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ByCurtis Watts

2020 Business and Life Review

Welcome to my 2020 Business and Life Review!

Usually, I separate my travel and business annual review content into two separate blog posts, but this year I’ve decided to combine it into one.

2020 was a different kind of year, and I’m sure nearly everyone would agree with that statement.

It was a tough year for a lot of people, and I completely understand.

I feel very grateful for the life that I get to live, but it was a hard year for me as well. I lost two important family members in my life, my grandma as well as my dog who was my best friend for almost 14 years.

 

Family

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include this section in this life update, as I’m also talking about travel and business, and honestly, it just seems odd to have it all in one.

I went back and forth so many times, and I’m still unsure of it.

But, it just doesn’t seem right to me to not include it, as this is all a part of my life.

Good and bad things happen, and will happen throughout a person’s lifetime.

I do feel guilty writing about the passings of two of my favorites, and at the same time also writing about business and travel. Anyways…

Me and my grandma around 4 years ago.

My grandma passed away in the summer of 2020. She passed away at the age of 97.

I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandma, as she watched us everyday after school when we were kids and lived in Chicago.

She lived in the building just behind us, so I saw her all the time.

She didn’t speak much English (and I don’t speak Korean), although she took daily/weekly English classes even in her old age so that she could at least make hand gestures and talk to us as best as she could.

I remember as a kid, she would make me plain ramen (with no seasoning!) and I was always so confused as to why she would throw the seasoning packet away and make it taste bland. But I couldn’t tell her easily because I didn’t know how to tell her in Korean. After months of eating noodles in plain water, I figured out how to tell her. She thought it was weird that I liked watery noodles but she made it because she thought I liked it, haha. That is a story that always makes me laugh.

She was also a world traveler, and went to so many amazing places.

Also the kindest woman ever, and she was so great to us. I will forever miss her.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

 

This picture was taken about one week before she passed away.

My favorite girl passed away – Sailor. My best friend, the sweetest sweetie pie, the best adventure buddy, passed away in December of 2020.

We adopted Sailor when she was just two months old. I had just turned 18 about a week earlier, and just graduated from high school. Wes and I were moving in together (we were crazy kids), and decided to adopt a puppy that a friend was trying to find a home for.

Shortly after, I found out that my dad had brain and lung cancer, and that he did not have much time left. Sailor was there through all of the tears and sadness (I leaned heavily on her), and always brought me joy.

She has climbed some of the tallest mountains in the U.S., sailed to many islands, and been to some of the most scenic spots around.

It was very sudden, and before she could get to a vet (the vet was actually on her way to the boat). The vet thinks it may have been a fast moving cancer, as she didn’t show signs of it when she was just at the vet shortly before.

I’m still processing what this means as she was such a huge and beautiful part of my life for the past almost 14 years.

I am heartbroken and miss her so much. I was dreading this time for awhile, as I knew she was getting older, and it’s been much harder than I could have ever imagined.

Now, I’m not really sure how to transition to the next section, but below I will be switching to my travel and business review for 2020.

Like it was for nearly everyone – 2020 was a weird year, full of highs and lows.

 

Hanging out during lockdown on the boat in Puerto Rico.

Travel in 2020

2020 started with us in the Exumas in the Bahamas. We have spent a decent amount of time in the Bahamas the past couple of years on our boat, and it’s an amazing place to be, especially on a boat!

We then sailed to the Dominican Republic in February and spent around a month. We saw whales, went up the only cable car in the Caribbean (and it goes up around 2,500 feet!), rented a car and drove around the country, and more.

Then, we sailed to Puerto Rico in March. Shortly after we arrived, the lockdown started, and it was very strict. It has loosened since, but the first several months they had some of the strictest rules in the world. You could only grocery shop on certain days according to your license plate, you weren’t allowed to go outside (not even to let your dog use the bathroom), and more.

We had planned on hopping down the island chain and spending hurricane season in Grenada, but everything changed.

We stayed in Puerto Rico for around 3 months, pondering our next move.

Since we live on a boat, we had to figure something out, as hurricane season was approaching and we are not allowed to stay in the “Hurricane Box” during hurricane season because of our boat insurance policy.

So, we had two options, sail to Grenada or sail to the U.S. The sail to Grenada would have been about 3 days.

We decided to sail to the U.S. as we weren’t sure what the state of the world would be like, especially after being in such a strict lockdown for 3 months in Puerto Rico. Plus, we wanted to be outside of the Hurricane Box, and if you’re going north then that means heading all the way back to the U.S. Also, we had a lot of boat work that we needed to get done, so going to Annapolis seemed like an easy choice.

It was a 1,300 nautical mile sail and took us 9 days. It was our longest passage, and it was just me, Wes, and our two dogs. Our highest speed was 14.5 knots, and we hit 12 and 13 quite often. We caught fish, saw a submarine, dealt with Tropical Storm Bertha, and more. Our dogs did amazingly well on the passage, and it was a wonderful time.

We spent several months in Annapolis, Maryland for hurricane season and got a ton of work done on SV Paradise, including a major electrical refit. We can now run everything off of our lithium batteries and our solar, including running the watermaker, our washer/dryer, water heater, and more. Since I know I’ll be asked, the company we used for our electrical refit was Marine Electric Systems in Annapolis, and I highly recommend them.

Hurricane season ended in November, and then we’re required by insurance to head south to avoid winter weather on our boat. We did some offshore hops and we’re now in sunny Florida!

We’re not sure what we’ll be doing in 2021, but decisions have to be made eventually because hurricane season comes every year. We have a few ideas but I won’t be sharing anything just yet – you’ll just have to wait and see! 🙂

Fortunately, we’re fairly off-grid and self-sufficient on SV Paradise, so we can safely live on our boat, even in a time like this.

Note: If you want to follow my travels and life more, please follow me on Instagram. 

 

2020 Business Year In Review

2020 was definitely a weird year for businesses.

Many businesses failed, while many others thrived. Working from home and/or starting your own small business is now at an all-time high as well.

I am very grateful for the business that I get to run, and I am excited to grow it well into the future.

While I no longer disclose exact income numbers due to privacy reasons (and so that I, as well as others, don’t feel the need to “keep up” with others), income was at a good level in 2020.

Here’s what my income has looked like in the past:

  • In 2013, my business income totaled $116,519. This was the year that I quit my job to blog full-time.
  • In 2014, it totaled $163,929. This was my first full year of being self-employed with no day job.
  • In 2015, I made $320,888. I think this was the year where I fired all of my freelance clients and started just working on my blog. This helped me to grow my income significantly because I was FOCUSED!
  • In 2016, I made $979,321. This is the year where I created my first product (Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing).
  • In 2017, I earned $1,536,732.
  • In 2018, I earned over $1,500,000 (I stopped disclosing exact numbers in 2018).

It’s crazy to think that I have now been blogging for over nine years. What started as a fun little blog with no goals (I was even anonymous!), has turned into a great business for me.

If you want to start a blog of your own, I have a free How To Start a Blog Course.

2020 was a weird year, as we all know.

Even though I had a ton more free time due to lockdowns, I didn’t get as much work done as I had hoped. My mind was all over the place a lot of the time, which led to me wasting a lot of time.

But, I have heard that was normal for a lot of people for 2020. So, if you experienced the same – do not feel bad about yourself!

I didn’t take part in many interviews, didn’t release any new projects, and I was barely on social media. I really don’t know what I spent so much of my time on, to be honest.

Luckily, around 2019, I slowed down significantly when it came to working, and it helped tremendously. I wasn’t feeling burned out or anything with Making Sense of Cents. But, I knew that I needed to be more mindful of how I use my time online. I no longer want to be hooked to my laptop and phone for both personal and business social media browsing/blogging.

And, after several years of blogging full-time and spending 100+ hour weeks on my blog, it’s been nice to relax and focus on other areas of my life.

I will be completely honest – income did not grow in 2020 over 2019 – but it was still a great amount.

Thankfully, all of the hard work that I’ve put in over the past several years has paid off.

In case you are new to this blog, the main areas I earn a living from include:

  • Affiliate Marketing – This is the largest chunk of my income.
  • Sponsored Partnerships
  • Courses – Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Course and Making Sense of Sponsored Posts
  • Display Advertising – I use Adthrive. Another great option is Mediavine.

Three articles that I recommend reading:

  • How I Successfully Built A $1,000,000+ Blog
  • How I’ve Made Over $1,000,000 From My First Course Without a Big Launch
  • 10+ Of The Best Free Blogging Resources

Thank you to all of my readers for being here with me on this journey! I’m so glad that I can share everything with you.

 

Anchored in Puerto Rico.

Affiliate marketing results in 2020.

Affiliate income was at a great level this past year.

Not much changed from the previous year, and everything is fairly passive when it comes to affiliate marketing income on Making Sense of Cents.

