Average US 30-year mortgage rate rises to 4.30 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) – Long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week for a second straight week, posting new highs for the year. The markets were anticipating an increase in a key interest rate by the Federal Reserve, which the Fed announced Wednesday.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year, fixed-rate loans climbed to 4.30 percent from 4.21 percent last week. The benchmark rate stood at 3.73 percent a year ago and averaged 3.65 percent through 2016, the lowest level in records dating to 1971.

The rate on 15-year mortgages increased to 3.50 percent from 3.42 percent last week.

The Fed’s move marked the second time in three months that the central bank has raised its benchmark interest rate. The Fed also forecast two additional hikes this year. The Fed action reflects a consistently solid U.S. economy and will likely mean higher rates on some consumer and business loans.

The key short-term rate is rising by a quarter-point to a still-low range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent. The Fed said in a statement that a strengthening job market and rising prices had moved it closer to its targets for employment and inflation.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was unchanged this week at 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year loans also remained at 0.5 point.

Rates on adjustable five-year loans rose to 3.28 percent from 3.23 percent last week.  The fee held at 0.4 points.

By Associated Press

 

 

Should You File Your Taxes Early?

There are plenty of good reasons to file your taxes ahead of schedule. Here are just a few.

Though taxes are typically due on the 15th of April, this year, you’ll get an extra three days to submit your return. The reason? Any time April 15 falls on a weekend, the tax deadline is pushed to the following Monday, but because Monday, April 17, is Emancipation Day (a D.C. holiday), filers have until Tuesday, April 18, to get their taxes in.

That said, you still shouldn’t wait until the very last minute to file your taxes. In fact, there are actually a number of good reasons to get your taxes in early.

Get your money back sooner

Not only did 73% of tax filers get a refund last year, but the average refund amount hovered in the $2,850 range. If you’re anticipating a refund this year, filing your taxes early should basically be a no-brainer. As long as you have all of your documents and paperwork in order, filing early means you’ll most likely get your hands on that cash sooner. In fact, the IRS expects that it will issue more than 90% of its refunds in 21 days or less from the time it receives the corresponding returns.

If you’re sitting on debt (whether it’s general debt or bills left over from the holidays), having your refund in hand sooner could save you a nice chunk of money in interest charges. Even if you don’t have debt, there’s really no reason to give the government access to your money for a longer period than necessary, so it pays to file early either way.

Keep in mind, however, that if you file a paper return, you may have to wait longer to get your cash back. Though refunds from electronically filed returns are typically issued within three weeks, it usually takes six to eight weeks to receive a refund from a paper return. Not only that, but if you file your taxes early and do so electronically, you should be able to check your refund status within 24 hours. File on paper and you’ll probably wait a solid month before your refund information even becomes available.

Prevent tax fraud

Tax fraud is a growing problem and, unfortunately, it’s easy enough these days for crooks to pull off. Typically, someone will get his or her hands on your personal information, file a return in your name, and attempt to claim your refund.

Because the IRS is equipped to flag duplicate tax returns, if this happens and you then attempt to file your own return, yours will get rejected because there will already be a return with your Social Security number in the system. At that point, the IRS will need to figure out which return is legitimate, and you’ll be sitting in limbo while that happens — not to mention waiting on your refund.

On the other hand, if you file your tax return early enough, you just might beat those criminals to the punch. Then, if someone attempts to file a return using your information, that fraudulent return will get rejected instead of yours.

Give yourself time to pay your tax debt

Not everyone gets a refund during tax season. If it turns out you owe the IRS money and you’re unable to pay off your balance in full, you’ll face a late payment penalty for whatever amount you fail to come up with. But if you file your return early, you’ll buy yourself a little extra time to come up with a game plan. That might involve selling off some possessions to scrounge up the cash or working a few extra shifts on the job to generate extra earnings.

Remember, if you owe the IRS money but file your return early, you don’t have to pay off your balance until the April 18 filing deadline. Even if you owe money, you have nothing to lose by submitting your return ahead of schedule.

One final point to consider is that the sooner you file your taxes, the sooner you can check that task off your to-do list. Filing a tax return can be a time-consuming process, so the earlier you get it done, the less stressed you’ll be.

