Podcast: Insurance For Homeowners and Real Estate Investors

Insurance For Homeowners and Real Estate Investors

For this podcast about insurance I chatted with Matt Kincaid of Meridian Captone.  In the podcast we discussed insurance for homeowners and real estate investors.  Topics included first time homebuyer tips for arranging insurance, insurance for real estate investors with long term tenants and insurance for investors working in the short term rental space.

I hope you enjoy the podcast and find it informative.  Please consider sharing with those who also may benefit.

Listen via YouTube:

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You can connect with Matt at LinkedIn,  You can reach out to Matt for more information on their insurance products by emailing him at mkincaid@meridiancapstone.com.

You can connect with me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.

About the author: The above article “Podcast: Insurance For Homeowners and Real Estate Investors” was provided by Luxury Real Estate Specialist Paul Sian. Paul can be reached at paul@CinciNKYRealEstate.com or by phone at 513-560-8002. If you’re thinking of selling or buying your investment or commercial business property I would love to share my marketing knowledge and expertise to help you.  Contact me today!

I work in the following Greater Cincinnati, OH and Northern KY areas: Alexandria, Amberly, Amelia, Anderson Township, Cincinnati, Batavia, Blue Ash, Covington, Edgewood, Florence, Fort Mitchell, Fort Thomas, Hebron, Hyde Park, Indian Hill, Kenwood, Madeira, Mariemont, Milford, Montgomery, Mt. Washington, Newport, Newtown, Norwood, Taylor Mill, Terrace Park, Union Township, and Villa Hills.

Transcript

[RealCincy.com Insurance Podcast]

[Beginning of Recorded Material]

Paul S.:             Hello everybody, this is Paul Sian with United real estate home connections. Real estate agent licensed in the state of Ohio and Kentucky. And with me today is Matt Kincaid with Meridian. Hi Matt, how are you doing today?

Matt K.:            I’m doing great, Paul, thanks for having me.

Paul S.:             Great to have you on here, and looking forward to our podcast today. Where we’re going to discuss insurance for homeowners, for investors as well as looking in-depth into the insurance policies and how that’ll help out buyers and investors, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background? When did you get started in insurance?

Matt K.:            Yes. It really started in junior/senior year of college. I went to NKU, graduated in 2015. My best friend actually dropped out of school and started selling commercial trucking insurance to long-distance truckers. So he thought it might be a good part-time job for me to do, do some customer service work.

So that’s what I did my senior year mostly. And picked up on it pretty quickly, and after I graduated, I started selling full-time, and it just happened to be when I stuck with. Ended up transitioning to more personal lines. So I still do a lot of commercials, but our main focus is personal. So we’re typical home auto landlord insurance that sort of thing, so that’s kind of how I got started.

Paul S.:             Great. And you’ve been with Meridian ever since?

Matt K.:            Yes. I’ve been with Meridian. It’ll be four years in September; I’ve been in the industry for about six years now.

Paul S.:             Nice. So I understand a lot of people don’t know that you’ve got your insurance brokers, which I believe Meridian is an insurance broker, and then you got your insurance agents. Can you explain a little bit the difference between an insurance broker and an insurance agent?

Matt K.:            Yes. So in the insurance world, there’s independence and captives; captives are just what it sounds are captive to one product, one company. Whereas with independence Meridian particular, we have about 15 different companies that we’re able to shop around through. So one of our companies is, for example, is Allstate. A lot of captives also have Allstate, but we have the same exact product.

But we also have 12 other companies that we can shop around through, to make sure that you’re getting the best. So it’ll really benefit to the customer and me as an agent, or I’m not if I was just one company, I know I have to stand behind that product 100% no matter what. Whereas being a Meridian, I can just do whatever is best for the customer.

Paul S.:             Yes. So the ideal then I guess is that you can shop around from multiple policies. Just like going into the store, you can compare different types of bread, and whatever price works best for you, whatever flavor works best for you. That’s similar to what you’re able to provide.

Matt K.:            Yes, that’ll be a good example. For like your typical, this may not be what we’re talking about but, but for like your home and auto, most of time, it’s best to be with one company, but not all the time. So I’m able to mix and match if need be, whatever is going to save the customer most money, whatever they’re company is having.

Paul S.:             Great. So let’s move on to first-time homebuyers. Insurance is a, especially for homeowners, insurance is the new thing for first-time homebuyers if they don’t really know what they’re looking for. When’s a good time for them to start having that conversation with their insurance person?

Matt K.:            So I think whenever you get in contract is a good time to start looking. Getting a quote is never going to hurt, you’re not bound to any coverage, or you’re not going to be paying. 90% of time, you’re not going to be paying the full 12 months up front.

So it’s good to start getting your quotes shops around, getting some final numbers to give to your lender if you have one. So they can finalize numbers and give you a good picture of what you might be looking at going forward. So it’s never too early in my opinion, but once you get into contract, I think is an ideal time.

Paul S.:             Yes. That’s something I agree with too. And it should be pointed out for those first-time homebuyers who don’t know, I mean insurance is required if they’re financing the purchase, and the lender is going to require homeowners insurance.

Matt K.:            Yes. A lot of people know that it’s not a law that have home insurance, but the lender can make that stipulation that you have to have it upon closing.

Paul S.:             Great. And when a homebuyer first time, whether homebuyer existing or first-time homebuyer. What exactly is the insurance company looking at when they’re pricing out policies?

Matt K.:            So a big one is, you’ll hear this term going out a lot, insurance score. It’s a credit-based score; you don’t need a social to run it. But they’re able to calculate a similar score based on the amount of claims you’re turning in, your payments.

Are you making your payments on time? That sort of thing. So they’re able to get a good a good picture of the type of risk that the insurance company is taking on so that I mean if you’re looking at the property itself, the construction of the property, how old it is, the exterior that sort of thing.

Paul S.:             So does that involve a hard credit pool or a soft credit pool?

Matt K.:            It’s soft; you won’t see it on your credit at all.

Paul S.:             Okay, great. So that’s something that doesn’t have, even though during the home shopping process there’s going to be a bunch of credit pools, whether from a couple of lenders. But insurance it’s not one of those things that the buyers have to look at.

Matt K.:            No, absolutely not. Especially, that would be a big pain. Especially if I’m shopping through 15, and I’m running NVR and insurance score. But no, it won’t even show up on your score.

Paul S.:             Okay. So what are some of the best ways that homebuyers can improve their chance of getting a better insurance rate?

Matt K.:            Right. So prior insurance history is a big one, making your insurance payments on time. The area that you are in is going to be a big factor. The zip code, there’s different what’s called protection classes based on where the home is. So that’s based on how far you are from the fire hydrant, and also how far you are from the fire department.

So the highest protection class you can have is ten, that’s a maximum risk. You’re over five miles away from the nearest fire department, and your insurance rate is going to be higher. Simply do the fact if there was a fire or total catastrophe, it’s going to take longer for them to reach you.

Paul S.:             Okay. Let’s talk about the risk; you mentioned risk in there. How does risk play into it? Let’s say whether of the buyer themselves and if they’ve had past history of claims or the house even if they’ve never been in the house before what about the risk associated with that.

Paul S.:             Yes. So like I said before pass to insurance, history is big. With these landlord policies, it’s hard to tell what the price is exactly going to be. Because obviously, they’re going to rate it based off the buyer’s insurance score.

But they don’t know who’s going to be living in there. They don’t know the type of risk for who’s going to occupy that home. So it’s very limited; there’s more of a baseline price just based off the buyer’s insurance score and the protection class and the age and the property itself.

Paul S.:             Okay. In terms of the property itself, there’s a CLUE report which a lot of buyers probably have not heard about. Can you explain what the clue report is, what does it stand for, and what does that exactly provide?

Matt K.:            Yes. So I kind of describe it as a moto vehicle report for your home.  So it stands for the comprehensive loss underwriting exchange. So a lot of times, LexisNexis, you’ll get your reports from there. It’s just a big aggregate of claims that are turned in by insurers, and obviously, when I’m running your clue report, it’s going to pull up based off your name, your date of birth and the address if there are any claims that correspond to you, the insurance company can grade it importantly.

Paul S.:             Okay, great. Is there any cost for you pulling a clue report for a buyer?

Matt K.:            No, absolutely not. So for a personal policy, so if we’re talking landlord, that’s four units, four family and under. Most of the times, the company can run that itself. If it’s a commercial policy, it’s a little bit more different.

