8 Smart Purchases to Make in Your 20s

Don't just put money aside for books and food.

A smart purchase is just another way of saying awesome investment. You might feel strapped for cash in your 20s, but smart buyers will make purchases that will last them into their 30s and beyond. While it’s always tempting to spend your paycheck on a new pair of heels or drinks at happy hour, your future self will thank you for putting that money toward items that’ll pay for themselves over time.

Here are eight smart purchases to make in your 20s that can contribute invaluably to your bank account.

1. A Coffee Maker

Your morning and mid-day pick-me-up cups of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts and lattes from Starbucks can quickly add up. In fact, you can make $100,000-plus by skipping your morning coffee and making it at home (Seriously. It’ll involve some strategy and take about 40 years, but, still. Go here to find out how).

Consider investing in a quality coffee maker that will withstand many uses. The machine will make your morning coffee more convenient and save you cash. (Some perspective: 72 Venti coffees from Starbucks will run you close to $200, depending on where you live, while a 72-pack of Starbucks French Roast K-Cups costs around $50.) A French press is another option.

2. A Nice Suit

It’s a good idea to invest in a nice suit or business apparel than can be worn to job interviews or important events. Ensure that it fits or get it tailored. A suit may not seem like the most exciting investment in the world, but it is a practical one. If you’ve got this item on your checklist, you can wait for a sale or at least find the perfect piece instead of rushing a week before the big event and splurging on an outfit you don’t love (or, worse, can’t really afford).

3. A Hard Drive

Again, this purchase may not seem particularly fun but it is an item your future self will thank you for. Hard drives are great for backing up important files and opening up more storage on your computer and phone.

4. A Reliable Laptop

A sturdy laptop can be an investment for your leisure time and work life. We do so much work online that it makes sense to invest in a laptop that will have enough storage, battery life and longevity to get the job done. Plus, if you’re still in college or are a very recent graduate with a student ID, there are discounts available for some tech products.

5. A Quality Mattress & Couch

Considering most people spend a large chunk of their day sleeping (or on their phone) in their bed, it makes sense to invest in a mattress.Test out options and sleep on it — literally and metaphorically. Before you invest in a mattress, be sure to read these four mattress shopping gotchas to ensure you get the best deal possible.

The same goes for a couch, another piece of furniture you’ll often spend time on. Kerri Moriarty, of Boston startup Cinch Financial, a financial planning software company, says investing in a quality couch was one of the best decisions she made in her early twenties. “Seven years later the couch has traveled with me to five different apartments, still looks trendy and modern in the space, and is in great shape,” Moriarty said. “I’m glad I invested when I did so I haven’t been uncomfortable and replacing it every couple years.”

6. A Filtered Water Bottle

While plastic water bottles often come in handy, they’re not great for the environment — or your wallet. A reusable filtered water bottle will allow you to stay hydrated on the go without having to constantly repurchase bottles of water. Water bottles generally aren’t expensive, but there will be costs associated with replacing the filter, which is done on a monthly to bi-monthly basis depending on how often the bottle is used. The process is simple: Fill up your bottle with tap water and the built-in filtration system will do the work.

7. An Online Course

If you’ve got a hunger for learning, seeking to pursue a passion project or trying to pick up new skills for a side hustle, an online course can be a great investment. There are endless courses to take that will enrich your life whether you’re learning social media marketing, a new language or even basic coding. Plus, if the course is something that can benefit your job and workplace, you may be able to get your company to pay for it. It doesn’t hurt to make a proposal full of the potential benefits that a particular course could have on you and, by default, your company.

8. Plane Tickets

Yes, sometimes a “smart purchase” involves rewarding yourself — and, really, there’s no better time to spend on experiences than your 20s. Plus, your trip doesn’t have to break the bank. A good travel rewards credit card or airline loyalty program can help you rack up miles to pay for the flight. (Remember, credit cards that offer rewards for your travels tend to require excellent credit. You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.) Other ways to save on travel include signing up for fare alerts, traveling on off-peak days and looking into hostels or vacation rentals.

When traveling, don’t forget to invest in some great luggage. Marc Roche, co-founder of Annuities HQ, a retirement advisory network, emphasizes the importance of traveling while you’re young and getting the bang for your buck.”By choosing a well-crafted piece, you’ll be able to pass it — and your stories of adventure — on to the next generation,” Roche said. If you purchase quality travel gear, you’ll be able to use it long-term and have more extra cash for travel.

Image: elenaleonova

The post 8 Smart Purchases to Make in Your 20s appeared first on Credit.com.

I’m Still in College, Why Do I Need to Build Credit?

It may not seem important to build credit in college, but your future self will thank you.

College students already have a lot on their mind — career paths, majors, student loans, grades — but should credit be on that list? In college, your credit score is probably far in the back of your mind, if it’s there at all. But If you want to really get ahead and start post-grad life off on the right foot, consider starting to build credit in college. When you’re still in college, credit is often deemed a “future problem.” It’s a distant thing for real adults looking to buy houses. That’s all true, but it also plays a big role in anyone’s life, even college students.

Building History

Length of credit history is 15% of your credit score, which is a pretty big factor. The longer you have credit history, the higher your credit score is likely to be. It’s possible to build a good credit score in a year or two, but it can take years to build an excellent credit score. Starting early and being diligent can help you build credit history before you need to seriously worry about your credit score.