A $6,269 opportunity lurking in your tax return?
Taxes can be confusing and downright miserable. But a handful of “tax tricks” could help millions of Americans save thousands of dollars. That’s free money you could be leaving on the table. For example: the IRS believes that a full 20% of eligible Americans miss out on a tax break worth up to $6,269… each year! Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

Maurie Backman

Whistler: The Must-Do Spring Destination

Presented by SnowSeekers

 

There are really two Whistlers. The first we see as tourists: the seasonal workers, the Australian lifties with their indefatigable cheer, the British server providing that critical après Caesar salad at the Garibaldi Lift Co (GLC). Yet there’s also a vibrant, if less publicized Whistler–one that doubles as home for thousands who wouldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world. Tap into this crowd and you’ve hit the motherlode of secret stashes, cherished seasonal traditions, and plenty of reasons why so many Whistlerites think spring is the prime time to come up and play.  Which ever Whistler you decide to explore, Whistler Blackcomb has a host of deals to help you celebrate the spring ski scene.

 

1. Alpine Picnics & Patio Happy Hours

Take it from John Brown, Whistler’s Adult Ski School Manager, and snag some cheese, cured meats, crusty bread and an IPA or two and ski to some newly-exposed rock for a killer spread in the sun. (Note: Poles and skis make for great recliners.) Or, simply slide into happy hour. “Patio hopping is a cherished tradition around here during the WSSF and really right ’til we close on May 22nd,” says Brown. “You can bop from Tapley’s to Merlin’s to the undiscovered Bearfoot Bistro terrace, which is awesome in the full sun.” The Bearfoot Bistro boasts the coldest vodka tasting room in the world and gourmet bites like Braised Short-Rib Poutine and Confit Quail Salad. Brown also suggests popping down Peak-to-Creek (the legendary 7-mile run from the top of Whistler to Creekside), followed by a well-deserved adult beverage (available by the pail) at Dusty’s patio. Learn what you are in store for by reading up on Crai Bower’s SnowSeekers story.

2. The World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF)

From April 7-16, Whistler is home to the best mountain culture celebration in North America. Watch insanely world-renowned skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes, listen to comedians and Canadian Indie bands (plus national stars like Busta Rhymes) perform on the GLC’s newly expanded terrace, check out decked out pups in the Whistler dog parade, or get your entertainment on screen at the Olympus 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown, when Whistler-area filmmakers create outrageously good movies in just three days and screen them for an audience of over a 1,000. But don’t just be a spectator. There’s plenty of opportunities to join in, like at the Twisted Tea Slush Cup, where anyone can careen down the spring snow in an outlandish costume and try to make it across the icy cold slush pond. Take home a prize for Best Costume, Best trick, Best Wipe-Out and more. Or, you know, just laugh at those who do. For details and deals, visithttps://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/events-and-activities/events/2017/04/world-ski-and-snowboard-festival.

 

3. The Whistler Trifecta: Ski, Bike/Hike, Golf

Locals love to ski the north-facing slopes, with their great spring conditions, followed by a bike ride to Lost Lake and a twilight tee-time at Whistler Golf Club. You can also hike along a nature trail down to the lake that hugs the creek before ascending into a gentle climb that weaves through forest. Break for lunch or a snack at Connection Café (at the trailhead), which serves locally-roasted organic coffees, smoothies, paninis, soup and chili, and freshly-baked cookies. In June, the café offers morning bike rides. “The village is totally weather-based in the spring,” says GLC Assistant Manager Derek Pretty. “The moment the days warm up the hiking routes start to open. We even make the most of spring here in Whistler and at the GLC patio overlooking the mountain village.” Pretty, who arrived from Australia “ages ago” and never left, offers one final observation about why he loves springtime in Whistler. “There’s just a lot of chilling out.”  Bower lays out those details in this SnowSeekers story.

4. Deep Discounts

The math is pretty easy, as an American, our dollar goes further in Canada.  Those who have been know exactly what we are talking about. Basically, Canada gives you around 25% extra on anything you spend. Through April you can ski and stay in Whistler starting at $135 CDN per night, which based on US dollars is around $100 – lift tickets AND accommodations.  Do your homework and go, you can start here:https://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/purchase/deals-packages.

