5 Strategies for Paying Off Car Loan Early

Is your monthly car payment a burden to your budget? Paying off your car loan early can earn you much-needed financial freedom and save you potentially hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in would-be interest. 

You can pay off your car loan early using several effective strategies, but before you do, consider any potential penalties and effects to your credit score.

The True Cost of a Car Loan

It’s no secret that cars are our worst big-ticket investment. Unlike houses, which typically increase in value over time, and education, which theoretically opens the door to higher earning potential, cars lose their value over time. In fact, a new car depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the lot and will lose 20% to 30% of its value in the first year.

That’s a big deal, especially given the average cost Americans are spending on new cars in 2021. According to KBB, that hard-to-swallow number is over $40,000, up more than 4% over 2020.

That means Americans are shelling out $40,000 for a car that, in a year, will be worth anywhere from $28,000 to $32,000, representing an $8,000 to $12,000 loss.

But there’s more than just the sticker price to consider. In addition to sales tax (average of 10.12% in 2020, though it varies by state), be prepared to pay interest on your car loan. Right now, the average car loan interest rate (also referred to as APR, the annual percentage rate, though there’s a difference) is over 4%.

APR includes the interest rate, in addition to other fees, like loan origination fees or mortgage insurance. You should use the APR, not the flat interest rate, when calculating what you’re paying.

Your APR will depend on the current market and your credit score. The better your credit score, the lower your APR. If you have a weak credit score and can put off buying a car, it is advisable to build up your credit score before applying for a loan.

For 2021, rates are expected to hover between 4% and 5% for 48-month (four-year) and 60-month (five-year) loans. 

Car Loan Calculator: An Example

Interest on a car loan adds up. Let’s take the $40,000 new car as an example, with a $995 dealer fee. Assume you put $2,000 down and have a tax rate of a clean 10% and an APR of 5%. You’ve agreed to pay off the loan over 60 months, or five years. (The typical car loan is anywhere from three to seven years; the shorter the loan period, the higher the monthly payment.)

In this scenario, the total cost of the vehicle after tax and dealer fees is $44,995, minus your $2,000 down payment. That leaves $42,995 to be financed. Given the 5% interest rate over 60 months, your monthly payment would be $811.37.

Over 60 months, you will end up having paid $50,682.20 (including down payment) for a car that, with taxes and dealer fees, cost just $44,995. That means, over five years, you’ve paid $5,687.20 in interest. 

And let’s just ignore the fact that, due to depreciation, that car that you’ve just paid $50,000+ on is now worth just $18,752.41 (average value of 37% of original cost after five years).

Use The Penny Hoarder’s car loan calculator to figure out how much you’ll pay with real-life numbers that match your scenario.

How Car Loan Interest Rates Work

Paying off your car loan early, if you can afford it, seems like a no-brainer then. However, before you start strategizing about how to pay off your car loan ahead of schedule, do some digging to determine what kind of car loan you have.

In an ideal world, your loan will be a simple interest loan. If you have not yet purchased your car, only consider lenders that will offer you a simple interest loan. This means the interest is calculated entirely on the principal balance of the loan.

But if your lender charges precomputed interest, that means they will calculate how much you will pay in interest over the life of the loan and include that in your total balance. That means, even if you pay off your car early, the payoff quote will include all the interest you would have paid had you kept the loan open. In this case, there are absolutely no financial savings in paying your car loan off early.

One other element of your loan to research is payoff penalties. Payoff penalties are legal in 36 states and allow lenders to charge you a penalty (usually a fixed percentage of the remaining balance) for paying off your car loan early. In this case, it may be more expensive than what you would have paid in interest over the life of the car loan.

Will Paying Off Your Car Loan Early Hurt Your Credit Score

It is not likely that paying off a car loan early will hurt your credit score, but it could be keeping you from growing your credit score. Regular, on-time payments account for roughly 35% of your FICO credit score, making it the most important factor. Making monthly payments on a car loan is a great way to show lenders you are responsible with repaying your debts.

In addition, lenders like to see a nice mix of credit (mortgage, car loan and credit cards are the big three). Keeping your car loan open also helps extend the length of your credit history. If you have no other open credit (like a credit card), keeping your car loan open may be advantageous in building up your score if you eventually intend to buy a house.

5 Strategies for Paying Off Your Car Loan Early

If you have a simple interest car loan, your credit is in good standing and your loan doesn’t have any payoff penalties, it may be wise to pay off your car loan ahead of schedule. Not only will you avoid spending heaps of money on interest, but it will also give you the financial freedom of hundreds of dollars back in your monthly budget.

The best advice for paying off a car loan early: treat it like a mortgage. If you are a homeowner, you have likely heard that making an extra (13th) payment toward your mortgage principal every year can shave years off your loan. If you pay even more toward the principal each year, you can easily get your 30-year mortgage down to 15 years—and you’ll be able to drop PMI (private mortgage insurance) costs much earlier.

Of course, home loans tend to be much bigger than vehicle loans, so the potential to save is much larger, but the logic works the same with your car loan.

These strategies for early payoff are all effective, if done right:

1. Make One Large Extra Payment Every Year

If you can count on your grandma slipping a fat check into your Christmas card every year without fail, don’t use that money to splurge on alcoholic eggnog (OK, maybe one bottle). Instead, apply it directly to your car loan as a lump sum.

If you have autopay scheduled online, you can log into your account and simply arrange to make a one-time payment. If you’re old-fashioned and pay by phone or mail, simply call your lender and let them know you’d like to make an extra, one-time payment toward the principal.

Apply this logic to any unbudgeted (aka, not-planned-for) funds, like a bonus at work or a tax refund.

2. Make a Half Payment Every Two Weeks

Talk with your lender to see if you can switch to biweekly payments, instead of monthly. If your lender allows you to pay half of your monthly loan amount every two weeks, you will wind up making 26 half payments. Divide 26 by 2, and you get 13 full months of payments, paid over 12 months. That means, by the end of the year, you will have essentially made an extra car payment.

Just check your budget first to ensure that kind of payment plan is feasible.

3. Round Up

Rounding up to the nearest $50 or even $100, if you can swing it, is a great way to add extra money every month to the principal. For example, if your monthly payment is $337, you could round up to $350 or even $400 to essentially pay an extra $13 or $63 a month. This will wind up knocking a few months off the life of your loan.

If you have autopay scheduled, log onto your loan platform and see if you can add the additional funds toward the principal each month so you don’t even have to think about it.

4. Resist the Urge to Skip a Payment

Some lenders may let you skip one or two payments a year. So kind of them, right? Wrong. They do this knowing it will extend the life of your loan, meaning they will rake in even more of your hard-earned cash in interest fees.

Unless you fall on very hard times, fight the urge to skip a payment. You will wind up paying more in the end if you do.

5. Refinance, but Exercise Caution

If you had a poor credit score when you bought your car and opted for a seven-year loan to keep payments low, it might make sense to refinance. Perhaps you’re two years into the loan, you’ve got a higher-paying job, and your credit score is in great shape. You could potentially refinance at a lower APR and build the loan out over 36 months, saving you two years and lots of money in interest.

But borrower beware: Don’t refinance to get a lower monthly payment by extending a loan, as you will end up just paying more in interest. 

