Turn Your Quarantine Clutter Into Money

I placed more online orders than I can count in 2020. And I justified all of them.

My front porch was filled with boxes containing all sorts of things: furniture (I needed to redecorate), paper towels (I needed to stock up), crafts (I needed activities), board games (more activities) and a treadmill (I needed exercise).

But if I’m being honest, I bought a little too much.

Take a look around your place. If your quarantine habits were even a tiny bit like mine, you could turn that clutter into money. Here’s how.

Too much stuff? Sell it

Perhaps you purchased more than you ended up using, like board games or video games. Or maybe you bought new products to replace old items and were left with a drawer of discarded technology.

Chelsea Lipford Wolf, co-host of the “Today’s Homeowner” TV show and host of the “Checking In With Chelsea” web series, says she made over $1,000 selling things online during the last six months of 2020 through Facebook Marketplace, an outlet for buying and selling locally.

You can, too. Look online for this or another marketplace that suits your needs. For example, Facebook Marketplace caters to local transactions, while other sites focus on product categories like tech or apparel. Read the directions to see how the site works and check for customer reviews or a Better Business Bureau accreditation before committing. Make an account, then get to work.

You can sell almost anything online — technology, furniture, clothing, video games and toys, to name a few.

Here are Wolf’s keys to making things sell:

  • Presentation. “You want the item you’re selling to be the focal point of your photo,” Wolf says. Clean it first, then take flattering photos in natural sunlight, preferably near a window. Get multiple angles.

  • Price. Consider what someone might pay for the item, then price it slightly lower to make it move. You can also check listings posted by other users to determine the going rate.

  • Particulars. Spell out everything in the description, including the brand and any imperfections. A more detailed listing means less back and forth with potential buyers. As the saying goes, “Time is money,” Wolf says.

Too much work? Consign

Depending on which site you use, you’ll have to write listings, package your items and send them either directly to the buyer or to the platform you used to make the sale. In some cases, you can deliver in person.

To save time and effort, take your stuff to a local consignment store instead. You’ll likely make less, but the store does the selling for you. Expect to pocket half of the selling price, Wolf says.

Other options? Give things away to family and friends. Donate to a local charity. And throw away items that have absolutely no use.

Too many temptations? Scale back

Once you’ve sold and donated what you can, fight the urge to impulse shop again. Keeping up your current habits could get you right back to where you started. One way to avoid that? Save first and buy later.

This approach is the exact opposite of putting something on a credit card and paying it off after the fact, says Pam Horack, a certified financial planner and the owner of Pathfinder Planning LLC, based in Lake Wylie, South Carolina.

Save money and wait to place an order until you can afford it in full. Horack says her family has a designated clothing account. When someone needs a new pair of shoes, the money comes from what they’ve set aside.

You can do the same with a general spending account. “If you don’t have money in that account, then you can’t buy it,” Horack says. “That needs to be your rule.”

There are also ways to stay busy without spending much, if any, money. Here are some of Horack’s ideas: Redecorate your house by moving around your furniture. Spend time outdoors. Finish up projects around the house. You’ll spend less and accumulate less stuff.

Too expensive? Buy used

But you can’t stop shopping altogether. For things you absolutely need, consider buying on the same websites you used to make extra money.

When you list products, you won’t sell them for as much as you originally paid for them. That means you can purchase things at a significant discount, too.

Consumers have been buying and selling used during the pandemic, according to Sara Beane, media relations specialist at technology marketplace Swappa. “Everybody is kind of strapped during this unprecedented time,” Beane says.

For example, the site saw a rush on laptops around back-to-school season.

Search used marketplaces by model and condition of the item. You’ll find many price points to fit your budget.

But before you hit the “buy” button, do some organizing, Wolf says.

“If you have so much stuff that you can’t see what you have, then you’re going to buy more than you need.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

Source: nerdwallet.com

Where Should You Retire? A Comprehensive Guide To Retirement Costs In All 50 States

Studies suggest you save between $700,000 and $2 million for retirement, based on this crucial factor: location. Discover which states are cheaper and why!Studies suggest you save between $700,000 and $2 million for retirement, based on this crucial factor: location. Discover which states are cheaper and why!

The post Where Should You Retire? A Comprehensive Guide To Retirement Costs In All 50 States appeared first on Money Under 30.

Source: moneyunder30.com

Jump-Start Your Credit: How to Monitor Your Credit for Free

Your credit history can affect how much you pay for car or home insurance, your ability to rent a house or an apartment and even your chances of getting some jobs. That’s why it pays to work on your credit and build it up.

Monitoring your credit can be a little like checking your blood pressure to see how your new exercise program and diet are affecting it. You’re unlikely to see steady, unbroken progress, but it can let you know if you’re on the right track.

What is credit monitoring?

Credit monitoring is simply checking your credit report and/or score for changes. It can help you connect how you’re handling credit with changes to your score. That’s especially useful when you’re building credit because seeing progress encourages you to keep going.

