25 Home Depot Shopping Tips & Tricks to Save Money

Since purchasing my first fixer-upper home a few years back, I’ve set foot inside the Home Depot at least 100 times, and I couldn’t begin to tell you how many visits I’ve made to the home improvement giant’s website.

I’ve spent more money than I’d like to admit. Thankfully, I’ve saved many thousands of dollars too.

If you’re planning a home improvement project to reduce homeownership costs, improve your home’s energy efficiency, or increase your home’s value — or if you’re just taking care of a few DIY projects — check out these tips and tricks.

How to Save Money Shopping at Home Depot

These are the most reliable tips to save money at Home Depot. They range from little-known discounts to well-worn advice on shopping trip timing.

1. Find Home Depot Coupons

Home Depot’s coupon page is a goldmine for discounts and deals in-store and online. If you’re planning a store visit, scroll to the bottom to search for your local ad, which contains time-limited sales not advertised elsewhere on Home Depot’s website.

2. Sign Up for Text Alerts

Sign up for Home Depot’s text alerts if your mobile provider doesn’t charge for inbound SMS messages. You’ll receive at least several messages per week.

Home Depot’s text alerts aren’t particularly well targeted. I’ve received countless offers from departments I’ve never purchased anything in.

But enough alerts are relevant to justify signing up, especially if you’re in the early stages of a big project that will require multiple trips to Home Depot. You can always unsubscribe when you complete the project.

3. Join the Email List for a One-Time Discount

Sign up for Home Depot’s free email list to earn $5 off your next purchase online or in-store. The discount comes as an emailed coupon.

After signing up, you receive Home Depot’s occasional promotion emails, which offer:

  • In-store and online discounts and savings opportunities
  • How-to guides for DIYers
  • Home improvement project ideas and tips

If you’re worried about the extra emails, popular email suites like Gmail divert promotional emails into a separate inbox (labeled “Promotions”) to keep users’ primary inboxes clear. Or you can set up a filter of your own. You’ll barely notice the additional message volume.

4. Search HomeDepot.com for Product-Specific Rebates

Home Depot’s rebate center advertises thousands of rebates on specific products. Part of the reason it has so many is because Home Depot rebates apply at the SKU (unique stock number) level.

That means products that come in different configurations or sizes are likely to have multiple rebates associated with them — different rebate amounts for different sizes, for example.

Many individual SKUs are also eligible for more than one rebate. For instance, an energy-efficient appliance might qualify for a green energy tax credit, a utility company rebate, and a manufacturer rebate.

You must apply for each rebate separately online or by mail, but it’s worth the trouble when you stand to save hundreds on a major purchase.

5. Check for Overstock Deals

Home Depot’s special values include hundreds of overstock products in your local store, either in stock or eligible for ship-to-store. Many are deeply discounted — over 50% in some cases.

It can be hard to find the exact color or specifications you’d like. But if you’re not picky, it’s a fantastic place to find deals on the home goods you need.

If you’re already in your Home Depot store or planning to venture in anyway, check the back for heavily discounted overstock and damaged merchandise. In the rear of the lumber department, old boards sell for up to 70% off, and store staff will cut up to two lengths for free.

Nearby, there’s often a cart or two of miscellaneous discounted products with cosmetic dings or dents that don’t impact function.

6. Look for Daily Deals

Home Depot runs enticing daily deals every day. The category-specific Special Buy of the Day rotates through fairly broad product categories, such as residential water treatment systems and whole-home cooling systems.

7. Use a Cash-Back Credit Card With Rotating Categories

Using a cash-back rewards card with rotating cash-back categories is a must every time you patronize a home improvement retailer.

Your best bet is the Chase Freedom Flex credit card (read our Chase Freedom Flex review) and its quarterly rotating 5% categories. Home improvement stores enter the rotation every year or two. However, Chase makes no guarantees about what’s in store for the future (and typically doesn’t reveal 5% categories until a few weeks before the start of a new quarter).

8. Take Advantage of Temporary Credit Card Offers

Chase Freedom isn’t the only credit card that promises above-average rewards on Home Depot purchases.

Other Chase credit cards have been known to extend time-limited bonus opportunities to cardholders. Examples include the Chase Freedom® Unlimited credit card (read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review) and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card (read our Sapphire Preferred review).

Amex Offers, a members-only discount database for American Express cardholders, usually includes home improvement stores as well.

9. Wait for Promotions to Make Major Purchases

Whether you’re planning a major DIY or contracted home improvement project, it always pays to wait for the right time to purchase your supplies. Once you’ve finished your shopping list, visit or call to ask about upcoming promotions.

You probably won’t have to wait long.

For example, before a major kitchen renovation, my wife and I purchased cabinets and countertops in two separate orders. We bagged the countertops as soon as we decided on the material and pattern to avoid missing a 20%-off sale. But we waited two weeks after settling on cabinets to make the purchase. That was just long enough to snag 30% off that part of the order.

Our design tech told us we probably wouldn’t have to wait longer than two more months for the next cabinets promotion.

10. Be the Squeaky Wheel

Don’t hesitate to escalate. This trick is near-universal in the retail world, but I’ve had excellent luck with it at Home Depot. Department and store managers have tremendous leeway on pricing.

Even rank-and-file department employees are authorized to knock up to $50 off merchandise if the customer isn’t satisfied.

I thought I’d gotten a good deal on new interior French doors during a 15% off sale, but when it took longer than promised to receive them, I politely complained and got another $50 off on the spot.

11. Take Advantage of Special Financing on Major Purchases

Home Depot offers interest-free financing on large purchases for credit-qualified customers.

Chain-wide, the standard deal is a 0% annual percentage rate (APR) for six months on purchases of $299 or more. Individual stores may offer longer interest-free deals on larger purchases.

I’ve taken advantage of a 24-month 0%-APR financing period on a four-figure purchase (the threshold was $1,999 in that instance). That’s the longest interest-free financing period I’ve seen at Home Depot.

But applying for Home Depot’s 0%-APR financing offers means submitting to a hard credit pull that temporarily lowers your credit score by a few points. If approved, you receive a credit card with a credit limit determined by things like your credit score and income.