I am hoping to start ranking for more blog posts through SEO, which will hopefully increase my affiliate income further and grow my audience on Making Sense of Cents.

The areas that I am working on to improve my affiliate income include:

  • Planning out 2021 for affiliate offers. I’m not really much of a big planner, so this is something I’m always working on. This will help to keep me organized and better prepared.
  • Learning about SEO and applying techniques to my blog. This past guest post has made me super interested in taking SEO seriously – The exact template that helped my site earn $95,000 in affiliate income last year.
  • Continuing to improve and build a high-quality funnel. I want to have a high-quality funnel where I continue to give valuable information to my readers, and keep them happy for the times when I may not have the greatest wifi.
  • Continuing to grow the reach of Making Sense of Cents. Traffic has been a little stuck lately, and I want to change that! I want to see what I can do to grow the traffic, as that will help me to reach new readers.
  • Analyzing popular blog posts to see how they can be improved for the future.
  • Seeking out new affiliate products to promote, and seeing what else my audience is interested in.

If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, I recommend getting the free guide 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income. With this time-saving cheat sheet, you’ll learn how to make affiliate income from your blog. These tips will help you to rapidly improve your results and increase your blogging income in no time.

 

Sponsored partnership results in 2020.

Sponsored partnerships were great in the first few months of 2020. But, when the world’s events hit in March, things slowed down drastically. This is because companies were waiting to see how everything would play out.

But, in the summer of 2020, it all picked up like crazy.

I had so many offers in my email inbox that I actually had to turn good offers down.

I believe that 2021 will be a great year for sponsored partnerships, and I already have many lined up for the year.

Plus, the first few months of each year are usually the best for me, as that’s when advertisers tend to be looking for a lot of bloggers.

You can learn more about sponsored partnerships in my free guide 8 Easy Tips To Make Money From Sponsored Posts On Your Blog.

 

Hiking in Puerto Rico (before the lockdown).

Goals for 2021.

I’m hoping that 2021 will be the year of growth for both myself and Making Sense of Cents.

After taking much of 2019 off, and a lot of 2020, I’m ready to get back to it for 2021.

My goals for 2021:

  1. Grow Making Sense of Cents. I’d like to grow in terms of readers and income, and there are two main things that I plan on doing in order to help with that (see #2 and #3 below)
  2. Get featured in the media more. I’m currently taking a course on this subject and I’ll be sharing more information on it soon! In the meantime, you can sign up for the freebie –  2021 Publicity Calendar – This contains 179 story ideas, dates, and hooks to help you create endless media attention and buzz! If you want to get featured in magazines and popular websites, this is something that you will definitely want to sign up for.
  3. See growth from SEO. I took an SEO course that I really enjoyed, and ever since then I have been soaking up all of the SEO knowledge that I can. I am hoping that 2021 is the year of explosive growth from SEO for Making Sense of Cents. The free course I recommend taking is The SEO Starter Pack (FREE Video Training).
  4. Get at least three months ahead on Making Sense of Cents posts. I’m currently around 3 months ahead in content, and I’d like to continue the streak that I am on.
  5. Be more present. My main goal in 2021 (just like with previous years) is to be more present.
  6. Read 5 books. I have only read one book lately that wasn’t work or sailing/boat-educational related. I would like to get back to reading books that have nothing to do with trying to learn something, haha.
  7. Start learning a new language. I know I won’t be fluent, but I’d love to learn a new language. I took 3-4 years of French in high school, and that’s the one I’m trying to learn right now through Duolingo. It’s a good language to learn when sailing about the world, so wish me luck!
  8. Learn how to dive. We would possibly like to add scuba equipment to our sailboat so that we can explore the water further as we sail about the world. So, that means I actually have to learn how to do it. This is definitely a huge goal of mine for this year!

I hope you enjoyed this 2020 year in review blog post. It’s always interesting putting these types of blog posts together so that I can reflect on the previous year.

And, it’s nice to take a look at it once this next coming year is over as well.

How was 2020 for you? What questions do you have for me? Share in the comments below!

The post 2020 Business and Life Review appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

ByCurtis Watts

How to Make Money Online

You can easily make money online without sacrifices your lifestyle.

Working remotely or online is a rapidly growing trend. Whether you’re out of work and need a new career, or you need a convenient way to make extra cash, find out how to make money online with this guide. You’ll discover the top industries, statistics about the rise of remote work and all the tips and tricks you need to get started today.

The Rise of Online Work

The dramatic increase of communication technologies has caused rapid growth in the number of remote workers. Currently, 70% of all professionals have worked remotely at least one day. Another survey by AND Co and Remote Year found that 55% of remote workers work full-time.

Many people who work online prefer it to traditional work. If you want to know how to make money online and want a happy, more productive work life, online work may be for you.

Who Works Online?

People who choose remote work come from many different industries and backgrounds. Online work can be performed from any location. These are just a few of the types of individuals who enjoy the freedom and flexibility of online work:

  • Stay-at-home parents
  • College students
  • People who can’t drive
  • Residents of rural locations
  • Part-time workers
  • Retired folks
  • Introverts

Many online jobs offer part-time or full-time options. Freelancers, in particular, have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to choosing the number of hours they want to work. Whether you need a full-time alternative career or are simply looking for an easy way to make additional income, there are ways to make money online for your particular situation.

Best Industries for Working Online

You may be surprised at the variety of jobs available for online workers. The latest platforms, like Slack, are designed to help connect remote workers. And you don’t have to be a software developer to find a great online career.

Some industries use jobs boards. These websites host diverse career, job and gig opportunities for nearly any skill level or experience set. You can browse these websites to find odd jobs whenever you need additional income. You can also look for a dedicated career and full-time employment on a site like FlexJobs.com or by simply adding “remote” to a search on any job site. While there are many careers available, here are some common industries with online andremote work opportunities.

Web Development

Web development is a career that easily transitions to an online position. Because all of the work is done via the Internet, it’s easy to conduct your work from home or any location. You’ll need experience developing websites to be successful.

Choose to start your own company and begin advertising immediately, or search for jobs in web development with an established business for a more stable and immediate paycheck.

Multi-Level Marketing

Although this industry isn’t necessarily online, it’s gained popularity in the past decade thanks to social media. Social media has made it far easier to market your business. These jobs rely on people to sell products or services to their friends, family and neighbors.

This career doesn’t require any specialized experience, so it’s a great option for getting started with online work. Those who are most successful know how to create engaging social media posts, vlogs and other promotional materials. It may not begin paying immediately and is usually a part-time income source.

Content Writing

Writing is a popular way to earn income on your own time. If you’re a skilled writer who is excited about exploring new topics and writing dynamic blogs and web pages, you’ll love a career as a content writer.

Finding a high-paying job can require some digging, but there are many content-writing job boards, companies and gig opportunities online. Content writers can also choose to launch their own business, which requires some patience, persistence and marketing skills.

Editing and Proofreading

Do you have an eye for grammar mistakes? Editing is a popular way to earn online for anyone with experience proofreading, correcting mistakes and refining content. Depending on your experience, editing positions typically pay better than writers. However, many editors are required to have previous experience or a degree in English or a related field.

Teaching and Tutoring

Perhaps the most popular and trending industry is online teaching. Most of these positions are teaching English as a second language, but someone with a teaching certificate or experience can also find a position teaching another subject.

Check out companies that operate out of countries all around the world. Whether teaching adults or children in China, Brazil, South Korea, Russia or any other country, this field can be very rewarding. Prepare to plan around time zones and teach at odd hours.

Surveys

Interested in sharing your opinions online? There is a diverse range of survey-taking positions that pay a small amount for every survey. The work may not pay as high as others, but it requires no experience and is easy to find. Testing apps, shopping surveys or surveys about website experiences are all available for anyone interested in filling out forms for some extra cash.

Investing

Just like traditional investment options, there is a diverse range of online investing opportunities. Use affiliate marketing, make online investments or shop for real estate online. It’s a great way to flex your financial muscles, or you can take out a loan to get started. Not only will you be working online, but you can also generate passive income.

Benefits of Online Work

Working online offers many great benefits compared to traditional careers. Whether you’re feeling stuck in an office or looking for a way to make some extra money in the evenings, here are some of the common benefits reported by online workers:

  • Ability to travel while working
  • Working beyond retirement age
  • Flexible work/life balance
  • More environmentally friendly
  • Lower stress and higher morale
  • Increased efficiency and productivity

Of course, remote work isn’t for everyone. There are some disadvantages to online work that can cause some people to feel less fulfilled with this career option. Some remote workers experience higher levels of stress, loneliness or an inability to meet personal deadlines. Without a community to keep you accountable, it can be difficult to stay productive.

