5 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Home for Halloween

Goblins and witches and ghosts, oh my! How many of these ghoulish creatures will you be greeting this Halloween? Hopefully you’ll have the candy and creepy (but cute) ambiance to avoid the “trick” end of “trick-or-treat!” If you haven’t yet decorated for the holiday, don’t worry. Here are five easy ideas for a “spook-tacular” home.

  1. Eerie Entranceway
    • Paint black jack-o-lantern faces on small, glass votives. Drop a flameless tealight candle in each of them and use them to decorate around your front door.
  1. Frightening Florals
    • Black calla lilies have a wonderful dark, purply color. Plant some in flower pots around your home for a gloomy look with an exotic twist.
  1. Raven’s Nest Wreath
    • Remember last year when you weren’t as prepared for Halloween? Nevermore. Grab a twig wreath from your local craft store and place a faux black bird in the middle.
  1. Black Cat Pumpkins
    • Paint two pumpkins, one smaller and one larger, all black. Stack the smaller one on top of the other, and add eyes, a nose, and whiskers. Add cat ears cut from card stock and stand back! You won’t want these bad boys crossing your path.
  1. Mummified Glassware
    • Whether you’re serving up a glass of pumpkin flavored punch or a dish of fun sized candy bars, dress up your glassware to match the mood. Tape gauze to the bottom of the cup and wrap upwards, tucking in an end piece at the top to secure it.

With decorations like these, you just might have trick-or-treaters flocking to your home—if they’re not too scared, that is!

 

The post 5 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Home for Halloween first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

How to Buy a HUD Home at the Hudhomestore Website?

Using the Hudhomestore to buy a HUD home is easy.

If you’re looking to buy a HUD home, the Hudhomestore website is the best place to do it. It can be found here at hudhomestore.com. HUD homes are listed for sale at the site.

While anyone can buy a HUD home, you will need to get approved for a loan first.

Just like buying a house through the conventional route, all financing options are available for HUD homes. That includes conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, etc.

However, most people used an FHA loan to buy a HUD home due to its low down payment and credit score requirements.

If you have questions beyond buying a HUD home at the hudhomestore website, consult a financial advisor.

What is the Hudhomestore?

The hudhomestore is a website operated by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The website can be found here at hudhomestore.com.

Homes are listed there for sale after they have gone through foreclosures. Real estate agents and/or brokers can place bids on your behalf to buy a house.

What is a HUD home?

A HUD home (usually a 1 to 4 unit) is a property owned by HUD. Before a home became a HUD home, it was owned by a homebuyer who had purchased the home with an FHA loan.

Once the borrower stopped paying his or her FHA loan, the home went to foreclosures. Then the home goes to HUD and becomes a HUD home.

Why you should buy a HUD home at the Hudhomestore?

The benefits of buying a HUD home are huge. The main benefit is that most of these homes are priced below market value.

In addition, if you’re an EMS personnel, police officer, firefighter, or teachers, and live in revitalized areas and plan to live there for at least 36 months, HUD’s Good Neighbor Program offers HUD homes at a 50% discount.

This program is listed at the hudhomestore website.

In addition, HUD offers other perks such as low down payment and sales allowances you can use to pay for moving, repair and closing costs. The low down payment, that is on top of the FHA financing that you may be qualified for.

Another huge benefit of buying a HUD home is that HUD gives preferences to buyers who intend to live in the home for at least one year. So this puts you ahead of investors.

Are you qualified to finance a HUD Home?

All financing options, including conventional loans, VA, and FHA loans, are available when it comes to buying a HUD home.

But FHA loans are very popular among first time home buyers, due to its low requirements. But before you start searching for HUD homes through the Hudhomestore website, you should compare multiple loan offers so you can the best mortgage rates.

FHA loan requirements:

  • 580 Minimum score
  • 3.5% down payment

If your credit score is below 580, you can still be qualified but you’ll have to pay at least 10% down. Or, you can always take time to raise your credit score.

Don’t know what your credit score is, visit CreditSesame.

Our Review of Credit Sesame.

Steps to buy a HUD Home at the HUDhomestore website:

HUD homes can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look. In other words, they are not listed on conventional real estate websites such as Zillow or Redfin.

