8 Secrets of an Expert Thrift Store Shopper

Woman shopping for clothes
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I approach a new thrift shop the way a foodie approaches a farmers market. My palms get sweaty. My focus narrows as I mentally run through the list of everything I’m hoping to find.

Although I’ve picked my way through hundreds of secondhand stores across the country, the rush never fades.

Over the past three decades, I’ve turned my weird enthusiasm into a lucrative side business. These days, I shop more efficiently than ever before and usually find a handful of things that make every trip worthwhile.

The following are my best secrets to success.

1. Shop strategically

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Committed thrift shoppers are an assertive bunch. We hit our favorite spots regularly — sometimes daily — and many of us supplement our income by finding and flipping anything that’s underpriced and in demand. To compete, you need a solid shopping strategy.

First, do a quick primary scan. Briefly check every department just to see what jumps out at you. The goal is to find the good stuff first and grab it. If you’re unsure about an item, don’t leave it behind. Put it in your cart and make your final decision later.

Next, perform a secondary search. In this more leisurely phase, focus on what’s below the surface. Look for hidden gems that others have missed, specific items you need or clothing in just the right style, size and color.

Not sure what constitutes a hidden gem? Start with “8 Things You Should Be Buying at Thrift Stores.”

2. Check the fitting rooms

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I make the fitting room area of every thrift store part of my regular shopping circuit.

The racks outside these rooms are usually filled with clothing that’s been rejected for being too tight, too long or too … whatever. But before these items were rejected, they were selected. That means they’ve already passed someone’s critical eye.

For choosy thrift shoppers, fitting room racks are likely to hold the sartorial cream of the crop. I once found a men’s Barbour waxed cotton jacket on one of those racks for a mere $7.99. Within 24 hours, I’d flipped it for $165.

For more like this, check out my article “11 Secrets to Finding Quality Clothing at Thrift Shops.”

3. Get a little nosy

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Thrift shopping is no different than retail shopping: The first person to glimpse new items usually scores the best stuff. If the store allows it, sneak a peek at the items waiting to be stocked.

Bins, carts and rolling racks that are fresh from the back room hold a store’s most recent donations and often a treasure or two. But a few words of caution:

  • Handle items carefully — no rummaging.
  • Keep clothing racks organized.
  • Try not to interfere with the tasks of busy employees.

4. Practice wabi-sabi

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In a world of mass production, thrift stores offer something rare and wonderful: one-of-a-kind finds. To fully enjoy secondhand shopping, embrace wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic philosophy that teaches us to appreciate beauty in imperfection.

Don’t be afraid to buy the odd, the flawed or the homemade.

Some of the most treasured pieces in my home fit that description:

  • A huge folk art painting of a sleeping dog
  • A chipped midcentury Italian lamp
  • A slightly frayed Native American blanket

I love these things because I salvaged them, because they have stories to tell and because they’re utterly unique.

5. Skip the display cases

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Thrift stores reserve display cases for their prized inventory — the electronics, jewelry and glassware deemed most valuable. But in my experience, these are often the least interesting things in the store.

First, they’re someone else’s interpretation of “collectible” or “valuable” — and usually off the mark. Second, these items come with high price tags, which means razor-thin margins if you’re planning to resell.

I prefer to find my own hot deals by knowing a little bit about a lot of things. When I’m unsure about an item, it takes just a few seconds to research it online. If I peruse the display cases at all, I do it on my way out the door.

For more tips like this, see “9 Common Thrift Store Shopping Mistakes.”

6. Rethink pink

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For those who thrift-shop for profit, understand that color matters. And in my experience, anything pink is tough to sell.

Pink appeals to a very limited market. It’s a color that’s notoriously difficult to match. Many shades — think pastel pink, dusty rose and mauve — look faded and dated.

I once purchased a highly collectible vintage pink fiberglass chair in flawless condition and sat on it — literally and figuratively — for more than a year before finally unloading it at a flea market.

OK, enough pink-bashing. What colors are consistent winners? Blues, bright greens, bold oranges and classic neutrals like gray and white.

7. Reject most collectibles

Toy Collection
Tinxi / Shutterstock.com

If you’re new to thrift shopping and would like to make a little cash at it, remember one thing: Items that were made to be collectible seldom hold their value.

Generally speaking, things like Beanie Babies, modern trading cards and Precious Moments figurines were produced in such staggering quantities that you can’t give them away.

Focus instead on less-obvious items. Timeless clothing, unique midcentury pieces and well-made vintage household products are consistently hot categories.

Recently, I found a 72-piece set of stainless steel flatware from the 1970s. I flipped it within a week for a $70 profit.

8. Go Kondo

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Whether you’re thrift shopping as a side gig or simply love the thrill of the hunt, it’s tempting to seize every great deal out there. Resist this urge.

I shop by one simple rule: If I don’t need it, don’t love it and can’t easily flip it for a profit, I don’t buy it. This guideline helps me avoid mindless accumulation and keeps my home livable, organized and surprisingly minimalist. I think Marie Kondo would approve.

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

Source: moneytalksnews.com

8 Ways to Save Money on a Bathroom Remodel or Renovation

Remodeling a bathroom is one of the costliest home improvement projects. According to HomeAdvisor, the average bathroom remodel costs around $10,911 as of April 2020. A high-end remodel for a large or master bathroom could run you $25,000 or more.

But if those numbers are too much for your budget, that doesn’t mean you have to live with your dingy, dated bathroom forever. There are ways to refresh a bathroom for considerably less. According to This Old House, homeowners have redone their bathrooms for $6,000, $4,000, $2,000, and even less than $1,000.

I also know from personal experience it’s possible to renovate a bathroom on a budget. In 2011, my husband and I redid our guest bath for less than $900, including a new sink, toilet, vanity, faucets, light fixtures, floor tiles, paint, and accessories. With a bit of ingenuity and effort, other homeowners can do the same.

Ways to Save on a Bathroom Remodel

Our budget bath remodel and those featured on sites like This Old House and Apartment Therapy all have one thing in common: The homeowners looked for ways to save money anywhere they could. We didn’t necessarily use the same techniques, but we all relied on numerous money-saving strategies to get the job done for less.

The tips that helped us and other homeowners save money on our bathroom renovations fall into several major categories.

1. Plan Ahead

During any remodeling project, one of the costliest things you can do is change your plans halfway through. At best, it delays the project while you return materials and buy new ones. At worst, it requires you to pay contractors to redo work they’ve already done.

Sometimes, in-progress changes are unavoidable, such as when you cut into a wall and discover a leak. But in most cases, you can avoid them by thinking things through carefully before anyone picks up a tool. It’s much cheaper to know in advance you don’t want the toilet to be the first thing guests see when they open the door than figure it out once you’ve already installed it.

That’s why the first step in any bathroom remodel is planning. Before you buy anything or hire anyone, think about what you want from your new bathroom. What is it about the room that doesn’t work for you now, and how can you fix it? List everything you want your remodeled bath to have, and then sort that list into must-haves and nice-to-haves.

Take your time figuring out your wants and needs. If you can’t figure out the best way to accomplish all your goals, you can hire a bathroom designer for a consultation. According to Hunker, this service typically costs $200 to $400, and it can help you avoid mistakes that cost money to fix later.

In addition to thinking about the layout, spend time comparing options for visual elements like tile, plumbing fixtures, and light fixtures. That way, when you’re finally ready to get started, you know exactly where to shop to find what you want at the best price. Buying in a hurry often means paying extra or settling for something that isn’t ideal.

2. Keep the Footprint Unchanged

One of the best ways to save on a bathroom remodel is not to remodel at all. People often use the terms bathroom remodeling and bathroom renovation interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.

A remodeling job involves making significant changes to the room’s footprint, or its size, shape, and structure. It can include making changes to any or all of these:

  • The room’s foundation
  • Walls, especially load-bearing walls
  • Plumbing lines
  • Locations of plumbing fixtures, such as the sink and toilet
  • Electrical wiring

Renovation means freshening up the bathroom’s look — tile, wall color, flooring, lighting — while leaving its basic layout unchanged.

Changing the footprint adds time and labor costs to the project. It also usually involves getting building permits, which are a significant expense. The cheapest bathroom redos are usually renovations rather than full remodels.

There are lots of ways to change the look of a bathroom without changing the footprint. You can change the fixtures, walls, flooring, lighting, and accessories without moving anything. You can even make a small bathroom feel larger by adding a lighter paint color, a clear glass shower door, or a skylight to let in more natural light.

If you absolutely have to add square footage to your bathroom or change the arrangement of fixtures, keep the changes to a minimum. That way, you limit the number of labor hours you need from expensive contractors like plumbers.

3. Do the Work Yourself

According to HomeAdvisor, roughly half the cost of bathroom remodeling is labor costs. Homeowners spend an average of $65 per hour paying contractors, including carpenters, plumbers, electricians, drywallers, and floor tilers. Thus, the more of your bathroom remodel you can DIY instead of hiring a contractor, the more you can save.

But DIY is only a money-saver if you have the necessary skills. Some jobs, like moving plumbing lines, are best left to the pros. If you try to do them yourself with no training beyond a five-minute YouTube video, you could cause a flood. The damage that does will cost a lot more than hiring a plumber in the first place.

However, most homeowners can handle at least some of the jobs in a bathroom renovation. Depending on your skill level, you could tackle jobs like:

  • Demolition (pulling out old wallboard, flooring, and cabinetry)
  • Painting
  • Tiling
  • Replacing faucets and showerheads
  • Adding accessories like towel racks
  • Installing bathroom lights
  • Installing new plumbing fixtures

Homeowners with a little DIY experience can take on more ambitious DIY projects. For instance, when we couldn’t find a stock vanity cabinet we liked, my husband built one from plywood and beadboard.

A Texas homeowner profiled by This Old House made almost all the materials for his powder room renovation. He poured his own concrete countertops, built new doors and drawer fronts for the vanity, and even welded a new frame for the mirror. Another couple in Missouri built their own cabinetry, made custom light fixtures, and enameled an old bathtub.

4. Reuse Existing Pieces

Doing the work yourself is the primary way to save on labor costs. But when it comes to materials, there are lots of different ways to save. One of the most effective is to refurbish the pieces you already have rather than buying new ones.

With a little work, you can change the look of nearly any piece in a bathroom, such as:

  • Bathtubs. One homeowner was able to salvage an old, rust-stained tub by having it cleaned professionally. You can also fix surface damage to porcelain, cast iron, and fiberglass tubs by refinishing them. A DIY tub refinishing kit costs around $80.
  • Shower Enclosures. A tiled shower enclosure can look like new if you clean both tile and grout thoroughly. The grout may also need some patching in worn areas. To give it a fresher look, you can stain white grout a darker color. If you have acrylic or fiberglass shower walls, you can patch dented or cracked spots. A repair kit costs under $20.
  • Sinks. You can dramatically change the look of a sink by replacing the faucet. If the porcelain is cracked, you can repair it with either a porcelain repair kit or a two-part surface repair epoxy. Both cost less than $15.
  • Toilets. Rather than paying $100 or more for a new toilet, give yours a new look by replacing the toilet seat and lid for $30 or less. To add a touch of elegance, opt for a wooden toilet seat or soft-close model that doesn’t slam shut.
  • Cabinetry. You can save hundreds of dollars on cabinets by painting or refinishing the pieces you already have. If the doors are too damaged, replace them while keeping the cabinet boxes. According to HomeAdvisor, that typically costs $30 to $100 per door, not counting labor.
  • Floors. Like shower enclosures, you can refurbish tile floors by cleaning them thoroughly and replacing or staining the grout. If you have wood floors, you can have them professionally refinished for $3 to $8 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor.
  • Walls. The cheapest way to change the look of your walls is to repaint them in a different color. If you have tile walls you don’t like, you can install new wood panels or beadboard wainscotting over the tile. At around $20 per beadboard panel, that’s cheaper than tearing it out and replacing it, and it lets you switch back to tile later if you want.