 

 

Why School District Should Play a Part in Your Home Selection

When it comes to buying a home, the potential resale value should stay top of mind, which is why the local school district is important to take into consideration. Many studies show a home’s school district has a direct impact on its value and ability to sell down the road.

“When thinking of an area’s long-term and resale potential, the school district should be a top consideration,” says Doug Breaker, president and chief executive of HomeFinder Opens a New Window. “Buying a home in a good school district can result in resale advantages, offer protection from market fluctuations and provide a great education.

According to Relator.com, one out of five home buyers said they would pay 6% to 10% more than their budget to purchase a home in the right school district. Meanwhile, a survey from real estate company Redfin last fall showed people were willing to pay $50 more per square foot for a home in a top-rated school district.

Figuring out what constitutes an excellent school district can get complicated. Review the schools’ test scores, teacher-to-student ratios, after school programs, extracurricular activities and  awards and technology in the classrooms.  There are a host of websites that rank schools, including Great Schools.org Opens a New Window., Schooldigger.com Opens a New Window., and U.S. News rankings Opens a New Window..

Don’t be scared to ask your real estate agent about the school district, what it was like 1o years ago, how it’s changed over the years and how it stacks up against other neighborhoods.  If you track school scores, when they go up, home values in the neighborhood follow suit.

Buyers with school-aged children should visit the school to get a better sense of its quality. If it’s a large school district with many elementary, middle schools and high schools the performance can vary.  On a visit, I recommend reviewing classroom sizes, the maintenance of facilities, safety and use of technology. It’s also imperative potential buyers check availability of the schools.

While purchasing a home in a good school district will help protect a home’s value, it’s not a guaranteed. After all, lesser-performing school districts can improve as easily as top schools can deteriorate.

By Donna Fuscaldo Home Mortgage FOXBusinessOpens a New Window.

 

**All the above information may be great but the main reason to pick a home with a good school district is to provide a better education for your children.  It is a “No-Brainer!” Check out the link below for information on the Issaquah School District.

http://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/

http://www.greatschools.org/washington/issaquah/issaquah-school-district/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be a Happier Person in Business and In Life

What are the keys to happiness? Research reveals how you can be happier in your personal and professional life.

Stay positive.

“Bad things happen to everyone, including happy people,” writes Travis Bradberry, co-writer of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” and co-founder of TalentSmart. “Instead of complaining about how things could have been or should have been, happy people reflect on everything they’re grateful for.” Happy people tend to find the best solution to a problem and then move on, refusing to dwell on negative events.

Surround yourself with the right people.

You’ll build confidence and stimulate creativity by surrounding yourself with other upbeat people. Negative people, on the other hand, can zap away your energy.

Exercise more.

Even moving for as little as 10 minutes can help release a neurotransmitter that helps soothe your brain and keep you in control over your impulses. Schedule regular exercise into your daily life.

Slow down.

Don’t be so caught up in a routine that you forget to appreciate the little things in life. Enjoy a conversation or take a step outside to enjoy a fresh breath of air.

Have deep conversations.

Avoid gossip, small talk, and judging others. Have meaningful interactions by engaging with others on a deeper level and seek to build an emotional connection, Bradberry writes.

Help others.

Employees who helped others were 10 times more likely to be focused at work and 40 percent more likely to get a promotion, according to a study conducted by Harvard University. Those helping employees also were more likely to be happy during stressful times. “As long as you make certain that you aren’t over committing yourself, helping others is sure to have a positive influence on your mood,” Bradberry says.

 

HOME APPRAISAL: HOW IT WORKS AND HOW SELLERS CAN IMPROVE IT

Home appraisal is the process aimed at determining the true market value of a house, so that the mortgage company or a bank receives the unbiased estimate of what the property the buyer is trying to receive the mortgage for and makes sure that the amount of money the borrower asks for is appropriate for that exact house.