For example, if this is not a new purchase, maybe you’ve had this property for a few years, and you’re shopping right around, you may have to order that from your prior insurance company. But if it’s a new purchase, a lot of times it’s not going to be necessary, if it’s a commercial risk.

Paul S.:             Okay. Let’s talk about a homeowner who’s been in their house for a few years now, and they had a policy in place with an insurer. Do you have any recommendations or suggestions for them? I mean, do the rates get better? Do the rates get higher if they get another quote?

Matt K.:            So it’s kind of a cache one to it. It’s almost impossible to know what the insurance company is going to do. Obviously, you want to find a company that is A-rated or higher, that means they have a good financial stability, so they’re not just going to raise your rates for no reason.

But insurance is kind of like the stock market in some ways. If a company is taking big losses a certain year, they may try to recoup by raising rates, and that’s just going to be across the board based on your zip code. But I always just say just keep track of your rates. I know Meridian we have somebody who’s dedicated to be shopping if your policy goes up a certain percentage. So I think that’s great to have. But just pay attention to it, and re-shop it every couple of years if need be.

Paul S.:             Okay. By the fact of them, somebody re-shopping it, that’s not necessarily going to increase their rates, will it?

Matt K.:            No, absolutely not. Companies like to see that you’ve been insured, they don’t want to see you bounce around all the time, because that means they’re probably going to lose that risk in a year. But to answer your question, there’s no harm in re-shopping. I have customers that will call me each and every year to make sure that we have the best rate, that’s totally fine by me.

Paul S.:             Okay, that’s great and helpful information. To move on to investment real estate, can you talk about the differences in commercial versus residential investment real estate insurance?

Matt K.:            Yes, so kind of hard to describe the four. Commercial is going to be the five units and above, personal is going to be four and under. Coverages on that, the only differences that you’re going to see with commercial, instead of having a one hundred thousand or three hundred thousand liability limit, most of the time they’re going to include a general liability policy, which is going to include one million in liability.

A bunch of different other things that fall under that, so that might look different. Other than that, the forms are fairly similar. You just want to make sure that you have replacement cost, or if you want actual cash value, deductible, loss of rent. So those things are going to be similar, it’s just a matter of how many years you have, that sort of thing.

Paul S.:             Okay. In terms of investors who are owner occupying, they’re buying a duplex or four-unit, and they want to live in one unit. Are the insurance rates generally better for that type of situation?

Matt K.:            There’s not a clear answer for that, I mean it’s still going to be written on the same type of form. There might be some discounts being that the insurance company is able to calculate their risk, maybe a little bit more accurately. I mean, that could be a good thing or a bad thing for the customer.

But really, you just want to make sure that you’re asking those questions, make sure the agent is writing the policy correctly. So down the road, if there are any changes or let’s say the insurance company audits you and that information is inaccurate, that could then raise your rate.

Paul S.:             Okay. So I guess the answer is it depends?

Matt K.:            Yes. With a lot of insurance, it just depends, unfortunately.

Paul S.:             That’s still good to know. So let’s talk a little bit about insurance riders, I guess insurance riders applies both to regular homeowners as well as investors. What can you tell me? I guess first, let’s explain what’s an insurance rider, and why would somebody want one or need one.

Matt K.:            Yes. So with any insurance policy, there’s going to be a lot of things that are automatically included. Like if we’re talking landlord policy wind, hail, fire, that sort of thing. And then if you want to have personal property protection, let’s say you’re furnishing some of the items may be the appliances in the home can have that. Otherwise, the writers are going to look fairly similar to what you’re going to see on a typical homeowner’s insurance policy.

Or do you want water and sewage backup? Do you want replacement cost on your belongings or the roof? So those are going to look fairly similar. If the agent is asking the right questions and going over it thoroughly, there should be no question on how you want it covered. Some other things that might be on there is earthquake that’s not included; flood insurance it’s a totally separate policy, so there’s always that misconception that flood is included in the homeowners; it’s never included.

Whether it’s a landlord policy or homeowner’s policy, the way to differentiate that with water coverage is where the water is originating from. If the water originated from outside the house, that is flood. If the water is originating from inside, let’s say you have a pipe that burst, or a toilet that overflows or some pump that’s water inside the house and that’s something that could be covered either automatically or with a rider.

Paul S.:             Okay. And just look a little further into flood insurance that applies to both regular buyers and investors, but that’s also like you said this based on external factors close to a river, close to the lake. Where would somebody find out if their property falls under that, or requires flood insurance?

Matt K.:            So a lot of the times, the lender may have an idea if it’s required or not. Otherwise, just asking your insurance agent. There’s not like an automatic identification that is going to tell you. In the loan process, it will probably come up that flood insurance is required, and then at that point, the insurance agent can find out what flood zone you’re in, what kind of rate impact that’s going to have on you, and that sort of thing.

Paul S.:             And then flood insurance too is not something you provide directly, I believe that’s provided from the government, correct?

Matt K.:            Yes. So it’s a FEMA based product, but we do also have a private flood company if your loan accepts that, which can be up to 40% off of a FEMA back product, and it’s the same exact coverage.

Paul S.:             Okay. So let’s talk a little bit more about the private insurance coverage you said for flood insurance, as opposed to FEMA. That’s something you said the lender would have to allow it. Otherwise, they have to go through the government program?

Matt K.:            Yes. So I mean the laws are changing for this all the time, most of the time if it’s a Government loan, they’re not going to allow private flood insurance. But that could depend on a bunch of different factors.

So the best thing to do is just ask your lender if private flood is acceptable because if it is, that’s going to save you a ton of money. I just did one a couple of weeks ago, where FEMA wanted 1,500 bucks, and my private flood carrier came back at like 700. So that could be a big difference, especially if you have a certain down payment you need to make for the home, and just cut cost in general.

Paul S.:             That’s 1500 versus 700 is that a yearly cost?

Matt K.:            Yes, flood is always going to be a 12-month policy, just like your homeowners.

Paul S.:             Okay. Is it worth it? Let’s say somebody’s not listed as a; the property is not listed in flood zone, so they don’t require flood insurance. Is it worth it for them to maybe they happen to live behind a, there’s a small lake behind them? Is it worth it to get flood insurance for them?

Matt K.:            I think it’s at least worth having that conversation, you know everybody’s different. You know there are some customers they’re going to want all the bells and whistles, they are going to want earthquake even if you’re not even close to a fault, that sort of thing.

So it’s just having that conversation, I mean you can never be too covered. It’s never a bad idea to cover all your paces, but it’s just a matter of what the insured is willing to spend, and if they think it’s worth taking that risk or not.

Paul S.:             Okay. Most of the insurance policies we’re talking about, and I shouldn’t say most, I should say all the policies we’re talking about right now are generally applied to like long term whether you as a long term owner-occupant or as a long term investment property, where you have a one continuous tenant may be staying a year after a year or long-term leases basically.

Let’s talk a little bit about short term tenants like your Airbnb, your VRBO, I mean, are there different insurance requirements for that, different insurance policies? What would you recommend? And what have you seen for other people who are looking for that type of insurance?

Matt K.:            Yes. So honestly, I’ve ran across it a few times. The one thing you want to make sure of is most companies will either not write it, or they’ll have an endorsement done for a short-term rental. So that’s going to be a surcharge for you. Other than that, it’s going to be fairly similar. You just want to make sure if you’re going through air Airbnb or VRBO make sure what they are going to cover.

They’re going to include an insurance policy, so you don’t want to have any overlaps, we also don’t want to have any gaps in the insurance. I know Airbnb will, for example, not cover bodily injury or property damage, so that’s something that’s going to fall under your insurance policy. So it’s just making sure that you understand the verbiage. So if you do have an Airbnb home that you want to get insured, take a look at that policy, send it to your insurance agent. Have them write over it, and make sure that you’re fully covered.

Paul S.:             Okay. That’s something that you’d provide if somebody’s coming to look for a policy through you for a short term rental that you would be able to assist them with too?

Matt K.:            Yes, absolutely. I did one last week; the customer was very concerned about the pricing. He was coming from USAA; they wanted like 2,500 bucks on the year for a single-family Airbnb.

I have a great company called Berkshire Hathaway; they have a product specifically for Airbnb or VRBO. I was able to cut his price almost in half. So we definitely have products for it; off the top of my head I probably have three or four that I can quote through.

Paul S.:             Okay, great. And just to go back to your company’s footprint, Meridian, basically, are you able to offer insurance all 50 states? Are you limited anywhere?

Matt K.:            So yes, we’re not available in all 50 states, but we are available in the Tri-State as well as Tennessee, Illinois, a lot of the southeast. So if you have any questions about that, please give me a call.

