4 Things to Know Before Renting an Income-Restricted Apartment

Family sitting on couch in stylish income restricted apartmentThere’s no doubt about it: Like pretty much everything else in life, the cost to rent an apartment in the U.S. is going up.

Median monthly rent for U.S. apartments rose by 15 percent from 2000 to 2016, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. During that time, the median monthly rent went from $850 to $980.

To reduce the cost of an apartment, some renters turn to something called income-restricted housing. At complexes that offer income-restricted apartments, the monthly rental amount takes into account the renter’s income.

How does all of this work? Here are four things you should know before renting an income-restricted apartment.

1. Income-restricted apartments are designed to be affordable.

Income-restricted apartments are meant to help lower-income people afford a place to live. If you qualify for an income-restricted apartment, the savings can be significant.

To be approved for an income-restricted apartment, a household’s gross annual income must be at least 50 or 60 percent less than the median income of the area where you’re looking for an apartment. This percentage depends on the landlord and the type of unit you’re considering. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sets the income guidelines each year.

Here’s an example of how income-restricted housing works.

As of April 2018, a single person making 60 percent of the median income in Phoenix would pay $777 for a one-bedroom apartment or $933 for a two-bedroom apartment in Phoenix, according to the Arizona Department of Housing.

By comparison, the average April 2018 rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Phoenix was around $860 and around $1,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.

The rent for an income-restricted apartment doesn’t go up or down based on your income.

So, if you pay $777 a month for a one-bedroom, income-restricted apartment that’s identical to the one-bedroom, income-restricted apartment next door, your monthly rent also is $777. It doesn’t matter that your neighbor’s take-home pay is slightly more than your pay, as long as both of you meet the income guidelines.

2. The landlord of an income-restricted property will check your background.

As apartment landlords usually do, the landlord of an income-restricted property will make sure you can afford the rent by verifying your employment and income. This also allows the landlord to confirm that your income matches what’s required for an income-restricted apartment.

In addition, the landlord normally will look at your credit record, rental history, and criminal background before approving your rental application.

By the way, don’t lie about income or anything else on your application. If the landlord discovers the lie before you sign a lease, your application could be rejected. Or if the lie is uncovered after you’ve signed a lease, you could be evicted.

3. Income-restricted apartments aren’t public housing.

Income-restricted apartments are owned and operated by private landlords.

But if you live in public housing, a government-run housing authority owns your building and is your landlord, according to the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. In a few cases, a private company manages the property but the housing authority still owns it.

Typically, rent in public housing is based on a percentage of a renter’s annual income, so one renter might pay a lot less than a neighbor does for an identical apartment. This is known as income-based housing. Most residents of public housing pay 30 percent of their adjusted gross income, which is gross income minus tax deductions.

4. Income-restricted apartments often look like more expensive apartments.

In many cases, you can’t tell the difference between an income-restricted property and a traditional property, since they often appear a lot alike both inside and outside.

Here’s a description of an income-restricted apartment community in Texas:

“Beautifully landscaped grounds contain a swimming pool, picnic area, and a playground. We provide a fantastic clubroom with full kitchen, a fitness center, and an on-site laundry facility. Our apartments offer walk-in closets, large patios, fully equipped kitchens, and full-size washer/dryer connections.”

Sounds pretty great, right? Income restricted rental programs may be more common than you realize. Rental companies will often offer conventional and income restricted apartments side by side. You just have to know where to look and ask! Even if you’re not eligible for such apartments in your area, you can still find affordable apartments on ApartmentSearch. Search for apartments by price and once you sign your lease, get paid $200 in rewards.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

Mistakes I Made When I Bought My First House At The Age of 20

Are you thinking about buying a house? Do you want to avoid common home buying mistakes?

I bought my first house when I was only 20 years old. Even though that was a little over 11 years ago, I have looked back many times and wondered how I did it.first time home buying mistakes

first time home buying mistakes

I made so many first time home buyer mistakes!

Of course, I was young and had a lot to learn. But, I definitely could have done more research to avoid many of the home buying mistakes I made, like not comparing interest rates or understanding the total cost of buying a home.

I’m not alone in how I approached buying a house. There are many people who simply do not understand everything that goes into buying a house, and that’s something that can negatively impact your finances and cause stress. 

Over the years, I have received many emails about buying a house in your early 20s or when you’re young. I also get lots of questions from people who have been renting and are thinking about buying their first home.

I thought it would be interesting to look back on the home buying mistakes I made and explain how to avoid the same mistakes I made. Hopefully you can be a better prepared home buyer than I was!

The mistakes first time home buyers make can cost you money and may even lead to regret. Perhaps you’re wondering why you even bought your home!

One thing you may not know about me is that the first house I ever lived in was actually my own. Growing up, we always lived in small apartments and rented. I wanted to have a home of my own – moving so often as a child was tiring.

Buying a house and being a homeowner was a completely new thing for me.

I had never done yard work, had to deal with house maintenance, home repairs, or anything like that.

I was as new as could be when it comes to living in a house!

It was a buyer’s market when we started searching. It was back in 2009, so the housing market was coming down. This meant that a monthly mortgage payment wasn’t too much more than rent at an apartment.

I felt like I was ready to buy my first house, and I needed a place to live.

So, buying a house seemed like a logical decision.

I made many home buying mistakes, like I said. While I made it through everything, my mistakes could easily have led to major financial trouble.

Read on below to learn more about mistakes home buyers make and my first-time home buyer tips.

Related content on home buying mistakes:

Here were some of my home buying mistakes.

 

first-time home buyer mistakes

This was our first house.

I didn’t prepare.

I was only 20, so I didn’t really understand how things worked, even though I thought I did at the time.

I found an online mortgage lender, and back in 2009, that was kind of a new thing. The company ended up doing a bunch of odd things and made a bunch of paperwork mistakes. It almost seemed scammy because online mortgages were so new at the time.

While my realtor was great and a family friend, she recommended a mortgage loan officer to me, and I just used that person.

The loan officer was great and very friendly.

But, I didn’t compare interest rates at all, I didn’t try to raise my credit score before I started looking at homes, and more.

Instead, I should have been paying attention to my credit score and worked to increase it before I started looking at rates. Then, I should have applied with multiple mortgage lenders and found the best interest rate.

Basically, I didn’t prepare.

Had I spent time increasing my credit score and shopping around for better rates, I could have gotten a better interest rate and saved money on mortgage payments.

While a small percentage difference in interest may not sound like much, it makes a big difference in how much you pay each month and how much you pay over the course of your loan.