Instead, they are listed at the HUDhomestore webiste, which can be found at hudhomestore.com. They also have HUD Homestore Mobile Apps.

Knowing these steps is important to mastering one of the best strategies to buy a house at below market or wholesale prices.

Step 1: Shop and compare home loans

Before you start searching your house through the hudhomestore site, it’s a good idea to

The worst thing that can happen is to find a house that you like to then realize that you cannot secure a home loan.

To get the best mortgage rates, you need to compare multiple loan offers. Buying a home is major expense, and getting the best rates could save you a lot of money. I can spend a lot of time talking about why it is a bad idea to only speak with one mortgage lender.

But when it comes to having multiple loan offers, I highly suggest LendingTree.

LendingTree is an online platform that connects you to several mortgage lenders without visiting a dozen bank branches.

LendingTree will provide you up to 5 loan offers from multiple lenders for free, so you can compare and make sure you get the best deal.

So if you’re at this step right now, go and compare current mortgage rates for free at LendingTree, and come back to this article.

Our LendingTree Review.

Step 2: Finding a HUD Home at the HUDhomestore website.

To find a HUD home, simply go to the hudhomestore website. It can be found at hudhomestore.com.

There are three ways to find HUD homes on the hudhomestore website. The first way is through a map.

Once you on the website, you will see a map to the right with all of the states listed there. You simply look for your state and click on it to see all of the available HUD homes.

The hudhomestore site will show you a list of all of the HUD homes available for that particular state. It will include the photo of the HUD home, the address, the asking price, etc.

If you click on the photo of the house, you will be able to see more information of the property, including more photos, street views and information of the property.

Another way to find a house through the hudhomestore website is by clicking on the HUD Special program links.

The hudhomestore site specifically lists three HUD Special Programs: Good Neighbor Next Door; Nonprofits; $1 Homes-Government Sales. It specifically states on the hudhomestore website that if you click on any of these special programs, you will see available properties.

The third way to find a HUD home via the hudhomestore site is through the Search Properties. At the middle of the homepage, you will see a Search Properties where you can enter more detailed criteria.

Step 3: Buy your HUD home

Once you have found your desired HUD Home at the hudhomestore, it’s time to buy your HUD home.

But note that HUD homes are sold through an auction process. When you’re searching for the property through the hudhomestore site, it will tell you a deadline by which to submit your offer.

So if the deadline has not passed, submit your bid. Once it has passed, HUD reviews all offers. Just like any auction, the highest bid wins. If all of the offers are too low, HUD will extend the offer period and/or lower the asking price.

Note that you will not be able to place the bid yourself. Only real estate agents need to register to place bids on the hudhomestore website. You will need to find a real estate agent or you can specifically search for HUD registered agents at hudhomestore.com.

For more information on buying a home through the hudhomestore website, visit www.hudhomestore.com.

More on Buying a Home:

  • How to Buy a House: A Complete Guide
  • How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?
  • Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes.
  • 10 First Time Home Buyer Mistakes to Avoid.

Work with the Right Financial Advisor

If you have additional questions beyond buying a HUD home at the Hudhomestore, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).

So, find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post How to Buy a HUD Home at the Hudhomestore Website? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

These Free TV Apps Will Let You Cut Cable but Keep Content

As cable subscription prices rise higher and higher and customer satisfaction ratings dive lower and lower, cutting the cable has never been more popular.

Sure, there are the usual big names in streaming services available for a monthly fee, but it’s possible to kick subscription fees entirely.

Luckily, there are more options than ever for replacing your traditional cable setup. Many free streaming services have stepped up to offer access to content overlooked by subscription-based services.

And you aren’t confined to squinting at your phone’s screen or gathering the family around the old iPad to watch your favorite TV series and movies — you can download apps to your Smart TV or even your Xbox or PlayStation consoles.

Of course, there are some rather shady options out there that stream pirated content. But we’ve rounded up free, legal streaming apps that provide no-strings-attached cable-cutting solutions.

12 Free TV Apps That Will Help You Cut Cable

With so many free streaming options out there, it’s easier than ever to cut the cord and save big. Whether you’re looking to keep up with the news, find a good movie for date night or entertain your kids with educational content, a streaming service exists to ensure you can do so without paying a dime.

