Monday, July 31, 2017

Selling Your Home? Here Are 9 Things to Keep in Mind

by Krystal Beers Miller, June 6, 2017 in Home Buying/Selling

Currently, we’re right in the middle of a seller’s market. With so many potential buyers looking to make offers, how do you know which one is best when they start rolling in? I reached out to some experts for advice on what to look for, what to avoid and how to prepare when selling your home.


Avoid the Finicky Buyer


Personal finance and household blogger Jeff Campbell has bought and sold several homes. When it comes to selling your home, Campbell suggests to beware the nit-picky buyer. “If someone is asking for a lot of nit-picky things in their initial offer, it could indicate a potentially high-maintenance buyer, which in a seller’s market could be more trouble than it’s worth,” says Campbell.

Laurie M. sold her house in Michigan last year. She says she is all too familiar with the finicky buyer. “One woman who came through wrote in her offer that she would like to keep our T.V. stand, rack and speakers,” she says. “She wasn’t too happy when we told her that we weren’t going to part with them.”


Don’t Focus on the Highest Bidder


“When offers start coming in, don’t focus on the highest bidder,” says Pennsylvania REALTOR® and Real Estate Investment Educator Denise Supplee.

She suggests looking at all of the information, including:

  • When is the settlement date?
  • How many inspections are they looking to have?
  • Is there a seller concession?
  • What other inclusions are being asked for?
  • What type of financing?

“Once you do this and compare all of these nuances, then you would decide to
pick the one that is best,” says Supplee. “You can either choose to let them all know there are other bidders, and for them all to come in with their best and highest,
or go to the deal that seems most fitting and counter at a higher price.”

Check Out the Homes in Your Area


When evaluating potential offers, you’re going to want to check out what homes are selling for in your area.

“Comparable homes should be similar in size, layout, features, age and any other factors that buyers care about,” says John Liston, manager of the online home service site All Set. “Find as many as you can that have sold in the last 3-9 months, using a site like Zillow, and compare the average sale price (median if there are large outliers) to the offer you receive.”

Liston also suggests comparing the average price increase of home sold in the area. “By comparing the increase in your home’s price to the increase in similar houses over similar time periods, you gain an extra layer of comfort that your house increased in value in line with the rest of your neighborhood,” he says.


Consider Listing on a Thursday or Friday


“The best position for a seller to be in is a multiple bid situation,” says Doug Gartley, Associate Broker at In-House Realty. “Be strategic when you’re selling your home,” he says. “Homes that are listed on a Thursday evening or Friday tend to get more offers than homes listed earlier in the week like Monday or Tuesday.”

Be Careful When Bartering


There’s always a chance that a good buyer with a good offer will walk away from the deal. “Never barter over a few thousand dollars,” says Supplee. “I have seen good deals fall through because of an ‘I want to win’ syndrome.”

Good Communication Is Key


“If your agent is a poor communicator with you, they’ll be worse with potential buyers,” says Campbell. “Have a good, clear line of communication with your real estate agent and make sure they’re responding and following up quickly, so good offers aren’t slipping through your fingers.”

Don’t Take It Personally


“One of the hardest things for sellers to do is to take the emotion out of the negotiating process,” says Chief Development Officer of Help-U-Sell, John Powell. “To the seller, the house is an extension of them, and sometimes ego gets in the way of logic,” he says. “This is where a good agent provides counsel on what constitutes a good offer and what is negotiable.” (sm)

Avoid “Love Letters”


While a letter from a potential buyer may seem heartfelt and thoughtful, Emile L’Eplattenier, Real Estate Marketing and Sales Analyst at Fit Small Business, says to avoid them altogether. “In bidding wars some buyers’ agents may try to send love letters, quick biographical letters with personal information about their clients, in an attempt to sway your decision,” says L’Eplattenier. “You need to instruct your agent to ignore these letters entirely,” he says. “Not only will they potentially cloud your judgement, but they might put you in danger of violating fair housing laws as well.” He adds that “letters that reveal information about race, religion or other protected classes may lead to bias complaints depending on which offer you choose.”

