Best credit cards for streaming services

Catching your favorite show or movie via streaming service is commonplace in this day and age – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – and doing so using a smart device other than a standard computer has gained popularity in recent years.

In fact, 2020 data out of the Leichtman Research Group found that 80% of T.V.-owning households in the U.S. have at least one internet-connected T.V. device – from streaming devices like the Roku Streaming Stick to video game consoles like Nintendo Switch to standard smart T.V.s. And with the uptick in internet-connected T.V. devices, one can assume the popularity of streaming services (coupled with Americans’ ever-heightening presence online) may have something to do with it.

As the popularity of streaming services grows, U.S. households are increasingly cutting the cord with cable

Research published as recently as this year by the Leichtman Research Group indicates that “82% of U.S. households have at least one streaming video service” from 11 of the top direct-to-consumer and subscription-based video-on-demand services – a slight increase from its 2019 findings.

At the same time, numerical estimates from eMarketer forecast that an additional 6.6 million U.S. households will “cut the cord” with cable T.V. subscriptions in 2021, bringing the projected total number of U.S. cord-cutters to 31.2 million.

Overall, it can be inferred that the COVID-19 pandemic could have something to do with these numbers as Americans look for more ways to stay entertained while under stay-at-home orders.

Got streaming subscriptions? A rewards card can help

If you happen to be juggling streaming service subscriptions for personal use – or even to stream calming tunes at your small business or within your (virtual) second-grade classroom, for example – odds are you’re spending a decent amount on these services per month. And while financial tools like a rewards credit card can be helpful, streaming services probably aren’t the first bonus category you check for when scoping out the most “rewarding” card options.

Since these purchases likely make up less of your budget, it makes sense that they won’t be your first priority. Thankfully, though, many great rewards and cash back credit cards now include streaming service bonuses in addition to their ongoing rewards and perks. Here’s a quick look at some of our favorite cards that reward streaming.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card*: Best for earning rewards on streaming with no annual fee

  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for earning rewards on streaming with an ongoing annual fee
  • Discover it® Cash Back: Best for rotating category enthusiasts
  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card: Best for Amazon Prime loyalists
  • U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card: Best for everyday spending
  • U.S. Bank Altitude Connect Card: Best for streaming credit
  • Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card*: Best for dinner and a movie
  • Best for earning rewards on streaming (no annual fee): Wells Fargo Propel

    For cardholders who prefer a rewards card with no annual fee, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card is a great option. It offers 3X points per dollar on dining, travel and transit, gas station purchases and select streaming services. Cardholders also earn 1X point per dollar on other purchases. Based on the average person’s spending habits, we estimate this card offers an average rewards rate of 1.78 points per dollar, one of the highest rates you can find on a card with no annual fee.

    Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card*

    Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

    Why should you get this card?

    The Wells Fargo Propel card is one of the best no-annual-fee travel cards on the market, thanks to its 3X point bonus.

    Read full review

    Other things to know:

    • 3X points per dollar on dining, travel and transit, gas station purchases and select streaming services; 1X point per dollar on other purchases
    • 20,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
    • $0 annual fee
    • No foreign transaction fee

    If you were to spend $29 a month on streaming services, you’d earn 1,044 points annually with this card. That’s just over $10 a year in cash back from streaming purchases.

    Streaming services eligible for bonus rewards on Wells Fargo Propel

    This card’s video streaming service category includes a number of popular providers. Eligible partners include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Now and more. You can also earn rewards on eligible music streaming services, including Apple Music, Spotify Premium and Pandora. With so many providers included, it’s easy to rack up points on your subscriptions.

    Other card perks to consider

    Beyond offering a good rate on streaming services, the Wells Fargo Propel comes with several other perks that make it a valuable option. New cardholders can enjoy a generous sign-up bonus of 20,000 points for spending $1,000 in the first three months. Plus, the Propel card’s bonus categories are particularly valuable for frequent travelers, as they include gas stations, transit, travel and dining purchases.

    Best for earning rewards on streaming (with an ongoing annual fee): Blue Cash Preferred

    The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express is a great choice for cardholders looking to earn cash back on streaming service purchases, and the card’s terrific ongoing rewards rate should make it easy to offset the $95 annual fee after the first year.

    You’ll earn 6% cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases (for up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% on transit and U.S. gas station purchases, and 1% on general purchases.

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

    Why should you get this card?

    The Blue Cash Preferred card helps take the sting out of long commutes by offering a generous point bonus on U.S. gas station spending, and it offers one of the highest cash back bonuses you can get when you use your card at U.S. supermarkets.

    Read full review

    Other things to know:

    • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%), 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit purchases and 1% cash back on other purchases
    • $150 statement credit if you spend $3,000 in first 6 months
    • 20% back on Amazon.com purchases in first 6 months, up to $200 back
    • Free ShopRunner membership
    • $95 annual fee is waived the first year
    • Terms apply

    The 6% cash back on streaming services is the most generous bonus on this category currently available among rewards cards – especially since there is no cap on how much you can earn. If, like the average person, you pay about $29 each month on various services, you can earn more than $20 a year in cash back on those purchases alone.

    Streaming services eligible for cash back on Blue Cash Preferred

    The Blue Cash Preferred card also boasts a robust list of eligible streaming services, including popular options like Apple TV+, Netflix, Hulu, SlingTV, Spotify and Disney+, as well as HBO Max.

    Keep in mind, however, that according to Amex, “If your subscription is bundled with another product or service or billed by a third party (such as a digital platform, a cable, telecommunications, or internet provider or a car manufacturer), your purchase may not be eligible.”

    In other words, if you have an add-on subscription to a service like HBO included as part of your cable service, you won’t earn bonus rewards even if you pay that bill with the Blue Cash Preferred.

    Other card perks to consider

    On top of the highest rate of cash back currently available for streaming services, the Blue Cash Preferred offers a top-tier rate on U.S. supermarket purchases (6% on up to $6,000 in purchases a year, then 1%). If you spend a lot on groceries each month, this card is one of the most rewarding options available. Even with the $6,000 per year spend cap, you can rack up quite a bit of cash back.

    Best for rotating category enthusiasts: Discover it Cash Back

    If you enjoy tracking quarterly rotating categories for higher cash back rates, the Discover it Cash Back might be your card of choice. The Discover it Cash Back publishes its quarterly rotating categories ahead of time.

    In 2021, the Spring (April to June, activate starting March 1, 2021) categories include select streaming services. During the Spring quarter, if activated, you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter in the bonus categories, then 1% after that. If you miss the Spring bonus quarter this year, keep an eye out to see if it’s offered again next year.

    Discover it® Cash Back

    Discover it® Cash Back

    Why should you get this card?

    The Discover it® Cash Back offers rotating quarterly rewards category, plus no annual fee.

    Read full review

    Other things to know:

    • Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in various categories throughout the year
    • 1% cash back on general purchases
    • $0 annual fee

    Streaming services eligible for cash back on Discover it Cash Back

    The following streaming services are eligible in this category: Apple Music and Apple TV+, YouTube TV, Spotify, Disney+, HBO Max, AT&T TV Now, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, BET+, CBS All Access, DAZN, ESPN+, Fubo TV, Google Play Movies & TV, Philo, Peacock TV, Showtime, Sirius XM, Starz, Sling and Vudu.

    Note that if your subscription is bundled with another product or service billed by a third party, it may not be eligible in this category. The same goes for add-ons on select streaming services if they aren’t on the list of eligible services.

