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.

5 Credit Cards to Help You Throw Parties

Parties are even more fun when your credit card's earning you solid deals.

[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Enthusiastic hosts love to throw parties for friends and family. Whether you like to put on lavish dinner parties with elaborate menus or make chili nachos for your friends on game day, you might be spending a lot at the supermarket. Some credit cards offer cash back rewards on grocery purchases, helping you host epic get-togethers.

Here are five credit cards to help you throw your next great party.

1. Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

Rewards: 4% cash back on up to $7,000 in eligible gas purchases per year, 3% cash back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases, 2% cash back on Costco and Costco.com purchases and 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0 (you will need a paid Costco membership)
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% for seven months on purchases, then variable 16.24%; variable 16.24% on balance transfers
Why We Picked It: Costco members earn double cash back as they stock up on party supplies. For Your Party: For Costco members, this card earns 2% cash back on all Costco purchases, which can help you feed a small army. Some Costco locations even sell their own generic brands of beer, wine and liquor. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Drawbacks: You’ll have to be a Costco member to access this card.

2. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in annual supermarket purchases, 3% cash back at gas stations and select department stores and 1% cash back everywhere else
Signup Bonus: $150 statement credit when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year of Card Membership, then a $95 annual fee.
APR: Variable 13.99% to 24.99%
Why We Picked It: This card offers one of the best supermarket cash back rates available.
For Your Party: You’ll earn a whopping 6% cash back at supermarkets, which should prove extremely valuable for frequent party hosts.
Drawbacks: There is a $95 annual fee.

3. Premier Dining Rewards From Capital One

Rewards: 3% cash back on dining purchases, 2% cash back on groceries and 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: $100 bonus cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0
APR: Variable 15.49% – 24.49%
Why We Picked It: The card offers solid cash back rates on dining and groceries.
For Your Party: With 3% cash back on dining and 2% cash back on groceries, you’re covered whether you’re meeting a big group for dinner or hosting friends at home.
Drawbacks: If you don’t dine out a lot, you should keep looking.

4. BankAmericard Cash Rewards 

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on up to $2,500 in combined quarterly purchases, 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: $150 bonus cash back when you spend $500 in the first 90 days
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for 12 months, then variable 13.99% to 23.99%
Why We Picked It: You’ll earn double cash back on all grocery and wholesale club purchases.
For Your Party: With 2% cash back on all grocery store and wholesale club purchases, you’ll earn double cash on party supplies. Plus, Bank of America customers get an extra 10% cash back when they redeem their cash for a bank account deposit.
Drawbacks: The best cash back redemption value is reserved for Bank of America customers.

5. Citi Double Cash 

Rewards: 1% cash back on all purchases and an additional 1% upon payment
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for 15 months, then variable 14.49% to 24.49%
Why We Picked It: All purchases earn double cash back once you’ve paid them off.
For Your Party: There are no special incentives for groceries, but all purchases will earn 2% cash back by the time they’re paid off. That means you can earn double cash back on decorations, booze, groceries and everything else.
Drawbacks: There are no special cash back rates for groceries.

How to Choose a Credit Card for Party Expenses

If your primary purpose for a credit card is funding your parties, your choice is easy. You’ll want to choose a card that offers the strongest rewards wherever you get party supplies.

But if you also want a card for everyday spending, you may want to pick a cash back card that offers good rates at the other merchants you frequent. If your spending is truly scattershot, a card with a great flat cash back rate on all purchases might be the right choice.

Don’t forget to consider interest rates and fees. If you tend to carry a balance on your card, the ensuing interest will eat into your cash back earnings. Fees can have the same effect.

What Credit Is Required for a Card That Funds Parties?

Cards with great cash back rates generally require good to excellent credit. You should check your credit before you apply, as a hard inquiry resulting from a credit card application may slightly ding your credit score. You can check two of your credit scores free at Credit.com.

Image: svetikd

At publishing time, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi, Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, Premier Dining Rewards From Capital One. Citi Double Cash and Bank Americard Cash Rewards credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post 5 Credit Cards to Help You Throw Parties appeared first on Credit.com.

7 Kitchen Appliances That Can Save You Money

Spending a small amount of cash on a small kitchen appliance can help you save big bucks.