That being said, I have a lot of property investors that are coming from either across the country or overseas. That is totally fine, as long as the property that they’re buying is within our scope, we can definitely accommodate.

Paul S.:             Okay, great. And what’s the best way for somebody to reach out to you if they want to get some more information?

Matt K.:            So you can reach me either by phone or email. I’m also very active on Facebook. My phone number is 513-503-1817. Or you can reach me by email that is MKincaid@Meridiancapstone.com.

Paul S.:             Okay, great. That’s all the questions I have for you today, Matt, thanks for being on.

Matt K.:            Yes, thanks for having me.

[End of Recorded Material]

Source: cincinkyrealestate.com

How I Travel Full-Time By RV And Boat With My 2 Dogs

Traveling with a dog is a lot of fun, but there are some important things to consider so you and your pet are prepared. 

How I Travel Full-Time By RV And Boat With My 2 Dogs

How I Travel Full-Time By RV And Boat With My 2 DogsSometimes people think we are crazy for bringing our dogs on our adventures, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. For us, it’s like bringing your kids along, haha! 

Since we’ve been doing this for several years and in so many different ways, I figured I would be a good person to share what it’s like traveling with a dog for anyone who is interested in learning how it’s done.

You might be interested in going on a roadtrip with a dog. Maybe you want to sail or RV full-time with them, or perhaps you just want to take your furry companion on your next week long vacation. 

Whether you want to travel full-time with your pets, or if you want to just go on the occasional trip, hopefully my experiences will help you.

Traveling with a dog has been a huge learning process for me.

We’ve had to go slow and learn what works for our dogs. I say this because there is no single right way to travel with pets. So, you may have to adjust a little for your specific animal, as all animals are different and have different needs. We even see differences between our two dogs in how they travel.

Before I go on, let me backup a little bit. If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know this – I travel full-time with my two dogs. We’ve been traveling with them for years now, and they are pretty used to it whether we are in a tent, Jeep, RV, campervan, or sailboat.

Our dogs have been to several new countries, many new states, national and state parks, hiked some of the tallest mountains in the U.S., swam in beautiful Caribbean waters, and more.

We absolutely love our dogs, and we go to the extreme to make sure they are happy and comfortable with what we are doing.

While we love bringing our dogs everywhere with us, that does not mean it’s easy. Traveling with a dog takes some serious planning, and it is not something to take lightly.

Everything takes a little bit longer due to bathroom breaks, walks, and all the planning, so it definitely takes more effort.

I have received a ton of questions over the years on how we keep everyone happy, us and the dogs, while we travel. Of course, my experiences won’t apply to all dogs, as all dogs are different. But, hopefully you will find some ideas or tips that will make traveling with pets a little easier on everyone.

Content related to traveling with a dog:

 

traveling with dogs by boat

The four of us on SV Paradise (our boat)

About our dogs, Sailor and Mr. French.

Our bigger dog is Sailor, and she is about 85 pounds and is over 13 years old. Our smaller dog is Mr. French, and he is a 15-pound French Bulldog who is over 11 years old. We’ve had them since they were puppies (we adopted both of them) and love them so much!

Mr. French is happy to be wherever we are, and he doesn’t care much for being outside so he makes the perfect pet for an RV or boat. He enjoys sailing and likes to be right at the helm with us.

Sailor enjoys all of the smells when we travel to new places as well as the attention and petting from being a big dog at a campground, marina, or anchorage. Due to her bigger size, we have to do more to make sure she is comfortable and happy, but it is all worth it. She is a great hiking buddy and is very friendly and social with new people.

Honestly, while traveling with a dog is more work, I can’t imagine what it would be like to travel without them. They bring us so much happiness and love, so it is well worth it to us.

When traveling with a dog, here are my tips so that both the humans and animals are happy and healthy.

Here’s how to start traveling with a dog.

 

1. Take it slow when introducing your pets to travel.

If you want to start traveling with a dog, then I recommend taking it slow.

Whether you are going to live in a boat or an RV full time, or are just going on a weeklong road trip, I recommend slowly introducing your dog to travel.

This is the top tip we’ve heard from others who travel with their dogs, and it’s very true.

So, instead of throwing your pets into a long trip, you may want to start with something much smaller, so that they can get used to the process. You will be completely changing their routine, and many pets are used to following routines each day.

I also recommend trying to keep some of their routines as close to normal as possible, such as feeding times and when you let them out for exercise and bathroom breaks.

For example, when we started sailing, numerous people suggested starting the dogs out at a marina, then doing day sails, then an anchorage, and go from there. So, that’s exactly what we did. We didn’t want them to be afraid of sailing or make them afraid to get on the boat, so we took it as slow as possible. That’s worked out well for us, and we recently did a 9-day sail with them, and they acted like it was no big deal at all.

We got them very comfortable with being on the boat, and we haven’t had to quit just yet, so I would say it was a huge success.

If you are not planning on traveling full-time, but want to go on a road trip with your dog, I recommend not traveling too far at first, especially if they’re not used to being in the car. Slowly introducing them to travel is good so that they don’t get scared or stressed out. So, you may want to start by bringing them to a park nearby to help them with their nerves, as some dogs can be quite anxious!

 

traveling with dogs internationally

This is what a normal day on the water looks like.

2. Know the rules and customs of where you are going.

Not every place you go to will be pet friendly.

When traveling with a dog, you will quickly learn that not every park or trail is open to dogs. Most national parks are this way and don’t allow dogs on the trails.

However, there are some national parks that do. This is why I recommend doing some research ahead of time so that you are not surprised or frustrated when you get to your destination.

No matter where you are traveling with a dog, respect the land and the people there. You should always pick up after your dog, even if that means that you will have to hike for hours with a dog waste bag. You should not let your pets trample over delicate areas, and don’t let them approach people who don’t want to be bothered.

The same also applies to campgrounds and hotels. You will want to make sure that you find dog friendly camping, dog friendly hotels, and more. You’ll want to call in advance to make sure the weight and breed are acceptable.

 

3. How to do veterinarian visits.

Going to the vet is an important part of being a pet owner, and you still need to do it when you’re traveling with a dog.

I receive a lot of questions about how we handle this.

Our dogs still see the vet each year, and sometimes more often if there are any issues. They just usually see a new vet each year. If we’re in the same place for longer than a year, then they might see the same vet more than once.

Our dogs have never had an issue going to a new vet, and they go each time with no problem. We simply make sure to bring all of their paperwork with us so that there is no confusion as to what was done at a previous appointment.

When it comes to medications, we try to stock up on what we need for the whole year. 

If you’re going to start traveling with a dog, especially full-time here are some thing you’ll want to bring up with your vet to prepare:

  • Getting your dog microchipped. This is a great thing to have, and if you are going to a new country then it is usually mandatory.
  • Rabies vaccination – this is normal.
  • Seeing what vaccinations and medications are recommended or required in the area you will be traveling to in the next year. This can vary even state by state!

 

4. How to visit new countries with dogs.

When visiting new countries with our dogs, there have been a lot of steps and hurdles to go through.

Here are some of the preparations you may need to make when traveling with a dog to a foreign country:

  1. Contact the government veterinarian agency of the country you are seeking to visit and ask for an up-to-date list of requirements for bringing a pet.
  2. Bring your dog to a veterinarian where you are currently located and get all of the required shots, tests, paperwork, etc.
  3. Visit the USDA or the equivalent in the country you are in to get your paperwork certified and stamped.
  4. Send all of the required paperwork back to the government veterinarian in the country you are desiring to go to and have them approve it. You will also need to get a permit from them for your pet to enter the country.
  5. Then, once you get to the new country, you may have to bring your pet to the government vet so that they can make sure it is the same pet on the paperwork, as well as to make sure the pet is healthy.

Now, these aren’t the exact steps for every single country, as every country has its own process.

The process can take several months from beginning to end, so you will want to make sure that you budget for plenty of time to get everything ready. When you’re boating with dogs, especially around the Caribbean, you can spend a lot of time researching this kind of stuff.

You’ll want to make sure you follow the steps exactly as detailed by the country you are going to, because doing them out of order (such as getting the vaccinations in the wrong timeline) will invalidate the process. This can be a costly and timely mistake, but it’s avoidable.

