How This Couple Paid off $20K in Credit Card Debt — Making Less Than $70K/Year

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How This Couple Paid off $20K in Credit Card Debt — Making Less Than $70K/Year
It happened fast. In a little over a month, Wilmer and Kimberly Swerdfeger had accumulated $20,000 in credit card debt. “Everything went haywire,” Wilmer says. The 51-year-old Bakersfield, California, resident has been an emergency medical technician on a 911 ambulance for more than 10 years. Wilmer says both he and his wife, who’s a substitute teacher, are financially responsible. They earn a modest income, but they have near-perfect credit scores, and their cars are paid for in full. Heck, they don’t even like having more than $600 on their credit card. So when $20,000 in unexpected home repairs and emergency medical procedures hit all at once, Wilmer felt stressed. He went looking for a way out and found an online lender called Figure, which offered home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) of up to $150,000 with annual percentage rates (APR)  starting at 4.99%*. This could save him hundreds of dollars in interest each month and would leave him with a single manageable monthly payment — not multiple credit card bills due on different days. Plus, Wilmer could get a free quote in five minutes and apply online. It was worth a shot, right? How a HELOC Can Alleviate the Stress of Credit Card Debt If you own a home, a HELOC allows you to borrow money against its equity — that’s the money you’ve paid toward your mortgage. Use Wilmer as an example. He’s accumulated more than $200,000 in home equity over the 20 years he’s owned his home. He applied for a five-year HELOC through Figure, which granted him access to $24,000 worth of his home’s equity with an  APR of 5.75%. He could then use that $24,000 to pay off his high-interest credit card balances. With a HELOC, you can use the money for whatever you want — but that doesn’t mean you should. HELOCs (typically) come with lower interest rates than personal loans because they’re backed by your home. This is a huge perk. But that also means if you fail to pay back what you’d borrowed, you risk losing your home. Many experts suggest only opening a HELOC to consolidate and pay off high-interest credit cards (like Wilmer) or to increase the value of your home with repairs or renovations. Don’t Let Lenders Take Advantage of Your Bad Situation Before he found Figure, Wilmer contacted his bank and other lenders about opening a HELOC. But he quickly realized: “These guys were trying to take advantage of my desperation.” “A couple of banks told me I qualified for a $190,000 line of credit,” Wilmer says. “It’s taken me 20 years of hard work to build up that equity.” He didn’t need that much money, and when Wilmer told one lender that, the voice on the other end responded: “Go buy a new wardrobe! Take a vacation!” It’s taken me 20 years of hard work to build up that equity. That enraged Wilmer. He knew that was the last thing anyone should do with borrowed money. Other banks offered a HELOC with a draw period of nine years, meaning he’d have more chance to spend. It was unnecessary; Wilmer just wanted to pay off his debt as soon as possible. A Line of Credit Could Save You Hundreds Each Month Right when he reached peak frustration, he learned about Figure. It offered home equity lines of credit for up to $150,000, with APRs starting at 4.99%. But because he hadn’t heard of the company before, Wilmer had questions. He picked up the phone and called Figure… several times. Everyone he spoke with was friendly, helpful and patient; no one was pushy. Wilmer even asked about the history of the company. Skepticism now aside, Wilmer got a free quote from Figure, then applied for a HELOC from his phone. He got approved for a five-year line of credit for with an APR of 5.75%. It was way better than any previous offer he’d received. Whereas his bank told him he’d have to wait three weeks for approval and to receive his funds, Figure directly deposited the money he requested into his account the next day. And, unlike some lenders might have, Figure didn’t surprise him with fees. He paid an origination fee (typical), but he wasn’t charged an application fee and doesn’t face monthly maintenance fees. Moving on From Unexpected Credit Card Debt  Once Wilmer was approved for his line of credit, he says, “It was like, ‘Wam bam bam,’ and everything was paid off. Now I just owe Figure. It took a lot of stress off.” He’s no longer worried about making payments toward his wife’s emergency eye surgery. Or paying off that air conditioning system — his old one went kaput the day his wife came home from surgery, and California summers are hot. And he went ahead and paid off a lingering $4,000 he still owed on roof repairs. It took a lot of stress off. Now he’s left with two easy-to-manage monthly payments: His mortgage and his Figure payment. He’s even throwing some extra money toward his line of credit so he can pay it off early — Figure has no early repayment penalty. It only takes five minutes to check your rate with Figure. If you like what you see and your application is approved, Figure will initiate funding within five days*. Then it’s goodbye to high interest rates and credit card debt.   *Terms and conditions apply. Visit figure.com for further information. Figure Lending LLC is an equal opportunity lender. NMLS #1717824 Carson Kohler (carson@thepennyhoarder.com) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017. [...]
