January Best Buys

Best Buys

Now that the Holidays are over, you might need a break from shopping. But, just in case you still have a touch of the shopping bug or you have to visit a store or two to return things any way, this month happens to be a strong month to save while you shop. Retailers bring in a lot of merchandise in anticipation of the holiday rush, and they will be anxious to clear space for spring merchandise if they have excess stock. While there will be sales on and off all month, the experts at deal site Slickdeals.net, found the majority of the deals peaking around mid-January during Martin Luther King weekend. Here’s what we know right now.

Men’s apparel

We expect the most robust sale category to be men’s apparel. Last year, more than 30% of the top deals at Slickdeals were in this category, from retailers like Nike, J. Crew Factory, Macy’s and Walmart.


Macy’s: 20% off holiday sale with code TWODAY. Valid 1/14-1/15

REI – holiday clearance up to 50% off  

Target – Extra 20% off Clearance Apparel

Jos A Bank: Clearance sale – suits $79, dress shirts for $15 – valid through 1/11

Men’s WearhouseSave $30 off orders over $100. Through 1/11

Bonobos Men’sSave up to 50% off final sale items. Through 1/14

Land’s End – Save up to 50% off during the Great Winter Sale. Through 1/31

Tax Software

If you’re ready to start thinking about tax time this early in the year, it could be to your advantage. There are typically an abundance of tax prep and tax software deals from retailers like Staples, Amazon and Costco.


TurboTax: Get TurboTax Deluxe for $39.99 (coupon is for $20 off TurboTax Deluxe – expires 1/31

Liberty Tax: Take an Extra 20% Off Every Liberty Tax Online Tax Filing Solution. Use Code: LTOCJ20

eSmartTax.com: 20% off Tax Solutions with code ESTCJ20.

H&R Block and United Way: United Way and H&R Block offer 2017 Federal and State Tax Return Filing for those with Adjusted Gross Income of $66,000 or less for Free

White Sales

Since the late 1800s, January has been the month of “white sales”, when all manner of linens go on sale. Many retailers participate, which means you can find bed and bath items slashed up to 60% off from stores like Kohl’s, Target, and Macy’s.


Macy’s: 25% off winter weekend sale with code STYLE 1/18-1/21

Bloomingdales: Save up to 50% off select home items in the January home sale. Ends 1/15

The Company Store: End of Season sale – save 20% with code X17SAVE through 1/9

Bed, Bath & Beyond: Get up to a $50 gift card with select Aerobed purchases. Through 1/12

Burlington: Save 50% off any order with code AJER587W. Through 1/10

West Elm: Save up to 20% off bedding collections. Through 1/11

Pottery Barn: Annual White Sale – 20% off bedding and towels

New Year, New You

It sounds cliché, but this is the time of year that we think about taking better care of ourselves. Last years’ resolutions may have fallen by the wayside throughout the year, and the snacks, drinks and sweets at all those holiday parties compounded the issue. It’s the perfect time to get back up on that horse!


My Protein: New Customers, 30% off. No expiration

Vitamin Shoppe: $8 off 5lb Optimum Gold Standard Whey

Sweaty Betty: Save 20% off your purchase. Expires 1/17

Yoga Download: Save 40% off your order. Expires 1/23

Gold’s Gym: Save 50% off select apparel. Through 2/24

Athleta: Save 20% off your next order with code L1B9B9BHBXTW. Through 1/11

What not to buy


Toys were hot during the holidays, but you probably won’t see many worthwhile toy deals this month. The good news is your little ones are probably set for a while with all of their holiday gifts.


Great deals on mattresses occur in February, when Presidents Day sales bring discounts. For instance, in 2017, Mattress Firm offered up to $500 off storewide. This year, Presidents Day is Feb. 19, so wait another month if you’re in the market for a new mattress.

If February is too soon for your budget, mattress deals will return in May, over Memorial Day weekend, and in September, over Labor Day weekend.

If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated each month.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.


Image: iStock

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Your Guide to Holiday Tipping

Girl uses tablet in kitchen with mum, other mum holding baby

The holiday season is here, and you’ve been in a shopping frenzy, checking recipient after recipient off your list. But wait, did you forget someone? What about all those people who do everything you don’t have the time—or the skill—to do throughout the year, like maintaining your garden or pushing you through an early-morning gym routine? Who do you tip from that army and how much is appropriate?

We’ve collected sage advice from etiquette and lifestyle experts so you’ll never be in doubt again.

Full-Time or Live-In Nanny, Regular Babysitter 

Tip: One week’s salary for each year of service

The person who cares for your children is indispensable. April Masini, a relationship and etiquette expert from RelationshipAdviceForum.com, stresses that these caretakers deserve a big tip. “If this is someone you would have a hard time replacing were [they] to quit, give [them] a reason not to with the tip,” she says. “Double it if you can, and if you can’t, include a thoughtful gift that can be a food basket, a basket of toys for his or her children, or a weekend hotel stay for [them] to get away from all kids—yours and [theirs]!!”

Personal Trainer

Tip: One to two times what you pay for a typical session

Personal trainers work hard to keep you motivated and in shape, so tipping them around the holidays is a nice gesture. Hank Coleman, publisher of finance site MoneyQ&A, says, “I try to budget for the equivalent to one or two times what a typical session costs as a holiday gift.”

Mail Carrier, Delivery Driver 

Tip: $20–$200, depending on the complexity of the job

For those who deliver your mail or packages, tip an amount that corresponds with the level of service they provide. Masini says, “If your delivery people go out of their way to get things to you—like call you if you’ve got a delivery when you’re not home or hide things so they don’t get stolen—give it back to them at the holidays.” Adding a personal note and a gift, like a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates, shows that you really care.

Hair Stylist, Barber, Manicurist, Masseuse, Facialist, etc.

Tip: A bigger tip than what you normally give of up to the price of one service 

If you have a go-to hair stylist or barber, they deserve something special around the holidays. You already tip them, so Richie Frieman, best-selling author of REPLY ALL…and Other Ways to Tank Your Career, recommends going beyond the usual tip. “Surprise them with a card and an extra big tip out of the blue, after your regular service,” he says. “Bring the card with you, and when you go to tip, hand the envelope to them and top that normal tip off with a ‘nice lump’ increase.”

Housekeeper, Lawn Care Servicer

Tip: Up to one week’s pay or a small gift

Lisa Richey, etiquette expert and corporate trainer from the American Academy of Etiquette and Manners To Go, recommends putting cash in a holiday greeting card with a brief note of appreciation for your housekeeper or lawn care servicer.

