What to Do If Hurricane Dorian Hits Your Home, Mortgage

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What to Do If Hurricane Dorian Hits Your Home, Mortgage
If you’re affected by a hurricane, flood or another natural disaster, what does it mean for your mortgage? This is a pertinent question for homeowners in the path of Hurricane Dorian in Florida and nearby states. Here are frequently asked questions and answers. What should I do first? Get in touch with the following entities: The... Holden Lewis is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: hlewis@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @HoldenL. The article What to Do If Hurricane Dorian Hits Your Home, Mortgage originally appeared on NerdWallet. [...]
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{Last Chance!} Get the Eat at Home Menu Plan Service for 30% off!

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{Last Chance!} Get the Eat at Home Menu Plan Service for 30% off!
It’s the LAST DAY to get a subscription to Eat at Home Menu Planning service for 30% off! If you haven’t taken advantage of this deal yet and have been meaning to, this is your gentle reminder that you need to run over and purchase — because the deal ends at midnight! I’m just loving getting these messages from those of you who are signing up: My Top 3 Reasons I Love Eat at Home My favorite thing about the Eat at Home Menu Plan Service is that — unlike many other menu plan services — you don’t have to pick one menu plan — you get access to four complete menu plans every single week. Yes, that’s right! I also LOVE that the plans were put together with busy families in mind — and many of the recipes can be made in less than 15 minutes. Finally, the recipes are GOOD! Someone asked this morning on Facebook Live whether we like all of the recipes and I could genuinely say that we typically love 50% of them, that we like 40-45% of them, and there are just 5-10% that aren’t necessarily ones we like. I think that’s pretty impressive considering we’re feeding 5 people here who have different palates! On the Fence About Purchasing? Many of you have already purchased the Eat at Home menu-planning service and have written to tell me you are excited about all of the time and effort and money you are going to save with it. But others of you are still sitting on the fence and wondering whether it’s worth the investment. And I totally get that. I don’t want you to spend your hard-earned money on something that isn’t going to be a great fit for you. But I also don’t want you to miss this opportunity to get such a great deal… because this deal only comes around two times per year and it’s the lowest price that you’ll ever find this menu-planning service. If you’re on the fence about purchasing, I want to help you out. Here are three steps I encourage you to take to make sure this is for you: 1. Leave a Comment… I’m Here to Answer Your Questions! I will be checking comments here this afternoon and evening and am happy to answer your questions about the Eat at Home menu-planning service. Just leave a comment and ask whatever questions you have. I’ll personally do my best to answer your question or to find out the answer for you! And trust me, I will be incredibly honest with you and let you know if I don’t think this menu-planning service is a good fit for you. 2. Download the Sample Menus Want to see some samples of what the Eat at Home menu-plan service is like? You can view a sample menu plan for each of the 4 different menu plans you’ll get when you sign up for this service. Just go here to check out the sample menu plans here. 3. Try it Out for 30 Days Eat at Home offers a full 30-day money-back guarantee. So if you think the service might work for you but you’re not sure, I recommend that you go ahead and signed up and try it out for a week to see if it will work. If it doesn’t, you can just email in and ask for your money back — no questions asked! Have Picky Eaters? Someone asked in the Eat at Home Facebook Group whether the Eat at Home Menu-Planning Service would work if you have picky eaters. I can’t promise or guarantee you anything, but here were some of the responses: You can go here to read the rest of the responses to this question. What You Get When You Sign Up When you sign up for the Eat at Home Menu plan service (it’s just a few dollars per week — or less!), each month, you’ll get: An entire month of No Flour, No Sugar menu plans, including weekly grocery lists and printable recipe instructions An entire month of Traditional Menu Plans, including weekly grocery lists and printable recipe instructions An entire month of Slow Cooker/Instant Pot Menu Plans, including weekly grocery lists and printable recipe instructions (this is my favorite!) An entire month of Whole Food Menu Plans, including weekly grocery lists and printable recipe instructions Each menu plan comes with recipes created for small family (3-4 servings) and large family (6-8 servings) Color-coded grocery lists make it easy to swap out ingredients or whole meals Printable Menus to hang on the fridge or near your calendar, so you can easily see what’s for dinner that week and your family can, too Access to the entire month at once! 1 Hour Freezer Stash Plans – a new plan each month to stock your freezer with 6 meals in 1 hour! You can choose to stick with just the traditional menu plan or just the slow cooker menu plan or just the whole foods menu plan or just the no flour, no sugar menu plan. Or, you can rotate different menu plans on different weeks, depending upon what you feel like cooking or how much time you have! Go sign up here — and use coupon code YES at checkout to get 30% off! That makes the annual plan just $1.13 per week! If you have any questions about the Eat at Home Menu Plan service, just leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer your question promptly! P.S. Don’t forget, the Eat at Home Menu Plan service is only on sale until tonight at midnight! Use coupon code YES at checkout to get 30% off — that’s the lowest price you’ll get this year! Find more details on these fantastic menu plans here. Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we will receive a commission — at no additional cost to you! Thank you for your support. [...]
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Treat Yo’ Self… for Pennies: 24 Spa Treatments You Can Do at Home