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FINRA Announces Final Results of Mutual Fund Waiver Initiative

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FINRA Announces Final Results of Mutual Fund Waiver Initiative
On July 17, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced settlement arrangements with 56 member firms that failed to (i) waive mutual fund sales charges for eligible accounts and (ii) reasonably supervise the sale of mutual funds offering sales charge waivers. As part of the settlement, the member firms agreed to pay $89 million in restitution to nearly 110,000 charitable and retirement accounts that were eligible for, but did not receive, the sales charge waivers. The announcement is available here. [...]
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Don’t Toss Your Receipts. These 8 Apps Will Pay You for Them

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Don’t Toss Your Receipts. These 8 Apps Will Pay You for Them
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We provide you with accurate, reliable information. Learn more about how we make money and select our advertising partners. We’ve got news: Your grocery receipts are a lot more valuable in your hand than in the trash.  Now, I’ll be honest… I’ve crumpled more receipts than I could ever count. I used to save them all, but the inside of my wallet started looking like something George Constanza would be proud of.  Once it got out of hand (like having years-old receipts…), I resorted to tossing them. Here’s why that was a mistake: Cash-back apps make it extremely easy to earn rewards for making purchases you were already going to make — and all you need is a receipt. 8 Apps That Will Pay You for Your Grocery Receipts  To give you an idea of how cash-back apps can make your life easier and your wallet a bit fuller, we tested a ton of them and narrowed it down to the best, top-rated apps that will pay you for your grocery receipts. Ready?  1. Fetch: Get Rewards for Any Purchase Fetch Rewards is an app for iOS and Android that will reward you for scanning your grocery receipt from any store. All you have to do is shop, snap and go.  Every time you scan a receipt that includes one of more than 250 participating brands, you’ll earn points — without worrying about matching specific product offers. No scanning barcodes; no searching for offers; no grocery store limitations.  Once you collect enough points, cash out for a gift card to retailers including Amazon, Airbnb, Best Buy and more. For example, 10,000 points will get you a $10 Sephora gift card. Or 3,000 points will get you a $3 Panera Bread card. If you’re feeling generous, the app also lets you use your points to make a donation to a charity of your choice.  Oh, and keep in mind you must scan your receipt within 14 days!   Pro Tip Enter the code PENNY to earn a $2 (2,000 points) sign-up bonus! 2. Ibotta: Earn Cash Back for Snapping a Photo (Plus a $20 Bonus!) Ibotta is traditionally known as a cash-back app for groceries — and you can still earn a heap of cash on your next haul — but you can also earn cash back on just about anything you purchase.  Whether you’re catching a Lyft, ordering something on Amazon or buying off-brand items at your favorite grocery store, you can earn cash back on a number of purchases in the store and online. Occasionally, you’ll find freebie offers in the mix, too. All you have to do is take a photo of your receipt or shop through the app.  Bonus: You’ll pocket a $20 sign-up bonus after redeeming your first 10 offers within 14 days. Pro Tip To avoid overspending, make your list first, then see if the app has available offers for what you need. Hit $20, then cash out via PayPal or Venmo, or opt for a gift card to a popular retailer like Amazon, Best Buy, Target or Walmart. 3. Paribus: Find Your Hidden Money  You know those confirmation emails that inundate your inbox after you’ve done some online shopping? Yeah, you might want to stop deleting those. Here’s why: Paribus gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, this tool will scan your email for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop. Pro Tip If your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated. Disclosure: Paribus compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide. 4. Drop: Get a $5 Head Start Toward Your Rewards for Shopping The best kind of savings are the kind where you don’t have to switch up your routine. Or even better, when you get rewarded for doing things you were probably going to do on your own… for free. That’s just one thing that makes Drop so appealing.  