My life has changed a lot over the last 18 months. I got married, bought a home, and now my wife and I are expecting our first baby. With all of the joy has come a lot more responsibility, and while all of the changes are exciting, we're always looking for ways to be better about saving money for our future. I've always been a good saver and had a decent credit score, but I never realized that I could be pocketing big savings on my car payments until a coworker told me about RateGenius. RateGenius is a service that negotiates with lenders to secure you lower monthly payments on your car loan.

They transferred my loan to a new lender, leading to lower monthly payments.

I went online and saw that RateGenius works by transferring ownership of your car payment from one creditor to another. The old loan gets paid off and is replaced with a new one that has monthly payments that are more affordable. In addition to having lower interest rates, they can shorten the life of their clients' loans by a lot! Their experts work with over 150 lenders nationwide to find a fit that works best for your financial situation. Sounded like a simple and effective way to put a little more money in the bank for my growing family.

Their pre-qualifying application was quick and had no impact on my credit score.

My credit score has been something I've taken seriously since I got my first credit card at 19, so I've always been wary of any application that requires a credit check, because I heard it can lower your score. So I really liked that RateGenius' initial application didn't require a credit check. The only information they needed was my name, date of birth, address, yearly income, and vehicle type. Once I was done, they showed me a rate table that outlined various options and estimates on how much I would be saving depending on which plan I picked. Seeing the rate table was helpful because it gave me a better idea of how much I could be saving, before going through the full application process.

The full application process only took minutes.

After I decided that refinancing my car loan was a good fit for me, I was immediately impressed with how simple the full application process was from start to finish. I deal with numbers and computers all day long at work, so the fact that it didn't cause me a headache was a real plus. Everything was done online and only took me a couple of minutes. I was able to shop around for the best rates, and their online calculator gave a good estimation of what my new monthly payments would look like.

They don't get paid unless they save me money

After I went through the whole process and was matched with a new creditor, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that RateGenius doesn't charge a fee unless they successfully secure you lower monthly payments. I loved this risk free payment structure, and that I wouldn't have to pay a cent unless they found me a great deal. They ended up matching me with a creditor that is saving me a huge chunk of change every month, and the one time fee was nothing in comparison to what I'm pocketing.

I'm on track to save almost $1,000 this year.

RateGenius was able to secure me a new repayment plan that saved me $78 a month. Now I'm only paying 2% interest -- that's a huge improvement from my old loan. That means I'm pocketing almost $1,000 in savings a year. That's some serious cash for a first time dad with a new mortgage!

I'm so glad I discovered RateGenius -- it's a relatively quick and worthwhile way to refinance your car loans and reduce your interest rates. Their experts did all of the hard work for me, and now my payments are much more manageable for my family. I'm putting all of the money RateGenius has saved me straight into a college fund for my son. We haven't even met him yet, but it feels good to be getting a head start on his future.

Prequalify for auto refinance with no impact on your credit score today!


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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.