What’s a Mixed-Use Building & Should You Live in One

As more Americans move into urban areas, city planners have to get inventive to accommodate them. One solution that’s becoming increasingly popular is mixed-use developments. But just because this is a favorable option for city planners doesn’t mean it will be a good fit for you. Learn what mixed-use buildings are and read up on […]

The post What’s a Mixed-Use Building & Should You Live in One appeared first on Apartment Life.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

June Financial To-Do List + Calendar

Life happens, but you can be prepared for the unexpected with an emergency savings fund. These funds are designed to be set aside for unanticipated expenses, such as:

  • Unexpected job loss
  • Unforeseen medical expenses
  • Car repair
  • Family emergencies

Emergency funds serve as an important financial buffer in the event of an emergency, and it’s easy to get started with this savings task. In this month’s financial checklist, we’re going to focus on tasks that will help you build an emergency savings fund.

 June Financial Checklist: Emergency Savings

  1. Determine how much you want to put away
  2. Pick where to save your emergency fund
  3. Set up automatic contributions
  4. Pad your emergency fund
  5. Review and adjust your contributions monthly

Let’s look at ways you can boost your savings, build your emergency fund, and keep your finances on track as we enter the second half of the year.

  1. Determine how much you want to put away

Set a goal savings amount that is moderately challenging but attainable.

  • Less aggressive: 3 months of living expenses
  • More aggressive: 6 months of living expenses

Example: If you make $3,200 per month after taxes, you’ll want to have $9,600 to $19,200 in your emergency fund.

2. Pick where to save your emergency fund

Consider emergency savings as untouchable for expenses that are just wants – keep this money here for when you really need it.

To help resist the temptation of spending these savings, put your emergency fund in the right place:

  • High-yield savings account
  • Money market account
  • Certificate of Deposit (CD)
  • Roth IRA

Sometimes there’s not a one-size fits all solution. Consider putting emergency funds away in more than one of the above options. 

3. Set Up Automatic Contributions

  • Funnel some of your paycheck directly into your emergency fund
  • Start with a small percentage, and be sure you can still live comfortably
  • Make contributions more aggressive over time if possible

4. Pad your emergency savings

  • Sell old things you no longer use
  • Funnel “surprise” cash into your savings
  • Save your tax refund
  • Try a no-spending challenge
  • Take on a side hustle

5. Review and adjust your contributions monthly

  • Check in each month to see how much you’re putting away
  • Adjust your contributions if your account isn’t building quickly enough

 

Key Takeaways

Prefer to organize online? Create an editable copy of our June monthly template in three simple steps:

  1. Open our Calendar Template in Google Sheets
  2. Select “File”, then “Make a Copy”
  3. Save in your own Google Drive to make edits

Our finance tips can help you throughout the year so be sure to take a look! Improve your finances in 2020 with our series of financial to-do lists tailored to each calendar month.

The post June Financial To-Do List + Calendar appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Should you get a corporate credit card?

Whether your employees fly a lot and need a card to reserve plane tickets or they purchase lumber or office supplies for the company at the store, getting them a company credit card is often a great way to keep track of expenses and make it easy for them to purchase what’s needed.

For many entrepreneurs, a small business credit card is the best solution. Many are designed to reward the types of purchases that employees typically make in a small firm.

However, for larger small businesses, getting a corporate credit card, like the ones big corporations issue to employees, often makes sense.

See related: How to get a business credit card

What is a corporate credit card?

Corporate cards are generally available only to larger small businesses, meaning those with at least several million dollars in annual revenue. A company may have to submit a federal tax ID and undergo an audit of its financials to qualify.

For example, the One Card from Capital One requires its users to have a minimum annual card spend over $1 million. Cards are issued to the company itself (rather than any individual) and require that you submit your tax ID and require an audit of company financials before approval.

Similarly, the One Card from J.P. Morgan is available to businesses that spend between $1 million and $9.9 million per year. The bank can also match companies that spend $20 million or more on travel with corporate credit cards.

Once an account has been opened, the company is responsible for paying the balance in full each billing cycle and managing spending of each cardholder. However, it is also the company that reaps any rewards the card may include, including statement credits or travel perks. In the case of the One Card from Capital One, businesses earn competitive rewards up to 1.5X net purchases.

