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10 Great Ways to Earn Extra Money

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This is a sponsored post created in partnership with QUID. All opinions and love are my own.

Bills To Pay

Doesn’t it seem like we are always in need of some extra cash? I don’t know about you, but I have bills to pay, man. From the mortgage to the kid’s activities to clothes and groceries, the bill never seem to end. It’s a nice problem to have in my family of five, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but the seemingly constant need for extra funds is still always there. But that’s ok, that’s what it’s all about, and it’s why most of us do what we do.

Nevertheless, there is still that unending need to make ends meet and to bring on those dollars to put food on the table and kids in diapers. Those phrases never get old, do they?

boy with piggy bank

Earn Extra Money

So, how do people make extra cash? I’ve been thinking and reading about this topic for years. While I do have some side hustles, my main job is still working on my business. The business of blogging and social media. It’s a full-time job between Vera and me, no doubt about it. Throw in taking care of the house and kids, and there are few precious minutes left in the day for anything else.

While I haven’t tried all of the methods of making money I’m going to list out, I think it’s a very solid list of legitimate ways to make extra money. Most, if not all of these 10 ways to make money, can be done even with a full-time job, though that really is a tough thing I know. Hopefully the list helps and you can find something here that fits you and your needs!

  1. Drive for Uber or Lyft
  2. Rent your home or apartment out on Airbnb
  3. Deliver food for Uber Eats or DoorDash
  4. Bartend or be a server at nights or on weekends
  5. Walk dogs or pet sit
  6. Buy and sell new or used items on eBay or Amazon
  7. Clean houses
  8. Hold a garage sale
  9. Become a member of a Village People tribute band (just kidding, that was for my daughter’s recital)
  10. Start and blog or podcast and use QUID

QUID slider in sidebar

Wait…what’s QUID?

As you know, I’m a blogger. I make money on ads and one sponsored content. But why not try to make some extra money in new and different ways? There is more than one way to skin a cat (can I still say that?)! Check it out right here…give a little too if you’d like ;o).

See, it’s a piece of cake, right?

With QUID, it’s so ridiculously easy to earn extra revenue by monetizing your content with micro payments instead of (or in addition to) ads. You can decide how you want to incorporate QUID on your website. The plan is to let your loyal readers support you with small amounts, almost like a “tip.” They can do it or not…no pressure. If you are an online creator, then QUID is really something you need to consider. You can even customize payment buttons, sliders or penny walls to match your brand. It’s seamless!

QUID

Customize

One of the cool features if that each post you create can display a different button, in a different location, with different words and values. It can be a static button or a slider to offer a range, too. You can make it your own, and you can place it just about anywhere on your site. It’s also very easy to install and change settings if you are on WordPress via their simple plugin. It’s simple yet has just enough features to give you what you really need.

To boot…the customer service is awesome. I had some questions when first setting up and they went from chat to online call with screen sharing in minutes! Very nice and easy to deal with, all questions answered then and there. It was a pleasure to interact and deal with a live person that really knew their stuff. You can’t put a price on that these days.

Find Out More

Do you want to bring in some extra cash and diversify your income stream? Who doesn’t? If you are ready to start making that extra cash to pay those bills…or maybe actually save up some of that cash, find out all about QUID at:

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10 Great Ways To Earn Extra Money

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Money

Is It Possible to Achieve a Perfect Credit Score?

Good Credit is Important

Once you really get into the habit of monitoring and working on your credit, it can be fun to wonder just how high you’ll be able to get your score to climb one day. Is there such a thing as a perfect credit score, and does anyone actually have one? How hard is it to actually achieve the highest credit score, and what kind of advantages would come with it if you actually managed it? The fact of the matter is a perfect credit score is pretty difficult to achieve and even harder to maintain, but it’s not an impossible goal to reach. The following tips and information can give you the best possible chance of achieving it for yourself one day.

credit score range graph

What Is the Highest Credit Score?

