Tag: News

‘Dream Home Makeover’ Will Inspire You To Drop Everything and Decorate

Dream Home MakeoverHGTV

Utah couple Shea and Syd McGee are back with Season 2 of Netflix’s “Dream Home Makeover”—and their new projects will make you want to drop everything on your plate and decorate.

In this new season, they show off renovations in every room of the house, from the kitchen to the bathroom to the bedroom, doling out style inspiration for the whole house. And while Shea’s signature style is still as clean and calming as ever, she focuses on creative designs like imperfect tile, wallpaper accents, and, yes, even carpet!

Read on to get the best tips from “Dream Home Makeover.” You’ll find some unexpected design choices that will inspire many weekends of fun projects to keep you happy at home through 2021.

Use imperfect tile to bring character to a new kitchen

kitchen backsplash
These imperfect tiles give the kitchen some character.

HGTV

In the episode “Luxury Estate,” Shea and Syd meet up with LaRee and Travis Hansen, who are just about ready to move in to their new home. This new build has been a work in progress for over two years, and now Shea is able to add the final touches, like a stylish kitchen backsplash.

Since this kitchen is so new, Shea chooses a handmade tile. But after it’s installed, the special texture makes the tile look at first like it’s not sitting perfectly flat.

“In new homes you kind of have to pick a few things that are maybe older or have some imperfections so that the home has a little bit of soul even when you move in to it,” Shea says.

At first, LaRee is unsure about this imperfect backsplash, but once it’s installed, it’s clear this tile is the right choice. It gives this clean kitchen a little personality. With this unique backsplash, the kitchen feels less like a hotel and more like a home.

For a midcentury look, use the right lighting

lighting
This guesthouse already had lighting fixtures, but Shea McGee wanted to update the look.

HGTV

In the episode “Midcentury Makeover,” Shea and Syd meet Omar Poole and Josh Newbury for a midcentury makeover of their guesthouse. Poole knows that his mother will need to move in to this guesthouse eventually, so they want to fix it up for her with a fun midcentury modern design, which will match the main house.

However, this guesthouse was built in 1956, so Shea is forced to make some era-appropriate lighting choices.

kitchen
Shea installed new lights and a fun, midcentury pendant light.

HGTV

“Homes of this era don’t typically have attics,” Shea explains. “We can’t crawl into the attic space to install can lights. We have to do all fixtures.”

She removes the original fixtures and replaces them with new, white alternatives that have the midcentury look. Plus, she installs a midcentury-inspired pendant light over the kitchen island, which adds even more retro style to the space. These new lights really set the mood.

Make sure different flooring types complement each other

bathroom
The tile in the bathroom and the carpeting in the closet work together to create an elegant look.

HGTV

The episode “Bath Hideaway” is all about Shea’s clients Mandi and Bryce Winkelman, and their fabulous primary bathroom. Mandi explains that she wants a peaceful, spa bathroom where she can take a break from the kids, so Shea focuses on finding a spa-inspired flooring choice.

She decides that gray herringbone with light grout is the perfect look for this bathroom because it’s elegant and gives the space some color. However, Shea runs into a challenge when it’s time to install carpet in the adjoining closet. She can’t match the carpet color to the tile or else it would look too matchy-matchy. So instead, she brings in an entirely new pattern with familiar colors.

“We did this kind of warm, gray grout with the dark stone herringbone floor, and then we flip-flopped the color palette in the closet, where we get the plaid that’s a warm gray with the dark accents,” Shea explains.

In the end, the closet carpet ends up looking great. The light plaid brightens up the space without seeming too stark next to the gray bathroom floors.

Use wallpaper as a classic accent

kitchen
This old kitchen needed a period-appropriate update.

HGTV

In the episode “Restoring History,” Madison and Nick Panos show Shea around their historic home, which was built in 1908. Madison knows that it’s time to update the old kitchen, but she still wants to keep the home’s classic look.

So, to keep some 1908 style, Shea brings in wallpaper.

kitchen
A little wallpaper can go a long way in a classic kitchen.

HGTV

“Our days of wallpapering every single room has passed, but when we have a dedicated area like this desk, where you have easy places to stop the wallpaper, it’s a perfect place to use it as an accent,” Shea explains.

She uses some subtle blue and white paper to dress up the built-in desk area. It gives the space a classic style without seeming dated.

Give stone an updated look by brightening the color

living room
This wood-burning stove brought some cabin charm to the house, but it needed an update.

HGTV

In the episode “Mountain Retreat Makeover,” Shea meets with Shazia and Taylor Chiu, who live in a cozy cabin.

These two want to give their cabin an updated look, but they also hope to keep the old-fashioned stove in the living room, which they still use to heat the house in winter.

To update this feature, Shea uses mortar to turn the stone behind the stove white.

living room
The white finish makes the whole room look brighter.

HGTV

“The cement mortar looks amazing on the stone,” Shea says.

Indeed, this small change to the stove area brightens the space and transforms the entire room.

Give your windows some cozy style

bedroom
The right window dressings can make all the difference in a bedroom.

HGTV

In the episode “Bedroom Oasis,” Shea works with client Jessica Stone to surprise her husband, Tyler, with a bedroom rehab. Jessica wants the room to feel like Hawaii, so Shea uses lots of soft colors and materials to get that island feel. She even uses those soft materials on the windows.

