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How to Earn a Degree on the Company Dime

If you’ve been thinking about going back to school in 2022, you’ve probably considered earning that degree while continuing to work full or part-time. But that’s not the only way your employer can help to fund your tuition.

Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs as part of their employee benefits package. If higher education is on your New Year’s resolution list, here are 9 companies that may be willing to foot the bill.

What is Tuition Reimbursement?

Tuition reimbursement is an employer benefit that partially or completely covers the cost of a high school, college or other kind of education. Most employers will only pay for bachelor’s degrees, while a few will also cover a master’s degree, certificate or GED.

Companies that offer full tuition assistance generally require employees to attend a college or university that they have a relationship with, but not all employers have this requirement.

While many large companies offer tuition reimbursement or assistance, some small firms offer it as well. If you’re currently employed, ask your HR department about any educational benefits available to employees.

Rules of Tuition Reimbursement

When it comes to tuition reimbursement, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Some companies require that you continue working for a certain period of time after receiving tuition reimbursement. If you quit before that time, you may be forced to repay part of the money.

Employers also often have a GPA requirement to become eligible for tuition reimbursement. If your GPA falls below that minimum, you won’t receive any tuition reimbursement at all.

Many employers will only pay for a degree that is related to the industry you work in, while others let you choose any major. Some companies only pay for tuition if you’re earning your first degree, but others may cover advanced degrees.

If your employer reimburses you more than $5,250, you’ll be required to pay taxes on the extra amount.

Some employers, like Starbucks, cover educational expenses upfront, while others ask that you pay for those expenses yourself with the promise of later reimbursement. It’s important to understand which type of tuition reimbursement program the company offers so you’re not surprised.

9 Companies that Pay Your Tuition

Here are some major employers that offer full or partial tuition reimbursement:

Starbucks

Both part-time and full-time workers can have 100% of their tuition fees covered at Arizona State University’s online program. There are more than 100 majors to choose from. Starbucks employees will still have to apply and be accepted by ASU. For employees that are not initially accepted to ASU, Starbucks has a program to help boost the applicant’s chances of admission.

To qualify for tuition reimbursement, you must not currently have a bachelor’s degree, and you must have worked at Starbucks for least 240 hours in three consecutive months.

Veterans who are Starbucks employees get an additional perk because they can transfer their tuition benefits to a family member.

Amazon

Amazon employees will be eligible for 100% tuition assistance after they’ve worked for the company at least 90 days. There is no lifetime cap on tuition assistance. Both part-time and full-time workers qualify.

Employees can choose a program in one of the following areas:

  • Administration and business services
  • Transportation
  • Healthcare
  • Mechanical and skilled trades
  • Information technology

Walmart

Walmart offers 100% free tuition for more than 50 different online programs from colleges like University of Arizona, the University of Denver and Purdue University.

Both hourly part-time and full-time workers are eligible for Walmart’s tuition reimbursement program as soon as they start working. Employees must not already have a bachelor’s degree to be eligible. Salaried and temporary workers do not qualify.

Intuit

Intuit employees qualify for tuition reimbursement. Full-time employees may receive up to $5,000 per year, and part-time employees may receive up to $2,000 per year.

Classes must be approved beforehand, and employees must be working toward a degree to qualify.

Chipotle

Chipotle offers a free degree program for workers who choose from a select list of programs. This includes high school, undergraduate and graduate degrees, with more than 300 different programs to choose from in fields like business, technology and health care.

Employees who select a program not included on the official list will receive up to $5,250 in tuition assistance.

McDonald’s

McDonald’s offers tuition reimbursement for both salaried and hourly employees. Managers may receive up to $5,250 in tuition assistance, while other employees may receive up to $2,000.

Employees must work at least 15 hours a week, have been employed for at least 90 days and have a “significant performance” or better on their performance review.

Home Depot

Home Depot has partnered with several universities to provide discounted tuition for their workers, but employees are free to choose their own schools.

They pay up to 50% of educational expenses for approved courses. The annual limit is $5,000 for salaried employees, $3,000 for full-time hourly employees and $1,500 for part-time hourly employees.

Target

Part-time and full-time Target employees are eligible for a free bachelor’s or associate’s degree. Employees must choose from a business-related major like business management, operations and supply chain, data analytics, computer science and design.

For employees who already have a bachelor’s degree, Target will provide up to $10,000 annually to help fund a master’s degree.

UPS

UPS employees who work at their Louisville, Kentucky hub are eligible for a free bachelor’s degree through Jefferson Community Technical College or the University of Louisville.

Workers who are located elsewhere are eligible for up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement every year, including both part-time and full-time UPS employees. Employees qualify for this program as soon as they’re hired, and there are no restrictions on what they can study. There is a $25,000 lifetime limit.

The post How to Earn a Degree on the Company Dime appeared first on MintLife Blog.

How to Start a New Career: 9 Career Change Tips for 2022

You probably had to pick a career field early in life, but what happens if you later realize it’s not right for you? If you’re wondering how to start a new career, either later in life or after trying different jobs, you’re not alone.

In 2021, an increasing number of people started to rethink their careers and long-term goals, leading to the Great Resignation — a 20 percent increase in resignations compared to 2020.

If you’re ready to shift careers, but you’re thinking to yourself, “How do I start a new career at 40?,” we’ll show you just how — no matter what age you might be. In this guide, you will not only learn tips to start a new career in 2022, but you might also come away motivated by some celebrity success stories. From chemists-turned-actors to an ice skater-turned-fashion icon, we’ve got the notables covered.

What Does Starting a New Career Mean?

Starting a new career means changing jobs, whether it is a new role or in a new industry. This is a chance to explore new paths and challenges, or maybe even follow a dream you’ve been keeping in your back pocket for years. Although pursuing a career change might be worrisome, there are many benefits as well.

 

A graphic provides three statistics about career changes and how to start a new career.

 

Being Challenged

Working in the same job for years and feeling unchallenged might mean you need a new career. The challenges that come with a career shift can help you expand your knowledge and learn new skills, try new work environments and tasks, and surround yourself with people from different backgrounds. After all, overcoming a challenge can certainly be gratifying.

Finding a New Purpose

Most of us want to have a purpose in life, especially when it comes to our careers. Changing careers can be a way to find a new purpose in your work, and make you excited to do something new. Having a renewed sense of purpose can also help you feel happy at work and boost your productivity. In fact, studies show that happy workers are 13 percent more productive.

Increasing Your Pay

Larger incomes are associated with greater well-being and overall life satisfaction. Wanting to shift careers can also be an opportunity to get a better salary. You can use your experience and previous salaries to leverage a pay increase when starting a new career.

