What Insurance Companies Are Doing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Insurance companies have stepped up over the last year as Americans have waded through the COVID-19 pandemic, from providing partial COVID refunds by way of premium paybacks because we drove less to donations for communities that they serve.

While the paybacks have all but ended, insurance carriers are encouraging customers to get in touch if they need support. Here, we provide updates that insurers are providing as the pandemic appears to wane somewhat.

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How are the largest insurers responding to coronavirus?

State Farm

State Farm’s COVID refund program was announced in May 2020 with an effort toward reducing auto rates across the country, totaling about $2.2 billion. Customers were to see rate cuts when they renewed their policy.

[ Keep reading: Laid Off? Here’s How to Apply for Unemployment Insurance. ]

“Combined with the dividend, this totals approximately $4.2 billion in savings for our auto customers,” State Farm stated in a press release. The company also confirmed it has altered its leave policy to ensure customers and employees are safe while providing financial security to employees affected.

If you’re having trouble making your insurance payments, the insurer recommends reaching out to your State Farm agent. You can also reach out on State Farm’s mobile app or by phone.

Update to State Farm’s pandemic policy

State Farm has found that driving has increased, and therefore there have been more claims. As a result, rates were adjusted beginning in January 2021. The timing and amount varies by state and when your renewal occurs.

“Even with these changes, auto rates remain below pre-COVID-19 levels. Our approach is to make incremental adjustments based on driving behaviors to help minimize the impact to customers,” State Farm reports.

Geico

Geico’s COVID refund program saw an update to the automatic Giveback Credit: “GEICO is providing a 15% credit to our auto and motorcycle policyholders as your policy comes up for renewal between April 8 and October 7, 2020. The credit will also apply to any new policies purchased during this period.”

Geico included a Giveback Credit Estimator on its website, but be aware that the full 15% credit for your policy term would have been applied at the time of renewal.

If you need to get in contact with Geico, it is recommending you reach out via the Geico app “as call wait times may be longer than usual.”

Update to Geico’s pandemic policy

Geico’s pause on cancellations ended May 2020, although Washington, D.C., has extended the pause on cancellation for its residents through June 20, 2021. 

“The Geico Giveback has also ended but we understand everyone’s financial situation may not be back to normal,” says Geico. “We’re dedicated to working with you, including flexible payment plans and/or special payment plans now that normal billing has resumed.”

Allstate

Allstate’s COVID refund response entailed an automatic program, its Shelter-In-Place Payback. “On average, personal auto insurance customers will receive 15% money back based on their monthly premium in April and May” of 2020. This program was extended through June 2020.

Allstate also offered free identity protection and automatically covering “customers who use their personal vehicles to deliver food, medicine and other goods for a commercial purpose during the COVID-19 emergency period.”

Update to Allstate’s pandemic policy

Allstate has reported that it paid back $1 billion to customers through the Shelter-in-Place Payback. The carrier also says it has contributed millions of dollars in community relief and recovery efforts. 

Progressive

Progressive’s COVID refunds were offered to customers as an automatic credit of 20% for April and May 2020.

Now that the grace period Progressive originally offered is over, the remaining protection is based on state billing guidelines for the pandemic. “We’re abiding by all state-specific requirements, which means we won’t cancel or non-renew any policy due to non-payment during the leniency period.”

Update to Progressive’s pandemic policy

Progressive reports that through the Apron Relief Program, it has committed over $1 billion to assist customers, employees, communities and agents during the pandemic.

USAA

USAA’s COVID refunds were announced in 2020: “Every member with an auto insurance policy in effect as of March 31, 2020, will receive a 20% credit on two months of premiums in the coming weeks.”

Since then, USAA has given auto insurance customers three dividends, the latest of which was in August 2020 for an additional $270 billion, bringing the total to $1.06 billion.

USAA’s website confirms its response to COVID-19:

  • USAA announced it plans to help mitigate the pandemic’s impacts for military families. “USAA is donating $30 million to two dozen nonprofit organizations to offer relief and support through the Military Family Relief Initiative.”
  • Expanded auto insurance coverage for members who use their personal vehicles to deliver food, medicine and other goods for commercial purposes.”

Update to USAA’s pandemic policy

USAA reports it has donated more than $47 million to support pandemic relief for military families and local communities through a series of programs specific to the different military branches.

Policy cancellations for non-payment have resumed, except in states where non-payment cancellations are prohibited. However, USAA encourages customers to contact the provider if you are behind on your premiums.

Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual’s COVID refunds were announced: “From March 23 through June 15, 2020, we automatically waived all late fees and continued insurance coverage for customers with overdue payments.” Depending on the state you live in, these terms may be extended. 

Liberty Mutual also announced steps to keep claims adjusters, employees, and customers safe during this time, limiting in-person contact to emergency scenarios only.

Update to Liberty Mutual’s pandemic policy

If you are facing hardship during the pandemic and have changed your driving patterns, you can contact Liberty Mutual to review coverage, deductible and other policy changes, including options to update mileage.

Farmers

Farmers COVID refunds of 25% were given in personal auto premium credits from April 1 until June 2020. It provided “additional time to pay while still maintaining your coverage,” but cautioned that any deferred payments will accumulate if unpaid and become due “when normal billing operations resume.” 

Farmers has also implemented customer assistance for California wildfires, tropical storms and Hurricane Sally. 

Farmers is urging customers to file claims and manage policies digitally, either online or on the Farmers Mobile App. “If you are unable to make your payment on time as a result of COVID-19, please call 1-888-327-6335 to discuss your options.”

Update to Farmers’ pandemic policy

Signal app discounts will remain in effect, even if you are not driving during the pandemic, but you must keep the app activated. The 10-trip minimum has been waived.

How can you find help with your insurance bills if you’re impacted by COVID-19?

If you don’t see your insurer on this list, we recommend visiting your insurance company’s website to see if they have a COVID-19 update. This may be posted as a banner on the homepage of the site, or you may be able to find it by googling the insurance company’s name along with “pandemic.”

You can also reach out to your insurer directly by phone, but we have seen that many insurance companies are receiving a higher call volume than normal, so be prepared for what may be longer than normal wait times.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

6 Ways To Avoid College Loans

We all know the big story: College is great, but it’s expensive.

Let’s start with the “great” part. Simply put, a college education means a big bump in income. A report by John Winters at the Fordham Institute concludes that the national mean earnings for a person with a bachelor’s degree is $92,608, compared to the national mean earnings of $50,051 for a person with just a high school diploma. However, it’s important to note that this gap varies widely from location to location in America, and there are career options for people without college degrees that exceed the earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree, particularly given that not all bachelor’s degrees translate to the same level of earnings.

College is also an incredibly powerful experience for many, as it opens them to a wider range of ideas and experiences than they likely have had up to that point in their lives. For many (myself included), it is a life-changing period of personal growth.

