4 Best Coupon Matchup Sites for Groceries – Our Real-World Test

Every time I read a blog about extreme couponing, I’m in awe at the author’s grocery shopping skills. By stacking (combining) coupons with sales, these super-shoppers save over 50% on every product they buy. But when I try to copy their strategies, I just can’t find that many deals — even after hours of cross-checking coupon inserts against my local supermarkets’ sale flyers.

But there are couponing sites that promise to make it easier to save money with stacking deals. Their staff members do the work of matching sales with coupons so you don’t have to. But can these sites really find the kinds of deals you can’t unearth on your own?

To find out, I did a head-to-head test to see which coupon sites could find the best savings on a basket of groceries at local supermarkets. Comparison points included features, accuracy, and ease of use to discover which coupon matchup site is the best of the bunch.

Pro Tip: Before you head to the grocery store, download the Fetch Rewards app. With Fetch Rewards, you can scan your grocery receipts and earn points you can redeem for gift cards to your favorite stores. For more information, see our Fetch Rewards review.

Best Coupon Matchup Sites Test

To be included in the test, sites had to be able to do all of the following:

  • Find Stacking Deals. Each of these sites does one particular thing: match grocery coupons with sales. There are no other sites related to couponing, including coupon-clipping services, price-comparison sites, and printable coupon sites like Coupons.com.
  • Search Multiple Stores. Coupon matchup sites are the most valuable when they can find the best deals across all the supermarkets in a given area. So sites that focus on one particular store, such as I Heart Publix, didn’t make the cut.
  • Include Stores in My Area. I wanted to be able to check out the deals I found personally, comparing them to the store flyers and, if possible, to the prices in the store itself. Since I live in the northeast, I had to rule out the popular Southern Savers, which specifically looks for deals in the southern United States.
  • Are Still in Business. Surprisingly, one of the best-known coupon matchup sites, The Grocery Game, shut down in 2016. However, posts on social media complaining about this site’s disappearance led to the discovery of a couple of other sites that do the same job.

After some fairly extensive searching, four sites met all the criteria. To conduct the test, I visited each site and searched for stacking deals on five items I regularly buy: breakfast cereal, orange juice, canned soup, my favorite conditioner, and oxygen bleach. Note that coupons for fresh foods, such as produce or eggs, are rare.

I checked each site’s deals against my piles of supermarket sale flyers and coupon inserts to ensure they were legitimate. Then I rated each site on a 5-point scale for three factors:

  • How easy it was to search
  • How accurate its deals were
  • How much savings they offered

Finally, I averaged these scores to come up with a total score. So, which coupon matchup site came out on top?

1. CouponMom.com

There’s a lot going on at CouponMom.com. This free site has an extensive database of printable coupons from various sources and multiple tools to search for stacking deals. You can look for grocery, drugstore, state-specific, store-specific, and product-specific deals.

Ease of Use

The landing page for CouponMom.com is pretty cluttered, with moving ads, pointers to specific deals, and search boxes. Amid all this chaos, it’s hard to figure out where to go first. Since I was looking for five particular products, I started with the box labeled “Search Deals,” where you can search for a product by name.

I typed in the first item on my list, cereal, and got a list of dozens of cereal deals at different stores nationwide. But when I started clicking to see details, I found that most of these were cash-back deals from Ibotta. There was no clear way to weed these out and see only deals that required nothing but the store loyalty card and a coupon.

So instead, I went to “grocery deals by state,” selected “New Jersey,” and clicked the deal pages for specific stores in my area. I had to sign in to an account to view those, but setting one up was free and took only a few seconds.

The links for Aldi and Stop & Shop did nothing but display my local stores’ sale flyers. But the page for ShopRite was much better. It presented a list of products with columns for the sale price, how many I’d have to buy, available coupons and rebates, final price, and percentage saved.

The column showing the available manufacturer coupons used a somewhat confusing shorthand. The site provided a key for some of the abbreviations, such as “S” for SmartSource and “RP” for Red Plum, but it didn’t explain others, such as “SV.” On the plus side, CouponMom.com provided direct links to all the printable online coupons it found, which was handy.

I was then able to sort the list using a keyword box at the top. I entered each of the products from my shopping list in turn to see available deals. That part was easy, but it didn’t make up for the inconvenience of only being able to view actual deals for one store.

Ease-of-Use Score: 2 out of 5

Accuracy

When I checked the sale prices CouponMom.com listed against the store circulars, they were mostly correct. But one of the four wasn’t in the flyer. The only way to check its accuracy would be to make a trip to the store, an extra step coupon matchup sites are supposed to help you avoid.

As for the accuracy of the coupons themselves, there was only one to check. It was right in the SmartSource flyer where CouponMom.com said it would be, but getting a single coupon right isn’t much of a test. So this site loses one point on accuracy for giving me so little to work with.

Accuracy Score: 4 out of 5

Value

CouponMom.com could only find deals on one of my five test products (cereal) and only at one store. Moreover, one of the four deals it found wasn’t a stacking deal, just a sale price I could have found on my own by leafing through the store flyer. Two of the others were Ibotta deals, leaving only one that was useful.

That deal was $3.89 each for two family-size (16.9- to 19.1-ounce) boxes of Kellogg’s Special K cereal. Combined with a printable coupon for $1 off two, that yields a purchase price of $3.36. That works out to a unit price between $0.18 and $0.20 per ounce, much more than I typically pay by shopping sales and buying store brands.

To me, that doesn’t look much like extreme couponing. At best, it’s mild to moderate couponing.

Value Score: 1 out of 5

Overall Score: 2.3 out of 5


2. GrocerySmarts.com

Like CouponMom.com, GrocerySmarts.com has two primary features: printable coupons and searchable deals. For some reason, it sorts its coupons into four groups, with different brands in each group. Fortunately, the site helps by providing a list of the latest coupons from the past 10 days or so and telling you where to click to find each one.

Ease of Use

Searching for deals at GrocerySmarts.com was pretty simple. First, I clicked on the drop-down menu at the top of the page and asked to see deals in New Jersey. The site then displayed a second drop-down menu with a list of stores to choose from.

Unfortunately, this list didn’t include any of the supermarkets where I usually shop. The only stores on the list were CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart. Also, I had to view deals from each of these stores separately rather than looking at them all on one page. That cost the site 1 point on its ease-of-use rating.

On each store’s page, I used the search feature on my browser to look for the merchandise on my list. But I ran into a snag. It lists some cereals, such as Cheerios, by brand name only and doesn’t include the word “cereal.” I had to scan the whole list to ensure I was seeing all the cereal deals.

GrocerySmarts.com presents its deals for each store in one long list. There’s one column for the product, one for the sale price, one for the applicable coupon (if any), and one for the final price. Instead of showing the savings percentage, GrocerySmarts.com simply rates each deal as 3 stars, 4 stars, extreme, or free.

The list also tells you where to find the coupons you need for a given deal. If there’s a printable coupon, the site includes a link to it. It also shows which goods qualify for Ibotta deals and provides links to those.

If the coupon is in a newspaper insert, the site identifies the insert with an abbreviation similar to the ones used on CouponMom.com and the date. If there’s more than one available coupon for the same product, the site lists it multiple times.

To use the site to create a shopping list for a given store, click the Start button at the top of the page. Click to highlight the specific deals you want, then click on Shrink to hide all the lines you didn’t select. You can click the star at the top to quickly highlight all extreme and free deals. There’s also a field at the bottom to jot notes on your shopping list before printing it.

Ease-of-Use Score: 4 out of 5

Accuracy

Like CouponMom.com, GrocerySmarts.com couldn’t find deals on anything but cereal, and most of them were Ibotta rebates. The only deal that I could use was at CVS. It relied on a SmartSource coupon for $1.25 off three boxes of Life, Cap’n Crunch, or Quaker Oatmeal Squares. This coupon was correctly labeled and identified.

But the site’s description of the sale wasn’t quite accurate. It said the only brand on sale at CVS was Cap’n Crunch at $1.99 a box. But when I checked the CVS sale flyer, I found it applied to Life and Quaker Oatmeal Squares as well.

If I’d simply relied on GrocerySmarts.com for my info, I might have rejected this deal altogether since Cap’n Crunch isn’t a cereal we like.

So even though the sale price, coupon, and math were all accurate, this site loses a point for its inaccurate description. And it loses a second point for giving me so little to go on in the first place.

Accuracy Score: 3 out of 5

Value

I docked GrocerySmarts.com 3 points for value because it could only find deals on one of the five products on my list. Also, because it searches so few stores, the deals it did find weren’t at the stores where I usually shop.

The final cereal price it found was $1.57 per box for three 12.5- to 14-ounce boxes. That works out to between $0.11 and $0.13 per ounce. It’s a better price than CouponMom.com’s but no better than the usual price for the store brand. That cost the site one more point on value, resulting in a weak final score.

Value Score: 1 out of 5

Overall Score: 2.7 out of 5


3. The Krazy Coupon Lady

When you visit The Krazy Coupon Lady (KCL), you see updates on the latest hot deals at all kinds of stores. In addition to supermarkets and drugstores, this site covers department stores, restaurants, specialty stores, and even online deals at Amazon.