Corporate credit card pros and cons

The biggest perk attached to corporate cards is the ease of tracking employee spending. Rather than having employees make personal charges and submit expense reports or receipts for reimbursement, the company can easily manage spend limits, track budget needs and manage fraud risk. Most corporate cards offer detailed analytics all in one system about where and how company money is being spent.

Since these cards are sometimes more complex, corporate cards often come with their own designated customer service representative who can help resolve any issues quickly. These representatives are usually on-call 24/7 and have an intricate knowledge of each company’s individual needs.

Pros

  • Simplified tracking and analysis of work-related purchases
  • Benefits and rewards help the company directly
  • Dedicated or on-call customer service representative
  • Prevents employees from trying to make personal charges on a company card with clearer visibility and better spending controls than most business cards

Cons

  • Additional cardholder fees can add up quickly
  • Not an option for smaller companies
  • Tough application process
  • Employees can’t earn their own rewards by using a personal card and getting reimbursed

See related: Managing employee cards on your credit card account

How corporate cards differ from small business credit cards

Both corporate and small business cards offer conveniences such as the ability to set limits on employees’ spending and to restrict spending to certain categories. Most also offer features that make it possible to track expenses easily.

However, corporate cards come with certain benefits that small business cards don’t offer – and vice versa.

Availability

Unlike corporate credit cards, business cards are available to any-sized business – even entrepreneurs just getting started on their own. The application process is much less intensive and usually doesn’t require an audit of company finances.

Responsibility for the debt

Business cards are issued to an individual and the company (unless it is a sole proprietor), and even if additional cards are added for employees, the business owner is responsible for managing payments.

Typically, a small business owner must personally guarantee a small business card, though some small business cards come with joint and several liability, where the owner shares liability with the business. With joint and several liability, a creditor can pursue either the business or the owner for a debt.

With most corporate cards, the company is generally liable for the debt on employees’ cards, which is a big advantage in many owners’ eyes. When the company guarantees the debt, the owner is not held responsible if, for instance, the company fails without paying its bills.

Some corporate cards also offer what’s known as individual liability. That means the employee must stay current on paying the bill in the short term and request reimbursement upon filing an expense report. This is less common than it used to be. It’s not necessarily ideal for employees, who may not have the cash available to pay for large charges until their expense report is processed.

Credit CARD Act doesn’t apply to business or corporate accounts. But many card issuers grant those CARD Act protections anyway, as a matter of practice. Nevertheless, don’t take anything for granted. Before using your corporate or business card, familiarize yourself with its rules.

Credit impact

While corporate cards are typically used for work-related travel and accommodation, business cards can be used to make all sorts of work purchases, including supplies or merchandise. This allows even small businesses to build a great credit profile. By using a business card to make larger payments, business owners can avoid racking up charges on their personal credit cards while steadily building their business credit.

With small business cards, employees are considered authorized users. As a result, their card activity may be reported to credit bureaus.

For some employees, this is a drawback. For instance, if they have put expenses from a costly business trip on their card, they may find their credit utilization is high enough to affect their personal credit. That could be a problem if, for instance, they are applying for a mortgage.

In contrast, with a corporate card, card usage does not affect employees’ personal credit. That is a big plus from an employee’s point of view.

See related: Should I wait until my business is more established to get a credit card?

Cost

Small business credit cards tend to have fewer fees, including no additional charge for employee cards with cards such as Capital One Spark Cash for Business the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card from Chase.

Corporate cards generally charge for this and may charge as much as $100 a year or more. This is because they often offer more robust features, like access to a specific sales rep or access to enterprise software for filing expense reports.

Of course, if you run a larger small business, the extra benefits may be worth it. It all depends on the needs of your business.

Should you get a corporate card for your business?

While corporate cards offer a wide range of great benefits such as easy expense tracking, dedicated customer service representatives and no liability for individual employees, they are typically only available to large corporations with millions in annual revenue.

If you own a small business, a business credit card can help steadily build a credit history for your company. Business cards can also help you make large purchases to pay off over time.

Source: creditcards.com

How Long Does It Take To Get a Credit Card?

