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This Overlooked Strategy Could Save You Money on Your Car Loan

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If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never thought about refinancing your car loan. 

Seriously, is that even a thing that people do? It’s not like it’s a mortgage. Wouldn’t that be a huge hassle? How much money could you actually save that way, anyway?

But this under-used strategy really can save some serious cash — and it’s not hard to do at all. 

Lantern by SoFi is a loan-comparison site that makes it easy to compare refinancing options from a network of top lenders. 

How much could you save? Just look and see. It won’t cost you anything to look.

Cut Your Auto Loan Down to Size

While we weren’t looking, auto loans have become a serious burden on our households. The size of the average auto loan has soared to more than $35,000, according to Experian. Americans are approaching an average payment of $600 a month for new cars and $400 a month for used cars.

Car loan debt is the second-biggest category of household debt, trailing only mortgages.

Some people have reported saving hundreds a month by refinancing their car loans through Lantern’s network lenders, although the amount that you could save would depend on a number of different factors — mainly, how much you’re paying on your current car loan.

Here’s how it works:

Prequalify in minutes: A brief form asks for some basic info about you, your vehicle and your auto loan.

Pay no fees to check your rate: There’s no charge for checking your auto refi rates, and it also won’t hurt your credit if you choose not to go forward after checking.

See how much you can save: Lantern will show you options from a network of lenders. See if you qualify for a lower interest rate and lower monthly payments.

Skip the trip to the DMV: The network lenders at Lantern will do the heavy lifting. They’ll handle paying off your old lender and retitling your vehicle, because who needs that headache?

Some caveats: If your credit score is below 600, you might have a harder time refinancing your loan. It’s also tougher if your vehicle is over a dozen years old.

That still leaves plenty of people who could benefit from a cheaper car loan. 

Maybe you’d like a lower interest rate. Maybe you’d like to extend your payments and spread them out some more. 

But you definitely want to be saving money, right?

It only takes a few minutes to answer some quick questions and see how much you could save. 

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He has made so many car loan payments.

* The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of Lantern by SoFi. This material is not intended to serve as a recommendation and is not meant to suggest that any of the products mentioned are suitable for all Members, as individual results, needs, and financial situation may vary.

** Please refer to Lanterncredit.com to review all product disclosures, terms and conditions, state restrictions, and fees where applicable.

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Freelancer Expenses Can Get Complicated. This Service Will Keep Track For You (and Save You Big on Taxes)

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We know all about the challenges of freelancer life, believe us. We know it’s not always easy making a go of it as an independent contractor, a side hustler, a gig worker, whatever you want to call it.

For one thing, you have to do all this extra financial stuff, and it’s tricky stuff. When you work for yourself, it’s on you to set aside money for taxes. And ideally, you’re supposed to keep track of your work-related expenses so you can pay less in taxes. But c’mon, how many of us are really all that great about doing that consistently?

Good news: We’ve found a cool online checking account that helps you do all that stuff. Lili is a mobile banking service that’s built exclusively for freelancers like you. The app, available for iOS or Android, is laser-focused on your specific needs.

Lili is totally free, and its digital tools help you save for taxes, take payments from clients and keep track of your expenses — all in the same account. It also allows you to overdraft your account without hitting you with costly fees. And Lili just added new business tools designed to help independent workers like you save time and money.

Swipe Left or Right to Sort Your Expenses

The account comes with its own Visa debit card. Whenever you spend any money out of the account, you’ll get a push notification asking you to swipe left or right to instantly categorize the expense as either “personal” or “business.”

At tax time, this will allow you to totally maximize your expenses and reduce your taxable income, lowering your tax bill.

Seriously, it’s so much easier this way!

Speaking of taxes, Lili will help you tally up your earnings and gauge what income taxes you’ll have to pay. And every time you get paid, you can have Lili automatically set aside a certain percentage for taxes. 

Basically, Lili makes it easy to automate everything so you never have to worry about it again.

More Tools in Lili’s Toolbox

We freelancers need all the help we can get, you know? Luckily, Lili has more tools in its toolbox for us.

ATMs: You can get cash with your debit card at nearly 40,000 MoneyPass ATMs across the country. You have fee-free access to those. For out-of-network ATMs, there’s a $2.50 fee in the U.S. or $5 if you’re out of the country.

