Balances at a Historic Low: Time to Get Credit Card Debt Under Control

Credit cards are incredibly convenient – which is certainly one reason credit card debt has been a problem for so many, for so long. After all, as long as you have your card, you have the money you need to run errands, entertain the kids, or grab a quick bite to eat. But the coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, keeping us at home more, and significantly decreasing how much we’re spending on our credit cards.

In fact, a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed an $82 billion decline in credit card spending so far this year. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have spent less over the last few months, this could be the perfect opportunity to get a handle on your credit card debt once and for all.

5 tips to get rid of credit card debt, starting now

1. Know your “why”

Before you start your credit card debt payoff journey, think about your life goals — the “why” behind getting out of credit card debt. Maybe you plan to pay for some or all of your child’s college education. Or perhaps you’d like to purchase a home closer to your extended family, or retire early.

Jot down your goals and hang them up on your fridge, bathroom mirror, or anywhere else where you’ll see them every day. Use these goals as motivation to pay down your debt. After all, the faster your credit card balances hit zero, the faster you’ll be able to meet your goals.

2. Make sacrifices

Nobody gets out of credit card debt without making sacrifices. But since you may have lower balances than you had a year or two ago, saying goodbye to a few conveniences and pleasures you’re used to could have a bigger impact than ever before. Here are a few examples of ways to cut back and reach your goals.

  • Skip the takeout: If you order takeout on the weekends, forgo this habit and cook at home on Saturdays and Sundays. Use this as a way to spend time doing something relaxing with the people closest to you. Then, put all the money you’d normally use on takeout toward your balances.
  • Put off big purchases: Maybe you’d like a new fridge, car, or another big-ticket item in the near future. Instead of buying it this fall, consider waiting until you’re out of credit card debt. Plus, if your credit score goes up after you pay down credit card debt, that big purchase may cost you less over time.
  • Get a side gig: It can be tough to pick up a side gig, especially if you have a demanding full-time job, children, and other responsibilities. However, delivering meals, mowing lawns, performing data entry, graphic design, editing, or many other kinds of work may help you get out of debt faster.

The good news is that sacrifices can be temporary. Once you’re free of debt, you’ll decide which treats and extras you could bring back without getting back into debt. And if you no longer have to pay off balances, fees, or interest, you’ll probably have some extra money to spend anyway.

3. Ask for lower interest rates

If you’re overwhelmed with your credit card debt, lowering the interest rates on your cards may make it easier for you to make some headway. You may be surprised to learn that it’s actually quite common to call a creditor and ask for an interest rate reduction.

If you have a track record of paying your bills on time, there’s a good chance they’ll agree. The worst thing that can happen is that they’ll say no. Ideally, however, you’ll score a lower interest rate and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest payments over time.

4. Consider a balance transfer

balance transfer can allow you to move a credit card balance from your current credit card to a new one. Since most balance transfer cards offer low or 0% interest for a promotional time period, they can give you some time to repay your debt without incurring more interest, allowing you to use your hard-earned money to pay down your balance rather than make your interest payments. One significant challenge of balance transfer cards, however, is that most of them require you to have good credit.

5. Don’t use your credit cards

The key to getting rid of credit card debt quickly is to stop adding to it. If you’ve relied on credit cards to make purchases in the past, it’s time to change that. Since this is easier said than done, try these useful tips.

  • Unlink your cards: If your credit card details are already plugged into your Amazon account or favorite shopping sites, unlink them. This way you’ll be less tempted to make impulse purchases with your credit card online.
  • Try the envelope budgeting system: With the envelope budgeting system, you place cash in separate envelopes. Each envelope is for a different category such as groceries, gas or extras. Once you spend the cash in an envelope, you don’t have any more money to allocate toward that category until the next month rolls around.

Anna Baluch

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How to Equip Your Home Office with the Essentials

With coronavirus cases continuing to rise, at least some employees should expect to continue working remotely for the long haul. Maybe you’re one of them.

If you’d originally planned on working from home temporarily, you may need to reassess your situation now. A temporary home office setup may not cut it long-term. It’s a good idea to reappraise your situation and your needs, so you can make yourself comfortable and stay productive for the long haul. 

Here are some essentials to consider when creating a professional workspace from home:


If you lack space, you may need to invest a little time, money, and effort to create a viable home office. See if you can gain extra space by eliminating clutter. Do you have a fair-sized storage room? Think about clearing it out and converting it into an office. (If you can, add a window for fresh air and visual appeal.) 

As you declutter, separate what you want to keep from stuff you can give away or throw out. You can always rent a storage unit for the items you don’t regularly use but want to keep for the future.