But what about the “expensive” part? According to a recent US News and World Report survey, the average cost of tuition and fees for the most recent academic year was $41,411 at private colleges, $11,171 for state residents at public colleges and $26,809 for out-of-state students at state schools. That’s per year. If you’re aiming for a four-year degree, multiply those numbers by four. That’s a lot of debt, and many people wind up regretting taking on that much student loan debt. Even with the best student loan interest rates and terms, they can be financially punishing.

[Related reading: Best Student Loans for 2021]

This creates a serious financial risk. What if a student goes to college and doesn’t complete a degree? What if they go and cannot find an area of study that works for them?

Given all of these factors, college should absolutely be on the table for most high school graduates, but alternatives should not be overlooked. There are many alternatives that set students up for financial opportunity later in life without the burden and risk of college loans. As my oldest son considers his options after graduation, college is a major part of the decision, but so are the following alternatives.

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Alternative #1: Community college for electives and core classes

One option that significantly reduces the load of college loans is to spend a year or two taking electives and core classes at a community college, earning credits that transfer to a desired four-year school. This takes two years of tuition at a large state university and slices the cost of those years significantly.

For example, using options available near me, a year of tuition at Iowa State University rings up at $9,320 for an in-state student, whereas a full course load for a year at Des Moines Community College is $4,800 for an in-state student, and most credits transfer to Iowa State. By choosing the community college for two years, then switching to Iowa State, a student in my area could save $4,500 per year, or $9,000.

For us, if we were to choose the community college plus Iowa State option, his total tuition bill would go from $37,280 to $27,640, and this option works well for the majors he is considering.

A year or two of community college can be a great option for students who are uncertain as to their area of study, as they can dabble in first and second year courses for a number of academic areas.

Alternative #2: Trade school

There are a wide variety of trades that people can learn directly out of high school by going to a school specifically for that trade and earning a diploma or other certification needed for that field. Fields like plumbing, carpentry, electrical work, dental hygiene, home inspection, HVAC technician, auto repair, and many others are trained via trade schools, which typically lead into positions with larger firms and eventually lead to the option of managing your own small business in that field.

Trade schools are great for individuals who prefer hands-on work that requires some technical skill and thought, but doesn’t require being behind a desk all day, something that doesn’t appeal to a lot of people. Many trades lead to high-paying jobs, often with a comparatively low financial risk, as the cost of trade school is almost always far less than that of a university education.

In our family, the main trade my son has expressed interest in has been electrician’s school, which is offered in central Iowa through our community college. Their degree comes at a cost of $8,609. The cost is less than a single year of tuition at Iowa State University, and is a compelling option.

Alternative #3: Military

Signing up for the military offers another option after high school graduation that can set you up for a career.

Joining the military is free, as is any training you receive while in the military. There is a lot of room for promotion within the ranks and you can easily make a career out of it. Most of your living costs can be provided by the military, too, if you choose to live on the base, and there are a lot of solid benefits. You’re also usually set up for a career after the military if you want one.

There is ample opportunity for training and education while in the service, the option of earning a degree after serving with the help of GI Bill benefits, and real-life experience that can translate into a career after the military.

However, the pay is low, particularly at first. The culture may not be a good fit for everyone. There’s also the aspect of war and personal safety, as part of being in the military is a willingness to put your personal safety at risk as well as being involved in military action.

Joining the military can be a great decision for some, but a poor fit for others.

Alternative #4: Volunteering

There are a lot of great volunteer programs that one can participate in directly after high school. Most of them provide for basic needs (food, shelter, and so on) while volunteering, and some provide training in particular areas that can be useful after you leave volunteering.

However, many of these programs last for less than a year and leave you back where you started: trying to make a decision about what to do with your career. A volunteer program may be a great choice for a gap year, in other words (see alternative #6).

Alternative #5: Apprenticeship or internship

In some situations, you may be able to find an apprenticeship, fellowship or internship in a particular field of interest directly out of high school. This may fill the summer or may last for a year or more, depending on the opportunity.

The federal government offers a great guide to apprenticeship programs for high schoolers that can help students get a sample of what the real world is like in a number of different career paths. On a more individual level, businesses may offer internships to qualified high school students in certain areas, though these tend to be more ad hoc and less organized.

Often, programs like these are found when the student takes the initiative and asks for this type of opportunity. For example, if you’re considering a career in a particular field, you might want to go to a business or local professional in that field, express your interest and see if they have anything available.

This isn’t a full solution for what to do after high school. However, this type of program can easily help a student filter through some options on their plate, figuring out what the right move is. For example, if an internship really clicks with a student just out of high school, it can segue perfectly into a trade school or university experience in that field.

In the case of my son, there is a local business that has offered summer internships for local kids who may be interested in an engineering career. This is a program he’s very interested in.

Alternative #6: Gap year

A final option to consider is a gap year, or a year spent with the purpose of maturing a bit and figuring out the next step. Many colleges allow new applicants to start off their academic career with a gap year, so it doesn’t mean that they have to forgo college to do this.

There is a big risk that a gap year can be “wasted” by simply goofing off with high school friends. A successful gap year involves making a plan and executing, where the experience involves learning a new skill, volunteering (see alternative #4), or participating in an internship or apprenticeship (see alternative #5).

A gap year can be really valuable in helping a student filter options. It can help a student figure out what they actually want to do and then commit to that path with intensity, so that they don’t find themselves two years into a college major regretting the years spent and the debt.

Advantages of four-year colleges and universities

The presence of these alternatives does not mean that simply going to a four-year college or university straight out of high school is a bad idea. If a student has a commitment to learning and growth, and particularly if they have a strong idea of what they’d like to do, going directly to a four-year school can be a great choice.

The value of a four-year college experience is directly proportional to what you put into it. If you go there with the intent of determining a career path relatively quickly, learning lots of material related to that path (and simply learning how to learn quickly), building lots of relationships and experiences that can help in that career path, and becoming a more well-rounded person, then college will pay off for you in the long run. Not only that, four-year colleges and universities offer tons of subtle perks to maximize the value you get out of your time there.

However, this requires intent and direction, and without that intent and direction, college can be a poor investment. Go to college with a plan, and you’ll leave college with a degree and a ton of earnings potential. Go without a plan, and you may drift, leaving yourself with a lot of debt and perhaps little else to show for it.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

The Best Home Insurance Companies in Florida of 2021

The best homeowners insurance company in Florida is an individual decision, but in general, we found that State Farm is great for home insurance in Florida. When assessing home insurance companies, we looked at price, value and customer service. But we’ll get into that in a bit.

America’s top-rated home insurance

  • Policies starting at just $25/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork

You might wonder, how can you get a Florida home insurance quote that has both adequate coverage and is affordable?

While location in the state is obviously a huge factor because of weather events like high wind and hurricanes, there are other concerns that decide your rate, including age of the home and the roof’s condition.

We’ve researched the top six homeowners insurance companies and compared them using our SimpleScore methodology to help you find the right company and coverage for your needs.

Methodology

To arrive at our choices in home insurance companies, we reviewed coverage options, available discounts, customer satisfaction, support and accessibility to make recommendations for the best home insurance companies in Florida. This allows us to create our SimpleScore.

We also referenced Bankrate, Insurance Information Institute, Consumer Reports, J.D. Power and other authoritative organizations to arrive at our decisions.

