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Join Our Tweetchat on Thursday 7/28, 12pm Pacific for a Chance to Win Prizes

Join Our Tweetchat on Thursday 7/28, 12pm Pacific for a Chance to Win Prizes

Join our Tweetchat this Thursday at 12:00 pm Pacific for lively conversation and a chance to win one of two $10 Amazon GCs! Use #WBChat to participate.

This week’s topic: Side Gigs! Learn about jobs you can do to earn extra money, finding extra work, and more! Let us know if you have a side gig and let us know your top tip for someone looking to earn extra money!

For an easy way to keep track of the conversation, try using our special Tweetchat Chatroom.

Anyone can participate, but you must be following @WiseBread and RSVP below to win our prize!

To make it easier for us to keep track of attendees and pick our winners, please RSVP below with your twitter ID (put that in the "Link Title" field), email address, and your twitter URL (put that in the "URL" field, do not put your blog’s url in there). Winners will be selected at random from RSVPs. If a winner is chosen who RSVPed but did not attend a 2nd winner will be chosen.

New Parenting Chat Tuesdays at 11am PST

Our sister blog Parenting Squad (@ParentingSquad) will be hosting a parenting chat every Tuesday at 12:00 pm Pacific. Drop by for fun parenting conversations and a chance to win prizes! Use #PSChat to participate.

11 Meals That Make Terrific Leftovers

11 Meals That Make Terrific Leftovers

Even though I love to cook, over the years, I have come to appreciate meals that are timesavers. I especially favor meals are also frugal and healthy. Cook one meal, and save half of it for the next meal. I serve dinner from the stove, and don’t put the entire meal on the table, where people tend to "pick" and eat more than they should. Here are 11 ideas for terrific dinners made from leftovers. (See also: 9 Ways to Actually Enjoy Leftover Pizza)

1. Chili

Whether you like a meaty or a vegetarian chili, it’s inexpensive, filling, and making a whole batch (usually six servings) will probably get you through two meals. This vegetarian version is extremely satisfying, especially with a little sour cream and blue corn tortilla chips. Eating beans can help you to lower your cholesterol, and they are a good source of protein. Buying store brands of canned beans will keep your cost low, at around $1.70 a can, or less. (Soaking dried beans is even cheaper, but you have to remember to take that step.) But wait, there will be leftovers!

On night two, try making these little cornmeal chili cups; fill them with your leftover, heated chili and garnish with shredded sharp cheddar. Serve with a tossed salad.

2. Cabbage

Yes, mon petite chou, get yourself a big head of cabbage. It’s like… 16 cents a pound. That’s awfully hard to beat. For the first meal, check out this Thai cabbage salad. (No need to also buy the red cabbage listed in the recipe, too, unless you want it). I liked it with the addition of chicken.

For leftovers, take the other half of the cabbage and make this super easy cabbage roll casserole (all the flavor, minus the fuss).

3. London Broil

Watch for this versatile cut of beef to go on sale, where it can be had for a remarkable $1 per pound. Aside from being a bargain, beef is a powerhouse for zinc, vitamin B, iron, and protein. For the first dinner, make this summery London broil salad.

Save part of the meat and, for the leftovers, toss into tacos with roasted sweet potatoes, chopped romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream.

4. Rotisserie Chicken

You can get a rotisserie chicken for an astounding value at Costco for just $5. On night one, serve half with these crispy smashed red potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts.

One night two, slice the rest of the meat; toss a salad, and serve with this tarragon French bread. Super frugal folks will take that carcass and make a chicken broth for future use.

5. Pork Butt

I watch for pork butt or shoulder to go on sale when it hits around $1.89 a pound, or less, and buy the biggest one that will fit into my Crock-Pot. With it I make Kalua pig. This will easily feed your whole family on night one. Use part of the meat, add barbecue sauce, and serve on buns. Get more of the aforementioned cabbage and make a coleslaw to serve with.

On the second night, chop up the rest of that cabbage and saute until tender. Add the Kalua pork and heat through. Serve over rice.

6. Quinoa

This tiny grain is bursting with iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin E. It’s really good for you. To keep costs down, either buy in bulk or at Sam’s Club or Costco. The white quinoa is cheaper than red or black, too. For the first meal, I like this quinoa pilaf served with a salad and French bread. I make mine with vegetable stock, which does, as the recipe suggests, give more flavor.

For the leftovers, take the chilled remains and add diced artichoke hearts and jarred red peppers. Any leftover French bread can be made into croutons. Toss and serve as a salad.

7. Salmon

We eat a lot of salmon, as it’s an excellent source for vitamin B12 and vitamin D. I buy the big packs at Costco and split it into smaller pieces. That runs around $8 per pound. For the first meal, try this grilled salmon; and make baked potatoes to serve on the side.

Bake two extra potatoes and on night two, try these decadent potato, salmon, and spinach patties with garlicky dill cream.