For example, here’s the difference in two 30-year mortgages on a $200,000 home (this is before annual taxes being added in to the monthly payment):

  • With an interest rate of 3.25% your monthly payment would be $870, and you would pay $313,349 over the course of your loan.
  • With an interest rate of 4% your monthly payment would be $955, and you would pay $343,739.

That’s a difference of $85 a month, and you will have paid $30,000 more once your mortgage is paid off.

Looking back, I would have done more research on the home buying process and the factors that impact interest rates.

One of the easiest things you can do to avoid this mistake is to start paying attention to your credit score. You can receive free credit reports and credit scores, and I recommend reading Everything You Need To Know About How To Build Credit to learn more.

I avoided adding up all of the costs because it was scary.

Okay, so I knew that having a house could/would be expensive, and luckily we were fine, but wow, are there a lot of costs!

I avoided adding them all up for a while because I knew they would be higher than I thought. Eventually I did, and I was right – adding everything all together was a doozy.

We didn’t start adding up these costs until we were farther along in the buying process, and this is one of the home buying mistakes many people make. 

There are lots of people who only think about their mortgage payment, but there are so many more costs associated with buying a home

Before we purchased a home, we should have gone through all of the typical costs of owning a house and compared it to our housing budget. Comparing your current budget to your new homeowner’s budget will tell you whether or not you can actually afford to buy a home.

Here are some of the homeownership costs you want to consider:

  • Gas/propane.  Many homes run on gas in order to have hot water, to use the stove, and so on.
  • Electricity. Generally, the bigger your home then the higher your electricity bill will be.
  • Sewer. On average, your sewer bill may cost around $30 a month from what I’ve seen.
  • Trash. This isn’t super expensive either, but it’s still a cost to include.
  • Water. Water bills can vary widely. I know many who live in areas where the average water bill is a few hundred each month.
  • Property taxes. Property taxes can vary widely from town to town. You may find yourself looking at two similar houses with similar price tags, but the property taxes may differ by thousands of dollars annually. That is a LOT of money. While it may seem small when compared to the actual home purchase price, remember that you have to pay property taxes annually and a difference of just $3,600 a year is $300 a month for life.
  • Homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance can be cheap in some areas but crazy expensive in others. Don’t forget to look into the cost of earthquake, flood, and hurricane insurance as well as that can add up quickly depending on where you live – not thinking about these was one of the home buying mistakes I made.
  • Maintenance and repairs. Even if your home is brand new, you may have to pay for repairs, which is something that will come up eventually. No matter how old your home is, repair and maintenance costs will eventually come into play.
  • Homeowners association fees. This can also vary widely. You should always see if the house you are interested in is in an HOA because the fees can be high and there may also be rules you don’t like.
  • Home furnishings. Furnishing your home can be done cheaply, but I know some who buy huge homes but can’t afford to put anything in them, such as a table, a bed, and so on. Why own a $500,000 house if you don’t have any furniture?

 

I probably should have spent less on the actual house.

While the house we bought was less than the amount we were pre-approved for, I definitely think that we could have found a house for even less.

We bought at the top of our budget, and this is one home buying mistake that can really get you in trouble.

Thinking back on it, the amount that we were pre-approved for, as young 20 year olds, was pretty insane. I am very glad that we did not buy a house that was that expensive.

It’s not uncommon to be approved for much more than your budget realistically allows for. Just because the bank approves you for a $350,000 mortgage, for example, does not mean you can afford to buy a house at that price.

We bought at the top of our budget thinking that we would get better jobs eventually. While that worked out in our favor since we were each barely making above minimum wage, it was a decision that could have ended quite badly.

 

We were living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have an emergency fund.

We were young and didn’t have high paying jobs when we bought our house. In fact, we were barely making more than minimum wage at our jobs.

While we never racked up credit card debt, I did accrue student loans and we were living paycheck to paycheck.

Had one major (or even minor) thing happened with our new house, the only option would have been taking on debt. This is not where you want to be if you have just taken out a big mortgage. 

The best way to avoid this first time home buyer mistake is to set some money aside for emergencies before you buy, and to buy a house that fits in your budget. You want to be able to continue saving while making your new monthly home payments.

 

Make sure your home insurance covers what you need.

While I never had to use my home insurance, there were a few things that it did not cover, and I should have at least thought about them beforehand.

One of the biggest coverage issues was flooding. Flooding is a common problem where we lived in Missouri, yet I didn’t realize until a few years after I had already lived in the house that flooding was not covered unless you signed up for an additional policy.

Now, we weren’t in a floodplain – your lender may require you to buy special flood insurance if you live in a floodplain – but basement flooding was still a fairly common issue where we lived. 

Another special insurance consideration are earthquakes. Many normal home insurance policies do not cover earthquakes.

You can avoid this home buying mistake by researching what is the best kind of insurance policy for where you live. Floods and earthquakes aren’t a problem everywhere, but in some places you may want to have that kind of coverage.

 

Have a larger down payment.

We were 20, and we didn’t have a lot of money saved up before we bought our house.

Therefore, we did not put down a 20% down payment. That might sound like a lot, but 20% is the recommended amount to put down if you want to avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance).

A lender charges PMI because putting less than 20% down makes the loan look like a riskier investment for them. PMI protects lenders from borrowers who default on their loans.

PMI is normally around 0.5% to 1% of the mortgage annually, and it’s added to your monthly payment. If you borrowed a $200,000 mortgage, you would likely pay between $1,000 to $2,000 a year until you paid down enough of your mortgage principal to remove PMI.

We put less than 5% down towards our house purchase, and this led to us having PMI.

I don’t remember exactly how much we paid each month for PMI, but looking back, I could have used that money to pay off my student loans faster, save more, and so on.

While having a larger down payment isn’t one of the home buying mistakes I could have easily changed back then, in general, just saving more money instead of frivolously spending it in the beginning would have been a good decision.

Related content: Can You Remove PMI From Your Mortgage?

 

So, what’s going on with the house now?

As many of you know, we sold our house over 5 years ago. We wanted to travel more, and selling our house made more sense than keeping it.

We actually sold it for quite a loss, as the market was further down than when we bought it.

I’m happy that we bought the house – it taught us a lot, gave us responsibility, and gave us a place to live! And, it taught us how to avoid home buying mistakes in the future.

One of the things I haven’t mentioned is what we paid each for our mortgage. Our monthly payments were just under $1,000. 

Where we lived in the midwest is known for being a low cost of living area. I can’t imagine how we would have bought a house in some other parts of the U.S.

But, the low cost of living meant that buying a house at 20 was more doable.

Is it normal to regret buying a house? Is it normal to have buyers remorse after buying a house?

