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The Ultimate Guide to Saving on Summer Music Festival Tickets, Food and Travel

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Source: Kellye Greene

Spring marks a time for many music and arts fans to prepare for the summer festival season. As they should. Music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Burning Man and Electric Zoo are famously possible among young people all over the world, but they are also infamous for being ridiculously expensive. Without proper planning, you could easily find yourself in a mountain of debt to see your favorite artists.

A general admission pass to three days at Coachella in 2018, for example goes for $429, plus any applicable taxes and fees. VIP passes start at $999. That’s before figuring out the cost of food and drinks while at the festival, getting there and where you’ll stay … but we will get to those figures later on.

For the average American, struggling to save $400 — in an emergency fund — let alone spend close to $1,000 to attend a music festival when it’s all said and done isn’t feasible. For the young person saddled with sky-high rent, low-paying jobs and student loan debt, seeing their favorite musician at a music festival can seem like only a dream funded by credit cards or very generous benefactors (read: parents).

“It’s not even the tickets to the festivals that gets expensive, it’s everything else.” said Kellye Greene, 30, a freelance software engineer in New York. “After college, I was not working the best job because of the recession back in 2009. I had to find a way to have these experiences or do these things. Finding all of these little hacks help me offset the cost of participating.”

MagnifyMoney spoke with Greene and a few regular festival goers to learn their best tips for saving money and still having a good time.

The tickets

Source: Kellye Greene

Volunteer

If you are willing and able to work for your entrance, volunteering at a festival is a great way to save money on tickets. There are dozens of different organizations you can volunteer with and various things you could do as a volunteer. You’d work a number or shifts in exchange for entrance to the event and still get to enjoy the festival.

Greene, also the regional director and president of New York chapter of DanceSafe, has been to about 36 festivals over the past eight years. At many of them, she volunteers with DanceSafe, a nonprofit organization focused on harm reduction at nightlife events and music festivals by passing out free condoms, ear plugs and information on alcohol and other drugs.

Greene usually has her entrance covered, and if she needs to travel she may get a travel stipend in exchange for working a number of shifts at the event. For example, when she went to Shambala in Canada, Greene says she worked a minimum two shifts and those guaranteed her ticket would be covered for the four-day event. This year’s pass runs around $325.

Like Greene, you could do something you’re passionate about. For example, an organization called Headcount requests volunteers to help register people to vote at music events, or you could volunteer as an ambassador with Paradocs, a service that brings in doctors, nurses, EMTs and paramedics, and offers free health care at events.

Or you could simply volunteer to help out. This year, Bonnaroo requires its volunteers, called C’roo members, to work three six-hour shifts. In exchange, they get a T-shirt, free showers, a meal token for every shift they work and access to enjoy the festival when they’re not working. That’s a decent trade-off, as a four-day general admission pass to the festival runs $325 plus taxes and fees.  You’ll want to sign up to volunteer as soon as you hear the opportunity is available, as volunteer opportunities may go quickly.

Work for pay

In a few cases, you could work for the festival for pay and get to enjoy some of the main event. Festivals generally hire a crew of workers to help on the day of the event. You may work the ticketing gates, security or possibly be part of the cleanup crew. These positions are hard to come by and generally require you to directly contact the festival coordinators to ask about work opportunities or apply online.

Events promotions company, Live Nation, generally posts paid positions available at its events on its website and other job sites. As of this writing, there’s an open ground control festival team member application listed on Glassdoor for Electric Forest 2018, hosted by Live Nation in Rothbury, Mich. The festival kicks off June 21.

Again, in this situation, you would work a few hours and generally be able to enjoy some of the music while you’re working or be let go early enough to enjoy some of the festival when you’re finished. In addition, you’d get a check in the mail in a few weeks that may ultimately offset auxiliary costs like food and lodging.

Buy your tickets early

Most festivals release a limited number of “early bird” tickets first that are generally priced lower than the regular ticket prices.

“If you plan ahead, the same ticket will cost less than if you wait until the last minute,” said Tucker Gumber, 30, aka The Festival Guy and founder of FestEvo, a company that creates tools for festival goers. Gumber has been to more than 130 festivals over the past seven years. He authored The Festival Goer’s Guide, and says early bird tickets are a simple way to save.

Beware: Some popular festivals may allow early-bird ticket purchases before releasing their lineup or the names of the headliners, so you may not yet know who you’re paying to see. For example, early bird tickets for The Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pa., went for $99. Early bird tickets went on sale Dec. 21, 2018, before the initial lineup was released in January 2018.

“If the event has been running for multiple years you can look at previous years to see what kinds of bands have performed before,” said Greene. “You can save 100s of dollars. And if you decide you don’t want to go, you can resell the ticket.”

Festivals may also tier their ticket pricing based on the number of tickets already sold or certain cutoff dates for pricing. For the Peach Festival, there was a second tier of limited early bird passes that went for $135. After that, there are three tiers of regular advance passes at $165, $190 and $210. There is a final tier of passes, a last chance ticket for late birds, is priced at $245.

If you’re a loyal attendee, some festivals even offer early access to cheaper tickets if you’ve gone to a previous year’s festival. Again, they may be limited and may come out before the lineup is announced.

Wait for single-day tickets to go on sale

If you can’t swing the cost to attend all of the days a festival is held, you may be able to save by only paying to attend the days that have the artists you are truly dying to see and getting single-day tickets.

For example, a one-day pass to Panorama (plus fees) in 2018 is $125, a two-day pass is $215 and a pass for all three days of the music festival is $295.

Single-day passes are generally cheaper than purchasing passes for the entire duration of the festival, but they may not go on sale until later. As of this writing, four-day passes to Lollapalooza are available for $335, but single-day tickets are not yet on sale.

If there are only one or two artists in the lineup you’re dying to see, single-day tickets may be worth the wait.

Use the payment plan

You may not have the cash on hand to pay for a full-priced ticket when tickets come out. But you don’t want to run the risk of saving up only to watch tickets sell out. Most events offer payment plans for these cases. The plans allow you to break up the full cost of the ticket into more affordable payments.

For example, if you want to purchase a ticket to Governors Ball 2018, hosted by Front Gate Tickets, you would need to make a minimum purchase of $71 to qualify for the layaway plan. Passes start at $115 for the event, plus $20 fee, plus $15 in shipping which comes up to $150, so that’s easy to make.

The Governors Ball plan splits your payment into two. You’d pay 50% of your package and all fees associated, then have the other half automatically deducted from your account in April, two months before the event kicks off on June 1. If you miss the second payment, your Layaway Plan will be canceled, and you’ll be refunded all but the fees associated with your purchase, according to a Front Gate Tickets representative. For a $350 three-day pass, that’s $30 in applicable fees.

Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del., has a similar payment plan option but only offers weekend passes. General admission weekend passes for the event beginning on June 14 start at $329, plus $29.99 in fees. Firefly’s EZ Pay payment plans are available for up to 7 months and you are automatically charged the same day as your original purchase date each month. The number of payments you are allowed will depend on how many months in advance you make your initial payment. If you bought a ticket in March, you’d get a two-part payment plan. So, you’d pay $179.50, and be charged the other half in April.