8. Pork Tenderloin

With 22 grams of protein in only a three-ounce serving, pork tenderloin is one of my favorite go-tos. Look for it to go on sale for around $4.99, or less per pound, and stock up. I buy big loins at Costco, cut them into three or four one-pound pieces, and freeze. They make a really easy dinner (like this balsamic roasted loin) on night one.

For night two, mix up some Mojitos, fry plantains, and try some easy Cubanos (Cuban pork sandwiches).

9. Lentils

There aren’t many things that are as cheap to make (and as filling) as lentils. A 16-ounce bag can be had for less than $3. Besides being a great source of fiber, they also contain potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K. For the first meal, lentils prepared in the French style are simple and flavorful.

For the leftovers, let’s make lentil burgers. Allow the lentils (about a cup and a half) to come to room temperature. Add two beaten eggs, a half-cup of panko crumbs, salt and pepper and about a tablespoon of flour. Mix well. Shape into patties and fry. Serve on toasted buns with the usual fixings.

10. Tacos

Tacos are usually a very inexpensive meal. They can be filled with so many different things, from hamburger to turkey, fish, roasted vegetables, or just beans. You may spend a lot of time chopping up toppings on night one, but on night two, it’s farmer’s omelet time. I like to toss all the leftovers into my big skillet, add 3-4 beaten eggs, and fry it up. Top with salsa and sour cream. It’s fast and delicious.

11. Turkey

Who says turkey is just for Thanksgiving? The best prices are, of course, around the holidays. When they are less than a dollar a pound, why not buy two and freeze one? Besides being a great source of protein, turkey is also a source of iron, zinc, potassium, B6, and niacin. My husband smokes them in our smoker and on night one, we do a semi-traditional turkey dinner (even in summer).

There will be a ton of meat to package for leftovers. I think my favorite way to feature the meat on night two is in these turkey enchiladas.

How do you salvage leftovers? Share with us!

8 Creative Ways to Upcycle Used Baby Furniture

8 Creative Ways to Upcycle Used Baby Furniture

Every parent knows just how costly it can be to set up a nursery. From cribs and changing tables, to dressers and chairs, you can spend many thousands creating the perfect room. And then, after a few years, it’s time to get rid of most of it. With safety regulations constantly changing, it may not be possible to sell used baby furniture on the secondhand market. But with a little creative thinking, you can repurpose these items. Here are eight ideas to get you started.

1. Turn a Crib Into a Kids’ Workstation

Cribs can be an expensive purchase, and yet they don’t serve much of a purpose beyond a few years. However, with a little creativity and ingenuity, you can turn that crib into a wonderful desk/workstation that is the perfect height for you children. This instruction guide gives you all the tips you need to create a workstation that’s both attractive and functional, and reuses almost all of the crib. All you really need to purchase for the conversion is a piece of MDF or particleboard, and some blackboard paint.

2. Use the Crib Spring as a Drying Rack/Pot Rack

If you dismantle the crib and are wondering what to do with the crib spring, don’t throw it out. With some chain, a few hooks, and a little paint, you can turn that boring crib spring into a drying rack for the laundry room, or a pot rack for the kitchen. Just make sure the ceiling hooks you use go into something substantial, you don’t want the whole thing coming down on you.

3. That Old Changing Table Makes a Great Potting Station

The basic changing table — three shelves, the top one being used to hold a changing pad — is a functional piece of furniture for any baby room. Of course, once the toddler is out of wearing diapers, there’s not much call for it. Well, the way it is set up makes it an ideal potting table. You really don’t need to do much to it, other than painting it a color that matches your new set up. If you have a little more time and materials, you can add a handy hutch to the top, making the changing table into a fully functional potting station.

4. An Old Dresser Can Become a Kitchen Island

This doesn’t just apply to the baby dresser, but any old dresser you have that has outlived its usefulness in the bedroom. Take an old dresser, apply a new coat of paint, and add some hooks, a paper towel holder, a stone top, and some new hardware. The result is a kitchen island that completely transforms the look and feel of the room. If you don’t like stone, you could make the top of the island a butcher block. Add wheels, and it could move from kitchen to dining room, making a handy serving station.

5. Crib Sides Make Great Magazine Racks

Turn a crib on its side 90 degrees, and you suddenly have a whole lot of real estate that will hold dozens of magazines comfortably. The best part is, this is as simple as remove the side and propping it at a slight angle against the wall. VoilĂ , instant magazine rack. If you want something a bit more permanent, you can mount it to the wall, either at an angle, or flush (leaving enough room to let the magazines easily slide over the rails). A touch of paint can really make this one stand out as a feature on a wall.

6. Turn That Crib Mattress Into Outdoor Seating

While you’re busy turning the crib into something cool, don’t ignore the mattress. With a little ingenuity, you can quickly turn it into a fun and functional outdoor seating station. It can be as simple as a crib mattress cover, some old palettes, and some throw pillows. Many crib mattresses are designed to be waterproof, for obvious reasons, so they hold up well outdoors. You can also turn it into a daybed for use indoors.