Choosing a Home

Many landlords require good credit to rent an apartment. Landlords use credit scores to predict whether tenants will make rent payments on time. Without a credit score, you’ll have to work extra hard to prove your trustworthiness and financial stability. Having a low credit score can lead to rejection or even a higher security deposit. It can also be easier to get a lease when you’ve got a few years of positive credit history under your belt.

Credit scores may be even more important when buying a home. The higher your score, the more likely you are to qualify for a mortgage and the better the terms you’ll receive. Kelan Kline, half of the personal finance blogging duo behind The Savvy Couple, can attest. He and his wife built their credit in college and at 23 years old, they bought a house. “The craziest part is I had just got my job and had no paycheck to show my income,” Kline said. “They used our credit scores and my job acceptance letter showing the income I would receive to get pre-qualified.” For the Klines, good credit scores made all of difference and they can make a huge difference for anyone entering the housing market.

Finding Employment

In most states, potential employers can check your credit report and even factor it into whether or not to hire. Having a good credit report is an indicator that you’re dependable. It can also be something that differentiates you from other candidates. While not every employer will check, it could potentially happen and it’s best to make sure your report is free of errors when applying to jobs.

Making Student Loan Decisions

If you plan on potentially refinancing student loans, it’ll be more difficult to do so without a solid credit score. Refinancing can help you lower the rates of your loans and potentially help you speed up the repayment process.

Saving on Insurance

At a certain point you’ll have to move off of your parent’s insurance plan and, when you do so, it’s in your best interest to have a good credit score. When your credit score is higher, you’re viewed as less of a risk to insurance companies, giving you lower premiums. This even applies to car insurance — many U.S. car insurance companies use credit scores to help determine risk.

Getting a Car

If you’re hoping to buy or rent a car down the line, having a good credit score is crucial. While you can likely find an auto loan regardless of how low your credit score is, a better credit score means a better interest rate and more options to choose from.

Starting a Business

When you build credit in college, you’re setting yourself on solid ground for future endeavors. If you’re a young entrepreneur or aspiring business owner, it can really pay off. If you need a business loan to launch your first business, you’ll need to have a decent credit score to qualify.

Overall

Even if your near future doesn’t immediately require an amazing credit score, starting now is a smart decision. Lenders and employers use your credit score as a sign of financial stability and reliability. In any situation — loans, rentals, employment or otherwise — it’s a valuable asset to have.

There’s good news for any college student who’s looking to embark on the credit building journey. There are plenty of ways for new users to build credit in college from being an authorized user to using a secured card. Building credit doesn’t have to be expensive and you can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com to keep track of your progress.

Image: Png-Studio

The post I’m Still in College, Why Do I Need to Build Credit? appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Build Credit Without Spending a Ton of Money

Building credit doesn't have to be expensive.

The journey to building credit can be long and difficult, but it doesn’t need to be expensive. A good credit score isn’t about how much money you have but rather how well you manage it. A poor man could have the same credit score as a billionaire — all it takes is a little work. Learn how to build credit without spending a ton of money with these tips.

Stay Active

Credit scores can only be created when there’s credit activity to report. When you’re on a budget, it can be tempting to avoid charging anything, but doing so won’t help you build credit. Keeping credit cards active doesn’t have to be costly.

Charge a Little

With credit, it’s not about how much is spent or what it’s spent on, it’s about usage. There has to be enough activity generate a score. Whether you charge your morning coffee or a wild night in Las Vegas, you’ll keep your credit issuer happy if you pay it off and monitor how much credit you have available.

If you can only afford to pay off a credit card charge of up to $30 per month, charge that amount and pay it off. Barry Paperno, a credit card expert who writes for Speaking of Credit, suggests using some credit cards for regular monthly fees, like a Netflix or newspaper subscription. This ensures cards stay active and doesn’t require much thought. Plus, you can keep these cards tucked away at home instead of in your wallet.

Become an Authorized User 

The key is finding someone trustworthy who has great credit. Being an authorized user on someone’s card can be a great credit building option. The process to be added as an authorized user is fairly easy and has no application or requirements. (Learn more by reading everything you need to know about authorized users.)

Once someone becomes an authorized user, the card is added to their credit report. If you become an authorized user on an older card, you’ll earn additional points for the length of time the card has been open, an important credit scoring factor. You also receive credit for on time payments. The only potential issue with this is if the primary cardholder starts missing payments or cultivating debt, it impacts the authorized user’s credit score, too. This method is affordable and effective, but can be slow going since some score models don’t give full credit to authorized users, Paperno said.

Try a Secure Card

Applying for a secure card is a great option for those who have poor or nonexistent credit. Secure cards require users to put down a deposit, say $300, which creates a $300 credit limit on that card. The card acts like any other and is reported to the credit bureaus as such, but your spending can’t exceed the amount of the deposit. The card can be paid off as much as you’d like throughout the month, making it a great way to limit spending while showing the credit bureaus your ability to manage credit.

The great thing about secure cards is you’re the primary user, so the credit benefits earned are even greater than being an authorized user.

Report On-Time Payments

While it doesn’t always help your credit to make on time payments for rent, utilities, etc, in some cases it can. “Keep in mind credit scores can only consider what’s on your credit report,” says Paperno. “Your landlord or utilities company has to report it to credit bureau and credit scorers must include it.”