When You Shouldn’t Pay Off Your Car Loan Early

As we’ve seen, it doesn’t always make sense to pay off your car loan early. But there are more reasons to hold your horses than just payoff penalties and precomputed interest.

Here are some other reasons not to pay off your car loan early:

  • Lack of emergency savings. Bankrate reported early in 2021 that most Americans could not afford a $1,000 emergency. Just 39% have enough to cover such an unexpected expense. If you are a part of that 61% without a well-padded emergency fund, prioritize adding funds to a high-yield savings account to protect yourself and your family should the unthinkable happen. And it’s not just your family’s medical emergencies; you may need to cover a deductible on your renter’s insurance in the case of a break-in, the cost of an unexpected car repair or even a terrifying trip to the vet when your dog eats something he shouldn’t.
  • Higher-interest loans. If you have a reasonable interest rate on your car loan but are drowning in credit card debt, focus on the debt that has the highest interest rate. Credit cards historically have interest rates in the high teens, so they make the most sense to pay off first. If you are free of credit card debt but have a mortgage or student loans, compare those interest rates to that of your car loan to figure out which makes the most sense to pay down with extra funds.
  • Lack of credit history. If you refuse to get a credit card and don’t yet have a house, a car loan is your best bet for building your credit score. Keeping your car loan open could positively affect your credit score.
  • Investments. For most drivers, car loan APRs are not terrible. If you have some extra funds and are thinking about paying off your low-interest car loan, consider instead investing in your retirement fund or even buying a few stocks on your own. The average stock market return is about 10%. Obviously, you could wind up losing money, but in general, if you invest and hold, over time, you should expect your money to grow.

Timothy Moore is a managing editor for WDW Magazine, and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, Glassdoor, Aol and The News Wheel. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Dear Penny: I’m 74 and My 24-Year-Old Boyfriend Is Awful With Money

Dear Penny,

I am 74 and have fallen for a 24-year-old. He says he wants to get married, but he has only the house he inherited. 

I’m self-employed but have only a meager income. It makes me uneasy that I have to pay for everything. He may be able to work eventually, but for now all he finds are part-time jobs. Should I break off this relationship due to poor finances?

-Too Much in Love

Dear In Love,

I’m going to attempt the impossible, which is to put aside this glaring age difference for a minute.

Here’s what I would have told you if you hadn’t mentioned your ages: You’re pulling all the weight here, and you don’t feel good about it. Your boyfriend doesn’t sound very responsible. Nine times out of 10, when someone writes to me, a stranger, to ask whether they should end their relationship, the answer is: “Yes! End this relationship.”

Now, let’s talk about this gaping age discrepancy. There’s no way I can make myself not worry that your boyfriend is taking advantage of your generosity here. Yes, plenty of people fall in love with someone way older or younger than they’d ever imagined. So I don’t want to make any sweeping generalizations about what constitutes too young for someone of 74.


But I think an age difference becomes too much when you’re in vastly different places in life. Even if you’re both in love with perfectly pure intentions, surely this is one of those times.

Aside from the fact that he’s dating a 74-year-old, your boyfriend doesn’t sound that unusual for someone who’s only 24. Most twentysomethings haven’t acquired much in the way of assets. It’s not unusual for someone this age to have a string of part-time jobs and side hustles instead of a career.

Meanwhile, you’re 74 and don’t have much income, which certainly isn’t unusual for someone who’s retirement age. You deserve to retire at some point. I’m afraid you can’t afford to wait for your boyfriend. You say he may “eventually” be able to work. Somehow, I think “eventually” will happen a lot faster when he has no choice but to pay his own bills.

You say you’re paying for everything, so I’ll assume he’s living in your home. Since you say he inherited a house, hopefully he can move in there and you can make a clean break.

Whenever you end a relationship, you need to act quickly to unmingle your finances. That includes closing any joint bank accounts and removing your boyfriend if he’s an authorized user on any of your credit accounts. If you’ve listed him as a beneficiary on a retirement account or life insurance policy, or included him in your will, be sure to remove him as well.

And yet, untangling the heart can be even more complicated than separating your money. There’s nothing I can say to make that part easier.

Just know that it’s not too late for you to fall in love all over again. But make sure that anyone you’d consider dating in the future is at a similar place in life as you are. That doesn’t mean you need to be the same age. But that person needs to be a mature and independent adult, not someone who mooches off you. Anyone who’s not willing to be your equal partner doesn’t deserve your time.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Know When to Sell Stocks and When to Hold On

Your stock is up by 20 percent, maybe even 50 or 100 percent. Should you take the money and run? What about if your stock is down? Should you ride it out and hope for the best, or is it time to take a loss and avoid it getting even worse?

All these questions are running through your mind, and rightly so. You’re in the stock game to make money so making good decisions about when to sell stocks is important. In this story, we’ll run through three reasons to sell and three reasons to ride it out longer.

First Off, Sell Reluctantly

Some investment writers and TV pundits say you should sell at any hint of trouble. They may use a chart pattern, a declining rate of growth or maybe one disappointing quarter as a reason to get out.

Good ideas are hard to find, so stick with them until there’s powerful reasons to sell. Just because a stock is down doesn’t mean it’s out. A panicked move might leave you worse off than simply waiting out a short term problem, like a computer chip shortage or a blocked shipping route because of, let’s say, a global pandemic.

Conversely, a stock jumping over the moon doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to put in that sell order. A stock can continue to go up well past your original target price. Stocks don’t have a maximum. They have (theoretically) unlimited upside potential.

You put in the time to research a company and maybe even read through its financial statements. Perhaps you’ve used the company’s products and think they’re the bee’s knees.  You took the plunge and bought at what you hope will be the right price. Save yourself from more investment decisions than necessary by being very slow to sell.

Still a little unclear on what all the information on the stock quote means? Learning how to read a stock quote will put you in a better position to know if you should buy, sell or hold. 

Stock sales may also trigger tax consequences. Consult with a tax advisor before you sell shares, at least until you are familiar with capital gains tax rules.

3 Good Reasons to Sell

Here are three signals that you should consider selling your shares.

1. You Need the Money

You put aside money for a reason, whether it’s to build a rainy day fund, save toward retirement or maybe that mansion with a view. If your investment portfolio did its job and you have enough money to achieve the original goal you set, sell.

Here’s why: There’s always a risk the market can back off. That could delay or even prevent you from realizing all those hard-won gains.

2. Something About the Stock Changed

If Apple decided to sell apples instead of selling a gazillion iPhones every year, that would be a good reason to sell. You didn’t intend to buy a food stock when you originally bought Apple. It’s possible the company could have an army of employees with untapped gifts for farming, but that’s much less likely than their proven success with whiz bang phones and computers.

The same is true of major mergers and acquisitions. Once a company makes a major acquisition or merges with another company, you own a different stock than before.

Most mergers and acquisitions don’t work out as well as promised, even more so if the newly purchased company is in a different business.

When a profitable company starts losing money, it’s concerning but not automatically a reason to sell. Automotive and other companies that sell big ticket items will see their profits go up and down along with the economy.

If coffee growers have bad harvests, Starbucks’ profits might decline. Those are temporary issues. Don’t be too quick to sell a good stock going through a rough patch. If the company is having trouble selling its products, look for the reasons why that’s the case before deciding to sell.

