30 Cities Where Millennials Are Still Living With Their Parents

Across the country, more people ages 18 to 34 are living at home with their parents. Here are the cities where it's happening the most.

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The post 30 Cities Where Millennials Are Still Living With Their Parents appeared first on Credit.com.

11 Ways to Save If Your Heating & Cooling Bills Are Boiling Over

Heating bills can shoot up as the temperature drops. Here are ways to cut costs while keeping warm.

It’s one of the facts of modern life: Keeping your home the right temperature can get expensive, whether you’re in a studio apartment or a spacious house, you may be paying more than you have to in order to heat your home. Fear not! There are several ways you can cut back on how much you’re spending on temperature control in your home. Here are 11 ways to lower your heating or cooling bill. (And if you’re looking for more ways to save on your monthly home expenses, you can check out these seven easy ways to save on your cable bill.)

1. Seal Your Windows

Windows that are improperly sealed can leak air, losing energy and causing your heating system or air conditioner to work harder.

“Gaps around the window frame allow air to leak, so caulk any gaps in the seals to save on your heating bill,” said Richard Ciresi, owner of Louisville Aire Serve, a heat and air conditioning company.

2. Upgrade Your Windows

You can also upgrade your windows to more energy-efficient models.

“New windows are a big investment, but not one without substantial reward,” said Larry Patterson, a Glass Doctor franchisee. “Replacing your old windows with double or triple-pane energy efficient glass can save you up to 30% on your energy bills.”

3. Get a Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats can cut energy costs by automatically adjusting the temperature while you’re away, reducing the energy wasted on heating or cooling an empty home.

“Investing in a programmable thermostat is one of the simplest ways to save money on your heating, as you set your heating to turn on and off at specific times throughout the day,” said Max Robinson of Turnbull and Scott Heating.

You can program your thermostat to turn off while you sleep or while you’re at work and turn back on when you wake up or get home, Robinson added.

4. Change Your Air Filter

Your furnace uses air filters to keep dust from clogging your vents and circulating through your home. When the filters are dirty, your system has to work harder to push air through. Air filters are affordable and easy to switch out, and doing so will help your heating system run more efficiently. You should swap out new air filters every few months.

5. Open Your Vents

Closed vents can waste a lot of energy. When you turn on your heat, make sure your vents are open.

“Blocked or closed vents and registers make furnaces work harder than they should,” Ciresi said. “Blocked vents do not allow for proper airflow. The furnace will continue to run but the rooms won’t heat up. Always unblock and open all vents and registers before running the furnace.”

6. Reduce Hot Water

The energy spent heating your water contributes to your heating bill. You can reduce your hot water usage a few different ways: Take shorter showers, avoid the hottest water settings and wash your clothes in cold water.

Water heaters are often set at a higher temperature than is needed. You can lower your water heater’s base temperature to 120 degrees, which is sufficiently hot for most household needs.

7. Use a Space Heater for Small Rooms

Smaller rooms can be heated by an electric space heater. While this method still uses electricity, it’s far more energy efficient than using gas heat.

“The rest of the house will be cooler, but this shouldn’t be an issue if your entire family is gathered in one room,” Robinson said.

8. Check Your Outlets

Even your outlets can leak air and reduce the energy efficiency of your home. Make sure to check your outlets for drafts.

“Electrical outlets in exterior walls are usually a major source of drafts, as it is rare for insulation to be used in these areas, and when it is it is often incorrectly installed,” Robinson said. “Luckily it’s easy to correct this. Use a simple foam sealant to fill any gaps around the outlet, and place a gasket over the front of the outlet.”

9. Check Your Insulation

Your walls, attic and other home areas must be properly insulated. If not, the temperature will be much harder to control. Make sure to check your insulation, or hire a professional if you’re not sure how.

10. Find an Alternative Payment Plan

Many energy companies provide alternative payment plans. Some will reduce your bill for reducing your energy consumption, while other plans might lower your payments based on income. Check with your energy provider to see what alternative plans they offer.