When you’re traveling with a dog or another pet, I also recommend:

  • Try to bring as much food for your pet as you can. We usually bring several months of dog food with us, as there may not be as many choices where you are going.
  • Keep your dog on a leash when it is required, if there are people near, and so on. And, always follow the leash rules of the area you’re visiting. Not everyone in other countries and areas like dogs, so you will want to keep that in mind.
  • When you go to the vet, try to get any standard medications that you may need. For example, our bigger dog can sometimes have an ear issue that requires a liquid steroid that you insert in her ears. We always try to have at least one backup on us so we don’t have to try to find a vet, as it can be quite difficult in foreign countries to get your dog to a vet if you don’t have a car, and not all islands have a vet either.
  • In some countries and/or areas, you may have to keep your pet documents on you at all times as you may be asked to show it at random times.

While it is a lot of work to bring your dog to a new country, it is possible and most government vets are super nice and helpful.

Some helpful resources for more information on each specific country include:

 

Traveling with a dog in a van

Can you spot Mr. French?

5. How to keep a tiny area clean when traveling with pets.

We keep our home as clean as it can be, which usually means vacuuming every single day. Our bigger dog sheds a ton, and we would be choking on hair all day if we didn’t vacuum as much.

We use a Dyson vacuum (this is the one that we love) and it works great. It’s small, rechargeable, and super portable.

We bring this with us whether we’re on the van or in the boat. Highly, highly recommend.

 

6. How to keep the temperature comfortable in an RV or boat for a pet.

For us, we try to follow good weather as much as we can. However, I know that is not always possible.

There are devices where you can track the temperature over a cell signal back to wherever your dog is (you can find a whole bunch of them on Amazon), which can be a great option. However, you might not always have a signal.

If we are unable to make the temperature comfortable for our dogs or if the electrical power isn’t stable, we simply do not leave our dogs alone.

But, it usually isn’t hard to make it comfortable for them. By opening windows, turning on fans, or the AC, you can make it pretty comfortable for both humans and pets.

 

What do I need to travel with my dog?

Walking in Utah

7. Full-time travel with dogs – how they use the bathroom on the boat.

This is one of the most common questions we’re asked about traveling with a dog. People are fascinated with how our dogs go to the bathroom on our boat.

We always try to make regular and frequent bathroom breaks for our dogs.

Whether we are traveling by boat or car, we like to keep bathroom breaks as similar as possible.

We were nervous training our older dogs to use the bathroom on the boat, but it has been just fine. They only have to do this when we’re on an overnight sail, so it’s not very often. Keep in mind that 90% of the time you’re living on a boat is either at anchor or in a marina, so there is almost always land access.

When we look for a marina or an anchorage, we are always looking to see if there is a good area to let out the dogs. That may mean a beach, a grassy area, a dinghy dock so that we can walk to town with the dogs, and so on.

A lot of people falsely assume that when you’re sailing full-time, neither you or your pets touch land for years at a time, and that assumption just makes me laugh. Our dogs go to shore multiple times a day, except for when we are doing a long passage (which isn’t often).

Depending on where we are, we may have to take them for a short dinghy ride to shore or we’re at dock and can simply walk them off the boat to use the bathroom.

If we are doing a longer passage on our sailboat and there is no land for them to step their paws on, we do have fake grass on our boat that they are able to use. It doesn’t happen often though, and most of the time they still get walked 3-5 times a day even when we are on our sailboat.

 

8. How to keep dogs safe on a boat.

The longest sail that we have done with our dogs was 9 days, and they did extremely well on that sail.

Some of the things we do to make sure they are happy and safe include:

  • One of us is pretty much always keeping an eye on them. If we can’t pay close attention to them, then we put a leash on them or close off the inside area so they cannot fall overboard. (If you decide to leash your dog, please make sure they cannot fall off the boat and choke themselves. This applies to being on the boat, dock, land, etc. Sadly we know someone who had this happen to their dog and it had a very sad ending.)
  • We have life jackets for each dog, and we’ve tested them before bringing them out for sails.
  • At night, we keep everything closed off so that there are absolutely no worries with the dogs.
  • We make sure there is plenty of water, food, snacks, and snuggles.

We are lucky that our dogs are quite comfortable on the boat.

They don’t panic or bark.

They simply fall asleep and are relaxed when on the boat.

I think this ties back into #1 of this blog post – we slowly introduce them to new things. This has allowed them to be quite adaptable to any environment that they are put in, whether we are tent camping, roadtripping, in an RV, or on an overnight sail.

 

Traveling with dog tips

Testing out their new dog life jackets 

9. The items that make it easy for traveling with a dog.

We have a lot of items on the boat that are specifically for our dogs, and many of them come with us when we move to our camper van. Here are the most helpful items we have:

  • Dog ramp – This is for when we are at a fixed dock, where it’s a long hop from our transom to the dock. We had a plastic one for a little bit but we found that it would bend in the heat so we had to switch to something better. We are much happier with an aluminum ramp now.
  • Dog toys – To keep our dogs busy and happy, I like to put peanut butter in a Kong and give it to them as a nice treat.
  • Dog waste bags – We keep a plethora of these onboard our boat and van. We usually bulk buy a big box of around 1,000 bags. We also make sure they are biodegradable and compostable.
  • Help ‘Em Up Harness – This is the harness we have for our bigger dog, and I highly recommend it. We put it on her so that she can easily get in and out of steeper places. It’s a little pricey, but well worth it to make sure your dog is safe.
  • K9 SportSack – We use this for our smaller dog so that we can easily just carry him around. He’s not a huge fan of walking everywhere so putting him in the backpack makes it easier on everyone.
  • Collapsible bowl – We always keep one of these in our hiking bag so that the dogs always have something easy to drink out of.
  • Life jacket – If your dog is going to be on a boat, you’ll want a life jacket for them.

 

10. Getting exercise is still important.

Some people think that having a dog on a boat or in an RV is bad for the dog. I don’t think that could be further from the truth, though.

Our dogs get 3-5 walks (sometimes more) each and every single day.

Exercise is so important whether you’re camping with a dog, sailing with them, etc. Don’t assume you’ll fit in walks – you have to plan them in advance.

We always make sure to give our dogs a long walk at the start of the day if we know we’re going to have a long drive or sail. This way, we can try to tire them out and get rid of a lot of energy.

Taking them for a walk is one of the first things we do when we stop, and then we always fit in another long walk before bedtime. You may feel exhausted after a long day of sailing or traveling, but don’t forget how important exercise and routines are to your pets.

 

11. Have a traveling checklist.

Before you leave for wherever you’re going, I recommend bringing anything you think you’ll need, even if you don’t end up using it. This may include:

  • Pet food
  • Water and food bowls
  • Collars, leashes, harnesses
  • Dog waste bags
  • Treats
  • Blankets and beds
  • Medication
  • Paperwork

Specific pets may need different items, and go over your list before you leave. 

12. What about traveling with a dog on a plane?

I would be careful if you are wanting to fly places with your pets where they have to go in the cargo area, as it can be traumatizing to put them in the cargo area of a plane. It can be extremely hot, scary, and they will be away from you for quite some time.

I know several people who have moved to a new country and flew their dogs in cargo in order to make it possible to bring their pets. But, nearly all of these people have told me that they would never do it again, unless absolutely necessary.

If you are going on short trips by plane, I would not recommend putting your pets in cargo for that. Instead, if you have to bring your pet, I would simply find another way to travel. Or, you can find someone to watch your pet.

If your pet can sit with you on the plane, then that’s a whole different story. They may be just fine on the plane, but you should consult with a veterinarian if you have any questions. We’ve avoided flying with our dogs, so I’m just not as familiar with it.

 

Traveling with a dog

We rented a pontoon in Nevada several years ago with the dogs

Traveling with a dog – in summary

I hope you found today’s article helpful.

Please remember that I am not a pet expert, nor a veterinarian. I do have a lot of experience traveling with a dog, but all pets are different. They have different needs and personalities, and what works for my dogs may not work for yours.

So if you have any concerns about traveling with your pet, please contact your veterinarian.

Traveling with a dog can be extremely enjoyable, but there are a few more things you’ll have to think about.

If you’re anything like me, though, it will be well worth it and your pet will enjoy it as well!

Do you like to travel with your dogs? What other questions do you have for me about traveling with pets?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

How Interest Rate Hikes Affect Personal Loan Investors – SmartAsset

How Interest Rate Hikes Affect Personal Loan Investors – SmartAsset

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In December 2015, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate by a quarter of a percentage point. That was the first time the Fed had raised rates in nearly a decade. While federal funds rate changes don’t directly impact peer-to-peer (P2P) loan interest rates, lending platforms may begin increasing their rates. If you’re investing in peer-to-peer loans, it’s important to understand how that may impact your portfolio.