It can also help you quickly spot problems or signs of fraud. Credit monitoring may alert you to:

  • An application or new account in your name.

  • Payments reported as 30 or more days past their due date.

  • An account that has been closed.

  • New address or name changes to your credit file.

  • Public records in your name, such as bankruptcies, property liens and judgments.

No-hassle credit report

Your latest credit data, including score, at your fingertips. Hear about changes, get expert tips.

How often should you check?

Credit expert John Ulzheimer recommends checking monthly. That’s how often your creditors report your account activity to credit-reporting agencies.

You can check more often if you like — checking your own credit will not affect your score. Many personal finance websites offer free scores and credit reports. NerdWallet updates your free credit score and report information weekly.

Through April, you can also get your credit reports weekly for free from the three major credit bureaus by using AnnualCreditReport.com, although it does not include a score.

There may be times when you want to check your credit frequently. Credit bureau TransUnion says those include when you plan to apply for new credit or you are searching for a new job. But there is no need to check daily — that can lead to needless anxiety.

How to get the most out of credit monitoring

Credit monitoring should make your life simpler. To that end, use it to confirm that your credit report is as you expect it to be.

Expect your credit scores to fluctuate — they are calculated on demand, so they’ll change a bit depending on the data that’s in your report at the time a score is requested. You are looking for overall trends or a big, unexplained change that could suggest identity theft or fraud. There is no need to explore tiny changes in your score to try to figure out what happened.

You may be able to control the number and types of alerts you get. Limit them to ones you really need. Too many emails and texts can lead you to delete them unread.

If you see information on your credit reports that you don’t understand or don’t recognize, investigate. If you see an error, dispute it with the credit bureau in question. Check the other two bureaus, too, to see if they have the same mistake needing correction.

What credit monitoring can’t do — and what you should

Credit monitoring won’t prevent someone from using your credit data — it just lets you know what has already happened. It’s still up to you to do the things that build and protect your credit, such as:

  • Paying bills on time and not using too much of your credit limits.

  • Disputing inaccuracies on your credit reports.

  • Avoiding identity theft ploys, like phishing emails, and keeping your credit information private.

  • Checking your credit card statements for signs of fraud.

The simplest way to avoid worrying about an application you did not make or new credit opened in your name is to seal off access to your credit information by freezing your credit. That way, if someone attempts to apply for credit using your information, the would-be creditor can’t access your credit reports, and the application likely won’t be approved.

Is it worth paying for a monitoring service?

Several companies offer paid credit monitoring, but before you commit to paying, compare the service to protection you may already have access to. You may have memberships or employee benefits that include identity theft coverage — and credit monitoring is generally included. If your personal data has been compromised in a data breach, you may be offered monitoring coverage at no cost to you.

If you decide to pay for monitoring, pick a service that covers all three major credit bureaus so you have a comprehensive view of your credit. But if high debt is holding your score down, that money might be better spent reducing that debt.

Source: nerdwallet.com

Does Breaking a Lease Hurt Your Credit?

Breaking a lease won’t hurt your credit score if your landlord agrees that you have paid everything you owe, including penalties such as a fee for early termination, plus the normal cleaning and security fees. Then, you will have fulfilled the terms of your lease agreement.

But if you move out when you are behind on rent, or are unable to pay all the fees you owe, it’s a different story. The amount you owe may be sent to a debt collection agency. That will almost certainly appear on your credit reports, and collections can seriously damage your score.

You also risk being sued for what you owe, which could lead to having your wages garnished.

Before you tell your landlord you are leaving, reread your lease. It will spell out what you’ll owe if you leave before the end of the lease. It also may helpful to research tenants rights in your city, county or state so you know what to expect. For instance, the legal website Nolo.com notes that in most states landlords must make a reasonable effort to rent the unit again rather than to charge you for all remaining months of rent.

Know where your credit stands

Check your free credit report and see your score. Your info updates weekly so you can track changes.

How to protect your credit

The key is to avoid being sent to collections for an unpaid debt. There are several ways to end a lease early and limit what you owe, making it likelier you can pay your landlord.

See if you have an out

Military obligations such as deployment can be a protected reason to terminate a lease early. Other circumstances may be considered legitimate reasons to break a lease without penalty, depending on where you live. In some cases, you may be able to end the lease early because of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault; because of unsafe living conditions; or because of serious illness or injury.

You can also check for a clause in your lease that allows for voiding the contract in a disaster. Some leases, however, specifically exclude a pandemic as a reason to break a lease without penalty.

If you are leaving because of financial problems related to a general economic downturn, ask whether your landlord has a hardship policy or program. That may avert the need to break the lease. The most recent coronavirus relief package also included $25 billion in rent relief funds, which states, cities and tribes will be able to use to help those struggling with rent debt.

If you run into issues getting your landlord to follow applicable laws, you may need to consult with a lawyer or Legal Aid.

See if someone else will cover the lease

If your state doesn’t require landlords to try to find a new tenant, perhaps you can find someone who would be willing to assume your lease or to sign a new lease.

