Guest Blogger: Stacy Barbee from kissyourmoney.com


Can Credit Cards Be Your Bestie During Holiday Trips? Yes!

It isn’t true that credit cards only help to push you towards debt. Credit cards help you build credit history. Plus, it would be wrong to blame credit cards for your debts. You got into debt because you didn’t pay your bills on time. And, even if you’re in debt, there are lots of credit card debt solutions to solve your problem.

Credit cards come with lots of benefits, and one of them is that they help you to save money on holiday trips.

Yes. I’m not kidding.

Credit cards offer lots of perks like waived baggage fees, trip cancellation insurance and rental car insurance. These lead to lots of savings.

In 2015, 5.7 million air tickets were booked between December 24 and January 4. The average cost of a discounted round-trip ticket was $186. The figure says it all.

Here are the 7 scenarios when credit cards can be your best friend when traveling.

1. You don’t have to pay a penny for foreign transactions   

Foreign transaction fees can be irritating when you have your vacation in a foreign country. Typically, you have to pay 1% to 3% for foreign transaction fees. But, there a few credit cards that come with no foreign transaction fees and some of them are:

Capital One

Discover

2. When you can save $20 every day on collision damage waiver  

Does your credit card offer primary or secondary rental car insurance? Are you paying the rental with that credit card? If so, then you can save $20 every day by rejecting the collision damage waiver proposed by the rental car company. When you have primary insurance, the credit card company will pay for the damage first.

3. When you get a refund on the nonrefundable airfare

You don’t need a trip cancellation insurance when your credit card already has this feature. If your credit card already includes a trip cancellation insurance, then you can easily qualify for a refund on your travel costs when you have to cancel the nonrefundable air tickets due to health issues or bad weather.

Obviously, the coverage will vary from company to company. Usually, credit cards with Visa Signature benefits and World MasterCard offer this coverage. In case of American Express, you have to pay additional charges for such coverage.

4. When your checked baggage fees are waived off

It sucks big time when you realize that you shopped more than what was necessary. When you packed your bags at the beginning of the trip, your bags were light. Now, you’re left with so many souvenirs, gifts, clothes, etc. What should you do now? Either you need to buy a new bag, or you have to leave them in the hotel. But, you haven’t spent so much money for leaving all the things in the hotel. Right?

Again, if you buy a new bag, this means you have to pay checked baggage fees.

Tricky situation.

Well, your co-branded credit card can help you get your checked baggage fees waived off. All you need to do is book the air ticket with the card. You can also use another trick. You can mention your frequent flyer number on your air ticket to get the fees waived off.

5. When you can book hotels and air tickets at low rates

Have you earned lots of reward points in 2016? If so, then it’s time to redeem the rewards as a travel statement credit. Do you know what’s the best part of this card? You can book hotels and air tickets with low rate by using this card. You can redeem those points against the charges made later.

Here are a few credit cards that you can use to redeem rewards for travel statement credit.

BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

6. When you don’t have to pay for in-flight meals or checked baggage fees

A few credit cards offer airline fee credits, which help to cut down trip cost and let you travel in style. The credit card will cover in-flight meals, checked baggage fees, airport lounge access, etc. Just redeem your points to take advantage of these lucrative benefits. Remember, these benefits may be valid until the end of 2016. So, hurry!

7. When you don’t have to pay for the person accompanying you

Wouldn’t it be great if you don’t have to pay a penny for your companion? Before you book air tickets or hotels, find out if you have any credit card that allows you to add someone (be it a hotel or flight) without any extra cost. In some cases, you may get heavy discounts too.

Few words of wisdom

Traveler-friendly benefits and flexible rewards make credit cards one’s best friend in the peak travel season. Often, we skip reading the features of the credit cards we have. It’s in our best interest to know about our credit card’s benefits in this year. Remember, you just need to select the right credit card and use it at the right time for getting good deals in the holiday season.

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4 ideas for inexpensive Holiday gifts


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Image credit: Allrecipes.com (left) & Pinterest.com (right)

Wow, the holidays seem to have snuck up on us once again! The Christmas music is playing full-time on the radio, and I am crossing my Christmas gifts off my list. Today’s post will explain how to give Holiday gifts even on a tiny income.