According to most models, the highest possible credit score a person can achieve is 850. However, the circumstances of that person’s life and financial situation pretty much need to be and stay perfect in order to maintain that score, and that’s just not something that happens very often. No bank, lender, or financial entity is actually going to require a person to have a score that’s literally spotless for that reason. The official FICO credit score categories can be broken down as follows. Use them as a guideline as you continue to build, polish, and maintain your credit.

  • A score of 800 or above qualifies as excellent.
  • Score of 740-799 qualifies as very good.
  • A score of 670-739 qualifies as good.
  • Score of 580-669 qualifies as fair.
  • A score of 580 or lower qualifies as poor credit.

Of course, the idea is to achieve and maintain the highest score possible, but the great majority of people living in America and using credit fall around 621 or slightly lower. A hard-working few do manage to maintain scores in the excellent range, but again, that isn’t necessary to qualify for most loans and credit-related privileges. A score of 740 or above is generally the highest you truly need to shoot for if you want the kind of score that really impresses a financial entity and makes you a good risk.

How Can I Get My Score as High as Possible?

A perfect score isn’t really going to earn you many more privileges than anyone else who falls within the range for excellent credit. However, it’s still fun and commendable to see how high you can get yours to go. The following tips can help you make the most of your credit going forward into the future and give you the best chance at one day achieving the Holy Grail that is an 850 score.

No Negative Entries

Your payment history actually accounts for a whopping 35 percent of your overall score, so you’ll definitely want to make any and all credit payments on time. A person with a perfect score of 850 will be someone who hasn’t missed even one payment and literally has zero late payments on their credit report whatsoever.

Little to No Debt

The overall amount of debt you’re carrying counts for a massive portion of your FICO score as well — about 30 percent. If you want a shot at a perfect credit score, you’ll want to get the balances on your credit accounts as close to zero as you possibly can, which is honestly a goal everyone should be shooting for. People with perfect scores use credit, but they also make it a point to pay their balances off in full almost every month.

         Lengthy Credit History

if you know much about credit in general, you probably also know that it’s not just about how well you use, manage, and take care of your credit. It’s how long you’ve been doing it. The overall length of a person’s credit history doesn’t count for as much as debt and payment history do, but it still accounts for about 15 percent of a given credit score. As far as the few people out there who actually have and maintain a perfect score of 850, the average length of an individual credit history is about 30 years. That said, it’s pretty much impossible to achieve a perfect score unless you’ve been using credit wisely for decades.

At the end of the day, no one’s score needs to be perfect, but amazing credit is definitely something that opens a lot of doors when it comes to opportunities in life. The better your credit, the easier it will be to get approved for mortgages, car loans, business loans, and the like. You’ll stand better chances of scoring the housing and jobs you want as well, as great credit is considered a sign of exceptional character.

If you aren’t doing so already, get into the habit of checking your credit on a regular basis. This is an essential part of managing your finances. This will help you spot fraud or errors early before they have a chance to affect you too badly, as well as let you know whether you’re moving in the right direction. The sky’s the limit!

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Money Shopping Tech & Appliances

Save Time and Money Finding the Best Prices

shopbrain shopping at home

The Search for Value

There’s so much to do, so much to buy. OK, well, maybe that’s just what it seems like. I’m not the biggest of shoppers, but I do have to buy a lot of stuff for the kids, wife, and house. So I know what it’s all about, where to go for what, and what the best deals on most items are. It just can take so much time and effort to track down those best prices, right? It can feel like a job sometimes, so I always have to weigh the time and effort involved in the search for the best price, with things like, you know, working. There are some ways to try to help out with your shopping, and now I found one that I really enjoy using. It’s fast, easy, and seamless…both online and in stores.

The shopping aid I’m referring to is called Shopbrain, and it’s awesome.

Shopbrain Chrome extension

Get Help, Get Smarter

Shopbrain is a free shopping assistant that shows you the best price every time you shop. Before you buy or book a hotel, you simply use the new mobile app to scan a barcode in the store or at home with the app or click a button in your Chrome browser. Shopbrain quickly searches across the web to check if you’ve found the best price. From TV’s and hotel rooms to blenders and books, we will always find you the best deal.

