with the most channels for customer support.

Customer Satisfaction

We leveraged the J.D. Power Home Insurance Satisfaction Study℠ to see how customers rated their experience with each insurance provider. (If a provider wasn’t included in J.D. Power’s study, we skipped this aspect and averaged the four remaining aspect scores.)


We awarded higher scores to insurance providers that have more online and mobile features to easily manage your policy and claims.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

Here’s What Homeowners Insurance Doesn’t Cover

Homeowners insurance may seem like an extra expense added to your mortgage each month, but you’re stuck with it since lenders make it a requirement. And with the average cost at $1,211, or about $100 a month, you may think everything in your home is covered. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. There is a range of scenarios homeowners insurance doesn’t cover. It’s best to familiarize yourself with these areas to find out how you can protect them in other ways. Otherwise, you could be saddled with surprise expenses that break your budget.

In this article

What home insurance doesn’t cover 

Let’s jump right in by uncovering which area is not protected by most homeowners insurance, along with a quick explanation of perils and whether or not your policy covers them.

  • Flood damage:  A standard homeowners insurance policy doesn’t cover any damage caused to your home’s structure or personal property by flooding. When picking your homeowners insurance policy, you may be able to add on up to $250,000 in coverage.
  • Pest infestations: Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover pest infestation like termite damage and supplemental coverage isn’t available. Instead, you must keep up with routine maintenance with annual pest control visits and other proper care.
  • Earthquake damage: An earthquake is another natural disaster not covered by your insurance policy. But if you live in an area prone to this type of phenomenon, you can add extra coverage.
  • Sewer backup: You should make sewer maintenance part of your routine home maintenance because you won’t get reimbursed for damage with a standard insurance policy. Sewer backups are increasing at 3% each year, so it’s smart to pay attention to your systems’ age and plan to rectify any outdated lines before they damage your home. Alternatively, consider adding a sewer backup policy to your existing insurance — just check to see how limited coverage may be.
  • Normal wear and tear or neglect: Your insurance company expects you to keep up with routine care of your home. Any type of negligence or wear and tear of appliances and systems aren’t covered. Keep up with care on areas like siding and crawlspaces to avoid rot and mold. If you have aging appliances, a home warranty could help offset repair and replacement costs.
  • Attacks by certain dog breeds: You’ll likely be asked about your dogs when applying for home insurance because certain breeds aren’t always covered. You can either compare quotes from multiple insurance companies to see if they ask you about your dog’s breed. Or you can add on extra liability coverage specifically for your pup.
  • High-value items: Personal property is covered when damaged by named perils. But different categories of property have their own limits of how much is covered. Look for the best homeowners insurance that either comes with higher limits or get supplemental coverage to insure your higher value items.
  • Certain types of high-risk property: Ask your insurance company if there are any limits on damage caused by certain high-risk items, like trampolines or pools. Because injuries are more likely, you may need additional liability insurance if someone is injured while on your property.

[ Read: The Complete Guide to Home Insurance ]

What home insurance covers

  • Covered perils allow you to get reimbursed up to your policy limit for both personal property and the structure of your home. There are several types of homeowners insurance, but most include the same covered perils.
  • Many natural disasters are covered, including damage to your home or belongings caused by fire, lightning, windstorms, hail, volcanic eruptions, smoke or the weight of snow or ice.
  • Other events caused by humans are covered, including rioting, vandalism, theft or damage caused by aircraft or vehicles.
  • There’s also some coverage for your home’s systems, such as damage caused by frozen pipes or accidental surges from your hot water heater or air conditioning.

Here’s what’s covered in your home when damage is caused by one of those covered perils.

  • Home’s structure: Also known as dwelling coverage, the structure of your home should be insured for the amount it would cost to completely rebuild it. You should take into account any upgrades you’ve made, total square footage and construction costs.
  • Personal belongings: You can choose how much coverage you want for your belongings, which is usually between 50% and 70% of the amount of your dwelling coverage. Add more if you have certain expensive items, like jewelry or electronics.
  • Liability protection: Liability covers you in case someone gets injured on your property and sues you. The minimum amount required in your policy is usually around $100,000 but the Insurance Information Institute recommends $300,000 to $500,000.
  • Additional living expenses: Additional living expenses cover the cost to stay elsewhere while your home is being repaired from a covered event. Consider having this part of your policy amount to about 20% of your dwelling coverage.

[ More: Homeowners Insurance Discounts Through Home Improvement ]

How to check your coverage 

It’s smart to understand your homeowners insurance policy, what’s covered and for how much. You should receive a copy of your policy when you first take it out and then receive annual updates on any changes to your coverage or premium amount. Ask your insurance company for another copy if you can’t find yours, or check to see if it’s available online.

With your policy in hand, the first part to look at is the declarations page. This includes details like the property address, policy number, types of coverage and the limits to each section of your policy. For example, the declarations page lists property coverage, including subcategories like dwelling, other structures, and personal property — then a limit on how much you may receive in a claim.

You’ll also see the amount of your deductible, which is your financial responsibility anytime you file a claim. The amount you pay for your annual premium will be listed, and so will any policy discounts you receive. Finally, any type of supplemental insurances (like flood or extra liability) will be listed as well.

Review each line carefully. If you discover the premium amount is higher than you anticipated, consider finding a cheaper home insurance company.

[ Next: What Common Home Repairs Cost ]

Types of home insurance

There are multiple types of homeowners insurance, each of which covers (and doesn’t cover) certain perils.

HO-1: Basic form for homeowners. This policy only covers 10 perils and is the most basic type of homeowners insurance. However, it’s not very common to find anymore because its coverage is so lacking.

HO-2: Broad form for homeowners. This is a budget-conscious policy that is more robust than the HO-1. It covers the structure, personal belongings and sometimes personal liability, but only for named perils.

HO-3: Special form for homeowners. This policy is different in that it has open-peril coverage. That means any event is covered except for those specifically listed as exclusions. Personal property is usually only covered by named perils. It’s the most common type of policy among homeowners.

HO-4: Tenant’s form for renters. Also known as renters insurance, this policy doesn’t cover the structure since that should be handled by the landlord. Instead, it covers your personal belongings and may also offer liability coverage.

HO-5: Comprehensive form for homeowners. This higher-end policy includes open-peril coverage of both your home’s structure and personal belongings. You may also get higher limits for your personal property. Expect it to be more expensive than other types of homeowners insurance.

HO-6: Condo form for condo or co-op owners. This covers the interior structure of your condo, personal property and personal liability. The interior structure of your home is covered, while the exterior is generally covered by the homeowners association. Personal property and liability are also included.

HO-7: Mobile home form for mobile home owners. This policy acts like HO-3 coverage but is specifically designed for manufactured homes.

HO-8: Older home form for homeowners. If your home is 40 years or older, you’ll need this specialized policy to account for a higher replacement cost for the property’s structure.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

What Is Renters Insurance?