The larger the purchase amount, the higher your initial credit utilization ratio. And on substantial purchases, your credit limit could be just a little higher than the purchase price. That also negatively affects your credit score, with the effects lingering until you mostly pay off your balance.

Make up for the hit by keeping your credit card account open and unused after paying off the initial balance. I keep my Home Depot credit card in the bottom of a secure filing cabinet, where it’s remained untouched since it arrived.

There’s another perk to using a Home Depot credit card or credit line: an extended return window.

You can return most merchandise (except those listed as uncovered by Home Depot’s return policy) purchased with qualifying Home Depot credit products for up to one year (365 days) from the purchase date.

12. Capitalize on Home Depot’s Expansive Price-Match Policy

Home Depot’s low-price guarantee includes a generous price-match policy that covers in-store and online purchases.

If you find a lower advertised price on an identical product to one you purchased from Home Depot, Home Depot will match that price and the competitor’s shipping rate (if any) and reimburse the difference.

13. Rent a Truck at Your Local Home Depot

Are you moving across town? Or planning to haul the results of your DIY demolition project to the dump?

Before overpaying for a U-Haul or calling in a favor from that one friend with a pickup truck, check your local Home Depot. Though selection varies by store, many have flatbeds (essentially heavy-duty pickups) and box trucks (large moving vans) available for rent by the hour or day.

Home Depot’s truck and tool rental page has more details. For flatbeds, the ideal rental window is two hours or less, after which hourly pricing rises steeply.

14. Rent Tools Before You Buy

Home Depot rents a slew of tools that are too expensive, bulky, or specialized for most people to invest in, especially if you’re only using them occasionally or for one project.

After confirming the tool you need isn’t in stock at your neighborhood tool lending library or hardware store, both of which will probably be cheaper to rent on an hourly basis, stop by your local Home Depot warehouse.

Not all locations offer tools for rent, so check online beforehand.

15. Look for Prices Ending in 6 and 3

It’s easy to spot in-store discounts at Home Depot. Just find the yellow price tags and look at the last numeral. If it’s a 6, it’s a good deal. If it’s a 3, it’s a great deal. It’s the lowest the department is willing to go on that particular merchandise.

Discounted prices ending in 6 typically last for six weeks. Then, the price drops to one ending in 3, where it remains until the product sells out or Home Depot removes unsold inventory to make room for higher-margin stock.

16. Return Dead or Unproductive Plants Within One Year for a Full Refund

The Home Depot garden center’s return policy is better than any other department’s. Perennials, trees, and shrubs all carry a one-year (365-day) guarantee.

If they die or fail to bear flowers or fruit (when applicable) during that period, you can return them for a full refund.

17. Take Advantage of Recurring Annual or Seasonal Sales

Home Depot excels at seasonal sales. At any given time, at least one department is holding a blockbuster clearance event. Examples include:

  • Plants. The garden center typically offers the most enticing deals in April, or whenever spring comes to your neck of the woods. In colder climates, fall sales on perennials, including trees and shrubs, typically feature massive markdowns. Members of the Home Depot Garden Club may qualify for additional discounts and sales not available to the general public as part of their free membership.
  • Holiday Decor and Accessories. Holiday decorations like wreaths, natural and artificial Christmas trees, and serving ware first go on sale during Black Friday week. The home improvement giant marks them down even further in January.
  • Grills. The week of July Fourth is the best time to buy grills at Home Depot.
  • Paint. Paint discounts peak on Memorial and Labor Day weekends, with savings up to 40%.
  • Kitchen and Bath. The first quarter of the year is the best time to make significant kitchen and bath purchases at Home Depot.
  • Patio Furniture. Take advantage of clearance items in Home Depot’s patio furniture department during the waning days of patio season, which can vary by geography.

18. Set Up Subscriptions for Recurring Purchases

Home Depot Subscriptions is a recurring home delivery program that promises 5% savings across the board on household staples like coffee, cleaning supplies, air filters, and pet food.

The program also touts contractor staples, such as job site safety equipment, painting supplies, and power tool accessories.

But Home Depot Subscriptions isn’t the only subscription service. So confirm it’s cost-competitive with alternatives like Amazon Subscribe & Save before enrolling.

19. Leverage Your Military Status

Home Depot treats service members well. Active-duty and retired career personnel get 10% military discounts on every order.

But Home Depot doesn’t leave out veterans entirely. It also offers the same 10% discount to veterans, including honorably discharged enlistees and reservists, during select holiday periods, such as the days leading up to Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

20. Buy Floor Models

If you’re in the market for a major appliance and don’t mind one other people have touched and ogled, buy the floor model. It isn’t always apparent whether floor models are for sale, so ask the department manager if you’re unsure.

And while haggling isn’t common elsewhere at Home Depot, managers are authorized to move older display inventory to make room for newer stock. Discounts of up to 30% off aren’t out of the question.

21. Buy Oops Paint

When you’re doing a project that doesn’t involved finding the perfect hue, such as painting the inside of your garage, turn to the Home Depot paint department’s “oops paint,” the term it uses for paints that are the result of mixing mistakes.

For color-flexible customers, the standard oops discount is about 70% per gallon.

22. Buy From the Pro Desk for Deeper Discounts

The Home Depot Pro Desk primarily deals with professional contractors, but it’s willing to make an exception for high-rolling DIYers too.

If your purchase list adds up to more than $1,500, you qualify for Home Depot’s Volume Pricing Program, which promises up to 30% off materials and supplies.

Technically, you need to join the free Pro Xtras club to get the discount, but it’s often possible to work out a one-time deal with whomever’s on staff at the Pro Desk.

If you’re not planning to spend $1,500 or more on your DIY project, you can still take advantage of bulk pricing on raw materials like tile, lumber, and plumbing.

When available, the bulk price appears on the same price tag as the regular price along with the minimum qualifying quantity.

23. Ask for Recent or Forthcoming Sale Pricing

Home Depot department heads have leeway to extend sale pricing upon request. Asking for a deal that ended last week (or isn’t scheduled to begin until next week) won’t pan out every time.