The thing that makes the appraisal process so stressful and deal breaking for both parties involved in the sales-and-purchase agreement is the fact that it takes place after the seller and buyer have gone through the negotiation process, agreed on a certain price they’re both most comfortable with, spent a good share of money on lawyer‘s services, signed the contract and approached the few last, but particularly tense steps to closing their real estate deal.

In fact, both home buyers and sellers underestimate the importance of the appraisal process until they face the bank that isn’t willing to lend the selling price the sides have already settled on due to the fact that the appraisal received from a real estate agent or a property value came to be lower than the mortgage claim.

In this situation, the deal the home buyer and the seller have already sealed is most likely to be over unless the seller agrees to lower the price to meet the bank’s requirements, the borrower finds another bank ready to finance the mortgage to the fullest extent or manages to gather the difference between the seller’s price claim and the sum covered by mortgage in cash to fulfill the seller’s requirements and not to abandon the deal he has already spent so much time, money and effort on. The aforementioned scenario is too idealistic to have something in common with real life, as rare reliable financial institutions are willing to lend more than the essential appraisal stated. There’s no wonder that most sellers, who’ve already dropped the price for their property during the negotiation process, do not agree to decrease it even more. Surely, the buyer isn’t interested to pay more than the home’s estimated worth as well.

Consequently, it’s rather important for home sellers to thoroughly prepare for the home appraisal process to avoid failed deals, losses in value and time wastes. Obviously, the appraisal professional is an independent expert, who provides adequate home selling price estimates without being subjected to the seller’s and agent’s direct influence.

However, there’re a few tricks and preparation steps one may take to get a positive appraisal, finalize the deal with the buyer and receive the money your house deserves to be sold for.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PREPARE YOUR HOUSE FOR AN APPRAISAL
1. GET EDUCATED ABOUT THE DETAILS OF THE APPRAISAL VALUE DETERMINATION PROCESS TO KNOW WHAT THE EXPERTS CONDUCTING THE EVALUATION PAY ATTENTION TO:
This article’s purpose is not to give an exhaustive description of the appraisal procedure, but rather provide the sellers with a few pieces of advice on how to improve its results. But, we’re going to base the further info considering these most important facts about house appraisal:

  • its real purpose is to figure out whether the home’s value expressed in the monetary equivalent (the selling price)coincides with the average prices of similar local properties, which have been recently sold or which are currently available on the market;
  • it takes the evaluation expert one 45-60-minute visit to collect the necessary data for his conclusion;
  • it’s safe to say that home appraisals are normally carried out to protect the interests of the lender and prevent the excessive crediting – the home value’s estimate is used as the maximum amount of money the bank may offer to the borrower to finance the mortgage of the house, that is the subject of the contract;
  • even though the expert conducting the appraisal is supposed to be independent, honest and unbiased in his estimates, it’s the bank/mortgage company who orders his services and becomes his client – more often than not the evaluation expert is going to make sure that the client doesn’t invest in the property more than its actual market cost;
  • in most cases, lenders don’t accept appraisals from experts they haven’t approved for a particular appraisal;
  • the process doesn’t take too much time – home appraisal is far from being as deep as home inspection home buyers order to receive a professional inference on the condition of the property they’re particularly interested in, identify its possible hidden flaws, understand the true value and continue the negotiations guided by the inspection’s results; home appraisal is a brief estimate conducted within an hour or so;
  • the things appraisers pay attention to are: lot size, square footage of finished and unfinished space, the overall condition of the property, upgrades that boost its value, style and age of house, garages, fireplaces; when those are reviewed, the property’s value is compared to the selling prices of similar houses within the same neighborhood and the mortgage limit is determined;
  • home appraisal is less expensive than inspection – it costs about $300 dollars on average and most lenders include it in the mortgage costs;
  • house appraisals are also carried out during mortgage refinancing initiated by the borrower.

2. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO TO GET YOUR HOME APPRAISED IN YOUR FAVOR. ACCORDING TO THE SELLERS AND APPRAISERS, THESE MEASURES TEND TO WORK THE BEST:

  • Get your home deep cleaned professionally to make sure that its true value isn’t hidden under the dirt and dust that’s accumulated over the years. Hire house cleaning specialists to get your windows washed, your walls cleaned, your kitchen spotless, your wooden floors polished and your carpets steam cleaned. Tidy homes look more attractive to appraisers, as the cleanliness is a sign of a well-kept property.
  • Point out the most recent upgrades and additions you’ve carried out, as those boost the property’s value and reflect on the expert’s report in the most positive way. Let the appraiser know that you’ve installed new kitchen cabinets, refinished hardwood floors, upgraded plumbing, replaced windows, installed new energy-efficient HVAC units, protected your household by an advanced security system, replaced bathroom tile or got new carpet not too long ago. Even the smallest details may make a significant difference.
  • Consider minor repairs and sprucing up. Walk around your house paying close attention to the damage the expert’s critical eye may notice and use as one of the reasons to give a lower appraisal. No roof leaks, loose floor boards, shabby windows, dirty gutters, scratched walls and other flaws are allowed. Fix everything that has to be fixed, repaint walls, install new blinds or refinish kitchen cabinets. If you have some money to spare, think about hiring remodeling contractors to replace obviously outdated things like counter tops, bathtubs, linoleum floors or garage storage. Do everything you can to prove that you’ve maintained your house in a great condition and showcase its modern, but not outdated appearance.
  • Get your yard picked up. It has to look as nice and organized, cause appraisers pay just as much attention to the lot as to the house. Clean driveways, neat fences, mowed lawns, trimmed trees, a well-kept landscape and a patio, a good-looking curb and maintained house exterior make a positive impression on appraisers, as these factors indicate the property’s condition.
  • Conduct your own market research. It goes without saying that appraisers gather their own data regarding the value of similar properties and the prices they’re sold for in your local area. But carrying out your own research to have a few real numbers justifying the appraisal price your claim, determine the common problems similar properties faced during their appraisal, as well as understand what you may realistically hope for and what else may be fixed prior to the expert’s visit.

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Groundhog Day 2017: Meteorologists, Phil predict 6 more weeks of winter lie ahead

Just after sunrise on Thursday, Punxsutawney Phil declared six more weeks of winter for the United States – a prognostication AccuWeather meteorologists largely agree with.

Though many Americans are longing for warmer weather, most of the country will be faced with weeks of wintry conditions.

In this Feb. 2, 2016, photo, Groundhog Club handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather predicting groundhog, during the annual celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Across the Northeast, stormy weather is set to continue.

“There will be more rain than snow in the big East Coast cities,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. However, the interior Northeast will have a higher chance for snow as temperatures remain below normal.

“As far as a significant warmup goes across the Northeast, I think you have to hold off til late April or early May,” he said.

Cold air and snow will also persist in the Midwest, northern Plains and Northwest, enveloping nearly the entire northern tier of the country.

Northern and central California will see additional winter storms and rainfall. The abundant precipitation will continue to build a buffer for reservoirs in the coming months, Pastelok said.

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather staff writer

50 ways to give your finances a fresh start in 2017

We get it: Money resolutions can feel like a lost cause, especially if you’re already drowning in debt or saddled with uber-bad credit. But if the fear of falling short is stopping you from even attempting to reach any financial goals, well, it may be time to think smaller. There are lots of little steps you can take over the course of 2017 that, in tandem, can lead to ultimate financial balance.

Here are 50 ways to give your finances a fresh start this year.

1. Do your taxes ASAP

You’ll want to avoid taxpayer identity theft, which can delay a much-needed refund. Plus, an early refund can bolster your financial situation.

2. Auto-save

Jumpstart your emergency fund by setting up an automatic deposit or transfer into a savings account each month.

3. Give cash a try

If you’re prone to overspending on credit or debit, spend a week or two keeping only cash in your wallet. You can’t overspend cash — once it’s gone, it’s gone.

4. Ask for a raise

If you have a performance review coming up, or the opportunity to ask for a raise, now’s the time to take stock of your professional value and put together a pitch for better compensation.

5. Check your credit scores

You can’t know what to improve if you don’t know where you stand. You can get two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

6. Spring-clean your credit report

Do a major audit by pulling your free annual credit reports via AnnualCreditReport.com and dispute any errors you find with the credit bureau(s) in question. (You can go here to learn how.)