If you’re signing a lease and see one of the requirements is to have insurance, you might be asking yourself, “What is renters insurance?” If this is the case, know that you are not alone. However, there is a reason why so many people purchase renters insurance and many landlords recommend or require it. Learning everything from what renters insurance covers to how to get renters insurance is key to securing your possessions and lowering the risks of loss.

In this article

What is renters insurance? 

Renters insurance is an insurance policy intended to protect the people and possessions inside a rented property. While your landlord would focus their insurance on the building itself and could potentially have some liability if it wasn’t well-maintained, liability for what you personally do in your apartment can fall on you. If theft or a natural disaster, like a fire, were to occur, you could lose your possessions. Renters insurance will lessen the impact of loss in such an event.

Why do I need renters insurance? 

Renters insurance will typically cover three components: your liability in the case of an injury to someone in the rental, your personal property in the case of theft or destruction of the property, and additional assistance known as “additional living expenses” to help you pay for a hotel while your rental home is repaired.

While it is not legally mandated to have renters insurance in any state, your landlord can require a certain level of policy as part of the lease for the apartment or house, depending on where you live. Having the policy protects you from lawsuits if someone is injured in your rental home and protects your possessions in the event of a disaster.

Landlords don’t want to face a liability situation like burst pipes resulting in flooding, so having their own insurance coverage combined with your renters insurance can be beneficial for avoiding legal claims and focusing on getting everyone’s items repaired or replaced.

What does and doesn’t renters insurance cover? 

Renters insurance policies will specify what perils are covered, like losses based on fire or smoke, lightning, windstorms and some kinds of water damage from broken pipes and other internal sources. Most policies won’t cover floods from outside, like flash floods from hurricanes or other heavy rain, and most don’t cover earthquake damage either. Renters insurance also doesn’t usually cover losses due to infestations of pests like bed bugs.

As far as what will get replaced, it will depend on the value of the possessions that were lost, your coverage and other factors like your deductible and the maximum limit on your insurance.

So, how much renters insurance do I need? 

When considering renters insurance options, start by downloading any of the variety of apps that let you take inventory of your possessions. Many of these allow you to itemize your possessions, input how old it is, any existing damage and get an approximate value. If you don’t know which app to pick, consider asking the insurance provider you are considering since having documentation that they recognize can help with filing claims if you ever need to.

An insurance agent can help you consider what you would want to be paid out if these items were destroyed. For instance, some insurance will cap how much they’ll cover for high-value items like jewelry and electronics, and if you want a customized quote that helps you replace those items, you can request one. On the other hand, if you don’t think your possessions are worth very much, you can opt out of renters insurance costs unless they are required, in which case you can get the minimum required by your landlord.

How much does renters insurance cost? 

While costs will vary, the average renters insurance policy is only $15 per month, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Because the events leading to a claim are unlikely, renters insurance costs remain quite affordable, though there are ways to make your bill even lower.

When you choose a renters insurance policy, the renters insurance costs are dependent on a few factors. First, you choose your deductible, or how much you’d pay in the event of a claim before the insurance would kick in. A higher deductible will lower the risk to the insurer, so your policy will be cheaper.

Second, you’ll choose a maximum limit — this is the most that the policy will pay out since personal possessions can vary widely in cost. If you know that you have expensive items, you can choose a different maximum limit. Finally, each policy will specify whether your payout will be based on the “actual cash value” or the “replacement cost” of your possessions. Replacement cost policies are more expensive since replacing items new that you’ve had for a long time will be more expensive than their value.

How to find affordable renters insurance?

  • Ask your landlord if their past tenants had good experiences with a particular company and ask about what renters insurance cover in its policies.
  • Request online quotes based on your home inventory, any requirements from your landlord and your own preferences like whether you prefer actual cash value or replacement cost.
  • Compare quotes from various companies. For a faster process, consider one of the sites that request multiple quotes for you from different companies or work with an insurance agent who can help you lower your costs, since they know how to answer questions like “What is renters insurance?” and “What does renters insurance cover?”.

Renters insurance FAQs

Determine the value of what you own and your current budget. If you lost everything you own, would you have enough money to replace it? The best way to evaluate how much renters insurance you need is to take inventory of everything you own, determine its value and choose a coverage that will cover in case of a loss.  

No states require renters insurance by law, but getting it is strongly encouraged to avoid the risk of loss and to ensure you are covered against possible lawsuits.

There are several ways you can decrease your insurance premiums. For example, by increasing your deductible, you will handle smaller issues on your own but will pay a lower premium. You can also reduce the costs by shopping around and finding a more competitive price from a different insurer.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

How to Plan a Vacation as a Family

Summer means many things.

School is out; the kids get to splash in the pool and go to summer camp. It is also the time when most families take a vacation.

Well, or they would like to.

The reality is you may dream of a vacation where you can spend your days relaxing on a beach or a porch in the mountains. But, the truth is you can’t go anywhere. Or can you?

Ask your family if they want to take a vacation, and my guess is yes.

If they want it, then they need to help pay for it.

No, I am not asking anyone to break open a piggy bank. Not at all.

You need to get your family involved in the planning and saving process. After all, if they want to do something fun, they should be involved!

There are some fun tricks you can use to get your kids to want to save as well.

When we took our kids to Disney a few years back, we were able to instill their help.

Even though they did not know Disney was happening when it was (we surprised them), they got in on the fun of saving to make it happen.

Show them the costs

Kids usually don’t know how much vacations cost. Show them!

Go to the site where they want to go and show them the price of the tickets, the hotel, airfare — everything it takes to make the trip happen.

Once they see the numbers, it helps them better understand that if they want to go, that it is going to cost money!

We do this often with our kids. They say they want to go somewhere (my youngest thinks a Disney cruise would be awesome).

I pull up the site and show them the exact cost per person.

They know that we can’t afford to go places — or that if they want to go, we have to save up for it.

Visualize the savings

As adults, we see numbers increase in our savings accounts.

We don’t need to see the coins or paper money to know we are working towards a goal.

Kids aren’t like that.

They need to see the money.

Get a jar and start adding your savings to it! Switch to a cash budget and put the savings into the pot!

If you budget $50 to dine out and skip it for the week — put the $50 into the jar.

Make coupon-clipping a family affair

If you use coupons or apps to save at the store, get the kids involved!

Have them search for and print the coupons you need.

Ask your teen to use their phone to add apps to save and ask them to

find the offers to save.

There is no reason mom and dad have to find the coupons or online offers when it comes to saving (because let’s face it – teens are better at tech than many of us).

Make cuts as a family

If your child wants to go on that dream vacation, it may mean making short-term sacrifices. They may have to forgo that big birthday party or not get to go out to dinner as often. It could even involve canceling a streaming service or app that they love.