“When it comes to picking window treatments, you could pick shades, or you could pick drapes, but I often like to do both together because the more textures and textiles you have, the cozier a room feels. And blending the two together makes a home feel homier,” Shea explains.

So she installs long, light gray drapes, plus a woven shade. Together, these materials and textures give the room a relaxing vibe that’s reminiscent of the coast.

The post ‘Dream Home Makeover’ Will Inspire You To Drop Everything and Decorate appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

What Is Austerity?

What Is Austerity?

Austerity policies are nothing new. But talk about them in the news has recently escalated. In response to its ongoing debt crisis, the Greek government is preparing to implement austerity measures aimed at helping the country regain its financial footing. If you didn’t major in economics or you have no clue what austerity means, read on to find out how this fiscal program works.

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Austerity: A Definition

Trust us, austerity isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Austerity is a type of economic policy that governments use to deal with budget deficits. A country faces a deficit whenever it’s using more money than it’s earning from tax dollars.

By taking on an austerity package, a government hopes to reign in its spending, improve the status of its economy and avoid defaulting on its unpaid debt. Governments usually take on austerity measures in order to appease their creditors. In exchange, these lenders agree to bail out countries and allow them to borrow more money.

If you look up the word austere in the dictionary, you’ll see that it means severe, grave, hard, solemn and serious. Indeed, austerity is nothing to joke about.

Austerity Measures

What Is Austerity?

Austerity plans normally involve increases in different taxes, (property taxes, income taxes, etc.) budget cuts or a push to incorporate both. Government workers could lose their jobs or see their wages and benefits either decline or become stagnant. Hiking up interest rates, adding travel bans and keeping prices at a fixed level could be other strategies put in place to reduce spending.

Naturally, austerity measures typically aren’t viewed in the best light because they mean that there might be fewer government programs available to the public. Aid for veterans and low-income families, healthcare coverage and pensions are some of the benefits that normally take a hit when a country’s using an austerity package. Government services that aren’t eliminated might not be as comprehensive or as beneficial as they once were.

As you can see, in an austere environment, conditions are tighter overall. Historically, austerity has been implemented in the US during tough times including World War I, World War II and the Great Recession of 2008.

Greece’s new austerity package – which government lawmakers finally accepted in July 2015 – will feature less government funding, higher taxes and cuts to pension plans. As a result of this deal, the country was allowed to begin talks with its creditors about a third bailout.

Related Article: All About the Greek Debt Crisis

The Problems With Government Austerity 

Experts on the economy tend to go back and forth about how effective austerity can be. Some believe that instead of turning to austerity, the government should pump out more money and borrow as much as possible if an economy is on the rocks.

From a political standpoint, austerity is often controversial and results in riots and demonstrations. Anti-austerity protests erupted in Greece, where quite a few folks say that past austerity programs have only made social and economic conditions worse.

Beyond slowing down the economy, an austerity bill can cause a country to remain in its debt crisis, particularly if it’s in the midst of a recession. As fiscal austerity decreases spending, GDP can go down while unemployment goes up. Consumers can get nervous and stop spending and investing their own money.

In short, austerity policies can make life even more difficult for people who are already struggling. That’s why governments tend to turn to them as a last resort if other strategies aren’t working.

Why Austerity Might Not Be So Bad

What Is Austerity?

Notable European creditors have argued that austerity can be beneficial to a country’s long-term economic state. For instance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has previously reported that austerity has done more damage than anticipated. But the European Central Bank released a paper saying that austerity has been helpful, at least for some of the weaker eurozone countries.

In fact, austerity has helped strengthen the economies in European countries like Latvia and Iceland. Although Spain’s unemployment remains high, its economy is in better shape overall. Ireland has made considerable progress as well toward rebuilding its economy.

Proponents of austerity policies say that they can make investors feel more optimistic when a country is being run more responsibly. Austerity has the potential to bring a shrinking economy back to life as everyday citizens invest in the private sector instead of relying on support from the federal government.

Try out our free investment calculator. 

The US used austerity measures between 2010 and 2014. Not only were our policies harsher than those employed by the governments in the UK and other European nations, but our economy fared better than theirs.

The Takeaway

The point of austerity is to tighten the government’s belt, bring a country’s debt back down to a more manageable level and stimulate an economy that has stopped growing. Countries generally try to meet these goals by cutting spending and raising taxes.

The debate over whether austerity works continues but one common theme has emerged. Timing matters. Some critics suggest that cutting too much too quickly during a recession can be painful. When introduced more slowly, however, (or when the economy is doing very well,) austerity measures can turn things around.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Eltoddo, ©iStock.com/DNY59, ©iStock.com/Peter Booth

The post What Is Austerity? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Visa v. Mastercard: How These Financial Tools Are Similar & What Makes Them Different

visa and mastercard difference

You apply for a credit card and the bank sends you one when you’re approved. Whether it’s a Visa, a MasterCard or another type of payment card doesn’t factor into the process. Or does it?

Find out whether you should choose Visa or MasterCard when applying for credit cards and what other information you should know about these companies before selecting a credit card.

The Difference Between Visa and MasterCard

The only real difference that stands between Visa and MasterCard is that your card works on the payment network that the company operates. A Visa card won’t work on MasterCard’s network, and vice versa.