Travel and Lodging

Source: Joe DeIuliis

Stay with friends or family

You could save on lodging just by knowing someone in the area and asking if you could stay with them during the event.

“I very rarely have to worry about lodging because I try to go places where I know people,” said Greene. “If I don’t know people, I try to make friends.”

She says having friends nearby can make traveling alone a much better experience. Use your connections.

“Every single time I go to another city, I find another harm reduction group and befriend them. Most of the time I end up going to festivals I didn’t plan on going to,” said Greene. She linked with one group while visiting Amsterdam one year. “I just showed up and they provided me lunch, and I could hang out at the festival.”

You may also elect to use a peer-to-peer service like Airbnb if it’s a more affordable alternative compared with a hotel stay.

Use credit card rewards programs

If you’re savvy and budget-conscious, you could cover most of your travel and lodging expenses with rewards credit cards, like Joe DeIuliis, 28, in New Haven, Conn. DeIuliis has been attending about three to four festivals a year for nearly 10 years. At first, he was spending a lot of money.

“I was living at home and spending all of my money on just like traveling and going to festivals,” said DeIuliis, who was a student at the University of Pittsburgh at the time. After school, he moved away from home, got married and accepted a job in the pulmonary research lab at Yale.

“When I moved and accrued all of these other bills that real adults have, I had to figure out a way to still do this. I thought there has to be an easier cheaper way to do this,” said DeIuliis.

So he started reading up on how he could use airline miles and credit card rewards to pay for all of the auxiliary costs around the festivals to cut down the overall cost of the events.

Now, DeIuliis uses credit card rewards points to cover hotel stays, rental cars, flights and most other transportation expenses for both him and his wife, Rachel, to attend festivals like The Dirtybird Campout and Holy Ship! He’s been doing so for about four years and says he now pays for maybe 10% of their transportation cost out of pocket. They use their savings to have a better festival experience, overall.

“Camping is fun and if you have friends there you can stay with them but the comfort of being able to get in a rental car, and go to the hotel and get a hot shower is great,” said DeIuliis.

If you try this tip, make sure your bill is paid in full each month, otherwise high interest rates can offset any rewards you earn. You can use an online budgeting tool like Mint or You Need A Budget to stay on top of your bills. In addition, you should avoid opening cards for the bonus points only to cancel the cards later, as that could harm your credit score.

Camp (if it’s cheaper)

“A lot of times your cheapest option for lodging will be to camp,” said Greene, as its usually cheaper than a hotel or Airbnb.

Weekend (Thurs.- Mon.) car camping and tent camping passes at Coachella each run $113, for instance. As of this writing, hotel rates for the second weekend of Coachella (April 19-23) range from around $410 to more than $500 per night per room to accommodate two adults, according to Google Maps.

“It’s a cheap option but it’s not luxurious in any kind of way,” said Greene. She says to avoid festivals in remote areas if you’re not a camping kind of person. “If its way in the middle of nowhere you’re not gonna have many hotel options.”

Generally, campgrounds will have some amenities like public showers, charging stations and lounges with Wi-Fi. Sometimes festivals will provide “glamping” options like a cabin or tents for you.

Glamping (glamorous + camping) is a little fancier. They are pre-made camping options with some amenities, depending on how much you pay. Coachella’s glamping options started around $2,458 for two, plus two general admission tickets. A four-person tent with 4 VIP passes cost $5,600.

Plan to go with a group

You could roll solo to a festival and have a great time making new friends, but it may be more cost-effective to go with a group.

“Try to reduce the amount of money it costs to get to the venue by carpooling,” advised Gumber.

Not only would you cut your overall cost in gas, but you may save on lodging, too. To purchase a single-car camping pass for Bonnaroo 2018, you’d pay $59.75 per car, not per person, so you may be able to split the cost among a car pool of friends.

If you don’t happen to know enough people to form a group and are open to meeting new people, you may be able to find a Facebook group of fans planning to attend the festival, and coordinate with some folks to go together.

Choose a festival nearby

You don’t have to cross the country for the festival experience. There are so, so many music and arts festivals that there is likely one in your state or region of the country.

Choose a festival that will require you to travel the least to help save some money on travel. The Music Festival Wizard website has an interactive map you can use to check for festivals nearest  you.

If you live in New York City, for example, the map shows five music festivals within the five boroughs. You’ll likely be able to take public transit and walk to most festivals in the Big Apple.

Food and Drink

Source: Joe DeIuliis

Festival food is notoriously pricey and festivals typically start around noon and end after midnight, according to Greene.

“It’s harder to avoid eating inside when you are at most non-camping festivals because they don’t allow re-entry so you can’t leave for food,” said Greene. “Save a lot of money or at least be prepared to deal with the eating situation.”

Vendors know your options are limited, too. You may be there for 12 hours and if re-entry isn’t allowed or the line is very long, you may not want to leave and waste some of your expensive ticket.

“Put money aside to feed yourself. If you’re at a festival and you’re going to be purchasing food it’s not going to be cheap,” said Collin Molina, a 25-year old aspiring musician in Philadelphia.

If you have some time between purchasing your ticket and going to the festival, do your best to set aside money to buy food at the event. Molina says budgeting to spend about $20 per meal should be sufficient.

Compare options and make sure you know what you’re eating, Molina advises. He says to try to get something filling, like a high-protein meal that will keep you feeling fuller longer, so you don’t have to buy too many meals.

Always bring a water bottle (and snacks, if you can)

Most festivals allow you to bring in an empty, reusable water bottle and provide free water refill stations. Take advantage of that perk and always bring a water bottle so you can keep yourself hydrated for free and have something to drink with meals.

Many non-camping festivals don’t allow you to bring in food, but If you are allowed to take snacks into the festival with you, you should bring some.

Eat something before you get in

“Eat before you get into the venue and pre-plan your meals to save money on concessions,” said Gumber.

Greene says she also would boil eggs to eat just before she walked into the festival. You can help keep hunger at bay by keeping yourself well hydrated throughout the day or using stimulants, too.

“Stimulants like coffee and energy drinks will suppress your appetite as well. Some people are smokers so nicotine does that, too,” said Greene.

Plan out your meals

Planning your meals can help you shave down some of your cost regardless of whether you’re camping and bringing your own food, or planning to purchase food from vendors on festival grounds.

If you’re camping, you’ll generally be able to cook and leave and return to the festival, so that may help cut the cost to feed yourself while there.

“We would just make a trip to the grocery store and figure out what would be good to cook,” said Molina of the times he would camp at festivals.

“It’s a different kind of shopping, almost like survival shopping,” Molina added. He recommends trying to get things that are simple, easy to make and filling.

General Tips

Learn to budget

If you know ahead of time that you’re planning to attend a festival on a tight budget, you can plan to save money ahead of the event. Do the math, and budget set aside some money each paycheck to cover the cost of the event .

