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Credit Card Regret: It’s More Common Than You Think

“Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.”

– Frank Sinatra

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to play it safe, there’s a good chance that, like Ol’ Blue Eyes, your list of regrets is mercifully short. But if you’re the adventurous type who’s more likely to yell “YOLO!” than take the time to consider pros and cons, you may have made more unfortunate decisions than you care to admit. Either way, it’s safe to say we all have regrets. And if we’re being honest, some of them are probably related to finances.

Going into credit card debt is one of the most common financial regrets. According to a recent NerdWallet survey, “About 6 in 7 Americans (86%) who have or had credit card debt say they regret it.” With numbers that high, it’s safe to assume most of us would make different credit decisions if given a chance. Have you ever signed up for a new credit card and immediately wished you hadn’t? If so, the following reasons will probably ring a bell. If not, pay close attention. You can learn a lot from others’ mistakes.

Common Reasons for Credit Card Regret

If you’ve ever opened a new credit card account and felt that distinctive twinge that tells you it was a bad decision, there’s a pretty good chance you filled out that credit application for the wrong reason. Bad reasons come in a variety of forms. Here are a few of the most common:

  • You wanted that sign-up swag. – T-shirts. Koozies. Collapsible drink coolers. It doesn’t matter what it is; we love free stuff. Credit card companies know this, which is why they set up promotional tables on college campuses and inside sports arenas. Sure, free t-shirts are cool, but are they really worth opening a credit card that will charge you 26% interest on your purchases?
  • You can’t resist that one-time discount. “Would you like to save 25% on today’s purchase by applying for store credit?” If you’ve ever shopped at a retail store, there’s a good chance you’ve heard this sales pitch at the check-out register. If you took advantage of the offer and suddenly wished you hadn’t, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, almost 75% of Americans have at least one store credit card. Not surprisingly, nearly half of them regret it.
  • You’re in a financial pinch. When your checking account is running low, it can be incredibly tempting to sign up for a credit card just to get some temporary relief. However, credit cards don’t remedy poor financial habits; they tend to make them worse. If you’ve ever signed up for a new credit card “just to cover things until payday,” this regret may feel all too familiar.

 

OK, you signed up for a credit card and regretted it. Now what?

Before we go any further, it’s important to remember one thing: Just because you have a credit card doesn’t mean you have to use it. Even if your regrettable card carries a 26% interest rate, 26% of $0.00 is still $0.00. However, if you’re worried you won’t be able to resist using your card, you might be tempted to close your account immediately. This could certainly help you avoid charges you can’t afford to repay, but there may be a better approach.

Available credit and length of credit history are two of the main components of your credit score. Having an open, active account you don’t use could actually help you. If you were given a $1,000 credit line with your new card and you don’t make any purchases, you have $1,000 of available credit. If you close the account, you have no available credit. In this case, maintaining the credit line may be beneficial for your credit rating.

As for the length of credit history, that part’s fairly self-explanatory. The longer you maintain a satisfactory account, the more favorably it reflects in your credit score. With this in mind, you might be better off just removing the card from your wallet (and your smartphone’s digital wallet too) instead of closing the account altogether.

Good credit is one of the building blocks of your overall financial health. If you’re trying to find financing options that are right for you, contact your credit union and ask to speak with one of their trained representatives. They’ll be able to help you review your financial situation and recommend the best products and programs for your needs. With their guidance and expertise, you stand a much better chance of managing your credit—and finances in general—with no regrets!

5 Ways to Save for Summer in 5 Weeks

Summer vacation. During your elementary, middle, and high school years, those two magical words meant three months of freedom! No school, no waking up early, no early bedtimes. It was your annual reward for grinding through the previous nine months of academic pursuits. Yet somehow, summer always managed to fly by faster than it was supposed to!

Now that you’re an adult, your summertime respite has probably shortened considerably. Instead of three months, you might get a week away—maybe two, if you’re lucky. But just like when you were young, you always wish your time away could last just a little bit longer. It seems like no matter how old you get, summer vacation still holds a special kind of magic.

There’s still time to save for summer vacation!

