Tag: holiday

Getting Your Finances Back on Track Post-COVID

A young man writes in his notebook in front of an open laptop.

It’s safe to say 2020 was a pretty hard year for everyone financially.

Even if your wallet hasn’t taken a hit in the last few months it’s likely either your employer or someone in your family has found themselves stretched financially by the effects of COVID.

No point dwelling on the past, though. We may not be able to go back in time and stop COVID happening and ruining our 2020, but we can ensure we’re at least in a better position financially in 2021, avoiding bad credit scores and getting our savings back on track.

There’s no better time than now to start planning for post-COVID life, so here are our essential financial tips.

Tips for Getting Your Finances Back on Track

  • Draw Up a Budget That Fits Your Lifestyle
  • Secure All the Incomings You Can
  • Have a Plan for Deferred Payments
  • Start Saving Now
  • Tips for Businessowners

Draw Up a Budget That Fits Your Lifestyle

Throughout the pandemic, your monthly budget probably changed quite dramatically.

You probably saved on fuel, travel, and evenings out with so many offices and restaurants closed—but no doubt spent a whole lot more on your utility bills.

As the economy reopens and some sense of normality resumes, you need to restructure your budget to a post-COVID world.

Now, this doesn’t mean penny-pinching. COVID may have been kind to you, and reassessing your budget is simply a matter of moving funds that you would have spent on your home into your socializing budget. However, if you’re one of the many people no longer getting some kind of financial support on top of your diminished wage, you need to figure out how you’re going to pay rent, buy food, and cover all the other essentials.

The end of remote working, catching up on vacations, covering childcare—these are all real-world requirements your budget will need to be able to answer for.

Secure All the Incomings You Can

A huge part of getting your finances back on track properly is about making sure you’re making the most of every incoming payment available to you.

With so many people across the world struggling with a lack of work caused by the pandemic, it’s important to be aware of any possible financial aid available to you.

Most importantly, you should check if there are systems unique to your personal circumstances or line of work. There are businesses and charities with systems in place to provide or acquire support for everyone from professional actors unable to perform throughout the pandemic (such as Actors Fund) to retired veterans who have returned from tours with physical or invisible injuries and conditions (such as Vet Comp & Pen). Whatever line of work you are or were in, there will likely be some level of support available for you.

Likewise, you should start to consider how your talents could be put to good use to make that budget stretch a little further.

Side hustles such as running an Etsy store or becoming an online tutor become massively popular alternative revenue streams for out of work professionals during the height of lockdown. This is still a highly viable way of rebuilding your finances post-COVID. If you have a little bit of cash to invest, it can go a long way.

Have a Plan for Deferred Payments

Pandemic solutions have seen governments, banks, and landlords offering mortgage, loan, and rent deferrals to people who cannot pay them.

As things return to normal, people are going to need a plan to pay off these debts.

First, start by referring to the deferment terms so you know exactly what payment will be expected and if it can be broken up into installments. This will massively affect the overall structure of your budget.

These are perhaps the most important payments you’ll be making, as they concern your home, so make sure they’re priority number one post-COVID.

Start Saving Now

After all, any savings are good savings.

No one can be sure where we’ll be in six months or even a year. If we see another major spike across the world it could mean your finances take another hit and you need to dip into those rainy day funds to stay ahead.

Find the right savings account for you

Start working out a savings plan that works for you now. Don’t plan to give up everything you love for a year to get some extra cash, but, much like a budget, notice where you can cut back.

 Online banks and apps like Monzo and Chime are a great way to save within even realizing it. These apps allow you to set a monthly budget on different types of purchases, sending you alerts when you’re about to break them. So much of budgeting is about self-control and being across your financial situation, so why not take responsibility out of your hands?

Tips for Businessowners

Before we go, here are a few tips for small businessowners who may be worried about how they can secure their enterprise’s financial security as well as their personal one.

