How to Host a Money Stress Free Thanksgiving

From the Mint team: Mint may be compensated by some of the links that appear in this article. Our partners do not endorse, review or approve the content. Any links to Mint Partners were added after the creation of the posting.  Mint Partners had no influence on the creation, direction or focus of this article unless otherwise specifically stated.

Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season. It’s the countdown to Christmas, the first real family gathering since Easter or Fourth of July. For some people, it’s the only time they see their families. For many of us, it’s a wonderful time to celebrate gratitude and to be surrounded by the people you love most.

For others, it’s a stressful, labor-intensive, marathon that only ends when your last uncle leaves. In many instances, the end of Thanksgiving is the best part.

That’s not the only problem. Hosting Thanksgiving is a huge financial endeavor. Feeding a dozen people (or more) can be a huge strain, especially on top of other holiday expenses.

But this year can be different. This year, you’ll be composed, organized and dare I say it, even frugal. This year you’ll actually be glad for Thanksgiving. Want to learn how? Read on.

Ask for More Help

It’s not uncommon if you’re hosting Thanksgiving to take on all the work yourself. Especially if you’re a young adult, hosting your first Thanksgiving is a sign that you’re a real grown-up.

Paying for a Thanksgiving meal for a dozen people can add up quickly and sometimes there’s no reason why you should take on the burden by yourself. Ask everyone who’s coming to bring a side dish while you take on the responsibility of cooking the turkey. If you delegate sides appropriately, you can end up with a meal that not only costs less but is less time-intensive.

If you feel odd about asking people to pitch in, don’t. Almost everyone is happy to help, especially if it means they get to decide how they want to make the stuffing.

Choose Chicken

Buying a turkey on Thanksgiving is a quintessential tradition, but it can also be a costly one. A whole turkey can cost $1.50 per pound compared to the average whole chicken which can be less than $1 per pound.

If your friends and family aren’t die-hard traditionalists, you can probably get away with serving the latter bird. If you really plan ahead you can find a chicken on sale so you spend even less.

If you still want to do a turkey, buy one pound of turkey per guest instead of 1.5-2 pounds. You don’t need to have a ton of turkey leftovers, especially since it’s so expensive.

Aim for Fewer Leftovers

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a meal of Thanksgiving leftovers the next day. I love to pick out my favorites and make a smorgasbord sandwich out of them. But if you’re not careful you might end up with too many leftovers that you can’t use up before they go bad. If this has always been the case, then aim to cut back and have as little remaining as possible. When you do have leftovers, freeze a few so they don’t go bad.

You can freeze anything from cranberry sauce to stuffing to turkey. Dairy items sometimes lose consistency in the freezing process, but it’s still worth trying. When you do freezer meals remember to label them and put them in the freezer right away you won’t forget.

Watch Where You Buy Groceries

It’s always important to comparison shop your groceries, but it’s never more important than on a big holiday. Every store will have its own specials and deals and you might be surprised where you find the best option. My husband and I have recently been shopping a lot at Aldi, a chain more popular in the south in the Midwest. It’s a grocery store without a lot of extra frills so you can find deals way better than any of the other national brands.

We’ve also discovered the secret of ethnic grocery stores where produce prices are often 50% of what I see in my neighborhood grocery store. Before buying your Thanksgiving fixings, check out those stores to see if what you need is cheaper. Remember no one cares if you’re buying generic marshmallows for your sweet potato casserole. They just care that you follow Grandma’s recipe.

If you find yourself spending more on groceries, you may want a credit card that helps you maximize your rewards. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.

Simplify your Meals

If you’re like me, you probably have a variety of picky eaters in your family. Some people are vegan, some are vegetarian and some are changing their diet every week.

That can make it tempting to make a few different kinds of the same meal to please everyone, but making green bean casserole for your Whole30 aunt and a version for everyone else just isn’t cost-efficient. Take everyone’s diet into account and find a version that will suit everyone instead of making slightly different ones. You don’t need to be like Monica from Friends making three different kinds of mashed potatoes so Ross, Phoebe, and Joey will all be happy.

Use Easy Decorations

Everyone wants the Martha Stewart-Thanksgiving centerpiece, but few of us are that crafty. Instead, use squash in a decorative bowl as your centerpiece. It’ll look more natural and minimalist. Plus you won’t have to throw away the decor when the meal’s over.

If you have little cousins you can also enlist them to make pretty decorations before the meal gets started. If you do decide to buy decorations, make sure you store them properly so they can be used next year too.

Skip the Fancy Dinnerware

I’m one of those millennials who skipped the traditional bridal registry in favor of a honeymoon fund so I never got a ceramic gravy boat or silver platter when I got married. That means that when I host people I put chips in a mixing bowl and leave the dip in the package it came in. So far I’ve found that none of my guests care how I’m serving the food as long as it’s good.

Your Thanksgiving family and friends won’t mind either. Don’t feel like you have to rush out to get serveware that matches. If you truly don’t have a large enough platter head to Goodwill or a thrift store where you can find all those items for just a few dollars.

The post How to Host a Money Stress Free Thanksgiving appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

My Real Estate Goals for 2021 and 2020 Results!

2020 was a crazy year for many people, but it turned out to be a good year for us business-wise. I had many goals in 2020 including flipping 15 houses, buying 50k square feet of rentals, writing 2 books, possibly buying another car, and more! We did not accomplish all of the 2020 goals but … Read more

Source: investfourmore.com

Homie’s Boise, Idaho Housing Market Update December 2020

The real estate market is getting hotter and hotter. The local Boise market is no exception. Here’s your monthly update on what’s happening.