Generally speaking, it takes seven to 10 business days to get a credit card once you’re approved. The specific amount of time can vary as many factors throughout the process affect how fast you receive your card. Getting approved can happen in a matter of seconds or days, depending on what kind of card you apply for. Whether you apply online or in person may also affect how fast you’ll receive your credit card in the mail.

How Long Does It Take to Get My Card in the Mail?

The longest step in getting a credit card is waiting for it to come in the mail. Shipping time frames can vary depending on which credit card you apply for. Here are the average time frames of many popular credit card companies today:

  • American Express: seven to 10 business days
  • Wells Fargo: seven to 10 business days
  • Discover: three to five business days
  • Capital One: seven to 10 business days
  • Bank of America: seven to 10 business days
  • Chase: three to 5 business days
  • Citi: seven to 10 business days

Unfortunately, the time it takes for the credit card to go through the mail can be impacted by many factors out of your control. You may get your card sooner than stated above, or later if there are external mail carrier issues.

How to Get a Credit Card Right Away

Unfortunately, most credit cards aren’t made available to you the same day you apply. Even though you can get approved for a card almost instantly, you must still wait for the card to come in the mail. However, credit card companies sometimes offer options to help speed up the process.

Most banks offer expedited shipping if you need your card delivered faster than usual. Depending on what type of card and bank you apply with, they may charge you an extra fee for this option. Some banks will make things easier for you by giving you your credit card number right after approval. This allows you to start making purchases while waiting for the physical card to arrive. American Express typically allows this with all of their cards to increase their user satisfaction.

What to Do If You Haven’t Received Your Card Yet

If you notice that you haven’t received your card after some time, reach out to your bank or credit card company. By reaching out, you minimize the risk of the card getting lost or stolen. Your bank may also be able to provide you with a temporary card while they sort everything out. Not all lenders, but if they do they may charge you an additional fee.

How To Apply for a Credit Card

To get a credit card, you must first apply either online or in person for approval. Receiving the credit card itself and waiting to be approved are two separate steps. Therefore, the time it takes to receive your card can vary from person to person.

What Do Creditors Look for in Applications?

Credit card applications typically ask for your personal information as well as your financial background. To determine your financial background, they’ll ask for your Social Security number and source of income.

Your Social Security number will allow the creditors access to your credit report. After close evaluation, you’ll either be approved or declined for the card. When looking at your report, creditors typically pay close attention to data such as your debt-to-income ratio, hard inquiries, and any delinquent accounts you may have.

What Do Creditors Look for In a Credit Report?

Your debt-to-income ratio refers to how much of your card’s limit is spent. Consistently using too much of your limit may cause creditors to view you as more of a high-risk borrower. Similarly, too many hard inquiries can make you seem risky. Finally, a delinquent account is another red flag. This shows that you may not have been paying off your credit card bills on time. Lenders won’t be as willing to approve you for a credit card if you have a history of account delinquency, as it’s not a good sign for them that you’ll be a reliable borrower.

Some credit card companies pre-approve users who they think may be a good fit based on a soft version of their credit report. A soft version of your report gives lenders a glimpse of your financial background, but won’t affect your credit score. When your report shows that you meet a few requirements, they’ll send a card in the mail for you to use if you apply. Receiving the card in the mail doesn’t mean that you are automatically approved. It just helps speed up the process of getting a credit card. Pre-approving users is a way companies market their cards to users, in hopes of them applying later on.

How to Build Credit With a Credit Card

When you use a credit card, you build credit simultaneously. The way you manage and use your card can have either a positive or negative effect on your credit score.

How Long Does It Take to Build Credit?

If this is your first time using a credit card, then you are most likely building credit from scratch. Building a credit score doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes about six months or so to build enough credit to have a credit report. Beginning early can be of great benefit to you down the line. A major factor in the calculation of your credit score is the length of your credit history. The longer you’ve spent building your credit, the more of a positive impact it can have on your score.

Ways to Keep Your Credit Score Healthy

When using a credit card, it can pay off in the long run to follow some best practices. You can do this by having a good understanding of what exactly factors into your credit score. The following are good habits to establish for maintaining a healthy score:

  • Make on-time payments to avoid a delinquent account.
  • Aim to only use 30 percent of your credit limit at a time to show you can manage your card wisely.
  • Avoid applying to too many cards or loans in a short time, as it can result in a hard inquiry. Too many hard inquiries can be the reason you are getting declined for your financial requests.
  • Stay on top of monitoring your credit score and report, so you can identify any mistakes before it’s too late to fix.