Unless on time payments are being reported, they won’t necessarily help you build credit. Ask your landlord and service providers if they report to credit bureaus. Or, pay rent online to help build credit history or uses services like Renttrack or Rental Kharma.

Set up Automatic Payments

Automatic payments can help ensure on-time payments. This is handy for those who forget to pay bills or travel often. On-time payments help strengthen your payment history, which plays a large role in a good credit score.

Beware, if there’s not enough money in your account for payments. An unpaid balance can be reported to the credit bureaus. Generally, credit bureau information is updated every 30 days so if your payment is only a few days late, you’ll be charged late payment fees but your credit won’t be hurt. Still, it’s best not to risk it.

Keep Accounts Open

If you’ve already got cards open, avoid closing them. Credit history is a major factor in calculating credit scores, so keeping your oldest cards open and active can have major perks. So, keep that card from college, even if it’s only used to charge a monthly Netflix subscription.

Get a Credit Builder Loan

A credit builder loan, a type of installment loan, can be a simple way to build credit. Try for a credit builder loan that reports to all three national credit reporting agencies, so on-time loan payments build up your credit in reports for all three companies. Don’t bite off more than you can chew — late payments or a defaulted loan can cause your credit score to take a huge hit.

You can take out a personal loan for something smaller than a car, like a new laptop or mattress. Take one on out on something you were planning to buy anyway, to avoid spending for the sole purpose of building credit.

Monitor Utilization

Everyone knows paying on time is essential but also so is utilization, the percent of available credit you’ve used. Paperno advises keeping utilization to less than 10% of your credit limit each month. This shows you’re reasonably and responsibly using your credit within your means.

Increase Credit Limit but Not Spending

If you’ve got a decent credit history, you can probably manage to have your credit limit increased. Once your credit limit is increased, keep your spending habits the same. This can help you lower your credit utilization, making your credit even stronger.

Diversify Wisely & Carefully

Diversifying your credit with different types of loans, cards and accounts can help you build credit, but only if you have the means to pay them off. Opening accounts and taking out loans you can’t afford will only put you in the red. Before taking out loans or apply for new cards, ensure you qualify. You can check two of your credit scores for free with credit.com.

Opening new accounts and credit cards can seem like an easy way to increase the credit mix portion of your score, but proceed with caution. Opening a new card impacts the length of time your accounts have been open, a major factor in calculating your credit score. Since this number is the average of the length of time all of your accounts have been open, adding a new account can bring down your total.

As you diversify, monitor credit utilization for each individual card. If utilization is too high on one card, it can cause your entire credit score to drop. Utilization makes up 30% of your FICO credit score while different types of credit make up only 10%.

Image: Ti_ser

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The 37 Most Profitable Markets for Home Sellers

When it comes to selling homes, some places are much more profitable than others.

It’s no surprise that certain areas are more profitable for home sellers than others, but it certainly is surprising which places those are. ATTOM Data Solutions, a property data company, just released its Q2 2017 U.S. Home Sales Report. They examined 118 metropolitan statistical areas with at least 1,000 home sales in the second quarter of 2017.

According to ATTOM Data Solutions, homeowners who sold in the second quarter gained an average price of $51,000 since purchase — the highest average price gain for home sellers since the recession. The last time gains were this high was in the second quarter of 2007 when sellers made an average profit of $57,000.

Profitable Places

Though the number’s not as high as it was 10 years ago, profits are looking up from the past few years. It looks like the second quarter of 2017 was a wise time to sell, but which markets had the highest sales?

While it’s important to choose the right location for real estate investments, it’s also important to have good credit. Poor credit can make it more difficult — and expensive — to buy and sell real estate. Before venturing into real estate, see where you stand. You can check two of your credit scores for free with Credit.com. You can also see just how much real estate you can buy with our How Much House Can You Afford? tool. Here are the areas where home sellers profited the most in the second quarter.

37. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada

Average Homeseller Returns: 35%

36. Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Florida

Average Homeseller Returns: 36%

35. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan

Average Homeseller Returns: 37%

34. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida

Average Homeseller Returns: 38%

33. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

Average Homeseller Returns: 38%

32. Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Arizona

Average Homeseller Returns: 38%

31. Spokane-Spokane Valley, Washington

Average Homeseller Returns: 39%

30. Salt Lake City, Utah

Average Homeseller Returns: 41%

29. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California

Average Homeseller Returns: 42%

28. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Florida

Average Homeseller Returns: 42%

27. Greeley, Colorado

Average Homeseller Returns: 43%

26. Eugene, Oregon

Average Homeseller Returns: 43%

25. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California

Average Homeseller Returns: 44%

24. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee

Average Homeseller Returns: 44%

23. Provo-Orem, Utah

Average Homeseller Returns: 44%

22. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida

Average Homeseller Returns: 45%

21. Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, California

Average Homeseller Returns: 46%

20. Reno, Nevada

Average Homeseller Returns: 47%

19. Prescott, Arizona

Average Homeseller Returns: 47%

18. San Diego-Carlsbad, California

Average Homeseller Returns: 47%

17. Bremerton-Silverdale, Washington

Average Homeseller Returns: 48%

16. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii

Average Homeseller Returns: 48%

15. Stockton-Lodi, California

Average Homeseller Returns: 49%

14. Boulder, Colorado

Average Homeseller Returns: 49%

13. Vallejo-Fairfield, California

Average Homeseller Returns: 50%

12. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas

Average Homeseller Returns: 51%

11. Salem, Oregon

Average Homeseller Returns: 52%

10. Fort Collins, Colorado

Average Homeseller Returns: 53%

9. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California

Average Homeseller Returns: 53%

8. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts-New Hampshire

Average Homeseller Returns: 57%

7. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Oregon-Washington

Average Homeseller Returns: 59%

6. Santa Rosa, California

Average Homeseller Returns: 61%

5. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado

Average Homeseller Returns: 62%

4. Modesto, California

Average Homeseller Returns: 62%

3. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington

Average Homeseller Returns: 63%

2. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California

Average Homeseller Returns: 65%

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California

Average Homeseller Returns: 75%

Image: Willard

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How Living Like Lord Voldemort Can Save You Money

No need to be a wizard or famous villain to save some serious cash. Just be inspired by one.

Let’s start with a disclaimer — I’m not telling you to murder anyone or become a villainous snake wizard. I’m going to help you save some money while taking inspiration from the most infamous villain of our youth and (no shame) adulthood. If Lord Voldemort was real and, you know, not busy trying to destroy Harry Potter, he would’ve probably been great at managing money.

A lot of Lord Voldemort’s core characteristics and common practices deserve a second look and, if they’re applied properly to your financial habits, they could make you more successful than he ever was. Here’s how living like Lord Voldemort can save you money.

Be Resourceful

Between crafting plans and tricking others, Lord Voldemort is one of the most resourceful characters in the “Harry Potter” series. Being resourceful helped him move closer to his goals and it can help you do the same. This is especially seen when he creates potions using items around him like unicorn blood, human flesh and snake venom. One of the potions he created literally helped him regenerate a body. If that’s not resourcefulness I don’t know what is. Resourcefulness can seriously pay off, whether it be fixing your sink without paying for a plumber or testing new ways to save at grocery stores.

Have Dedication

Lord Voldemort didn’t build an army in a day and your savings account won’t be magically filled in a day either. Lord Voldemort had persistent, unfaltering dedication to his goal to find and destroy Harry Potter. He stayed dedicated to his mission for eight movies and seven books until he died. If you divert a fraction of that amount of dedication to saving money, you’re sure to find money success.

Be Ruthless With Yourself

Remember when Voldemort killed Harry Potter’s mom in front of him and then tried to murder infant Harry Potter? You’ve got to be pretty ruthless to do that. While Lord Voldemort was ruthless towards others, one money saving strategy is to be a little bit ruthless to yourself. Saving money can require a lot of self-control to wage the internal battle between spending temptations and your desire to save. Being harsh to your inner spender can pay off.

While you should never be too harsh on yourself, if you’re stuck in a spending rut be open to trying stricter money saving methods like going a week without spending or even making it your mission to stop ordering lunch every day. It’s possible to save without feeling deprived but it takes a bit of self-control. 

Wear a Uniform

The whole idea of not wearing the same outfit twice is very Hollywood, but not so much Hogwarts. Our pal Voldemort essentially wore the same black cloak every day. While wearing a black cloak on the daily isn’t necessary, creating a go-to outfit formula or even downsizing your wardrobe saves money and time. 

Share Your Mission

It’s safe to say the entire world knew Lord Voldemort wanted to find and kill Harry Potter. Like Voldemort, be vocal with your goals. Tell your friends and family about your mission to save. When those around you know about your money saving mission, they have the opportunity to be more accommodating and understanding. This is especially handy when you suggest a tighter budget for holiday gift giving or opt for more affordable restaurants when eating out with friends.

You might also want to create a blog or Twitter account where you can share your money-related fails and triumphs. Sharing can certainly increase accountability. When others know your goal they might hold you to it and you may feel more motivated to stick to it.

Focus on Actually Understanding

Voldemort’s ultimate demise resulted from his lack of understanding about a certain curse — I won’t spoil too much. Learn from his mistake and make a point to actually understand your finances. Make sure you know your credit score (you can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com). It can help you understand your financial situation and improve it. It’s also important to read up about your student loans and other debt instead of pretending they don’t exist and learn about all of the benefits and rewards your credit cards and employers offer that you might not be taking advantage of.

Keep a Diary

When he was still Tom Riddle, Voldemort had a diary used for manipulation. He really made the most of the diary by also using it as a Horcrux. While your diary won’t be quite as nefarious, it will help you paint a clear picture of how and where you’re spending your money. Create a spending diary where you keep track of purchases. Seeing all of your expenses can help you visualize which types of spending you want to cut back on and exactly where your money is going.

Know Your History

Voldemort had a slight obsession with his heritage. He spent a lot of time tracking down his own history while he was still at Hogwarts and through his history he learned a lot of important details about himself. Including the fact that he was half-blood, which served as a catalyst to his becoming Lord Voldemort in the first place. Knowing your own credit history is crucial when it comes to building credit. Your credit report can give you an insight into how long you’ve had your accounts and help identify any factors dragging your finances down.

Start Young

Voldemort created his first Horcruxes at the age of 17. As he built Horcruxes, you can build your credit. Even 17 isn’t too young to start thinking about your financial future. You can start building credit as a teen.