Rising Rates May Mean Better Returns

Personal loan investors make money by claiming a share of the interest that’s paid on the loans, in proportion to the amount that’s invested. If the platform you’re using raises rates for their borrowers, that means you’ll likely see higher returns.

That’s especially true if you’re open to funding high-risk loans. Peer-to-peer platforms assign each of their borrowers a credit risk rating, based on their credit scores and credit history. The loans that get the lowest ratings are assigned the highest rates. For example, Lending Club’s “G” grade loans (the loans that go to the riskiest borrowers) have interest rates of 25.72%.

Assuming borrowers don’t default on their payments, these investments can be more lucrative than lower-risk loans. Using Lending Club as an example again, F and G grade loans historically have had annual returns of 9.05%, which is nearly double the 5.22% return that investors earn from low-risk “A” grade loans.

The Downsides of a Rate Increase

While rising interest rates may put more money in investors’ pockets, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. For one thing, it’s possible that as rates rise, borrowers could decide to explore other lending options. If that happens, there would be a smaller pool of loans for investors to choose from.

To compensate, peer-to-peer lenders may resort to issuing lower-quality loans as rates rise, but that could be problematic for investors who prefer to steer away from riskier borrowers. If the platform you use no longer offers the kinds of loan products you want to invest in, you’ll have to reallocate those assets elsewhere to keep your portfolio from becoming unbalanced.

Finally, rising interest rates could result in a higher default rate. Increased rates mean that borrowers have to pay a lot of money for taking out personal loans. If the personal loan payments become unmanageable, a borrower may end up defaulting on their loan altogether. Some platforms refund the fees that investors have paid, but they usually don’t refund their initial investments after borrowers default.

What Investors Ought to Consider

If you’re an active P2P investor or you’re thinking of adding P2P loans to your portfolio, you can’t afford to overlook the risk that’s involved. Financing the riskiest loans is a gamble, so it’s important to consider the consequences of putting money into those kinds of investments.

A good way to hedge your bets is to spread out your investments over a variety of loan grades. That way, if a high-risk borrower defaults you still have other loans to fall back on.

If you want more help with this decision and others relating to your financial health, you might want to consider hiring a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with top financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Ondine32, ©iStock.com/Tomwang112, ©iStock.com/xijian

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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Source: smartasset.com

7 Ways Coupons Waste Your Money and Time

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Clipping coupons is synonymous with saving money. Just mentioning frugal living brings to mind long hours hunched over the dining room table shredding the Sunday newspaper into a mound of money-saving coupons.

But why? What’s so great about coupons?

It may sound blasphemous to some budgeters, but I gave up coupons years ago. Spoiler alert: I still save a respectable amount on groceries, I’m eating healthier, and shopping is a breeze.

Here are the reasons why I hung up my scissors and quit clipping coupons.

1. The cost/reward ratio is low

In exchange for the modest savings it offers, traditional coupon clipping is a demanding taskmaster.

By the time I buy a newspaper, clip the coupons I want, organize them, monitor the expiration dates and find stores that allow coupon stacking, it seems like I should just get the item for free.

2. Coupons are manipulative

It’s no secret manufacturers and retailers want us to use coupons for one reason only: to expose us to products we wouldn’t normally buy, encouraging habitual purchases. Once the savings go away, they expect that demand will stay and the price can gradually increase.

For me, staying on budget means minimizing my wants and needs and shopping with greater intention. Most coupons are distractions that wrap new wants in a package of “savings.”

If I really want to check out coupon options, your time might be better spent accessing manufacturer coupons online.

3. Coupons distract us from better deals

Saving money shouldn’t be an obstacle course. It’s easier and more rewarding to simply stick to store brands, learn which generic products to buy or wait for in-store sales.

Store brands often offer better deals than coupons — without the hassle. Without the overhead of sexy ad campaigns, package designers and product innovators, generics are typically a much better value.

Compare unit prices, instead. You just might never clip another coupon again.

4. Coupons push pre-packaged and processed food

When it comes to groceries, coupons often market convenience foods that are more expensive and less healthy.

Seriously, though, where are the coupons for fresh foods like broccoli or apples? If they exist, they are as rare as a coupon with no expiration date.

5. Coupons encourage over-buying

To take advantage of the savings, coupons often require the purchase of more than one item — “$1 off any three,” for instance. This may be fine for products you know and love, but it’s risky otherwise.

What if you don’t like the taste of the coffee, the flavor of the chips or the scent of the moisturizer? Instead of being out the cost of a single item, you’re out in multiples. Am I really saving if I have to buy more than I need, want or will use?

6. Coupons build brand loyalty

Part of the purpose of coupons is to establish a pattern of buying behavior and build brand loyalty. In matters of love, loyalty is a virtue. But when it comes to shopping, a little cheating can be a very good thing.

Blindly sticking to one brand of yogurt, pasta sauce or toothpaste means you’re likely missing out on better deals or products you’ll like more.

Brand loyalty may make shopping faster, but the benefits end there.

7. Coupons aren’t free

Don’t think those “free” coupons you get with your grocery receipt come without a cost.

Most are generated as part of elaborate loyalty programs that track dozens of data points like what time of day you shop, how much you spend on average, which in-store services you use and whether you have kids.

In addition to using it themselves, stores may sell your information. In exchange for those discounts, you could be handing over a big slice of your privacy.

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

Source: moneytalksnews.com

15 Of The Best Money Books For Young Adults – Learn How To Live The Life You Want

Are you looking for the best money books for young adults?

best money books for young adults

best money books for young adults

Today, I want to talk about the best money and life books for new high school graduates, college graduates, and other young adults. These would be great for graduation gifts, or just for yourself!

I wasn’t always good with money when I was younger. I bought more clothes than I needed, financed a new car, spent a lot going out to eat, and spent a lot of money on things I didn’t need. It took me several years to realize how my spending habits were affecting the rest of my life.

I think this is fairly common when you’re younger, and there are lots of great financial books for young adults that can help you understand how money works and how to prepare for the future. 

The best money books for young adults explain personal finance topics like saving, investing, making more money, and more. And, reading them when you’re young can help you get on the right track with your money from a young age. 

Rather than spending years playing catch up with your money, you can get started on a great path now. 

I often get questions from young readers who are looking for help with their money, and I also get questions about how to help a young person with their money. These books are a great gift for yourself or someone you know.

For me, I love to give books as gifts, especially personal finance books for high school and college graduation gifts. And the best money books for young adults on this list make for great gifts – I’ve even given some of these books as gifts.

If you want to change your life, then I recommend that you start reading personal finance books. Yes, money is not everything, but improving your financial situation can help you gain control of your life.

Related: 6 Simple Steps That Will Teach You How To Write A Check

There are many different books listed below, so you will be sure to find at least one or two that meet your needs.

The best personal finance books may help you learn how to:

  • Understand basic financial concepts in an easier way
  • Reach financial independence or retire early
  • Take on your own yearlong shopping ban
  • Deal with and pay off debt
  • Better manage the 168 hours a week you have
  • Become more confident
  • Invest for your future
  • Choose your own dreams and adventures
  • Find the best path to pay off your student loans

And more!

Here are 15 of the best money books for young adults.

 

1. Broke Millennial

Broke Millennial was written by Erin Lowry, and is a must-read for young adults. She makes the topic of money entertaining, fun, and relatable for young adults. You won’t be bored with this money book!

Erin gives readers a step-by-step plan to stop being broke, and she discusses many topics, from tricky ones like how to manage student loans, how to discuss money with your partner, and more.

Please click here to check out Broke Millennial.

Another one of the best money books for young adults is Broke Millennial Takes On Investing. Erin recently published this one and it’s a great read, as it covers the topic of investing without making you feel dumb.

 

2. Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way

Work Optional is another one of my top picks for best money books for young adults, as it was written by one of my favorite writers, Tanja Hester. This personal finance book will show you how to reach financial independence so that you can live the life you want. 

I know retirement feels very far away when you’re younger, but this book explains how early retirement is a possibility if you start saving money now. Yes, retiring before the traditional age of 65 can happen, and it starts with the kind of guidance you’ll get in this book.

Please click here to check out Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way.

 

3. The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

If you’re looking for one of the best financial books for graduation gifts, check out The Year of Less by Cait Flanders. In this book, Cait writes about her yearlong shopping ban which will inspire you to simplify your own life and address your relationship with material possessions.