Ultimately, any other differences in cards come from the specific card you have. Not all MasterCard cards are the same, and not all Visa cards are the same.

How Are Visa and MasterCard cards similar?

Visa and MasterCard are both card networks. That means they manage the payment networks on which their cards work, but they don’t actually approve or issue cards to consumers. When you receive a Visa or MasterCard credit card, you get it from a bank such as Chase, WellsFargo or other organizations.

This is in contrast to how cards such as Discover and American Express work. These companies operate payment networks, but they also sometimes issue cards directly.

One benefit of the way Visa and MasterCard work is that they are able to foster much wider acceptance than other credit card companies. Visa’s network is 28 million merchants strong. MasterCard’s network features 30 million merchants. It’s rare that one of the types of cards is not accepted when another is. You’re much more likely to find a merchant that accepts Visa and MasterCard while not accepting Discover or American Express.

Other Similarities Between Visa and MasterCard

Because the specifics of your card depend on what kind of Visa or MasterCard you have, both types of cards offer a variety of options. Here are some of the considerations and options you’ll find whether you choose MasterCard or Visa.

1. Credit scores are required for cards.

The credit card companies don’t decide whether you’re approved for a card or not. It’s the bank sponsoring the card that makes the final call because they’re the one taking the financial risk to extend you credit. Some cards require good to excellent credit scores for approval, while others are approved for individuals with lower credit ratings.

Some banks may even offer credit repair cards for individuals with even lower credit ratings. These tend to have very low credit limits and may come with higher interest rates. Often, cards with the best benefits are approved only for those with good credit ratings.

Find out more about credit scores and what is typically considered a strong score before you apply for any type of credit card.

2. Rewards cards are an option.

Both MasterCard and Visa work with banks that provide rewards credit cards. These can include:

  • Travel rewards, such as points toward discounts on hotel stays, airfare, dining or even Uber rides
  • Store-specific rewards, such as points at retailers like Best Buy or Home Depot
  • Food and beverage rewards, such as free beverages at Starbucks or discounts at favorite restaurant chains
  • Cash back earned on each dollar you spend

The type of rewards you earn with your card depend on the card program, which is offered by the banks, and you can find Visa and MasterCard options for all of the above.

You can find some of the best options for rewards and other credit cards via the Credit.com search tools. That’s true whether you’re looking for MasterCard cards or Visa cards.

3. Fees can range for each card.

Fees are typically set by the banks and not by Visa or MasterCard. What you pay in over-limit, balance transfer, late fees or foreign transaction fees depends on the bank, the credit card offer and the agreement you sign. Don’t rely on the name on the card, and instead, make sure you fully review the offer before you agree to it so you know what fees you’re on the hook for.

4. Apple and Google Pay are options.

Most MasterCard and Visa credit cards work with smart wallet options such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. This is good news for credit card holders who are worried about the security risks that come with swiping a card. Instead, you can link your card to the app on your smartphone and pay via your phone at any payment station that accepts these methods.

5. Credit card holder discount programs.

If you use a business credit card, you may be entitled to save money on various purchases. Visa offers its Visa SavingsEdge program which features discounts of up to 15% or more on qualifying merchants that are automatically refunded to cardholders’ statements. Participating merchants include gas stations, hotels and car rental agencies.

MasterCard offers its similar Easy Savings program with discounts for qualifying purchases from gas stations, hotels and car repair chains. In both cases, cardholders must enroll their cards to realize these savings.

Can You Choose Your Own Payment Network?

In cases where banks work with both MasterCard and Visa, you may be able to contact your credit card company to ask for a specific network. This is true even if you were already issued a card on one of the networks already.

Because the bank determines APR, terms and rewards programs, there is often no reason to get into this level of detail when requesting a card. However, Visa and MasterCard both do back some benefits associated with their cards, including rental car insurance, buyer protections, extended warranties and travel insurance. If one of these benefits is extremely important to you, it may be worth it to change to the card network that offers the best option.

Regardless of whether you choose a Visa or a MasterCard card, apply for a credit card right here on Credit.com. Need to know your credit score before applying? Find out by signing up for a free Credit.com account.

The post Visa v. Mastercard: How These Financial Tools Are Similar & What Makes Them Different appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Amex launching limited-time offers on co-branded travel cards

The COVID-19 pandemic has put millions of travel plans on hold for many months. As a result, travel credit card issuers have had to adjust their products to make sure they still offer plenty of value to cardholders, even while the opportunities to earn or spend travel rewards are limited.

To make its co-branded travel credit cards valuable to customers even during the pandemic, American Express is launching new limited-time offers for eligible Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy cardmembers. With these offers, cardholders can earn up to $220 in statement credits for non-travel spending, including dining for customers with consumer credit cards and wireless telephone services for business credit cardholders.

“We want to support how our customers are living their lives and running their businesses today, which is why we focused our statement credits on restaurants and wireless,” said Eva Reda, executive vice president and general manager of Global Consumer Lending & Cobrand at American Express. “We are also giving our Delta Card Members more ways to build up their bank of miles and earn higher status now for when they feel they are ready to travel again.”

Earn up to $220 in statement credits for dining

If you had a consumer Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy credit card as of Jan. 1, 2021, you can enroll via Amex Offers to earn statement credits for dining out or take out. (Note, Amex Offers are targeted, so you might not see every promotion listed below.)