If you’re doing things yourself, you may want to consider funding these projects with a store credit card that offers you rewards for your purchases. (You can read our review of the Home Depot credit card here.) Before you apply for any new plastic, it’s always a good idea to review your credit so you know what types of cards you may qualify for. You can see two of your scores free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

11. Change Your Attire

If you’re cold, you can always turn down the temperature a few degrees and bundle up. Don’t neglect your feet and head, areas that can lose a lot of body heat. Fuzzy socks and a knit hat should do the trick. And if you’re looking to escape the heat? Try a bathing suit and a cool body of water — You can see 28 ideas on how to save for your next big adventure here.

Inspired to do some renovations? Before you head out to your local hardware store, you may want to check out our 6 ways to save at Lowe’s and Home Depot.

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The post 11 Ways to Save If Your Heating & Cooling Bills Are Boiling Over appeared first on Credit.com.

Things You Need to Know if You Want to Master Your Money

master-your-money

It’s ironic people shy away from talking to others about money, considering everyone has to deal with it. But instead taking advantage of this shared experience, a lot of people keep their questions to themselves and outwardly pretend they understand what they’re doing with money. Only once they’ve dug themselves in a hole do they start asking for help.

No one is born understanding personal finance. It’s mostly on you to figure it out as you go, which doesn’t always work out well.

“Typically in America you don’t learn about these things — you don’t learn about debt and interest,” according to Alex Sadler, managing editor of Clark.com, the namesake site of personal finance and early retirement icon Clark Howard. “You’re handed a credit card … and it’s up to you to read the fine print. People get into serious trouble.”

Sadler knows this not only because of the people who ask questions on Clark.com but also because of her own experiences. “I maxed out credit cards, I had a student loan I didn’t understand, and living that way and not changing my lifestyle, I realized that that was going to prevent me from doing things in my life that I wanted to do.”

Ideally, people would get to know how money and credit works before they start using it, not the other way around. But that backwardness is often the reality of Americans’ personal finances, which is why Sadler and the Clark.com team started a new project called CommonCents.

“A lot of problems people face is not understanding what they are trying to tackle,” Sadler said. “A lot of times people … they think they have tried (to get out of debt) and they just don’t understand how it all works and how to make that attempt and effort successful.”

We asked Sadler about some of the core concepts that people need to know — but often overlook — in order to master their finances. Here’s what she said.

1. Understand Interest

Sadler said this is a common issue among people who reach out to Clark for help getting out of credit card debt.

“A lot of people think because they’re paying the minimum monthly payments they’re not getting charged interest,” she said. This, of course, is totally false. It’s not that making the minimum monthly payment isn’t a way to get out of debt — it’s just that it can take an extremely long time.

So, how does interest work? As far as credit cards go, you can get a sense of it by using this free credit card payoff calculator (and if you have credit card debt, the tool can help you make a plan to pay it off.)

2. Learn What it Means to Budget

It’s perhaps the core tenet of personal finance: Budgeting. But you can’t hope to budget if you don’t really understand what it means.

“Budgeting means making sense of your money: How much money are you making? How much money are you spending?” Sadler said. Budgeting, no matter how you do it, boils down to one thing: “Spend less than you make. You’re living paycheck to paycheck? You’re not spending less than you make.”

That brings us to her next point:

3. Know Your Numbers

“The majority of people that Clark talks to about debt, the first thing he asks is, ‘OK, you have credit card debt — how much do you owe?’ The majority of the time, this person asking the question does not know the answer,” Sadler said. “How do you plan to pay off your debt if you don’t know what you’re facing?”

That’s only part of the spend-less-than-you-make equation. Knowing your take-home earnings, your debt, your spending, your assets — these are all things that can help you make smart financial decisions every day that will also make sense years in the future, Sadler said.

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The post Things You Need to Know if You Want to Master Your Money appeared first on Credit.com.

I Tried to Live on $3 of Food a Day — While Still Shopping at Whole Foods

saving-money-on-groceries

When I first decided to do this little experiment, I’d agreed to try to feed my family for $5 per person per day, so I sat down and took a look at my grocery spending over the last few months, crunched some numbers, and … uh-oh…

Was it really possible we were already eating on roughly $5 per day? Yep, we were. My average grocery spend per week runs $80. For the two of us, that’s $5.71 per day per person. I needed a bigger challenge, or so I thought. Could I feed us for just $3 each per day? Seemed reasonable.