    Other card perks to consider

    The Discover it Cash Back card offers other great perks, including a sign-up bonus that matches your cash back at the end of your first year of card membership. In addition, it comes with a $0 annual fee and multiple easy options for how you can redeem your rewards.

    Best for Amazon Prime Video loyalists: Amazon Prime Rewards card

    The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card is designed with Amazon fans in mind, making it one of the best options if your streaming service of choice is Amazon Prime Video. The card earns 5% cash back on Amazon.com and Whole Foods purchases (including your Amazon Prime membership), 2% cash back on restaurant, gas station and drugstore purchases, and 1% cash back on everything else. In order to qualify for the card, an Amazon Prime membership is required – but the card’s 5% rewards rate can help offset the fee.

    Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card

    Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

    Why should you get this card?

    The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card offers a great 5% rate on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases.

    Read full review

    Other things to know:

    • 5% cash back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% back on restaurant, gas station and drugstore purchases. and 1% back on other purchases
    • $70 Amazon gift card when you sign up
    • No foreign transaction fees

    Streaming services eligible for cash back on Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature

    While Amazon Prime is technically the only streaming platform eligible for rewards, the Amazon Prime Rewards card should prove surprisingly flexible if you want to juggle multiple subscriptions. In addition to your Prime membership (which includes Prime Video and Amazon Music), you’ll earn 5% back on all Prime Video rentals and purchases, as well as on any subscriptions you add to your membership through Amazon Prime Video Channels.

    With Amazon Prime Video Channels, you can choose from more than 100 add-on video subscriptions, including premium channels like HBO and niche channels like PBS Masterpiece. Here is a brief selection of Prime Video Channels, all of which earn 5% back when added to your Prime Video account:

    • Acorn TV
    • BET+
    • BritBox
    • Cheddar
    • Cinemax
    • Epix
    • Hallmark Movies Now
    • HBO
    • Lifetime Movie Club
    • MLB.TV
    • NBA League Pass
    • Paramount+
    • PBS Masterpiece
    • PBS Kids
    • Showtime
    • Starz
    • Shudder
    • Sundance Now

    To earn rewards on these add-on subscriptions and any video rentals or purchases, be sure your Amazon Prime Rewards card is set as your default payment method for Prime Video. You can adjust this setting in the “Your Payments” section of your account, under “Settings” – or change your payment method for Prime Video Channels in the “Manage Your Prime Video Channels” section of your account.

    Other card perks to consider

    The Amazon Prime Visa also makes a great grocery card for users who live near a Whole Foods location. The 5% cash back you earn on these purchases is one of the best grocery rates available. Additionally, you’ll get a $70 Amazon gift card just for signing up. While this is not the highest sign-up bonus available among rewards cards, it doesn’t require you to meet any spend requirement, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the perk immediately.

    Best for everyday spending: U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card

    If you want to earn rewards on an array of everyday expenses, including streaming services, the U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card is a terrific option without paying an annual fee. Along with the 4X points per dollar you’ll earn on takeout, dining and food delivery purchases, you’ll earn 2X points per dollar at grocery stores, grocery delivery, gas stations and streaming services, then 1X point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

    U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card

    Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

    Why should you get this card?

    It charges no annual fee, offers an impressive rewards rate on a variety of everyday purchases and comes with the added perk of an annual streaming credit.

    Read full review

    Other things to know:

    • 4X points per dollar on dining, 2X points per dollar on grocery store, gas station and streaming service purchases, then 1X point per dollar on other purchases
    • 20,000-point bonus when you spend $1,000 in first 90 days
    • Includes an introductory APR on balance transfers and new purchases
    • No annual fee

    On top of its ongoing rewards on streaming service purchases, the card offers a unique annual streaming credit: When you make 11 consecutive calendar month eligible streaming service purchases, you’ll receive a $15 credit (automatic statement credit will be applied within two statement billing cycles following the eleventh month; you are eligible for this credit once per 12-month period).

    Streaming services eligible for bonus rewards and credit on U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card

    While U.S. Bank does not offer a full list of eligible streaming services, it’s safe to assume based on how merchant category codes are typically assigned that services like Amazon Music, Apple Music, AT&T TV Now, Disney+, Google Music, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, SiriusXM, Slacker Radio, Sling TV, Spotify, Tidal, Vudu, YouTube Music and YouTube TV are included.

    Other card perks to considerinstant card number on approval. As soon as you’re approved, you can load your card number into your favorite mobile wallet and start earning rewards instead of waiting for it in the mail. You can also use the card to pay off a transferred balance or finance new purchases – a major plus considering how difficult balance transfer offers can be to come by.

    students with a limited credit history can also enjoy streaming service perks with the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One. You can earn up to $60 in streaming service credits: $5 per month for 12 months on select subscriptions when you pay on time. Some exclusions apply, but popular services like Prime Video, Disney+ and Netflix are included.

    Best for streaming credit: U.S. Bank Altitude Connect Card

    The streaming service earning on the newly launched U.S. Bank Altitude Connect Card is pay, but it makes up for it with a slightly higher credit of $30 for annual streaming service purchases. Plus, you can still rack up plenty of rewards with the card’s 4X rate on gas and travel, 2X on groceries (including grocery delivery), dining and streaming services and 1X on everything else.

    U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature®

    U.S. Bank Altitude Connect card

    Why should you get this card?

    The new U.S. Bank Altitude Connect offers a leading rewards rate on gas and travel, and its TSA Precheck/Global Entry application fee credit can help offset the annual fee.

    Other things to know:

    • 4 points per dollar on travel and at gas stations
    • 2 points per dollar at grocery stores and on grocery delivery, dining and streaming services
    • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
    • 50,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 120 days
    • $95 annual fee (waived the first year)
    • $30 credit for annual streaming service purchases such as Netflix and Spotify
    • Receive up to $100 in statement credits for reimbursement toward your TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee once every four years.
    • No foreign transaction fees

    While the card does offer 2X ongoing rewards on streaming service purchases, the annual streaming credit offers the real value. Like with the Altitude Go Card, you just need to make 11 consecutive calendar month eligible streaming service purchases, and then you’ll receive a $30 statement credit.

    Streaming services eligible for bonus rewards and credit on U.S. Bank Altitude Connect Card

    There is not a full list of eligible streaming services publicly available, but services like Amazon Music, Netflix, Pandora and YouTube TV are said to qualify.

    Other card perks to consider

    In addition to its high earning rate on travel and gas purchases, the U.S. Bank Altitude Connect card comes with a statement credit of up to $100 to cover your TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee. Since the annual fee on this card is only $95 (waived in the first year), you can easily offset the cost on the years you use this credit. (Note, membership to these programs last five years.)

    Best for dinner and a movie: Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

    The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card has long been a favorite for foodies, thanks to its generous earning rate on both dining and grocery store purchases. But this fan-favorite recently got an upgrade – and with it a new, enhanced rate on streaming service purchases.

    Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

    Why should you get this card?

    The Capital One Savor card offers one of the best cash back rates on dining and entertainment purchases combined.

    Read full review

    Other things to know:

    • 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023
    • 4% cash back on dining, entertainment and streaming services
    • 3% cash back at grocery stores
    • 1% cash back on other purchases
    • $300 if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
    • $95 annual fee

    Streaming services eligible for bonus rewards and credit on Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

    There is not a full list of eligible streaming services publicly available, but services like Hulu, Disney+ and Netflix are said to qualify.