But even with all the sun-kissed nostalgia that makes summer vacation a lifelong treat, there’s one thing that can ruin the fun faster than a thunderstorm at the swimming pool: vacation-related debt. Summertime memories are fun to recall, but it’s not nearly as fun to receive monthly reminders that you’re still paying the price for that fun—plus interest.

If you’re like most people, summer usually sneaks up on you. You start the year with good intentions, but somewhere along the way you forget to set aside money to cover your vacation plans. With summer only a few weeks away, you might be wondering whether it’s possible to save enough money to cover this year’s vacation. We’re happy to report that it’s absolutely possible! It will take some discipline, but you can do it. Here are five tips to help you get started.

Five Quick and Easy Ways to Save for Summer Vacation

  1. Create a savings plan.
    Sometimes, the easiest way to save money is to identify the ways you’re currently wasting it. By creating and following a sensible budget, you’ll be able to pinpoint the areas where you’re spending too much. For the next five weeks, do your best to eliminate frivolous expenses and only spend money on things that are essential. You’ll be surprised how quickly your savings add up.
  2. Find fun for free.
    Just because you’re saving for summer doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun in the meantime. But it does mean you might need to find some different activities. Movies, dining out, and entertainment can add up quickly. The average cost of dinner, drinks, and movie tickets for two comes in at around $100, so, imagine how fast you could pile up the savings if you decided to cook at home, stroll through a park, play some board games, or browse at a bookstore instead!
  3. Resist the convenience tax.
    We’re all busy. Sometimes it’s just easier to pay for convenience. Whether it’s drive-thru coffee on the way to work or take-out food for dinner, shelling out a few extra dollars can save precious minutes throughout the day. But if you’re trying to save money for summer, you might want to pause these practices. When you consider that you can save $3 per day just by making your morning cup of coffee at home, the money-saving benefits of this step are ridiculously clear. (And don’t worry, we’re only talking about five weeks. You’ll be back to that extra-hot-triple-skinny-no-foam-half-caff latte in no time.)
  4. Hang onto that tax refund.
    If you’re expecting a tax refund this year, well…you’ve probably filed your taxes already. That means either your refund has arrived already or it’s on the way. As tempting as it can be to celebrate your sudden cash infusion with a big purchase, it might make more sense to hang onto that money and use it to pay for your upcoming summer vacation. Yes, that’ll require a little discipline, but enjoying a fantastic, debt-free vacation is worth it!
  5. Cash in on your spare time.
    OK, so maybe this tip isn’t technically about saving—but it can be. If you figure out how to earn a little extra money, that gives you even more chances to save. (See? Told you it could be about savings.) Once you’ve maximized your creative saving methods, it never hurts to earn a little extra money. Side jobs are a great way to make quick cash, and thanks to apps like Nextdoor, Taskrabbit, and Gigwalk, finding work is easier than you think.

If you’re saving for this summer, it’s probably going to feel like an all-out sprint. But with a little advance planning, next year’s summer savings won’t have to be quite so stressful. Here at Scient Federal Credit Union, we offer convenient vacation savings accounts that let you automatically deposit a little money from your paychecks throughout the year and withdraw the funds just in time for your stress-free summer vacation. Call us or visit one of our branches in person to learn more about these specialized savings accounts.

Let the Taxpayer Beware: Learn to Spot Six Common Tax Scams

Now that your W2s and miscellaneous tax documents have arrived, tax season is officially in full swing. While it’s easy to get lost in optimistic daydreams about your tax refund and all you’re planning to do with it, it’s important to remember that scam artists are probably dreaming about what they could do with your refund as well.

After reaching an all-time high of more than 700,000 cases in 2015, tax refund fraud has been declining thanks to significant enforcement efforts by federal, state, and private agencies. While these statistics are encouraging, they also highlight the ongoing need for caution and vigilance. So, before you file your 2018 taxes or pay someone to file for you, we want to remind you about six of the most common tax-related scams happening today.

  • Phishing Emails

This one is relatively easy to spot. Why’s that, you ask? Because the IRS doesn’t initiate communication with taxpayers via email. So, if you see an email from the IRS pop up in your inbox—even one that looks remarkably official, don’t bother opening it. For good measure, go ahead and mark it as spam before deleting it. Emails of this type have only one goal: to trick you into clicking a fraudulent hyperlink or responding with sensitive personal information.