Data from Intermountain MLS from December 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

Monthly Sales

According to data from the Intermountain MLS, Boise home sales are dipping monthly but higher year-over-year. At 1,245 units sold, there were 91 fewer monthly sales in December than in November, a 6.8% decrease. This follows seasonal real estate trends. Looking at yearly changes, there were 28 more homes sold in December 2020 than in December 2019. That’s an increase of 2.3% from last year.

ID Monthly Sales Dec 2020

Data via Intermountain MLS.

Sale Price

At $452K, Idaho’s average sale prices continued to rise last year. The average home price in December 2020 was $87K, or 23.7%, higher than in December 2019. The monthly trend follows the yearly move upward. Average home sale prices were up by $3.7K, or .8%, from November 2020.

Idaho Sales Prices Dec 2020

Data via Intermountain MLS.

Days on Market (DOM)

Homes in Boise are going off the market faster than ever. December’s average number of Days on the Market was 18. The previous month’s average DOM was 17, so the average DOM has stayed steady with a one day, 5.5% increase. The average DOM in December of 2019 was 48. That means a 30-day (a whole month!) decrease year-over-year–a staggering drop of 61.9%. Homebuyers will need to jump to make an offer quickly when they find a home they like.

ID DOM Dec 2020

Data via Intermountain MLS.

Analysis from Max Coursey, Homie Head of Idaho Real Estate

“Boise is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Since COVID-19, this trend has only accelerated. There are roughly 2,000 (79%) fewer houses on the Boise market now than there were last year, and we already had a housing shortage a year ago. I have personally never seen numbers this low in my 18-year career in the Treasure Valley. This lack of homes for sale and tremendous population growth has led to a very strong seller’s market. It’s not unusual to hear of a seller receiving 20 offers on a property.

Because of the fierce competition and lack of inventory, many homes are selling significantly above the asking price. To sweeten the pot further, buyers often waive inspections and appraisals and offer generous seller leasebacks and other concessions. Sales price data typically lags, as it usually takes 30 days for a home to close after listing, and reports come out monthly. I believe Boise’s median average home prices are actually higher than the numbers stated in the reports.

The good news for buyers is that interest rates are at or near their lowest levels in the last 40 years. This has made home buying more affordable. Buyers can procure a strong hedge against future inflation by securing low interest rates that are fixed for 30 years. If inflation ever comes back, these buyers will be repaying depreciating dollars. In other words, they get more bang for their buck.”

Turn to a Homie

Homie now has local real estate agents in Idaho. These agents are pros in everything they do, including understanding the local real estate market. Click to start selling or buying and to get in touch with your dedicated agent.

Want to learn more about buying or selling? Sign up to get more info directly to your inbox!

What are you interested in?

The post Homie’s Boise, Idaho Housing Market Update December 2020 appeared first on Homie Blog.

Source: homie.com

16 Free Work From Home Courses & Resources

Trying to find free work from home courses? Would you like to learn how to work from home?

Today, I have a great list of free online courses, plus webinars and ebooks that will help you learn how to start your own home business.Free Work From Home Courses

If you’re looking to make extra income or a full-time living, working from home can be a great idea for you to learn more about. 

For me, I love being able to work from home. I have been working from home for over 7 years now, and I wouldn’t change a thing!

Many people enjoy working from home for reasons such as eliminating your commute, making extra money from home, being your own boss, having a more flexible schedule, and so on.

Also, around 50% of U.S. businesses are now based at home, and that number is expected to to grow.

There are lots of valuable paid online courses for work from home jobs, but if you’re not sure about an idea, you might not want to invest any money just yet.

That’s why free courses and guides are a great way to learn.

In fact, I learned how to start my business by first taking free courses. Since I wasn’t sure what I was doing when I started this blog, I didn’t want to spend money that I didn’t have just yet. I wanted to wait until I felt more comfortable and sure that blogging was what I wanted to do.

You can learn more about each of these online business ideas, figure out what is needed in terms of skills and education, the amount of money you can make, and so on. You get to test these ideas a little bit before you invest a lot of time and money, which is very nice.

Here is a quick list of the free work from home courses and resources that I’m sharing in today’s article:

  1. Sell on Amazon Starter Course
  2. Selling Printables on Etsy Ebook
  3. How To Start a Blog Course
  4. Build A Voiceover Action Plan From Scratch Minicourse
  5. Start An Online Advertising Business From Scratch
  6. Start Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business
  7. Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days
  8. General Transcription Mini-Course
  9. Become a Proofreader 76 Minute Webinar
  10. Court Transcript Proofreading Mini Course
  11. Podcast Virtual Assistant Workbooks
  12. Make Money Writing Romance Novels ecourse
  13. Pinterest Virtual Assistant Training Workshop
  14. Jumpstart Your Virtual Assistant Business
  15. Self-Publishing Your First Book
  16. FREE Intro to Scoping Mini-Course

In the article below, I will be talking further about each work from home business idea and the free work from home courses or resources available for them.

Here are 16 free work from home courses and resources.

 

1. Sell items on Amazon.

The first year that my friend Jessica ran her Amazon FBA business, working less than 20 hours a week total, she made over $100,000 profit.

This free course shows you how to start a profitable Amazon business in a 9-part video course. You’ll learn:

  • The exact steps to follow to set up your Amazon Seller account
  • Two easy and affordable ways to find items to sell
  • How to choose profitable inventory that customers actually want to buy

If this is one of the free work from home courses you’re interested in, click here to learn more and sign up for the FREE Amazon FBA Starter Course!

 

2. Sell printables online.

Did you know that you can earn a living by selling printables online?

