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Meal Prepping: How It Can Save You Money, and Time!

We’re certain you have heard of meal prepping in the past couple of years or so. It’s not only all the rage with the fitness community, but also catching on fast with busy professionals and working moms – and for good reason. Meal prep does more for your lifestyle and overall health than just provide nutritional benefits.

When done right, meal prepping can be a wonderful way of not only sprucing up your well-being and embracing healthy eating habits but saving money and saving time. How so? Keep reading to learn more about how meal prep can help you save time and money.

What’s Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping could be anything that has to do with preparing and packaging some, or all, of your meals and snacks for the week at once. Start off by planning your week’s menu then prepare your grocery list accordingly. Also, select a day of the week to make all the meals (Sunday does the trick for most people). Of course, prepping all these at once can sound a little cumbersome, but the greater benefits will rack up pretty quickly.

Saving Money
When you prep all your week’s snacks and meals, you are not just saving money you would spend on lunch/snacks – you can also find plenty of savings on groceries. But to do it correctly:

Shop for Groceries in Bulk
Meal prepping calls for thoughtful planning of ingredients. That’s why it pays to buy chicken, spinach, carrots, and other key ingredients in bulk. You’ll save oodles of cash this way. Just make sure to store/freeze bulk groceries appropriately to avoid food wastage. Even better, you can purchase groceries in bulk with family and friends to save more.

Sign Up for a Produce Share/Co-op
By doing this, you’ll spend much less on fresh vegetables and fruits produced in the community.

Let Coworkers Pitch In
You can collaborate with your colleagues so that everyone comes with healthy meal prep.

Saving Time
Meal prepping reshapes your routine in the long term, helping you save lots of time. By narrowing down the time needed to make meal decisions, meal prep does wonders for your daily routine. Consider the following tips to save even more time:

There’s Strength in Numbers
Coordinate with other meal preppers at the gym or work so you can eat together and share tips.

Shift to Smaller Meals
Meals like carrots, almonds, hummus, yogurt, etc. are easy to prepare, pre-portion, and store throughout the week.

Identity Theft: How to Protect Yourself!

Today, your identity is the equivalent of gold to scammers and cyberthieves that are always lurking in the background. If you are not careful or do not take steps to actively protect yourself, your identity could be stolen, and it can have dire financial consequences. Your name, email address, Social Security information, banking details, and other information can be manipulated easily and without your knowledge. The end result can be terrifying and earth-shattering, so steps must be taken to safeguard yourself from identity theft.

How Does Identity Theft Happen?
Identity theft occurs when someone accesses your personal information such as your Social Security details for purposes of fraud. An identity thief can use your personal information for a number of purposes, including altering your medical records, stealing your money, and even opening credit card accounts in your name. Identify theft can have a negative impact on your finances and it can make your life a living hell.

How to protect yourself from identity theft:

Strengthen Your Passwords
If your passwords are strong, it makes it a lot harder for a cyberthief to steal your identity. Use a random combination of numbers, letters, and symbols or special characters and ensure that you change them frequently.

Shred All Personal Documents
If you have been tossing your statements and credit card receipts in the trash without shredding them, consider investing in a quality shredder. This is one of the easiest ways for scammers to access your personal information for fraud.

Secure Your Mailbox
Do not allow letters to accumulate in your mailbox as they can be stolen. Criminals have a tendency to snatch credit card pitches from neglected mailboxes for fraud purposes. Also, mail your outgoing bill payments and checks from the post office or from another location as they can be removed from your box and the payee’s name can be easily erased with solvents.

Keep Your Social Security Number Safe
If you can, avoid carrying your Social Security card unless you need it. Your Social Security card is the primary target for most scammers and identity thieves as it can facilitate a number of crimes such as illegally accessing your credit report or banking account details.

Don’t Leave a Trail
A paper trail may seem harmless, but something as simple as an ATM, gas station, or credit card receipt can be a gateway to identity crime.

Monitor Your Credit Report
Obtain and go through your credit card report at least once a year so that you can catch any suspicious activity and stop it before it does too much damage to your finances. If you find something worrying or suspicious, contact your creditor as soon as you can to get back control.

Making Your Home Energy-Efficient – We Have a Loan for That!