  • Phishing 2.0

In 2018, the IRS reported a new twist on traditional phishing scams. In the new approach, fraudsters hacked the systems of legitimate tax professionals, stole tax returns containing personal details, and then deposited funds directly into taxpayer bank accounts. After those deposits hit the bank, the criminals posed as the IRS or collection agencies and contacted account holders demanding a resolution to the error. The goal of these scams is not to simply regain the money deposited “in error,” but to get the victim to share account details that can be used to access the account at another time. If you find yourself with an unexpected deposit in your bank account, the IRS offers helpful instructions here.

  • Phone scams

Though they come via phone call, these scams are essentially the same as phishing emails. The difference lies in the fact that con artists can spoof IRS phone numbers in an attempt to convince unsuspecting people to answer the call. Once the phone call is underway, the person on the other end claims to be an IRS agent and tries to get the individual to confirm private account details in an attempt to “resolve the situation.” If they don’t get the results they’re hoping for, the fraudsters may even follow-up with phone calls where they impersonate law enforcement officials and threaten legal action. To avoid accidentally divulging personal details, it’s best to ignore these calls completely. Just as the IRS doesn’t initially contact taxpayers by email, they also don’t initiate official communication by phone either.

  • Refund Theft

This type of scam takes place at the intersection of identity theft and financial fraud. Using a variety of tactics, criminals obtain taxpayer social security numbers and file fraudulent tax returns in their name—often claiming substantial refunds. Since this happens without the knowledge of the victim, it only comes to light when their legitimate tax return is rejected due to a previous return already filed under the same social security number. While the IRS is committed to resolving these issues when they happen, the process can be long and tedious. To safeguard yourself against tax refund theft, IRS officials recommend obtaining an Identity Protection PIN, also known as an IP PIN. Instructions for securing a PIN can be found on the official IRS website.

  • Shady Tax Prep Services

Since an estimated 79 million Americans use paid tax preparation services, there are considerable opportunities for dishonest preparers to abuse the system. One of the most common scams involves a preparer illegally inflating an individual’s refund and collecting a percentage of the taxpayer’s refund instead of a flat fee. Many times, the problem isn’t identified until after the refund has been issued and the preparer’s fee has been collected. In these scams, the preparer is long gone by the time that the problem is identified, and the taxpayer is responsible for handling the audit on their own. While the practice of a tax preparer charging a percentage of refund isn’t technically illegal, you’re better off avoiding this type of arrangement and opting for a flat-fee service instead.

  • Public Wi-Fi Scammers

It seems like this one should go without saying, but we all use a reminder from time to time. The public Wi-Fi at coffee shops, libraries, and bookstores can be great for hopping online to browse social media, but it’s terrible for filing your taxes. Not only can these unsecured networks be accessed by almost anyone, but dishonest scammers can also set up hot spots that look like the establishment’s Wi-Fi and intercept logins, passwords, and personal information. So, if you’re filing taxes electronically this year (and considering the fact that approximately 90% of taxpayers filed electronically in 2018, you probably are), do yourself a favor: file at home from your personal computer and your secure Internet connection.

As with most financial scams, these can be simple to sidestep as long as you know the signs to look for. If you observe questionable practices or have additional tax-related concerns, you can find helpful instructions here on the official IRS website.

If you are receiving a federal or state tax refund this year and want to make the most of your money, please contact us here at Scient Federal Credit Union. Our financial specialists can help you assess your financial situation and show you all the beneficial programs and products available to you as a credit union member. Call, email, or stop by a branch today!

 

Mind the GAP: Understanding the Value of GAP Coverage

Picture the following scenario: After months of research and planning, you take the plunge and buy a new car. Once the financing is secured and your auto insurance is in place, you’re ready to hit the road. You’re so excited about your sparkling ride that you’re not even worried about the fact that most new cars depreciate by as much as 10% the moment you drive them off the lot—and up to 20% in the first year. That’s a financial fact, but you’re too busy enjoying that new car scent to get bogged down with details like that.