7. Re-evaluate your savings strategy

See if you can maximize your savings by opening an account with a higher annual percentage yield (APY) than your current one or consider a savings vehicle, like a money market fund or a Certificate of Deposit (CD).

8. Move

While it can cost a lot at first, moving can be a long-term money-saving strategy. A good rule of thumb is to keep your housing expenses below 30% (or, ideally, less than 25%) of your income. Do the math and a little research to see if you can do better than your current rent payment. Make sure you factor any the expense of any increase in commute times to make sure it really would be a financially beneficial move.

9. Ask for a lower credit card APR

If you’re paying high interest on your credit card, see if you can’t talk it down. By negotiating down your annual percentage rate (APR), you could save serious money.

10. Get a balance transfer credit card

Look into moving high-interest credit card debt onto a new card touting a low-to-no introductory APR for the rest of the year (or longer). Note: Most issuers charge a balance-transfer fee.

11. Prioritize payments

Our favorite way to pay down multiple credit cards? Put as much money as you can toward the balance with the highest APR, while paying the minimum on your other plastic. That way, you’ll save on interest charges.

12. Consider a credit-builder loan …

If your credit is shot, which would increase your APRs, one way you can start to rebuild your payment history is with a credit-builder loan. You can look into credit-builder loans at your local bank or credit union.

13. … or a secured credit card

Secured credit cards, which require an upfront deposit that serves as your credit limit, are designed specifically for people who need to build or fix their credit. You can find our picks for the best secured credit cards here.

14. Figure out where the ‘right’ ATMs are

Every time you use an out-of-network ATM, you’re paying money to use your own money. Cutting back on those fees can really help you save in the long run.

15. Simply review your budget

How often do you look over your budget? If it’s been a while, start the year off fresh with a budget more customized to where you (and your finances) are today.

16. Scour your credit card statements

You could spot areas where you’re overspending. Plus, you’ll want to be on the lookout for fraud or billing errors.

17. Try a budgeting app

There are a lot of free ones out there that can track your spending, point out what expenses are really draining your bank account and alert you when you’re about to go overboard.

18. Eat at home

Dining out too often can put a serious strain on your wallet. Try cooking at home just a few times a week, and you’re sure to free up some money you can use to pay down debts or put into a savings account.

19. Plan your meals

Better yet, try planning out your meals several days or a week in advance, and set aside time to shop for and prepare them. This minimizes the chance you’ll dine out, which is generally more expensive than home-cooked food.

20. Cancel memberships

If you’re not using your streaming account, or don’t use it that often, go ahead and cancel it. You can always renew later if you decide you miss it, and you’ll free up money each month.

21. Review your transportation situation

Can you begin biking to work or ride with a friend to cut gas expenses? Perhaps walking to work a few times a week could help you save on bus fare.

22. Invest

If you haven’t already started putting money aside for retirement, this may be the year to start doing so. Added bonus: If your company matches any investments you make, it’s like getting free money for those golden years.

 

23.  Look into a rewards credit card 

If you charge a lot and pay those balances off in full, but only have a standard credit card, you may be losing out on rewards for your spending. Check your credit scores and see what types of cards you’d qualify for. You may even be able to get a rewards card that doesn’t have an annual fee.

24. Evaluate your rewards credit card

Already have a rewards credit card? Now may be the time to look at it and see what perks it’s offering you. Does your credit card reward you most for money you spend at the gas station? That’s great if you drive a lot, but if you’re taking public transportation or walking, there may be a better rewards credit card out there for you.

25. Negotiate with your creditors

If you’ve got outstanding debts, see if the creditor or collector will agree to a payment plan. (You can find tips for negotiating with creditors here.)

26. Clip coupons

Yes, it’s old-fashioned, but those weekly circulars from your local grocery store, and coupons from newspapers, mailers and sites like Coupon.com can really add up, especially if you hit double- or triple-coupon days.

