Graduating from college brings huge life changes — many of which have big effects at tax time. Here are a few ways you can save a little money — or even snag a refund — come filing time.1. Take interest in interest
Student loan payments are a fact of life for many new graduates. But up to $2,500 of the interest portion of those payments can be tax-deductible if your modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI, is below $80,000 for singles ($160,000 for married couples filing jointly). And you can still qualify for the tax break if the loan’s in your name but your parents make the payments — though if you want the deduction, they can’t claim an exemption for you on their tax return.2. Get a move on
You can’t deduct job-search expenses if you’re looking for full-time work for the first time or in a new career field, but moving to a new city for that first job can come with major tax breaks.
The cost of movers, utility hookups, storage, and even hotel stays during your drive to the new city can all be deductible. Be sure to check the rules, though — they’re detailed. Your first 9-to-5 must be at least 50 miles from your old home, for example, and only expenses racked up within a year of your start date count. Moving expenses your employer pays might not count, either.3. Let your boss help
“One of the biggest and most frustrating things that we see is people not taking advantage of their benefits offered through their workplace,” says Alex Hopkin, an associate planner at Gen Y Planning, a financial planning firm for millennials.
Contributing to a company 401(k) can shelter up to $18,000 per year from income taxes — and you’ll get a jump start on retirement saving, plus free money if your company offers a match. If you’re enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, contributions to a health savings account could shelter another $3,400 per year if you’re single and $6,750 if you have family coverage. And putting money into a flexible spending account could keep another $2,600 out of your taxable income. Be sure not to procrastinate, Hopkin says — you might be able to sign up for your company 401(k) at any time, but enrollment for HSAs and FSAs usually happens just once a year.4. Don’t sideline that side gig
New grads planning to freelance or be their own bosses can claim huge deductions for business expenses. That means keeping careful records and filing a Schedule C. And be sure to set aside about 25% of what you earn for the IRS, Hopkin advises.
“In your workplace, chances are you’re having the taxes withheld. But for any sort of side gig, you’re responsible for those taxes,” she says.5. Keep learning
A degree can take you a long way, but many people need extra certifications or classroom training to move up in their career field. That’s when the Lifetime Learning Credit can come into play.
If your MAGI is below $65,000 as a single filer or below $131,000 as a married person filing jointly, you could claim a tax credit of up to $2,000 per year for post-secondary work at eligible educational institutions. You don’t need to be in a degree program — a single class can suffice.6. Save yourself
Start stashing cash for retirement now, and that money could balloon over time. Saving can also cut your tax bill. For example, you might be able to deduct up to $5,500 of contributions to a traditional IRA each year.
And if you’re single and have an adjusted gross income, or AGI, of less than $31,000 (or $62,000 if married and filing jointly), you might qualify for the Saver’s Credit. That can slash your tax bill by up to 50% of the first $2,000 (for single filers) or $4,000 (married filing jointly) you contribute to an eligible retirement plan.7. Be a tax deal-seeker
Chances are your tax situation is as uncomplicated as it’ll ever be, so don’t overpay for tax software or help. Most major tax software companies offer free packages to people with simple tax situations, and the IRS’s Free File program provides free tax software to people who make less than a specific AGI (currently $64,000). If you need human help, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program or other programs could hook you up with a pro at little or no cost.
Tina Orem is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Habits can be hard to break, but certain travel-planning tendencies could be costing you. To help you save money, we’ve identified five mistakes you won’t want to make again.Mistake 1: Not logging in
Your casual travel browsing could be working against you. That’s because creating an account and logging in to a travel website can unlock better prices, according to Maureen Thon, a spokesperson for travel company Expedia. “A lot of people don’t realize, but if you just log in to a travel site when you visit it to do your searching, you can actually find a deal that way,” she says.
At Expedia, you’ll need to sign up for the Expedia+ rewards program with your email address and basic information to access member-only deals. Log in to your account to score 10% off 70,000 hotels and nearly 10,000 activities, according to Thon.
Over at Hotels.com, become a rewards member and sign in to your account to unlock lower rates. Plus, you can get one night free (just pay taxes and fees) after you collect 10 nights.Mistake 2: Waiting too long
If you’re waiting for a magic moment to book, you might miss out.
Kate McCulley is a travel blogger, known as Adventurous Kate, who has visited more than 60 countries. She says people often ask her if there’s a best time to book flights, but it’s not as easy as buying on a certain date or at a certain time.