Finding a Healthier Workplace

Sometimes your work environment might be what will influence you to want to find a different career. An unhealthy work environment can lead to stress, decreased productivity, and feeling burned-out. Even if you work in a healthy workplace, you might not feel like a fit. A career change can help you find a workplace that’s healthier and a better match for you.

Changing Your Schedule

Whether you work a 9-to-5 or have a flexible schedule, starting a new career can also help you find a better fit for your routine. Depending on the career you pick, it’s an opportunity to have more flexible work hours or switch up your usual work schedule.

9 Tips for How to Start a New Career

If you decide you want to break new ground in your career, being prepared ahead of time can help you make that transition smooth. Here are some tips to follow when changing careers.

1. Find Out What Your Interests Are

When looking for a new career, you might start off with some introspection. Consider what you’re interested in and what your natural abilities are, and ask yourself what are some things you would like to change or that you don’t enjoy doing. Writing down your goals and interests can also help you visualize your perfect career.

2. Make a List of Your Experience

Starting a new career will most likely require you to go through the whole process of getting a job. This means you will have to polish your resume to target the new career field. Start by writing down your experience and skills and compare them to the current job market.

3. Learn New Skills

There’s a chance you might not have the skills and experience needed to shift careers, especially if it’s a drastically different field from your current job. With this in mind, if you’re asking yourself, “How do I start a new job with no experience?,” it can be a good idea to allocate some of your time to focus on learning the needed skills.

4. Research Job Options

Research is key to finding new career ventures. Learn more about not only your career field of interest but also similar areas where you can see yourself succeed. Get down to the nitty-gritty and look at job descriptions, company websites, and even current employees’ job experience.

5. Narrow Down Your Options

If you have a long list of possible career fields and job positions, try to narrow it down to a few that seem more aligned with your skills and goals in life. It can be helpful to use a career assessment test or write down a list of pros and cons for the different careers.

6. Try Out a New Career Field

If you have a new career in mind but aren’t sure it will be a fit, you can try it out without too much commitment. Volunteering in the field or shadowing someone in a job position that interests you can be a good way to learn more about different careers and build connections.

7. Be Flexible

Starting a new career can challenge you in different ways, one of which may be your flexibility. Start this process with an open mind and understand that you will likely have to be flexible with your routine, tasks, and even your salary.

See Average U.S. Salaries

8. Network

No matter what field you choose, networking can help you with your career change. Connecting and building relationships with people in a new field can show you what to expect from the job and even lead you to potential employers.

9. Apply for Jobs

Once you’re satisfied with your new career choice and opportunities to come, it’s time to start applying for jobs. Don’t be discouraged because you’re doing a career shift — instead, use your unique experience and fearless nature to communicate your skills and expertise with potential employers.

What to Consider When Starting a New Career

Although following these tips should help set you up for success when learning how to start a new career, there are some things to consider before doing a full career shift.

Career Change Reasons

When looking for a new career, it’s important to identify the reason why you want a career change. Whether it’s because you’re not satisfied with your current work environment or because you want to find career fulfillment, knowing your reasons can help you figure out if it’s the right move for you. Here are some questions to ask yourself before exploring new career ideas:

  • Why do you want to change your career?
  • Are you feeling tired of your current career?
  • What do you want in the future?
  • Do you feel you are being compensated appropriately?
  • Do you think you’re more qualified for another field?

Financial Plans

Staying financially prepared is especially important when switching jobs. Coming up with a financial plan ahead of time can help you prepare in case you don’t have a job for a period of time while changing careers. Take a look at your savings and incoming expenses and evaluate whether you can go a couple of months without a job, or if it’s better to keep your current one during the process.

Necessary Experience

Just like getting your first job, each career field has its own experience requirements. Evaluate whether you have enough experience to switch careers by researching the field. If not, ask yourself whether you will have enough time to take a specialty course and if you are willing to put in extra hours to learn new skills.

Change of Routine

It’s common to fall into a routine and become adjusted to it. However, one other thing to consider when picking a new career is whether you are willing to change your current routine. A career change might mean different hours, a different commute, and a different sleep schedule, especially if you’re starting a new career that requires working night shifts.

5 Celebrities Who Made Successful Career Changes

You’re not alone when it comes to starting a new career — even if it’s late in life. Many well-known figures have been in that position, too. Just consider these noteworthy celebrities who shifted careers for the better.

1. Julia Child

A graphic explains how Julia Child changed careers, underscoring tips for how to start a new career.

 

Is 35 too old to start a new career? Not if you’re the cooking legend Julia Child, who didn’t start her French cuisine ventures until later in life. Before publishing her first cookbook at the age of 49, she used to work as a typist and research assistant in the Office of Strategic Services, which later became the CIA. Her love for cooking started when she moved to Paris years later. This goes to show that it’s never too late to acquire a passion for something.

  • How they did it: She found out what her interests were and learned new skills.

 

2. Giorgio Armani

A graphic explains how Giorgio Armani did a career shift, underscoring tips for how to start a new career.

 

Giorgio Armani proves to anyone considering starting a new career that you don’t have to stick to your first career choice. Before founding his brand, Armani, Giorgio studied pharmacy in Milan and joined the Army afterward. He was serving at a military hospital when he decided to switch professions and work as a clothing salesperson, which led him to start designing clothes.

  • How they did it: He was flexible and tried out a new career field.

 

3. Retta

A graphic explains how Retta started a new career, underscoring tips for how to start a new career.

 

If you’re a fan of Retta’s humor, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that she set herself up for a white-collar career by going to medical school. Although she probably didn’t get her acting and stand-up comedy skills from studying for her pre-med classes, Retta took a leap of faith and left her post-college chemistry job to pursue a career in acting. She’s an example that taking on new challenges and believing in yourself can lead you to the career you love.

  • How they did it: Learned new skills and narrowed down her options.

 

4. Colonel Sanders

A graphic explains how Colonel Sanders decided to do a career shift, underscoring tips for how to start a new career.

 

Colonel Sanders is a great example that taking many different paths in life can still lead you to career success — and some Finger Lickin’ Good fried chicken. Before creating his restaurant empire, KFC, at the age of 65, he switched professions many times. From farmer to insurance salesman and even enlisting in the Army, Colonel Sanders finally found success when he started sharing his delicious chicken recipe.

  • How they did it: He researched job options and tried out a new career field.

 

5. Vera Wang

A graphic explains how Vera Wang changed careers, underscoring tips for how to start a new career.