Now, imagine that after just a few weeks, you’re involved in an accident that badly damages, or worse yet, totals your car. (Don’t worry—unlike your car, you emerge from this imaginary situation without a scratch.) Fortunately, you did the responsible thing and secured good auto insurance. Once all the proper claims have been filed, you find out that insurance will only cover your car’s market value—which, due to the depreciation, is several thousand dollars less than the amount you owe on your auto loan. If only there were a type of loan protection that would help you make up that difference. Fortunately, there is. It’s called Guaranteed Asset Protection—GAP, for short.

What is GAP?

GAP coverage is an optional protection plan offered with auto loans or leases, and depending on the plan coverage limits, it effectively waives most of, if not all, the remaining balance on your loan. While your auto insurance plan’s comprehensive and collision policies cover your vehicle’s value in the event that it is totaled or stolen, GAP coverage is designed to ensure you don’t get stuck making payments on a car you no longer own.

How do I know if I need GAP coverage?

While the product makes good financial sense for some, not everybody needs to get a GAP policy. According to the financial experts at NerdWallet, there are a few basic guidelines that will help you decide whether GAP coverage is right for you. You should strongly consider adding a GAP policy to your auto loan if you:

  • Made a small down payment on a new car, or none at all
  • Agreed to a loan term longer than 48 months
  • Drive a lot, which reduces a car’s value more quickly
  • Lease your car
  • Bought a car that depreciates faster than average

 

Where do you get GAP coverage?

While a variety of companies provide GAP coverage for consumers, it often makes the most sense to obtain the protection plan from the same financial institution that financed your vehicle purchase in the first place. In many cases, a credit union makes the most sense. If you already financed your vehicle through a dealership, keep in mind that many GAP programs are refundable up to a certain number of days. This means that should you decide to refinance your auto loan through a credit union, they may be able to help you get a refund on your original GAP plan and secure a new plan at a lower cost.

Not only are credit union GAP plans traditionally less expensive than those available through finance companies, they can also be added to your loan at any time (vehicle age and mileage limits apply). Securing coverage through the financial institution that services your loan reduces the need to coordinate communication between multiple parties. It also increases the likelihood that you can put the frustrating accident experience behind you sooner rather than later—and that peace of mind is priceless.

If you have questions about Guaranteed Asset Protection or want to know how to add it to your existing auto loan, contact a financial representative at Scient Federal Credit Union. They can help you review your current financing situation and determine whether GAP coverage is right for you.

Throw a Super Bowl Party That Doesn’t Break the Bank!

Now that Christmas and New Years are behind us, it’s time to plan for the next big holiday. That’s right—Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner! As the NFL’s top two teams prepare to battle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the festivities leading up to the game will clearly show that the NFL has spared no expense in trying to make Super Bowl LIII the greatest championship game in history. When it comes to planning your Super Bowl party, we suggest taking a different—and slightly more sensible—financial approach.

8 ways to throw a budget-friendly Super Bowl party

If you’re looking for some ways to host a Super Bowl party that’s as frugal as it is fun-filled, here are a few of our favorite suggestions.

  1. Start with a financial game plan.  Sounds better than “make a budget,” doesn’t it? Since Super Bowl parties are all about football, it makes sense to prepare like a coach. Setting a spending limit before you shop will help you stiff-arm the creative displays and impulse items at the grocery store. To quote Super Bowl-winning QB, Russel Wilson, “The separation is in the preparation.”
  2. Team up with a co-host. Since football is a team sport, why not recruit a co-host to help you plan your party? Not only can the two of you share the cost of food and decorations, you’ll be able to split the stress of planning as well. Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it?
  3. Digital invites over classic invitations. Sure, Pinterest is packed with clever ideas for intricate Super Bowl invitations, but you know which detail those posts forget to mention? Postage costs. Rather than sending out old-school invites, create a Facebook event and share it with your friends or jump over to Evite.com, where you can design and send online invitations for free!
  4. Downplay the decorations. Let’s face it, even though extravagant decorations might make impressive Instagram posts, people aren’t coming to your Super Bowl party to marvel at your elaborate sandwich stadium and coordinated team napkin displays. Don’t overdo it with the decorations. Dollar store party supplies are perfect.
  5. Generic snacks: The Real MVP. Your guests will probably be snacking from the pre-game festivities to the post-game trophy presentation. What they won’t be doing is critiquing the subtle flavor undertones of your chips and pretzels. So rather than springing for brand name snack foods, grab the store-brand counterparts, serve them in a giant bowl, and kick back knowing you have money left in your food budget.
  6. Encourage crowd participation. Food and drinks are usually the most expensive part of a Super Bowl party—especially if the beverages are of the adult variety. A pot luck meal plan and BYOB policy are great ways to ensure refreshment costs are divided evenly and everyone is guaranteed to have at least one dish they’ll enjoy.
  7. Save big with Super Bowl promos. If you decide to provide all the food for your party, you might as well look for the best deals. Keep an eye on your local grocery store flyers, as they routinely run special sales on traditional party food.
  8. Make post-game meal plans. You plan, prepare, and present a spread of tasty food for your guests. Then, when the game’s over, you have to figure out what to do with the leftovers. Fortunately, game day favorites like burgers, chili, and sandwiches can make delicious meals for a few days after the big game. This makes meal planning easy and lunch costs less expensive.