In this article

The best homeowners insurance in Florida of 2021

Great overall – State Farm

State Farm is a great insurance provider for homeowners who want a reputable company with good customer service, flexible coverages and low premiums.

J.D. Power Rating

3/5

AM Best Rating

A++

Standard & Poor’s

AA

SimpleScore

4 / 5.0

SimpleScore State Farm 4

Discounts 2

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 3

Accessibility 5

State Farm is a nationwide insurance company with a long-established history of top-notch customer service. There are 19,000 independent agents, so you have a good chance to find a State Farm agent with the right coverage in your area.

State Farm’s exact insurance rates vary by state and individual situation, but the company offers a few discounts to help homeowners save money on their insurance.

Additionally, State Farm stands out for its customer reviews. In J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Home Insurance Study, State Farm was rated 7 out of 24 for overall customer satisfaction. The company has also proven financial stability with an A++ rating from A.M. Best.

Great for damage amount – USAA

USAA received some of the top scores with Consumer Reports, including 5 out of 5 for damage amounts and timely payments, due to satisfaction from customers in both categories.

J.D. Power Rating

5/5

AM Best Rating

A++

Standard & Poor’s

AA+

SimpleScore

4.6 / 5.0

SimpleScore USAA 4.6

Discounts 3

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 5

Accessibility 5

USAA has industry standard coverage options like dwelling, personal belongings, liability, loss of use, other structures, home sharing and earthquake. And there are also military-specific perks for active duty and deployed members like coverage for uniforms if lost or damaged.

The company ranks high among insurers for its customer satisfaction. USAA earns top marks from third-party surveyors for its communication, billing process, claims, cost of service and policy offerings. You can find similar perks and service quality with its other insurance policies like auto, life and more niche insurance like pet, small business, travel or special events.

Great for bundling – Allstate

Allstate’s bundling options make it a strong choice. With auto, home and motorcycle insurance available, you can maximize your discounts.

J.D. Power Rating

3/5

AM Best Rating

A+

Standard & Poor’s

AA-

SimpleScore

4.4 / 5.0

SimpleScore Allstate 4.4

Discounts 4

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 3

Accessibility 5

Floridians looking to save money have the great opportunity with Allstate. Discounts include a 10% welcome discount, 5% for setting up autopay and for being over the age of 55 and retired. You can also find policy discounts for remaining claim-free, installing fire protection devices, purchasing a new home, being a smoke-free home and having protective features like storm shutters.

Allstate might grant members 10% off an auto policy and 25% off home premiums for bundling auto and home insurance. You can bundle your policy with life insurance as well at varying discounts. We recommend calling a local agent for specific opportunities.

Florida’s best regional home insurance companies

Great for low rates – Universal Property & Casualty

If you’re looking for home insurance discounts with a lot of options, consider Universal Property & Casualty.

J.D. Power Rating

N/A

AM Best Rating

A-

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

4.3 / 5.0

SimpleScore Universal Property & Casualty 4.3

Discounts 4

Coverage 4

Customer Satisfaction N/A

Accessibility 5

Despite being a subsidiary of the largest insurance provider in Florida (Universal Insurance Holdings), Universal Property & Casualty’s online presence isn’t as strong as some of the other companies that dominate the Florida home insurance market. However, it makes up for that by offering some of the lowest rates depending on your specific circumstance.

Universal prides itself on its superior customer service, and it offers assistance from a real person. During times of natural disaster or catastrophe, Universal still allows policyholders to file claims 24/7 by rerouting them through an efficient automated system and having representatives reconnect with them.

Universal Property & Casualty may be a great choice for Floridians who are on a budget. The company offers discounts for having home protective equipment, being claims-free, being a loyal customer, having a new roof, bundling policies, having windstorm-protective features, and being over the age of 65.

Great for customer service – St. John’s Insurance

St. Johns offers standard home insurance, with limited coverage. However, the company stands out for its personalized customer service and friendly agents.

J.D. Power Rating

N/A

AM Best Rating

N/A

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

2.3 / 5.0

SimpleScore St. John’s Insurance 2.3

Discounts 2

Coverage 1

Customer Satisfaction N/A

Accessibility 3

St. Johns is a privately held Florida company that specializes in homeowner’s insurance products. In addition to home insurance, St. Johns also sells condo, landlord and personal umbrella insurance. We chose St. Johns as a great home insurance provider in Florida because of the top notch customer service.

Though you can expect a high level of expertise from a company with such a specialized focus, policyholders are unable to benefit from multi-policy discounts that larger, more diversified companies can offer. However, St. Johns boasts an A rating in financial stability from Demotech, Inc., excellent customer service and competitive pricing for its policies, making St. John a top provider of Florida home insurance.

Great locally based provider – Florida Peninsula Insurance

If you’re looking for local coverage, consider Florida Peninsula. The company has good coverage, excellent financial strength and great reviews across the board.

J.D. Power Rating

N/A

AM Best Rating

N/A

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

3.3 / 5.0

SimpleScore Florida Peninsula Insurance 3.3

Discounts N/A

Coverage 5

Customer Satisfaction N/A

Accessibility 2

Experience handling hurricane claims is a selling point for Sunshine State property owners. Policyholders can file claims not just by phone but also online and take advantage of a robust learning center on the company website. AM Best gives Florida Peninsula an A on its Financial Strength Rating (FSR).

One potential drawback is that the company serves “just about” every Florida city, which doesn’t guarantee that coverage is available in your area.

Average cost of homeowners insurance in Florida

The average cost of homeowners insurance premiums in Florida was $1,960, the Insurance Information Institute found for 2018, the most recent year for this data. That compares to the national average of $1,249 for the same year.

(These figures are based on the HO-3 homeowner package policy for owner-occupied dwellings, 1 to 4 family units. It provides all risks coverage (except those specifically excluded in the policy) on buildings and broad named-peril coverage on personal property, and is the most common package written.)

Florida ranked second for average homeowners insurance premiums, behind only Louisiana. The lowest? It was Oregon at $706 a year.

Rank State Average premium
1 Louisiana $1,987
2 Florida $1,960
3 Texas $1,955
4 Oklahoma $1,944
5 Rhode Island $1,630

Choosing a national or a local Florida insurance company

Florida is one state in particular that has a lot of regional insurance providers to choose from, like the Florida Peninsula Insurance Company, in addition to the usual big-name companies like State Farm and Allstate.

Pros and cons of Florida home insurance companies

Pros Cons
Personalized service Not available everywhere
Local access Can offer more dated technology
Regional expertise

Pros and cons of national carriers

Pros Cons
Can provide more services Lack of regional coverage
Usually has a greater service area More difficult to receive personal assistance
Better technology and growth

Things to know about home insurance in Florida

Keep in mind that homeowners insurance rates in Florida will be heavily impacted by geographical location. Coastal areas of Florida may see higher rates than inland areas due to the increased risk of hurricane damage. For example, a property in the Keys could face much higher insurance premiums than a city located in the middle of the state.