Don’t Rush the Process



While it may seem like it’s in your best interest to sell your home as fast as possible, “don’t rush the process,” says Gartley. “Many people will try and sell their home within a 24-hour period.” He suggests you leave your home on the market for a couple days to allow for full market exposure before accepting an offer.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Best Finance Apps to Help You Manage Your Financial Goals

by Danielle Forshay, July 12, 2017 in Saving Money

Wouldn’t it be nice if our finances would manage themselves? We may not be quite there yet, but with some of the apps currently available, we’re getting pretty close. No matter what your financial goals are, there are apps out there that can help you meet them.

To develop our list of the best financial apps, we spoke with financial experts about their favorite apps for specific goals. They gave us the lowdown on the apps that get the most use and some of their coolest features. Here are their picks.

The Best App for Saving Money: Qapital

Trying to save up for that big vacation and just can’t seem to make any headway? We’ve all been there. Kevin Han of Financial Panther recommends Qapital, an app that gives you a boost with a variety of “rules” that you can set to streamline your savings.

Kevin’s favorite feature is Qapital’s round-up rule. As he explains, “Qapital will monitor all of your credit card transactions and round up each transaction to the nearest dollar, and save the difference for you.”

Users can also automate their accounts to save a certain amount of money on a daily basis (the “set and forget rule”) or even link it to an event, such as saving $5 every time your favorite football team hits the field. The “guilty pleasure rule” allows you to “charge” yourself (i.e., deposit a certain amount into your savings account) whenever you indulge a guilty pleasure spending habit.

The Best App for Managing Investments: Personal Capital

When it comes to managing your investments, things can get complicated.

Brandon Yahn, founder of Student Loans Guy recommends the Personal Capital app. Its user-friendly interface allows you to add and track all of your investments. He enjoys the ease with which the app allows you to link all of your accounts and keep track of spending and investments.

Personal Capital allows you to track your investment numbers by account, asset class or individual security. It will also show you how your portfolio compares to major market benchmarks so you can keep on track to meet your personal investment goals. The app can also connect you to investment experts who can advise you on your portfolio.

The Best App for Making Payments: Prism

If you’re the owner of multiple credit cards, then you know that keeping on top of all those bill due dates can be tough! But there’s no need to live in constant fear of missing a deadline. When asked about the best app for making payments, Kevin Han promptly said, “Definitely Prism. It’s an app that not a lot of people know about, but it is my most used financial app.”

The beauty of Prism is that it links all of your billing accounts, paychecks and available funds so that you can easily visualize the movement of your finances. Once you connect all of your billing accounts, all your bills and account balances are synced to the app. It keeps track of your bill due dates and makes sure you never miss one. With a function even allowing you to pay those bills directly from the app, the process of managing bills could not be easier.

The Best App for Financial Advice and Overall Financial Management: Mint

When it comes to overall financial management and getting good advice on your spending habits, Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, recommends Mint, a well-known budgeting app. Mint helps you understand how your spending breaks down and can even provide advice based on your spending habits to help you meet your financial goals.


As Deborah remarked, “When you use Mint, you can literally see where the money you’re spending is going. It sends you an alert when you’re about to reach the end of your budget, provides advice on how to save even more money, and offers the ability to view your credit score. This app makes it easy to be mindful of your finances and proactive in the process, taking control to reduce your spending on unnecessary purchases now that you know how those purchases add up.”

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Travel Tips and Tricks to Save Time and Money

by Allison Hendricks April 14, 2017 in Recreation

Taking a trip outside your day-to-day environment creates endless opportunities to expand your horizon, learn something new and maybe even gain a new perspective on your surroundings.

However, traveling can be financially difficult and time consuming, which is why most people prefer to stay home.

For those who want to see the sights without breaking the bank, we have travel hacks to help save you time and money.

Tickets: When to Buy, When to Fly and What to Expect

The first and most important concept when planning your trip is deciding when to go.

This affects when you buy your tickets, when you decide to fly and what you should expect when going for the cheaper alternative.

When to Buy and When to Fly

You may be surprised to find out, but the day and time when you purchase tickets can ultimately affect your final bill.