What I didn’t take into account as I was working my figures was that we typically eat out once or twice a week, so that $5.71 actually looked a bit more like $8. Still not a lot, but significantly more than the $3 goal I’d rather arrogantly set for myself.

I decided I was going to try it anyway, and, unsurprisingly, I didn’t come as close to that goal as I’d wanted. I also wasn’t willing to give up some things or shop somewhere cheaper. That, after all, was the challenging aspect of this. I mean, sure I could feed us 99-cent ramen noodles all week, but I wanted to be realistic. And eat some vegetables.

I did manage to cut my already frugal grocery spending by about half, though: $4.14 each, or right at $58 for a week’s worth of groceries.

Full Disclosure

Now, for the sake of full disclosure, we are mostly vegan – no dairy, no meat, no animal products in general – but we do include the occasional seafood and eggs in our diet. That said, I shop almost exclusively at Whole Foods, which I’ve heard some of my friends say they simply can’t afford. I suppose if I, too, were trying to feed a growing, teenage bottomless pit, I’d probably say that as well. But for just the two of us, it’s perfectly affordable and we eat really well-balanced meals and snacks without feeling deprived in the least. However – here’s two more disclosures – I cook. Every day.

But back to feeding us both for $58 for a week … Here’s how I did it.

First, I looked at what we were currently eating and how I could pare that back. I also considered that I’d be adding two dinner meals since we wouldn’t be eating out. Did we need the chocolate chip vegan cookies in the afternoon as a snack? What about lunch? Did I really need that amazing wheat-based, fake bacon I love on sandwiches? Or the bread I ate it on? Nope. We’d definitely have to say so long to our seafood protein options during this experiment. Yes, there were definitely some things we could do without in the short term.

I worked up my menu plan for the first week, keeping it super simple and rotating just three dishes for breakfast, three for lunch and three for dinner through the week (which also ensured I wouldn’t have any food waste) estimated the costs of the necessary ingredients and headed to the grocery store (also, I didn’t include staple pantry items like salt, pepper, olive oil, etc., or herbs from my garden in my costs). Here’s my menu:

Breakfast

  1. Bircher muesli with apple, cinnamon and almonds
  2. Oatmeal with dried apricots
  3. Tofu scramble taco

I’ve written about oatmeal before and how incredibly inexpensive it can be. It’s a staple in our diet, especially in winter when it’s warm and comforting. It’s also delicious in summer as a cold Bircher muesli. Since it was the end of summer when I did this experiment, I made both.

Lunch

  1. Pasta with kale, mushrooms and cannellini beans
  2. Green salad with baked tofu and roasted broccoli
  3. Chilled broccoli and potato soup (this uses up the stems, which cost less and taste great)

Dinner

  1. Beans, greens and cornbread
  2. Spinach enchiladas with rice and beans
  3. Gazpacho soup

Here’s my shopping list:

1 lb. bulk oats — $2

1 apple — $0.40

20 bulk raw almonds — $0.87

10 dried bulk apricots — $0.57

1 package firm organic tofu — $2.45

6 whole wheat tortillas — $2.69

1 quart almond milk — $4.25

1 package farfalloni pasta — $3.27

2 lbs. kale — $6

1 lb. bulk mushrooms — $5

2 cans cannellini beans — $2

2 heads lettuce — $4

2 heads broccoli, with stems — $3.75

1 large potato — $0.90

1 lb. bulk pinto beans — $3.58

2 cups bulk corn meal — $3.22

2 heads spinach — $2.87

1 lb. bulk rice — $2.25

1 lb. tomatoes — $3.25

1 cucumber — $1.83

1 red onion — $0.87

1 bell pepper — $2

Total: $58.02

Feeding two people for what would amount to a little over $200 a month is an interesting idea to me, and definitely a quick way to pay off any major debts you want to get rid of. But if I had the chance to do it again I probably wouldn’t. It’s actually amazing the flexibility and flavor that just an additional $20 a week spent on groceries affords. Still, it was interesting to see what I could manage to do without drastically changing our diets or going hungry.

A few things to keep in mind if you want to see how little you can spend at the grocery store.