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Treat Yo’ Self… for Pennies: 24 Spa Treatments You Can Do at Home
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. Want to know a secret? I’ve never had a professional massage. I totally get why they’re appealing, but they’re just not my jam. Manicures, on the other hand?  Heck, yeah. My tombstone will read, “How do my nails look?” I’m not gonna lie, getting my nails done every two weeks or so costs a pretty penny (or 6,000, to be exact), but it’s the one luxury I budget for even if it means using cheap body wash or mascara. For all other spa-type treatments, though, I’m strictly a DIY gal. Here are some of my favorite ways to indulge myself easily right in the comfort of my own home — without spending a fortune. 14 Ways to Get Your DIY Spa Day On 1. Everything you’ve heard about coconut oil is true. Skip the expensive body lotion and deep conditioner and use this low-cost alternative instead.  Cost: An entire jar of coconut oil costs about $6 and will last for months. 2. Apply an avocado or egg mask to your hair at the beginning of your spa routine, then wrap your head in a warm towel. Let it work its magic for at least 20 minutes while you give yourself a lip scrub.  Cost: One egg will set you back 10 cents, and an avocado is between $1 and $1.50. 3. Korean sheet masks make your skin look amazing, but they can be awfully pricy. I picked up a handful at my local dollar store for a buck each and discovered they work just as well as the expensive brands. If you buy in bulk, you can save even more pennies.  Cost: Sheet masks can be found online or in dollar stores for as little as — you guessed it — $1. 4. Speaking of masks, if you use Lush cosmetics or know someone who does, hang onto those little black pots and bottles the products come in. You’ll score a free face mask when you turn in five clean empties. That’s a savings of at least $11.95! Cost: The cost of the five products (To be fair, Lush products can be pretty pricy – but they smell so gooood.) 5. Clear up blemishes and reduce fine lines with a container of plain, generic-brand yogurt! Whether you use it alone or jazz it up with extras like a dash of honey or oatmeal, your pores will thank you. Cost: A small container of plain yogurt can cost anywhere from 60 cents to $1. 6. After rinsing off the mask, I like to give myself a five-minute face massage. It’s surprisingly relaxing. Cost: Totally free! 7. If you’ve got a few dollars a month to spare, sign up for a Sephora Play! subscription. You’ll get a box delivered right to your door filled with deluxe product samples and a bonus fragrance. Cost: $10 per month 8. This homemade eucalyptus sugar scrub is both energizing and effective. You can make a batch to slough off dry, dead skin, leaving behind a tingly clean that smells luxurious. Cost: Less than $1 worth of sugar, coconut oil and salt, plus around $10 for eucalyptus essential oil.  9. For a change of pace, I like to mix things up and exfoliate my skin with this three-ingredient coffee body scrub that you can make with the (free!) used coffee grounds left over from your morning brew. It reportedly also reduces the appearance of cellulite. (Don’t tell me if that’s just an old wives’ tale — I don’t want to know.) Cost: Free, if you’re a coffee drinker. FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM Extra Job 7/30/19 @ 2:52 PM