Grainne Kelly, founder of BubbleBum, the first inflatable car booster, is a certified child passenger safety technician and a former travel agent, and she has a few insider secrets on how to save on travel.

Kelly recommends booking flights on Tuesdays or Wednesdays around lunchtime, as airlines release sale prices during these days of the week. However, make sure you confirm that the rate includes taxes, as taxes can send your bill skyward, sometimes to the tune of several hundred dollars.

In addition, try to travel on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, as these days offer lower pricing on connecting flights.

For discounts on flights, check out sites like Kayak, Orbitz and Expedia.

What to Expect

With great savings come layovers, so prepare for a long route. Many discounted flights often include at least one layover, sometimes two, depending on the destination, so it will take longer to get to your end point, and you have to hope there are no delays that could affect whether you’ll make your next flight.

“Many discounted flights are only offered at peak times,” Kelly adds, “departing at a very early hour or late at night.”

In addition, seat assignments are not guaranteed, meaning if you’re traveling with family or friends, your seats might not be together. Most discount carriers operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so try to get to the gate early to find a decent seat next to your travel companions.

Most discounted carriers no longer include meals, so you shouldn’t expect the classic free drink and snack on your flight. Pack snacks to hold you over until your destination, especially if you have a long layover. Remember: You can’t bring liquids through security, so you’ll likely need to purchase a drink near your gate or on your flight.

What to Pack and What to Pitch

First of all, be sure to read the fine print and find out the terms and conditions for your carrier. According to Kelly, there could be charges for checked baggage (typically $25 each way), carry-ons, the dimensions or weight of your baggage, snacks or meals, and more.

“Be prepared ahead of time so you’re not in sticker shock at the airport,” says Kelly. “This is how airlines make up for missing revenue. Try to just travel with a carry-on bag so you don’t have to pay for a checked bag.”

However, Kelly suggests a way to get a checked bag for free – by checking it at the gate. If you have a larger carry-on and later decide you would rather check it, wait until everyone else boards the flight with their carry-ons. Kelly suggests the plane will likely run out of the room for bags and check your carry-on for free.

“Always ask the gate if there is room or if they should check your bag, as they are usually happy to check it,” Kelly advises. “It makes it easier for them to ensure everything else fits in cabin storage.”

Also, print your boarding pass at home, as some airlines charge to print them at the airport. If you have an iPhone, Apple Wallet is a great way to organize your boarding passes for easy access at the airport.

As for outfit options, Kendal Perez, savings expert at Coupon Sherpa, asserted that most people wear the same items repeatedly during trips. Instead of packing many options, Perez suggests packing versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched for different looks.

“This saves you time while packing and reduces the hassle of an overly-heavy bag,” she says.

Krystal Rogers-Nelson, travel writer for ASecureLife also has a few packing suggestions, outlined below:


  • Unless you’re going somewhere remote, don’t bring toiletries, as most hotels provide them for free
  • Pack a small backpack or tote bag in your carry-on so you can have a day bag on the plane and during your trip (and without extra baggage fees!)
  • Leave room in your luggage for souvenirs and keepsakes


Transportation: Rent or Ride?

When does it make sense to rent a car versus riding public transportation during your vacation?

Ride

Opting for public transportation can save most of your money, suggested Perez, especially in larger and more crowded cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago or Boston. Don’t waste your time or money with a rental car when you can cost-effectively get around via public transportation.

Rogers-Nelson expands on this concept, adding that you’ll save money on parking fees, as most metropolitan areas require a fee for secure parking. Additionally, public transportation options tend to be reliable and affordable.

Be sure to look into bike rentals or opt for walking if your destinations are close by. This is not only cost-effective but also a good way to get to know your surroundings.

Rental Cars

However, if you are traveling to a more remote location with infrequent public transportation service to your destination, Rogers-Nelson suggested it might be more cost effective to rent a car but avoid upselling attempts by agencies.

“In most cases, the insurance offered by agents is already covered by your personal auto insurance or by the credit card you’re using to book the reservation,” Perez explains.