What type of home insurance coverage do I need in Florida?

Coastal insurance agencies may encourage specific coverage for hurricane-related damages. Your insurance agent may also recommend adding flood insurance to your policy.

Hurricane insurance in Florida

If you include hurricane coverage as part of your Florida homeowners insurance coverage, you may have a standard deductible and a hurricane deductible. A hurricane deductible will only apply if you file a claim for hurricane-related damage.

Deductibles usually cost between 2% and 5% of the value of your property. In Florida, you also have the option to get a $500 deductible, but your annual premium may be much higher. You need to decide if you’d rather pay a higher rate on an ongoing basis, or take your chances and pay a higher deductible before reimbursements kick in when you file a claim.

Also, your agent may discuss with you “wind-driven rain.” Having this extra line item may protect you from rain that causes damage because wind pushed it in an opening.

Flood insurance in Florida

Although flood insurance does not come in a standard policy, adding it to your policy in states like Florida is popular.

Flood insurance may protect you in the event of water overflow caused from things like hurricanes, landslides and earthquakes.

[ Read more: Understanding Your Homeowners Insurance Declarations Page ]

Florida home insurance requirements 

Home insurance isn’t required in Florida, but your mortgage lender may still require some form of it until your home’s loan is paid off to help cover your mortgage.

Even though home insurance isn’t required, many opt for it in case the unexpected happens. Your policy coverage can help cover repair costs if there’s ever a break-in or severe storm. Overall, home insurance might cover property damage, belongings and repairs in specific situations.

Types of home insurance policies in Florida 

There are different types of home insurance for Florida residents. Your policy depends on your home’s structure and your personal needs. Some policies will cover the home’s structure, while other insurance choices have a few exceptions. It’s best to speak with your insurer to find the best coverage for your Florida home.

Mobile home: Mobile home insurance protects a manufactured or mobile home from damage. Most mobile home policies also cover your valuables. If your insurer doesn’t offer mobile home insurance then dwelling insurance coverage is an alternative that can cover your home and belongings.

Renters: Renters insurance can cover the tenant’s belongings and liability, but this policy doesn’t usually cover damage to the rental apartment, townhouse or condo.

Dwelling form: A dwelling form is usually included in your homeowner’s insurance. It can cover damage in areas that are attached to your home such as a deck or attached garage. This form covers risks or other areas of your home that aren’t already included in your policy.

Owner-occupied: This insurance is typically for an owner’s primary single-family home. Owner-occupied insurance is better known as “homeowner’s insurance” to cover the home structure and valuables listed in the policy.

Condo unit: Condo owners usually get condo insurance to cover what your homeowners association (HOA) won’t cover including unit damages, liability and stolen valuables.

Florida home insurance FAQs

Home insurance in Florida is not mandatory, but mortgage lenders may require it. You agent may recommend home insurance If you’re going to live in Florida where the risk of natural disaster is high.

Under a replacement cost homeowners policy, your home is covered for the amount it would cost to replace your home and home contents at current costs. Under an actual cash value policy, your home is covered for replacement cost minus depreciation.

Most standard policies do not include coverage from hurricanes or other natural disasters. Speak with your insurance agent about adding coverage to make sure you have protection from the disasters most likely to happen in your area.

Home insurance rates in Florida are based on a few factors, and each insurer has different coverage options at different rates. As you shop around you’ll find that most rates take into account the home’s location, age, construction and square footage. You may also get credit for systems that help reduce damage such as a professionally monitored security system to reduce the risk of theft.

America’s top-rated home insurance

  • Policies starting at just $25/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork

We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the home insurance companies we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

8 Affordable Furniture Stores To Help Furnish Your New Home

You just moved into your first apartment, or you upgraded to a bigger place for the first time. You have all of this space and big dreams of how to fill it.

But… furniture is expensive. Where can you go to find furniture to fill all of this space?

Don’t do what I did. When I was in that situation, before I had my financial life together, I rushed in and bought a bunch of expensive furniture to fill the first apartment my wife and I shared. Big mistake. The furniture was expensive, we went into debt for it, and it didn’t really match the room. There are many better approaches to furnishing a small apartment or home, and finding a low cost source for furniture is a great starting point.

In this article

Tips for finding affordable furniture

  • Start entry level, then slowly upgrade from there as needed. Rather than buying expensive furniture across the board, start with low-end stuff to meet all your needs, then slowly upgrade pieces of furniture as needed. It’s a horrible move to buy an expensive couch for a room, only to realize later that the couch isn’t really right.
  • Check big box stores. Big box stores often have good low-end and mid-range furniture at a very agreeable price. These items are perfect for initial furniture, and then you can upgrade from there as desired.
  • Ask friends and family. In some areas, there may be small chains or local stores with great prices. Talk to friends and family in your area to help find those places.
  • Pick it up yourself, if possible. While a few furniture stores offer free shipping, that’s not usually a feature found with discount retailers. If you possibly can, pick it up yourself.
  • Use thrift stores, but carefully. Thrift and consignment stores can be good places to find inexpensive wooden furniture, but avoid bringing home padded and upholstered items, as they may contain bedbugs or other items you don’t want in your home. Use thrift stores for things like your first end table.
  • Check outlet stores. Many larger furniture stores also have outlet stores, where they put the last few pieces of a model that’s gone out of stock. This can be a good place to get a standalone piece at a great price.
  • Only use store credit cards if you can pay the card off in full immediately. Many furniture stores offer store-brand credit cards to help you finance the furniture. Only use furniture store credit cards if they offer a nice discount on the furniture, and only if you can pay the card off in full immediately. Try to avoid buying furniture at all unless you can afford the whole thing out of pocket, and just use credit as a tool to make the purchase easier.
  • Shop online, but only for entry-level stuff. While online shopping works well for some entry-level items, it’s difficult to perfectly color-match using online tools, and it’s also difficult to assess comfort level. Visiting a store and seeing the assembled pieces is a good idea, especially for anything expensive that you want to last for many years.
  • If buying clearance or outlet items, ask for further discounts. You usually won’t get stores to budge on their full-priced items, but if items are on clearance or in an outlet section, you may be able to get them to lower the price a bit more. This is especially true if you’re buying a floor model and can point out minor issues with it.

8 affordable furniture stores

The stores below have a reputation of selling quality furniture at great prices. While many of them focus on entry-level furniture, they offer solid pieces in that price range that can fit your needs perfectly, particularly if you’re furnishing a space for the first time.

HomeGoods

affordable furniture stores - home goodsaffordable furniture stores - home goods

Locations: 45 states and territories
HomeGoods is a general home furnishing store that features furniture as well as linens, kitchen appliances, and other items with competitive prices. Items rotate frequently in store and markdowns are frequent, so repeated visits are worthwhile. However, individual items are often not stocked in large quantities, so if you find the right item, particularly if discounted at that moment, snag it.