5. Use Paint Creatively

Just changing the paint color in your bathroom can make a surprisingly significant difference to its overall look. But you can do a lot more with paint than just roll it over a wall. Creative homeowners have used it for:

  • Textured Effects. You can give a wall a textured look by using two different colors. Start by giving the whole wall a base coat in one color. Then use a textured tool, such as a sponge, rag, or comb, to apply the second coat. We used a sponging-off technique in our bathroom to create a look similar to stucco.
  • Faux Wallpaper. Paint can give you the look of wallpaper with less money and effort. For instance, you can make your bathroom look larger by painting it with broad, horizontal stripes. Or use a stencil to create a pattern on the wall.
  • Faux Tile. You can also use paint and stencils on a wood or concrete floor to create the look of tile for less. Just use sturdy porch paint and three coats of polyurethane to stand up to the humid environment.
  • Real Tile. According to Sherman Williams, it’s even possible to paint over real tile. Clean the bathroom wall tile thoroughly, scuff it with sandpaper, and apply a water-based acrylic primer. Top it with a durable latex or urethane paint, and you have “new” tile without the hassle and expense of replacing the old tile.
  • Refinishing Fixtures. You can use enamel paint to salvage an old bathtub or spray paint and lacquer to change the finish of a sink faucet.

6. Use Cheaper Materials

There are limits to what you can do with paint. But there are many other ways to substitute cheaper materials for pricier ones and get the look you want for less. To stretch your dollars when renovating a bathroom, splurge on just one or two high-impact items, such as countertops or a clawfoot tub, and choose cheaper alternatives for everything else.

There are cost-effective alternatives for nearly every part of a bathroom remodel.

Walls

Tile costs a lot more than paint or paneling. To keep your costs down, limit your use of tile on the walls as much as possible. Use it only in areas that get wet regularly, such as the tub or shower enclosure.

For the rest of your walls, painted drywall is the cheapest alternative. However, wood panels can create a more interesting look at a lower price than tile.

Flooring

Bathroom flooring options fall into three price ranges. The cheapest options are laminate and vinyl, which can cost $1 or less per square foot. Wood and ceramic tile are midrange alternatives, and stone tile is the priciest flooring of all.

If you crave the look of stone, it’s often possible to get it with a cheaper ceramic. One inexpensive bathroom remodel covered by This Old House includes slate-look ceramic tiles that cost only $85 for the whole room.

Tub and Shower Enclosures

If you can’t refurbish your existing shower walls, the cheapest way to replace them is with large panels of fiberglass or acrylic. These cost as little as $100 each and are quick to install.

However, if you prefer the look of a tiled wall, go for porcelain or ceramic tile rather than pricier glass or stone. You can also save time and money by choosing larger tiles. These require less grouting, so you save on labor costs.

If you’ve fallen in love with a fancy designer tile, search for a cheaper look-alike. Alternatively, use the fancy tile as an accent, filling in most of the wall with a more affordable tile. Not only will you save money, but the expensive tile will stand out more.

As for the front of the tub or shower enclosure, a shower curtain is cheaper than a glass door and easier to install. It’s also easy to clean — just take it down and toss it in the washer. And you can easily swap it out any time you want to change the look of the bathroom.

Tub and Shower Hardware

If you need to replace your bath or shower handles, spout, and showerhead, it’s probably cheapest to buy them as a set. These sets, called trim kits, can cost as little as $100 to $200 each.

However, if the handles are still in good shape, it could be cheaper to keep them and replace the showerhead only. A good showerhead contributes a lot more to a satisfying shower than nice-looking handles. Many top-rated showerheads cost less than $50.

Countertops

A stone countertop for your vanity is cheaper than stone counters for your kitchen since it’s a lot smaller. But other options are much less expensive.

According to HGTV, the most affordable countertop choices are laminate and ceramic or glass tiles. Engineered stone and solid-surface countertops cost more, but they’re still cheaper than granite or marble.

If you really love the look of stone, there are several ways to get it for less:

  • Use Tiles. Tile your countertop using marble floor tiles instead of a slab. The DIY’ing Missouri couple used this method, paying just $9 per square foot for their marble tiles. With white grout, the joins are hardly visible.
  • Use Remnants. Ask local suppliers if they have any stone left over from a bigger job. These remnants are often cheaper than a whole slab, and you don’t need much to make a vanity top. If you’re using a contractor, you can ask them about remnants as well.
  • Try Prefab. If your vanity is a standard size and shape, you can save money by choosing a prefabricated slab. It’s cheaper than having a piece cut to size. But it limits your options for color and edge details.
  • Choose a More Affordable Grade. Natural stone slabs come in different grades. A slab with more imperfections costs less, and if the flaws are in the center — where the hole for the sink will go — they won’t even show.
  • Keep the Edges Simple. Stone and prefabricated countertop materials are cheapest with a plain beveled or bull-nose edge. You can save by choosing these edge finishes over a fancy ogee or waterfall edge.

Cabinetry

The cheapest type of storage for the bathroom is open shelving. You can create wall-mounted shelves with nothing but a plank of wood and some wall brackets. These can go on any empty wall, including behind the toilet, to use all the space in the room.

If you want to keep your bath supplies behind closed doors, stock cabinets are cheaper than custom cabinetry. You can also compromise between the two by choosing semi-custom, ready-to-assemble cabinets. This product lets you configure size and features to fit your space. But the more options you add, the more it costs.

As for cabinet materials, laminate or thermofoil cabinets are cheap and easy to clean. However, they can warp over time, so they may not save you money in the long run. You can save on wood cabinets by choosing pine, maple, oak, or alder over pricier mahogany, cherry, or walnut. If you prefer darker wood, you can buy cheaper pieces and stain them.

The style of the cabinets also matters. You save the most by choosing flat doors rather than doors with raised panels and drawers rather than pullout cabinets. Shop around to find brands of both cabinets and hardware that give you the look you want at the lowest price.

One inexpensive and trendy option for a vanity cabinet is to repurpose an old dresser. You can find dressers through secondhand sources like garage sales and Craigslist for much less than you’d pay for a store-bought vanity cabinet.

Toilets

Considering they all do the same job, there’s a surprising range in the price of toilets. As a rule, round toilets are cheaper than those with an elongated bowl, and two-piece toilets cost less than one-piece ones. Two-piece toilets take up more room and are a little harder to install, but they’re easier and cheaper to repair if they break.

One type of toilet to avoid is a wall-hung model with the tank recessed into the wall. This design saves space, but it’s harder to install and repair, costing you money.

It’s also worth considering water-saving toilets. These don’t cost significantly more upfront, and they save you money on your water bill over their lifetime.

7. Shop Secondhand

Another way to save on materials for your bathroom renovation is to buy them secondhand. The Missouri couple who created a luxury master bathroom on a $6,000 budget got nearly everything used, including a salvaged clawfoot tub, discarded cabinet doors from a kitchen and bath showroom, a scavenged marble scrap for a countertop, and a yard sale mirror.

Shopping secondhand isn’t as easy as going into a store and putting things in a cart. It pays to start early to ensure you have plenty of time to find what you want. While you’re still in the planning phase of your remodel, start checking secondhand sites for items that match your wish list.

Places to find secondhand materials include

  • Reuse Centers. If you have a reuse center in your area, you can find everything you need for your bathroom remodeling project there, from tile to light fixtures. When we redid our bathroom, we hit the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and found Italian ceramic tile for under $3 per square foot and a cultured marble sink and vanity top for $30.
  • eBay. You can find nearly anything on eBay, including bath supplies. The Texas homeowner who redid a powder room for $705 bought a sink, faucet, and light fixtures from online auctions for $390 total. Just remember to factor in shipping costs when buying online, especially since bath items can be heavy.
  • Craigslist. Check the for-sale section of your local Craigslist site for bath bargains. A quick search of the listings on my local group turned up plumbing fixtures, countertops, cabinetry, light fixtures, and even a ventilation fan.
  • Nextdoor. Nextdoor is a social media group designed to help neighbors connect. Members can buy and sell unwanted goods through the Finds section. Listings for bath pieces aren’t that common, but it’s worth a look.
  • Freecycle. Through the Freecycle Network, members give away unwanted items to people in their area at no cost. Check your local group for free stuff you could use as part of your bathroom remodel.
  • Flea Markets. Check out flea markets for antique pieces for your bath remodel, such as a clawfoot tub or an old-fashioned light fixture. Just don’t buy anything you can’t haul home since there’s no delivery service.
  • Antique Stores. Antique stores are another excellent source of vintage furniture and materials. But they’re likely to charge higher prices than other resellers.
  • Yard Sales. Shopping at garage sales is a hit-or-miss proposition. You can’t always find what you want, but when you do, the prices are terrific. The Missouri couple with the $6,000 master bath renovation made several affordable finds at yard sales, including a $35 etched glass mirror and a marble slab for just $1.
  • Your Own Home. Don’t hesitate to reuse materials left over from other projects in your bathroom renovation. Several homeowners profiled by This Old House reused leftover materials, including paint and beadboard.

8. Look for Bargains

If you can’t get all the materials for your bathroom secondhand, you can save by finding them on sale. For instance, one couple from New York found a cast-iron bathtub on sale for $350. Most new cast-iron tubs cost $1,000 or more.

The holiday season is an excellent time to find remodeling materials on sale. According to CabinetNow, the best seasonal sales on cabinetry occur on Black Friday and in the weeks before Christmas.

However, shopping sales isn’t the only way to find deals on new materials. One of the best ways to find bargains is to shop around. Comparison-shopping websites and tools can help you find the best prices when shopping online. Other money-saving browser extensions can help you find coupon codes to cut costs still more.

Also, don’t overlook discount sites like Overstock.com. This site offers everything you need for a bathroom renovation, from tubs to tile, at prices well below retail.

If you find reasonable prices for several products in one store, but its prices on other things you need are higher, find out if the store offers a price-match guarantee. If it does, you could get the best prices on everything you need at once without having to visit multiple stores.

Finally, if you buy a lot of materials from one place, ask about volume discounts. Home centers like Home Depot offer discounts on bulk sales. It’s primarily for professional contractors, but it can’t hurt to ask.


Final Word

A bathroom remodel doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. There’s no doubt that some upgrades, like a fully tiled walk-in shower or expanding the square footage of your master bath, can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. But with good planning and a little creativity, you can make your bathroom into a luxurious retreat on a much smaller budget.

Moreover, updating or adding a bathroom to your home is a home improvement project that adds value. According to the 2021 Cost vs. Value Report from industry publication Remodeling magazine, homeowners who remodel their bathrooms recover an average of 55% to 60% of the money when selling the home. And if you can manage to add the same resale value on a smaller budget, you can boost that percentage even more.

Do you have other rooms to redo? Check out our articles on budget kitchen remodels and basement remodels.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Motley Fool Subscriptions – Membership Types, Costs & What They Offer

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Motley Fool Subscriptions: What They Offer and Who They’re For

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These packages open and close to new members regularly, so check Motley Fool’s services page to confirm that the one you want is still available. Unless otherwise noted, each costs $1,999 per year.

Blast Off

Blast Off is a sort of starter kit for growth investors. Its goal is to surface little-known stocks with extremely high growth potential — the sort that will be fundamental components of growth investors’ stock portfolios in five, 10, or 15 years. Previous Blast Off portfolios have dramatically beaten the market, with Blast Off 2019 appreciating 250% since inception.

Trend-Spotter

Trend-Spotter aims to uncover what the Motley Fool team calls “genesis trends,” or era-defining supertrends with life cycles far longer than the typical five-to-seven year business cycle. Not that it always takes that long to produce results: A Trend-Spotter portfolio heavy on work-from-home and e-commerce plays returned 1,031% over just 134 days in 2020, according to Motley Fool.

Marijuana Masters

Should you invest in cannabis? Sure — but it helps to pick the right stocks. Marijuana Masters mixes and matches pure-play cannabis stocks and derivative plays (like distributors, retailers, and equipment manufacturers) to create a durable, diversified portfolio for the cannabis connoisseur.

Marijuana Masters also includes recommendations of cannabis stocks to avoid and exclusive expert investment advice for investors navigating the emerging industry’s complex regulatory environment.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Beyond

The Motley Fool is highly bullish on augmented reality — enough to devote an entire Rule Breakers subscription package to startups and established companies (including Apple) riding the AR wave. Like Marijuana Masters, AR and Beyond mixes pure plays — companies focused exclusively on AR — with derivative plays like sensor manufacturers.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another emerging tech trend that The Motley Fool appears to be all-in on. In addition to an ever-changing list of top stock recommendations in the AI space, this package includes two proprietary guides to investing in artificial intelligence companies.

Future of Entertainment

The Future of Entertainment package includes eight foundational stock recommendations and about 15 additional recommendations, all of which stand — in The Motley Fool’s estimation — to profit from where the entertainment industry is headed.

Bear in mind that this portfolio bets on plenty of upside left for the streaming industry, so if you disagree with that thesis, you might want to steer clear.

Fintech Fortunes

Online banks, personal budgeting apps, cryptocurrencies, next-generation payment apps — the fintech space is busier than ever, and The Motley Fool has a Rule Breakers package built to help investors exploit it.