If you can, waiting for the next sale is a better bet. Still, asking for sale pricing outside sale periods is worth a shot.

24. Get Warrantied Tools Repaired In-Store

If the tool or appliance you bought at Home Depot malfunctions before its manufacturer’s warranty period expires, bring it into your local store for repair. As long as the warranty is valid and the problem arose from regular use, Home Depot doesn’t charge for repairs.

Better yet, it files the warranty claim on your behalf, saving you time and eliminating the suspense of waiting for approval.

25. Use Third-Party Resources to Save Even More

These resources aren’t directly affiliated with Home Depot, but that doesn’t mean they can’t significantly reduce your net spending with the home improvement giant:

  • Paribus. Sometimes, we don’t realize we’ve overspent until days or weeks after the fact. Capital One’s Paribus crawls the Internet for price declines, automatically notifies the user when it finds a lower price on a purchased product, and helps them recover the difference. Paribus is free for Capital One® Venture® Rewards credit card and Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards credit card users, among others. (Read our Capital One Venture and Capital One Quicksilver reviews.)
  • Gift Card Resellers. Buy discounted Home Depot gift cards through resellers like Raise.
  • Cash-Back Apps. Find unique coupon codes or cash-back opportunities from popular cash-back apps like Ibotta, Honey, and BeFrugal. For best results, install the apps’ browser plug-in and shop online to get a reminder to activate them while shopping.

Final Word

Finding what you’re after in a mammoth Home Depot store isn’t always easy.

Paying less after locating it than you would at another home improvement superstore? Comparatively, that’s a snap.

With so many reliable ways to save money at America’s largest home improvement superstore, it’s a wonder DIYers shop anywhere else. As you plan your next home remodel project or seasonal appliance purchase, don’t forget to look for the savings opportunities.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Reasons Many People Stay in Debt

Why People Stay in DebtWhy People Stay in DebtDebts are sometimes inevitable in life. For most people, it would be next to impossible to own a home, a car, pay bills or even get an education without credit. Federal Bank of New York released a report that put household debt and credit at $13.29 trillion in the second quarter of 2018.

Do people end up repaying all these debts? Unfortunately no; many people are up to their necks in debt and quite a large number of them are doing nothing towards repayment. There are numerous reasons why many people stay in debt. Here are several:

Living Beyond Means

This simply means that you are spending more than you are bringing in. If what you are earning cannot comfortably cater for house and car payments, insurance, other fixed costs and house expenses, then you cannot afford that kind of a lifestyle. It is even worse if you freely use your credit cards to pay for what your income cannot support. What happens is that debts start accumulating and accruing interest month after month and before you know it, you are swimming in debt with no way to escape.

Spending Without a Budget

According to a recent study, only 41% Americans use a budget. This means that most people cannot track their spending habits leave alone plan for the future. Without a budget and with several credit cards at your disposal, it is easy to spend your money uncontrollably and end up depending on credit as you wait for the next pay. The repeated cycle leads to failed repayments which consequently increases the outstanding debts.

Job Loss or Reduced Income

Having a job gives you the confidence to use credit knowing that your income is able to cover the repayments. Should you unexpectedly lose the job, it becomes impossible to make your repayments which may also attract additional interests and penalty fees. Even if you end-up getting another job, it is possible that your credit card debts will have soared to levels that you may no longer sustain. Similarly, a pay-cut or reduced income may also make you lag behind on your repayments leading to accrued debts.

Unwillingness to Sacrifice

If you are deep in debt and you still fight to maintain the same life style, chances are that you will never repay your debts or worse still, they will keep increasing. The ability or inability to save for debt repayments may depend on your willingness to forego a few things like holidays, cable, birthday gifts, a big house and a luxurious car among others. The question is; are you willing to make the sacrifice?

Struggling to Keep up Appearances

It is just human nature to want to fit into certain statuses set by the society, family, friends etc. In an effort to fit, you may end up spending beyond what you can sustain with your income. Unfortunately, the demands may keep going higher and higher and unless you can tell yourself to stop, you will be up to your neck in debt within no time. The fact that you are keeping up appearances means that things are not good financially in the first place so unless you win a lottery or come into some huge cash, you will stay in debt for a long time.

Financial Illiteracy

In a quest to understand how financially literate the world is, people were asked 4 simple questions regarding risk, inflation and interest. Out of 150,000 adults from over 140 countries, only a third could answer 3 out of the 4 questions correctly. If you have no idea of how credit works, you keep on making mistakes that will increase your debts in the long run. Such include; late repayments, carelessly requesting for credit top-ups, and falling for the wrong lines of credit among others. This also comes with the inability to manage the credit hence leading to heaps upon heaps of debts.

Final Take

While it is normal for people to find themselves in debt at some point or another, not all of them end up paying. The reasons why many people stay in debt range from genuine ones to outright selfish ones. Debt accumulates little by little and before you know it, you are too debt ridden to do anything about it. On the other hand, with proper planning, a little sacrifice and commitment, it is possible to disentangle yourself from the debt cycle one step at a time.

Source: creditabsolute.com

Which Bills to Pay Off First (or Cancel) When Money Runs Tight

Whether it’s from job loss due to a recession, a drop in income, or an unexpected major expense, there may come a time when you struggle to pay your bills. What can you do when your income and expenses don’t match up?

It’s essential you prioritize your bill payments and what you owe, paying the most important bills first.

Bills to Prioritize When You’re Low on Money

The most important bills are those that cover the necessities: shelter, food, water, and heat, for example.

The next most important are bills that cover things that make it possible for you to get where you need to go, such as your vehicle expenses.

Last on the list are bills that can ding your credit history, but not much else, if you fall behind on them.

Although you can make some adjustments to the order you pay bills based on your circumstances, it’s usually best to focus on paying your housing bills first, then paying what you can with the money you have remaining.

1. Mortgage or Rent

If you fall behind on mortgage payments, you risk having the lender foreclose on your home. If you fall behind on rent, your landlord can evict you.

