It's difficult to resist the cash back offers and sign up bonuses advertised in every bank and on dozens of TV channels every day. $100 back on $500 of spending sounds like a great discount and, in many cases, it is. The right applicant under the right circumstances can take advantage of card companies' latest offers to save money on groceries, travel, restaurants, and large upcoming purchases. But it's important to be careful when applying for and opening new credit cards because doing it in the wrong way can damage a person's credit score and lower their chances of being approved in the future.

A tricky but weighty question is: how often is it okay to apply for a new card? A general suggestion is about six months between applications but, like everything that has to do with credit cards, this varies based on your credit score. Applicants with lower credit scores are required to wait a little longer between applications, to show companies that they're not a risk. Better credit scores allow applicants to apply sooner, though doing so too frequently will still hurt their score. You should also wait slightly longer if you've just been rejected by another company. Hard inquiries will almost always knock a few points off of your score. Spreading them out will avoid damaging it too much.

Be especially careful when:

  1. You're rebuilding poor credit.
  2. You've recently been rejected by another card or company.
  3. You're about to apply for a mortgage or large car loan.

Those few points that fall off of your score after an application might cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars more on a mortgage. Time your applications to avoid impacting upcoming loans.

On the other hand, the best times to apply for a credit card depend on your preferences and spending habits. If you're r building credit, consider secured cards that require a deposit but make it easier for someone without a credit history to begin one. If you already have good credit, you have the privilege of shopping around for the newest and best deals offered by credit companies.

Credit Score Range

Your smart credit habits give you options that include low interest rates, cash back rewards, sign up bonuses and more. To make the most of your new card, try to time any sign up bonuses with large, planned purchases. Often, sign up bonuses come with spending requirements, such as $500 in 60 days. If you're about to purchase a new computer, for example, you can use the new card to fulfill its spending requirement all at once and save $100 on the computer.

If you haven't changed credit cards in five or ten years, it's time to look for lower interest rates and better perks. Card companies always change what they offer to compete with each other, and it's probably better than what you signed up for a decade ago. If you're still paying an annual fee, check out the no-fee offerings, too.

Analyze your spending and shop for cards whose perks best match your habits. Travel miles aren't valuable for everyone. If you eat at restaurants several times a week, look for a card that will reward you for that. Others offer cash back bonuses on gas, groceries or categories that vary month-to-month. Shopping for cash bonuses and rewards is the fun part of having good credit.

A last word on opening a new line of credit: don't close your old card. Unless it charges an annual fee (in which case, definitely do close it), leaving that old, in-good-standing credit line open can only help your score. Credit bureaus account for the age of your credit history and credit utilization when calculating your score. Your utilization is the ratio of credit use to credit limit. Closing an old card will shorten your credit history and, simultaneously, increase your utilization by lowering your total available credit. Both of these negatives are unnecessary: if that old card doesn't cost anything, leave it open.

Your credit card might have become such a regular part of your habit that you stopped thinking about it over the years. But if you've paid it in full and on time to build that credit score into the 700s or even higher, you owe it to yourself to take another look at the card market and shop for lower rates and better deals. It's like shopping for free money—it's the least you can do to reward yourself for your smart financial habits.

Tom Twardzik is a writer covering personal finance, productivity and investing for Paypath. He also contributes pop culture pieces to Popdust, travel writing to The Journiest, product reviews to Topdust and essays to The Liberty Project. Read more on his website and follow him on Twitter.

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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.