Buying kitchen appliances can be expensive and it can be hard to decide which ones are smart investments. A lot of it depends on your lifestyle. For some, a waffle maker might be a great investment because if you eat waffles on a daily basis. If your waffle habit is not as strong, a waffle maker won’t be worth it. Kitchen appliances can save you money, but only if you actually use them. If your lifestyle doesn’t necessitate the use of these appliances on a daily basis, they might just end up gathering dust.

There are plenty of ways to save money in the kitchen and investing in small appliances can lead to major future savings. Peruse the list and envision your daily life  — if you see these appliances as eventually paying for themselves and making your life easier, it might be a great money saver for you.

1. Single Serve Coffee Maker

A coffee maker adds major convenience to any morning, and it can also positively impact your wallet. If you don’t live with many people or are the only coffee drinker in the house, a single serve coffee maker can help you save major bucks. It can often be wasteful to make a huge pot of coffee for only one person — unless it’s a Monday, in which case, keep it coming.

Refillable single serve cups or pods can also be a bonus budget friendly option, allowing you to use your favorite ground coffee and save on disposable pods. Plus, they are multi-use, allowing you to use them to brew tea, hot cocoa or even soup.

You can also get cash back when you purchase coffee pods or K-Cups when using certain credit cards for coffee lovers. Before applying for any new credit, it’s best to make sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores free on Credit.com.

2. Rice Cooker

Perfectly cooking rice can be difficult and quick-cook rice pouches can be pricey. Uncooked bags of rice can be sold by the pound at an affordable price and using a rice cooker can be a huge money saver. Rice can also be a hassle to cook in a pan because you have to watch it carefully, so having a rice cooker frees up time for other tasks.

Though rice is a great pantry staple, rice cookers can be used for more than rice. Use it to cook quinoa, soups, porridge, cake and other meals. Plus, if your rice cooker has a steaming basket, it can be used to steam veggies. A quick internet search easily draws up plenty of results for rice cooker recipes.

3. Slow Cooker

If you dread cooking a meal after a long day of work and end up ordering out, a slow cooker can save you a lot of money. This saves money by cutting back on excuses when it comes to homemade meals. Add your ingredients to the cooker before going to work and come home to a tasty meal. Ordering food for dinner won’t be necessary if you’ve got it waiting for you. As you eat more home cooked meals and order out less, the savings can pile up.

The slow cooker can also be multipurpose. Use it to make cooking essentials, like chicken stock or vegetable broth. Slow cookers are also a way to turn cheaper cuts of meat into delicious meals. An inexpensive cut of pork can lead to tasty pulled pork.

4. Food Processor

For those who find their homes cluttered with blenders, graters and other appliances, this can also be a space saving option. One food processor can serve plenty of functions like pureeing, grinding, shredding, chopping and blending. It’s also great for making smoothies and milkshakes, no blender necessary.

A food processor can also be used to make affordable some pantry staples, like nut butters, hummus or pasta sauce. If you’re feeling bold, food processors can also be used to make laundry detergent.

5. Vacuum Sealer

This appliance is perfect for anyone with major freezer space who loves meal planning and keeping food fresh. If you’ve got plenty of freezer space, save major bucks by vacuum sealing everything from meats to peppers from your garden.

Freezer burn can lead to a lot of wasted food, and a vacuum sealer can prevent it. When there’s a great deal on chicken or fresh spices, buy in bulk and vacuum seal them to freeze for a later date. This appliance can also vacuum seal half-used refrigerated foods, like blocks of cheese, to extend their shelf life.

Keep in mind unless you’ve got freezer space or often buy or cook in bulk, this appliance may not be worth it.

6. Soda Maker

If you’re a big fan of flavored seltzer or sparkling water or soda, this can be a smart investment. Making your own version of soda and seltzer at home can lead to savings. If sparking water, soda and other carbonated beverages routinely eat up your grocery budget, this can be a great investment.

7. Toaster Oven

For quick tasks normally be done in an oven, toaster ovens are perfect. They take less time to preheat than ovens, making them a great money saving option for small meals or even side dishes. If you use your oven often, a toaster oven can be a wise investment.

Toaster ovens are also great for reviving leftovers. Plus, toaster ovens can be a substitute for toasters — a huge win for those who are trying to eliminate clutter or don’t want to buy more kitchen appliances.

Image: kupicoo

The post 7 Kitchen Appliances That Can Save You Money appeared first on Credit.com.