Successful online workers are able to set their own schedules, be proactive when finding work and manage multiple schedules easily. If you have these skills, even a basic understanding of computers is all you need to start your new and exciting career.

Start Making Money Today

Start your online job today. It’s easy to get started, and most gigs don’t require any additional equipment or software. Once you’ve started earning additional income, leverage your savings with a high-yield savings account. With high interest, you’ll see a greater return on your savings and can take advantage of your extra income today.

The post How to Make Money Online appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

ByCurtis Watts

Why It’s the Year of the Side Hustle

Side hustles have always been a good way to earn more money and better your finances. With so many people in debt while wages have fallen flat, they’ve become especially popular over the past decade. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen them shoot ahead in popularity even further. 

According to a recent survey by credit-building platform, Self, just over half of Americans plan to start a side hustle as a direct result of the pandemic. The numbers get really interesting when you break them down by age, too. The majority of Millennials (around 70%) plan to start a side hustle, while only a few — around 20% — of Boomers have the same idea. 

Coronavirus and Unemployment: Changing How People Earn Money

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you already know the heavy toll the pandemic has taken on the economy. Still, it’s worth taking a second look at the numbers. By May 2020, after everything shut down, the number of unemployed people in the U.S. shot up even higher than figures during the Great Depression. It ranged higher than 14 million unemployed people, compared to the Great Depression’s peak of 8.8 million unemployed. The unemployment rate at its peak in 2020 was 16%. 

Today the economy is reopening and the unemployment rate has gone back down, but still stands twice as high as normal — 8% — as of August 2020. Even if you are lucky enough to be back at work today, chances are good that you’re still not earning as much as you were before. Your hours might’ve been reduced, you might’ve missed out on pay raises, or you might’ve suffered a pay cut. 

If you’re still unemployed, the picture isn’t any better. The extra $600 weekly unemployment assistance dropped off at the end of July, leaving many people with normal piddly paycheck amounts. 

Finally, even if you’re one of the lucky ones who’s been totally unaffected by all of this, at least you’ve seen the devastation that can happen and maybe you’re spurred on to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. No matter which segment you fall into, everyone’s seeing how important diversifying your income with a side hustle is right now. 

12 Most Popular Side Gigs of the Year

Whether you call them “side hustles” or not, people have been finding creative ways to earn a little extra on the side ever since economies have existed. But today, with COVID, some side hustles are more popular than others. Here are some of the most popular side gig options this year:

1. Deliver Groceries and Food

With so many people trying to keep their distance, one hot job that’s been booming is food delivery workers — specifically, through apps like DoorDash, GrubHub, UberEats, Instacart, Shipt, and more. All you need is a car and a smartphone. And while your chances of being exposed to COVID are greater than if you’d found an online gig (please, avoid this one if you’re high-risk!), contact-free delivery options are making it a bit safer. 

2. Transcribe Audio Files

If you’re looking for a good way to boost your typing speed and listen to (potentially) interesting conversations, give transcription a try. You can find partner websites that’ll send you audio files or advertise your services in writer’s groups. All you have to do is type out the audio accurately and send your transcription back to the partner. 

The startup cost on this side gig is low — all you need is a computer and internet, which you might already have if you’re reading this. Beyond that, a small investment in a foot pedal — a hands-free way to start and stop audio — keeps your hands on the keyboard so that you type faster and earn more money in the process. 

3. Tutor a Student

The education system is a mess right now. Many kids are stuck at home and are falling behind in their studies. Parents are at their wit’s end, and looking for ways to help their children grow and stay entertained. That’s where you come in. There are many opportunities to tutor students online, and if you and the other party is comfortable, you can even meet up in person for socially-distanced learning.

4. Pet-Sitting and Dog-Walking

Even though normal travel isn’t really a thing right now, there still are more people than ever travelling locally. Many people can only stay in their home so long without going stir-crazy, after all. A lot of pet sitters are finding that business is booming right now, and you can get in on the action, too. 

Apps like Rover and Wag! make it easy to get started. Even if you can’t watch someone’s pup for them, you can still offer your services as a dog walker and get out of the house while still distancing yourself from other people. 

5. Freelance Writing or Starting a Blog

Do you have an interesting story? Would you like to write about other people who do? If so, now’s a great time to start your own blog or freelance writing side hustle. Blogging takes a lot of work and time before it really pays off, although if it does, you can earn a lot of money. Freelance writing might be more lucrative right off the bat, and you can even leverage your new blog as a way to showcase your writing to earn work with paid clients. 

6. Become a Virtual Assistant

With so many people working entirely online these days, an entire new industry of workers have cropped up: virtual assistants. As a virtual assistant, your job may be as varied as the people who hire you. You might find sources for interviews, keep track of tasks in a database, answer reader emails, make graphics, write blog posts, and more. And since it’s entirely virtual, your potential client list is global. 

7. Take Surveys

This side hustle might not replace your day job, but if you have a few extra minutes while you’re watching TV, baking, or spending endless hours listening in on Zoom meetings, you can earn a bit more cash. There are a lot of places to earn money with surveys, so be sure to try your hand at more than one. 

8. Web and App Development

Techy skills are in demand right now, especially with so many people working online. If you know a bit of code — or want to learn — now’s a great time to get started with this side hustle. You can find work through Fiverr and Upwork, or advertise independently elsewhere. If you know how to develop apps, see if you can come up with any ideas to make quarantine life easier for everyone — that would be a hit for sure. 

9. SEO Developer

The only option most local businesses have to reach potential customers these days is online. But the mom-and-pop pizza shop down the road probably isn’t up to snuff when it comes to advertising on Google and social media. These skills are especially in demand right now, and there are many courses you can take to learn more and start this side hustle immediately. 

10. Write eBooks

Are you good at coming up with stories? If you’ve got some time on your hands and you don’t have any pressing money concerns, writing ebooks can be a great way to set up a passive income strategy that’ll keep paying you throughout the future. Just like with blogging, it can be a risky strategy since it may not pay off immediately. But if you have a passion for words, a creative imagination, and an entrepreneurial spirit, this could be a great side hustle for you.

11. Social Media Strategist

Companies often aren’t SEO experts, and they aren’t social media experts either. But if you were raised alongside Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and love mastering the newest social media channels, this could be a great side hustle for you. You’ll need to learn how to work with brands and companies to represent them online so that they sell more products — and in turn, can pay you the big bucks. 

12. Do Odd Jobs

We’ve covered some of the websites you can use to earn money during the pandemic right now, but it bears repeating here. Websites like TaskRabbit, Fiverr, and Upwork have many more opportunities than what we’ve listed here. 

For example, you could help with mowing lawns, helping someone move to a new house, delivering things from stores, designing printable PDFs, teaching someone how to play guitar, and more. The opportunities are endless, and it’s free to browse and see what small odd jobs are available in your area. 

The Bottom Line

The year 2020 will probably go down in most people’s books as one of the worst on record. It’s important to acknowledge the bad that’s happening, but it’s also important to look forward, too. Even in the midst of all of this craziness, there is an opportunity for growth and a way to better your finances. No one can pinpoint when a pandemic will happen, but you can plan your financial response to big events like this. 

The post Why It’s the Year of the Side Hustle appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

ByCurtis Watts

Seven things college freshmen don’t need — and ten they do

This article originally appeared on NerdWalletThose ubiquitous checklists of “dorm room essentials” for college freshmen are filled with items that will be ditched by the end of first semester.

Some parents “go to the store and grab a list like they did when their kids were in elementary and high school and just go straight down the list,” says Lisa Heffernan, mother of three sons and a college-shopping veteran. Or they buy things they only wish their students will use (looking at you, cleaning products).

You can safely skip about 70% of things on those lists, estimates Asha Dornfest, the author of Parent Hacks and mother of a rising college sophomore who’s home for the summer.

What Not to Buy or Bring

Freshmen really need just two things, says Heffernan, co-founder of the blog Grown and Flown: a good mattress topper and a laptop.

Here are seven items you can skip:

  • Printer. Don’t waste desk space or, worse, store it under the bed; printers are plentiful on campus.
  • TV. Students may watch on laptops or on TVs in common areas or in someone else’s room. Bonus: Your teen gets out and meets others.
  • Speakers. Small spaces don’t require powerful speakers; earphones may be a good idea and respectful of roommates.
  • Car. Some colleges bar freshmen from having cars on campus or limit their parking. You also may save on insurance by keeping the car at home.
  • Luggage. If you bring it, you must store it. Heffernan suggests collapsible blue Ikea storage bags with zippers.
  • Toiletries to last until May. Bulk buying may save money, but you need storage space.
  • Duplicates of anything provided by the college, such as a lamp, wastebasket, desk chair or dresser.

Items left behind when students pack for the summer are telling. Luke Jones, director of housing and residence life at Boise State University, sees unopened food — a lot of ramen and candy — and stuffed animals and mirrors.