  • Find alternative revenue streams for your business. Is there a second service your business could offer to bring in some extra cash, such as gift wrapping for a small online store during the holiday period?
  • Make sure you’re not overspending on digital tools. They may have stepped up and helped us host meetings, manage teams, and schedule inspirational social content remotely, but are you paying a subscription fee for an app that doesn’t actually boost your business all that much?
  • Use freelancers rather than employing new staff. The freelance sector could really use a hand up right now, and freelancers present a cheaper, less permanent way for you to pick up lucrative contracts and projects without investing in hiring and training staff on permanent contracts.

It’s important to be realistic when financially planning for the end of COVID. We don’t know when that will be, and you can’t expect yourself to come out of this in better financial shape than you’ve ever been. That’s an unrealistic pressure.

Follow these tips and make sure you’re making the most of this period of reflection to ensure a healthy financial future for you and your loved ones.

Rodney Laws is an ecommerce consultant with EcommercePlatform.io. He has more than a decade of experience providing marketing advice to online entrepreneurs and businesses. He’s set up and marketed his own businesses and consulted on crafting campaigns for established companies.

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The post Getting Your Finances Back on Track Post-COVID appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How to Find Apartments with Move-In Specials

Home is where the heart and all your stuff is, so you probably want it to be pretty nice. Just not break-the-bank nice. There are a few easy ways to save before signing on the dotted lease line, fortunately. Do your wallet a big favor and check out these tips for finding the biggest and baddest apartments with move-in specials.

How to find apartments with move-in specials with Apartment Guide

Apartment Guide is making it easier than ever to know which properties offer the biggest bang for your buck by tagging them with a hard to miss, but easy to use hot deals badge.

Follow these easy steps and you’ll be on your way to saving money on your next apartment lease.

1. Search for apartments in your city or neighborhood

Visit Apartment Guide and search as you normally would using filters to narrow in on your desired city, neighborhood, price and features. You can easily select a Hot Deals filter option, which will only show apartments in your search that have an active deal for you.

hot deals filter

In addition, as you’re scrolling through your full list of properties, you’ll notice a friendly red badge that says “Hot Deals” or “Deals” with your special offer.

apartments with move-in deals

 

2. Claim your move-in special

When you click on a property, you’ll know if it has an active deal when you see the red word “Deals” in an icon under the photos. Click on that badge or scroll down the page to see what special is currently being offered. It could be anything from a months’ free rent to a gift card when you sign a lease.

apartments with move-in deals

 

Then click on “Check Availability” to fill out your name and contact information and it will be sent to the property along with your move-in special. Someone from the community will contact you shortly.

While you’re on the page, you can also sign up for virtual tours, if they are available.

tour from home

 

Other tips for finding apartments with move-in specials

There’s no reason to stop there. Double (or triple) up on the savings by heeding a few of these tried-and-true tips for scoring the best apartment deals.

Timing is everything

No one wants to move during the busy holiday season, much less when it’s oh-so-chilly outside. So take advantage of everyone else’s hesitation and cash in on apartment community promotions that run rampant from October to December. Happy New Year, indeed.

Act quickly

If a deal seems too good to be true it probably isn’t going to be there long. Starting a few months before the big move, monitor rental prices in your desired area. This will give you a better idea of what’s fair to pay and what a true apartment deal looks like. That way, when a truly great promotion or rent reduction pops up you’ll be able to swoop in and grab it right away.

Rent new

Although it seems pretty backward, it can sometimes be cheaper to score a brand-new unit. This is because newbie communities have a lot of space to fill, so they run excellent specials to get people in the door. Just make sure your rent and amenity fees won’t get jacked up without your consent in a year or two.

Make the ask

Many people don’t realize that rental rates aren’t set in stone. If a community is struggling to fill units they’ll be more likely to throw you a bone or two, in the form of reduced rent or waived fees. Don’t be afraid to check out these potential caveats. The worst thing they can say is no, right?

negotiating

Brag a bit

Now’s not the time to be modest. Landlords would far prefer to have reliable renters in place, so if you have an impeccable credit history and references go ahead and drop this info like it’s hot. Be sure to include your score, if you know it. The apartment community is more likely to offer discounted rent to a sure thing, rather than someone who’s racking up debt all over.

Explore payment options

Some apartment communities have flexibility as to whether you pay month-to-month or upfront for a certain period of time, such as three, six or even 12 months. If you have the savings this could land you a discounted rent rate since they’ll already have your money in the bank. This apartment deal will cost you more upfront but will save plenty in the long-term.