All you have to do is link your credit and debit cards (no coupon clipping or hoarding receipts!), and shop through the app. When you make a Drop-qualified purchase, you’ll automatically earn points, even if you only hailed an Uber or ordered a pizza. The app also has a “Try Something New” section that showcases new offers for you to try, and you get paid just for testing them out. To qualify, you must be a new customer to the featured offers, and you have to sign-up through the app. Each offer rewards you in points (1,000 points = $1), which you can redeem for gift cards to your favorite retailers, like Amazon, Sephora, Hotels.com and more.  Pro Tip Get started with 5,000 free Drop points by signing up with code TPH through Dec. 31.  5. Receipt Hog: Turn Any Receipt Into Cash  Just take a picture and earn a reward — yup, that’s it.  Receipt Hog accepts receipts for nearly any in-store purchase from groceries, clothes, electronics and even gas. You can earn a variety of rewards: Coins (cash rewards), spins (earn bonus coins or other prizes) and sweepstakes (monthly cash prizes). Once your rewards balance is at least 1,000 coins, or $5, you can redeem your coins for cash or Amazon gift cards. U.S. participants can also redeem their coins for magazine subscriptions. 6. SavingStar: Double Your Rewards at Your Favorite Store You have a go-to. You know the aisles, when the bakery will have fresh bread and when your favorite deals will be available, because it’s your store.  The next time you go shopping, take the SavingStar app with you. It’s basically a perfect match for grocery store loyalists because, depending on where you shop with your store loyalty card, you can connect it to earn automatic rebates. If you frequent BJ’s, Family Dollar, Safeway or Walmart (to name a few), all you have to do is scan your store card to link and activate your rebates. Then you’re done! Saving Star takes care of the rest. Otherwise, just scan receipts to claim your rebates. Once you collect $20, transfer the money to your bank account, or cash out via PayPal. You can also choose to donate your earnings to charity. 7. Checkout 51: Let Your Receipt Get You Cash Back and Weekly Savings  Is your shopping style less about loyalty and more about wherever you can get the best deal? Same. In that case, Checkout 51 is a great cash-back option.  Redeem the app’s cash-back deals for specific products from any retailer (unless the offer specifies otherwise). If you prefer to shop online, Checkout 51 makes it easy to earn there, too. Just claim your offers by snapping a photo of your packing slip. No need to shop through a portal. Checkout 51 updates its offers each Thursday, giving you a week to get your shopping done. Oh, and the app tends to focus on name-brand items, so don’t forget to compare prices. Generic or store brands might be more affordable even without a rebate. Once you have earned at least $20, you can transfer your Checkout 51 rewards to cash in your bank account. 8. BerryCart: Score Cash Back for the Extra You Spent on Clean Eats If organic food is mostly what fills your grocery cart, BerryCart is perfect for you — it’s an app that specializes in finding you the best deals on gluten-free, organic and non-GMO food.  BerryCart works at more than 100,000 stores nationwide, including health-focused stores like Whole Foods, and also at everyday stores like Walmart and Target. As long as you have an itemized receipt that states which products you purchased, BerryCart will accept it. Keep in mind there may be a limited selection of offers, but depending on your shopping habits, the app can still be useful because it features products other apps don’t. Your cash back will be deposited into your account within 24 hours and can be redeemed for gift cards or PayPal cash with a minimum rewards balance of $5. Maximize Your Rewards With These Tips Cash-back apps are pretty simple, for the most part, but there are still some clever ways to make the most of your rewards. Here are a few tips to help you get started: S [...]
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My Favorite Cute Summer Tops for Women (all from Amazon!)

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My Favorite Cute Summer Tops for Women (all from Amazon!)