KCL provides lots of details about these featured deals, including photos and a couple of paragraphs of text. From the main page, you can also link to coupons and deals sorted by brand or store. Under “Couponing Resources” at the bottom, there are general guides to couponing and guides for specific stores.

Ease of Use

The primary way to search for deals on KCL is by store. You select a specific store from the main page, then click on the weekly coupon deals box (the first available box on the page under the app banner) to see a list of the latest deals from that store. You can then use your browser’s page search feature (control or command plus F) to look for individual products you want.

But weekly deals aren’t available for all stores. For instance, when I clicked on Stop & Shop, the last update was over two months old. The page for Trader Joe’s simply said, “There are currently no active deals.” (Since then, both these stores have disappeared from the site entirely.) And the page for Rite Aid showed one recent deal but no weekly list. I docked the site one point for this.

The weekly deals list includes details about each offer. It shows the sale price and provides links to printable coupons, downloadable store coupons, and Ibotta deals. A few of its deals also include manufacturer coupons from SmartSource, which are marked with the abbreviation “SS.” I couldn’t find any deals using coupons from Red Plum.

The site includes check boxes next to each listed item. You can click these boxes to add a product to your shopping list, but it’s not immediately obvious where that list is stored. I eventually found out you have to click your profile picture in the top right corner to access it.

But there’s a notification on the site saying this feature will soon be available only in the KCL app. That takes a lot of the functionality out of the website, costing it one more point.

Ease-of-Use Score: 3 out of 5

Accuracy

After checking KCL’s pages for all my local stores, I couldn’t find a single deal on any of the products on my grocery list. So to test the site’s accuracy, I simply searched for the “SS” abbreviation and checked the coupons it listed against my SmartSource insert.

Some of the coupons KCL identified were real. It correctly located manufacturer coupons for Eggland’s Best eggs in the May 2 insert and Nivea lotion in the May 16 insert. But it also cited two other coupons in the May 16 insert that I couldn’t find.

In short, KCL got only two out of four manufacturer coupons right, for an accuracy rate of just 50%. But when I checked some of its links to digital store coupons on the ShopRite site, they were all accurate. That bumped its score up from 2.5 points to 3.

Accuracy Score: 3 out of 5

Value

This one was an easy call. KCL didn’t find me a single deal I could use — not even those other sites identified. That makes it a dead loss as far as value is concerned, so it earned no points.

Value Score: 0 out of 5

Overall Score: 2 out of 5


4. Living Rich With Coupons

Like KCL, Living Rich With Coupons (LRWC) displays a long list of recent deals on its main page. It includes offers from a wide variety of stores, including supermarkets, department stores, and online retailers. There are links at the top of the page for categories including coupons, online deals, and stores.

Ease of Use

This site allows you to search for deals in several ways. If you click the Filter by State drop-down on the landing page and select the name of your state, LRWC filters its long list of deals to include only those available in your area. But this option is only available for nine states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

Alternatively, you can also click on Stores in the main navigation and select a store to see a list of that store’s weekly sale prices, including coupons you can stack with them. The site has deals for national big-box stores Target and Walmart, warehouse stores Costco and BJ’s, dollar stores, drugstores, and regional grocery chains like ShopRite and Kroger.

To find deals on a specific product, such as cereal, you can click on the site’s Grocery Price Comparison Tool and enter the product name in the search box. The site pulls up a list of all the stores that have deals on that item, and you click on the names of the stores you want to search.

LRWC then presents you with a list of all the stacking deals on that product sorted by the stores you selected. For every sale, it includes a lengthy list of all possible coupons that could stack with it. The site provides direct links to printable online coupons. For coupons inserts, it lists the flyer, the date, and the coupon’s expiration date, a handy feature most coupon sites don’t have.

But I noticed one odd quirk in LRWC’s list. It didn’t provide the actual sale prices for every store in its list. For instance, it said CVS had a BOGO (buy-one, get-one-free) deal on raisin bran, but it didn’t say what the regular price was.

Even when it did list the sale price, LRWC didn’t always crunch the numbers to tell you what the purchase price was after stacking the sale with a coupon. These problems cost the site 1 point for ease of use.

When you click an item in the Grocery Price Comparison Tool, the site adds it to your saved shopping list, shown on the right side of the screen. Clicking the print or email icon pulls the list up in a separate window. For each deal on the list, LRWC shows the store, the product, the sale price, how many you must buy to get that price, and all possible coupons to pair with the sale.

You can edit the list before printing or emailing it to yourself. You can remove items you don’t want to see, such as coupons you don’t intend to use, or change the quantity of a product you want to buy. You can also manually add goods you didn’t find deals on, with or without custom notes.

Ease-of-Use Score: 4 out of 5

Accuracy

LRWC found deals for all five of the products on my shopping list. Its best cereal deal was from Stop & Shop: Kellogg’s cereals for $1.50 per box, which could stack with any of nine different coupons.

However, there was a problem with the deal. According to the Stop & Shop sale flyer, the price was only good for three days, Friday through Sunday. By the time I ran my test, it had already expired. LRWC neglected to mention that detail, costing it one point for accuracy.

LWRC also listed sales on Kellogg’s cereal at several other stores. But for some reason, it didn’t match them with the same list of coupons it had found for Stop & Shop, even though they would clearly work. This oversight cost it one more point.

In a few cases, LWRC found deals I couldn’t verify. Some were allegedly “unadvertised” sales, so I had no way of checking them without going to the store. I didn’t add or take off points for these.

However, other deals were clearly wrong. For instance, LWRC claimed ShopRite was selling Campbell’s Slow Kettle Soups for $1.99, but that price was not in the sale flyer. That could have been the regular price, but LWRC also paired it with a digital store coupon I couldn’t find on the store site. That cost it another point.

All the other sale prices LRWC found seemed to be accurate. But while checking them, I noticed there were other deals it missed. For instance, it said I could buy Florida’s Natural orange juice for $2.99 at ShopRite, then add a coupon for $0.98 off two to bring the price down to $2.50. But it didn’t notice the same store had larger cartons of Minute Maid OJ for just $1.88.

Also, in some cases, LRWC’s math was wrong. For instance, it said a sale of $1.88 per box on Quaker cereals paired with a coupon for $1.25 off three boxes would yield a purchase price “as low as $1.55 each.” In fact, the purchase price with this coupon is $1.46 per box. I knocked off one more point for this.

As for the coupons, all the printable ones I checked seemed to work. The one coupon that came from SmartSource was also accurate. A few were from a flyer labeled only as “Save,” an abbreviation I couldn’t identify, so I don’t know whether these coupons were accurate or not.

Accuracy Score: 1 out of 5

Value

Of all the sites I tested, LRWC was the only one to find deals for all the items on my list. Unfortunately, not all the deals it found were legit, and it missed some that were.

For instance, if LRWC had paired the $1.88-per-box sale on cereal at Walgreens with the $1-off-two coupon it found at Stop & Shop, it could have given me a purchase price of $1.38 per box. Since the sale covered boxes up to 13.7 ounces, that would have come to a great price of around $0.10 per ounce. But LRWC missed that deal, so it gets no credit for it.

The prices it actually found were:

  • Cereal: $1.46 per 11.5- to 14.5-ounce box ($0.10 to $0.13 per ounce)
  • Orange Juice: $2.50 per 52-ounce carton ($0.05 per ounce); missed a better deal of $1.88 for 59 ounces ($0.03 per ounce)
  • Oxygen Bleach: $4.99 for a 48-ounce container ($0.10 per ounce)

Out of the five sites I tested, LWRC found me the best price on cereal. Its price for oxygen bleach is also pretty good. However, its OJ deal is lackluster, and it missed a better one I could have found just by checking the sale flyer.

Value Score: 3 out of 5

Overall Score: 2.7 out of 5


Final Word

Of the four sites tested, GrocerySmarts.com and Living Rich With Coupons tied for the best overall score. Both were easy to use, but GrocerySmarts.com was more accurate, while LWRC found better deals overall.

But neither of these sites was the perfect coupon-stacking resource I was hoping to find. In most cases, the stacking deals they uncovered were no better than the prices I usually get on my own without coupons.

Of course, what works for me isn’t necessarily what will work for you. If your local stores have better sales than mine or if you regularly buy more products you can find coupons for, these coupon sites could save you some significant money. Just double-check all the deals you find to make sure they’re legit.

Speaking for myself, I think I’ll stick to other methods for saving money on groceries. Between my grocery price book, store loyalty cards, and buying store brands (especially at discount stores like Aldi), I think I can find prices good enough to give the extreme couponers a run for their money.

Source: moneycrashers.com

5 Reasons to Claim Social Security ASAP

Happy senior couple
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Many people believe that claiming Social Security benefits as early as possible — which generally is age 62 — is inherently bad, since claiming before your full retirement age means smaller monthly payments.

However, the reality is that everyone’s circumstances are different. For some retirees, it makes sense to start claiming benefits as soon as possible.

Following are several situations in which you should not put off claiming your Social Security retirement benefits.

1. You have a short life expectancy

The amount of your monthly Social Security retirement benefit payment is based on a formula that’s meant to be actuarially neutral. That basically means you should receive the same total amount of benefits over your lifetime regardless of the age at which you start claiming them.