Jones says many students regret bringing high school T-shirts and memorabilia and some of their clothes (dorm closets typically are tiny).

What Can You Buy, Then?

Before you shop, find out what the college forbids (candles, space heaters, electric blankets and halogen lights are common). Have your student check with assigned roommates about appliances (who’s bringing a fridge or microwave?) and color scheme if they want to set one. Know the dimensions of the room and the size of the bed. And most of all, know your budget. Not everything has to be brand new.

Ten things — besides the all-important mattress topper and laptop — that many students consider dorm room essentials include:

  • One or two fitted sheets in the correct bed size, plus pillowcases. Heffernan says most students don’t use top sheets.
  • Comforter or duvet with washable cover.
  • Towels in a distinctive pattern or light enough for labeling with laundry marker, plus shower sandals.
  • Power cord with surge protector and USB ports.
  • Basic first aid kit.
  • Easy-to-use storage. If it’s a lot of work to get something out, your student won’t, Heffernan says.
  • Cleaning wipes. Students might not touch products that require multiple steps, but they might use wipes, according to Heffernan.
  • Reading pillow with back support for studying in bed.
  • Area rug. Floors are often hard and cold.
  • Comfort items. Dornfest says it could be a blanket or a picture of the dog — something from home that will make the space a bit more personal.

Afraid you’ll forget something important? You might, Heffernan says. But chances are, you or your student can order it online and get it delivered. Consider doing this with some items simply to avoid the hassle of bringing them yourself, and remember that “dorm necessities” often go on sale once school starts.

Do a Reality Check

If you or your student still want to replicate the rooms you’ve seen on Instagram and Pinterest, think about how the room will actually be used.

Once your son or daughter moves in, the room will never look like that again. Opt for sturdy items and be realistic. Will throw pillows make the place look more homey and inviting, or will they be tossed on the floor until parents’ weekend?

Dornfest, a co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, offers a compelling reason not to make things too comfortable. “A freshman needs to be encouraged to get out of the dorm room,” she says. “Anything that pulls you into campus life can be good.”

She’s not advocating a monk-like environment, but rather one that encourages breaking out of routines. College should be a time to try new things and meet people from different backgrounds. Dornfest advises making the bed as comfortable as possible and keeping a few reminders of home. The ideal dorm room is more launch pad than cocoon.

More from Nerdwallet

  • Budgeting for College Students
  • How to Build Credit at 18
  • How to Choose a Student Credit Card

The article 7 Things College Freshmen Don’t Need — and 10 They Do originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Source: getrichslowly.org

ByCurtis Watts

Indoor Wellness: How to Recreate the Ultimate Interior Design Trend of 2020

Within the past few years, we’ve seen a growing interest in everything wellness. With a more mindful approach on how we approach our day-to-day lives, the emphasis is now placed on maintaining our mental and emotional health, as we are actively working to ensure that all aspects of our lives remain balanced — our homes included.

This is why the real estate wellness market soared in 2017 to one billion dollars. But what about us regular homeowners, who weren’t lucky enough to buy homes designed in such a fashion? Well, this is where interior design comes in to lend a helping hand.

There are a number of ways you can incorporate wellness design into your home. Let’s go over a few easy ways to get started.

Bringing nature into your home

There is no denying that being around nature – or even just natural materials – can be incredibly soothing. Due to this, bringing the outdoors in is something that many interior designers who follow this trend will try to do, and it’s also the easiest way for you to get started.

Start by incorporating plants and greenery in various spaces in your home. For instance, you can set up hanging plants so there are leaves and flowers dripping from the ceiling, you can encourage climbers to grow across your walls, and accentuate your decor by adding plants in creative pots.

If this seems like too much maintenance, then opt for furniture and furnishings in natural materials instead.

cozy-interiors-plant-and-wicker

Stick to wood and natural fibers as much as possible. Since you will need to add metals to the scheme as well, it is best to opt for more antique-looking pieces.

Selecting calming color palettes

You probably know that the psychology behind the way our mind interprets color plays a big role in interior design. And even if you haven’t yet read it somewhere, you instinctively know that certain shades can impact your mood and frame of mind.

It comes as no surprise to learn that many of the color trends for 2020 are based on this. For instance, there is a fair amount of focus on the color blue – which is known for its calming properties.

So, feel free to invest in navy or peacock blues. In case you prefer something a little brighter, then pinks, yellows, and orange are also great warm tones to consider. These shades too are associated with kindness, warmth, and enthusiasm respectively.

Let the light shine in

Natural light in your home is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it can help to brighten up your mood considerably. At the same time, being continuously exposed to light helps to regulate your circadian rhythm, helping you to sleep and wake at appropriate times. 

This is why it is important to ensure that your home is flooded with plenty of light. Windows and skylights naturally play a significant role. However, there is a lot you can do with your interior design to increase how light travels throughout the house. 

For instance, you can position mirrors opposite your windows so that the light bounces off to other parts of a room, or use light and bright window treatments to brighten the space.

You should also try to keep the walls and flooring in a lighter color so that the light is reflected rather than absorbed. Oh, and glossy paint, especially on the ceiling, can go a long way too.

Focus on ergonomics

Naturally, wellness in interior design isn’t just about how your house looks. It also has a great deal to do with how your home environment feels. Thus, the design must include elements of comfort throughout the space. 

For instance, if you live in a warmer part of the country, it is only natural that you will need to set up many cooling units throughout the house. Some of these will need to be standalone devices. Now, rather than eschewing these products completely, find a way to incorporate them into the existing design. 

Let’s imagine that you have embraced a more natural theme for your interiors. Then, perhaps you can design wooden slats to cover the sides and top of the unit so that it isn’t as noticeable. If you decide to opt for this route, make sure that no important outlet is covered up. There should be plenty of airflow in and out of the space as well. 

Or, you could use nature-inspired stickers to help the unit blend in. At the very least, set up some plants around it so that it doesn’t stand out too much. 

As you can see, there are so many different ways to incorporate the wellness theme into your home. So, if you are looking forward to a happier and more balanced year ahead, then these are the tactics you should consider.

Keep reading

6 Smart Home Devices to Keep Your Pets Safe, Well Fed and Entertained While You’re Away
Planning a Redesign? Here are the Most Popular Interior Design Styles You Get to Choose From
Here’s Why a Womb Chair is the Perfect Addition to Your InteriorsHow to Successfully Integrate Smart Home Tech into Your Own Home

The post Indoor Wellness: How to Recreate the Ultimate Interior Design Trend of 2020 appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

ByCurtis Watts

How Many Credit Cards Should You Have for Good Credit?

Have you ever wondered, "How many credit cards should I have? Is it wise to have a wallet full of them? Does having multiple credit cards hurt my credit score?"

If you’ve been following this blog or the Money Girl podcast, you know the fantastic benefits of having excellent credit. The higher your credit scores, the more money you save on various products and services such as credit cards, lines of credit, car loans, mortgages, and insurance (in most states).

Even if you never borrow money, your credit affects other areas of your financial life.

But even if you never borrow money, your credit affects other areas of your financial life. For instance, having poor credit may cause you to get turned down by a prospective employer or a landlord. It could also increase the security deposits you must pay on utilities such as power, cable, and mobile plans.

Credit cards are one of the best financial tools available to build or maintain excellent credit scores. Today, I'll help you understand how cards boost your credit and the how many credit cards you should have to improve your finances.

Before we answer the question of how many credit cards you should have in your wallet, it's important to talk about using them responsibly so you're increasing instead of tanking your credit score.

5 tips for using credit cards to build credit

  1. Make payments on time (even just the minimum)
  2. Don’t rely on being an authorized user
  3. Never max out cards
  4. Use multiple cards
  5. Keep credit cards active

A common misconception about credit is that if you have no debt you must have good credit. That’s utterly false because having no credit is the same as having bad credit. To have good credit, you must have credit accounts and use them responsibly.

Having no credit is the same as having bad credit.

Here are five tips for using credit cards to build and maintain excellent credit scores.

1. Make payments on time (even just the minimum)

Making timely payments on credit accounts is the most critical factor for your credit scores. Your payment history carries the most weight because it’s an excellent indicator of your financial responsibility and ability to pay what you owe.

Having a credit card allows you to demonstrate your creditworthiness by merely making payments on time, even if you can only pay the minimum. If the card company receives your payment by the statement due date, that builds a history of positive data on your credit reports. 

I recommend paying more than your card’s minimum. Ideally, you should pay off your entire balance every month so you don’t accrue interest charges. If you tend to carry a balance from month-to-month, it’s wise to use a low-interest credit card to reduce the financing charge.

2. Don’t rely on being an authorized user

Many people start using a credit card by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account, such as a parent’s card. That allows you to use a card without being legally responsible for the debt.