Don’t be a diva

Sure, you might want a view of the bay or whatever, but if it works better with your budget to rent a middle floor unit it’s probably smart to make the concession. The same goes for ultra-desirable first-floor units. It’s simply cheaper to snap up a middle unit.

You can also save major bucks by opting for a community with onsite, rather than in-unit laundry. This minor inconvenience can net big savings in the end.

The same concept goes for fixer-upper units. Although it’s lovely to move into a turnkey place with a fresh coat of paint, pristine hardwoods and gleaming stainless steel, it’s also going to be reflected in the rent price. So think about what you really need, versus what you really want, all with your budget in mind. Many communities will approve minor repairs and upgrades, so check into that option and do the work yourself for a fraction of what they would have up-charged you!

Cast a wider net

Sure, you want to be in the trendy part of town, but it’s not worth being near all the hot spots if you have no money left over after rent, utilities and amenity fees to enjoy them. Instead, move a little further out to find the unit you want at a price that won’t break you. Then use ride-shares or public transportation to get you where you need to go if you don’t have your own wheels.

Find your apartment with move-in specials today

Searching for an apartment can be overwhelming in more ways than one. A little extra diligence on the front end, however, is likely to net big savings in the end.

So whether it’s a coupon, selecting a basement abode or a combination of the two, take a beat to figure out what you really want, when you want it and what you’re willing to give up to reap the best cash savings possible.

The post How to Find Apartments with Move-In Specials appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

A September State of Mind

Hi friends. So sorry to go completely MIA on you. Between attempting online school with a five-year-old, much of California burning to the ground, and the general state total chaos in which we find ourselves, getting to the computer for any length of time has been a bit of challenge, to put it mildly. And then I blinked and summer is officially over.

But I had to finally get on here as I have big news for you!

They say you shouldn’t make major life decisions during times of extreme stress, right? Well, we decided to throw all caution to the wind and instead have purchased a coastal cottage in Washington State! Apparently a global pandemic, homeschooling a kindergartner and the most consequential presidential election of our lifetime wasn’t enough to keep me busy.

coastal cottage mood board on Apartment 34

In all seriousness, if the past seven months of Covid have taught us anything, it’s the importance of friends and family and so we decided to create a gathering place that can bring together those we love most for years to come. Nestled within the myriad of inlets and islands that dot the Puget Sound north of Seattle, the cottage enjoys sweeping views of the Olympic mountains and Hood Canal. I consider it my official respite from the impending doom. Sadly it looks nothing like the inspiration images I’ve collected here.

Instead, it is going to take a LOT of work to get our little coastal cottage visitor ready – and in a very short period of time. Over the coming weeks, I plan to take you along on the entire design journey. I will be sharing everything with you – from the cottage’s current state, to all of my design inspiration and through the remodel process. If all goes according to plan, I’ll share a major before and after reveal in time to spend the holiday season with our family rather than more than 800 miles away.

coastal cottage mood board on Apartment 34

Trust me, we’re going to have plenty to discuss, as I have to pick an entire household’s worth of things – from paint colors and kitchen cabinets down to dishware, bedding and everything in between. No design decision will be left unturned. It’s both exhilarating and incredibly daunting. These mood boards are just part my first ideation session for my dream vibe.

I’m hopeful sharing this process with you will offer you some fresh design ideas and positive inspiration as we all hunker down to weather what will undoubtedly be a stormy fall – be it literally or just politically. It’s been a rather dark year and I feel like this might be a way to share a little bit of light. I know I am very happy for the creative distraction. I hope you are too.

I can’t wait to share more very soon!

The post A September State of Mind appeared first on Apartment34.

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Source: apartment34.com

Escape your home for a safe holiday staycation

With the 2020 holidays upon us, it’s likely you’ve spent some time considering how you’ll have a COVID-safe celebration. Should you stay? Should you go? Is travel to your family even an option this year as some states impose new travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine periods?

Perhaps for safety’s sake, you’ve decided to stay put. But you also recognize that being “home for the holidays” doesn’t have the same cozy appeal as it used to when you’ve already been home working from home for months on end. What you might need is a staycation – the getaway for when you can’t get away.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Stephanie a question.