The most amazing part is that, literally in seconds, the app and Chrome browser extension instantly compare billions of products from every major online store and gives you the list of prices. It’s ridiculous how fast and easy it is, plus it’s completely free and super easy to install. How can you not love something that easy that also saves you a ton of time and money.

Shopbrain Chrome extension 2

Confidently Get the Best Price

Before you buy, Shopbrain checks that you’ve found the lowest price. Over 50% of the time, Shopbrain finds a better price for you. But even when they don’t, you can be confident that you’ve already found the best deal. Even cooler, they also monitor price history so you know if now is a good time to buy.

shopbrain shopping at store 2

Save Oodles of Time

Don’t spend time searching for prices across different sites to make sure you’re getting the best deal. If you have ever bargain hunted, you know it’s a maddening, sometimes complex, and always time consuming process. It just is. Whether online or in stores. While I want to find the best price, I really do have other things to do. My business, my home, my family…there’s just only so many minutes in the day. Do I really want to spend that valuable and precious time running around or surfing the web for deals? I’ll answer you…no, no I do not.

That’s why I love to let Shopbrain do it for me. It’s like having my own personal, all knowing, super competent shopping assistant. Their AI searches billions of products and rooms across all sites including Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Best Buy, Expedia, Booking.com and many many more to bring you instant and independent price comparisons. It’s amazing, and it’s crazy that it’s so fast and easy. And you don’t have to pay Shopbrain a salary or give them lunch. #Winning.

shopbrain shopping at store 3

I’ll Score the Deals and Keep my Privacy

In today’s digital age, there are so many great conveniences. But there is also a risk of losing all your privacy to the big tech companies that want to take and sell your personal data. I don’t love that. Your personal data belongs to you and should be protected. I really believe that. That’s why I seek out apps and services that protect me from unnecessary selling of my info!

Thankfully, Shopbrain is one of those series. They don’t use or keep your data. There are no logins, no sharing contacts or passwords needed. Just an awesome service, not compromises. It’s their M.O. and I’m all about it. Why would they need your data anyway, right?

shopbrain shopping at store

So Much Saving, So Little Time

We use ShopBrain all the time. The latest Target run we made was another winner. I scored 6 packs of facial wipes my wife and daughter both love, saving $1.50 per pack! I also picked up two bottles of lotion, saving $1.15 per bottle. If that wasn’t enough, we won big by saving over $5 on a new basketball for my sons!! All in, we saved a total of over $16 on a quick, $50 shopping run. That’s massive, and I’m in love.

Shopbrain is an Essential Tool

This app and Chrome extension has become an absolute Godsend and a no-brainer for me. It’s so easy and fast, yet so powerful, how can you not give it a shot? I’ve saved so much time and money, it’s crazy. It’s really amazing when you see the wide range in prices of items…it’s almost hard to believe. But with the click of a button, you can be sure you are getting the best price you can.

Again, it’s completely free and installs in just two easy clicks. Add to Chrome and download the mobile app today. Never shop without Shopbrain. And never… ever overpay again!

shopbrain shopping at home 2

Chance to Win

Shopbrain is currently running a Sweepstakes to give shoppers a chance to win up to $5,000 in Amazon gift cards. Check out https://shopbrain.com/win and #winwithshopbrain

Find Out More

To find out more, be sure to check out:

Compensation was provided by Shopbrain via Momtrends.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Shopbrain or Momtrends. 

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Money

Let’s Get Serious, Let’s Make A Plan




CFP Piggy Bank

Planning For Now While Looking Ahead

When you have a family, there are certain things that start to come into play that really never did before. Sure, I was taught to think about finances (retirement, 401K, etc…), but it never really felt that important to me. It always seemed like something I would get to once I was older. Then, out of the blue, here we are.

I got married, bought a house, and became a dog dad. That was enough to handle at the time, but it was still reactive and all about the here and now. The future still seemed so distant. I mean, I was about 25… and it felt like I had all the time in the world.

 

Then…it happened. I was about 28 when we had our first child. The world turned on its head and time seemed to stand still and speed up all at the same time. What?! I have another human to worry about? Diapers, bottles, new clothes, school, then college!