    Other card perks to consider

    The Savor card also recently enhanced its earning rate on grocery store purchases, making it more valuable for those who prefer eating in to dining out. So whether you’d rather order takeout (earning 4% cash back) or stock up for cooking your own meal (3% cash back), the Savor will reward you for your next movie night.

    Final thoughts

    While streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV or Tidal might not make up the biggest part of your monthly budget, you can still bring in great rewards on your membership fees by choosing the right rewards card. Whether you prefer a dining, grocery or travel card, you can combine rewards on various purchases with a streaming bonus to maximize points or cash back.

    *All information about the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card and Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

    Source: creditcards.com

    How to Design a Life You Love

    In the earliest days of my business, I wasn’t so much running toward a passion or purpose but running away from my disengaging full-time job. And that absence of purpose scared me. This was the next phase of my life, and I wanted it to be infused with intention.

    And also… I had no idea how to achieve this.

    Then one day, browsing aimlessly in a bookstore (a tactic I recommend anytime you’re struggling with literally anything) I stumbled on a book called Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

    At first glance it sounded a little squishy. But I noticed the book is based on a course of the same name, authored by two professors who famously teach at Stanford University – an institution not known for its squishiness. So, I grabbed it.

    Its purpose is to help you answer this question: Can we apply design thinking to the “wicked problem” of designing your job, your career, and even your life? Evans and Burnett believe we can.

    Design thinking is a means of user-centered design. It’s about designing not the best outcome, but rather the best path for a particular user. In the case of this book, the user is you. Today I’ll introduce you to the five phases of the design thinking process, and how Burnett and Evans might encourage you to harness it in designing your ideal life.

    Whether you’re on a quest for joy, change, or a fresh start, welcome to your new beginning.

    Design thinking … is about designing not the best outcome, but rather the best path for a particular user – in this case, the user is you.

    Step #1: Empathize

    Design thinking begins with empathy because you can only design for a user you understand. And since you are the user, this phase is about self-awareness. So how can you get to know you a little bit better? There’s a process Burnett and Evans describe called wayfinding, which is a simple method of self-discovery that puts you in the direction of where you need to go.

    Through wayfinding, you’ll discover which activities engage you (leaving you feeling inspired and “in the zone”) and which sap your energy. The process is simple: keep a journal (here's a good example of one). For the next few weeks, keep track of your work and home activities throughout each day. Whether it's writing a sales pitch, reorganizing your sock drawer, or anything else. For each activity, grab your journal and log how high or low your engagement was during the activity (did you enjoy your time spent?) and how you feel afterwards (energized or exhausted, positive or negative?).

    This process will reveal some important information about you!

    Step #2: Define

    The next phase of design thinking is to define the needs or insights you’ve gained through empathy. So after a few weeks, take a closer look at your journal and do a bit of reflecting. What captures your attention? Any surprises? 

    When I did this exercise, I validated some things I already knew – I love spending time with people and learning about topics of interest. But the news to me was that I was also enjoying writing copy for my website. This insight led me to start publishing an email newsletter which has since become critical to my business growth.

    Now it’s your turn. What insights pop out for you? What assumptions can you validate, and what new things did you discover?

    Step #3: Ideate

    Now it’s time to develop a set of possible solutions. This phase is meant to be playful and exploratory, leveraging the insights you’ve collected.

    Burnett and Evans call this Odyssey Planning. I love this phrase – it sounds more like an adventure in the wilderness than a planning process. How you craft your odysseys is up to you – you can draw, write stories, brainstorm or create a mind map.  But the goal is to generate possibilities using pen and paper.

    “Each of us is many,” Evans and Burnett say. “The life you are living is one of many lives you will live.”

    So start with three possible lives:

    • A better version of the present – what your life would look like if everything stayed the same, but you added in more of the engaging and stripped out some of what leaves you drained
    • An alternate version of the present – what your life would look like if suddenly your job went away
    • A what-if-money-were-no-object version – what your life would look like if finances weren’t a constraint

    Let your creative brain take over here. None of these will be your final life design, so don’t be hampered by too many rules. This is only about possibilities.

    Step #4: Prototype

    This phase is about collecting data to inform how we turn ideas into action plans. Now that you’ve crafted three possible lives that sound great to you. What can you do to test and validate those assumptions?

    Who in your life has lived pieces of your envisioned lives? If one Odyssey involves you opening a restaurant or becoming a stay-at-home parent or launching a side hustle, who do you know who has done these things?

    Find and interview people who you trust to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their experience. Arm yourself with as much information as you can, so you can ultimately make informed choices about how to proceed.

    Find and interview people who you trust to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their experience. Arm yourself with as much information as you can.

    Step #5: Test

    The most valuable thing I learned while going through this life design process was that change needn’t be wholesale. You don’t have to throw out one life and take on another. You can take just one step at a time. Here’s where you put your insights, your possibilities, and your data into a blender and take small sips of the smoothie that emerges.

    Maybe in your current job you spend a lot of time in meetings that drain your energy. This doesn’t mean you have to quit your job or boycott meetings. But can you craft a small experiment in which you opt out of one meeting per week and replace it with something that really lights you up? (Go back and check your journal to find the things that make you happiest).

    This was my approach. I didn’t throw out my business. Instead, I started turning up the dial on things I believed would make me happy – choosing different clients, saying no to certain projects and yes to others.

    If I was right, I kept going. If I was wrong, everything was reversible because I was doing this in small steps, rather than giant leaps. This process can be fun and invigorating. The beauty of human-centered design is that there is no right answer. There’s only the outcome that lifts you up.

    And now it’s your turn. Are you ready to build the life you love?

     

    Source: quickanddirtytips.com

    Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School

    Deia Schlosberg had been working as an environmental educator, teaching students about issues concerning conservation and sustainability. While she loved teaching, she wanted to reach people on a larger scale about the importance of protecting the environment. So she decided to follow her dream of becoming a filmmaker—a dream that would require her to return to school for a graduate degree. She had no idea at the time that it would lead to becoming an award-winning documentarian.

    While Schlosberg’s choice may have paid off, learning how to pay for grad school as a working adult can be a challenge. There are various benefits to getting an advanced degree: You can learn more, you can earn more, you can further advance in your current job or prepare for a career change. However, you might also find yourself stressed by the expense and resulting debt of it all, especially if you have kids, a home or other financial commitments. So a big question on your mind could be, “How much should I save for grad school?”

    To financially prepare for grad school it’s important to weigh the benefits and stressors that surround getting an advanced degree.

    Below are some lessons on how to financially prepare for grad school to help you determine if and when you should go back to school. If you haven’t yet decided if graduate school is right for you, see section 1 for tips on how to decide. If you already know you want to go back to school, skip to section 2.

    1. Decide if going back to school is right for you

    Getting an advanced degree may seem like a ticket to success, but depending on your chosen area of study, the outcome may vary. For Schlosberg, it was a bit of a risk. It can be difficult to get a break in the film industry, and going to grad school could mean carrying around debt for a long time. Is this the type of outcome you would be willing to accept?