Your best bet? Start researching early. “Generally the best time to book a flight is three to six months out,” McCulley says.Mistake 3: Being inflexible
Most travel experts agree that starting your travel shopping a few months ahead of departure is in your best interest, but if you enjoy traveling on a whim, be open to last-minute deals.
Say you want to travel to Paris on June 2; you’ll be pretty much bound to whatever the airfare prices are that day. But if you’re easygoing about where and when you’ll be jet-setting, you’ll reap better deals, says Matt Kepnes, a travel blogger and author better known as Nomadic Matt.
“Having some sort of flexibility in your planning is going to go a long way,” Kepnes says. Be ready to pounce on cheap flights when they pop up.Mistake 4: Forgetting to bundle
Consumers can find package deals that combine flights and hotel stays at a discounted rate at travel websites like Travelocity and Orbitz.
You don’t always have to book your entire trip in one sitting, either. Thon of Expedia said she recently booked a flight to Denver on Feb. 20 and had until Feb. 23 to add a Denver hotel to her trip at a discount of up to 50% off.
Travel search site Kayak found savings of up to 32% by choosing a flight and hotel package versus booking flight and hotel separately, according to David Solomito, a travel expert at the company. He says exact savings may vary throughout the year and be based on destination.
» MORE: The cheapest way to rent a carMistake 5: Missing out on coupons
The hotel or flight price you see isn’t always the price you have to pay. Savvy shoppers know to search for coupons and online promo codes before ordering something online, and savvy travelers should learn to do the same.
Look for coupon codes at websites like Groupon, follow travel websites on social media, and sign up for email alerts to have deals sent to you. Pay particularly close attention to potential savings opportunities around major holidays and annual sale periods such as Black Friday.
Payday loans — the “lifesavers” that drown you in debt — are on the decline.
Fines and regulatory scrutiny over high rates and deceptive practices have shuttered payday loan stores across the country in the last few years, a trend capped by a proposal last summer by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to limit short-term loans.
Consumer spending on payday loans, both storefront and online, has fallen by a third since 2012 to $6.1 billion, according to the nonprofit Center for Financial Services Innovation. Thousands of outlets have closed. In Missouri alone, there were approximately 173 fewer active licenses for payday lenders last year compared to 2014.
In response, lenders have a new offering that keeps them in business and regulators at bay — payday installment loans.
Payday installment loans work like traditional payday loans (that is, you don’t need credit, just income and a bank account, with money delivered almost instantly), but they’re repaid in installments rather than one lump sum. The average annual percentage interest rate is typically lower as well, 268% vs 400%, CFPB research shows.
Spending on payday installment loans doubled between 2009 and 2016 to $6.2 billion, according to the CFSI report.Installment loans aren’t the answer
Payday installment loans are speedy and convenient when you’re in a pinch, but they’re still not a good idea. Here’s why:Price trumps time
Borrowers end up paying more in interest than they would with a shorter loan at a higher APR.
A one-year, $1,000 installment loan at 268% APR would incur interest of $1,942. A payday loan at 400% APR for the same amount would cost about $150 in fees if it were repaid in two weeks.
“While each payment may be affordable, if it goes for years and years, the borrower could end up repaying much more than what they borrowed,” said Eva Wolkowitz, manager at the Center for Financial Services Innovation.You’re in the hole much longer
Payday installment loans are often structured so that initial payments cover only interest charges, not principal.
“The longer the loan is, the more you’re just paying interest upfront,” said Jeff Zhou, co-founder of Houston-based Fig Loans, a startup that makes alternatives to payday loans.Add-ons add up
On top of high interest rates, lenders may charge origination and other fees that drive up the APR. Many also sell optional credit insurance — not included in the APR — that can inflate the loan cost. Lenders market this insurance as a way to cover your debts in case of unemployment, illness or death. But the payout goes to the lender, not the borrower.
About 38 percent of all payday installment borrowers default, according to the CFPB.Americans still want small-dollar credit
The demand for payday loans in any form isn’t going away soon. Twelve million Americans use payday loans annually, typically to cover expenses like rent, utilities or groceries, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“The original two-week loan originated from customers’ demand for the product. Likewise, customers in many cases are demanding installment loans,” Charles Halloran, chief operating officer of the Community Financial Services Association of America, a payday lending trade group, said in an email.
Income growth is sluggish, expenses are up and more Americans are experiencing irregular cash flow, said Lisa Servon, professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “The Unbanking of America.”