1.Make the gifts. If you are especially creative, you can easily sew or craft something for $10 or less for someone special in your life. For a while, I was a knitter. When my  niece was born I knit several baby wash cloths for her. These cost only around $10-15, including the cost of the yarn and the knitting needles. Plus my sister loved them! Another great idea is to layer cookie batter ingredients in a glass mason jar and top it with a bow. Make sure to include the recipe with these gifts!

2.Save up credit card rewards points and or Swagbucks/Ebates rewards in order to give gift cards to your friends and family. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE gift cards. My credit card, AAA Mastercard allows me to get Visa gift cards or a variety of other gift cards, including Starbucks. Gift cards make great gifts, especially when you are low on funds, and you can earn them using credit card rewards and or Swagbucks/Ebates. Alternatively, you can save up your Amazon.com gift cards and purchase gifts using these. You can send the gifts directly to the person receiving the gift or gift them in person.

3.Growing up, my mom always bought things on sale and stowed them in a gift closet. This is easy to do, especially with items like candles. Or you can re-gift something that’s been sitting around your house or apartment (books or candles, if they’re unused, make great choices).

4.Offer your services. Oftentimes stressed-out parents, spouses, friends and family appreciate these types of gifts. Offer to shovel your best friend’s driveway, or make a homemade dinner for your parents’ anniversary. Or babysit someone’s kids for free so they can go on a date night. Cook a delicious meal for your significant other, and put on Netflix. Offer a coupon book for a loved one, and include coupons for things like massages. This works well for significant others. Get creative.

The top 5 benefits of side hustling


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  1. The ability to add more money to your bank account. This is the number 1 reason that I side hustle. The main thing I’ve been doing to make extra money is by using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk since mid-September. Spending only a few hours a week I’ve already earned $314.73. This isn’t chump change. Some of the surveys and other tasks I’ve completed have been interesting, some not so much. I’m a happy Turker!
  2. The chance to earn new skills. This comes in at a close second. I am currently taking classes online for a Professional Writing Certificate through UC Berkeley Extension. My goal is to parlay the information I learn in those classes into a part-time (at first) freelance writing career. I am excited to learn new skills, create a new income stream for myself and develop my writing career. Other skills that can be learned are blogging, and eventually monetizing a blog. Initially I thought I wanted to monetize my current blog, but now I really would like to focus on the freelance writing. It’s where my passions lie.
  3. The chance to pay off debt sooner. Make Dave Ramsey proud. If you have outstanding student loan debt, credit card debt, or just want to pay off your mortgage early, side hustling is the way to go!
  4. The chance to potentially retire earlier. Any extra money you can add to your 401 (k), brokerage accounts, work retirement accounts, IRA or Roth IRA will enable you to retire earlier; it depends on how much you are able to save. Some personal finance bloggers aim to save 50% of their incomes! While that’s a stretch for me right now, it’s a great goal to aim for!
  5. The chance to turn your side hustle into a full-time job. Lots of bloggers have done it, including one of my favorites, Making Sense of Cents. Her blog regularly earns 50K+ per month, sometimes as much as 100K! Also, if you are interested in becoming a freelancer (writer in my case), you will need to start freelancing in your area of interest in order to build up a clientele and develop a portfolio. Looking for more inspiration? Check out the blog Side Hustle Nation for more inspiration.

How to save hundreds per year eating out!


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Image credit: forestcountypublichealth.org

When I was a kid and my parents took my sister and I out to eat, we were instructed to order water with our meals. Water was free and healthy for us. Soda and milk cost money, and we were too young to drink coffee. So water it was.

My point is this: ordering beverages when you go out to eat is costly, and can add hundreds of dollars per year to your restaurant bills. Alcoholic drinks are especially costly with some mixed drinks running $12-15 per drink where I live. If you stick with water (or if you want to splurge and order carbonated water, go ahead), you can easily save $500+ per year on your restaurant tabs! Make your coffee at home, grab coffee on the go sparingly (and look for freebies and check out this post on how to earn free Starbucks coffee using apps). If you stick to this rule, you will be ahead financially!

4 apps that earn you FREE Starbucks!


 

untitledI’d like to give a shout out to Heather at SimplySave for her great ideas for getting FREE Starbucks every month! You can feed your Starbucks addiction for free! Starbucks isn’t cheap, with my favorite drink running about $5.15 every time I order it (it’s an iced soy chai). As a recovering Starbucks junkie who used to order Starbucks EVERY DAY, I love these apps. If you don’t want to give up your Starbucks addiction every once in a while, read on!