No overdraft fees: Unlike virtually all the brick-and-mortar banks, Lili doesn’t charge overdraft fees. You can overdraft up to $200 without getting hit with a fee. Other fee-free banks won’t let you overdraft at all.

No other fees: There are also no hidden fees.

Get paid fast: When clients and customers pay you via direct deposit, you get access to those funds within two business days — which is faster than most banks.

Cash-back rewards: Get cash back when you swipe your debit card at more than 14,000 businesses.

Mobile check deposit: It’s easy to deposit a check via the app. Just sign the check, then write “for Lili mobile deposit only” on the back of it, snap a photo of the front and back, then enter the amount into the app. Done.

Cash deposit: If you need to make a cash deposit, you can do it at any of 90,000 Green Dot locations like Walmart, Walgreens or 7-Eleven.

Expense reports: Lili automatically generates these every quarter to help you pay your taxes and add up your deductibles.

Unlimited invoicing: When you’re a freelancer, sending your clients invoices is just another hassle. But it’s easy to create invoices and get paid directly into Lili.

Insights: Lili lays out insights into in a visual format to help keep track of your personal and business finances. 

Emergency fund: This past year has taught us the hard way that everyone should have one of these. You never know when you might lose a good freelance gig or suffer some other catastrophe. With Lili, you can automatically set aside a little each month to build your emergency fund. And you earn up to 1% interest on your savings — way more than at a brick-and-mortar bank.

Three final thoughts:

  • Money in your Lili account is FDIC insured for up to $250,000.
  • There’s no minimum account balance, so don’t worry about that.
  • It only takes a few minutes to sign up via iOS or Android and make your freelance life so much easier — and save big on taxes.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s also a freelance writer on the side, and he knows what a pain freelance taxes are.

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Putting This Off Could Stick Your Family with Over $200K in Debt. And It Takes Just 5 Minutes

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So you’re apparently a grown-up now. You’re successfully adulting. Congratulations! 

That means it’s time to stop procrastinating and ask yourself this “adulting” question — one you’ve been putting off. If you were gone, how would your family ever pay off the house?

The unfortunate truth is, most of us die in debt, and studies have found that nearly 85% of people between the ages of 46 and 49 have an average mortgage debt of over $200,000. The last thing you want to do is leave your family with that debt. 

Luckily, in just five minutes, you could make sure your family is financially taken care of with a life insurance policy. A company called Bestow makes it easy to apply for coverage right from your phone. Yep. You don’t even need to leave your house.

Spend Five Minutes to Make Sure Your Family Can Pay the Bills When You Die

As long as you’re between the ages of 18 and 60, you can apply and get a quote in minutes — and if you’re approved, you could have coverage by the end of today. There’s no medical exam required.

Even better — life insurance may be cheaper than you think. Bestow’s premiums start at just $10 a month, and Bestow helps you choose the right amount of coverage for your family. How big is your mortgage? You can choose coverage ranging from $50,000 to $1.5 million, and policies can run from 10 to 30 years. Bestow can help you figure it out.

For example, you could get $250,000 of coverage for just under $13 a month.*

So, if you’ve been putting this off, now’s the time to stop. In just five minutes, you could make sure you don’t leave your family with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. It takes just a few minutes to get started, and you’ll know your family is taken care of.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. You better believe he has a mortgage.

*Rates are based on a healthy, non-smoking, 25-year-old woman.

Life insurance quotes provided by Bestow Agency, LLC dba Bestow Insurance Services in CA, who is the licensed agent. Term Life Insurance Policies offered by Bestow are issued on policy form LS181 and LS182, or state version including all applicable endorsements and riders, by North American Company for Life and Health Insurance®, Administrative Office, One Sammons Plaza, Sioux Falls, SD 57193. Products or issues ages may not be available in all jurisdictions. Limitations or restrictions may apply. Not available in New York. The application asks about your lifestyle and health to avoid requiring a medical exam.

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Take These 5 Financial Steps Before Quitting Your Job

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They’re calling it “the Great Resignation,” because everybody’s quitting their jobs now. At least it feels like everyone’s quitting.

The COVID-19 pandemic has many of us reevaluating our lives and our careers. Some of us are burned out. Some of us aren’t ever going back to the office. Nearly 4 million Americans quit their jobs in June alone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In fact, most American workers are currently thinking about bailing on their jobs, according to a number of recent surveys. A surprising number of them are even willing to go into debt to do so. 