I don’t know what the statistics are on home buyers remorse, but it does happen. Hopefully with the tips before buying a house above, you can avoid that as much as possible.

Also, being realistic when it comes to what to expect when buying a house can help greatly as well.

What home buying mistakes did you make when you purchased your home?

Related Posts

<!–
–>

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

6 First Time Home Buying Mistakes I Made When I Bought My First House

Are you thinking about buying a house? Do you want to avoid common home buying mistakes?

I bought my first house when I was only 20 years old. Even though that was a little over 11 years ago, I have looked back many times and wondered how I did it.first time home buying mistakes

first time home buying mistakes

I made so many first time home buyer mistakes!

Of course, I was young and had a lot to learn. But, I definitely could have done more research to avoid many of the home buying mistakes I made, like not comparing interest rates or understanding the total cost of buying a home.

I’m not alone in how I approached buying a house. There are many people who simply do not understand everything that goes into buying a house, and that’s something that can negatively impact your finances and cause stress. 

Over the years, I have received many emails about buying a house in your early 20s or when you’re young. I also get lots of questions from people who have been renting and are thinking about buying their first home.

I thought it would be interesting to look back on the home buying mistakes I made and explain how to avoid the same mistakes I made. Hopefully you can be a better prepared home buyer than I was!

The mistakes first time home buyers make can cost you money and may even lead to regret. Perhaps you’re wondering why you even bought your home!

One thing you may not know about me is that the first house I ever lived in was actually my own. Growing up, we always lived in small apartments and rented. I wanted to have a home of my own – moving so often as a child was tiring.

Buying a house and being a homeowner was a completely new thing for me.

I had never done yard work, had to deal with house maintenance, home repairs, or anything like that.

I was as new as could be when it comes to living in a house!

It was a buyer’s market when we started searching. It was back in 2009, so the housing market was coming down. This meant that a monthly mortgage payment wasn’t too much more than rent at an apartment.

I felt like I was ready to buy my first house, and I needed a place to live.

So, buying a house seemed like a logical decision.

I made many home buying mistakes, like I said. While I made it through everything, my mistakes could easily have led to major financial trouble.

Read on below to learn more about mistakes home buyers make and my first-time home buyer tips.

Related content on home buying mistakes:

Here were some of my home buying mistakes.

 

first-time home buyer mistakes

This was our first house.

I didn’t prepare.

I was only 20, so I didn’t really understand how things worked, even though I thought I did at the time.

I found an online mortgage lender, and back in 2009, that was kind of a new thing. The company ended up doing a bunch of odd things and made a bunch of paperwork mistakes. It almost seemed scammy because online mortgages were so new at the time.

While my realtor was great and a family friend, she recommended a mortgage loan officer to me, and I just used that person.

The loan officer was great and very friendly.

But, I didn’t compare interest rates at all, I didn’t try to raise my credit score before I started looking at homes, and more.

Instead, I should have been paying attention to my credit score and worked to increase it before I started looking at rates. Then, I should have applied with multiple mortgage lenders and found the best interest rate.

Basically, I didn’t prepare.

Had I spent time increasing my credit score and shopping around for better rates, I could have gotten a better interest rate and saved money on mortgage payments.

While a small percentage difference in interest may not sound like much, it makes a big difference in how much you pay each month and how much you pay over the course of your loan.

For example, here’s the difference in two 30-year mortgages on a $200,000 home (this is before annual taxes being added in to the monthly payment):

  • With an interest rate of 3.25% your monthly payment would be $870, and you would pay $313,349 over the course of your loan.
  • With an interest rate of 4% your monthly payment would be $955, and you would pay $343,739.

That’s a difference of $85 a month, and you will have paid $30,000 more once your mortgage is paid off.

Looking back, I would have done more research on the home buying process and the factors that impact interest rates.

One of the easiest things you can do to avoid this mistake is to start paying attention to your credit score. You can receive free credit reports and credit scores, and I recommend reading Everything You Need To Know About How To Build Credit to learn more.

I avoided adding up all of the costs because it was scary.

Okay, so I knew that having a house could/would be expensive, and luckily we were fine, but wow, are there a lot of costs!

I avoided adding them all up for a while because I knew they would be higher than I thought. Eventually I did, and I was right – adding everything all together was a doozy.

We didn’t start adding up these costs until we were farther along in the buying process, and this is one of the home buying mistakes many people make. 

There are lots of people who only think about their mortgage payment, but there are so many more costs associated with buying a home

Before we purchased a home, we should have gone through all of the typical costs of owning a house and compared it to our housing budget. Comparing your current budget to your new homeowner’s budget will tell you whether or not you can actually afford to buy a home.

Here are some of the homeownership costs you want to consider:

  • Gas/propane.  Many homes run on gas in order to have hot water, to use the stove, and so on.
  • Electricity. Generally, the bigger your home then the higher your electricity bill will be.
  • Sewer. On average, your sewer bill may cost around $30 a month from what I’ve seen.
  • Trash. This isn’t super expensive either, but it’s still a cost to include.
  • Water. Water bills can vary widely. I know many who live in areas where the average water bill is a few hundred each month.
  • Property taxes. Property taxes can vary widely from town to town. You may find yourself looking at two similar houses with similar price tags, but the property taxes may differ by thousands of dollars annually. That is a LOT of money. While it may seem small when compared to the actual home purchase price, remember that you have to pay property taxes annually and a difference of just $3,600 a year is $300 a month for life.
  • Homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance can be cheap in some areas but crazy expensive in others. Don’t forget to look into the cost of earthquake, flood, and hurricane insurance as well as that can add up quickly depending on where you live – not thinking about these was one of the home buying mistakes I made.
  • Maintenance and repairs. Even if your home is brand new, you may have to pay for repairs, which is something that will come up eventually. No matter how old your home is, repair and maintenance costs will eventually come into play.
  • Homeowners association fees. This can also vary widely. You should always see if the house you are interested in is in an HOA because the fees can be high and there may also be rules you don’t like.
  • Home furnishings. Furnishing your home can be done cheaply, but I know some who buy huge homes but can’t afford to put anything in them, such as a table, a bed, and so on. Why own a $500,000 house if you don’t have any furniture?

 

I probably should have spent less on the actual house.

While the house we bought was less than the amount we were pre-approved for, I definitely think that we could have found a house for even less.

We bought at the top of our budget, and this is one home buying mistake that can really get you in trouble.

Thinking back on it, the amount that we were pre-approved for, as young 20 year olds, was pretty insane. I am very glad that we did not buy a house that was that expensive.

It’s not uncommon to be approved for much more than your budget realistically allows for. Just because the bank approves you for a $350,000 mortgage, for example, does not mean you can afford to buy a house at that price.