Because fintech changes so fast, Fintech Fortunes comes with an added layer of value: quarterly reevaluations of every pick in the portfolio. That ensures subscribers stay one step ahead of the curve in an industry where fortunes can change dramatically from one month to the next.

Platinum

This package includes all current Rule Breakers industry and trend packages. Because specific packages come and go, its makeup varies over time, but it’s always a better value than purchasing three or more packages a la carte. (At $3,999 per year, it costs about the same as two Rule Breakers packages.)

Who They’re For: These Rule Breakers packages are built for investors seeking greater exposure to industry- and trend-specific market opportunities with outsize growth potential. Due to their cost and specificity, they’re best for well-capitalized investors who can afford to devote significant sums to very narrow segments of the stock market.

If you’re interested in two or more Rule Breakers packages, consider Rule Breakers: Platinum instead. It’s the same price as two packages and offers far more content.

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4. Motley Fool Options

Motley Fool Options is a beginner-friendly service for options traders. In the aggregate, its recommended options trades are profitable a staggering 85% of the time, although (as always) past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Motley Fool Options also has a comprehensive education platform called Options University. It’s designed to prepare investors who may or may not be absolutely clueless about options trading to more than hold their own in the field, regardless of whether stock prices rise or fall.

All this for $999 per year.

Who It’s For: Motley Fool Options is clear that it’s made for novice- to intermediate-level options traders looking to use options to boost their stock market earnings without committing huge sums of money to the practice or using sophisticated, high-risk strategies.

That said, all options trading involves significant risk, so Motley Fool Options is not for investors more comfortable with a buy-and-hold-only investment strategy, nor for new investors in general.

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5. Everlasting Stocks

Everlasting Stocks is a newer stock picking service built to mimic the personal portfolio of Tom Gardner, The Motley Fool co-founder. Priced at $299 per year, it’s overseen by the same team behind the Motley Fool Stock Advisor service and touts the same eye-popping 4x returns over the S&P 500 since that service’s inception.

New Everlasting Stocks members get immediate access to 15 top Motley Fool stock picks, plus new stock picks every month. Tom Gardner owns every stock in the portfolio, giving subscribers confidence that he and his team have skin in the game. And Everlasting Stocks has the same risk-free 30-day trial period that eases investors into Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers.

Who It’s For: Everlasting Stocks is ideal for Motley Fool subscribers who want the added conviction of investing in companies Tom Gardner owns. The modest pricing is beginner-friendly too, regardless of investing strategy.

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6. Everlasting Portfolio

Everlasting Portfolio is another Gardner-validated portfolio, albeit considerably more expensive at $2,999 per year than Everlasting Stocks. Backed by $15 million of The Motley Fool’s own money, the portfolio contains the only individual stocks Gardner himself owns (some of which also make an appearance in the Everlasting Stocks service).

Each stock pick comes with a recommended allocation as a total percentage of the investor’s portfolio, plus periodic buy and sell recommendations to keep subscribers’ holding in line with Gardner’s own.

In other words, Everlasting Portfolio is the closest regular Motley Fool subscribers can get to profiting directly from a co-founder’s money moves.

Who It’s For: Everlasting Portfolio is not cheap, so it’s best for well-capitalized investors aiming to replicate the investing success of a Motley Fool co-founder.

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7. Everlasting: Industry and Trend Packages

Like the Rule Breakers industry and trend packages, Tom Gardner’s Everlasting packages drill down on specific trends and opportunities for buy-and-hold investors in the 2020s and beyond.

In keeping with the theme of Everlasting Stocks and the Everlasting Portfolio, these services’ stock picks are potential game-changers for their respective industries — and names that Gardner feels good about owning himself. Unless otherwise noted, each Everlasting package costs $1,999 per year.

Cloud Disruptors 2020

This package focuses exclusively on the best stocks to buy in the cloud computing space. According to The Motley Fool, Tom Gardner believes in his picks so much that he staked $500,000 of his own money on them.

Global Partners

This package surfaces high-potential, mainly micro-cap stocks trading on equities markets outside the United States. In 2019, it more than doubled the performance of the S&P 500, according to The Motley Fool.

Rising Stars 2021

This package targets small- and micro-cap stocks with market capitalizations under $6 billion. That’s about one-twentieth of the $145 billion market capitalization of the average Stock Advisor pick, according to The Motley Fool. The original Rising Stars portfolio, launched in 2017, outpaced broader small-cap indexes by about 2.5 times since inception.

The Ownership Portfolio

This package is a portfolio made up solely of founder-led companies — that is, companies whose founders remain involved in day-to-day operations. Tom Gardner and his team back it with $250,000 of The Motley Fool’s own money, and the portfolio’s early returns have been impressive: 650%, compared with 95% for the S&P 500 over the same period.

IPO Trailblazers

Tom Gardner and his team built this package to capitalize on the wave of initial public offerings (IPOs) coming to market in the late 2010s and early 2020s.

Pointing to the success of high-profile IPOs like Beyond Meat (up 163% on its IPO date) and Zoom (up 72% on its IPO date and a lot more in the months that followed), IPO Trailblazers invites participants to cash in on what The Motley Fool calls “the Golden Age of IPOs.” IPO Trailblazers is backed by $1 million of The Motley Fool’s own money.

Boss Mode

Boss Mode consolidates every Everlasting package in a single master service priced at $4,999 per year. If you plan to purchase three or more Everlasting services, Boss Mode is a better deal.

Who They’re For: Each Everlasting package provides exposure to a different market sector, trend, or investor thesis, all validated by Tom Gardner and his stock-picking team. Because they’re so specific, individual Everlasting portfolios are best used as supplements to diversified investment portfolios rather than the main focus of users’ investments. But the fact that they’re backed by real money from Tom Gardner or The Motley Fool lends confidence and conviction to the picks.

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8. Market Pass

Market Pass is a package deal that includes subscriptions to Motley Fool Stock Advisor, Motley Fool Rule Breakers, and an exclusive stock picking service called Ultimate Portfolio.

The bulk of its $1,499 annual price tag is borne by Ultimate Portfolio, which The Motley Fool says has outperformed the broader market by more than 2x since inception. As the name suggests, Ultimate Portfolio is a collection of what The Motley Fool calls “the right stocks to buy right now,” from names that have consistently beaten the market to up-and-coming companies poised to take off in the months and years ahead.

Who It’s For: Market Pass is built for people who want to profit from the insights and recommendations produced by the Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers teams while adding exposure to an exclusive custom portfolio that The Motley Fool believes has high potential to beat the market over time. Whether the $1,499 price point is worth it really depends on how well the Ultimate Portfolio performs.

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9. Rule Your Retirement

Rule Your Retirement is a modestly priced service ($149 per year) for the long-term investor looking ahead to a stable, prosperous retirement. The package includes:

  • Access to Robert Brokamp, CFP®, a financial advisor who has been doling out advice to current and future retirees for over a decade
  • Three sets of model retirement portfolios with custom allocation and rebalancing advice for each
  • Insights and guidance around specific mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to supplement or replace an all-stock portfolio
  • Social Security tips and tricks
  • More content about topics of interest to current and future retirees, including estate planning, long-term care insurance, and more

Who It’s For: Rule Your Retirement is an excellent resource for investors planning for retirement and for those managing their nest eggs after they’ve left the workforce for good. With a relatively low annual fee and access to a financial planner, it offers very good value for active retirement investors and those who wish they’d asked more questions sooner.

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10. Real Estate Winners

Real Estate Winners is an industry-specific service that helps subscribers build market-beating portfolios with outsize exposure to U.S. and international real estate markets, always through publicly traded entities like real estate investment trusts (REITs). Priced at $249 per year, its highlights include:

  • At least one real estate investment opportunity recommendation each month, with more if the Real Estate Winners team finds timely picks that can’t wait for next month
  • A quarterly rotating list of The Motley Fool’s top 10 real estate picks
  • Access to a community of real estate investors and content about real estate investing

Who It’s For: Real Estate Winners is built for novice and intermediate investors looking to build income-producing real estate investment portfolios that consistently beat the market. Since real estate is just one of many market sectors that round out a diversified investment portfolio, Real Estate Winners is best used as part of a comprehensive investing strategy.

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11. Mogul

Mogul is another real estate investing service that builds on the Real Estate Winners foundation and offers access to more opportunities in the space — including those not available to the general public. Priced at $2,999 per year, its main selling points are:

  • A proprietary Mogul Score rating system that The Motley Fool uses to evaluate real estate investing opportunities
  • Timely recommendations for both public real estate investing opportunities (such as REITs) and private placement deals not traded on any exchange
  • Exclusive, detailed real estate tax guidance from The Motley Fool’s tax partners
  • Private events and enrichment opportunities for members, including exclusive webinars, workshops, and in-person gatherings

Who It’s For: Mogul is pricey. But, as one of the few Motely Fool packages not oriented around traditional stock market investments, it’s worth the cost for serious real estate investors with ample capital to invest in the public and private placement deals it surfaces.

Because private placement real estate deals generally are available only to accredited investors, Mogul isn’t a good deal for subscribers who can’t consistently clear the accredited threshold. For individual investors, that means those consistently earning $200,000 per year ($300,000 for married couples) or with a net worth in excess of $1 million.

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Final Word

The Motley Fool offers a subscription product for everyone. At least, for just about every type of serious equities market participant.

From the flagship Motley Fool Stock Advisor to industry- and trend-specific Rule Breakers and Everlasting packages, The Motley Fool offers more premium services and financial content than just about any other peer-driven investor resource, including Seeking Alpha — its current rival in the space. It’s been doing so for more than two decades and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

The Motley Fool does owe some of its longevity to an enthusiastic and loyal group of core members. But those members wouldn’t keep coming back without its other big differentiator: a seemingly never-ending supply of proprietary wisdom and advice from co-founders Tom and David Gardner and their team of market experts. If you do eventually come to the conclusion that a Motley Fool subscription (or several) is worth the cost, you’ll have them to thank.

Source: moneycrashers.com

14 Biggest Home Selling Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Maybe you’ve recently become an empty nester and are looking to downsize, or perhaps you accepted a job offer in a new city. Whatever your motivation, you’re thinking about selling your home and moving on to greener pastures.

But before you dive in, it helps to know which home selling mistakes to avoid to help ensure you get a great offer, sell your property quickly, and facilitate a positive experience for yourself and prospective buyers.

Getting a home ready for the market is often stressful. And it’s even more so if you make these home selling mistakes. From neglecting curb appeal to using low-quality listing photos, avoid these pitfalls to have a more positive and profitable selling experience.

1. Not Pricing Realistically

Pricing your home can be tricky. While you certainly want to make a profit from the sale, you also have to be realistic about the value of your property. Price it too high and you’ll scare away potential buyers. Price it too low and you’ll be taking money out of your own pocket.

A good way to gauge how much to list your property for is to look at comparable homes in your neighborhood that have recently sold. Pay special attention to how they differ from yours to determine whether you should aim for a higher or lower sale price.

For example:

  • Have either of the homes been renovated?
  • Is one property bigger than the other?
  • Does one home have upgrades the other doesn’t, like a pool or fenced yard?

Reviewing sold homes in your community will give you a feel for your house’s market value. If your home is in better condition than a comparable property or if it has desirable features another doesn’t, you may be able to price slightly higher. However, if your home is in worse shape you might need to settle for a lower asking price.

2. Not Staging Your Home

Staging your home doesn’t necessarily have to mean hiring a professional home stager. But it does mean that you should clean, declutter, and organize your home so that it’s visually appealing to potential buyers.

To prep your home to sell, consider:

  • Applying a fresh coat of paint to your walls
  • Keeping surfaces like counters, tables, and desks free of clutter
  • Deep cleaning carpets and rugs
  • Renting nice furniture or decorative pieces
  • Landscaping or maintaining your yard, deck, or balcony
  • Replacing outdated wallpaper
  • Fixing damages to walls, flooring, and counters
  • Decluttering

If you have a lot of items to remove from your home, such as furniture or personal items, rent a storage locker as you declutter and organize. Store any items you want to keep for your new home so you can depersonalize and stage the one you’re selling.

Or, if you’re not interested in staging your home yourself, hire a professional to do it for you. Professional real estate stagers are well-versed in interior design and will be able to help you show off your home’s best assets.

If you choose not to opt for home staging at all, you risk giving prospective buyers a poor first impression. Disorganized clutter and too many personal items like family photos make it hard for others to picture themselves living in your home. Do your best to provide a neutral setting, where prospective buyers who come for showings can envision making the space their own.