Are you in this boat? If you leave your current job without having another job lined up, you’re going to want to make these five financial moves before you give notice. Having a solid financial plan will give you the time, the room and the stability to pursue the kind of career you really want.

1. Have Savings in the Bank

Even though there are a lot of job openings these days, you might not get a new job right away. Before you quit, financial experts often recommend having enough savings to pay six months’ worth of living expenses — although that can be a pretty tall order.

In any case, you should have enough savings to support yourself for several months. Try funneling some of your current paycheck into a separate savings account, so you won’t be tempted to spend it.

With the Aspiration account, you can earn up to 20 times the average interest on your savings balance. (The FDIC reports that the average account earns just .05%.)

With this online account, your money is FDIC-insured and protected by military-grade encryption. You also earn up to 5% cash back on your debit card purchases. It takes all of five minutes to sign up.

2. Make Sure You’ll Have Health Insurance

Um, don’t forget that we’re still in a global pandemic. Yes, STILL.

You’ll want to have health insurance, even though you won’t have it as an employment benefit anymore.

COBRA allows you to continue coverage under your former employer’s plan for up to 18 months, but it’s expensive. You’re not eligible for government-paid COBRA premiums if you voluntarily left your job.

Instead, consider shopping on the federal health insurance marketplace, which offers a variety of plans at differing levels of coverage and cost. Depending on your income, you may qualify for a subsidy to help pay for your insurance.

3. Cut Your Monthly Expenses 

With no steady income — at least temporarily — you’ll need to live on less. Examples: Cut cable, cancel some streaming services, don’t order out for dinner.

Don’t stop there, though. Take real steps to reduce your unavoidable monthly bills:

Car insurance: A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options. People have saved an average of $540 a year this way.

Groceries: A free app called Fetch Rewards will reward you with gift cards just for buying toilet paper and hundreds of other items at the grocery store. After you’ve downloaded the app, just take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased an item from one of the brands listed in Fetch. 

Online purchases: Wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert anytime you’re shopping on Amazon or Walmart.com and you’re about to get ripped off? That’s what this free service does. Just add it to your browser, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites to see if your item costs less somewhere else. 

4. Roll Over Your 401(k)

If you’ve been in your current job for long enough that you want to quit it, then you probably have a 401(k) retirement account through your employer. 

It might be tempting to cash it out and have access to all that money, but that’s not a good idea. It comes with penalties and taxes while reducing your retirement savings.

You should probably just leave your 401(k) account as it is until you get a new job. Then you can roll it over into your next employer’s 401(k) plan. Or, if you’re going to be self-employed, roll the money into an IRA, an individual retirement account.

5. Develop Other Income Sources 

If you’re burned out on your job and you want a change, you’re far from alone. But if you quit your job without another one lined up, you may need some alternative income sources until you find your next permanent gig.

Maybe it’s time to look into getting a side gig for the time being. Here’s a list of seven side gigs that have gotten us through the past year and a half. They include delivery apps, elder assistance, contact tracing, freelancing and homeschool assistance.

We know other ways to pick up a little spending money here and there. For instance, research companies want to pay you to watch the news.

You could add up to $225 a month to your pocket by signing up for a free account with InboxDollars. They’ll present you with short news clips to choose from every day, then ask you a few questions about them. It only takes a minute to sign up, and start getting paid to watch the news

The “Great Resignation” has a lot of us quitting our jobs — or at least thinking about quitting our jobs.

Nothing wrong with that. But if you’re doing this, having a financial plan in place will make all the difference.

Mike Brassfield is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.

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Track Your Credit Score from Your Phone — and Get $10 in Cash Rewards for Doing It

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Take it from us: Your credit score is more important than you think it is.

The higher your score, the better deal you’ll get on a mortgage or a car loan or a credit card — or even on a deposit for your next apartment or car rental.

Your credit score is a three-digit number ranging from 300 to 850. It’s based on your payment history, how much of your credit you’re using, how long you’ve had credit, how many kinds of credit you have, and other factors. 

Basically, it’s a measure of how well you’ve managed money in the past, and it’s used to predict how well you’ll manage money in the future. Banks and credit card companies use it to decide whether they’re willing to lend you money — and at what rates. Landlords and potential employers look at your score, too.