  1. Bing Rewards – This is Microsoft’s search engine. It is easy to sign up for Bing rewards. Go to www.bing.com, and sign in using your Outlook/Hotmail account in the upper right hand corner. You can earn upwards of 250 points a day doing both mobile and desktop searching using the app or the website. I max out my points every day, and take part in special quizzes as well on occasion for extra points. Once you reach 5250 points you can trade them in for a FREE $5 Starbucks gift card, and you’re that much closer to caffeine nirvana. Make sure to download the Microsoft Rewards App on your smartphone. So far I’ve earned $10 in free Starbucks, and you can easily earn $5 in gift cards monthly.
  2. Shopkick – This is an app that I’ve been using for 3 years. You download the app on your smartphone and open it up every time you walk into certain stores (the app will tell you what the stores are and how many walk-in “kicks” you can earn). While in the store you can also earn kicks for scanning items. The app includes kickbate items, so if you buy an item and scan the item and the receipt in the app, that gives you extra kicks. Lastly, if you link your credit/debit card to the app and scan the app at certain stores (for example, Best Buy), that earns you extra kicks. I’ve earned over $100 in free Starbucks in 3 years. Once you have earned 1250 points you can trade the points in for a free $5 Starbucks giftcard. If you visit lots of stores and have some time on your hands you can easily earn $5 monthly.
  3. Swagbucks – This is a great overall search engine and app for earning Swagbucks gift cards. You can earn “swagbucks” by doing internet searches, or buying products through their website. In addition, download the app on your smartphone and enter swag codes that are sent out, usually daily. Answer a daily poll for a daily 1 swagbuck. Download the Swagbucks video viewer and watch movies for upwards of 20 swagbucks a day. Once you’ve accumulated 500 swagbucks you can trade them in for a $5 Starbucks giftcard. You can easily earn one of these monthly.
  4. The Starbucks app. This is a must download for diehard Starbucks fans. Register for a Starbucks card online and enter the information into the app. When you use your linked card to buy Starbucks, you are given a certain number of “stars” based on the purchase price. Once you’re accumulated 125 stars you can trade them in for a free drink or food item. The great thing is that Starbucks often has special deals going on that enable you to get bonus stars. Check the app for details.

One last way to get free Starbucks is to check personal finance blogs on a daily or semi-daily basis. I personally love www.mashupmom.com, www.pennyhoarder.com, www.hip2save.com and www.krazycouponlady.com. In reading these blogs I’ve earned approximately $20 in FREE Starbucks. Some of the promotions had to do with purchasing Starbucks/Tazo products and submitting them for a free Starbucks gift card, and others asked me to load a certain amount in Starbucks credit using the Visa checkout app and then getting an equal amount in Starbucks FOR FREE. If you are a Starbucks diehard fan like I am, check out these strategies and start earning free drinks every month!

5 Reasons You Must Open a Roth IRA today!


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Image credit: Bankrate.com

Why Everyone Needs a Roth IRA

When I opened my Roth IRA a few years ago, I knew it was a good financial decision. I put the proceeds from the sale of my house in my account, and it’s grown from there. You can save up to $5,500 per year into a Roth IRA, and if you’re 60 or older you can save $6,000 per year in a Roth. Another benefit of a Roth IRA is that earnings and withdrawals in retirement may be made tax-free. With a regular IRA, taxes are owed on withdrawals. Roth IRAs offer more flexibility, and you may make withdrawals for things like the purchase of a home.

5 Reasons You Need a Roth IRA

  1. It’s not wise to count on Social Security as your main source of income in retirement. Social Security is currently funded until 2035, but it’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan and not rely on the government to support you in retirement. Which is why you need to open a Roth IRA.
  2. Money that you put in a Roth IRA grows tax free, and withdrawals may be made tax free.
  3. There are lots of low cost options out there. Vanguard and Fidelity are two examples. You can even choose a target fund, e.g., I have a target fund for my expected retirement date of 2035. All of the funds are picked for you in this fund, and the funds invested are more conservative as you grow closer to retirement age, in order to maintain your invested funds and reduce risk. It’s a win-win.
  4. You can set up monthly automatic withdrawals of $25 to start with, if you’re on a tight budget, but check with the fund for contribution minimums required.
  5. You can start growing your net worth. This is especially important, especially if you’re not a homeowner yet (or don’t want to be). Don’t be one of those 33% of Americans who has NOTHING saved for retirement. Be smart, start early (in your 20’s, in your first job), and you will have a nice nest egg saved by the time you’re ready to retire!