Try these free TV apps out and see which works best for you.

1. Crackle

One of the go-to names not just in free streaming but in streaming video in general is Crackle. The cost-free service has a variety of content, ranging from classic TV shows like “Bewitched” and “Barney Miller,” as well as the newer “Snatch” series. It also has hundreds of films from major studios.

For a free streaming service, Crackle’s library is truly impressive. Crackle even has a handful of original series to its name. Best of all, Crackle works on nearly all mobile devices, streaming boxes and smart TVs.

2. Tubi TV

A division of FOX Entertainment, Tubi TV has deals with major studios like Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Lionsgate. It also features lots of foreign and independent productions.

Tubi TV’s library is updated regularly, and the service claims to add new content every week. The Tubi TV app works on more than 25 devices, including Android and iOS, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, Samsung Smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV.

The library is solid and has started offering popular Fox TV series like “The Masked Singer” and “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.”

Since the service is ad-supported, you can expect to watch a couple minutes of ads every 10 minutes or so. The experience is pretty similar to watching normal television.

3. Pluto TV

Pluto TV offers TV channels of linear content much like a cable package

There are dozens of classic TV, movie and sports channels — and even some highly curated streams of niche content.

If you’re looking for breaking news, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.

The kids (or kids at heart) can check out Nickelodeon classics like “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “Dora the Explorer.”

Pro Tip

Got a library card? You have access to even more entertainment options (besides the obvious, books). Check out these library apps for free access to movies, TV shows and more.

Or if you just want to veg out, switch over to their Binge menu for a seemingly endless stream of TV series, like “The Hills” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

Pluto TV boasts a large list of supported devices including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TVand Chromecast devices and Android TV.

Like Tubi TV, Pluto TV has advertisements similar to the ad load of normal TV.

4. NewsON

Streaming video isn’t always just about entertainment. The NewsON app provides hundreds of local and national news streams.

Both live TV and on-demand news broadcasts can be streamed from over 275 local news affiliates in 160 markets. The broadcasts are available for up to 48 hours after they air, so even if you don’t catch the news as it happens, you can catch up later.

Users can then select which news segments they want to watch from categories like sports, weather or entertainment. NewsON is compatible with iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

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5. Funny Or Die

The go-to streaming app for comedy programming is Funny or Die. Founded in 2007 by contemporary comedy giants Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, it has since grown to be a full-blown production house featuring original content from big names in show business.

Pro Tip

In 2018, the Funny Or Die began publishing on Vox Media’s Chorus and now uses the YouTube Player.

Content on the app must be streamed and cannot be downloaded.

6. PBS Kids

Kids need free streaming content, too. PBS has a PBS Kids Video app that provides hundreds of hours of educational and enriching content for the youngest members of the family. The app has a colorful, child-friendly interface, which makes it easy for kids to take control themselves.

You can even tap the “Live TV” button to watch what’s currently airing on your local PBS station.

Pro Tip

Almost all of the networks and cable TV channels have their own free apps for you to download — although many charge you to actually watch current content.

Videos from many of PBS’s most popular series are available for streaming including “Curious George,” “Wild Kratts” and “Sesame Street.” The PBS Kids app is supported for Android, Windows and iOS phones and tablets.

7. Xumo

Whether you want it now or later, Xumo offers live TV and on-demand options.

Like Pluto, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.

But it also includes more than 160 free channels, including themed ones in case you’re in the mood for action movies or comedies — you can watch the Funny Or Die channel here, too.

Xumo is available on most smart TVs and Roku and for download on iOS and Android devices.

Pro Tip

Many of the free TV apps offer “premium” channels — if you see that word, expect to pay for those services.

8. Crunchyroll

Anime and manga fans are likely already familiar with Crunchyroll. It specializes in mostly Japanese content, but it also features films and series from all over the world. Crunchyroll boasts a library of thousands of anime films and series, many of which are hard to find on other streaming services.

There is a paid premium feature, but the free Crunchyroll service has thousands of hours of popular series like the “Dragon Ball” franchise, “Attack on Titan,” “Naruto” and “One Piece.”

The Crunchyroll app is supported by Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices, as well as by gaming consoles, Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku.