Also avoid prepaying for fuel, since you won’t be reimbursed for any fuel you have in the tank when you return the vehicle.

Since most rental agencies offer coupon codes for online bookings, you can use sites like Coupon Sherpa to easily find deals, like a certain percentage or dollar amount off your car rental.

A less expensive alternative is a transportation app, such as Uber or Lyft. The rates are pre-calculated, and you can pay over your phone, avoiding cash exchanges.

Food for Thought

Rogers suggests, “A hotel or Airbnb with a kitchen is a little bit more expensive than a standard hotel room, however, you will most likely make up for that in saving on food and drink, as long as you commit to making the majority of your meals yourself.”

If you want to save the most money and have a kitchen where you’re lodging (such as in a condo, apartment, hotel, Airbnb rental or hostel), consider cooking most of your meals with local ingredients and stocking up on snacks and beverages. This will limit the amount of money you spend on food.

You can find coupons in local newspapers or catalogs in the entryway of most grocery stores, giving you an opportunity to save even more on your food.

Find local dining deals by downloading apps that access coupons to local eateries, like Groupon or Coupon Sherpa. Or simply ask the locals where the best bites to eat are located. They’ll usually be able to give you more affordable dining locations.

In addition, limit the number of times you dine out to keep costs down, and rely on snacks and small meals purchased from local markets. When you do dine out, eat local by trying street vendors or sit-down restaurants.

Should you choose to sample a local restaurant, try to go during a happy hour and order house-made wines and local beer to lower your bill. Plus, some happy hours have free or discounted food along with less expensive drinks.

Where to Stay

When it comes to deciding where to stay, you should factor in not only money but also convenience and comfort.

Hotels

Hotels are nice because you can pick a location close to the airport, with most airports offering free shuttles.

They also offer a more private room experience, compared to Airbnb rentals and hostels.

You should also consider the comfort of hotel amenities, such as pools, workout areas and continental breakfasts, all three of which are often free with the purchase of a room.

Just like with flights, you can find discounts on hotels at Kayak, Orbitz and Expedia. Groupon also has great deals, but they’re sometimes limited by date, so be sure to read the fine print.

Airbnb Rentals and Hostels

If you’re looking to take the stress out of traveling, consider staying at an Airbnb rental or a hostel, a unique traveling experience that may allow you to meet fellow travelers and create a more personalized vacation.

Airbnb allows individuals to rent their homes (or rooms in their homes) to tourists.

Rogers-Nelson suggested Airbnb as a great outlet when you’re working with a budget because you can filter by price, number of people and amenities based on what you’re looking to experience on your trip.

Much like Airbnb, hostels will also offer cheaper pricing on lodging and provide a more custom traveling experience than a hotel.


When you stay at an Airbnb rental or a hostel, you’re often more submerged in the culture that you’re visiting, allowing a more personal and meaningful experience when you travel away from your surroundings.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tips for a Successful Outdoor Party

by Malcolm BeanMay 29, 2017 in Homeowners Tips


The weather is getting warmer and the days longer. That means it’s time to gather the crew and enjoy the sunshine together. Of course, there’s nothing more symbolic of summer than a good old-fashioned cookout. Having a plan can make sure you’re able to truly relax. Here are a few tips so that you and your guests will truly enjoy the summer experience.



A Quick Note About Rain

It’s important to remember that outdoor parties happen outdoors. I’ve never read a forecast I believed, so keep an eye on the weather to make sure all your hard work isn’t ruined by a few rain drops. Have a backup plan in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Crank Up the Tunes

The soundtrack of your party is what’ll take it to the next level. A playlist of classics is guaranteed to make sure everyone enjoys the music. Even the most beloved song gets old the fourth time the playlist restarts. Make sure the list is long enough to last. At a minimum, it should be half the length of your party.

Mosquitoes

These little pests can turn the most enjoyable evening into a struggle. Make sure they’re not invited by using these tricks to make your space a mosquito-free zone. Most importantly, remove any standing water, as that’s where they lay their eggs. Next, lighting some citronella candles will do wonders to keep bugs off your guest list. Providing bug sprays can also offer personal relief to your guests.