Saving Money on a very fixed income 7/31/19 @ 2:14 PM The Power of Saving Money || Where to save 7/30/19 @ 1:36 PM Best ways to save money in shopping 7/23/19 @ 1:09 PM See more in Save Money or ask a money question 10. Sometimes my skin just isn’t up for a harsh scrub down. That’s when I whip together this gentle scrub that rinses off easily with warm water. (I’ve tried it without wheat germ, and it still works great.) Cost: About $7 for the oat bran, $7 for the essential oil and $5 for the almond oil – and you can use all of these for other purposes too. 11. If you plan to shave during your spa time, try dry brushing first to prevent ingrown hairs and razor-burn bumps. Cost: A good dry brush costs around $10. 12. If I’m going to sport beautiful nails, the rest of my hand better keep up appearances, too. This lemon-sugar hand scrub is so easy to make and smells amazing. After you rinse it off, slather on some hand lotion and take a minute to admire your, er, handiwork. Cost: A lemon costs about 50 cents, and you probably already have sugar and oil in your pantry. 13. Do you know why every spa scene in a movie or on TV depicts someone with cucumber slices on their eyes? Because they work! You can use the leftovers for cucumber-infused water to really amp up that luxe “I’m in a spa” feeling.  Cost: About $1 for a cucumber. 14. Treat your feet to a nice soak with whatever gentle bath wash you have on hand. Follow it up with a homemade foot scrub. Simply stir one part coconut oil into two parts sugar and scent with a few drops of essential oil. A dash of lemon juice adds extra oomph. To kick (ha!) things up a notch, slather on some lotion and cover your tootsies with thick socks while the moisturizer works its magic. Cost: Peppermint essential oil costs about $9, or you can just use the eucalyptus oil you bought earlier. The rest of the ingredients are likely in your pantry. 10 Easy Ways to Spa-ify Your Surroundings While planning your day of indulgence, don’t forget to design your own relaxation grotto. Give your bathroom a deep clean and then: 1. Splurge on a soft, thick towel. 2. Pick up some pretty containers from the dollar store to hold all the scrubs and potions you make. 3. Scour thrift shops for a fluffy bathrobe to wear while relaxing. 4. Get some inexpensive candles to create ambience during bath time — or make your own. 5. Set a plant or vase of flowers in the bathroom, because greenery makes everything better. 6. Cover your bathroom window with frosted contact paper to diffuse bright sunlight that might harsh your mellow. 7. Put a few sprigs of eucalyptus on the corner of the bathtub to create a clean, refreshing scent when you run the hot water. 8. Buy a bathtub overflow drain cover so you can fill the tub extra deep and soak all the way up to your chin. 9. Queue up this chill Spotify playlist. 10. Use the cucumber you bought for your eyes to make some cucumber-infused water to sip as you spa. Want even more DIY spa ideas? Check out how to make your own sea salt spray, body lotion and more. Disclosure: We don’t hesitate to pick pennies off the sidewalk when we spot them. But the affiliate links in this post help our earnings grow even quicker. Plus, it’s a lot cleaner than sidewalk money. 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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6 Tips for Making Home Repairs Without Getting Hurt