Here are the offers available to eligible Delta SkyMiles cardmembers:

  • Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card members can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $165 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express cardholders can receive $15 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card members can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

Those with Hilton Honors American Express cards can also get up to $220 in statement credits:

  • Up to $55 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Card members can receive $5 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® cardholders can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card members can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

Eligible Marriott Bonvoy cardmembers can take advantage of the following Amex Offers:

  • Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card members can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express cardholders can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

Earn up to $220 in statement credits on wireless telephone services

If you carry an eligible co-branded business card from Amex, you can also enroll to earn up to $220 in statement credits through Dec. 31, 2021.

These offers are available for Delta SkyMiles cardholders:

  • Up to $110 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services: Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card members can earn up to $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $165 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express cardholders can earn up to $15 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card members can earn up to $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

With the “Score More on Wireless” offer, Hilton Honors American Express Business cardholders can receive up to $110 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services – up to $10 back per month (up to 11 times).

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card members can earn up to $165 per month in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services – up to $15 back per month (up to 11 times).

More offers to earn extra points or miles

Besides earning statement credits, eligible cardholders now have more opportunities to get rewards on purchases. For example, Delta SkyMiles cardmembers can earn up to 3 additional miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases through Dec. 31, 2021 – that’s up to 5 miles per dollar in total.

For more offers, check our guide to limited-time credit card offers and promotions during COVID or log in to your Amex account to see Amex Offers available to you.

Source: creditcards.com

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

If left unchecked, extensive amounts of credit card debt can cripple your finances. The good news is there are many ways to handle debt, though each requires a dedicated effort on your part. But if you can manage to consolidate credit card debt, you will reduce your burden relatively quickly. In the process, you’ll avoid the exorbitant interest rates that accompany most credit cards. Below we take a look at some of the most effective techniques you can use to make this goal a reality.

Find Out Your Credit Score

Before you can work on improving your credit and minimizing your debt, you have to know where you currently stand.

Many credit card issuers allow cardholders to see their FICO® credit score free of charge once a month, so check out if any of your cards include that free credit score. The three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – also give out free annual credit reports. If that’s not enough, websites like Credit Karma™ and Credit Sesame provide a free look at your credit score and reports as well.

It is vital to review your credit report with a fine-tooth comb to ensure the accuracy of the information. If you find errors be sure to let the credit bureau in question know so the issue can be eradicated as soon as possible.

Zero Interest Balance Transfer Cards

Although it might seem counterintuitive to apply for another credit card to lessen your debt, a zero interest balance transfer card could really help. These cards typically include an introductory 0% balance transfer Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for six months or more. This ultimately allows you to move debt from one account to another without incurring more interest. However, once the introductory offer concludes, any leftover balances will revert to your base APR.

These offers aren’t totally free, though. Most cards also charge a balance transfer fee that’s usually between 3% and 5% of the transfer. Even with this initial payment, you will almost always still save money over leaving your debt where it stands currently.

If you want to consolidate credit card debt, here are three different balance transfer credit cards you could apply for, with varying introductory interest rates and transfer fees:

Balance Transfer Credit Cards Card Intro Balance Transfer APR Balance Transfer Fee Chase Slate 0% APR for first 15 months; then 16.49% to 25.24% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $5 or 5% of each transfer, whichever is greater Citi Double Cash Card 0% introductory APR for 18 months from date of first transfer when transfers are completed within 4 months from date of account opening; then 15.49% to 25.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness $5 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater BankAmericard® credit card 0% APR for first 15 billing cycles; then 14.49% to 24.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $10 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater Take Out a Personal Loan

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

The thought of taking out another loan probably doesn’t sound too appetizing to consolidate credit card debt. But a personal debt consolidation loan is one of the speediest ways to rid yourself of credit card debt. More specifically, you can use it to pay off most or all of your debt in one lump sum. That way, your payments are all merged into a single account with your lender.

The APR and length of the offered loan and the minimum credit score needed for approval are the main factors that should go into your final decision on a lender. By concentrating on these three components of the loan, you can map out what your monthly payments will be. As a result, you can more easily implement them into your financial life.

Applying for a personal consolidation loan can have a detrimental effect on your credit. Unfortunately, most institutions will run a hard credit check on you prior to approval. However, many online lenders don’t do this, which might ease your mind depending on the severity of your debt situation.

These loans are available through a wide variety of financial institutions, including banks, online lenders and credit unions. Here are a few examples of some of the most common debt consolidation lenders:

Common Debt Consolidation Lenders Banks Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Fifth Third Bank Online Lenders Lending Club, Prosper, Best Egg Credit Unions Navy Federal Credit Union, Unify Financial Credit Union, Affinity Federal Credit Union Auto or Home Equity Loan

If you own assets like a home or car, you can take out a lump-sum loan based on the equity you hold in them to consolidate credit card debt. This is a great way to reuse money you paid toward an existing loan to take care of your debt. When paying back your auto or home equity loan, you’ll usually pay in fixed amounts at a relatively low interest rate. Even if this rate isn’t great, it’s likely much better than any offer you’d receive from a card issuer.

Equity loans are technically a second mortgage or loan, meaning your house or car will become the loan’s collateral. That means you could lose your house or car if you cannot keep up with your equity loan payments.