If your home has a guest room, see whether it can double as your office. You can swap out a conventional bed for a sofa bed to make room for office furniture and equipment. Or does your home have a garage? How about converting part of it into an office? 

With a little ingenuity, you’re bound to find the quiet, private workspace you need for working remotely.

Furniture and Hardware

Next, you’ll need to furnish your workspace, starting with the right desk. If you’ll be using a desktop computer, you’ll probably want a conventional desk with room for your PC, monitor, keyboard, and other essential office components. You’ll also want an ergonomic chair so you can work comfortably for hours at a time.

You may prefer to work from a laptop stand, a table, or even a convertible standing desk. Any of these can give you greater stability and variety when working at home. 

Depending on your job, you might need a printer/scanner, paper shredder, or a compact filing cabinet to hold hard copies of reports or legal documents. To organize promotional items, consider installing shelves or bins.


If you’re going to work from home long-term, you also may want to invest in extra accessories that can make your job easier and more productive. 

Noise-canceling headphones can improve your concentration, especially if you’ve got kids in the home. An extra monitor enables you to chat with colleagues and work on your laptop at the same time. A power strip/surge protector not only protects your equipment but also gives you extra outlets to power your other gadgets. 

By doing a little research online, you can discover all kinds of peripherals that can enhance and simplify your job. Don’t forget to stock up on pens, pencils, paper, and other office supply basics you may need.  


Technology will be central to your remote work, so make sure you have the software you need. Video conferencing apps like Zoom and GoToMeeting facilitate virtual communications, enabling you to collaborate with co-workers on team projects. Dropbox and Google Drive allow you to share business files safely and securely.

Keep in mind, though, that working remotely puts your system at greater risk of security leaks and digital threats than when you worked from your company’s office. Installing a virtual private network (VPN) on your network can help keep your business communications private and secure. Cybersecurity software can protect you against viruses, malware, and data breaches.

If you’re unfamiliar with some of the latest technology, online classes and video tutorials can help you learn the skills you need to succeed in working from home.

Internet Connectivity

This technology will be of little use without stable, reliable internet access. If family members are sharing your internet service, it may not meet your needs when it comes to working remotely. Consider investing in a new router and upgrading to high-speed internet or Wi-Fi to enhance connectivity.    


When you work from home, problems with your home’s infrastructure can easily interfere with your job. A glitch in your air conditioning can make working conditions unbearable. Electrical problems can bring your work (and everything else) to a standstill. If even your fridge goes out, that creates a headache that takes time and energy to relieve.

By protecting your systems and appliances with a home warranty, you can prepare yourself for any household eventuality. If your home is prone to AC, electrical, or plumbing problems, a home warranty can be a smart investment to ease infrastructure hassles.   

Financial Security

If you’re stressed about finances, you’ll have a hard time focusing on your job. You’ll also find it difficult to purchase the equipment you need to equip and stock a home office.    

So shore up your finances with a budget that cuts back on nonessential spending. Put aside funds from every paycheck into an emergency fund. Pay off some credit card debt to give you a cushion for borrowing later. 

These steps can give you some sense of financial security for the future. By getting your finances in order, you’ll be better able to set up an effective remote-work environment and work in peace.

If you’re going to be spending a lot of time working from home, it just makes sense to spend some time planning how to do it right. Take your own needs into account, and the needs of your employer and your family, too. Shoot for performance, efficiency, and comfort. Think about what you have to work with, and make it work for you — so you can work most effectively for yourself and your company.

Ann Lloyd, Student Savings Guide

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How to Make the Move Back into the Workplace

Unless you’re an essential worker, your work life has probably changed drastically in recent months. Whether you’ve been laid off, fired, are on furlough, or are working at home, it’s likely that the way you earn your living has at least been altered, if not brought to a screeching halt. 

Now, with many cities either starting to reopen or planning to do so soon, you may be gearing up to return to the workplace. But because things have changed so much, you might be anxious or even reluctant to go back. 

If you’re facing the prospect of returning to the office and you’re not sure what to expect, here’s a list of ideas to help you make a seamless transition. 

Re-establish Relationships

One of the best things you can do to help ease your way back is to re-establish your relationships. If you’ve been removed from your normal work setting for an extended period, you may need to touch base with co-workers to find out what they’re up to. Chances are, they share your concerns about returning to work, and they may have helpful ideas for the weeks ahead.

Creating and maintaining positive work relationships a great way to make your workday more pleasant, and it also can ease your transition back into a traditional work setting. By inviting your co-workers to lunch, giving them a call, or making any other kind gesture, you’ll be able to rebuild these relationships quickly. 