7. A Changing Table Can Be Transformed Into a Bar Cart

Or a dessert trolley, if you feel the need to wheel out your impressive confections on a regular basis. However, the bar cart is a fantastic use for that old changing table, and with some wheels and a new paint job, few people will recognize it as a piece of old baby furniture. Adding a cheap accordion-style wine rack is a great finishing touch, especially if you paint it the same color as the cart.

8. Use Crib Ends to Create a Cool Chalkboard Easel

If you happen to have a crib with a solid headboard and footboard, you can quickly and easily turn them into a very cool easel for signage. Use chalkboard paint (or whiteboard material), and you can make it customizable on a daily basis, which is great for small businesses. But it’s also a very handy thing to have to announce birthday parties, anniversaries, play dates, and so on.

What have you done with furniture the kids have outgrown?

Best Money Tips: 5 Ways You’re Overpaying for Health Care

Best Money Tips: 5 Ways You're Overpaying for Health Care

Welcome to Wise Bread’s Best Money Tips Roundup! Today we found articles on ways you’re spending too much on health care, how to optimize your workspace, and why sales tax holidays are not as great as they sound.

Top 5 Articles

5 Ways You Are Spending too Much on Health Care — A procedure may cost more because of how you pay. Discuss alternative payment methods and find what works best for your situation. [Money Spruce]

Five Ways to Optimize Your Workspace for Productivity — You can get into a better working flow by using different places for different kinds of action. [Lifehacker]

Are sales tax holidays good for anyone? — Economists say that sales tax holidays don’t work the way they were meant to. [The Monitor]

6 Reasons You Should Nap More — Feeling agitated, sad, or tense? Napping can help reduce anxiety and depression. [PopSugar Smart Living]

The Hidden Cost of Disorganization — When you’re disorganized, it’s easy to lose money — literally! [Inexpensively]

Other Essential Reading

20 Places That Give You Free Stuff On Your Birthday — Sign up for the birthday club at Baskin Robbins and get a free ice cream on your special day! [SheBudgets]

3 Signs It’s Time to Hire a Virtual Assistant — Not all business tasks are created equal. The day-to-day stuff that don’t make any money can be handed off to a virtual assistant. [Due]

Apartment Hunting: 5 Things You Should Bring With You — Bring a tape measure to get a better idea of how large the rooms and doorways are…and whether your furniture will fit. [The Allstate Blog]

Road Trip Ideas to Maximize Fun and Not Break Your Budget — You don’t want to worry about your car breaking down in the middle of your road trip. If you aren’t renting a car, be sure to check your fluids and tires, and have an emergency kit on hand. [Couple Money]

6 Perfect Summer Chores for Kids — Have your kids help you water your plants. They’ll see their hard work pay off when the plants grow and flowers bloom! [Parenting Squad]

 

Are You Choosing the Right Fund for Your Portfolio?

Are You Choosing the Right Fund for Your Portfolio?

With a market of over $30 trillion, mutual funds are some of the most popular investments. But the $3 trillion ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) market is catching up quickly. So, what are ETFs? How do they differ from mutual funds? And are they right for you? Here’s what you need to know:

Mutual Funds 101

When you invest in an individual stock, the success of your investment is completely dependent upon the success of that one company. But when you invest in a mutual fund, your money is diversified. It’s pooled with many other investors’ money and then invested in many companies, based on the design of the fund or the decisions of the fund manager.

It’s the same with bonds and bond funds, or real estate and real estate funds.

Think of an exchange-traded fund as a close cousin of a mutual fund. It, too, manages a pool of money from many investors, spreading it among many investments. But there are some very important differences between ETFs and mutual funds.

ETFs Are Priced Throughout the Day

When you enter an order to purchase a mutual fund, the order will fill at the end of the day, after the value of all of its underlying assets are tallied.

ETFs, on the other hand, can be bought and sold throughout the day like stocks. When you enter an order to purchase an ETF, your order will typically be filled very soon after entering the order at a price very close to the price you saw when you placed the order.

That’s one of the main reasons why ETFs were created. On October 19, 1987, a day now known as "Black Monday," the U.S. stock market fell by nearly 23%. Mutual fund investors who wanted to sell their shares couldn’t until all the damage had been done. Three years later, the first ETF was launched, giving investors all of the diversifying benefits of a mutual fund but the flexibility to buy or sell throughout the trading day.

ETFs Have Lower Expenses

Exchange-traded funds tend to have lower operating expenses than mutual funds, and that lower cost structure is passed along to investors in the form of lower expense ratios. For example, Vanguard’s S&P 500 index mutual fund (ticker symbol VFINX) has an expense ratio of .16%. If you invest $1,000 in the fund, $1.60 will go toward fund expenses. That’s already very low. However, if you invest in Vanguard’s S&P 500 exchange-traded fund (ticker symbol VOO), you’ll pay an even lower expense ratio of .05% — or 50 cents per $1,000 invested.

ETFs Have Lower Minimums

Many mutual funds have minimum initial investment amount requirements. Common amounts range from $250 to $3,000, but some funds require as much as $10,000.