 

12 legit ways to earn money for the Holidays


      Please note: This post contains affiliate links.

  1. Advertise your services on Fiverr. This site is well-known for being a place where you can get work done starting at only $5. More advanced work usually costs more. If you’re a logo designer, design logos; a writer, offer writing services, and so on. Side note: I just had my logo for this page redesigned for only $6. The turnaround was quick and I got a great result.
  2. Register and with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and earn money performing micro-tasks. Some tasks start out at .50 (I try not accept tasks lower than this), but there are other, bigger tasks available, such as transcribing audio or video which pay in the hundreds. So far, I have earned $238.42 from this site in about a month and a half.
  3. Check Craigslist in your hometown for jobs. In particular under the Jobs section, check “Etc.” jobs. There is everything here from taking part in a focus group (online or in person) or taking part in a mock trial or taste testing locally. I have earned several hundred dollars using this part of Craigslist. Also check the “Gigs” section on the site for one or two day gigs that usually pay cash (e.g., helping set up a vendor booth before a convention), working as a spokesmodel, or spinning a sign for a few hours. I have participated in online and in-person focus groups I found on craigslist.
  4. Clinical research studies – these may be through a private research company or a local university. I am taking part in one shortly on probiotics that I found on Craigslist (this was in the “Gigs” section). These usually take part over several weeks, and may include taking an investigational medication. They can pay anything from $400-1,000. Simply Google clinical trials — XYZ city. I have an appointment next week to see about participating in a probiotics study that will earn me $400 if I am accepted.
  5. Babysitting/pet sitting/housesitting – these are all great ways to earn extra income in your spare time. Check out Care.com for babysitting jobs and Rover.com and Care.com for pet sitting jobs. I created a car magnet and business cards on Vistaprint.com to get pet sitting jobs near me. Consider dropping some business cards off at your local veterinarian’s office to find pet sitting clients. For housesitting jobs try Trustedhousesitters.com or Housesittersamerica.com.
  6. Sell your stuff! Many people have old electronic devices sitting around collecting dust (think old phones and tablets). You can sell these for cash on sites like Ebay.com, letgo.com or gazelle.com. You can also sell your gently used clothing, shoes, purses etc., on eBay, tradesy, Poshmark or your local consignment shop. The sites usually keep a percentage of your sale and consignment shops usually take 50% from your sale, which is good to know.
  7. Are you creative? Set up a site selling your homemade goodies on etsy.com.  Some alternatives to etsy.com include: Cafe Press and Zazzle. You can also sell things on Amazon.com FBA (fulfillment by Amazon).
  8. Consider registering to drive for Uber or Lyft. Uber pays its drivers weekly via direct deposit and provides discounts on things like car insurance and cell phones.
  9. Plasma/blood donation – I have done both, sometimes for cash, sometimes for free. I donated plasma for about 6 months a few years ago and I earned several hundred dollars. If you’re not squeamish and you want to make some quick cash, plasma donation is the way to go. To find plasma centers in your area, Google Plasma centers XYZ city.
  10. Offer to rake your neighbor’s lawn/mow their grass, shovel their driveway or run errands. You can post a flyer in your neighborhood, on a bulletin board at your local grocery store (if they have one), or put an ad up on Craigslist. Better yet, buy a car magnet and make business cards inexpensively on vistaprint.com to get even more clients.
  11. Earn cash by buying things online through Swagbucks or Ebates.com. Once you have enough points in your account on Swagbucks you can trade them in for things like PayPal cash. You can also earn points on Swagbucks by watching videos or answering surveys. Ebates.com works a little differently and pays you cash back when your purchase things at sites linked through them. Right now new users get a $10 sign-up bonus – either a free Walmart gift card or $10 in your Ebates account.
  12. Consider having your car professionally wrapped at Wrapify or Carvertise. Carvertise is only currently available in the Northeast. These are both legitimate sites, unlike some of the scams you’ll find on Craiglist.