 

If you’re worried about a big career shift, take Vera Wang as an example. Before becoming an iconic wedding dress designer, she had her sights set on the Olympics for ice skating. Vera Wang began ice skating as a kid, and competed in national championships. Although she was devastated when she didn’t qualify for the Olympics, her frustration led her to study in Paris, where she found a love for fashion.

  • How they did it: She found out what her interests are and tried out a new career field.

 

If you’ve been wondering how to start a new career, you’re probably not the only one. Going through a career shift can be scary, but following these tips and getting motivated by people who successfully changed careers can get you one step closer to your dream job.

 

An infographic provides inspiration and tips on how to start a new career, including by providing examples of celebrities such as Vera Wang, Colonel Sanders, and Retta who made successful career shifts.

Sources: Ranker | Eat This, Not That! | The Career Changers | Southern Living | Inspiring Quotes | Harvard Business Review | CNBC | Fast Company

The post How to Start a New Career: 9 Career Change Tips for 2022 appeared first on MintLife Blog.

How to Negotiate Your Way to Better Health

Every time the calendar changes to a new year, many people start thinking of ways to improve their lives. While there’s no reason that you can only do a “New Year’s resolution” at the start of a new year, it’s common for people to start goals in January. You might have financial goals, goals to improve your education or employment or work on being healthier. If you do have a New Year’s health resolution, here are a few tips to negotiate your way to better health.

Everything is negotiable

The first thing to keep in mind is that just about everything in life is negotiable, to one degree or another. You can often negotiate your utilities and other recurring bills, and the same can be true with certain types of medical expenses. Rather than simply accepting the medical bills that are mailed to you, take a detailed look at them to make sure that you understand them and that they accurately reflect the services that were provided.

Negotiating your medical bills

Medical bills can often be negotiated, depending on the provider and the type of bill. It can never hurt to ask if there is any room for negotiating — the worst thing that can happen is that they say no. Unless you’re in a financial emergency, it’s probably not a good idea to refuse recommended services due to cost. That can be penny-wise but pound-foolish — but you do want to make sure you take an active role both during your visit and when reviewing your bill to make sure that you are only receiving and paying for the services that make sense for you.

Another tactic that you can use to negotiate your way to better health is to ask for a cash discount when paying your medical bills. Many businesses including hospitals and other medical providers will discount services if you pay with cash. Depending on the business, this could mean paying with cash instead of a credit card. It could also mean paying directly without billing insurance. Many medical professionals have very high “cash” prices that they bill to insurance, knowing that insurance will discount the amount they pay out. If you ask, many times you can negotiate to pay the actual insurance price, even without insurance.

Comparison shop before having a major procedure

It’s common to comparison shop before buying the latest electronics gizmo, but it might seem odd to comparison shop before having an MRI or elective surgery. But it can be a great way to save money on medical expenses. And while of course you don’t want to have a broken bone set in a back alley, many hospitals and reputable doctor’s offices charge vastly different prices for the exact same procedure. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have insurance or are paying out of pocket until you meet your deductible, it can pay to call around.

Because the pricing of procedures at many medical offices is so far removed from the actual point of service, it can sometimes be difficult to even find out what the price will be. And there are some providers that will refuse to share prices. Still, if you’re willing to put in a bit of work, you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Saving money with generic prescriptions

Pricing of prescriptions is another way that you can negotiate to save money. If your doctor agrees, you can ask your doctor to prescribe generic instead of brand name to help you save. While there are some medications where your doctor will prefer prescribing the name brand, and other cases where there may not be a generic for a specific kind of medication, in many cases, a generic prescription will work just as well for a fraction of the cost of the name brand medication. Using a prescription comparison tool like GoodRx.com can be another good idea. In many cases, you can get your medication through GoodRx cheaper than the copay with your insurance.

Consider using an HSA

Using a Health Savings Account (HSA) is another great way to save money on medical expenses. With an HSA, you can get a tax deduction for contributing money, your earnings grow tax-free, and you don’t have to pay taxes on withdrawals as long as they are used for qualified medical expenses. This gives HSAs a triple tax advantage that can also save you money as you negotiate your way towards better health.

The Bottom Line

The most important thing to remember is the life philosophy that just about everything is negotiable. Finding ways to negotiate your medical bills is just one way to save on your health this year. That doesn’t mean that you have to negotiate everything, since sometimes it ends up being more work than the value from any savings that you receive. But it does mean that you should be aware of the medical costs that you’re paying, and be diligent about working with your doctor and making sure that you understand the cost of the services that you receive (and pay for). 

The post How to Negotiate Your Way to Better Health appeared first on MintLife Blog.

How to Secure the Bag in 2022

Are you living by the mantra, “New Year, new you?” Year after year, we set these resolutions and goals – for them to get tossed out before the year can fully bloom. Looking for ways to elevate your life? Maintain the things you’ve started? Produce real results? Check out the tips below to secure your future and your bag in the year to come.

Write down your goals

As much as we’d like to consider ourselves computers, it’s nearly impossible for us to remember every single thing we’d like to do. In order to stay focused and remain organized, it’s best to simply jot down your goals.

Try your best not to overthink and begin to write everything that comes to your head. Essentially, this is a brain dumping exercise that allows you to clear your mind as much as possible. Often times confusion doesn’t necessarily come from us not knowing, it’s simply because we haven’t written down our thoughts.

Once this is finished, the second step is refining. Go through everything you’ve listed and organize it into categories. From there you’ll be able to highlight the top 3-5 goals you’d like to accomplish. This allows you to only focus on the goals with priority – and as those items are completed, the next ones in line will be yours for the conquering!

Are you wanting to start a new career or business venture? Write down all of the to-do items needed to accomplish that goal and assign a certain number of tasks per day, week or month. In this way you’re not overwhelming yourself with unrealistic expectations but creating an actionable guide that navigates you straight to the finish line.

Self-assess and readjust as needed

Let’s take a moment to reflect on 2021. What are the things you did exceptionally well? What are a few items that need improvement? Are you able to recall the goals that didn’t have any traction at all?

Before you can execute, you need to know where you’re currently starting from. Be honest with yourself – this isn’t an exercise to stir up negative and non-productive emotion. This is to chart your next steps and make them effective.

If you overspent this year on discretionary items, test out the cash method for your purchases. Looking to increase your earning potential? Update your resume, network and explore the opportunities that interest you. Saving for a large purchase? Create a reasonable savings plan that lays out the steps to ensure you’re successful.

Keep in mind this is not a one-day exercise. Carve out some time over the course of a week to truly reflect.