    According to Emma Johnson, best-selling author, career consultant and founder of Wealthysinglemommy.com, there are a few things you can do to help you decide whether or not going back to school is right for you:

    • Do your homework. When considering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, research your degree options and the jobs to which they might lead. Compare cost and compatibility—for instance, will classes for the program align with your work schedule? Once you’ve determined what kind of occupation you may pursue after grad school, search online for information about that occupation’s average earnings.
    • Solidify your goals. You may find clarity in writing out your goals for going back to school. Some benefits are tangible, like earning more money, building a professional network and gaining skills. Others might be less tangible, such as finding personal fulfillment. Once you know your goals, it will be easier to determine if a graduate degree makes personal and professional sense.

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    “Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field.”

    – Deia Schlosberg, filmmaker
    • Give your degree program a test run. Consider taking classes that relate to the degree you are interested in getting in grad school. These classes can give you a taste of the subject matter you’ll be studying and help you meet people involved in the field. Also, if prerequisites are required for your advanced degree, they often cost less online or at a community college, which is important to remember when thinking about how to prepare your finances before grad school. Make sure the course credits will be accepted at the graduate school you plan to attend.
    • Take a hands-on approach. To level up in your existing career or find out what it’s like in a new field before making the change, get some work-related experience first. For instance, to learn more about moving up in your own field, get out and meet those higher level professionals by attending conferences and networking events. The same tactic applies if you want to change careers.

    2. Know how much you need to save

    How to pay for grad school as a working adult can be complicated, but you’ve decided you’re ready for it. Plus, hitting the books at a time when saving for retirement or your child’s education could be at the forefront makes the task of how to prepare your finances before grad school even more critical.

    Understanding how to prepare your finances before grad school becomes more complicated if you’re also budgeting for a retirement plan or child’s education.

    Figuring out how much to save for grad school begins with determining the cost of attendance. Here are a couple ways to do that, according to Johnson:

    • Do the research. Once you have found a school and degree that you like, visit the school’s web site. Some schools may provide the cost of tuition, fees and estimated costs for books, supplies and transportation. Costs can vary tremendously, depending on various factors: whether you attend full or part time, whether you attend a public or private school, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state resident and the time it takes to get your degree.
    • Determine your budget. Once you have a handle on the school-related costs, build a spreadsheet that accounts for these costs and projects monthly income and living expenses. Working through a savings plan beforehand can help you financially prepare for grad school by showing just how much you’ll need to budget for monthly on tuition plus living expenses. Once you determine these factors, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to save up.
    • Create a savings buffer. After you determine your monthly costs, pad that number. “Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field,” Schlosberg says. She saved a little more than she estimated, giving herself an extra cushion to cover some of the potential risk to her finances.

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    “You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources.”

    – Emma Johnson, career consultant

    3. Allow yourself a flexible timeline

    One key factor in planning the timeline for earning your graduate degree: Don’t be in a rush. If you need to, create the time to save. It may not be necessary to go back to school full time or finish on a particular schedule, Johnson says. She mentions these possible paths to earning your degree when planning how to pay for grad school as a working adult:

    • Consider a side hustle. One option is to go to school full time and take on a side hustle. You may not make as much as you did as a full-time employee, but the income can complement your savings. It may also allow you to concentrate more on your degree and finish faster.
    • Attend part time. Go to school part time (nights and weekends) while working. It will take longer, but it will also minimize your debt, which could be better in the long run.
    • Take it slowly. Only sign up for a class or two—whatever you can afford—and continue to work. This part-time “lite” approach may take even longer, but could help you avoid overextending yourself financially or sliding into debt.
    • Take online classes. Consider online programs that could lower the cost of tuition and allow you to continue working full time.
    If you’re wondering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, consider attending school part time and taking online classes.

    4. Take advantage of potential cost-saving benefits

    So you’ve done your research on how much you need to save while determining how to prepare your finances before grad school. But there are ways to potentially cut or eliminate some of those costs. What comes next are some solutions that may help pay your grad school bills:

    • Consider loans, financial aid and scholarships. “I took out some student loans for living expenses, but I tried to pay off my tuition as I went by working through school,” Schlosberg says. Graduate students may also be eligible for different types of scholarships and grants, which is aid that does not need to be paid back. Depending on your area of study, scholarships and grants can also be obtained through federal and state organizations, private foundations, public companies and professional organizations.
    • Ask your employer to pay the tuition. One way to financially prepare for grad school is to talk to your manager or human resources representative to find out if your current employer would help pay for, or fully fund, your degree through tuition reimbursement. This is most likely if you plan to move up the ladder and use your new skills on behalf of the company.
    • Take advantage of in-state tuition. Some people move to the same state as their desired school to try to get a break on tuition. “I moved to Montana and worked a couple jobs for a year before applying so I could get in-state tuition,” says Schlosberg. Whether you are already a resident or you move to a new state, be sure to determine how long you need to be a resident to qualify for in-state tuition at your desired university.
    • Cut back on discretionary expenses. Seemingly small things like adjusting your lifestyle to lower your monthly costs, which could mean fewer lattes and dinners out, might go a long way in resolving how to prepare your finances before grad school. “You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources,” Johnson says.
    When determining how to financially prepare for graduate school, consider scholarships, in-state tuition and tuition reimbursement.

    Financially prepare for grad school and get a new start

    Answering the question of how to pay for grad school as a working adult requires significant research and preparation, but some say it’s worth it, including Schlosberg. It not only gave her a whole new start, but a wealth of knowledge going forward to nurture her future endeavors. “Getting a graduate degree gave me the confidence to jump into a new career. I met an amazing network of people,” Schlosberg says.

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    But an advanced degree may not be a necessity. While it could look impressive on a resume, for many employers, a master’s degree is not a requirement. “Whatever you do, don’t go back to school just for the sake of getting a degree,” Johnson says. When thinking about how to financially prepare for graduate school, make sure it fits into your financial picture and that you’re able to “weigh your sacrifices against future gains,” she says.

    The post Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

    Source: discover.com

    You Can Now Request COVID-Related Mortgage Forbearance for Up to 18 Months

    Some good news for homeowners struggling to make ends meet thanks to COVID-19, which as the name implies has been going on for a while now. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has just announced an extension to the COVID forbearance period, which was previously capped at 360 [&hellip

    The post You Can Now Request COVID-Related Mortgage Forbearance for Up to 18 Months first appeared on The Truth About Mortgage.

    Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

    Inspection vs. Appraisal for Home Buyers

    In this article:

    • What is the difference between an appraisal and an inspection?
    • What happens during an appraisal?
    • What if the appraisal comes in low?
    • What to expect from a home inspection
    • How are home inspections and appraisals similar?

    Inspections and appraisals are both important parts of the home buying process, and buyers should do both to protect their financial interest in a home – and give themselves peace of mind that they’re making a smart purchase. Inspections and appraisals serve different functions, but both give you the insights you need to avoid large financial missteps.

    What is the difference between an appraisal and an inspection?

    The main difference between an appraisal and an inspection is that an appraisal deals with the value of a home, while an inspection deals with the condition of the home.

    Appraisal: An appraisal is a walk-through and a general assessment of a home, analyzed with the help of nearby comparable sales. The goal of an appraisal is to determine the fair market value of a property. It is conducted by a licensed professional appraiser. While an appraiser will visit a home in person, the majority of the work will be done in their office, as they compare the home’s features, location, and finishes with other comparable recent sales in the area. An appraisal usually costs around $400, depending on where you live and the size of your home.

    Inspection: An inspection is a deeper dive into the condition of the specific home. A licensed home inspector will spend multiple hours doing a comprehensive review of the home’s condition, both visually and by testing functionality of major systems. After completing the inspection, they will provide recommendations to the buyer on items in the home that should be repaired or replaced before closing. A home inspection costs between $250 and $700, depending on where you live and the size of your home.