With ETFs, the minimum investment amount required is the cost of one share. If you wanted to invest in Vanguard’s VFINX mutual fund, you’d need to come up with at least $3,000 for your initial investment. However, getting started with what, in essence, is the ETF version of the same fund, VOO, would cost only about $190 — the price of one share when this article was written.

Which Is Better?

There are three main factors that can help you decide whether to go with a mutual fund or an exchange-traded fund.

Availability

You may not have a choice. Some 401K plans don’t yet include ETFs in the investment options they make available to participants. If that’s true with your workplace plan, you’ll have to go with one or more of the available mutual funds.

Strategy

While the ETF universe is growing rapidly, there are still many more mutual funds. So, it could be that the investment strategy you’re following calls for the use of a particular mutual fund and there are no suitable ETF substitutes.

Cost

If you’re following an investment strategy that calls for the use of a particular fund that’s available as a mutual fund or an ETF, check on each one’s expense ratio. It’s very likely that the ETF will cost less, making it the better choice.

One Last Consideration

Some critics say ETFs can get investors in trouble by encouraging more trading. They argue that because the funds can be bought and sold throughout the day, they’ll tempt otherwise conservative investors to take undue risk and turn them into roll-the-dice day-traders.

But that’s like arguing that because some people get into car accidents, no one should be allowed to drive. If you follow the rules of the road for wise investing — if you’re a long-term investor, not a short-term trader — ETFs can be a very efficient, cost-effective investment vehicle.

So, which is it for you? Mutual fund or ETF?

The 5 Best Repair Shampoos

The 5 Best Repair Shampoos

Your hair can become damaged due to hair dye, stress, heat styling, and even environmental pollutants. Fortunately, the right repair shampoo can nurse your hair back to life and help prevent further damage.

Repair shampoos can hydrate, restore, and revitalize hair. They can also repair split ends, reduce breakage, and allow hair to grow longer and stronger. After each use, your hair should feel soft, smooth, shiny, strong, healthy, and manageable.

What Is Repair Shampoo?

Repair shampoo can gently cleanse the hair, while restoring it to its former glory. It works by restoring the hair’s natural oils, while strengthening the hair so it can grow in thicker and healthier. With the right restorative shampoo, you can repair weak, dry, damaged hair, so you won’t have to cut it off and start over. (See also: The 5 Best Shampoos)

Top 5 Repair Shampoos

Ojon Damage Reverse Restorative Shampoo

The 5 Best Repair ShampoosThe Ojon Damage Reverse Restorative Shampoo can actually reverse damage with Ojon oil. It gently cleanses, nourishes, repairs, and revitalizes dry, damaged, chemically treated hair. It has a blend of powerful plant ingredients and natural botanicals that work to repair hair, reduce tangles, smooth cuticles, and reduce hair breakage by 99% instantly. It is fortified with wheat proteins and creamy coconut to help repair damaged hair in the shower. Your hair will be left soft, smooth, shiny, healthy, and intensely moisturized.

This gel shampoo is recommended by AllWomenStalk and is a Birchbox Editors’ pick. It also has rave reviews online and most reviewers love the scent and rich lather.

Currently $34.99 on Amazon

Aveda Damage Remedy Shampoo

The 5 Best Repair ShampoosThe Aveda Damage Remedy Shampoo gently cleanses the hair, while restoring your hair’s health, shine, and manageability. It repairs, restructures, and restores hair with high-performance pure plant and flower essences, quinoa protein, coconut, and babassu. This is ideal for all hair types and reviewers tend to love the scent and rich lather.

While this is on the pricier side, a little goes a long way, so this should last you awhile. It is a Total Beauty “Top-Rated Beauty Product,” is recommended by Real Simple, and has rave reviews online.

Currently $27.84 on Amazon

Dove Intensive Repair Shampoo

The 5 Best Repair ShampoosThe Dove Intensive Repair Shampoo is ideal for dry, damaged, weak, frizzy, and curly hair. The keratin repair actives work on the keratin already in your hair to rebind, reconstruct, and restore damaged hair proteins at the cellular level. It immediately repairs the hair surface by penetrating each hair to repair from the inside. In fact, it claims to leave hair up to five times smoother after just one wash. The intense solution can also help reduce breakage and prevent split ends. It hydrates, revives, and nourishes to repair the signs of dry, damaged hair. After each use, your hair will feel healthy, strong, manageable, and silky soft.

The brand is recommended by Total Beauty, Refinery 29, and AllWomenStalk. This shampoo is also a celebrity favorite and preferred by celebrity hairstylists like Ryan Richman, who works with Lorde, Ashley Tisdale, and Sarah Hyland.

Currently $7.79 on Amazon

L’Oreal Paris EverStrong Sulfate-Free Fortify System Reconstruct Shampoo

The 5 Best Repair ShampoosThe L’Oreal Paris EverStrong Sulfate-Free Fortify System Reconstruct Shampoo will make damaged, frizzy hair instantly healthier. The vegan shampoo gently cleanses, nourishes, strengthens, restores, and repairs hair with a patented bio-ceramide complex and natural botanicals like rosemary and juniper. The gentle, yet powerful, formula actually strengthens the hair fiber after just one use, so it can resist breakage and seal split ends. It can restore your hair’s natural oils to improve its condition over time. After each use, your hair will feel soft, strong, and silky. Reviewers also tend to love the scent and rich lather.