You also may have lost touch with your clients. If you have, be sure to reach out via phone or email. You can even send them special discount codes, branded gifts, or other reminders that you and your company value them. 

Discuss Safety Precautions

To reduce anxiety about returning to work, take time out to discuss safety precautions with your co-workers and managers. 

First of all, find out how personal protective equipment (PPE) is being handled. Regardless of your line of business, your employer is responsible for providing safety supplies such as face masks, soap, and hand sanitizer. You may also consider asking how often the office is being cleaned, and how frequently the bathrooms are being sanitized. 

Your employer might want to consult guidelines established by the porta-potty industry for restroom-to-staff ratios and cleaning/sanitizing schedules. These companies know what they’re doing since their bread and butter depend on the distribution of restroom traffic and maximizing cleanliness for large crowds. Tapping into that knowledge could help your company keep everyone safe in the long run. 

Be Prepared for Unexpected Changes

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that things can change drastically and instantaneously. So consider that your desk location, job duties, company rules, and other familiar aspects of your job may have been altered in your absence.

Some changes will have been made for safety reasons; others may have come in response to financial challenges your company is facing. The best thing you can do is become more flexible, and be prepared to face these changes head-on. 

Return to the workplace with a positive attitude and an understanding that things now may be weird or awkward, but you’ll get used to them in the long run. And who knows? Shifting job duties may open up a new career path you hadn’t considered.

Secure Your Home

As you move back into the workplace, you’ll want to protect your household and related finances. In the current environment, it’s easy to worry about money and unexpected expenses, and it makes sense to plan for the worst. 

Take some time to assess your mortgage or rental agreement, your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, and your utility bills. Having a handle on these aspects of your financial life can help you devise a budget that fits your current situation.

Also consider looking into a home warranty (which differs from homeowners’ insurance). With this coverage, you can rest assured that major repairs, such as those to your HVAC or electrical system and major appliances, are covered. This can reduce your financial anxiety and make it easier to focus on work. 

Update Your Skill Set

Lastly, you definitely want to take the time to update your skill set. No matter what industry or sector you work in, you should always take every opportunity to polish up your skills as much as possible. Not only will this make you a more valued employee, but it can also put you in a better position to compete with others returning to a deeply competitive job market. 

Consider learning a new language, training to gain new technical skills, learning to drive heavy equipment like a stick-shift vehicle or forklift, or anything else that might make you a more valuable employee. As you acquire more skills, your confidence will grow, and so will your ability to climb the corporate ladder.

No matter how you feel about returning to the workplace, you should be prepared to deal with a work setting that’s much different than the one you remember. By heeding these tips, you’ll be well on your way to returning to your position, however it looks now, without anxiety and fear. 

By Jessica Larson,

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Quick Guide to Payday Loans

In the wake of COVID-19 shutdowns, many Americans are struggling to make ends meet. Federal resources have done little to help families and individuals pay their rent and other expenses following skyrocketing unemployment. As a result, many people are turning to other sources for financial assistance.

If you’re looking for a short-term quick infusion of cash, a payday loan can sound appealing. However, experts warn, payday loans are rarely a good option. Payday lenders are often predatory; so much so that some states have banned payday loans altogether. Here’s what you need to know about payday loans before you get involved.

What is a payday loan?

Payday loans are high-cost, short-term loans for around $300 that are meant to be repaid with your next paycheck. They’re offered through payday lenders like MoneyKey, Check Into Cash, and Ace Cash Express that operate out of storefronts and online. To qualify, you need to have income and a bank account – that’s it. Because of these low requirements, payday loans are appealing to those with bad or nonexistent credit.

When you ask for a payday loan, the process takes as little as 15 minutes to complete. The lender will confirm your income and checking account information, and give you cash on the spot or an electronic transfer by the following morning. In exchange, you must give the lender a signed check or permission to withdraw money electronically from your bank account. These short-term payday loans are due immediately following your next payday: two weeks to a month from the day the loan is issued.

To repay the loan, the lender will schedule an appointment for you to come back to the storefront and repay when the loan is due. “If you don’t show up, the lender will run the check or withdrawal for the loan amount plus interest. Online lenders will initiate an electronic withdrawal,” describes NerdWallet.

The danger of payday loans

Payday loans may seem straightforward, but they rarely are. “Payday loans come with a finance charge, which is typically based on your loan amount. Because payday loans have such short repayment terms, these costs translate to a steep APR [annual percentage rate]. According to the Consumer Federation of America, payday loan APRs are usually 400% or more,” reports Experian.