Buildig Credit Best Practices

While the most common time frame for getting a credit card is seven to 10 days, it can vary from person to person. If this seems like a long time, try reaching out to your bank. They may be able to expedite shipping or give you access to your credit card number in advance. Each credit card lender is different, so it’s important to do your research before applying. Take a look at our guide on the best credit card offers to help start your search.

The post How Long Does It Take To Get a Credit Card? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What Is New-House Smell? A Reality Check on the Risks, and How To Get Rid of It

new house smellMaría Garrido / EyeEm / Getty Images

While most of us are familiar with new-car smell—that distinct scent of a brand-new automobile—home buyers might have caught a whiff of another scent entirely during their home-shopping spree: new-house smell.

What exactly is new-house smell? Also known as new-construction smell, it’s essentially a combination of smells given off by the many materials that go into building a house—things like fresh paint, carpet, wood, and adhesives. If there’s any new furniture in the home, that could be contributing to the smell as well.

But is new-house smell unhealthy to breathe in, day after day? Here’s a closer look at what new-house smell is made of, and how to get rid of it, too.

What is new-house smell?

Before we dive deep into new-house smell, let’s take a step back—way back—and look at what causes anything to smell in the first place.

Bill Carroll Jr., an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University, says all smells come from molecules in the air that your nose can detect. The molecules must evaporate to get into the air, and the more likely they are to evaporate, the more volatile they are and the easier they are to inhale and detect as odors.

“If you can smell it, it’s because of a molecule in the air,” Carroll says. “The fact that it’s in the air means that it is a volatile compound at least to some extent.”

As scary as “volatile” sounds, it doesn’t necessarily mean a substance is dangerous or explosive. Carroll says it simply means that something can easily evaporate into the atmosphere, thus releasing an odor. For example, he says metals aren’t very volatile, which is why you probably don’t smell much (hopefully) if you sniff your stainless-steel refrigerator. Other materials like paints, adhesives, and plastics, however, are more highly volatile.

Are VOCs dangerous?

While new-house smells aren’t necessarily dangerous, there is some concern about certain types of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that exist in some building materials (e.g., paint, carpet, and furniture). Some have been linked to health issues, including cancer and central nervous system damage in people (e.g., construction workers who don’t wear face masks) exposed to high quantities of such materials.

“When you talk about VOCs that raise health concerns, that goes more to a substance’s inherent toxicity or reactivity,” Carroll says. “It’s the difference between smelling a banana and smelling paint stripper, for example. They’re both volatile, but they have very different toxicities.”

“Regardless of odor, the ability of some of the VOCs emitted from any of [building] products and materials to cause health impacts or create other dangerous conditions varies greatly, depending on several factors,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “These factors may include the type and amount of VOCs emitted, the toxicity of the individual and combined VOCs, the ventilation rate in the space, the type and amount of other materials in the space, occupant level of exposure and length of time exposed, and the health of the exposed occupants.”

However, this is definitely not to say that a new-house smell will make you sick.

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Watch: Get Smoker’s Smell Out of Your House for Good—Here’s How

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The good news is that because of concerns raised over certain dangerous VOCs in the past 40 to 50 years, there’s a been a strong movement to reduce them. Carroll says that’s most apparent in regard to paint. While oil-based paints used to emit high levels of VOCs and the odor would linger for a long time, today’s paints contain virtually no VOCs and their odor dissipates more quickly.

In general, that means new houses today have much less of a pronounced smell than they did a years ago—and are less hazardous. For the overwhelming majority of the population, the odor is at worst a nuisance.

To reduce any potential indoor air–related health impacts from VOCs, the EPA recommends using low-emitting products and building materials and increasing ventilation. The agency also offers further information on VOCs and indoor air auality.

How to get rid of new-house smell

“If you like new-house smell, that’s OK,” Carroll says. “If you don’t, it’s important to remember that the solution is dilution.”