This reconstructing shampoo is recommended by Allure and AllWomenStalk. Some reviewers even call this their miracle product. Total Beauty also recommends the overnight treatment, L’Oreal Paris EverStrong Sulfate-Free Fortify System Overnight Hair Repair Treatment.

Currently $17.99 on Amazon

Fekkai Protein RX PM Repair Shampoo

The 5 Best Repair ShampoosThe Fekkai Protein RX PM Repair Shampoo replenishes, renews, hydrates, and strengthens dry, damaged, color-treated hair. Your damaged locks will be moisturized with sweet almond, sunflower seed extract, hydrolyzed wheat protein, milk protein, soy protein, and jojoba protein. It can strengthen, mend, and protect hair, while renewing strength and elasticity. The protein treatment will leave your hair soft, shiny, strong, healthy, silky smooth, and manageable after every use. Reviewers tend to love the scent and were able to see results after the very first use.

This salon-quality reparative shampoo is a Total Beauty “Top-Rated Beauty Product.” The brand is also recommended by Allure, AllWomenStalk, and hairstylists around the country.

Currently $24.00 on Amazon

And those are our recommendations for the best repair shampoos. As always, be sure to check Wise Bread’s Buying Calendar to learn when and how to buy just about anything!

11 Budgeting Skills Everyone Should Master

11 Budgeting Skills Everyone Should Master

Budgeting. In some of our lives, it’s known as "the b-word."

If you’ve never budgeted before, it can seem like a gargantuan task that only produces something that will make you miserable. And if you consider yourself bad with money or find that you have a difficult time living within your means, budgeting can feel like one more way to fail financially.

But budgeting doesn’t have to be any of these things. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time and energy, and it can free you so that you can save for the things that you really want. It can also help you understand why you spend the way you do, and help you get a handle on it.

The key to making your budget into a friend and not a foe is having the right set of skills to make it happen. Here are a few of those.

1. See Money as a Tool

We tend to think of money in a lot of different ways. Money can be freedom, it can be despair, it can mean power or significance, or any one of a number of things. The point is, to be good at budgeting, develop the mindset that money is a tool. It helps you do the things that you want and need to do. No matter how much or how little you have, your money can help you achieve your goals.

2. Record Your Transactions

On a practical level, you will need a record of your transactions to start a budget, and you will need to keep recording them to continue budgeting. You can do this by hand, via an app, or once a week on a spreadsheet. Do it however works for you, but learn to record your transactions and you will be well on your way to budgeting.

3. Assess Your Spending

Recording your transactions won’t help if you never think about them. Learn to categorize your transactions in whatever way is meaningful for you, so you can see how much you’re spending in different areas. This can help you decide where to spend more, where to spend less, and what cutting back might look like in your everyday life.

4. Make a Budget

This might be the most obvious skill in this list, but it’s also one of the most important. There are spreadsheets you can download, programs like YNAB and Mint that help you see your spending in different ways, and more. Some things to think about before you choose a method involve deciding whether you want to go old school or online, and whether you want to store it on your personal computer or in the cloud.

5. Write It Out

Throughout the budgeting and recording process, it will help if you actually write things out. This can be on a computer, though there is something about the act of writing something and then seeing it there in your own handwriting that helps you remember. Whatever you do, don’t keep your budget in your head. It’s easy for numbers to become fuzzy and for you to forget about your budget entirely. Instead, put your budget where you can see it often, so that it feels real and you remember your goals.

6. Plan Ahead

When you make your budget, don’t just think about what you need right now, or even your monthly expenses. Think, too, about expenses that only come around every so often. Car insurance, life insurance, and property taxes are a few line items that can fall into these categories. Then, save a little bit of money every month toward these items, so you can pay them without worry when that bill shows up.

7. Include Spending Money

If you don’t have spending money, you will feel like your budget is a cage you need to break out of, rather than a structure supporting you and your goals. Even if all you can afford is $5, give yourself something. This can go against the grain, especially if you have a lot of debt or very little income. However, you are important. And you will be happier keeping your budget if you know you have a little money you can spend however you want.

8. Make a System That Works for You

It’s easy to get sucked into a system that doesn’t work for you. For instance, you may not be able to track your spending every day. If that’s you, then don’t buy into a budgeting system that requires this. There are plenty of systems where you can record once a week, or so. If the system doesn’t work for you, you won’t do it, and there won’t be any value to budgeting. Keep trying things until you find something you like.

9. Live With Discipline

This is a huge skill and one that won’t happen overnight. Living a disciplined life, though, will go far toward helping you make and keep your budget. Pay attention to your budget. Update it. And when you don’t have any money left for something, stop spending! It can help to breathe through your desires, to remind yourself of your bigger goals, and to give yourself a waiting period before you buy things.