Even though the foreclosure or eviction process can take months, it’s not something you want to risk happening. Keeping up with your housing payments is a must if you want to stay in your home.

When money is really tight and you’re not sure you can pull together enough to make a payment one month, the best thing to do is talk to your landlord or lender.

Many mortgage lenders have programs in place to help homeowners who are facing financial hardship. Your lender can review your options, such as forbearance or loan modification, with you.

During forbearance, you stop making payments on your loan, but interest continues to accrue. If a lender agrees to modify your loan, they adjust your interest rate or otherwise make changes to lower your monthly payment.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also has programs available to homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments. You can contact HUD to connect with an approved counseling agency. The counselor can work with you to create a plan to help you avoid foreclosure.

If you’re a renter, talk to your landlord as soon as you know you’ll have difficulty paying rent. Explain the situation to them in detail, including whether you think you’ll be late with payment, won’t be able to pay all your monthly rent, or won’t be able to pay at all.

Many landlords are willing to work with you to come up with a solution. You can help the situation by suggesting solutions.

For example, if you’re going to pay late, tell the landlord when you plan to make the payment. If you can’t pay the full amount this month, tell the landlord how you’ll make up the difference. For example, you can add an extra $100 or so to subsequent payments until you pay off the balance.

If you’re renting and your landlord can’t or won’t be flexible about payments, you might have more wiggle room than a homeowner.

Depending on how much time you have left on the lease, you can simply wait it out, then look for a less expensive place to live. Another option is to try to find someone to take over your lease so you can move somewhere that costs less.

2. Utilities

After your mortgage or rent payment, the next most important bills are your utility bills: gas, water and sewage, and electricity. Although some people count TV and the Internet as utilities, those services aren’t essential for everyone.

Fortunately, many programs exist to help people who need emergency financial assistance paying bills. The first place to look is your local utility provider. Many utility companies have programs to help people pay their bills.

Another option is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally funded program that provides financial assistance to help people pay energy bills. LIHEAP has specific income requirements and is grant-funded, meaning only a set amount of money is available each year.

If you think you qualify for LIHEAP, the sooner you apply for it, the better your chances of receiving aid.

3. Insurance Premiums

Having insurance is always a good idea, as it provides financial protection against the worst things life can throw your way, such as illness, fire, or accidents. Paying your insurance premiums even when money is tight is a smart move. Without insurance, medical bills can easily add up.

If you’re struggling to afford your premiums, you do have some options, particularly when it comes to health insurance.

If you purchased a plan from the Healthcare.gov marketplace, you qualify for a special enrollment period if you’ve recently lost your job and associated coverage, if you’ve had a change in income, if you’ve gotten divorced, and for a few other reasons.

During the special enrollment period, you can apply for Medicaid or CHIP if your income is below the threshold or a credit on your insurance premiums based on your income. Doing so can lower the cost of your health insurance considerably.

4. Food & Household Necessities

Food, soap, and paper products are up there with shelter, heat, and hot water on the list of essentials.

Luckily, you have more wiggle room when it comes to adapting your food and household supply costs compared to your mortgage or rent payments and utility bills.

When money’s tight, there are many ways you can trim your food and supplies bill:

  • Limit Shopping Trips. Plan your meals for the week, make a list of the ingredients you need, and go to the store once. The more you go to the store, the more likely you are to buy things you don’t need.
  • Buy Store-Brand Items. Store-brand products usually taste the same as or similar to their brand-name counterparts, but they cost a lot less. If you typically purchase branded foods and supplies, try switching to the store brand. It’s likely the only place you’ll notice a difference is in your wallet.
  • Limit Packaged Products. Packaged foods, such as grated cheese, bagged salads, and prechopped vegetables are convenient, but that convenience comes at a cost. You can save a lot if you buy whole, unprocessed foods and prepare them at home.
  • Skip Bottled Water. If you live in the U.S., it’s highly likely your tap water is safe to drink. According to the CDC, the U.S.’s water supply is among the safest in the world. Bottled water is expensive and terrible for the environment and is often little more than repackaged municipal water.
  • Buy In-Season Produce. Pay attention to seasons when shopping for fresh produce. Fruits like strawberries and blueberries are usually in season and inexpensive during the summer but cost more in the winter. You can cut your grocery costs if you buy what’s in season.
  • Grow Your Own. Another way to cut your food bill is to grow your own fruits and vegetables. Herbs and green vegetables are usually the most cost-effective edible plants to grow, as you can get an entire plant for the price of a handful of herbs or greens at the grocery store. You don’t need a ton of outdoor space to start a garden. You can grow plants in containers on a small balcony or patio.
  • Use Your Freezer. Frozen vegetables and fruit often cost less than fresh, so it pays to purchase those when money is tight. You can also prep double batches of meals to freeze for later. That way, if you run out of money before the end of the month, you have a supply of ready-to-eat meals waiting for you.

Note too that depending on your income, you can qualify for financial assistance with groceries. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps, helps to cover the cost of groceries for people with income below certain thresholds.

Pro tip: Make sure you’re saving as much money as possible on your grocery trip. Apps like Fetch Rewards and Ibotta allow you to save money on purchases by simply scanning and uploading your receipts.

5. Car Loan & Other Expenses

Your car gets you to and from work and other important places, such as your kids’ school, the grocery store, and the doctor. If you have a monthly car payment, it’s crucial to find a way to pay it.

Just as you can call your mortgage company to work out a deal, you can call the lender behind your car loan to see if you can come to an agreement. Like mortgage companies, these lenders can also offer you loan modifications, refinancing, or forbearance.

Loan modification or refinance can lower the amount of your monthly payments, making it easier for you to afford the car. Forbearance means you don’t make payments for a set period.

Another option is to sell your current vehicle, use the proceeds to pay off the loan, then purchase a less expensive model. If you decide to sell, look for a replacement car that has a low cost of ownership to keep your expenses low. Some vehicles are more reliable than others, meaning you don’t have to worry about expensive repair or maintenance bills.

