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See How Much House $300,000 Can Buy Across the U.S.

Have you ever asked yourself, “How much house can I afford?” in different cities across the country? Well, in conjunction with Realtor.com, we’ve crunched the numbers for you to find out what $300,000 buys in the 20 largest metro markets in the United States.

What’s more, we’ve figured out how much you’d need to earn in those cities to afford a $300,000 home, assuming you can find one. You can thank us later.

In the gallery below, you can see actual listings from Realtor.com, as of Aug. 30, 2016, with an asking price of roughly $300,000. Click on the first image to open the gallery view and see the listing data for each property.

As you can see, your money goes a lot further in states like Texas and Georgia, with more than 3,000 square feet of legroom in some stately suburban McMansions. But in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, you’d be feeling a bit cramped; you’d be lucky to find anything over 800 square feet in those cities at this price point. Ouch.

To take the nerdy number crunching a step further, we asked Realtor.com to find out the minimum annual income needed to buy a $300,000 home in these markets. The income estimates are not a one-size-fits-all solution for each situation; the figures depend heavily on the size of your down payment, and they don’t take into account other debts a homebuyer might have. Keep in mind that the more money you put down, the less your loan amount will be — and that eases the pressure on how much you’d need to earn to afford a $300,000 in the nation’s 20 largest metros.

It’s clear that you’ll get more for your money buying in the South and the Midwest than on the East or West coasts, but the latter options have cities with booming economies and job markets that make them more attractive than some of their Southern neighbors, especially to millennials.

Keep in mind, though, that price isn’t the only consideration of where you choose to live. Think about job opportunities, crime, the local economy, schools, distance from family and friends, and home styles — all factors that might influence your happiness in a new home. Choose wisely, friends!

More from NerdWallet How to sell your houseCompare mortgage rates Find a mortgage broker

Deborah Kearns is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: dkearns@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @debbie_kearnsNerdWallet writer Caren Weiner Campbell contributed to this report.

4 Ways to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill

Have you ever opened your cell phone bill and thought, “Wow, that was cheap?” Yeah, didn’t think so.

But take heart: It’s possible to lower your charges before your next billing cycle.

Simple tweaks, such as updating your service address and changing or removing your insurance package can make small dents in your bill — and those savings add up over time. Changing your plan or even adding a line requires a little more legwork but can decrease your bill even more.

1. Change your plan

Goldilocks could relate to most cell phone users, who often struggle to find data plans that are just right. Often you pay for data you don’t need, or you don’t have enough data and you’re hit with overage charges.

Finding a plan that hits the sweet spot can save you hundreds of dollars each year. But before switching, figure out how much data you use. Take stock of your data use for the past three months, then research plans that fit that amount through your current carrier and its competitors.

Make this a habit to ensure you’re always getting the best deal. Keep in mind that wireless carriers change their plans regularly. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile have all overhauled theirs in 2016. So the best cell phone plan for you a year ago might not be the best now.

Verizon added rollover data to its new plans and eliminated overage charges on some data packages. AT&T rolled out new plans in August that include more data for less money. AT&T also eliminated overage charges and added data options.

2. Add lines

This seems counterintuitive, because adding one or more lines will increase your bill. But splitting the cost with other people can lower the amount you pay overall.

Consider this: One line with 4 gigabytes from Verizon costs $70. Add a second line to that plan and your total cost is $90, or just $45 per person, before taxes and fees. That’s a savings of $300 per year per line.

Even if you bumped up to Verizon’s 8GB plan to accommodate the second line, you’d still pay just $55 per person per month before taxes. That’s a savings of $15 per month.

 Cost for one lineCost for two linesTotal savings (family plan vs. individual plan) AT&T$60 per month (3GB)$100 per month (6GB), $50 per line$10 per month, per line Sprint$50 per month (3GB)$85 per month (6GB), $42.50 per line$7.50 per month, per line T-Mobile$50 per month (2GB)$80 per month (2GB per line), $40 per line$10 per month, per line Verizon$70 per month (4GB)$110 per month (8GB), $55 per line$15 per month, per line

» MORE: How to share your cell phone bill with your roommates

That’s because Verizon charges a set fee for your data plan and $20 for each line on the account. The same is true for most AT&T and Sprint plans. And larger plans typically give you more data for your money.