10. Know When to Splurge

This is a tricky skill, especially in light of the one above. However, there are times in every life when it’s right to splurge. This doesn’t have to be a huge spending binge — it can be something as small as a coffee with a friend. A lot of times, this comes into play when you choose to buy something of a higher quality even though it costs more. It’s up to you to decide when to splurge, but make sure there’s some room for it in your financial life.

11. Ask Yourself Hard Questions

When you’re budgeting alone or you are the one in charge of the budget, it can be easy to let things slide. Get into the habit of asking yourself hard questions, like, "Why do I always spend too much on entertainment?" and "Am I realistically able to take that vacation this year?" You may not like the answers you find, but being honest with yourself will ultimately help you become more aware of who you are and how things work inside of you — which will help you meet your goals, financial and otherwise.

Are there any other budgeting skills that are important to you? Which ones are they?

The Best Low Interest Rate Credit Cards

The Best Low Interest Rate Credit Cards

This post contains references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Please visit our Advertiser Disclosure to view our partners, and for additional details.

The only thing more challenging than managing credit card debt is getting out of it. To accomplish this important goal you need a sound budget, plenty of discipline, and a credit card with the lowest possible interest rate. (See also: The Best 0% Balance Transfer Cards)

How to Find the Lowest Interest Rates

Every bank is legally required to clearly disclose each card’s Annual Percentage Rate, or APR. This is the rate you will see in the black and white box when you click on the "terms and conditions" link. While you might think these disclosures make choosing the lowest APR an easy task, it is not that simple. Most banks will disclose a range of possible rates, with each applicant being offered a particular APR according to his or her credit rating. Therefore, the lowest rates available will be granted only to those applicants with the highest credit scores, with all other cardholders receiving higher rates.

Another important aspect of a credit card interest rate is that nearly all of them will have a variable rate. The good news is that the CARD Act of 2009 prevents banks from arbitrarily raising their rates on cardholders in good standing. What you will find is that nearly every card on the market will offer a variable APR that is based on the Prime Rate. This rate, determined in part by the Federal Government, has stood at a record low of 3.25% since December of 2008. Nevertheless, the variable interest rates quoted by the credit card issuers will rise when the Prime Rate does. For example, if the Prime were to rise to 8.25%, as it did in June of 2006, cardholders would see their interest rate rise by 5% from the current rates.

Finally, the best interest rates offered for a particular card can vary based on the link you use to apply for it. I have even seen different rates for the same card depending on which browser I used!

The Five Lowest APR Cards on the Market

These cards currently have the lowest interest rates.

BankAmericard® Credit Card

The Best Low Interest Rate Credit CardsThe Best Low Interest Rate Credit CardsThe BankAmericard® credit card offers a competitive 11.24%-21.24% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers, with a 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on balance transfers made in the first 60 days. This no-frills card does not offer any rewards, but it can be a worthwhile tradeoff for people who want a low-interest card in case they have to carry a balance from time to time. There is no annual fee. See terms.

Click here to learn more and apply for the BankAmericard® Credit Card today!

Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

The Best Low Interest Rate Credit CardsThe Best Low Interest Rate Credit CardsThe Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer not only comes with a great low interest rate, but it also comes with some great cash back rewards to boot. New cardholders will get to enjoy a 0% introductory APR on purchases (6 months) and balance transfers (18 months), and then a low 11.24%-23.24% variable APR will apply. Cardholders can also earn 5% cash back on purchases in bonus categories that change each quarter, up to $1500 per quarter when they sign up. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases on the card. With Cashback Match™, an exclusive offer for new cardmembers, Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of the first year — automatically. There is no annual fee.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Discover it® – 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer today!

Chase Slate®

The Best Low Interest Rate Credit CardsThe Best Low Interest Rate Credit CardsWith the Chase Slate®, you’ll enjoy 0% intro APR for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers, and the intro balance transfer fee is $0 when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days of account opening. After the introductory periods end, a variable APR of 13.24%-23.24% applies on balance transfers and purchases, and there will be a fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. There is no penalty APR — paying late won’t raise your interest rate. There is no annual fee, either.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Chase Slate® today!

Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever

The Best Low Interest Rate Credit CardsThe Best Low Interest Rate Credit CardsThe Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever offers 0% intro APR on purchases and balances for a whopping 21 months! After the intro period, the variable APR will be 13.24%-23.24%. While there is a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer (whichever is greater), there are no late fees, no penalty APR, and no annual fee. It doesn’t get simpler than that.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Citi Simplicity® Card – No Late Fees Ever today!

BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card

The Best Low Interest Rate Credit CardsThe Best Low Interest Rate Credit CardsThe BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ credit card has an intro offer of 0% APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 12 billing cycles, then a variable APR of 13.24% – 23.24% applies. You earn 3% cash back for gas, and you earn 2% at grocery stores amd wholesale clubs (for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter).There is no annual fee. See terms.

Click here to learn more and apply for the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card today!