“It’s a perfect storm that’s very good for the expensive short-term creditors, not so much for the average American worker,” she said.What’s the alternative?
While Americans want small-dollar loans, 81% said they’d rather take a similar loan from a bank or a credit union at lower rates, according to recent Pew surveys.
Banks are waiting for the CFPB to finalize its proposed rule for payday lending before entering this market, according to Pew. As the fate of the CFPB remains unclear under the Trump administration, banks may not offer cheaper payday loans anytime soon.
In the meantime, if you need fast cash, try a credit union. Many offer payday alternative loans capped at 28% APR to members. Nonprofit community organizations also make low- or no-interest loans for utilities, rent or groceries.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.
Social values may not be the first thing that comes to mind when investing in the stock market, but there are numerous ways for investors to align their portfolios with their beliefs and passions.
Values-based investing has been around a while — religious groups have a lengthy history with it — but due to rising demand and better access to data, investors today have more values-based investment choices than ever before. As well, these investments often perform competitively: A 2016 TIAA Global Asset Management study concluded that investing indexes with socially responsible objectives achieved similar long-term performance as broad market benchmarks.
Here’s how to align your investments with your convictions and the impact that doing so can have.Define your values
Think about your passions — causes you support through donations or activism, religious or political beliefs and the businesses you frequent. Now, merge those values — think climate change policies, corporate diversity, human rights, animal testing or faith-based ideals — into the criteria you use to select investments.
Values-based strategies go by a variety of names. There’s sustainable, responsible and impact investing, as well as the confusingly similar socially responsible investing. These approaches examine company characteristics — particularly those related to environmental and social issues and corporate governance practices — to determine suitability for investment.
You may include, or exclude, investments based on whether they support your values. For example, you may want to exclude companies that manufacture tobacco products — or to include corporations with gender equality in leadership positions.
Many mutual funds and exchange-traded funds use one or both of these screening options. Negative screening excludes companies based on certain values and has historically been the approach for socially responsible and faith-based strategies. Positive screening seeks to include companies that explicitly support certain values. This approach has gained popularity in recent years among investors who care deeply about environmental, social or corporate issues.Review your investment choices
Of the total assets under professional management in the U.S., more than 20 percent — or about $8.7 trillion — was invested following sustainable principles in 2016, according to a Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment report sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, Bloomberg and several financial institutions.
While you could do the painstaking research to identify individual stocks that align with your values, it’s often easier to choose from the mutual funds and ETFs created by investment firms.
If you have an account with an online broker, check its values-oriented offerings. For example, Charles Schwab maintains a list of what it calls “socially conscious” mutual funds and ETFs, with over 100 of the funds available on its OneSource platform. Fidelity and Merrill Edge also have tools to identify investments that support specific values.
Meanwhile, investment app Stash has “I believe” mission-driven themes, including “Clean & Green,” “Do the Right Thing” and “Equality Works.” Motif Investing recently launched automated portfolios that address one of three social goals: sustainable planet, fair labor or good corporate behavior. This is in addition to its other “motifs,” themed collections of up to 30 stocks or ETFs users can customize.
Like any investment decision, it’s important to do your homework. That includes researching a fund’s performance, assets and fees. Morningstar provides free sustainability ratings for about 20,000 global mutual funds and ETFs.The value of values
Values-based investing can be a tough sell for investors who doubt their ability to make a difference, but they should not give up hope, says Janet Brown, president of FundX Investment Group, which recently launched a sustainable investment fund.
“We have to somehow get the point across that money flows can change corporate behavior,” she says.
The feeling of engagement is important, particularly because shareholder activism is a key component of impact investing. Trillium Asset Management, a firm specializing in sustainable investments, recently submitted a shareholder proposal that resulted in Tractor Supply Co. committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Trillium also used proposals to prompt reforms in sustainability reporting and minimum wage policies at Chipotle.
The market may seem like an unconventional place to express your values. But if finding investments that align with your values gets you more excited, engaged and invested, you should hold your convictions close as you make those decisions.
Remember, socially responsible strategies shouldn’t dictate your portfolio. Aim to express your values while investing in a variety of assets — stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs — as well as different components within each. As with all investing, diversification and risk management remain critical within values-based investing strategies.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.
Everybody knows accidents happen, but in the eyes of the law (and insurance companies), there’s almost always someone to blame.