IKEA

cheap bedroom setscheap bedroom sets

Locations: 24 states
IKEA is a Swedish-based store that offers an enormous variety of furnishings and other home goods at static prices. Many items are perfect for first items for apartments and homes, mixed in with others that can serve as upgraded pieces. Their New Movers program offers a nice discount for people buying several items at once, and their IKEA Family card is free and offers multiple discounts. Another plus with IKEA furniture is that it’s very “hackable”, meaning that it’s easy to modify to suit your particular needs.

Bob’s Discount Furniture

Affordable furniture stores- bob'sAffordable furniture stores- bob's

Locations: 22 states
Bob’s Discount Furniture (sometimes just Bob’s Furniture) offers outstanding prices on most types of furniture from their own in-house brand. They’re perfect for your first furniture set, though you may want to upgrade individual pieces over time. They tend to rotate items quickly into their in-store outlet section, so if you visit Bob’s, be sure to always stop by that area, especially if you’re looking for one single item.

Target

cheap furniture stores targetcheap furniture stores target

Locations: Worldwide
Target is a big box retailer that’s everywhere, but they do a good job producing very low cost entry level furniture. This is the best place to go if you don’t have much to spend but really need a single piece that looks good, is comfortable, and doesn’t need to last forever. Super Targets will generally have a much better in-store selection, but smaller Targets are fine for seeing pieces, as there are many variations of most items available online.

Overstock.com

affordable furniture stores - overstockaffordable furniture stores - overstock

Locations: Online only
Overstock.com makes its name by focusing on overstocked items. This means the items they have for sale will have stellar prices, but the exact offerings change rapidly as the items sell out. Overstock.com is a good place to visit frequently when you have a pretty exact idea of what you’re looking for, as you can patiently wait until something similar appears. When it does, it’s usually available for a great price.

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Wayfair

affordable furniture stores -wayfair.comaffordable furniture stores -wayfair.com

Locations: Online only
Wayfair’s big advantage is that their selection is enormous. They have thousands upon thousands of furniture items ranging all over the place in prices. Thus, one strategy is to find an item you like, then look at lower-cost versions in the “similar items” section on the page. Many items on the site are available in lots of colors, too, and they offer free shipping on orders over $49. While you won’t get an amazing discount at Wayfair, you’re more likely to find a good item exactly in your price range simply because of their selection.

Big Lots

cheap furniture stores - big lotscheap furniture stores - big lots

Locations: Nationwide
Big Lots is a discount retailer for all types of goods, but they tend to have very good furniture selection in-store. There are two big reasons to give Big Lots a shot. First, their clearance sales tend to offer very strong discounts, so it’s worthwhile to check the store frequently to see what’s on clearance. Second, their customer service program offers a 15% off discount on your first purchase there after signing up, so sign up when you’re about to make a significant purchase to save even more.

Floyd

Locations: Online only
Floyd is a newer entrant to the furniture world. They’re the highest priced option on this list, but they’re worthy of note for three reasons. First, the furniture they make is very sturdy and long lasting. Second, their furniture is designed to be easily portable and movable, disassembling very easily into a few pieces for moving around a home or moving to a new place. Third, given those two features, their prices are very reasonable. They’re a great choice if you’re an apartment dweller who may move frequently but you want to slowly start upgrading furniture quality from IKEA and other offerings, as you’ll be able to move with this stuff several times.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

Is New Tech Worth the Cost?

It’s very likely that, at some point, you’ve fallen prey for the desire for a new tech product. You hear about a new technology product and it sounds really cool! It has all of these great features that sound amazing. It’s expensive… but it’s really, really tempting. Should you buy it? Consider these things.

I’ll use myself as an example here. I use almost exclusively Apple products, dating back to my previous job, which was an all-Apple workplace. The synergy between all of the devices is something I like. So, when Apple has new product announcements, I’m often enticed. Is it time for me to buy something new? I’ll use Apple’s most recent product announcement as an example of how to think about tech products.

In this article

What would you do with it that you can’t already do?

The first thing to consider is whether this new tech product would enable you to do something that you can’t already do. Does it really do something new and novel that you couldn’t already do with the things you have? Does a $100 electric toothbrush introduce anything novel, or could you already achieve that by just brushing your teeth well?

When I look at the new Apple products announced at that show, I see a new iMac … but I already have one that does everything I need from it. I see a new iPad, but I already have one that works like a charm. Why would I spend all that money on something that doesn’t do anything that I can’t already do?

Are there less expensive alternatives?

Another thing to consider with a new tech product is whether or not alternatives already exist that cost less money. Many companies like to make a big marketing splash with their new product, but there are often already things much like it already on the market. Truly revolutionary products are rare.

When I look at the recent Apple announcement of AirTags, I’m reminded of the Tiles that already exist. They do practically the same thing and cost a lot less. (In fact, we have a few Tiles around our house already, for things like keys.)

Are you just hoping to impress?

When a new tech item appears, many people have visions of impressing friends and family with the new item. You’ll pull out a new phone and someone will be impressed and want to see it, for example.

The truth is that most people simply don’t think about or notice things about other people too much. We drastically overinflate how much people think about us and how much they notice things about us. It’s called the “spotlight effect.” We see ourselves in the “spotlight” when the truth is, we usually aren’t. That person who is wowed about your gadget usually isn’t wowed by you, but instead merely thinking about purchasing one for themselves.

Are you an early adopter?

What if the tech item really is new? Brand new tech can seem amazing, but there are some drawbacks to being an early adopter.

First, there’s no real-world sense of how truly usable the item is. Does this product actually solve the problems it claims? With a new item, there are no real-world reviews of it, so you’re just trusting marketing hype.

Second, new tech generally has serious bugs that aren’t going to show up in the product demo. While it should mostly work, there are often limitations and errors that you only find while using it. These are usually ironed out in later versions.

A good rule to follow with new technology is to wait for the second version. For example, the initial Fitbit was a great product, but it had a couple of crippling design flaws that caused it to easily break with regular use. Later versions were far better.

Are you afraid of missing out?

A sense of “missing out” comes straight from social pressure. If your friends are all talking about a new gadget, there might be a sense that you’re the only one who’s not getting it, and you fear missing out.

In fact, the fear of missing out in this way is so common it has an acronym — FOMO. It shows up in all kinds of things, not just tech products. FOMO even shows up in investing.

Here’s the thing: If the product is really good, it won’t disappear tomorrow. It will stick around for a long while and likely receive updates and improvements. If you hold off and let your friends get it first, you can find out from them if it really is all it’s cracked up to be, or if it’s forgotten in six months. If it’s great, you can get the next version, which is probably going to be better anyway.

What else could you do with that money?

One final thing to consider is the cost itself. Every time you buy something, it comes with an opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is simply the things you were unable to have because you spent money on something else instead. If you spend $500 on a new tech gadget, that’s $500 you aren’t spending on other things.

Often, realizing opportunity cost leads to financial guilt, but you can avoid that by simply putting some thought into the purchase before you do it. What else might you do with that money? Could you invest it? Could you pay down debt? Is there a more vital purchase in your life that you could make?