Although the best way to use a credit card is to avoid paying interest, most Americans are unable live up to this ideal. If you do have to carry a balance, your primary goal should be finding a card with the lowest interest rate. Doing so will help you to minimize the amount of interest that you owe, making it easier to pay off your credit card debt as soon as possible.

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any bank, card issuer, airline or hotel chain.

Is Long Term Care Insurance Worth It?

Is Long Term Care Insurance Worth It?

Worried about how you’d pay for a long stay in a nursing home? These concerns aren’t rare. The 2016 Insurance Barometer Study found that 58% of respondents worried they wouldn’t have enough money to afford the costs of long-term care.

Fortunately, there is an insurance product that can help ease these concerns: long-term care insurance. It pays for services to help people who need assistance with daily activities, or who require supervision because of a disease such as Alzheimer’s. People often use this insurance to cover stays in nursing homes.

The U.S. population is aging. The U.S. Census Bureau said that there were 46.2 million people 65 and older in 2014, or 14.5% of the country’s population. These people are the prime target for long-term care insurance. But you may need it sooner if you have reason to believe you’ll need such assistance earlier in life.

Is It Worth It?

Should you invest in long-term care insurance? That depends on a host of factors. Do diseases such as Alzheimer’s run in your family? Did your parents and their parents die young, or did they live to an old age? Did they require long stays in nursing homes?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict whether you will need long-term care in your life. You might be healthy today. You might eat well and exercise regularly. This doesn’t mean that your health can’t suddenly change.

Then there are other financial alternatives to consider. By the time you need long-term care, you might be eligible for the government’s Medicaid program, which will pay most of the cost of any stays in critical-care facilities or nursing homes. This program is only open to consumers with few assets. Many senior citizens on fixed-incomes, though, will qualify.

Also, Medicare will often pay for the first 20 days that you spend in a nursing home. From the 21st to the 100th day, Medicare requires that you make a co-payment of $161 a day.

If you do want to invest in long-term care, know that the insurance can be costly. The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance says that an insurance policy providing $164,000 in immediate coverage will cost a male age 55 in good health an average of $1,060 a year. A single female in good health would pay an average of $1,390 a year for the same coverage, according to the association.

A couple, both age 60 with standard health for that age, would pay an average of $2,710 a year — the combined cost for both members of the couple — for a long-term care insurance policy with $164,000 in immediate coverage.

Better policies will cost significantly more. The association says that a policy providing $164,000 in immediate coverage at age 60 and $365,000 at age 85 would cost a 55-year-old man in good health an average of $2,075 a year. It would cost a 55-year-old female also in good health an average of $2,411 a year.

Long-Term Care Costs Continue to Rise

According to the 2016 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the cost of long-term care is only getting more expensive. According to the survey, the national median cost of a month’s stay in a semiprivate room in a nursing home is $6,844. That figure rises to $7,698 for a month’s stay in a private room. The median cost for a stay in an assisted-living facility was $3,628 a month.

Other costs associated with long-term care are staggering, too. The Genworth survey found that the median cost for a month’s worth of homemaker services was $3,813 and the median cost of a home health aide was $3,861 a month. The median cost of adult day health care services was $1,473 a month.

The odds are high that you, too, will need to some form of long-term care as you age. According to a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control, more than 8.35 million people receive support from the five main types of long-term care services: home health agencies, nursing homes, hospices, residential care communities, and adult day service providers.

You can’t predict today whether you will need such care or whether you’ll ever need to use a long-term care insurance policy. But for some, the annual investment does provide peace of mind that if you are hit with a huge bill for a long stay in a nursing home, you won’t have to bankrupt yourself to pay for it.

Have you considered long-term care insurance?

10 Dumb Ways to Scare Off Potential Homebuyers

10 Dumb Ways to Scare Off Potential Homebuyers

When the time comes to put your home on the market, you will go from being a homeowner to a home seller. Make no mistake, the two are very different, and if you don’t want to scare away the buyers, you will need to make a few sacrifices. However, if you avoid the following dumb mistakes, and keep your eyes on the prize, your home will be sold before long. (See also: 10 Hidden Housing Costs New Homeowners Don’t Expect)

1. Family Photos and Kids’ Drawings Everywhere

It may seem odd to think this is a way to scare people off, but look at it this way: When anyone comes to look around the home you’re selling, they are trying to picture themselves, and their family, living there. It’s very difficult to do that when the home is clearly one that belongs to another family, with personal evidence of that in every room. If you have framed photos covering every wall, drawings over the fridge and up the staircase, and other shrines to your beloved family and friends, you need to take most of them down. Don’t worry; it’s not forever. In fact, if you do it, it will take you less time to sell your house, and put them up in your new home.

2. Unusual Smells and Stains

No home can stay new-looking forever. Homebuyers expect the house to be lived in, but what they don’t want are odd smells and ugly stains. You may not notice them as you have lived with them for years, but you need to look at your home through fresh eyes. Do a walk-through, and examine every wall, ceiling, and floor in every room. Stains can easily be covered with paint, or shampooed out of carpets. If it’s very stubborn, you may have to replace the carpet or rug. Smells, well, the cause needs to be tracked down. If it’s mold in the corner of the basement, get it treated. If it’s something rotten in the garage, dump it. Your home should look clean and smell fresh. Don’t try and mask smells with air fresheners, as they will only make it worse (the sweet smell of vanilla and mold is not a nice combination).