Find Motivation That Works For You

Voldemort’s actions were motivated by a true hatred and hunger to rid the world of muggles. While that probably isn’t your goal, one of the keys to saving money is to find your motivation. Perhaps you’re paying off student loans, saving for a summer trip or trying to start an emergency fund. When you pin down your money saving motivation, unlike Voldemort, you’ll be unstoppable.

Image: izusek

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20 ZIP Codes With the Highest Real Estate Returns

Although it's a small number, ZIP codes play a large role in the real estate game — especially when it comes to profit.

Your ZIP code is a pretty important piece of an address, especially when it comes to the real estate market. HomeUnion, an online real estate investment management firm, identified zip codes in 20 metros that maximize real estate returns while minimizing risk over a five-year horizon. They examined school quality and neighborhood attractiveness for single-family rentals over five years.

“HomeUnion Research Services looked at more than a dozen attributes that characterize a neighborhood including crime, schools, white-collar jobs, unemployment, homeownership, permitting activity, etc.,” said Steve Hovland, director of research for HomeUnion. “Based on those attributes, we forecast appreciation, vacancy and rent changes over the next five years.”

The study calculated Annualized Total Return, which includes HomeUnion’s projections for how much the value of single-family rentals will appreciate and how much cash flow they’re expected to generate. According to Hovland, HomeUnion’s model can determine the price and rent for every single-family home within a specific zip code and allow them to predict the price and rent in five years.

The Long Haul 

Americans are increasingly investing in real estate to reap the rewards, which makes investing in the right ZIP code crucial. To mitigate risk and earn the highest real estate returns, investors should focus assets that can maintain value even during downturns, Hovland said.

Remember, when it comes to real estate, ZIP codes aren’t the only numbers that matter. Without a good credit score, financing a real estate investment can be difficult and costly. See where you stand and check your credit score for free at Credit.com. Here are the top ZIP codes with the highest real estate returns.

20. 46280

Submarket: North Indianapolis

Metro Area: Indianapolis

Annualized Total Return: 5.4%

19. 91602

Submarket: North Hollywood, California

Metro Area: Los Angeles

Annualized Total Return: 5.4%

18. 73003

Submarket: Edmond, Oklahoma

Metro Area: Oklahoma City

Annualized Total Return: 5.4%

17. 63043

Submarket: Maryland Heights, Missouri

Metro Area: St. Louis

Annualized Total Return: 5.5%

16. 85259

Submarket:  North Scottsdale, Arizona

Metro Area: Phoenix

Annualized Total Return: 5.5%

15. 77059

Submarket: Clear Lake City, Texas

Metro Area: Houston

Annualized Total Return: 5.6%

14. 75022

Submarket:  Flower Mound, Texas

Metro Area: Dallas

Annualized Total Return: 5.6%

13. 44023

Submarket:  Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Metro Area: Cleaveland

Annualized Total Return: 5.6%

12. 34677

Submarket: Oldsmar, Florida

Metro Area: Tampa

Annualized Total Return: 5.7%

11. 97224

Submarket: King City, Oregon

Metro Area: Portland, Oregon

Annualized Total Return: 5.8%

10. 30078

Submarket: Snellville, Georgia

Metro Area: Atlanta

Annualized Total Return: 5.8%

9. 45255

Submarket:  Forestville/Cherry Grove, Ohio

Metro Area: Cincinnati

Annualized Total Return: 5.9%

8. 60016

Submarket: Des Plaines, Illinois

Metro Area: Chicago

Annualized Total Return: 6%

7. 66223

Submarket: Overland Park, Kansas

Metro Area: Kansas City

Annualized Total Return: 6.2%

6. 37062

Submarket: Fairview, Tennessee

Metro Area: Nashville

Annualized Total Return: 6.5%

5. 33327

Submarket: Weston, Florida

Metro Area:  Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Annualized Total Return: 6.6%

4. 33158

Submarket: Palmetto Bay, Florida

Metro Area: Miami

Annualized Total Return: 6.8%

3. 48322

Submarket: West Bloomfield Township, Michigan

Metro Area: Detroit

Annualized Total Return: 6.9%

2. 19035

Submarket: Gladwyne, Pennsylvania

Metro Area: Philadelphia

Annualized Total Return: 6.9%

1. 33434

Submarket: Hamptons at Boca Raton, Florida

Metro Area: West Palm Beach

Annualized Total Return: 8.1%

Image: irina88w

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18 Cheap Social Activities That Don’t Involve Spending Money on Food

Your social life doesn't need to revolve around food. See friends without spending on food with these cheap hangouts.

Grabbing dinner, meeting for lunch or even visiting a hot new dessert place are often at the heart of anyone’s social calendar. Food and friends are a winning combination, but it can certainly add up. Next time you want to hang out with friends, propose something new. There are plenty of cheap things to do with friends that aren’t focused on food. Here are some affordable ideas for your next hangout.

1. Take a Hike

Experience nature, exercise and spend time with friends by going on a hike. You can find local trails with websites like Trail Finder. Money doesn’t need to be spent on food. If you’d still like something to nosh on, bring a protein bar and water bottle from home.

2. Go for a Bike Ride

Go for a ride around your neighborhood or in a local park. Even if you don’t own a bike, you can borrow one or even rent one for an affordable price. Although, a bicycle can actually make you wealthier if you use it enough, so it might be worth investing in.