One good approach is to give yourself a 30-day waiting period before making a purchase. If you still want the item after 30 days, then buy it. Likely, you’ll find that the strong desire has faded and you’ve found other, more worthwhile uses for the money.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

6 Costs of Working and How To Save on Those Expenses

Most of us work in order to make money so that we can afford our basic needs and some of our wants. We do the job we do for that paycheck.

However, your job has expenses:

  • Child care. 
  • Transportation. 
  • Wardrobe. 
  • Food. 
  • Travel. 
  • De-stressing. 

All of those are expenses that we face simply by working a job for money. Those expenses eat away at how much of our pay we actually get to keep.

If your job has a very steep cost of working, it might be worth considering a different job, one that pays less but has a much lower cost of working. Even if your job’s cost of working is reasonable, there are ways to cut those costs down to size and keep more of your paycheck.

In this article

The cost (or expenses) of working

Child care costs

If you have children, you already know that being a parent is a huge financial responsibility, and child care is one big part of that. Your job likely requires you to provide some sort of care for your child while at work. Public schools can cover some of that gap for older children, but for parents of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, the cost of child care can be immense. For some, this cost alone is enough to have one parent exit the workforce for a few years.

How to cut child care costs:

  • Consider doing a child care exchange with a friend a day or two a week. On a day you have off, you watch their children, and on a day they have off, they watch your children. This reduces the number of days you have to pay for child care.
  • Ask a grandparent or relative for help. They may be willing to watch the child sometimes for a very reasonable fee, or even for free.
  • Discuss different schedules with your employer. Can you switch to a schedule where the amount of time that at least one parent is at home increases, thus decreasing the amount of child care needed?

Transportation costs

If your commute requires a car, your work expense includes depreciation on your car, part of the cost of insurance, fuel costs, part of the costs of maintenance on your car and part of the cost of registration. For many families, the reason for owning a second (or third) car is simply commuting for work.

How to cut transportation costs:

  • Use mass transit. Take the bus, the train or the subway to work.
  • Carpool. Find coworkers, or others who work near where you do, that also happen to live close to you, and take turns driving to work. This can drastically reduce commuting costs.
  • Use a bike, or walk. If you live close to your workplace, a bicycle or even a walk can get you there instead of using a car. (It’s good exercise, too.)
  • Ask your employer about remote work options. Yes, many people all over the world did this during COVID and either loved or hated it. However, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Consider remote work two or three days a week.

Wardrobe costs

Many workplaces have a dress code, so part of the cost of work is investing in clothes that match that dress code. If you work at a restaurant, for example, you may have to invest in white dress shirts. If you work in an office, you may need suits. 

How to cut wardrobe costs:

  • Work remotely. The dress code at home or at the coffee shop is often much more relaxed than at the office.
  • Buy clothing that mixes and matches well. This enables you to buy fewer pieces of clothing because, by mixing and matching, you can create the appearance of more outfits.
  • Buy sturdy, well-made clothes. Know how to identify well-made clothes. For example, well-made clothes have very neat seams.

Food costs

For most jobs, the time at work overlaps at least one meal. If your workplace has a culture  that involves eating together, this can actually create a sizable expense. There’s also an ongoing expense if you tend to stop for a snack on the way to work or the way home from work.

How to cut food costs:

  • Take leftovers or your own “brown bag” lunch to work, and encourage others to do so. Try to start a culture of eating together in or near your workplace rather than going out.
  • Take advantage of food provided by your company in the kitchen. Bring your own items as well to mix things up.
  • Have snacks in your car or work bag. Keep a few granola bars or other items in your car or in your work bag. That can keep the hunger at bay so you’re not tempted to stop for something much more expensive during your commute.
  • Work remotely. It makes eating quite cheap if you can just eat at home.

Travel costs

Some jobs require travel. While workplaces do tend to reimburse some travel costs, there are still usually extra costs involved for things you didn’t plan for. This can eat away at your finances.

How to cut travel costs:

  • Know the reimbursement rules. Know exactly what you can and can’t get reimbursed for, and stay carefully within your reimbursement limits.
  • Be selective with travel. Look for alternatives to travel for less important trips. Can these meetings be done virtually?
  • Use a good travel packing checklist to make sure you don’t overlook things you need. Here’s a great travel packing checklist to get you started.

De-stressing costs

Many jobs are stressful, and that stress seeps into your daily life. People leave work mentally and/or physically exhausted and need something to help them unwind and relax. Often, those de-stressing activities are expensive. They don’t have to be.

How to cut de-stressing costs:

  • Try different approaches to de-stressing that don’t involve spending money. For example, try an after-work walk or a meditation session.
  • Take care of your health. Get a good night of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and get more fruits and vegetables on your plate. Get some exercise. Even low-intensity stuff like walking is great. These moves will help you handle stress better.
  • Consider what specific elements of your job cause the most stress and attempt to address them head-on. Talk to your supervisor about those elements and see if there’s something you can come up with together to permanently fix it.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

50 Side Businesses You Can Start on Your Own

Believe it or not, The Simple Dollar started as a side business. It began as an email newsletter where I shared thoughts on personal finance, with some embedded links to Amazon to help pay the bills. It was one side business among many that I’ve started over the years, and the biggest success. Each side business started with a simple goal: I saw a need someone else had that I could fulfill and earn some money by doing so, and I was willing to spend some of my spare time and energy doing it.

If you’re interested in turning your spare time and energy into a side business, there are countless opportunities for doing so. The ideas below are inspirations. Take them, look around your life and your community for needs that they might fulfill, and build that idea into something that helps people and makes you money.

(Heads up: Before you leap into starting a side business, research if there are licenses, permits or education required in your city or state for that type of gig.)