Creating printables on Etsy can be a great side hustle because you just need to create one digital file per product, which you can then sell an unlimited number of times.

Printables are digital products that customers can download and print at home. Examples include grocery shopping checklists, gift tags, candy bar wrappers, printable quotes for wall art, and patterns.

You can sign up for this free ebook that helps you figure out where to start when it comes to selling printables on Etsy.

 

3. Create a blog.

Blogging changed my life for the better, and it allows me to earn thousands of dollars a month, all by doing something that I love.

Blogging has allowed me to save up enough money for early retirement, to travel full-time, have a flexible schedule, and more.

Here’s a quick outline of what you will learn in this free course:

  • Day 1: Reasons you should start a blog
  • Day 2: How to determine what to blog about
  • Day 3: How to create your blog (in this lesson, you will learn how to start a blog on WordPress – my tutorial makes it very easy to start a blog)
  • Day 4: How to make money blogging
  • Day 5: My tips for making passive income from blogging
  • Day 6: How to grow your traffic and followers
  • Day 7: Miscellaneous blogging tips that will help you be successful

You can easily learn how to start a blog with my free How To Start a Blog Course.

 

4. Voice over act.

A voice over actor is the person you hear but rarely see on YouTube videos, radio ads, explainer videos, corporate narration, documentaries, e-learning courses, audiobooks, TV commercials, video games, movies, and cartoons.

In 2014, Carrie Olsen replaced her salaried day job to become a full-time voice over actor. People are constantly asking her how she got her start and how they can too.

So, she created Build A Voiceover Action Plan From Scratch Minicourse – This free course will help you learn about becoming a voice over artist, even if you’re brand new!

 

5. Manage Facebook advertising for local businesses.

This is a skill that you can learn without any prior experience in marketing or advertising.

The going rate for Facebook Ad management is $1,000 – $1,500 per month, per client.

This free webinar will teach you:

  • How one client can earn you $1,000 to $2,000 per month
  • Where to find Facebook ads clients

And more!

You can sign up for free at How To Manage Facebook Ads For Clients & Build Your Own Online Marketing Business.

 

6. Become a bookkeeper.

A bookkeeper is someone who tracks the finances of a business. They may handle payroll, billing and invoicing, etc.

And, you can learn how to become a bookkeeper without being an accountant or having any previous experience.

This free resource will teach you more about running your own virtual bookkeeping business. You’ll learn:

  • Is a bookkeeping business for you?
  • What exactly is a bookkeeping business? What kind of work do they do?
  • How much money can you make as a bookkeeper?
  • How do you find clients?

You can sign up for free at Start Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business.

 

7. Flip items for resell on eBay, Craigslist, and more.

Have you ever found something that you thought you could resell to make some money?

I’m sure you’ve thought about it in the past. I know that I have!

My friend Melissa’s family earned $133,000 in one year by buying and selling items that they’ve found at thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets.

Some of the best flipped items that they’ve sold include:

  • An item that they bought for $10 and flipped for $200 just 6 minutes later
  • A security tower they bought for $6,200 and flipped for $25,000 just one month later
  • A prosthetic leg that they bought for $30 at a flea market and sold for $1,000 on eBay the next day

This is one of the home business ideas that anyone can start because you can start off selling things in your own house – I know we all have lots of stuff in our home that we could stand to get rid of. Then once you get a feel for the work, you can start purchasing items to resell.

I know quite a few people who have been flipping items for resale successfully for years!

You can sign up for the free webinar at Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days.

 

8. Transcribe audio or video into words.

Transcription is when you turn audio or video content into a text document. You listen to what’s being said and type it up into a text format.

There are many businesses looking for transcriptionists too – since general transcriptionists convert audio and video to text for virtually any industry, there really isn’t a typical client. Some examples include marketers, authors, filmmakers, academics, speakers, and conferences of all types.

Beginning transcriptionists earn around $15 an hour, and it increases from there.

In this free course, you will learn:

  • What it takes to become a transcriptionist
  • How much you can earn as a transcriptionist
  • How you can find transcriptionist work

You can learn more in the Free General Transcription Mini-Course. This is one of the free work from home courses that can introduce you to a very flexible side job.

 

9. Become a proofreader.

Have you ever read an obvious mistake and wanted to fix it?

Proofreaders look for punctuation mistakes, misspelled words, lack of consistency, and formatting errors.

You take content that other people have written and then go over it with a fine-tooth comb. You might be proofreading blog posts, print articles, academic articles, website copy, ad copy, books, student papers, emails, and more.

In one year, my friend Caitlin made around $43,000 by working as a freelance proofreader.

In her free 76-minute workshop, you will learn:

  • Common questions about becoming a proofreader
  • How to become a proofreader
  • 5 signs proofreading could be a perfect fit for you

You can sign up for free at Transform Your Passion for Words & Reading into a Thriving Proofreading Business in as Little as 30 Days.

 

10. Become a court transcript proofreader.

Becoming a court transcript proofreader is a more focused version of the last idea.

Court reporters also use court transcript proofreaders because of the importance of this type of work.

There is more training that goes into becoming a court transcript proofreader, and that is why I separated it from the general proofreading workshop above.

Caitlin, mentioned above, also has a great FREE 7-day course just for people who are interested in becoming a court transcript proofreader.

 

11. Become a podcast virtual assistant.

There’s a big demand for podcast virtual assistants right now due to there being over 800,000 podcasts. And, that number just continues to grow like crazy!

While the podcast host is responsible for recording themselves, other tasks like editing and publication take time, so many podcasters outsource their work to freelancers or virtual assistants. Also, some podcasters may not know how to do those things, or they may choose to focus their time on other areas.