6. Unsecured Debts

Although you should make every effort to repay your debts, when money is tight, unsecured debt, such as credit card debt and personal loans, should move to the back burner. While these debts typically have the highest interest rates, they also have the lowest impact on your daily life.

You don’t go hungry if you miss a credit card payment, nor can your credit card company take your home or car if you pay late.

That said, it’s still best to pay what you can toward unsecured debts, such as the minimum due on a credit card. If even that is too much for you right now, contact the card company or lender. Sometimes, credit card companies are willing to work with you to create a debt repayment plan or let you temporarily pause payments.

7. Student Loans

While you should make every effort to pay your student loans when money’s tight, the loans often have the most flexibility when it comes to repayment, particularly federal loans.

If you have federal student loans and you’re struggling to keep up with payments, you have multiple options. You can request a deferment or forbearance from your loan servicer, or you can switch to an income-driven repayment plan, which adjusts the amount you pay each month based on your income.

The situation with private student loans is a bit different, as they don’t have the same protections as the federal student loan program.

If you’re having trouble affording private student loan payments, your best option is to contact the lender to see if it offers forbearance, repayment plans, or loan modification.


What to Cancel When Money Is Tight

While some monthly bills are essential, others are considerably less so. Budgeting often involves deciding what you need to spend money on and what you can live without.

When it’s a struggle to make ends meet, here’s what you can consider cutting:

Subscription Services

Netflix, print or digital newspapers, and meal kits are all things that can go. In many cases, you can find free alternatives to the subscriptions you were paying for. For example, some local libraries give you access to streaming movies and local or national newspapers for free.

Make sure you don’t miss any subscriptions that you might have forgotten about. Services like Truebill will find subscriptions and either cancel them or negotiate lower rates for you.

Cable and Internet Service

You may not want to disconnect your Internet completely, but see if you can switch to a slower, less expensive plan.

If you have data on your phone, some providers, like Xfinity Mobile, let you use your phone as a hotspot to get online. In this case, you wouldn’t need a separate home Internet plan.

Phone Service

While you do need your phone to stay connected, you most likely don’t need both a landline and a cellphone. You probably don’t need the most expensive cellphone plan, either.

Shop around with companies like Mint Mobile or Ting to see if you can get a better deal.

Gym Memberships and Wellness Services

Maintaining your well-being is important, especially when money is tight. But if you’re worried about having enough money to pay your most important bills, you shouldn’t have to worry about paying for a monthly gym membership or studio pass.

There are plenty of ways to work out for free from the comfort of your home. For example, you can find workouts available for free on YouTube.


Final Word

When money is tight, it’s vital you focus on paying for the things that can help you sustain your life and well-being, such as food and shelter, when times are tight.

While a missed payment can affect your credit history, in desperate situations, your health and safety are more important than your credit score.

Along with prioritizing your monthly bills, talk to your lenders and service providers. Many companies have programs in place to keep you from sinking deeper into debt and to help you avoid repossession of your home or vehicle. Keep the lines of communication open, and remember you’ll get through it.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Protect Yourself From a Mechanics Lien

Every homeowner who’s considering hiring a contractor to do some work in or around their house should make sure they’re familiar with their state’s mechanics lien laws before making a decision. Never heard of a mechanics lien? You’re not alone. Let’s uncover what it is and why you should protect yourself from it.

Think Twice About Not Paying

If you wind up having a beef with the contractor you employ for builds or repairs – poor workmanship, perhaps, or maybe they walked off the job before it was completed or failed to finish the work in a timely manner as promised – and you decide not to pay, that contractor can respond by attaching your house to a legal claim for unpaid work until some kind of settlement is reached.
That could turn into a waiting game if you are not considering selling your home. But, if you intend to put your home on the market in the near future, that lien could stop you in your tracks.
mechanics lienmechanics lien

What EXACTLY is a Mechanics Lien?

Sometimes known as a materialmans lien, every state has a a mechanics lien law granting tradespeople a way to protect themselves from those who fail to pay them for services and time rendered.
Here’s how Rusty Adams, a research attorney for the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University, described it in a recent edition of Terra Grande, the Center’s monthly magazine:
“It is an equitable interest that gives its holder the right to have satisfaction out of the property to secure payment on a debt. It is not title to the property, and a lien holder does not have ownership rights. Rather, it is an equitable interest that gives the lien holder the right to have satisfaction out of the property to secure the payment of a debt.”
In other words, it is an encumbrance the property owner must deal with, one way or another. Otherwise, it could result in a foreclosure and forced sale of your house.

How Mechanics Liens Work

None of what follows should be considered legal advice. Rather, it is intended only as a brief, mile-high overview.
A mechanics lien can be filed by anyone with a claim against the property. This concept isn’t new; for example, Uncle Sam can place a lien if you fail to pay your taxes, as can your state. Your homeowners association can do the same if you don’t pay your dues or a special assessment.
In the case of work done to your house, the contractor can file if you fail to pay, even if you feel you’re justified in withholding. The company from which he or she gets their supplies – roof shingles, for instance – can also file against your house if the contractor doesn’t pay them. And if the contractor uses subcontractors, they, too, can go against the house if the contractor doesn’t pay them.
The “very broad” law in Maryland “covers almost everything,” attorney Harvey Jacobs says. For example, if the developer doesn’t pay the paving company hired to cover your cul-de-sac, the company can file a mechanics lien against every house that touches that street. Ditto for the outfit hired to landscape, sod and plant shrubs.
mechanics liensmechanics liens

How to Protect Against Mechanics Liens

Fortunately, lien laws afford owners some protections. In some places, the amount owed must be of at least a certain amount. They also must be filed within a certain number of days from when the work was completed, and may require the property owner to be notified within a specified time that a lien has been filed.
The rules, which also apply to subs and suppliers, can be somewhat tricky for an owner to decipher. But the absolute best way to protect yourself is to require the contractor to provide lien releases before you pay anything more than your down payment. In other words, no draws or final payment until he or she certifies that everyone in the chain has been paid.
Often, says Texas attorney Adams, a notice of intent to file or the actual filing is enough to resolve the debt attached to the property without going through the process itself.
Once payment has been received, a contractor has a duty to remove the notice or the lien itself from public records. Failure to do so allows the property owner to file a lawsuit against the contractor to compel the lien’s removal. But to avoid that, Adams suggests making sure the release has been recorded.