High interest rates are a given with a payday loan. Pretend you need a loan of $100 for a two-week payday loan. The lender charges you a $15 fee for every $100 borrowed – a 15% interest rate. Since you have to repay the loan in two weeks, the 15% charge equates to an APR of almost 400%. On a two-week loan, the daily interest cost is $1.07. Project that expense out over the full year: borrowing $100 would cost you $391.

Furthermore, it’s common for people who take a payday loan to get locked into a vicious cycle. “The problem is that the borrower usually needs to take another payday loan to pay off the first one. The whole reason for taking the first payday loan was that they didn’t have the money for an emergency need. Since regular earnings will be consumed by regular expenses, they won’t be any better off in two weeks,” says one expert.

What to do if you already have a payday loan

Individuals stuck in a payday loan may start to feel desperate as the expenses pile up. Can you go to jail for not paying back a payday loan? Can payday loans sue you? Is there a way to get out of payday loans legally?

If you’re in a situation where you can’t repay the loan, a payday lender will continue to withdraw money from your account, sometimes taking smaller repayment amounts to increase the chance that the payment will go through. Lenders may also try to negotiate a settlement with you for the money owed. It’s also possible that a lender will outsource the loan to a debt collector – who is able to file a civil lawsuit.

“Failure to repay a loan is not a criminal offense. In fact, it’s illegal for a lender to threaten a borrower with arrest or jail. Nonetheless, some payday lenders have succeeded in using bad-check laws to file criminal complaints against borrowers, with judges erroneously rubber-stamping the complaints,” explained NerdWallet.

If you’re looking to get out of payday loans legally, there are a few options. Look into debt consolidation loans, peer-to-peer loans, or debt settlement. Speak to a lawyer or a financial expert to figure out what your options are – but above all, don’t sacrifice food on your table to pay for a payday loan.

This article is contributed by LiftRocket.

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Using Technology to Improve Finances and Decrease Debt

Financial difficulty is, unfortunately, a very prevalent part of everyday life for many people. For example, about 69% of Americans have less than $1000 in savings, which limits their access to funds needed to pay for emergency car repairs or an expensive visit to the emergency room. Due to the lack of financial stability within society, many individuals fear the future regarding their ability to provide for themselves and their loved ones if the need arises.

Debt is also another major influence on people’s financial situation. Researchers at Lending Tree found that the average credit card debt of American households stands at about $5,700. This can inevitably lead to lower credit scores and restrictions on people’s monthly budgets.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of available means to improve the use of our money and time, allowing individuals to tackle their debt and properly prepare themselves for the future. With new technology being developed and improved every day, financial technology, also known as “FinTech”, is playing a major role in this as well, and giving more people than ever the means to become more financially savvy.

Here are some suggestions on what tech to include in your budget, as well as apps, extensions, and other tech tips to aid you in your goals to decrease debt and improve your finances.

Use Your Phone to Find Apps and Information

Smartphones today allow access to more information than any user could ever imagine. From the plethora of apps and industries to choose from, one person can access virtually anything. Via phone, you can download apps to help save you money and time, manage your budget, and even make money on-the-go.

You can also use your smartphone for its original purpose, which is to gain access to the internet’s library of information! From financial advice blogs to digital financial advisors, there’s no shortage of information you can find. Thanks to smartphones, you can now learn about debt, your credit score, money-saving habits, and more, all from the little device in your pocket.

Take Your Savings Digital

As new tech becomes more integrated into people’s daily lives, businesses are taking notice and using technology to improve user experience. This is especially true in the world of financial institutions, where banks are now able to operate almost entirely online while reducing or eliminating unnecessary fees. By doing so, they’re making way for customers to save more money for an easier budgeting experience, to properly create an emergency fund, and to pay off debt.

The second is that mobile banks provide apps that are more easily accessible to users, which

allows for enhanced perks and offers. Many traditional banks require credit score checks before signing up, putting limits on who can have access to banking. This can be difficult for people struggling with debt. However, online banking platforms are now paving the way for access to a checking account without a credit report. Taking advantage of this feature can be a great way for people with low credit scores to start putting money into a savings account.

Work a Side Hustle

Though it may seem like a lot to handle with other life tasks, a side hustle could not only provide an increase to your current income, but the right pick could transform into a valuable asset for your future. Side hustles that you can commit to from your smartphone range anywhere from ridesharing, to room sharing, grocery shopping, and even taking surveys.