Looking for some cute summer tops for women that are inexpensive and durable? Here are 3 of my favorite summer tops from Amazon that I have worn over and over again in the last year! 3 Cute Summer Tops From Amazon As you likely well know, I love finding great clothing deals at great prices on Amazon. And I love sharing those great finds with you all! In today’s post, I want to share 3 summer tops for women I purchased from Amazon and absolutely love! All of these have held up well to multiple washings, are very comfortable, are inexpensively priced, and fit well. This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here. 1. Amazon Essentials V-Neck T-Shirt These tees come in a two-pack for $18.50 shipped (Less than $10 each shipped!) and they are some of my favorite v-neck tees! They are soft, fit well, but aren’t too tight. You can wear them tucked in or left out. I prefer to tuck them in and wear them with a belt or to do a half tuck. I got the navy/turquoise set (see the two pictures above). This particular set is currently out of stock, but they have a lot of other colors available in this same style and price. 2. Made By Emma Short Sleeve Chambray Shirt I adore this shirt and usually always wear it at least once a week! It’s lightweight, soft, and so comfortable. You can wear it untucked for a casual look, tucked in for a more tailored look, or with a cardigan or jacket. Many of the reviews on Amazon say that it runs small. I have on a small here and that’s the size I usually wear. It’s possible that some of the larger sizes aren’t as true to size. The only drawback of this shirt is that Amazon doesn’t offer free returns on it and it’s $14.97 + $4.99 shipping.   3. WLLW Crew Neck Sleeveless Shirt This is another shirt that I wear almost weekly! And it’s just $15.99 shipped or less (depending upon what size and pattern you choose). It comes in a number of different patterns and colors. One thing I wanted to mention is that some of you have ordered this and some of you said your shirt was a bit darker than mine was and you felt like the material looked different than mine does. The good news? This shirt has free returns, so if you order it and don’t like it, you can easily return it — completely free (Amazon will email you a shipping label to return it). Note: Many of you asked about the shirt I have on underneath this tank. It’s this halter top bralette and I really love it for halter top tanks! How to Search for Clothes on Amazon Be willing to dig. It’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for at first. Sometimes, you have to put in specific search terms to find exactly what you’re looking for. Don’t give up within a few tries; it’s probably there if you’re willing to dig! Use as specific of search terms as possible. If you know a brand name and specific type of what you’re looking for, be sure to include those details in the search terms. Amazon carries a LOT of brands and you might be surprised what you find and the prices they are offering. Look at the related searches. If you find an item you love, be sure to scroll down on the page to see the “Related Searches” items + the “People Who Bought This Also Bought” selections. In both cases, I’ll often find some great options there that I might not have found just by searching. What To Check For Before Making a Purchase Check if they offer free returns. Many clothing items on Amazon offer free returns. This means that if you don’t like the item for any reason, you can go on Amazon and request to return it. They’ll send you a free shipping label so you can return it and get your money back. Read the reviews. I learn so much by looking at the reviews. You can often also see pictures of the actual item on someone. This is really helpful! Always check the shipping price. Many clothes ship free to Amazon Prime members. Make sure you check the shipping price before falling in love with something — because sometimes it won’t be free and might be as high as $5-$6. Look to see where something is made/ships from. Some of Amazon’s clothing ships from China and takes 4-6 weeks to arrive. Be aware of this when you are looking at items — especially if you are hoping to get them within in a few days. Two other tops that didn’t make it to my top 3 list, but that I also love and wear often are the two above shirts: FOMANSH Color Block Tee (this one looks a tad different than the one I have on above but Amazon says it’s the one I have — it has free returns in case it shows up looking different!) Vemvan Striped Block Tee (comes in a number of different colors and is just $15.99!) Other Places to Get Great Deals on Clothes Your Closet — Don’t run out and get something new because “you have nothing to wear” without first checking your closet. There might be a dozen items in there you’ve not worn for awhile just because you forgot about them! Save yourself a trip to the store plus the money for new clothes by making sure you’re wearing what you already own! Thrift Stores — Thrift stores are a gold mine of deals, if you have the patience to dig and look. Approach it like a treasure hunt, have strict guidelines for what you are looking for, and make sure Swap Meets with Friends — Get your group of girlfriends together and have everyone bring what they no longer love, need, fit into, or wear and swap out clothes. This is a fun way to freshen up your closet — for free! TJ Maxx — I’ve found lots of great deals at TJ Maxx over the years. You never know quite what you’ll find, but it’s a great place to find deals on basics like camis, socks, scarves, and workout clothes. Target — Target often releases great coupons through their cartwheel app that can be paired with items from the Clearance Racks. This can make for great deals! Zulily — This is an online daily deal site that has lots of sales on ladies’ clothing. If you like certain name brands like Under Armor or Tom’s, check out this site for their regular sales. Note: The shipping tends to be high on this site and it takes quite awhile for you to receive your items in the mail. What are YOUR best tips for finding great deals on clothes? I’d love to hear! Other Related Links: How I’ve Simplified My Wardrobe The Outfit Formulas That Changed My Life My Completely Honest Review of Stitch Fix Putting Me Together (no-fuss fashion for moms) Get a FREE Month of Rocksbox Jewelry [...]
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