My mind began to race and I felt that feeling in my gut. You know the one. The one that tells you that you need to get on your horse and do something serious, especially since you’ve been messing around all this time. I needed to get serious about my finances and all the planning that goes along with that.

After much thought and discussion, it seemed like it was time to contact a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, or CFP® pro.

CFB Let's Make a plan - coins

What is a CFP® Professional?

There are many people that say they are financial planners, but that does not mean that they are a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. From budgeting, to planning for retirement, to saving for education, to managing your taxes; the term “finances” doesn’t simply have a singular meaning for most Americans — and “financial planning” means much more than just investing. It can really make your head spin, but finance is just too important to ignore.

A CFP® professional is trained to manage it all, because they have completed extensive training and are held to rigorous ethical standards. They understand the complexities of the changing financial climate and know how to make financial planning recommendations that are in your best interest. They are really well versed and trained in all the areas that you really need to worry about and focus on; for now and for the long term.

What It Takes to be a CFP® Professional

The reason that not every banker or financial planner is a CFP® professional is because it takes a ton of time, training and expertise to become one. It’s not something that’s easily attained. This is why CFP® professionals are the best people to turn to when it’s time to get serious about money.

Take a look at what it takes to become a CFP® professional:

First of all, it takes a lot of time. A CFP® professional is required to have 4,000 or more hours of financial planning experience. This hands-on experience guarantees that CFP® professionals have practical financial planning knowledge, so you know you can count on them.

Second, they must pass the comprehensive CFP® Certification Exam, which tests their ability to apply financial planning knowledge to real-life situations. This is a rigorous finance test, because it’s a serious field of expertise. We are talking about our lives here.

Next, they are required to put clients’ interests above their own, and to provide their financial planning services as a “fiduciary” — acting in the best interest of their clients. Not all financial planning designations require these ethical standards. This is what you want, and what you need.

Finally, a CFP® professional has a breadth of knowledge in finance that’s second to none. They are trained in 72 separate financial topics ranging from investment planning to estate planning. This is really important. Life is so broad, diverse, and all-encompassing. It’s nice to know there are people out there to help us manage them.

CFP - money and SSN card

How It Can Help

Working with a CFP® professional can help in so many ways. It really opens your eyes to what it takes to plan for your financial future. Over the course of my adult life, I have learned to really focus on putting away as much as I can into my 401k and matching those funds via my corporation. I also have a Roth IRA and a life insurance based annuity type of investment. A mix of investments is key.

I’ve also opened a 529 account to save, with tax benefits like the 401k, for my three kids’ college fund. Even the little things. Like using the Mint app to get a better overall picture of my spending habits so I can easily see where I can be making better choices has made a huge difference in my family’s life.

Learning to really take your finances seriously in order to put your family in the best possible position–now and for the future, really is the key to having a happier and more enjoyable life. Taking some of the worry and mystery out of these things makes such a huge difference. It’s been an amazing experience to get all of my ducks in a row with the help of a CFP® professional. There’s always more that can be done, but I have some time and the motivation to get it done. It’s also nice to have the help, guidance, and experience to really get through the finish line.

CFP planning charts

Find A CFP® Pro Near You

Whatever your age, family size, or bank account balance it’s always the right time to speak with a CFP® professional. You never know what you might learn – and it’s never too late or too early to start building a plan for your future. Visit LetsMakeaPlan.org and find a CFP® professional near you.

This is a sponsored post, created in partnership with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. All opinions are my own.

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Taking Care of What Really Matters

Like with many parts of our lives, things change with time. Sometimes life gets easier and less complicated and sometimes it gets more difficult and extremely complicated. There are fun things like planning weddings, buying a home and designing the nursery. But with all of the fun comes the need to plan financially for things like mortgages, hospital bills, saving for college or retirement, and life insurance.