Decide as a family where your priorities lie and what you are each willing to give up to find extra money to pay for the vacation.

Start doing odd jobs

Kids can make money too!

In the winter, they can shovel driveways.

Summer may be an opportunity to take care of the neighbor’s dog when they go on vacation. Get them involved in finding ways they can make money so they can add to the savings.

Have them find an affordable option

That fancy theme park may be the dream vacation, but the reality is that it is out of reach. Decide as a family where you can go instead.

Want to do a theme park? Find a smaller one closer to home.

Looking to spend time on a beach? Maybe you can go to a local lake and rent a boat and get out on the water.

Some options will work within your budget limitations and make sure your kids understand that too.

Be reasonable

A vacation can be a lot of fun, but it should never cause you financial stress. Your family wants to enjoy the trip, so they should be involved in the planning and saving process.

–By Tracie Forbes

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Prepping Your Home to Sell in 2021: How to Attract Homebuyers

One of the most noticeable impacts of coronavirus is how it drastically changed how everything was done in 2020 – including selling a home. Due to the pandemic, many fundamental elements of real estate were changed: what’s popular in a home, how to market a home, what sellers should be doing, what showing protocols should be in place just to name a few. Now, those changes are not isolated to 2020. As we approach a new year, the new way of preparing a home to sell is here to stay, so if your 2021 plans include selling a home, it’s important to understand exactly how to attract homebuyers and how to prep your home to sell.

Read: What Could a Second Wave of COVID-19 Mean for the Housing Market?

Virtual Walkthrough and Tours

In an era of unprecedented lockdowns and quarantines, the ability to tour a home virtually is now a non-negotiable to attract homebuyers. Many Realtors are now offering this service as part of their listing services.  In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, 66% of Realtors surveyed expect that within the next year the demand for virtual tours will increase. Promoting virtual tours can increase the online presence of a listing, as well as to increase buyer interest in a property.

woman sitting on her computer touring homes virtually 2021 home woman sitting on her computer touring homes virtually 2021 home

Tip: Relying solely on a virtual tour can be risky. It’s important sellers are utilizing professional companies that offer complete tours of the entire property and not just highlighting the positive features.

Read: What You Need to Know About Virtual Tours and Walkthroughs

Social Distancing Protocols

While the general rule-of-thumb when selling a home is to have as many people tour the home as possible, COVID-19 has altered this philosophy. With social distancing the new norm, it’s critical that homeowners not only keep themselves safe, but potential homebuyers too. It’s not only encouraged but becoming more prevalent for each listing to have their own COVID-19 safety protocols: limiting the size of groups allowed to view, requiring buyers to wear masks, sellers providing hand sanitizer and gloves, requiring showing agents and homebuyers to disclose COVID-19 diagnosis, providing protective shoe booties for tours to name a few.

covid-19 housing marketcovid-19 housing market

Tip: Clearly conveying protocols both in the MLS and at the property ensures everyone is on the same page. Each Realtor should convey the COVID-19 safety protocols in the MLS listing for other agents, and homeowners can display safety rules on the front door for each buyer to review before entering.

Read: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services

Cleanliness and Incentives

One of the main concerns with home showings during the COVID-19 era has been keeping the home clean and sanitized. Both homebuyers and homeowners are equally concerned; however, by utilizing and marketing a clean and disinfected home is a new asset in real estate marketing. As buyers feel apprehensive moving into a home previously occupied, homeowners can minimize their apprehension by marketing a professional cleaning and disinfecting prior to closing. In addition, sellers should strongly consider having their home professionally cleaned and disinfected prior to showings and utilizing this in the home’s marketing.

Tip: Homeowners should conduct a sanitation and marketing plan with their Realtor. This is crucial during, and after, COVID-19.

Despite the changes COVID-19 has brought to the real estate industry, it has not slowed the intensity of the market. In fact, “Existing-home sales grew for the fifth consecutive month in October.” Home prices have continued to soar, as well as buyer demand. Combined with the shrinking housing inventory, it’s still a great to sell as most of the country remains in a seller’s market.

Tip: If you’re thinking of buying a home in 2021, check out our homebuyer’s guide of questions to ask post-COVID-19.

See more posts by this author

Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

7 Top Items Required for Delicious Homemade Coffee and Lattes

Getting coffee out can be extremely expensive. So here are 7 of our top items required for you to make delicious homemade coffee and lattes.If you’re like me, you love a good cup of coffee. And during these winter months, I love coffee even more. But, I really detest getting coffee while I am out because it is so expensive. Plus, the lattes I find out also tend to have an enormous amount of extra sugar and junk that I wouldn’t normally put in my coffee. So, I found some great ways to homemade coffee just as delicious, but for less than a quarter of the cost. If you don’t call that a win, I don’t know what is!

1. French Press

I used to be an old fashioned coffee maker kind of gal. But, then about 6 years ago I heard about the french press. I never got to see one in action until I was working at a hotel while finishing my Master’s degree. These were used for a lot of the room service coffee’s that were served. And since that day, my coffee life has never been the same.

Originally, I purchased a Bodum French Press. This one was great for me and I loved it. Until it broke about a year and a half ago. Since the Bodum is glass, if you drop it just the wrong way, it can break. And since I happen to be accident-prone, that eventually happened. But, since it was a lower cost French Press, it was a really good one for me to start with. Plus, it lasted a few years, which was worth the money. While the french press is the most expensive part of making homemade coffee, it is well worth it.

After that one broke, I decided to splurge and purchase the higher end Frieling Double-walled Stainless Steel French Press. This one has a lifetime warranty and it won’t break if you drop it. So far, so good and the coffee is out of this world!

French Press Directions

The reason a french press makes the coffee taste so much better is because you have complete control over how hot the water is before you pour it into the french press. You also have better control over steeping time, which can affect the strength and acidity.

When you are making french press, you should make sure to take the kettle off the stove right before it begins to boil. Once you pour the water into the french press, stir the coffee grounds and water together. Then put the lid on and let it steep for approximately 3-4 minutes, depending upon how strong and acidic you want it. Then push down the plunger to stop the steeping process and you are good to go.

2. Tea Kettle

If you don’t already have a tea kettle, you will need one for delicious homemade coffee. Tea kettles can range pretty widely in price. But, if you aren’t planning to use yours for anything other than your homemade coffee, then you should be able to pick one up for pretty cheap.

I have been able to find some tea kettles for under $20, but I usually pick one up for a bit closer to $30. Of course, you could easily spend a lot more money on a tea kettle that has a more aesthetic look for you. No matter what you choose to do, just make sure it will hold enough water for your french press.

The other option is an electric tea kettle. I happen to have one of these in my office, just in case I want to make coffee or tea while I am working. That way I don’t have to go up to the kitchen to boil water. Multitasking at it’s finest!