The last thing you want to do is rack up debt attending a music and arts festival because you didn’t take care to do at least a little financial planning. MagnifyMoney has a wealth of articles on budgeting you can use to help plan attending your next festival.

Really, don’t break the bank to go to a music festival

This tip may be a tough one to swallow, but it needs to be said because at the end of the day, you have got to look yourself in the mirror and be honest.

“Abstaining is the top way to save money. If you really can’t afford it, don’t stretch your budget,” said Molina. He says he knows he’ll likely get another chance to see most of the performers and acts that he wants to see later on. Sooner or later they will return to the venue, festival or city, and you will get another chance.

The Festival Guy signs off on this tip, too.

“If you’re not in the right place to go to the festival financially, sit this one out and plan ahead for the next one,” said Gumber. He advises anyone who loves the festival experience not to let FOMO (fear of missing out) drive them into debt or worse.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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Best and Worst Airports for Holiday Delays and Cancellations

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

With the holiday travel season fast approaching, be prepared for a record number of passengers expected to take to the skies across the country. U.S. airlines carried 72.3 million passengers in December 2017, a new all-time high, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

MagnifyMoney’s research team dug into 10 years of U.S. Department of Transportation holiday flight data between 2008 and 2017 on the 50 busiest airports in U.S. to find out which ones are the worst when getting to your destination on time is the goal.

Holiday travel is defined as flights that depart between Dec. 20 and Dec. 31 each year. A flight delay is when one that arrived at its destination 15 minutes or more behind schedule or was canceled altogether.

Depending on your airport of choice, the potential for flight delays can grow exponentially. We take a look at which airports have the best — and worst — holiday delays and cancellations. We also offer tips on how to handle them if they happen to you.

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Key findings

  • The worst delays are after Christmas. 66% of airports had their worst day for delays after Christmas. Dec. 26 is the most unfavorable day for holiday delays at 44% of airports. Airports with reputations for delays before Christmas include San Francisco International, Ronald Reagan Washington National, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International and Tampa International.
  • No geography is spared. Amazingly, airports toward the bottom of the list aren’t just located in the snowy Northeast and upper Midwest. Among the bottom 10 include Oakland International, Salt Lake International, Houston Hobby and Denver International. Among the 10 at the bottom of the list or canceled flights, Dallas/Fort Worth and Raleigh-Durham are two surprises, with about 3% of holiday flights canceled, thanks to occasional ice storms at each airport.
  • The Charlotte hub is the best. Among the major connecting hubs, North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport, an American Airlines hub, fared the best, with 75.7% of flights reaching their destination on time over the December holidays. A mere 1.2% of flights were canceled, but beware — the least favorable day to travel out of Charlotte is Dec. 22, which could make getting home for the holidays more challenging for travelers. Atlanta — the world’s busiest airport and Delta Air Lines’ largest hub — came in second among the big connecting hubs, with 74.9% of holiday flights reaching their destination on time.
  • The Newark Airport hub? Not so good. This United Airlines hub, the airline’s third largest based on daily flights, only had 62.2% of its flights arrive on time in the past 10 years, with 4.5% of them canceled, thanks to its location in one of the most congested airspace corridors in the world. Try to avoid flying out on Dec. 27, the airport’s busiest travel day. Following Newark on the list for unfavorable connecting hubs was a bit of a surprise: Denver International Airport, United’s fourth largest, had 64.1% of its flights come it on time.
  • New Yorkers: Fly out of LaGuardia. Flights out of the city’s third airport — ranked a respectable 45 out of 50 for holiday delays — reached their destinations on time at least 75% of the time over the holidays, versus less than 65% at JFK and Newark. LaGuardia, which has strict federal limits on the number and distance of flights, has fewer of the regional feeder flights flown with smaller planes that are more likely to be delayed. Newark, as a major hub for United, and JFK, a major hub for Delta and JetBlue, have more of these flights than LaGuardia. When it comes to the most damaging delay of all – an outright cancellation – LaGuardia fares no better than the other two area airports, with 4% of flights canceled over the holidays.
  • Chicago ranks the highest for holiday delays. If you’re departing from one of Chicago’s two airports this holiday season, there’s about a 40% chance your flight will be late. Only 61.5% of flights departing Chicago Midway arrived at their destination on time over the past 10 years of holiday travel. O’Hare isn’t much better, with only 61.6% of flights arriving their destination on time. But it’s worse when it comes to cancellations, with nearly 5% of its flights canceled the last 10 holiday travel seasons.
  • Hawaii can relax. Travelers leaving Hawaii to see friends and family on the mainland have had it pretty easy, with 84.2% of flights departing out of Honolulu International arriving on time, and a mere 0.5% of them getting canceled, based on our data. Maui is almost as easy, with 83.7% of departing flights reaching their destination on time.

Be prepared for holiday delays

The key word for holiday travel is patience. The nation’s air traffic controllers handle 70,000 flights a day in the U.S., according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). While the vast majority of flights operate on time, there are situations like weather and aircraft maintenance that can cause delays and cancellations, causing a ripple effect.

Advanced planning and helpful tools won’t stop flight interruptions and cancellations, but they can help you recover more quickly so your holidays aren’t ruined. Below are some concrete steps you can take to help mitigate the damage of a delay or cancellation, making it more likely you’ll arrive at your final destination.

Choose flights deliberately. Early morning flights can be painful, but those flights have better odds of being on time as the plane has often arrived the night before and is already parked at the gate. This gives you much better odds of an on-time departure.

You have rights. The DOT requires all airlines to offer travelers access to their contract of carriage, a document that outlines what they will and won’t do for passengers in case of flight delays or cancellations. CompareCards, also owned by LendingTree, outlined the contract of carriage for the top eight U.S. airlines here.

Check your credit card. That piece of plastic in your wallet can be an invaluable tool when it comes to flight delays or cancellations. If your credit card comes with trip delay reimbursement, you can get up to $500 per airline ticket to cover things such as meals and lodging if your flight is delayed for more than 12 hours. And if your flight is either canceled or cut short for reasons including sickness, severe weather or other covered situations, trip cancellation insurance offered by your card can reimburse you for up to $10,000 for prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours and hotels. Some cards also provide access to a concierge service that is ready to help mitigate flight delays or cancellations. Be sure to check your card’s terms & conditions for more details.

Follow the numbers. Travelers can check on an airlines’ on-time statistics and delays at the Bureau of Transportation Statistics or at the monthly DOT Air Travel Consumer Report. There’s also the Federal Aviation Administration’s tracking of flight delays on its air traffic control system command center website. A map shows airport delays by color code and allows you to search for delays by region or airport.

Pick up the (smart) phone. Apps like FlightView, FlightAware, Flight Board, Flightradar24 and FlightStats can not only track the status of your flight, but also give you regular updates if your flight is delayed or canceled. This information can give you a leg up on other passengers if you need to be re-accommodated if your flight is delayed or canceled.