If you or your family are responsible for accidental damages to someone else — either property damage or injuries — that person may be able to make a liability claim against you and your insurance. Liability insurance claims can fall under your auto, homeowners or renters, and umbrella insurance, depending on the accident.
Liability insurance is only for damages to someone else — meaning you’re “liable.” It doesn’t pay for your own family’s injuries or damage to your own belongings, and it doesn’t cover intentional injury or damage.
The blame in liability cases is not always clear-cut, and who’s at fault may be disputed. If an insurer denies a liability claim, or an injured person thinks the payout is insufficient, they can hire an attorney and take the case to court.
Here are some common scenarios and who’s likely to blame.1. Classic fender bender
The situation: Jim is driving home in heavy traffic when he’s suddenly cut off by another driver. A second later, the driver slams on the brakes and Jim just doesn’t have time to stop, so he rear-ends the car and damages the back.
Who’s liable: Even if the other driver was being a jerk, Jim is likely liable for the accident because he failed to maintain a safe driving distance. The other driver can make a claim against Jim’s car insurance to pay for damage to her car.
In some states blame can be split if both drivers share fault. For example, if the other driver’s brake lights were out and Jim couldn’t tell she was stopping, she could be found partially responsible in some states.
See this State list: Contributory negligence and comparative fault laws from Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Another route: The other driver can make a claim for her car damage on her own collision insurance, if she has it.
» MORE: What does car insurance cover?2. Food poisoning at a barbecue
The situation: The Jacksons decide to throw a backyard barbecue, but Uncle Joe calls a few days later to report he spent the next day in the hospital with food poisoning. Joe blames the potato salad, saying it sat in the sun too long. Nobody else has complained of illness to the Jacksons, who think it was just an unfortunate coincidence.
Who’s liable: It’s hard to say whether the Jacksons caused the illness through negligence, but Uncle Joe can still file a claim with their home insurance company.
“If someone’s coming at you, injured and looking for money, the first thing you should do is look at your insurance coverage,” says Bob Passmore, assistant vice president at the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America.
Home insurance and renters policies typically include medical payments coverage that will pay for medical bills up to a certain dollar amount. Some policies offer only $1,000 in medical payments, but you can usually buy more. Typically, no one has to determine fault or negligence for this coverage to pay out, Passmore says. If medical bills are higher, a claim could be made against your homeowners liability insurance, for which negligence has to be shown.
Another route: Uncle Joe can use his own health insurance for his medical bills.
The situation: The Novaks host a family holiday get-together. Aunt Charlene has too many glasses of wine before she gets behind the wheel, and she causes a crash on the way home. She goes through someone’s fence and hits their patio furniture.
Aunt Charlene has property damage liability insurance in her auto policy, as required by her state, but her limits are so low that her policy won’t cover all the damage. The fence owner says that because the Novaks served the alcohol, they’re liable for the costs to fix all the damages. The Novaks think that’s on Charlene, who should have known she was too drunk to drive.
Who’s liable: This one depends on where the Novaks live. They are probably not liable for the costs beyond what Charlene’s car insurance will cover, says attorney Joseph Matthews, author of Nolo’s “How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim.”
Some states have “social host” laws that can hold someone accountable if they provide alcohol to a guest in their home who then gets into a car accident, Matthews says. However, many of these laws focus on alcohol served to minors, he says.
Aunt Charlene isn’t a minor, so the Jacksons are only liable for the damage if they live in a state with social host laws that apply to adult guests. In that case, the fence owner would likely have to prove Charlene was clearly drunk at the party and one of the Novaks knew she would be driving, Matthews says.
Another route: The fence owner can make a claim on their own homeowners insurance.4. Children injuring children
The situation: Some elementary-school-age children are playing at their neighborhood park when little Suzie Smith pushes Johnny Jones at the top of the playground set. Johnny falls off, injuring his head on the way down, and must go to the ER. Johnny’s mother calls an ambulance, then threatens Suzie’s parents with a lawsuit.
Who’s liable: Since Suzie is a child, her parents are liable for Johnny’s injury. Medical payments coverage, part of their homeowners insurance, can pay out up to a small amount no matter who’s at fault — typically $1,000 with the option to buy more.
But if Johnny’s seriously injured, the Smiths’ medical payments coverage through their homeowners insurance may not be enough. Rather than sue, the Joneses can file a claim against the Smiths’ homeowners liability insurance. On top of reimbursement for medical bills, they may also receive compensation for Johnny’s pain and suffering.