We bought at the top of our budget thinking that we would get better jobs eventually. While that worked out in our favor since we were each barely making above minimum wage, it was a decision that could have ended quite badly.

 

We were living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have an emergency fund.

We were young and didn’t have high paying jobs when we bought our house. In fact, we were barely making more than minimum wage at our jobs.

While we never racked up credit card debt, I did accrue student loans and we were living paycheck to paycheck.

Had one major (or even minor) thing happened with our new house, the only option would have been taking on debt. This is not where you want to be if you have just taken out a big mortgage. 

The best way to avoid this first time home buyer mistake is to set some money aside for emergencies before you buy, and to buy a house that fits in your budget. You want to be able to continue saving while making your new monthly home payments.

 

Make sure your home insurance covers what you need.

While I never had to use my home insurance, there were a few things that it did not cover, and I should have at least thought about them beforehand.

One of the biggest coverage issues was flooding. Flooding is a common problem where we lived in Missouri, yet I didn’t realize until a few years after I had already lived in the house that flooding was not covered unless you signed up for an additional policy.

Now, we weren’t in a floodplain – your lender may require you to buy special flood insurance if you live in a floodplain – but basement flooding was still a fairly common issue where we lived. 

Another special insurance consideration are earthquakes. Many normal home insurance policies do not cover earthquakes.

You can avoid this home buying mistake by researching what is the best kind of insurance policy for where you live. Floods and earthquakes aren’t a problem everywhere, but in some places you may want to have that kind of coverage.

 

Have a larger down payment.

We were 20, and we didn’t have a lot of money saved up before we bought our house.

Therefore, we did not put down a 20% down payment. That might sound like a lot, but 20% is the recommended amount to put down if you want to avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance).

A lender charges PMI because putting less than 20% down makes the loan look like a riskier investment for them. PMI protects lenders from borrowers who default on their loans.

PMI is normally around 0.5% to 1% of the mortgage annually, and it’s added to your monthly payment. If you borrowed a $200,000 mortgage, you would likely pay between $1,000 to $2,000 a year until you paid down enough of your mortgage principal to remove PMI.

We put less than 5% down towards our house purchase, and this led to us having PMI.

I don’t remember exactly how much we paid each month for PMI, but looking back, I could have used that money to pay off my student loans faster, save more, and so on.

While having a larger down payment isn’t one of the home buying mistakes I could have easily changed back then, in general, just saving more money instead of frivolously spending it in the beginning would have been a good decision.

Related content: Can You Remove PMI From Your Mortgage?

 

So, what’s going on with the house now?

As many of you know, we sold our house over 5 years ago. We wanted to travel more, and selling our house made more sense than keeping it.

We actually sold it for quite a loss, as the market was further down than when we bought it.

I’m happy that we bought the house – it taught us a lot, gave us responsibility, and gave us a place to live! And, it taught us how to avoid home buying mistakes in the future.

One of the things I haven’t mentioned is what we paid each for our mortgage. Our monthly payments were just under $1,000. 

Where we lived in the midwest is known for being a low cost of living area. I can’t imagine how we would have bought a house in some other parts of the U.S.

But, the low cost of living meant that buying a house at 20 was more doable.

Is it normal to regret buying a house? Is it normal to have buyers remorse after buying a house?

I don’t know what the statistics are on home buyers remorse, but it does happen. Hopefully with the tips before buying a house above, you can avoid that as much as possible.

Also, being realistic when it comes to what to expect when buying a house can help greatly as well.

What home buying mistakes did you make when you purchased your home?

Related Posts

<!–
–>

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

True Travel Insurance Review Story – Surgery in the Dominican Republic

Today, I have a great article written by my sister-in-law and editor, Ariel Gardner. She is sharing her travel insurance review story, and goes in-depth on the travel insurance process. I asked her to write about this because I feel like it’s not really discussed, yet there is a lot to learn! You may have seen her here before talking about taking her side hustle full-time, living in a small house, real life frugality, and more.

Earlier this year, I was enjoying myself on a relaxing Caribbean cruise with one of my best friends.

I had breakfast delivered to my room every morning, drank fancy cocktails in the evening, and barely thought about the travel insurance policy I bought just in case.

On the fourth day of our cruise, we docked in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and disembarked to explore the city. Our group ended up at Fortaleza Ozama, a Spanish fort built in 1502.

We walked up four or five flights of stairs to get a view from the top, and on the first step back down, I fell and broke my leg.

It wasn’t a major fall.

But I twisted my leg in just the right way to end up with a spiral fracture that broke several bones in my ankle, my tibia, and fibula. 

There was so much chaos as we figured out how to handle everything, from whether or not to have surgery in the Dominican Republic and how to fly my husband down.

On top of everything, this was at the beginning of March 2020, just as the U.S. and many other countries were shutting their borders down because of COVID-19.

The impressive Fortaleza Ozama. 

My travel insurance policy went from an afterthought to a necessity as I racked up more than $10,000 of out-of-pocket medical costs and unexpected travel expenses in just a couple of days.

Eight months after this whole ordeal began, I’ve finally got closure. My travel insurance claims are paid, and I had my last visit with the surgeon who fixed my leg with a metal rod and seven screws.

I learned so much about the travel insurance process over these past few months, and I was excited when Michelle asked me to share my experience. 

My biggest takeaway from it all? I will always buy travel insurance when traveling out of the country, and I’m about to explain why.

Related content:

My True Travel Insurance Review Story & Why You Should Consider Travel Insurance

The cost and details of my travel insurance plan

You can expect travel insurance to cost 5%-10% of your total trip cost. The cost largely depends on what kind of coverage you want, where you’re traveling, length and cost of trip, and your age. 

I decided to purchase a travel insurance plan through Generali Global Assistance because they had high ratings and offered the kind of plan I wanted. 

For $142.68 my trip would be covered under Generali’s Preferred Plan, which offered the following coverage limits:

  • Trip cancellation: 100% of trip cost
  • Trip interruption: 150% of trip cost
  • Travel delay: $1,000 per person
  • Baggage loss: $1,500 per person
  • Sporting equipment: $1,500 per person
  • Sporting equipment delay: $300 per person
  • Missed connection: $750 per person
  • Medical & dental: $150,000 per person
  • Emergency assistance & transportation: $500,000 per person
  • Accidental death & dismemberment (air flight accident): $75,000 per person/$150,000 per plan
  • Accidental death & dismemberment (travel accident): $25,000 per person/$50,000 per plan

There were a few aspects of this plan that I was really concerned about, including trip cancellation and interruption. I was leaving for a cruise as the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting the U.S., and there was a real possibility something might happen to my travel plans.