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6 Tips for Making Home Repairs Without Getting Hurt
Making repairs around the house can save you money — but that will be of little comfort if an injury forces you to take time off work or to seek medical care. The tools you use for home repairs — hammers, saws, nails, shovels, ladders and power tools — can be dangerous if you don’t handle them properly. Even careful people have accidents. If a task seems too dangerous... [...]
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First-Time Home Buyer Class: Why Take It?

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First-Time Home Buyer Class: Why Take It?
A first-time home buyer class has been suggested to you — perhaps by a lender, friend or real estate agent. And you’re thinking, “What’s the point?” But what if you were paid a nice chunk of change to take the class? In effect, that may actually be the case. A first-time home buyer class, and... Hal M. Bundrick, CFP is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: hal@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @halmbundrick. The article First-Time Home Buyer Class: Why Take It? originally appeared on NerdWallet. [...]
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Live in Seattle? See How Much Money Your Home Could Earn For You This Summer

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Live in Seattle? See How Much Money Your Home Could Earn For You This Summer
Look. We get it. Your home is your sanctuary. Your place to be alone. Some days, you don’t even want to have your own family over — let alone people you don’t know. So, the idea of listing your place on Airbnb is daunting for a lot of folks. But if you’re willing to give it a shot, you could make some serious extra income. You can share a spare room — or list your entire place if you’re headed out of town. Yep. You’d basically be making money for going on vacation. Hollis Giammatteo, a writer and Airbnb Superhost in Seattle, has been listing her downstairs guest suite since 2015. She says it’s a great way to earn extra money — and to capitalize on living in a city that’s so popular with tourists. Seattle has come a long way from the slow-moving port and manufacturing town Giammatteo remembers it being when she first moved there in 1979. Today, it’s known for its big businesses and major tourist attractions — something she says works in her favor as an Airbnb host. With Pike Place Market, the Space Needle and professional sports galore, there’s always a demand for space. In fact, Seattle is a top summer travel destination, and there’s a shortage of hosts. If you’re starting to come around on the idea of becoming an Airbnb host, see how much money you could make by listing your place. How Much Could Your Place in Seattle Fetch? First things first: list your property on the Airbnb website. You’ll want to create a listing that stands out from others so potential guests will take notice. You can adjust or change your information and settings at any time, so you’re not committed to anything permanently. Yep. You’re not locked in. Try hosting and see if you like it — if you’re curious, it’s worth a shot. Use Airbnb’s price calculator to see how much money you could make in your area. We’ll walk you through the process with some insider tips from Giammatteo. How to Create the Best Airbnb Listing in Seattle The first step to becoming an Airbnb host is to check your local laws and prepare your space for guests. (We’ll get into that later.) We’ll show you everything you need to know to make your place stand out from others, with some added insight from Giammatteo. Answer Some Quick Questions About Your Space/Amenities To set up your listing, you’ll start by answering some basic questions, such as how many guests your space can accommodate and what amenities are included. It’s fine if you don’t have an entire house or apartment available for guests. You can rent out one floor or even just a room. Giammatteo has made her downstairs area available as a guest suite, which gives people the feeling of having a one-bedroom apartment to themselves. Set the Scene with Photos Put yourself in your guests’ shoes. What would you want to see in the photos of an Airbnb listing? The platform offers some basic photo tips, which include utilizing natural light, avoiding flash and shooting in landscape mode from the corners of rooms, so you add perspective. Of course, you’ll want to include pictures of the bedrooms, kitchen and backyard. But Giammatteo knows from experience that guests also like photos of items that may seem like small details but can actually be game changers. “Guests typically want to know