Avoid impulsive behavior and identify the root cause

Each and every one of us have thorns in our side that derail us from our goals – big or small. In order to identify the true problem, we must tap into our self-awareness and discuss some ugly truths. For example, if you are on a fitness journey and have a desire to become healthier– a routine is mandatory. Schedules allow us to operate more efficiently. So, let’s say you want to workout at least three times a week. This means there’s a certain window of time that needs to be allotted for the actual workout. After that you need time to eat, prepare food and continue flowing through the day. If one of these links are missing in the routine, it could tempt you to skip the workout completely.

What needs to happen? Have food readily available on the days you workout. Get sufficient rest the night before to make sure you’re energized to conquer the day. Try your best to eat the right foods to avoid feelings of sluggishness or irritation. Have your exercise clothes ready the night prior to avoid any mishaps in the morning. No matter how crazy and insane these little things may seem they’re very impactful. It creates a smoother workflow which decreases anxiety, worry, frustration and irrational decision making.

Let’s talk money!

If you have an issue with overspending; consider this. Do you spend more money when your emotions fluctuate?  Adopt some self-care techniques to relax and unwind before making hash decisions. Try adopting yoga within your weekly routine. Step away from the computer when the feeling of work stress occurs. Swap out the impulse to spend with something positive, like taking a quick walk or simply log off social media. Unsubscribe from retail emails so there won’t even be an urge to spend. When you’re healthy mentally and physically – your finances have no choice but to positively benefit.

Let’s talk retirement

Before the year is up evaluate your retirement account, savings methods and/or investments. Are your selections aligning with the financial goals you’ve set for the upcoming year? Assess your contributions and adjust as you see fit. If there are things you’re unclear on or are in need of further guidance, solicit the assistance of a financial advisor. Don’t allow yourself to get hung up as challenges arise! There’s always a solution. Take a deep breath and revisit your goals in moments of frustration.

Create an accountability tribe

We cannot live life alone and in confinement, so what better way to engage the people closest to you than create an accountability tribe? Establish some safe meetups or virtual check-ins as schedules permit to discuss hiccups, successes and lessons. In this way, it establishes a sense of community and support. It’s almost like having your own personal cheerleaders ushering you through all phases of life. You can gain multiple perspectives while also having a safe space that doesn’t judge you for your mistakes.

Remain positive and stay the course

In this upcoming year, don’t settle for less. The key to achieving all of your goals fall into two main categories: consistency and discipline. Will the work always be easy? Absolutely not. Your goals will stretch you in new ways and will create a new level of resilience.

2022 is ours for the taking. You have the tools; now do the work and secure the life you truly desire to live!

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Lesser Known Credit Card Perks

From the Mint team: Mint may be compensated if you click on the links to our issuer partners’ offers that appear in this article, including Chase. Our partners do not endorse, review or approve the content. Any links to Mint Partners were added after the creation of the posting. Mint Partners had no influence on the creation, direction or focus of this article unless otherwise specifically stated.

When used responsibly, a credit card can help you build a credit history and increase your credit score. But those benefits may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Many credit cards offer users the opportunity to earn rewards for spending a certain amount or meeting another set of criteria. These perks usually have monetary value, like points that can be spent on certain products and services or simple cash rewards.

Depending on your interests, there are a variety of niche credit card perks that may be of interest. Here are some lesser-known benefits.

Travel Perks

Travel Protection

Travel protection perks include trip cancellation coverage and travel assistance. If you have to cancel a trip because of a death in the family, major illness or another kind of emergency, you may be able to cancel the trip and get your money back. Trip cancellation coverage is often limited, so make sure you understand the parameters.

Emergency travel assistance refers to help with medical, legal and transportation issues. For example, if you break a leg while traveling abroad, travel assistance can help cover the medical costs.

Reimbursement for travel costs

Travel rewards cards like the Capital One Venture card will reimburse you for the cost of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. A pass for TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years and Global Entry costs $100 for five years.

Having access to either of these programs lets you use the special PreCheck line at the airport, which is usually shorter and does not require passengers to take off their shoes, belts and jackets or remove liquids from their bag. You’ll have to pay for PreCheck or Global Entry with the credit card first and then have it refunded on your account.

Some travel credit cards also provide access to priority lounges with free food, drinks and comfortable chairs.

Credit cards like the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select and Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card also provide one free checked bag when you use the card to book a flight on the participating airline. Checked bag fees usually cost between $25 and $35.

Roadside assistance

Many credit card companies provide roadside assistance. The policy varies on the card’s specific terms and conditions, but most will cover a few set services per year, usually capped at $50. To access the roadside assistance service, look up the number associated with your card. Most cards will only cover the cardholder and not the car itself.

Lost luggage

If you check a bag and the airline loses your luggage, you may be paid for the inconvenience – assuming you bought the tickets with your travel rewards card.

Financial

Free Credit Scores

Credit card providers like Chase and Capital One regularly update your credit score, sometimes as often as once a week. But these companies only show your VantageScore, which is not the same score that lenders see.

Card companies including American Express, Bank of America, Citi, Discover and Wells Fargo specifically offer FICO scores, which is the model used by more than 90% of lenders.

0% APR Extension

Some card providers offer 0% APR for new cardholders. These promotions usually last between 12 and 24 months, during which time you can make only the minimum payment without paying interest. In some cases, you can call the card company and ask them to extend the promotion. This depends on your credit score and the card company’s policy.

Food

Cardholders with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card receive access to GrubHub+ for one year, which gives you free delivery from many restaurants on the GrubHub platform. GrubHub+ normally costs $9.99 a month.

These cardholders can also get a free one-year membership to DashPass, DoorDash’s premier service. There are $0 delivery fees with DashPass and discounted service fees. DashPass normally costs $9.99 a month.

Rideshare

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders get a free annual membership to Lyft Pink, Lyft’s premier service. If you use the Chase Sapphire Reserve card to pay for your Lyft rides, you’ll get 15% off each transaction.

Shopping

If you log onto your credit card portal, you may notice that there are special cash-back offers for certain retailers. You usually have to manually click on these offers to activate them.

American Express cards also provide a free subscription to ShopRunner, which gets you free two-day shipping and free returns for retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, American Eagle and Under Armour.

Miscellaneous

Extended Warranty

If you purchase an item that comes with a warranty, like a refrigerator or laptop, check which credit card you’re using. Some credit card companies will offer an extended warranty when you buy an item with the card. This only applies if the item already comes with a warranty.

Most card providers will extend the warranty by one year. To take advantage of this perk, keep the item receipt and write down which credit card you used. Scan the receipt and the warranty policy and store those documents in a cloud-based filing system.

You can also send yourself an email with those documents and a subject line like “Laptop extended warranty.” This way, you’ll be able to easily find the information and file a claim if something goes wrong.