Outdoor Lighting

Once the sun starts to dip, you might enjoy cooler summer temperatures, but you don’t want to lose sight of the party. Literally. Maybe you already have some outdoor lights, but make sure they’re softer ones, not blinding flood lights. If you have a safe space for it, a fire is a great way to provide some illumination. If not, string lights can bring a charming touch to your event. Have them set up ahead of time so you’re not fumbling around in the dark.

Yard Games

The constant buzzing of phones is a quick way to dampen the party mood. One way to keep people from checking their social media nonstop is with yard games. Kids and adults are both likely have a great time with these fun activities. A beanbag toss (also called cornhole in some parts of the country) is a yard game classic, and you can even make your own set!

Think of Your Guests When Planning the Menu

If it were just you eating at this party, you’d know exactly what to serve. But your guests should be your first thought when planning the menu. On a very important level, you don’t want to trigger any allergies. But it’s also important to make sure your vegetarian and vegan friends will leave just as satisfied as your carnivorous ones. Reach out to your guests before the party to get info about your guests’ allergies and preferences.

Make It Customizable

A nice way to put the power in the hands of guests is have a condiment bar. This lets your picky eaters decide what they do and don’t want. Spice things up by using Popsicle sticks as labels for the condiments. Provide a good spread, but make sure to stock up on the go-to items, like ketchup and mustard. Take it even further by providing a s’mores bar with all the fixings. Some unexpected items like peanut butter can bring new life to this summer classic.

A Cool Way to Cool

A cooler is just as important as a grill for the success of your party. Keeping your drinks chilled is the best way to keep your guests happy and hydrated. Bring in the summer vibe by freezing partially full frozen water balloons to serve as ice for your cooler. The pop of color is a fun addition, and as the water melts, it can be a great activity, too.

Clean Grill, Clean Fun

If you don’t clean the residue off your grill, the ghosts of meals past will end up haunting your guests. Mix of ¼ cup of baking soda and ¼ cup of water together to scrub the grate and let it sit. After 15 minutes, wipe it off with a cloth and run it at high heat to burn off any excess, and you’re good to go!

Leave No Meat Behind

As you’re grilling, you might notice the little bit of meat that gets stuck on the hot grill. It’s the worst. Luckily, it’s easy enough to avoid, and the solution can even add some flavor to your dish. Use olive oil to keep your meat from sticking. Use a paper towel soaked in olive oil to apply a coat of oil to the grill. It’s important that the grill already be hot and the meat be close behind so the oil doesn’t simply burn away.

The More Plates, the Merrier

It’s so tempting to keep just one plate at the side of the grill to plop everything on and sort it out later. But if you’re grilling vegetables, sometimes you don’t want those flavors to mix. A separate plate for each type of grilled goody will make sure all combos are intentional.

Patience: It’s What’s for Dinner

Fight your inner micromanager and trust your grill to cook your meat. When you’re checking for doneness, don’t poke, flip or stab anything. When in doubt, let the pros tell you how long to grill all the different items in your meal. Leaving your food alone will allow a premium sear and picture perfect grill marks.

What About the Children?

If your guest list includes some people born this side of the turn of the millennium, they’re going to want some activities to keep them busy. This is where those lawn games can come in handy. And having some specifically kid-themed games, like a water gun range, will make your party a hit with kids and their parents.

Think About the Drink

If you plan to serve alcohol at your party, having everyone’s favorite drink can be a real hassle. Instead of trying to please everyone, consider providing a house drink like outlaw lemonade. Providing an alcohol-free option is important, too. Checking with your guests beforehand will ensure everyone enjoys their time. Of course, you can still let guests bring their own drinks if so inclined.

With planning, your party can be a good time for your guests and for you. Kick back and enjoy the delicious fruits of your labor while soaking up some sun. You deserve it. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Got Curb Appeal?


 For home sellers, $50 spent on paint and flowers could help increase your final selling price by thousands; what investment can beat that? Here are the three secrets for making a great first impression with your home -- from Derek Thomas, whose landscaping has been featured on HGTV's Curb Appeal and Get it Sold.