Some credit scoring models ignore data that doesn’t belong to a primary card owner.

Some card companies report a card owner’s transactions to an authorized user’s credit report. That could be an excellent first step for establishing credit … if the card owner makes payments on time. Even so, some credit scoring models ignore data that doesn’t belong to a primary card owner.

Therefore, don’t assume that being an authorized user is a rock-solid approach to building credit. I recommend that you get your own credit cards as soon as you earn income and get approved.

3. Never max out cards

A critical factor that affects your credit scores is how much debt you owe on revolving accounts (such as credit cards and lines of credit) compared to your total available credit limits. It's known as your credit utilization ratio, which gets calculated per account and on your accounts' aggregate total.

A good rule of thumb to improve your credit scores is to keep your utilization ratio below 20%.

Having a low utilization ratio shows that you use credit responsibly by not maxing out your account. A high ratio indicates that you use a lot of credit and could even be in danger of missing a payment soon. A good rule of thumb to improve your credit scores is to keep your utilization ratio below 20%. 

For example, if you have a $1,000 card balance and a $5,000 credit limit, you have a 20% credit utilization ratio. The formula is $1,000 balance / $5,000 credit limit = 0.2 = 20%.

There's a common misconception that it's okay to max out a credit card if you pay it off each month. While paying off your card in full is smart to avoid interest charges, it doesn't guarantee a low utilization ratio. The date your credit card account balance is reported to the nationwide credit agencies typically isn't the same as your statement due date. If your outstanding balance happens to be high on the date it's reported, you'll have a high utilization ratio that will drag down your credit scores.

4. Use multiple cards

If you need more available credit to cut your utilization ratio, there are some easy solutions. One is to apply for an additional credit card, so you spread out charges on multiple cards instead of consistently maxing out one card. That reduces your credit utilization and boosts your credit.

Having the same amount of debt compared to more available credit instantly reduces your utilization and improves your credit.

For example, if you have two credit cards with $500 balances and $5,000 credit limits, you have a 10% credit utilization ratio. The formula is $1,000 balance / $10,000 credit limit = 0.1 = 10%. That’s half the ratio of my previous example for one card.

Another strategy to cut your utilization ratio is to request credit limit increases on one or more of your cards. Having the same amount of debt compared to more available credit instantly reduces your utilization and improves your credit.

5. Keep credit cards active

Credit card companies are in business to make a profit. If you don't use a card for an extended period, they can close your account or cut your credit limit. You may not mind having a card canceled if you haven't been using it, but as I mentioned, a reduction in your credit limit means danger for your credit scores.

A reduction in your credit limit means danger for your credit scores.

No matter if you or a card company cancels one of your revolving credit accounts, it causes your total amount of available credit to shrink, which spikes your utilization ratio. When your utilization goes up, your credit scores can plummet.

Anytime your credit card balances become a higher percentage of your total credit limits, you appear riskier to creditors, even if you aren't. So, keep your cards open and active, especially if you're considering a big purchase, such as a home or car, in the next six months.

In general, I recommend that you charge something small and pay it off in full several times a year, such as once a quarter, to stay active and keep your available credit limit in place.

If you have a card that you don't like because it charges an annual fee or a high APR, don't be afraid to cancel it. Just replace it with another card, ideally before you cancel the first one. That allows you to swap out one credit limit for another and avoid a significant increase in your credit utilization ratio.

If you're determined to have fewer cards, space out your cancellations over time, such as six months or more. 

How many credit cards should you have to build good credit?

Now that you understand how credit cards help you build credit, let's consider how many you need. The optimal number for you depends on various factions, such as how much you charge each month, whether you use rewards, and how responsible you are with credit.

There's no limit to the number of cards you can or should have if you manage all of them responsibly.

According to Experian, 61% of Americans have at least one credit card, and the average person owns four. Having more open revolving credit accounts makes you more likely to have higher credit scores, but only when you manage them responsibly. 

As I mentioned, having more available credit compared to your balances on revolving accounts is a crucial factor in your credit scores. If you continually bump up against a 20% utilization ratio, you likely need an additional card.

You can keep an eye on your credit utilization and other important credit factors with free credit reporting tools such as Credit Karma or Experian.

Also, consider how different credit cards can help you achieve financial goals, such as saving money on everyday purchases you're already making. Many retailers, big box stores, and brands have cards that reward your loyalty with discounts, promotions, and additional services.

If you continually bump up against a 20% utilization ratio, you likely need an additional card.

I use multiple cards based on their benefits and rewards. For instance, I only use my Amazon card to get 5% cashback on Amazon purchases. I have a card with no foreign transaction fees that I use when traveling overseas. And I have a low-interest card that I only use if I plan to carry a balance on a large purchase for a short period.

There's no limit to the number of cards you can or should have. Theoretically, you could have 50 credit cards and still have excellent credit if you manage all of them responsibly.

My recommendation is to have a minimum of two cards so you have a backup if something goes wrong with one of them. Beyond that, have as many as you're comfortable managing and that you believe will benefit your financial life.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

ByCurtis Watts

How to Maximize Credit Card Rewards and Earn Cash and Perks

If you’re looking for ways to put some extra cash in your pocket, make sure to take advantage of credit card rewards programs.

Credit card companies and banks make some of their money from the merchant interchange fees that are charged when you use your card.

As an incentive for you to use their cards, many credit card issuers pass some of those funds on to the consumer in the form of credit card rewards.

If you have good credit and the ability and discipline to pay off your credit cards in full each month, you should try to maximize your credit card rewards. Otherwise you may be leaving a lot of money on the table.

But it can be challenging to navigate the world of credit card rewards. Hundreds, if not thousands, of different credit cards exist, and the type and amount of rewards vary with each card.

There are three main kinds of rewards card offers available:

  • Bank and credit card points: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, etc.
  • Airline miles and hotel points: Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors points, etc.
  • Cash back: Straight cash that can be redeemed either as statement credits or checks mailed to you.

How to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

You have three different ways to maximize any credit card rewards program:

  • The sign-up bonus or welcome offer: Many cards offer a large number of miles or points as a welcome bonus for signing up and using the card to make purchases totaling a specific amount within a specified time period.
  • Rewards for spending: Most rewards credit cards offer between one and five points for every dollar you spend on the card. Some cards offer the same rewards on every purchase, while others offer a greater reward for buying certain products.
  • Perks: Simply having certain credit cards can get you perks like free checked bags on certain airlines, hotel elite status or membership with airline lounge clubs and other retail partners.

Usually, the rewards for signing up are much higher than the rewards you get from ongoing spending, so you may want to pursue sign-up bonuses on multiple credit cards as a way of racking up rewards.

Consider a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, where you can get 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 in the first three months of having the card. That means that while you’re meeting that minimum spending requirement, you’re earning 15 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. Compare that to the one or two points you’ll earn with each dollar of spending after meeting the minimum spending. You can see the difference.

Other than getting the welcome bonus offers for signing up for new credit cards, another great way to maximize your rewards is by paying attention to bonus categories on your cards. Some cards offer a flat 1 or 2 points for every dollar you spend.

How Applying for Credit Cards Affects Your Credit Score

It’s important to be aware of how applying for new credit cards affects your credit score.

Your credit score consists of five factors, and one of the largest factors is your credit utilization.

Credit utilization is the percentage of your total available credit that you’re currently using. If you have one credit card with a $10,000 credit limit and you charge $2,000 to that card, then your utilization percentage is 20%. But if you have 10 different cards, each with $10,000 credit limits, then that your credit utilization percentage is only 2%.

Since a lower credit utilization is better, having multiple credit cards can actually help this part of your credit score.

New credit — how recently you’ve applied for new credit cards — accounts for about 10% of your credit score. When you apply for a new credit card, your credit score usually will dip 3-5 points. However, if you’re conscientious with your credit card usage, your score will come back up in a few months.

What to Watch Out for When Using Credit Card Rewards

While it’s true that careful use of credit cards can be a boon, you should watch out for pitfalls.

The first thing is to make sure that you have the financial ability, discipline and organization to manage all of your credit cards. Missing payments and paying credit card interest and fees will quickly sap up any rewards you might earn.

Another thing to be aware of is the psychology of credit card rewards. It can be easy to justify additional spending because you’re getting rewards or cash back, but remember that buying something that you don’t need in order to get 2% cash back is a waste of 98% of your money.

Pro Tip

Credit card rewards are alluring, but what do they really cost? Here’s what you should know about the dark side of credit card rewards.

The Best Credit Cards to Get Started

Before signing up for a new credit card, it’s best to pay off your existing cards first — otherwise the fees and interest will quickly outweigh any rewards you earn.