Get notified. Sign up for an airline’s flight status text notifications on your smartphone. You’ll get flight updates that can sometimes be more accurate than those given at the gate. Plus airlines use this tool to proactively rebook your flight in case the worst happens, usually waiving change and cancellation fees.

Membership has its privileges. If you are among an airlines’ best customers’ loyalty program, you can call a dedicated customer service line that tends to be more responsive than regular lines. These specially trained agents can be your best friend when it comes to recovering from flight issues.

This article contains links to CompareCards, another LendingTree-owned company.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Benét J. Wilson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Benét J. at benet@magnifymoney.com

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5 Hacks for Selling Your Home During the Holidays

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Selling your home during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is not always easy, especially for sellers in a cold climate. It will take a bit more effort to catch the eye of a potential buyer, but here are a few hacks to help make your home stand out this winter.

Be strategic about pictures

According to the National Association of REALTORS, 89% of shoppers find pictures very useful in real estate listings. But when selling your home in the holiday season, you might have to get a little bit creative. “Get pictures from different seasons, images of gardens and pools, and make a collage or video out of them. This will show what the home looks like in the spring, in the summer, etc.,” said Margaret Rome, owner of HomeRome Realty in Baltimore and host of the radio show “All About Real Estate.” She also suggested that sellers may want to have a photographer come out in different seasons even if they aren’t yet ready to list, just to catch the house looking its best in different environments.

One big issue during the holidays is decorations, which Brian Balduf, CEO of VHT Studios, says should be avoided in pictures. “Downplay the seasonal decorations if you can. Put them away or don’t get them in the shot because the photos get dated,” he said. If it doesn’t sell by the time the holidays are over, buyers will assume that it’s been on the market for a while.

If you have no choice but to take pictures with holiday decorations in them, you may want to look into the new process of virtual staging and digital enhancement of photos. “We use the technology to remove holiday decorations. In the studio, we can just take that out,” Balduf said, which can make it much easier to market the home in the winter. The technology can also remove snow from the yard or change the furniture and wall color, but it will not alter structural items.

Carefully choose holiday decorations

Selling a home during the holidays doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to avoid decorating altogether, but you may need to be more strategic when choosing how you show off your holiday cheer. Debra Carpenter of Sandpoint Idaho Real Estate suggests not going overboard. “It can be tempting to deck your home out like a winter wonderland, but too much decorating falls on the extreme end of the spectrum,” she said. “To sell your home, you want to stay somewhere in the middle.”

So what does that mean? It can mean sticking with celebratory seasonal basics that enhance the home’s cozy factor but don’t distract from its bones. “It’s fine to put a few holiday touches around the home, [such as] poinsettias in a vase, even an understated Christmas tree,” Carpenter said. “You want to be sure that the home can be seen in its entirety without having parts covered or changed with overdone decorations.”

Work with the weather

In most areas of the United States, holiday months are synonymous with colder temperatures. This could be one of the reasons that sellers often look at the holidays as a bad time to sell. Yet it may not be as disadvantageous as you think. “There won’t be as many people looking as in the spring, but the people looking at houses this time of year are serious buyers,” Rome said. She suggests showing off any beautiful snow scenes or fall leaves. Additionally, she advises sellers to write their listings with an eye toward the season, possibly positioning features such as fireplaces at the forefront.

If you’ve got potential buyers willing to brave the weather, you also want to show them how comfy your house can be in the cold. “Keep it around 65 degrees so your home feels warm and inviting,” Carpenter said. “A chilly home won’t come across as a cozy living space and can deter buyers,” she added. For those selling a vacant home, Rome suggests a programmable thermostat that can be controlled from a smartphone. “[Having buyers] walking into a cold house is a real no-no,” she said.

Curb appeal equals safety

Curb appeal takes on a different meaning in the winter and holiday months, especially with all the snow, slush and ice that time of year. “Be sure to keep driveways and walkways maintained and shoveled. You want buyers to feel safe and secure as they enter and exit your home,” Carpenter said. She also mentioned placing additional lighting to areas that are slippery and prone to freezing. Rome agrees, adding that sellers should keep salt or sand nearby.

As long as the safety aspects are covered, buyers are going to evaluate the aesthetics of the home’s outdoor appearance just as they would during any other season. “Make sure the house numbers are visible and prominent, the mailbox is new [or] freshly painted and the front door [is] immaculate,” Rome said.

Get the right agent

Time off is common during the holiday season — which can be great when you want buyers to come and see your home, but not so great if it’s your agent who’s out of the office. It’s important to make sure that you find an agent who’s willing to commit to showing your property when buyers are off of work, even if that means taking less time off for their own holiday celebrations.

One final piece of advice to remember is that selling your home when it’s ready is the priority — no matter the season. As Rome said, “Your house may not sell when you put it on the market at Christmastime, but it’s definitely not going to sell if it’s not on the market.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Yolander Prinzel is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Yolander here

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Average Bank Interest Rates

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

There are many types of savings accounts and other interest-earning accounts offered by banks and credit unions today. Here are the current average bank interest rates for some of the more widely available products. The averages are based on annual percentage yields (APYs) collected from nearly 7,000 bank and credit union accounts – including about 5,600 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)-insured banks.

Savings account yields, while historically low, can still vary widely among banks and credit unions. In general, the larger the bank, the less you may earn on your savings than you would if you shopped around for a better rate. While you might need a local bank for checking and a surcharge-free ATM, there’s no particular reason your savings needs to be languishing in a low-yielding account there as well. Shopping for a higher yielding account online is a relatively effortless way to find online banks that are paying much more in interest for the same type of savings products.

Average bank interest rates of select major banks

Bank

Interest Checking

Savings

MMA

1-Year CD

3-Year CD

Bank of America

0.01

0.01

0.02

0.07

0.55

Chase

0.01

0.01

N/A

0.01

0.45

Wells Fargo

0.01

0.01

0.03

0.10

0.40

Citibank

0.01

0.04

N/A

0.25

0.70

U.S. Bank

0.01

0.01

0.05

0.10

0.35

PNC Bank

0.01

0.01

0.09

0.15

0.35

TD Bank

0.03

0.05

0.15

0.20

0.45

KeyBank

0.02

0.01

0.11

0.15

0.20

Bank of the West

0.01

0.01

0.14

0.12

0.55

M&T Bank

0.01

0.02

0.05

1.40

0.90

Regions Bank

0.01

0.01

0.01

0.10

0.30

Source: DepositAccounts.com
Rates as of September 2018
CD Rates based on a $20,000 deposit.

Credit unions will generally pay more for your deposits than commercial banks. Below is a snapshot of average bank interest rates from earlier this year. In the interim, interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve mean average bank interest rates are even higher now, particularly for certificates of deposit (CDs).

Average bank interest rates of select products

Product

Credit Union APY(%)

Bank APY (%)

Interest Checking

0.11

0.11

Savings

0.15

0.15

MMA

0.24

0.24

1-Year CD

0.92

0.75

3-Year CD

1.46

1.21

Source: National Credit Union Administration, June 2018.