Exclusive Access

Some credit cards let you purchase tickets to concerts, sporting events and more before they’re released to the general audience. American Express cardholders can get presale tickets to Broadway shows, NBA games and Las Vegas concerts.

You can log onto your card profile to see what events you have access to. Also, if you see a local concert or event in your area, check if they’re doing a presale. These are often linked to specific card companies.

How to Access Your Credit Card Perks

If you have a credit card, log onto your account and see what hidden benefits you haven’t explored. Click on the “benefits” or “rewards” section and scroll through the different links to see what options are available.

You could also Google a card and see what benefits are mentioned in various articles and forums. Contact the customer service department if you’re confused about how to access a card benefit.

Are Card Perks Worth Paying an Annual Fee?

Some of the card perks mentioned above are only available with premier credit cards that charge an annual fee, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($450), the Capital One Venture card ($95) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95).

Before you sign up for one of these cards, consider how often you’ll use the benefits and if they’re worth the annual fee. Some cards waive the annual fee for new customers for one year, allowing you to test drive the card and decide if you like it.

From the Mint team: Mint may be compensated if you click on the links to our issuer partners’ offers that appear in this article, including Chase. Our partners do not endorse, review or approve the content. Any links to Mint Partners were added after the creation of the posting. Mint Partners had no influence on the creation, direction or focus of this article unless otherwise specifically stated. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more

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Real Money Talk: It’s Time To Let Go Of These Taboos

Let’s get right down to it – there’s so much to discuss as it relates to finances. Even though we may not want to admit it, we don’t have all the answers. Before the internet and social media, there was a reliance on phone conversations and face-to-face interactions. However, the likelihood of discussing what could be viewed as personal information (especially money conversations) was a big-time no-no.

Fast forward to present day, how can we continue to break the stigma of taboo money talks? Take a look at the ways we can normalize discussing finances.

Recognize the correlation between money and mental health

Ever heard the expression, “when you look good – you feel good?” The same sentiment rings true as it relates to finances. When there’s money available to comfortably cover expenses, a nest egg on reserve, and some leftover cash to spare, your mind is at peace. On the other hand, when there are more bills than income with no wiggle room, this creates pressure not only in your mind but in your life. How will I handle my expenses? What if there’s a financial emergency I can’t cover?

The inability to answer these questions with surety impacts your mental health plus decision-making. When emotions are high the tendency to make irrational and hasty choices is also increased. To minimize this as much as possible, establish regular check-ins among your family, friends and peers. Ask simple questions like: “If you could rate your mental health and money relationship, what would it be?” or “how have you been tracking against your money goals and how are you feeling about everything?” The answers to these questions could easily generate some great conversation around money. You’ll also notice the more you discuss, the easier the conversations.

Openly talk about salary and wages

People often equate their self-worth to what they earn, and this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Depending on your upbringing, money could have been a normal family topic or reserved as an adult-only conversation. Salary earnings has been a hushed topic for quite some time and that doesn’t contribute to our personal and career advancement.

Remember your first job offer post-graduation and how eager you were? Up until that point, that probably was the most money you earned. Consider this – what if you had a community of people to run your job offer by? Not only would this provide valuable insight, but it would also increase your personal confidence to make the best sound decision for your career. Having these discussions candidly and openly addresses the many issues regarding compensation such as being compensated below market value, along with gender and racial pay gaps. The earlier these things are addressed in your career sets a standard and a progressive track related to money.

No matter if you’re fresh out of school or a seasoned professional, we all deserve the ability to earn an income suitable to our desires – and this all begins with a conversation. Still not convinced? If you still need to ease into the topic of salary, discuss the steps taken to increase your earning potential. Be of assistance to someone that’s working toward their career goals. This could be achieved via higher education, certifications, or networking. No matter the method, be as transparent as your comfort allows to serve as a resource to others. While we can easily look up this information, it’s nothing more valuable than being able to confide in those around you. 

Discuss cost of living expenses

Some of us truly don’t like to pry but asking questions can save you thousands of dollars. While many of us aren’t new to the phenomenon of paying bills, one thing is true – you can always learn and apply new information.

Here are a few open-ended question examples:

  • What percentage does your rent or mortgage take up of your earned pay?
  • On average, how much do your utilities cost by season?
  • What are some methods you’ve used or currently use to reduce your living expenses?

These answers vary based on a lot of factors, such as family size (if applicable) and other financial responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean the conversation can’t be effective.  Simple conversations can help us all make more sound financial decisions in the future. Incorporate some information related to your expenses for context as well. No one wants to feel like they’re giving information but not getting any in return. Reciprocity is key. 

Share saving goals and strategy

Even though we all have different circumstances, no one wants to venture through life without support, and creating the atmosphere to discuss savings is important to our financial wellness. During regular conversations, meetups with friends and family gatherings, make saving a topic of discussion. It can be as general or in-depth as the conversation naturally flows – but what’s most important is it recenters us to focus on short and long-term goals.

Life happenings can make day-to-day tasks daunting, let alone discussing strategy. Opening the floor for clear communication helps remind us of all of what we’re working towards and what needs to happen to ensure our goals are being met. Adopting new practices from these financial discussions can accelerate our growth individually and collectively. Don’t want this to be a one-and-done practice? Create a small accountability group with those you trust or have similar interests to keep you plus your goals on track. Establishing a regular bi-weekly or monthly cadence creates a dedicated time where all of you can share your progress, mistakes and lessons learned. Not only does this create a sense of community, but it also promotes healthy conversations that otherwise may not be discussed.

When your initial instinct tells you to withhold details, please consider the positive outcomes that can happen when information is shared freely without judgement. We all can benefit from having these open money talks. As you teach someone else, you also receive new information – a continuous cycle of growth!

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What Is Fiat Currency? A Definition + How It Differs From Cryptocurrency

Fiat Currency Definition
Fiat money is a type of currency that’s issued by a government and is not backed by physical commodities, such as gold. The U.S. dollar, the euro, and the pound are examples of fiat money.

Could you imagine having to carry gold when buying your groceries for the week? Earlier in history, people used gold in exchange for goods and services, instead of the paper money we’re all used to today. But now, instead of gold, we use currency such as the U.S. dollar, the euro, and even cryptocurrency in exchange for products.

Nowadays, there are different types of currencies — some can be backed by a government, such as fiat currencies, and some are decentralized and backed by blockchain technology, such as cryptocurrencies. This article will go over the answer to “What is fiat currency?,” its pros and cons, as well as how it differs from other currencies.

What Is Fiat Money?