In this free resource you will learn:

  • A list of the top podcast skills that businesses need help with
  • A custom podcast production checklist that the instructors use with all of their clients

And more!

You can sign up here for free workbooks and checklists that will tell you more about how to become a podcast VA. 

 

12. Write romance books.

My friend Yuwanda has found one of the most interesting home business ideas – she writes romance novels, and in one month, she was able to make over $3,000!

In this free course, you will learn:

  • How to get over your fear of not being a good writer
  • The technical side of self-publishing
  • How she got started writing her first romance novel

And more!

Learning to become a romance writer is by far one of the most interesting free work from home courses. If you’re interested, you can sign up for free at Make Money Writing Romance.

 

13. Help businesses on Pinterest.

Do you enjoy spending time on Pinterest?

Businesses are always looking for Pinterest virtual assistants.

Pinterest virtual assistants help businesses with tasks such as:

  • Designing Pinterest images for a website
  • Helping business owners set up their Pinterest account
  • Scheduling pins because this can be time consuming for the average business owner
  • Brainstorming a marketing plan

Click here and click on “Free Training Workshop” to learn how to become a Pinterest virtual assistant and find your first client. In this free course, you’ll learn what you need to do to get started, what services to offer, and how much to charge as a Pinterest virtual assistant.

 

14. Help businesses as a virtual assistant.

Virtual assistance is a field that is growing very quickly and is one of the most popular online business ideas, as you’ve seen with some of the niche VA courses I’ve already mentioned.

Virtual assistant tasks may include social media management, formatting and editing content, scheduling appointments or travel, email management, and more. Basically, you can get paid to do any task that needs to be done in someone’s business, but doesn’t need to be done by them.

If you are looking for free work from home courses for virtual assistants, then, I recommend checking out Jumpstart Your Virtual Assistant Business. In that link, you’ll receive a free worksheet and workbook that will help you decide what virtual assistant services you can offer (there are over 150 choices!).

 

15. Write your own eBook.

Writing your own eBook is a great way to make money from home, and there is probably something super helpful that you could write about (even if you think otherwise!).

In fact, my friend Alyssa self-published her first book and has sold more than 13,000 copies.

She is now earning a great passive income of over $200 a day from her book ($6,500 in one month alone!).

In this free resource, you will learn:

  • What it takes to publish a book
  • The strategies used to launch a book
  • Writing tips

And more!

You can sign up for free at Self-Publishing Your First Book.

 

16. Become a scopist.

A scopist is someone who edits legal documents for court reporters. A typical salary for an average scopist is around $30,000 to $45,000 per year.

In this free course, you will learn:

  • What is scoping? What does a scopist do?
  • What about finding clients and marketing?
  • What’s the earning potential?
  • What do I need to get started?

If you are looking for free online job training courses about becoming a scopist, I definitely recommend you click here to sign up for the free How To Become a Scopist course.

 

Which course is best for working from home? What can I learn at home for free?

As you can see, there are many different free work from home courses that can help you start your own home business.

The best work from home job will vary from person to person.

I recommend writing down the ones that interest you the most, and exploring those further by taking the free resources mentioned above, doing some online research, and even asking those in the industry how they like their job.

Again, below is a quick list of the free work from home courses and resources that I shared above:

  1. Sell on Amazon Starter Course
  2. Selling Printables on Etsy Ebook
  3. How To Start a Blog Course
  4. Build A Voiceover Action Plan From Scratch Minicourse
  5. Start An Online Advertising Business From Scratch
  6. Start Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business
  7. Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days
  8. General Transcription Mini-Course
  9. Become a Proofreader 76 Minute Webinar
  10. Court Transcript Proofreading Mini Course
  11. Podcast Virtual Assistant Workbooks
  12. Make Money Writing Romance Novels ecourse
  13. Pinterest Virtual Assistant Training Workshop
  14. Jumpstart Your Virtual Assistant Business
  15. Self-Publishing Your First Book
  16. FREE Intro to Scoping Mini-Course

Which free work from home courses are you interested in?

The post 16 Free Work From Home Courses & Resources appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Expert Homebuying Tips for Buying in a Seller’s Market

Buying a house is a big decision, but it can feel especially overwhelming to place an offer on a home less than 24 hours after seeing it for the first time. Plus you’re under pressure to outbid several other buyers — or risk losing the house.

While these circumstances might sound extraordinary, they’re not. With housing inventory nationwide at an all time-low — down 22% from last year according to the National Association of Realtors — it’s no wonder buyers are competing for the same few houses.

I was in this exact position last fall. Here are seven key takeaways from my experience buying in a seller’s market.

Get a Pre-Approval Letter

In order to be competitive in a hot seller’s market, you will need to line up your financing in advance.

Besides all the usual suspects, like saving up for a down payment and improving your credit score, you’ll also want to get a pre-approval letter from your bank. It states that a bank would approve you for a mortgage of a certain amount, and acts as a guarantee to the seller that you can actually afford to buy their house.

This is where it helps to know your budget up front.

“It’s important to understand that the strength of financing is a key consideration a seller takes into account when selecting an offer,” said real estate developer Bill Samuel.

No seller wants to risk accepting an offer that might fall through. Aand since pre-approval letters can take some time to get, have one ready before you find your dream house.

Be Friendly With Neighbors

This might sound crazy, but making a good impression on your new neighbors can actually make a difference when it comes time for a seller to review offers.

Since you’ll likely be visiting the home at least once before making an offer, be prepared to talk to any neighbors you might run into. In close-knit neighborhoods, or ones where people share resources (like an HOA), sellers might care a bit more about the type of person they sell the house to.