Recent increases in various bank account rates

Interest checking. Rates on checking accounts are never going to be exciting. The core purpose of checking accounts is to provide security and accessibility of your cash, and sometimes offer modest interest on your funds. But even these rates have been ticking up slightly in 2018, to an average of 0.17% in September 2018. But some banks will offer much higher interest rates than the average if you’re willing to meet certain conditions. Minimum balances are often required to either earn interest or avoid monthly maintenance fees.

Personal savings account rates. A savings account is a bank deposit for which there is no expiration date. Often they’re referred to as statement savings or passbook savings accounts. Unlike checking accounts, which are often used for everyday transactions and check writing, Federal Reserve regulations limit savings accounts transactions to six per calendar month. And while the average savings account APY is still only 0.23%, many banks, especially online banks, offer savings accounts with APYs of more than 2.00% annually.

Money market account rates. Money market accounts embody characteristics of both checking and savings accounts. They’re similar to savings accounts in terms of offering higher yields than checking accounts, and similar to checking as they typically offer limited check writing (though still subject to six transactions as other savings products). Most money market accounts have minimum balance requirements. Although the average money market account rate is 0.30%, we’ve seen APYs from some banks in excess of 1.00% annually.

CD rates. Certificates of deposit often offer the best interest rates from a bank or credit union. When you purchase a CD, you’re making a time deposit at an institution, and you typically cannot withdraw any of the funds until the maturity date without paying an early withdrawal penalty. CD yields are the savings vehicles showing the sharpest increases in yields, especially those with maturities of one year or more. Currently, average APYs of a 1-year CD is still about 1.00%, but banks offering the highest yields will pay you more than twice that.

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5 Holiday Nightmares That Can Break the Bank

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year — weeks of hustle and bustle, spending time with friends and family, giving and receiving, and eating to your heart’s content. What can go wrong?

Well, a lot, actually. The holiday season is not only an opportune time for gift-giving, but it also serves up several opportunities for accidents and mishaps.

But even though much can go wrong, there is plenty you can do to protect yourself. Here we’ll share some common holiday disasters and what you can do to avoid them.

Your home catches on fire

You leave your favorite pine-scented candle a little too close to your Christmas tree or you plug in one too many strands of lights into an extension cord, and before you know it, you have a fire on your hands.

These, and other scenarios, lead to fires every year. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 1,000 home fires occur each holiday season due to Christmas trees, holiday decorations, and cooking.

Prevent it. Stephen Boccarossa, principal agent at Boccarossa Insurance in Milford, Conn., said consumers should take precautions when decorating for the season. “LED lights use a lot less wattage and won’t put stress on your wiring or cause a short or fire,” he advised.

“If you’re going to burn a candle, put it where everyone is going to be and have it high on the mantle or on a countertop,” he said. The NFPA offers handy winter holiday safety tips as well as Christmas tree safety tips.

Protect yourself. Now is an excellent time to review your homeowners or renters insurance policy to make sure the limits you have in place are adequate enough to replace your home and belongings should a loss occur.

A guest hurts themselves in your home

Your dear Aunt Agnes is staying with you and slips and falls on your icy walkway. She lands in the hospital and is looking for someone to pick up the bill.

Having guests in your home during the season not only brings good cheer, but it also brings an increase in liability.

Prevent it. Make sure your home is guest-ready and safe. Take a walk around both the inside and outside of your property and correct or remove any potential dangers, especially if you live in a cold weather area.

“I recommend making sure that if you do have company, you’ve cleared your driveway, walkways, and front steps,” Boccarossa said. “If you have Christmas lights outside, make sure your wires are hidden so [your guests] don’t trip and fall.”

Protect yourself. Review the liability and medical treatment coverage in your homeowners policy. Consider getting an umbrella policy for increased protection if you don’t already have one in place.

Your flight or cruise gets canceled

Canceled flights and crowded airports make a great scene for a holiday movie, but they happen in real life all the time. And when they do, travel delays due to weather, technical issues, or even illness can derail your holiday plans.

Prevent it. There’s nothing you can do about the weather, but you can reduce the chances of potential illness by eating well, getting adequate sleep, and reducing stress in the days and weeks leading up to traveling.

Protect yourself. Know your airline or cruise line’s cancellation policy when booking your travel. CompareCards, also a LendingTree company, provides a comprehensive summary of the top domestic carriers’ cancellation policies.

Check your credit cards too, as you may have some built-in protection when booking travel. Additionally, Boccarossa recommended purchasing trip cancellation insurance. “I would definitely consider it, especially in the winter,” he said.

Holiday shopping is stolen

Thieves love the holiday season as much as you do  — probably more. Between gifts stolen from your car to right off your porch, holiday theft is a common occurrence.

Prevent it. Do not leave big-ticket items like electronics or jewelry in your car. “Have a plan for your shopping,” Boccarossa advised. “If you know you’re getting something important or expensive, plan so that it’s the last thing you get before going home.”

Similarly, plan to have gifts delivered to your place of employment, or schedule the delivery during a time you’ll be at home.

Protect yourself. Homeowners or renters insurance policies typically cover stolen items, including belongings taken from your car. But keep in mind that you will need to meet the deductible before coverage kicks in — something consumers tend to forget, according to Boccarossa.

Also, be sure to file a police report in the event of theft. “If your car is broken into, please call the police,” Boccarossa advised. “If you don’t, the insurance company will question it and could use that against you in a future claim.”

Credit card fraud or ID theft

Again, the holidays are an opportune time for theft, and it’s not limited to physical items. Having to deal with credit card fraud around this time will definitely drain the joy from the season.

Prevent it. Be vigilant when out shopping in stores. Thieves can get the number off your card just by glancing over your shoulder, snapping pictures with their phone, or by using a scanning device. If applying for credit cards in stores, avoid giving your details verbally — complete a written application instead.

When shopping online, only purchase from trusted sites. Consider using a credit card with a low balance to limit the extent of damage in the event your information is stolen.

Protect yourself. Your credit cards and debit cards provide you protection in the event of fraudulent purchases, but remember that in the case of a debit card, any theft or false charges will immediately affect your bank account balance.

Make sure you follow your bank or credit card company’s procedures for reporting fraudulent activity and address it right away.

But don’t forget to enjoy the season

While there are things that can go wrong during the holidays, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with stress. Instead, put these precautions in place to protect yourself and the ones you love, and make sure the holidays are safe and enjoyable for everyone.

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13 Ways to Protect Your Home (And Yourself) This Winter

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Winter weather can take a toll on a house. Frozen water pipes, icy walkways and sudden windstorms that send tree branches ripping through your roof are just a few of the problems your home (and its occupants) can encounter during the cold winter months. Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your home from inclement weather and all the problems that go with it.

Plumbing

Freezing temperatures wreak havoc on your home’s plumbing system. When water freezes, it expands, and the expansion can lead to leaks and breaks in the system. Gary Findley, CEO of Restoration 1, a water damage and restoration company headquartered in Waco, Texas, recommended taking the following steps to protect your home against frozen pipes.