He says for an empty house, that means opening the windows to air things out, and usually in a matter of days that new-house smell will disappear. Another solution is to “bake” a new home. Since some VOCs evaporate more quickly at higher heats, this technique has a homeowner turn up the heat in the unoccupied house for a few days while running fans to push them out the windows. Running exhaust fans and using an air purifier may speed things up, too.

Carroll says what’s more concerning than new-house smell, however, is what you bring into your place on your own.

“The greatest source of VOCs is the stuff you bring into your house,” Carroll says. Items such as furniture, cleaners, waxes, and fragrances expose people to far more VOCs over the course of a lifetime.

Know this: If you’re moving into a new home and get a whiff of that telltale new-house smell, it will eventually wear off, even if you do nothing. Promise.

The post What Is New-House Smell? A Reality Check on the Risks, and How To Get Rid of It appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Boost Your Credit Score: 8 Helpful Credit Monitoring Apps

Two smiling women look at credit monitoring apps on their cellphones.

Maintaining a healthy credit score requires a good bit of focus, determination and hard work. There’s a lot to keep up with: We need to pay our bills on time, reduce debt and maintain a low debt-to-credit ratio, among other requirements—all to ensure a top-notch credit score. We can use all the help we can get! To that end, here are eight credit monitoring apps that can help keep your credit building on track.

1. Credit.com

One of the only truly free credit monitoring apps—most others require you to have a paid subscription to their digital service in order to use the “free” app—the Credit.com mobile app allows you to access your entire credit profile, including your credit score and insight into how it compares to your peers. You’ll see where you currently stand, see how your score has changed—and why—and get credit information and money-saving tips tailored to your score.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free

2. myFICO

The myFICO app is free, but it requires an active myFICO account, which means it effectively costs $20 per month or more, depending on which features you want. With this app, though, you can view and monitor your FICO scores—the most widely used credit score—and credit reports. They also provide a FICO Score Simulator, which shows you how your score may be affected if you take certain actions.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires an active myFICO account

3. Lock & Alert from Equifax

Lock & Alert from Equifax lets you lock and unlock your Equifax credit report to protect against identity theft and fraud. You’ll get an alert any time your account is locked or unlocked so you know you’re the one in control. A credit lock is not as secure as a credit freeze, but it does offer some level of protection and is generally easier to turn on and off. This app works only for your Equifax credit report, so if you want to lock all three reports, you’ll have to work with TransUnion and Experian separately.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free

4. Experian

The Experian mobile credit monitoring app lets you track your Experian credit report and FICO score, with an automatically updated credit report every 30 days. The app also comes with Experian Boost, which can help you boost your score. The app alerts you when changes to your report or score occur, and offers suggested credit cards based on your FICO score.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but some features require a paid Experian account

5. Lexington Law

If you’ve signed up for credit repair services with Lexington Law, you can use their free mobile app to keep track of your progress. In addition to providing access to your credit reports from all three credit bureaus and updates on ongoing disputes, the money manager feature, similar to Mint, helps you track your income, spending, budgets and debts.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid Lexington Law account

6. TransUnion

The TransUnion mobile app allows you to refresh your credit score and credit report daily to see where you stand. It offers instant alerts if anything changes and offers Credit Lock Plus, which allows you to lock your TransUnion credit report to avoid identity theft and fraud. The Debt Analysis tool lets you calculate your debt-to-income ratio, and it allows you to view public records associated with your name.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid TransUnion Credit Monitoring account

7. ScoreSense Scores To Go

ScoreSense offers credit scores and reports from all three credit bureaus and daily credit monitoring and alerts to changes on your reports. This app also provides creditor contact information so you can address errors on your report quickly and efficiently. Score tracking features let you review how your score changes over time and how it compares to your peers.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid ScoreSense account

8. Self

Self helps you build—and track—your credit, making it great for people just establishing their credit profile or trying to rebuild damaged credit. Self offers one- and two-year loan terms, but instead of getting the money up front, the amount is deposited into a CD. You make regular payments for the term of the loan (at least $25 per month), and then get access to the money. There is no hard inquiry to open the account, but your payments are reported to all three credit bureaus, helping build your credit. Plus, while you are repaying your loan, you will have access to free credit monitoring and you VantageScore so you can track your progress.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a Self loan repayment of at least $25 per month

Credit Monitoring Apps to Fit Your Needs

With so many different options, you’re sure to find a credit monitoring app that meets your needs. And don’t forget: you can always check your score for free using Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card.