Fiat currency, or fiat money, is a type of currency that’s issued by the government and is not backed by physical commodities, such as gold. Instead, the fiat money value comes from the public’s trust in the issuer, the government.

Why is it called fiat currency? The fiat definition comes from a Latin word that can be translated to “let it be done” or “it shall be.” Fiat money only has value because the government gives it value and, therefore, it has more control over the currency and how much can be printed.

A graphic answers the question “what is fiat money,” which is a type of currency issued by the government and not backed by a physical commodity.

 

Fiat Money vs. Cryptocurrency

Fiat money is a legal tender, which is a currency declared legal by the government, and its value is backed by the issuer (the government). On the other hand, cryptocurrency is a digital currency that’s backed by blockchain technology and decentralized, meaning it’s not backed by a central authority like a government.

Unlike fiat currency, a cryptocurrency is more volatile and brings a higher level of information security compared to fiat money. Although some people believe cryptocurrencies may replace fiat currencies in the future, most transactions around the world are still done using fiat money.

Fiat Money vs. Commodity Money

Commodity money has an intrinsic value, which means it has a perceived or true value attached to it. This type of currency is derived from a material that has value, such as gold or silver. Fiat money, on the other hand, has no intrinsic value. Consider dollar bills — they’re all cut from the same paper, but their values can differ depending on what a government deems the currency is capable of being exchanged for.

Fiat Currency vs. Representative Money

Representative money is also produced by the government, but unlike fiat money, it’s backed by a physical commodity. There are different forms of representative money, such as credit cards and checks, which represent an intent to pay.

Although fiat money is backed by the government, representative money can be backed by different assets. In the case of a check and credit card, they are backed by the money in a bank account.

 

 

A graphic explains the difference between fiat money and commodity money, representative money, and cryptocurrency.

 

Understanding Fiat Money in the United States

Throughout most of U.S. history, national currency was backed by gold and silver. In 1933, the government passed the Emergency Banking Act in hopes of restoring the public’s confidence in the national financial system. This act would develop a program to rehabilitate banking facilities and later abandon the gold standard, which let citizens exchange currency for gold. From there on, the gold standard was completely replaced by fiat money: the U.S. dollar.

Pros and Cons of Fiat Money

Just like other currencies, such as cryptocurrencies, there are some pros and cons to fiat money.

Advantages of Fiat Money Disadvantages of Fiat Money
Greater control over the economy Not a foolproof way to protect the economy
Cost-efficient to produce Possibility of hyperinflation
Convenient to use Unlimited supply could create economic bubbles

 

Advantages of Fiat Money

Fiat money is not only cost-efficient to produce, but it’s also easy to carry around and exchange. But one of the biggest benefits is that fiat money is not backed by a commodity, meaning it’s not scarce, unlike gold. For this reason, a government has greater control over the currency supply, which gives it the power to manage economic variables such as interest rates, liquidity, and credit supply.

Since a government has control over the money supply, it also has the power to protect the country from a financial crisis. In fact, the U.S. Federal Reserve has a dual mandate to keep the unemployment rate and inflation rate low.

Disadvantages of Fiat Money

Although a government has control over its currency supply, it’s still not a guaranteed way to protect the economy from a financial crisis, such as a recession. Another disadvantage of fiat money is that it’s subject to inflation and a government could mismanage and print too much money that could result in hyperinflation.

In addition, the price of fiat money depends on government regulations and fiscal policy, which could result in a bubble with a rapid increase and decline in prices.

The Future of Fiat Currency

Almost every country now has fiat money as a legal tender, so it’s hard to say what’s on hold for the future. Although there is a rapid rise in cryptocurrencies — and some experts believe it could eventually replace fiat currency altogether — fiat money gives governments more flexibility to manage a country’s economy, therefore, we can expect it to stay the primary medium of exchange for years to come.

Sources: GOBakingRates | Federal Reserve History


FAQs About Fiat Currency

Here are some commonly asked questions about fiat currency.

What Are Alternatives to Fiat Money?

Nowadays, almost all countries have fiat money as a legal tender. Although gold coins could be an alternative to fiat money since you can buy and sell them, they are not commonly used for everyday purchases.

Cryptocurrency is another fiat money alternative that’s on the rise. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin could be used in the future as the main form of currency, but for now, it’s still not widely accepted.

Why Do Modern Economies Favor Fiat Money?

Due to the limited amount of gold coming out of mines, central banks could not keep up with its new value. Fiat money was the alternative that provided cost-efficient production and was convenient to use, and also gave greater flexibility to the government in order to manage its own currency.

Does Fiat Money Lead to Hyperinflation?

Although overprinting fiat currencies could lead to hyperinflation, most developed countries usually experience a moderate amount of inflation. Hyperinflation has occurred in the past, even with commodity money, and it could occur in the case that a fiat currency rapidly loses value, such as when people lose faith in the nation’s currency.

Why Is It Called a Fiat Currency?

Fiat currency stems from a term that can be translated to “it shall be” in Latin, and refers to a type of currency that’s issued by the government and is not backed by physical commodities, such as gold. The U.S. dollar, the euro, and the pound are examples of fiat money.

Is Bitcoin a Fiat Currency?

Bitcoin is not a fiat currency, since it’s not a legal tender issued by the government. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency backed by blockchain technology and free of a central authority.

Examples of Fiat Currency

Some examples of fiat currencies are:

  • U.S. dollar (USD)
  • Euro (EUR)
  • British pound (GBP)
  • Korean won (KRW)
  • Japanese yen (JPY)
  • Indian rupee (INR)
  • Mexican pesos (MXN)

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Do’s and Don’ts of Grocery Shopping in Bulk

Everybody likes to save money anywhere possible. Grocery shopping is of particular interest to many money savers, because food and grocery purchases are one of the highest monthly expenses for most people. There are many different ways to save money on your overall food purchases, including eating out less, using coupons and limiting impulse purchases. Buying in bulk is another way you can save money while grocery shopping and here we will look at some of the do’s and don’ts of grocery shopping in bulk.

What is Bulk Grocery Shopping?

At its simplest, bulk grocery shopping is the idea to stock up on certain products when the price is low. When a particular product goes on sale, buy several weeks or months worth, so that you don’t have to buy it until it goes on sale again. While grocery shopping in bulk is easier for people with larger houses and more storage space, even apartment dwellers can get creative with space requirements.