3. Mini Strainer

After having the french press for so many years, we realized that it could still use a bit more straining. Everything is great with the coffee until the last sip or two usually. And then things can get a bit gritty. Some of that could have to do with the grind of the beans, but not usually. So, we have found that getting a mini tea strainer does the trick nicely.

You can easily pick one of these up for well under $10. And it can be used for tea, coffee, and cocktails. So, this is a great tool to keep on hand, whether you are making homemade coffee or not.

4. Mini Whisk

When it comes to making good homemade coffee and lattes, a mini whisk is a must. Luckily, we happen to have a plethora of kitchen tools lying around, so we had one on hand. The one we found that works best is a 5″ mini whisk because it fits nicely in a standard coffee mug.

How I have used the mini whisk to benefit my coffee and latte experience is simple. Just add your sweetener, creamer, and/or flavor additions to the cup first while the water is getting warmed up. Use the whisk to whisk everything together prior to pouring in the coffee. This helps create a creamier and frothier coffee drink, more like the ones you would get out.

5. Good Coffee Beans

Since we all have slightly different flavor profile preferences, your beans are going to be indicative of that. I really like espresso beans for a more full-bodied flavor. However, I always suggest going with whole beans instead of ground.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, is that coffee beans for a french press need to be an espresso grind. This means the beans are ground into larger bits than what is used in a traditional drip coffee maker.

When you buy already ground beans at the store, they are almost always only ground for drip coffee makers. By using this grind, you are going to get more sediment at the bottom of your cup. Plus, if you are using already ground beans, the oils start to oxidize faster. This means you are losing flavor in your coffee, as well as potentially getting a more acidic roast.

Therefore, I suggest either getting a small coffee grinder to grind the beans each day. Or, if you don’t have the time for that, like me, grind them at the store with the espresso grind. Then store the ground coffee in the refrigerator or freezer to slow and/or stop the oxidation process.

6. Creamer

One of the big perks about homemade coffee and lattes is that you can put whatever kind of creamer you want in there. Since there are so many choices these days, it can be more difficult when you go out to get coffee to get exactly what you want. But, at home, you can make it exactly the way you want for the perfect latte.

Some of the great options to choose from for creamer additions are:

  • Almond Milk
  • Cashew Milk
  • Coconut Creamer
  • Coconut Milk
  • Dairy Creamer
  • Golden Milk
  • Hemp Milk
  • Milk
  • Oat Milk
  • Rice Milk
  • Soy Milk

I, personally, use coconut creamer because the dairy creamer’s don’t usually sit well with me. I have found the coconut creamer to be the closest to the dairy creamer taste and texture, which is why I go with that one.

7. Flavor Additions

Lastly, flavor additions might be something you prefer with your homemade coffee. Sometimes I add in either hot chocolate or peppermint chocolate to my latte’s to create a mocha latte. The kids saw me do this a couple of times and now it’s all they want to have whenever we do movie night. I have created some monsters!

Even if you don’t want to add in the aforementioned, you could always add in some essential oils (as long as they are rated for ingestion). These can add flavor and have potential health benefits. The other option is to add in some vanilla, honey, chai or even bitters. No matter what you choose to add in, get creative with your latte.

If you want a delicious, budget-friendly homemade coffee, then you have got to get these tools! Click To Tweet

Homemade Coffee and Lattes Summary

Overall, there are so many things you can do to create a delicious, yet budget-friendly homemade coffee or latte. While, most of these things you should already have on hand if you are a coffee drinker, a few you may want to consider purchasing. If you have all of the following tools, you are bound to have one great cup of coffee or craft latte:

  1. French Press
  2. Tea Kettle
  3. Mini Strainer
  4. Mini Whisk
  5. Good Coffee Beans
  6. Creamer
  7. Flavor Additions

Once you are armed with the right tools, you are ready to get brewing and create your own homemade coffee at a fraction of the cost.

What are some of your favorite tools for creating delicious, budget-friendly homemade coffee and lattes?

Source: everythingfinanceblog.com

The Best Renters Insurance for 2021

Renters insurance is so affordable, not having it is a huge financial risk. While your landlord’s home insurance may cover damages to the structure you live in, it won’t cover any of your belongings. Renters insurance costs an average of $180 a year, making it an incredibly affordable policy.

To find the best renters insurance in 2021, we used our proprietary scoring system, the SimpleScore. To build our list of top picks we compared coverage options, customer support, customer satisfaction, discounts and accessibility for every major provider.

America’s top-rated renters insurance

  • Policies starting at just $5/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork
In this article

Why trust us in finding the best renters insurance?

The Simple Dollar strives to help consumers find the best insurance companies for their needs. To identify the best renters insurance companies on the market, we looked at discounts, coverage options, customer satisfaction, support channels and website accessibility for major providers.

For a deeper dive, we evaluated the online tools, educational resources and mobile app for every company. We looked for providers that offer digital tools that can help first-time renters insurance buyers determine what type of coverage they need and how much coverage is appropriate.

We also considered reviews from experts in the insurance field like J.D. Power, AM Best and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). These organizations measure customer satisfaction and financial strength, two of the most important factors to consider when choosing a renters insurance company.

The best renters insurance companies for 2021

Compare the cost and coverage of the top renters insurance companies

Companies Compare Coverage Options Average Monthly Cost SimpleScore
Allstate Flood insurance, personal umbrella, personal property, reimbursed living expenses, liability, identity theft, guest medical $15 4.2
Nationwide High-value items, theft extension, water backup, earthquake $20 3.8
Liberty Mutual Personal property replacement, blanket jewelry, earthquake damage As low as $5 4
American Family Identity theft, pet insurance, travel protection, home-based business Not disclosed 4.8
State Farm Additional liability, identity theft, earthquake damage, business property, incidentally business Not disclosed 4.2
MetLife Identity theft, luxury items Not disclosed 2.25
USAA Computer coverage, valuable personal property, As low as $10 3.8

Best renters insurance companies reviewed

Best for online tools – Allstate

If you dread making phone calls, you’ll love Allstate’s mobile app. It even lets you file a claim without talking to anybody.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


BBB Rating



4.2 / 5.0

SimpleScore Allstate 4.2

Discounts 5

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 2

Customer Satisfaction 5

Go with Allstate if you prefer a mobile and online experience over contact with a customer service advisor. The insurer’s embrace of technology sets it apart from the competition. Allstate stands apart from the competition with its mobile app. Those who are comfortable with online and mobile banking will appreciate the digital interface. You’ll be able to file a claim, review your bill or access details about your policy through the app. The website is loaded with plenty of learning resources and tools about insurance, personal finance and retirement planning.

Compared to its competition, Allstate offers the most options for additional coverage. You can add coverage to your policy for a myriad of protections. Some of its add-on options include reimbursed living expenses, liability coverage, guest medical coverage, identity restoration coverage, flood insurance, personal property and scheduled personal property coverage.