The post Boost Your Credit Score: 8 Helpful Credit Monitoring Apps appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

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“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

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If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

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“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

How to Get Rid of Mice in Your Apartment

Got mice?

If these pesky pests are in your apartment, we’ve got solutions. While it makes good sense to keep them out in the first place, we get it, stuff happens. The number one thing you should do is speak to your leasing office maintenance crew or landlord. Let them know you need pest control right away! Hopefully they will send in a professional company to rid you of the problem.

But you can also be proactive and takes steps to oust the intruders. You should know that mice live in groups. So, when you see one mouse, you probably have five, six or more squatters.

That’s a problem because mice can contaminate food and food preparation surfaces, which can lead to potential health issues.

Leave pesticides to the professionals

You might think that pesticides are the way to go to get rid of mice. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that’s only a good idea if you’re a pro. This is not a DIY project.

Improper use of pesticides could be toxic to both people and pets, and people with compromised immune systems can be especially vulnerable to improper use of pesticides.

Here’s what you can do to rid your home of furry unwanted irritants scurrying across the floor and more.

1. Use traps

If you’re not squeamish interacting with a dead mouse, then try the old-school method. Terminix recommends baiting the trap with peanut butter, bacon, chocolate, dried fruit or oatmeal. Another option is a glue trap.

Or, you can try something more modern. There are actually traps that use high voltage to shock the mouse. It might sound cruel, but since it happens quickly, there’s no suffering. How does it work? The bait station is in the back of the unit. The mouse enters the trap and triggers a sensor. That’s when a high voltage electric current electrocutes the mouse in seconds.

Alternatively, catch-and-release traps are a humane option. When you trap a mouse, you can release it far from where you live.

2. Seal-off floor and wall gaps

mouse hole

If you see an opening where wires and conduits are in your apartment, those could be road maps for vermin. Mice can enter a building or home through the smallest opening or crack.

Plug up even the tiniest holes, even the ones the size of a nickel! Mice commonly move through walls, ceilings, floors and even cabinets.

3. Your in-house mouser superheroes

The furry pet you want in your house just might solve your mouse problem. If they’re up for it. Your cat is your live-in pest control agent. Some dogs can take on the task of de-mousing with vigor, too.

Mice love pet food. So, if you leave it out for your pet, that’s likely where your cat or dog will find the pest, nibbling away on his or her food.

4. All-natural repellents

Here’s a natural way to repel the critters as a preventive measure from the start. There are various mice repellents on the market that contain no chemicals and are also pet-friendly.

Ingredients matter, so look for the ones that have peppermint essential oil or balsam fir oil. These specific fragrances cause mice to find the closest exit. Humane and effective, you can find this option as a spray repellent or in sachet or pouch form.

5. Keep food sealed in the pantry

sealed food

Mice are in search of food. If you have a mouse problem, be sure that your food is safely sealed. Keep it out of the sight or smell of any mouse traipsing through your house. This means investing in airtight food canisters.

If there’s a package that’s ripped or open, remember that annoying mice can squeeze into even the tiniest opening in a bag or box of food.

Don’t do it all yourself

To help keep mice out of your apartment, have a list of what needs to be done to have a mouse-free home. The EPA recommends that you check your plumbing. Cover gaps and seals around sills, sewer lines and other spots they could squeeze into.

Ask the maintenance team in your apartment complex to do the hard stuff. This includes using caulk, knitted copper mesh, steel wool or foam insulation to block access around pipe openings.

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The post How to Get Rid of Mice in Your Apartment appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

6 Tips to Survive Tandem Parking

Tandem parking is probably the least enjoyable “tandem thing to do.” There’s tandem skydiving, tandem bikes, but tandem parking … doesn’t that sound like a hassle?

What is tandem parking?

Tandem parking means you have to essentially share one large spot with the person you live with.

If you live in an urban area where street parking is difficult to find, you’re probably lucky to have a parking spot at all. Many big cities and multifamily developers have reduced the number of parking in new complexes. Multifamily developers are seeing less of a need to build parking lots simply because city dwellers now have the option to hop on city bikes, scooters, ride-share or take public transportation.