Cait talks about how for a full year, she only bought groceries, toiletries, and gas, and how it impacted her life. This is a great read for young adults as it is so easy to get into a spending cycle when you get your first real job and start earning larger paychecks.

Please click here to check out The Year of Less by Cait Flanders.

 

4. Dear Debt

Dear Debt was written by Melanie Lockert and focuses on people’s relationships with debt in a funny and endearing way.

Dear Debt is a must read for anyone who has debt or is taking on debt. Melanie shares her personal experience paying off $80,000 of student loan debt, how it affected her mindset, and more. This is one of the best money books for young adults because it’s a personal story about overcoming debt. There’s also tons of great money advice that will help others overcome the debt that may be holding them back.

Please click here to check out Dear Debt.

 

5. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

Do you ever wish that you had more time in your week?

This book, written by Laura Vanderkam, focuses on helping people manage their time better so they can focus on what really matters.

Laura writes about tips and tricks to live a more efficient life. She teaches you how to prioritize things in your life, from how to get enough sleep every night to finding time for hobbies you’ve been wanting to try. You will learn how to use your 168 hours a week to make your life better, as you’ll learn many great life-changing strategies.

Please click here to check out 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

 

6. How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People was written by Dale Carnegie in 1936 and has sold over 15,000,000 copies worldwide. This is one of the most best-selling books ever, and for good reason!

This book will show you how to approach situations differently, become more confident, and get people to like you. This is one of the best money books for young adults that people of all ages will benefit from, because this book is all about living a happier and more successful life at any age.

Please click here to check out How to Win Friends and Influence People.

7. Quit Like A Millionaire

Quit Like A Millionaire was written by Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung, who are well-known people in the FIRE community. And, if you’re not familiar with FIRE, it stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. Everyone approaches FIRE differently, but the point is to stop letting money hold you back from living the life you want.

Kristy retired early at the age of 31 with a million dollars, and has a very inspirational story. In this book, she explains how that was possible and how it can be a reality for you too. This is a great guide on how to save more money, retire early, and live the life that you want.

In this book, you’ll learn a step-by-step guide on how to reach success, whatever that may mean for you. This is a fun and inspirational book that will open you up to new possibilities and opportunities.

Please click here to check out Quit Like A Millionaire.

 

8. Get Money

Get Money is a book by Kristin Wong, and it’s an engaging read that will teach you how to manage your money.

Kristin gives you a step-by-step personal finance guide that will show you what you need to do in order to stop letting money control your life. You will learn how to create a budget, pay off your debt, build a better credit score, negotiate, and how to start investing.

Please click here to check out Get Money.

 

9. Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need

Financial Freedom was written by Grant Sabatier, who decided that he needed to change his life by learning how to make more money.

Here’s a bio I found about Grant to show you how awesome he is!

“In 2010, 24-year old Grant Sabatier woke up to find he had $2.26 in his bank account. Five years later, he had a net worth of over $1.25 million, and CNBC began calling him ‘The Millennial Millionaire.’ By age 30, he had reached financial independence. Along the way he uncovered that most of the accepted wisdom about money, work, and retirement is either incorrect, incomplete, or so old-school it’s obsolete.”

In his book, Grant writes about how to reach financial freedom through steps such as building side hustles, traveling the world for less, building an investment portfolio, and more. 

Please click here to check out Financial Freedom.

 

10. The Simple Path To Wealth

The Simple Path To Wealth was written by JL Collins, and it’s one of the most popular and best money books for young adults that’s available.

Collins writes about many important financial topics in his book, such as how to avoid debt, how to build wealth, what the 4% rule is and how to use it to your advantage, and more.

This is an easy book to read, and it makes complicated personal finance topics much easier to understand. Many people have said that JL Collins is the reason why they were able to retire early, thanks a lot to his website and book.

Please click here to check out The Simple Path To Wealth.

 

11. Student Loan Solution

Student Loan Solution was written by David Carlson, and it’s a great book for anyone who has student loan debt.

Student loans can be extremely difficult to understand, as there is so much different terminology as well as different ways to pay them back (such as loan forgiveness, consolidation, and so on). This book explains a 5-step process that will help you to better understand your student loans, the best ways to pay them off, and more.

Please click here to check out Student Loan Solution.

 

12. The Millionaire Next Door

The Millionaire Next Door is another classic personal finance book, and it was written by Thomas J. Stanley.

In his book, he writes about the common traits of those who are wealthy, and how the wealthy can be even someone such as your neighbor, even though you might not realize it. This book shows readers that anyone can retire with wealth, not just your traditional multi-millionaires living in huge mansions with airplanes.

This is one of the best finance books for graduation gifts because it will make you rethink what it means to be rich, which is important to understand from a young age.

Please click here to check out The Millionaire Next Door.

 

13. The Infographic Guide to Personal Finance: A Visual Reference for Everything You Need to Know

The Infographic Guide to Personal Finance, written by Michele Cagan, is one that I learned about from my readers. What’s great about this book is that it gives you a visual guide to important personal finance topics, and many people learn better from visuals.

This book is different in that it is full of infographics, which make it fun and easy to read. You will learn how to find a bank, build an emergency fund, how to pick health and property insurance, and more.

Please click here to check out The Infographic Guide to Personal Finance.

 

14. Choose FI

Choose FI was written by Chris Mamula, Brad Barrett, and Jonathan Mendonsa. These guys are behind one of my favorite Facebook communities, Choose FI, and they explain how to reach financial independence and retire early. 

While retiring early may seem out of reach if you’ve just graduated, this book teaches you how to “choose your own adventure” and improve your financial situation.

Please click here to check out Choose FI.

 

15. I Will Teach You To Be Rich

I Will Teach You To Be Rich was written by Ramit Sethi and is a excellent book for beginners. It would make a great gift for a recent high school or college graduate.

Ramit’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich is packed full of great lessons, and it is written in a fun way. He covers the basics of personal finance such as budgeting, saving money, investing, and more.

Please click here to check out I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

What do you think are the best money books for young adults?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

10 Free Holiday Activities for Couples Paying off Debt

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

This is where it all started guys. On a quiet summer afternoon I hit publish on my first post titled 10 Free Activities for Couples Paying off Debt and the rest is history. I thought it fitting to do one for the winter as well, seeing how we spend more money this time of year than any other.

1. Christmas Lights Home Tour

Every city has a neighborhood that really goes all out with the lights. Take a drive to look at them or walk if the weather isn’t frightful. In Florida, the weather is always great this time of year so we have a biking group that does a huge ride through the neighborhoods and ends back at a bar for beers.

You can make a trip out of it too. A city near us was featured on TV for their light displays so I’m looking forward to seeing it this year. Sometimes houses do the same thing every year so it’s fun to switch it up from time to time.

2. Holiday Movie Night

Put on your pajamas and pour the cocoa, there’s nothing better than a Christmas movie! While I’m partial to all holiday Claymation movies I loved the resurgence of quality seasonal cinema of the early 2000’s. For those with Netflix (or borrowing from a friend) here’s a list of movies for your viewing pleasure.

If you don’t have Netflix, channels like NBC, ABC, Freeform, etc always have a good variety (I’m judging you if you even try to add Hallmark Channel movies to that list.)

3. School Holiday Production

Elementary schools always have some type of performance with oodles of cute awkward kids singing carols and dressed like elves. The best part, these events are usually free. If you don’t have friends with kids that can keep you in the loop find some teacher friends with connections. They’ll know when all the good shows are. But word to the wise, don’t do this one if you look like these guys:

Do the Creep

Do the Creep

4. Live Nativity

These things can range from “plastic baby in a manger” to “drive-through re-creation of the gospels.” Even if you get a bad one there’s usually hot cocoa and cookies at the end so you win either way. The good ones really do bring the Christmas story to life and it’s a pretty cool experience. I highly recommend it.

5. Star Gaze

Winter is a great time for star gazing. Taurus, Perseus, and Gemini are some of the constellations you can find in the winter sky. Yes, I did Google that, so even if you’re not a budding astronomer who doesn’t enjoy looking at shiny things in the sky?

Download an app like SkyView Free and find all the starry patterns. If you’re lucky enough to live by a planetarium see if they do free shows. Ours does two every Friday that the college is in session.

6. Holiday Parade

Was anybody else in marching band? I was and it was absolutely for the parades. There are a lot in December! We have our pick of morning or evening throughout the month. And since we live near the water we even have a few lighted boat parades! Check your cities events calendar and cities around you to fill your weekends with candy canes and Santas!