If you’re ready to start shopping rewards offers, here are five credit cards to consider. Note that these introductory offers are subject to change:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – The Sapphire Preferred card earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards and currently offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. It comes with a $95 annual fee.
  • Capital One Venture Rewards – The Capital One Venture Rewards is offering 100,000 Venture miles, which can be used on any airline or at any hotel. It also comes with a $95 annual fee.
  • Barclays American AAdvantage Aviator Red – With the AAdvantage Aviator Red card, you’ll get 50,000 American Airlines miles after paying the $99 annual fee and making only one purchase.
  • American Express Hilton Honors – If you’re looking for a hotel card, consider the no-fee Hilton Honors card, which comes with a signup bonus of 80,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 in three months. There is no annual fee.
  • Bank of America Premium Rewards – The Bank of America Premium Rewards card comes with a bonus of 50,000 Preferred Rewards points (worth $500) after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card has a $95 annual fee.
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The Bottom Line

The best credit card is the one that gets you the rewards that help you do what is most important to you.

If you’re looking to maximize travel credit, then pick an upcoming trip and figure out what airline miles and hotel chain points you’ll need. Then pick the credit cards that give those miles and points. If you want to maximize your cash back, look for a card with a good signup bonus that either offers cash back or bank points that can be converted into cash.

Dan Miller is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

ByCurtis Watts

Pulte Mortgage Review

A wholly-owned subsidiary of PulteGroup since 1972, the third-largest homebuilder in America, Pulte Mortgage gives customers a financing option that differs from those of banks and online lenders.

As an imprint of the larger conglomerate, Pulte Mortgage leverages construction experience and a personal touch to take borrowers through the home purchase process, helping them understand their options and decide on the best mortgage loan for them. This is done through a personal loan consultant assigned to individual accounts.

While Pulte Mortgage does not have a profile on the Better Business Bureau’s webpage, the PulteGroup has an A- rating, though it is not accredited.

Pulte AT A GLANCE

Year Founded 1972
Coverage Area Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington
HQ Address 3350 Peachtree Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30326
Phone Number 1-(866) 236-8165

Pulte Company Information

  • Part of the PulteGroup, the third-largest homebuilder in the United States
  • Based in Atlanta, the financing branch has served 400,000 borrowers across the country since 1972
  • Offers consumers a streamlined and integrated process, bringing a great deal of construction and lending experience
  • Has a broad menu of conventional, jumbo and government-backed loans, as well as specialty products
  • Assigns personal loan consultants to help guide borrowers understand mortgage rates and other specifics
  • Hosts a mortgage learning center for borrowers that includes a calculator, a glossary, and other resources

Pulte Mortgage Rates

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Pulte Mortgage Loans

Customers who are building homes through one of the approved PulteGroup builders can access loan products including:

Fixed-rate mortgages

Usually offered in 15- and 30-year terms, these mortgages feature a fixed rate throughout the life of the loan, ensuring a steady monthly payment that is easily budgeted for. Fixed-rate mortgages are generally best for homeowners who expect to settle down in their residence or just want the dependable structure. Pulte Mortgage has fixed-rate offerings with both low- and no-money-down payment requirements.

Adjustable-rate mortgages

Typically called ARMs, these mortgages have an interest rate that fluctuates with market conditions. These loans are ideal for borrowers with short-term housing plans who may move soon after closing.

Since interest rates are generally lower for ARMs, these products may be a good fit for those looking to make a profit, yet although rates are initially low with ARM loans and they remain fixed for a specified number of years, the risk of rates increasing with market fluctuations after the initial period exists.

The terms of these loans usually include a fixed rate for an introductory period that is rebalanced yearly, bi-annually or monthly. While traditional ARMs stay fixed for six months and are thereafter recalculated at the same interval, hybrid ARMs offer longer fixed terms, like 5/1 or 7/1 options, that are fixed for five or seven years respectively and rebalanced each year.

Jumbo mortgages

Sometimes consumers need higher loan amounts than traditional, conforming mortgages can offer, which are limited to $453,000. Homeowners who build their own homes or purchase homes in high-cost areas may need more robust financing options, which is where a jumbo loan comes in. These mortgages often cover loans between $453,100 and $2 million.

FHA mortgages

These loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which allows for less strict qualification requirements to incentivize homeownership. With FHA mortgages down payments can be as little as 3.5 percent, while low credit isn’t an automatic disqualification.

VA mortgages

Veterans Administration-backed mortgages are intended for veterans, active-duty personnel, and qualifying spouses of those who have served in the military or armed forces. Little to no down payment may be required for these types of loans. 

Balloon mortgages

While most borrowers are familiar with mortgages that are paid for incrementally, balloon mortgages are the opposite. These types of mortgages are paid in lump sums over a shorter period of time typically spanning five to seven years but may feature a lower interest rate than a fixed-rate option. At the end of the mortgage, borrowers must refinance or sell their homes, which is something to be aware of.

Bridge loan

While Pulte Mortgage does not offer home equity loans or lines of credit, it can extend bridge loans. This product is a type of the second loan that uses the borrower’s present home as collateral, earmarking the proceeds for closing on a new house before the present home is sold.

Pulte Mortgage does not offer cash-out refinancing options or USDA loans, which are government-backed loans that incentivize rural homeownership through low down payments.

Pulte Mortgage Customer Experience

The idea behind Pulte Mortgage is to streamline the mortgage process for consumers, so it’s more effective and efficient. In that spirit, the mortgage process for borrowers is straightforward with lots of assistance available on the way. Pulte highlights its five-step process:

  1. The mortgage application is started either through a secure online portal or through the mail. A Pulte Mortgage team is also assigned at this point.
  2. The personal loan consultant contacts the borrower to talk about important information, determining personal needs and locking in a rate.
  3. The loan is processed, and credit approval is communicated.
  4. The closing date is set with a builder representative, while the loan processor coordinates necessary actions.
  5. The keys to a new home are ready!

Prospective borrowers who just want to do some research can also benefit from Pulte Mortgage’s resource library, which includes:

  • A calculator that helps determine the buying power
  • A glossary for mortgage terms you’re likely to encounter through the process and should be familiar with
  • A mortgage FAQ for specifics on homebuying and financing

Pulte Company Grades

Although Pulte Mortgage does not have a profile with the BBB, PulteGroup, its parent company, has am A- rating with the organization. Though the company is not accredited by the BBB, Pulte Mortgage has been in business since 1972.

Pulte Mortgage Underwriting

Pulte Mortgage does not publicly disclose its down payment or qualification requirements on its website. Customers who are building with Pulte Homes, or one of the associated PulteGroup brands, can access this information once they complete the mortgage application.

History of Pulte Mortgage

Not only is PulteGroup the third-largest homebuilder in the United States, but it’s also been financing mortgages since 1972. Thanks to a little horizontal integration, PulteGroup can assist homeowners from construction to mortgage closing through Pulte Mortgage, the wholly-owned subsidiary that offers loan products.

The selling point is Pulte Mortgage being a one-stop-shop for homeowners, informed by extensive residential construction and mortgage financing experience.

Pulte Mortgage finances new home construction for customers of Pulte Homes, Centex, Del Webb, DiVosta, and John Wieland Homes, which all fall under the PulteGroup umbrella. Personalization is a key focus, with personal loan consultants for each borrower.

It also has an extensive online learning center to help prospective homeowners become familiar with different loans it offers, including conventional, jumbo, FHA, and VA loans, as well as specialty products like balloon mortgages and bridge loans.

Bottom Line

PulteGroup can assist homeowners from construction to mortgage closing through Pulte Mortgage. Many customers enjoy the fact that Pulte Mortgage is a one-stop-shop for homeowners, informed by extensive residential construction and mortgage financing experience.

For more information visit their website.

The post Pulte Mortgage Review appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

ByCurtis Watts

15 Home Business Ideas & The Free Courses You Need To Get Started

Are you looking for a work from home job or some at home business ideas?

If so, then I have a great list of free resources, such as courses and guides, that will help you find the best option and learn how to get started. Plus, all of the courses and guides in this article are free!

home business ideasIf you’re looking to make extra money, or even a full-time income, working from home is a great option. There are lots of realistic home business ideas that allow you to work on a flexible schedule.

In fact, around 50% of U.S. businesses are home based, and that number is expected to grow well into the future.

But, many people don’t know what kind of options are available or how to get started with their in home business ideas.

This article is a good starting point because I’m going to tell you about 15 different profitable home based business ideas and link to free courses, workshops, and guides that will help you kick off each of these ideas.

There are lots of valuable paid courses out there, but if you’re not sure about an idea, you might not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a course. That’s why free courses and guides are a great way to start.

You can learn more about each of these small business ideas, learn some of the basic skills, how much money you can earn, and more. You get to test these ideas a little bit before you invest a lot of time and money.

No matter what kind of business you decide to start, I think you’ll really enjoy starting one from home. 