Create a Budget

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

To build a budget, you first need to figure out your approximate monthly net income. Don’t forget to take into account taxes when you’re doing this.

You can then start subtracting your variable and fixed expenses that are expected for the upcoming month. This is where you will likely be able to identify where you’re overspending, whether it’s on food, entertainment or travel. Once you’ve completed this, you can begin cutting back where you need to. Then, use your surplus cash to pay off your debt one month at a time.

It shouldn’t matter if you’re dealing with substantial credit card debt or not. A monthly spending budget should always be a part of how you manage your finances. While this is likely the slowest way to eliminate debt, it’s also the most financially sound. At its core, it attempts to fix the problem without taking funding from an outside source. This should leave very little financial strife in the aftermath of paying off your debt.

Professional Debt Counseling

Perhaps since you’ve found yourself in serious debt, you feel like you want professional help getting out of it. Well the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) is available for just that reason. The NFCC® has member offices all around the U.S. that are certified in helping you consolidate credit card debt.

These counselors won’t only address your current financial issues and debt. They’ll also work to create a plan that will help you avoid this situation again in the future.

Agencies that are accredited by the NFCC® will have it clearly displayed on their website or at their offices. If you’re not sure where to look, the foundation created an agency locator that’ll help you find a counselor nearby.

Borrow From Your Retirement

Taking money early from your employer-sponsored retirement account obviously isn’t ideal. That’s means borrowing from your retirement is a last-ditch alternative. But if your credit card debt has become such a handicap that it’s affecting all other facets of your life, it is a viable option to consolidate credit card debt.

Because you are technically loaning money to yourself, this will not show up on your credit report. Major tax and penalty charges await anyone who has trouble making payments on these loans though. To make matters worse, if you quit your job or are fired, you’re typically only given 60 days to finish paying it off to avoid incurring a penalty.

Tips To Consolidate Credit Card Debt

  • If you take the time to come up with a budget, don’t let it go to waste. While you might find it tough to stick to, especially if you’re trying to cut back, it is the best way to manage your money correctly. Even if a budget becomes habit, stay vigilant with where your money is being spent.
  • Although a financial advisor will cost money, he or she might be able to help you keep your finances in check while ultimately helping you plan for the future as well. However, if this isn’t an option for you financially, stay on track with your NFCC® debt counselor’s plan.
  • There are so many ways to gain access to your credit score that there’s virtually no excuse for not knowing it. It doesn’t matter if you do it through one of the top three credit bureaus, FICO® or one of your card issuers. Just remember to pay attention to those ever-important three digits as often as possible.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Liderina, ©iStock.com/ferrantraite, Â©iStock.com/cnythzl

The post Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

4 Practical Ways to Leave College Debt-Free

A college student looks down at her notebook and smiles because she'll leave college debt-free.

The following is a guest post by Lisa Bigelow, a content writer for Bold.

When it comes to paying for college, the anxiety about how to leave college debt-free starts early. And for thousands of grads who are buckling under the weight of monthly student loan payments that can cost as much as a mortgage, that worry can last for as long as 25 years.

According to EducationData.org and The College Board, the cost of a private school undergraduate education can exceed $200,000 over four years. Think you can avoid a $100k+ price tag by staying in-state? Think again—many public flagships can cost over $100,000 for residents seeking an undergraduate degree, including room and board. And with financial aid calculators returning eye-poppingly low awards, you’d better not get a second topping on your pizza.

In fact, you’d better hope that you can graduate on time.

The good news is that you can maintain financial health and get a great education at the same time. You won’t have to enroll as a full-time student and work 40 hours a week, either—each of the methods suggested are attainable for anyone who makes it a priority to leave college debt-free.

Here are four practical ways you can leave college debt-free (and still get that second pizza topping).

1. Cut the upfront sticker price

Don’t visit schools until you are certain you can afford them. Instead, prioritize the cost of attendance and how much you can afford to pay. Staying in-state is one easy way to do this. But if you have wanderlust and want to explore colleges outside state lines, an often-overlooked method of cutting the upfront cost is the regional tuition discount. Many US states participate in some form of tuition reciprocity or exchange programs. You can explore the full list of options at the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators website.

Let’s explore how this works. As a resident of a New England state, for example, you can study at another New England state’s public university at a greatly reduced cost if your home state’s public schools don’t offer the degree you want. So, for example, if you live in Maine but want to go to film school, you can attend the University of Rhode Island and major in film using the regional tuition discount.

Some universities offer different types of regional discounts and scholarships that appear somewhat arbitrary. The University of Louisville (in Kentucky) includes Connecticut in its regional scholars program. And at the University of Nebraska, out-of-state admitted applicants are eligible for several thousand dollars in renewable scholarship money if they meet modest academic standards.

If you already have your heart set on an expensive school and you’re not likely to qualify for reciprocity, financial help, or merit aid, live at home and complete your first two years at your local community college.

Here’s another fun fact: in some places, graduating from community college with a minimum GPA gives you automatic acceptance to the state flagship university.

2. Leverage dual enrollment and “testing out”

When you enroll in a four-year college it’s pretty likely that you’ll spend the first two years completing general education requirements and taking electives. Why not further reduce the cost of your education by completing some of those credits at your local community college, or by testing out?