27. Pay off a loan

If you’re nearing the end of your loan term, whether it’s for a car, student loan or something else, consider paying it off if you have the cash. You’ll cut out the interest you would’ve paid and, chances are, you’re paying more in interest for the loans than you’re making on the money if you leave it in your savings account until the bill comes due.

 

28. Review your insurance policies

It’s a good idea to review your insurance policies — whether it’s your home insurance, car insurance or any other type — to see if you’re still getting the coverage you need. Then, take that information and shop around to make sure you’re getting the best price available.

29. Ask more questions

Personal finance can be really confusing, so don’t be embarrassed if you don’t understand some of the concepts — even the seemingly basic ones. Commit to learning more about things like how credit works, your options for retirement planning or smart ways to use your credit card.

30. Set calendar reminders

Putting bill due dates in a digital calendar and setting up notifications will help you remember to pay things on time and save you the hassle of late-payment fees or damaged credit.

31. Set a savings goal

Think back on what you wanted to do last year but couldn’t afford. Was it a vacation? Buying holiday gifts? Build an emergency savings? Figure out how much you want to save, when you want to save it by and how much you have to set aside each month to reach that goal. Then do it.

32. Give up your vices or guilty pleasures

Do you put too many dollars toward dining out? Perhaps you spent too much on alcohol or cigarettes? Consider giving up these things (or at least cutting back on them) and using the excess cash to pay down debts, build up an emergency fund or save for a big ticket item.

33. Sell stuff you don’t need

Take a look around the house and see if there’s anything you’re not using. By selling your unwanted items, you can free up money to put toward your savings or paying down credit card debt.

34. Change your passwords

Protect financial accounts by changing up those access digits, especially if you’re using any of the worst passwords from 2015.

35. Comparison shop

Want to score a great deal? Search online and shop around to find the best deals on products. You don’t have to settle for the first deal you see.

36. Consult a professional

If your money situation is complex, a visit with a certified financial planner, credit counselor or certified public accountant may be worthwhile.

37. Turn your hobby into cash

Websites like Etsy have made it possible for thousands of people to sell their wares with little or no investment beyond the craft itself. So, if you make your own candles, scented soaps or other artisinal wares, consider setting up a shop.

38. Fill a piggy bank

At the end of every day, drop your loose change into a jar or other vessel — it doesn’t have to be a piggy bank per se — and do it every day. One of our editors tried this last year and had $285 in change by the end of it. That’s a nice dinner out, and then some.

39. Cut water costs

If you don’t already have low-flow shower heads and toilets, consider getting them. New toilets can be expensive, but you can cheat by filling a liter bottle with water and then dropping it in the tank so you don’t use as much water each time you flush.

40. Buy generic brands

Why pay full price for name brands when generics work just as well? Get in the habit of buying these, at least some of the time, and your wallet is sure to get fatter.

41. Make shopping lists

An easy way to save money is by making a shopping list before you hit the stores. Stick to it, especially if you’re shopping when you’re hungry, and you’ll avoid buying items you just don’t need.

42. Refinance

If your credit has improved, see if you can qualify for a lower-rate on a mortgage, auto loan or private student loan, for instance. Just be sure to account for any fees associated with refinancing before you go ahead and do so.

43. Make your home energy efficient

It may cost more upfront, but little upgrades like installing a programmable thermostat can help you cut down your energy costs. You can find more ideas for making your home energy-efficient on EnergyStar.gov.

44. Use the library

If you buy a lot of books or music, try borrowing it from the library instead. As long as you avoid late return fees, you’ll end up saving a considerable amount of money.

45. Consolidate your credit card debt 

Look into getting a personal loan, or debt consolidation loan, to consolidate debts you’re carrying on multiple credit cards. Depending on your credit, you may be able to secure a lower rate.

46. Live below your means

Spending less than you earn on a regular basis is one way to ensure you always have an emergency fund on hand. Borrowing less than you need — or at least not over-borrowing — will save you big on interest.

47. Reevaluate your tax withholding

Sure, a big tax refund is nice, but it indicates you were paying the government too much all year. Consider changing your withholding specification on your W-4 to get more money back on each paycheck.

48. Wait a day before buying

If you’re prone to impulse-shopping, institute a one-day waiting period before buying. That’ll give you time to evaluate if the purchase is a want or a need.