With a little creativity and some careful planning, it’s entirely possible to throw a great party without throwing away money in the process. Whether you use all these ideas or just a few that work for you, following these tips will help you host a winning party without spending more than you should.

When It Comes to Financial Solutions, There’s No Place Like Home.

Homeownership: more than just the cornerstone of the American Dream, it can be a powerful tool for improving your financial future. While renting can be a smart financial choice for someone starting out or starting over, owning your own home offers a multitude of benefits—not the least of which is the ability to build equity.

For practical purposes, equity can be defined as the difference between your home’s value and the balance owed on your mortgage. Since most mortgage installments are comprised of interest and principal amounts, each payment chips away at mortgage’s remaining balance, resulting in a larger difference between the property’s value and what you still owe. That difference is your equity. And while equity is reassuring in theory, it can be even better when you make that equity work for you.

Loan vs. Line: Find the right home equity option for you.

Because your house’s value offers relatively stable collateral, equity lenders assume lower risk than creditors offering unsecured loans or credit lines. Less risk for the lender means better rates for you. Traditionally, home equity loans and lines of credit feature more attractive interest rates than credit cards, making them ideal for larger purchases. But before you decide to put your equity to work for you, it’s important to know the difference between a Home Equity Loan and a Home Equity Line of Credit. Understanding the benefits of each can help you determine which is best for you.

Home Equity Loan
By allowing you to borrow a lump sum at once, these loans let you lock in an interest rate and payment terms for the length of the loan. While interest is charged on the total amount from the beginning, the security of a fixed rate makes home equity loans a reliable choice for larger projects that involve one-time expenses. Popular uses for home equity loans include:

  • Home renovation projects
  • Consolidation of high-interest debt
  • Establishing an emergency fund

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

Essentially a credit account that allows you to borrow against the equity in your home, a HELOC gives you a cost-effective way to access the funds you need only when you need them. While you can borrow smaller amounts at a time, a HELOC usually features an adjustable interest rate tied to the standard market rate. Depending on the current financial climate, this could lead to fluctuating interest rates and payment amounts over time. However, since you can borrow smaller amounts and pay interest on the amount borrowed as opposed to the full credit limit, this option is ideal for gaining access to funds while maximizing your cash flow. Common uses for a Home Equity Line of Credit include:

  • Smaller home improvements
  • Funding a small business venture
  • Higher education expenses

As with any major financial decision, it pays to discuss all the details with a financial expert. So, before you decide which home equity option is right for you, schedule an appointment with a Scient representative mortgage specialist to determine the best solution for your financial needs.

Plan a Blockbuster Valentine Date on a Budget

From picking the right card to choosing the perfect flowers to selecting the best chocolates, planning for Valentine’s Day can be daunting. When you get it right, the smile on your Valentine’s face is priceless. If you miss the mark, well, so does Cupid’s arrow. The risk/reward scenario is the stuff romantic comedies are made of. But there’s a big difference between Hollywood hijinks and real life. The difference? Budgets.

 

Movie Magic vs. Real Life

While cinematic screenplays portray extravagant splurges that make audiences swoon, most of us don’t have the unlimited finances required to take a hot air balloon ride over Central Park while a string symphony serenades us from below. So, is it possible to plan a successful Valentine’s date without breaking the bank? Absolutely.