Best for coverage add-ons – Nationwide

It’s possible Nationwide is all looks and no show — it boasts a ton of extra customer-focused perks, but doesn’t have the satisfaction ratings to back it up.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


BBB Rating



3.8 / 5.0

SimpleScore Nationwide 3.8

Discounts 4

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 2

Accessibility 4

Coverage goes beyond your home and includes stolen items from your watercraft or vehicle. Nationwide may have the broadest range of insurance products of all the providers, with coverage for vehicles, motorcycles, boats, life, farm and even pets. If you have renters insurance with Nationwide you can extend that coverage to protect variations of property theft, like if something is stolen from your boat, trailer or vehicle.

Additionally, Nationwide includes card coverage as part of its standard renters policy for times when your credit card is stolen and large fraudulent charges are made. The company also offers a free consultation with a representative to review your insurance policies and make sure you’re covered adequately. Despite all this, the company ranks below average in customer satisfaction. It earned a score of 831/1,000 in J.D. Power’s 2020 Renters Insurance Study.

Best for discounts – Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual discounts are a win-win scenario — it’ll discount your premium for things that make both your lives easier.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


BBB Rating



4 / 5.0

SimpleScore Liberty Mutual 4

Discounts 5

Coverage Options 4

Customer Satisfaction 2

Accessibility 5

When you’re on a budget and you’re looking for the best deal, check Liberty Mutual’s rates.Besides the standard rental coverage, Liberty Mutual has an add-on for higher-value goods that is worth checking out. If you lease or own computer equipment or electronics worth thousands of dollars or collect items that are appraised for high amounts, you can add a rider to protect your investment with just a $100 deductible. One issue with Liberty Mutual’s standard policy is that it lacks water damage coverage. You’ll have to add it as an optional coverage, so don’t forget to factor in the additional cost when you’re comparing different renters insurance policies.

Liberty Mutual basically hands out discounts. Ways to save money on your policy are effortless — opting in to autopay, being five years claim-free, shopping before your current policy expires, buying your policy online and purchasing another type of insurance with Liberty Mutual.

Best for competitive rates – American Family

American Family gets literal with discounts for generational customers and coverage for your furry family members too.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


BBB Rating



4.8 / 5.0

SimpleScore American Family 4.8

Discounts 5

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 5

Accessibility 5

Solid customer ratings, plenty of insurance options and competitive prices make American Family hard to beat. The company has a strong auto insurance offering and an enticing multiple policy discount. If you happen to need both, you can save up to 29% on auto and 15% on renters insurance by bundling.

American Family throws in bicycle coverage with your standard policy. If your bike is kept in storage that is not connected to your apartment, such as a community storage locker, American Family will cover your bicycle against theft or damage. It also has some other unique optional coverage additions like identity theft protection, pet insurance, travel protection and coverage for a home-based business.

Unfortunately, American Family has below average customer satisfaction ratings. It earned a score of 840/1,000 in J.D. Power’s most recent renters insurance study. The company also has limited availability. American Family only provides coverage in 19 states, primarily in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest.

Best for managing your policy – State Farm

Jake from State Farm is probably single-handedly responsible for the company’s 5/5 customer satisfaction rating. If you don’t get Jake when you ring to get a quote, you can also use State Farm’s online portal.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


BBB Rating



4.2 / 5.0

SimpleScore State Farm 4.2

Discounts 3

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 5

Accessibility 4

State Farm’s online portal makes it simple to make changes to your policy and pay your bill electronically. State Farm is the largest insurance provider in the U.S and employs a vast network of agents nationwide. Despite that, the company has a below average customer satisfaction rating of 836/1,000 from J.D. Power. If you’d prefer to do things independently, the company’s online portal and quote tool is one of the best. You can plug in different deductible options to compare pricing.

If you’re looking for ways to save money, State Farm might not be the best for you. It has very few discount opportunities compared to our other recommendations. You can receive a discount for having multiple policies with State Farm and for installing home safety systems like smoke detectors or burglar alarms. There’s a chance you’re quoted a low price regardless, but keep in mind you might find a better price elsewhere.

Best for customer support – Metlife

MetLife doesn’t do online. Yeah, seriously. But, its representatives are so helpful that you’ll walk away glad you called.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


BBB Rating



2.3 / 5.0

SimpleScore Metlife 2.3

Discounts 2

Coverage Options 3

Customer Satisfaction N/A

Accessibility 2

Ideal for individuals that prefer guidance from knowledgeable agents. MetLife wins the category for best customer support because of its phone and email support representatives. The insurer doesn’t provide an online quoting tool or as many online features as you’d find with other companies — you’ll need to contact the company directly. But the representatives are prompt and knowledgeable enough to make up for the lack of online implementation. You also might have a higher chance of scoring discounts by talking to a representative. There are some employers and organizations that qualify you for a discount.

MetLife is ideal for renters who own many high-value items, such as artwork, jewelry, collectibles or home electronics. You can add riders between $5,000 and $15,000 to cover any losses to your higher-ticket items.

Best for military members and families – USAA

USAA is a top-tier insurer to serve those who serve the country, but anyone else is out of luck.

J.D. Power Rating


AM Best Rating


BBB Rating



3.8 / 5.0

SimpleScore USAA 3.8

Discounts 2

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 5

Accessibility 4

USAA is the best renters coverage for military members and their families. USAA is a one-stop-shop financial company founded for military members. It provides banking, insurance, loans, retirement, real estate and investment services.

Besides the standard insurance coverages, USAA includes earthquake and flood coverage in the basic policy. Your belongings are also covered during a move, whether you’re packing, driving or storing it. It also includes identity theft coverage up to $5,000 and coverage for military uniforms. USAA provides plenty of value, but if you’re not in the military or related to someone who is, then you’re out of luck.

Pros and cons of our rental insurance top picks

Carrier Pros Cons
Allstate Good mobile and online experience Rates may be higher than other providers
Nationwide Offers large variety of coverage options Customer satisfaction rankings are low
Liberty Mutual Offers a lot of discounts to keep rates low Coverage doesn’t include water damage
American Family Good discounts, large array of coverage Coverage limited to 19 states
State Farm National coverage, great online/app experience Rates may be higher than other providers
MetLife Strong customer service No online access available
USAA Highly rated customer service
Very low rates
Only available to active and retired military members and their families

What is renters insurance?

Owning a home is a significant responsibility. Not to mention, homeownership can be incredibly expensive. To keep costs low, many people choose to rent a home or apartment. If you’re renting to save money, buying renters insurance is a great way to protect your belongings and ultimately, protect your money.

Renters insurance protects your valuables and any damages to your rented home that would be your responsibility (and not the landlord’s). Often, your landlord’s home insurance policy doesn’t include coverage for your personal property. It may cover the building and its grounds, but it won’t replace your vinyl collection if your neighbor’s pipes burst and flood your living room. Renters insurance also pays to replace your belongings if they are stolen. In addition, renters insurance can pay the expenses of someone injured in your home and you are found responsible. Also, if you are unable to live in your home due to damages, renters insurance can help pay for a hotel stay.