In Seattle, for example, 30 percent of new buildings proposed in the past several years don’t include any parking at all. Some designers have advocated for parking garages to be built as flex space that can be converted. Additionally, it’s pretty common now for building management for newer developments to charge tenants for parking.

Despite the cost, some renters are still willing to pay 5 percent more for parking.

parking garage

How does tandem parking work?

Tandem parking is a very long parking spot in which two cars could park — one in front of the other. Technically, it’s two parking spots in either a covered or open lot, but if you were on the inside, the car behind you would need to back out in order for you to get out.

It may be one step above having to circle your block for a street parking spot, but if you and your household have busy schedules, it may pose an issue.

Why do some apartment buildings have tandem parking?

Apartment buildings have tandem parking mostly because space is limited. Older developments tend to have tandem parking, but new buildings also offer this kind of parking structure, as well. Buildings that use tandem spots may often be able to squeeze in more spots.

Here are six tips for managing and dealing with tandem parking with neighbors.

1. Consider a rotation

If the area outside your apartment isn’t all that crowded for street parking, try a rotation from month to month with your roommate. Flip a coin or negotiate to decide who gets to park in the spot. This could also be contingent on who has a busier work or travel schedule.

Perhaps it can change based on the season, as well. For example, in the colder winter months, you can make the rotation week to week since it’s not ideal to park outside in the harsh winter weather with snow on the ground.

empty parking spot

2. Pay extra to permanently claim the spot as yours

Depending on how much you covet your parking spot, perhaps you can negotiate to pay a little more each month to make the on-site spot yours.

Of course, this would only work if both parties agreed. However, it could be worth a shot, especially if your roommate wants to save a little cash each month.

If your roommate is not on board with this idea, perhaps you can look into nearby garages and find out how much they cost to rent each month.

There are also free apps such as SpotAngels and SpotHero to help you find parking spots in urban cities. You can set filters to show you garages or parking meters.

3. Understand your schedules

Because the cars are positioned one in front of the other, the most efficient first step is to understand your tandem partner’s daily schedule. This is probably the most important part of sharing a tandem spot, especially if the previous two tips aren’t an option. If you have similar working hours, a month-to-month swapping of who gets to park on the inside vs. outside may work out.

Whoever tends to leave first in the morning should park last, but schedules may change frequently, too. If that’s the case, communicate frequently about these changes. Also, consider getting a whiteboard to place near the door in your apartment that gives the latest update on when you need to leave in the morning or when you’ll arrive home in the evening.

4. Get a key

If you’ve ever seen a solo valet worker hustle to move cars to bring your car from the depths of the endless rows of cars, you know moving cars is time-consuming. While backing out your roommate’s car isn’t nearly as much work, it can definitely cause delays and isn’t ideal if you’re in a hurry.

In the event of an emergency or if you need to leave and they’re not home or still sleeping, you could give each other a spare car key.

Whether you keep the keys inside of a lockbox in the garage or on your keyring, having a plan for this will give both vehicle owners peace of mind.

girl on phone

5. Communicate often

If you both work sporadic schedules, send a text reminder of when you’ll be home and if you need to leave early in the morning. Having this plan could help you get in and out faster.

If you’re dealing with multiple people in your household who share two tandem spots, you may want to create a WhatsApp channel dedicated to schedule updates. There are also GPS apps that show in real-time when you’ll arrive home, in case your roommate needs to move their car before you get home.

6. Talk to your landlord

Perhaps you live in a building where you sometimes see empty parking spots.

Talk to your landlord, and see if you could pay a little extra to take one of the empty spots, even if it’s just temporary.

There’s no harm in asking your landlord about the options, especially if you and your roommate are having a hard time managing the tandem spot.

Tandem parking is manageable

While most apartment dwellers would rather have individual parking spaces rather than tandem spots, the way you manage it can make your lives easier.

Of course, tandem parking is a lot easier if you generally get along with your roommate(s). If you’re swapping extra car keys, it’s important to have trust and believe they won’t be careless with your car in case they need to move it.

Know each other’s schedules and communicate frequently about any changes or emergencies that may arise.

The post 6 Tips to Survive Tandem Parking appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.