Home Nurse, Private Nurse

Tip: A thoughtful gift, but check first with their employer

There may be guidelines to follow here, so Richey suggests checking with the nurse’s employer. If gifts are allowed and you know a little bit about your caregiver, give something that pertains to their interests. “Nurses serve a very important role in our lives. Why not make the gift special and thoughtful?” she says.

Building Superintendent, Door Attendant, Handyperson

Tip: Gift card, gift basket, flowers

For these service providers, Frieman recommends nonmonetary gifts, like flowers, gift baskets, or gift cards. He says, “They spend the day welcoming others with a smiling face, and it’s only fair to put one on theirs.”

Trash or Recycling collector

Tip: $25–$100

You may rarely interact with the people who collect your garbage, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve special thanks this time of year. Masini says that if you can tip them in person, that’s best. “If not, leave a tip in a noticeably festive box or envelope and give cash,” she says. “Do you have to tip this person? No. Should you? You bet!”

Pet Groomer, Dog Walker

Tip: The equivalent of one service or one week’s pay

Like nannies and babysitters, people who take care of your furry family members should receive something special. Frieman prefers a gift card instead of cash, but he suggests that you make it something that will allow them to treat themselves—courtesy of you.

Use the guidelines above while you plan your holiday tips, and as you spread some extra holiday cheer, remember to think ahead and stay within your means to avoid holiday debt. But if you’re determined to give more than you have stashed away for the holidays, have a plan in place to easily manage any debt.

Image: istock

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25 Secret Santa Gift Ideas under $25

Christmas list

The much-loved Secret Santa game is an office favorite. But with a budget to follow, it can be tough to find the right gift at the right price—and you don’t want to give something no one wants. To help you out, we’ve found gifts under $25 that are on budget and on trend.

Public Supply 5 x 8 Notebook and Pencils ($24 combined at Public-Supply)

Minimal and beautiful, these notebooks and pencils are great for journaling or note-taking. All orders come with a tasteful canvas bag, so no need to wrap! The notebooks are available with lines or dots and come in a rainbow of colors, and there are a dozen pencils in a box.

Wicked Audio Fang In-Ear Headphones ($24.99 at Best Buy)

Who doesn’t need more earbuds? These colorful fang-style earbuds stay put comfortably, so they’re great for almost any activity—even running. They also have a mic for phone calls.

Kikkerland Slim Power Bank ($22.50 at Kikkerland)

If your recipient has a smartphone, they’ll love a mobile charger. The slim profile of Kikkerland’s charger occupies a hint of space in a purse or pocket, and the charger is available in white, blue, or black.

Mixit Scented Jar Candle ($20 at JCPenney)

This gorgeous, gently scented glass candle will be a stunning addition to any home or cubicle.

Savvy Travelers Red Carpet Ready Kit ($25 at Savvy Travelers)

This soft organizer holds a selection of twelve essential wipes packets for the person on the go. Wipes include breath freshening wipes, antibacterial wipes, and lens cleaning wipes.

Glamtastic Microsherpa Throw ($14.99 at CVS Stores)

This cozy throw is available in several colors and patterns at your local CVS. Your co-workers will never guess you only paid $15!

Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life: Because You Can’t Go Naked by George Brescia ($21.99 at Amazon)

This new book by style expert George Brescia teaches the reader how to dress their best in a way that has them feeling good both inside and out.

Southern Homewares Stainless Steel Stemless Wine Glasses, Set of 2 ($16.43 at Walmart)

These 18 oz. wine glasses are cool and contemporary, but they’re also sturdy and dishwasher safe. What’s more, they keep beverages ice cold far longer than glass.

Game Night In A Can  ($24.99 at Amazon)

This family-friendly party game ensures that every game is different, with 30 customized challenges that test skill, creativity, and teamwork. Players are challenged to do things like creating a new dance or designing a paper airplane.

Heineken Magnum ($8.95 at Walmart Stores)

A fun twist on a bottle of bubbly, this 1.5 L bottle of Heineken will be so popular, your recipient may want to pop it open right there and then.

Atari Plug & Play Joystick ($19.99 on Amazon)

Perfect for gaming lovers, this joystick offers access to 10 favorite old-school games, like Missile Command and Asteroids. Just plug it into a TV to play.

LED Christmas Sweater Ornaments ($19.99 at UglyChristmasSweater.com)

No need to invest in a sweater that only gets worn once a year—these fun lights will bedazzle any sweater! One pack includes eight lights in green, red, blue, and yellow.

Cynthia Rowley Stripe Lunch Bag, Multicolor ($21.49 at Staples)

This lunch tote is stylish and roomy enough to carry a proper lunch. Its neoprene exterior is sturdy and stain resistant and helps food maintain its temperature.

Who’s The Dude? by Identity Games ($24.99 at Target)

A hilarious twist on charades, this game requires players to demonstrate their action or phrase with the inflatable Dude. Players score points when their team members guess—within the time limit—what they are acting out.

Coby CSBT-328 Waterproof Portable Handheld Bluetooth Speaker ($19.99 at Walmart)

Bring this speaker to the beach, park, shower, wherever! It’s water-resistant and has a suction cup for sticking to walls and a carabineer for attaching to bags and backpacks. It pairs with any Bluetooth device and has a built-in mic for taking calls.

Good Day Chocolate Variety 4-Pack  ($12 at Good Day Chocolate)

Chocolates are almost always wonderful, but these chocolates offer a bit more than a traditional remedy for a sweet tooth. The four-pack gift set includes chocolates that lull you to sleep, calm you down, give you energy, and soothe your aching muscles.

Absorbits Wet Phone Rescue Pouch ($9.99 at Amazon)

This reusable pouch absorbs moisture from cell phones to prevent damage from a moisture mishap. Hopefully, it’ll never get used, but the recipient will be happy to have it just in case.

This Works Dream Team Set ($19.00 at Bluemercury)

Wrapped in an adorable package, this duo is the perfect gift for anyone who has trouble drifting off at night. The set contains a pillow spray and an aromatherapy roller ball with relaxing ingredients, like lavender, vetiver, and chamomile.

EcoSoulLife Biodegradable On The Go Lunchbox ($16.99 at Amazon)

This container, perfect for lunch or a snack, is made from rice husk fiber, which means it’s biodegradable. It’s also BPA-free, dishwasher safe, microwave safe, and freezer safe—and it comes with its own spork.

PhoneSoap Shine ($7.95 at PhoneSoap)

Phones get dirtier than you might think, and this two-in-one spray bottle and microfiber cloth is so well-designed that it’ll become a staple. The slim bottle fits easily into a desk drawer or bag, so it’s always on hand. And the bottle holds enough spray for 150 uses.

Scentbird Hand Creams ($16.50 at Scentbird)

These new, stylishly packaged hand creams are rich without being greasy and perfectly sized for the desk or glove compartment. There are six surprising fragrance combos, like pineapple and white amber (my favorite), Earl Grey and blackberry, and yuzu and ginger.

