FOR ALL YOUR MONEY QUESTIONS ...
TURN TO THE NERDS
To anyone with questions about personal finance — credit cards, buying a home, paying for college, making a budget — we've got your back. Whether you want to make more money, save more money or spend money more wisely, if you have questions, we have answers.
One that you can enjoy without having to prepare it. Conventional financial wisdom tells you to avoid little luxuries — gourmet salads, coffee-shop drinks and so on. But there’s nothing wrong with splurging if you make room in your life for it. Here’s how to have your $14 salad and eat it, too.
Buying a home is a process, not a single action. Very few people have the means to just see a house and buy it. The rest of us start by figuring out how much we can afford and lining up the financing — getting preapproved for a loan and getting together a down payment. Here’s what you need to know.
Any time you can earn rewards for spending you were going to do anyway, it makes sense to put it on your card. Even relatively modest spending of $100 a week can net you over $100 a year when you put everything on a card earning 2%. Learn why it’s worth putting it all on your card.
Credit reports and scores
Paying your bills on time and using credit responsibly are important steps in building and maintaining strong credit in the long term. Looking for a quick boost? Check your report for errors, keep your card balances low and follow our other tips. Here are ways to improve credit fast.
If you want to build wealth or retire someday, then, yes, you should have money in the market. Retirement might seem impossibly far in the future, but that’s all the more reason to get started. The more time you have, the more you stand to gain. Here’s how to get into the market.
In a perfect world, cost wouldn’t be a factor in decisions you make about your health. In our world, though, medical debt is a dreadful reality. First, don’t take your bill at face value: Costs are negotiable. Then understand the resources available beyond insurance. Here’s a place to start.
Paying for college
You can afford to go to college. The trick is getting past the big sticker price, which very few people pay. Most students put together the money for their education with a combination of grants and scholarships, work-study jobs, family savings and loans. Here’s a quick course in making it work.
Which airline are you flying? The big carriers have cards that get you into their own airport lounges, and several general-purpose travel cards carry lounge privileges, too. These cards aren’t free, but for frequent travelers, the cost is often worth it. Start your search here.
Sometimes paying extra is the best option. Maybe you’re running late, carrying a load or just not in the mood to deal with crowds. Taking the occasional rideshare probably isn’t going to break you. Just don’t let it become a reflex. Here’s what to take into account.
Any card that offers rewards will give you at least a little cash or a few points and miles with each purchase when you’re out on the town. The trick is knowing which ones reward you most handsomely for the way you spend. Here’s how to choose.
Buying a home is both a financial and emotional decision. We can get you started with the math — whether you can afford a home (and how much home you can afford) and whether buying or renting is the right choice in your situation. Run the numbers here.
You don’t have to fly frequently (or at all) to earn frequent flyer miles. An array of credit cards reward you with 1 mile or more for every dollar you spend. Spend $50 on a fill-up at the gas pump, and you could be 50 or 100 miles closer to a free flight. See how it works.
Even at $7, a snack won’t doom your finances. However, relatively small amounts invested over the long term can turn into big money for retirement. So as you slather on the mustard, consider socking away an equal amount for later. Here’s how to draw up a game plan.
Don’t let the “experts” guilt you. You’re free to choose what to spend your money on. What’s important is that you recognize how much you spend and you account for it. Your budget can have room for needs and wants and savings. Here’s how to think about it.
Several cards offer rewards of 3%, 4% or more at restaurants and coffee shops. If you prefer your caffeine fix home-brewed, you could get up to 6% cash back at supermarkets. If your latte is a daily ritual, those rewards can add up to a free cup in no time. Sample some options here.
All savings accounts pay you interest on the money you put in them, but different kinds of accounts pay more than others. Agree to tie up your money for longer periods or keep a certain minimum amount in the account, and you can access higher rates. Explore savings account options.
Only if you were going to pay for it anyway. Credit card rewards make sense if they save you money. Getting, say, $2 worth of rewards on a $100 purchase is great. But spending $100 just to get $2 in rewards is an awful waste of money. Take these tips to the bar with you.
In that case, what credit card gets me cash back with this round? A flat-rate card can get you 1.5% to 2%. A bonus rewards card might do even better. See cash-back cards.
Savings accounts at online banks often pay interest rates many times higher than the national average. If you can live without waiting in line at the teller window, they’re your best bet for high earning. See the best high-yield online savings accounts.
The longer you have until retirement, the more time you have for your money to grow. But don’t use the fact that it’s “late” as an excuse for not getting serious about saving. See our tips for investing in your 40s, or in your 50s, or at any age.
Use the store’s own card? Maybe. But in many cases you can reap richer (and more useful) rewards if you pay with a general-purpose credit card that pays a high rate wherever you shop. Try these ideas on for size.
Paying for college
Finishing college with little or no debt used to be the norm. Today’s graduates commonly owe tens of thousands of dollars. A completely debt-free college education isn’t realistic for many, but the choices you make about that education can reduce your burden down the road. Find out if debt-free college is really possible.
How can I get my almond croissant with a side of cash back? By paying for it with a credit card that pays cash back on every purchase. See the best here.
Can I get quick cash without selling something? Personal loans from banks, credit unions and others offer cash without collateral for people with good credit, often at better rates than credit cards. Check out your options.
IRA or 401(k)? The correct answer may be “both.” Learn the differences between an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) and an individual retirement account, or IRA, which you set up and manage yourself. Start with our primer.
Do I have the right mortgage? Refinancing your home loan might make sense even if you bought (or refinanced) fairly recently. You could reduce your payments or cut the length of the loan term. Here’s how to approach it.
Paying for college
Can I pay these student loans down faster? Paying more than the minimum each month is the best way to whittle down your student loans more quickly. Other strategies that can get you to the finish line faster include refinancing, enrolling in autopay and paying biweekly instead of monthly. Here are seven strategies to reach your goals.
Credit reports and scores
What is good debt? Debt is a four-letter word but not necessarily a “four-letter word.” Good debt is debt that improves your quality of life without bleeding you dry with high interest. Think about student loans that boost your earning power or a mortgage that puts a roof over your head. Read about good vs. bad debt.
How do I keep the car dealer from taking me for a ride? Car shopping is a little like a game show: Choose right, and win your prize — a sweet deal on a good car. Choose the wrong door and you’ll lose money and hate the shopping experience. Learn how to buy a new car — or how to buy a used car.