    Do lenders require appraisals?

    Yes, most lenders do require appraisals in order to approve financing. Lenders want to protect their investment by ensuring they’re not financing a loan for more than the property is worth.

    Do lenders require home inspections?

    Lenders providing conventional financing do not usually require home inspections, but they are still strongly recommended. FHA or VA loans usually do require inspections.

    Do I need an appraisal and inspection when buying a home with cash?

    Cash buyers often opt to do an appraisal and inspection, even though they’re not required. Some cash buyers, particularly home investors, may waive the inspection or appraisal if the home is being sold “as is” or if they are competing with other offers and want to close quickly.

    Regardless of how you’re paying, an appraisal can give peace of mind that you’re not overpaying for a property, and an inspection can uncover potentially costly issues and necessary repairs.

    What happens during an appraisal?

    During an appraisal, a licensed appraiser evaluates the home you want to buy in person and gives you an estimate on how much it’s worth. Typically, the appraiser is chosen by the lender but paid for by the buyer as part of the closing costs.

    Appraisals cost around $400, but can cost a bit more or a bit less depending on your home size and location. The appointment usually takes about an hour, and then the appraiser will complete the report back at their office.

    1. Assessment of property

    The appraiser will walk through the home, taking note of its condition, finishes and location – consider it somewhat like a light inspection.

    2. Review of comparable sales

    The appraiser will use the findings of their walk-through to identify similar homes that have sold recently in the neighborhood. This will help them decide upon a fair market value.

    3. Final report

    The appraiser will deliver a physical report on the fair market value of the home, including photos and descriptions of comparable sales. In most cases it’s just the lender and the buyer who will receive copies of the report. The seller may request a copy of the appraisal report, but in most cases you are not required to share it.

    Ideally, the appraisal will come back higher than the agreed-upon sales price. That indicates that you’re paying less than the fair market value and your lender will approve the loan.

    What if the appraisal comes in low?

    Appraisals that come in below the agreed-upon sale price are commonly referred to as low appraisals. When an appraisal comes in low it can jeopardize your ability to acquire the loan you were pre-approved to get, causing a headache for buyers.

    Low appraisals can happen for a couple reasons:

    • Bidding wars with multiple buyers drive the price up beyond market value.
    • There’s a lack of relevant comparables to use as a basis for the home value.
    • You’re buying in a high season (like late spring) and the only available comparables are from other points in the year.
    • The appraiser is inexperienced.

    Buyers who are using financing have a few options to work around a low appraisal:

    1. Contest the appraisal: You can contact your lender and point out any glaring issues or errors in the appraisal report, then request a new appraisal.
    2. Pay the difference: To make up the difference between the amount your lender is willing to finance and the offer price, you can pay cash or ask the lender if you can restructure your financing.
    3. Ask the seller for a price reduction: If the appraisal was accurate and the home is indeed worth less than what you’re offering, you may not want to overpay. To avoid having to back out completely, consider asking the seller for a price reduction, using the appraisal report as proof the home is overpriced.

    What to expect from a home inspection

    Scheduling a home inspection is one of the first tasks you’ll want to do after the contract is signed between you and the seller. Although, in some low-inventory markets, buyers sometimes hire an inspector prior to making an offer. It’s up to you to pick a home inspector you trust, and most people ask their agent for a recommendation, get a referral from friends or family members or search online reviews.

    Since the goal of a home inspection is to get a comprehensive report of the condition of the home you’re buying, a home inspection takes between three and four hours, sometimes more. Unlike an appraiser who does a visual check of the home, your inspector will both examine and test functionality of your home’s key systems, including:

    • Plumbing
    • Roof condition
    • HVAC
    • Foundation
    • Appliances
    • Drainage
    • Water damage and mold

    However, a home inspection may not find every potential issue in the home, especially if they are hidden or seasonal, so buyers should discuss any exclusions with the licensed home inspector both before and after the inspection itself.

    Who attends the inspection: Usually, the buyer and their agent will both attend the inspection. This allows you to have the inspector walk you through any red flags in real time, while also giving you the chance to familiarize yourself with how the home’s systems work ahead of moving.

    What happens after the inspection: After completing the on-site inspection, your inspector will provide a written report that highlights their findings, including photos.

    Specialized inspections for buyers to consider

    While inspecting the home’s major systems and features is standard practice, your inspector may recommend a second, more specialized inspection if they notice issues including:

    • Radon
    • Pests
    • Septic
    • Lead paint

    Why home inspections are important

    The few hundred dollars you’ll spend for a home inspection is a small price to pay for the opportunity to confirm that the home you’re about to buy is free of major – and costly – issues. It’s no wonder 83% of buyers reported having an inspection done, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019.

    Risk of not having an inspection: While some buyers opt to waive their inspection contingency to make their offer appear stronger, this means they’re essentially buying the home “as-is,” and any issues discovered after closing will fall 100% to the buyer to repair, even if they were present before closing.

    Why disclosures aren’t enough: In most states, sellers are required to disclose underlying issues in the home that they know exist (specific disclosure requirements vary by state). While disclosures are an important protection, they only cover un-repaired issues that the seller knows about – there’s no guarantee that the home is free of other underlying issues or that the repairs were made correctly. A home inspection is simply the best way to find out about any potential problems in the home.

    If you buy a Zillow-owned home, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing the home went through a pre-listing home evaluation process and was renovated by local professionals to make it move-in ready. Of course, you’re always welcome to do your own inspection, too.

    How are home inspections and appraisals similar?

    Despite having two different processes and requiring the services of two different professionals, appraisals and inspections do share some similarities:

    1. Appraisers and inspectors are licensed

    Both roles require licenses and extensive training. Both appraisers and inspectors act as impartial third parties, paid to provide their professional opinion.

    2. Buyers pay for both inspections and appraisals

    Usually, the buyer selects the home inspector they want to work with and the lender selects the appraiser. The buyer pays for both the inspector and the appraiser, unless otherwise negotiated.

    3. Appraisal and inspection both occur during escrow

    The home inspection usually happens within the first week after your offer is accepted – the sooner the better, so there’s time to fix any issues flagged in the inspection report or renegotiate with the seller. The appraisal also happens during the escrow period, usually a week or two before closing.

    4. Appraisal and inspection results allow for negotiations

    Assuming you’ve structured your offer to include contingencies for both the appraisal and inspection, you’ll be allowed to renegotiate your offer based on the findings. If the appraisal comes back low, you’re allowed to renegotiate with the seller to figure out how to cover the difference between the appraised price and the offer price. Similarly, if the inspection report uncovers significant repairs, you’ll have a period of time where you can request repairs or credits, or back out of the deal without losing your earnest money.

    The post Inspection vs. Appraisal for Home Buyers appeared first on Home Buyers Guide.

    Source: zillow.com

    Most popular homes and their neighborhoods of July 2019

    Summer is underway, and home buyers are dreaming big. Our most-viewed properties in July include several stunning homes that are asking eight or nine figures. But even the most palatial estate needs a top-quality neighborhood to seal the deal. So we took a look at July’s most popular homes to get the rundown on the neighborhood with an assist from What Locals Say, our guide to residents’ insights on their own communities.

    Enjoy browsing these big summer dreams—and the very reasonable buys mixed in here, too.