49. Pay your credit card more than once a month

Link your debit card account to your credit card account and then make a habit of paying down your balances once a week — or at least twice a month. That’ll help you avoid spending more than what’s in your bank account.

50. Skip the trip

Sure, an expensive vacation seems like a necessity, but, if finances are tight this year, opt for a staycation or an affordable road trip instead.

 

4 ECO-FRIENDLY HOUSEHOLD BRANDS

When you and your family are looking for household brands you can trust, look for companies that are safe for both your loved ones and the environment. Here are four household brands that are eco-friendly and have their eye toward sustainable practices.

Continental Tires

With the help of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology, Julius Kuehn- Institute and EKUSA, companies like Continental Tires are revolutionizing the future of tires. In particular, Continental has thought of a way to utilize the normally pesky dandelion as a key component in manufacturing eco-friendly tires. Within five to 10 years, Continental Tires plans to sell its tires with tread made totally out of polymer-based natural rubber versus rubber manufactured from the traditional “rubber belt” near the equator.

With the demand for rubber projected to rise in the next 10 years, this idea will be utilized as an alternative source for natural rubber production, taking pressure off rubber trees. As a weed, dandelions can be grown in many places that most crops, including rubber trees, can’t survive. But with the ability to grow its source of rubber next to its tire factories, Continental Tires will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, as the company no longer has to rely on transporting rubber from South America or West Africa. Continental Tires plans to use the next five to 10 years to sync the agronomy process and overcome other significant hurdles before introducing this innovative tire to the market.

Johnson & Johnson

Since 1986, Johnson & Johnson and its operating companies have been supplying your home with brands like Tylenol, Listerine, Band-Aid, Purell, Aveeno and so much more. The company’s subsidiaries have long operated under clean energy protocols and have adopted environmentally-friendly packaging. Since 2007, the Band-Aid brand has utilized materials from responsibly managed forests, which have been certified by the International Forest Stewardship Council. Johnson & Johnson has nine solar facilities that have helped the Band-Aid brand achieve a 9 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 to 2008.

General Mills

Since 1930, General Mills has been committed to sustainability with its recycled paperboard packaging and crop rotation practices. Since 2010, GM has been working aggressively to reach its environmental sustainability goals. The company plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by using renewable energy sources whenever possible.

GM also plans to reduce its energy and water usage by 20 percent through various energy reduction processes and identify opportunities to target water conservation. GM’s facilities, like the one in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are recycling nearly 90 percent of their output, which is a large increase compared to 48 percent in 2010. The company also plans to continue expanding its recycling program, which reduces its own landfill waste by almost 33 tons every month.

Clorox

Green Works Cleaners, from the Clorox company, is a line of cleaning products powerful enough to clean your home without the harsh chemical fumes that harm you and your loved ones. It’s a perfect addition to your green and natural lifestyle that incorporates plant- and mineral-based cleaning ingredients that are biodegradable and not tested on animals. Green Works uses environmentally-sustainable packaging as often as possible. Additionally, all of Green Works’ household and commercial products carry the EPA’s Design for the Environment logo, meaning its products are great for your family and the environment.

 

Seattle is ranked No. 9 for party cities

Seattleites don’t need a reason to party. But if they did, here’s one more: Seattle has been ranked one of the top party cities in the nation.

Evite, a digital event-planning service,  said Thursday that Seattle is on its annual list of the Top 20 Party Cities of 2016.

Seattle came in ninth with 41,976 events recorded by Evite, beating out Washington, D.C., Dallas, Portland, Denver and San Francisco.

The list is based on Evite’s data, which analyzed the number of events with specified sites planned over the past year in cities in the U.S. and Canada.

In its press release, Evite said that “the biggest party days of the year are usually the last two Saturdays before Christmas. This year, the most parties are expected to be held on Saturday, Dec. 10 and Saturday, Dec. 17 (since the last Saturday before Christmas is both Christmas Eve and the start of Hanukkah).”

The top 10 cities were: Houston, Chicago, Austin, San Diego, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, San Jose, Seattle and Washington.