How does renters insurance work

Renters insurance protects your personal belongings from theft or damage during a burglary as well as damage incurred due to fire, water or other unforeseen events. To purchase a renters insurance policy, start by creating a home inventory of everything you own and might want coverage for. Then determine the value of that collection and how much coverage you might need. Renter insurance companies will use that information along with your personal information — name, address, birthdate, number of people living in the home, date you want coverage to start — to build a policy with the right amount of renters insurance coverage. After you’ve decided on a policy, you’ll pay a monthly or yearly premium for that coverage. If anything happens to your belongings or home, you’ll file a renters insurance claim and (hopefully) be reimbursed to replace the damaged or stolen items.

Some of the specific incidents that renters insurance will cover include: fire and lightning, windstorm, explosions, riots, damage by vehicle (not your own), smoke, vandalism, theft, volcanic eruption and falling objects.

America’s top-rated renters insurance

  • Policies starting at just $5/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork

Types of rental insurance coverage

All of the best renters insurance carriers provide access to four types of basic renters insurance coverage:

  • Personal property coverage: This renters insurance coverage protects the items in your dwelling like your clothes, computer, appliances and furniture
  • Liability coverage: Liability renters insurance coverage helps pay for the cost of lawsuits and your defense if you or someone in your household is involved in an accident or incident that harms others or causes property damage. It also pays for damages you cause to someone else’s property.
  • Medical payments to others: This renters insurance coverage pays a guest’s medical costs if they’re injured while visiting you in your home
  • Additional living expenses/loss of use: This renters insurance coverage pays for your expenses to live elsewhere if your home becomes uninhabitable due to a covered peril or loss

There are additional coverage options to add like pet insurance, flood insurance, earthquake protection, identity theft and luxury items coverage that vary by insurer.

Is renters insurance worth it?

For some people, it may be required by your landlord. If not, you’ll have to weigh the risks and your personal priorities. Renters insurance could be a good idea if you have a lot of valuables in your home you’d like to protect or live in an area more at risk for theft, fire or natural disasters. If your home is suddenly unlivable (like from flooding or a fire) and you don’t have anyone to stay with, some renters insurance policies will reimburse those displaced living expenses. Renters insurance is usually pretty affordable too, which makes the investment less daunting and the policy more valuable.

[ More: Is Renters Insurance Really Worth It? ]

Like with most types of insurance, it’s a betting game on the likelihood that something will happen — you either pay into insurance monthly on the chance you experience a theft or disaster large enough to warrant a claim for reimbursement, or you risk having to replace things out of pocket. If you have an emergency fund saved up, it might be a better financial decision to use that than pay monthly for insurance.

What’s not covered by renters insurance?

Renters insurance is comprehensive, but it doesn’t cover everything. Here are some of the perils that are not covered under standard renters insurance policies:

  • Flood damage
  • Earthquake damage
  • Wear and tear
  • Pest, rodent, or bug infestations
  • Mold
  • Rust
  • Valuable items

One of the misconceptions about renters insurance is that one policy is adequate for an entire household. In reality, a renters insurance policy will only cover the policyholder. Your roommate’s belongings are not covered by renters insurance. Even though they live in the same dwelling, if something happened to both your things (like a fire or theft), only yours would be covered by your policy.

If you’re concerned about gaps in coverage, there are certain add-on policies that can add extra protection. For instance, if you live in an area where earthquakes and floods are a threat, consider purchasing earthquake and flood insurance. Many renters insurance companies offer standalone policies for these perils.

[ More: When Renters Insurance Does and Doesn’t Cover Water Damage ]

If you need extra protection for valuables, a scheduled personal property endorsement is your best option. It allows you to “schedule” additional coverage for specific items, like a fine art collection or jewelry. Adding any endorsement to your policy will raise your premium, but it could save you money in the long run if you need to file a claim.

Renters insurance vs. condo insurance

Renters insurance and condo insurance are two different policies, but they share some similarities. They both include personal property, liability and loss of use coverage. However, condo insurance includes a policy that covers damage to the interior unit and usually comes with loss assessment coverage.

Renters and condo insurance policies don’t offer coverage for the exterior of the building or common spaces. Landlords and condo associations are responsible for carrying insurance that covers the physical building and shared spaces, like gyms, hallways and lobbies.

Average cost of renters insurance

The average cost of renters insurance is $180 a year across the nation, according to the Insurance Information Institute. When you think about the amount of renters insurance coverage you get with it — like personal property protection and liability — it’s cheap insurance compared to other types. For example, homeowners insurance costs an average of $1,211 a year, auto insurance has an average cost of $944 a year and life insurance runs about $841 a year.

Though you may want to own a home one day, you can at least take comfort in the fact that you’re saving, on average, about $1,031 in insurance by renting. Depending on where you live, those savings could be even more.

Is renters insurance cheap?

Generally speaking, renters insurance is pretty inexpensive. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest insurance policies you can buy. For comparison, auto insurance is much more expensive than renters insurance. The average driver pays $1,004 per year for car insurance. Home insurance, condo insurance and life insurance are also more expensive than renters insurance.

The reason why renters insurance is so cheap is because there is minimal risk to the insurance company. Renters insurance only covers personal property, liability and loss of use, it does not cover the building itself. Renters insurance can fit in most people’s budgets, and offers valuable coverage. Ask your provider if there are any discounts available if you bundle your renters insurance.

[ Read: Does Renters Insurance Cover Storage Units? ]

Renters insurance reimbursement forms

What is actual cash value vs. replacement cost?

When you shop for a renters insurance policy, your renter insurance company or agent will ask if you want an actual cash value or replacement cost policy. The answer to this question determines how much you will pay for your renters insurance policy as well as how you will be compensated in the event you file a renters insurance claim for losses related to your personal belongings. It’s important to evaluate which option works best for you before purchasing your renters insurance policy. The key characteristics of these two types of reimbursement plans for your renters insurance policy are:

Actual cash value

With this type of policy, your possessions are covered but not at the cost you purchased them. Depreciation is taken into account, meaning your property’s age and condition are considered when determining the amount your provider will give you. Actual cash value can save you money month-to-month on your renters insurance premium. It’s also a good option if the items you want to insure are relatively new because they will not have depreciated that much.

Replacement Cost

With this option, it doesn’t matter how old the item is or what its condition was at the time it was damaged. The cost to replace your item is paid to you in full. This type of coverage is a great option if you have a lot of aged, yet valuable property. The downside is that a replacement cost policy is more expensive than an actual cash value policy.