(READ MORE: The Difference Between a Handyman and a Contractor)

Some Important Distinctions

A lien release is not the same as a lien waiver. Nor is it the same as a lis pendens. While a release removes an existing lien, a waiver is an agreement that prohibits a contractor or supplier from placing a lien on the property. But some states don’t permit waivers at all.
A lis pendens, which is Latin for “suit pending,” is a written notice that a lawsuit has been filed in the county land records office involving either the title to the property or a claimed ownership interest in it. The notice alerts a potential purchaser or lender that the property’s title is in question, making it less attractive, if only because the buyer or lender is subject to the suit’s ultimate outcome.
Beyond this, it is crucial for a homeowner to ensure the contractor, subcontractor or supplier has followed the rules of the road.  In Texas, said Adams, the claimant must give the appropriate preliminary notices, make the proper filing and give filing notice to the property owner.
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In Maryland, the unpaid amount must be at least 15% of the property’s assessed value. So if the house is assessed at $100,000, the lien must be for $15,000 or more. “Small jobs don’t count,” Jacobs said. Contractors must also file a lien within 180 days of performing the work in Maryland, but subs must file within 120 days.
In neighboring D.C., though, there is no minimum to file, and the contractor, supplier or sub has only 90 days to file.
(Note: In the case of mechanics liens, property value is an evidentiary question. Courts often use assessed value in deciding whether a lien can be brought.)
In Texas, though, contractors aren’t required to provide a preliminary notice, but they are required to present a list of all subs and suppliers before starting work. But subs and suppliers who have a contract with the original contractor must send notices to both the contractor and the homeowner by the 15th day of the second month.
As you can see, once you get into the tall grass with mechanics liens, it becomes fairly complicated. It’s at this point that it may be time to consult legal counsel.


Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Source: homes.com

34% of Credit Reports Have Errors, Survey Finds

Shocked woman looking at her credit report
Ljupco Smokovski / Shutterstock.com

Experts long have recommended that consumers regularly check their credit reports for errors. Now, results of a new survey may add some urgency to that call.

When Consumer Reports asked nearly 6,000 people to participate in its Credit Checkup project, 34% reported finding at least one mistake in their credit reports.

CR says 29% of consumers uncovered personal information errors, such as a wrong name or address.

Account information errors popped up for 11% of respondents. The most common such error was an account that the participant did not recognize.

In addition, 10% of respondents said accessing their credit reports was “difficult” or “very difficult.” A number of people could not access their reports due to identity verification questions they could not answer.

In some cases, respondents faced difficulties that appeared to amount to potential violations of federal law or other rules. For example, some who participated in the survey said credit bureaus charged them to access their credit reports.

Normally, all Americans are entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit-reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. However, as we have reported, consumers now have the right to access their reports for free weekly through April 2022.

Other survey respondents said they had been signed up for paid services unknowingly. And among consumers who reported having accounts in forbearance, 15% said one or more of these accounts were not being reported as “current” as required under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.

After hearing back from consumers about their struggles, Consumer Reports contacted each of the three major credit-reporting companies and called on them to make sure credit reports are accurate. They also asked them to help consumers obtain free credit reports and scores at any time.

CR also unveiled a petition that consumers can sign that makes the same requests.

Syed Ejaz, policy analyst for Consumer Reports, said in a press release:

“It’s time to hold the credit bureaus accountable for making sure credit reports are fair and accurate and to give consumers free access to their reports and scores at all times. No one should ever have to pay to access their own credit information.”

Mistakes in credit reports can lower your credit score, which can have serious consequences ranging from having to pay higher interest rates on loans to hindering your efforts to land a job or find an apartment.

For that reason, it is important to find credit report errors so you can let credit-reporting companies know about them.

To get your free credit report, but sure to visit annualcreditreport.com, the only credit report website authorized by federal law. We break down the process in “How to Get Your Free Credit Report in 6 Easy Steps.”

Although access to credit reports should be free, you still have to pay to see your credit score — unless you know where to look. For more, check out “7 Ways to Get Your FICO Credit Score for Free.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

How to Save Money on Wedding Photographers & Videographers

According to The Knot, the average cost of an American wedding was about $28,000 in 2019. Wedding photography and videography account for $2,400 and $1,800, respectively, or about 15% of the total.

Professional-grade wedding memories are expensive. If you’re fretting about how you’re going to pay for them, use these tips for getting cheap (or at least cheaper) professional wedding photography and videography to help save money on your wedding.

How to Save on Wedding Photographers and Videographers

Use these tips and tricks to reduce the cost of a professional wedding photographer or videographer without sacrificing the quality of the finished product.

1. Set Up a Photography and Videography Registry or Fund

You’ve heard of a wedding gift registry. Why not open a separate wedding media registry through which guests and apologetic no-shows can chip in toward your photography and videography costs? Some high-end photography and videography studios offer this service directly, or you can go the DIY route and launch a crowdfunding campaign on a crowdfunding site like GoFundMe.

DIY registries or funds offer more control over contributions. For instance, you can expand them to include general wedding and post-wedding expenses. They’re a straightforward option if an affordable honeymoon is a top priority.

Plus, if guests contribute to your media registry or fund in lieu of gifts, you don’t have to devote as much energy to regifting, returning, or selling unwanted gifts online after the big day.

2. Tap Your Personal Network

If you want your official wedding photos and videos to look truly amazing, you don’t want to give the job to a random guest whose top qualification is an above-average Instagram account. But you may know or know someone who knows professional or qualified amateur photographers and videographers capable of producing professional-grade material.

Depending on the strength of your connection, you may be able to secure a friend or family discount for those services, even if they’re already established as professionals in your area. The depth of this discount is sure to vary, but in my experience, 5% or even 10% off full price isn’t unreasonable. For instance, we worked with my wife’s former classmate, who’d recently established a professional photography business with her husband. They gave us a small discount and didn’t charge for travel to and from the reception site, as was apparently customary for other jobs in their rural hometown.