In other words, if you claim earlier than your full retirement age as determined by the Social Security Administration, you will receive smaller monthly payments over a longer period of time. If you delay claiming until you’re older, you’ll be getting larger payments over what is likely to be a shorter period of time.

If you expect to have a short life expectancy, it might make more sense to start taking the smaller monthly benefit as soon as you can.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson details one such situation in “2-Minute Money Manager: Should I Wait to Take Social Security?” He writes:

“A few years ago, one of my best friends asked if he should take his pension early, and I said, ‘Hell, yes.’ Why? Because he wasn’t in great shape, health-wise. Both of his parents died young, his siblings died young, and he really needed the money. So, my advice to him was, ‘Take it as soon as you can get it.’ He died one year later.”

2. You need the money

You also might need the money immediately to stay on top of your living expenses.

“You’d be surprised at the number of people who end up retiring before they want to,” says Devin Carroll, founder of the blog Social Security Intelligence. “There are lots of reasons — including being laid off or dealing with health issues — that you have to stop working.”

However, remember that the age at which you claim determines the size of your monthly benefit going forward. In other words, the longer you can postpone claiming, the bigger the benefit you’ll get each month after you do claim.

So, if that sounds good to you, first explore other ways that you could bring in extra income, enabling you to postpone claiming. For example, check out articles like “21 Ways Retirees Can Bring in Extra Money in 2021.”

3. You’ve got kids at home

“Increasingly, people are reaching age 62 and still have minor children at home,” notes Carroll.

When that’s the case, claiming your Social Security benefits early makes sense in that it generally enables you to apply for additional benefits to help you care for minor children. That’s because you must apply for your retirement benefits before you can apply for benefits related to dependents.

4. A higher-earning spouse has health problems

It’s kind of morbid, but when deciding whether to start taking Social Security benefits at age 62, you also need to think about when your spouse might die — and how much he or she makes in comparison with you.

One situation to consider is when the higher-earning spouse has medical problems, says Carroll.

That’s because, after a spouse dies, you may become eligible for survivor benefits (also called widow’s or widower’s benefits) based on the spouse’s Social Security. And if your spouse has a short life expectancy, and you know your survivor benefits would be more than your own full retirement benefit, there may be no reason for you to wait for your full retirement benefit.

To learn more about this subject, check out “Social Security Q&A: How Do Spousal Benefits Work?”

5. A lower-earning spouse is older than you

Maybe your spouse earned much less than you during your working years.

“Their own benefit is going to be lower than yours,” says Carroll. “In fact, their benefit might even be lower than the spousal benefit they’d receive based on your earnings.”

However, as with benefits issued based on your own work history, your partner can only claim a spousal benefit based on your work history after you file for your own retirement benefits.

Add up the cumulative benefits, suggests Carroll. You might discover that your total monthly income is better when you file for your benefit early and your older spouse elects to take the spousal benefit.

A final word: Work with an expert

Before making decisions, though, be sure to work out the math and compare your options. Social Security rules are complex and situations vary.

Also, consider reviewing your situation with a Social Security Administration representative or a knowledgeable retirement planning professional.

At the least, you could obtain a custom analysis of your claiming options from a specialized company like Social Security Choices.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

How to Find Felon-Friendly Apartments After Getting Out of Jail

Yes, you can rent an apartment as a felon — just do your research.

Do you have a felony on your record and happen to need a new place to rent? Well, it may seem daunting to try and find a place that won’t require a background check but it is possible to find felon-friendly apartments.

No background check apartments are rarer but they do exist and are a great option for renters with a not-so-appealing stain on their background. Let’s dive into how to find felon-friendly apartments if you have a record.

Can I rent an apartment if I have a felony record?

Apartment for rent sign.

The short answer is yes, you can rent an apartment with a felony record. However, renting an apartment with a felony record is tricky because almost every landlord or apartment complex runs background checks on future tenants.

They’ll often check everything from your credit score to your criminal history, so it’s best to share with the landlord that you have a felony — it will definitely show up. Unfortunately, landlords can reject your application on the spot if they see a felony.

While some may do this, there are some landlords that will look past it.

How to find apartments that accept felons

Starting the search for apartments that accept felons is overwhelming. It’s difficult to know where to look, what to put on your application, what to leave out of your application and how much to disclose.

The best thing to do is to educate yourself and know where to start looking and how to best prepare for the application process. Here are four tips for finding felon friendly apartments:

1. Search for no background check apartments

Criminal background check.

A great place to start is by searching for apartments that don’t run a background check. While many apartments include a background check as part of the standard application process, not all do. This is great news for you as you’ll be able to apply for the rental without having to worry about your felony appearing on the background check portion of the application process.

You can also take the time to search for “second chance rentals.” Here, you’ll be able to find listings that don’t typically ask for background checks and are often felon-friendly apartments. Everyone needs a place to live and there are landlords who are willing to give felons that second chance they need to get back on their feet, find stable housing and have a place to call home.

2. Find an individual landlord

Another way to go about finding apartments that have no background check is to search for individual landlords or private renters as opposed to apartment complexes.

By having an individual landlord, you’ll be able to take the time to discuss your situation one-on-one. Be honest and upfront about your background check. By doing this, they may look past your felony as they get to know you personally and not purely based on your background check.

A realtor is also a good way to find places to rent. They have different resources and may already know where to look for you. Using a realtor may cost money compared to looking on your own, but, you’ll likely be able to find a place to rent more quickly and get settled into a new home right away.

3. Use local and national resources

There are many local and national resources that help those who have felonies get housing. Start by looking into your local non-profits and see if there are any programs that help people with felonies get back on their feet.

A great place to get help is with The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development aka HUD. They offer low-income housing to those in need and also have a list specifically for felon-friendly apartments.

Another place to seek help is with The Lion Heart Foundation. Their goal is to help give people the tools to restart their lives. On their website, they have a list of felon-friendly apartments in every state. Again, by starting your search with places that’ll work for you right away, you’ll save time and stress in the house-hunting process.

4. Be prepared for a more challenging application process

Handshaking over a contract.

Being prepared for the application process is crucial in finding apartments that accept felons. Here are some ways you can better prepare yourself:

  • Write a letter: Handwritten letters are personal and convey a sense of caring. Take the time to write the landlord your story. This way they can start to feel a personal connection. Also, telling your story about your felony and how you’ve changed might make it so they don’t reject your application right off the bat.
  • Have a character witness: Landlords want to make sure they’re renting to good tenants who pay on time and don’t cause trouble. Having someone else vouch for you and your good character is very helpful in convincing a landlord to rent to you.
  • Offer to pay more: Whether it’s a higher security deposit or maybe two months’ rent upfront, paying more might help you to rent an apartment. This also shows that you are serious about renting and can pay on time.

Finding a home

While finding a felon-friendly apartment is difficult, it’s not impossible. There are several different resources and tools to use when searching for a new home.

Having the knowledge of where to start and who to ask for help is the best place to start. By knowing what you’re getting into, the experience will be less stressful and daunting. Like anything, it might seem overwhelming but you can do it!

Source: rent.com

7 Signs You are Living Beyond Your Means

When you’ve lived paycheck to paycheck, scrounging up enough money for an emergency fund can feel like a revelation. All of a sudden you’re not living with a dark cloud over your head and setbacks start to seem more manageable. You feel more in control of your life and your finances.

But you can take that even further. Saving for emergencies is just the first step in developing a strong, stable plan for the future. Once you have the foundation laid, it’s time to start deciding just what kind of future you’re trying to build.

That future starts with savings goals. Here are a few examples of how to start saving beyond your emergency fund.

Car Repair Fund

About 18 months ago, my husband and I were driving up for a ski weekend in the Colorado mountains. We were meeting his cousin and wife for a long weekend of winter sports, beer and food. At least, that was the plan.

On the way there our car started making a funny noise. Eventually, that funny noise turned into a persistent whine, and before we knew it the engine was smoking and we were stranded on the side of the road. We had the car towed back to a mechanic, who informed us that it would cost several thousand dollars to repair the damage.

I hadn’t really planned for this. The car had less than 200,000 miles and seemed in good shape. We’d followed the maintenance schedule religiously and had no reason to worry. Luckily, the incident happened just a few days before we received a huge tax refund, so we took the money and bought another car. I learned a valuable lesson that day: always save for a car repair fund.

Since then, I set up an auto draft to a separate savings account solely for car repairs. I picked $75 a month as a starting point but might increase it to $100 in the near future.

I’ve also started a car replacement fund, so I’m prepared for the next time my husband and I need to buy a new car. That account gets $100 every month, and any leftover money I find at the end of the year.

Vacation Fund

Erin Lowry of “Broke Millennial” wrote in a recent post about how she has a separate vacation fund set aside so she can travel more spontaneously. She has at least $3,000 in her vacation fund, so she’s prepared when her girlfriends want to take an impromptu trip or she finds an amazing flight deal to Germany.

If travel is an important part of your life – or you’d like it to be – consider starting a vacation fund. Even if it’s just a long weekend at the family cabin or a short road trip to a neighboring state, giving yourself the option to escape at any time can make the daily grind a little more bearable.

Don’t feel pressured to save aggressively if you don’t want to. Even $300 a month will add up to $3,600 a year, enough for a two-week European stay or a handful of smaller domestic trips. If you keep saving for multiple years, you could end up with enough for a months-long sabbatical.