If you don’t have that many high-value items, an actual cash value would probably suffice, but review your policy limits before deciding. Estimate what it would cost to replace everything you own in the event of a catastrophic event. If partial coverage would leave you with a lot of out of pocket expenses, it may be worth choosing replacement cost.

How much renters insurance do I need?

When you purchase a renters insurance policy, you’ll need to decide how much coverage to get. As a general rule of thumb, you should have enough personal property coverage to protect the full value of your personal belongings, like clothing, furniture, electronics, appliances, and so on.

Keep in mind that most renters insurance policies have very low coverage limits for valuable items, such as jewelry, art and collectibles. If you keep valuable items in your home, you’ll want to look into a scheduled personal property endorsement.

In terms of liability coverage, that depends on your lifestyle and your financial assets. If you have guests over often, consider a higher level of liability insurance. Similarly, if you have money in a savings account, 401k, or stock portfolio, increasing your liability coverage is a good option. It protects your personal assets in the event of a liability lawsuit.

How to choose the best renters insurance for you

Choosing the right renters insurance for you can be a tricky and sometimes a lengthy process, but here we’ll tell you the four main things you should focus on to choose not just the best insurance company, but the right insurance company.

Start shopping around for quotes

It’s really easy to head to the website of companies offering renters insurance coverage and fill out some simple information about your dwelling to get a quote. Save those quotes and compare them, which ones offer the most coverage at an affordable price?

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Check out discounts

The more discounts you can get, the better. Find out which renters insurance policies offer discounts that you can easily attain. If you have a security system in place already, a renters insurance company might give you an extra discount for that.

Understand the process to file a claim

How easy is it to file a claim with the insurer? If you’re expected to jump through hoops just to get a check to cover damages, then it might not be best to choose that renters insurance company. Some policies have easy mobile app access that can make filing a claim simple — that’s probably what you need during high-stress disasters and situations.

Evaluate coverage options

To ensure that your property is insured, make sure that the renters insurance company offers coverage that will protect all of your belongings, especially the ones that are particularly important to you. Your plates and silverware may not be important, but your prized guitar, gaming computer or family heirlooms are.

[ Read: How to Buy Cheap Renters Insurance Online ]

What impacts rental insurance premiums?

A few things will influence your specific insurance premium. The amount of coverage is the biggest factor. The premium is basically a direct translation of the level of coverage you’ll be insured for.

The way you customize your policy can tweak your annual premium too. Repayment types for example — actual cash value will be a cheaper choice while replacement cost will lead to a higher premium. The deductible you choose changes the premium too. A higher deductible (the out of pocket responsibility before an insurance payout) will mean a lower premium and vice versa.

Location can also be a factor, as higher crime rates or natural disaster zones will raise policy costs.

Renters Insurance in your city

Renters insurance FAQs

No, renters insurance doesn’t require an inspection. This is because rental insurance doesn’t protect the apartment or house you’re renting but instead protects your personal belongings. It also covers the medical costs and legal fees if someone is injured in your home or by a pet.

Most renters should invest in rental insurance. A renters insurance policy a simple, inexpensive way to protect your belongings and ensure you’re covered in case something happens to the home or apartment you’re renting. You may not think your possessions are worth much, but they are. You don’t want to be stuck with the bill if a fire, flood or natural disaster destroys your rental. You also don’t want to be stuck with the bill for a temporary rental — and with the right rental insurance coverage, you won’t be.

If you’re moving to a new place in the same state, you most likely just need to update the address on your policy account. However, if you’re moving out of state, you may need to take out a new policy per that state’s regulation. Either way, it’s relatively painless to update your information and renters insurance when you move.

It’s possible — but it’s probably not the best idea. In general, if you’re the policy holder, your stuff will be covered under your policy and your roommates stuff will be excluded. You might be able to add your roommate to your renter’s policy, but be careful with this. If something happens and you’re stuck making a large claim on your insurance, you could end up exceeding the policy limits if you’ve got two people under the coverage. You’re also going to pay more for your policy if you add a roommate. It’s usually cheaper and better for everyone to have two or more separate policies instead among roommates.

Yes, your renters insurance claim can be denied, just like any other type of insurance claim can be denied. This generally happens if there’s a blatant violation of the policy, like having a dangerous or ineligible breed of dog on the property. It can also happen if you’re making a claim that’s due to an excluded peril, like a loss due to a flood with no flood coverage.

However, if you’re making a valid, covered claim that aligns with your coverage, it’s unlikely that you’ll get your claim denied by your insurer.

We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the renters insurance companies we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many insurance companies provided relief in the form of percentages back on monthly bills as well as a freeze on coverage cancellations due to inability to pay. While it’s not recommended, you could technically stop your coverage to save money if absolutely needed — but again, it’s strongly advised against.

See below for more details on how you can benefit from the recently approved economic relief act:

Who can benefit from this?

To qualify for rental assistance under the CARES Act at least one household family member must qualify for unemployment or have a significant income lost due to the pandemic. Income must fall at or below 80% of your county’s average income. You must also be a risk of homelessness. 

Who’s getting how much?

If families fall below 50% of the average income they’ll be given priority for rent relief funds. Families can get up to a year of rent covered, and three months in the future with the CARES Act rent relief assistance.

How to apply

If you need to apply for assistance, the way you do that will vary depending on where you live. If your city or town has an existing rental assistance program, you’ll likely use that to apply for new aid.

You can contact your local housing authority, nonprofit groups or reach out to your local representatives to find out where and how to apply. Your landlord may also be able to apply for you — but they’ll have to get your approval and signature before doing so.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

How Much Will Cutting the Cord Save You?

Cord-cutting will save you money but for many people, that’s only part of the equation. Yes, you want to spend less on cable, but you want to do that without sacrificing too many shows you enjoy watching. So, before you rip the Band-Aid off, look at the facts, and find out exactly what cord-cutting would look like for you.

The cord-cutting decision is a big one. You need to weigh how much you’ll save vs. how much you’ll miss out on. What price do you put on being excluded from conversations about the latest shows and sports on cable? Are we talking about significant savings or significant pain here?

To start, let’s take a look at the numbers to figure out what you’re really paying per month for movies and TV shows.

What are you really paying for your viewing pleasure?

If your family is like 78% of U.S. households, you are spending an average monthly payment of $107 to subscribe to a pay-TV service (either traditional cable television, a satellite service, or a streaming option. That’s a number which has steadily inched up year after year.

When you have a family like mine, you may have also committed to several online streaming services. It’s hard to say no when friends on social media gush about must-see programs like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime, The Great British Baking Show on Netflix, and The Mandalorian’s baby Yoda on Disney+.

Together an average family entertainment package — cable plus streaming services — can add up to over $140 per month, and that doesn’t include games.

How much are you spending?

And with so many cable options and a new “must-have” streaming service popping up seemingly every day, it’s easy to zoom past the average, if you’re not paying attention. Even if you stick to “the basics,” the amount you can spend can pile up fast.