3. The Stock Didn’t Follow Expectations

If you bought stock thinking the company was going to introduce a hot new product and that product turns out to be a dud, sell. If the company commits a fraud, sell.

Dividend cuts are bad news for income investors. If you bought a company’s stock because it can pay dividends and it’s forced to cut them or even stop paying any at all, it’s broken faith with you. It’s time to enter that sell order.

It’s tough to admit we’re wrong. It’s even worse when we sell and the stock’s price recovers or even goes higher. That will happen. But all you need to do is be more right than wrong. Don’t reevaluate stocks that failed expectations. Sell and move on.

3 Not-So-Good Reasons to Sell

Here are the three reasons you might want to tell your inner trader to hush up, and hold on to that stock.

1. It Feels Good to Take a Stock Market Profit

This goes back to good ideas being hard to find. As much as we love booking a profit and seeing some extra cash, then what will you do next? Spending the profit means you’ll have less money to invest. Your next investment might not turn out as well. If your stock reaches your target price, that’s great! Perhaps it can go up even more.

2. You Have a Hunch

Experienced investors are disciplined and do everything in their power to avoid being swayed by emotion. Human nature makes investing tricky. We hate losing money. We can also get jumpy when we feel as if we’re missing out.

A hunch is usually an impulse, and it’s rare to see a hunch trader make money for an extended time. Work on using rational judgment.

3. Online (or Somewhere Else) Buzz

There are some smart people offering great advice for free on bulletin boards and Reddit, but they are far outnumbered by people who only know how to sound smart. It’s often impossible to tell the difference until the money is lost. How often do you see anyone say “I don’t know” on the internet?

Internet groups are susceptible to what psychologists call “feedback loops.” That’s when enough people share a belief that others join the bandwagon. Their reasoning goes along the lines of, “If that many people believe (something), it must be true.” Then when facts prove otherwise, it becomes a race to the exits and the stock is kicked to the curb.

Consistent Investors are Winning Investors

The list shared here is only a start. Over time, every investor learns their own investment philosophy. Some investors look to buy shares of companies that are priced below what they may be worth. Others focus on companies that are growing rapidly. Those two groups will have different ideas when to sell a stock.

As you continue to invest in the stock market, you’ll develop your own buy and sell signals. One way to make consistent gains is systematic investing, something that people do when they contribute to a retirement account such as a 401(k).

Once you do, it’s important to stay consistent. Markets go through periods (sometimes years) when even the best value stocks will underperform. Other times growth stocks will be in the doghouse.

If you keep changing your strategy, you could find yourself continually on the wrong side. Professionals accept that sometimes the market is with you and other times it’s not. If you’re patient and know how to reduce risks when you can, the odds will be on your side.

Contributor Sam Levine holds Chartered Financial Analyst® and Chartered Market Technician® designations and has written on finance topics since 2003. He is an adjunct professor of finance at Wayne State University in Michigan.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

4 Tips to Avoid Having an At-Fault Accident Wreck Your Finances

Think you live in a safe neighborhood? Whether it’s a result of dropping your guard in familiar territory or inevitable due to frequency, most car accidents tend to happen within just a few miles of home.

You don’t have to be near your house for an accident to hit close to home, in another sense. We all know how much a fender bender can ruin your day. But what do you do when you’re at fault in an accident that could potentially ruin your financial stability?

Don’t let down your guard when you’re on the final stretch home. And don’t leave home again without reviewing these four tips protecting your finances in case you’re ever responsible for an accident.

Tip No. 1: ‘Right-Size’ Your Auto Insurance

They essentially mean the same thing, but there’s one critical distinction between “responsibility” and “liability” when it comes to auto accidents. It’s OK if you’re responsible for a car accident, as long as there’s an insurance company that’s liable for it.

Liability insurance is as essential as wearing a seatbelt when operating an automobile, because it can help you protect your assets if you’re ever responsible for property damage or bodily harm.

You need to choose enough liability coverage to pay any damages you might incur in an at-fault accident. But if you’re paying too much for auto insurance, you might be tempted to choose a low dollar amount of liability insurance.

When’s the last time you checked car insurance prices?

You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. Let’s be real, though. It’s probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesn’t have to be.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $489 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

Tip No. 2: Cover Your Life, Not Just Your Car

Let’s just say it. Death, death, death — it’s an uncomfortable word to use, and it’s a topic many of us would rather skirt.

While it’s inevitable our time will come someday, there are preparations we can make now to help our loved ones cope in a world without us.

While there are exceptions, typically debt doesn’t disappear when you die.

Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income after you’re gone? How they’ll pay the bills? Send the kids through school?

Life insurance can help you leave money behind for your loved ones. In many states, this money is protected from lawsuits.

So now you’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for life insurance. But your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.

Rates start at just $16 a month. The peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.

Tip No. 3: Gas Up Your Emergency Savings

It’s probably not likely you’ll want to tap your emergency savings to pay out a settlement if you’re at fault in an auto accident, unless the damages owed are minor. But being without a car, even temporarily, can be expensive. That’s where your emergency savings could help.

You’ve probably heard the best way to grow your money is to stick it in a savings account and leave it there for, well, ever. That’s bad advice, especially if you’re just trying to start an emergency fund or nurture a fledgling savings account.

Maybe you’re just looking for a place to safely stash it away — but still earn money. Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account won’t do you much better. (Ahem, 0.06% is nothing these days.)

But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cashback and up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account.

Not too shabby!

Enter your email address here, and link your bank account to see how much extra cash you can get with your free Aspiration account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

Tip No. 4: Carpool Your Debt with Consolidation and Refinancing

Personal loans aren’t just for bougie people who want to update every surface in their kitchen with massive granite slabs, status seekers who really shouldn’t be buying that car on that salary or the “all gas, no brakes” types that rack up massive amounts of credit card debt.

Personal loans are just that — lines of credit offered for a wide variety of personal reasons. There aren’t many better uses for a personal loan than keeping a personal injury lawyer from turning your life into a massive estate sale.

If you need a personal loan up to $50,000, AmOne can match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne won’t make you stand in line or call your bank, either. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could help you pay off your debt years faster.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Know Renters Rights Before Signing Agreement

More than a third of American households are inhabited by renters and that means the tenants who live in those housing units have landlords.

The relationship between the two can sometimes be tricky.

Renters have rights, as do the landlords who own the properties their tenants live in.

Renters rights vary by state and local jurisdiction, so this serves as a general guide to those rights and who — the tenant or the landlord—  is responsible for what.

General Rights of Renters

The most basic right is to a residence that is in good enough condition to be lived in, also known as a warranty of habitability.

That often includes a space that:

  • Is safe to live in.
  • Is structurally sound.
  • Has working utilities.
  • Has working plumbing with hot and cold water.
  • Has usable heat or air conditioning (depending on jurisdiction)
  • Is equipped with doors and windows that are not broken and locked.
  • Is free from vermin or other pests.
  • Has working smoke detectors (a requirement in some jurisdictions[TS1] )

Often, there is a lease or formal agreement between the two parties outlining some of these responsibilities like the amount of money owed and when it is due, what happens if rent is late, the length of time the tenant is allowed to live in the dwelling, etc.

“That right or that warranty [of habitability] exists whether there is a lease or not,” said Marcos Segura, staff attorney for the National Housing Law Project. All states except Arkansas have recognized that warranty in residential leases.