50 Strong Mistletoe Insulated Bottle ($9.99 at Be50Strong.com)

Double-walled and BPA-free, this bottle will keep drinks cool, and the size is perfect for desks, bike cages, or cars. Plus, the mistletoe pattern makes it festive!

Kafé in the Box by Precidio Design ($15.99 for 12oz. & $17.99 for 16oz. at DrinkintheBox.com)

A stylish receptacle for coffee or tea, these BPA-, BPS-, and phthalate-free

drink boxes are perfect for refills in the break room or taking on the road.

Max Brenner Yes To Max Chocolate Gift Set ($24.99 at SimplyChocolate)

Beautifully boxed and ready to gift, this set of yummy chocolates will be a crowd-pleaser. It contains caramelized pecans in hazelnut praline, chocolate cubes filled with peanut butter and roasted peanut bits, and pure milk chocolate thins.

Sharper Image Smartphone 360 Degree Virtual Reality Headset ($19.99 at Toys “R” Us)

Anyone with a smartphone can be transported to an alternate reality with these goggles. And you can access free content on the Google Cardboard app.

Use these suggestions to find the perfect Secret Santa gift, but be sure to keep the recipient’s interests in mind as you shop. And to make the most of any holiday shopping, consider getting a rewards card to help you save a little as you buy.

Image: istock

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30 Gifts for Kids of All Ages

Teaching your kids about credit is part of preparing them for adulthood. We break it down into five simple lessons.

No matter how well you know the kids on your list, they can be hard to buy for. After testing a dizzying number of toys, games, and gifts, we’ve selected 30 favorites divided by age. All are under $100 and the majority are under $50, so you can mind your budget and delight all the kids on your list at the same time.


Finn + Emma Wood Rattle ($19 at FinnandEmma.com)

For the babies on your list, these Indian hardwood rattles, which are available in lots of adorable designs, make a beautiful and functional gift. They are finished with natural vegetable seed wax and are safe and comforting to chew on.

VTech Pop-a-Balls Drop & Pop Ball Pit ($49.44 at Walmart)

Who doesn’t love a ball pit? Filled with 30 colorful plastic balls, this pit will keep babies occupied for hours, with features like a hoop and slides for the balls as well as an interactive panel with lights and sounds. It folds up when not in use.

National Geographic Hey, Baby!: A Collection of Pictures, Poems and Stories from Nature’s Nursery ($24.99 at Amazon)

Packed with photographs of adorable baby animals, rhymes, and stories, this lovely hardcover book will be a hit with adults and children alike.

HABA Zookeeper Sorting Box ($34.99 at HabaUSA.com)

This wooden box teaches kids about shapes and colors in a really fun way. There are colorful blocks, sliding panels, assorted openings, and cute animal pictures to keep kids busy.

PLAYMOBIL 1.2.3 My Take Along Farm ($39.99 at Target)

Just in time for holiday travels, this portable playset contains a folding barn that holds a farmer, animals, and several accessories that can help infants with shape sorting.

Moonlite Storybook Projector for Smartphones with 2 Story Reels ($24.99 at Target)

The Moonlite Storybook Projector is a wonderful way to end the day! This clever device projects images on the ceiling through the flashlight on your phone. The images and sound effects accompany a story you read in the app. When not in use, the projector slides into the bookshelf just like a book.

Tonka® 25-Piece Mighty Builders Hard Hat Bucket Play Set ($9.99 at Buy Buy Baby) With these 23 brightly colored blocks, budding builders can build any structure they can imagine, all while wearing the hard hat that also serves as the lid to this self-contained set.

ALEX Toys Artist Studio Desk to Go ($12.69 at Target)

If you know a kid who is on the go, this portable drawing surface is the ideal take-along. The desk will securely hold a drawing pad or activity book, and there are zippered pockets for crayons, markers, and other treasures.

AGES 4–7

Brackitz Bugz Play Park ($29.99 at Brackitz.com)
This 47-piece set allows kids to build over 20 guided structures, or they can design their own crazy adventures for the “Bugz”. The unique connecting system provides multi-directional flexibility for endless experimentation.

GeoSafari Jr. Talking Microscope by Educational Insights ($44.99 at EducationalInsights.com)

Teach kids about nature with 5x magnification of high-quality photos of animals, plants, and more with the voice of wildlife warrior Bindi Irwin—in four languages! This microscope makes learning fun!

The Learning Journey Puzzle Doubles – Find It! Dinosaurs ($14.99 at TLJI.com)

This two-in-one toy is loaded with play value. It’s a puzzle that, once assembled, becomes a game where kids learn to recognize objects and words within the image they’ve built.

Skullduggery Maxx Traxx Max Flex RC 200 ($39.99 at Skullduggery.com)

This light-up racing track comes with a remote control, a light-up vehicle, and 200 pieces of colorful, glow-in-the-dark track. Kids can create over eight feet of racing surface!

TCG Toys Jumbo Mega Play Mat ($17.98 and up at Toys “R” Us)

Available in a variety of licenses, like Peppa Pig, Disney Princess, and Thomas & Friends, these 5″ x 3½″ playmats are a fun-filled play surface that can be used both indoors and out. The colorful pictures and winding paths will spark kids’ imaginations!

Colorific Build-a-Bot ($39.99 at Colorific.com.au)

Kids can build their own cute robot with 20+ pieces plus stickers. They can build a Bunny, Dino, or Fox—or create their own!

Wonderbly My Golden Ticket ($29.99 at Wonderbly.com)

Kids can experience the delight of receiving their own golden ticket with this personalized book, created in partnership with Roald Dahl. No matter how well kids know this iconic story, they will be surprised by new and exciting elements. Please allow two weeks for standard delivery, but there are expedited options available.

AGES 8–12

KIDBOX ($98 for 6-7 items at Kidbox.com)

Kids who love fashion will be over the moon with a KIDBOX gift card! Once they fill out the gifting form and style profile on the KIDBOX website, they’ll receive an e-gift card and six to seven items in the mail with stickers and a personalized card. They choose what to keep. Plus, for every KIDBOX purchased, a new clothing item is donated to a child in need.

Redwood Ventures Smooshy Mushy Pets Bento Box ($14.94 at Walmart stores)

This cute container holds one of eight scented squishable pets, plus a mini container and other extras. Made of memory foam, these pets are immensely satisfying to squeeze and play with!

ThinkFun Roller Coaster Challenge ($29.99 at ThinkFun.com)

A great game for the aspiring engineers on your list, this award-winning building set comes with over 50 pieces—including two tunnels and a vehicle—and 40 different challenges to complete.