If you happen to meet a neighbor when visiting the home, introduce yourself and make a good impression. You never know how much their opinion of you might factor into any final decisions.

Submit an Offer Quickly

After you’ve seen a house, and decided you love it, be prepared to submit an offer quickly— as in, ASAP.

Work with your real estate agent to determine how many other offers the seller already has (or expects to get) and then be prepared to draft something up that day. In our case, we toured our home for the very first time at 11 a.m. on a Monday — it came on the market the evening before — and made an offer by 4 p.m. that same day.

If that sounds fast, it is. But by the time we submitted our offer, the seller already had three others. This is where it helps to have a great real estate agent on your side.

“Having a realtor who can get your offer submitted quickly is crucial,” said Erik Wright, owner of New Horizon Home Buyers. “You want to get your offer in front of the seller first, and make it strong. Purchase price is the obvious factor and in a competitive market, houses often go for over asking price. However, a strong offer has several factors and it depends on what’s most important to the seller.”

Work with your real estate agent to find out what matters most to the seller — is it money, closing quickly, something else entirely? Then make sure your offer addresses their needs.

Minimize Your Contingencies (Within Reason)

Another way to win over your seller (and prevail in any bidding wars) is by keeping your contingencies to a minimum.

Contingencies are the contractual stipulations buyers and sellers must meet before the deal can close. Unsurprisingly, sellers don’t like to have too many of them to deal with. Contingencies can include such things as requesting a seller to make certain repairs, getting a home inspection, or even the fact that you’ll need to sell your old house before being able to buy the new one.

“In a really aggressive seller’s market, a home buyer who has to sell a current property should do so before placing an offer on another home,” said Jason Gelios of Community Choice Realty. “Don’t always assume that the seller will take the highest price. Other conveniences can play a factor in gaining the seller’s attention, especially things like faster closing times and less restrictions.”

While my partner and I didn’t make the highest offer on our house, we did have the fewest contingencies — mainly, we didn’t ask too much of our seller in the way of repairs, or have another house to sell in order to afford the new one.

All that said, there are certain contingencies you should never forgo, and a home inspection is one of them. Getting your home inspected is hugely important, since inspectors will often find things even the sellers weren’t aware of. No matter how much you love a house, don’t be afraid of exercising your right to an inspection.

According to buyer protection laws in most states, sellers are required to report any findings in home inspections to subsequent buyers. In other words, if an inspector finds something wrong with the house, the seller will have to deal with it one way or another— either with you, or the next buyer should you choose to drop out of the deal.

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Make a Generous Earnest Money Deposit

When trying to woo your seller in a competitive market, it helps to make a generous earnest money deposit. An earnest money deposit is a good-faith deposit requested by the seller when you enter into a contract to buy the house and typically run anywhere from 1% to 3% of the sale price of the home.

When deciding how much of an earnest money deposit to include in your offer, keep in mind that whatever amount you give comes off the price of the home (and is returned to you if the deal falls through). In other words, there’s no reason to be cheap. If you can, go slightly above the seller’s requested deposit amount. Even if it’s just a little more than what they’re asking, that gesture of good faith might just be what gets you the house.

A row of houses on a cul de sac in a suburban neighborhood.

Offer Above Asking Price

Wait. Why would anyone make an offer that’s above asking price? Because the competition did it first, and in a hot seller’s market, offering above asking price is often what it takes to even be considered.

Upping your offer may not break the bank as much as you’re fearing. “With interest rates so low these days, offering more than what the seller is asking may not make a drastic difference in your overall monthly payments,” real estate agent Pavel Khaykin of Pavel Buys Houses said.

Let’s say the listing price on your dream home is $320,000 and you’re able to put down a 6% down payment. That leaves you with a mortgage of roughly $301,000. For a 30-year fixed mortgage at an interest rate of 3%, that translates into $1,269 monthly payments. Now let’s say you decide to bid a little higher on the home and offer $10,000 over asking price. This would only bump up your monthly payment (assuming you qualify for that low interest rate) by $42.

Lace Up Your Running Shoes

In a hot seller’s market, you’ve got to be ready to move fast. Often this is more of a change in mindset than anything else. When my partner and I first started looking at homes, we considered ourselves casual buyers — that is, until our dream home came on the market late one Sunday night. From there, things moved quickly. We saw the home, made an offer, were under contract by morning, and spent the next month and a half going through the process of closing on the house.

If you’re serious about finding your dream home in the next few months, the best thing you can do is know what you want from the outset, and get your ducks in a row to make a compelling offer when you find it. Maybe this means making a list of your must-haves in a house, and working to improve your credit score. It might also mean reaching out to a real estate agent before you need one, and getting that pre-approval letter in place.

Although inventory is low, new houses come on the market all the time.

Larissa Runkle is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Credit Card Balance Transfers

Credit card balances are crippling households across the United States, giving them insurmountable debts that just keep on growing and never seem to go away. But there is some good news, as this problem has spawned a multitude of debt relief options, one of which is a credit card balance transfer.

Balance transfers are a similar and widely available option for all debtors to clear their credit card balances, reduce their interest rate, and potentially save thousands of dollars.

How Credit Card Balance Transfers Work

A balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer a balance from one or more cards to another, reducing credit card debt and all its obligations. These cards are offered by most credit card companies and come with a 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 6, 12 or 18 months.

Consumers can use this balance transfer offer to reduce interest payments, and if they continue to pay the same sum every month, all of it will go towards the principal. Without interest to eat into their monthly payment, the balance will clear quickly and cheaply.

There are a few downsides to transferring a balance, including late fees, a transfer fee and, in some cases, an annual fee.