1. Fresh Vegetables Are Your Friends

Variety is the spice of life, and there’s no better way to add variety to your diet than to buy seasonal produce, which is typically cheaper than out-of-season items shipped in from other parts of the world. It’s also a great way to experiment with new recipes and ingredients. Plus, all that roughage can help fill you up, as can the big shot of nutrients fresh veggies provide.

2. Protein & The Basics

If you want to save a ton of money, you’re going to need to rely on basics like legumes and rice that will give you the most nutritional bang for your buck, especially when it comes to protein. Animal proteins are just significantly more expensive.

3. Take Advantage of Coupons & Discounts

I wasn’t able to use coupons for my experiment because they were all for prepared or packaged foods the week I did this. That said, some planning ahead and stocking up on staples with a good shelf life can save you a bundle.

4. Buy in Bulk

Not only are you able to get the exact amount you need, thus cutting down on possible waste, you’re also not paying for the packaging and marketing of that product, so the per unit cost is always less.

If you’re serious about saving money, having a good credit score can help immensely. Your credit can affect your ability to get the best terms and conditions on a mortgage, auto loan or even student loans and credit cards. You can see how your credit scores are faring by checking your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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The Ultimate Money Checklist to Complete Before Buying a Home

newhome

Image: Xavier Arnau

The post The Ultimate Money Checklist to Complete Before Buying a Home appeared first on Credit.com.

11 States Where $1 Goes the Farthest

how_to_stretch_a_dollar

A dollar isn’t always a dollar, as a recent report makes clear. Sometimes it’s $1.15. Other times it’s less than 85 cents, and it all boils down to where you live.

That’s the finding of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which published in July its report for 2014 prices for household consumption across the country. Your dollar will go a lot farther — 30% farther, in fact — in states like Mississippi and Arkansas than it will in places like Washington, D.C., and Hawaii.

The states where your dollar (rounded to the nearest cent) is worth the most are:

1. Mississippi ($1.15)

2. Arkansas ($1.14)

3. Alabama ($1.14)

4. South Dakota ($1.14)

5. Kentucky ($1.13)

6. West Virginia ($1.12)

7. Ohio ($1.12)

8. Missouri ($1.12)

9. Oklahoma ($1.11)

10. Tennessee ($1.11)

11. Iowa ($1.11)

In all, the cost of living in 35 states was below the national average, the report showed. The Tax Foundation used the numbers to create a map showing a comparison of the value of $100 in each state across the country:

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 9.43.59 AM

The areas where your dollar is worth the least are the District of Columbia (85 cents), Hawaii (86 cents), New York (86 cents), New Jersey (87 cents), and California (89 cents).

Methodology

The BEA used regional price parities (RPPs) calculated by using price quotes for a wide variety of items related to food, transportation and education, and compared that to the national average. So, if the RPP for area A is found to be 120 and for area B it is 90, then on average, prices are 20% higher and 10% lower than the U.S. average for A and B, respectively.

If the personal income for area A is $12,000 and for area B is $9,000, then RPP-adjusted incomes are $10,000 ($12,000/1.20) and $10,000 ($9,000/0.90), respectively. In other words, the purchasing power of the two incomes is equivalent when adjusted by their respective RPPs.

Stretch Your Dollars — Wherever You Live

Regardless of where you live, credit card debt can be one of the most difficult things to overcome in trying to get ahead financially. Having a high balance on your cards will hurt your credit score, and it can be extremely challenging to break the spending habits that got you into debt in the first place.

Having a poor credit score won’t make you a credit exile — for instance, there are some credit cards for people with bad credit — but it can make your finances more challenging. One of the best ways to improve your credit while tackling debt is to prioritize making payments on time and reducing spending, so you can chip away at your credit card debt rather than add to it.

Paying off your credit card debt may also help you save money. The sooner you pay it off, the less you’re going to pay in interest and can save over time. (You can read this guide for tips on getting out of debt.)

Paying down debt will also improve your credit score. You run the risk of damaging your credit if you are in too much debt and can’t keep up with payments. To see how your debts and spending habits are affecting your finances, you can view your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.

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9 Ways to Save on College Textbooks

Heading back to college this fall? One of your biggest expenses (outside of tuition, of course) is likely to be textbooks. The College Board estimates that college students will spend anywhere from $1,200 to $1,300 on books and supplies. That’s a big chunk of change, but there are plenty of ways you can save on textbooks.