Let ‘er drip. When temperatures are frigid outside, keep one or two faucets running slowly at all times to prevent water lines from freezing.

Disconnect garden hoses. Disconnect water hoses on outside faucets. Connected hoses don’t allow water to drain out of the hose bib, increasing the risk of freezing and bursting pipes.

Close the door. Keep the garage door closed if water lines are in the garage.

Caulk it up. Seal all leaks that can allow cold air into your home where pipes are located. Use caulk and insulation around pipes that are exposed to the elements.

Keep cabinets open. Leave cabinets open under kitchen and bathroom sinks that are placed on an exterior wall to allow warm air to reach the pipes.

Don’t drop the heat. If leaving your house for extended periods, leave the heat on in the home. Don’t set the thermostat below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roof

Small leaks and weak spots in your roof are easy to overlook in the warmer months but make it more vulnerable to snow and ice during the winter. Here’s how to make sure your roof is ready for the cold winter months ahead.

Stay on top of maintenance. If your roof is only a few years old, you may think it’s safe and sound. But John Myers, a real estate agent with Myers & Myers Real Estate in Albuquerque, N.M., said homeowners need to have their roof maintained periodically.

At a minimum, you should clear any debris from the roof, clear gutters and drains to ensure proper drainage, and inspect all areas for leaks and deterioration. If you notice any trouble areas, it’s time to call a professional.

“Having a licensed contractor perform maintenance on your roof right before winter can save you money and grief,” Myers said.

Trim those branches. High winds and the weight of ice and snow can cause tree branches to fall, damaging anything and everything on their way down. Trim any trees near your roof, driveway or other property.

“If you have trees near power lines, call your local utility company to see if they will trim the trees free of charge,” Myers said.

Appliances

Some home appliances get more use throughout the winter, so preparing them before cold weather hits can help you avoid the expense of emergency repairs.

Check your furnace filter. Your furnace’s filter serves two purposes. “One is to clean the air in your home,” Myers said. “The other is to keep debris out of your system.” He recommended changing these filters every three months.

Using a dirty filter not only means the air in your home is dirty, but it can also mean your furnace will have to work harder to keep you warm and can even lead to system failure and expensive repairs.

Clean out your dryer’s lint duct. John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, a platform that helps homeowners manage and maintain their homes, recommended cleaning built-up lint in the duct connected to the back of your clothes dryer. “Laundry loads increase in winter months, and a clogged duct causes your dryer to work longer to dry your clothes, which increases your energy bills,” Bodrozic said. But it’s not just about energy efficiency. Clogged ducts are also a source of house fires, so keeping them clear reduces the risk.

Fireplace

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fireplaces, chimneys and chimney connectors account for nearly 1/3 of home fires each year. Make sure your fireplace is safe and ready to go before lighting that first match.

Call a chimney sweep. Dirt and debris trapped inside the chimney can cause a fire, which can spread to the rest of your house. The NFPA recommends hiring a qualified professional to clean and inspect your chimney and vents every year.

Choose the right fuel. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, choosing the right wood to burn is important. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends only burning well-seasoned wood that has been split for a minimum of six months and stored in a covered and elevated location. Burning wet or treated wood creates more smoke and emissions that are not safe to breathe.

Plan to dispose of fireplace ashes safely. When you dispose of fireplace ashes, put them in a heavy metal container, moisten the ashes and cover the container with a metal lid. Store the container outside, away from your house, for at least four days. After that, you can dump them in a garden or flower bed away from your house. Avoid disposing in wooded areas or sites with dry leaves. Do not forget to moisten the dumping area. Never dispose of ashes in a flammable container such as a paper bag or cardboard box.

Pest Control

The winter months usually bring a welcome respite from flying pests such as mosquitoes and flies, but it’s prime time for other pests seeking shelter in your home. Luckily, there are ways to keep unwanted house guests from getting too cozy this winter.

Plug up cracks and crevices. Karen Thompson from the insect and pest control blog InsectCop.net said one of the easiest things you can do is plug up all cracks and crevices that allow pests to get inside your home.

“Do a thorough inspection of the exterior as well as the interior of your home, take note of all the gaps and seal them up. Remember, pests like roaches, ants and even mice can get indoors through holes that are no bigger than a dime, so don’t overlook small cracks in the foundation or holes in vent screens,” Thompson said.

Store firewood safely. Firewood is a common way for termites and other insects to get inside your home, where they can cause damage. Thompson recommended storing your firewood at least five feet from your home to minimize the chance that termites, carpenter ants and wood cockaroaches jump from the wood to your home.

“When bringing wood inside, bring in a little at a time and store it on an elevated storage rack that is located as far away from walls or wood furniture as possible,” Thompson said.

Many of the perils that can befall your home in winter may be covered by your homeowners’ insurance — but not all of them are. And if you have to file a claim, you’ll likely have to cover a hefty deductible and spend many hours dealing with adjusters and contractors. The tips above won’t guarantee you never fall victim to a natural disaster, but some small investments now can better prepare your home to withstand winter’s wrath.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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The Cheapest and Most Expensive States and Metros to Have a Baby

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

cost of a baby
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Everyone knows that having a baby is incredibly expensive, from delivery or adoption costs to outfitting a household with strollers, bottles, cribs and layettes. But even if friends and family come together to provide everything needed on day one, there are ongoing costs of raising a child. So how much should a typical couple expect to budget each month?To find out, we looked at some average costs (and one tax credit), both by state and for the 100 largest metros in the U.S.:

  • The difference in rent between a typical one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartment
  • Average cost of a day care center
  • Average cost of baby apparel, diapers and wipes
  • Average additional food costs
  • Average cost of adding a dependent to workplace insurance
  • Federal tax credit

These are just the basic costs. Parents who prioritize higher-end goods, parent-and-me classes, baby sitters and other little luxuries to help with parental stresses can expect to spend more.

Hover over a state to review its costs and tax credit.

Key takeaways

  • The average monthly cost of raising a baby across all 50 states is $1,037.
  • San Jose, Calif., is the most expensive metro to raise a baby, with an average base cost of $1,705 a month. Little Rock, Ark., is the cheapest of the 100 largest metros, with an average base cost of $707 a month.
  • Massachusetts is the most expensive state for raising a baby, at an average cost of $1,521 a month. Arkansas is the cheapest state, with an average monthly cost of $723.
  • Day care costs are far and away the largest monthly expense, representing 72% of monthly costs, on average. The proportion is highest in New York state at 85% and lowest in Alaska at 59%.
  • New parents in 22 out of the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, can expect their monthly costs to go up by at least $1,000 — just for the basics.
  • Parents in 63 of the 100 largest metros can expect to increase their monthly costs by at least $1,000.

People in the 10 most expensive states (and District of Columbia) to raise a baby can expect their monthly budgets to balloon by over $1,200 a month.