3. Attend an Outdoor Movie or Concert

These are almost always free, just check your local community event calendars. You can even opt to bring your own drinks and snacks if you’d like to add some budget-friendly pizzazz to your night.

4. Visit the Zoo or Aquarium

Many zoos and aquariums have days where you can donate the amount of your choosing instead of buying full-price tickets. Keep in mind that these pay-what-you-can days are often crowded — if a crowd doesn’t bother you, taking advantage of these days is a great way to stay on budget. Most places also offer picnic areas for you to eat lunches you’ve brought from home. (And we have a lot of great tips for having a picnic on a budget!)

5. Head to the Beach

This is a perfect summer activity and it doesn’t have to cost a thing. Remember to stick to public beaches unless you’re willing to pay the fee to access private ones. You could even just opt for a walk on the beach or nearby boardwalk, which is simpler and still free.The only food a trip to the beach involves are optional snacks.

6. Host a Craft Night 

Buying craft supplies and a bottle of wine can result in a fun night in. There are a lot of ways to save at Michaels and other craft stores, making supplies fairly affordable. Plus, there are plenty of free craft tutorials and projects on Pinterest and YouTube that can help you create anything.

7. Go Camping

Enjoy a taste of the outdoors at no cost. No state or national parks nearby? Or maybe you’re not much of an outdoors person. No worries — you can also camp in your own backyard. You’ll experience the great outdoors without being too far from running water and electricity.

8.Try a Fitness Class

Classes like barre, yoga or even kickboxing will help you and your friends get into shape while having fun. Often you can find great deals on your first few classes when you use sites like Groupon. Also, check your local community center or parks — often they offer yoga classes for free.

9. Watch the Sunset or Sunrise

This is free to enjoy and you can choose the location. Look up the sunrise and sunset times online, spread out a blanket at a great lookout spot or enjoy from your porch.

10. Visit a Museum

There’s a museum for everyone and everything — from modern art to sex. A lot of museums offer free admissions or pay-what-you-can entry fees. Not only can this be an educational experience, but also you’ll save by not needing to purchase food.

11. Host a Bonfire

Bonfires are the perfect way to warm up and get together with friends on a chilly autumn or summer night. Just be sure to follow local fire ordinances to avoid a fine.

12. Tour a Brewery or Vineyard

These tours often provide samples or you can purchase drinks at the end. Some breweries and wineries even offer tours for free. This is a nice way to combine a fun experience with the classic hangout of grabbing drinks.

13. Host A Video Game Tournament

Indulge in a childhood favorite pastime with a fun night in with friends. Dust off your old GameCube or bring out the newest gaming system and challenge friends to a tournament.

14. Visit a Botanical Garden or Wildflower Field

This, of course, depends on your location. Enjoying flowers is perfect for the nice weather and is sure to result in beautiful photos. Visiting is free, though some gardens might charge a small entry fee. Always check calendars for times or dates when the garden might be open for free or have a discounted rate.

15. Check out a Comedy Club

Save by visiting new talent showcases and day time shows. You also generally get better deals when you visit a show during a weeknight rather than the weekend.

16. See a Matinee Movie

These are a lot more affordable than evening films and food is not required. If you do wish to spend a bit on snacks there are a lot of ways to save on movie concessions.

17. Volunteer

Chances are there’s an animal shelter or soup kitchen in your town that could use some help. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer and it’s more fun when doing so with friends.

18. Have a Board Game Night

Indulge in some nostalgia with a good old-fashioned game night with friends. Play some old school games like Monopoly and Uno or play new ones, like Cards Against Humanity or Catch Phrase. By staying in, you can enjoy affordable snacks, home-cooked food or even a potluck style meal, meaning you spend little to no money on food.

Remember to stay budget conscious while doing these activities. Saving by not spending on food could make you feel extra frivolous in other ways. For example, since you’re not buying food at the zoo you might decide to buy extra souvenirs. This defeats the purpose of saving on food in the first place. Swipe your card with caution and use rewards cards when possible. Most rewards cards require a decent credit score, so before applying see where you stand. You can check two of your credit scores for free at Credit.com.

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The post 18 Cheap Social Activities That Don’t Involve Spending Money on Food appeared first on Credit.com.

15 Restaurant Mobile Apps That Can Save You Money

Going out to eat can be rewarding in more ways than one.

Food is best served with a side of savings and restaurants with apps (that’s applications, not appetizers) that make it even easier to spend less. If you’re planning to order in, eat out or grab a quick bite, you might as well be rewarded for it.

Even if you’re on a budget, there are a lot of ways to save at restaurants, but one of the most convenient is by using an app. Below are 15 you can get for popular restaurants. All these apps are free to download on both iOS and Android and are full of coupons, loyalty programs and rewards.

1. Buffalo Wild Wings

The Blazin’ Rewards app makes it easy to earn points. Earn 100 points for signing up and filling out a profile. For every $10 spent earn 100 more. Check in five times during lunch time and earn 300 more points. Also earn points by checking in at the restaurant and having friends check in. Like in many college classes, earn points just for showing up. The rewards include bottles of sauce, beverages, appetizers, desserts and entrees.