Crunchyroll is a great app for anyone with an interest in anime. Of course, when it comes to anime content, you have to be watchful with your younger children, as a lot of it is geared toward teens (and sometimes even adults).

9. Twitch

For anyone with even a passing interest in gaming and esports, Twitch is the go-to free streaming service.

Twitch hosts user-created channels and streams focused on video games and other esports. It features a built-in chat feature, so users can chat with other streamers in real time.

Pro Tip

You’re there anyway — why not get paid to play video games? Here are four simple ways to start earning real cash for virtual play.

While there are thousands of free streams, Twitch also features premium features for a monthly subscription. Twitch apps are compatible with PCs, iOS and Android devices, game consoles, Chromecast and Fire TV.

While Twitch is popular with children, parents should beware: Twitch streams are somewhat unregulated and can sometimes contain adult language or content.

10. IMDb TV

Owned by Amazon, IMDb TV (formerly Freedive) features a host of full episodes of your favorite current and classic TV shows as well as an array of movies.

The catalogue includes some binge-worthy sci-fi hits like “Lost” and “Fringe.”

The free version of IMDbTV is ad-supported, so you’ll have to sit through a few commercial breaks.

It is available in the United States on the IMDb app, the IMDb website, the Amazon Prime Video app and Amazon Fire TV devices.

11. YouTube

Yes, YouTube. YouTube apps are compatible with just about every device that has a screen, and the service features videos to choose from on nearly any topic imaginable.

Most of those videos are not exactly premium content, but there are still plenty of full-length films, documentary series and curated channels that provide cost-free entertainment for the whole family.

While there are ways to download YouTube content for offline viewing, proceed with caution: Many of these sites and apps are full of malware.

12. Peacock

NBCUniversal launched this streaming service, which includes over 7,500 hours of free content, in July 2020.

Although Peacock offers paid premium options, the free version includes current and classic TV shows, movies, news, sports, kids’ shows, Spanish-language programs and even select episodes of Peacock originals.

If you’re a fan of shows like “The Office,” “Law and Order: SVU,” or “Saturday Night Live,” you can watch them on this streaming service.

Customers can stream Peacock on a variety of platforms, including LG Smart TVs, Vizio SmartCast TVs, Roku, Google and Apple devices and Playstation and Xbox consoles.

Get camera-ready: From masterclasses to gear, The Penny Hoarder Shop has all things photography.

Chris Brantner is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Senior writer Nicole Dow contributed to this article.

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

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Why Refinance Rates Are Higher Than Purchase Loan Rates

Mortgage interest rates dropped dramatically over the summer, to the point where home loans have never been cheaper in most of our adult lifetimes. With rates at historic lows, you might’ve considered taking advantage of them, either by purchasing a new home or refinancing your current mortgage.

Recent figures from Freddie Mac show that mortgage refinances surged in the first quarter of 2020, with nearly $400 billion first home loans refinanced. However, as it turns out, refinancing your mortgage might actually be more expensive than purchasing a new home. 

This surprised us, too — why would there be a difference at all? 

We investigated how refinancing rates and new purchase home loan rates are set, and found several reasons for this rate disparity. On top of the rate difference, mortgage refinancing is even more difficult to qualify for, given the current economy.

Before rushing to refinance your home, read on to gather the information you need to make the right financial decision for your situation.

Pandemic Effects on Home Lending

Just as mortgage rates have stumbled, banks and lenders have tightened the screws on borrowers due to COVID-19, requiring higher credit scores and down payment amounts. Chase, for example, raised its minimum FICO score requirements for home purchases and refinances to 700 with a down payment requirement of at least 20%. 

Low rates have also driven a massive move to mortgage refinances. According to the same Freddie Mac report, 42% of homeowners who refinanced did so at a higher loan amount so they could “cash out.”

Unfortunately, homeowners who want to refinance might face the same stringent loan requirements as those who are taking out a purchase loan. Mortgage refinance rates are also generally higher than home purchase rates for a handful of reasons, all of which can make refinancing considerably less appealing. 

How Refinance Rates Are Priced

Although some lenders might not make it obvious that their refinance rates are higher, others make the higher prices for a home refinance clear. When you head to the mortgage section on the Wells Fargo website, for example, it lists rates for home purchases and refinances separately, with a .625 difference in rates for a thirty-year home loan. 