7 Kitchen Appliances That Can Save You Money

Spending a small amount of cash on a small kitchen appliance can help you save big bucks.

Buying kitchen appliances can be expensive and it can be hard to decide which ones are smart investments. A lot of it depends on your lifestyle. For some, a waffle maker might be a great investment because if you eat waffles on a daily basis. If your waffle habit is not as strong, a waffle maker won’t be worth it. Kitchen appliances can save you money, but only if you actually use them. If your lifestyle doesn’t necessitate the use of these appliances on a daily basis, they might just end up gathering dust.

There are plenty of ways to save money in the kitchen and investing in small appliances can lead to major future savings. Peruse the list and envision your daily life  — if you see these appliances as eventually paying for themselves and making your life easier, it might be a great money saver for you.

1. Single Serve Coffee Maker

A coffee maker adds major convenience to any morning, and it can also positively impact your wallet. If you don’t live with many people or are the only coffee drinker in the house, a single serve coffee maker can help you save major bucks. It can often be wasteful to make a huge pot of coffee for only one person — unless it’s a Monday, in which case, keep it coming.

Refillable single serve cups or pods can also be a bonus budget friendly option, allowing you to use your favorite ground coffee and save on disposable pods. Plus, they are multi-use, allowing you to use them to brew tea, hot cocoa or even soup.

You can also get cash back when you purchase coffee pods or K-Cups when using certain credit cards for coffee lovers. Before applying for any new credit, it’s best to make sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores free on Credit.com.

2. Rice Cooker

Perfectly cooking rice can be difficult and quick-cook rice pouches can be pricey. Uncooked bags of rice can be sold by the pound at an affordable price and using a rice cooker can be a huge money saver. Rice can also be a hassle to cook in a pan because you have to watch it carefully, so having a rice cooker frees up time for other tasks.

Though rice is a great pantry staple, rice cookers can be used for more than rice. Use it to cook quinoa, soups, porridge, cake and other meals. Plus, if your rice cooker has a steaming basket, it can be used to steam veggies. A quick internet search easily draws up plenty of results for rice cooker recipes.

3. Slow Cooker

If you dread cooking a meal after a long day of work and end up ordering out, a slow cooker can save you a lot of money. This saves money by cutting back on excuses when it comes to homemade meals. Add your ingredients to the cooker before going to work and come home to a tasty meal. Ordering food for dinner won’t be necessary if you’ve got it waiting for you. As you eat more home cooked meals and order out less, the savings can pile up.

The slow cooker can also be multipurpose. Use it to make cooking essentials, like chicken stock or vegetable broth. Slow cookers are also a way to turn cheaper cuts of meat into delicious meals. An inexpensive cut of pork can lead to tasty pulled pork.

4. Food Processor

For those who find their homes cluttered with blenders, graters and other appliances, this can also be a space saving option. One food processor can serve plenty of functions like pureeing, grinding, shredding, chopping and blending. It’s also great for making smoothies and milkshakes, no blender necessary.

A food processor can also be used to make affordable some pantry staples, like nut butters, hummus or pasta sauce. If you’re feeling bold, food processors can also be used to make laundry detergent.

5. Vacuum Sealer

This appliance is perfect for anyone with major freezer space who loves meal planning and keeping food fresh. If you’ve got plenty of freezer space, save major bucks by vacuum sealing everything from meats to peppers from your garden.

Freezer burn can lead to a lot of wasted food, and a vacuum sealer can prevent it. When there’s a great deal on chicken or fresh spices, buy in bulk and vacuum seal them to freeze for a later date. This appliance can also vacuum seal half-used refrigerated foods, like blocks of cheese, to extend their shelf life.

Keep in mind unless you’ve got freezer space or often buy or cook in bulk, this appliance may not be worth it.

6. Soda Maker

If you’re a big fan of flavored seltzer or sparkling water or soda, this can be a smart investment. Making your own version of soda and seltzer at home can lead to savings. If sparking water, soda and other carbonated beverages routinely eat up your grocery budget, this can be a great investment.

7. Toaster Oven

For quick tasks normally be done in an oven, toaster ovens are perfect. They take less time to preheat than ovens, making them a great money saving option for small meals or even side dishes. If you use your oven often, a toaster oven can be a wise investment.