Stationery Studio Emoji Sticky Memo Cube ($29.95 at StationeryStudio.com)

Get a cute note pad just for them! This personalized 675-sheet memo cube is covered in emojis and the recipient’s name. There are several styles available, but you should allow seven to ten business for manufacturing and delivery.

Snow Tubes by Big Mouth ($24.99 at Amazon)

Imagine sledding on an inflatable unicorn, pizza slice, or yeti. Sledding has never been this fun! 

The Bridge Direct Centipede Mini Arcade Game ($17.99 at Toys “R” Us)

Kids can discover the classic video game Centipede in this version that’s an authentic miniature of the original. You can also get miniatures of other favorites, like Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Pac-Man.

Star Wars Science Jakku Scavenger Metal Detector by Uncle Milton ($29.99 at Amazon)

Curious kids can search for treasure with this Star Wars–themed light-up metal detector with authentic Star Wars sound effects. Kids can hide and search for metal objects in the included scavenger targets or scavenge for real buried treasure.

Billboard Wireless Karaoke Mic & Speaker ($17.99 at HarmonDiscount.com)

For the songbird on your list, this mic pairs with any Bluetooth device and becomes a speaker and voice amplifier for their favorite karaoke tunes. Karaoke songs can be found for free on YouTube, or for a more robust selection, sign up for Billboard’s music streaming service at billboardkaraoke.com.

AGES 13–18

CliqueFie Max ($49.99 at CliqueFie.com)

This is not just another selfie stick. The legs stored in the base allow the CliqueFie Max to function like a proper tripod, which is great for longer-distance photos and videos with the Bluetooth connected remote. This clever gadget is an indispensable tool for teen users of Instagram, Snapchat, Musical.ly, and other social platforms.

Motorola Pulse Escape Over-Ear Headphones ($43.01 at Amazon)

These stylish, affordable folding headphones can be used with or without a cord and have many features, including great sound, noise isolation, built-in mic, touch controls on the ear cups, and up to 10 hours of wireless play time. And it’s available in three colors.

Ballpark Blueprints Ltd. Hooded Sweatshirt ($42 at BallparkBlueprints.com)

A unique gift for any sports fan, these soft, pill-resistant hoodies feature an architectural drawing of a favorite stadium or arena. The hoodies are available in navy, black, and dark gray heather, with accents of team colors. Plus they come in a range of unisex sizes—from S to 5XL.

Discovery Kids Glowing Bubble Light ($19.99 at Michael’s)

This kit includes seven fascinating lessons in density and polarity—and the result is a DIY lava lamp for their room!

All Things Equal Awkward Family Photos Movie Line Caption Game ($19.95 at Amazon)

A hilarious way to spend an evening with friends or family, this easy-to-play game challenges players to pair the best memorable movie quote with over 150 hilarious family photos.

Basic Outfitters Gift-the-Drawer ($60 at BasicOutfitters.com)

Most teens burn through their clothes like water, so this gift card for basic necessities will sort them out for a while. With this card, they can choose new tee shirts, lounge pants, socks, and underwear, all available in various colors and patterns to suit their taste.

Crosley Cruiser Deluxe Portable Turntable ($89.95 at CrosleyRadio.com)

Vinyl is back in style! This portable suitcase-style turntable not only plays records but also streams music as well. They’re available in several colors and patterns, including chalkboard, turquoise, and tweed.

Also, if you’re looking for a good credit rewards card to take advantage of holiday deals, we’re got you covered. Before you apply, be sure to check your credit for free at Credit.com.

Image: Liderina

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14 Hacks for Shopping on Amazon


Odds are good that you’re already giving Amazon a lot of money. You’re not alone—the appeal of shopping for everything from cat food to cameras without leaving your couch is too strong. You don’t have to stop shopping on Amazon anytime soon, but there are plenty of things you can do to make your money go a little further. These simple shopping hacks can save you money and time.

1. Sign Up for Amazon Prime

If you use Amazon regularly, the cost of your annual membership will be quickly covered by how much you save with free shipping on almost everything you buy.

But a Prime membership doesn’t just save you money on shipping. It comes with all sorts of other benefits—many of the other tips in this post are advantages of having a Prime membership.

Normally, Prime memberships run about $100 a year. But if you’re a student, you can get a membership for half that.

2. Try Amazon’s Subscribe and Save

There are some things you have to buy every few weeks or months. Why spend extra on something as boring as paper towels? Instead, try Amazon’s subscribe and save option. You get automatic deliveries of the things you always need, and you pay less than you would if you made a one-time purchase.

3. Check for Daily Deals

You can save a lot of money on items in the “Today’s Deals” section of Amazon’s site. Check it before you buy something. There’s a chance you’ll find what you want at a steep discount.

4. Look into Prime Pantry

Sometimes shopping is fun, and sometimes you’re just buying stuff you need around the house. Prime Pantry makes shopping for things like beauty products, cleaning supplies, and pet care items a little easier. Goods that would normally be too expensive to ship alone can be grouped together in one shipment. The shipping rate is a flat $5.99 no matter how much you buy (as long as it fits in the box—boxes can hold up to 45 pounds). Plus, there are weekly deals, exclusive coupons, and significant discounts for lots of Prime Pantry products.

5. Choose Free No-Rush Shipping

If you’ve got a Prime membership, you get free two-day shipping on almost everything. But if you aren’t in a hurry, you can actually save money by being a little patient. When you choose free no-rush shipping, you can get account credits for certain kinds of items. Amazon offers credits for things like digital movies, Kindle e-books, music downloads, and Prime Pantry products.

6. Clip Some Amazon Coupons

Clipping coupons doesn’t have to be tedious. In fact, with Amazon, you don’t even have to leave the site. Visit the coupon page, and then click to “clip” the coupons you want and add those items to your cart. The discounts will be automatically applied when you check out.

7. Watch Deal Tracker Websites

Amazon prices change often. Sites like camelcamelcamel.com track the history of prices on Amazon. This makes it easier to see which purchases are bargains and which are not. You might find that the product you want is usually cheaper, or you might realize that the current price is a great deal. Either way, you’re making a more informed decision when you buy.

8. Check Your Prime Perks Before You Buy Content

A Prime membership comes with access to lots of content. For example, you can watch tons of popular movies and TV shows without paying anything extra. Next time you think about buying a new movie, check the Prime catalog first—you might find it there.

9. Look for Certified Refurbished Products

If you don’t have your heart set on getting something brand new, check out Amazon’s certified refurbished section. You can get tablets, cameras, and other cool tech at discounted prices.

10. Take Advantage of Free Content

Amazon might be a shopping site, but there are actually a lot of free products. This is particularly true if you like reading the classics. There are plenty of Kindle e-books that you can add to your library for free. Boost your literary cred while saving money!

