OhmConnect Could Help You Skip Your Electricity Bill for a Year

How much do you spend each month on your electricity bill? Between blasting the AC during the summer and cranking the heat during the winter, you’re likely spending more than a thousand dollars each year just to keep your lights on.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could skip that bill — for the whole year?

Thanks to a company called OhmConnect, you might be able to.

How to Skip Your Power Bill for a Year

OhmConnect is a free service that works with all the major power companies in California to pay people for saving energy when it matters most to the power grid and the environment.

When you create an account with OhmConnect and link your utility account, you’ll get a text about once a week when a lot of people in your area are using power, asking you to cut back on your power usage for an hour. If you save energy, OhmConnect pays you cash.

Even easier: Let a smart plug do the work for you. So long as you are using less energy than usual during these OhmHours, you’ll get paid — not to mention you’ll likely see a lower power bill each month.

One couple, Michael and Tiffany Edgerle, of Bakersfield, California, was able to earn more than $1,200 in just three months using OhmConnect — enough to pay for their entire power bill for the year.

“When we hit $1,000 in less than three months, I couldn’t believe it” says Michael. “We’ve made this amount of money from something we didn’t even know about a few weeks ago!”

About half their earnings come from payments for OhmHours, and the other half comes from credits for referring people they know to the program. Michael says his family uses a smart thermostat and smart plugs to make things easy.

How to Get Started

Canceling your electricity bill isn’t an option, but making enough free money to pay it off is. Here’s how California residents who use PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison can set up an account with OhmConnect.

  1. Sync it with your online utility account through PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison.
  2. Receive energy usage notifications during “OhmHours” and “AutoOhms” — high-energy-consumption times that trigger non-green power plants to activate in order to support the overtaxed grid.
  3. Head outside or at least turn the TV off until the OhmHour is up. If you have a smart plug connected to any of your devices, they’ll automatically shut off during these high-usage times.
  4. That’s it! OhmConnect rewards you with cash for reducing your energy consumption and helping to prevent blackouts.

Enter your ZIP code here to get started saving energy and earning money. How much could you make this month?

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

SmartAsset Talks to the Couple Behind MarkandLaurenG.com

AJ Smith, CEPF® AJ Smith is an award-winning journalist and personal finance expert with more than a decade of experience in television, radio, newspapers, magazines and online content. She has appeared on CNN, The Weather Channel, Wall Street Journal Radio and ABC News Radio. Her work has appeared on websites including MarketWatch, Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance and Credit.com. She is a contributor for Forbes. The SmartAsset VP of Content and Financial Education has degrees from Princeton University and Mississippi State University. AJ was named an honoree of the 2018 Women in Media awards in the Corporate Champions category. She is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®). AJ and her husband also write and illustrate educational children’s books.

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What is the Best Method for Paying Off Debt?

What is the Best Way to Pay Off Debt? Snowball Method vs Avalanche Method – SmartAsset Close thin Facebook Twitter Google plus Linked in Reddit Email

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When you are in debt on multiple credit cards or from multiple sources, like a mix of student loans, credit cards, personal loans, etc. it can be difficult to decide where to start with paying off your debt. Of course, the first thing you should do is calculate and record the balances, minimum payments and interest rates on all of your debts. But after you do this, your numbers might seem overwhelming. Luckily, there are several debt payoff methods to choose from and each has its own set of pros and cons.

Find out now: How much do I need to save for retirement?

The Avalanche Method

Paying off debt with the avalanche method is a great choice if your debts have lots varying interest rates. When you use the debt avalanche method, you basically ignore your debt balances and minimum payments and focus solely on their interest rates. You focus on paying off your highest interest debt first (while still meeting the minimum payments for all debt).

The avalanche method is usually touted as being the fastest and cheapest way to pay off debt because you’ll get rid of your highest interest rate debt first. This will indeed save you some money on interest, and also some time because you’re highest interest rate debt won’t continue racking up compound interest.

But if you are new to paying off debt with intensity, it might be intimidating to you to try and tackle a debt that may not have the lowest balance.