1. Avoid the Bookstore, Except for Essentials

While the college bookstore is tempting in all its shiny, fully stocked glory, it’s also generally the last place you want to go to buy textbooks. Even used textbooks at the bookstore typically will be sold at a higher markup than you’ll see online. And the new books often are more expensive there than anywhere else.

One exception to this rule: custom-printed packets assigned by particular professors. Some professors will require custom-printed anthologies or companion books for their classes. These are printed and bound ahead of time, and you won’t be able to get them anywhere but the bookstore.

2. Wait Until After the First Class to Buy

Some college professors are just as fed up with the rising cost of textbooks as their students. Unfortunately, academic departments will sometimes strongarm professors into choosing more expensive books.

Still, some professors will work with students who simply can’t afford to pay $180 for a single textbook. While the expense may be unavoidable in some classes, in others, professors will tell you straight up that you’ll only use a few sections of the textbook over the course. Or they’ll offer supplementary options that are free or really cheap.

While not bringing books to class on the first day may seem like a huge risk, it’s typically not a big deal. That first class day is typically spent discussing the syllabus and course expectations. And you can use that information to gauge which of the following options you want to use to buy, rent, or borrow textbooks for each class.

3. Buy Used Whenever Possible

The market for used college textbooks is huge, since many students buy these books only to use them for a single semester. Chances are there are multiple used book stores near any major college campus, and you can also buy used online from bookselling marketplaces. New books are worth the investment only in limited circumstances, which we’ll discuss later. Otherwise, go for used versions of physical textbooks.

4. Check Out the Price of E-Books

More and more publishers are offering their textbooks in e-book format. This can make sense for most of your classes. Plus, purchasing a slim e-reader and most of your textbooks in e-book format can save you from having to haul loads of heavy textbooks all over campus.

E-books may not always be appropriate, especially if you’re an in-book highlighter or note-taker. But with today’s e-book technology, most books can be “highlighted” and bookmarked virtually, so you can still reference certain passages or sections as needed.

5. Split Costs With a Friend

If you and a friend are taking the same class at different times or between semesters, consider splitting the costs of a used book. This can be tricky to work out, as you need to be sure you each have access to the books when working on homework and going to class. But if you’re taking the same introductory course on different days, textbook sharing can be a viable option.

6. Buy Older Editions

One reason textbooks are so expensive is that they’re constantly “updated,” even when the update involves only very minor edits. For classes with course content that’s stable from year to year, you probably don’t really need the latest edition. And used versions of out-of-date editions can be even cheaper.

Just be aware that page numbers and figures don’t always line up from one edition to the next, so you’ll need to be extra careful that you’re completing the correct coursework. Also, older editions may not work as well for classes like math and science if the professor relies on homework from the book, as questions can change from edition to edition.

7. Try the Library

The campus library or the local public library are both great options for finding copies of more-common books. Libraries may not have a copy of a $175 quantum physics textbook. But they are likely to have copies of many texts used in liberal arts courses. English majors and the like are at a particular advantage here. Many literature classes are built around easy-to-rent classics that are simple to pick up from the library.

One potential caveat to this strategy: availability. If others in your course also borrow their texts from the library, you may be unable to find a copy when you need it. Your best bet is to look well ahead on the syllabus, and to reserve copies of the books you need at least two or three weeks ahead of time.

8. Rent Your Textbooks Online

Textbook rental services are becoming more common these days, and they’re another good option for saving on your overall costs. You can sometimes even rent e-book versions of your textbooks, which are cheaper since you’re not purchasing a lifetime license.

Just be careful if you decide to rent physical textbooks, as they’ll have to be in excellent condition when you return them, or you’ll pay extra fees.

9. Buy Certain New Books Online

Sometimes it does make sense to buy books new. For instance, if your math professor will use the specific homework questions in the latest edition of a book that just released, you’ll have to spring for the new version. Or if you need to purchase workbooks, which some lower-level math courses still use, you’ll need new versions of those.