3. Not Considering Closing Costs

Whether you sell your home using a realtor or you opt to go the for sale by owner (FSBO) route, there are closing costs you can’t avoid. For example, homeowners may have to pay for:

One common home selling mistake is forgetting to incorporate these costs into your listing price or profit. Although some costs associated with closing a home sale are typically covered by homebuyers, most sellers still have to pay at least some closing costs.

Before choosing to put your home on the market, consider how much your closing costs will be. They can vary greatly based on where you live, the type and age of your property, and how you choose to sell your home.

Understanding how much you need to plan to spend before listing your house gives you a better idea of the price range you can afford and how much profit you’ll come away with.

4. Selling on Your Own

Selling a home on your own may seem like a great way to save money on realtor fees, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, it will cause unnecessary stress and may even lead to you losing money. If you choose to list your house as for sale by owner, be prepared to:

  • Set up showings and open houses
  • Negotiate offers and conditions
  • Stage your own home
  • Take high-quality photos of your home
  • Write an appealing description of your property
  • Advertise and market your listing
  • Close the sale of the home on your own

Realtors have access to a variety of listing tools that homeowners don’t, such as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a major real estate platform that offers property searches, history, and more. They also network with each other to find the right buyers as well as cover communications and paperwork between you and potential buyers during the home selling process.

While selling your home without a listing agent can save you money, it’s not a decision you should make lightly. Make sure you understand what FSBO means and the responsibilities you’ll be taking on. If you don’t have the know-how to sell yourself, consider looking for a good real estate agent instead.

5. Choosing the Wrong Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents aren’t all alike. The one you choose to sell your home can make or break how successful your home sale is. A good realtor can accelerate the sale of your home, get you better offers, and make the home selling process a breeze.

A bad real estate agent can cost you time, money, and showings.

To find a good realtor, look for someone who:

  • Has experience in your neighborhood
  • Has sold similar properties before
  • Has a real estate license
  • You feel comfortable working with
  • Is a good communicator
  • Understands your goals and priorities
  • Has a proven track record of selling homes

Bonus points if they’re a member of a professional real estate organization like the National Association of Realtors.

Get referrals from your contacts and meet with a few realtors before choosing one to work with. It’s completely acceptable to shop around and take your time. After all, a lot is riding on your real estate agent when it comes to selling your property.

6. Taking Feedback Personally

Your home likely has sentimental value to you, even if you’re selling it. This makes it easy to take lowball offers or criticisms about the paint choices or yard size personally during open houses and showings.

But it’s important to remember that your home only has sentimental value to you, not to potential buyers. Try not to get offended during the selling process. It will only cloud your judgment and cause you to base any decisions you make off your emotions, not reason.

Emotionally driven decisions can force you to miss out on negotiations and offers, causing your home to stay on the market longer.

Detach yourself from your home by depersonalizing it, avoiding attending showings and open houses, and looking at offers or other negotiations from a logical standpoint. Treat selling your home like a business transaction.

Just because someone makes a lowball offer doesn’t mean the negotiation process is over. Counter with a higher number and take it from there.

7. Selling in the Wrong Season

The housing market typically starts to quiet down during the winter months. After all, who wants to move in the cold?

If you put your house on the market during the winter, chances are you’ll wind up with fewer viewings and lower offers.

Instead, list your home during peak real estate season, which starts in the spring and runs until early fall. At this time of year, the market is flooded with buyers looking to find a home and make it their own before the end of the year.

This ups your chances of getting an offer that reflects the true value of your home without having to factor in the weather and a sparse market.

8. Selling in a Buyer’s Market

In real estate, there are two distinct types of market: a buyer’s market and a seller’s market. A buyer’s market is when there are more homes listed than there are buyers. This enables buyers to negotiate lower offers and shop around to find the best deal.

In a seller’s market, there are more buyers looking to purchase a property than there are houses up for sale. This means buyers need to compete against one another to land a deal — often resulting in offers over your asking price.

If you have the luxury of waiting to list your home until you’re in a seller’s market, you’re certain to make top dollar for your property. At the very least, try not to sell in a buyer’s market unless you have to.

9. Using Poor Listing Photos

The listing photos you use for your home heavily influence a potential buyer’s first impression. And they use them to determine whether they want to bother booking a viewing or not.

If your listing photos are poor quality, you’re almost guaranteed to miss out on showings because they won’t appeal to buyers.

Bad listing photos:

  • Are taken with a low-quality camera
  • Have poor lighting (too bright or too dark)
  • Don’t showcase a home’s best features
  • Are taken before a home is cleaned and staged
  • Only provide a few shots

Good listing photos:

  • Are taken with a professional camera
  • Take advantage of natural light
  • Showcase a home’s best features, including renovations, upgrades, or landscaping
  • Are taken after a home is clean and staged
  • Provide a variety of shots

Many real estate agents will have a professional photographer come in to take photos of your home, which will be covered in their realtor fees. If you sell your home by owner, you can hire someone to do it for you.

Great pictures make a big difference in how many buyers are interested in viewing your home, so it’s an investment worth making.

10. Not Being Flexible

When it comes to selling your home, it’s easy to forget that it involves two different families making a major life change. Coordinating selling your property and moving into your next home is challenging enough, but you also need to consider your buyers.

For example, in an offer, a buyer may request a closing date either sooner or later than you had anticipated. While your initial instinct may be to refuse their request, it was probably made for a reason. Perhaps the buyer is aiming to move in when their current lease ends or a week before their new job starts.

The same may be true for offers below your asking price. Maybe the buyer loves the property but offered slightly less than the asking price because it was all they were approved to borrow for their mortgage loan.

When negotiating the sale of your home, remember to be flexible — within reason. Buyers are experiencing just as much stress and upheaval as you are, and often their requests come with a reasonable explanation.

Refusing to budge on small issues like a closing date or accept a fair offer just because you are being stubborn won’t do you any good. In fact, they could be what causes a buyer to back out, leaving you back at square one.

11. Not Making Repairs in Advance

Neglecting to make small home repairs before listing your property is a big mistake. Buyers and home inspectors will notice these issues and use them to justify a lower asking price. And they’ll typically cost you more this way than if you’d just handled them in the first place.

For example, a leaky faucet, a torn window screen, or a damaged fence panel are relatively easy fixes. If a buyer notices them, they may make you an offer that requires them to be fixed by a professional at your cost. That’s likely to be more out of your pocket than if you’d fixed them yourself or had time to shop around for a handyman.

You don’t have to go for an entire home renovation, but making obvious fixes can go a long way. If you don’t take care of small repairs before listing your home, they’ll impact everything from your curb appeal and showing atmosphere to the offers you get and the conditions they come with.

12. Being Dishonest

Being dishonest when selling your home won’t get you anywhere. Buyers are encouraged — and, in some cases, required — by their banks, brokers, realtors, insurance agents, and friends to be diligent and careful when buying a home.

As an example, mortgages are often subject to approval based on an applicant’s ability to obtain property insurance. In turn, whether a buyer is approved for property insurance depends on a review by an insurance agent, which may require a home inspection completed by a professional that cites any issues with the home.

This is meant to not only protect buyers but the lenders and insurance agencies who fund and insure them.

If you try to hide something about your home or fail to disclose important information, you’re likely to be caught and could face legal repercussions as a result. Some common required disclosures include:

  • Deaths in the home
  • Environmental contamination
  • Risk of natural disaster
  • Nuisances like airports, farms, or landfills near the property
  • Water damage
  • Structural repairs
  • Known electrical or plumbing issues

Depending on which state you live in, failing to disclose any of the above before the sale of your home closes could get you involved in a lawsuit.

Instead of trying to hide anything about your home, be upfront about it. It will save you a lot of time (and possibly money) in the end.

13. Neglecting Curb Appeal

Many home sellers only focus on staging the interior of their home, but curb appeal matters just as much. Details like landscaping, fresh paint, and small repairs to fences and decks make your property look more inviting to potential buyers.

Make the outside of your property look inviting and welcoming by:

  • Tidying up your yard and raking leaves, mowing, and trimming
  • Pressure washing aged wood steps, decks, and patios
  • Applying a fresh coat of paint or stain to exterior doors, window frames, and sheds
  • Adding a pop of color with planters and hanging baskets
  • Weeding and replanting any garden beds
  • Cleaning up clutter like yard tools, pet supplies, and children’s toys

Since the exterior of your home is what potential buyers will see first, it’s important to consider it when staging, photographing, and listing your property. Curb appeal can go a long way in enticing buyers to book a showing and make an offer.

14. Not Being Ready to Sell

If you’re not truly ready to sell your home, the whole process is likely to feel negative and stressful.

For example, if you’re pushing yourself to sell within an unrealistic timeline or you’re listing your home just because you want to take advantage of a seller’s market, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Think about why you’re making the decision to sell, and whether it makes sense for you to do right now — emotionally, financially, and professionally. Do you have strong sentimental ties to the property? How will it affect your finances? What about your job?

Selling your home is a big decision, so don’t make it lightly. If you aren’t ready, you may rush into making a decision you come to regret after it’s too late.


Final Word

Selling a home is an exciting and life-changing experience, as long as it’s done right. Embark on the process thoughtfully and with consideration to avoid common mistakes like overpricing your home or selling during the winter months.

By preparing yourself to be a home seller and thinking ahead, you’ll enjoy a more satisfying and successful selling experience.

Source: moneycrashers.com

16 Tips to Save Money on Back-to-School Supplies & Shopping List

Back-to-school time has become its own shopping season, falling just behind back-to-college and Christmas in terms of family expenditures, according to the National Retail Federation. In 2020, the NRF reported record back-to-school spending, with parents spending an average of $789.49 per child, up from the previous record of $696.70.

And that’s just for elementary through high school. If you have college students in your family, the NRF estimates you’ll spend about $1,059.20 on supplies. (But you can access your own list of college back-to-school saving tactics.)

That’s almost as much as an average mortgage payment, and each year, costs continue to outpace inflation. Multiply this amount by two or three (or five) children, and it’s easy to see why many parents start sweating in mid-July, when the barrage of back-to-school fliers and ads start appearing.

But these back-to-school saving tips can take some of the stress out of the season.

How to Save on Back-to-School Supplies

If you’re stressed out about this upcoming drain on your bank account, take a deep breath. There are plenty of ways to avoid spending $1,000 per child at the start of the new school year. If you start early and plan ahead, you can put your kids back in the classroom for a fraction of this amount.

Keep in mind that back-to-school sales start a bit earlier each year. Staples now puts out its back-to-school section in late June, with many products already on sale to entice parents to buy.

You can save by purchasing one or two things at a time throughout the summer. Spreading your purchases out can also prevent a significant hit to your monthly budget.

1. Do a Supply Sweep

You probably already have plenty of last year’s school supplies you can reuse this year. Closets, desk drawers, and basement bins could hold hidden treasures that can save you money.

Start by rounding up all of the office and school supplies you already own. Put them in a central location, such as a plastic bin or the dining room table, so you can make a list of what you have and a shopping list of what you need.

Keep this list in your purse or car to avoid forgetting it when you shop for school supplies. You can also take a picture of your current supplies to refresh your memory when you’re shopping.

Next, go through your kids’ closets and start sorting. Donate or toss clothing kids have outgrown and timeworn clothing. Once you complete this supply sweep, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you need to buy. Ideally, the sweep will prevent you from buying something you already have on hand.

2. Plan a Supply Swap

Coordinate with your friends and neighbors and host a school and office supply swap before you head out shopping.

For instance, you might have reams of loose-leaf paper you bought on sale, but you’ll never use it all. Meanwhile, your friend might have several packs of pencils or a pencil case they’d be willing to trade for some of that paper.

Talk to friends and family members with school-aged children and see if they have extra supplies they’d be interested in trading.

3. Shop at Garage Sales and Thrift Stores

Garage sales can be a treasure trove of deals for back-to-school supplies. You can find backpacks, gently used shoes, clothing, and even school supplies there for a song.

Start hitting up garage sales for everything you need. It takes time, but you can score some incredible bargains by doing so, and it’s an economical way to save money on back-to-school clothes. You can also ask friends and family members to keep an eye out for you when they shop at garage sales.

There are fantastic bargains at thrift stores too. Clothing is very affordable there, and many stores run sales specifically for parents shopping for back-to-school items. But start early. Other shoppers will have picked over the selection by the first day of school.

Your best bet is to start your kids clothes shopping in the middle to end of July when there are plenty of clothes to choose from. Of course, if you let them wear them immediately, the novelty will have worn off by the first day of school. Put these clothes away until school starts so they’ll feel brand-new to your kids.