There are a few reasons why big banks might charge higher rates to refinance, including:

Added Refinance Fees

In August of 2020, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced it was tacking on a .5% fee on refinance mortgages starting on September 1. This fee will be assessed on cash-out refinances and no cash-out refinances. According to Freddie Mac, the new fee was introduced “as a result of risk management and loss forecasting precipitated by COVID-19 related economic and market uncertainty.”

By making refinancing more costly, lenders can taper the number of refinance loans they have to process, giving them more time to focus on purchase loans and other business.

Lenders Restraining New Application Volume

Demand for mortgage refinancing has been so high that some lenders are unable to handle all requests. Reluctant to add more employees to handle a surge that won’t last forever, many lenders are simply limiting the number of refinance applications they process, or setting additional terms that limit the number of loans that might qualify.

Also note that some lenders are prioritizing new purchase loans over mortgage refinance applications since new home buyers have deadlines to meet. With the housing market also on an upswing in many parts of the country, many major banks and lenders simply can’t keep up.

Rate Locks Cost Money

Generally speaking, it costs lenders more to lock the rate for refinance loans when compared to purchase loans. This is leaving lenders disinterested in allocating resources on the recent surge in mortgage refinance applications.

This is especially true since many refinancers might lock in a rate with one provider but switch lenders and lock in a rate again if interest rates go down. Lenders exist to turn a profit, after all, and it makes sense they would spend their time on loans that provide the greatest return.

Tighter Requirements Due to COVID-19

According to the Brookings Institute, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been asking lenders to make sure any disruption to a borrower’s employment or income due to COVID-19 won’t impact their ability to repay their loan. 

Many lenders are also increasing the minimum credit score borrowers must have while making other requirements harder to meet. As an example, U.S. Bank increased its minimum credit score requirement to 680 for mortgage customers, and it also implemented a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 50 percent.

This combination of factors can make it difficult to save as much money with a refinance, or to even find a lender that’s willing to process your application. With this in mind, run the math and to see if refinancing is right for your situation before contacting a mortgage lender.

How Mortgage Purchase Rates Are Priced

Mortgage purchase rates are priced using a similar method as refinance rates. When you apply for a home mortgage, the lender looks at factors like your credit score, your income, your down payment and your other debt to determine your eligibility.

The overall economy also plays a giant role in mortgage rates for home loans, including purchase loans and refinance loans. Mortgage rates tend to go up during periods of speedy economic growth, and they tend to drop during periods of slower economic growth. Meanwhile, inflation can also play a role. Low levels of inflation contribute to lower interest rates on mortgage loans and other financial products.

Mortgage lenders can also price their loans based on the amount of business they have coming in, and whether they have the capacity to process more loans. They might lower rates to drum up business or raise rates when they’re at or nearing capacity. This is part of the reason rates can vary among lenders, and why it always makes sense to shop around for a home loan.

Many people believe that the Federal Reserve sets mortgage rates, but this is not exactly true. The Federal Reserve sets the federal funds rate, which lenders use to ensure they meet mandated cash reserve requirements. When the Fed raises this rate, banks have to pay more to borrow from one another, and these costs are often passed on to consumers. Likewise, costs can go down when the Fed lowers the federal funds rate, which can mean lower costs and interest rates for borrowers.

The Bottom Line

Refinancing your existing mortgage can absolutely make sense in terms of interest savings, but don’t rule out buying a new home instead. Buying a new home could help you save money on interest and get the space and the features you really want. 

Remember, there are steps you can take to become a more attractive borrower whether you choose to refinance or invest in a new place. You can’t control the economy or the Federal Reserve, but you have control over your personal finances.

Improving your credit score right away, and paying down debt to lower your debt-to-income ratio are just a couple of strategies to start. And if you’re planning on buying a new home, make sure you save a hefty down payment amount. These steps help you improve your chances at getting the best rates and terms whether you choose to move or stick with the home you have. 