Also, if you’re an upperclassman, you might consider purchasing new, or used that are in excellent condition, versions of books from some of your senior-level courses. These could be texts that you’ll reference after college once you’re in career-related courses, so having nice versions that will hold up over time can make sense.

[Editor’s Note: While you’re in college, you might not be thinking too much about your credit, but bad credit can be even more costly than your textbooks. That’s why it’s a good idea to check it every now and then so you can make sure your financial future is on track. You can get two free credit scores, updated monthly, at Credit.com. You also can get your free credit reports ever year at AnnualCreditReport.com.]

Image: skynesher

The post 9 Ways to Save on College Textbooks appeared first on Credit.com.

9 Ways to Save on College Textbooks

Heading back to college this fall? One of your biggest expenses (outside of tuition, of course) is likely to be textbooks. The College Board estimates that college students will spend anywhere from $1,200 to $1,300 on books and supplies. That’s a big chunk of change, but there are plenty of ways you can save on textbooks.

1. Avoid the Bookstore, Except for Essentials

While the college bookstore is tempting in all its shiny, fully stocked glory, it’s also generally the last place you want to go to buy textbooks. Even used textbooks at the bookstore typically will be sold at a higher markup than you’ll see online. And the new books often are more expensive there than anywhere else.

One exception to this rule: custom-printed packets assigned by particular professors. Some professors will require custom-printed anthologies or companion books for their classes. These are printed and bound ahead of time, and you won’t be able to get them anywhere but the bookstore.

2. Wait Until After the First Class to Buy

Some college professors are just as fed up with the rising cost of textbooks as their students. Unfortunately, academic departments will sometimes strongarm professors into choosing more expensive books.

Still, some professors will work with students who simply can’t afford to pay $180 for a single textbook. While the expense may be unavoidable in some classes, in others, professors will tell you straight up that you’ll only use a few sections of the textbook over the course. Or they’ll offer supplementary options that are free or really cheap.

While not bringing books to class on the first day may seem like a huge risk, it’s typically not a big deal. That first class day is typically spent discussing the syllabus and course expectations. And you can use that information to gauge which of the following options you want to use to buy, rent, or borrow textbooks for each class.

3. Buy Used Whenever Possible

The market for used college textbooks is huge, since many students buy these books only to use them for a single semester. Chances are there are multiple used book stores near any major college campus, and you can also buy used online from bookselling marketplaces. New books are worth the investment only in limited circumstances, which we’ll discuss later. Otherwise, go for used versions of physical textbooks.

4. Check Out the Price of E-Books

More and more publishers are offering their textbooks in e-book format. This can make sense for most of your classes. Plus, purchasing a slim e-reader and most of your textbooks in e-book format can save you from having to haul loads of heavy textbooks all over campus.

E-books may not always be appropriate, especially if you’re an in-book highlighter or note-taker. But with today’s e-book technology, most books can be “highlighted” and bookmarked virtually, so you can still reference certain passages or sections as needed.

5. Split Costs With a Friend

If you and a friend are taking the same class at different times or between semesters, consider splitting the costs of a used book. This can be tricky to work out, as you need to be sure you each have access to the books when working on homework and going to class. But if you’re taking the same introductory course on different days, textbook sharing can be a viable option.

6. Buy Older Editions

One reason textbooks are so expensive is that they’re constantly “updated,” even when the update involves only very minor edits. For classes with course content that’s stable from year to year, you probably don’t really need the latest edition. And used versions of out-of-date editions can be even cheaper.

Just be aware that page numbers and figures don’t always line up from one edition to the next, so you’ll need to be extra careful that you’re completing the correct coursework. Also, older editions may not work as well for classes like math and science if the professor relies on homework from the book, as questions can change from edition to edition.

7. Try the Library

The campus library or the local public library are both great options for finding copies of more-common books. Libraries may not have a copy of a $175 quantum physics textbook. But they are likely to have copies of many texts used in liberal arts courses. English majors and the like are at a particular advantage here. Many literature classes are built around easy-to-rent classics that are simple to pick up from the library.

One potential caveat to this strategy: availability. If others in your course also borrow their texts from the library, you may be unable to find a copy when you need it. Your best bet is to look well ahead on the syllabus, and to reserve copies of the books you need at least two or three weeks ahead of time.