Another route: The Jones family can use their health insurance for Johnny’s medical bills, but it won’t pay for pain and suffering.5. Her tree falls on his roof
The situation: A nasty windstorm causes a large tree in Jane’s yard to fall on her neighbor Ed’s roof. Ed and Jane agree that it really is a lot of damage, but disagree about whose insurance should pay. Ed thinks that since it’s Jane’s tree, she’s at fault and her homeowners insurance should pay for the damage.
Who’s liable: Ed’s homeowners insurance likely covers the damage, even though someone else owned the tree, Passmore says. Ed’s home insurance would pay for the damage because nobody was negligent or careless in this case.
There may be an exception if something was wrong with the tree, such as rot, and Jane knew about it but did nothing. In that case, Ed would have to prove that Jane knew about the rot and was negligent by ignoring it — a difficult case to make, Passmore says.6. Injured slipping on ice
The situation: It’s been a cold and icy winter, but Sally’s neighborhood is starting to thaw and she goes for a walk.
On the sidewalk in front of the neighboring Henderson home, Sally loses her footing on a sheet of ice and fractures her wrist trying to break her fall. When she approaches the Hendersons about her fall, they say they did what they could, but there was just no way they could have prevented ice from forming in that particular spot.
Who’s liable: Who is at fault depends on where the accident took place, Matthews says. In some areas, the city or county has a legal duty to keep sidewalks in a safe condition, including snow and ice removal, he says.
But in many places it is the responsibility of property owners to keep the sidewalk clear and safe. If that’s the case in their neighborhood, Sally can file a claim against the Hendersons’ homeowners insurance, Matthews says.
Property owners can only do so much to clear walks, and Sally should know that one thing that happens in winter is that ice forms on sidewalks, Matthews says. Her claim could be reduced or denied if she were in any way careless, if she knew the ice was there or if the Hendersons took reasonable steps to keep the walk clear.
Another route: Sally can use her health insurance for her medical bills.7. A dog hit by a car
The situation: Leonard, who rents an apartment, decides to take his dog to the park to let her burn off some energy. As he’s playing with her off leash, she’s distracted by a Frisbee across the road and runs toward it. Suddenly a car comes racing down the road and hits the dog. The driver stops, gets out and says he’s sorry about the dog. Then he notes the considerable damage to his car, saying Leonard should have to pay.
Who’s liable: “One of the foreseeable consequences of letting a dog off leash is that it might run into the road,” Matthews says. Therefore, Leonard is most likely liable for the damage to the car, and the driver can file a claim against Leonard’s renters insurance. This is especially true if he lives in an area with laws requiring dogs to be on leashes.
Leonard’s liability might be reduced, Matthews says, if:
Another route: The driver can file a claim on his own collision insurance, if he has it.
» MORE: Understanding renters insurance8. An angry dog approaching
The situation: While walking through his neighborhood, Arnold sees a dog rushing at him, snarling and barking. Startled, Arnold falls back and sprains his ankle. The dog never reaches Arnold because the owner, Jen, has installed an invisible electronic fence to keep the dog on her property. Jen thinks she’s not to blame because Arnold and the dog never made contact.
Who’s liable: Arnold’s minor injuries are likely covered under Jen’s homeowners policy’s medical payments coverage.
If that is not sufficient, Arnold will have to prove Jen was negligent. In any liability claim, “you’re going to have to show that there was something the owner should have done that would have prevented your injury from occurring,” Passmore says.
Another route: Arnold can use his own health insurance for his medical bills.The liability claim process
If you’ve been injured or your property was damaged and you think someone else is to blame, the first step is talking to them, Passmore says. Discuss what happened and ask about their insurance.
Follow these steps to initiate a claim against them:Step 1
Ask for their insurance company’s name, the full name of the person who owns the policy and their policy number. You can write a letter directly to the insurance company to notify them that you’ll be a pursuing a claim.
If you didn’t get the name of the insurer, or the person responsible won’t give you the name, send them a letter by certified mail that notifies them that you’re seeking compensation for the incident. They have a duty to notify their insurer, and if they don’t they could lose their coverage.
» MORE: Sample letters from Injury Claim Coach:
Snap some photos of injuries or visible damage with a time and date stamp.Step 3
Expect a call from an insurance adjuster or investigator, who must determine if your injury or damage was caused by negligence. They’ll want to talk to you, the insured person and any witnesses, and see any photos you took or medical records of your injury.