What Happens When You Transfer a Balance on Credit Cards?

When you transfer a balance, your new lender repays your credit card debt and moves the funds onto a new card. You may incur a transfer fee and pay an annual fee, which can increase the total debt, but transferring a balance in this way allows you to take advantage of a 0% introductory APR. While this introductory period lasts, you won’t pay any interest on your debt and can focus on clearing your credit card debt step by step.

Why are Balance Transfers Beneficial?

A little later, we’ll discuss some alternatives to a balance transfer offer, all of which can help you clear your debt. However, the majority of these methods will increase your debt in the short term, prolong the time it takes to repay it or reduce your credit score. 

A balance transfer credit card does none of these things. As soon as you accept the transfer offer, you’ll have a 0% introductory APR that you can use to eliminate your debt. The balance transfer may increase your debt liabilities slightly by adding a transfer fee and an annual fee, but generally speaking, this is one of the best ways to clear your debt.

To understand why this is the case, you need to know how credit card interest works. If you have a debt of $20,000 with a variable APR rate of 20% and a minimum monthly payment of $500, you’ll repay the debt in 67 months at a cost of over $13,000 in interest.

If you move that debt to a card with a balance transfer offer of 0% APR for 12 months, and you continue to meet the $500 minimum payment, you’ll repay $5,000 and reduce the debt to $15,000. From that point on, you’ll have a smaller balance to clear, less interest to worry about, and can clear the debt completely in just a few more years.

Of course, the transfer fee will increase your balance somewhat, but this fee is minimal when compared to the money you can save. The same applies to the annual fee that these cards charge and, in many cases, you can find cards that don’t charge an annual fee at all. 

You can even find no-fee balance transfer cards, although these are rare. The BankAmericard credit card once provided a no fee transfer offer to all applicants, in addition to a $0 annual fee. However, they changed their rules in 2018 and made the card much less appealing to the average user.

Pros and Cons of Credit Card Balance Transfers

From credit score and credit limit issues to a high variable APR, late fees, and cash advance fees, there are numerous issues with these cards. However, there are just as many pros as there are cons, including the fact that they can be one of the cheapest and fastest ways to clear debt.

Pro: 0% Introductory APR

The 0% APR on balance transfers is the best thing about these credit cards and the reason they are so beneficial. However, many cards also offer 0% APR on purchases. This means that if you continue to use your card after the transfer has taken place, you won’t be charged any interest on the new credit.

With most cards, the 0% APR on purchases runs for the same length of time as the balance transfer offer. This ensures that all credit you accumulate upon opening the account will be subject to the same benefits. Of course, accumulating additional credit is not wise as it will prolong the time it takes you to repay the debt.

Pro: Can Still Get Cash Rewards

While cash rewards are rare on balance transfer cards, some of the better cards still offer them. Discover It is a great example of this. You can earn cash back every time you spend, even after initiating a balance transfer. The cash rewards scheme is one of the best in the industry and there is also a 0% APR on balance transfers during an introductory period that lasts up to 18 months.

Pro: High Credit Limit

A balance transfer card may offer you a high credit limit, one that is large enough to cover your credit card debt. You will need a good credit score to get this rate, of course, but once you do your credit card debt will clear, you can repay it, and then you’ll have a card with a high credit limit and no balance.

Throw a rewards scheme into the mix (as with the Discover It rewards card) and you’ll have turned a dire situation into a great one.

Con: Will Reduce Credit Score

A new account opening won’t impact your credit score as heavily as you may have been led to believe. In fact, the impact of a new credit card or loan is minimal at best and any effects usually disappear after just a few months. However, a balance transfer card is a different story and there are a few ways it can impact your score.

Firstly, it could reduce your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you have compared to the amount of debt you have. If you have four credit cards each with a credit limit of $20,000 and a debt of $10,000 then your score will be 50%. If you close all of these and swap them for a single card where your credit limit matches your debt, your score will be 100%.

Your credit utilization ratio points for 30% of your total FICO score and can, therefore, do some serious damage to your credit score.

Secondly, although FICO has yet to disclose specifics, a maxed-out credit card can also reduce your score. By its very nature, a balance transfer card will be maxed out or close to being maxed out, as it’s a card opened with the sole purpose of covering this debt.

Finally, if you close multiple accounts and open a new one, your account age will decrease, thus reduce your credit score further.

Con: Transfer Free

The transfer fee is a small issue, but one worth mentioning, nonetheless. This is often charged at between 3% and 5% of the total balance, but there are also minimum amounts of between $5 and $10, and you will pay the greater of the two.

This can sound like a lot. After all, for a balance transfer of $10,000, 5% will be $500. However, when you consider how much you can save over the course of the introductory period, that fee begins to look nominal.

There may also be an annual fee to consider, but if your score is high enough and you choose one of the cards listed in this guide, you can avoid this fee.

Con: Late Fees and Other Penalties

In truth, all credit cards will charge you a fee if you’re late and you will also be charged a fee every time you make a cash advance. However, the fees may be higher with balance transfer cards, especially if those cards offer generous benefits and rewards elsewhere. It’s a balancing act for the provider—an advantage here means a disadvantage there.

Con: High APR on Purchases

While many balance transfer cards offer a 0% APR on purchases for a fixed period, this rate may increase when the introductory period ends. The resulting variable APR will often be a lot larger than what you were paying before the transfer, with many credit cards charging over 25% or more on purchases.

Which Credit Cards are Best for Clearing Credit Card Debt?

Many credit card issuers have some kind of balance transfer card, but it’s worth remembering that credit card companies aren’t interested in offering these cards to current customers. You’ll need to find a new provider and if you have multiple cards with multiple providers, that can be tricky. 