Personal Goals

When people talk about their greatest financial regrets, they usually reminisce about the investment deal they didn’t take or the house they never bought. For me, it’s the Spice Girls concert I didn’t go to.

The group came to Chicago while I was in college, and a few people from my dorm were carpooling to the concert. They had an extra ticket, which cost $100. I had the money in my bank account, but chose to be “responsible” and stay home. I’ve regretted it ever since.

About a year ago, there were rumors that the Spice Girls were planning to reunite and go on a limited international tour. I live about three hours from Chicago, and I figured the Windy City would definitely be a stop on the tour.

A couple weeks later I got a birthday check from my grandma, which I promptly deposited into a separate Spice Girls savings account. Rumors of a tour have since dissipated, but I still have hope that one day the girls will be reunited. Until then, I’ll be keeping $200 in that account.

It might seem insane to have a whole savings account for one concert that may never happen, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind. If I ever get the opportunity to fulfill this dream, I won’t have to sacrifice a thing. I’ll just pluck the money from my account, close it down and go have the time of my life.

If there’s something you desperately want to do someday, like attend the Super Bowl or run the Boston Marathon, it’s not a bad idea to have the money stashed away for that purpose. If the goal never comes to fruition or you’re not able to get tickets, you can always use it for something else.

Medical Expenses

One of the best ways to save money outside of an emergency fund is in a health savings account (HSA). HSA contributions are tax-deductible, can be withdrawn tax-free and earnings are also not taxed.

You can contribute up to $3,3450 for an individual or $6,900 for families. Once you have more than $2,000 in your HSA, you can start to invest the money like you would for a retirement account. HSAs are only available if you have a high-deductible insurance plan, but don’t have any income limitations.

If you aren’t eligible for a high-deductible plan or it’s just not a good fit, you can still save for medical expenses outside of an HSA. A good rule of thumb is to save as much as your out-of-pocket maximum since that should cover a year of catastrophic medical bills. You can keep this in the same savings account where you have your emergency fund or in a separate one.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or view of Intuit Inc, Mint or any affiliated organization. This blog post does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.
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Source: mint.intuit.com

25 Home Gym Decor Ideas for Your Apartment

Who needs a gym? Save some money with these apartment workout space ideas.

Working out in an apartment is tricky. While some complexes have shared fitness centers, you may not always want to leave the house to do your fitness routine. And on the other hand, trying to have some form of a gym inside your apartment is difficult and limiting when you’re renting. However, there are still plenty of home gym decor ideas that will make your workout space both beautiful and functional — even in an apartment.

Here are some ideas you can incorporate into your home gym decor.

1. Dual-function loft

home gym decor ideas

Photo source: Fitness Design Group

When you’ve got only one large space to work with rather than separate rooms, you may not want to dedicate it only to either a sitting room or a gym. Here, Fitness Design Group made sure there could be both by making a distinct separation between the function of each area.

2. Spin office

home gym decor ideas

Photo source: Love to Know

There’s no need to choose between having a home gym or an office — put them in the same space! You can even create a small separation between the two like Love to Know shares — placing a mat underneath your office area and a separate one for your workout area divides the room based on function.

3. Work(out) from home

working out from home.

Due to the recent pandemic, many people are working (and working out) from home. Working from home brings its own set of challenges, but avoiding the gym doesn’t need to become a hassle. A little side gym, connected to a home office, creates a seamless transition from work to workout at any point in the day, making your home office a functional place before, during and after work.

4. Bright and airy home gym

home gym decor ideas

Photo source: On Design Interiors

No matter the location or size of your home gym, there’s no reason for it to feel dark and dingy. These bright floors and light walls, brought to life by On Design Interiors, make this small space feel large and spacious. Not to mention how simple and chic the design is — it’s not over-the-top and creates a calming environment for exercising after a long, stressful day.

5. Mirrored weight room

home gym decor ideas

This simple, yet effective, basement setup shows just what you can do in a small space. This weight room isn’t very big, but a full wall of mirrors gives the illusion that it’s double the size. Even if you’re in a studio apartment, simply adding a large mirror on the wall near where you practice yoga or do a small-space workout routine will help it feel bigger.

6. Home office with modern wall designs

home gym decor ideas

Gyms don’t need to look boring, especially if it’s part of the place where you live. And it doesn’t take a lot to make your home gym look modern and appealing! Simple wall tiles or decals can quickly upgrade your gym without compromising its functionality. Even in a rental like an apartment, you can use peel-and-stick tiles and wall decor that can easily be removed without damaging the walls.

7. Jungle gym

home gym decor ideas

Photo source: Devon Grace Interiors

Adults aren’t the only ones that need to get their exercise in! Kids living in an apartment may feel a little limited at times without a full private yard to play in, so Devon Grace Interiors added a place for the kids to get their energy out.

The light-colored wood of the jungle gym doesn’t draw too much attention and keeps things muted, while still being a fun place for kids to play.

8. Sleek modern luxury home gym

home gym decor ideas

Making your home gym feel luxurious and modern is a simple matter of color and lighting. Adding a couple of backlit mirrors and incorporating metallics are what the Infinity Design Studio recommends.

9. Traditional CrossFit

home gym decor ideas

Photo source: DNLUD

This home gym by DNLUD is about as close as you can get to a typical CrossFit gym. For some, feeling like they’re at a gym rather than at home helps them get their minds into their workout. The mirrors are black gym mat flooring really gives it an out-of-home feeling.

10. Modern rustic home gym

home gym decor ideas

Photo source: Gambrick

Gambrick didn’t want to detract too much from the natural landscape and kept this in mind when they designed this gym for a modern rustic cabin-stile home in the mountains of Colorado. The deep oranges give just enough color while maintaining the integrity of the outdoors—no matter where you live, your apartment doesn’t have to feel separated from its surroundings.

11. DIY basement upgrade

home gym decor ideas

There are easy ways that anyone can upgrade their basement into a functioning gym. A little peel-and-stick wallpaper, mirrors and foam puzzle flooring turned a dark basement into a bright little workout space that can easily be removed if needed.

12. Spare bedroom fitness renovation

home gym decor ideas

An extra bedroom is already a luxury that not everyone has and instead of turning it into a seldom-used guest room, put it to better use. Light flooring and white walls with natural wood hanging hooks to keep equipment off the floor keep this room looking chic and clean—great for when you’re in a small apartment with not much room to spare.

13. Disguised cycle home gym

home gym decor ideas

You may only need one piece of equipment to get a full-body workout in. A stationary bike is perfect for requiring only a small corner—and that corner might be right in your kitchen! One Instagrammer disguised her bike in her kitchen area by placing a pretty painting and plants around it to blend it into the area.

14. Space-saving yoga grid

home gym decor ideas

When you don’t have room for a full yoga studio, a wall might be all you have. Higashi Fushimi recommends that it’s time to make your storage grid look good—like it’s an intentional part of your apartment’s design, with blended metal rods that both look good and function like any other storage.

15. Vertical storage in your home gym

home gym decor ideas

Choosing equipment and storage racks that work vertically rather than horizontally can keep your gym equipment from taking up too much space in your apartment. Lela of Organized-ish utilizes pegboards for small equipment storage and choose a multi-function vertical workout setup that only takes up a few feet of space in the corner.

16. Aesthetically-pleasing home gym equipment

home gym decor ideas

No need for your gym equipment existing as an eyesore. In fact, it is a beautiful addition to the main area of your apartment. See how Sunny Circle Studio chose wooden multi-use wall bars to provide function and design for a high-end vibe.

17. Upgraded garage

home gym decor ideas

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a garage, you can turn it into a chic and stylish workout room. Celebrity trainer Erin Oprea has even done it herself — add some peel-and-stick wallpaper and affordable vinyl flooring that mimics wood, and you’ve pretty much given yourself a whole new space!

18. Dual-function, hidden equipment home gym

home gym decor ideas

A coffee table that converts into a bench press, a lamp that doubles as a dumbbell and even a foam roller vase that looks and works both like exercise equipment and living room items. Swedish storage company 24Storage invented pieces of workout equipment that aren’t stored in the traditional manner — they’re functioning pieces of your living room! See what fits best in your living room.

19. Balcony home gym

home gym decor ideas

Get some fresh air by exercising on your balcony. Put your bike, treadmill or other machines outside so it doesn’t take up your indoor space. See how Merrick’s Art did with their balcony.

20. Home yoga studio

home gym decor ideas

Turn any open floor space into a yoga area. Keep storage baskets, like Manduka suggests, for your mat and other equipment nearby so when it’s not in use, you can keep your items out of the way.

21. Funky and fun home gym

home gym decor ideas

Don’t just hide your home gym — turn it into the main attraction! Decorilla emphasizes that having fun patterns and colors can both give you energy and help you relax — which is what your workout space should do.

22. Black on black home gym

home gym decor ideas

Having an all-black gym may not feel as light and airy as one with brighter colors, but it can change your mood when you workout. It may help you get more serious, which is beneficial when you’re doing a heavyweight routine or really want to push your limits — which is why Vogue highlights it in a luxury spread.

23. Walking desk as a home gym

home gym decor ideas

Make your work time (and space) the same as your workout! MyMove shows that a treadmill or stationary bike that allows you to use your computer at the same time will save you both time and space as a home workout alternative.