about such amenities as washer/dryer, ironing board, Wi-Fi, parking,” she says. Think about the details that make your home inviting. Maybe you own a nice ironing board guests can use, or you boast both a drip coffee maker and a Keurig. Capture those amenities. People might not take the time to read about them, so providing pictures could capture guests’ attention. Write a Description Now that you’ve provided stellar images for potential guests, it’s time to describe your place. You’ll want to highlight what makes it unique. Do a little market research by browsing Superhosts’ listings in your area to see how they describe their places. (They’re Superhosts for a reason, right? Their descriptions draw guests to their homes!) Giammatteo’s main advice? “Never be too wordy.” She has a point — this is the internet, after all. People like to skim. In fact, in Giammatteo’s listing, her description is a mere two sentences. She explains how guests can relax and rejuvenate in various parts of the spacious suite. She’s obviously pinpointed her audience: people who want to take it easy on vacation. Another big tip? “Be as honest as possible about the glories, and limitations, of your space,” Giammatteo says. “Don’t oversell, and don’t omit.” If the master bedroom has a window with a great view of the Space Needle, let potential guests know. On the other hand, if sound carries throughout the house, give readers a heads up. You don’t want a negative experience to surprise them, resulting in a bad review. Giammatteo’s home was built in 1948, so there are lots of squeaks and creaks. She lets guests know ahead of time that they will hear her when she walks around upstairs. Name Your Listing “Like choosing a color for your new car, naming your space is a tortuous journey,” Giammatteo says. She’s right — naming your Airbnb listing might seem like a shallow detail. But it matters. When guests scroll through places to stay on Airbnb, the first details they see are the pictures and name of your property. The title should provide an accurate description of the space, catch people’s eye and draw them in. Giammatteo recommends combining information about both your listing’s location and atmosphere. Her accommodation is listed as “Secluded Spa Retreat with Woodland Garden Deck in Queen Anne.” “Our space was designed to be a sanctuary, really — to envelop guests in the comfort of high-quality materials, plentiful lighting and a spa/luxury bathroom,” says Giammatteo. Think about what type of traveller would enjoy your home. (You might better pick up on this once you have your first few guests.) Is it set in a quiet part of town where people won’t be disturbed? Is it in the middle of everything, perfect for thrill-seekers? Giammatteo also made sure to include Queen Anne in the name, because the neighborhood is walking distance from downtown and a prime spot for festivals and trendy shops. Think about what your home’s location offers guests. Is it close to a lot of high-end restaurants? Does it provide a view of Mount Rainier? Is it near a Light Link Rail stop or the Seattle Art Museum? Let your guests know. Set House Rules Airbnb has a set list of rules you can opt into if you’d like them included in your listing. A few of these include: suitable for pets, no smoking allowed, and no events or parties allowed. You also have the option to write in additional rules. Giammatteo sets pretty standard rules for her guests, such as banning smoking and requiring people clean up after their pets. Like many Seattleites, she takes recycling seriously, so she requires guests to read and follow her recycling instructions. Set Up Your Calendar You’ll arrange a calendar of when guests can stay at your listing. This step is important, because Airbnb will charge you a fee if you cancel after guests have booked time at your home. Here are some questions you’ll answer: How often do you want to have guests? How much notice do you need before a guest arrives? How far in advance can guests book? What time can guests check in? How long can guests stay? You can change your calendar settings down the road, so you aren’t married to the dates and times you set now. Price Your Space Airbnb has a Smart Pricing tool. If you choose to use this, Airbnb will automatically adjust your pricing based on demand. For example, if the system notices that a lot of music lovers are booking Seattle spots for Bumbershoot or tourists are flocking to town in August in attempts to avoid the rain, it will likely increase the price of your listing at these times. You can set a price minimum and maximum so your h [...]
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8 First-Time Home Buyer Loans and Programs