A renter also has a right to privacy, meaning once they rent a dwelling, it is theirs to lawfully use.

The landlord can only enter the premises to inspect it or make agreed upon or necessary repairs. Entry can only happen during certain hours and with sufficient notice.

“But there are exceptions where you don’t have to give notice to a tenant and that is in situations where there is some sort of imminent emergency like a gas leak, fire, or an alarm going off,” Segura said.

Concerning rent, unless a jurisdiction allows it, a tenant’s rent cannot be raised during the terms of the lease.  Some leases require notice if a tenant does not intend to stay after the lease ends.

The Accidental Landlord

According to the American Apartment Owners Association, half of all landlords are not big corporations, but rather people who own one or just a few properties.

“There are a lot of what we would call accidental landlords. They didn’t even try to be landlords,” said Alexandra Alvarado, director of marketing and education for AAOA. The membership organization represents landlords who own and rent a single house to large property management companies.

“Accidental landlords” might have inherited a home or moved to another home and chose to rent out a property. Alvarado said they call organizations like the AAOA for help because they are often new to renting properties.

“It’s in the interest of the landlord ultimately to make their tenants happy. In the long run, it’s way harder to find a good tenant to replace another than it is to just keep a good tenant happy and keep them in the unit.”

General Obligations of Renters Beyond Pay Rent

Landlords must provide a habitable space for renters, but renters have some responsibility for maintaining the quality of the property.

A renter must:

  • Pay the rent according to the rental agreement or lease.
  • Comply with building or local housing and health codes.
  • Maintain the unit and keep it clean.
  • Not cause any damage.
  • Not violate any laws or allow guests to do so.
  • Not allow anyone to use the rental unit for illegal purposes.

“Wear and tear is okay, there is no way to prevent that and it is not something that a tenant is responsible for, but [a tenant must] take care of the property and not do anything to destroy or damage it,” Segura explained.

Renters are responsible for keeping the peace by not disrupting neighbors with noisy equipment cranked up late at night or early in the morning, or by playing loud music when most folks are sleeping. 

Fixing Problems

So, what happens if a tenant keeps the place generally clean, but mice find their way in? Or if a faucet starts to leak and damages the cabinet below? Or an appliance breaks?

“That’s the advantage of being a renter versus a homeowner is the landlord is the one that takes care of all the maintenance, unless it’s the tenant’s fault,” Alvarado said, adding sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between normal wear and actual damage.

A tenant needs to report any problems with their rental unit to the landlord. Knowing how to contact that landlord should be clear from the beginning of the rental term.

“Typically, every lease will have some stipulation in there that you have an obligation to report issues as soon as you notice them,” Segura said. “If you don’t, and it becomes a bigger issue, then the tenant might be liable for that.”

In some rental situations, especially with single-family homes, some maintenance is the tenant’s responsibility, like lawn care.

Tech Communication

Alvarado said larger property management companies often have an online system to report maintenance requests or problems and landlords with fewer properties often give tenants their cell phone numbers or email addresses.

Giving a landlord 24 to 48 hours to respond to a problem or request and about a week to fix it is the norm. If it’s a habitability issue, tenants should expect a quicker response. Landlords should keep their tenants informed about the progress they are making to address the concerns.

Security Deposit

Usually, renters pay a security deposit to the landlord to protect against damage that could happen to the property.

The landlord holds this deposit while the tenant is living in the property and returns it to the tenant within a set amount of time after they vacate the unit.

As a tenant, don’t forget to tell your landlord where to send your security deposit.

If the landlord does not plan to give back the deposit or just part of it, the landlord should present the tenant with an itemized list of problems.

Pet Deposit

If a rental allows pets, often landlords collect a pet deposit and may have restrictions such as the weight of the pet or the number and type of animals. Some landlords might allow cats and not dogs.

Segura said a violation of pet rules can be grounds for eviction and landlords have a right to prohibit or restrict pets in most circumstances. An exception is a trained service dog.

“The biggest issue with pets is that people either don’t notice that there’s a prohibition on pets or they do and don’t care and they try to get away with it. Then the landlord finds out about it six months later, and now you either have to get rid of your pet or you have to move. So, the first thing is you want to be upfront with the landlord.”

How and When to Complain or Seek Legal Help

Disputes between tenants and landlords often involve four things; unpaid or late rent, security deposits, damage, or needed repairs.

It might be time to get help if you have notified your landlord in writing about a problem and nothing has been done in a reasonable amount of time.

But don’t just stop paying rent. Segura said there are few circumstances where it is okay to withhold payment. Legally, landlords cannot charge rent if the dwelling is not habitable, but there are very specific definitions of that condition.

“It should be the very last resort because inevitably what will happen is the landlord is going to hit you with an eviction for non-payment of rent,” he said.

To Pay Rent or Not

If you reach the point of thinking about withholding rent or you’re at a stalemate with your landlord, Segura advised seeking legal representation either with a private attorney or legal aid office.

“At some point, you’re going to get some notice saying either pay rent, fix this, or remove this pet, whatever the case might be. Without question, at that point, you want to seek legal help.”

The required notice is the first step in the legal process.

“Once that notice has been served, the landlord is going to move to evict and it’s really difficult to get a landlord to back off from that,” he said.

In almost all cases, a landlord cannot evict a tenant immediately. There is an eviction process. Also, a landlord cannot lock a tenant out, cut off utilities, or forcibly remove a tenant or a tenant’s belongings.

Ways to Protect Your Renter’s Rights

Read the entire lease and make sure you understand everything in it, including your responsibilities, before you sign it. If you don’t understand something, ask.

Other ways to protect yourself:

  • Take photos: When you move in, take photos of the condition of everything. Send that document to your landlord and ask for a signature. Repeat the process when you move out.
  • Receipts: Get and keep receipts for all rent payments. Take photos of checks or account transfer confirmations. This is especially important if you pay rent in cash.
  • Insurance: Get renters insurance to protect your personal belongings from theft or damage.
  • Requests: When there are problems or you need something, report the issue to your landlord as quickly as possible. Put all requests in writing. Certified return receipt mail is one option for correspondence done by snail mail. Return receipts are an option for email.

One of the best ways to protect yourself is to try to have open communication with your landlord from the beginning.

“Once an issue arises, your relationship with your landlord makes a huge difference as to whether it gets taken care of the way it’s supposed to be, or whether it’s going to result in some bigger issue, which ultimately could be like an eviction,” Segura warned.

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

8-Point Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers

After lots of hours looking for the right number of bedrooms, a great kitchen, and enough square footage on the perfect lot, you finally found your family’s dream house. Those things are crossed off your checklist.

Now onto the home inspection checklist to make sure the dream house doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

With a robust seller’s market showing no signs of slowing, buyers may be tempted to move quickly and forego some of the standard safeguards — like the home inspection. In some cases, the seller might ask for that. Red flag.

“I’d been watching the market a little bit and kind of seeing how fast things were going and just decided to jump in, knowing that it could be a challenge. I did not think it would be quite as challenging as it was,” said Jennifer Meadows of Richmond, Virginia. “In seven weeks, we looked at a total of 37 houses and it was bid No. 5 that finally got us a house.”

8-Point Home Inspection Checklist

Home inspectors can have more than 1,000 items to check throughout the house. They’re looking for any signs of damage and to make sure everything is in working order.