Typically, you can determine who was at fault by asking some basic questions, Matthews says:
If someone wants to file a claim against your insurance, contact your insurer immediately, Passmore says. Let your insurer or agent know what happened from your point of view, and tell them to expect a claim.
“Ask Brianna” is a Q&A column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to email@example.com.
This week’s question:
“I want to travel this summer, but I don’t have a ton of money. How can I go on an adventure without piling on credit card debt?”
We all need time to recharge (while making our friends jealous with artfully filtered Instagram photos). But travel can be pricey: An American Express survey found respondents expected to spend, on average, $941 per person on summer trips in 2016.
Booking travel on credit cards is convenient and can help you rack up rewards for future flight and hotel savings. But if you won’t be able to pay off the balance soon after you return home, a leisurely vacation might lead to months of anxiety and big interest charges.
The best way to avoid debt is by saving for adventures in advance. However, for last-minute travel this summer, you can still plan a thrifty trip by prioritizing low-cost airfare, opting for nontraditional lodging and picking unexpected destinations. Here’s how to save and spend wisely when you’re ready to get out of Dodge.Start a travel fund
If you have the luxury of several months to plan, set up a savings account specifically for travel. You can schedule recurring transfers from your checking account or set up direct deposit from your paycheck.
John Schneider, who runs the blog Debt Free Guys with his husband, David Auten, says they each save $50 per pay period in a travel “slush fund.” They didn’t set up online access to the account, so they must withdraw money from it in person at their credit union. That discourages the couple from dipping into the fund to cover daily expenses, Schneider says.
Of course, make sure to save at least $500 for home emergencies before shifting your resources to a travel fund. Just starting to save for summer vacation now? You won’t have much time, so if you put some expenses on a credit card, set a spending limit and make a realistic plan to pay off the balance. Stay vigilant while you’re away: Keep a running tally of your expenses so you can cut back on the souvenir shopping if necessary.Pick locations based on airfare
Getting to your destination will often be the biggest drag on your wallet. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for domestic trips of at least one night, transportation accounted for 39% of the total cost in 2013, followed by food and alcohol (27%) and lodging (26%). For international trips, transportation was more than half of the cost.
There’s always camping or driving to your destination, which is often cheaper than flying. But for destinations farther afield, websites like Airfarewatchdog, Google Flights and Skyscanner will let you compare airfares to your preferred destination. They’ll also show you what locations fit your budget on the dates you’re free.
If you’re loyal to a specific airline, use any miles you’ve earned; check the airline’s fare calendar and pick a vacation spot that way. If you travel a lot, consider springing for a branded airline credit card. They often provide free checked bags, notes Matt Kepnes, author of “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.” But avoid carrying a balance. Interest can quickly cancel out baggage savings.Live large beyond hotels
Steer clear of pricey hotels and choose lower-cost options like hostels, Airbnb, staying with local hosts for free on Couchsurfing and renting vacation homes on VRBO and HomeAway. If you have your own kitchen, you can cook and make drinks at home to cut down on food and alcohol costs.
Schneider also recommends house swapping, especially if you’re traveling internationally. For a monthly or annual fee, services like HomeExchange and Love Home Swap will let you list your place and swap it with other members. Home Exchange says swapping saves members “up to 58 percent on typical vacation costs.”
You can also save money on housing — and airfare, for that matter — by traveling to less popular summer destinations. Costa Rica between May and November is one option; it’s the rainy season, which locals call the green season. You’ll explore unconventional locales, make new friends and save some of your own green.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.
College marks a significant transition period for many young adults — it’s a time of newfound freedom and the financial responsibilities that come with it.
Whether your funds come from family, student loans, scholarships or your own wallet, you’ll need to budget for expenses like textbooks, housing and, yes, a social life. Knowing who’s footing the bill, what costs to expect and which ones you can live without — ideally before school starts — can reduce stress and help you form healthy financial habits for the future.Have the money talk
Before you build a budget, go over some important details with the people — parents, guardians or a partner — who will be involved in financing your education. Discussing your situation together will ensure everyone is in the loop and understands expectations.
“One of the biggest obstacles we have [with] teaching young people financial literacy and financial skills is not making money and expenses a taboo subject,” says Catie Hogan, founder of Hogan Financial Planning LLC. “Open lines of communication are far and away the most important tool, just so everyone’s on the same page as far as what things are going to cost and how everybody can keep some money in their pocket.”