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8 First-Time Home Buyer Loans and Programs
Buying a home is so hard, they should make it an Olympic event. It’s not just the paperwork; it’s the terminology, the fees and the number of people involved. It’s natural to want to agree to whatever, sign everything and just get through the process as fast as you can. While that may make you... Hal M. Bundrick, CFP is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: hal@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @halmbundrick. The article 8 First-Time Home Buyer Loans and Programs originally appeared on NerdWallet. [...]
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17 Simple Home Repairs That Will Save You Cash

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17 Simple Home Repairs That Will Save You Cash
Homeowners fantasize about making fabulous changes to their homes: adding rooms, beautifying the grounds and remodeling kitchens and baths. In reality, however, these dream projects may not be financially possible. Don’t let that stop you, however, from taking good care of the home you have. By keeping up with small repairs, you’ll both save money by heading off the big expensive fixes... [...]
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West Virginia First-Time Home Buyer Programs of 2019

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West Virginia First-Time Home Buyer Programs of 2019
The West Virginia Housing Development Fund works with dozens of lenders to provide affordable housing for West Virginia residents. It not only facilitates home loans with favorable interest rates but can make the dream of a no-down-payment mortgage come true. And yet, there is even more homeownership help to tap. Check out federal loan programs offering first-time...The article West Virginia First-Time Home Buyer Programs of 2019 originally appeared on NerdWallet. [...]
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Washington, D.C., First-Time Home Buyer Programs of 2019

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Washington, D.C., First-Time Home Buyer Programs of 2019
Washington, D.C., is an expensive place to live, making homeownership feel out of reach for many first-time buyers. The District of Columbia’s Housing Finance Agency, or DCHFA, offers several programs designed to help. First-time home buyers in Washington, D.C., may also benefit from the relaxed qualification requirements that some national loan programs offer. Explore all...The article Washington, D.C., First-Time Home Buyer Programs of 2019 originally appeared on NerdWallet. [...]
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Dear Penny: How Long Will a Bankruptcy Stand in the Way of Buying a Home?

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Dear Penny: How Long Will a Bankruptcy Stand in the Way of Buying a Home?
Dear S., There’s a common myth that it’s impossible to rebuild your credit while your credit reports are still scarred by a bankruptcy — and you’ve proven it wrong. You’ve re-established credit. You’ve managed it responsibly. Now, you have a pretty darn good score to show for it, even with a bankruptcy in your file. But there seems to be a different misconception implied in your question: that it’s impossible to buy a home while a bankruptcy is still on your credit report. This, too, is a myth. I think you have two questions here: How long will a bankruptcy stay on your credit report? And will a bankruptcy hold you back from buying a home? Let’s start with how bankruptcy affects your credit. A bankruptcy is one of the ugliest battle wounds you can have on your credit report, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. And the effects are long-lasting. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy — the kind where many of your assets are liquidated and you emerge with no debt obligations — stays on your credit report for 10 years after you file. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy, in which you repay a portion of your debts, will fall off your reports after seven years. The effect of bankruptcy on your credit score is most acute in the year or two after you file. But as you build a positive credit history, it matters less and less. The fact that your score is at 742 suggests your credit has already recovered significantly. But will that be enough to overcome a bankruptcy when you try to buy a home? You don’t say whether you’ve actually been denied for a mortgage or if you’re waiting for the bankruptcy to drop off your report before applying. To qualify for a conventional loan (the kind that isn’t insured by the government) after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’ll typically have to wait four years after the bankruptcy is discharged. For nonconventional loans (the ones that are backed by the government, such as FHA or USDA loans), the requirement is usually two or three years. You’re long past the required waiting periods, but keep in mind that these are just minimums. Every lender has different requirements. If you do forge ahead now, be prepared to document your finances and how you’ve managed credit since filing bankruptcy in painstaking detail. Making a large down payment could help you get approved, but you should still be prepared for higher interest rates. If there were extenuating circumstances that factored into the bankruptcy, like a job loss or illness, providing a letter of explanation with supporting documents could help you get approved. But even if you can’t get a mortgage on the terms you want, remember: Ten years is a long time, but you’re so close to the end. In another two years or so, your bankruptcy should automatically be deleted from your file. When you do reach the 10-year mark, you can verify that the bankruptcy has been removed by obtaining a free copy of your credit report from each of the three bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. If it still appears, you can request that they remove it stat. Bankruptcy may seem like a scar on your credit report, but it isn’t permanent. Because time heals both old wounds — and derogatory credit marks. Robin Hartill is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder and the voice behind Dear Penny. Send your questions about rebuilding credit to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com. 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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How You Can Make Money at Home Selling on Etsy!