While you don’t necessarily need to know everything the inspector is looking for, having a home inspection checklist can help you better understand what is going on.

These are the eight areas the home inspector will concentrate on:

Inspection is Part of Home Buying Process

The Meadows family of Virginia had to offer well above list price for their house, but they were not willing to waive the inspection to make their offer more attractive to sellers, even though the seller asked them to.

Meadows knew a home inspection was the last chance to find any potential problems with a house before the sale was final and was well worth the cost.

“Was this the absolute house of my dreams? Not quite. But the houses that we lost out on, I wasn’t willing to take that risk (of waiving inspection.) I just wasn’t willing to do it because although they were great houses, I knew something else would come along,” Meadows said.

Having a home inspection checklist can help you know what to expect during the inspection and can even help you save money.

What is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is a way for both the buyer and seller to learn about any potential health or safety hazards that may be in the home.

Typically the buyer pays for the inspection which is about $350 for an average size house, less for a small home and more for a larger one. The cost varies by state and city. Sometimes buyers and sellers split the cost but that’s not likely in a hot sellers market.

Many buyers are focused on what the home looks like and not necessarily the state of the different features that make it a solid buy. Like the roof and the electrical systems.

“They don’t pay attention to what is really important in the home,” said home inspector John Wanninger.

He has done more than 12,000 inspections and other members of his INSPECTIX team in Nebraska have inspected more than 30,000 homes.

Beware of Forgoing the Inspection

If a buyer chooses to forgo an inspection and a problem appears after the sale, the buyer usually has little or no recourse.

“I wonder about what’s going to come in a couple years after this market for all those buyers that chose not to do a home inspection but maybe relied on what their agent saw during their walkthrough or the seller’s disclosure which is not supposed to be a warranty of any kind,” said Nicole Deprez, a residential real estate agent with NP Dodge in Omaha, Nebraska.

The home inspection and report can also be a guide for what repairs or improvements a buyer might need to budget for after the purchase, like a new roof or HVAC.

The article 17 Checkups to Give Your House Now to Avoid a Shocking Repair Bill Later can also help you figure out how much money to set aside for periodic maintenance and repairs.

A house floats to the sky while attached to balloons.
Getty Images

What Happens During the Home Inspection?

Usually, the person buying the house is present for the home inspection and can ask questions during the walk-through, but the seller isn’t normally present. The inspector will turn on the oven, run water, open and close windows, go into the attic, crawl under the house, and more.

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection takes about two to four hours and older homes may take longer.

Inspections are important for all kinds of residential and commercial real estate purchases, not just free-standing single-family homes.

The following are the eight areas that inspectors focus on:

1. Structural Components

One of the most expensive things to fix in a house is the foundation. Problems with it can lead to all sorts of other issues.

Sometimes, this will involve the inspector going into the crawl space under the house if there is one.

Wanninger said home inspectors mainly look for evidence of movement and not just minor hairline cracks or settling, water penetration, bowing in the walls, signs a footing has failed, things like that.

The inspector will also look at all walls, ceilings, floors, windows, and doors.

All windows and doors need to open and close properly with no gaps or sagging around them. There needs to be proper egress from bedrooms.

On the walls, ceilings and floors, home inspectors will look for:

  • Discoloration from mold or water damage.
  • Sagging, bulging, or cracks.
  • Uneven baseboards and bouncy or uneven floors.
  • Gaps between the walls and floors.
  • Popping nails.
  • Leaning or uneven stairs.

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2. Roof

Not all inspectors will go on to the roof and they certainly won’t do it if it is rainy, snowy or excessively windy.

They’re looking for:

  • Overall roof condition.
  • Missing or warped shingles.
  • Issues with the gutters or flashing.
  • Soft spots or algae growth.
  • A leaning, damaged or repaired chimney.
  • Clear vents.
  • Evidence of patches or repairs.
  • Evidence of hail damage.

“Any waviness on the roof is an indication that the sheeting might be compromised. You might have poor ventilation in the attic and it’s causing the sheeting to deteriorate,” Wanninger said. “I can tell by how the sheeting responds underneath my feet. I know what’s going on and I can tell you the thickness of the sheeting by walking on the roof because of my experience.”

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3. Attic and Insulation

The place some people use as extra storage can tell a lot about the house.

In the attic, home inspectors look for:

  • The condition and amount of insulation.
  • The ventilation condition since poor ventilation can lead to moisture which can lead to mold growth.
  • Signs of water like wet or damaged insulation or other signs of leaks.
  • Rust around the furnace if the furnace or HVAC is in the attic.
  • Signs of fire damage like scorched wood or soot.

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4. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems

HVAC systems keep our houses cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Even with regular maintenance they can still have problems.

Home inspectors check for:

  • Proper installation and function.
  • Signs of gas or carbon monoxide leaks.
  • Proper lighting of the furnace.

To avoid damage to the equipment, inspectors will sometimes only check the system that is in use during the current season, but that depends on the location and inspector.

If the house has a fireplace, home inspectors will check the exhaust flue, dampers, and any gas lines.

“We don’t light them, but we inspect them for operation and the condition of the visible sections,” Wanninger says.

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A woman checks pipes in a bathroom.
Getty Images

5. Plumbing and Water

We need water to live, but water is the enemy to most homes. Good ‘ole H2O is the cause of most homeowners insurance claims and once the home you’re looking at is yours, can still cause problems, so a bit of planning from Ignoring These Eight Home Repairs Could End Up Costing You a Lot More could help save you some money and aggravation.

It’s important for home inspectors to pay a lot of attention to anything involving plumbing and water.

Inspectors will:

  • Check all toilets, bathtubs, showers, sinks, waterlines, hoses, washer connections and anything else that has water going to it.
  • Test toilet mechanisms to make sure they flush properly.
  • Fill all bathtubs, sinks, and showers to make sure they drain properly.
  • Check hydrants and pipes outside for any leaks.
  • Test the water pressure.
  • Look at the type of pipes in the home. Some have been recalled and others have a limited lifespan.
  • Inspect the water heater and check the temperature, the pipes and the pressure relief valves.

In the basement, inspectors will look for any signs of water damage, which could be a musty odor, mold, mildew, uneven flooring, or damaged walls.

Outside, inspectors will check if the gutters and downspouts are directing water away from the house.

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6. Electrical and Wiring

The electrical and wiring systems are other things that can be problematic and hazardous.

An electrical systems check includes:

  • Looking at the electrical panel and the wires entering it:  The connections need to be with circuit breakers and not fuses. The main breaker needs to have enough amps. There should be no rust in the panel.
  • Check the reverse polarity.
  • Wiring: Wires need to be covered with proper insulating materials and not have any metal showing. This is sometimes not the case in older homes. No wires should be loose and they should be copper instead of aluminum and not knob and tube, also found in older homes.
  • Switches and outlets: All lights, switches, and outlets should work and contain grounded (three pronged) outlets. All Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) and ground fault interrupters (GFI) near water sources need to function and reset properly.

“If you’ve ever heard of little kid getting shocked when a blow dryer fell into the bathtub,  It’s because that blow dryer is plugged into an outlet was not GFCI protected which will kick the power out immediately in the event of a currency fluctuation,” Wanninger said.