    Flatiron District, New York

    $98,000,000

    Flatiron District penthouse for sale in New York City on Trulia
    How many fireplaces can fit in one home? This place tests the limits. See more photos here.

    Named for one of New York City‘s early skyscrapers, the Flatiron District in Manhattan is home to lots of publishers and ad agencies and is also part of the city’s “Silicon Alley” tech business district. Major attractions range from the popular Italian food hall Eataly to Teddy Roosevelt’s birthplace. But despite the bustle, the Flatiron District is also an in-demand residential area, as notable residents like Chelsea Clinton can testify. What Locals Say users describe the neighborhood is just an all-around nice place. “There are parks and schools in the immediate area as well as plenty of fun stores and galleries and movie theaters,” one resident says.1

    Available now in the Flatiron District, this extravagant penthouse suite is 19,000 square feet. With 11 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, and truly grand views of the city from its 4,500 square feet of terrace, NYC living doesn’t get much more luxurious than this.


    Hearthstone, Yonkers

    $399,000

    Wood beams on the ceiling are always a plus. See more photos here.

    One resident of Yonkers’ Hearthstone neighborhood describes the place as “centrally located to all”—including Yonkers itself and the Big Apple, just 45 minutes away by train.2 Neighborhood restaurants are wildly diverse, featuring Filipino, Korean, Mexican, and Italian cuisines. Residents also enjoy a variety of local groceries, including the fish market and restaurant at Highridge Fishery Seafood, described by one Yelp reviewer as “Yonkers’ best-kept secret.” If you’re seeking entertainment, the Alamo Drafthouse is an upscale movie theater, and for the outdoorsy, nearby Sprain Ridge Park has 278 acres of natural beauty to explore.

    Available now in Hearthstone, this charming Cape Cod is the epitome of cozy living. It packs a lot into its small footprint, including three bedrooms, a bathroom, plenty of storage space, and a finished basement. We also love the little deck for summertime relaxation.


    Bel Air, Los Angeles

    $195,000,000

    The hedge maze will make you feel like you’re in a Jane Austen novel. See more photos here.

    Bel Air is the stuff of pop-culture legend, thanks to the TV shows set or shot there and the stars, from Jennifer Aniston to Alfred Hitchcock, who’ve called it home. But if you look beyond the big names, big houses, and big reputation, you’ll find neighbors who enjoy a quiet area with abundant natural beauty. “We are surrounded by nature: trees, flowers, birds, butterflies,” says one resident on What Locals Say.3 Right in the neighborhood, Getty View Park is an ideal place to enjoy some of that beauty (and take in a great view of L.A.). And, as you would expect, there’s chic dining and shopping in the area if you don’t feel like venturing out into the rest of L.A.

    Available now in Bel Air is the 10-acre Chartwell estate. All told, the property has 11 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms, as well as a 40-vehicle car gallery and a 12,000-bottle wine cellar. And the gardens and L.A. views are downright magical.


    Beverly Glen, Los Angeles

    $150,000,000

    A barber chair comes in the bathroom, but it’s BYO barber. See more photos here.

    One resident of L.A.‘s Beverly Glen neighborhood describes it as, “Beautiful, quiet and unique. Feels far away from the city but is close to everything.”4 The small community is tucked between two of the area’s most prestigious neighborhoods, Beverly Hills and Hollywood Hills, and also has easy access to Westwood and Hollywood. Despite its exclusive address, Beverly Glen has a very close-knit community feel. There’s little retail in the area, but Glen Market is a beloved local grocery. And neighbors look forward to annual community events like the Garden Walk and Glen Fair, with music, dancing, food, and kids’ activities.

    Available now in Beverly Glen, this luxury home is ideal for anyone who loves soaking up the sun and 270-degree views of L.A. And its 38,000-square-foot interior is worth a peek too, with gorgeously designed spaces including—get this—a candy room, a movie theater, and three gourmet kitchens.


    Soundview, The Bronx

    $649,999

    Peek inside to see the reading nook under a window. See more photos here.

    Just north of the confluence of the Bronx and East rivers, Soundview is a working-class community with culture to spare. According to AM New York, “Bronx residents frequent Soundview for two things: Food and music.” It’s easy to see why. The local dining scene has Mexican, Caribbean, and Spanish restaurants—although a single cuisine isn’t enough for local institution Joe’s Place, which proudly “offers three distinct dining atmospheres” under the same roof. Joe’s is also a neighborhood music venue, as is Soundview Park, which hosts summer concerts on the waterfront. “Just nice and calm. No drama,” says one local. “I love living in this area.”5

    Available now in Soundview, this two-family home has been well maintained and beautifully renovated. The hardwood floors and stone shower walls lend a contemporary elegance, and the small back deck is a great place to relax outdoors even in the heart of the city.


    Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

    $695,000

    A leaded glass door and wrought iron railings? Yes, please. See more photos here.

    The Bensonhurst neighborhood is known as the biggest of Brooklyn‘s multiple “Little Italies” but also as one of the borough’s Chinatowns. The area bustles with sushi bars, innumerable local groceries, nightclubs, and cafes. And with plenty of subway stations in the neighborhood, Manhattan is just 45 minutes away. One lifetime Bensonhurst resident says she’s “seen many changes, but it’s still a safe place to live with great neighbors, shopping, and transportation.”6

    Available now in Bensonhurst, this three-bedroom home has both new and old touches. The detailed iron banister, stained-glass windows, and flagstone patio all seem to hail from different eras—but they all work in this warm and welcoming space.

    July-most-searched-Trulia-Beverly-Glen-1-e3e6fc

    Find a home you’ll love

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    1 Trulia user, Sept. 2018 “There are parks and schools in the immediate area as well as plenty of fun stores and galleries and movie theaters.”

    2Mike P., Sept. 2018 “Neighbors are very friendly and area area is central located to all. wonderful neighborhood! Very quite, shopping is a mile away and Scarsdale train station is only about 1 1/2 miles away.”

    3Trulia User, 2013 “I love this area ! The people never want to leave. We are surrounded by nature: trees, flowers, birds, butterflies. The public elementary school is one of the top, if not the top, in the city. The neighbors are multi-generational.”

    4 Jenny, Feb. 2019 “Beautiful, quiet and unique. Feels far away from the city but is close to everything. Nice parks. Please do t speed on the blvd, its very dangerous “

    5 Dameen T., June 2019“Just nice and calm No drama I love living in this area Very clean and always busy always see the same faces “

    6 Msgrace46, May, 2018 “I have lived here all my life have seen many changes but it’s still a safe place to live with great neighbors, shopping and transportation “

    The post Most popular homes and their neighborhoods of July 2019 appeared first on Trulia's Blog.

    Source: trulia.com

    Buying a Home? Plan for These Hidden Costs

    You’re excited because you just found the perfect home. The neighborhood is great, the house is charming and the price is right.

    But the asking price is just the beginning. Be prepared for additional – and often unexpected – home-buying costs that can catch buyers unaware and quickly leave you underwater on your new home.

    Expect the unexpected

    For almost every person who buys a home, the spending doesn’t stop with the down payment. Homeowners insurance and closing costs, like appraisal and lender fees, are typically easy to plan for because they’re lumped into the home-buying process, but most costs beyond those vary.

    The previous owners of your home are the biggest factor affecting your move-in costs. If they take the refrigerator when they move out, you’ll have to buy one to replace it. The same goes for any large appliance.

    And while these may seem like a small purchase compared to buying a home, appliances quickly add up – especially if you just spent most of your cash on a down payment.