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How You Can Make Money at Home Selling on Etsy!
I get asked all of the time, “How can I make money at home?”  While blogging is what I do, I know that is not always the answer for everyone. If you happen to be creative, why not sell your stuff on Etsy?  Using Etsy can be a great way to make money! I’m one ... Read More about How You Can Make Money at Home Selling on Etsy! The post How You Can Make Money at Home Selling on Etsy! appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom. [...]
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Taste of Home Magazine Discount Offer

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Taste of Home Magazine Discount Offer
One of my favorite magazines is Taste of Home.  So, when I find a deal on this title, I want to make sure I pass it along to all of you!   TASTE OF HOME MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DISCOUNT Now through 5/30/19 (11:59 pm EST), you can save more than 79% off the list price of ... Read More about Taste of Home Magazine Discount Offer The post Taste of Home Magazine Discount Offer appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom. [...]
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How This Family of 4 Saves $3,600 a Year Living in a 200-Square-Foot Home

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How This Family of 4 Saves $3,600 a Year Living in a 200-Square-Foot Home
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated. Several years ago, Andrew and Gabriella Morrison and their two kids lived in a 2,200-square-foot house in Ashland, Oregon. Andrew describes it as the perfect house on the perfect street in the perfect town — the American dream, really. On the outside, the family appeared to have everything. But on the inside, they were feeling increasingly stressed by their finances. “We started recognizing the financial and energetic cost of living there and how busy we were trying to maintain it,” Andrew says. So, the family of four decided to downsize — in a major way. Discovering Tiny Homes — Long Before HGTV Did The Morrisons’ decision to ditch their seemingly picture-perfect suburban lifestyle happened fast. Andrew describes it as an “aha” moment. In the midst of their frenzied days, Gabriella received an email from someone whose signature line read, “Tiny House Blog.” She’d never even heard of tiny houses before. So naturally, she did a quick internet search. “It was literally like dominoes,” she says. “We went down the rabbit hole and never looked back.” Within 30 minutes of researching the tiny-house lifestyle, Gabriella says everything became clear about why they were having issues and what needed to be done. The Ultimate Purge: Getting Rid of 80% of Their Belongings Gabriella learned the average U.S. household holds something like 300,000 items — everything from paperclips to armoires. That’s a lot. So the family created something they called a “365-day rule.” Each time someone went into a room with a drawer or cabinet, every single item was pulled out. With each item, they asked, “Have we used it in the last year?” If the answer was yes, then they could decide if they wanted to keep it. If the answer was no, it went in an ever-growing pile in their two-car garage. After a couple of months, that pile of cast-off items grew about two feet high. Once an item was in the pile, they decided if they still wanted to keep it or if they wanted to sell or donate it. “The more we did it, the easier it became and the more excited we got,” Gabriella says. When the pile dwindled to heirlooms and childhood tokens, the family took a breather. They put them in a small storage box to return to a few years later. Their inevitable solution for many of those items? Take photos of them or digitize them. For example, they’d transfer old photos to CDs and take photos of old trophies. The more we did it, the easier it became and the more excited we got. Then they’d purge. In the end, the family rid themselves of about 80% of their belongings. Including their home. Although it was their perfect home, the family was excited for their newest adventure: pop-up living on the shores of Mexico. Moving Into a Pop-Up Camper and Testing the Tiny Boundaries After purging material goods, the family decided to test out the tiny lifestyle by living in a pop-up camper for nearly five months on the beaches of Baja, Mexico. The couple continued to operate their business, Straw Bale, which focuses on homes made of straw bales. Their son, Paiute, was off at boarding school, so there was one less body in the newly adopted living space. However, it wasn’t all frolicking in the Sea of Cortez (though that did happen a lot). Gabriella remembers being “shocked and disturbed” during that first month in the camper. The emotional withdrawals from the lack of electronics and material goods were surprisingly intense for Andrew and