4. Check Consignment Shops

Consignment shops are excellent places to find gently used clothing because they’ve already vetted everything they offer. So unlike at the thrift store, you don’t have to paw through blouses from 1975 to find designer or name-brand clothing on a shoestring budget.

If your area has several consignment shops, find out if they’re planning a late-summer sale. Many consignment shops organize a seasonal sale, especially during the back-to-school shopping season. Several shops might even host a mega-sale in one location, pooling all their resources together.

You can find consignment shops in your area by Googling “kids consignment stores near me.”

5. Check the Dollar Store

You can get some incredible bargains on school supplies at the dollar store, where you can find basic supplies like notebooks and pencils as well as classroom supplies like facial tissue and sanitizer, all at bargain prices.

Start shopping in the summer months because you never know what products stores will order or how long they’ll stay in stock. Just note that there are some things you should never buy at the dollar store, such as batteries and tape.

6. Shop Through Rakuten

Online cash-back shopping venue Rakuten acts like a shopping gateway. The website allows you to shop online or through the app at over 2,500 major stores and brands like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Gap, Barnes & Noble, Dell, Kohl’s, DSW, and Macy’s, all while giving you cash back on your purchases.

How much you earn typically varies from 1% to 6% of your total purchase price. However, many retailers offer short-term rebates of 10% or more and exclusive sales for Rakuten shoppers.

Rakuten says its 12 million users have earned over $1 billion in cash back using the mobile coupon app, which they can then use to buy back-to-school supplies.

See our Rakuten review for more information.

7. Install the Capital One Shopping Browser Extension

Capital One Shopping is a useful browser extension to have when you’re shopping online. For example, each time you’re browsing on Amazon, Capital One Shopping searches hundreds of other retailers to see if there’s a better price available.

They also automatically apply any available coupon codes at checkout to help you save money. Wikibuy has a database of thousands of retailers, so this extension can likely help you find a better deal somewhere.

Read our Capital One Shopping review for details.

8. Shop on a Sales Tax Holiday

Many states have sales tax holidays when shoppers can buy merchandise without paying sales tax. On these days, you can pick up clothing, computers, and school supplies tax-free.

Find the date (or dates) of your state’s sales tax holiday and determine what products are eligible online. Most states have a sales tax holiday during the first week of August, although some have tax holidays in July or toward the end of August.

9. Follow Stores on Twitter & Facebook

Many companies send their loyal followers coupon links and advance notice of sales. If you plan to bargain-hunt this year, monitor your favorite stores’ Twitter and Facebook feeds to find deals.

You can follow these popular stores on Twitter, for example:

10. Compare Prices

Most parents have to buy some sort of electronics for their kids for school. You can save on these by keeping an eye on Amazon’s ever-changing prices.

The website CamelCamelCamel tracks the price range history for every product sold on Amazon, including historical highs and lows. You can sign up for price change alerts for specific products and get a notification every time their prices change.

There are also plenty of apps to help you save money by comparing prices across different retailers. One is ShopSavvy, which is available for iOS and Android devices.

To use ShopSavvy, simply scan the bar code of the product you’re interested in, and the app tells you if a lower price is available at another store or website. For the app to work, you also need to download a bar code scanner, which you can get for both iOS and Android devices.

Last, don’t forget to look to your grocery store or neighborhood drugstore for bargains on school supplies. Check local circulars starting in midsummer. You might be surprised to find that some products are actually cheaper when they’re on sale at these stores than at big-box stores.

Additionally, many stores have reward or loyalty programs that enable you to earn points or other loyalty currency when purchasing goods there.

11. Focus on Saving on Big-Ticket Merchandise

When you’re back-to-school shopping, it’s easy to get paranoid about the cost of glue at Target compared to Walmart. We’ve all been there. But while it’s vital to watch prices on small items, you only have so much time and energy.

You’re better off using this limited time and energy to save money on bigger-ticket products, especially electronics like computers and tablets. Saving $300 on your high schooler’s new laptop means more to your budget than saving $5 on your middle schooler’s lunch box or 25 cents on a bottle of glitter glue.

Focus on saving money on your most significant expenses first, and let the glue take care of itself.

12. Make Your Kids Work for Their Supplies

What do you do if you’ve set spending limits for specialty or high-end goods, and your kids still clamor for expensive back-to-school gear? Make them go to work.

Assign them chores or send them out into the neighborhood to earn the money they need. My parents did this to me, and I lived through the experience. It also made me examine in a very real way how badly I wanted to buy some “must-have” gear.

Most of the time, when I had to spend my own money on something — money I had to use my own hours to earn — I discovered I didn’t really want it as badly as I thought I did.

13. Save on Uniforms

School uniforms used to be the hallmark of attending an elite private school. These days, many charter schools require students to wear uniforms, and The New Yorker reports that one-fifth of all public schools now require a uniform.

And these uniforms can be costly, with prices ranging from $150 to $250 or more for a mix-and-match wardrobe. However, there are plenty of ways to save money on school uniforms.

One strategy is to see if your school has a uniform exchange. During the year, some schools ask parents to donate any uniform pieces their children have outgrown. They then offer these to parents on a tight budget, often for free or for a small donation.

Another way to save is to check local thrift stores. For example, if your child’s uniform includes basic navy or khaki pants, you can usually find them in high quantities at a thrift store or consignment shop.

Last, check retailers like Gap and Old Navy. Both companies sell school uniforms and often run sales during the middle to end of summer. You might also find better deals if you shop in the early summer when most parents aren’t yet thinking about buying uniforms for the upcoming school season.

14. Hold Off on New Clothing

Every child wants new clothes when they head back to school. And while retailers do put clothing on sale for back to school, Kristin Cook, managing editor of price-tracking site Ben’s Bargains, told Consumer Reports before school starts isn’t the best time to buy a new wardrobe for your kids. Prices typically go down in September after the big clothes-buying rush is over.

A better strategy is to buy one new outfit for your kids to wear on the first day and then do most of your shopping when prices drop further in September or October.

Another way to save is to scour thrift stores and consignment shops. If you live near a larger city or are willing to travel, you can often find high-quality clothing at dirt-cheap prices there.

15. Save on School Sports and Activities

You have a daughter who wants to play softball and soccer, another daughter who wants to join the school band, and a son who wants to play hockey and baseball. You’re looking at a potential investment of $10,000 or more in fees, instruments, and equipment for this year alone.

But don’t start hyperventilating just yet. There are plenty of ways to save money on extracurricular activities for your kids.

First, think about limiting your children to one after-school activity apiece. By limiting their choices, you allow them to focus on what they’re most interested in. That also forces them to make a choice, and when they take ownership of that choice, they’ll likely feel more dedicated to what they’re doing and really put their heart into it.

UC Berkeley’s Greater Good cites a 2014 paper published by the American Psychological Association and a 1999 study published in the Review of General Psychology among the “mountain of research” proving teens who have the freedom to make their own decisions tend to be more self-driven and have greater self-discipline.

Sticking to one activity will also help you avoid having an overscheduled child and give them more time for academics, family time, and friends.

If you’re looking to save money on sports equipment, one strategy is to buy used. You can find used gear on SidelineSwap, where you can also sell your own equipment once your child has outgrown what they’re currently using. Locally, you can usually find some bargains at Play It Again Sports.

If you’re looking to save money on music lessons or band participation, your best bet is buying or renting a used instrument. You can search on Music Go Round for used instruments listed on the site and instruments listed locally in your area. You can also look on Craigslist and eBay.

16. Just Say No

Going back-to-school shopping with your kids can be a fun bonding experience. It can also add hundreds of dollars to your shopping bill if you cave to their requests for designer jeans and a new backpack.

To save money, tell your kids before you leave the house that you’re sticking to the school list and won’t consider any extras while you’re out. Of course, I have two kids of my own, so I know saying no isn’t always easy.

A better idea might be to go school shopping on your own. Consider buying your kids just what they might need on their very first day, and while they’re in school, you can hit the stores to knock out the rest of the list by yourself. Not only is it less stressful, but you’ll also likely save more money.


Final Word

Few parents want to think about shopping for the coming school year, especially amid high summer. But back-to-school shopping can creep up on you quickly, so it pays to start shopping early.

That way, you can take advantage of every deal and coupon that comes your way. And stocking supplies slowly can help ease the impact on your monthly budget.

Source: moneycrashers.com

FIRE Investing – Strategies for People Pursuing Early Retirement

When you first learn the premise behind the FIRE movement (financial independence, retire early), you start to wonder: how do I invest differently for FIRE? How can I earn enough passive income to cover my living expenses?

Strap in, and get ready to punch the accelerator on your retirement planning.

Different Needs, Different Risks

While many of the fundamentals remain the same as traditional retirement planning, people who want to retire young could be retired for more than half a century. They face different risks, have different needs, and in some cases need to invest differently.

Here’s what you need to know before we tackle actual investments.

A Quick Overview of Safe Withdrawal Rates and FIRE

If you’ve ever heard of “the 4% rule,” you understand the premise behind safe withdrawal rates.

Planning for retirement, you need to know how much you need to save as a nest egg. And in order to know how much you need to save up, you need a few other numbers.

First, you need to know how much income you want from your investments in retirement. In other words, how much do you need to cover your living expenses? Second, you need to know how much you can safely pull out of your nest egg each year.

The 4% rule asserts that you can safely pull out 4% of your nest egg each year in retirement, with almost no risk of running out of money within 30 years. For example, if you have a $1 million retirement nest egg, you could safely withdraw $40,000 per year to cover your living expenses.

You can invert that math to calculate how much you need to save for retirement: if you live on $40,000 per year in expenses, you can multiply that by 25 to reach your target nest egg using a 4% withdrawal rate (100% / 4% = 25) of $1 million.

“But,” critics point out, “early retirees will probably live for more than 30 years in retirement!” Thankfully, in most historical scenarios, a 4% withdrawal rate would have left your nest egg intact far longer than 30 years, and in many, the nest egg continued growing indefinitely.

However, for anyone who wants more certainty, financial planner Michael Kitces demonstrates mathematically that a 3.5% withdrawal rate would leave your nest egg intact forever, at least in all historical scenarios over the past century.

And sure, a zombie apocalypse or alien invasion could always destroy worldwide financial markets in the coming decades, upending all your careful retirement planning. But a century’s worth of historical returns is as close to a certain prediction as you can get.

As a final thought, think carefully about your living expenses post-FIRE. Read up on the concepts of lean FIRE versus fat FIRE — it might just make you rethink some of your current expenses as well.

The FIREwall Against Sequence Risk

Another core retirement concept is sequence of returns risk, or simply sequence risk. It posits that once you retire, it’s not just your long-term average returns that matter in keeping your nest egg intact, but also the order or sequence that they hit your portfolio.

More specifically, sequence of returns risk is the risk of a market crash early in your retirement, when it does far more damage than a market crash later in your retirement.

That’s because the longer your nest egg grows post-retirement in a bull market, the larger it becomes (obviously), and the better it can withstand a sudden drop of 30% or worse.

Think of it like momentum for your money: the more momentum you get out of the gate, the more powerful a shock would have to be to halt it in its tracks.

The minority of historical scenarios where portfolios ran out of money in 30 or 35 years? They all involved a market drop early in retirement.

But early retirees have a secret weapon to battle sequence risk: they can go back to work if the market crashes in the first few years of their retirement. That’s a lot easier for 40-year-olds to do than 70-year-olds.

In my experience, however, it’s usually a moot point anyway.

Most People Work Post-FIRE

The image of sitting on a beach sipping margaritas for the rest of your life is how marketers sell the notion of FIRE. But I don’t know a single person who reached financial independence and actually did that.

Every person I know who has reached financial independence at a young age has gone on to do something else. Inevitably something fun, something rewarding — and something that generates at least a little income.

Many people blog about their experiences, or start podcasts, or sell online courses, all aimed at helping others achieve the same success. Some continue investing aggressively to grow their portfolio of income properties or other high-yield investments. Others take their dream job at a nonprofit to help save the world.

It takes a certain degree of discipline and motivation to achieve FIRE. Fundamentally lazy people — the kind who would happily sit on a beach all day sipping cocktails with tiny umbrellas in them — often don’t have the gusto to achieve FIRE in the first place. This means financial independence rarely means actually retiring early.

I’ve known many people who reached financial independence in their 30s or 40s. And they’ve all gone on to keep earning money, whether by starting a business, freelancing, or working for a nonprofit.

For that matter, you could always work a part-time, laid-back post-retirement job for fun and some extra money. I’d love to pour wines at a local winery; my mom plans to continue her current side hustle of tutoring kids.