So what’s your score, and how can you raise it? You can find out with a free tool called SoFi Relay, and rest assured, there will be no harm to your credit

SoFi will check your score for you, and it sends you alerts whenever your score changes. It also gives you insights on the major factors that contribute to your credit score. 

This free money management app does more than that, though. Once you link your accounts to it, it tracks all of your money, all in one place. It’s a spending tracker that helps you see where your money is going and shows you a high-level overview of your finances — all on your phone. If you want, the spending tracker will help you set monthly spending targets.

More than half a million people are already using SoFi Relay. If you join them, SoFi, for a limited time, will give you up to $10 in Cash rewards for signing up for credit-score monitoring.

How to Get $10 Just for Signing up for Credit Monitoring

SoFi is a financial company that’s probably best known for refinancing student loans at better rates. But it has a whole menu of other financial services, too — like mortgages, personal loans, investing, automated investing, IRAs, life insurance and credit cards. 

SoFi members can also talk one-on-one with a financial planner for free. This financial advisor can give you advice and help you set goals.

And your $10 bonus for signing up for credit score monitoring? It gets deposited into your SoFi Money cash management account, which you can open up in less than 60 seconds.

SoFi Money helps you save, spend and earn interest. It pays out six times the national average on interest rates, charges no account fees or overdraft fees, and if you set up direct deposit, you can get your paycheck up to two days early. No minimum balance is required. 

Here are its other features:

  • A debit card that provides free access to more than 55,000 ATMs.
  • Auto-save features enable you to route your paycheck to specific savings goals 
  • FDIC insurance for your deposits.
  • Periodic cash-back offers.
  • Automated savings roundups, if you want them. Have your debit card round up your purchases to the nearest dollar, so you can save or invest your digital change.

In a nutshell, SoFi offers you lots of tools to help you manage your money in a better, smarter way.

No overdraft fees. Free consultations with a financial advisor. Loans at some of the lowest rates around. Different ways to invest.

And now, a free way to keep track of your credit score — along with tips on how to improve it. Get started here to see how much you could improve your score. 

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. You better believe he keeps tabs on what his credit score is doing.

* The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of SoFi. This material is not intended to serve as a recommendation and is not meant to suggest that any of the products mentioned are suitable for all Members, as individual results, needs, and financial situation may vary.

** Please refer to SoFi.com to review all product disclosures, terms and conditions, state restrictions, and fees where applicable.

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This App Pays up to $40 per Game When You Compete and Win

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What’s your favorite game to play on your phone? Is it spider solitaire or cube solitaire? Do you like bubble shooter games? How about block puzzle games or bingo?

Wouldn’t it be even better if you could win real cash competing in your favorite games? 

That’s the idea behind Mobile Premier League, a gaming app that offers a bunch of classic online games and the opportunity to win cash prizes by competing against other players.

Other gaming apps typically only offer one game per app. But once you download Mobile Premier League’s app, you’ll have your choice of nearly a dozen popular online games. These include cube and spider solitaire, bubble shooter, baseball, bingo, block puzzle, “Fruit Chop,” “Matching Master,” 21 Puzzle, billiards and bowling.

The app is free to join, and you can play free practice versions of the games for as long as you want. Or you can enter daily cash tournaments or head-to-head matches to win money.

When you first sign up to enter tournaments, you get $5 in bonus cash just for joining. You can use that money to start playing in cash tournaments, to see if the app is for you.

Whenever we sign on to the app, we always see several different tournaments available. 

Entry fees for tournaments range from 25 cents to $6. Currently, the pool of winnings for each tournament can go up to $1,250, although a prize pool that big will get split up among hundreds of winners. The most that a single player can win in a tournament is $40, but Mobile Premier League plans to add bigger tournaments soon.

Your winnings get deposited into your Mobile Premier League account, and you can pay yourself via PayPal or a simple bank transfer. (That $5 in bonus cash you get when you join? That’s just for the games. You can’t keep it — you only get to keep your winnings.)

Mobile Premier League has many of the old-school games that you may have played on an early mobile phone, a Gameboy or a personal computer, so chances are, you’ll find something you like.

Whether your game is cube solitaire, bubble shooters or bingo, it’s easy to download the app and start playing.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. His preferred game on Mobile Premier League is 8 Ball Blast.