Living in a large metro can mean having to set aside more money each month for a new baby. Residents in the 10 most expensive metros can expect their bills to increase by between $1,368 and $1,705 a month.

Here is a breakdown of average baby costs in every state. The difference in cost between the most expensive and least expensive state is almost $800 a month.

How baby budgets compare in the 100 largest metros

Why parents struggle with the cost of a baby

A lot of new families incur significant debt when having a baby. Those who get pregnant may face hefty maternal and prenatal medical bills and those who adopt may see high legal and travel bills. Parents may also rack up credit card charges, such as to get a car seat, bassinet or maternity clothes.

Many families don’t have access to paid parental leave, so they are forced to forgo several weeks of at least part of their income. All this can put new parents into debt even before their monthly expenses increase, and those families can add monthly debt payments (including interest) to the very basic monthly cost increases we describe here.

That — combined with any other pre-existing debt, such as car payments or credit card bills ripe for consolidation — can create daunting challenges to people who are expecting or planning for a first child. In a perfect world, everyone would be on secure financial footing before having a baby, but that’s not always realistic, and most American parents find managing the additional monthly expenses to be challenging.

How to reduce these costs of having a baby

Here are some of the ways that parents can trim costs in each of the categories we surveyed.

Difference in rent between a 1- and 2-bedroom apartment

Couples can get away with living in a one-bedroom apartment for a while with a small infant (it’s recommended that infants stay in the same room with their parents for at least six months). Most parents prefer a separate nursery, but it will be a while before the baby cares.

Average cost of a day care center

For two-income and single-parent households, child care is essential and expensive. While some couples may decide that one parent should leave the workforce to stay home with the child so they don’t feel like they’re working just to pay for day care, it’s important to remember that stay-at-home parents can suffer long-term and compounding economic consequences by leaving the workforce for a period, including loss of career and wage advancement, Social Security contributions and retirement fund contributions. (Of course, there are other reasons why a parent may decide to stay home with a child.) Other parents can negotiate child care with family and neighbors. There are also federal, state and (sometimes) local child care subsidies based on income.

Average cost of baby apparel, diapers and wipes

After the initial purchase of clothes for an expected baby, most Americans don’t spend much on infant apparel, but they do spend some. But diapers and wipes are unavoidable. Couples who have access to a washing machine may opt for a larger initial outlay to invest in cloth diapering, although it’s growing in popularity and people donate, trade or sell discounted used cloth diapers when their kids are potty trained. Similarly, used children’s clothing is easy to come by, and because babies grow so quickly, they’re usually barely worn or brand new.

Average additional food costs

Although babies don’t eat a significant amount of solid food for at least six months, some families use formula either by choice or necessity. Breastfeeding mothers often require significantly more calories, often complain of being constantly hungry and may be more conscious about the quality of food they ingest. Organizing meal plans around nutritious and inexpensive foods and coupon clipping may be the only way to save money on adult food, but it may be especially challenging for sleep-deprived parents. Money can be saved on avoiding prepackaged baby food by steaming and pureeing or mashing regular table food.

Average cost of adding a dependent to workplace insurance

Not every family has workplace insurance, and many who don’t will qualify for government insurance programs for their children, such as Medicaid. (It’s estimated that Medicaid covers nearly half of all births.) But even families that don’t qualify for state-sponsored insurance will feel the hit of adding a dependent to their employer-subsidized plans. One bright spot is that under the Affordable Care Act, there aren’t any copays for the frequent well-baby checks.

Federal tax credit

For 2018, parents will receive a $2,000 credit, which means that amount will be taken off the top of their tax bill. A portion of that will be refundable, so that even if a family owes less than $2,000 in federal taxes, they’ll get some money back. That’s not the only tax break available to parents, but it’s the only one that has a dollar amount that applies to every American.

Deductions — which is an amount of income on which people don’t have to pay any tax — are available for parents at both the federal and state level (although a few states don’t have income tax).

Pretax deductions can also be taken from paychecks through a dependent care flexible spending account for up to $5,000 for child care costs, and health insurance costs are also taken from paychecks pretax. And $2,650 can similarly be deducted from paychecks pretax for health care expenses. Families in 2019 can deduct health care costs from their taxes if they exceed 10% of their adjusted income (up from 7.5% in 2018).

That’s a high hurdle for most, and some married couples decide to file separately so that medical bills meet the threshold of one income versus their combined incomes. In general, parents should expect a significantly lower tax bill after the arrival of a child.

Methodology

Researchers used the following data to estimate the basic budget changes a family would experience with the arrival of a first child, both at the state level and for the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S.

  • Rent: The difference in cost between an average one-bedroom and an average two-bedroom from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
  • Child care: The average cost of in-center child care, as reported by Care.com. In instances where an average was not available for a particular metro, the state average was used.
  • Baby apparel, diapers and wipes: The former was taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey regional tables, and the latter two were reported by Walmart.
  • Additional food costs: This was calculated from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey by indexing the average total food costs reported in the regional table and applying that multiple to the difference between married couples with no children and married couples with children younger than 6 from the household units table.
  • Insurance: The difference in cost between the statewide average employer-subsidized plan for an employee and the employee plus another person plan from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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What You Need to Know About the New Student Loan Servicing Plan

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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More than 11% of America’s student loan payments are more than 90 days delinquent or, even worse, in default. But the Department of Education is hopeful its new student loan servicing system, slated to debut in 2019, will get federal loan borrowers back on track.

The platform, called Next Generation Financial Services Environment, or “NextGen” for short, aspires to be a one-stop shop for anyone with federal loans to manage.

In advance of NextGen’s arrival, here’s what’s new, plus how it could affect you.

How NextGen came to be

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos created a stir in May 2017 when she announced an overhaul to the federal student loan system. At the time, DeVos proposed awarding a trillion dollars’ worth of federal loans, spanning 42.3 million customer accounts, to a single loan servicer — instead of keeping them spread out among the nine servicers, the contracts for which expire in 2019.

Reactions to the plan cited various pros and cons of a single-servicer platform, but there was pushback from critics who saw a potential monopoly forming, one that would be hard for the government to rein in, let alone serve borrowers best.

After hiring Dr. A. Wayne Johnson to lead the department’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office, DeVos changed plans. In August 2017, the secretary announced a single online platform accessed by multiple servicers — NextGen.

The latest proposal kept DeVos’ initial promise of a simpler, more streamlined repayment experience for borrowers but balanced it with more competition among servicers.

What to expect from NextGen

If you’re a federal loan borrower, you’re probably familiar with StudentLoans.gov and the FSA’s main website, plus the sites of your loan servicers.

With NextGen, you’d only have one URL to bookmark. Even if you have a number of outstanding loans with varying servicers, you would manage every step of your repayment in one place, whether you want to adjust your repayment plan or consolidate your debt.

“It should be easier for borrowers to manage their student loans and to be placed into the most advantageous repayment programs,” said student loan lawyer Stanley Tate. “For instance, a public service employee should get bright, loud, ringing alarms that tell them some of their loans aren’t eligible for forgiveness.”