7. Photo with Santa

Speaking of Santa, how ridiculous are the prices for photos with Santa these days!? I don’t even have kids and I feel like I need to start putting away for their Santa pictures fund. That was until I found out about Bass Pro Shop’s annual Santa’s Wonderland. On select days you can get a free personalized photo with Santa, free wooden picture frame, free crafts for the kids, and more!

And even if you don’t have kids you should definitely put on your tackiest Christmas sweaters and make this years’ card something the family will be talking about til next year. Why not? It’s free!

8. Volunteer

I included this in my last list but the opportunities for giving this time of year are too numerous not to share again. Aside from soup kitchens and caroling you can hand out Christmas cards at Hospice, collect cans of food from your pantry to give to a shelter, or connect with your local foster care licensing agency to help out a foster family in need. Your money is valuable but your time is just as needed.

9. Go Outside

This is the obligatory “make a snow angel or sled down a hill” spot. But I live in Florida so I don’t know how to do that stuff. Whether you’re in blizzard country or it’s a balmy 70 degrees outside (sorry not sorry) get your butt outside and experience the free entertainment mother nature has to offer. I for one love walks downtown during the day and bonfires with s’more at night.

10. Stay Inside

Okay, outside not your thing? Stay inside… if you know what I mean. When’s the last time you pretended you were on your honeymoon or your favorite vacation with your significant other? There’s never a good time to put on those nighties from your lingerie shower so make the time! Get romantic and see what happens. Hey, it’s free. 🙂

Any other ideas for free activities this time of year? I’m always looking for new things to try and include in new posts!

Free Activities for Couples

Free Activities for Couples

<img data-attachment-id="4968" data-permalink="https://www.modernfrugality.com/save-money-online/mf-10-free-winter-activities-for-couples-paying-off-debt/" data-orig-file="https://i0.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-10-Free-Winter-Activities-for-Couples-Paying-Off-Debt.png?fit=735%2C1102&ssl=1" data-orig-size="735,1102" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="Want to get out of the house this winter without spending an arm and a leg?" data-image-description="

If you want to get out of the house this winter, check out these activities! 10 Free winter activities for couples paying off debt. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg every single time you leave the house. #freewinteractivities #freeactivitiesforcouples #freewinteractivitiesforcouples #cheapactivities

” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-10-Free-Winter-Activities-for-Couples-Paying-Off-Debt.png?fit=200%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-10-Free-Winter-Activities-for-Couples-Paying-Off-Debt.png?fit=400%2C600&ssl=1″ loading=”lazy” width=”400″ height=”600″ data-pin-title=”Want to get out of the house this winter without spending an arm and a leg?” data-pin-description=”If you want to get out of the house this winter, check out these activities! 10 Free winter activities for couples paying off debt. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg every single time you leave the house. #freewinteractivities #freeactivitiesforcouples #freewinteractivitiesforcouples #cheapactivities” src=”https://bariatrx.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/10-free-holiday-activities-for-couples-paying-off-debt-1.png” alt class=”wp-image-4968″ srcset=”https://bariatrx.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/10-free-holiday-activities-for-couples-paying-off-debt-1.png 400w, https://i0.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-10-Free-Winter-Activities-for-Couples-Paying-Off-Debt.png?resize=200%2C300&ssl=1 200w, https://i0.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MF-10-Free-Winter-Activities-for-Couples-Paying-Off-Debt.png?w=735&ssl=1 735w” sizes=”(max-width: 400px) 100vw, 400px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>

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Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.

Source: modernfrugality.com

How to (Actually) Stop Overspending on Christmas Presents

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how to actually stop overspending on christmas presents

Here are the 5 steps you need to take to stop yourself from overspending on Christmas gifts

The excitement, the gingerbread latte is now kicking in … the click-clack of your shoes racing down Target’s floor tiles… as you frantically snatch the must-have toy of the season off the shelf, clutching it possessively to your chest!  

VICTORY!

As you round the corner trying to get back to the main aisle, you can’t believe your eyes; you haven’t seen this Magnolia item in stock in FOREVER! In your shopping cart it goes! Off to checkout, and you slooooow way down going by the girl’s section, and think, “That’s super cute! My little one would love that!” It too goes in the cart!

An hour later, and your phone bings at you. Yup, it’s a large purchase amount alert from your credit card. It reads, “Did you spend $358.42 at Target? This amount is over your alert limit notification settings”.

And just like in The Christmas Story, you say (in slow motion for dramatic effect) “Oh FUDGE!”

You totally overspent! Again! You told yourself you weren’t going to overspend on Christmas presents again! (like ever!) Last year’s holiday credit card bill left you with hives, and you promised yourself that this next year would be different!

Well, guess what, that Target scenario up above… it was just a dream. Just like Ebenezer, there is time for you to change your ways. You’re not doomed to follow the same path you did last year! So if you’re ready, let’s dive into how to stop overspending at Christmas!

how to stop overspending on christmas presents

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info

What is the Christmas Debt Hangover?

Ugh! No one likes a hangover! But unlike a hangover from too much bubbly, a Christmas debt hangover can last months and months (sometimes years)! No thanks!

According to a MagnifyMoney survey, “Americans took on an average of $1,325 of holiday debt in 2019”. Here’s how their numbers played out…

  • 44% of consumers took on debt this holiday season, and the majority (57%) didn’t plan on doing so.
  • 78% of those with holiday debt won’t be able to pay it off come January, including 15% who are only making minimum payments.
  • 58% of indebted consumers are stressed about their holiday debt.
  • 40% plan to consolidate debt and/or shop around for a good balance transfer interest rate, but more than half won’t even try. Of those that won’t try, 20% think it’s not necessary, and 18% don’t want to deal with another bank.

Now specifically regarding how long it would take them to pay off the debt, survey responders said…

  • 22% said one month
  • 21% said two months
  • 19% said three months
  • 8% said four months
  • 16% said 5+ months
  • 15% are paying only minimum payments

Right now, The Fed Reserve lists the average credit card interest rate to be 14.52%. You can generally assume that your minimum payment will be about 2% of your total bill. Here’s a screenshot of how long it would take to pay off the card (if you didn’t put any more purchases on it).

magnify money debt calculator
using Magnify Money’s credit card debt calculator

64 months? Paying $582 in interest? W.T.F.!

Are you ready to tame your shopping spree beast? Because, after looking at those numbers, overspending at Christmas is not cool!

How to stop overspending on Christmas presents: Step One – decide what you will focus on besides the gifts!

It’s just smart sense that when you take something away, you need to replace it with something else. Instead of a donut, have a whole grain muffin!  

So instead of focusing on gifts, what do you want to spend the season focused on? I’ve got a great list of frugal family fun ideas for the holidays!  These are bucket list items perfect for the holiday season!

You’re especially going to need something fun to do Christmas morning, as you don’t want the day to be anticlimactic without all the presents, as it might be hard on our littlest ones. Think about…

  • Doing a Meals on Wheels delivery route in your neighborhood.
  • Go caroling.
  • Do a Christmas movie marathon (pj’s required!).
  • Make a full holiday meal together as a family.
  • Go sledding/skiing/ice skating or go to the mountains for snow time fun! Don’t forget the hot cocoa and accessories for the snowman you’ll build!

Step Two – Consider a gifting strategy

Every good General knows that you need a plan of attack or a strategy, shall we say. And if you don’t think Christmas shopping is kind of like preparing for battle, then hats off to your peaceful and serene holidays of the past. The rest of us battle-weary moms can barely nod in agreement (as we’re still a little shell shocked from last year’s holiday season).

Strategy One – Adopt the 4 Gift Rule

This one is amazing in its simplicity to help you stop overspending on Christmas gifts! It caters to those toying with the idea of having a minimalist(ish) holiday, and it’s gaining popularity every year! You gift each recipient (that you would typically buy lots for) just four gifts.

  1. Something to wear
  2. Something to read
  3. Something they need
  4. Something they want

I’d like to think of it as a way to buy a more meaningful selection of gifts. As you’re looking not just to buy lots of things, but purchase specific items. Hopefully, the receivers will appreciate their gifts a little more and not get lost in the craze of ripping off wrapping paper at the speed of light.

Don’t forget to snag your printable gift list tracker; there’s a four gift rule one and then a classic gift list printable. Everything you need to stay organized and on budget!

christmas gifting list

Strategy Two – Give the gift of an experience

Maybe your kids have everything that they need! Maybe you are dreading anything more coming into your home as you need to get your Home Edit on right now!