Take Away, Don't Add


Gardens tend to be too crowded. Thin out plants to show pleasing "negative space," and prune lower limbs from trees to increase yard visibility. 

Result: a tranquil home.

Draw Eyes to Your Front Porch


Hang a few ferns in white planters. Install a porch swing. Place a topiary on either side of your door. 


Result: a welcoming home.

Add Color


Paint your front door red. Plant flowers by your entrance, using bright choices such as petunias, geraniums, zinnias, dahlias, sages and daisies. 


Result: a happy home. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

What to Save and What to Give Away When Downsizing

by Brianna Budny on April 20, 2017 Home Buying/Selling

Shop Junket
When downsizing your home, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of isn’t always easy. But if your new home is significantly smaller than what you’re used to, not all of your items will fit. To make your move a little easier, you may want to get rid of what you can live without before you move all of your belongings into your new home.

Some decisions can be very obvious. Of course you should save your great aunt’s engagement ring, whereas deciding to get rid of some of those books you bought but haven’t had time to read can be a little bit more challenging.

Here are a few tips to help you with these decisions!

What to Save


Items with Sentimental Value

Grandma’s quilt. Dad’s childhood dresser. Your child’s handprint painting from preschool. These are the items that make your house your home. Items like this probably have sentimental value, and you’re likely to keep them. Make sure that items you choose to keep are actually of sentimental value. You may want to keep three copies of your book report from third grade or every piece of paper your child drew on the first six years of their life, but remember that you’ll have to find room for everything. Keep only the items you value and that you’d miss if you no longer had them.

Julie Kearns, founder of Junket: Tossed & Found in Minneapolis, downsized from a home with 2,400 square feet to a condo with 800 square feet. She said she was glad that she kept “…pieces that would trigger positive memories of experiences that had happened in my previous home, and would help smooth the emotional aspect of the transition. It’s nice to have some familiarity.”

Photographs

Don’t throw your photos away if they can’t be replaced or if you may regret getting rid of them later. If you don’t want to keep physical copies of your photos, you can always scan them into your computer and then give the physical photos away to a friend or family member who wants them. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to scan all of your photos before you move, or plan on taking the photos with you.

Important Documents

When you’re getting rid of things, be careful to not throw away any important documents. Keep an eye out for things like birth or death certificates, social security cards, marriage licenses, passports, wills and/or trust papers, high school and college diplomas, property deeds or vehicle titles, tax forms, old medical records and any military service documents. Some of these items are irreplaceable or are very difficult to replace.

“I recommend organizing any paper messes before you move so you don’t transfer both the organizational and physical clutter into a newer, smaller space,” says Kearns.

Fine or Heirloom Jewelry (and their Original Boxes)

Make sure you don’t toss out any valuable jewelry. Even if a piece doesn’t have sentimental value, its monetary value may be worth saving. You can save valuable jewelry for your family or friends, or decide to sell it later. Jewelry can also be worth more if you keep the original packaging.

Small and Multifunctional Furniture

When you downsize, you have less room for all of the furniture that used to fit in your larger home. In a smaller home, functionality is very important. For example, if an ottoman has built-in storage, it’ll be more useful than having two pieces of furniture – one for sitting or using as a footrest, and one for storage. If you purchase new furniture, think about getting compact furniture, which can make a smaller room feel larger.

What to Give Away and Where to Start?


When making the decision to downsize, make sure to carefully consider what will be the right size home for you and your family. The size of the home you’ll be moving into can affect the amount of possessions you get rid of.

Downsizing will be a lot easier if you give yourself time to go through the items in your home before you move. You don’t want to make a quick decision to get rid of half of your stuff and regret it later.

Molli Carson from Makespace downsized from a spacious home in suburban California to a tiny bedroom in the heart of Brooklyn. She shared a key tip about sorting through your things when downsizing: “Don’t do it all at once. Downsizing requires a continual process of purging. There’s a fine line between ‘need’ and ‘want,’ and it may take awhile before you’re able to distinguish between the two.”