Related Article: Debt Settlement

The Snowball Method

The debt snowball method focuses only on the size of your debt balances. You’ll rank your debts in order from smallest balance to highest balance, ignoring their interest rates and minimum payments. Then you’ll pay them off in that order.

This method is a good one to choose if you feel that having small successes more frequently will keep you motivated to continue paying off debt. These psychological wins can help you avoid debt payoff fatigue if you have many debts to eliminate.

As you pay off your smallest debts, you wont’t see your disposable income rise. Instead, you’ll roll the payment you were making each month from the first one you payoff into the payment for your next debt. For example, if you were putting $100 each month toward a debt, once it is paid off you will earmark that $100 each month to more quickly paying off your next debt. This is when your snowball will begin to roll faster and gain momentum.

A Hybrid

Some people may choose to do a hybrid debt payoff method by combining the avalanche and snowball methods. For instance, I chose to pay off my smallest balance first, which would follow the snowball method. I also rolled my minimum payment toward my next debt, but instead of tackling my next smallest balance, I decided to move to a debt with a higher balance and my highest interest rate. This may not make sense to everyone, but in a hybrid situation you can use emotional and logical thinking to help you make a decision that fits with the best of both worlds.

6 Ways to Pay Off Debt Faster

Bottom Line

In the end, there’s no right or wrong way to pay off debt. Everyone’s situation is different, so what works for one person may not work so well for someone else. What really matters is that you continue to make progress toward your goal of becoming debt free.

Which debt payoff method are you using? Why?

Photo credit: flickr, ©iStock.com/fotoVoyager, ©iStock.com/SeaHorseTwo

Kayla Sloan Kayla Sloan is a writer with an expertise in debt, budgeting and saving money. She is focused on paying off her consumer and student loans, while simplifying her life and closet. Kayla’s work has been featured across the web, including on The Huffington Post, Time, credit.com and AOL. You can follow her as she blogs about her journey out of debt at www.kaylasloan.com.

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Planning a Revenge Travel Budget for After the Pandemic

After many months without traveling for fun, lots of people are itching to get on a plane, train, or automobile.

The term used to describe this is “revenge travel.” It’s the urge to start traveling again after being home for a long time, and to make up for things we didn’t do during shutdowns, quarantines, health concerns, or all of the above.

The Delta variant of the virus has changed things a bit, with reports that it may be starting to suppress travel demand. But people are still planning for when things get better.

A survey by CreditCards.com found that 66% of respondents planned to treat themselves post-pandemic without knowing how they’d pay for their splurges, and travel was one of the top items on people’s splurge lists.

But unless you’ve been saving up, revenge travel can really ruin your finances.

Here’s some advice to quench your thirst for travel without drowning yourself in debt.

Be Ready for Wait Lists

It’s tempting to want to blow the budget on a great experience. You deserve it, right? And you’re not alone.

An April 2021 survey of 2,000 adults by Discover said 70% of Americans want to travel again and half were planning one or two vacations within six months. Their top reasons for traveling:

  •  37% to relax
  • 18% visit family and friends
  • 10% experience a change of scenery

Travel professionals are certainly noticing this pent-up demand, and in some cases it’s leading to wait lists, said Malori Asman, owner of Amazing Journeys, a Pittsburgh-based company that specializes in group travel.

Since 2020, Asman and her team have been in a constant cycle of canceling and rebooking, canceling and rebooking. As they’ve done so, and as people have waited for tours to be rebooked, wait lists on those tours have grown.

Asman has noticed that some people are willing to spend more than they were before. It’s both pent-up demand and rationalizing (as in, hey, we didn’t spend anything on travel in 2020).

“That’s where you find people a little bit more free and easy with their travel plans and their travel funds.”

Don’t Go Into Debt Funding Your Revenge Travel

The same CreditCards.com survey that said many adults had no idea how they’d pay for their sprees also showed 44% were willing to go into debt to treat themselves, with one of the top treats being — you guessed it — travel.

Certified financial planner Mary Bell Carlson, also known as the Chief Financial Mom, calls it the “we deserve” mentality, and our ability to get easy credit contributes to it. The Discover survey found that more than half of those surveyed planned to pay for their revenge travel with a credit card.

“That’s a horrible idea,” Carlson said.