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7. Outside the House

Paint doesn’t just make a house look pretty. It provides protection from the elements and can hide a lot of problems.

On the exterior, inspectors are on the lookout for:

  • The condition of the paint and siding: Any rot or decay can signal water or other problems.
  • Cracking or flaking masonry.
  • The condition of outdoor lights and electrical outlets.
  • Water: Any puddles or pooling or water can signal problems with bad grading or drainage.
  • Any trees or bushes that may be interfering with the wiring or other systems of the house.
  • The condition of steps, railings, retaining walls, and driveways.

Home inspectors are also looking for proper drainage away from the house.

“Moisture setting along the foundation is what’s going to allow the soil around the foundation to soften and give the foundation that chance to settle,” Wanninger said. “We look for gutters that are clean and draining away from the foundation, and that the dirt along the foundation is built up and the water straying away from the foundation.”

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A man checks the hood range of a stove.
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8. Appliances and Other Things

In the kitchen, inspectors are looking for many things including:

  • The integrity of the cabinets.
  • The condition of any appliances that stay with the home and are part of the sale. For example, stove burners and ovens will be turned on.
  • The counters.
  • Whether the range hood vents to the outside.
  • Faucets and pipes in and under the sink.

Wanninger warned that sometimes things work during inspection but fail after due to lack of use once sellers move out, especially dishwashers where seals and other components go dry.

Inspectors will also check whether the garage door opens properly and that the safety mechanisms work.

That is one of the things that the Meadows’ inspector found in their new house, which could have posed a threat to the family dogs.

“The sensors on the garage door were not working so nothing was going to stop the door if something was in the way. It was going to keep going,” Meadows said.

Even though home inspectors look at thousands of items, there are some things they don’t do. Environmental issues like mold or radon, or pest issues like termites or carpenter ants inside the walls aren’t necessarily things a home inspector will find unless there are obvious signs of activity.

The same goes for sewer lines, septic systems, and swimming pools. Wanninger recommended hiring a specialist to look at those things, especially if the sewer lines are cast iron because they deteriorate over time.

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What to Do After the Home Inspection

After the home inspection, the buyer will receive a detailed report with everything the inspector found.

“I typically recommend that they take some time to read through the report so they can sort of digest information,” Deprez recommended. “Then if we have the ability through the contract, we can ask the seller for repairs or replacement.”

She had a warning about relying on the seller to do the fixes.

“A buyer can ask the seller to make repairs, but then that repair or replacement is sort of out of the hands of the buyer, so they don’t necessarily get to pick the person that does the repair or the materials,” she said, adding first time homebuyers traditionally want the seller to make the repairs so as a new buyer, they don’t have more to do when they move in.

If the home inspector finds major issues, buyers need to make a decision about whether or not to move forward with the closing.

In that case, it might be a good idea to get additional inspections with a specialist to find out the extent of the problem and what it would cost to fix it.

If you and the seller agree the seller will address the issues, it is important to make sure the repairs are completed and done to your satisfaction.

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

7 Money Lessons You Didn’t Learn In School

In school, they’ll teach you all the algebra you can take. They’ll teach you about geometry and trigonometry. They might even teach you about calculus.

But they don’t teach you diddly-squat about money. No sirree. All the differential equations in the world aren’t gonna show you how to handle your money like a grown adult.

Despite all our education, our overall state of financial literacy is way too low. In fact, only about a third of U.S. states require their high school students to take any kind of personal finance class.

Let’s refresh our financial education with these money lessons you didn’t learn in school. Doing these could save you thousands this year.

1. Grow Your Money 16x Faster — Without Risking Any of It

Here’s a simple lesson we’ll expand on: You’ve probably heard one of the best ways to grow your money is to stick it in a savings account and leave it there for, well, ever. But that’s not always the best strategy.

If you’re just looking for a place to safely stash it away — but still earn money — under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account won’t do you much better. (Ahem, 0.06% is nothing these days.)

But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back and up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account.

Not too shabby!

Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured, and they use a military-grade encryption, which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

2. See if You’re Wasting $690/Year on Home Insurance

Unfortunately, they don’t teach you the art of haggling in school, so you’re probably wasting money right now. And it’s probably on something you’d never expect — your homeowners insurance policy.

This isn’t something you actively think about — you just know you’re required to have it.

The problem is, you’re paying too much. Luckily, an insurance company called Policygenius makes it easy to find out how much you’re overpaying. It finds you cheaper policies and special discounts in minutes.

In fact, it saves users an average of $690 a year — or $57.50 a month. It’ll even help you break up with your old insurance company. (You’re allowed to cancel your policy at any time, and your company should issue you a refund.)

And just because you’re saving money doesn’t mean you’re skimping on coverage. Policygenius will make sure you have what you need.

Just answer a few questions about your home to get started.

3. Spend $1 to Own a Piece of Amazon, Google or Other Companies

A woman holds an Amazon box above her face while being outside.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Here’s something to study: Take a look at the Forbes Richest People list, and you’ll notice almost all the billionaires have one thing in common — they own a company.

But if you work for a living and don’t happen to have millions of dollars lying around, that can sound totally out of reach.

That’s why a lot of people use automated micro-investing apps like Stash. It lets you be a part of something that’s normally exclusive to the richest of the rich — buying pieces of other companies for as little as $1.*

That’s right — you can invest in pieces of well-known companies, such as Amazon, Google or Apple, for as little as $1. The best part? When these companies profit, so can you. Some companies even send you a check every quarter for your share of the profits, called dividends.

It takes two minutes to sign up, plus Stash will give you a $5 sign-up bonus once you deposit $5 into your account. Subscription plans start at $1 a month.**

4. Knock Up To $715/Year Off Your Car Insurance in Minutes

When was the last time you compared car insurance rates? Chances are you’re seriously overpaying with your current policy. 

If it’s been more than six months since your last car insurance quote, you should look again. 

And if you look through a digital marketplace called SmartFinancial, you could be getting rates as low as $22 a month — and saving yourself more than $700 a year. 

It takes one minute to get quotes from multiple insurers, so you can see all the best rates side-by-side. Yep — in just one minute you could save yourself $715 this year. That’s some major cash back in your pocket.

So if you haven’t checked car insurance rates in a while, see how much you can save with a new policy.

5. Secure Up to $1 Million in Life Insurance; Rates Start at Just $16/Month

Have you thought about how your family would manage without your income after you’re gone? How will they pay the bills? Send the kids through school? Now’s a good time to start planning for the future by looking into a term life insurance policy.

You’re probably thinking: I don’t have the time or money for that.

But here’s a lesson for the long term: Your application can take minutes — and you could leave your family up to $1 million with a company called Bestow.

Rates start at just $16 a month. The peace of mind knowing your family is taken care of is priceless.

If you’re under the age of 54 and want to get a fast life insurance quote without a medical exam or even getting up from the couch, get a free quote from Bestow.

6. Earn Cash While Watching Cooking Videos Online

A woman watches a cooking video while cooking in her kitchen.
Getty Images

We remember watching a lot of videos in school. The teacher would turn on a video to buy time to grade papers while we watched it. But what if we told you that you could get paid to watch videos on your computer?

It’s too good to be true, right?

But we’re serious. A website called InboxDollars will pay you to watch short video clips online. One minute you might watch someone bake brownies and the next you might get the latest updates on Kardashian drama.