2. Chili’s

With the Chili’s app, you can rack up Plenti Points by dining at the restaurant. These can be redeemed at Chili’s for appetizers, desserts and more. As a member, you’ll also receive a free dessert on your birthday (here are 10 other places with birthday freebies). These Plenti points can also be earned or spent at other Plenti partners like Macy’s, Mobil and Rite Aid. The app also has bonus perks, like allowing you to add your name to a wait list or order to go.

3. Steak ‘n Shake

Earn a free milkshake with your first purchase using the Steak ‘n Shake Rewards app. The app requires setting up a payment method to redeem the milkshake. If you don’t want to add a credit or debit card, earn rewards by adding a gift card. For every $50 spent you earn $5 back to be spent on food of your choice at any Steak ‘n Shake location.

4. Moe’s Southwest Grill

The Moe’s Rockin’ Rewards app has plenty of perks. Receive a free cup of queso when you sign up and a free burrito on your birthday every year. Log in through Facebook to earn an additional 50 points. Earn 10 reward points per $1 spent and for every 1,000 points receive $10 credit to spend at any Moe’s location.

5. Chick-fil-A

The Chick-fil-A One app allows you to earn treats the more you spend. To earn treats, you must place your order using the mobile device or scan your personalized QR code within the app during each visit. This app also allows you to skip the line by ordering on your phone.

6. Burger King

While there is no point system, the BK app offers mobile-only coupons that are in constant rotation. This app is worth checking for deals before placing your order.

7. Cici’s

The MyCici’s app has a loyalty based rewards program. The app requires you to scan your receipts. After five visits with $7 (before tax) or more spent, you earn a free adult buffet or a free one topping pizza to go.

8. Whataburger

The Whataburger app encourages you to load a mobile payment like a debit card, PayPal, Apple Pay, or a Whataburger gift card. This isn’t required, however. All that’s required is for rewards is having the app. To track your visits, have the cashier scan the bar code on your phone. Every five visits are rewarded with free food and for a visit to count you only need to spend one cent.

9. Outback Steakhouse

The Outback app allows you to earn rewards and keep track of all Outback coupons in one place. It also gives 50% off of your fourth visit (up to $20). The app has additional perks, like allowing you to check in as soon as you’re close to the restaurant so you’re seated faster. You can also pay with your phone to avoid waiting for the bill and, for big groups, the app allows you to split the bill.

10. Duffy’s MVP Sports Grill

The Duffy’s MVP app allows those who use it to earn 20% to 50% off of their bill when they eat between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tuesdays are double point days. Members also earn free birthday rewards. MVP app users earn one point per $1 spent and 100 points automatically becomes a $10 reward credit to be spent at any Duffy’s MVP Sports Grill location.

11. fresh&co

This app requires you to link a credit card to it, so unless you frequent fresh&co it may not be worth it. (You might want to check your credit score for free with Credit.com before doing so to see where your credit stands). You earn $3 for creating an account. By paying with your mobile app and the card connected to it, you earn $9 for every $100 spent with $1 is donated to a charity dedicated to ending childhood hunger. Plus, you earn a free meal on your birthday.

12. Schnippers

The Schnippers app allows you to earn $8 in rewards for every 10 visits. Scan your QR code and spend at least $8 at each visit for it to count toward your reward.

13. Hale & Hearty

The Hale & Hearty app gives you a $2 credit for downloading and $2 per friend you refer. You’ll also earn $5 for every $50 spent.

14. Krispy Kreme

Earn a free doughnut for signing up and downloading the Krispy Kreme app. Scan the bar code with every purchase to rack up points toward free drinks and doughnuts. Plus, earn a free gift on your birthday. Bonus perk? Be notified when doughnuts are hot and fresh out of the oven at nearby locations. Yes, please!

15. Panera Bread

While the app itself isn’t necessary for rewards, it works well with the MyPanera rewards system. Create a MyPanera account or log in using an existing one and use the app to easily keep track of rewards. You can also turn on push notifications to tell you when you have rewards expiring soon so you’ll never miss out on freebies.

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10 States Facing the Most Foreclosures Right Now

foreclosure

This summer there’s some good news. June foreclosure activity has dropped to its lowest level since November 2015. In June 2017, there were a total of 73,828 U.S. properties with a foreclosure filing, down 22% from a year ago and even more from previous years.

This is all according to ATTOM Data Solutions, curator of the nation’s largest multi-sourced property database, which released its Midyear 2017 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, showing a total of 428,400 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings. This includes default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions that occurred in the first six months of 2017. Data has been collected from more than 2,200 counties nationwide, with those counties accounting for more than 90% of the U.S. population.

Although the study is full of foreclosures, they’ve become fairly rare in the housing market.

“With a few local market exceptions, foreclosures have become the unicorns of the housing market: hard to find but highly sought after,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president with ATTOM Data Solutions.

As homeowners stay on top of their mortgages and housing payments, fewer foreclosures have been occurring. (If you’ve been faced with foreclosure, you’ll likely see the damage to your credit score. Not sure? You can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com).

Here are the ten states with the highest foreclosure rates as of June 2017.