Toaster ovens are also great for reviving leftovers. Plus, toaster ovens can be a substitute for toasters — a huge win for those who are trying to eliminate clutter or don’t want to buy more kitchen appliances.

Image: kupicoo

The post 7 Kitchen Appliances That Can Save You Money appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Save Money on Food When You Live Alone

No more wasting food or money! A few smart strategies can make meals for one affordable and simple.

If you’re cooking for one, you probably know the feeling of disappointment and frustration that comes with throwing away a lot of food before you’ve had the chance to finish it. You’ve probably also thrown items in your cart, knowing fully well that half of it will end up in the trash. Often food isn’t packaged in smaller portions and, when it is, the price might be too high. But have no fear. You can save money on food when you live alone.

1. Shop With a Friend or Family Member.

This works especially well in wholesale stores, because chances are you don’t have the space to store 20 cans of soup or a large box of granola bars. Shop with someone else to utilize savings that come with buying in bulk without hoarding excess food that will go to waste. Split the cost of items and then split the items themselves. This works well for multi-packs, large variety packs or non-perishable staples.

2. Meal Plan

This is one of the best ways to save money on food when you live alone. Having a meal plan helps ensure all the groceries you purchase are used. Center your meal plan around using items on sale at your grocery store and items that can be used in multiple recipes. For example, I’ll find two dinner recipes that require half of an onion each, ensuring the onion I purchase is totally used. Or, I’ll buy a package of chicken, divide it, freeze it and plan for three meals based around chicken for the week.

Making a meal plan can be simple, too — craft it while waiting for the bus or drinking your morning coffee. Having a meal plan and grocery shopping list to go with it will save you time at the grocery store. It also helps you save on groceries by preventing you from aimlessly and mindlessly spending.

3. Utilize Your Freezer

When it comes to food, cook what you want and freeze the rest. Wrap meats, chopped veggies and other foods in easy to thaw individual portions. If you can’t use something before it’s about to go bad, freeze it. When you cook, make several servings at a time and freeze what you don’t eat for future meals. Your freezer will quickly become your best friend.

4. Create a Budget

Setting a limit for spending on food each week can prevent overspending on groceries and food. Saving doesn’t always mean depriving yourself of all luxuries — adding a small budget for ordering in and eating out is also an option.

5. Learn From Past Purchases

After your next grocery shopping trip, stick your receipt on the fridge. Each time you finish something you bought, highlight it on the receipt. Before your next trip to the grocery store, check your list and reassess. Whatever ended up going in the trash, barely being touched or never being opened may not be worth repurchasing or should be bought in smaller quantities. This is a simple way to learn what’s a necessity and what’s a waste.

6. Host a Monthly Potluck

Don’t feel like halving or quartering another recipe? Have a potluck meal. This is a great way to try new foods and spend time with family and friends. Have each person bring a dish, side dish or dessert and enjoy a meal that doesn’t involve eating it leftover for lunch all week.

7. Revamp Leftovers

When trying to save, leftovers become a staple. Leftovers can easily be turned into sandwiches, quesadillas or even salad toppings. Toss the leftover grilled chicken from your salad with frozen veggies and teriyaki sauce for a last minute stir fry. Last night’s chicken parm? Make it into a sandwich. Leftovers don’t need to be boring or overly repetitive — all you need is creativity.

8. Double Check Deals

I learned this lesson in the cereal aisle, where I was grabbing two boxes of cereal when I only wanted one because the cereal was two for $4. “You know you can buy one and still get the sale price, right?” said older woman, who shared this wisdom as she threw one box in her cart and walked away. She was right. The originally $3 box of cereal was still $2, even when I only bought one.

Don’t let tempting deals that require buying multiple products to get the discount cajole you into buying more than you need. Many grocery stores honor the deal price if you purchase just one. Check your store’s policy or scan the item yourself to see if qualifies. If you’re buying more than you’ll actually use to save money, you’re not actually saving. If you do buy extras of a food to earn savings, freeze or figure out how to utilize the excess.

9. Buy Versatile Foods

Foods that can be used in many ways can prevent your meals from getting boring and repetitive, lowering the chances of ordering takeout. These foods can also be added to many recipes to make them more hearty and filling. An egg can be cooked in so many ways and used in so many dishes from fried rice to chocolate chip cookies. Some other affordable versatile options are pasta, poultry, rice, potatoes, and lentils.