Qualified nonprofessionals or rising professionals, such as recent film or visual arts school graduates without practices of their own, may be willing to work for even less, especially if they’re able to build their profile or meet new prospects as a result. Just make sure they have adequate equipment, enough help, and enough prior experience to pull off a big job. As with anyone you hire, check out their previous work first.

3. Get Multiple Quotes to Compare Pricing and Service

When buying a car, you don’t jump at the first offer you see. You compare multiple offers for comparable vehicles, weighing the relative pros and cons until you arrive at an informed decision you’re reasonably confident you won’t regret.

The scale of your wedding media investment might be smaller, but your decision’s consequences echo even further into the future. Spend as long as it takes thoroughly researching photographers in your area and requesting quotes (if they don’t provide pricing upfront) from all who seem in line with your general tastes and budget.

You can jump-start the research process by attending a wedding fair near the area you plan to get married. They typically occur before the wedding season begins and can attract hundreds of service providers (including photographers and videographers) from miles around.

4. Check References

Once you’ve narrowed your choices to a few finalists, thoroughly check them out, just as you’d run a Carfax report on a used car before buying it from a random person (or a sketchy dealership, for that matter). Read online reviews, evaluate their posted work, and connect with people who’ve recently used their services. And don’t be afraid to ask them directly for references.

Though checking references can’t reduce the final cost of your wedding photography and videography, it can increase the chances of satisfaction. You can’t do your wedding over. Paying a bit more for wedding media you love is an investment in the fond memory of what’s hopefully one of the happiest days of your life.

5. Get a Personal Use Release

Your wedding photographer and videographer is almost certain to keep the copyright to your media, meaning you can’t use your wedding photos or videos for your own commercial purposes. But most photographers and videographers readily agree to personal use releases that allow clients to reproduce photos and videos for personal use, sharing among friends, and posting on social media.

If your provider’s contract doesn’t explicitly spell that out, ask them to add it. And think twice about working with any provider who says no. A personal use release removes any doubt about your ability to order reprints or copies in the future, ideally from a discount merchant (such as a drugstore) that charges much less than your photography or videography studio.

6. Stick to a Lower-Priced Package

Most wedding photographers and videographers offer basic packages like ceremony coverage plus pre-reception wedding party shots. These packages include fewer add-ons and frills, such as gratuitous shots of the bride in their wedding dress and personal shoots for bridesmaids. In some cases, their standard arrangement covers just the shoot itself plus an online gallery or image DVD.

By providing just the bare essentials and giving you the flexibility to choose how (and whether) to order additional products, such as bound albums or wall prints, the basic package gives you greater control over your total photography and videography costs. It also allows you to spread your investment over a longer period.

And if you choose to order additional products later, you can likely do so at a lower cost online or at a brick-and-mortar photo shop provided you have a personal use release.

Photography and videography package costs vary tremendously by factors such as provider quality and reputation and geography. Louisiana’s Love Photography is an excellent example of the often vast discrepancy between basic and deluxe photography packages. Its basic package costs $999. The next-highest package costs $1,320, and the most expensive package costs $2,945.

7. Look for Professional (but Less Established) Independents

If your wedding media’s quality is even a remote concern, resist the temptation to source an unvetted amateur from Craigslist or your wedding guest list, no matter how tight your budget. You’re more likely to be disappointed with the results.

But it is possible to find professional-grade work at nonprofessional prices. Up-and-coming photography and videography professionals are often willing to work for less than what more established professionals charge. They’re frequently just out of school or ready to move up from assistant roles and launch their own independent businesses. The best place to find them and verify their credentials is on reputable job boards like Indeed and freelance job websites like Upwork.

8. Book Early

Not all wedding photographers and videographers offer early-bird discounts, but it never hurts to ask. Just be realistic about what early means in the world of wedding planning, which is probably no later than six months before the big day. Make a point to reserve your wedding photography and videography around the same time you book your wedding venue if you’re not arranging them through the same vendor.

9 Ask for an Off-Peak Discount

Many people get married on Saturdays. If you’re willing to buck the crowd and organize a weekday (Monday through Thursday) wedding, ask photographer and videographer candidates for an off-peak discount. Depending on local customs and the providers’ whims, it’s not unreasonable to expect a 10% or 15% discount off the final bill for a midweek shindig. For example, our engagement photographer, who also did weddings, cut 15% off her bill for Monday-through-Thursday weddings.

The same principle applies to off-season weddings in regions with sharply defined wedding seasons. If you’re scheduling a February wedding in Boston or Chicago, it never hurts to ask for a discount. But winter weddings are increasingly popular, so don’t be surprised by a refusal. There are other potential financial benefits to weekday and off-season weddings too, such as venue and catering discounts.

10. Ask for Referral Discounts or Credits

Don’t be shy about asking your photographer or videographer for referral discounts or credits. Many professionals readily offer kickbacks, either as a discount to the final service bill or credits for future orders, to current or prior customers who refer new business.

You don’t have to shill for them at your wedding, but if you know anyone who’s planning their wedding, you can suggest your photographer or videographer.

It works in the other direction too. If friends refer you to their wedding media provider, you may qualify for a discount. Discounts and credits vary by factors such as vendor and location, but $25, $50, or even $100 isn’t outside the realm of possibility. For example, our engagement photographer offered $50 off for referrals who purchased photography packages.

11. Look for Custom Packages

In the rush to get ready for the big day, it’s easy to surrender to the simplicity of preset photo or video packages, which tell you precisely what you’re getting and how much it’s going to cost. However, preset packages often include unnecessary services or add-ons, and providers aren’t always willing to customize on the spot.

To avoid paying more than you should, look for providers that offer custom packages. These packages typically have minimal conditions. For example, you can choose how many hours the provider works on your wedding day, and you get all your images in electronic format. But beyond that, the services rendered and deliverables (such as albums) are up to you.