Cruising at the start of a global pandemic wasn’t an awesome idea, but luckily no one on our ship showed signs or tested positive for COVID-19 after getting back to the states.

My plan offered “cancel for any reason” coverage for trip cancellation and interruption. This is the most comprehensive kind of coverage – you’re reimbursed for a portion of your costs no matter what your reasons are – but it’s a little more expensive. 

Medical coverage wasn’t a huge priority to me because I assumed the chances of getting hurt were pretty slim. This is laughable now.

Despite feeling like medical coverage wasn’t necessary, the reason I got travel insurance (with higher medical coverage) was because of a story an acquaintance told me a few years earlier.

This woman had gone on a 10-day cruise in the Mediterranean, and her esophagus spontaneously ruptured a few days into the cruise. This is an incredibly serious condition that will result in death if it’s not immediately treated.

When the cruise ship doctor realized what was happening, they ordered a helicopter to medivac her to the closest hospital. I can’t remember which country she ended up in, but between surgery, complications, and recovery, she ended up in the hospital for two months.

She paid $450 for a premium travel insurance plan, and it covered all of the $1,000,000+ expenses she incurred. From health care, medivac, trip interruption costs, and flights back and forth for her husband.

With that story stuck in my head, my worst-case-scenario mindset kicked in and told me to buy travel insurance for my cruise.

What my travel insurance actually covered

I’ve broken my ankle before and the treatment is pretty straightforward and easy. Slap a boot on your leg and be on your way. This break was worse, and being in a foreign country complicated things.

First of all, I sustained an open fracture. That means my tibia bone broke through my skin, which puts you at risk of infection. Had it been a closed break, maybe I could have gotten back on the cruise ship, had the onboard doctor set my leg, and cruise back on painkillers until I got home.

Open fractures need to be treated with surgery as soon as possible so the wound can be cleaned out. Surgery meant that I would not be getting back on the cruise ship. 

There was a lot of debate about where to take me – the Dominican Republic has a very different health system. It was decided that the best care would come from a private clinic. 

The clinic required a deposit of 80,000 Dominican Pesos (DOP) before I could be treated. The exchange rate varies day-to-day, but this equals $1,369 at the time of writing.

I was put on an IV drip for antibiotics, given IV painkillers, was x-rayed, had an electrocardiogram, and was prepped for surgery. The surgery to clean out the wound was quick, but it still required anesthesia. 

The surgeon said I also needed an ORIF (open reduction internal fixation) to fix my leg. This is where they fix your break with a rod and screws. It’s not a complicated surgery, but after talking with some people back home, and with a doctor friend who was traveling in our group, we decided it was best to wait until I was back in the U.S. for the ORIF surgery. 

After the surgery to clean out the wound, the surgeon ordered me to stay in the clinic for two days before it was safe for me to fly home. I spent that visit on more IV antibiotics and painkillers. After the deposit was applied to the total, my stay was another 357,000 DOP or $6,110.

Between just having surgery and the fact that my broken leg wasn’t fully fixed, I couldn’t just fly home by myself. The surgeon in the Dominican Republic said I needed a travel companion to help me fly home, so my husband booked a flight and came out the day after my surgery. His flight was $400.

The surgeon ordered two things to fly home safely: an ambulance to transfer me to the hospital and first-class flights home to give me enough room for my bandaged leg. Side note: this was the first time I’ve ever flown first class, and I’d love to do it again when I can appreciate it. At least my husband got to enjoy the complimentary Bloody Marys.

Those tickets weren’t cheap. Not only was it first class, it was a last minute, one-way flight at the start of a global pandemic. We paid $1,275 for each ticket.

The ambulance ride to the airport was 7,600 DOP or $130. We paid the drivers in cash plus a tip. They were amazing, by the way. Neither of them spoke English and we don’t speak Spanish, so we spent the 30 minute drive communicating via Google Translate.

Because I was wheelchair-bound at this point, we would need more time in the airport, and our ambulance ride was going slower than expected. The driver knew we were pressed for time and drove over the grassy median into oncoming traffic to get us to the airport in time. Probably not the safest move, but it worked.

They were so sweet and even wanted to take a picture with us because, as they said, “You’ll want to remember this day!” 

Omg, the compression sock and three-day old outfit is a look. What you can’t see is that I was also traveling with a catheter in because I was completely immobilized. Definitely won’t forget that day!

Between my husband’s flight to the Dominican Republic, our first-class tickets home, and the ambulance ride, that was an additional $3,080.

Here’s what travel insurance covered from those costs:

  • $1,369 deposit for the clinic
  • $6,110 for surgery and hospital stay
  • $2,550 for two flights home to the U.S.

=$10,029 total costs reimbursed

Travel insurance didn’t cover my husband’s $400 flight to the Dominican Republic – they said it wasn’t part of emergency assistance and transportation. Their reasoning was that someone already in the Dominican Republic could have flown home with me.

We also claimed $200 for the flight I would have taken home from Florida after the cruise, and this was denied too because I paid for it with credit card points. Some travel insurance offers reimbursements for points, but Generali’s plan didn’t. We tried to claim it knowing they might deny it.

The other cost travel insurance denied was the $130 ambulance ride from the clinic to the airport. The problem was that the receipt wasn’t dated. 

That’s $730 that I wasn’t reimbursed for.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the cost of the cruise and getting reimbursed for the part of the trip I wasn’t able to take. Long story short, my friend was part of the cruise’s entertainment and the organizers covered my ticket because I was going as her guest. 

The cruise organizers have their own insurance to deal with that claim. Had I paid for the cruise, then I would have submitted that loss to my travel insurance company. Make sense?

All in all, my $142.68 travel insurance policy saved me more than $10,000 in out-of-pocket costs.

Will my health insurance cover medical costs when I travel?

It’s unlikely that your domestic health insurance plan will cover medical care outside of the U.S. If your plan does cover anything, it will only be for very, very emergent situations. 

For example, my broken leg was a serious enough injury that I needed emergency surgery in a foreign country. I had to leave my friends and my belongings on the cruise ship and stay in a hospital for two days.

My health insurance company (Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield) did not consider this an emergency situation – it was only deemed urgent. 

This is how my insurance company describes emergency care: if the injury is severe enough that it places “the Member’s physical and or mental health in serious jeopardy; serious impairment to bodily functions; or serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.”

I recommend calling your health insurance company and asking about their policy on international travel, but realize that it probably won’t offer the kind of coverage you’re looking for.

What about the travel protections offered by my credit card?