3. Your House Is Stuck in the Past

It’s one thing to keep your home in great condition. It’s quite another to keep it in the exact same condition that it was in when you first acquired it. If you bought the home 20 years ago, it should not look that way, inside or out. Ideally, you will have performed upgrades over the years to modernize the look and feel of the place. New paint, new carpet or flooring, new appliances, updated cabinets, perhaps even a few additions or a finished basement, can all help with the appeal. Very few people want to move into a home that looks and feels dated. It is a sign that they will have a lot of work to do, and money to spend, to bring the home roaring into the present.

4. It’s Dirty and Messy

One of the simplest ways to make a used car sell for more money is to detail it, inside and out. It can literally add thousands to the value. The same is true of your home. If the kitchen is dirty, and the sink is full of dishes, you are sending the wrong message. You are also putting a barrier in front of that potential buyer, and it’s your job to remove them. You don’t want them to have to imagine how it would look when it’s clean and tidy. Show them. Every room should be clean, organized, and free of clutter.

5. You Have… Wallpaper!

What’s wrong with wallpaper? Well, the chances are, it took you a long time to find the wallpaper you really liked. You scoured the pattern books, you mulled it over for days, and when you finally took the plunge, it was no easy task to put up. In fact, most people opt for a professional to do it. So, what are the odds that your perfect wallpaper is also the perfect match for someone who wants to buy your house? Exactly. When they see wallpaper, they see a chore. They see hours of steaming, scouring, scraping, and sweating. Removing wallpaper is about as pleasant as scrubbing the bathroom floor, only it takes 10 times as long. So, get rid of it. Scrape it off now, and put neutral paint in its place. It will vastly improve your chances of getting a buyer.

6. You Follow the Buyer Around

The easiest way to make the buyer feel really awkward, uncomfortable, and pressured, is to be the tour guide for your home. You know the feeling yourself, especially if you’ve tried to look at a car on the lot and the salesperson is breathing down your neck. This is a huge purchase, and buyers want time and space to look at everything without a chaperon. So, if you can, make sure you’re not at home when the buyers come. If you have to be there, confine yourself to just one room, and leave that room when the buyers enter. Go out into the garden or yard, or even the garage.

7. Anything Broken

A door that won’t close properly. An appliance that doesn’t work well. A piece of tile that has come away from the wall. A cracked window. The list is endless, but whatever it is that’s broken in your home, fix it before you put it on the market. Big things, like the roof or siding, that’s a no-brainer. But it’s the little things that you may have simply gotten used to that can be really off-putting to potential buyers. If they have to jiggle the handle in just the right way to get into the garage, that’s not good. If they have to step over the broken piece of concrete in the backyard, they’re going to remember that in a negative way. Do a thorough check of the home, and get everything fixed. You do not want to send a signal that you did not do a good job of maintaining your house.

8. Setting the Asking Price Way Too High

It may be a seller’s market, but don’t take that beyond the limits. If you start at the maximum price you could hope to get, you’re excluding a vast number of buyers from ever taking a tour. They may have a maximum amount they want to spend, and your high starting price means they cannot afford to get into a bidding war. Remember, the Internet has given buyers a wealth of information about homes for sale, or recently sold, in your neighborhood. They can do their own comps, and quickly come to the conclusion that you are asking way too much. Now of course, you also don’t want to ask too little for the home, because it’s possible only one buyer will bite, and you may be stuck with that asking price. So do your homework. See what homes of the same size, age, and condition have sold for in your area, and price accordingly.

9. Poor Landscaping

There is something called curb appeal, and it’s literally judging a book by its cover. Your home may be something out of Architectural Digest on the inside, but if it looks like the Addams Family did the yard work, you are not going to inspire people to come and look around. This is the first impression, and it has to count. This also applies to the backyard, too. If it’s a bunch of weeds, rocks, rusted cars, and an eyesore called an "above ground pool," you have your work cut out. People want to see a well loved landscape, front and back, that has green grass, healthy trees, flowering plants, and clean rocks. If it’s anything less than that, you may never get the buyer through the front door.

10. Bizarre or Eccentric Features

You may have thought that decorating an entire wall of the den with hubcaps was cool, but potential homebuyers probably won’t like it. Anything that is exclusive to the point of being weird or strange is not going to help you sell the home. Maybe the kids wanted a room that was like a forest, complete with lots of fake trees and a dark green carpet. Or perhaps the gray Batcave was something that you just had to have. All well and good when it’s your own place, but you cannot expect buyers to share your passions. If you have something that is truly original, it may be time to take it out and go neutral. And in the case of this guy, who built a roller coaster through his house to try and sell it, well…that’s not recommended!

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever seen at an open house?