These types of side hustles are what provide great supplemental income, and can be used for a variety of purposes, such as paying off larger amounts of your credit card debt or growing your savings account to prevent future debt. Other side jobs could eventually turn into long-term, and even full-time work: blogging, being an internet influencer, and digital freelance work, all have a great potential to grow into bigger sources of income in your future.

Make Use of Budgeting Apps

Because budgeting can become a complicated, tedious task, many apps have been released to aid the consumer in their venture. Consider budgeting apps that are free or require a low monthly subscription to get started. The fee-free apps will offer simpler options and make it easier to start your budget. Others to consider are shopping apps; most shopping apps were created with the sole purpose of finding deals, coupons, and other ways to save money both online and in-store. Taking advantage of them will also save you time and decrease stress, especially because you didn’t waste time searching for coupons yourself.

Rely on Chrome Extensions

Google Chrome is the most popular search engine today, which means there are a variety of resources to help you save money and accomplish other tasks. Utilizing extensions can save you the stress of having to seek out deals on your own, especially while shopping online. For example, one extension called Honey allows you to shop, and then at check out, automatically searches for promo codes that save you money. On top of this, there are plenty of other extensions available to choose from.

Though a few cents may seem like a marginal difference, over the course of a month, those few cents will turn into more cash that you may have missed otherwise. Reallocating this money towards your monthly budget gives your wallet some breathing room, and can give you the means to pay off those credit cards that have been weighing you down.

No matter your decision of which gadget, app, or software to use, remember that you are in charge of your future. You can make the choices necessary to manage your finances now so you’re more comfortable and well-off down the road. Because of all the information and opportunities presented to us today, there are limitless possibilities on how to save money, manage your finances, and decrease any debt that has taken over your life.

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How to Build a Rainy Day Budget






Many Americans know the importance of building an emergency fund, but few are able to do so successfully. Research from the AARP found that 53% of American households lacked an emergency savings account. 

Not only are Americans unprepared for emergency expenses, but most households would struggle with an unexpected $400 expense, according to the Federal Reserve. These findings indicate that few people have invested in either a rainy day budget or an emergency fund, relying instead on loans and credit card debt when unplanned expenses pop up. 

It doesn’t have to be painful to build a rainy day budget or an emergency fund. We’ll walk you through a few tips to illustrate how to save money, as well as provide a budget calendar to help you stay on track with your savings goals.

What is the purpose of a budget?

A rainy day fund is slightly different than an emergency fund, but the two often get conflated. A rainy day fund is something you can draw from to pay for smaller expenditures – if a major appliance in your house needs to be replaced, or if your child needs braces, for instance. A rainy day fund is important to have to avoid going into debt to cover small inconveniences that will pop up and disrupt your careful budgeting. 

An emergency fund, on the other hand, is your safety net in the event of a big financial emergency; loss of employment, illness, or a global recession, for instance. Most experts recommend building an emergency fund with at least six months’ take-home pay, e.g., your paycheck less taxes and other obligations for benefits and retirement. 

How much do you need in your rainy day and emergency funds? The numbers vary depending on your living expenses and income level. “To cushion against a simultaneous spike in expenses and dip in income, a middle-income family needs about $5,000 in a rainy-day fund but has just $2,000 — a gap of $3,000. Lower-income families need about $2,500 but have just $700,” reported the New York Times. The AARP recommends a slightly higher budget of $10,000 – $50,000 for your emergency fund.

Typically, a rainy day fund is smaller: between $500 and $2,500. There’s no amount too small to start with when you begin saving money. Start somewhere, and make saving a habit – here’s how.

How to save money

If you’re living on a shoestring budget, building both a rainy day budget and an emergency fund can feel daunting. Most experts suggest focusing on your existing expenses first. 

“Creating a rainy day savings strategy starts with getting a handle on any future expenses. For most people, monthly expenses such as house payments, utilities, insurance and groceries stay steady. Other costs are less frequent but not technically emergencies. Make a list of the expenses you’ll probably have to pay in coming years. In addition to car maintenance or house repairs, this could include kids’ braces or veterinary bills,” wrote Nerdwallet

A good way to track your expenses is to use a budget calendar. Use a budget calendar to log every bill due: from utilities to rent or mortgage to paycheck. Log each amount in your calendar to see what’s going out when. 

From there, you can start to estimate how much you need in your rainy day fund and in your emergency fund. For your emergency fund, The Balance recommends that you set a goal and then put aside a small amount each month. “Figure out how much money you’d like to have in your fund, then work backward from there. Divide the amount you’ll need to adequately fund your account by how much you can afford to put aside each month. Then, you’ll be left with the number of months it will take you to reach your goal.” 