The post Why Refinance Rates Are Higher Than Purchase Loan Rates appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

How to Maximize Income and Minimize Taxes in Retirement

This story originally appeared on NewRetirement. Much has been written about saving and accumulating enough for retirement. But that’s only half the battle. Once you reach retirement, it is important that you manage your retirement withdrawals from various accounts as tax-efficiently as possible. Taxes will likely be one of your biggest expenses in retirement. A tax-efficient withdrawal strategy…

Source: moneytalksnews.com

The Best Bill Negotiation Services: Bill Shark Vs BillCutterz Vs Truebill Vs BillFixers Vs Trim Vs Bill Advisor

Looking to lower your monthly costs? These bill negotiation services can help you to save hundreds of dollars on your recurring monthly bills.

The post The Best Bill Negotiation Services: Bill Shark Vs BillCutterz Vs Truebill Vs BillFixers Vs Trim Vs Bill Advisor appeared first on Bible Money Matters and was written by Peter Anderson. Copyright © Bible Money Matters – please visit biblemoneymatters.com for more great content.

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

How to Maximize Rewards on Everyday Spending

Woman using credit card on everyday spending

While many rewards enthusiasts focus on signing up for new credit cards to earn signup bonuses, not everyone has the time or desire to play the signup game. There is effort involved in tracking multiple cards, annual fees, and rewards programs, after all, and some people don’t want to spend their time or mental energy this way.

If you’re someone who falls into this category, you may be better off maximizing one or two cards instead of chasing rewards. Fortunately, you can earn plenty of rewards over time if you’re savvy about your card’s benefits and bonus categories.

The key to getting the most out of your rewards cards is understanding how they work and looking for opportunities to earn more points on your everyday spending. Here are some tips that can help.

Brainstorm every bill you could pay with a credit card

Because rewards cards offer points based on each dollar you spend, maximizing the amount you can spend on credit is the best way to boost your rewards haul. The smartest strategy to use here is figuring out how many of your monthly bills you can pay with a credit card.

While you may not be notified or aware, it’s possible that bills you’ve been paying with a check or debit card for years can be paid with a credit card without any fees. While your bills may vary, some expenses you should try to pay with a credit card include:

  • Rent
  • Utility bills like electric or gas
  • Health insurance
  • Cable television and internet
  • Cell phone
  • Taxes
  • Daycare
  • Auto and home insurance
  • Subscription services
  • College tuition or student loans
  • Medical bills
  • Lawn care

Keep in mind that these are just some of the bills you could be paying with credit. Depending on your situation, you could have additional, uncommon expenses to cover that could be paid with credit with ease.

Also, remember that these additional bills should be paid with credit on top of your everyday expenses like groceries, dining out, gas or bus fare, and miscellaneous spending. Every time you buy something in person or online, you should strive to pay with your rewards card if you can.

Leverage your rewards card bonus categories

It’s also important to leverage your favorite card bonus categories, whatever they may be. This is especially important if you have a few cards with different bonus categories since you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right card for bills that let you earn bonus points.

Let’s say you have a travel credit card that earns 3x points on dining and travel and another card that earns 6x points at the grocery store. In that case, you would be smart to use the travel card for dining and travel purchases and your other card when you stock up on food. While the amount of rewards you earn with individual purchases may seem nominal, using the right card for the right purchase can help you earn a lot more rewards over time.

Set up auto-pay bills to be paid with credit

Most of us have bills set up to be paid automatically, whether it’s our Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, gym membership, or utility bills. Make sure each bill you have set up to be paid automatically is set up to be paid with your rewards card and not a debit card. This way, you can earn rewards points on those expenses every month.

Use shopping portals and dining clubs

Many flexible rewards programs, frequent flyer programs, and hotel loyalty programs have shopping portals you can access to earn extra points. Major airlines like American, Delta, and United also have shopping portals that work similarly. (See also: How to Maximize Rewards Through Credit Card Shopping Portals)

Some programs like Southwest and Delta also offer dining clubs. These programs let you earn additional points or miles just for dining at participating restaurants in your area. It’s easy and it’s free to join, so you may as well earn extra miles on your spending if you’re going to dine out anyway. (See also: Everything You Need to Know About Airline Dining Rewards Programs)

How much the average family can earn

If you are skeptical the average family can rack up meaningful rewards without signing up for new cards over and over again, look at how this might work in real life. For example, imagine a family of four with two rewards card-toting adults. Across the two of them, they have:

  • A cash back card that earns 2% back
     
  • A travel credit card that earns 3% on dining and travel
     
  • A rewards card that earns 6% cash back at the grocery store on up to $6,000 in spending each year

To figure out how much this family might earn, we used Bureau of Labor Statistics spending averages from 2017. Here’s a rundown of that data for the year plus how much a family could earn in rewards over 12 months based on average expenses:

  • Food at home ($4,363): $261.78 in rewards at 6%
     
  • Food away from home ($3,365): $100.95 at 3%
     
  • Utilities, fuels, and public services ($3,836): $76.72 at 2%
     
  • Household operations ($1,412): $28.24 at 2%
     
  • Household supplies ($755): $45.30 at 6%
     
  • Household furnishings and equipment ($1,987): $39.74 at 2%
     
  • Apparel and services ($1,833): $36.66 at 2%
     
  • Gasoline and motor oil ($1,968): $39.36 at 2%
     
  • Other vehicle expenses ($2,842): $56.84 at 2%
     
  • Healthcare ($4,928): $98.56 at 2%
     
  • Entertainment ($3,203): $64.06 at 2%
     
  • Personal care products ($762): $45.72 at 6%
     
  • Education ($1,491): $29.82 at 2%

Total rewards: $923.75

While $900+ is a lot to earn in rewards within a year, you have the potential to earn a lot more. After all, these are just some of the expenses the average family faces and not all of them. If you could pay some additional big bills with credit each month like daycare or your rent, you could significantly add to your bottom line.

What to watch out for

While maximizing rewards cards is a smart idea if you’re using them already anyway, there are always pitfalls to be aware of when you’re using a credit card. Here’s what to watch out for during your quest for more cash back and travel rewards.

Fees for using credit

While there are many bills you can pay with credit without a fee, some vendors, merchants, and service providers charge a fee to use a credit card as payment. Fees are especially prevalent on bills such as utilities, cable or internet, rent, and insurance. Make sure to verify you aren’t being charged a fee to use credit before you proceed.

Annual fees

Don’t forget that some rewards cards charge annual fees. These fees may be worth it depending on your spending and rewards haul, but you should always factor them into the equation to make sure each fee is worth paying. If you’re against paying annual fees, look for rewards cards that don’t charge one.

Budgeting mishaps

Using a credit card for all your expenses may simplify your financial life, but it could also cause your budget to fall out of whack. Make sure you’re only spending on purchases you planned to make anyway, and that you’re tracking your spending and paying off your credit cards regularly.

Debt

Never use credit cards for purchases you can’t afford to repay if you’re pursuing rewards. The interest you’ll pay will always be much more than the rewards you earn. If you’re worried using credit will cause you to rack up debt you can’t afford to repay, you’re better off sticking to cash or debit instead.

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Want to maximise your credit card rewards? The key to getting the most out of your rewards cards is understanding how they work and looking for opportunities to earn more points on your everyday spending. We’ve got the ultimate tips and tricks to help you save money and earn more rewards! | #creditcards #rewardsprogram #creditcardrewards


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Healthy Food on a Budget

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Mint opinions and text are all mine. 

While I love making healthy recipes, I often get messages from people who think that eating healthy is expensive. To some degree, I can agree with that because in my family of four I can spend over $300a week at the grocery store. It’s important to me to share nutritious and delicious recipes, but I also understand that affordable recipes are just as important so that budget can’t be an excuse to have a fast food diet and skip healthy eating.  It is possible to eat good foods at a low cost- I made this Spaghetti Squash Lasagna for only $15, but it did take some planning and research to be able to prioritize both health and savings in my home.  

To help get you on the right track, here are my top tips about how to eat healthy on a budget: 

1) Set a food budget…and stick to it!

Establishing a budget is usually one of the first steps when it comes to saving money.  You have to have a real sense of what you actually need and compare that to what you actually want to spend.  This is easily done through Mint, a free service that helps track all your finances, helps with budgets and financial goals. Since utilizing the Mint app, I’ve been so much more conscious of my spending- it’s been life-changing actually! I’ve set myself on a budget in groceries, clothing, entertainment and dining. I then made a separate goal with all the money I plan on saving for a family vacations and home improvements.  All I did was connect my accounts and cards, and my spending automatically gets categorized so I can see all that I spend on groceries- and everything else. I even received emails each week to show my spending categorized in a chart, which I can easily compare to the previous week. Once I saw how much I was spending, I knew I had to scale back and be smarter about eating healthy. All this money spent on food could be saved to spend in other categories like a trip to Hawaii!  