Some FIRE devotees refer to this concept as “barista FIRE” — the ability to retire with a fun full- or part-time job rather than grinding it out at your 9-to-5 day job.

Health Insurance

One of the most common questions I hear about FIRE is “How will I pay for health insurance without employer coverage?”

At traditional retirement age, Americans can go on Medicare to replace their employer coverage. Early retirees don’t have that option.

Fortunately, you have plenty of options for health insurance without employer coverage. Even so, you do need to budget for it in your post-FIRE annual expenses.

Pro tip: Sidecar Health has become a popular way to get health coverage in early retirement. With Sidecar Health, you can see any doctor you choose — there are no networks.


Investment Strategies for People Pursuing FIRE

So, people who reach financial independence and possibly retire early have slightly different advantages and risks than those who retire in their 60s. But does that translate to a different investing strategy?

Yes — but only to an extent.

Beware of Bonds

In 1981, U.S. Treasury bonds — essentially risk-free investments — paid over 15% interest. In 2021, they pay around 1.5%.

Which is actually lower than the CPI inflation rate. In a very real sense, investors are actually losing money on Treasury bonds in 2021.

It doesn’t take a math whiz to realize that if you invest money at 1.5% interest per year, and you withdraw it at a rate of 4% per year, you’re going to run out of money.

All of which means that bonds don’t work so well for people pursuing FIRE, at least in the perpetual low-interest environment we’ve seen throughout the 21st century so far. That presents a problem for retirees because bonds have historically provided stability to protect against the volatility of stocks and sequence risk.

Good thing you don’t have to worry too much about sequence risk, as outlined above.

All that said, bonds can still serve a role in your asset allocation as someone pursuing FIRE. Consider investing in municipal bonds that offer tax-exempt returns at the federal, state, and local levels.

For high earners in particular, the tax savings can boost the effective yield you earn, making them a viable investment to add stability to your portfolio.

Stick with the Fundamentals for Stocks

Yes, you could pick individual stocks, or mimic stock picking services. And I occasionally do, with a little fun money on the side.

But most people pursuing FIRE use index funds and low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to diversify their portfolios and gain exposure to thousands of stocks, investing in the market as a whole rather than trying to pick the next Netflix.

Over the long term, the S&P 500 index has returned an average of 10% annually.

If you don’t know anything about stocks, try investing through a free robo-advisor like SoFi Invest. Alternatively, with even the slightest knowledge you can pick a few ETFs yourself.

I recommend at least one large-cap U.S. fund, one small-cap U.S. fund, one international developed countries fund, and one emerging markets fund. As you learn more, you can branch out, but just those four funds make an excellent foundation for your stock portfolio.

Stick with a robo-advisor until you reach a high net worth, and then consider switching to a human hybrid advising model. By saving yourself the hefty fees charged by traditional investment advisors, you can reach financial independence years earlier.

Include Real Estate in Some Form

As a real estate investor myself, I can assure you that not everyone should invest directly in real estate. Only consider it if you have a passion for it, and plan to invest in properties as a side business.

For the average person, you’re better off diversifying into real estate through more passive means. Try one of many indirect ways to invest in real estate, such as real estate crowdfunding investments like Fundrise, Streitwise, and Groundfloor.

While you can easily invest in publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), and they do provide excellent liquidity, they come with several drawbacks. Most notably, they move with too much correlation with stock indexes to provide any real diversification benefits.

In my own investment portfolio, I use real estate as a stand-in for bonds. My real estate investments provide strong income yields with far more stability than the stock market. They don’t offer the same liquidity, but I don’t need liquidity from my real estate investments. My emergency fund and stock investments offer plenty.

And if you do decide to invest in real estate directly, you can score some excellent tax benefits to boot!

Minimize High-Risk Speculation

It seems like everyone has a grungy cousin who made $100,000 on Dogecoin speculation or the like. But that doesn’t mean you should go out and put all your savings into cryptocurrencies or other speculative investments.

I have a little money in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other crypto assets. Emphasis on “little” — I set aside no more than 5% of my portfolio for fun money investments and speculations. It would annoy me to lose it, but it wouldn’t break me.

If you feel the need to show off how smart you are by picking stocks or speculative investments like fine art or cryptocurrencies, go for it. But only do so with a small percentage of your total assets.

Which, come to think of it, is no different than how everyone else should treat these investments.


The Role of Tax-Sheltered Accounts

Most people who pursue FIRE aim to optimize their taxes to lose as little to Uncle Sam as possible. Think of taxes as leakage — lost money leaking out of the well-oiled machine you’re building.

Yet tax-sheltered retirement accounts don’t let you withdraw money until you reach 59 ½ — which hardly helps you if you want to retire at 40. So how do you resolve that dilemma?

First, you can invest in both tax-sheltered retirement accounts and taxable brokerage accounts. Your real estate investments can also generate ongoing income for you, outside of your retirement accounts. You can lean on your taxable investments before reaching 59 ½, then start tapping your retirement accounts.

You can also take advantage of other types of tax-advantaged accounts, such as HSAs, ESAs, and 529 plans.

Read a more detailed exploration of how to maximize tax-sheltered accounts for FIRE as you plan your own early retirement.


Final Word

The FIRE lifestyle comes with some surprising benefits.

For example, I don’t pay for life insurance or long-term disability insurance, and I invest the money instead. My family’s 60% savings rate means that we could financially survive losing one parent’s income. It also means we’ve built a thick nest egg in just a few short years of getting serious about FIRE.

Strange and wonderful things happen when you start saving 40%, 50%, 60% of your household income. It starts compounding on itself and taking on a life of its own. Neither my wife nor I earn a large annual income, but by keeping our living expenses low we’re on track to reach financial freedom within six or seven years of taking it seriously.

If you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of FIRE, take a deeper dive into the math behind extreme early retirement. You’ll be surprised at how simple it is — and how fast you can achieve it.

Source: moneycrashers.com

15 Best Ways to Save Money on an RV Road Trip

According to the RV Industry Association, recreational vehicle vacations are cheaper than other types of vacation travel. Specifically, savings range from 21% to 64% for a four-person trip, whereas two-person trips can be 8% to 53% cheaper.

But expenses can rack up quickly, whether you’re taking a short RV trip with your family or enjoying the full-time RV lifestyle. Fuel expenses, campground fees, and rental costs alone can put your trip over budget if you aren’t careful.

If you want to save money on your RV trip, there are several travel tips that can cut costs while letting you travel comfortably and do plenty of sightseeing.

The Best Ways to Save Money on an RV Road Trip

Many RV travel money-saving methods involve trimming major costs like gas, food, and rental fees. Additionally, some saving tips are general guidelines you should follow since they help keep your trip low-cost.

In combination, these RV hacks ensure your next road trip is on budget without having to change your travel plans drastically.

1. Join RV Clubs

Joining an RV club is one of the best ways to save money on RV trips, even if you only RV two or three nights per year. RV clubs provide members with perks like discounts on various campgrounds and parks. Some clubs also offer deals at various hotels, mechanics, and insurance companies for members.

Several leading RV clubs you can join to score discounts include:

  • Boondockers Welcome. This RV club costs $50 per year and lets you find free off-the-grid camping spots from over 2,900 hosts worldwide. Boondockers Welcome also provides members with various discounts for services like RV mobile Internet and additional campgrounds.
  • Escapees RV Club. For $49.95 per year, you get 15% to 50% off at over 800 RV parks. Members also get discounts for certain RV mechanics, insurance, and roadside assistance.
  • Good Sam. Good Sam’s RV club costs $29 per year, making it one of the cheapest RV clubs. Members save 10% on 2,100 partner campgrounds and gas and diesel at Pilot Flying J gas stations. Members also save 15% on propane at Camping World and Gander RV & Outdoors in addition to enjoying merchandise discounts at these two retailers and other Good Sam partners.
  • Harvest Hosts. This RV club costs $99 per year and lets you camp for free at over 2,400 farms, breweries, wineries, and museums across North America.
  • Passport America. For $44 per year, Passport America lets you save 50% at over 1,450 campsites.

The cheap annual membership and significant campground and RV park savings make these clubs cost-effective. RV campsites generally cost $20 to $50 per night. Even if you RV once per year, getting 10% to 50% off campgrounds can cover your membership cost after two to three nights.

While planning your RV road trip, check various RV clubs to see if they have partner campgrounds along your route or plan your route based on your membership. RV clubs list campground partners on their websites so you can cross-reference their partners to find affordable camping spots as you drive.

If you’re a AAA member, you can also take advantage of several RV member discounts (which vary by AAA club) and add RV coverage to unlock perks like:

  • Free RV towing up to a certain number of miles, depending on your level of coverage
  • Flat tire service
  • Fuel delivery service
  • Vehicle locksmith credits
  • Free car rentals
  • Discounts on parts and accessories at partner auto parts stores

AAA also has other member benefits, depending on your level of coverage and location, and includes roadside assistance. Plus, members get discounts to partners like Carfax, Hertz, Shell, and various hotels.

Between possible AAA discounts and savings from an RV club, you can reliably save on campground costs and potential vehicle repairs and towing.

2. Travel Off-Season

RVing usually involves sightseeing in the cities you drive through. That means paying for extras like park passes, guided tours, and day passes to various attractions.

But you can save money by traveling off-season. Hotels, parks, and tourist attractions often have cheaper rates during nonpeak tourism season. For example, according to Visit Arizona, lower fall and winter rates for popular attractions include:

  • 40% off lodging for the Canyon de Chelly National Monument
  • 10% off hotels in Flagstaff
  • Lower hotel prices and a better touring experience of the Grand Canyon

Visiting Phoenix or Tucson in the summer can also save a lot of money since the intense heat wards off more vacationers, so accommodations and tours are less expensive.

Arizona is just one example, but the same concept applies in other cities, depending on when tourists typically visit.

3. Shop Around for Affordable RV Rentals

More than 11 million U.S. households own an RV, according to RV Industry Association data. But for new RV enthusiasts who don’t own their own recreational vehicle, renting is likely the only choice unless you can borrow an RV from someone you know.

But RV rentals from dealerships can easily cost hundreds of dollars per day if you opt for larger Class-A or Class-C motor homes. Thankfully, the sharing economy has propelled the rise of several Airbnb-style marketplaces where you can rent inexpensive RVs.

Some popular RV rental websites include Outdoorsy, Rvezy, and RVshare, though there are many other popular RV rental companies.

The most effective way to save money on an RV rental is to stick with smaller vehicles like camper vans, travel trailers, and Class-B motor homes. On person-to-person RV rental sites, you can usually rent Class-B motor homes for around $100 per day (or even less if you find a deal), and travel trailers can be as cheap as $50 per day.

It’s one of the most effective ways to save money on rental fees.

4. Save Money With RV Relocation Deals

RV dealerships and websites like Cruise America sometimes offer relocation deals. Relocation deals are essentially cheap one-way RV road trips. For example, you might find a relocation deal that asks you to transport an RV from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Seattle, Washington.

Many relocation deals cost $1 in rental fees or are significantly lower than paying the standard daily rate for the vehicle. Deals also often include a free daily mileage limit and reimburse you for gas. Some deals even throw in free extras like cooking and bedding kits or a meal stipend.

Several websites where RV dealers list relocation deals include:

The catch is that you have to reach the drop-off point by a specific date and time. That doesn’t allow for much sightseeing, and you can face late penalties and pay full price for any additional miles and time you spend on the road.

Some relocation deals let you extend the time you’re driving if you want to move at your own pace. But it’s uncommon, and extending your trip usually means paying full price for each additional day you drive. Plus, since you’re not driving the RV home, you have to find another way home, like booking a cheap flight or hopping on a train.

Ultimately, relocation deals are the cheapest way to take a speedy RV road trip. But if you want to travel slowly and create your own itinerary, it’s not the right travel choice.

5. Book Your RV Early

The last thing you want is to plan an incredible road trip only to find the available RV rentals are all more expensive than you thought. You also want to avoid not being able to rent an RV and having to drive to another city to pick up your rental.

Start researching RV rental options as early as possible and contact the dealership or RV owner to confirm availability for your travel dates. Booking earlier also helps you lock in lower pricing and gives you time to shop around for cheaper RVs. When you call an RV dealer, also clarify mileage limits and ask questions about what’s included in your rental.

6. Only Rent Add-Ons You Need

Buying your own camping supplies or tent is a significant upfront expense, so renting sometimes makes sense if you only road-trip once every few years. But if you’re a frequent RVer and camper, buying your own supplies makes sense. And they sell more than tent add-ons.