My Life’s Major Events

Let’s just think about some points in my life where major events occurred and important leaps were taken while things really got shaken up. Graduating college and having to get a “real” job is the first that really sticks out. What a wake-up call that was. I got married to my college sweetheart (sure, it’s not high school sweetheart, but still) and bought a house just 4 years later. You want to talk about making my head spin! If that wasn’t enough of a dramatic change, about 3 years later, my daughter was born, followed 2 years later by my son, and another 5 1/2 later by my youngest son. If you have children, I think you realize that there really isn’t very much in life that changes your life (for the better) more than having children. Sure, it can be stressful, but there is nothing better in this world.

This is all part of a fulfilling and love-filled life, and I would not change one thing about any of it. With each event there comes massive amounts of joy, worry, and stress. In each case, life as I’ve always known it really didn’t exist any longer. The changes were that big of a deal. We really can only do our best to deal with the ups and downs and plan as best we can. No one can predict that future and sometimes we all have to face realities that we are not always ready for. This is what makes term life insurance so important – it can help protect the financial well-being of your family should something happen to you.

With a house, a wife, and three kids, it gives me peace of mind knowing the payout from a policy could be used by my wife to help pay for day-to-day expenses like the mortgage, childcare, and other shared financial obligations we have. My life insurance is their financial safety net. And with online life insurance agency Haven Life, it’s much more simple and convenient to get coverage than you’d think.

My Life Insurance Quote

Getting a free quote through Haven Life’s online process is easy. First you enter the basics – gender, age, do you use nicotine, what you consider your health level (good to excellent) to be. Next, decide how long a term and the amount of coverage you are seeking. Haven Life offers policy terms of 10, 15, 20, and 30 years, and up to $2 million in coverage for eligible applicants. Coverage amount is subject to age limitations.

As a 41-year old man in excellent health, I can purchase a 20-year, $1 million Haven Term policy, issued by MassMutual, starting at about $69.88 per month. Pricing varies based on your age, gender, health and how much coverage you’re applying for. For example, a healthy 35-year-old woman could buy a 20-year, $500,000 starting at about $19 per month.

If you’re unsure how much coverage you may need, Haven Life’s simple life insurance calculator can will provide a recommendation based on information about you and your family structure.

After determining what coverage amount is best for you, you can apply for a term life insurance policy through Haven Life’s convenient online process. You’ll get an instant decision on coverage eligibility, and if approved, you can start your coverage that same day.

Why Partnership with MassMutual Matters

Having a solid backing is so important when you are talking about term life insurance, a way to financially protect your family for 10 years, if not decades. It’s even more important when your family could really be depending on it later on in life. The great news is that Haven Life is wholly-owned by MassMutual, a life insurance company with more than 160 years of industry experience and an A++ rating from A.M. Best*.

Are you ready to purchase term life insurance now or in the future? It’s important to understand how much coverage you would need to help protect your family’s financial future. Haven Life’s simple, online process can help determine what the correct coverage option is for your family situation, and provide peace of mind knowing you’re protecting those you love. Apply for term life insurance through Haven Life.

*MassMutual and its subsidiaries C.M. Life Insurance Company and MML Bay State Life Insurance Company are rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of May 22, 2018 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC15DTC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. Not all riders are available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is 0K71922 and in Arkansas, 100139527.

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Money Tech & Appliances

Make Merry without Breaking the Bank



This post is sponsored by TradeMore. I was compensated for this post.

The Most Wonderful Time

During the Christmas season, we all tend to get very jolly. There’s great songs on the radio, lights on the houses, and decorations everywhere. We get to enjoy parties, and dinners, and classic cartoons on TV from when we were kids. I really love all those Christmas cards with everyone’s pictures from the past year on them, it’s really a trip to see how everyone is getting older. From Thanksgiving until New Year’s, the holiday season is chock full of goodness and I love just about every minute of it!

The most wonderful time of the year comes with so many highs and very few lows, but there’s no doubt about what the lowest of those lows are. It can be really expensive making all of this merry and sharing all of these glad tidings. Man, serious damage can be done to those bank accounts and wallet if we aren’t careful. Believe me!

While making sure we are all living within our means is the biggest and best way to ensure we don’t have too much financial plain come that January credit card statement, there are other ways to either save or to make some extra spending cash.

Here are a few ways to help you through this merry season in financial health!