3. Change or remove your cell phone insurance

Most cell phone carriers offer a variety of protection plans. Your options can include extended warranties, insurance and full-blown 24/7 tech support for any Bluetooth-enabled device in your home. If the latter sounds excessive, that’s because it is.

In most cases, standard insurance provides more than enough coverage. It protects you if your phone is lost, stolen or damaged. It’s also the least expensive option available through your wireless carrier.

Switching from a premium protection plan to basic insurance coverage will save you a few dollars each month. That might not seem like a lot, but it can add up, especially if you have multiple lines on your plan.

AT&T customers can save $36 a year by switching from the carrier’s Mobile Protection Pack, which costs $10.99 per month, to its Mobile Insurance, which costs $7.99 per month. That’s $144 in savings per year for a family of four.

» MORE: How to make money off your old cell phone

Remove the Mobile Protection Pack without switching, and the savings for a single AT&T line climbs to more than $130 per year. This could be risky if you have a brand-new phone, but it can make sense for older devices. That’s because insurance providers for major cell phone carriers typically charge deductibles ranging from $100 to $300.

After about a year, the deductible and the accumulated monthly premiums add up to more than the phone is worth. At that point, you can typically save money by opting out of insurance and buying a used phone if yours is lost or stolen.

If forgoing a policy makes you feel vulnerable, consider an alternative, such as AppleCare+ or SquareTrade. Either option can save you more than $180 over two years on a premium protection package and even more if you make a claim. The drawback: Neither covers lost or stolen phones.

4. Update your service address

The taxes and fees added to your bill each month are based on where you live. If you’ve moved to a new state, or someone on your family plan has, you could save big just by updating your service address.

A person who moves from Washington state to Oregon would save an average of $170 per year in wireless taxes and fees, according to a June 2016 NerdWallet study. Migrating from Illinois to Wisconsin? You’d pocket $103.72 in savings on average. Those figures are based on an individual cell phone bill; the savings would be greater on a family plan.

Updating your service address is easy. In most cases, you simply log in to your account and change it under your user profile, just as you would for your billing address.

Each of these options on its own can can give you quick relief on your cell phone bill, and you can combine them for larger savings. If you’re open to a bigger change for bigger savings, consider a prepaid cell phone plan.

Kelsey Sheehy is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ksheehy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @KelseyLSheehy.

A Winning Strategy for Saving on Your Holiday Flight: Book Early, Use the Right Credit Card

Booking holiday flights is never a feel-good experience. It’s more of a “ripping off the Band-Aid” experience. You click “Buy now” and wince. Afterward, you avoid looking at your credit card statements and try to focus on more cheerful things, such as family and eggnog.

But this year can be less painful, if you get an early start. The secret to paying less for your flight has two parts:

  • Minimize your airfare cost by booking early, traveling on nonpeak days and splitting your reservation.
  • Maximize your credit card benefits by using your card’s travel perks and either paying for your flight with rewards or qualifying for a sign-up bonus or 0% annual percentage rate deal.

Here’s how you can do that.

Minimize your airfare cost

Simple economics tells you that when demand for tickets increases, airlines will increase prices. But you can generally avoid the worst of those high holiday airfares by booking early.

Buy tickets in October, at the latest

“In general, September is the best time to buy for Thanksgiving travel and October is the best time for Christmas,” says Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com.

The online travel agency, which tracks the daily average among 11,000 holiday airfares in 40 domestic markets, predicts that fares for flights around Christmas and New Year’s will dip in October by an average of $22. But in November and December, it expects those prices to increase sharply.

“It’s like playing the stock markets, in a sense,” Klee says.

Within those large-scale trends, all routes have their own ups and downs, of course. Once you know where you’re flying, watch for a drop in fares. If you see a good deal, Klee says, be prepared to buy, rather than hope for it to go lower, since the fare could spike back up at any time.