Run some comparisons, check the offers against your financial situation, and pay close attention to late fees, APR on purchases, cash rewards, and the length of the 0% introductory APR rate. 

You’ll also need to find a card with a credit limit high enough to cover your current debt, and one that accepts customers with your credit score. This can be tricky, but if you shop around, you should find something. If not, focus on increasing your credit score before seeking to apply again.

Here are a few options to help you begin your search for the most suitable balance transfer card:

Discover It

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 18 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 6 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 24.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Citi Simplicity

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 21 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 12 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 26.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Bank of America Cash Rewards

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One Quicksilver

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One SavorOne

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

How to Clear Debt with a Balance Transfer Card

From the point of the account opening to the point that the introductory period ends, you need to focus on clearing as much of the balance as possible. Don’t concern yourself with a variable APR rate, annual fee or other issues and avoid additional APR on purchases by not using the card. Just put all extra cash you have towards the debt and reduce it one step at a time.

Here are a few tips to help you clear debt after you transfer a balance:

Meet the Monthly Payment

First things first, always meet your minimum payment obligations. The 0% APR on balance transfers protects you against additional interest, but it doesn’t eliminate your repayments altogether. If you fail to meet these payments, you could find yourself in some serious hot water and may negate the balance transfer offer.

Increase Payment Frequency

It may be easier for you to repay $250 every two weeks as opposed to $500 every month. This will also allow you to use any extra funds when you have them, thus preventing you from wasting cash on luxury purchases and ensuring it goes towards your debt.

Earn More

Ask for a pay rise, take on a part-time job, work as a freelancer—do whatever it takes to earn extra cash during this period. If you commit everything you have for just 12 to 18 months you can get your troublesome debt cleared and start looking forward to a future without debt and complications, one where you have more money and more freedom.

Sell Up

It has never been easier to sell your unwanted belongings. Many apps can help you with this and you can also sell on big platforms like Facebook, eBay, and Amazon. 

Sell clothes, electronics, books, games, music—anything you no longer need that could earn you a few extra dollars. It all goes towards your debt and can help you to clear it while your introductory APR is active.

Don’t Take out a Personal Loan

While you might be tempted to use a loan to cover your debt, this is never a good idea. You should avoid using low-interest debt to replace high-interest debt, even if the latter is currently under a 0% introductory APR. 

It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of swapping one debt for another, and it’s a cycle that ultimately leads to some high fees and even higher interest rates.

Focus on the Bigger Picture

Debt exists because we focus too much on the short-term. Rather than dismissing the idea of buying a brand-new computer we can’t afford, we fool ourselves into believing we can deal with it later and then pay for it with a credit card. This attitude can lead to persistent debt and trap you in an inescapable cycle and it’s one you need to shed if you’re going to transfer a balance.

Instead of focusing on the short term, take a look at the bigger picture. If you can’t afford it now, you probably can’t afford it later; if you can’t repay $10,000 worth of debt this year, you probably can’t handle $20,000 next year.

Alternatives to Credit Card Balance Transfers

If you have the cash and the commitment to pay your credit card debt, a balance transfer card is perfect. However, if you have a low credit score and use the card just to accumulate additional debt and buy yourself more time, it will do more harm than good. In that case, debt relief may be the better option.

These programs are designed to help you pay your debt through any means possible. There are several options available and all these are offered by specialist companies and providers, including banks and credit unions. As with balance transfer cards, however, you should do your research in advance and consider your options carefully before making a decision.

Pay More Than the Minimum

It’s an obvious and perhaps even redundant solution, but it’s one that needs to be mentioned, nonetheless. We live in a credit hungry society, one built on impulsive purchases and a buy-now-care-later attitude. A balance transfer card, in many ways, is part of this, as it’s a quick and easy solution to a long and difficult problem. And like all quick patches, it can burst at the seams if the problem isn’t controlled.

The best option, therefore, is to try and clear your debts without creating any new accounts. Do everything you can to increase your minimum payment every month. This will ensure that you pay more of the principal, with the minimum payment covering your interest obligations and everything else going towards the actual balance.

Only when this fails, when you genuinely can’t cover more than the minimum, should you look into opening a new card.

Debt Consolidation

Balance transfers are actually a form of debt consolidation, but ones that are specifically tailored to credit card debt. If you have multiple types of debt, including medical bills, student loans, and personal loans, you can use a consolidation loan to clear it.

This loan will pay off all of your debts and then give you a new one with a new provider. The provider will reduce your monthly payment and may even reduce your interest rate, allowing you to pay less and to feel like you’re getting a good deal. However, this is at the expense of a greatly increased loan term, which means you will pay considerably more over the duration of the loan.

As with everything else, a debt consolidation loan is dependent on you having a good credit score and the better your financial situation is, the better the loan rates will be.

Debt Management

Debt management can help if you don’t have the credit history required for debt consolidation. Debt management plans are provided by companies that work with your creditors to repay your debts in a way that suits you and them. You pay the debt management company, they pass your money on, and in return, they request that you abide by many strict terms and conditions, including not using your credit cards.

Many debt management programs will actually request that you close all but one of your credit cards and only use that one card in emergencies. This can greatly reduce your credit score by impacting your credit utilization ratio. What’s more, if you miss any payments your creditors may renege on their promises and revert back to the original monthly payments.

Debt Settlement

The more extreme and cheaper option of the three, but also the riskiest. Debt settlement works well with sizeable credit card debt and is even more effective if you have a history of missed payments, defaults or collections. A debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your accounts and instead put your money into a secured account run by a third-party provider.