I have been working from home since 2013, and I wouldn’t change it for anything! I absolutely love and enjoy running a business from home.

It has allowed me to travel full-time, save enough money to retire early, love what I do each day, and more.

Many people love running home based businesses for those reasons, but it also cuts your commute, allows you to earn money in your spare time, be your own boss, work on a flexible schedule, and more.

So, to help you get started, today I will explain some of the best small business ideas from home and which free online courses can help you get started.

Here is a quick list of the free work at home courses and resources I’m sharing:

  1. Selling Printables on Etsy Ebook
  2. Sell on Amazon Starter Course
  3. How To Start a Blog Course
  4. Build A Voiceover Action Plan From Scratch Minicourse
  5. Start An Online Advertising Business From Scratch
  6. Start Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business
  7. Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days
  8. General Transcription Mini-Course
  9. Become a Proofreader 76 Minute Webinar
  10. Court Transcript Proofreading Mini Course
  11. Podcast Virtual Assistant Workbooks
  12. Make Money Writing Romance Novels ecourse
  13. Pinterest Virtual Assistant Training Workshop
  14. Jumpstart Your Virtual Assistant Business
  15. Self-Publishing Your First Book

Below, I will be diving deeper into what each option is like, as well as more information about each of those free resources.

Below are 15 home business ideas.

 

1. Sell printables on Etsy.

Are you looking for a smart home business idea that allows you to use your creativity? Are you wondering “What can I sell from home to make money?”

If so, I recommend checking out this option. See, creating printables on Etsy can be a great side hustle because you just need to create one digital file per product, which you can then sell an unlimited number of times.

Printables are digital products that customers can download and print at home. Examples include grocery shopping checklists, gift tags, candy bar wrappers, printable quotes for wall art, and patterns.

You can sign up for this free ebook that helps you figure out where to start when it comes to selling printables on Etsy.

Related content on successful home business ideas:

  • 12 Passive Income Ideas That Will Let You Enjoy Life More
  • 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed
  • 15 Outdoor Jobs For People Who Love Being Outside
  • 24 Of The Best Work From Home Jobs & How To Avoid Scams

 

2. Sell items on Amazon.

Yes, you can make money selling items on Amazon. Actually, this is one of the home business ideas with low start up costs because you can literally start selling items from around your house. Make money while you declutter your home, what’s not to love?!

The first year that my friend Jessica ran her Amazon FBA business, working less than 20 hours a week total, she made over $100,000 profit!

This free course shows you how to start a profitable Amazon business in a 9-part video course. You’ll learn:

  • The exact steps to follow to set up your Amazon Seller account
  • Two easy and affordable ways to find items to sell
  • How to choose profitable inventory that customers actually want to buy

Click here to sign up for the FREE Amazon FBA Starter Course!

 

3. Start a blog to work at home.

For obvious reasons, blogging is my favorite on this list of profitable home business ideas.

It is a business that allows me to travel full-time, have a flexible schedule, earn somewhat passive income, and more.

Blogging changed my life for the better, and it allows me to earn thousands of dollars a month, all by doing something that I love.

My blog was created on a whim as a way to track my personal finance progress. And when I first started my blog, I honestly didn’t even know that this was going to be one of the best small profitable business ideas out there. At least that’s been the case for me! 

You can easily learn how to start a blog with my free How To Start a Blog Course.

Here’s a quick outline of what you will learn:

    • Day 1: Reasons you should start a blog
    • Day 2: How to determine what to blog about
    • Day 3: How to create your blog (in this lesson, you will learn how to start a blog on WordPress – my tutorial makes it very easy to start a blog)
    • Day 4: How to make money blogging
    • Day 5: My tips for making passive income from blogging
    • Day 6: How to grow your traffic and followers
    • Day 7: Miscellaneous blogging tips that will help you be successful

 

4. Become a voice over actor.

A voice over actor is the person you hear but rarely see on YouTube videos, radio ads, explainer videos, corporate narration, documentaries, e-learning courses, audiobooks, TV commercials, video games, movies, and cartoons.

In 2014, Carrie Olsen replaced her salaried day job to become a full-time voice over actor. People are constantly asking her how she got her start and how they can too.

So, she created Build A Voiceover Action Plan From Scratch Minicourse — This free course will help you learn about becoming a voice over artist, even if you’re brand new!

 

5. Run Facebook ads for local businesses.

Did you know that you can make a living from Facebook? With Facebook advertising, you can help businesses expand their reach.

And, yes, this is a skill that you can learn without any prior experience in marketing or advertising.

The going rate for Facebook Ad management is $1,000 – $1,500 per month, per client.

Last year, business owners spent over $88,000,000 per day on Facebook ads. This is expected to continue to grow, and it is one of the largest advertising spaces that exists.

My friend Bobby Hoyt knows a lot about this topic. Bobby is a former high school teacher who paid off $40,000 of student loan debt in a year and a half. He now runs the personal finance blog Millennial Money Man full-time, as well as a digital marketing agency for local businesses that he started in 2015.

Bobby has a free webinar on this topic too. His webinar, Start An Online Advertising Business From Scratch, will teach you how to start this business even if you’re brand new, how to find paying clients, and more.

 

stay-at home business ideas

6. Start a bookkeeping business.

A bookkeeper is someone who tracks the finances of a business. They may handle payroll, billing and invoicing, etc.

These are all skills you can learn without being an accountant or having any previous experience.

Ben, from Bookkeeper Launch, helps people get started as bookkeepers even when they don’t have any experience. Ben is a CPA who founded his business after realizing that many businesses needed better bookkeepers. 

Start Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business will teach you more about running your own virtual bookkeeping business. You’ll learn:

  • Is a bookkeeping business for you?
  • What exactly is a bookkeeping business? What kind of work do they do?
  • How much money can you make as a bookkeeper?
  • How do you find clients?

 

7. Search for items to resell.

Have you ever found something that you thought you could resell to make a profit?

Melissa’s family earned $133,000 in one year by buying and selling items that they’ve found at thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets.

Some of the best flipped items that they’ve sold include:

  • An item that they bought for $10 and flipped for $200 just 6 minutes later
  • A security tower they bought for $6,200 and flipped for $25,000 just one month later
  • A prosthetic leg that they bought for $30 at a flea market and sold for $1,000 on eBay the next day

This is one of the home business ideas that anyone can start because you can start off selling things in your own house — I know we all have lots of stuff in our house that we could stand to get rid of. Then once you get a feel for the work, you can start purchasing items to resell.

Melissa has a great free webinar, Turn Your Passion For Visiting Thrift Stores, Yard Sales & Flea Markets Into A Profitable Reselling Business In As Little As 14 Days, that will help you learn how to make money by flipping items.

 

8. Transcribe audio or video content into text.

Transcription is when you turn audio or video content into a text document. You listen to what’s being said and type it up.

There are many businesses looking for transcriptionists too – since general transcriptionists convert audio and video to text for virtually any industry, there really isn’t a typical client. Some examples include marketers, authors, filmmakers, academics, speakers, and conferences of all types.

Beginning transcriptionists earn around $15 an hour and it goes up from there.

You can learn more in the Free General Transcription Mini-Course. In this course, you will learn what it takes to become a transcriptionist, how much money you can earn, how you can find jobs, and more.

 

9. Become a general proofreader.

Proofreading is one of the most flexible and detail-orientated home business ideas that work. All you need to work as a proofreader is a laptop or tablet, an internet connection, and a good eye for finding mistakes.

Proofreaders look for punctuation mistakes, misspelled words, lack of consistency, and formatting errors.

You take content that other people have written and then go over it with a fine-tooth comb. You might be proofreading blog posts, print articles, academic articles, website copy, ad copy, books, student papers, emails, and more.

In one year, Caitlin made slightly over $43,000 by being a freelance proofreader.

Caitlin put together a FREE 76-minute workshop, where she answers all of the most common questions about becoming a proofreader, and she even shows you how to use the most popular tools used by proofreaders around the world. You can sign up for free here.

 

10. Become a court transcript proofreader.

Becoming a court transcript proofreader is a more focused version of the last idea.

Here’s what it’s like:

“Court reporters use digital stenography machines in combination with computer-aided transcription software to write verbatim records of various legal proceedings. They report depositions, trials, hearings, arbitrations, case management conferences, compulsory medical examinations, examinations under oath, and pretty much any other type of legal proceeding. Because of the sensitive nature of legal proceedings, it’s imperative that as many errors as possible be eliminated from transcripts — an especially major error could ruin an entire trial!”

Due to this, many court reporters also use court transcript proofreaders.

There is more training that goes into becoming a court transcript proofreader, and that is why I separated it from the general proofreading job above.

Caitlin, mentioned above, also has a great FREE 7 day course just for people who are interested in becoming a court transcript proofreader.