11. Check the Amazon Outlet

Amazon Outlet may not have the most in-demand items, but you can get huge discounts on cool stuff that has been marked down or overstocked.

12. Browse the Amazon Warehouse

You can also get great deals through the Amazon Warehouse. If you’re okay with something that has been opened or gently used, you can save money on everything from TVs to vacuum cleaners.

13. Consider the Amazon.com Store Card

The Amazon.com Store Card helps you spread the cost of big-ticket items out over time. You can get 6-, 12-, or 24-month financing offers with a card that doesn’t have an annual fee. If you pay off your item in full within the designated time period, you won’t have to pay interest on your purchase. If you choose this option, be sure to pay the card off in time—if you don’t, you’ll be charged interest from the initial purchase date. Cardholders also get 5% back on Amazon.com purchases. As long as you use your card responsibly, you can ease the burden of large purchases and get money back.

14. Try the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card

If you’re interested in a credit card that you can use for more than Amazon purchases, the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card might be right for you. You get a $50 Amazon gift card upon credit approval; 3% back on Amazon.com purchases; 2% back on restaurant, gas station, and drugstore purchases; and 1% back on every other purchase.

However, be sure to check the credit requirements of the card before you apply. Credit card applications can ding your credit, so you want to be sure you’ll qualify. Take a look at your credit report card for free through Credit.com.

Save a little cash with these Amazon shopping tips so you can get what you want and need without going over your budget. And for general finance advice, check out Credit.com’s Personal Finance Learning Center.

Image: Squaredpixels

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10 Things You Need to Know before Buying a Car


Buying a new or used car can be an intimidating experience. Many car salespeople may pressure you to leave the lot with a purchased vehicle, so it’s crucial you’re armed with information about the cars you are interested in, the budget you can afford, and the value of your trade-in—if you have one. With these details, you have all the tools you need to negotiate properly.

Here are 10 tips and strategies for making sure you get the best-quality vehicle at the lowest price.

1. Think about Financing

Prior to visiting any dealership, have a sense of what kind of deposit you can put down and what monthly payment you can afford. It also helps to do some research on available auto loans to get a sense of what you qualify for. Or try a service like AutoGravity, which allows you to select rates and terms that fit your budget and then obtain offers from lenders.

2. Check Your Credit Score

Knowing your credit score can be helpful as well. Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer for BeenVerified, says, “Having a good idea of your credit report and credit score and the interest rates available can help you negotiate a good deal and save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.”

3. Shop Around

Research the cars you might be interested in before you head to a dealership, rather than going in unprepared. To determine what kind of car you want, use resources like US News Best Cars, where you can search anything from “best cars for families” to “best used cars under 10k.” Another resource is Autotrader, which can be used to search new and used cars in your area by make, model, price, body style, and more.

4. Compare Prices

Lavelle also stresses getting detailed pricing info in advance: “Price the car at different dealerships and use online services to get invoice and deal pricing.” A reliable tool is Kelley Blue Book. Use the site’s car value tool to find out the MSRP and the dealer invoice of a car as well as a range of prices you can expect to see at dealerships. TrueCar is also helpful to use. You can search for and request pricing on any make, model, or year of car. You may get a slew of phone calls, emails, and texts from dealers immediately after, but having information from different dealerships can help you negotiate prices. You should also visit dealer sites to look for rebate offers.

5. Research Your Trade-In’s Value

If you have a trade-in, don’t wait for the salesperson to tell you what it’s worth. On Kelley Blue Book, you can get a sense of the value ahead of time so you know if you’re receiving a good offer. Or try the Kelley Blue Book Instant Cash Offer feature, where dealers will give you a guaranteed price for a trade, eliminating complicated haggling at the dealership. 

6. Test Drive Potential Purchases

You may want to pass on the test drive if you’re familiar with a particular make and model, but Lavelle recommends taking the time to do it anyway. “It is a good idea to inspect the car and give it a good test drive just to make sure all is working and there are no noticeable squeaks, rattles, or shimmies that could cause you headaches after your purchase,” he says.

7. Look at Car Histories

Before selecting dealerships to visit, search for consumer reviews so you can avoid having a bad experience. However, Lavelle warns that just because a car sits on a reputable, well-reviewed lot does not necessarily mean that the car is issue-free. So he recommends digging deeper, especially for used cars. “Services like CARFAX represent that they can tell you about the car’s life from first purchase forward, so that might be a good place to start,” he says. He also recommends checking the title, which you can do online via the DMV.

8. Find Repair Records

In addition to checking the repair history on the specific car you are interested in, Autotrader suggests looking up the repair record of the make and model. “Check J.D. Power and Consumer Reports reliability ratings to see if the vehicle you’re considering is known to be a reliable one,” the site states. It also recommend Internet forums and word of mouth.

9. Spring for an Inspection

Autotrader also suggests telling the seller you require an inspection from a mechanic before purchase to ensure there aren’t any problems. “While a mechanic may charge $100 or more for such an inspection, it can be worth it if it saves you from thousands of dollars in potential repairs,” it recommends. Some sellers may try to dismiss a mechanic’s inspection. Don’t give in—the seller could be covering up a serious issue with the car. Insist an inspection is done, or rethink your purchase.

10. Know Your Rights

For any new or used car, take the time to get familiar with the warranty package and return policies. Do you need to supplement the warranty? Is there a lemon law in your state? Currently, there are only six states that have one, so be sure to check.

Shopping for a car can be frightening, but with the right research and preparation, you won’t have any regrets. Use the tips and resources above, and snag a free credit report from Credit.com so you know what kind of financing you can expect.

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10 DIY Home Renovations for the Thrifty Homeowner


Whether you’re preparing to sell your home or staying put and craving a refresh, you may be concerned about how renovations can impact your budget. If you’re willing to put in some time and get a little dirty, these DIY projects will help you update your home without taking out a second mortgage.

1. Clean Your Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding can keep your house looking new for years, but it can start to look dingy after a while. Home renovation pros Vicki and Steph Kubiak, from Mother Daughter Projects, say that despite what you may think, you don’t need to hire a pro or rent a power washer to clean your home’s exterior.

“Sometimes the solution to a problem is the simplest and least expensive,” they say. “Cleaning vinyl house siding can be accomplished with nothing more than a long-handled scrub brush, good-quality cleaner, a garden hose, and a little elbow grease.” They recommend this handwashing approach over using a power washer, which can damage the siding.

2. Repaint the Front Door and Update Exterior Accents

Whether your exterior has siding, paint, shingles, or stone, updating your front door can boost the curb appeal of your home. Marty Basher, home design expert for Modular Closets, suggests that you “choose a bold accent color that works well with the rest of the exterior, but also stands out from it, to give the door a bit of a spotlight.” For an even easier project, “change out your house numbers and possibly your mailbox,” he says, “and voila, you have a whole new look and feel when you’re entering your house.”