Community college per-credit tuition is usually much cheaper than at four-year colleges, so take advantage of the lower rate in high school and over the summer after you’re enrolled in your four-year college.

But beware: you’ll probably need at least a C to transfer the credits, so read your institution’s rules first. Also, plan to take general education and low-level elective classes, because you’ll want to take courses in your major at your four-year school.

If you’ve been given the opportunity to take Advanced Placement courses, study hard for your year-end exams. Many colleges will accept a score of 3 or higher for credit, although some require at least a 4 (and others none at all). Take four or five AP classes in high school, score well on the exams, and guess what? You’ve just saved yourself a semester of tuition.

3. Take advantage of financial aid opportunities

After taking steps one and two, you probably have a good idea of what the leftover expense will be if you want to leave college debt-free. Your next job is to figure out how to cut that total even more by using financial aid. There are four types to consider.

The first is called need-based aid. This is what you’ll apply for when you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Known as the FAFSA, this is where you’ll enter detailed financial information, and you’ll need at least an hour the first time you complete this form. Hint: apply for aid as soon as the form opens in the fall. It is not a bottomless pot of money.

There is also medical-based financial aid. If you have a condition that could make employment difficult after graduating from college, you may be eligible, and qualifying is separate and apart from financial need and academic considerations.

The third type of aid relates to merit and is offered directly by colleges. Some schools automatically consider all accepted applicants for merit scholarships, which could relate to academics or community service or, in the case of recruited athletes, athletics. At other universities, you’ll need to submit a separate scholarship application after you’ve been admitted. Some merit awards are renewable for four years and others are only for one year.

If you didn’t get need-based or merit-based aid then you still may qualify for a private scholarship. Some require essays, some don’t, and some are offered by local community organizations such as rotary clubs, women’s organizations, and the like. Don’t turn your nose up at small-dollar awards, either, because they add up quickly and can cover budget-busting expenses such as travel and books.

4. Find easy money

Small-dollar awards really add up when you make finding easy money a priority. Consider using the following resources to help leave college debt-free:

  • Returns from micro-investing apps like Acorns
  • Tax return refunds
  • Browser add-ons that give you cashback for shopping online
  • Rewards credit cards (apply for a travel rewards credit card if you’re studying out of state)
  • Asking for money at the holidays and on your birthday
  • Working part-time by capitalizing on a special talent, such as tutoring, photography, or freelance writing

Leave College Debt-Free

Finally, if you have to take out a student loan, you may be able to have it forgiven if you agree to serve your community after graduation. The Peace Corps is one such way to serve, but if you have a specialized degree such as nursing, you can work in an underserved community and reap the rewards of loan forgiveness.


Lisa Bigelow writes for Bold and is an award-winning content creator, personal finance expert, and mom of three fantastic almost-adults. In addition to Credit.com, Lisa has contributed to The Tokenist, OnEntrepreneur, College Money Tips, Finovate, Finance Buzz, Life and Money by Citi, MagnifyMoney, Well + Good, Smarter With Gartner, and Popular Science. She lives with her family in Connecticut.

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Why It’s Harder to Get Credit When You’re Self-Employed

Around 6.1% of employed Americans worked for themselves in 2019, yet the ranks of the self-employed might increase among certain professions more than others. By 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that self-employment will rise by nearly 8%. 

Some self-employed professionals experience high pay in addition to increased flexibility. Dentists, for example, are commonly self-employed, yet they earned a median annual wage of $159,200 in 2019. Conversely, appraisers and assessors of real estate, another career where self-employment is common, earned a median annual wage of $57,010 in 2019.

Despite high pay and job security in some industries, there’s one area where self-employed workers can struggle — qualifying for credit. When you work for yourself, you might have to jump through additional hoops and provide a longer work history to get approved for a mortgage, take out a car loan, or qualify for another line of credit you need.

Why Being Self-Employed Matters to Creditors

Here’s the good news: Being self-employed doesn’t directly affect your credit score. Some lenders, however, might be leery about extending credit to self-employed applicants, particularly if you’ve been self-employed for a short time. 

When applying for a mortgage or another type of loan, lenders consider the following criteria:

  • Your income
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Credit score
  • Assets
  • Employment status

Generally speaking, lenders will confirm your income by looking at pay stubs and tax returns you submit. They can check your credit score with the credit bureaus by placing a hard inquiry on your credit report, and can confirm your debt-to-income ratio by comparing your income to the debt you currently owe. Lenders can also check to see what assets you have, either by receiving copies of your bank statements or other proof of assets. 

The final factor — your employment status — can be more difficult for lenders to gauge if you’re self-employed, and managing multiple clients or jobs. After all, bringing in unpredictable streams of income from multiple sources is considerably different than earning a single paycheck from one employer who pays you a salary or a set hourly rate. If your income fluctuates or your self-employment income is seasonal, this might be considered less stable and slightly risky for lenders.

That said, being honest about your employment and other information when you apply for a loan will work out better for you overall. Most lenders will ask the status of your employment in your loan application; however, your self-employed status could already be listed with the credit bureaus. Either way, being dishonest on a credit application is a surefire way to make sure you’re denied.