10. New Mexico

June 2017 Foreclosure Rate: 1 in every 272 housing units

Change from January to June 2016: Down 10.57%

Change from January to June 2015: Up 1.77%

9. Ohio

June 2017 Foreclosure Rate: 1 in every 229 housing units

Change from January to June 2016: Down 18.49%

Change from January to June 2015: Down 24.33%

8. South Carolina

June 2017 Foreclosure Rate: 1 in every 221 housing units

Change from January to June 2016: Down 15.05%

Change from January to June 2015: Down 14.31%

7. Florida

June 2017 Foreclosure Rate: 1 in every 217 housing units

Change from January to June 2016: Down 33.60%

Change from January to June 2015: Down 56%

6. Nevada

June 2017 Foreclosure Rate: 1 in every 215 housing units

Change from January to June 2016: Down 30.59%

Change from January to June 2015: Down 40.45%

5. Connecticut

June 2017 Foreclosure Rate: 1 in every 200 housing units

Change from January to June 2016: Up 3.19%

Change from January to June 2015: Up 44.75%

4. Illinois

June 2017 Foreclosure Rate: 1 in every 183 housing units

Change from January to June 2016: Down 10.19%

Change from January to June 2015: Down 25.78%

3. Maryland

June 2017 Foreclosure Rate: 1 in every 161 housing units

Change from January to June 2016: Down 30.62%

Change from January to June 2015: Down 31.55%

2. Delaware

June 2017 Foreclosure Rate: 1 in every 137 housing units

Change from January to June 2016: Down 6.48%

Change from January to June 2015: Up 20.42%

1. New Jersey

June 2017 Foreclosure Rate: 1 in every 101 housing units

Change from January to June 2016: Up 1.8%

Change from January to June 2015: Up 8.53%

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12 Ways to Save on Pet Food

Pet food is a recurring cost that doesn't need to be an expensive one.

Most people will agree that pets are worth the cost, but a new member of the family doesn’t have to lead to a lot of debt. A lot of people treat their pets like children. Like kids, pets can be expensive. Feeding your pet is a necessary cost, so you might as well save on pet food when you can. These tips will help you save without compromising your favorite furry (or scaly or feathery) friend’s health.

1. Buy It Wholesale

Before investing in bulk food, first buy a smaller size to see if your pet enjoys it. Unlike picky kids, pets won’t eat their food when threatened with a time out.

2. Make It at Home

If you’ve got extra time, finding a few recipes can be a cost effective alternative to buying pet food. This also allows you to control what goes into your pet’s diet, which can potentially lead to a healthier pet — and fewer visits to the vet. Just be sure to do your research and avoid dangerous foods before becoming a chef for your pet.

3. Shop the Sales

While your favorite furry friend might only enjoy certain types of food, it doesn’t hurt to try more affordable alternatives. Keep an eye on weekly ads and savings at local grocery stores, wholesale stores and pet stores. You never know when your pet’s favorites could be on sale.

4. Properly Store Food

When not stored properly, food can go stale or be infiltrated by unwelcome bugs. Invest in storage that allows pet food bought in bulk to stay airtight and fresh without making a mess. Also remember to keep track of expiration dates when transferring food from its original packaging to large containers. Expired food can be dangerous for your pet.

5. Be Careful What You Feed Them

Before sliding leftovers under the table to Lucky, make sure it’s safe. Feeding your pet “people food” can be dangerous, which could mean having to buy medicine or specialty foods. A lot of foods you might think are safe for your pet might not be. It’s always best to check first.

6. Buy Specialty Food Only When Necessary

Don’t assume your pet requires a special type of food unless advised to do so by a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. Not only is this safer for your pet, but also it can help you save. Specialty foods can be pricey and may be a needless expense. If your pet does require specialty food, it’s probably best to invest in it — vet bills can be a lot pricier than food.

7. Follow Pet Food Brands on Social Media

You never know when they could share special discount codes or offers. Signing up for email lists for food brands and pet stores can also pay off. Most pet food brands and stores are on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

8. Measure Food & Track Servings 

It can be easy (and expensive) to overfeed your pets. At your next veterinarian visit, ask how much you should be feeding your pet. Serving size and proper portions are important for humans, so it’s no surprise they’re important for most pets. A food scale or measuring cup are both great tools when it comes to controlling portions and avoiding excessive feeding.

9. Name Brand Isn’t Always Best

Focus on the ingredients and nutritional value, not the name. Some foods are worth a little extra because of the nutritional value. Always check labels before choosing the cheaper option. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean more nutritious. If your pet has dietary concerns, check with your vet before switching to a different, more affordable brand.

10. Join Rewards Programs

Pet food is a recurring cost that comes with owning a pet, and being loyal to one brand or store can pay off. Joining membership programs at stores like Petco and PetSmart can help you earn rewards and special offers. There are also certain credit cards with great rewards for pet owners. Before applying for these cards, it’s smart to ensure you qualify. You can check two of your scores free on Credit.com.

11. Try Before Buying

No more buying a lot of food your pet ends up not wanting to eat. There are plenty of websites that offer pet food samples. Plus, reaching out to certain pet food companies and asking for samples can’t hurt. They’ll often be happy to introduce you to their products. This is an especially good tip for picky pets.

12. Pet Food Subscription Services

These aren’t necessarily cost effective for everyone, but if you love doing your shopping online and don’t want to worry about running out of food, this is a great option. Places like Amazon and PetSmart offer subscription services, allowing you to control the frequency of delivery and what’s being delivered. By subscribing versus ordering, you generally receive a discount and free shipping.

Looking for more ways to save on your pet? Check out these 15 ways to save at PetSmart.

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