When you first start out, you may need a little lift to help get your savings off the ground. Consider working with a community like LiftRocket.

This article is contributed by LiftRocket.

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How to Have Fun (Not) Traveling this Summer

Confession: Traveling during the busy summer season just isn’t for me. In our modern age filled with digital nomads and travel hacking devotees, it’s almost a sin not to be daydreaming about the next summer vacay.

But in my humble opinion, summer travel can be a bit unpleasant. Of course, it largely depends on the destination. But with the swarms of tourists at popular locales — not to mention prices for airfare, hotel stays, and tourist attractions spike — I’d rather stay local during the summer. I’m willing to swap jetting off to different countries for a leisurely bike ride around my neighborhood.

If you have a similar mindset, here are some ways to make the most of a non-traveling summer.

Go on a Staycation

Staycations are terribly underrated. You can use them as an excuse to explore your current town. I’m fortunate enough to live in Los Angeles, where there’s a bounty of art openings, food and music festivals, and delicious eateries popping up all the time. When I spent my summers in Chicago, there were free neighborhood street fests every weekend, concerts at Millennium Park, free yoga classes in the park, and neighborhood gatherings.

I moved a little east of Los Angeles city proper about a year ago, to a small nature area with a population of about 10,000. There are chili cookoffs, gorgeous mountains, and many hiking trails. I’m also looking for a bike to explore my new ‘hood.

Check the calendar section of your town’s website to keep up to date with all the fun, free activities in your town or city.

Create Mission-Based Adventures

You can create what I call a mission-based staycation, such as trying out the best hikes in your area, tasting one ice cream (or a few!) at every ice cream shop in town, or reading every book by your favorite author at the local library.

Some examples: My friend Mel decided to have a  “year of museums,” where she’ll visit different museums and art happenings around town. My other pal Lindsay plans on going on one hike a month throughout the year. Fun can be found right under your nose!

Make Small Tweaks

You don’t need to make a big plan to enjoy the summer months where you live. Try switching out your habits. For instance, try biking to the park instead of driving there. Or enjoy breakfast out in your yard instead of at your dining table with the curtains drawn. You’ll be surprised at how the small changes can really help pave the way to new experiences, or a new way of looking at things. It could even make feel like you’re somewhere else.

Swap Homes with Friends

See if any pals and family members in other parts of town are up for swapping homes for a weekend. You can either do it Airbnb-style or stay with them for a few days — that way you can change up the scenery and enjoy a new neighborhood.

I have apartment swaps planned with pals who live in Hollywood and West L.A. It will certainly feel like a mini-vacation!

Try a No-Spend Weekend

I experimented with a no-spend weekend a few years ago, and not only did I save money, but it was fun! Before I embarked on the journey, I set up some ground rules: I could stock up on food to last me through the weekend, I could use my public transit card, and I was allowed to spend any gift cards. I planned my weekend around free activities and using up my gift cards.

If forgoing doling out cash on the weekend is too tough for you due to social commitments and general temptations, do a test run during the workweek. Because you typically have less free time and social outings, you won’t be as tempted to spend.

Ramp Up Your Side Hustle

If you’re looking to boost your cash flow, summer is ripe for seasonal gigs. Take advantage of the fact that more people are traveling to snag jobs pet sitting or tending to a neighbor’s plants. You can also scoop up more gigs as a rideshare driver or brand ambassador at outdoor festivals. In summers past, I’ve sat for friends’ furbabies and proctored at a local university during the summer session.

I work my buns off during the summer so that I save up for stuff I want, and aim to less some time off during the holidays. Co-worker taking time off? See if you can take extra shifts. Or if you’re a freelancer or gig economy worker, see if your clients are in need of extra help during the summer months.

Save for Off-Season Travel

Rather than put everything on a card and pay it off post-travels, have the money saved up front.  Peak travel seasons for most places tend to generally be June through August. If you’d like to travel during the fall or spring, figure out exactly how much you’ll need by when, and get to work saving your beans.

Besides a short camping trip in June, I only travel in the off-season. I have a trip to the East and Midwest scheduled for the fall and am steadily saving for a trip to Southeast Asia next year. I’ve committed to saving a set amount each week and will bolster my goal with any “extra cash” I earn.

Remember: Staying local doesn’t have boring or induce cabin fever. By getting creative, putting on your exploration cap and making small tweaks, you can have a blast this summer in your city!