All you have to do is choose which videos you want to watch and answer a few quick questions about them afterward.

No, InboxDollars won’t replace your full-time job, but it’s something easy you can do while you’re already on the couch tonight wasting time on your phone.

Unlike other sites, InboxDollars pays you in cash — no points or gift cards. It’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and you’ll immediately get a $5 bonus to get you started.

7. You Don’t Have to Pay Your Credit Card Bill This Month

If you have credit card debt, you know. The anxiety, the interest rates, the fear you’re never going to escape…

And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.99% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

Not in the Classroom Anymore

We’re way past trigonometry here, and you’re definitely not in the classroom anymore. So, how much money could you save yourself by employing these strategies? It’s hard to say. It ultimately depends on how hard you go.

But between the cash-back, investment earnings, other savings, and cheaper deals on car and home insurance, you should be able to see a big difference in your bottom line this year.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

*For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.

**You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.

The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of Stash. Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Mark Your Calendar for Your State’s Tax-Free Weekend (or Week)

A father holds his daughter as they reach for school supplies at Walmart.

Mike Brassfield, a staff writer for The Penny Hoarder, and his daughter, Annabelle Brassfield, reach for a school supplies box while shopping at Walmart Supercenter in St. Petersburg, Fla. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Back-to-school shopping may be exciting for the kids who get new gear, but less so for the parents who have to pay for it all.

A survey from the National Retail Federation found that parents with kids in elementary through high school planned to spend an average of $789.49 on clothing, electronics and school supplies last year.

Some shoppers will get a little relief as 16 states have tax-free holidays coming up in July and August, saving consumers from paying sales tax on certain school-related items.

Now, you may not save a ton of money by shopping during tax-free holidays. For example, if you bought $500 worth of clothes, shoes and school supplies during Florida’s tax-free weekend in a county where the sales tax is 6%, you would save about $30. But what parent wouldn’t want to save 30 bucks?

And if you use the tax-free holidays in conjunction with smart budgeting strategies and comparison shopping, you’ll save even more on your back-to-school supplies.

Some states’ tax-free holidays are held over a weekend, while others are a week long. Each state has different criteria for what merchandise won’t be taxed, and many states require the purchases to be under a certain price threshold.

And if you live in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire or Oregon, every day is a holiday — those states don’t have a sales tax.

Tax-Free Weekends: When, Where and What

The 16 states that have back-to-school tax-free holidays this year are Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Alabama

When: July 16-18

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less.
  • Computers and related equipment — $750 or less.
  • School supplies — $50 or less.
  • Books — $30 or less.

Arkansas

When: Aug. 7-8

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.
  • Clothing accessories — less than $50 per item.
  • School supplies — no price threshold, but must be on the state’s list of approved items.
  • Computers and electronic devices — no price threshold, but must be on the state’s list of approved items.

Connecticut

When: Aug. 15-21

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.

Florida

When: July 31-Aug. 9

What is tax-free:

  • Computers and related equipment — $1,000 or less per item.
  • Clothing, accessories and shoes — $60 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $15 or less per item.

Iowa

When: Aug. 6-7

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.
A person shops for a book bag.
Getty Images

Maryland

When: Aug. 8-14

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less per item.
  • Bookbags/backpacks — the first $40 is tax-free.

Massachusetts

When: Aug. 14-15

What is tax-free:

  • Most consumer products — $2,500 or less per item.
  • Clothing — Massachusetts does not charge any sales tax on clothes under $175 year round.

Mississippi

When: July 30-31

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing, shoes and school supplies — less than $100 per item.

Missouri

When: Aug. 6-8

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $50 or less per purchase (exception: graphing calculators must be $150 or less).
  • Computers and related equipment — $1,500 or less per item.
  • Computer software — $350 or less.

New Mexico

When: Aug. 6-8

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing, accessories and shoes — less than $100 per item.
  • School supplies — less than $30 per item (exceptions: backpacks, maps and globes must be under $100 and calculators must be under $200).
  • Computers — $1,000 or less per item.
  • Computer hardware — $500 or less per item.

Ohio

When: Aug. 6-8

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing — $75 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $20 or less per item.
  • School instructional materials — $20 or less per item.

Oklahoma

When: Aug. 6-8

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.
A little girl tries on shoes.
Getty Images

South Carolina

When: Aug. 6-8

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing, accessories and shoes — no price threshold.
  • School supplies — no price threshold.
  • Computers and related equipment — no price threshold.
  • Bedding, pillows, bath towels, wash cloths and shower curtains — no price threshold.
  • Books and musical instruments — no price threshold (if they are for school assignments).

Tennessee

When: July 30-Aug. 1

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $100 or less per item.
  • Computers — $1,500 or less per item.

Texas

When: Aug. 6-8

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.
  • School supplies — less than $100 per item.

Virginia

When: Aug. 6-8

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $20 or less per item.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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15 Ideas for What to Do With Stale Bread

You grabbed a loaf of bread the last time you were at the grocery store, but now it’s rock hard. So, what to do with stale bread?

Plenty, from making fresh breadcrumbs to binding meatballs to adding to a salad there are ways to breath new life into an old loaf.

This common scenario is annoying when you’re hungry and craving a sandwich, but it’s also a huge waste of food and money if you throw it away. The USDA estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the country’s food supply is wasted, with food waste occurring at every step along the food chain.

Much of the waste, though, happens in the home. We can all do better but don’t be that person who tosses out stale bread, turn it into a family dinner instead.

15 Ideas to Use Up Leftover Bread

If you find yourself with stale bread, you don’t have to toss it to the birds. These 15 recipes and ideas will transform that leftover bread into a delicious, cheap meal.

1. Egg in the Hole

There are a lot of names for recipes for this clever egg dish: Toad in the Hole, Egg in the Nest and Hole in One. Eater claims there are 66!

Whatever you call it, Egg in the Hole is basically fried bread with an egg in the middle. Poke a hole in the middle of your slightly stale bread, place it in a frying pan with melted butter and then crack the egg into the middle. Flip and remove when you like the way the yolk has cooked — runny, hard or somewhere in between.

Don’t forget to toast the piece that you tore out along with the main event.

This photo shows a stack of bagel chips.
Photo courtesy of Spend with Pennies

2. Homemade Bagel Chips 

Once you learn how to make your own bagel chips, you’ll never look back.

Cut a bagel in half down the middle, then slice the segments into 1/8-inch thick half moons and toast. Serve with your favorite dip, like hummus or guacamole.

3. Breadcrumbs 

Why buy breadcrumbs when you can easily make fresh breadcrumbs using something you were going to throw away?

Any kind of leftover bread works for DIY breadcrumbs. Grind the stale bread to a crumb in the food processor, then toast in the oven until lightly crispy. Store in an airtight container or even freeze.

4. Homemade Croutons 

Homemade croutons work on the same logic as breadcrumbs: Cube the stale bread, spread it on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toast in the oven until the croutons get crispy.

Homemade croutons are much cheaper than store-bought ones, and you can store your homemade croutons indefinitely in an airtight container. Toss croutons on salad or put them in soup.

5. Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese is an ideal use for slightly stale bread, since you want the exterior to be crispy anyway.

This collection of 50 grilled cheese recipes can help you clean out the fridge, save money and reduce food waste.