They will then contact your creditors and negotiate a settlement amount. This process can take several years as they’re not always successful on the first attempt but the longer they wait, the more desperate your creditors will become and the more likely they will be to accept a settlement.

Debt settlement is one of the few options that allows you to pay all your debt for much less than the original balance. However, it can harm your credit score while these debts are being repaid and this may impact your chances of getting a mortgage or a car loan for a few years.

Credit Card Balance Transfers is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Inside Supernatural Star Jensen Ackles’ ‘Very Hip’ Lake House in Austin

If you’re a die-hard Supernatural fan like us, you’re probably still reeling from the show’s finale and coping with the fact that there won’t be any new Winchester adventures for us to follow. But we’re not here to talk about that, but rather snoop into the private life of one of the series’ leading men. More specifically, Jensen Ackles’ house — which we actually think Dean Winchester would approve of.

The actor starring in CW’s longest running show and his wife Danneel opened up their 7,500-square-foot home in Austin, Texas to Architectural Digest, giving us a rare glimpse into the heartthrob’s home and personal life.

As the story goes, the couple was relocating from Los Angeles and initially considered buying a house down the road when they noticed this property (that wasn’t even for sale). But since they fell in love with it, the couple went ahead and asked the previous owners if they’d be willing to sell. And since it’s not easy resisting Jensen Ackles’ charms, they managed to convince the owners so the Ackles’ moved on to the next step –- redecorating the house.

To help out, they hired architect Paul Lamb and interior designer Fern Santini and together they came up with some brilliant ideas on how to best revamp their already-stunning new house.

“It was imperative that the house express the Ackleses — young, bold, and irreverent,” Lamb told AD.

Jensen Ackles’ house, which boasts five bedrooms, revolves around Danneel’s decorating outlook of “more is more is more!” There is a lot of color, texture, a lot of wood work going on to make it look like a lake house and endless decorations with some of the coolest background stories.

Let there be music

In Supernatural, Jensen loves music. Remember his spontaneous Eye of a Tiger outtake? Still fun to watch! There’s definitely more of where that came from in real life, since Jensen did his best to create an amazing acoustic sound in his house.

The living room is scattered with guitars and all across the shag rug lie comfy and colored floor pillows. All this because the couple loves having friends over, sitting on the floor, singing and playing the guitar.

Jensen was excited to talk about one of his favorite features of the house: “The hand-scraped wood floors undulate quite heavily, and we’ve got these giant beams and wood all around that feel like you’re in the hull of a giant ship.” “What that does is it creates an amazing acoustic sound,” he continues. “We’ve always had music in our lives, and we wanted to pass on that tradition.”

Jensen Ackles and his family at home in Austin, Texas
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Jeff Wilson for AD

Jensen’s kick-ass bar

They’ve taken care of the music, and to complete the ambiance they got rid of the formal dining room (that nobody used anyway) and replaced it with a kick-ass bar.

Placed on one end of the large living room, the bar is made out of black walnut with black and white veined marble. The cabinets were specially made to light the expensive bourbons it holds inside.

jensen ackles bar in his home in austin texas
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Jeff Wilson for AD

The master suite

There’s a master bedroom swaddled in Trove wallpaper bearing vintage photography of 1920s opera boxes. The wallpaper is covered in sections by Japanese-inspired barn door panels “because sometimes you need an audience and sometimes you don’t”.

 Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas.
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Douglas Friedman for AD

The master bathroom has a beautiful
bathtub sitting in front of a large window that provides a stunning view to the
lake.

The Mr. and Mrs. own two separate counters, because, you know, it just makes things easier in the mornings; and the inspiration for their master bathroom shower came from an Architectural Digest story featuring a steel and glass shower in the home of Neil Patrick Harris.

 Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas.
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Douglas Friedman for AD

Jensen Ackles’ bright, wood-framed home

Thanks to exposed beams, larger expanses of windows, and rich wooden ceilings, the architect managed to simplify and open the spaces. They simply tore down walls to let more natural light into the home.

Jensen’s favorite space is the breezy two-story screened porch that transformed the entire profile of the house; and his favorite piece – a custom long table made using a 2,000-year-old cypress log.

Parents of three

Jensen and Danneel have three beautiful children, so they had to choose the decor and furniture according to their needs as well. It appears that the couple’s eldest daughter would make a great interior designer once she grows up. The six-year-old girl, JJ, helped pick out all her own bedroom decor.

 Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas.
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Douglas Friedman for AD

Unsurprisingly, the kids’ favorite toy is a rolling acrylic table from the ‘50s, placed in the kitchen. Everybody loves a happy kitchen!

 Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas.
Jensen Ackles home in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Douglas Friedman for AD

Jensen Ackles’ home is full of hidden gems

The actor’s house is a personalized, eccentric, yet highly livable place. It was designed to resemble the Laurel Canyon bungalow the couple had once lived in and it’s a testament to the old school, Austin-style lake house.

The space is filled with all kinds of eccentric and eclectic objects—some useful, some decorative, some both. The decorations could be found in abundance in Austin during its bohemian period (the Ackles’ are active supporters of local art), as well as in late-60s California.

More beautiful celebrity homes

Rob Lowe’s Gorgeous House in Montecito is Back on the Market for $42.5 Million
Luxurious Malibu Estate Previously Owned by Kelsey Grammer On the Market for $20M
‘Hunger Games’ Actor Josh Hutcherson is Selling His Celebrity-Magnet “Tree House” in Hollywood Hills
Jessica Alba’s Los Angeles House is a Pinterest-Perfect Dream Home

The post Inside Supernatural Star Jensen Ackles’ ‘Very Hip’ Lake House in Austin appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com