This article was originally published at

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How Going Green Can Boost Your Savings

Nearly 3 in 5 Americans make ‘green’ resolutions, according to a poll by marketing firm Tiller LLC. Also, 71 percent of consumers consider the environment when shopping — a rise of 5 percent from 2018. Besides the significant impact that adopting a sustainable lifestyle can have on the environment, being eco-friendly is also a great way to save money. With 50 percent of Americans feeling worried about their debt and 84 percent trying to save for a goal, going green may be the perfect answer to help you shave expenses. By adopting sustainable habits, you be bolster your finances in a way that pays off in the long run.

You Pay More UpFront, But Less Overall

Eco-friendly products tend to cost more than traditional alternatives. As more consumers tap into a sustainable way of living, demand for eco-friendly products is on the rise. As a result, prices are steadily rising. A great example is the cost of a reusable cup ($7.50) versus disposable one ($0.0045).

Thanks to the staggering price difference, many Americans are finding it difficult to buy green, even if the intention is there. However, over its lifetime, a reusable product such as the cup can easily repay its higher cost (if used multiple times). The same premise applies to reusable bottles, straws, and containers, in lieu of eliminating single-use plastics in the office or at home. If you are after immediate gratification, there are some sustainable habits you can adopt at home that can help you experience the cost benefits sooner rather than later.

Install Low Flow Shower Heads And Water Aerators

Water usage is a large part of the eco-friendly debate. American households waste 9,400 gallons of water annually, according to the United States of America Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, they also estimate that we can reduce our water usage by 20 percent by simply installing water-efficient fixtures such as low flow showerheads.

Showers account for around 22 percent of water usage in households and by installing an expensive water aerator or low flow showerhead, some claim you can save as much as 50 percent of both water usage and heating costs. Most low flow faucets cost $5-$10 while low flow showerheads can average $8-$50, depending on the features and model. With the average American water bill being $70.39 per month, that equates to a saving of $14 per month, using EPA’s 20 percent cost reduction estimation.

Invest In A Smart Heating System

Around 45 percent of a home’s energy goes towards heating and cooling, according to Energy Star. In financial terms, that is between $2,100 and $2,500 each year. A smart home heating system can cost as little as $40 or in some cases, cost as much as $300. However, it allows you to avoid overheating and limit it to when and where it is needed- a key feature in idle home heating. Builder Insights estimates that for every 1 degree Farenheit you reduce your home heating, you use 1 percent less energy. By installing a smart heating system you can expect to see savings of 10-30 percent, starting with your very next heating bill after installation.

Get Into Gardening

With Spring in full bloom, there is no better time to get outside and test out your gardening skills. By composting your food waste and dedicating a small portion of your garden, you can dedicate yourself to a new hobby and grow your own produce in the process- reducing your food bill. Supplies for creating a garden at home are minimal since you can use homemade compost for fertilization. Best of all, once your crops grow the reduction to your grocery bill is immediate.

While on the topic of food waste, adopt a ‘nothing goes in the trash’ attitude in the kitchen. The average household spend on groceries in America can range between $314 in Atlanta to $516 in Seattle, yet 31.9 percent of it ends up in the trash. Bulk cooking and meal prepping can help you use up all your food before they go bad while simple habits like writing and list and checking your pantry or refrigerator before heading to the supermarket can help you eliminating mindless or double buying.

While the cost-saving benefits are often seen in the long term, there are still ways you can do your part for the environment and save money now. All it takes is a bit of DIY, creativity, and commitment to the cause. Your wallet will thank you for it.

Chrissy Helders

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How To Buy A Car On Finance While Repaying Your Debt

A recent report by the New York Times showed that 44 percent of car buyers used finance to purchase their vehicles in 2019. Of that population,The Federal Reserve Bank Of New York estimates 7 million of them are three months behind on their car repayments. This is not surprising since eight in 10 consumers are currently in debt and looking for a way out – or simply a way to keep up. A car has always been a sizeable investment for any consumer; it takes up around 13.5 percent of your gross annual salary. With car loans surpassing $31,000 and rising car finance prices, buying a new car is beginning to seem out of reach for many, especially those that trying to get rid of their debt. Yet you may find yourself in a place where a new car becomes a need. In fact, 85 percent of Americans rely on their cars to get to work. If this happens, it is possible to do both successfully with a little planning and the use of clever tactics to minimize the impact of adding car finance to your debt.