RV dealerships and rental marketplaces often let you rent basic personal supplies. For example, you can rent cooking and bedding kits that come with basic kitchen supplies and necessities like blankets and pillows. The kits are convenient, but they’re also a waste of money.

For example, a kitchen kit from Cruise America, a popular RV dealership, costs $110. Similarly, personal kits cost $60. If you rent four personal kits, that’s $240 alone in additional fees for your trip.

Instead of renting, prepare DIY RV kits at home. You can buy inexpensive kitchen and travel supplies from any dollar store. Similarly, bring blankets and sheets from home or purchase extras from Amazon. If you RV multiple times over the next few years, it could result in potentially hundreds of dollars in savings for very little effort.

You can also buy used camping gear on Craigslist or the Facebook Marketplace to avoid paying full price. Or check Nextdoor to see if a neighbor can loan you some supplies or sell you their secondhand goods.

Other rental options you can skip if you plan ahead include:

  • Campaign chairs
  • Camper stoves
  • Bikes
  • Lawn games

7. RV Insurance Research

If you’re renting an RV, you usually pay a daily RV insurance fee alongside the daily rental price. But some companies let you choose how much coverage you have, which influences costs.

For example, Outdoorsy offers multiple levels of insurance for renters with deductibles depending on the value of the vehicle. Typically, deductibles range from $1,000 to $4,000 for physical damage and comprehensive and collision coverage.

Similarly, RVshare insurance plans start at around $10 per day for towable RVs with basic collision, weather, and theft coverage. Renters can also upgrade to have additional broken glass and falling object protection for towable RVs starting at $18 per day. Large motor home insurance starts at $20 per day for collision, weather, and theft coverage, but renters can upgrade for broken glass and falling object protection starting at $41 per day.

When researching RVs to rent, factor in the size of the vehicle and what deductible you’re comfortable with. An otherwise affordable RV trip can become a financial nightmare if you’re suddenly on the hook for a $4,000 deductible because of vehicle damage.

As for RV owners, finding affordable insurance is also essential. Popular RV insurance companies include National General and Progressive, so start your insurance search by using the online quote tools to compare premiums for your class of motor home.

Additionally, check your current auto and homeowners insurance provider to see if you can save by bundling motor home insurance with your existing policy. For example, Allstate and Nationwide offer insurance discounts for having multiple policies. Allstate also provides discounts for retirees, and Nationwide becomes cheaper if you pay your policy in full and remain accident-free for 36 months.

You can also get RV insurance and additional perks like extended roadside assistance if you’re a AAA member and insure your RV through AAA.

You shouldn’t skimp on RV insurance to save money if it means taking on a higher deductible than you can comfortably afford or risking being on the hook entirely if your RV suffers damages. But like any insurance policy, it pays to shop around and leverage discounts when it makes sense.

8. Plan Inexpensive Driving Routes

You’re always going to spend money on a road trip, but the route you take heavily influences how much you spend on things like gas and overnight stays.

One of the most crucial things to look for when planning is free or cheap campsites. Spending $20 per night versus $50 means hundreds of dollars in savings over your road trip. You still want to find pleasant campsites with electrical, sewage, and water access, if possible, but compare prices to locate the cheapest campsite in each area.

Other considerations you should have when planning an RV route include:

  • Points of interest along the route
  • Cheap gas station availability
  • Avoiding areas of congestion and toll roads

Factoring all this data into a trip that spans hundreds or thousands of miles isn’t simple. But you can use RV trip-planning tools to find affordable routes instead of manually researching routes.

RV Trip Wizard is one planning tool that has over 10 million data points for campgrounds, state parks, and points of interest. The planner also lets you estimate fuel and campground costs. It’s $49 per year, but considering how much time and money you save, it’s worth it.

RV clubs like Good Sam also let members use a trip-planning tool comparable to RV Trip Wizard. If you’re already a Good Sam’s member, it’s your best choice.

Finally, Roadtrippers has a free trip-planning tool that lets you create a simple route with five waypoints (overnight stops). It doesn’t let you save many points of interest, but the map still highlights campgrounds, parks, restaurants, and attractions along the way. If you want to save up to 150 points, have offline map access, and view live traffic, Roadtrippers Plus costs $29.99 per year.

If you don’t want to spend money, you can create your own road trip itinerary using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. RV Leaguers has a free RV itinerary template you can use to record the campgrounds you’re stopping at each night, daytime stops, campground costs, and points of interest to see.

Regardless of your trip-planning tool, account for mileage limits. Most RV rentals only let you drive a certain number of miles per day before charging mileage overages. Once you know how many miles you can drive per day, create your road trip plan and map out where you’re stopping each night to stay within your limit.

9. Book Free Campsites

Campsite expenses can derail an otherwise inexpensive RV trip if you book multiple sites. But one advantage of RV living is that you can set up camp for the night without much notice.

That flexibility means you can leverage free campgrounds along your route to avoid staying at more expensive parks. Websites like Free Campsites and FreeRoam have a directory of free campgrounds and parks, though the latter focuses on sites without hookups for water, electricity, or your sewage system.

Additionally, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) maintains information on camping on public land, including info on permits and fees and tips for campsite selection. You can also search BLM partner site Recreation.gov for free spots along your road trip.

Similarly, you can search the National Forest Foundation’s website to find free public forests to camp in. Some forests require a national park pass from the National Park Service. The pass costs $80 per year, but there’s plenty of free land to camp on.

In general, if you’re road-tripping across a popular route, you can find free camping spots. Some Walmarts also allow free overnight parking if you have an RV. According to Walmart.com, you should contact store management to ensure the store allows overnight parking. You can find a specific store and phone number with Walmart’s store finder tool. Rest stations along highways are another free overnight RV option.

10. Try Boondocking

Boondocking refers to RVing without having hookups to water, electricity, or a sewage system. When you boondock, you’re usually camping overnight on free public land. But even staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot is technically boondocking.

Boondocking is generally free, so it’s an immediate way to save money on RV travel. In some cases, you must pay an overnight fee if you’re boondocking at a campground, but it’s still cheaper than staying at a campground where you hook up to an electrical, water, and sewage system.

Just remember to keep an eye on your gray water tank (water waste) and black water tank (regular waste) before boondocking. It’s illegal in most instances to dump gray or black water on the ground, so you need to find a dump station before boondocking if you’re close to full. Truck stops sometimes have dump stations, as do RV parks.

Being off-grid isn’t for everyone, and if you need a shower at the end of the day or want access to electricity, boondocking isn’t for you. But to save money and potentially enjoy more wilderness during your RV trip, boondocking is a frugal travel trick worth trying.

11. Save Money on Gas

One of your most significant RV expenses is fuel. While it has less of an impact on local RV camping or short drives, saving money on gas is a must if you’re planning a major road trip.

The simplest way to save on gas is to downsize. Class-A and Class-C motor homes consume more fuel than smaller vehicles like Class-B motor homes or camper vans. But even if you need a large RV, you can do things to reduce your overall weight and fuel consumption, such as avoid towing.

Smaller tricks also help cut fuel costs. For example, using less air conditioning, driving slower, and regularly emptying your waste tank reduce gas consumption.

You can also refuel at cheaper gas stations along your route. Apps that find low-priced gas include:

  • GetUpside. The GetUpside app lets you save $0.25 per gallon. The primary difference is that your savings don’t apply directly at the pump like with GasBuddy. Rather, you earn cash back that’s redeemable for PayPal cash and free gift cards. You can also earn cash back on groceries and restaurant purchases, which is useful for food shopping during your road trip.
  • GasBuddy. Like GetUpside, you can save up to $0.25 per gallon on gas by using GasBuddy’s gas card. Additionally, the free app helps you find cheap local gas stations along your route. GasBuddy also has a gas cost calculator so you can estimate your fuel costs while planning your trip.
  • Waze. Waze helps you save money on gas by highlighting traffic and accidents so you can avoid congested areas and unnecessary idling. The app also highlights tolls, police, and speed cameras to help you avoid toll fees or potential tickets. Additionally, Waze users can report local gas prices to help other members find cheap gas stations, and the entire app uses real-time feedback from users to help you drive more efficiently.

GasBuddy and GetUpside are the best apps for finding the cheapest gas and earning cash back for refueling. But you should always drive with Waze to avoid traffic, accidents, and road closures, provided you have unlimited data on your cell plan.

12. Watch Your Gas Mileage Limits (if Renting)

When you rent an RV, there’s usually a daily mileage limit you can drive. If you go over that limit, many rental companies charge around $0.35 per additional mile.

That means going 50 extra miles can cost an additional $17.50 in fees, plus gas. If you go several hundred miles over your limit during your trip, you’re looking at $100 or more in mileage fees.

13. Use a Cash-Back Credit Card

Gas rewards cards let you earn cash back at the pump, which is useful for expensive RV refuels. And if you open a card before your trip, you usually benefit from a welcome bonus of extra points for spending a certain amount within the first few months of opening a card.

And they’re not just useful for gas or RV trips. In addition to getting cash back on regular driving, such as your daily commute and running errands, many come with perks like cash back on groceries and dining, which can also lower the cost of both daily living and your RV trip.

Some popular gas rewards credit cards include:

  • American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card. Get 3% back on gas and transit costs and 6% cash back on groceries (up to $6,000) and dining plus cash back on everything else. This card also comes with a hefty six-month spending bonus and 20% cash back from Amazon for the first six months. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Read our American Express Blue Cash Preferred card review for more.
  • Citi Premier Card. This card lets you earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining, gas, groceries, and travel. You also get 60,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months of becoming a cardholder, so it’s wise to open this card right before heading off on your road trip and spending on road trip preparations. The primary downside is that there’s a $95 annual fee. Read our Citi Premier card review for more.
  • U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card: Get 4 points per $1 spent on travel and gas plus 2 points per $1 spent on groceries and dining purchases. There’s also a 50,000-point bonus for spending $3,000 within your first four months, so open this card before your trip. This card waves the $95 annual fee for your first year. Read our U.S. Bank Altitude Connect Visa Signature card review for more.

Depending on your shopping habits, more specific gas credit cards you already have can also help you save during your road trip. For example, the Costco Anywhere Visa® card by Citi lets Costco members earn 4% cash back on gas on their first $7,000 in gas spending at Costco gas stations and other qualifying stations. You also earn 3% cash back on travel and restaurant purchases, which is useful for road trip dining or occasional hotel stays. Read our Costco Anywhere Visa card review for more details.

Similarly, the BP Visa credit card lets you save $0.10 per gallon at participating BP and Amoco gas stations. Cardholders also get 3% cash back on grocery store purchases, so it’s a well-rounded card to have on your road trip if your route passes numerous BP and Amoco gas stations.

As you plan your trip, think about how you can use your current credit cards to maximize savings for travel costs like fuel and food. If you don’t have a cash-back credit card, choose a card that helps you save on your road trip and regular purchasing habits. For example, there’s little point in getting the BP card just because there are savings opportunities along your route if you don’t have a BP or Amoco station near your home. Other cards can provide similar benefits.

14. Prepare Your Own Food and Drinks

One of the fastest ways to turn a cheap RV trip into an expensive vacation is to eat out for your meals. For example, daily restaurant spending for a family of four quickly adds up (prices approximate).

  • Breakfast at Dunkin’: $11.80 (two medium coffees, two apple juices, and four doughnuts)
  • Lunch at Subway: $21 (four 6-inch subs of the day plus drinks)
  • Dinner at Cracker Barrel: $50 (four daily dinner specials plus nonalcoholic drinks)

Total Cost: $83

Even if you make breakfast in your RV and occasionally cook lunches and dinner, eating out gets expensive quickly.

It’s easy to cook your own meals if your motor home comes with a kitchen. But even if you’re in a smaller vehicle without a kitchen, you can buy an affordable two-burner camping stove for under $80 on Amazon. You can also buy bundles of firewood for around $5 at most campgrounds or find dry kindling and logs in the woods and cook the old-fashioned way over an outdoor campfire.

When you’re set up to cook yourself, daily food costs for a family of four get much more budget-friendly.

  • Breakfast: $2 (two instant coffees with creamer, two juice boxes, and four packets of instant oatmeal)
  • Lunch: $8 (ham, lettuce, and cheese sandwiches with two water bottles and two juice boxes)
  • Dinner: $14 (pasta with sausages, a side Caesar salad, and fruit juice)

Total Cost: $24

The same premise applies to alcohol. For example, if you go out at night for drinks, you’re likely spending around $5 or $6 for domestic beer and $8 for import beer, depending on where you go. In contrast, a 24-pack of Heineken from Walmart costs around $27, or just over $1 per beer. That’s around 500% to 600% less than paying for drinks at a bar or restaurant.