Get away for the holidays without going away

Traditionally, when we think about holiday travel, we’re most likely planning how to get ourselves to a faraway destination – whether that’s to see family across the country, or to flee from some combination of family, holiday hustles and winter weather.

This year, I’ve personally decided I won’t be among the holiday crowds attempting to fly on the busiest travel days of the year. Instead, I’ll be sticking closer to home, celebrating in my own city with a staycation – and testing a theory that there is no place like a Hyatt for the holidays.

If you’re planning to stay close to home like me, here’s some good news: Your credit card points work just as well for living it up in luxury in your hometown as they do when you’re on the road.

Some more good news: You’ll save lots of points and dollars by not flying anywhere this holiday – so go ahead and book the suite!

How to use your credit card points to book a staycation

If you live in or near a city, finding a hotel to tuck into for a few days over the holiday period should be pretty straightforward.

To plan a staycation, I normally start by checking what’s available near me by searching the website for each of the hotel groups in whose loyalty programs I participate.

Here in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, I found plenty of options at varying price points when I looked up Marriott, IHG, Hilton and Hyatt – the four hotel programs in which I currently have points.

For example, a few weeks ago, I decided to take an early holiday staycation at the Hyatt Centric Downtown Portland. I chose the hotel because of its location right in the middle of the city, and because Hyatt has a 25% points-back offer on award stays and free parking for The World of Hyatt Credit Card holders through the end of the year.

I paid 30,000 World of Hyatt points for a two-night stay, got 7,500 points back, and got upgraded to a suite thanks to my World of Hyatt elite status. Without points, the suite would have cost $355 dollars a night – plus the free valet parking saved me another $47 a day. I was able to get a $804 value for 22,500 rewards points. Even though I was less than two miles from my actual house, I felt a world away.

How to use travel rewards to book a staycation

If you don’t already have a hotel-branded rewards credit card for earning points in a specific hotel program like World of Hyatt, or if you live in a location where there aren’t many chain hotels, you’ll likely have more luck booking a staycation using travel rewards points.

You can book directly through the respective program’s travel planning portal. Flexible bank programs include Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou points.

Once you find a hotel you want to visit, and before you make the booking, you’ll want to check to make sure the hotel amenities that excite you for your staycation are going to be open and accessible.

Other than being snuggled up in a warm bed that I didn’t make myself, the best part of my staycation weekend at the Hyatt Centric Portland was the food.

Masia, the hotel’s signature restaurant designed by Portland’s award-winning Spanish chef Jose Chesa, was finally open and serving after a long COVID closure. Since I live in a city where indoor dining still hasn’t made a full comeback (and is now taking a pause for the holiday season), it was a rather delightful experience to spend two mornings lingering over a long breakfast.

If you’re booking more than a week in advance, you should also make sure your reservation is flexible or cancelable should your own plans change, or the COVID regulations in your state or county change and require the hotel to amend their offerings.

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Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift

If you have a special child in your life, you may be wondering what to put under the tree this year. One long-lasting and truly meaningful way to show the child in your life that you care is by taking a few minutes to set up a UGMA/UTMA account and give them a leg up in life.

The earlier you open a UGMA or UTMA account for a child, the longer your initial gift has to grow, thanks to the magic of compound interest. For example, investing just $5 a day from birth at an 8% return could make that child a millionaire by the age of 50. By setting up a UGMA/UTMA account, you’re really giving your beneficiary a present that grows all year round. Now, that’s a gift they’re sure to remember!

What is a UGMA/UTMA account?

UGMA is an abbreviation for the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. And UTMA stands for Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. Both UGMA and UTMA accounts are custodial accounts created for the benefit of a minor (or beneficiary).

The money in a UGMA/UTMA account can be used for educational expenses (like college tuition), along with anything that benefits the child – including housing, transportation, technology, and more. On the other hand, 529 plans can only be used for qualified educational expenses, like summer camps, school uniforms, or private school tuition and fees.