Here are some topics to start with:
To determine what you’ll spend each term, keep these college-related expenses on your radar:
» MORE: How to manage money in your 20sTrack your spending and cut back where you can
The basic principles of budgeting, like living below your means, still apply regardless of the source of your funds. Whether you’re working or receiving help from your parents or financial aid — or all of the above — figure out how much money flows in and out.
You don’t have to go through a grueling process, like filling out a spreadsheet every day; you’ll have enough homework. Just set aside some time at least once a month to review your money situation. Budgeting apps and online banking can help make the process more manageable.
“Just knowing that you can log into your online banking and take inventory of what you have and the income coming in, I think that’s more than enough,” Hogan says.
Start with the common culprits: food and fun. “Looking at what is the least expensive meal plan you can get without going hungry is a big money-saving tip,” Hogan says. “And a lot of campus activities and groups and all that [are] really great, but they can weigh really heavy on your budget, so don’t overcommit.”
If you’ve managed to stay afloat as a student, you’re in good shape. Continue on a financially healthy path by thinking about life after graduation. If you’re working and able to build a cushion, set financial goals, like creating an emergency fund or saving for a trip — and don’t forget about any student loans you might have to pay off after graduation.
“You obviously don’t want to burden yourself so much that you have anxiety about it while you’re in college, but I think having a healthy grasp of reality … is helpful in terms of knowing what kind of lifestyle you can really afford to live in college,” says Kyle Moore, a certified financial planner in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, veterans who serve at least 36 months of active duty are eligible for coverage of up to 36 months of college or career training.
That’s enough for nine months of education each year for four years. Benefits also include a monthly housing allowance and $1,000 stipend for books and supplies. The 36 months of college or career training need not be consecutive and can be used over a 15-year period.
Some vets can pay for an undergraduate education with the bill alone, but others need additional resources.
That’s because not everyone can complete an undergraduate degree in four years. The National Center for Education Statistics found that just 40% of college students who receive a bachelor’s degree do so within four years. And veterans don’t always know how to maximize GI Bill benefits, experts say.
“It’s pretty rare when I have a savvy veteran who knows how to use their GI Bill to its extent. There are always questions and concerns,” says David Boyle, veterans program manager of Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.When the GI Bill might not cover your costs
Here are a few situations in which you’d likely need to supplement the GI Bill:Attending a private college
Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits cover the full cost of in-state tuition at public colleges, but only up to $22,805.34 per year at a private college.
What to do: Use the GI Bill Comparison Tool to see how far your benefits will go at different schools before picking one. If your college is eligible, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon Program can provide additional funds.SERVING LESS THAN 36 MONTHS
Those who serve less than 36 months receive a percentage of the maximum benefit. For example, if you served at least 18 months, but less than 24 months of active duty, you’ll qualify for 70% of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
What to do: Find the benefit percentage you’ll receive through the VA. This will help you determine how much of your tuition and housing costs will be covered and how large a gap you’ll need to fill.TRANSFERRING COLLEGES AND LOSING CREDITS
More than one-third of students transfer colleges, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. And when transferring, students lose an average of 13 credits, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. If you lose credits by transferring, you might require more than 36 total months to finish a degree.
What to do: Use a transfer credit tool, available at most colleges, before making the switch. This will show you how many courses you’ve already taken might be accepted at a new school.Transferring benefits to a SPouse or child
If you transferred benefits to your spouse or dependent children while on active duty, you’ll only be able to use GI Bill benefits by revoking the transfer.
What to do: Use the Transfer of Education Benefits website to revoke a transfer. If you don’t revoke the transfer, pay for college using grants and scholarships, work-study and student loans.needing additional time
If your intended career field requires more than 36 months of education or an advanced degree, GI Bill benefits won’t cover all of your costs.
What to do: Calculate the costs of college for your degree or an advanced degree at different types of schools. Public colleges will have the cheapest tuition, but a private college that offers you more financial aid could be a better value.college closing
If your school closes or is no longer approved by the VA, your benefits won’t be reset.
What to do: To continue your education and use any remaining GI Bill benefits, you’ll need to transfer.Closing coverage gaps
First, make sure your school has submitted your enrollment status to the VA so you can receive your full benefits. Then, if you have coverage gaps, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA.
The federal government, states and colleges use the FAFSA to award grants, scholarships, work-study and student loans. Your GI benefits won’t affect your expected family contribution, so you can still receive aid, such as the federal Pell Grant. Veteran-specific scholarships and grant programs at the state and school level might require additional applications.