Not all credit cards come with travel protections, but some of the more popular travel cards (like the Chase Sapphire cards and American Express Platinum card) do offer it. Important point: you will have to book your trip using that card to qualify for coverage.

The other thing about the coverage that comes with your credit card is that it’s fairly limited when you compare it to third-party travel insurance. 

The most common kind of coverage through your credit card is for baggage delays, trip delays, trip interruption, emergency trip cancellation, accidental death and dismemberment, and auto rental collision damage cover.

But you probably won’t get the kind of coverage you need if you, say, break your leg in the Dominican Republic.

I have three credit cards that are considered travel cards, and none of them would have covered what my travel insurance did.

The Points Guy has a really good article that explains more: When to Buy Travel Insurance vs. When to Rely on Credit Card Protections.

What about flight insurance?

Most airlines offer a limited form of travel insurance, and limited is key.

I’m sure you’ve seen the pop up when you enter your payment information for your flights. Something like, “Do you want to spend $25 on coverage to protect your flight from cancellation or delays?” 

Seems like a good deal, and I’ve bought it before when I didn’t understand what it covers. The coverage airlines offer does not include medical care, lost luggage, and it’s not “cancel for any reason” coverage. 

When should you buy travel insurance?

You now know that you can’t rely on your health insurance in a foreign country, your credit card doesn’t offer comprehensive coverage, and flight insurance is meh

That’s why I highly recommend travel insurance if you’re traveling out of the United States. Experts will offer the same advice for these reasons:

1.You’re concerned about medical expenses

Travel medical insurance is similar to your domestic health insurance, and it’s honestly the main reason experts recommend travel insurance. Without it, a medical emergency in a foreign country could devastate your finances. Most policies have limitations for pre-existing conditions, but you can shop around and find coverage for pre-existing conditions.

2. You want coverage for your baggage and personal belongings

It’s not uncommon to travel with some pretty expensive stuff. It adds up quickly when you think about the combined value of your laptop, tablet, cell phone, camera, jewelry, etc. 

Travel insurance may cover these things if they’re lost or damaged. I say “may” because most policies expect that you’re not being reckless with your belongings. For example, you’re not leaving your laptop unattended in the hotel lobby. 

You should ask about high-value things like your wedding rings because there will be some limitations to the coverage. Better yet, leave your expensive jewelry at home.

Some policies have additional coverage for things like golf clubs, ski equipment, and hunting or fishing gear. They might even offer coverage if you miss days for skiing or golfing, or even pay for rental gear if yours is lost or delayed in transit.

3. You’re an adventurous traveler

There are risks with all kinds of travel – my husband cut off the tip of his finger during a relaxing beach vacation in the Bahamas, and he was only chopping green onions. But there are some kinds of vacations where you’ll encounter more risks.

Hiking through the jungle, ziplining, parasailing, surfing, caving, etc., those are all things that can increase your chances of getting hurt. World Nomads is one of a few travel insurance companies that covers extreme sports.

4. You want to be able to cancel your trip for any reason

Things come up. Maybe you didn’t apply for your passport soon enough, your pet gets sick, you have a financial emergency, you’re traveling during a global pandemic, etc. If you want the option to cancel your trip for any reason, travel insurance can help. 

I’ve said this already, but not all policies are considered “cancel for any reason” or CFAR. Most CFAR policies don’t cover 100% of your prepaid and nonrefundable travel expenses – it’s more like 50% to 75%. 

These policies are more expensive and cover less than people expect, so do your research. Most companies offer CFAR as an add-on, but they’re expensive and cover less than people expect. 

5. You might need to come home early

A friend of mine had to leave his honeymoon early because his new father-in-law landed in the hospital with a life threatening illness. It’s a good thing they came home because the father-in-law passed away a few days after they got back. Travel insurance reimbursed him for the rest of his honeymoon and their last-minute plane tickets.

All in all, travel insurance is peace of mind. You can’t control what happens, but you can reduce a lot of the financial stress associated with emergency scenarios.

Traveling with travel insurance

Before you leave for your trip, make sure you have your travel insurance policy printed and stored somewhere you can easily access. It should stay on you when you’re away from your hotel, cruise ship, etc.

Because I didn’t have my policy on me, someone had to go back to the cruise ship, find it, and bring it back. 

It’s also not a bad idea to send a copy of your policy plus your itinerary to someone back home. They can quickly hop on the claims process without needing to get login information or policy numbers from you.

What to expect when you file a travel insurance claim

I won’t lie, dealing with the claims process was extremely frustrating. My husband was super stressed waiting for us to be reimbursed for our out-of-pocket expenses. He called and emailed every couple of weeks to make sure things were still moving forward.

We had to re-submit paperwork twice, our entire claim was denied the first time (I will explain why in a minute), and it took a full seven months before our claim was paid.

What I didn’t realize is that what we went through is more common than you would expect. Travel insurance companies are very specific with how they accept paperwork and the process for filing claims. 

Here’s what you need to know about the claims process:

  • File your claim ASAP. This gets the ball rolling, you’ll be fresh on the details, and most companies require you to submit claims within a 90-day window.
  • Everything needs to be submitted electronically. You’ll have to take pictures of your receipts or scan them. Pictures need to be crystal clear (this is why I had to resubmit paperwork). 
  • Medical claims need to go to your health insurance company first. Because your health insurance might cover the expenses, you’ll need to submit it to them first. My travel insurance claim was denied at first because we didn’t have an official denial from my health insurance company.
  • Keep any document related to your travel costs or emergency expenses. Even if it seems redundant or useless, keep it. A handwritten note in broken English is why insurance covered our expensive flights home, and we almost didn’t submit it.
  • Your claim will take longer than you expect to process. It can take a minimum of three months for your claim to be processed, and this feels like forever if you’re waiting to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket costs.

I know it’s hard, but be patient. You can always email your claims agent if you have questions or want to be reassured that they’re working on your claim.

Should you buy travel insurance?

Moving forward, I will always be buying travel insurance when I leave the country. It’s an extra expense we’ll have to budget for and build into the total cost of our vacations. 

What I went through is pretty small, but the majority of our cash savings would have been wiped out without travel insurance. 

It was really scary being injured in a foreign country where I didn’t know the language. You can’t put a price on this, but believing that the majority of my expenses would be covered helped me get through those couple of days until I got home. Okay, painkillers really helped too.

But the point is, travel insurance is peace of mind. Buying it is a choice, but I hope you realize what a beneficial choice it can be in the long run.

Do you usually buy travel insurance? Do you have anything that you’d like me to add to this travel insurance review?

Related Posts

<!–
–>

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

How To Invest In REIT – Are REITs good investments?