Creating a budget-friendly Valentine’s Day that’s memorable for all the right reasons requires purposeful thought and advanced planning—just like your budget itself. This is not the time to keep up with the proverbial Joneses; don’t waste energy comparing your ideas with anyone else’s. When it comes to making February 14th something special, individuality wins. If you’re looking for a few tips to spark your frugal creativity, we’ve got you covered.

 

4 Ways to Enjoy Valentine’s Day on a Budget

  • Cook at home. Go out for dessert.
    Whether you decide to cook dinner for your date or prepare a meal together, staying in lets you plan the menu around your budget and enjoy the experience of crafting your own culinary adventure. After leisurely dining at home, you can venture out for a delicious dessert knowing you’ve missed the overcrowded restaurants and overpriced entrees.
  • Coupons can be your friend.
    Can we get real for a minute? Free food tastes better. It just does. And if you’re looking to counter the unfair stigma attached to coupons, consider the following scenario: If you have $50 to spend on dinner, that means you can get two meals that cost $25 each. If you have $50 and a Buy-One-Get-One coupon from sites like restaurant.com or Living Social, you can each enjoy a $50 meal. Doesn’t sound like a difficult decision, does it?
  • Pick a plant instead of flowers.
    With many florists inflating prices by as much as 100% for Valentine’s Day, buying traditional flower arrangements can an expensive proposition. Instead of giving your date a bundle of flowers that will be gone in a couple weeks, plan a date that includes selecting a plant that will provide beauty for years to come. The shared experience provides an excellent chance to learn each other’s tastes and preferences, which may prove helpful for future Valentine’s Days.
  • Visit museums and art galleries.
    If you live in an area that has a museum or art gallery, many of these venues offer free or low-cost admission. In addition to giving your date a touch of culture, the subjective nature of art and exhibits offers endless opportunities for conversation, lessening the chances of awkward silence throughout the evening.

Sticking to a budget can be tough, especially when you’re trying to impress your date. But if our favorite rom-coms have taught us anything, it’s the fact that over-the-top spending may seem fun, but it rarely leads to happily ever after. Whether you use the tips above or come up with creative ideas of your own, being smart with your Valentine’s Day spending is a great way to craft a feel-good story that will leave you cheering when the credits roll. And who knows, if all goes well, there might even be a sequel!

 

What Your Credit Cards Are Really Costing You

This article was written by  and originally appeared on CNN Money.


Credit card debt is costing you nearly $1,000 per year

Quick Ways to Make Extra Money During the Holidays

Between party threads, cross-country travel and gifts galore, the holiday countdown is on — meaning your wallet is feeling the heat. While we’re all for creating a holiday shopping budget (and sticking to it, of course!), we know a thing or two about best laid plans. To help you recoup some cash, create wiggle room in your budget, or even pad your savings because you’re just that good, here are a few ways to bring in extra money this season.

 

Sell Off Old Gift Cards

If you’ve got leftover gift cards from holidays past, you’re sitting on a pile of money. Sites like Cardpool will buy your physical or e-gift card for up to 92% of the card’s value. (You can choose to be paid by mailed check or an Amazon gift card.) Raise, an exchange site, lets you list cards at your own price. You get the cash by direct deposit, PayPal or check minus a 12% selling fee once another buyer scoops it up. And on Gift Card Granny, earn cash or swap it for a gift card to another store.

 

Clean Out Your Closet

Inspired to do a closet purge or just need more room for all your holiday swag? Get ahead of the game by reselling your gently-used clothes now. Online thrift store thredUP sees a 14% spike in apparel listings the week of Christmas, and a 59% increase the week of Christmas. If you get your items on the market now, you’ll beat the upswing in supply, especially for their most popular brands including Lululemon, Vince, Kate Spade handbags and Steve Madden shoes. Bonus: You’ll get your stuff in front of other holiday shoppers looking for party outfits, jewelry, handbags, cold-weather accessories and winter gear.