Desserts and snacks are other areas to save on food. Rather than going to Dairy Queen and spending $18 on four medium Blizzards, buy ingredients for s’mores from the grocery store instead. A package of marshmallows, graham crackers, and a chocolate bar is around $7 at Walmart, and you can use the ingredients for several nights of snacking before running out.

By dining in, you can likely save 50% to 75% or more on food and drink costs for your RV trip. Additionally, if you use various grocery saving tricks like shopping with reward apps like Fetch Rewards or Ibotta, you can trim costs even more. Plus, if you’re traveling with kids, RV cooking is an excellent bonding and educational experience.

15. Save Money on Maintenance and Repairs

One way to derail a cheap RV trip is to let simple repairs force you off the road and into a mechanic’s shop. Like all vehicles, RVs inevitably experience wear and tear and need repairs. But that doesn’t mean you should spend a fortune.

If you’re an owner or rent frequently or long-term, learn how to maintain your vehicle properly to prevent damage. For example, you should apply RV roof sealant once per year to reduce the risk of leaks. Similarly, many RV generators suggest changing the oil every 100 to 150 hours (around four to six days) of usage.

DIY repairs also let you save money on your RV. Examples of DIY RV fixes include tasks like fixing clogs in your plumbing system with a plumbing snake, replacing a flat tire, or even break repair.

But stay within your comfort zone. Don’t tackle a problem if you don’t know what you’re doing since with certain tasks, such as electrical fixes, you risk worsening the situation and self-injury.

If you break down on the road, your only real option is to tow your RV to a local mechanic for repairs. That’s why having roadside assistance or complimentary towing with a company like AAA is beneficial. According to RVshare, it’s a smart move to shop around at RV mechanics if you encounter serious issues, so if possible, call several mechanics and get preliminary quotes before towing your RV.

But maintenance is still the best preventative measure, so a resource like “The RV Handbook” by Dave Solberg is a must-read for RV owners. If you don’t know how to do DIY repairs, take your RV to a local mechanic before departing to get an inspection and possible tune-up. That’s especially crucial for older vehicles and vehicles you haven’t serviced regularly.


Final Word

RV life isn’t for everyone, and for many, an all-inclusive vacation on a Caribbean beach probably sounds more fun than driving across the country, camping in the wilderness as you go.

But for RV enthusiasts, RVing can truly become a way of life. But it’s always important to stick to a travel budget and find ways to save on your vacation where you can.

At the very least, focus on the most impactful cost-cutting areas, like saving on food costs, gas, and campgrounds. As long as you can trim most of the fat from your RV travel costs, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the RV lifestyle without harming your finances.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Buying a Vacation Home as an Investment Rental Property – Pros & Cons

It sounds so sexy: Buy a vacation rental property to rent out for most of the year, and occasionally use it yourself just for fun.

And it can work out well — if you go into it with the mindset of operating a hospitality business. If you go into it starry-eyed, daydreaming about buying a second home and getting other people to pay for it, prepare for a rude awakening.

Managing a short-term rental property takes a lot of work. You can outsource that work to a property manager, but it will cost you. In fact, most new vacation rental owners are surprised by just how many expenses they incur as a landlord.

But owning vacation rentals comes with advantages too, beyond the “chic” factor. Here’s what you need to know before buying a short-term rental property.

Pros of Short-Term Rentals

Done right, short-term rentals can be profitable, tax-friendly, and downright fun investments.

As you start exploring the vacation rental industry, keep these advantages in mind, and aim to maximize them as much as possible.

1. Passive Income

Rental properties, whether leased short-term or long-term, make an excellent source of passive income. If you buy at the right price and manage them effectively, that is.

My friend Zack averages nearly $1,000 per month in cash flow from his Airbnb rental. It’s not in some fancy resort town either; it’s in downtown Baltimore. Originally he lived in it, then he moved out and converted it into a long-term rental. But he ran the numbers and discovered he could earn more each year operating it as an Airbnb rental.

You don’t have to buy an oceanfront bungalow or ski chalet to get into the vacation rental industry. Forget the image of being a vacation rental owner, and focus on the cash flow.

Because when you do your homework and learn the ropes, rental properties offer a time-tested strategy for earning passive income.

2. Appreciation

Rental properties don’t just provide ongoing cash flow. They also typically appreciate over time, raising your net worth and building equity with little effort required on your part.

Critics are quick to point out that appreciation is not guaranteed, and they’re absolutely right. But declining property values are rare over the long term, and it’s just as common for real estate values to leap upward in value faster than average as they are to appreciate slower.

Although it shouldn’t be your primary reason for buying a vacation home rental, appreciation usually provides additional profit when it comes time to sell. And even as your property rises in value, your renters pay down your mortgage, leaving an ever-expanding equity gap between what you owe and the property’s value.

3. Lower Risk of Rent Defaults & Evictions

Long-term tenants can be a nightmare. From not bothering to pay the rent to trashing your property, dealing with bad tenants often drives landlords to sell and never look back.

As a vacation rental owner, you collect the rent upfront. If their payment fails, so does their booking.

That means you don’t have to worry about landlord migraines like having to evict bad tenants.

There are a few exceptions. If your guests stay longer than a month or two, they may gain squatters’ rights, forcing you to formally evict them (rather than just calling the cops) if they refuse to vacate. But that kind of bad behavior proves blessedly rare in the vacation rental industry.

4. Ever-Improving Automation

You can automate a lot in today’s world, including most of your guest interactions and the check-in and check-out process.

For example, Airbnb lets you auto-approve bookings without manual oversight if you like. Or you can manually review guests’ profiles before approving them.

A few days before your guests’ arrival, you can schedule a template message with instructions for entry. The guests arrive, and they can access the property with a key code, hidden key box, smart lock, or whatever other automated entry systems you’ve implemented.

You can leave them a welcome packet on the coffee table with crucial details like the Wi-Fi password and which local cafe offers the best almond skim latte. Include instructions for where to leave the key when they check out and send an automated reminder message the night before.

You can then send a brief series of exit messages thanking them for their stay, and requesting they leave you a review —all going out automatically, or at least saved as template messages. All you need to do is send in the cleaners afterward, which can easily be done through Handy.com.

5. Tax Benefits

Rental properties of any tenancy duration come with some great tax deductions.

All relevant expenses are deductible of course, including mortgage interest. You can even deduct some paper expenses that don’t cost you cash, such as depreciation.

Best of all, those deductions come off your rental profits and don’t require you to itemize your deductions. You can take them on top of the standard deduction.

Owning a vacation rental property might even let you get away with writing off the occasional visit to it — purely to check in and do some maintenance, of course.

When you go to sell the property, you can avoid capital gains taxes on your profits by doing a 1031 exchange. There are a lot of ways to lower your tax bill as a real estate investor, but be sure to check with a tax professional first.

6. You Can Use the Property Yourself

It’s dangerous to mix business and pleasure. People tend to make emotional decisions and then twist together some dodgy logic to justify them. “This beach house in Naples? Don’t be silly, I’m not buying it for me. It’s an investment property!”

With that caveat in mind, you can occasionally use your short-term rental properties for yourself. Who wouldn’t love to own a vacation property?

Just make sure you buy based on cash flow first and foremost. If the property happens to be in a location you’d enjoy using yourself, well, that can be fun too.


Cons of Short-Term Rentals

For all of the perks, vacation rentals also come with their fair share of risks.

Most of the risks can be mitigated, but it takes some knowledge, work, and discipline on your part. Here’s what you need to be aware of when buying and managing vacation rental properties.

1. Risk of Poor Cash Flow

New landlords who don’t do their homework get a nasty surprise when they eventually realize just how many expenses they incur every year.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard people say “Well, the rental income is $1,500, and the mortgage payment is only $1,000, so I’ll clear $500 a month.” That investor is about to lose their shirt.

Beyond the principle and interest payment on the mortgage, other landlord expenses include:

  • Property taxes
  • Property insurance
  • Vacancy rate
  • Property management fees
  • Repairs and maintenance costs
  • Cleaning costs (in the case of vacation rentals)
  • Furniture (in the case of vacation rentals)
  • Bookkeeping, accounting, administrative, and travel expenses

It adds up quickly. Additionally, vacation rental landlords suffer far higher vacancy rates than traditional landlords. Vacancy rates are uneven and subject to seasonality. The summer high season might see 90% occupancy rates, but what about the offseason?

Before buying a vacation rental property, sit down with a spreadsheet and a phone. Keep calling local property managers until you get accurate numbers for each of the expenses above, and fill them into your spreadsheet. Pay particular attention to the vacancy rate, collecting accurate numbers for every single month of the year.

Then, and only then, you can accurately forecast your average annual cash flow.

2. Risk of Regulatory & Tax Burdens

Not every city and state loves the vacation rental industry.

For that matter, the hotel industry hasn’t just politely moved aside to welcome the disruption caused by Airbnb and Vrbo. They’ve spent millions of dollars to lobby against home-grown vacation rental owners, largely on the local level, but The Hill reports that the industry spends millions in federal lobbying dollars as well.

In many markets, it’s worked. Some cities and states impose their own custom rules, regulations, and taxes on vacation property owners. For example, some cities and states require mom-and-pop vacation property owners to pay hotel or sales taxes. Others require them to get a business license.

Some places virtually outlaw Airbnb and mom-and-pop operators. Santa Monica, California, for example, wiped out 80% of the local Airbnb market through its combination of taxes and regulation, according to Forbes.

Before buying a vacation rental, do your due diligence on the local laws impacting vacation rental owners. It’s not enough to know the current laws — you also need to prepare for changing regulations in the future.

Protect against future regulation by running the numbers on the property as a long-term rental as well. You should always have a contingency plan ready before buying a real estate investment.

3. Risk of Damage

Renters can damage your property whether they stay one night or one year. It’s simply a risk of becoming a landlord.

One way landlords mitigate this risk is by collecting a security deposit. But as anyone who’s seen “Animal House” can attest, your renters can easily do more damage in a single night than the security deposit can cover.

Using platforms like Airbnb, you can also screen vacationers by reading prior hosts’ reviews of them. While this can help you spot a habitual damager, it’s hardly foolproof. It also requires you to either turn off Instabook or cancel on sketchy guests after they book, which creates an automated review on your property stating that you canceled a booking.

While you should collect a security deposit and check guests’ reviews, you should also set a generous budget for repair and maintenance expenses.

4. More Labor Than Long-Term Rentals

Even if you automate the check-in and check-out process, you can still expect more property management labor than a typical long-term rental property.

After all, turnovers are where landlords see most of their labor. And vacation rental properties see a lot of turnovers.

You can outsource this labor to a property management company if you like. Or you can do it yourself, in which case you should pay yourself for it just as you would pay a property manager. It’s a labor expense regardless of who’s doing the labor, and you should account for it.

5. Furnishing & Decorating

Long-term landlords don’t have to furnish or decorate their units. Airbnb hosts do.

That adds to your expenses, both initially and on an ongoing basis. Your guests will cause wear and tear on your furniture, and occasionally break the décor. So these costs need to be in your budget of expenses.

Of course, no one says you have to buy brand new furniture or art. Your guests certainly don’t expect to be the first people to sit on the couch or sleep in the bed. Furniture is one of the many things you should always buy secondhand, especially in the context of vacation rental properties.

You can even use some of your own furniture you’ve outgrown, giving it a second life.

Just make sure the furniture and décor are tasteful and cohesive. When in doubt, call up a friend with impeccable taste and ask their opinion for some free interior decorating insight.


Final Word

Short-term rental properties can make excellent sources of passive income, tax benefits, long-term appreciation, and the occasional getaway. But they can also cost you dearly if you fail to analyze the cash flow and regulatory requirements, or if you manage them poorly.

Be especially careful to avoid getting caught up in the idea of owning a vacation rental, and buying because you’re excited about it rather than because the cold, hard numbers make sense. This property is an investment first, and a vacation retreat for you second.

Keep in mind that renting the property by the night or week isn’t your only option. You can offer it as a seasonal, month-long, or corporate rental. This is something travel nurses look for, for example.

You can — and should — run the numbers on renting the property to long-term tenants as well, if only as a contingency plan in case the laws or market conditions change.

Run the numbers carefully, approach your rental properties like a business, and protect yourself vigilantly so you can create a fun side business offering low-cost, tax-friendly vacations.

Source: moneycrashers.com