3. Apply Removable Wallpaper

Updated walls can easily improve your space, but the very word “wallpaper” might make you cringe, especially if you’ve attempted installing wallpaper yourself in the past. Elizabeth Rees, the founder of removable wallpaper company Chasing, states, “Removable wallpaper is a stylish and affordable way to update your space with minimal investment. Moreover, it’s a really easy way to add color or pattern to your space with little commitment.”

Rees also recommends sprucing up the front of your stair steps with removable wallpaper. Just cut strips to size and apply, and your stairs will look good as new.

4. Paint Your Walls

If you prefer a painted surface to wallpaper, you may be surprised by how easy it is to paint a room yourself. The caveat is that you do have to take your time for quality results, especially with project setup. Skip Bedell, home improvement expert from Home Depot, says that preparation is everything and will make the job and cleanup much easier.

“I love CoverGrip drop cloths because they are reusable,” he says. “They also have PVC dots on the back, so they don’t slip or slide as you are painting.” If you don’t feel like doing the whole primer and paint approach, try an all-in-one paint to drastically reduce your paint time.

5. Refresh Your Cabinets

Old-looking cabinets can make for a dreary kitchen. Rather than replacing them, Anthony Navarro, author and co-creator of the online talk show The Wedding Planners, recommends painting them and switching out the hardware for a dramatic update. “If you are not adventurous enough to paint your cabinets, consider changing out one cabinet door in the kitchen to glass, so you can highlight your entertaining glassware, serving pieces, and china,” he recommends.

6. Apply a New Backsplash

A fresh backsplash can give the impression of a much bigger renovation, and the Kubiaks suggest peel-and-stick tile, rather than the real thing. “A new kitchen backsplash is surprisingly affordable and DIY-able for homeowners,” they say. “Peel-and-stick tile makes it a DIY project that can be completed without complicated or expensive tools. These tiles can be cut to size with ordinary tin snips and stick to the wall without added adhesives.”

7. Rejuvenate Your Bathroom

If you’re not in a position to pay for a bathroom renovation, Jamie Gold, a kitchen designer and the author of the New Bathroom Idea Book, suggests upgrading hardware and fixtures, but keeping it easy. “When replacing cabinet pulls, choose new ones that can fit into the same holes so you don’t have to patch old ones,” she says.

Gold also suggests replacing your shower door and fixtures to update the room: “For hundreds of dollars, instead of thousands, you can replace a shower door with a modern frosted style that will hide a builder basic interior, replace a basic showerhead with a handheld model offering massage settings, install a designer-friendly grab bar that doesn’t need to be blocked, or add handsome storage shelves if there’s no niche.”

8. Hang Wall Art

You can change the look of a room by simply hanging artwork. Judy and Jess, the mother-daughter duo behind interior design studio Verandah House, say, “Before you place holes in the walls, measure your wall and mark out the same space on the floor. Lay out your artwork on the floor.”

Alternatively, they suggest cutting out cardboard to the size of the artwork and temporarily affixing them to the wall with a removable adhesive. If you don’t have framed pieces on hand, Judy and Jess suggest heading to flea markets, antique stores, and secondhand shops for vintage artwork.

9. Put Up Window Coverings

New window treatments can dramatically enhance a room without requiring a ton of effort. You can find reasonably priced and easy-to-install shades, curtains, and rods at stores like Target and Home Goods. Basher suggests IKEA’s no-sew curtains that are easy to trim and finish to size.

10. Update Old Floors

Worn out, old floors can set the tone for an entire room, but re-sanding and finishing your floors could be beyond your capabilities. Basher has a fix: “Whether you have old carpet or beat up hardwood floors, a little measuring and a few hours of work over a weekend can spruce up your floors and change the complete look of a room. A couple coats of durable floor paint or peel-and-stick tiles from your local home store can go a long way.”

Fixing up your home doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult—just consider these suggestions for your next home improvement project. If you do decide to take your renovations a step further and need a loan, look up your credit score to get an idea of what you’ll qualify for. Get a free credit report at Credit.com and see where you stand.

Image: istock 

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What to Buy in October

Save Money with Good Grades

Ah, October. The kids are finally getting settled into their school routines and weekends are devoted to leaf peeping and apple picking. If your busy schedule allows time for some shopping, October is also a great time to replace those ratty gym shoes, book your holiday travel, refresh your cookware in advance of all those holiday parties you’ll be throwing, and, of course, purchase Halloween costumes for the family.

According to the deal experts at Slickdeals.net, here are the four categories you should focus on—plus a few known deals to help you get the most for your money.

1. Footwear

If you’ve worn your sneakers into the ground, or if someone on your holiday list is in need of a pair, now is the time to start looking. According to Slickdeals.net, retailers like Puma, Macy’s, Nike, and Adidas had footwear for 30% off in 2016, on average.

Current Deals:

Kohl’s: 20% off select items already on sale with code WHATADEAL from 10/2 to 10/4.

Under Armour: 10% off for students, military personnel, and first responders through 12/31.

FitFlop: 20% off men’s styles plus free shipping through 10/4.

Superga: 5%-75% off select styles through 10/5.

Skechers: Free socks with orders over $50 and free shipping if you join at Skechers through 10/5.

Adidas: Up to 50% off apparel and footwear.

Puma: Up to 50% off women’s sale items, plus free shipping. 

2. Travel

If you’re contemplating a trip home for the holidays, start looking at prices now. Last year saw sales on travel from Southwest ($44 one-way), WOW Air ($99 one-way to Iceland and $99 one-way to Europe), and JetBlue (30% off). Royal Caribbean also offered buy two, get two free deals for select cruises in November and December. 

Current Deals:

Avis: Up to 25% off car rentals with promo code S951601, and a free car upgrade with promo code UUGA037.

Expedia: 10% off select hotels when you join Expedia+, plus up to 40% off select trips through 1/31/2019.

Hertz: 15% off car rentals through 10/31.

Travelocity: Sliding scale discount based on spend, starting at $10 off $100 through 10/2.

Orbitz: 15% off select hotels through 10/1.

AccorHotels: 30% off and a free breakfast for bookings made on AccorHotels.com for bookings 10/16 through 10/20.

3. Cookware and Small Appliances

Whether you’re gearing up for your annual holiday hosting or your cookware is looking worn, you’ll find solid deals this month. Last year, Slickdeals saw deep discounts on brands like OXO, Lodge, Crock-Pot, and Pyrex and deals from retailers like Target and Bloomingdale’s.