10. Go Meatless

Meat is often one of the priciest parts of grocery shopping budgets. Plan for a few meatless meals per week. Pasta, quinoa and potatoes are some great focal points for meatless meals. (However, when you must use meat, utilize these butcher’s secrets for saving money on meat!)

11. Keep Track of Expiration Dates

This is the method I’ve found to be most effective when it comes to using groceries before they expire. Keep a dry erase board or notepad on your fridge with perishable items purchased that week (eggs, milk, cheese, sausage, etc.) and list them in order of which expires the soonest. Also track of when certain things are opened, like bags of shredded cheese, so you knew to use them as they could potentially expire sooner. Also list fresh fruits and veggies purchased that week as a reminder to use them before they rot.

This method adds incentive to cook certain meals before others and creates awareness of which foods are nearing their expiration date. This is also helpful for those of us who constantly ask ourselves, “What should I make for dinner?” When you you have an opened bag of shredded cheddar, half of a bell pepper and some chicken that’s set to expire tomorrow, you might be inspired to cook up some chicken fajitas. It’s almost like a game — can you use all of your groceries before they expire? The prize is getting the most bang for your buck and not wasting money on food.

12. Always Have Condiments & Spices

These have a long shelf life and can transform any dish. I always keep hot sauce, Dijon mustard, Teriyaki sauce, pasta sauce, soy sauce and pesto on hand for last-minute dishes.

13. Limit Ordering Takeout

This option is more tempting when you live alone. There’s no one to stop you from order pizza, sushi and Chinese at all hours. Learn what tempts you to order out. Do you tend to order out after a long day of work when you’re too tired to cook? Throw ingredients in your slow cooker in the morning so you have a meal waiting when you get home or store already made meals in your freezer. While not the healthiest option, keeping an emergency can of soup or frozen pizza on hand can be a quick fix that’s cheaper than ordering in.

If you do order food, try to maximize your savings. On websites like Seamless and Grubhub, check off “Coupons Available” or “Free Delivery” when searching for restaurants. You can also order for pick up versus paying a delivery fee and tip. You can save when you eat out at restaurants, too.

14. Buy Frozen or Canned 

While buying fresh is often the tastiest option, fresh fruits and vegetables expire quickly and can get expensive. If you’re looking to cut costs at the grocery store, opt for some frozen and canned foods. They have a long shelf life — no need to worry about them going bad before you can eat them.

15. Use Cash Back Credit Cards

If you typically charge your grocery store purchases, this is a great option. Many credit cards offer cash back on purchases, including the ones you make at the grocery store. To see if you qualify for these types of cards, you can check two free credit scores every month on Credit.com.

Image: boggy2

The post How to Save Money on Food When You Live Alone 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.

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

How to Get The Most Out of a Meal Plan in College

College meal plans can be pricey but the right moves can help make it more affordable.

It’s no question that college tuition is expensive, but the other costs of school are often overlooked. One of the biggest ones? A meal plan. In most colleges, meal plans are a mandatory cost, but don’t fret — there are many ways to get the most bang for your buck from your college meal plan. It just takes a little bit of research and some wise decisions.

Know Your Meal Plan

Knowing your college’s meal plan system is the first step. Different meal plans require different money-saving strategies. Generally, colleges have two types of meal plans: pay-per-swipe plans or pay-per-item point plans.

Pay-per-swipe plans require you to purchase a certain number of meal swipes for the semester or year. Each swipe gets you into the dining hall and allows you to eat as much or as little as you’d like for a flat rate (whatever the cost of the swipe was). For example, if the meal swipe cost $12 and you only eat an apple, you’re paying just as much as the student who ate four slices of pizza, ice cream and two tacos.

You can calculate the cost for each swipe by dividing your meal plan cost by the number of swipes you get. Some college websites list the cost of a swipe. Costs can vary based on time of day — generally, breakfast swipes are cheaper than dinner ones. These are best for students with a big appetite or who love to indulge in a variety foods. They aren’t as beneficial to those who are picky eaters or have small appetites.

Pay per item plans are similar to the concept of a secured credit card. You choose the amount you’d like to convert to points for your personal campus dining account. You can’t spend more than the amount you have on your account. These points are used to pay per item. For example, if you buy a sandwich and a drink, you’re charged the price for the sandwich and the drink. It’s not unlimited food and drink for a flat rate. You can generally add points to your meal plan. You can only spend what you put on your account. This is great tool for learning budget control.