That was when I created my food budget.  My goal was to first reduce spending in my groceries category to $200 a week, so I set my amount to spend each month.  After that, each time I went to the grocery store, the transaction would post and automatically show how much of the grocery budget was already spent for that month.  It even lets me know if I’m getting close to my budget for the month and a notification when I go over. Seeing that budget has helped me so much in making sure that I’m not overspending. It’s a great tool and almost like having online partner helping me stick to my budget each month.  

2) Use Seasonal Produce 

There are so many reasons why eating seasonally is better- less impact on the environment, more nutrients, and better taste (to name a few)- but buying produce in season is actually a great way to save money and eat healthy.  You don’t have to spend on foods that are imported from different regions when it’s growing in season. I like to go to farmer’s markets because you can really see what’s growing at the moment, plus you support your local farmers.  I personally like the anticipation of waiting for foods to be in season- especially in the summer months when there are so many delicious fruits available. 

3) Buy in bulk 

Yes, this is the trip to the warehouse.  I know that this may seem like it’s not money-saving when you’re shelling out hundreds of dollars for a cart full of multi-pack foods, but if you play this right, you can save so much per month.  One trick is to see what you find yourself running out of each month. For instance, if you know you make pasta once a week, why buy individual boxes of pasta and sauce when you can buy everything ahead of time and be set for the month?  I would rather be fully stocked than having to take the time to go to the grocery store each week for items that are in my weekly meal plan. Time is money, but when you’re also buying in bulk, the price per ounce is usually a greater idea.  I also find that since I have twin girls who are in a growth spurt, having snacks and fruits readily available is best for them, and buying those ahead of time in bulk saves time, money, and my sanity! 

4) Have a meal plan and grocery list 

I suggest planning out your weekly meals and making a grocery list for it. This not only saves a lot of money, but will also help reduce food waste. Of course leave some wiggle room for those impulse buys and cravings we all have, but it’s still good to come to the grocery store with a plan. It also takes some stress away from the week knowing we have a menu plan for each meal. It is actually very motivating to set a challenge and meet it. When I saw I saved $100 last week I gave myself a mental high five! Setting a goal by putting myself on a budget was actually fun! Who doesn’t love a challenge?  

If you’re looking for recipes to cook at home, I have so many healthy recipes on my blog for all preferences, but I’m really excited to share my Spaghetti Squash Lasagna to help kick you off on your money-saving healthy recipes.  It’s only $15 for 4 servings, and it’s low-carb, gluten-free and keto-friendly so it can fit into many different diet plans.  What I love is that this recipe suits my husband since it’s gluten-free, it fits my diet since it’s low-carb, but it’s so delicious that it doesn’t even matter to my girls! Anything that looks or taste like a noodle and my kids will gobble it up. 

 

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna | MyHealthDish | Mint Blog

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna 

2 spaghetti squash  

1 jar marinara sauce 

4oz mozzarella cheese 

1/2 cup low fat ricotta cheese 

1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese 

1 pound lean ground turkey 

1 tbsp. minced garlic 

1 tsp. of salt 

1 tsp. black pepper 

1 tbsp. olive oil 

 

Instructions: 

With a sharp knife poke a few holes around spaghetti squash.  

In a large pot bring water to a boil and submerge both squashes simmering for 20 minutes. 

Drain and cool for 15 minutes before cutting in half and scooping out seeds. 

With a fork shred squash strings and place in a large bowl. 

In skillet pan heat up oil to medium heat and add garlic and ground turkey. Cook and stir for 7-9 minutes or until turkey is completely cooked. Season with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2. tsp. black pepper.  

Add ground turkey with squash, then marinara, Parmesan cheese, ricotta and remaining salt and pepper. Gently fold and mix.  

Scoop back into halved squash shells and add slice thin mozzarella on top. 

Bake in oven at 350F Degrees for 15 minutes for all the cheese to melt 

 

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Source: mint.intuit.com