Consider traveling on a holiday

Sometimes, the cheapest holiday flights depart on the holiday itself.

For Thanksgiving travel, for instance, “The best time to fly is on Thursday morning,” says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, a flight deals website. If you leave in the morning, he points out, you may still be able to get to your destination in time for the festivities. In its analysis, CheapAir.com also notes that Christmas Day is one of the most affordable days to fly.

If you can’t stomach the idea of spending a holiday up in the air, consider flying on other less popular travel days. For 2016, these include Nov. 25 (Black Friday), Nov. 29 (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) and Dec. 19-21, according to CheapAir.com.

Split your reservation

You might be traveling with a small army of relatives over the holidays, á la “Home Alone.” But that doesn’t mean you all have to be on the same airline reservation. In fact, you’ll probably save more if you split your order up.

Because of a quirk in many airline reservation systems, “Everyone on the same reservation has to be at the same price,” Seaney says. If you buy four tickets, for example, and two are at a higher price, you’ll end up paying that higher price for every ticket on the reservation. But if you make four separate reservations, you can get the lowest price possible on each ticket, he says. This can be a good strategy if you’re traveling with adults or high-school-age kids and you’re OK with sitting apart from one another.

Maximize your credit card benefits

Even if you get tickets that are relatively inexpensive compared with other holiday airfares, you still might end up paying plenty. Round-trip airfare now runs over $400 on average, according to CheapAir.com. This is where your credit cards can help.

Research your credit card’s fringe benefits

If you’re a once-a-year kind of traveler, take stock of your credit card’s travel perks before buying plane tickets and booking the rest of your trip. Some cards offer credits for airline fees or checked baggage fees, discounts for flying with a companion, rental car coverage and trip cancellation insurance. Taking note of these can save you from paying for add-ons you’re already getting and might lower your bill considerably.

Pay with flexible travel rewards

If you have points or miles sitting on your general travel credit card, the holiday season might be an ideal time to cash them in. Unlike with frequent-flier miles tied to a specific airline, you can redeem these more flexible rewards without worrying about limited award seat availability or poor redemption value during peak season.

Say you’ve been earning rewards on the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. You can charge your travel expenses to those cards and then use your rewards to erase all or part of the cost. If you’ve been sitting on points from a sign-up bonus for a while, this could save you hundreds on holiday travel.

Qualify for a sign-up bonus or 0% APR offer

If you can’t redeem your points or miles for a holiday flight, you can still upgrade your plastic.

Before booking your flight, look for a new credit card that offers high flat-rate rewards, a sign-up bonus, a 0% APR period on purchases or all of the above. Some triple-threat cards, including the Chase Freedom Unlimited℠ and the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, do it all — and don’t charge an annual fee.

Once you’ve gotten your credit card, use it to book your flight. That might be enough to help you qualify for your sign-up bonus. And if you have a 0% APR period, you’ll have more time to pay down your bill interest-free.

Putting it all together

The less you have to worry about spending money on your holiday travel this season, the better.

Practically speaking, this is probably the best argument for planning your holiday trip early. If you dread paying for travel now, you’re going to feel the same way one month from now, or two months. And during that time, airfares will be getting more expensive, and you’ll have fewer credit card strategies at your disposal.

So, as with many of life’s decisions, it’s better to get it over with early. By the time the holidays finally roll around, you won’t have to worry about it anymore.

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: claire@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ideclaire7.

Mortgage Rates Today, Tuesday, Sept. 27: Rates Keep Dropping, New Homes in Demand

Mortgage rates just keep going lower. Thirty-year and 15-year fixed mortgage rates as well as 5/1 ARM rates saw notable dips, according to a NerdWallet survey of mortgage rates published by national lenders Tuesday.