Go Second Hand

One great way to reduce the financing charges of buying a new car is, of course, to reduce the purchase price. Second-hand cars cost a fraction of a new car’s price, and therefore come with lower finance payments if you purchase one on credit. In May 2019, the average cost of a new car rose to $36,718. With average interest rates at 6 percent, consumers end up paying $2,203 in interest annually. However, a used car can cost around $20,000, according to estimates from Kelly Blue Brooke, which halves your interest charges and overall monthly repayments. The reliability of the car model you do choose will play a large part in minimizing the financial impact – less reliable used car models would require more repairs and upkeep. Expert and driver ratings and reviews both have a role to play in informing you about a vehicle, and incorporating these into your decision will help you pinpoint cars with high-reliability ratings and the best resale value.

Maximize Promotional Credit Card Balance Offers

Typically, financing a car purchase using a credit card is not advised since they come with notoriously high-interest rates. However, there are also ample credit card offers out there, including 0 percent APR or on balance transfers. The key to this is being able to calculate and repay the amount before high-interest kicks in. Alternatively, you can use a credit card to pay just a part of the price and enjoy the benefit of credit card protection.

Another nifty financing option is to check out your local credit union or alternative financing institution. A little research and the use of loan comparison websites like and can help you identify interest rates in your local area and great car finance offers, like Bank of America’s interest rate discounts for current customers (2.99 APR for new car purchases or 3.49 percent APR for used car financing). Credit unions like the NASA Federal Credit Union and Connex Credit Union also match these rates with a loan term of up to 84 months.

Splurge on Your Debt Repayment And Capitalize on A Better Auto Loan

When it comes to paying a downpayment on your car or putting it towards paying down your loan, it makes sense from an interest rate point of view to pay down your debt. As you repay your debt, your debt to income ratio and credit score increases, as does your FICO Auto Score – key factors that affect your auto loan interest rate, loan term and acceptance.Building a better credit profile may also increase your chances of securing promotional offers from your dealer, such as 0 percent APR for a limited time. This essentially reduces the financing and overall cost of a new car, making it more tolerable to add to your current debt levels.

Keeping up with your debt repayments can be a precarious process for many. Add in a sizeable new purchase like the cost of a new car, and it can easily go awry. However, you can do both if you need to and still stay on track with your debt. It all comes down to having the right information and making the right financing choices. With this article, you’re halfway there.

Chrissy Helders

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6 Steps to Ditching Your Debt

Let’s face it — debt sucks! Keeping up with the payments means less cash to do what you really want. And, the interest makes the burden grow, often faster than your payments reduce the balance due. With a solid plan and a lot of determination, you can ditch your debt and get back to having more fun.

Not sure where to start? Here are Charlie’s 6 steps to ditching your debt:

Stop the Bleeding

Unless it’s completely unavoidable (like that student loan for next semester), don’t take on any more debt. Avoid new credit cards, lock up/cut up the ones that you have, and consider freezing your credit. It’s important to take control.

Assess the Damage

Now, it’s time to see what you’re up against. Make a list of all of your debts to include who you owe, how much you owe, the minimum monthly payment, and the interest rate. Then, brace yourself and determine the grand total.  (It’s OK to have a glass of wine, a chocolate cake, or a bubble bath after this step!)

Choose Your Strategy

There are two main ways to tackle debt: the snowball method or the avalanche method. With the snowball method, you pay your debts off from smallest to largest amount owed. This is great for momentum building — you’ll feel like you’re #winning pretty quickly. With the avalanche method, you pay off your debts from highest to lowest interest rate. Ultimately, the math works out in your favor here because you’ll pay less in interest overall. If you’re paying off debt, ignore any haters, because it’s a victory regardless of how you do it!

Tighten Your Purse Strings

Trimming your budget may be painful at first, but crushing your debt will feel amazing. There are some easy places to cut spending first: eating out, shopping, travel, entertainment, etc. If there are things you can’t cut completely, find hacks to spend less. Use gift cards, skip the expensive cocktail at dinner, or shop thrift stores. If you can’t cut these categories any further, consider going more extreme. Get a roommate, sell your car, or move back home. These strategies are hard, and may not be possible for you (or you’re already doing them!), but every dollar helps.

Hustle for Extra Cash

In addition to cutting your spending, try earning some extra money specifically to go toward your debt. Look for side gigs, sell your stuff, or offer freelance services.

Track Your Progress

Ditching your debt is hard work. It takes commitment and willpower. This process could take a long time, so it’s important to track how far you’ve come to keep your motivation level high. Be sure to reward yourself (in a budget-friendly way!) as each account balance hits zero.

Remember: You’re not in this alone. Charlie can help. Just tell him ‘pay off debt’ and he’ll guide you.

Share with Charlie: What’s your favorite debt pay off story? Do you have any tips for the community?

This article was originally published at


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