There's nothing like getting the keys to your first car. The sense of independence and freedom. You can go anywhere, anytime you want. But this freedom comes with a lot of financial responsibility. Car payments, parking spaces, repair costs, and — of course — gas. For many, these are just accepted costs. But a growing portion of the population is not licensed to drive. A smaller portion does not own a car at all. Turns out, you don't have to own a car to get around. Here are a few more affordable transportation options than a personal car:

1. Public transit

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In most major cities, some kind of public transportation exists. These can consist of subways, light rail trains or just buses. Public transit is a good option for reliable transportation to and from work. While some cities are notorious for late buses and trains, most areas experience little to no delays during rush hours. Most cities allow you to purchase weekly, monthly or even yearly passes. This makes budgeting much more efficient than tallying up varying mileage. It might take a little longer to get around with public transit, but you also have that time to relax or get even more things done.

2. Ride sharing

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Services like Uber and Lyft had spiked in popularity and usage in recent years. Many people use Uber while traveling or for special events, but ride sharing is now an effective replacement for day-to-day transportation. With the addition of ride scheduling, commuters can plan pick ups and get to work on time. UberPool and LyftLine lower the cost by carpooling riders heading in the same direction. This can be an even more effective alternative to public transportation as well as car ownership.

3. Car sharing

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Car sharing is the cousin to ride sharing. Instead of paying to get a ride, you pay to use a car for a set amount of time. The most popular service in this area is Zipcar. But there are other companies offering similar services. This can be similar to renting a car, but it is much much less expensive. You can pay Zipcar for just an hour or as long as a week. If you prefer to drive yourself, car sharing is a great alternative to owning your own vehicle.

4. Carpooling

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If you're not a fan of these new apps and services, you can go old school and coordinate a carpool. Do you and your co-workers need a ride in to work? Hop in the same car. Have a neighbor who heads into downtown every day like you do? Ask to join him. But if you don't want to search for a carpool yourself, there are apps that can help you find a ride, like Waze Carpool. Carpooling helps clear up traffic and reduces the amount of pollution being released.

5. Last mile vehicle

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If you live near your office or in a big city, owning a last mile vehicle might be more convenient than the other options. This can be an electric scooter, skateboard or just a regular bicycle. These are called last mile vehicles because they are typically used in conjunction with public transit to cover that last little portion of the trip. You can purchase your own bike or join your city's bike sharing program for more convenience. Owning and using an electric scooter or skateboard decreases your commute time and lowers the amount of energy you might have to exert. Nothing like fresh air on your way to work, right?

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Developing further skills can boost your career at any stage.

Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.

Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.

But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.

Tableau

Tableau's data visualization capabilities are comparable to Domo and Power BI.

Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.

Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.

More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.

Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.

Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.

Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.

The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.

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