Generally, colleges don’t let you choose which plan you use. They likely already have a system in place — it’s smart to ask about it during college tours. Even though you can’t choose the plan, you can control how much you spend.

1. Reduce Your Plan

In most colleges, meal plans can be reduced by switching your dining plan amount. Keep track of what you’re spending to see if it’s more financially savvy to have fewer swipes or less cash in your meal plan. Stay realistic — not having enough on your account might lead to more nights spent ordering take out, which can be bad for your budget.

2. Keep Track

Keep track of the swipes or points you’ve used and how many you have left. It’s probably easiest to do so on your phone because it’s almost always with you. This helps you budget your meals and avoid having a lot of leftover swipes and points that might expire at the end of the semester or year. Plus, most colleges have websites or apps that allow you to check how many swipes or meal points you have left.

3. Check Expiration Policies

At most colleges, your points or swipes expire at the end of each semester or year. Check your college website to review their specific policy. As the expiration date approaches, make an extra effort to use up whatever will not carry over. Some colleges even allow you to use these points to order food and drinks in bulk.

4. Mix Food Stations

If one station isn’t working for you, don’t waste money on something you don’t want. Try combining stations. A piece of chicken from the grill is a great topping to add to a simple salad from the salad bar.

5. Take Food to Go

While some schools frown on this, sometimes you’re on-the-go or just want a snack for later. Bringing plastic bags or small containers to the dining hall can be a great way to have leftovers.

6. Bring a Travel Mug

Instead of buying coffee or other drinks, bring mugs or travel cups with you to the dining hall and fill them up.

7. Check the Menu in Advance

Most colleges put their weekly dining hall menus online. If there is nothing in the dining hall worth paying for, opt for a different eatery on campus or cooking something in your dorm.

8. Have an Affordable Back-up Meal

This is wise for when you’re in the dining hall and your budget is tight. Some of my cheapest go-to backup meals were a toasted bagel or a simple salad. Chances are there’s at least one or two things that, while not your top choice, can still be a decent, budget-friendly meal.

9. Choose the Right Time

Like in the real world, college dining halls have a breakfast, lunch and dinner rush. The more you visit the dining hall, the more you’ll learn when these times are. This is typically right after evening classes, right before morning classes and around noon. If possible, visit the dining hall before peak times so you have more options to choose from.

Also, avoid arriving at the tail end of popular meal times. For example, my campus dining hall served “light fare” after lunch and before dinner, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., which meant there were limited dining options and it wasn’t worth the cost of a meal swipe.

10. Ask About Your Dietary Needs

Many schools offer options for those who are gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian. Get the most out of your meal plan by ensuring you can eat safely and comfortably with alternative options.

11. Plan Ahead

If you have limited swipes, plan carefully. It might be better to use a swipe for a filling dinner than for a light breakfast where you only want coffee and cereal, things you can buy and make in your dorm.

12. Check Local Restaurants

In some towns, some local restaurants and cafes accept meal swipes and dining plan points as a form of payment. This is especially convenient when you’re nearing the end of the semester and are seeking ways to use up your points before they expire.

13. Get Rid of the Plan

While this isn’t recommended for most freshmen with limited access to kitchens, if you end up in a living situation with a kitchen you may want to nix the meal plan altogether. Just be careful — if you cut the meal plan and end up never cooking in favor of ordering pizza every night, it can be easy to blow your entire budget very quickly.

14. Keep Food in Your Dorm

It can be cheaper to make your own trips to the grocery store for some foods, especially when on the pay-per-item plan. For example, if your go-to morning breakfast is a bowl of cereal, buying a box of it and a half gallon of milk to keep in your dorm can be the cheaper, more convenient option.

Or, if you find you’re not that hungry it’s good to have some crackers and microwavable meals to avoid wasting a costly meal swipe.

15. Charge Your Meal Plan on a Cash Back Card

If you’re going to be paying for it anyway, see if you can charge your meal plan cost to a rewards credit card. By doing so, you can earn cash back for an essential cost. Most good rewards cards require a decent credit score, so it’s wise to check yours before applying. You can check two credit scores for free with Credit.com.

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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%.

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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.

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