What to buy in bulk (and what to avoid)

Naturally, certain types of foods lend themselves much better to buying in bulk. Perishable items like milk, bread or fresh produce will likely go bad before you’re able to eat it. In some cases there are alternatives (canned fruit, dried cheese, egg substitutes) that you might choose to buy instead, but that will be something you’ll want to decide on a case-by-case basis. Here are a few products that work to buy in bulk:

  • Spices and condiments
  • Staples like rice, flour and sugar
  • Meat (if you have sufficient freezer space to store it)
  • Paper products like napkins, toilet paper and paper towels
  • Beans and Lentils
  • Olive oil
  • Dry pasta

Make sure you check on the expiration and good-until dates to minimize food waste.

Compare the ACTUAL prices

One strategy that works for many people is to keep a price book of how much the items you buy the most cost. Historically this was an actual notebook, but nowadays most people use apps or note taking on a phone or tablet. No matter how you keep track of prices, it’s very important to do it so that you know when a sale is actually a sale. Having a price book helps you know the difference between the normal price, the sale price and the “back up the truck and buy a year’s supply” price.

When you’re comparing the prices, it’s important to look at the actual unit price as opposed to the sticker price. To calculate unit price, divide the sticker price by the total amount of that product. A $1.50 jar of pasta sauce that contains 15 oz. has a unit price of 10 cents per ounce. Using the unit price helps you compare the cost of different sizes of the same product. Buying in bulk often (but not always) has a cheaper unit price.

Grocery stores vs. warehouse clubs

Warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club are some of the poster children for buying in bulk. These clubs pretty much only sell in bulk, and in many cases you can get cheaper food by shopping there, even taking into account the fact that you have to pay a membership fee to access the deals at warehouse clubs.

But that doesn’t mean that a savvy grocery shopper should completely stop shopping at grocery stores. There are two common problems for shopping at warehouse clubs. First of all is food wastage — do you actually NEED a 64 ounce jar of pickles? Yes, it may have a lower unit case than a smaller jar but if you throw away the jar when it’s only halfway used, you’ll find yourself wasting money. The second reason is that you may find yourself eating your bulk cookies or Pop-Tarts at a faster rate just because you have more of them in the house. Again, if you eat more than you need to (or want to), you end up spending more money.

This is where keeping a price book makes a lot of sense. Comparing the unit prices for grocery stores to warehouse clubs helps you make a more informed decision about when grocery shopping in bulk makes sense for you. It’s possible that a smaller size on sale with a coupon at a grocery store will have a lower unit price than the bulk version at a warehouse club. Keep in mind that most warehouse clubs only sell the name brand on many products, whereas the grocery store generic brand will be cheaper.

The Bottom Line

Bulk grocery shopping isn’t for everyone, but it can make sense as one more tool to put in your money-saving toolbox. Keep a price book so that you have an understanding of what makes something a good candidate for buying in a bulk. Check expiration dates and calculate how much and how fast you’ll eat something to minimize food wasting. Having to throw away food that has gone bad not only wastes the food, it can often counteract any financial savings you got from buying in bulk.

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A Guide To Gifts Of Equity

You might be familiar with down payment gifts, when a family member provides home buyers cash that they can put toward the down payment of a home. But what about the equally valuable gift of equity?

This is when someone, usually a family member, sells a home to buyers for a price below market value, often far below. It’s a way for owners to gift real estate to their children or other relatives even if these buyers don’t have enough cash to cover a down payment or the larger monthly payment that would come from a home sold at market value.

But how does the process work? What taxes come with providing or receiving a gift of equity? Here’s a look at how home equity gifts work and the potential pitfalls to avoid.

What Is A Gift Of Equity?

If your parents – or grandparents, cousins or in-laws – sell you their home for less than its appraised value, you’ve received a gift of equity. In this case, the equity gift is the difference between the home’s value and its sales price.

If your parents sell you their home for $100,000 and it’s worth $300,000, their gift of equity equals $200,000, the difference between what they’re selling the home for and how much it is actually worth.

Gifts of equity usually involve family members, often parents and children.

A gift of equity is valuable. Equity is the difference between what a home is worth and how much you owe on its mortgage. If your home is worth $250,000 and you owe $150,000 on your mortgage, you have $100,000 in equity.

If a family member sells you a home for less than its market value, you are immediately granted more equity in that home than you would have had you paid its fair price value.

Why does equity matter? When you sell your home, the more equity you have, the greater your profit. You can also tap your home’s equity in the form of home equity loans and lines of credit, loan products that you can use for everything from paying for a major kitchen remodel to paying off high-interest-rate credit card debt to covering a portion of your children’s college tuition. You also need at least 20% equity in your home to refinance your mortgage loan to one with a lower interest rate.

A gift of equity is a way for a seller to help buyers, usually family members, purchase their home. The seller doesn’t give the buyers money as they would with a down payment gift. Instead, they agree to sell their home below market value. This gives the buyer immediate access to more equity than they have paid for.

How Does A Gift Of Equity Work?

Giving someone a gift of equity is a fairly simple process. You might own a house that is worth $250,000. Your children might want to purchase a home but are struggling to come up with the down payment or other funds they need.

If you sell your home to a child for $220,000, you’ve given him or her a gift of equity worth $30,000.

How much equity you want to give is up to you. You could sell that $250,000 house to your child for $0. That, of course, would be a generous gift of equity of $250,000.

What Steps Need To Be Completed For A Gift Of Equity?

There are some requirements that buyers and seller must meet to close a gift of equity. Fortunately, they are far from onerous.

Gift Of Equity Steps For The Seller

A gift of equity sale requires a gift letter signed by the sellers. This letter states the amount of equity that the sellers are gifting and the address of the property. The letter also lists the relationship between the owners and the buyers and must include a statement that the equity is a gift, one that the buyers don’t have to repay.

Sellers must also hire an appraiser to determine the current market value of the home. This helps them determine how much equity they are actually giving. If the home is appraised at $180,000 and the owners are selling it for $100,000, they are providing a gift of equity of $80,000.

Gift Of Equity Steps For The Buyer

In most cases, buyers will have to follow the traditional steps involved in buying a home, even if they are getting a gift of equity. If the gift of equity doesn’t cover the entire cost of the home – say the owners are selling a home valued at $200,000 for just $100,000 — buyers will still have to apply for a mortgage. This means that lenders will check their credit and verify their income.

To help lenders do this, buyers will need to provide them with copies of their two most recent paycheck stubs, last 2 years of tax returns, last 2 months of bank account statements and last 2 years of W-2 forms. They’ll also have to give lenders their permission to check their credit reports and FICO® credit scores.

What Kind Of Mortgage Can A Buyer Take Out With A Gift Of Equity?

Buyers who still need to apply for a mortgage loan even if the sellers are gifting them a large chunk of equity have plenty of options. They can choose from all mortgage loan types, including 15-year, 30-year, adjustable-rate, VA or FHA loans.