Experts advise student veterans to explore all potential programs and services created to help them pay for college. When Jude Prather, veteran services officer for Hays County, Texas, left the military in 2005, he was unaware of the Hazlewood Exemption Act, which provides eligible veterans up to 150 hours of tuition exemption, including fees, at public colleges in Texas. Instead, Prather paid tuition for his first semester out of pocket.
“That’s the case for a lot of veterans: In their hurry to get out of the service, they may miss some opportunities or benefits that are available to them that they’re just unaware of,” says Prather.
Several states — including Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin — offer tuition exemption or benefit programs for veterans. Ask your state’s VA for details.
» MORE: 10 top scholarships for veterans
Consider a student loan if the GI Bill, grants and scholarships don’t cover all of your college costs. Maximize federal loans before choosing a private lender, because private loans tend to carry higher interest rates than federal loans. Private loans also have fewer protections and forgiveness options. However, depending on your credit — or your co-signer’s credit — you might receive a lower rate on a private loan than a federal one. Compare private loan options before making a decision.
No matter the scenario, Boyle recommends speaking with a VA counselor about your education options and the best way to maximize your GI Bill benefits.
Anna Helhoski is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski
June is a time for dads, grads and newlyweds. But what else is the month known for? Deals.
From scooping up swimwear to saving money on gym sessions, here’s what you should buy — and a few things to hold off on — in June.Buy: Swimwear and lingerie
The first things to put on your “to buy” list are swimwear and lingerie. Why? In January and June, Victoria’s Secret hosts an insanely popular semi-annual sale, and other retailers follow suit. This is the time to save big on bras, panties, swimsuits and the like.
Last June, Victoria’s Secret customers snapped up savings across popular intimates categories. Discounts included: Up to 50% off lingerie, up to 40% off loungewear, a $19.99 or less bra clearance and a $4.99 or less panty clearance.
Victoria’s Secret recently phased out its swimwear collection, but its Pink brand still sells swim styles.
June marks the official start of summer, which means almost everyone has grilling on their mind. This higher demand equates to higher prices. If you can get by without hosting a barbecue in June, wait for prices to cool off later in the summer. As with most other timely purchases, the further into the season you go, the more you’ll save.Buy: Gym memberships
While everyone else is grilling outside this month, you can head into the gym at a bargain price. Summer is one of the best times to purchase a gym membership because, as you probably guessed, demand isn’t as high.
You don’t have to settle for the advertised membership fee. Consumer Reports recommends negotiating the price. For instance, ask the gym to give you a free trial month or waive the initiation fee. The fitness center may be more willing to work with you if it’s behind on new customer sign-ups.
If you’re a fan of designer clothes, shoes and purses, you’ll want to wait another month before overhauling your wardrobe.
Designer clothing sales will be great in July, in large part due to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. During this high-end department store’s once-a-year sale, shoppers can save hundreds of dollars on top brands. In the past, the store has discounted items from labels such as Tory Burch and Marc Jacobs. This year’s sale begins July 21.Buy: Movie tickets
If you’re looking to go to the movies for less, June is a perfect time. Each summer, movie theaters offer programs that let kids beat the heat and see children’s movies at discounted prices.
Check with your local theater to see if it will offer such a program. We’ve already spotted the Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse, where participating locations will sell a $5 punchcard pass for 10 movies while supplies last, or $1 per person, per movie at the box office. Harkins Theatres, too, has a Summer Movie Fun offering for kids with 10 movies over 10 weeks for less than $1 per movie.Bonus: Father’s Day sales
Father’s Day is June 18 this year, and if you need just the right present to show dad how much you appreciate him, retailers will be there to help you out.
In the past, we’ve spotted Father’s Day deals at places such as Sears, Harbor Freight Tools and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Many of these Dad-oriented sales will happen in the days leading up to the holiday, so in this case it can pay to procrastinate.Bonus: Freebies
Father’s Day and the first day of summer always June highlights, but there are some lesser-known occasions that happen during the month as well. Mark your calendar for the following days, which could offer discounts or freebies: National Doughnut Day on June 2, and National Sunglasses Day on June 27.More: Hear what to buy (and skip) in June
In an interview with WDUN radio station in Gainesville, Georgia, NerdWallet discussed the products consumers can save money on during June.
Updated May 22, 2017.
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