8. Rent Your Textbooks Online

Textbook rental services are becoming more common these days, and they’re another good option for saving on your overall costs. You can sometimes even rent e-book versions of your textbooks, which are cheaper since you’re not purchasing a lifetime license.

Just be careful if you decide to rent physical textbooks, as they’ll have to be in excellent condition when you return them, or you’ll pay extra fees.

9. Buy Certain New Books Online

Sometimes it does make sense to buy books new. For instance, if your math professor will use the specific homework questions in the latest edition of a book that just released, you’ll have to spring for the new version. Or if you need to purchase workbooks, which some lower-level math courses still use, you’ll need new versions of those.

Also, if you’re an upperclassman, you might consider purchasing new, or used that are in excellent condition, versions of books from some of your senior-level courses. These could be texts that you’ll reference after college once you’re in career-related courses, so having nice versions that will hold up over time can make sense.

[Editor’s Note: While you’re in college, you might not be thinking too much about your credit, but bad credit can be even more costly than your textbooks. That’s why it’s a good idea to check it every now and then so you can make sure your financial future is on track. You can get two free credit scores, updated monthly, at Credit.com. You also can get your free credit reports ever year at AnnualCreditReport.com.]

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The post 9 Ways to Save on College Textbooks appeared first on Credit.com.

10 Items You Should Never Buy Used

shopping_used

Buying used items is one of the top ways to consistently save money on everything you purchase. However, not every used item is a good value. Here are 10 things we think are better when bought new.

1. Cribs

Back in 2011, the government changed safety standards for baby cribs in response to infant deaths related to old designs. Whereas drop-side cribs used to be common, they are now banned. Plus, the new rules require stronger supports and hardware.

The problem with buying a used crib is the chance you might end up with one of the millions that have been recalled. It may be easy to avoid drop-side cribs, but unless the seller can provide the original sales information, you may not know whether your purchase meets the new safety requirements.

Better safe than sorry, so we say skip the used crib and invest in a new, safer one.

2. Car Seats

Car seats are another no-no when it comes to buying used. Again, safety is the reason.

A used car seat could have been in an accident or exposed to extreme elements, either of which could compromise the seat’s durability. In addition, older seats may not be made to the latest safety standards.

You could save a few bucks and get a used seat or spend a little more and give your child the best protection possible. If you can’t afford a new seat, contact your local social services agency or community wellness organization. They may have leads on programs offering free or low-cost car seats.

3. Helmets

A final safety item you want to buy new is a helmet. This could be a helmet for a bike or a helmet for a motorcycle. Here, the main concern with buying used is that the helmet could be compromised from a previous accident. Play it safe and purchase yours new.

4. Computers

A used computer is a giant question mark. You don’t necessarily know how it’s been used, and unless you’re tech-savvy, you might not be able to see what programs are lurking on the hard drive.

Laptops, in particular, are prone to all sorts of abuse, from being banged around in a bag to being dropped on the ground.

There is one exception when it comes to buying used computers and laptops: We’re talking about buying refurbished computers. These are either used or open-box items that have been inspected and cleared for resale.

Buying refurbished items can be a safe way to get a bargain on used electronics. You can learn more in this article.

5. Digital Cameras

Like laptops, a second-hand digital camera may not only be used, it could also have been abused. It’s hard to look at one and determine how well its previous owner cared for it.

If you just need a basic point-and-click camera or video recorder, new models aren’t all that expensive. Or you could just use your smartphone and skip the expense completely.

6. Shoes

If you’re interested in having comfy feet and minimizing back pain, you might want to skip past the used shoe section at the thrift store. Shoes often conform to their first owner’s feet, which can make them uncomfortable for you.

7. Makeup

I know, some of you are probably shocked to think that anyone would wear used makeup. And yet you can find used mascara, lipstick and eye shadow at thrift stores, garage sales and on eBay. There’s even a Reddit makeup exchange board for people to swap their barely used cosmetics.

Used makeup can be a completely harmless bargain — or it might contain scary bacteria or spread disease. We say it’s not worth the risk, and you’re better off buying your beauty products new.

8. Mattresses

Like shoes, mattresses tend to conform to the bodies of their users. Buying used might mean you end up with a lumpy bed that leaves you tossing and turning all night long.