24. Bright home gym yoga space

home gym decor ideas

Use bright colors and neutrals for a calming yoga session. Stick with natural tones and materials, as LDA Architecture & Interiors recommends, and you’ll be feeling calm and serene every time you practice.

25. Neon home gym

home gym decor ideas

Give your workout space an edge with neon lighting. You can either do it all around the room and frame certain pieces, such as mirrors, with neon lights. Or you can add a motivational quote in the form of a neon sign to keep yourself going!

Functional and tasteful

Your home gym doesn’t have to look run-down or ugly. And you don’t need to get rid of it altogether, either! Using these home gym decor ideas, you can create a space that’s both beautiful and functional.

Source: rent.com

Renters Rights Privileges You Can Expect as a Tenant

Renting an apartment, condo or even a house entitles you to certain rights. While some specifics will vary by state, there are key rules in place that govern everything from your living space to the property manager’s responsibilities.

Combined into a series of federal, state and local laws, your specific renter’s rights get dictated by where you live. They’re in place to prevent things like housing discrimination and rent gouging. These basic rights ensure you have a safe, clean place to live as well as detailed courses of action when things are going wrong.

Landlord-tenant law helps you live peacefully in your rental. Do you know your tenant’s rights?

Fair housing

renters rights

Before even taking a tour of a potential apartment, it’s your right to have fair access to housing. This means your rental application will not get rejected based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Family status
  • Mental or physical disabilities

Your renter’s rights in this case receive protection at the federal level by the Fair Housing Act. State and local laws may reinforce the Fair Housing Act and even add more categories to this list to ensure everyone has equal access to apply for housing.

Not only can your rental application not get refused based on these factors, but, if you have a disability, landlord-tenant law requires they make reasonable accommodations for you to access the apartment. This could mean installing ramps or making a unit on a lower floor available.

Legal documentation

renters rights

Another piece to your renter’s rights is the lease. It’s the responsibility of the property manager to give you a legal rental contract to sign that abides by all laws.

In addition to specifics about the property, and breakdowns for processes like requesting repairs, using common areas and more, a lease must clearly indicate the leasing period and your monthly rent. It should also have your name, and any roommates, on the document.

The lease should also include a series of general disclosures. The law requires these, although it varies by state which specific ones must get listed. A few common disclosures you may see in your lease if they’re applicable to the rental unit, include:

  • Notice of mold
  • Lead-based paint disclosure
  • Notice of sex offenders, recent deaths and any potential health or safety hazards

Living space

renters rights

A variety of rules govern your living space when you’re a renter. This ensures you have somewhere to live that’s actually livable. Tenants’ rights, when it comes to your actual apartment get pretty involved, so make sure you know the highlights.

Habitable housing

It’s not enough for a property manager to provide you with an apartment; the apartment must be safe for you to live in it. This means more than a lack of dangerous conditions. Your renter’s rights entitle you to a home with usable utilities, including heat, electricity and water.

This area of your renter’s rights also means you have a home that’s safe and livable in other ways. Specifics within these guidelines require an apartment to have functioning locks on doors and windows, smoke detectors and a dedicated way to escape in case of fire.

Repairs

This area of landlord-tenant law requires action on both sides. To ensure you have a habitable home, it’s up to you to report any maintenance issues using the process that’s outlined in your lease. Find out the best way to report issues like this to your landlord (such as through email or an online portal).

On the management side, their responsibility is to complete repairs in a timely manner. Your lease will define what this means, but different repairs rank higher in priority. For example, failure to repair a heater in winter can quickly lead to an uninhabitable living space for safety reasons, whereas a garbage broken disposal doesn’t create that serious of an impact.

If your property manager fails to make repairs in a timely manner, you have additional rights. Check with state and local laws about what’s within your rights.

Privacy

Although you’re only renting a home, and someone else owns it, your rights as a tenant mean a certain level of privacy. Once your rental agreement is in place, a property manager cannot come into your home without proper notice.

Notice is also required for more than just repairs. If you’re getting ready to move, and the property manager wants to start showing your unit to prospective tenants, for example, they must give you notice each time.

Security deposit refund

renters rights

Each state usually handles security deposits differently as far as how much you’re required to put down. It’s normal for you to pay a security deposit though since that protects the property manager from having to pay out-of-pocket for any damages you may cause while living in your rental.

As far a payment goes, some states set caps on how much a property manager can ask for. They also can’t impose a higher deposit for your rental, when compared to other units in the building, without a specific reason, like having a pet.

It’s also within your renter’s rights to get the security deposit back, in a timely manner, if it’s not covering any damages. Most state laws set the time frame at 30 days, and you’ll not only receive your security deposit back but any interest that accrued as well.

If any of your deposit is withheld, you can ask for written documentation of the damages it’s paying for, and the property manager must comply.

Eviction

renters rights

The situations where your property manager has the right to evict needs clear stating within your lease. Make sure to review them before you sign it.

Standard landlord-tenant law states that you can get evicted if you break your lease in specific ways, such as:

  • Failing to pay rent
  • Allowing prohibited animals to live with you
  • Having roommates that aren’t on your lease
  • Committing a crime on the premises

As a renter, your tenant rights enable you to address evictable issues within a specified time frame before an eviction can take place. You will receive notice of a pending eviction from your property manager. If you fail to fix the issue, they can then file an eviction with the courts resulting in legal removal from your rental.

State-specific renter’s rights

Although you’ll find many standard regulations associated with renting if you move between states, expect additional laws everywhere you go. Since renter’s rights get regulated on both the state and local level, if you’re relocating to a different part of the country — familiarize yourself with local tenant laws.

Some unique landlord-tenant laws include:

  • In Hawaii, security deposits with no deductions must get returned within 14 days
  • A property manager must give 48 hours notice before entering your apartment in Delaware
  • West Virginia has no minimum notice required for a rent increase on month-to-month rentals
  • In North Carolina, two month’s rent is the required minimum for a security deposit on a one-year lease
  • A lease can get terminated once rent is only five days late in Arkansas

As you can see, some states have pretty extreme rules. Being aware of them can help you maintain a positive relationship with your property manager while also protecting your own rights as a renter.

Know your renter’s rights

No matter how great, or rocky, your relationship is with a property manager, you should always follow the law as it pertains to your situation. This not only protects you, but it ensures your property manager gets held accountable when anything isn’t up to par.

Familiarize yourself with state and local landlord-tenant laws, read your lease thoroughly before signing and do your research when faced with a potential issue. Protect yourself by knowing your tenant’s rights.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.

Source: rent.com

11 Furniture Donation Pickup Methods

Furniture donations are a large source of income for many nonprofit organizations. With this in mind, donating furniture is a great way to get rid of clutter while giving back to the community.

Are you downsizing, moving or doing a major decor change in your home but don’t know what to do with your old furniture? Well, you’re in luck because many local nonprofit organizations make moving easy by offering free furniture donation pick up.

Donating furniture to your favorite charities is a chance to get rid of extra furniture and household items for free while giving back to your community. Here is how to get started in the process.

Where to donate furniture

When looking for furniture donation pickup, there can be so many options it’s hard to know where to start. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered with our detailed list summarizing nonprofit organizations, who your donation will help, items they accept and how to schedule your pickup.

The best part is that every organization in our guide is completely free of charge for their furniture removal services and your donations go to a great cause.

Steps for furniture donation pick up

1. Salvation Army

When people start thinking about donating furniture, The Salvation Army is usually one of the first places to come to mind. The Salvation Army is an international organization that operates in over 7,000 U.S. towns and cities and assists 23 million Americans annually.

Their services help provide disaster aid, support the LGBTQ+ community, fight food insecurity, combat addiction, assist those living in poverty and more. With the number of people Salvation Army helps each year, you can feel confident that you are doing good by donating to this organization.

  • Who your donation helps: Your items are either brought directly to those in need or sold at one of their Salvation Army stores. The proceeds from their stores are used to fund their Adult Rehabilitation Centers that provide housing, food, counseling, community and employment for individuals suffering from drug and alcohol dependency.
  • Items they accept: The Salvation Army will accept furniture, vehicles, clothing, household items, electronics, mattresses, books, exercise equipment and more.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: You can schedule an appointment for furniture pickup at The Salvation Army website or call 1-800-SA-TRUCK. Salvation Army pick-up hours can vary depending on your location, but they are typically 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. They make the transition even easier by allowing you to leave items outside your home for them to pick up without you even needing to be home.

2. Goodwill

Goodwill is an organization that supports communities through job training and employment services. They also provide support services, language training, education assistance, access to transportation and child care to help people in their communities achieve success.

In 2020, Goodwill served nearly 22 million individuals worldwide and provided career support to 126,000 people. Items brought to one of Goodwill’s stores are sold at a discounted price and the money raised goes to their various programs and initiatives.

  • Who your donation helps: Donation funds go to their job training or community-based programs. Some of their community-based programs include classes for people with disabilities, senior resources and helping convicts reclaim their lives after prison.
  • Items they accept: Goodwill accepts furniture, toys, electronics, clothing, media items, electronics, vehicles, exercise equipment, dishware and tools. Something to note is that Goodwill will accept boats, cars, campers and RVs even if they aren’t in working condition.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: Goodwill stores provide a donation center to give easy drop-off access for donations you’re able to bring in yourself. Most stores also offer a free pick-up service for larger furniture items, making it perfect for those who are downsizing. You can schedule your free Goodwill pickup online on their website locator, but keep in mind that store hours will vary based on their location.

3. Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit that provides safe and affordable housing to families in need. Their initiative also assists older adults to improve their homes, puts efforts towards neighborhood revitalization projects, provides shelter during natural disasters and teaches classes focused on financial education. This organization has been in operation since 1976 and works in all 50 U.S. states as well as 70 countries.

  • Who your donation helps: Habitat for Humanity sells donated furniture, building supplies and appliances at their resale store called ReStores. Proceeds from sales go to home restoring and building projects for families in need of affordable housing.
  • Items they accept: Habitat for Humanity will accept furniture, building materials, appliances, vehicles and farm equipment.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: To schedule a free furniture donation pick up with Habitat for Humanity, visit their website and enter your ZIP code to see which stores are near you. Next, you can contact your closest store directly to schedule your appointment.

Moving boxes in a new apartment

4. Green Drop

GreenDrop is a program on the East Coast that raises funds for popular charities by picking up used furniture, clothes and appliances to sell at thrift stores. Their proceeds go back to charities that help those in need. Some of the charities they support include the American Red Cross, Military Order of the Purple Heart and the National Federation of the Blind.

  • Who your donation helps: In 2018, GreenDrop raised $3.1 million for the charitable organizations listed above.
  • Items they accept: GreenDrop accepts various items, including furniture under 50 pounds, clothing, household items, electronics, tools and toys.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: Start by packing up all of your belongings in plastic boxes or bins. Next, decide if you want to make an in-person donation or if you can schedule a furniture pick-up online. After they receive a donation, they’ll provide you with a tax receipt.

5. The Arc

The Arc is the largest organization devoted to helping individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. It provides a wide variety of services, supports and advocacy for people with disabilities and their families. The organization has over 700 chapters and one of their key sources of fundraising comes from their thrift stores, which they stock with donated goods.

  • Who your donation helps: Their services vary based on each chapter and the unique needs of their community. Once your donation sells, it goes towards public policy advocacy, vocational programs, residential assistance, education services, financial planning and recreational activities for people with disabilities.
  • Items they accept: The Arc accepts furniture, clothing, electronics, toys, vehicles, books, decorations, kitchen items and more, depending on the chapter.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: You can also schedule via phone by calling The Arc at 1-800-283-2721. Another option is to head to their website to find your local chapter and schedule your pick-up.

Happy couple moving a couch into a new apartment after a furniture donation pick up

6. AMVETS

AMVETS is an organization that represents the interests of 20 million veterans across the United States. This group helps veterans obtain their entitled benefits. They also work to improve the quality of life for veterans, their families and the communities where they live through leadership, advocacy and services.

  • Who your donation helps: AMVETS supports U.S. veterans, those who have been honorably discharged and active duty servicemen and women. They will sell your furniture in one of their thrift stores to raise money for their cause.
  • Items they accept: AMVETS accepts small furniture, clothing, toys, bedding, games, bikes, electronics, lamps, curtains, exercise equipment and kitchenware. AMVET requires donations to be 5-years old or less but is also open to accepting other items that are not on their list.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: Send an email through the AMVET site or call to schedule a furniture donation pick-up between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. It’s important to check with this organization ahead of time to see if their services are available near you. AMVETS has branches across the United States, but only has free furniture pick up available in certain states.

7. Donation Town

This site is perfect for anyone feeling overwhelmed trying to find charities that provide furniture pickup in their community. Donation Town works with local charities all over the country to help put individuals in touch with nonprofits that will provide this service for free. Simply enter your ZIP code and they’ll give you a list of charities to choose from.

  • Who your donation helps: Your donation will help the charity of your choice. They currently have over 400 charities of all sizes in their directory and are adding more all the time.
  • Items they accept: Items they accept depend on each charity’s guidelines.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: Visit Donation Town’s website to plan your pick-up with your selected charity.

8. Furniture Banks

If you donate your items to Furniture Banks, then you’ll be playing an important part in helping vulnerable families get back on their feet. The furniture donation pick up organization encourages people to donate gently used furniture and transfer the items to those struggling financially to furnish their own homes. Furniture Banks operates in 36 states, so check their website to see if they are in your area.

  • Who your donation helps: The families served by this organization include the previously homeless, unemployed, victims of crime, battered women and children in retreat, immigrants, individuals with disabilities and victims of natural disasters.
  • Items they accept: Furniture Banks accepts good condition furniture of all sizes. They also provide a towing service to pick up cars and recreational vehicles.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: To schedule a pick-up with this organization simply schedule an appointment on the Furniture Banks website.

Two moving men bringing boxes to a moving truck for a furniture donation pick up

9. Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)

The Vietnam Veterans of America are working to change negative beliefs towards Vietnam veterans and provides individual assistance in a variety of ways. This includes creating outreach programs for veterans experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration and more. The VVA furniture removal program operates through a program called Pickup Please.

  • Who your donation helps: The Vietnam Veterans of America promote and support the full range of issues important to Vietnam veterans and work to change public perception of Vietnam veterans.
  • Items they accept: The Pickup Please program accepts small furniture items, sports equipment, toys, kitchenware, electronics and lightly used household goods. Pick Up Please says that they will pick up “almost anything” in good condition, but the piece of furniture must be light enough for one person to carry.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: VVA operates in most states and they make it super easy to schedule a donation pickup online. You can also get to VVA by way of their Pick Up Please site.

10. Out of the Closet thrift stores

The Out of the Closet thrift stores chain is owned and operated by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). This organization provides medical, preventive and educational resources for patients. AHF is the nation’s largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. The proceeds from Out of the Closet thrift stores directly benefit the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

  • Who your donation helps: Donations and financial contributions to this organization fund AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s HIV/AIDS programs, free HIV testing and housing programs.
  • Items they accept: Out of the Closet Thrift Stores accept furniture, kitchenware, electronics, musical instruments, tools, books, vehicles, artwork and home decor.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: You can schedule your pickup by filling out your address and items in a form on their website. Something to note is that you must have at least two furniture items for them to complete a free pick-up. You can also deliver any pieces of furniture to their local stores.

11. PickUpMyDonation.com

PickUpMyDonation.com is an organization that works with independent non-profit thrift stores in their communities. They’re focused on making large item donations simple by getting your furniture request to a local charity in minutes. Although they are not a charity themselves, they put you in touch with smaller charitable chapters that support the area you live in.

  • Who your donation helps: Your donation will support the charitable cause of the thrift store you are put in contact with.
  • Items they accept: PickUpMyDonation.com accepts large furniture, large appliances, vehicles, tools, recyclable materials, outdoor recreation items and artwork.
  • How to schedule a pick-up: To schedule a pick-up, visit pickupmydonation.com to make a furniture removal request and fill out a form describing the items you want to donate. Next, they’ll put you in contact with the closest thrift store, and if they’re interested in your furniture, they will schedule a furniture removal pickup.

moving boxes in empty room

Tips for furniture donation pick up

Donating your furniture is a great way to get rid of furniture you don’t use anymore while also helping your community. Follow these tips for a seamless furniture pickup experience.

  • Schedule your donation pick-up in advance: Many charities’ free donation pickup spots fill up quickly, so it’s important not to wait until the last minute to make an appointment. Schedule as far in advance as possible to ensure you get the date and time that works for you.
  • Research different organizations: Instead of just picking the first charity on the list, make sure to do some research to make sure their values and methods align with your own. All of the charities listed do great things for their communities, but each has its own way of making an impact.
  • Prepare your furniture: Each charity will have individual guidelines for how they want your furniture packaged and prepared for pickup. Leave furniture uncovered to be inspected but make sure it is cleaned and houseware is boxed correctly.
  • Write off your furniture donation: Did you know you can write off your furniture donation on your taxes? Simply ask the charity picking up your furniture for a tax receipt or paperwork to file and you’ll be saving money this upcoming tax season.
  • Coordinate with neighbors: While many nonprofits allow you to simply leave furniture outside your home for them to retrieve, others might require you to be there. If this is the case, then it’s best to coordinate with a neighbor or friend to stop by when they’re scheduled to arrive.

If you follow these tips, you should have an easy transition and donation pickup day. Also, make sure to always check to see if the organization of your choice has any additional requirements.

Declutter with furniture donation pick up services

Finding a new apartment has never been easier with Rent.com’s finder tool. Start your move off on the right foot by using a free furniture removal service to declutter your place and take care of any worries prior to moving into your new home.

Source: rent.com

The Best Cheap Shampoo for All Types of Hair

It doesn’t matter if you’ve got curly hair, oily hair, natural hair or color-treated hair. You want your hair to look fabulous and a good cheap shampoo can make that happen.

Yes, even drugstore shampoos can give you luxurious locks for less than $9 a bottle, way less. Watch for sales, especially buy-one-get-one free details, to maximize your savings on the best cheap shampoo. 

If $9 for a bottle of shampoo seems high consider how much use you’ll get out of it. If you are using the suggested amount, you could get 30 washes out of an 8-ounce bottle. That’s about 30 cents a wash. Not bad. 