Life changes, such as a new job in another city, may be driving your decision. In the case of a new job, you may be able to get your new employer to pay the fees required to release you from your lease.

Consider a loan

If you will owe an amount you can’t cover all at once, you might think about taking out a personal loan or borrowing money from friends or family. A personal loan could even help your credit if you make the payments on time and they’re reported to the credit bureaus.

Rethink rent reporting

Rent-reporting services report your rental payments to credit bureaus. If you have rent reporting in place, be aware that paying late or breaking a lease without satisfying the conditions of the lease can hurt your credit.

If you’re able to come to an agreement with your landlord, though, your credit should not be affected.

“If there was a mutual agreement to end the lease, then it would not be reported as late, as the landlord would close the lease in our system and that would close the tradeline as “paid in full,'” says Rick Sands, manager of PaymentReport, a rent-reporting company. “The new lease end date would be reported instead of the original end date.”

But if the rent-reporting service you have is one you initiated and is not required by your property manager, you may be able to cancel the service to avoid having late payments reported. It also might buy you some time to come up with a payment plan to avoid a collection action.

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Prioritize Debt Payments in the Pandemic

A singular crisis has led to extraordinary relief options for borrowers. Interest and payments have been paused on federal student loans. Homeowners can request nearly a year of mortgage forbearance. Credit card issuers and other lenders dramatically expanded hardship programs.

Still, many Americans say they took on more debt last year because of the pandemic, according to NerdWallet’s household debt survey.

If you are one of them, or if you have other household debt that’s been put on hold, you may not want to rush to pay that money back even if you can. The COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout are far from over, so you’ll want to be strategic when dealing with pandemic-related and other debt.

Student loans are still on hold

President Joe Biden extended federal student loan forbearance until October and during his campaign proposed canceling $10,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower. If you could benefit, consider not making any extra student loan payments while you wait to see what happens.

Paying off student loans probably shouldn’t be your top priority anyway. More important goals include saving for retirement, paying off higher-interest-rate debt and building an emergency fund of at least three months’ worth of expenses.

If you have trouble making payments when forbearance ends, you may qualify for income-driven repayment plans or further forbearance and deferral options. Ask your loan servicer and check out the resources at StudentAid.gov.

Mortgage debt can be postponed, not erased

The first coronavirus relief bill, which Congress passed in March 2020, offered protection for borrowers with federally backed mortgages. Those include loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as FHA, VA and USDA loans.

Homeowners with FHA, VA and USDA loans have until Feb. 28 to request a 180-day forbearance on federally backed loans. (Currently, there’s no deadline for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans.) Borrowers can request an extension of 180 days, for a total forbearance of nearly a year.

Forbearance doesn’t erase debt, however, and typically interest still accumulates. In most cases, borrowers can make arrangements to pay back the missed payments over time or add the payments to the end of the loan.

If you can resume making payments, you probably should do so to avoid paying unnecessary interest. Contact your lender to learn about your repayment options. If you can’t make payments when your forbearance expires, ask your lender if it has any additional hardship options.

Pay down credit cards if you can

Americans have been paying down their credit card debt in the pandemic, according to the Federal Reserve. At the same time, participation in lender hardship programs has soared. About 2.4% of credit card accounts were in hardship status in December, according to the credit bureau TransUnion. In contrast, the rate was just 0.007% in December 2019. Hardship programs differ, but credit card issuers may lower interest rates or payments, pause payments for a few months or waive late fees.

If you can pay down your credit card debt, however, you probably should. Credit cards tend to carry high interest rates, and the payments you make typically free up credit that you can use again in an emergency.

If you have good credit scores and steady income, you could get out of debt faster by using low-interest-rate balance transfer offers or a personal loan. If you don’t have good credit or you’re struggling with your bills, a debt management plan from a nonprofit credit counseling agency could help lower your rates and allow you to pay off your debt over three to five years. You also may want to consider talking with a bankruptcy attorney about your options.

Auto loans relief is limited

Auto lenders also expanded their hardship programs to allow borrowers to defer payments, typically for one to three months. The deferred payments are usually added on to the end of the loan, so a 60-month loan would be extended to 63 months.

TransUnion says 2.9% of all auto loans were in a hardship program in December compared with 0.5% a year earlier. For subprime borrowers — those with poor credit — the rate was 9.8%, compared with about 1% in December 2019.

Still, serious delinquencies — payments that were 60 days or more overdue for loans that weren’t in hardship status — rose in December compared with a year earlier. Missing even one payment can hurt your credit scores and lead to your vehicle being repossessed. If it doesn’t sell for enough money at auction to cover your loan, you could be sued for the difference. Handing back the keys in a “voluntary” repossession has similar consequences: credit damage and a potential lawsuit.

If you can resume payments, do. If you can’t and owe less than the car is worth, consider selling it or trading it for a more affordable vehicle. If you owe more than it’s worth, ask the lender if it will restructure the loan to make it more affordable.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by the Associated Press.

Source: nerdwallet.com