Larger custom packages sometimes qualify for discounts. For instance, Atlanta-based Amanda Summerlin Photography, a high-end photography studio, knocks 5% off custom packages of $3,900 or more, 10% off custom packages of $4,600 or more, and 15% off custom packages of $5,700 or more.

12. Book Photography and Videography With the Same Provider

Not all photography studios offer videography services, nor vice versa. But if you choose a provider capable of shooting professional-grade photo and video, look into combined photography and videography packages, which can cost hundreds of dollars less than separate photography and videography jobs.

13. Avoid Nonlocal Photographers and Videographers

Unless you’re having a destination wedding in a remote area, avoid working with nonlocal providers. Out-of-area photographers and videographers often add mileage or airfare to the cost of their services, potentially raising the final bill by hundreds of dollars.

Even if your provider doesn’t explicitly add travel costs to your final bill, they’re likely built into its margins, and your total cost is therefore likely to be higher than what a comparable local provider would charge.

14. Work With Venue-Preferred and Recommended Providers

If you’re planning your nuptials at a wedding venue that’s accustomed to hosting weddings, inquire about preferred or recommended photographers and videographers.

Some venues have a de facto referral system. The venue drives business to favored vendors, who then offer discounted services or special packages. Some larger venues even have staff photographers and videographers that work closely with onsite wedding planners and build their fees into the total cost of the event. Further, such providers are likely familiar with the specific venue and already know the best sites for shots.

15. Limit Your Photographer’s and Videographer’s Hours

Some photographer and videographer packages include a specific number of hours of coverage, usually four to seven. Before hiring your provider and choosing your package, determine how long you need them to be present.

You probably want to capture high points like the walk down the aisle, exchange of vows, post-ceremony procession, and cake cutting, but do you really need professional shots of the rehearsal dinner, the bride getting ready, distant family members, or the later stages of your reception party?

Choose your package accordingly, and don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. For example, if you don’t need reception photos or videos at all, your provider may be willing to bail right after the customary post-ceremony wedding party shots.

16. Limit Your Photography and Videography Staff Size at Smaller Weddings

It isn’t always possible with larger or logistically complex weddings with multiple shooting sites or challenging conditions. But if you expect fewer than 75 guests at your wedding and plan a relatively traditional ceremony and reception, your provider may be willing to send only a lead photographer or videographer, forgoing the assistants and interns who often help with setup, shooting, and equipment-ferrying at larger events. Depending on the provider, that could reduce your service bill by a few hundred dollars.

17. Order Fewer, Smaller Finished Photos

Because they’re easier to frame and look better on display, larger wedding pictures typically cost a lot more than wallet-size or small frame-size (4-inch-by-6-inch or 5-inch-by-7-inch).

If you place a finished photo order with your photography studio, stick to the smaller sizes or purchase only a few larger photos for display in your home. Resist the temptation to send a large framed photo to every member of your wedding party or aunt and uncle who made it to the ceremony.

If you do want larger photos down the line, you can use your online proofs to place an order with a discounted service or buy from your provider when your budget has recovered from the trauma of the wedding.

18. Lose the Leather Binding and Hard Pages

Wedding photo albums are pricey — really pricey. When purchased a la carte, high-end wedding albums (think bound leather albums with rigid pages) can cost up to $1,000, according to Zola. Larger sizes are especially pricey.

While it’s nice to have a weighty tome of wedding memories to pull out for your houseguests and future kids, it’s possible to achieve similar results at a lower cost. Opt for a simpler magazine-style album with glossy, flexible pages. The quality of the quality is similar, as is the durability of the paper, which is critical if you plan to share your wedding memories with your children and grandchildren.

19. Don’t Order a Proof Book

Many photographers offer proof books, which allow you to review the photos they’ve taken and select your favorites before ordering your final prints.

The catch is that you often pay for the proof book too. Our wedding photographer advised us we’d pay an extra $100 if we wanted a proof book. We told her to skip it and send us a selection of digital files to review (for free). Unless you wish to keep the book in lieu of a bound album, you can do the same.

20. Crowdsource Photos and Videos From Your Guests to Create an Album or Folio

If you want a professional-grade memento of your big day, cutting out the photographer or videographer altogether isn’t a viable option. But you can still pair a less extravagant professional wedding package and fewer pro photos with a free or low-cost crowdsourced photo campaign.

Before the ceremony, either on your invitations or in your wedding program, invite your guests to snap photos or take videos with their smartphones and post them to social media or an online space.

Brides magazine has a comprehensive list of useful wedding photo-sharing apps, some more expensive than others. If you tell your guests to post photos to social media, give them a unique wedding hashtag to make it easy to find the photos. It’s usually some variation on the wedding couple’s names plus the year.

Make it clear they can be as creative as they please as long as they don’t disrupt the service. Or let the pros handle the wedding and invite the guests to get artistic at the reception.

If you worry about phones or photos getting lost in the shuffle, place disposable cameras on each table and ask patrons to place them in a designated box or bowl when the festivities are over. The results won’t win any awards, but they’re sure to be entertaining — and as time goes on, even poignant.

21. Pay With a Cash-Back or Rewards Credit Card

No matter what your final wedding media bill comes to, you can marginally reduce the sticker shock (and budgetary carnage) by paying with a cash-back credit card. Though wedding photography and videography rarely fall into favored spending categories, such as grocery store or gas purchases, they’re still good for the baseline earning rate.

For example, by paying your photographer and videographer with Chase Freedom Unlimited (unlimited 1.5% cash back on most purchases, including wedding photography and videography) or Citi Double Cash (unlimited 2% cash back) card, you can knock the final cost of a $2,000 bill down to $1,970 and $1,960, respectively.


Final Word

Professional photo and video services aren’t cheap. The Knot’s survey showed the average American couple spends more than $4,000 to document their special day when they opt for both.

Fortunately, your wedding day is probably going to be the high point of your professional media-buying career. Even if you and your spouse spring for newborn baby photos, periodic family portraits, and high school graduation photos for your kids, you won’t ever spend as much on photo and video as you do on your wedding day.

Source: moneycrashers.com