Get the Apps

Sign up for online apps and browser extensions. These are awesome, you just install them one time and they pretty much are always looking out for deals and sales. It’s either automatic or something you need to click and accept, but you will either save a ton of money or get a nice little rebate check back soon after all the damage has been done.

Shop Early, Like A Hawk

Start your shopping well in advance. Yes, you can get some good deals on Black Friday, but that’s far from the best way to do it. Make your wish list early and keep on top of sales as early as August. Yes, August. There’s always a sale it seems and sometimes the items you really want will be on sale Labor Day weekend or at the beginning of November. You can never tell, so keep your eyes peeled for the ads in your newspaper (we get the paper just for these) and sign up for all the email newsletters you can think of. The deals will just keep coming, saving you a ton of cash in the end.

Be Realistic

This is something I have to tell my kids all the time, but the same holds true for me. You cannot and, maybe, should not do it all. You can’t get every last gift on every person’s wish list, as much as you’d like to. They will be happy with whatever you give them trust me. If not, then maybe they shouldn’t be on your list in the first place! Also, as much as I love to party and mingle, sometimes you just have to say no to an invite. If you have back-to-back dinner plans or maybe one of the major parties is hosted by someone you might not really be best of friends with, maybe you should say no. Really, drinks, dinners, gifts, etc. add up so quickly. Yes, it’s so much fun to attend and have a good time, but sometimes too much of a good thing is just that!

Make Something Out Of Nothing

If you are as fortunate as I am, you have some ways to make a little bit of extra cash pretty much out of nothing. By nothing, I don’t mean nothing, I just mean turning some of that stuff you have laying around the house into some nice spending cash. Take old tech for example. That old iPhone is just sitting there after you upgraded. Heck, you’ve upgraded three times since you’ve used it, but you just can’t seem to give it up. Well, maybe it’s time to do just that!! Trade in your old, unused tech for some new, yet to be used cash! The best place I’ve come across to do it has to be TradeMore.

TradeMore is just the best trade in solution I’ve come across. It’s just so simple and the money you will get back is second to none as far as trade-ins go. TradeMore offers competitive prices on a variety of products like smartphones, tablets, and wearables. For example, TradeMore is paying $411 for an iPhone 7 Plus 128 GB vs. the top competitor who is only paying $355.

You can submit a trade in 3 simple steps on www.TradeMore.com
a. Search your device – the interface could not be easier, which just about everything clearly listed out right there for you to select.
b. Evaluate your device condition – a couple of simple questions to see if anything is damaged, cracked, or not able to be powered on.
c. Complete the trade by providing your information – give them your basic information and you’re off!

You will receive an envelope and a free shipping label to ship your device back to TradeMore. Once the device is received and processed by the TradeMore operations team, a digital payment will be sent to the email address on file. TradeMore offers MasterCard Debit Card that customers are free to use at any location that accepts MasterCard, which is pretty much everywhere you would want to shop. These cards are awesome. It’s just that simple, and you’ve made something out of “nothing” just in time to buy that toy or pay for that dinner!

TradeMore strives to create a seamless customer experience that empowers people to unlock the value of used devices in a sustainable manner. They believe that an older device has more value being re-purposed out in the world than sitting in a drawer collecting dust. As a result, their goal is to extend the life-cycle of technology, while reducing the impact on our environment and passing the value onto our customers.

If you’re deep into the holiday season of spending, you should definitely try to find ways to make merry without breaking the bank. TradeMore is a simple and effective way to do it!

To find out more, check out: www.TradeMore.com.

My blog may contain links to other websites. I am not responsible for the privacy policies of those other websites. When you click on a link, your information may be collected by those websites so I
encourage you to read their privacy policies.

These affiliate links are not associated with TradeMore. The gift card pictured it an example, actual card received could differ in appearance.

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7 Important Factors Involved in Picking a House

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bank of America.

Let’s face it, life is filled with challenges and a seemingly endless amount of decisions. From the small: where should I get lunch today, to the fun: where should we take our annual family vacation, to the frustrating: how can I get my kids to pick up their clothes, to the confusing: which of these 278 shades of blue paint should I choose for the living room.