This guest contribution is by Ben Reynolds and Samuel Smith of Sure Dividend. You may remember Ben from his other guest posts – How I Became A Successful Dividend Growth Investor and Reaching Early Retirement Through Dividend Growth Investing. REITs are a topic that come up often with Making Sense of Cents readers, so I’m glad the experts at Sure Dividend are talking about this subject today. Enjoy!

Ben Reynolds with Sure Dividend here.  Sure Dividend is focused on helping individual investors build high quality dividend growth portfolios.

And to that end I wanted to inform Making Sense of Cents readers about the opportunity for investors to invest in real estate in a diversified manner through Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). 

We started covering REITs in detail at Sure Dividend back in 2016 because they have unique characteristics that make them a compelling choice for investors looking for current income and income growth.

Our audience at Sure Dividend was interested in learning more about REITs, so we did our research.

I learned how REITs are required by law to pay out at least 90% of their income to their shareholders. 

That’s a powerful concept that means REITs share the vast majority of what they make with investors.

I learned that REITs have special tax advantages that make them more efficient vehicles to pass income to investors.

And I learned how easy it is to both invest in and diversify with publicly traded REITs versus traditional real estate.

These characteristics showed us we need to cover REITs because of the benefits they offer to income investors.  Keep reading to learn more about this special category of investment.

The term Real Estate Investment Trust was originated in 1960 by the United States Congress and has since been adopted worldwide to describe a special tax-advantaged vehicle for collective real estate investments.

We have compiled a list of publicly-traded REITs, along with important financial metrics such as dividend yields and market capitalization.

Similar to what mutual funds do with companies, REITs allow investors to invest in a diversified real estate portfolio without actually having to buy, manage, and finance properties themselves.

Furthermore, most REITs are publicly traded on a stock exchange and allow investors to participate in the ownership of large scale, well-diversified real estate portfolios in the same way as investors would invest in any other industry.

REITs are structured as corporations, but are unique in that they are exempt from corporate income taxes as long as they comply with specific rules to quality as a REITs. According to NAREIT, a REIT must:

  1. Invest at least 75% of its total assets in real estate.
  2. Derive at least 75% of its gross income real property rents, mortgage interest income, or from real estate sales
  3. Each year pay at least 90% of its taxable income to shareholders in dividends.
  4. Have a board of directors or trustees.
  5. A minimum of 100 investors must own shares in the REIT.
  6. 50% or less of its shares may be held by fewer than six individuals.

These rules are there to protect shareholders, assure discipline in capital allocation and reduce conflicts of interest between the manager and shareholder.

Why invest in REITs?

Historically, REITs have returned 15% per year on average and outperformed all other asset classes by a large margin:

source

REITs have been enormously lucrative to investors who got in early and knew what they were doing. In addition to the greater total returns, REITs generally pay higher dividends, are less volatile, and provide valuable inflation protection and diversification benefits.

About 90% of millionaires credit real estate investments as a major contributor to their net worth, and REITs allow you to invest in real estate with the added benefits of professional management, diversification, liquidity, low transaction cost, and passive income.

How to invest in REITs?

Investing in real estate is costly and time consuming.

You need to deal with brokers, contractors, lenders, tenants, and property managers. From due diligence till completion of a deal deals can extend for months or even years and transaction costs are generally 5-10% of your purchase price.

REITs make this entire process much easier, cheaper, and faster.

All you need is a brokerage account and in a few clicks of mouse, you can start investing in REITs through the public stock exchange just like you would when you invest in any other stock. Fees are just a few dollars – if not free – and trades are executed instantly in most cases.

How much of a good thing do you want?

While REITs have proven to be very attractive long-term investments, it is important to remain well-diversified and not put all your eggs in one basket.

How much you decide to invest in REITs depends greatly on three factors. These are your return objectives, your ability to take risks, and your willingness to take these risks.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every individual, it is reasonable to suggest that a well-diversified portfolio containing exposure to REITs can minimize volatility while maximizing long-term returns.

David Swensen, legendary manager of the Yale endowment fund, recommends to invest ~20% of your portfolio in REITs. His track record makes him a superstar among institutional managers and much of his success came from real estate investing.

Other financial advisors commonly recommend 15-30% exposure to real estate investments, and we believe that this is a fair suggestion.

In the end, it comes down to your personal investment objectives and what you feel comfortable with.

How to pick good REITs

Picking good REIT investments comes down to your personal investment objectives and what you feel comfortable with.

In a nutshell, the ideal REIT investment opportunity would include the following factors:

  1. It has a differentiated strategy that creates value
  2. It generates resilient and steady cash flow.
  3. It has the balance sheet and pipeline to sustain and grow its asset base through cycles.
  4. It pays a superior yield that is well-covered through cycles.
  5. It trades at a valuation that is significantly below average.

If the REIT possesses many of these characteristics, it is likely to be a big winner in the long run. Obviously, it is very rare to find such cases because if a REIT is this great, it will likely trade at a premium valuation.

No selection process is bullet-proof. However, it is essential to have some core filters which you can use to minimize losing investments while maximizing your chances of picking winning investments.

The four filters we look at are:

  1. Is management aligned with investors in REIT governance structure, compensation, and insider ownership? Generally, internally managed REITs with considerable insider ownership of the common stock and compensation that is linked to performance will outperform REITs that lack one or more of these traits.
  2. Are the assets considered high quality or low quality? The more challenged the sector is, the more important it is to insist on quality. Same-store NOI, leasing spreads, and occupancy are great indicators to look at when trying to determine asset quality.
  3. Does the REIT have a strong balance sheet? Looking at credit ratings is an easy way to do this, as well as the debt-to-asset, fixed cost coverage, and debt to EBITDA ratios relative to the sector.
  4. Does the REIT offer an attractive valuation? The more sure you are of the REIT passing the first three filters, the less of a discount you need to insist on, but generally it is good to buy REITs that trade at a discount to their historical price-to-FFO and/or price-to-NAV (net asset value) ratio.

Putting it all together

REITs can be great instruments for long-term wealth compounding and passive income generation. That said, not all REITs are built equally.

For more aggressive and adventurous investors, picking individual REITs can be a fun and rewarding way to invest in real estate.

For those wanting to remain passive and/or who lack confidence in their ability to pick winning REITs, investing in ETFs like Vanguard’s VNQ REIT fund is advisable.

Are you interested in learning how to start REITs?

Related Posts

<!–
–>

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

20 Grocery Shopping Tips to Save Your Family Big Bucks

Groceries make up a huge chunk of your family budget. With Mighty Mommy’s strategies and smart tips, you can drastically cut your food bill and enjoy hearty savings along with delicious meals.