Shampoo can be as super cheap as that bottle of Suave or VO5 that you’ll find in any Dollar Tree, but you’re not just after cheap for your beauty routine. You’re after quality shampoo for less that can keep you from being tempted by the uber-pricey stuff. we’re looking at you Olaplex at nearly $30 for 8.5 ounces. Think about how that much shampoo is per wash!

We spoke to dermatologists and hair experts for their best tips on identifying quality shampoo that’ll keep your locks clean and healthy, whether you’ve got frizzy hair, oily hair, color treated hair or straight hair. 

6 Best Cheap Shampoos to Try

  • 1. Pantene Fortifying Damage Repair Shampoo with Castor Oil
  • 2. Neutrogena Shampoo The Anti-residue shampoo
  • 3. Dove Daily Moisture Shampoo
  • 4. SheaMoisture Detangling Shampoo
  • 5. Hask Hemp Oil & Agave Moisturizing Shampoo
  • 6. Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Dandruff Shampoo
  • What Shampoo Is

    Shampoo consists of two basic components: water and surfactants, which is what’s responsible for the lathering and cleansing.

    Those two elements comprise between 50 to 80% of the contents, says Nikki Goddard, a certified hair stylist and shampoo expert from San Jose, California, and senior editor at The Right Hairstyles magazine. 

    The rest includes silicone, thickening agents, perfume, natural oils and extracts. 

    Why Some Shampoos Are So Expensive

    Both cheap and inexpensive products contain surfactants that remove oil and dirt almost equally well. So why are some of them so outrageously expensive, while others cost less than $5?

    Sometimes the higher prices are simply due to marketing, says Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist based in South Florida. 

    “Other times, I think it could be due to imported materials or products that may come with their own unique high costs,” she says.

    The shampoos may also have fragrances and conditioning agents to leave hair feeling soft and smelling good, says Vanessa Thomas, a cosmetic chemist, founder of Freelance Formulations. 

    And some professional product lines made for hair salons can include components and formulations that actually do improve the health of the hair and the scalp, says Goddard. For example, she says sulfate-free and all-natural products usually cost more, but she believes the higher price is justified.

    Shampoo Ingredients to Seek Out — and Ones to Avoid

    You can get a sense of which inexpensive shampoos will be of good quality by checking out the ingredient list. Look for these ingredients, all of which serve a purpose in keeping your hair clean and healthy: 

    • Moisturizing agents (glycerin, hyaluronic acid, lanolin)
    • Anti-sebum ingredients (ketoconazole, piroctone olamine, zinc)
    • Keratin
    • Collagen

    “Note that adding vitamins, fruit acids, antioxidants, SPF agents and less than 25 to 30% herbal extracts makes no point,” Goddard says “They won’t penetrate and nourish hair.”

    If you see superficially active substances (SAS) like magnesium laureth sulfate, decyl glucoside, lauryl glucoside along with those moisturizing agents, you can safely assume the shampoo will be an effective product.  

    Of course, you should also take your own specific needs into consideration. 

    Advice for Sensitive Skin

    Hair experts have plenty of advice for people who have skin issues and need to find the best shampoos. 

    If you have skin-related infections, like eczema or dandruff, you’ll want to look for shampoos that contain ketoconazole, selenium sulfide and/or pyrithione zinc, which are antifungal agents that can help treat itching, flaking and dry skin on your scalp, says Dawn Clemens, founder of Larwe Hair, which sells wigs and hair extensions. 

    On the other hand, try to avoid sulfates, paraffins, silicones and peroxides within haircare products, as they add frizz and can damage your hair, Chacon, the South Florida dermatologist, says.

    Make sure that a cheap shampoo does not include toxic SAS (which includes the majority of sulfates, cetrimonium chloride, lauramide DEA, and PEG-150 distearate), mineral oil, BHA and BHT, stylist and magazine editor Goddard says. 

    You should also try to avoid formaldehyde, triclosan, dimethicone, cocamide MEA and artificial perfume agents. These chemicals have come under scrutiny for a variety of reasons. For instance, the FDA banned triclosan for use in hand and body washes in 2016, while formaldehyde can pose a problem for people with sensitive skin.

    Should You Ever Opt for More Expensive Shampoo?

    Women who have specific hair concerns — and we don’t just mean dry ends or hard-to-control frizz — may need to opt for something a little pricier. Typically, a cheaper shampoo brand will sell products that aren’t necessarily geared toward a specific hair type, cosmetic chemist Thomas says. 

    If you have specific needs for your hair, here’s what you should look for when shopping for shampoo:

    • Dry, damaged hair: Avoid clarifying shampoo, which are clear shampoos focused on removing oil from the scalp. Instead, opt for shampoos and conditioners with moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and avocado oil. 
    • Fine hair: Avoid heavy moisturizing shampoos, especially those containing silicones, as they will weigh down the hair. Silicones are best for controlling frizz, as they coat the hair follicle, locking out moisture. 
    • Thick, coarse hair: Opt for a product containing oils and humectants in a creamy formula, and avoid volumizing shampoos, Thomas says. Black women typically wash their dryer and textured hair once per week or may co-wash, which is washing with only a conditioner. Dry, brittle hair that’s washed too often will become damaged. 

    6 of the Best Cheap Shampoos That Pass the Ingredient Test

    Here are six inexpensive shampoos that have the ingredients you want — and none of the ones you don’t.

    1. Pantene Fortifying Damage Repair Shampoo with Castor Oil

    Got some damage? This shampoo will strengthen your hair, thanks to the castor oil. ($8.69 at CVS)
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    2. Neutrogena Shampoo The Anti-Residue Shampoo

    Use this just once a week to remove up to 90% of residue caused by your products and other shampoos. It’s made for every hair type. If you go in the pool or in the ocean, this shampoo is a must, as a clarifying shampoo is essential for preventing salt and chlorine from damaging your hair. “The price is quite low due to a modest composition that includes only the most essential clarifying components,” says Monica Davis, a professional hairstylist and founder of the MyStraightener blog. ($6.99 at Neutrogena)

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    3. Dove Daily Moisture Shampoo

    It’s got glycerin to keep hair super moisturized and soft, and the scent is similar to a sweet hairspray that leaves a subtle scent behind. “The formula includes glycerin, which is both safe for the hair and scalp, and makes hair softer and smoother,” blogger Davis says. ($3.49 at Target)

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    4. SheaMoisture Detangling Shampoo

    If you need moisture and effective detangling, this shampoo is a universal solution, Davis says. Due to the natural softeners, such as cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil you can even use this to straighten your curls. “The natural components are actually cheap, and it’s not surprising that the price for this pretty bottle is that low,” Davis says. $8.50 at Walmart

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    5. Hask Hemp Oil & Agave Moisturizing Shampoo

    This is incredibly moisturizing (so much so, that if you have excess oil, this isn’t the shampoo for you). The smell is fresh and sweet, and this leaves you shiny with great slip. $3 at Ulta

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    6. Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Dandruff Shampoo

    Containing zinc pyrithione and all the ingredients needed to combat yeast causing dandruff (scalp itching), as well as the ingredients needed to keep your scalp clean, this contains all the essential for less than $10, says Purvisha Patel, a dermatologist in Memphis, and the founder of Visha Skincare. ($6.99 at Target)

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    The Penny Hoarder contributor Danielle Braff is a Chicago writer who specializes in consumer goods and shopping on a budget. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Real Simple and more. 

    Source: thepennyhoarder.com

    Should You Take Out a Personal Loan to Pay Your Rent?

    Yes, you can take out a personal loan to pay rent but other financial possibilities exist. When addressing your budget and finances, look at all the options before deciding if rent loans are right for you.

    Life is expensive and paying for rent can take up a significant chunk of your paycheck. In an ideal world, 30 percent of your income should go towards rent and housing costs. But life happens and you may come up short on rent due to loss of income or other unexpected expenses, leaving you wondering if you should take out a loan to pay rent. Coming up short on your rent payment is an extremely stressful situation and you’ll be looking for ways to make your rental payment and avoid eviction.

    If you find yourself in this situation, what do you do? There are several options to weigh and taking out a loan to pay rent is one of them. Let’s walk through the pros and cons of rent loans and discuss several options you can consider if you’re behind on rent payments.

    Is it possible to take out a loan to pay for rent?

    If you get behind on rent payments, you’re not alone. In fact, more than 7 million renter-occupied households are behind on just last month’s rent alone. So, what are your options and is it possible to take out a loan to pay for rent? The short answer is yes, you can.

    Using a loan to pay rent is an option. You can obtain a personal loan to pay rent and for some people, it’s a good idea. However, before you take out rent loans, you need to consider if it’s the right choice for you.

    Loan agreement.

    Pros of using a personal loan for rent

    If you’re strapped for cash and need to pay for rent, there are some plus sides to taking out a personal loan for rent.

    Pro #1: Provides a window of time for re-assessing your finances

    By taking out a personal loan to cover your rent, you buy yourself some time to get your budget back on track. With a personal loan, you can pay for rent (either what you owe from missed payments or for future rent payments). Once you pay your rent, you’ll find yourself less stressed and you’ll think more clearly so you can get your budget back in a place where you can pay your loan back and have enough money for future rent payments.