If that’s the case, then consider giving an experience instead. This could be a short trip to the beach or a big trip to Walt Disney World. Or tickets to a sporting game or an event like Comic-Con. Go as big or as small as you like. Set aside the Christmas money and put it in a sinking fund to make this experience come true (even if it’s at a later date).

Hint: if it’s a trip to a theme park, some have vacation planning DVDs or online videos (DisneyWorld does). This would be a great thing to wrap and put under the tree!

Strategy Three – Go the D.I.Y. route

Now, this isn’t for those of us that are all thumbs (meeee!) I am not a crafter/knitter/artist/DIYer by nature. But for those of you that are, consider harnessing your talent for homemade gifts!

Even if you don’t have a talent, maybe consider gifting a custom photo book from Shutterfly. Or collect great grandmothers family recipes together and turn them into a little book (or place her most famous recipe on a tea towel! Cute huh!)

That’s right, as your mother always said, it pays to plan ahead! That means getting your Christmas present shopping done early! As the holiday gets closer, we tend to panic slightly; we grab just about anything that will do as a good gift. Most of the time that means we’re spending a little more (because we don’t want to get a cheapo lame gift)!

So start jotting down your gift choices now! Aka ASAP! I.e., immediately!

Okay, you get the drift. Besides, online ordering gets bigger every year, and sometimes there are shipping delays or snowstorms that stop service in half the country (yikes!) You don’t want to get a substitute gift because your original gift won’t be back in stock until January 17th!

Christmas Budget Workbook mock up

Step Four – Use Cash

They say cash is king, and they’re right! Especially when it comes to spending money. Because when the cash is out, the spending is done! It’s genius at its most basic, and it works every time (as long as you leave your credit cards at home). You simply cannot overspend on Christmas gifts!

Using cash envelopes is a strategy used by many successful budgeters! Besides, stuffing these cute festive holiday cash envelopes is fun! You can use one for each person you’re gifting to or use one for each holiday shopping category—I.e., food, decorations, gifting, fun times, supplies, etc. Or if you’re crafty here are some cash envelope templates that you can make on your own!

Nerdwallet references a cult classic report where, “An often-cited study is one conducted by Dun & Bradstreet, in which the company found that people spend 12%-18% more when using credit cards instead of cash.”

Don’t forget that when you pay with cash, you won’t have to pay interest on the charge either! Look at it this way; when you pay cash, you’re buying something. When you pay with a credit card, you’re borrowing the money for it; you didn’t buy it (but you’ll pay extra for it in interest!)

Step Five – Don’t go into the stores!

This one sounds silly, I know, but it’s so painfully obvious. If you don’t have to go into a store, then don’t! Because really, we’ve all gone into a store, we don’t grab a cart because we just need one thing, and we come up to the cashier juggling items like a clown!  

Inevitably when you go into a store, it’s straight temptation. Why do that to yourself? Stay home, and send someone else to the store, or better yet, do some online ordering for that item you need!

Or if you’re poison is the 1-click buy, then take some super easy preventative measures. Delete your credit card info on your devices! GASP! I know, I know, it sounds drastic, but making it just the teensiest bit harder on yourself to shop online could mean saving hundreds! Because honestly, sometimes I don’t get up to walk across the house to grab my credit card number!

Better yet, do a marketing edit! Unsubscribe from those pesky emails from your favorite retailers and unfollow them on social media! You won’t want what you never see! Now, I know you’ve been thinking about this idea for a while, give it a try! You can always go back later and subscribe again!

Simple hacks to stop overspending on Christmas presents

Know your prices

Do you know the regular price of the “sale” item in your hand? Even though it says it’s on sale or discounted 20% off, it might still not be a great price! If you are 100% in on saving money this holiday season, then you should scout your gifts early, record their prices, and wait to see what the “holiday deals” actually are.

Many retailers change their prices regularly. What was $59 in September could easily now be $75 in December. Yet now they can mark it being 20% off! They get to keep their sales margin high enough to get a good profit, and you (the customer) feel like you got a good deal. Winner Winner… oh wait, that’s a bull$hit dinner!

Be smarter than the retailer!

Don’t go shopping when…

  • You are hungry
  • You’re short on time
  • With somebody else (friends can be bad influences, sorry friends)
  • It’s going to be super crowded (instead go early in the morning, or late at night)

Next years plan for Christmas gifting

If you get through this Christmas and going low key on gifts wasn’t for your family, then no problem. You can have the Christmas that your family wants; you may need to start socking away money for it a bit earlier than usual! Check out How to Start a Christmas Savings Plan and How to Plan the Perfect Christmas Budget!

At the end of the day

I know that reading about how to not overspend at Christmas sounds like a bummer of a topic. But honestly, think about how you’ll feel come January when you don’t have that big fat credit card bill that’s knocking out your wallet like it’s Balboa in Rocky 1!

I know that for many of us, we remember Christmases of youth, with mountains of presents, and we want to recreate those warm fuzzy memories for our own kids. But those warm fuzzy feelings can be created out of so many instances, not just present opening. So save yourself the agony and angst of overspending at Christmas, and don’t even go there!

Christmas Budget Workbook mock up

What are your top tips for how to stop overspending on holiday gifts ?

Source: moneyforthemamas.com

5 Ways to Be Financially Secure

Learning the steps toward becoming more financially secure doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are 5 easy ways to get a better sense of your finances. 

By

Albert Cooper, Partner
January 22, 2021

financial security with having a million dollars in the bank. While having a hefty bank balance does not hurt, it is only part of the story.

Many top earners are learning this the hard way recently, as the economic uncertainty has left them on the hook for expenses they can no longer afford to pay.  However, this does not have to happen to you: here are five ways to be financially secure.

When considering how to become financially secure, your priority must be to ensure that you have enough income to cover your expenses. If you cannot pass this hurdle, then you should reconsider your lifestyle. Granted, this might be harder for some people, but even if you can put away $10 per week, this will help you to have the emergency funds you need to weather times of uncertainty, such as the COVID pandemic.

Step 1: Develop good habits

Managing your finances requires discipline, which means that you need to have good habits, as this is the only way that you can keep yourself from falling into traps. One way to do this is to keep your credits cards at home when you leave the house, as this will keep you from splurging on impulse buys. You might also want to think about getting a separate bank account for your daily spending needs, because this will limit the funds available to you at any given time.

Having good spending habits means that you need to be disciplined. However, if there is a large expense that makes sense and you have planned for it, then you should consider making it.

Another healthy financial habit is to always do your due diligence. For example, according to reverse mortgage expert Michael G. Branson, you can leverage the existing value of a property you own as a senior citizen with a reverse mortgage—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t research the pros and cons. Anytime you take out a loan (whether it’s a mortgage loan, personal loan, or a payday loan), open a new credit card, or finance a new car, always look at the fine print. Pay particular attention to interest rates, penalties, annual fees, and APR.

Step 2: Leave your car at home

Or better yet, sell your car. This is especially true if you are living in a city or a town where all your daily needs can be filled from shops within walking or cycling distance. Not using your car means that you can save money on gas and maintenance, and getting rid of your vehicle altogether will eliminate monthly payments for your auto loan and insurance.

If you need a car for just a day or two, then you should consider renting or using a ride-sharing app. You could also consider purchasing a “new to you” vehicle as they will usually cost less than a new car.

Exceptions to this might be if you need to use your car for work. In this case, you are using your vehicle to make money, and as such, it might be considered an investment. However, if you are using your car to make money, then you want to make sure you are accurately tracking your expenses. Not only will this help you to get any tax advantages, but it will give you the basis to determine if the money you are spending on your car is yielding the return you expected.

Step 3: Make as many pre-tax deductions as possible

While the rules might vary depending on where you live, you want to make sure that you take full advantage of any pre-tax contributions you can make. While doing so means that you will be taking home less money, it also means that you will be paying less in tax while putting money away for your future. As such, this approach is a big win for you and your financial future.

Step 4: Be insured

Having the right life insurance policy can help to protect you and your family when the time comes. As such, you want to make sure that you have enough life insurance to look after your family and to cover funeral expenses. Also, some policies can be used as collateral for loans.

While going into debt is usually not recommended when trying to become financially secure, using it to buy revenue-generating property or business might be an excellent way to get closer to your goal. As such, having insurance could help you down the road.

Step 5: Regularly review your financial health

Just like you go to your doctor for an annual checkup, you should regularly review your financial health. Doing so will give you an idea of where you stand and what additional steps you need to take to reach your goals. If you want to become financially secure, then you want to make sure that you check your financial health (e.g., budget, savings, etc.) at least once a month.