    You’ll also be on the hook for any immediate improvements the home needs, unless you negotiate them as part of your home purchase agreement.

    Unfortunately, these costs are the least hidden of those you may encounter.

    When purchasing a home, definitely hire a home inspector (this costs money too!) to ensure the home isn’t going to collapse the next time it rains. Inspectors look for bad electrical wiring, weak foundations, wood rot and other hidden problems you may not find on your own.

    Worse still, these problems are rarely covered by home insurance. If an inspector discovers a serious problem, you’ll then have to decide if you still want to purchase the home. Either way, you’ll be out the cost of hiring the inspector.

    Consider the creature comforts

    Another cost is your own comfort. There are a number of smaller considerations you may not think about until after you move in.

    Are you used to having cable? If so, is your new home wired for cable? It’s much harder to watch a technician crawling around punching holes in your walls when you own those walls.

    And if you’re moving from the world of renting to the world of homeownership, you’ll probably be faced with much higher utility bills. Further, you could find yourself paying for utilities once covered by a landlord, like water and garbage pickup.

    Plan ahead

    The best way to prepare for the unknown and unexpected is through research and planning. This starts with budgeting before house hunting and throughout your search.

    Look at homes in your budget that need improvements, and then research how much those improvements could cost. Nothing is worse than buying a home thinking you can fix the yard for a few hundred dollars and then realizing it will cost thousands.

    There’s really no limit to how prepared you can be. Say you find a nice home that’s priced lower than others in the area because of its age. You may save money on the list price, but with an older house, you could be slapped with a much higher home insurance payment, making the house more expensive in the long run.

    This is where preparation comes in. Research home insurance and property prices in the areas you’re considering to make more educated decisions before you ever make that first offer.

    Clearly define how much you intend to put toward your down payment, and then look at how much cash that leaves for improvements and minor costs, like changing the locks. That way, when you find a house at the high end of your range, you’ll know to walk away if it requires a new washer and dryer or HVAC system upgrade.

    Establish a rough estimate for as many costs as you can think of, and be extremely critical of homes at the top of your budget – otherwise, you could easily end up being house-poor.

    Know your budget and plan ahead. Buying a home is a lot less scary when you know what you’re getting into.

    Top featured photo from Offset.

    Related:

    Originally published August 2016.

    Source: zillow.com

    Home Buyer’s Guide: How to Purchase a Property, From Start to Finish [Free Download]

    Purchasing a home is both exciting and a major milestone in your life, so you’ll want to be prepared for what to expect to avoid a stressful process. Having an in-depth look at the buyer’s journey can help you make informed and confident decisions.

    From finding a real estate agent, negotiating offers to getting your keys on closing day, we’ve outlined all the steps of a home buyer’s journey in our free Buyer’s Guide, which you can download here.

    The Buyer’s Guide will cover the buyer’s timeline from meeting an agent to preparing for closing day. We’ve outlined the 8 steps in a home buyer’s journey below.

    1. Working With An Agent

    Every city is filled with thousands of agents, but not all are equal. We believe it is important to choose an agent that you feel confident with. Before you commit to working with an agent, make sure you have a good understanding of the knowledge and experience they offer. It’s important that you ask your questions before making the decision to work with them.

    2. Financing Your Purchase

    Before you set a budget and start looking for a home, you’ll have to understand what costs to expect when purchasing a home. Here are some of the major costs involved:

    • Deposits
    • Down payments
    • Mortgage insurance
    • Closing costs

    You’ll also want to calculate a rough estimate of the down payment that you will be expected to pay. Depending on the price of your home, your minimum down payment can range from 5% to 20%. If you’re interested in learning more about how to finance your home, you can get our free Financing Your Purchase guide here.

    3. Searching For A Home

    An important part of searching for a home is understanding how the home will fit with your needs and your lifestyle. You’ll want to consider home ownership as well as different types of properties and features. 

    Types of Home Ownership

    • Freehold Ownership
      • You purchase the home and directly own the lot of land it sits on
    • Condominium Ownership
      • For condos, you own specific parts of one building: titled ownership of your unit, along with shared ownership in the condo corporation that owns the common spaces and amenities
    • Co-Op Ownership
      • You own an exact portion of the building as a whole and also have exclusive use of your unit

    Types of Properties

    • Detached houses
    • Semi-detached houses
    • Attached houses
    • Condos and apartments
    • Multi-unit

    Tip: Depending on your budget and desired location, you may need to be flexible to find a home that meets your needs. By being willing to trade some features for others, you’ll have more options to choose from.

    4. Negotiating An Offer

    When you are making an offer to purchase a home, the purchase agreement should include the essential components listed below. Your agent can help put together an offer that is compelling, while safeguarding your interests and puts you in a competitive position to secure your new home.

    You’ll also have the opportunity to choose the conditions that you’ll want in your offer. Some of these may include a home inspection or a status certificate review.

    5. Financial Due Diligence

    Whenever you make an offer on a house, you need to provide a deposit to secure the offer. The deposit is in the form of a certified cheque, bank draft, or wire transfer; it’s held in trust by the selling brokerage and is applied towards your down payment if your offer is successful.

    There are two types of deposits:

    • Upon acceptance
      • The deposit is provided within 24 hours of the seller choosing your offer
    • Herewith
      • The deposit is provided when the offer is made

    6. Property Due Diligence

    To firm up a deal or educate yourself more on the state of the property, you’ll likely want to have a home inspection if you’re purchasing a house. If you’re purchasing a condo, then your lawyer will review the building’s status certificate.

    Home Inspection

    A home inspector will assess elements of the home such as the walls, windows, plumbing, heating and roof to judge the condition of the home. This process is non-invasive and is essential to help provide buyers with a good idea of the home’s current condition and the confidence of putting in an offer. 

    Tip: The home inspector will provide a summary of suggested work along with a minimum budget estimate for the repairs needed. 

    Status Certificates

    If you’re purchasing a condominium, you’ll need to obtain a status certificate from the condo board or management for your lawyer’s review. This document will include valuable information about the condo’s budget, legal issues, reserve fund, maintenance fees and future fees increases – and the lawyer can help identify potential red flags

    7. Preparing For Closing

    Before the big day, you’ll want to keep a checklist of what to do ahead of time. Some of these include:

    • Review your contract
    • Complete a final walkthrough of the home
    • Purchase home insurance
    • Meet with your lawyer
    • Know how much cash you’ll need
    • Secure cash required for closing

    8. Closing Day

    Closing Day is when you’ll finally get the keys to your new home! In addition to bringing the cash required for closing, you’ll have to sign a few more documents which will include:

    • Mortgage loan
    • Title transfer
    • Statement of adjustments
    • Tax certificates

    For the full details on the home buyer’s journey including examples, advice, pictures and sample calculations, download a copy of our free Buyer’s Guide here.

    The post Home Buyer’s Guide: How to Purchase a Property, From Start to Finish [Free Download] appeared first on Zoocasa Blog.

    Source: zoocasa.com

    Easy Ways to Increase Your Earning Potential Today

    Are you sick of feeling as though you always have more bills than income? Every month, you work hard to bring home a decent wage to support your family. Yet, somehow, when you need funds, there never seems to be anything available in your bank account. Sometimes, the problem might be that you’re struggling to manage your budget. Not knowing how to properly look after your money could mean that you spend too much, too fast. In other circumstances, your issue might be that you’re not taking advantage of opportunities to increase your earning potential. If you’re already doing everything you can to reduce excess spending and improve your financial habits, but you’re still facing money worries, then the following earning boosters could be just what you need. Let’s look at some quick and easy ways to turn your life around.