 

Take Care of Your Neighbors’ Pets

If you’re not traveling for the holidays, first of all, congrats on avoiding the traffic and the crush at the airport. Also, congrats on being available to watch over all the cute pets in your neighborhood who can’t join their humans on vacation. If you’ve exhausted your neighbor list — or don’t talk to them in the first place — try Rover. You can sign up to provide services including dog hosting in your own home, dog sitting in the owner’s home, dog walking in the area or doggy day care. You’ll set your own rates anywhere from $10 to $150 per day or per walk, and take home 80% of your earnings.

If dogs aren’t your thing, there’s PetSitter, where you’ll get connected with pet owners in need of pet sitting, walking, grooming and boarding for dogs, cats, fish and beyond.

 

Rent Out Your Room

If you’re hitting the road or just have an empty room to spare, consider renting it out to travelers. Renting on Airbnb is one of the most lucrative side hustles, according to a recent report from Earnest. Hosts earn an average monthly income of $924. Even a fraction of that cash from a few days or weekends could be worth the effort of setting up a listing and putting fresh sheets on your guest bed.

 

Offer Up Your Parking Spot

Maybe you’re not open to having strangers in the house, but what about renting out your parking spot? Services like ParqExSpot and ParkingSpotter can help you do so. With Spot, for example, you’ll pin your parking space on the site’s map, upload a photo of the space and list its availability and rate by the hour, day, week or month (most sites will suggest a range to work with). You can be paid by direct deposit, PayPal or Venmo, minus a 20% commission fee.

 

Sell Stock Photos

You can only Instagram so many dreamy photos before you start spamming your friends’ feeds, so why not sell some to earn cash? Stock image sites like Shutterstock and iStock will pay contributors royalties — from a few cents per image to more than $100 each time your photo is downloaded. Members of Foap, another stock image service, can earn $5 every time an image sells, and its contests offer winnings of $100 or more for everything from the best holiday baking photo to the most stylish fashion shoot.

 

Take On A Micro-Job

Not afraid to brave supermarket crowds? Can you design a holiday party invite in minutes? Or have a free hand to offer catering support? Post your skills on Fiverr or services on TaskRabbit. How much you rake in depends entirely on how much free time you have and the rates you set. And with all those errands that need running or new gadgets that need assembling, quick projects here and there can help keep your budget merry and bright through the New Year.

 

This article originally appeared on Learnvest.

How Home Buyers Can Overcome Tough Competition

This article originally appeared on Kiplinger and was written by Pat Esswein.

 

How would you describe the housing market?

Hot and record-breaking. This past spring, strong demand and a shortage of inventory resulted in the lowest supply and the fastest pace of sales that we’ve seen, and the trend will continue this fall. Basically, starter homes have disappeared. Price growth was astounding everywhere — not only on the coasts, but in places like Omaha, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Buffalo, N.Y. In most markets, buyers must be intrepid, and they need to understand that sellers are under a lot of pressure, too. Sellers want to feel confident that the deal will close so they can buy their next home.

 

How can buyers find a home? 

Arm yourself with tech tools to find available homes quickly. With the variety of apps available today, you can receive listing alerts so that you’re notified as soon as a home in your price range or search area hits the market. The Redfin app, for instance, lets you search by school boundaries, find open houses or schedule a tour for the same day.

 

How can buyers win the day without offering more money?

Buyers will gain an advantage from whatever concessions they can offer. Instead of a small earnest-money deposit, we’ve seen buyers put into escrow their entire down payment or even half of the purchase price.

You needn’t waive a contingency for inspection in the purchase contract. Rather, you can agree to pay the seller, say, $2,500, or next month’s mortgage payment, if you walk away.

Work with a local or reputable lender to get a pre­approval for your mortgage that includes full documentation of your means to obtain a certain amount of financing in advance of a signed purchase contract. That may give you the confidence to waive a contingency for financing, and it’s almost as good as cash for closing a deal quickly.

Because sellers can sell their homes in days but may take months to buy, you can gain leverage by offering to “rent back” their home to them for a certain number of months.

 

Is fall a good time to buy?

Yes. Home prices generally peak in the summer and ease up in the fall. There’s a bit less inventory, but many fewer buyers. Plus, sellers who list in the fall are serious because they must leave because of job relocation, divorce or something else that made them miss the top of the season. So the next time I buy, my kids will have to move during the school year.