In this article

50 side businesses you can start on your own

  1. Auto detailing. Thoroughly clean, wash and wax a car for a client. This usually takes several hours, but you can charge a reasonable hourly rate for the service. This type of business works well if promoted on social media.
  1. Babysitting. Babysitting is child care that tends to fall below the limits of what’s required for licensing by the state. Watching one or two children occasionally usually doesn’t require a license, though it’s harder to turn into a full business. This makes babysitting a perfect side gig for those who love children.
  1. Airbnb hosting. If you have a large home, you can easily turn a portion of your home into an Airbnb rental for vacationers. This is particularly true if you can partition off part of your home with its own entrance and exit, or if you live in another location part of the time. Here’s some advice on starting your own Airbnb.
  1. Freelance writing / blogging. There are many opportunities for online writing to earn money. If you want to write one-off articles for a few bucks, check out sites like Fiverr where people will pay you for articles. If you want to build something for yourself, services like Medium and Substack give you the opportunity to build your own name — it’ll take time to earn much, but it’s the way to go over the long haul.
  1. Buying and reselling on eBay. If you have specialized knowledge of a particular type of item, you can make money buying items and reselling them on eBay. Watch for those types of items at thrift shops and yard sales and jump on big bargains you find.
  1. Cake baking. Baking cakes for birthdays and weddings is a great gig if you love to bake and have a touch for decoration. The costs are low to get started and there’s always demand. Before doing this, you’ll want to check the rules in your state regarding baking and home food preparation.
  1. Snow plowing. If you can invest in a snow plow or blade for your truck, snow plowing is a great way to earn money during winter weather. There are always driveways and parking lots to be cleared of fresh snow to make way for customers.
  1. Dog walking. If you have spare time during a typical weekday and love dogs, being a dog walker can be a great side gig. 
  1. Creating custom T-shirts. If you have a place to install a screen printing machine, you can get into the business of making custom T-shirts for people. With the right equipment and a good eye for design, this can turn into a pretty lucrative side business.
  1. Miniature painting. If you have an eye for detail, there’s a surprisingly lucrative market in painting miniatures and reselling them.  There’s a very large subculture that enjoys collecting painted miniatures, mostly for use in tabletop games. Painting these miniatures is a craft you can easily sell on Etsy, eBay, or other online sales sites.  Here’s a great beginner’s guide.
  1. House or business cleaning. Many people are strapped for time and find basic house cleaning services or business cleaning useful. While there are many organized businesses that do it, you may be able to find clients by going independent and using a lower rate, cutting out the middleman. You might also advertise additional services, such as laundry service (you take X pounds of laundry, clean it, fold it, and return it for a certain amount per pound).
  1. Accounting.  If you’re an accountant, offering your services as a bookkeeper for a small business or institution can be a great side business.  Many institutions have small-scale bookkeeping needs and are glad to hire someone to take care of it, so if you’re looking for a little extra work and income that uses your skills, consider freelance bookkeeping or accounting!
  1. Pet sitting. This is a great extension to dog walking. People would hire you to take care of their pets while they travel, either by bringing them to you or you stopping in and feeding and caring for them while they’re away. 
  1. Freelancing small graphic design projects. If you have graphic design skills, there are infinite small gigs you can find on sites like Fiverr or Upwork, things like designing a quick podcast logo. 
  1. Social media managing. Many small businesses want to have a social media presence, but don’t have the time for it. For a small fee, you can manage the social media feeds of a small business. The owner simply sends you any promotions or new information about the business and you promote them on social media.
  1. Photography. If you have a quality camera setup and photography skills, you can put out your shingle as an event photographer or a portrait photographer. For this, it’s a good idea to put together a portfolio of some of your best photography for people to see. You might want to start by taking portraits of family and friends, as well as taking photos of events that show off your work.
  1. Antique refurbishing. Turning antiques that are in poor shape into stunning pieces is a lucrative side gig. It requires a lot of care and very patient time investment so that you don’t damage or ruin the antique, which requires research into how to properly refurbish items. 
  1. Pet grooming. If you enjoy pets, pet grooming can be a great side business. Washing pets, trimming their nails, trimming their hair, and other tasks are things that many pet owners will hire others to take on. Be aware that in many areas, this requires a kennel license, so you’ll want to look into the requirements in your area before diving in.
  1. Event coordinating. An event coordinator helps people manage smaller events that they want to pull off. Parties, community events and other such things often have event coordinators who organize vendors and make sure things are in place for a great event!
  1. Event DJing. If you have a good speaker system and enjoy playing music for crowds and getting them to dance (some emceeing is usually part of the job), then being an event DJ may be right for you.
  1. Teaching exercise classes. Many community centers and small fitness centers offer exercise classes largely based on the availability of teachers, and teachers are often paid as a percentage of the income of the class. If you’re very familiar with the ins and outs of a particular type of exercise, this might be a good side gig to start.
  1. Gardening, lawn or landscaping services. This involves things like mowing yards, caring for yards with seed and fertilizer, trimming bushes and taking care of gardens around homes. This requires some equipment, but the tasks are very straightforward if you’re willing to do the work!
  1. Handyman services. If you’re willing to perform odd jobs and minor repairs around a home, offering handyman services might be perfect for you. Many people offer their services for this type of work on Thumbtack, so it may be a good place to start.
  1. Catering. Before doing this, you’ll want to check the rules in your state regarding home food preparation. If you’re able to license to be a caterer, catering for events can be a great side gig. It requires food preparation skills and planning skills, but the service is a valuable one in many situations.
  1. Interior decorating. Some people are simply unskilled at tastefully arranging a room in their home and need help making it look appealing (I’d put myself in this category). That’s where an interior decorator can step in. Examples of your own decor can help start your portfolio and attract clients.
  1. Pet waste cleanup. Many people find themselves with yards or homes that are overrun with pet waste. With some appropriate tools and patience, you can help resolve this problem.
  1. Knitting, crocheting, or quilting. These types of projects are easily done at home with just a bit of equipment. You can then sell your fabric items online. Make small quilts, knit baby hats or crochet blankets — they’ll all sell well on Etsy.
  1. Writing ebooks. If you enjoy writing and have a firm grasp on how to write longform fiction or nonfiction, ebook writing can be a lucrative path to follow. You self-publish your books on the Kindle store and/or other places where ebooks are sold, do some promotion, and earn money from every sale.
  1. Furniture making. If you have woodworking equipment and tools available, you can make lots of furniture items and sell them for a profit. Things like end tables and Adirondack chairs are easily made in a small woodworking shop and sell well.
  1. Meal-to-go preparing. This one’s easy: You prepare full family-sized meals that they can either take home and eat immediately or take home and freeze, finishing the cooking with a simple step later on. Before doing this, you’ll want to check the rules in your state regarding home food preparation.
  1. Personal or virtual assistant. Many busy people have great use for a personal assistant, whether in-person or virtual. You just handle life tasks or simple business tasks for the client, such as handling phone calls and email communications or other small personal errands.
  1. Public speaking / teaching. Is there a topic you know a lot about? Develop it into an hour-long presentation and then offer to give that presentation at local libraries or other events to hone it. If it clicks, you can find opportunities to be paid to present on that topic.
  1. Jewelry making. If you have the tools, the skills and the taste to make jewelry items, you can turn this into a pretty lucrative side business selling items on online stores like Etsy. Most of the tools are inexpensive, and the know-how to get started can be found on YouTube.
  1. Growing produce to sell. If you have a lot of yard space and enjoy gardening, you can grow lots of produce and sell the excess at farmers markets or directly to grocery stores. This is actually a side business my father engaged in for many years, particularly with tomatoes and potatoes, and he found it quite lucrative.
  1. Proofreading and editing. Someone who is skilled with written language can find many opportunities to start a side business in proofreading and editing. You can get started building a resume by looking on sites like sites like Fiverr or Upwork. Doing good work will generate clients who keep coming back to you.
  1. Scrapbook-making. Many people want to have beautiful scrapbooks and photo albums of memorable events or periods in their life. They hand you some photographs and paraphernalia and you assemble them into a custom scrapbook for a fee.
  1. Delivery driving. This became a very popular side business for people during COVID, with many people making a few bucks driving their own vehicle to make deliveries for services like DoorDash. When you’re available, you fire up the app and you’ll be contacted for deliveries.
  1. Assisting senior citizens. Many families want to hire someone to assist seniors that they care about who might be having difficulty with some basic tasks, like food preparation or grocery shopping or basic house cleaning, and simply being a companion and someone to talk to. If you’re friendly and able to communicate well with senior citizens, this can be a great side gig.
  1. Sewing and altering. If you have a sewing machine and know how to use it, you can turn simple sewing tasks and garment alterations into a side gig. 
  1. Computer troubleshooting. Computer troubles can be frustrating, particularly for people who are less than tech-savvy. Doing home visits to troubleshoot computer and basic home networking problems can be a great side gig. I can vouch for this side gig with personal experience, as I was running a computer troubleshooting side gig around the time of the launch of The Simple Dollar!
  1. Seasonal decorating. Some households love to have tasteful seasonal decorations, but don’t have the time to do it well. You can help people set up yard displays for holidays such as Halloween or Christmas for a fee. They give you a budget, you buy the items within that budget, and you get a fee on top of that.
  1. Making soap and spa products for resale. Many basic soap and spa products can easily be made at home, though some of them involve chemicals you will want to be very careful with. You’ll also want to look into specific rules and regulations about making and selling such products in your state.
  1. Teaching a musical instrument. If you know how to play a musical instrument well and have patience, you can become a private music teacher. You’ll often be teaching performers the basics as they decide if the instrument is right for them, often children.
  1. Tutoring. If you are an expert on a particular school subject, for example, your college major, you might be perfect for tutoring students on that subject. 
  1. Creating smartphone apps. If you’re a skilled computer programmer, you can learn a language like SwiftUI and spend your spare time creating smartphone apps. This starts, above all else, with a great idea for an app.
  1. Website designing. If you’re proficient with web technologies and design, many small businesses and individuals would love to tap your skills to improve their web presence. You can start building a portfolio by volunteering to create sites for small public events, and use that portfolio to find paid clients.
  1. Wedding planning. This expands on the “event coordinator” idea from earlier and focuses on one particular, complex event. Wedding planning involves coordinating lots of vendors and being responsive to the needs and wishes of the bride and groom. If you’re a “people person” and well-organized, this can be a great side gig.
  1. Translating. Can you speak another language fluently? This ability alone opens you up for a great side gig as a translator. There may be situations in which someone has a strong need for someone to be able to translate on their behalf. There are many translation gigs available on sites like Upwork, and a great performance can build a long-term client.
  1. Business or life coaching. Many people have the tools they need to build the life they want, they just need some guidance and motivation. If you’re an effective communicator and good at translating ideas into concrete goals and plans, you might just be a perfect business or life coach. Check your state for certification or education requirements.
  1. Resume writing. People in the job market often need help polishing their resume into something that shines.