While these are all important to us in some way on a daily basis, I think most of us can agree that perhaps the most important decision most of us will ever make would be whether to buy a home and where. Your home is your foundation that makes everything else go.  It’s the rock, literally, beneath your feet. It’s your refuge, it’s the place where you grow and nurture your family, and it’s a place that forms the basis of your financial life. In fact, Bank of America’s Homebuyer Insights Report (HBIR)  findings around family dynamics and homebuying found that people really think buying a home is important. In this report, a whopping 79% of millennials think homeownership has a financial impact on their long-term picture. That’s a ton.

Furthermore, even in today’s highly complex world, a full 45% of prospective first-time buyers are now saving for a new home. It’s close to the top of their lists. Sure, there are a number of priorities in life, but for so many, buying a home is a tough one to beat.

Ok, so we know people like to feel the security and warmth of owning a home. That was a no-brainer for me, no doubt about it. Vera and I actually bought our home a year before we even got married! It was a two-family townhouse in Queens, NY that we rented out to make some extra money for our wedding! Once we got married, we moved into the top unit and continued to rent out the bottom unit. It was a fantastic investment, a great start, and a truly perfect stepping stone for buying our current house on Long Island.

When we started to have kids, we sat down and sorted everything out. It was a long and arduous task, deciding if and when we should move. There were so many factors involved, it was really a head-spinning exercise. To help us make the right decision, we created a list of pro’s and con’s to vet. This really helped us clarify everything and decide on what was really important. We found the following, though everyone is different:

1. We wanted a single-family, detached home. Our first house was part of a townhouse development, so we had attached neighbors on both sides. It was also a two family, so we had a tenant below us. While the house was great and the community was as well, we felt a little closed in. We always were watching out for noise because we didn’t want to bother people. It also felt, at time, as little tight. We decided we needed to make a move. It was worth foregoing the rental income to make it happen.

2. Once we decided we wanted a single-family house, we decided we need to move out of NYC and to the suburbs. The houses are more spread out, the schools are better, and the lifestyle is a little more family friendly. NYC has a number of amazing towns to live in, and we decided to look at towns on Long Island. It’s just east of Queens, we know the areas well, and we already had a number of family members there.

3. That leads us to the next factors for us – proximity to family and friends. We wanted to be close to our parents and friends. At the end of the day, that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? For us, to have a house we loved that is no where near our loved ones would really kind of be a hollow move. The benefits of being close to family are almost too numerous to list (babysitting anyone?) and it was huge for us.

4. School districts were also way up at the top of the list for us. This is what it’s all about, right? Moving into the town with the best schools that feel like they will be a great fit for you and your family. I did tons and tons of research, be it test scores, class sizes, college entrances, and more. On Long Island, there are a number of great districts, so we had a ton to sort through.

5. Amenities and proximity were next. We wanted to be close. Close to work, close to NYC, close to shopping, close to beaches, close to parks, close to family, close to everything. Convenience and overall lifestyle was much more important to us than the size of the house and lot. For many it’s the reverse, but we wanted to live a life that we felt were complete. We quickly narrowed down the towns to the best in Nassau County. With LIRR access to NYC, and everything else we wanted, there were still a number of options, but the list was quickly dwindling when schools were factored in.

6. Affordability was next, and obviously vital to the entire process. On Long Island, the property taxes are the second highest in the country, and the home prices are very high as well. The better the town, the higher the prices and taxes. Everyone has to move to a place that they can afford. Not only afford the downpayment, but also the monthly mortgage payment as well as the tax payment. This is a no-brainer and this is exactly where financial institutions like Bank of America come so critically into play. At the end of the day, for most of us at least, this is the end-all-be-all.

7. The house itself. Once this was all sorted, out, it was fairly easy. We were in 2006 and the housing market was on-fire. We had to act and act fast to get a home we liked. In our chosen town and price range, we quickly narrowed it down. Our town is actually pretty wide, so we even narrowed it down further to being on the Northeastern part of town. From that point, we went to maybe 10 open houses, that’s it, and made our offer. We went back and forth and bit and basically met at a fair price right in the middle of the ask and our initial bid. From that point, it was all about documents and closing time.