Why? Because while you’re vacationing, the interest-rate meter isn’t. You may plan to put $2,000 on your credit card for a vacation, but unless you pay it off right away, interest rates will quickly add to the bill. “By the time you pay it off, you’re paying astronomically more than you ever thought of paying for that vacation.”

During the early stages of the pandemic, Carlson said, many people began saving more than they had before. But they’re starting to return to their old spending habits.

So how do you get out of your house without ruining your financial future?

Try to make your travel plans fit your travel budget, Carlson suggests. See what you can afford before setting your heart on a family trip to Waikiki. Maybe it’s Walla Walla Washington, instead, or something just a car ride away.

Or, wait a little while longer and save for what you want.

“I get it, you want to get out. So find something that fits within the money you have or the money you have saved.”

Here’s some advice about  how to build a travel fund to help pay for future trips and avoid the post-pandemic urge to overspend.

A grandmother gets water poured on her by her grandson.
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Get the Family Involved in Travel Planning

Finding a vacation you can afford might not be as difficult as it sounds. Carlson suggests getting the family involved.

Case in point: One of her recent family outings with three children under the age of five. They drove three hours to a theme park for a big overnight family adventure. What did her kids love more than anything? The hotel pool.

“We literally could have gone to a hotel down the street and they would have loved it just as much,” she said.

The takeaway? Let it be a family discussion. “Say, hey look, we have 500 bucks, do you guys want to go on vacation? And if so, where do we go?”

Chances are the kids won’t opt for the pricey locales and destinations that the adults will. Even better, said Carlson, “Having the kids’ input into what matters to them is more meaningful than anything in terms of the dollar amounts. It’s the memories you make and the experiences you have.”

A road trip might be a good option, especially with these tips to save money along the way.

If the family decides to do something bigger, Carlson suggests saving a bit each month and in a year, you’ll have the amount you need. “Put it away where you don’t get tempted to spend it.”

Don’t Let Social Media Sway You

After not traveling, it may seem like everyone is out and about. It’s easy for FOMO to take over.

Don’t be fooled.

Social media “is a perfectionist’s worst nightmare because you compare your worst to someone else’s best,” Carlson said.

She suggests instead of looking at everyone else’s experiences, find your own. That might mean booking a nearby hotel (with a pool!), ordering pizza, and having a family movie night.

Protect Your Investment with Travel Insurance

No matter what you decide to do, protecting the money you invest in travel is important.

That means buying travel insurance, mainly in case you need to cancel or change your plans or if you get sick or injured on your vacation.

According to Squaremouth, an online tool for quoting, comparing, and buying travel insurance, many destinations and cruise lines are now requiring proof of travel insurance mainly to make sure they’re covered if they get sick while traveling. This includes many Caribbean destinations that are popular because of their proximity to the United States and their openness to tourists.

Buying a policy should add about 4% to the cost of the trip, the company says.

Amazing Journeys’ Asman recommends that whatever travel insurance you buy it includes cancellation coverage and lists COVID-19 as a covered reason, so if you or a travel companion is diagnosed with COVID-19 prior to departure, you can cancel.

Some policies will cover cancellations  for any reason, but those will cost more — up to about 40%. And if you do cancel, you might not get the total amount back, just a percentage.

Asman adds that it’s important to look for coverage that will cover medical treatment and/or hospitalization when you’re away from home, and to make sure that includes treatment for COVID-19. “I always recommend cancellation insurance,” she said.

Now Take That Vacation! Just Make Sure You Can Afford It

There are many things you can do and places you can go, even if it isn’t an around-the-world cruise. It will still be fun.

“By now, everyone needs a vacation, and that’s totally fine,” said Carlson. “But do it within your means.”

After many months of going nowhere, Amazing Journeys’ first group trip finally hit the road for South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore.

“We are just over the moon,” Asman said. “People are just so excited to get out and be together.”

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Almost Debt-Free to Nearly $1 Million in Debt: Why We Moved to Nashville

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Good Financial Cents, and author of the personal finance book Soldier of Finance. Jeff is an Iraqi combat veteran and served 9 years in the Army National Guard. His work is regularly featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Inc.com and Entrepreneur.