    Pro #2: Gives you flexibility

    Personal loans allow you to use the loan money for anything you need. So, taking out a personal loan gives you the flexibility to use the money for rent or any other expense you need to cover. This flexibility is enticing for renters who need some financial help as the loan doesn’t specify what you can and cannot use the money for.

    Budgeting.

    Pro #3: You can shop loan ranges and rates

    Before taking out a personal loan, you’ll be able to shop around for loan ranges and rates. Make sure to compare your findings before you make a decision. You can take out a loan for as little as $1,000 or as much as $60,000 if needed. You can also compare interest rates.

    It is important to try and find a loan with a low interest rate so you don’t accrue more debt than is absolutely necessary.

    Pro #4: Can build a credit score

    This is both a pro and con of personal loans, depending on how diligent you are with repayment. If you make your loan repayments in full and on time every single time, you’ll pay the loan off within the limits and build your credit score. If your credit score took a hit or is low, this is one way to rebuild your credit history.

    However, it’s essential that you meet the terms of the loan for this to benefit you.

    Cons of using a personal loan for rent

    As with everything, when there are pros there are cons. Before taking out a loan to pay rent, consider the negative impacts of rent loans.

    Con #1: You’ll pay interest

    With any type of loan, you’ll pay interest on the amount you borrow. So, if you take out a personal loan toward rent, not only will you pay the rent money, you’ll also be paying money toward the interest.

    If you have no other options, then taking out a loan for rent allows you to make your payment, stay in your apartment and come up with a new financial plan. Keep in mind that you’ll pay more with this option because of interest.

    Con #2: Adds to debt

    When you take out a personal loan to pay rent, you’re adding to the overall amount of debt you have. This may compound your stress and overall debt, causing more problems down the road. Also, when you rent, you aren’t putting money toward eventually owning an asset as with a mortgage toward a house. So, you’re compiling debt without working toward an eventual purchase.

    Credit score.

    Con #3: Could harm your credit score

    If you fail to make your monthly loan payment, you could seriously damage your credit score putting you at risk for further financial hardship.

    How to find a personal loan to pay back your rent?

    If you’ve come to the conclusion that a personal loan is right for you, then you’ll need to know where to look and find one. Most financial institutions will offer loans and you can shop around for the loan that is right for you. Here are some places you can go to find a personal loan to pay back your rent:

    • Bank
    • Credit union
    • Online banks
    • Loan comparison websites

    Because different places offer different rates on your loan, it’s smart to get several recommendations before taking out a loan.

    Other options to pay back your rent

    Unsure that a personal loan is right for you? We also have provided several other options to consider when you need money to pay back your rent. Before taking out a loan, you could consider:

    1. Talking to your landlord

    When you first realize that you may not have the money to pay your rent or if you’ve missed the due date, you’ll want to talk to your landlord immediately. Getting in front of the issue and addressing it openly is always a wise move.

    Ask your landlord if he/she is willing to defer rent, offer a payment plan or waive late fees. You never know unless you ask!

    2. Borrowing from a friend or family member

    Do you have a trusted friend or family member that could loan you money for rent payback? If so, this is a less expensive option compared to getting a personal loan. Sometimes, close family or friends will loan you the money, interest-free, which is always a better option.

    3. Call 211

    You can the 211 community phone line to get referrals for services, like financial resources. If you’re in a bind, try calling this number and get in touch with local resources that can help with rent relief.

    Roommates sitting on a couch.

    4. Consider a roommate

    Imagine your rent payment being cut in half. Would that free up some of your budget? The answer is most likely yes. If you have space, you may consider getting a roommate who can share the cost of rental expenses and save you money, too.

    5. Get a side gig

    Nowadays, there are several side hustles that you can do from home, after work or at your convenience that pays well and would help your income. If you can get a side hustle that’ll cover the additional money you need for rent, this is a great option because it puts you in control of your money and you don’t need a loan to cover the extra expense of rent paybacks.

    6. Reallocate your budget

    Sometimes, we spend money on things like coffee, eating out or shopping and don’t realize how much of our budget it’s taking up.

    Before you take out a personal loan, take a hard look at your expenses and budget to see where you can trim the fat. If there are areas to cut back on and reallocate expenses to rent payback, do this before taking out a personal loan.

    Know your financial options

    Now that you understand the pros and cons of loans to pay rent, you can make an informed decision if this is right for you. As always, you may want to consult a financial advisor before making a big decision like this to get professional guidance on what is best for you and your situation.

    The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.

    Source: rent.com

    How Much is Renters Insurance Per Month?

    Renters insurance is a way to financially protect yourself and your personal property while renting or leasing an apartment.

    Homeowners almost certainly have homeowners insurance. It’s just part of the deal that comes with purchasing a home. However, have you ever thought about renters insurance to cover the space you’re renting or leasing? While it’s not always mandatory to have, it’s a smart and inexpensive investment to budget for and purchase.

    So, how much is renters insurance and why do you need it? We’re going to answer all of your questions and hopefully convince you to get your own renters insurance policy.

    how much is renters insurance per month

    What is renters insurance and why do I need it?

    Like any insurance policy, renters insurance is a way to financially safeguard yourself and your property from damage, loss or theft.

    When homeowners buy homeowners insurance, they are protecting the home itself and the contents inside. While renters don’t own the building that they live in, they do have personal property inside of the apartment that has monetary value. Renters insurance is an insurance type specifically for those who rent or lease that will cover their assets.

    Landlords or apartment owners will have insurance policies in place that protect and cover their buildings and physical property. But, it won’t cover the tenant’s personal belongings if something happens. That’s why renters insurance is something you’ll want to have. Here are a few scenarios where renters insurance would come in handy:

    • Theft: If you experience a robbery or burglary, renters insurance would cover the cost of the stolen items
    • Vandalism: If someone vandalizes your apartment, renters insurance would cover the damage and repairs
    • Fire: If there is a house fire that damages the apartment, renters insurance covers the cost of loss
    • Plumbing issues: If you have major plumbing issues that damage the apartment, you’d be covered
    • Injuries that happen in your apartment: If someone else is hurt within your apartment, renters insurance covers their medical fees

    These are some, not all, of the situations that renters insurance would cover. Keep in mind that renters insurance will cover a good variety of personal possessions, but it may not cover every single item in your place. It’s a good idea to know what is and isn’t covered and to protect yourself from the worst-case scenario as things happen to everyone, including renters.

    How much is renters insurance?

    Okay, so we’ve convinced you that renters insurance is a good idea, but you’re wondering how much renters insurance is per month? After all, if it’s a monthly expense you’ll need to budget for it. Good news — renters insurance cost is relatively inexpensive.

    While there isn’t a flat rate for all renters insurance policies, generally, it costs $15 to $30 per month or up to $360 annually. When you think about the cost of everything you own— clothes, computers, TVs and tech — $30 a month isn’t too hefty a price to protect your possessions.

    Depending on the insurance company, you can either pay monthly, bi-annually or annually. Sometimes, you’ll even get a discount if you pay for the full year in full, making the month-to-month cost even cheaper.

    how much is renters insurance per month

    Factors that influence the cost of renters insurance

    Renters insurance costs will vary by person, place and policy. If you’re considering purchasing a renters insurance policy, you can do some comparison shopping to make sure you’re getting the best bargain.

    As you’re searching for a policy that fits your needs, here are a few things to keep in mind that’ll influence your cost:

    Coverage types

    The two most common types of renters insurance are personal property insurance and liability insurance. If you purchase a plan with both coverage types, you’ll pay more per month.

    Personal property insurance

    This type of plan covers your personal property and everything inside the apartment.

    Liability insurance

    This type of plan covers you if an injury happens to someone in your apartment and they file a claim against you.

    Location

    The cost of renters insurance varies by neighborhood, city and state. Generally, if the housing market itself is more expensive in a certain area, the cost of an insurance policy will probably be higher, too.

    Pets

    While dogs are man’s best friend, they aren’t when it comes to getting a renters insurance policy. Unfortunately, having a pet may increase the cost of your renters insurance policy because pets can cause additional damage to the apartment.

    Previous claims

    If you’ve had renters insurance in the past and filed several claims, your premium will likely be higher compared to people who have never filed claims.

    Credit history

    Credit is king and a higher credit score will equal lower monthly payments.

    Coverage limits

    With a renters insurance policy, you can choose how much coverage or protection you want. For example, let’s say you took inventory of your items and assessed that they added up to $10,000 worth of goods. You’d want to get a renters insurance policy with a coverage limit that was at least $10,000 to cover your losses. As your coverage limit increases, so will the cost of your monthly payment.

    how much is renters insurance per month

    How do I find renters insurance?

    Almost all insurance agencies will offer renters insurance policies. If you have car insurance or another type of insurance plan, you could bundle and save by adding an additional renters insurance policy.

    You can get quotes from each of them to see where you’ll get the best deal. Here are a few insurance companies to consider when looking for a policy that fits your needs:

    Secure your apartment with an insurance plan

    You want to feel safe and secure in your apartment and know that you’re financially protected should something happen to your home.

    Renters insurance is one way to secure your possessions and safeguard yourself from an emergency. At a relatively low cost, you can save yourself thousands of dollars and lots of stress in the worst-case scenario.

    The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.

    Source: rent.com