Gabriella — even for their home-schooled daughter, Terra, who was 11 at the time. “Before, our lifestyles involved a ton of work — 10 hours a day, 7 days a week — and constantly being on screens, returning phone calls, receiving emails,” Gabriella explains. “Then, for our daughter, it was with the social media channels. They start pretty young these days.” At one point, the trio was so uncomfortable, they almost packed up and returned home. But near the 30-day mark of their adventure, Andrew woke up and “some switch went off,” Gabriella says. “He was able to see the incredible paradise we were living in and the incredible opportunity before us.” Gabriella and her daughter soon followed. Today, the Morrisons consider it the best experience they’ve ever had. Returning to Oregon to Put Down Some Tiny Roots After five months, the Morrisons returned to Ashland to scout out the perfect piece of land for a permanent tiny house. Although the ZIP code was expensive, the family resolved to stay where they’d already established a life. But the couple wasn’t willing to go into debt. So they waited. During that time, which ultimately lasted two years, they rented the smallest house they could find. Even then, the space wasn’t small enough. Andrew and Gabriella settled into the walk-in closet — about the size of a queen mattress. “It was our bedroom, it was our library, it was our hanging clothes closet,” Andrew says. “But even that was too big. We couldn’t find anything small enough for us.” Gabriella chimes in: “We weren’t comfortable being in a big space [anymore].” Finally, Andrew and Gabriella found what they were looking for: five acres in the Rogue Valley, amongst the mountains. There was even a creek cutting through the property. Although it posed some problems, like a lack of approval for a septic system and challenging access to the building site, Andrew was a former builder with ample experience, and he accepted the challenge. The Struggles of Constructing a Tiny House in the Dead of Winter Andrew and Gabriella moved back into their pop-up camper to start building their tiny dream home on their newly-acquired land. Rather than commuting from town each day — about a 30-minute haul — they figured they could be more efficient living right on the job site. But it was cold. “I can tell you that living in a pop-tent trailer in the winter in Oregon is not the same as living in a pop-tent trailer on a beach in Mexico,” Andrew says. “It got cold. We had snow. We didn’t have any running water. It was definitely a mistake.” The two returned to town to stay with a friend and resumed construction while Paiute and Terra were off at boarding school. It took about four months for Andrew to complete the 207-square-foot tiny home — plus 110 square feet for a sleeping loft. How Much Money Can You Save Living in a Tiny House? The biggest perk? They’re no longer financially stressed. Gabriella estimates that in about two more years they’ll have paid off their tiny home with the money they’ve saved by not having a mortgage. Utilities have been slashed, too. Heating a 207-square-foot home is a lot less expensive than a 2,200-square-foot home. They’re also technically off the grid, so their solar power is free and the water runs from a well. Their monthly bills have been shaved down to internet, phone and garbage. They pay their propane heating bill twice a year. They’ve also noticed a difference in their grocery bill. By American standards, their refrigerator is about half the size of a “normal” one. But because they don’t have any of those deep, dark corners, items can’t be tucked away and forgotten; every food item is in view and consumed. Andrew and Gabriella have also become more aware of their spending habits. Neither was ever a shopaholic, but impulse buying definitely happened. Now, they just don’t have room for it. They’ve even stopped taking freebies. Andrew shares a story about how he opted out of the “free” counterpart of a BOGO deal for pants. He had to explain to the cashier that he lived in a tiny home; he didn’t have room for another pair of pants. The couple laughs. “It’s taken our mindset to where, even if it’s free, if you don’t need it, cut it,” Andrew says. Gabriella suspects they’ve cut at least $300 from their spending e [...]
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HELOC: Understanding Home Equity Lines of Credit

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HELOC: Understanding Home Equity Lines of Credit
  A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a second mortgage that gives you access to cash based on the value of your home. You can draw from a home equity line of credit and repay all or some of it monthly, somewhat like a credit card. With a HELOC, you borrow against your... The article HELOC: Understanding Home Equity Lines of Credit originally appeared on NerdWallet.   [...]
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