One complication is that NextGen will feature two sets of user experiences: one for older federal student loan types (such as now-defunct Perkins loans) and another experience for newer loans.

Still, housing all servicers in one place is bound to be a boon for borrowers with multiple accounts. You’d no longer have to track down the customer service phone number for each of your loans or keep track of sending payments to different places.

How NextGen will keep loan servicers in check

Of course, it’ll be a monumental task to upload about 42 million borrowers’ worth of loan information to NextGen. That would fulfill the FSA’s promise of achieving a “single data processing platform” that not only serves borrowers but also delivers excellent data about how they’re being served.

Via the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, Congress mandated the education department use “common metrics” to judge the performance of servicers before deciding to award them federal borrowers’ accounts.

Once it’s live, NextGen could take that to the next level.

“There is a lot more latitude for Federal Student Aid to measure servicers against one another, because they will have more data available to them on how servicers interact with borrowers than they currently do,” said Colleen Campbell, who wrote a detailed report on NextGen’s development for the Center for American Progress (CAP).

As Campbell noted, however, the education department’s latest solicitation for servicers doesn’t include information on how they would be held in check.

“There has historically been such poor oversight of servicers and other Federal Student Aid contractors that I think it’s difficult to have faith that the organization will do what’s best for borrowers rather than what’s most cost-efficient,” Campbell said.

Navient might not be a match for NextGen

If you peruse the list of companies contending for government contracts to build NextGen, you might notice some familiar names, including Nelnet and the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA). You’ll also see technology companies without a background in student loans — IBM Corporation is the most recognizable — as the education department looks to build the back end of its new servicing platform.

However, Navient — currently one of the country’s largest loan servicers — is notably absent. It remains involved, however, as a subcontractor teamed with other servicers.

The company itself is a frequent target of lawsuits, and announced in November that it was taking the Trump administration to court over the education department’s handling of servicer contracts, as first reported by Politico. Navient alleges the department broke federal procurement rules during its search for NextGen contractors and put it at a “competitive disadvantage,” according to the lawsuit.

According to government data, Navient has been one of the most complained-about student loan servicers in recent years. NextGen on the other hand, if it lives up to its promise, could offer improved customer service, easier loan management and a clearer path to being debt-free.

“Navient has such a history of poor past performance, it would be difficult to imagine them making it into the new system if there is any integrity in the selection process,” Campbell said. “Their suit strikes me as another blow to that relationship.”

If you have student loans serviced by Navient, you may or may not be happy to learn that either way, it won’t be operating on its own in the future. When the time comes, you’ll need to lean on NextGen instead.

This article was originally published on Student Loan Hero, which like MagnifyMoney, is owned by LendingTree.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Andrew Pentis
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Andrew Pentis is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Andrew here

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Resources for Repairing Your Home After Hurricane Florence

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Hurricane Florence
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Many homeowners are beginning to make repairs after Hurricane Florence’s devastating crawl across the Carolinas and Virginia in September 2018.

According to real estate data provider CoreLogic, the storm affected 624,000 homes, the vast majority unprotected by flood insurance. Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover damage from storm surges and other flooding. That requires a separate policy, typically purchased from the U.S. government, but consulting and actuarial firm Milliman said fewer than 10% of homeowners in the Carolinas had such coverage.

Many families facing large out-of-pocket costs from Hurricane Florence may be wondering what the next steps are to begin rebuilding. To help you get started, we’ve rounded up some resources available to people in the Carolinas affected by the storm.

If you’re looking for more general information on options for repairing your home after a hurricane, see our guide here.

Answers to insurance questions after Hurricane Florence

Flood insurance vs. homeowners insurance

While standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover damage from storm surges or other flooding, they should cover damage from, say, a neighbor’s tree that fell on your house and left a hole on the roof where water came through. South Carolina residents with questions about claims may visit the S.C. Department of Insurance. North Carolinians can visit NCHurricClaims.com for information. Insured residential damages in that state may total as much as $7.5 billion while uninsured damages may nearly be twice as much. Total storm damage in the Carolinas and Virginia is expected to add up to $28.5 billion.

Wind insurance

Wind must be insured separately and sometimes this coverage is available only from a state-run insurer of last resort. In North Carolina, the Coastal Property Insurance Pool is available to coastal homeowners, with a similar wind pool in South Carolina.

Filing for federal disaster assistance after Hurricane Florence

If your home is in a declared presidential disaster area, you can apply for FEMA individual disaster assistance. If you do not have internet access, you can call 800-621-3362.

Coverage

Disaster aid may cover:

  • Temporary housing
  • Lodging reimbursement
  • Home repairs
  • Home replacement
  • Permanent or semi-permanent housing construction
  • Child care expenses
  • Medical and dental expenses
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Essential household items, clothing, tools required for your job and necessary educational materials
  • Heating fuel
  • Cleanup items
  • Damage to an essential vehicle
  • Moving and storage expenses

Disaster areas

As of this writing, DisasterAssistance.gov shows residents in the following North Carolina counties may be eligible for disaster assistance after Hurricane Florence:

  • Anson
  • Beaufort
  • Bladen
  • Brunswick
  • Carteret
  • Chatham
  • Columbus
  • Craven
  • Cumberland
  • Duplin
  • Durham
  • Greene
  • Guilford
  • Harnett
  • Hoke
  • Hyde
  • Johnston
  • Jones
  • Lee
  • Lenoir
  • Moore
  • New Hanover
  • Onslow
  • Pamlico
  • Pender
  • Pitt
  • Richmond
  • Robeson
  • Sampson
  • Scotland
  • Union
  • Wayne
  • Wilson

In South Carolina, Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Marion and Marlboro counties are federally declared disaster areas. As of this writing, there are no declared disaster areas in Virginia.

FEMA may require you to have evidence that your insurance company declined your loss claim and will not cover your disaster-caused loss. When you apply for disaster assistance, you’ll need to provide identifying information like your Social Security number and a current mailing address.

It’s important to remember some FEMA funds are funneled through the state government, so depending on how your state allocates its resources, your reimbursement or assistance may take months. Some North Carolina survivors are still waiting on FEMA disaster assistance aid from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

According to a FEMA spokesperson, those still waiting on aid from a previous disaster may still qualify for FEMA assistance.

Final thoughts

If you were one of the estimated 624,000 homeowners affected by Hurricane Florence, help is available. Sources of financial assistance range from your own insurance policies, to government assistance and loans, to charitable organizations, to simply borrowing from a private lender.

Rebuilding may be costly and seem overwhelming, so look to resources like United Policyholders and the Insurance Information Institute or your state’s emergency management office. North Carolina residents may visit ReadyNC. South Carolina residents may go here.

If you need advice when deciding between options, consult a fee-only financial professional who has experience working with homeowners following a disaster.

If you are considering bankruptcy, it’s recommended you speak with a bankruptcy lawyer about the options available to you and any protections provided by your state.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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