The easiest place to start is with the “extra” things in your house. The amount of extra items we accumulate that have little to no sentimental value is surprising. If you find items like this in your home, you can probably get rid of them first:

  • Old magazines and newspapers
  • Old receipts
  • Unread books
  • Old/outdated electronics (make sure to clear all personal information before getting rid of electronics)
  • Outgrown and outdated clothes
  • Socks without a match
  • Mismatched food storage containers
  • Old towels and sheets
  • Toys and puzzles that are missing pieces
  • Old cosmetics and toiletries
  • Old spices
  • Unused kitchen appliances, cookbooks and other gadgets
  • Old CDs and DVDs (and VHS tapes if you still have them)
  • Coffee mugs or other drinkware you don’t use anymore
  • Probably all of the things in your junk drawer (you know I’m right)
  • Metal hangers from the dry cleaner
Don’t just throw items you’re getting rid of into the garbage. Separate these items into two piles: donate and sell. Some items are probably still in good condition (especially the larger items, like appliances and furniture), and can be sold in a garage sale or on a website like Craigslist. This could be a good way to make a little extra money for your move. Items that are gently used and functional, but you aren’t able to sell, can be donated to a local charity.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Where Can You Get Affordable Financial Advice?

by Zina Kumok on March 24, 2017 in Saving Money

When I was trying to pay off my student loans in three years, I looked for financial advice in every avenue I could think of. I posted on Reddit forums, asked my parents and talked to my friends.

I really wanted to talk to a professional financial advisor, but I couldn’t justify spending a few hundred dollars on advice. I was trying to be frugal and limit my discretionary spending, and that included financial planning.

Thankfully, I was able to find a lot of free and affordable help. Even now when I have a financial question, I turn to my trusty resources before I pay for someone’s help. Read below to see my favorite picks for free financial resources.

Financial Planning Days

When I was paying off my student loans and struggling to save for retirement, I found help at Financial Planning Days, an annual event that connects financial planners and the general public.

Located in more than a dozen cities around the country, Financial Planning Days recruits planners who volunteer their time for free. They also offer themed lectures, such as “20 Keys to Being a Smarter Investor” and “Planning for the Costs of Higher Education.”

Unfortunately, this event isn’t available in every city. If your town does offer it, make sure to register in advance and bring a list of your specific questions.

United Way

One of the primary goals of United Way is to empower people financially by working with volunteer experts who can offer tips or classes on financial wellness, career training or job hunting in the communities they serve. Many local United Way chapters teach financial education, credit counseling and more. These centers often have resources in both English and Spanish and are low-cost or free.

Library

One of the best places to find free financial resources is the library. Most libraries are stocked with personal finance books written by industry professionals ranging from Dave Ramsey to Farnoosh Torabi. If your library doesn’t have the title you’re looking for, put a request in.

These books can give you a basic financial education and answer everything from how to create a budget to how to pay off debt. You can also find books on complex subjects like how to buy a rental property and how to start investing for your retirement.

Libraries also often have free workshops and seminars. For example, my local branch at the Denver Public Library hosts a Financial Resilience Workshop to discuss Social Security benefits. Many libraries also offer free tax help in the spring.

Personal Finance Blogs

If you’re reading this article, you’ve already discovered one way to improve your financial literacy: reading blogs. There are tons of financial blogs out there that talk about side hustles, starting a business, paying off debt and more. Some cater to particular audiences such as Christian families or single women.

Here are some great resources to find the personal finance blog that’s right for you:




Financial Podcasts

Whether you want to pass time during your daily commute or just prefer listening instead of reading advice, financial podcasts tend to pack a lot of value into their segments with stories and interviews that personalize money matters. Here are some financial podcasts that are worth your time for general advice and information on how evolving technology is improving the finance industry.

What to Know

Most of these resources won’t be able to tell you which investments to choose or how to retire in 10 years. If you truly want your specific questions answered, a financial advisor or coach might be your best resource. But if you’re like me and looking to see what other people are saying, then you should check out what we’ve listed here.

I learned how to budget, pay off my loans and start saving for retirement by utilizing some of the services listed above. Yes, a financial advisor can help you, but if you’re looking for free help, it’s out there, too.