 

It’s important to keep in mind that you cannot use UGMA/UTMA funds to provide the child with items that parents or guardians would be reasonably expected to provide, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Another important point is that when you set up a UGMA/UTMA account, the money is irrevocably transferred to the child, meaning it cannot be returned to the donor.

 

Tax advantages of a UGMA/UTMA account

The contributions you make to a UGMA/UTMA account are not tax-deductible in the year that you make the contribution, and they are subject to gift tax limits. The income that you receive each year from the UGMA/UTMA account does have special tax advantages when compared to income that you would get in a traditional investment account, making it a great tax-advantaged option for you to invest in the child you love.

 

Here’s how that works. In 2020, the first $1,100 of investment income earned in a UGMA/UTMA account may be claimed on the custodian’s’ tax return, tax free. The next $1,100 is then taxed at the child’s (usually much lower) tax rate. Any income in excess of those amounts must be claimed at the custodian’s regular tax rate.

A few things to be aware of with UGMA/UTMA accounts

While there’s no doubt that UGMA/UTMA accounts have several advantages and a place in your overall financial portfolio, there are a few things to consider before you open up a UGMA/UTMA account:

 

  • When the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 or 21, depending on the specifics of the plan), the money is theirs, without restriction.
  • When the UGMA/UTMA funds are released, they are factored into the minor’s assets.
  • The value of these assets will factor into the minor’s financial aid calculations, and may play a big role in determining if they qualify for certain programs, such as SSDI and Medicaid.

Where you can open a UGMA/UTMA account

Many financial services companies and brokerages offer UGMA or UTMA accounts. One option is the Acorns Early program from Acorns. Acorns Early is a UGMA/UTMA account that is included with the Acorns Family plan, which costs $5 / month. Acorns Early takes 5 minutes to set up, and you can add multiple kids at no extra charge. The Acorns Family plan also includes  Acorns Invest, Later, and Spend so you can manage all of the family’s finances, from one easy app.

 

During a time where many of us are laying low this holiday season due to COVID-19, remember that presents don’t just need to be a material possession your loved one unwraps, and then often forgets about. Give the gift of lasting impact through a UGMA/UTMA account.

The post Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

8 Fire Safety Tips 8 Nights of Hanukkah

If you and your family celebrate Hanukkah, this week will involve lighting the menorah. But in all the holiday fun, it’s easy to forget that having an open flame in your home is always cause for greater safety measures. Here are some tips for a safer holiday.

  1. Place your menorah on a sturdy, non-flammable surface: Your menorah, especially when lit, should rest on a stable fixture in your home. You and your family’s guests may accidentally bump into a wobbly table and knock it over. Non-flammable surfaces like glass, metal, or marble work best.
  2. Keep the menorah and matches out of children’s reach: Make sure that your menorah is positioned in a place where your children can enjoy it, but is out of their reach so they don’t hurt themselves. Be sure to store all matches and lighters safely after each candle lighting; kids may find them if left out.
  3. Never leave a lit menorah unattended: All the excitement of the holidays can sometimes lead to carelessness. When burning, the menorah should always be under some sort of supervision.
  4. Place menorah out of reach of pets: Furry friends are eager to join in on the holiday festivities. They could be drawn to the new object in your home and want to investigate, so keep it at a height where they can’t get their paws on it.
  5. Use only non-flammable menorahs: This may seem like an obvious tip, but it’s worth reiterating. Any ornamental menorahs made by your kids in arts and crafts should be admired, but not used in your Hanukkah ceremony.
  6. Don’t walk around with lit candles: Choose the area of your home where your menorah will be lit, then keep it there. Don’t carry your menorah from room to room to avoid potentially dropping it.
  7. Decorate with care: The area surrounding your menorah often receives extra decorations. That is absolutely fine, as long the adornments are non-flammable and not likely to tip over and displace the menorah.
  8. Place your menorah in a secluded area of your home: You’re already going to put your menorah out of reach of children and pets, but it’s equally important to keep the menorah out of your home’s general flow of traffic to avoid accidentally knocking it over.

 

Following these helpful fire safety tips will ensure that you and your family have a pleasant and safe Hanukkah celebration.

The post 8 Fire Safety Tips 8 Nights of Hanukkah first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com