Current Deals:

Bloomingdale’s: 20% off almost all small electrics, gadgets, and cookware at Bloomingdales.com during the Friends & Family Sale through 10/9. Look for promo code FRIENDS as you shop online.

Best Buy: 20% off select small appliances with promo code SAVEONSMALLSNOW.

BJ’s: $20 to $30 off select appliances (including FoodSaver, Keurig, and Farberware) at BJ’s and BJs.com through 10/18.

Kohl’s:  $10 off your home purchase of $50 or more with code HOME10 from 10/12 to 10/22.

Sur La Table: 20% off clearance items with promo code EXTRA20.

Home Depot: Sliding scale discounts starting at 15% off $75 or more with promo code BUYMOREDECOR; up to 20% off seasonal essentials like slow cookersrice cookerspopcorn makers, and specialty cookware through 10/20.

4. Halloween Costumes

With Halloween around the corner, now is a good time to grab this year’s costumes. The longer you can wait before the big day, however, the lower the prices will be at stores like Buy Costumes and Kohl’s—but the pickings will get slimmer the closer you get to Halloween. If you like to think ahead, shop the clearance sales in early November to get your costume for next year.

Current Deals:

Halloween Express: 20% off by providing your email.

Spirit Halloween: $5 off $30 purchases, $10 off $50, and $25 off $100 with code LEAVES15 through 10/6.

Halloween Mall: 25% off select costumes and accessories through 10/7.

Halloween City: $10 to $24 off select costumes through 11/5.

Kmart: 10% off posable spiders with code KBOO.

What Not to Buy in October

iPhone 8

If you’re an “Apple person,” you’re probably eager to get your hands on the iPhone 8, but you should wait to buy if you’re looking for savings: Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer better chances to get a deal. With the iPhone X coming out in November, that could mean even more favorable pricing on the 8 next month.


Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best days to buy electronics, so if you can hold off on purchasing laptops, TVs, smart watches, tablets, and Amazon devices, you should.

Smart shopping means smart saving. Visit our Personal Finance Learning Center to learn more strategies for taking control of your finances and saving for the future.

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10 Essential Financial Life Lessons—What to Teach Your Kids Before They Leave Home

If the thought of hours in the car with your kids doesn't thrill you, here are some tips that can make your summer road trip downright enjoyable.

The moment you have dreaded has finally arrived. Your baby is leaving the nest. Some of the most valuable lessons you can impart should be shared right now, before they head out into the world.

In case you need help picking some wisdom to pass on, we’ve asked top money managers and financial pros to weigh in with their favorite lessons you should share with your child. You might learn a little something, too!

Lesson #1: Understand Debt

It’s important to understand what student loans and other debts will really cost, both today and in the long run. Catey Hill, author of the upcoming book “The 30-Minute Money Plan for Moms: How to Maximize Your Family Budget in Minimal Time,” suggests using real examples with dollar amounts to demonstrate. She says, “Bankrate has a calculator that shows what paying the minimum looks like. Use the cost of anything that might be relatable to your teen, then plug those numbers into Bankrate’s calculator to show how expensive an item can get when you pay just the minimum.”

Lesson #2: Know What You Expect to Earn Before You Borrow

When weighing whether or not to take out a loan to pay for school, College Ave Student Loans CEO and cofounder Joe DePaulo suggests that you think about the type of career you see in your future. “It’s okay if you’re not exactly sure what you want to do yet, but having an idea of your future earning potential will help you avoid over-borrowing now,” he says. “It’s a general rule of thumb not to borrow more for school than you expect to make in the first year of your professional career.”

Lesson #3:  Save, Save, and Save Some More

Save what you can, and make saving a habit by revisiting your spending and savings goals each month. David Osborn, entrepreneur and coauthor of “Wealth Can’t Wait,” says that by simply mastering the art of saving and investing, you could end up with a fortune. If you don’t understand money instinctively, Osborn suggests making it a priority to learn about wealth by reading or listening to roughly four books per year about investing. “Learning consistently leads to greatness over time,” he says. “Think of your extra dollars as employees, and if you put them to work for you, they will one day pay you all you need to live and more.”

Lesson #4: Set It and Forget It

Automating saving can lead to successful saving. Chad Parks, CEO of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings, suggests using a digital platform that saves for you so you don’t have to think about it. “One of my favorites is Digit.co, which analyzes your bank account and spending patterns,” he says. “The software looks at your daily checking account balance, learns your spending habits, and automatically moves small funds to your Digit account to increase savings. The amounts vary depending on your checking balance and spending habits for that day/week/month.”

Lesson #5: Learn How to Cut Back

If at any point you realize that finances are tighter than expected, conduct an assessment and see where adjustments can be made. Jared Kaplan, CEO of OppLoans.com, recommends that you “create a chart and total your income and expenses and compare them. If you spent more than you made, that’s a clear red flag.” Once you understand the inflow and outflow, you can figure out where to cut by separating wants from needs.

Lesson #6: Plan for the Unexpected

At school and beyond, be prepared for things to cost more than you planned. DePaulo recommends looking for ways to manage your spending to keep costs down.  “Borrow instead of buying school textbooks, maximize your pre-paid dining plan instead of eating off campus, and plan for one extra trip home each semester,” he says. “Finally, get advice from current college students to find out how much they are spending on extracurricular activities, school supplies, going out with friends, and more so you can create a realistic budget.”

Lesson #7: Make Your Bank Work for You

Today’s banks do a lot more than they did “back in our day.” Parks recommends the online bank Simple. “Simple has single-handedly changed my spending behavior and offers two savings features—Goals and Safe-to-Spend,” he said. “Goals allow me to save for anything, from my upcoming trip to Maui to my student loan payment, by auto-transferring money each day to the Goals. My money is still in my checking account (Simple does not make you open a traditional savings account), but when I look at my account, I just see a Safe-to-Spend balance, which excludes funds in my Goals.”

Lesson #8: Work Hard

Some young people struggle with lack of motivation and it’s our job as parents to help them understand the reality of working hard, especially when they have debt. Hill says, “Know the value of hard work—of picking up a job (or a second job) if you have to. Many of us will have debt at some point in our lives—and extra income can be one of the best ways to pay it down quicker.”

Lesson #9: Find a Side Hustle

Students have busy schedules, so a traditional job can be tricky. Thanks to today’s “gig economy,” though, there are lots of ways to earn money. Osborn says, “By going out and cutting grass, driving Uber, or even selling old textbooks online, you can create an additional stream of income. The more money you make, the more money you save, the more money you can invest!”