By

Cheryl Butler
February 15, 2021

food prices rose 2.6% in 2020. That’s the biggest increase in nearly 50 years.

Whether the pandemic is the reason you’re spending more on food or you’ve just never taken the time to figure out a money-saving strategy for your grocery bill, now is the perfect time to turn that around. These smart grocery bill hacks will save you time and help you keep your hard-earned bucks in your wallet without the hassle of clipping coupons. 

Have a plan to save money on groceries

1. Don’t wing it; plan it!

Hands down, the easiest way to save thousands of dollars each year on your grocery budget is to get on board with meal planning. No matter the size of your family, when you take time to plan your meals you’ll always be ahead of the grocery game. Having a plan, and a shopping list to match, will not only save time, but you’ll be less inclined to buy things you don’t need. Bonus: You won’t have to waste gas on extra trips because you forgot to pick up a key ingredient.

2. Get a meal planning app

A free meal planning app will eliminate the guesswork. Two of my favorites are Spoonacular, which syncs with your google calendar, and Yummly, where you can search for recipes based on meal course (such as entree or side), prep time, or fun new menu trends.

3. Keep your pantry stocked

You don’t need to have tons of extra space in your home to have a well-stocked pantry. You know what your family loves to eat, so make sure you always have the basic ingredients (like pasta, rice, seasoning mixes, and more) on hand. If you always have the basics to whip a meal together, you’ll be less likely to opt for pricey take-out. So, before you make your weekly grocery list, shop your shelves first. What do you have that you could use in your meal plan this week? What’s running low?

Supercook is a time-saving app for doing a little planning based on what’s in your pantry. Enter the ingredients you have on hand and it suggests dozens of yummy, cost-saving meals you can whip up in no time!

4. Stock up during sales

Take advantage of sales to stock up. My rule of thumb for sale items is to buy one to use now and two for later. Just make sure you’re buying versatile, family-tested items you know you’ll use. Impulse items might end up abandoned on a pantry shelf long past their expiration date.

Try these produce hacks

5. Shop seasonal

My grandmother taught me early to take advantage of seasonal produce. Whether it was berry-picking season or time for autumnal root-veggies—nature always provided a palate of seasonal goodness. As tempting as it is to buy juicy strawberries in January, you’ll likely pay more for out-of-season produce. Pay attention to mother nature’s timetable.

6. Weigh your produce

Grocery stores have scales for a reason! I can’t tell you how many times I thought I could eyeball a bunch of cherries or a few heads of broccoli only to find that I bought way more than I needed.

7. Grab from the back

Your friendly grocer stocks the oldest products at the front of the shelves so they’ll get purchased before they expire. If you’re using that produce in a meal soon, go ahead and grab from the front. But if you’ll need to store your produce for a while, reach in and grab from the back to get something fresher that will last longer in your fridge or pantry.

8. Buy reduced

Of course, fresh produce is great! But don’t be afraid to buy from the “reduced” section in your favorite store. Bell peppers, tomatoes, bananas—there is always something that needs to be used immediately. If you’re going to use bell peppers in tonight’s recipe, go ahead and get the ones that are marked down for a quick sale. They’ll still be fresh and tasty, but you’ll save money. You’ll also make sure that produce doesn’t end up wasted when your grocer has to discard it.

9. Nix the pre-cut produce

As tempting and timesaving as the pre-cut straw carrots or apple wedges are, you’re probably paying way too much for the convenience. Buy the whole fruit or veggie and take a few minutes to prep yourself.

Older kids make excellent sous-chefs! Teach them to use a knife safely so they can chop veggies and fruits. They’ll learn valuable life skills while they help out in the kitchen. Check out the video below for a review of knife skills.

[embedded content]

Take advantage of your freezer

10. Stock up on freezing supplies

Freezing meals, leftovers, and fresh produce reduces waste and saves time and money, so keep the necessary supplies on hand. You’ll need sealable storage containers and bags. (Bonus points if they’re reusable—you’ll be both frugal and eco-friendly!) Have masking tape and markers on hand to date and label your items so you won’t have mystery contents taking up valuable space.  I keep a simple freezer inventory sheet on a magnet on my freezer where I note the date and the item that was frozen.

11. Learn what you can freeze

Some surprising items that freeze beautifully: whole avocados, breadcrumbs in canisters or bags, dairy products such as cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, shredded and sliced cheese, pancake mix, nuts, chocolate chips, hummus, or even premade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Soups and sauces freeze well in Mason jars (be sure to leave one or two inches at the top of the jar for expansion.) Buy chicken breasts and other meats in bulk when on sale and slice and bag individually in marinades or plain. Even cake mixes and containers of frosting freeze well.

12. Cook and freeze family favorites in batches

Batch cooking means making a double batch of a favorite recipe. You serve one batch and freeze the other. This technique requires planning and some extra work up front, but the reward is having a variety of your family’s “go-to” recipes available in a pinch. Betty Crocker has a helpful article full of great tips: Thirty Day Batch Cooking. I learned about batch cooking during my early pregnancies. The time and energy, and indeed the money I saved by employing this technique, was priceless.

As an Amazon Associate, QDT earns from qualifying purchases.

Recommended by Mighty Mommy

If you freeze a lot of food, the FoodSaver vacuum sealer is an excellent investment. It keeps frozen food fresher much longer and prevents freezer burn. I couldn’t do without it!

Incorporate these nifty cost-saving quick-tips

13. Don’t be afraid to try generic brands. Many come from the companies you already love.

14. Embrace “yellow sticker” items, especially meat. These are items reduced for a quick sale. They’re still safe to eat, of course. Or you can add them to your freezer stockpile.

15. Download your store apps. You’ll be able to take advantage of digital coupons or sales you didn’t see in your flier.

16. Shop in the middle of the week. This is when most stores offer their weekly deals.

17. Consider ordering groceries online. You’ll be able to see your order tally right before your eyes, and you won’t be as likely to make impulse purchases.

18. Download the Fetch Rewards app. This is like putting free money in your pocket every time you shop. Simply scan your receipts each time you shop and you’ll earn rewards and bonuses that you can cash in for gift cards at Amazon and your other favorite online shopping sites.

19. Shop with cash, not a debit card. Several years ago, I switched to shopping with cash. Knowing I have a set budget helps me stick to my grocery list. And speaking of grocery lists …

20. Never shop without a grocery list. You’ll buy stuff you don’t need and forget stuff you do! Pinterest has lots of free templates to get you started.

Don’t forget about the local dollar store—it’s useful for more than just party supplies! Most stores have staples like condiments and spices, but also grocery items like bread and beverages.