Entertainment payments per month:

  • Cable bill: $107. U.S. average (according to a 2018 study by Leichtman Research Group)
  • Netflix for two H.D. streams: $12.99 (assuming you’re not borrowing a friend’s password!)
  • Amazon Prime: $12.99 (or a bulk bargain at $119 per year)
  • Hulu: $11.99

Pro tip: You can cut and paste this information into a spreadsheet to start your family budget for the new year.

Why not call and cancel cable right now?

Heck, you could save yourself $100 if you just cut the cord right now. But before you spend that money on last-minute holiday gifts, you should find out how much more your cable provider (which is generally also your internet provider) will charge you for broadband once you drop cable.  It’s generally at least $10 more a month without a bundle discount but, in some cases, the cost increase to get internet alone can be much higher, so, you have to weigh your actual savings.

Those fancy streaming subscriptions need a high-speed internet connection. Your cable/internet provider knows that and intends to make as much money off you as possible even if you cut the cord — this is especially true if you live in a market with only one provider (that also happens to be the cable company you just jilted).

I live in a rural area with broadband available only via Comcast. So, for us, it’s pay up or get ready to listen to the cows and the crickets. Our introductory rate was about $50 per month, not including setup and fees. Find out if you have a choice. Search for broadband and DSL providers in your zip code. The vast majority will offer service that’s fast enough to stream on multiple devices but be careful to read the fine print as what speeds the company promises to deliver. You will need service that’s 25 to 50 Mbps (megabits per second) in order to stream video well.

Before you cut the cord, do your research! If there’s competition in your area for internet service, try to negotiate a discount. It costs nothing to try, and you could save real money.

Pro tip: Some cable companies will offer you a “skinny” bundle with the major broadcast networks for just a few dollars more than getting internet alone. Ask before you fully cut the cord.

Prioritize your happiness

Cutting the cord almost certainly means losing access to some programming. That makes it a hard decision even when the savings will be significant. It’s important to look at your personal and family viewing habits before you make any decisions.

If you watch a lot of network television and live sports, then keeping cable might make sense for you. Or, if you prefer the content on streaming services, then go in that direction.

Consumers have more choices when it comes to television than ever before. That can be daunting – it’s easy to buy more than you can consume.

The good news is that most streaming services don’t penalize you for joining, watching what you want, and then leaving. Mix and match in order to find the right blend for you. That may mean leaving cable or opting for a smaller package.

Your options are plentiful and the choice is in your hands…though you’ll probably want to talk it through with all the other TV viewers in your home so you don’t accidentally inflict significant pain for relatively insignificant savings.

–By Nic DeSmet

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

The Dos and Don’ts of Staging Your Home During the Holidays

While the peak time to list a home is during the spring season, the current seller’s market has extended that window, seemingly to be all year long in 2020. Many homeowners are preparing their homes to sell – even during the upcoming holiday season. It’s important to note that despite the intense seller’s market, November through January are the slowest months to sell a home, according to the National Association of Realtors. While preparing a home to sell at any point during the year can provide challenges, there are additional things to consider when listing a home during the holiday season. And one of the most common questions Realtors receive from homeowners that are preparing to list their home during the holiday season is: “Should we decorate or not?” These tried-and-true tips from real estate agents across the U.S. will help homeowners as they prepare to list their homes in the coming weeks.

Do Make Your Home Feel Cozy

During winter, and especially during the COVID-19 season, people stay home more. And as they tour homes, they want it to feel cozy and welcoming during those cold, dreary winter months. Add things to warm up your home like candles (unlit), blankets, or classic fall and winter patterns. Foliage like pinecones, garland, and plants that are evergreen even in cold months is a great way to add the “homey” feel in a house that’s for sale.

staging holidays staging holidays

If you have a fireplace in your home, pay it up! A basket of firewood next to it, a few baskets filled with blankets nearby, and even some decor on the mantle if you have is a great way to draw attention to the warmth of your home in the cold months.

Read: Fall and Winter Decor Trends We Love in 2020

Don’t Decorate For List Photos

While the average days on the market continues to shrink thanks to the seller’s market, a home typically sits on the market for 3 weeks—and longer in some areas. It’s important that listing photos provide a timeless look of the home—not a brief snapshot of one holiday. Madeline Smallwood with Collier & Associates in Bentonville, Arkansas suggests, “If you are listing at the end of a holiday– say Halloween– don’t have photos taken with your home decked out in Halloween decor and then listed when Halloween has passed.” If your home sits on the market beyond the typical three weeks and long after the holidays and the listing photos contain holiday decor, it’s one more reminder to buyers that your home hasn’t sold and could be a stale listing.

Tips for listing photos from Smallwood: “Keep decor centered around the season and not the holiday. This looks more tasteful in photos and for showings.”

staging holidaysstaging holidays

Do Depersonalize Your Home and Decor

A rule Realtors convey not only during the holiday season, but year-round is to depersonalize a home before listing. Buyers want to walk into a house and feel like it could be their home and not feel like they’re intruding on someone else’s home. Decor, paint, and personalization should be minimal and appeal to the masses. Smallwood suggests “putting away all the personal holiday cards, stockings with your names on them, etc.” It’s important to remember that homeowners are planning to move anyway, so packing up non-essential and personalized items before listing can not only help with decluttering but provides a head start on the packing process!

Don’t Overwhelm Buyers

While homeowners may love to have candles lit, a fire burning in the fireplace, or a real fir tree, some of those scents can overwhelm buyers — especially if they have allergies. Although we recommend drawing attention to those elements of your home that may set it apart, like a fireplace, it’s important to not have it lit – the smell of smoke can definitely be an overwhelming factor. If homeowners do want to create a cozy atmosphere with candles, try incorporating battery or solar odorless and smokeless candles, or have candles around but not have them lit.

staging holidays staging holidays

Do Decorate Seasonally Not Specifically

Specific holiday decor doesn’t really enhance a home’s desirability, but styling for the winter season can dramatically improve a home’s appearance. Making small changes in textiles, decor, and even paint can dramatically improve a home’s desirability. Smallwood concurs by stating “Skip the overly trendy decor that’s hip this year and stick to classic decorations and seasonal themes.” For example, she reminds her clients to, “skip the spooky Halloween specific decor and do a fall theme instead.”

Read: Why You Should be Doing Seasonal Home Staging

Don’t Go Overboard With Decor

Madeline Smallwood says less is more. While homeowners may typically love to go overboard with decor, it’s best to scale it back if your home is on the market during the holidays. Paliwoda says that “Over decorating is the biggest mistake” homeowners make while trying to sell their home in the holiday season. Madeline Smallwood offers sellers the practical tip to “keep it simple. Decluttering is always one of the best things you can do before listing your home. This goes for holiday decorations.”

Read: Staging Your Home Beautifully on a Budget

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Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com