Gift Of Equity Tax: Do You Have To Pay?

Sellers should be cautious when giving a gift of equity. If their gift is too large, they may have to fill out a gift tax form when filing returns.

Under IRS rules, an individual can provide a gift of up to $15,000 – in either cash or, as in a gift of equity, property — to any other individual in a year before they have to file gift taxes. A married couple, then, could provide a child with a gift of equity of $30,000 total – $15,000 each from each parent – without triggering gift taxes.

It’s important to understand that the gift tax trigger is per recipient. This means that spouses could provide a gift of equity worth $15,000 to each of their children and another $15,000 each to their children’s spouses or partners. The couple in this way could give a total of $60,000 in equity without triggering a tax hit. If the owners sell a home worth $200,000 for $150,000, then, their gift of equity would be just $50,000 and might not generate a gift tax penalty.

If they gift more equity than that, they may have to pay taxes on it. Gift tax rates scale with the size of the gift. For 2021, the highest gift tax rate is 40%. It’s important to mention that even if a gift exceeds the $15,000 limit, it’s unlikely that the seller will actually have to pay gift taxes when they file. Gift amounts exceeding the $15,000 limit count toward a ‘lifetime exclusion total’ which must also be exceeded before the donor typically has to pay any gift taxes. That limit is $11.7 million, as of 2021.

Gift Of Equity Pros And Cons

Gifts of equity come with both positives and negatives. Here are some of the most important.

Gift Of Equity Pros

  • Buyers can get a home by paying less than market value.
  • If the gift of equity is large enough, buyers might not have to pay private mortgage insurance. Known as PMI, buyers have to pay for this insurance – which protects lenders – if they don’t come up with a down payment of at least 20% of the home’s purchase price.
  • Sellers can provide a gift to buyers without having to dig into their own savings to give them cash.
  • Buyers don’t have to pay taxes on a gift of equity.
  • Most lenders allow buyers to use a gift of equity as their down payment, saving them the hassle of scraping together enough money for this payment.

Gift Of Equity Cons

  • Sellers lose out financially. They might have made a large profit if they instead sold their home at a fair-market price.
  • If sellers gift too much equity, they’ll be hit with a gift tax.

How To Write A Gift Of Equity Letter

Lenders will require that sellers write a gift of equity letter. This letter should include the total amount of the gift of equity while explaining that the home’s buyers are not required to pay back this gift. It should also explain the relationship between the owners and buyers and include the address of the property.

A gift of equity letter, then, is slightly different from a cash gift letter. Here is a sample of a gift of equity letter:

Summary

A gift of equity is a way for owners to help family members purchase a home without these owners having to come up with a large cash gift. And if you follow the rules – writing a gift of equity letter, paying taxes when needed and paying for an appraisal – you’ll find that the process isn’t nearly as complex as you might think.

If you’re ready to explore home loan options, Mint has partnered with Rocket Mortgage™ to make it faster than ever to apply online, learn more.

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Scrolling on Zillow? Here’s What To Pay Attention To

Zillow scrolling is a hobby (or habit) that became popularized during the COVID-19 pandemic. While looking at house listings on Zillow or other real estate listing sites is something that has existed as long as those sites have been around, its popularity skyrocketed during the pandemic. 

This was especially true during early 2020 when many parts of the country were under stay-at-home orders, Zillow scrolling became a way to escape reality and fantasize about some of the different destinations that might be in play. Even as restrictions have eased up, many people continue to Zillow scroll for fun and enjoyment.

What is Zillow scrolling?

Zillow scrolling is the process of looking through at home listed on Zillow or other home sites. Whether you’re looking at homes with the idea of actually moving to a new place or just being aspirational, surfing the endless inventory of homes out there can be a fun way to spend time. 

Different ways to scroll Zillow

As you might imagine, there are lots of different ways to scroll Zillow, depending on your specific situation and what you’re looking to get out of it. Here are a few ways that people Zillow scroll:

  • Renters looking to buy a new home
  • Aspirationally looking at mansions, celebrity homes and other gigantic places you’ll never afford
  • Tourist sites or other “famous” homes like the hotel from The Shining or the home from “A Christmas Story”
  • Dreaming of properties that could give you a different life than the one you have now. This could be city dwellers dreaming of a farmhouse, rural or suburbanites thinking of living downtown or ideas of living in a totally different city or country
  • Investors looking to buy rental real estate or investment properties

No matter which type of Zillow surfer you happen to be, there’s no denying that there is something cathartic about seeing all of the millions of properties out there.

What to pay attention to when comparing places

Whenever you’re comparing different properties, there are a few things that you’ll want to pay attention to. This holds true whether you’re endlessly scrolling on Zillow or looking at listings from your favorite real estate agent. You’re probably already comparing things like the total square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms and the overall size of the property, but there’s a few other things it makes sense to keep in mind.

One thing to keep in mind if you’re looking at properties in different parts of the country than the one you live in is the overall cost of living. $800,000 might barely get you a 3 bedroom ranch in an okay part of Los Angeles while in cheaper parts of the country like Cincinnati you could afford a mansion. Another thing to consider is the actual costs associated with moving. 

Your moving costs will vary by how much “stuff” you have to move and whether you’re moving across town or across the country. And while moving can give you a fresh financial start, the tangible and intangible costs are high enough that you probably don’t want to be moving every couple of months. And of course, you only need to consider the costs of moving if you’re ACTUALLY planning on moving. If you’re surfing Zillow just for enjoyment, you can do that for free!

How to prepare to buy a house

But if you are Zillow scrolling with the idea to buy a house either in the short-term or over the next couple of years, there are a few things that you can do to get ready to buy a house. You’ll want to make sure that your credit score is as good as you can make it. A higher credit score means a lower interest rate on a mortgage, and that will put more money in your pocket each month.

Another thing that you’ll want to discuss with your spouse, partner or significant other is what your budget is. It’s important to be honest with yourself about how much house you can afford. It is very easy in the homebuying process to talk yourself into more expensive homes. You have an idea that you want to stay within a budget of $200,000 to $250,000. But then you see a house that is listed at $269,000. You visit it and fall in love, but then there’s a bidding war and you end up under contract at $290,000. Knowing how to set your budget and what that means for what you can afford.

The Bottom Line

If you spend your nights and weekends scrolling through properties on Zillow, know that you’re not alone. Zillow surfing has become more and more prevalent over the past several years, and there are lots of different reasons people do it. If you are comparing properties, besides the obvious things like bedrooms and square footage, make sure to consider cost of living and moving costs. And if a new home is something you’re planning on in the next months or years, make sure that you get your credit score up and set your home budget.

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