    Consider a new job

    All jobs have their pros and cons to consider. However, some roles definitely pay more than others. If you feel as though you’ve already gotten everything you can out of your current position, and there’s no room left to grow, a new role might be the best option. If you don’t want to switch away from the current company that you’re with, you could ask about switching to a different department. If there’s nowhere else for you to go in your current business, then it might be a good idea to see what someone can offer you elsewhere. Many people who switch jobs can take advantage of looking to improve earning potential than those that stick with the same role. Remember, if you do decide to switch to somewhere new, take your time to find something that actually appeals to you. Don’t just jump at the first offer you get. Play the field first.

    Stick with learning about topics that you’re genuinely interested in. This will give you an opportunity to get a job in a space that you enjoy.

    Improve your reputation

    Reputation can make a big difference in your earning potential these days. In a world where we’re constantly connected to the internet, your image online might help you to find a new or higher-paying job. For instance, if you’re connected to the right people on LinkedIn, then you might speak to someone who can give a good word for you in a higher-paying department in your company. Start by auditing your existing personal brand online. See what people will find if they look for your name. If you have any unprofessional social accounts that are set to public, make them private immediately. Once you’re ready to begin building a name for yourself, look for opportunities to network and show off your skills. This could mean that you join some professional groups, comment on forums, or even visit local events from time to time.

    Once you’re ready to begin building a name for yourself, look for opportunities to network and show off your skills.

    Develop your skills

    Sometimes, jobs will pay you a higher wage for a reason. A career that requires a specialist skill will often pay more than a basic entry-level job. With that in mind, it might be worth building on the talents that you already have. Think about the kind of things that you enjoy doing. Maybe you could work on something like coding or improving your technical expertise. The best way to boost your chances of getting your new skills recognized is to check out some student loans and head back to school. There are tons of different courses that you can take to add new certifications to your resume. You could also look into building out your knowledge about other topics online, taking free courses in your spare time. Stick with learning about topics that you’re genuinely interested in. This will give you an opportunity to get a job in a space that you enjoy.

    Ask for a promotion

    When’s the last time you just asked your boss whether they could pay you more? If you know that you’ve been delivering excellent work for a good while now, then it might be a good time to ask for a raise. Most business leaders won’t want to take the risk of losing an employee that’s valuable to the team. Check websites that list job openings and find out if there are any higher-paying companies out there that provide a better wage for the role you do now. This will give you a good starting point when you start asking for a wage. If you’re nervous, remember that hiring new team members comes with its own costs. If you’re a great employee, your boss would prefer to keep you around most of the time—even if that means paying more.

    If you want to be able to pay your bills each month without worrying about your bank account, it’s worth keeping your mind open to ideas that could increase earning potential.

    Start a side hustle

    Finally, if you’ve already gone and built some new skills at school, but you haven’t found the perfect job to use them in yet, why not try creating your own career with a side hustle? This is basically a job that you can do on the side to add more income to your bank. Many people have discovered that they can put a few extra hours into their work online each day and make a hefty amount of additional income. Thanks to the gig economy, it’s easy to find opportunities to make cash with things like graphic design, content writing, website development, and more. Start by making a list of the kind of things you’d be interested in doing. You might even decide to create your own business and sell items online using a dropshipping company. Dropshipping services handle things like manufacturing and shipping products for you, so you just need to build a brand and find customers.

    Increase your earning potential

    Money might not make you happy, but it’s one of the most important things in many of our lives. If you want to be able to pay your bills each month without worrying about your bank account, it’s worth keeping your mind open to ideas that could increase earning potential. Whether you’re developing new cash opportunities with your current employer or thinking about becoming your own boss with a side hustle, make the conscious effort to invest in yourself this year. The quicker you start working on your new earning opportunities, the more money you’ll make for your future.

    Source: quickanddirtytips.com

    The Half Payment Budget Method Explained

    The post The Half Payment Budget Method Explained appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

    The half payment budget method might be what you need.  If traditional budgets do not work, you really might want to consider this method instead.

     

    half payment budget method

     

    If you do any research, you will find many ways to budget.  However, many times, the options you find do not work for you.  That is why it is important to find the right budget for your needs.  A new one you may not have tried is the the half-payment budget method.

    This system helps many people stop living paycheck to paycheck.  Simply explained, it is where you take your regular, recurring payments and divide them in half.  Each payday, you set aside the necessary money out of each check so that you have the full payment available when it is due.  The half payment is not paid at that time, but rather you hang onto it and pay it on the due date.

    If you are just learning about budgeting, you will want to check out our page — How to Budget. There, you will learn everything you want to know about budgets and budgeting.

    HOW TO USE THE HALF-PAYMENT BUDGET METHOD

    In order to explain this in a simple manner, here is how this system might look for you:

    Monthly income: $2,500 (paid $1,250 every other week)

    Recurring monthly payments (other than utilities):

    Mortgage/Rent: $900
    Vehicle Payments: $450
    Auto insurance: $100

    When you apply the half-payment method, your weekly budget would look something like this:

    Paycheck #1 – $1,250

    Set aside $450 for rent/mortgage
    Set aside $225 for vehicle payments
    Set aside $50 for insurance

    Leaves $525 out of your paycheck for other expenses

    Paycheck #2 – $1,250

    Take $450 from previous paycheck and add $450 and pay $900
    Take $225 from previous paycheck and add $225 and make full $450 payment
    Take $50 from previous paycheck and add $50 to make $100 payment

    Leaves $525 out of your paycheck for other expenses from each check

     

    Now, let’s compare this to the method that many use – to just pay when the bill is due:

    Paycheck #1 – $1,250  

    Rent – $900

    Leaves $350 for all expenses

    Paycheck #2 – $1,250

    Vehicle payments – $450
    Insurance – $100

    Leaves $700 for additional expenses

    If you do the math, you will notice that you still have the same to spend over the course of a month, however, you will see a difference in the amount from each paycheck.  You might show that you have more money left after your 2nd paycheck of the month, but will you really save that?  Most people do not. If they have extra month to spend, they just spend it.

     

    How to Start

    I would not recommend that you jump in and change all of your bills so that they are paid using this method.  That may be too much and you might quit before you even really get started!  Instead, select one bill, such as a car payment, and try using the half payment method for a few months.  Once you see it works, you can transition other bills into this same payment method.

     

    Why it Works

    So, why would you use the half payment method?  For many it works better because you have around the same income to spend out of every check, rather than cutting your spending in half like you see in the second example.  For many, there is always that paycheck that makes spending tough.  When you have to pay a few larger bills all out of one check, it often leaves little to no money left for other purchases.

    By changing to the half method, you are still paying your bills, but you are just earmarking money to pay a bill due later in the month.  You still have the same income.  You still pay your bills on time. However, you have more disposable income every two weeks by doing it in this way.

    What is great about this method is that it works no matter how you are paid.  If you are paid monthly or weekly you might try using a quarter payment method every week (breaking out your check to leave spending weekly).

     

    If you want to learn more about understanding your money attitude, change your spending habits and get out of debt once and for all, check out the Financial Rebook eBook.

    The post The Half Payment Budget Method Explained appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

    Source: pennypinchinmom.com