 

Home business ideas with low startup costs

11. Become a podcast virtual assistant.

There’s a big demand for podcast virtual assistants right now.

This is because there are over 800,000 podcasts out there, and that number just continues to grow. Podcasts are still a pretty new area, and that opens the door for lots of home business ideas that help out with all of these podcasts.

While the podcast host is responsible for recording themselves, other tasks like editing and publication take time, so many podcasters outsource their work to freelancers or virtual assistants. Also, some podcasters may not know how to do those things, or they may choose to focus their time on other areas.

Some of the different services you can offer as a podcast virtual assistant include:

  • Audio editing
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Publication
  • Distribution
  • Show note creation

You can sign up here for free information that will tell you more about how to become a podcast VA. In this free resource, you’ll learn exactly what a podcast virtual assistant is, the services you can offer, and starting rates.

 

12. Write romance novels.

My friend Yuwanda Black has found one of the most interesting home business ideas – she writes romance novels, and in one month, she was able to make over $3,000!

With her free Making Money Writing Romance ecourse, she teaches you how to make money writing and self-publishing romance novels.

It is taught from first-hand experience, which Yuwanda has because she’s written and self-published 50 romance novellas since 2013. And, she continues to publish today.

 

13. Work as a Pinterest virtual assistant.

Working as a Pinterest virtual assistant is a growing field as more and more business owners are using Pinterest to grow their business.

Pinterest VAs help businesses improve their reach by doing things like:

  • Designing Pinterest images for a website
  • Helping business owners set up their Pinterest account
  • Scheduling pins because this can be time consuming for the average business owner
  • Brainstorming a marketing plan

Click here and click on “Free Training Workshop” to learn how to become a Pinterest virtual assistant and find your first client. In this free course, you’ll learn what you need to do to get started, what services to offer, and how much to charge as a Pinterest virtual assistant.

 

14. Work as a virtual assistant.

If you’re looking for home business ideas with low startup costs, then virtual assisting is a great one!

Virtual assistance is a field that is growing very quickly and it is one of the very popular stay-at home business ideas.

Not only does the internet allow us to complete more of our daily tasks online, more and more people are working online. This presents a good opportunity for more virtual assistants.

Virtual assistant tasks may include social media management, formatting and editing content, scheduling appointments or travel, email management, and more. Basically, you can get paid to do any task that needs to be done in someone’s business, but doesn’t need to be done by them.

If this is one of the home business ideas you’re interested in, I recommend checking out Jumpstart Your Virtual Assistant Business. In that link, you’ll receive a free worksheet and workbook that will help you decide what virtual assistant services you can offer (there are over 150 choices!).

 

15. Write your own eBook for work from home ideas.

Writing your own eBook is a great way to make money from home, and there is probably something super helpful that you could write about (even if you think otherwise!).

In fact, my friend Alyssa self-published her first book and has sold more than 13,000 copies.

She is now earning a great passive income of over $200 a day from her book ($6,500 in one month alone!).

Learn more at Self-Publishing Your First Book. This free series will teach you what it takes to publish a book, including the strategies used to launch a book, writing tips, and more.

 

What is the best home business to start? What are the most successful small businesses?

As you can see, there are plenty of different home business ideas out there, and this list is only scratching the surface. There are full-time home based business ideas, and then there are part-time business ideas.

The best business home based ideas are going to be different for everyone. For example, some people are naturally good proofreaders, while others will have a knack for finding the right items for reselling.

I would think about what kinds of things you’re good at, what interests you, the skills you already have, etc. That may narrow the choices down some. 

But, what I love about the home business ideas on this list is that the free courses and guides listed mean you can learn more about any of them without a big investment. You can explore ideas without feeling like you’re wasting your money.

What home business ideas are you interested in?

The post 15 Home Business Ideas & The Free Courses You Need To Get Started appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

ByCurtis Watts

How long does a credit card balance transfer take?

Credit card balance transfers can take as little as three days or as long as six weeks to complete. How long your transfer takes will vary depending on your credit card issuer and a number of other factors, including whether you’re opening a new account with an issuer, how you apply for the transfer and how your existing creditors accept payment.

We’ve reviewed how balance transfers work with some of the major credit card issuers to give you an idea of how long you can expect to wait, along with some tips on what you can do to ensure things go smoothly.

See related: The basics of a balance transfer

How credit card balance transfers work

Balance transfers generally require good to excellent credit, but once you qualify, the process is fairly simple: You just need to provide your new creditor with the account number for your existing balance and how much you want to transfer. Once your transfer goes through, you’ll make payments to your new creditor.

That said, each issuer handles balance transfers in its own way. Some will send payment directly to your old creditor, while others will give you balance transfer checks that you must fill out and send in yourself. Some only handle balance transfers by mail, while others allow you to complete the process online. Additionally, your new creditor may approve the full transfer amount or only a portion, depending on your credit limit and their own transfer limits.

Put simply, which issuer you use and how your issuer handles balance transfers will have a marked impact on how long the process takes.

How long does a balance transfer usually take?

Most credit card companies will give you a sense of what to expect before you apply, but there’s no way to know in advance exactly how long a balance transfer will take, so you should be prepared to wait at least a couple of weeks for the transfer to be approved and completed.

This chart should give you a general idea of how long a balance transfer will take with each issuer:

Credit card issuer How long a balance transfer takes
American Express 5 to 7 days on average, but can take up to 6 weeks
Bank of America Up to 14 days
Capital One 3 to 14 days
Chase 7 to 21 days
Citi 2 to 21 days
Discover 4 to 14 days
HSBC 7 to 10 business days
Wells Fargo 5 to 7 days on average, but can take up to 10 days

For more detailed information about how to do a credit card balance transfer with each issuer, check out our comprehensive guides.

How to do a balance transfer, by credit card issuer:

  • How to transfer a balance to an American Express credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Bank of America credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Capital One credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Chase credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Citi credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Discover credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to an HSBC credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a U.S. Bank credit card.
  • How to transfer a balance to a Wells Fargo credit card.

Can you speed up a balance transfer?

As you can see, each issuer handles balance transfers a bit differently, and much of the process is out of your control. While you can’t exactly determine how long it will take for your balance transfer to go through, there are a few steps you can take to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Keep the following balance transfer tips in mind:

  • Balance transfers to new card accounts take longer. If you’re transferring your balance to a new card account, you should expect it to take a bit longer than if you’re transferring to an existing account. Discover, for example, says that transfers to existing accounts are typically processed within four days, while transfers to new accounts can take up to 14 days.
  • Applying online saves time. As you might expect, submitting your balance transfer application online instead of sending a physical application through the mail should shave at least a few days off your wait time. Additionally, many issuers offer online tools that will help you track the status of your balance transfer.
  • Apply for a balance transfer when you apply for a new card. Many issuers will let you request a balance transfer at the same time that you apply for a new credit card. If you have a large balance to transfer, however, and want to see how high a credit limit you’re offered before you start the transfer process, you may choose to wait until you’re approved for the card. In that case, just be sure to initiate the transfer as soon as you get the information you need.
  • Waiting too long can cost you. Most cards that offer a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers or a 0% balance transfer fee require you to complete your transfer within a set period of time to take advantage of the promotional rate. If you don’t complete the transfer in time, you could end up paying a ton in added balance transfer fees or miss out on months of zero-interest payments.

Balance transfer credit cards with no transfer fee

What if my balance transfer is taking longer to show up than expected?

If it’s been more than a few weeks since you submitted your balance transfer application and you haven’t seen funds post to your account or gotten any other updates, don’t hesitate to call your issuer and check on the status of your transfer. They may be able to tell you what’s holding things up and give you an idea of how much longer you can expect the transfer to take.

While you wait, it’s critical that you continue paying at least the minimum on your existing credit cards and send all payments to your original creditor. You’ll know for sure it’s safe to stop making payments when your original account shows a balance of $0. Failing to keep up with payments while you wait for a balance transfer to complete could lead to late fees and damaged credit. Indeed, if your credit takes too big of a hit, it could even disrupt the transfer.

Next steps

If you’re carrying credit card debt and looking to save on interest, transferring your balance to a new card is probably a smart move. Not only will you “stop the bleeding” caused by mounting interest charges, but you’ll also get a chance to chip away at your balance and hopefully pay off or substantially reduce the amount you owe.

That said, with so much variance between issuers and transfer methods, there’s no way to know exactly how long a balance transfer will take. You can get a sense of how long you’ll have to wait from your credit card issuer, but instead of worrying about that timeline, focus on what’s in your control: Apply as soon as you can, keep a close eye on your transfer and continue to make payments on your existing cards. This way, you can at least be sure you’re saving money and protecting your credit in the meantime.

Source: creditcards.com