Lesson #10: To Ivy or Not to Ivy

Even if your child is accepted into a top school, it doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for their career path. Margot Bisnow, author of “Raising an Entrepreneur” suggests measuring the expense of school against the likely income generated by the career they intend to pursue. “Will going to Dartmouth help them earn more money as a songwriter ten years down the road? Probably not,” she says. “So set aside your ego and their ego, and ask yourselves the tough question: can we justify spending all this money on an elite private school? What’s the ROI, besides bragging rights?”

Learning financial literacy can be tough, but it’s a necessary life lesson for your children. Send them off with the best chances at success by helping them understand how to budget, how to save, and how to check their credit score (they can check it for free on credit.com) and keep their finances secure.

Image: Imgorthand

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11 Hacks for Finding an Affordable College Apartment

College is expensive and so are apartments. Finding a college apartment that fits into your budget is possible with a few simple tricks.

Your kid doesn’t want to stay in the dorms, so now what? In today’s real estate market, finding a place to live can cost a fortune. From negotiating tactics to gaining a leg up over the competition, real estate experts share 11 ways to save on your kids’ new pad.

How to Get Started

Where is the best place to look for off-campus housing? Sean Conlon, Real Estate mogul and host of CNBC’s The Deed: Chicago, recommends checking with your campus housing office first. “They will have information for nearby landlords that are looking for college students to rent out their units,” he said. He also said that most schools will display postings for apartments for rent and recommendations from past students on the best places to live in the campus housing office.

Use websites to conduct additional research. Paul Morris, realtor and co-author of Wealth Can’t Wait recommends sites like Zillow, Craigslist and Padmapper (a search engine that uses Craigslist data) in addition to local Facebook groups and popular local sites. He said, “It is critical to use the ‘alerts’ function for each of these online resources because most often they provide a text or email whenever there is a new post meeting your criteria.” He added that some of the local sites are private but will usually grant access if you request it.

Location, Location, Location

When determining where to look, Xavier Izquierdo, a real estate investor in the Los Angeles area suggests familiarizing yourself with the market rental rates in specific pockets close the campus, as even a three to four block difference can save you a few hundred dollars per month. He said, “Look at proximity to campus. Is there a campus shuttle, local bus or is it an easy bike ride or walk? Does the campus security patrol the area? Are there free rides from campus to your apartment late at night? Or, if you have a car, ask if a parking space is included.”

Victoria Shtainer, residential real estate expert at Compass, a real estate firm with listings in several cities in the US, suggests considering a new development. “These buildings might offer more incentives – free rent, gift card upon lease execution, etc. than other buildings, as they are looking to pull tenants in,” she said.

Morris suggests doing some local reconnaissance, if logistically possible. “Even though most rentals will be listed on the major services, it’s not true of every rental,” he said. “Stop by grocery stores, community centers, and other places where small landlords post openings. This can be time-intensive, but also can be where most of the ‘deals’ are found. He also suggested that you tell everyone you know that you are looking. “Maybe there is an available apartment next door to a friend and it has not been listed yet.”

Don’t Go at it Alone

Chad Kehoe, Co-Founder and CEO of Leaseful, a leasing platform, advises using a broker to help with your search. “Not only will they be able to show you a plethora of places, but they can also help you negotiate rent with the landlord – they want to lease the apartment just as bad as you do!” he said.

You will pay a fee when using a broker, but sometimes that fee can be negotiated. Allen Brewington, a broker with Triplemint, a real estate brokerage site, said, “When negotiating with a listing broker charging a 15% fee, show them how qualified you are by discussing the financials of your guarantor and then request a reduction in the broker’s fee. If you can assure them a quick, easy deal they may go for it.”

Compare Short Term vs. Long Term Rates

Brewington advised staying away from short-term rentals, as they tend to be more expensive. “Even if you are in school only for the fall and spring semester, it may be cheaper to rent an apartment for a full twelve months,” he said. “If your landlord lets you sublease the months you are not there, all the better.”

Another money-saving trick is to pay upfront — if you can afford it. Shtainer said, “Try to pay for the entire year of rent upfront…this is a very good tactic to give you leverage when negotiating the rent!”

Buy vs. Rent

It may sound a bit extreme, but an alternative to renting is buying. Shtainer said that parents should consider purchasing a unit for the duration of college, and perhaps longer if the student plans to stick around. “The student can pay the mortgage as the monthly ‘rent’ and contribute toward building equity in the property,” she said.

If you do happen to rent for a full year or purchase a property, consider leasing for the months you don’t need the place if it’s allowed.

Ask the Right Questions

When you meet with the broker or landlord, arm yourself with a list of questions that will help you find the place that is right for you. Ask whether it’s furnished, if Wi-Fi, trash collection and utilities are included, etc. Izquierdo said, “Finding a furnished apartment and having utilities included may be a little more on a monthly basis, but comparing this to buying furniture and putting deposits with utility companies to establish service needs to be considered when comparing total move-in and monthly costs.”

Make a Good Impression

Because competition can be stiff and apartments can go quickly, Morris suggests making sure you stand out as a solid candidate. Also, be prepared to commit on the spot if you find the place that’s right for you. “You should have a way to put the deposit down immediately-whether by check, or popular cash-substitutes like Paypal and Venmo,” he said. “Additionally, you should pull your own credit report and have a copy available. Great credit will open doors. If your credit is not perfect, be prepared to offer more in terms of a security deposit.” (Before apartment hunting, see where your credit stands with a free credit report snapshot from Credit.com). He also recommended writing a short statement about why you would make a great tenant, highlighting your strengths and even including references from former landlords, coaches or professors.

Refer a Friend

If you are looking at an apartment in a large housing complex, inquire about referral bonuses for bringing in tenants for the following school year. Kehoe said, “Big student apartment complexes usually have some sort of promotion to bring in new tenants. For example, the apartment buildings will sometimes offer the first month’s rent free as a signing bonus, or might have a referral program you could join where you and a friend can get discounts off of rent for signing a lease.”

Timing Is Everything

Most college students are looking for apartments towards the end of summer for the fall semester. If you happen to be looking mid-year or well in advance of the school year, this could be to your advantage. Brewington said, “For those looking to increase negotiating power, try to get off the summer search cycle. Look for an apartment in late September or October, after living somewhere temporarily for the first couple of months.”

Time to Move

When you’re working out your budget, don’t forget to factor in moving costs. Real estate expert, Ken Snee, said, “Many people underestimate the cost to move and the sticker shock can be overwhelming. It could be thousands of dollars with the moving truck handling and travel fees, packing services, and mover’s insurance.” Using sites like Unpakt, that let you compare the cost of movers and even book your move online can save you time and money.

Plan Ahead for Next Year

As soon as you get the sense that your student may want to live elsewhere next year, Izquierdo suggests looking now. He said, “Many locations are pre-leasing up to one year in advance. This will save time and money and it will give you the best chance at your desired locations.”

Image: Geber86

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