Extra Steps to Get Approved for Self-Employed Workers

When you apply for a mortgage and you’re self-employed, you typically have to provide more proof of a reliable income source than the average person. Lenders are looking for proof of income stability, the location and nature of your work, the strength of your business, and the long-term viability of your business. 

To prove your self-employed status won’t hurt your ability to repay your loan, you’ll have to supply the following additional information: 

  • Two years of personal tax returns
  • Two years of business tax returns
  • Documentation of your self-employed status, including a client list if asked
  • Documentation of your business status, including business insurance or a business license

Applying for another line of credit, like a credit card or a car loan, is considerably less intensive than applying for a mortgage — this is true whether you’re self-employed or not. 

Most other types of credit require you to fill out a loan application that includes your personal information, your Social Security number, information on other debt you have like a housing payment, and details on your employment status. If your credit score and income is high enough, you might get approved for other types of credit without jumping through any additional hoops.

10 Ways the Self-Employed Can Get Credit

If you work for yourself and want to make sure you qualify for the credit you need, there are plenty of steps you can take to set yourself up for success. Consider making the following moves right away.

1. Know Where Your Credit Stands

You can’t work on your credit if you don’t even know where you stand. To start the process, you should absolutely check your credit score to see whether it needs work. Fortunately, there are a few ways to check your FICO credit score online and for free

2. Apply With a Cosigner

If your credit score or income are insufficient to qualify for credit on your own, you can also apply for a loan with a cosigner. With a cosigner, you get the benefit of relying on their strong credit score and positive credit history to boost your chances of approval. If you choose this option, however, keep in mind that your cosigner is jointly responsible for repaying the loan, if you default. 

3. Go Straight to Your Local Bank or Credit Union

If you have a long-standing relationship with a credit union or a local bank, it already has a general understanding of how you manage money. With this trust established, it might be willing to extend you a line of credit when other lenders won’t. 

This is especially true if you’ve had a deposit account relationship with the institution for several years at minimum. Either way, it’s always a good idea to check with your existing bank or credit union when applying for a mortgage, a car loan, or another line of credit. 

4. Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is an important factor lenders consider when you apply for a mortgage or another type of loan. This factor represents the amount of debt you have compared to your income, and it’s represented as a percentage.

If you have a gross income of $6,000 per month and you have fixed expenses of $3,000 per month, for example, then your DTI ratio is 50%.

A DTI ratio that’s too high might make it difficult to qualify for a mortgage or another line of credit when you’re self-employed. For mortgage qualifications, most lenders prefer to loan money to consumers with a DTI ratio of 43% or lower. 

5. Check Your Credit Report for Errors

To keep your credit in the best shape possible, check your credit reports, regularly. You can request your credit reports from all three credit bureaus once every 12 months, for free, at AnnualCreditReport.com

If you find errors on your credit report, take steps to dispute them right away. Correcting errors on your report can give your score the noticeable boost it needs. 

6. Wait Until You’ve Built Self-Employed Income

You typically need two years of tax returns as a self-employed person to qualify for a mortgage, and you might not be able to qualify at all until you reach this threshold. For other types of credit, it can definitely help to wait until you’ve earned self-employment income for at least six months before you apply. 

7. Separate Business and Personal Funds

Keeping personal and business funds separate is helpful when filing your taxes, but it can also help you lessen your liability for certain debt. 

For example, let’s say that you have a large amount of personal debt. If your business is structured as a corporation or LLC and you need a business loan, separating your business funds from your personal funds might make your loan application look more favorable to lenders.

As a separate issue, start building your business credit score, which is separate from your personal credit score, early on. Setting up business bank accounts and signing up for a business credit card can help you manage both buckets of your money, separately. 

8. Grow Your Savings Fund

Having more liquid assets is a good sign from a lender’s perspective, so strive to build up your savings account and your investments. For example, open a high-yield savings account and save three to six months of expenses as an emergency fund. 

You can also open a brokerage account and start investing on a regular basis. Either strategy will help you build up your assets, which shows lenders you have a better chance of repaying your loan despite an irregular income. 

9. Provide a Larger Down Payment

Some lenders have tightened up mortgage qualification requirements, and some are even requiring a 20% down payment for home loans. You’ll also have a better chance to secure an auto loan with the best rates and terms with more money down, especially for new cars that depreciate rapidly.

Aim for 20% down on a home or a car that you’re buying. As a bonus, having a 20% down payment for your home purchase helps you avoid paying private mortgage insurance.

10. Get a Secured Loan or Credit Card

Don’t forget the steps you can take to build credit now, if your credit profile is thin or you’ve made mistakes in the past. One way to do this is applying for a secured credit card or a secured loan, both of which require collateral for you to get started.

The point of a secured credit card or loan is getting the chance to build your credit score and prove your creditworthiness as a self-employed worker, when you can’t get approved for unsecured credit. After making sufficient on-time payments toward the secured card or loan, your credit score will increase, you can upgrade to an unsecured alternative and get your deposit or collateral back.

The Bottom Line

If you’re self-employed and worried that your work status will hurt your chances at qualifying for credit, you shouldn’t be. Instead, focus your time and energy on creating a reliable self-employment income stream and building your credit score.

Once your business is established and you’ve been self-employed for several years, your work status won’t matter as heavily. Keep your income high, your DTI low, and a positive credit record, you’ll have a better chance of getting approved for credit. 