It was a long and arduous process from beginning to end, but it was a really enjoyable one for the most part. It was a huge decision to be made, but it was one that we were happy to make. We chose the path and took it. Ten years later, we could not be happier. We continuously update the house (oh, I’ve painted so much) and make minor improvements when we can. The kids love their schools, their friends, and the town. So do we. It’s just a complete, enjoyable life. The one that we hoped for an envisioned when we planned the move. It was tough and sometimes that monthly nut it a large one to swallow, but it’s all worth it. Like I mentioned, it’s pretty much the biggest and most important decision that most of us will make in our lifetimes, so make it a good one. While buying a house is a huge step, it’s an important one. According to the HBIR, an amazing 95% of current homeowners feel proud of owning their home. When was the last time you saw 95% of people agree on anything???

I really hope this helped. If you are on the fence, take the leap! Homeownership is part of the American Dream for a very good reason. If you are confused on how to get started with your homebuying journey, maybe you can begin the process by connecting with a specialist at Bank of America. This website has just about everything you need to get the ball rolling, with a number of tools and resources to really help simplify the homebuying process for you. From mortgage calculators to pre-qualification information to habits for managing your money better it’s all right there. It’s really a tremendous information source, and you’ll need all the info when you can. This is a big deal, right?

Just remember, you’re far from alone in this. Again, the HBIR is an awesome resource to reference, with real insights from real people just like you. Take a look and take it in. Once you move into that new home and everything feels just right, you’ll be glad that you did. Best of luck and welcome home!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bank of America Homebuyer Insights Report.

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3 Things That You Might Be Better Off Renting Than Buying

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It can be nice to own things and know that no matter what, that thing is yours. However, sometimes owning things isn’t the best thing for you. There are a number of reasons why you might want to rent something rather than buy it outright. Here are a few things that you can rent instead of buying. It all depends on you and your life at the time. Things change all the time, but you have to be prepared and ready for it. Also, you should be accepting of the changes as well as how to be deal with them.

Homes

The housing market has skyrocketed, and homes that were once worth very little are now barely within reach for first-time buyers. This is where renting comes into play. You can rent a house a fraction of buying, but the only problem is that your money then isn’t going towards a mortgage and future ownership. The benefit of renting though is the flexibility and short-term savings.You won’t want to rent forever, but you might be at a part of your life where you want to live freer. Perhaps renting allows you to live with your friends and enjoy a property in a city center where buying is almost impossible. Either way, the option is available to you and the choice to rent rather than own won’t be going away anytime soon.

Cars

Most people wouldn’t even consider renting a car. Instead, they would buy one. You don’t have to, though. If you don’t need a car for everyday use or a long period, then you can just rent one. There is a lot of choices as well with things like classic, exotic and wedding car hire available. If you are going abroad and you want to drive around, then renting a car is by far the better option. At home, though you might want to own one outright, there is also the option of leasing a car. This works out cheaper for high-end expensive models of car and can be an amazing experience whether you do it permanently or full time. Leasing rather than buying also means that you have fewer responsibilities for the car so that it can free up time and energy.

Entertainment

There are so many reasons not buy you entertainment outright. Firstly, it can be a major drain on your space. While DVD rental services like Blockbuster may have gone the way of the dodo, it doesn’t mean that rentals have disappeared. You can rent movies from various services through the internet or stream them via somewhere like Amazon. This way you can access all the latest releases. However, if you aren’t that bothered about seeing the latest movies, services like Netflix have a massive catalog of films and TV shows. They take up no space in your house and yet contain 1000 of hours of watching pleasure. The only thing that you own is a service subscription and none of the content. However, you can watch as much or little as you please for a very low fee and new content is added almost every day. There are also several of these services, so competition is high which pushes services to innovate and provide higher quality content than their competitors.

These are all major parts of our lives, so make your decisions as wisely as possible. And don’t be afraid to change course along the way. Life is a long journey!

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