Even worse, a used mattress can harbor all sorts of nasty things like allergens, dust mites and bed bugs. In some cases, retailers may try to pass off used mattresses as new ones. The Federal Trade Commission has some tips to help you avoid inadvertently buying a used mattress that has been recovered.

9. Stuffed Animals

Stuffed animals are another item that can contain dust mites and allergens. In addition, some animals may have safety issues, such as eyes that pop off and become a choking hazard.

Buying used means you can end up with a toy that has been recalled or one that harbors unpleasantness that you may not want to bring into your house.

10. Underwear

The final item on our list makes the cut solely for the “eww factor.” Some people might be concerned that used underwear may carry bacteria or germs, but I’m not convinced it’s anything that can’t be killed with a hot water wash and bleach.

The bigger question is why would you want to wear someone else’s stretched out, used undies when so many stores will sell you a new pack for $10? All except the most destitute among us can certainly scrounge up that much money.

Trust me, you’re worth the luxury of spending $10 once a year on new underwear.

Remember,when it comes to lifetime savings, your credit score is a huge deal. High levels of debt as well as missed payments related to them can seriously damage your credit. You can see what areas of your credit profile need work by getting a free credit report summary on Credit.com, which includes two free credit scores every month.

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I Just Axed My Final Budget Killer and It Feels Amazing

I Just Axed My Final Budget Killer

Last month my wife and I finally got rid of our final budget killer – our DirecTV subscription. At $105 per month, I’m glad to see that bill go by the wayside and am dreaming of the ways we can better use that savings each month.

We can all be guilty of budget leaks on occasion though this was a budget killer. Although the number of cord cutters is on the rise, a recent study reveals that 83 percent of American homes still have some form of pay television. As has been our experience over the past month, you don’t need to spend much to enjoy quality content. The benefit of cutting the cord on cable TV for us is that it brings our family one step closer to a major goal we want to reach.

How Much We’re Saving

As I mentioned, our monthly DirecTV plan was $105. We did have a number of price reductions but eventually those all ran out. We also have Netflix at roughly $10 per month. The grand total…$115 for television programming each month!

We now spend $25 per month since cutting the cord, or a savings of $90 per month. We kept our Netflix plan and added HBO Now so we can still see some of our favorite shows.

The Behavior is the Issue

A savings of $90 per month may seem like nothing, especially given the fact that we can “afford” the expense. However, how many times have you wondered at the end of a month why you don’t have the money you’d like to do something?

The problem? It’s our behavior. We’re guilty of short-term thinking, which hurts our financial livelihoods in the long run. We don’t stop to realize that aimless spending on items that return no value holds us back. Aimless spending may make us feel good; maybe that’s why we do it. It allows us to keep up with the Joneses. But the sad result is that aimless spending holds us back from accomplishing the things we really want in life.

Spend on What Returns Value

Since I’ve become debt free, I’ve had the conviction of spending on items that only return value. Any other spending holds you back. You do need to have balance, of course, but a careful analysis is needed to make sure your spending is on things that provide value.

Personally speaking, we want to buy a new home in the next year. By analyzing our budget, we discovered two significant budget killers that were holding us back from that goal – our cell phone and DirecTV subscriptions. We were hemorrhaging $190 per month we had no business spending. Thus, we switched to a cheap cell phone plan and got rid of the pay TV subscription. The extra savings will go towards our house fund each month.

Your situation will likely be different, but the value aspect is just as important. If you’re paying off debt, for example, the value in cutting is debt freedom. That should be motivation enough.

The Purpose of Cord Cutting

Streamlining a budget has one clear goal in mind – financial independence. Financial independence means lots of things to different people. It might mean the ability to retire in your 60s and travel around the world. For some it may mean early retirement or starting a business.

To me financial independence means the ability to take opportunities when I want and as they present themselves. It also means being free from financial worry. It’s exercises like killing off needless expenses that get us one step closer to that goal.

 

We can all be guilty of having budget killers. It pays, literally and figuratively, to be cognizant of the value your spending creates so as to not be wasting money you shouldn’t be.

The post I Just Axed My Final Budget Killer and It Feels Amazing appeared first on ReadyForZero Blog.