Mortgage Rates Today, Tuesday, Sept. 27 (Change from 9/26) 30-year fixed: 3.57% APR (-0.04) 15-year fixed: 3.00% APR (-0.03) 5/1 ARM: 3.46% APR (-0.05) New home sales on the rise

What do you do when there’s not enough existing starter homes for sale? New data suggests homebuyers are increasingly choosing new construction. Sales of new single-family houses in August 2016 rose year-over-year to 609,000 units, according to estimates released jointly by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“New home sales for August were almost 21% stronger than August of 2015, and on a year-to-date basis, sales of new single-family homes are 13.3% higher than this time last year,” Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, said in a news release. “The trend is rising for new home sales, and NAHB expects continued growth in the year ahead given tight new and existing home inventories.”

The NAHB reported that there were only 56,000 completed, move-in ready new homes on the market as of August, which isn’t enough to keep pace with the demand from buyers facing inventory shortages of affordable existing homes for sale in many metro markets.

Homeowners looking to lower their mortgage rate can shop for refinance lenders here.

NerdWallet daily mortgage rates are an average of the published APR with the lowest points for each loan term offered by a sampling of major national lenders. Annual percentage rate quotes reflect an interest rate plus points, fees and other expenses, providing the most accurate view of the costs a borrower might pay.

More from NerdWallet Compare online mortgage refinance lenders Compare mortgage refinance rates Find a mortgage broker

Deborah Kearns is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: dkearns@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @debbie_kearns.

5 States That Help Consumers Get Answers, Save Money on Insurance

When you have a question about insurance, you can sift through a mountain of search engine results or visit the website of your state’s department of insurance. Either way, you might not find the answer you’re looking for, unless you live in a handful of states where insurance departments are going the extra mile.

A recent NerdWallet study of all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that most state insurance department websites lack some of the tools and resources to help their residents make better insurance decisions and save money. But a few departments are doing far better than average.

The average state earned a score of 60% in the NerdWallet analysis, but the average score among the top five ranked departments was 91%. Texas scored the highest at 98%, followed by Kansas (93%), Colorado (91%), Maryland (87%) and Utah (86%).

The study looked at more than 20 different measures in four categories. The highest-scoring states were more likely to:

  • Have updated premium comparisons.
  • List updated insurance company complaint data for auto, health, homeowners and life insurance.
  • Offer consumer education resources.
  • Provide good phone help.

These features were also more comprehensive and easier to find on the top-scoring sites.

“Some insurance departments do a better job and are more committed to educating consumers and providing resources,” says Birny Birnbaum, executive director of the Center for Economic Justice, who added that all of the departments have room for growth.

All state insurance departments collect and resolve insurance complaints from consumers, monitor rate and policy changes, and set regulations to govern the industry. They are in a unique place to help local residents understand insurance.

Elizabeth Renter is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: elizabeth@nerdwallet.com. Twitter:@ElizabethRenter.

54% of Arizona High School Students Didn’t Complete the FAFSA

More than half of Arizona high school students did not complete or submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in the 2014 application cycle, according to a study by NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Arizona’s rate of incompletion is higher than the national FAFSA incompletion rate of 45%, among students in all states and Washington, D.C.

The FAFSA is needed to determine eligibility for financial aid. NerdWallet found that in 2014 more than 1.4 million high school students nationwide didn’t fill out the FAFSA. By not applying, students miss out on federal, state and school financial aid, including student loans, scholarships, work-study and grants. Nationwide, in the past academic year, students missed out on $2.7 billion in free grant money, while Arizona high school students missed out on $68.2 million.

Arizona students will soon have a chance to improve overall completion rates and claim more grant money. The new start date to fill out your FAFSA is Oct. 1, 2016, for the 2017-2018 school year, giving students the chance to find out about financial aid three months sooner than in previous years. The U.S. Department of Education encourages students to submit an application as soon as possible since many forms of aid can run out. The cutoff point to submit the FAFSA will be June 30, 2018, but states and schools will have their own deadlines.

This year you’ll be able to use “prior-prior year” tax information to apply — that means 2015 tax info, not 2016. Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically transfer tax information to your form. To speed up the process, make sure you have all other materials you’ll need to apply. You’ll also be asked to choose up to 10 schools that you want to receive your student aid report. You can do this by using codes found through the federal school code search tool or on each school’s website.