6. French Toast 

Stale bread that is rich and eggy, such as challah, pain de mie or brioche, makes yummy French toast.

Cut the bread in thick slices, then allow it to soak in a custard made from egg and milk before sautéing to light golden in a pan. Basic French toast is one of those recipes you can experiment with by adding fruits, nuts, and spices, so you never get bored!

7. French Toast Casserole 

This casserole version of French toast is perfect for a brunch when you’ve got to feed a crowd. Better yet, you can make everything the night before then bake it off in the morning.

8. Bread Pudding 

A baked bread pudding is about the most comforting way imaginable to use stale bread. There are many recipes out there but we like this one for the good instructions.

For the richest bread pudding, use an eggy bread like challah or brioche or something naturally sweet, like cinnamon raisin bread.

Mix up your bread and butter pudding recipe with ads-in, from dried fruit and nuts to chocolate chips, or be extra and serve with ice cream or homemade caramel sauce.

A casserole dish is filled with strata.
Photo courtesy of Once Upon a Chef

9. Savory Bread Pudding

Strata, or savory bread pudding, is an ideal clean-your-fridge-out dish. And another good candidate for company brunch.

Riff of this recipe by mixing and matching veggies, sausage, cheese, herbs, and more with cubed bread, pour an egg and dairy custard on top, let it soak for at least an hour, then bake for a savory bread pudding. If you’re partial to breakfast for dinner, this is a good candidate.

10. Panzanella (Bread Salad)

This is a resourceful Italian dish that can be made when your bread is really past its prime. The olive oil drizzle is masterful at bringing it back to life.

Made with cubed stale bread (or even those homemade croutons) plus tomatoes, shallots, garlic, basil and olive oil, Italian panzanella salad is like a deconstructed bruschetta.

To prep the bread part, toss cubes of stale bread with olive oil and cook at 350 degrees until crispy, but not browned. This will help it from going mushy as it soaks up the sauce.

11. Pan con Tomate 

For a Spanish twist on bread and tomatoes, make the classic tapas dish pan con tomate.

In this dish, bread slices are toasted and spread with a thin sauce made from grated tomatoes mixed with garlic and oil.

Pro Tip

Watch your knuckles when you work tomato or any other ingredients through the box grater.

12. Stuffing 

Some home cook sand chefs claim that stale bread makes the best stuffing or dressing. Dried-out, old bread works well for this classic Thanksgiving side because it’s able to absorb the liquid  in the dish without getting soggy.

Stuffing is a super flexible recipe that can be made from any old bread you have on hand: baguettes, bagels, sandwich bread, or even cornbread. With a waffle maker, you can then turn your leftover stuffing into stuffing waffles for breakfast!

13. Meatballs

Meatballs are a protein-rich way to save old bread when made with your homemade breadcrumbs. The bread serves as a binder, and you can even consider it for crab cakes but just use a little to hold these delicate cakes together.

This photo shows a plate of bruschetta.
Photo courtesy of Cookie and Kate

14. Bruschetta

Bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEH-tuh) is the ideal summer dinner for when it’s so hot you can’t bear to cook but the tomatoes are at their peak.

This basil, garlic and diced tomato mixture is served atop crostini, or small rounds of toasted baguette that you’ve slathered with olive oil and baked. Use your old bread for the crostini part of the dish and stop by the farmer’s market for the freshest summer tomatoes.

15. Ribollita 

Ribollita is a hearty Italian soup recipe made with white beans, kale, Parmesan cheese, potatoes, tomatoes, and leftover bread.  The bread serves to thicken the soup as it does in gazpacho.

Stick with the classic recipe or make yours a fridge clean out version and use up those old greens, carrots, and other items.

Pro Tip

Get more cheesy depth from soup by tossing in a Parmesan cheese rind as the soup simmers.

Tips on Storing Bread

It’s an understatement to say that fresh bread does not last long. That loaf of artisan loaf from the local baker or farmers market will lose its allure in a day, for sure in two.

And if you slice a baguette to accompany your cheese plate, the part you don’t use will be stale by morning. Supermarket bread stays soft and pliable for weeks because it’s loaded with preservatives.

In the summertime, bread sitting on the counter can go moldy before you get the chance to use it. While moldy bread is just fine for the compost pile, do yourself a favor and freeze bread slices before they go bad.

If you plan ahead, you’ll be able to freeze any old bread before it gets rock hard. Bread stored in the freezer tastes freshest within three months, but you can store it for far longer and still enjoy the end product. Bagels, English muffins and other bread products freeze the same way.

For best results, slice bread (or bagels) before freezing, then wrap slices individually in plastic wrap. Store wrapped slices in a freezer bag, then pull them out as you need them. Alternatively, if you’re planning ahead for a panzanella or strata, cube the bread so it’s recipe ready.

The Penny Hoarder contributor Lindsey Danis is a Hudson Valley, New York, writer who specializes in food, freelancing advice, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, NextAdvisor, Greatist, and more. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Apply for Lemonade Life Insurance Coverage For as Little as $9/Mo

Ok, the idea of life insurance kind of sucks. If it gets used, it means you died. Or someone you love and/or depend on died. No one wants to think about the worst possible outcome — to the point that no one wants to even think about buying life insurance.

But here’s the thing: It can get even worse when the people you love end up in financial trouble without your income and no life insurance to keep them afloat. Think about it — defaulted mortgages, depleted emergency funds and missed college tuition payments could upend your family’s life.

That’s why a website called Lemonade wants to offer you affordable term life insurance in as little as five minutes — so you don’t have to worry about the what-ifs again.

When you quickly apply for a term life insurance policy on their website or app — without going to the doctor for a medical exam — you’ll be able to relax, knowing you’ve done everything you can to help take care of your family.

Apply for Term Life Insurance in as Little as 5 Minutes — for as Low as $9/Month

Let’s get the assumptions out of the way: Life insurance isn’t just for old rich people, and it might not be as expensive as you think, if you know where to go looking for it.

Whether you need a $50,000 policy or a $1.5 million policy, Lemonade can help find the right coverage for you. There’s no paperwork and no medical exam required. Coverage starts for as low as $9 a month!

The application takes as little as five minutes and asks questions about your health, lifestyle and who you want your beneficiaries to be.

What Makes Lemonade Different?

In the past, applying for life insurance was a tedious process that required tons of paperwork and an invasive medical exam. But things are changing, thanks to new companies like Lemonade. Gone are the days of blood tests, signatures and endless insurance jargon.

First of all, Lemonade’s application process is entirely online. Yep. You don’t even need to leave the couch. There’s no medical exam needed, and unlike other life insurance websites, Lemonade offers term life insurance directly, and won’t direct you elsewhere to fill out more forms and compare quotes yourself. You simply fill out an application once, and if approved, choose your coverage and buy right from their website or app.

Those guilty thoughts about not having your family protected? You can seriously get rid of them without missing a second of “NCIS New Orleans.”

You won’t enter your credit card until after you’ve been approved, accepted your quote and read the fine print, so your info is safe and protected.

If you’re between the ages of 18 and 60 and living in the U.S. (except New York), complete your application in the next five minutes and know you’re covered for the term you selected. You can have this done before the next commercial break ends.

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She has a life insurance policy through Lemonade because it really was that easy to do. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com