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We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

6 Steps To Avoid Identity Theft Without a Service

There were almost 1.4 million cases of identity theft in the United States in 2020, with people using stolen identities to sign up for credit cards, collect fraudulent unemployment benefits and countless other scams. Cleaning up from identity theft can be a real pain and can drag on for years.

Identity theft protection is an easy counter to this problem. You pay for a service and they keep your identity safe. However, that protection comes at a price. What are your options for keeping safe from identity theft without paying for a protection service? The answer: Keep it simple.

A key part of protecting yourself against identity theft is to remember that scammers aim for easy targets. If you take a few simple steps to ensure that you don’t fall prey to the simplest scams, identity thieves will move on to another target.

In this article

6 simple identity theft prevention strategies

Read your bank and credit card statements carefully

Whenever you receive a bank or credit card statement, review it carefully, line by line. Make sure you recognize every transaction. If you find transactions that don’t make any sense to you or that you can’t trace, contact the financial institution immediately.

If you conclude that someone was using your account without your authorization, request to have that charge removed and also request to have a new card issued to you. In some cases with bank accounts, you may also want to change your account number.

Don’t click on email links

If you receive an email that has a clickable link on it and you want to follow up on whatever that email is about, don’t click on the link. Instead, independently go to the website for the business and find the information yourself. Don’t even trust links that appear to be from friends, as scammers can easily fake email addresses. Ask friends to put in the subject line information unique to them so you know it’s legitimate, or confirm with them by text that they sent you that cute puppy You Tube video.

Why do this? Often, links in emails will look like one thing but actually take you to something else. You may end up at a web form or a sign-in prompt that looks completely legitimate but is actually a fake site so that when you sign in, you give that information to a scammer.

This can take a bit longer, of course, but this simple step alone protects you from a wide array of email tricks that can steal your identity.

Don’t give out personal information on the phone 

The same policy works with unsolicited phone calls, too. If someone calls you, never give them your personal information no matter what they tell you. Hang up and contact the company in question directly if you feel that there is something important that you should follow up on.

For example, don’t give information about yourself to a person on the phone claiming to be from your bank or claiming to be from the IRS. If you’re contacted by someone claiming to be from those organizations, use the actual website of the organization to look up the correct number, then call them back. If they don’t know what you’re talking about, then you know someone was just trying to scam you.

Have a password on all of your devices

Every computer and mobile device that you own should be password protected, ideally with something complicated enough that it can’t easily be guessed. You should have it set to automatically lock with a password every time you leave the device unused and every time you restart it. This is a very simple way to make things just a little bit tougher for a thief.

Choose a password that is not just a sequence of numbers (if possible) and isn’t a single word. A good strategy is to combine the two – use a word and a number you remember and alternate between the two. For example, I might use the password Trent and the number 2084 to create the password “T2r0e8n4t,” which is very difficult to crack but fairly easy to remember. 

Pass-phrases are particularly effective, such as: “My H4sb@nd Is A R0ck St@r!”. Some security experts recommend using a favorite song for inspiration. Have a unique password for each account; don’t recycle. 

Check your credit reports regularly

The three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) collect your credit habits from lenders; potential lenders use them to assess your creditworthiness. These reports are also used to generate your credit scores. Check your credit reports from the credit bureaus for free once a year. One trick is to check one report every four months, alternating between the three, so that you are monitoring your credit more closely.

Once you’ve grabbed your credit report, go through it line by line to make sure you recognize the information. Contact the lenders first to get information corrected. The credit bureaus will not change accurate information. Reach out to the credit bureau about personal information such as your name, aliases, address or employer.

Use a password manager

A final tip: Use a password manager to keep your passwords safe. A password manager is software that keeps a heavily encrypted file of all of your passwords that can only be accessed by you. This allows you to have different, very complicated passwords for each of your financial services and other accounts, meaning that if one is hacked, the hackers won’t have access to any other accounts.

As long as you memorize a single very secure password for your password manager, it will manage secure passwords for all of your needs. There are many software packages out there that provide this service, such as 1Password and LastPass.

What if you still want a service?

If you still feel more comfortable using a service, The Simple Dollar recommends several identity theft protection services. These can provide peace of mind, but they work best in conjunction with using the other steps in this article.

What do these services do? Identity theft services monitor personally identifiable information in credit applications, public records, websites and other places for any unusual activity that could be signs of identity theft, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Premium packages from these services offer additional features that help you fix identity theft problems and offer proactive help, such as letting you know if your bank has been hacked before it impacts you specifically.

What about credit monitoring? Credit monitoring is a part of identity theft services. Alone, it’s usually much less expensive, but it typically just watches your credit report.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com