You can file your application online at fafsa.ed.gov. Before you apply, learn more details about the changes to this year’s FAFSA.

Anna Helhoski is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: anna@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski.

37% of California High School Students Didn’t Complete the FAFSA

More than one-third of California high school students did not complete or submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in the 2014 application cycle, according to a study by NerdWallet, a personal finance website. California’s rate of incompletion is lower than the national FAFSA incompletion rate of 45%, among students in all states and Washington, D.C.

The FAFSA is needed to determine eligibility for financial aid. NerdWallet found that in 2014 more than 1.4 million high school students nationwide didn’t fill out the FAFSA. By not applying, students miss out on federal, state and school financial aid, including student loans, scholarships, work-study and grants. Nationwide, in the past academic year, students missed out on $2.7 billion in free grant money, while California high school students missed out on $342.4 million.

The California Student Aid Commission has a strong commitment to promoting FAFSA filings, and application completions for the California Dream Act and California Chafee Grant Program for foster youth. As the Oct. 1 start day looms, the commission is “fully engaged” in its early FAFSA campaign across the state, according to Patti Colston, a spokesperson for the commission, which helps up to 50,000 families complete applications. The commission runs hundreds of locally organized California Cash for College workshops annually to help families file for aid.

California students will soon have a chance to further increase overall completion rates and claim more grant money. The new start date to fill out your FAFSA is Oct. 1, 2016, for the 2017-2018 school year, giving students the chance to find out about financial aid three months sooner than in previous years. The U.S. Department of Education encourages students to submit an application as soon as possible since many forms of aid can run out. The cutoff point to submit the FAFSA will be June 30, 2018, but states and schools will have their own deadlines.

This year you’ll be able to use “prior-prior year” tax information to apply — that means 2015 tax info, not 2016. Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically transfer tax information to your form. To speed up the process, make sure you have all other materials you’ll need to apply. You’ll also be asked to choose up to 10 schools that you want to receive your student aid report. You can do this by using codes found through the federal school code search tool or on each school’s website.

You can file your application online at fafsa.ed.gov. Before you apply, learn more details about the changes to this year’s FAFSA.

Anna Helhoski is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: anna@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski.

53% of Texas High School Students Didn’t Complete the FAFSA

More than half of Texas high school students did not complete or submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in the 2014 application cycle, according to a study by NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Texas’s rate of incompletion is higher than the national FAFSA incompletion rate of 45%, among students in all states and Washington, D.C.

The FAFSA is needed to determine eligibility for financial aid. NerdWallet found that in 2014 more than 1.4 million high school students nationwide didn’t fill out the FAFSA. By not applying, students miss out on federal, state and school financial aid, including student loans, scholarships, work-study and grants. Nationwide, in the past academic year, students missed out on $2.7 billion in free grant money, while Texas high school students missed out on $327.8 million.

“Many are unaware this money can be for them,” says Jerel Booker, assistant commissioner for theTexas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Division of College Readiness and Success. It’s an educational process, says Booker, to ensure that all students and families know what FAFSA could do for them, especially those most in need. Nearly 60% of students are economically disadvantaged in Texas, which has the second largest statewide population in the country.

The state has worked hard for it’s completion numbers, ensuring nearly half of its students apply for FAFSA, says Booker. This year, high schools are being challenged to increase rates of both college applications and FAFSA applications by 4%.

The commission’s Generation Texas initiative aims to help students of all ages and backgrounds get excited about going to college through social media campaigns, localized and regional events and devoting the entire month of November to promoting college applications and FAFSA completion. Another program, Advise Texas College Advising Corps, is aimed especially at ensuring low-income, first-generation or otherwise underrepresented students achieve postsecondary education. These efforts support statewide goals of ensuring 60% of Texans ages 25-34 have a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2030.

“We’re curious to see how the new FAFSA filing date will impact how we do business,” adds Booker. “We think it might be positive, but we won’t know for sure until this time next year.”