The post Why It’s Harder to Get Credit When You’re Self-Employed appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Puerto Rico Home of the Late Astrologer Walter Mercado Available for $395K

Walter Mercado Puerto Rico house for saleAlexander Tamargo/Getty Images

It’s in the stars. The home of the late astrologer and psychic Walter Mercado in San Juan, PR, is now on the market for $395,000. The legendary Spanish-language television personality, who died in 2019 at the age of 87, delivered his daily horoscopes with panache, often wearing a cape, and was known for wishing his huge audiences “Mucho, mucho amor.”

Mercado broadcast to 120 million devoted viewers daily for decades, according to a 2019 museum exhibit that explores his influence. Although he last aired his show from Miami, he kept a home in Puerto Rico.

The property initially landed on the market in September 2020 for $495,000. But with no buyer forthcoming, the price was dropped to $430,000 in December, and subsequently to its current asking price.

We predict that a buyer will be quite pleased with the place.

The listing describes the property as “unique” and located in an “exclusive area” of San Juan. It also offers a flexible floor plan, with two separate living accommodations on separate floors.

The first level, entered from a foyer, features three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room, dining room, and kitchen. The layout includes an office space with a small kitchen and half bathroom. The interiors are painted bright and cheery reds and yellows. The stairs are covered with decorative tiles. Other details of the 1970 abode include wrought-iron railings, arched doorways, and fanciful light fixtures.

Upstairs, the separate living space includes two large bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small kitchen, two terraces, a living room, dining room, family room, and balcony.

Outside, the grounds include a terrace, pool, gazebo, and patio. The covered carport has room for at least four cars. An electric gate secures the entrance to the property. Other amenities include an electric generator that powers the entire house, as well as security doors and windows. 

Born Walter Mercado Salinas, the flamboyant entertainer grew up in Puerto Rico, and began delivering his predictions in elaborate costumes on a weekly show on Telemundo back in the 1970s.

Mercado’s reach expanded in the 1990s, when his show moved to Univision, where he delivered his soulful brand of astrology until 2010. After that, he maintained a public presence through a website and other appearances. He also wrote a horoscope column in El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister of the Miami Herald.

He is the subject of a 2020 documentary, “Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado,” available on Netflix.

Gretchen Garcia with Real Estate Opportunities holds the listing.

The post Puerto Rico Home of the Late Astrologer Walter Mercado Available for $395K appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Extreme Makeover’s Ty Pennington Lists Bright and Beautiful Venice Beach Home

Reality TV star Ty Pennington, known for changing people’s lives with his energetic personality on the original version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, is now looking to cash in on his own home makeover. Pennington has just listed his house — a beautiful and bright 1927 Craftsman in Venice, Calif. — for $2,795,000.

Pennington put his home design expertise to good use and carefully restored the property earlier this year with the help of his trusted interior designer, Patrick Delanty. Delanty, also known to be Halle Berry’s designer, has long been working alongside Ty Pennington, serving as his design director for Extreme Makeover and running his on-air design segments, most notably his presence on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Rachel Ray Show, NBC’s Nightline and Good Morning America.

Just like its reality TV star owner, the home is bright, cheerful and quirky, with colorful interiors exuding creativity and style. The property is listed by Patrice Meepos of Compass.

inside ty pennington's bright home in venice, california
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

Tucked away on a one-way street near the beach, Venice Boardwalk, canals and Abbot Kinney’s hot spots, the original 1927 dwelling has 3 beds, 3 baths, and a sizable living room with decorative fireplace, along with a sunken family room with large windows overlooking a newly landscaped, private back yard with koi pond.

inside Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
living room in Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington bedroom
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
sunken living room in ty pennington's house
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
inside Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA.
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

The ground level hosts the kitchen, laundry room, and bedroom with direct backyard access, as well as a full bath. On the upper level, there’s a master retreat and a second bedroom. 

Ty Pennington added quite a few special touches to the 2,102-square-foot home, including bamboo flooring, baths adorned in vintage-inspired ceramic tile, a master bath sporting a standalone shower and an antique cast-iron freestanding tub, kitchen with concrete countertops and a wraparound, porcelain-tiled porch. There’s also a beautiful backyard that looks like a great place to entertain guests.

ty pennington kitchen
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington kitchen island
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington backyard
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington backyard entertaining area
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

While Ty Pennington did not return to host HGTV’s 2020 version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (which is hosted by Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson), you can catch the two time Emmy award winner in his other home improvement series, Trading Spaces — which recently restarted airing after a 10-year hiatus.

You can also get more tips from the home design expert from his latest book, Good Design Can Change Your Life, which is an intimate look at Ty’s design inspirations and is full of décor advice and tips. While we haven’t yet had the chance to pick up the book ourselves, according to his website the book is part reference, and part behind-the-scenes from Ty’s own home remodeling, which means the Venice home is already a bookshelf hit.

More beautiful celebrity homes

Morgan Brown Re-Lists Stunning West Hollywood Home Amid Split from Actor Gerard Butler
Wayne Gretzky is Selling his $22.9M California Home Designed by ‘The Megamansion King’
Chrissy Teigen & John Legend Buy $17.5M Beverly Hills Mansion After Cashing Big on Previous Home
5 Fabulous Homes of Your Favorite Formula 1 Drivers

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Source: fancypantshomes.com