Texas students will soon have a chance to improve overall completion rates and claim more grant money. The new start date to fill out your FAFSA is Oct. 1, 2016, for the 2017-2018 school year, giving students the chance to find out about financial aid three months sooner than in previous years. The U.S. Department of Education encourages students to submit an application as soon as possible since many forms of aid can run out. The cutoff point to submit the FAFSA will be June 30, 2018, but states and schools will have their own deadlines.

This year you’ll be able to use “prior-prior year” tax information to apply — that means 2015 tax info, not 2016. Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically transfer tax information to your form. To speed up the process, make sure you have all other materials you’ll need to apply. You’ll also be asked to choose up to 10 schools that you want to receive your student aid report. You can do this by using codes found through the federal school code search tool or on each school’s website.

You can file your application online at fafsa.ed.gov. Before you apply, learn more details about the changes to this year’s FAFSA.

Anna Helhoski is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: anna@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski.

5 Insider Tips for Finding Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance

Years from now most baby boomers will need help with the daily stuff of life, like dressing, bathing, eating or remembering to take medication.

Regular health insurance, including Medicare, doesn’t pay for help with these “custodial care” tasks, except in limited circumstances. Long-term care insurance does.

Yet faced with the coverage costs, many long-term care insurance shoppers get sticker shock and give up. Here’s how to keep the price affordable.

1.Buy sooner rather than later

“The key to long-term care insurance is to apply early while it’s inexpensive,” says Kevin M. Lynch, assistant professor of insurance at the American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

You can buy long-term care insurance up to age 75 from most companies, but you’ll pay more at older ages and if you have health conditions.

Among 65-year-old applicants, 28% will be denied because of their health, Lynch says.

The ideal age to start shopping? “I think 50 is the magic number,” says Deb Newman, president of Newman Long Term Care, an independent insurance agency in Richfield, Minnesota.

Don’t give up if you’ve passed the half-century mark. Apply at least 60 days before your next birthday to get a price based on your current age, advises Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association of Long-Term Care Insurance.

2. Work with an independent agent

Prices vary by insurer for the same amount of coverage. Work with an agent who can sell — not just quote — policies from different carriers, Slome says. A good agent will know which companies will likely accept you for coverage based on your health and give you the lowest price.

Get price comparisons even if you’re offered the opportunity to buy long-term care insurance through a group, such as your employer. If you’re healthy, you might find a better deal on your own.

3. Start with a budget

Decide what you’re comfortable spending for coverage, and ask the insurance agent for quotes that fit your budget, advises Brian Gordon, president of Maga Ltd., an independent long-term care insurance agency in Riverwoods, Illinois. Gordon discourages people from buying a policy if they’ll struggle to pay the premium.

Work with a financial advisor to review other options if you can’t qualify or pay for long-term care insurance. Medicaid, the federal and state insurance program for people with low incomes, will pay for nursing home care, but to qualify, you have to spend down most of your money first.

4. Plan realistically

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost 70% of today’s 65-year-olds eventually will need long-term care, and 20% will need it for longer than five years. But few folks want to think about that.

“First of all what pops into people’s minds is the dreaded nursing home,” Newman says. Yet 80% of elderly people who receive long-term care live at home, according to a 2013 Congressional Budget Office report. About 18% live in nursing homes and other care facilities, and 2% live in residential senior communities that offer some support but not round-the-clock supervision.

Newman encourages clients to buy enough coverage to pay for home health care for a few years. The average annual cost of a full-time home health aide is $46,332, compared with $82,125 for a semi-private nursing home room, according to the Genworth 2016 Cost of Care Survey.

Most long-term care insurance policies reimburse you for care at home or in assisted living or a nursing home. So if you buy enough to pay for home health care but instead go to a nursing home, the policy will pay at least some of the nursing home costs.

Look at costs of care in your area to estimate how much coverage to buy, Lynch advises.

5. Go for a simple vs. souped-up policy

Ask for quotes for good, better and best coverage from each company to see costs at different levels, Slome says.

Avoid adding features, called riders, that you don’t need. “Keep it a good, simple, long-term care policy without all the bells and whistles,” Gordon says.

An example is a “restoration of benefits” rider: If you need long-term care but then get better, the benefits you used are restored for a later date. But Gordon says once people start to need long-term care, they usually continue to need it.

An inflation protection rider allows your benefits to grow to keep up with inflation. Reducing the inflation protection, from, say, 3% to 1% will drop the policy price. If you’re older, say 70 instead of 55, you may be able to get by with less inflation protection, Lynch says.

A final thought

Avoid an all-or-nothing approach when buying long-term care insurance.

“Sometimes people look to insuring 100% of the cost of the care,” Gordon says. Instead, think about the costs you can handle and what you want to insure. “Don’t buy more than what you need.”

Barbara Marquand is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: bmarquand@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @barbaramarquand.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.

4 Simple Money-Saving Tips for Couples

By Kurt Smith

Learn more about Kurt on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor

Having the same goals as your partner is important, whether they involve your careers, family or finances. To achieve those goals and live in harmony, it helps to be on the same track, working together toward the same things.

If one partner has the goal of getting out of debt while the other is constantly spending, there’s bound to be friction. It’s important to discuss these differences and make a plan to address any issues as a couple. Remind yourselves that you’re a team and better off when working together.

Having some extra cash on hand will help you work toward goals such as paying off student loans, saving up for a wedding or a down payment on a house, or starting a family. Here are four simple ways couples can start saving money today:

1. Rethink date night

How often do the two of you have a date night? Some couples have a weekly date night where they go out to a fancy restaurant, order drinks and then do an activity afterward, like a movie or bowling. An evening like that can quickly add up to more than $100.

If you want to save money together, you may have to change what you do together. Keep date night a tradition, but decide on a spending limit that supports your goals and then get creative. You can have a “no technology night” where your turn off all devices, or a Netflix marathon, or cook up some food and play board games at your kitchen table. Whatever you do, make date night about spending time together and connecting with one another, not about paying an expensive bill.

2. Declare a ‘no dining out’ month

The money you spend eating out adds up quickly. Even fast food, lattes and vending machine snacks can slowly empty your pockets. You can make simple, homemade meals for a fraction of what you’d spend going out to eat. Choose one month and commit to making all your meals at home, including brown bagging your lunch for work. Then, fight the temptation to stop at the drive through or grab a sandwich at the office deli. You’ll have saved a substantial amount of money by the end of the month.

3. Forgo gifts for a while

While you’re looking to reach specific financial goals, make a pact that you won’t buy each other lavish birthday, anniversary or holiday presents. Couples often spend hundreds of dollars on these special occasion gifts. By putting that amount into a savings account toward your financial goals, you’re both still receiving a gift. You can celebrate the occasion with a card and handwritten note reminding each other of what you’re saving for together, and then enjoy an intimate evening at home. If that doesn’t feel like enough, you can always be creative and make something for your partner out of inexpensive materials.

4. Plan a staycation

Instead of planning your annual getaway, consider having a staycation this year. You and your partner can take the same week off from work and do fun things around town together. Rent a movie and watch it in the middle of the day, have an at-home wine tasting adventure, go for a hike or to the beach, pack a picnic and have a day at the park. There are likely many activities you can do that are close to home and inexpensive. Keep your savings goal in mind and let vacations be relaxing and rejuvenating, instead of draining your bank account.

Track your savings

As you follow these suggestions, keep a log on the kitchen counter that you use to write down how much you saved on a purchase that was reduced or forgone. Keeping a running tally of your savings can be exciting as you watch them grow and bring you closer to your goals.

Of course it’s fun to splurge and do new things or go to fancy meals together. But the most important part of your relationship is that you’re spending quality time together, and you don’t have to spend money for that to be enjoyable and meaningful. When you set financial goals, it’s good to have a plan in place for how you’ll reach them. Making sacrifices and staying the course together can make your relationship stronger and improve your financial position at the same time.

Kurt Smith is a financial and relationship counselor at Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching.

This article also appears on Nasdaq

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