As a homeowner, energy efficiency is one of the best long-term investments that you can make. It is a great way to save money from the recurring high costs and it is also the best way to make certain that the environment is protected. When you take cost-effective measures to improve the energy efficiency in your house, you also stand to increase your property’s value, which is vital if you are considering selling your home.

How to Make a Home Energy-Efficient
The most effective strategy for enhancing household energy efficiency starts by targeting the property’s envelope, which includes attics, doors, windows, and walls. The next step involves improving your energy systems such as lighting, electronic appliances, heating, and cooling. Introducing clean energy in the form of solar and geothermal energy is also an ideal way to ensure that your home is as energy-efficient as possible.

Before you can aspire to get your home more energy-efficient, you will have to get a good idea of where it currently stands. As such, you may have to pay for an energy audit, which allows an energy professional to inspect your home in order to assess whether the efficiency needs to be enhanced. These are often free in Vermont!

It is also a great way to figure out the parts of your home that need improving so that you can focus on the areas that require the most attention. Because the process of improving your home’s efficiency is lengthy and costly, most people look for help from banks or financial institutions that offer energy-efficient mortgages or loans.

Energy Efficiency Loans
Sometimes energy-efficient mortgages are also referred to as green mortgages. Energy-efficient mortgages help to cover the expensive costs of the valuable upgrades that you might have to make to make your home greener. Energy-efficient mortgages and loans are perfect for you if:

  • You are interested in the long-term value of your home
  • You cannot afford the cost of the upgrading or if you do not have enough home equity to cover the total costs
  • You are uncomfortable with the idea of using your home as collateral

In most cases, energy-efficient loans are suitable for large domestic projects such as window replacement, upgrading heating or cooling systems, insulation, and any other extensive improvement project.

Energy-efficient loans are great because they do not require that you put your house up as collateral and your application can be processed quickly. Depending on the provider that you pick, you may even receive approval for your loan on the same day that you make the application. What’s not to love about that?

Using the Equity in Your Home: It’s Not Just for Home Improvements!

If you’re a homeowner, chances are that you have equity in your home thanks to rising property prices. That’s why it comes as no surprise that many homeowners are tapping into the equity in their homes to get cash for home improvements. But, did you know there are lots of other ways you can use capital in your home?

With that said, you have several different loan options, including a home equity loan, HELOC (home equity line of credit), and even cash-out refinance. All these options can help make your life a lot easier in a number of ways.

Using Equity in Your Home to Pay for a Vacation
Taking a vacation is a crucial way to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of work and life. It allows you to reinvigorate your mind, re-energize, and come back rejuvenated. The trouble, however, is that a vacation can be pricey.

So, instead of using a high-interest credit card or borrowing a personal loan, consider leveraging the equity in your home to finance your holiday getaway.

Plan a Wedding
It’s no big secret a wedding is a huge financial undertaking. From hiring the caterers and renting the venue to paying for a honeymoon and every expense in between, wedding planning needs a bottomless fund. That’s where a cash-out refinance of your mortgage can be useful.

Pay for Your Children’s Braces, Dental, Etc.
You want the very best for your little one – it’s only natural. But things like braces cost a fortune. Lucky for you, you can borrow against the equity in your home to ensure that your child has a fabulous smile.

Pay Off Student Loans
Did you know Americans owed over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt? If you’re among the four in 10 adults who owe a massive debt in student loans, you can use the equity in your home as your magic wand. It’ll help you pay it off sooner than later, saving lots of money on interest. Besides, HELOC or home equity loans can help you consolidate your student loans.

Get a Handle on Emergency Expenses
Unexpected expenses are part of life. Your car can break down, emergency medical bills can arise, and so forth. What can one do in such a situation? If you’ve got equity in your home, don’t run to payday lenders or loan sharks. Just top-off or redraw the amount you’ve paid in your mortgage, and you’re all set.

You can also take advantage of the equity in your home to pay off credit card debt, pay utility bills, and even invest in the stock market.

Tackling Student Loan Debt: America’s Young Adults Have a Burden

Student loans have helped millions of students pursue a college education. A lot of individuals cannot afford the rising cost of higher education, so they turn to student loans that can facilitate their education. Sadly, an increasing number of graduates are dealing with student loan debt. When students first take a look at loans, they often fail to see the impact that loans are going to have down the road.

For instance, if your debt is higher than your income, this is an immediate red flag for lenders. As a result, a large amount of student loan debt disqualifies you from applying for mortgages and other financial assistance from lenders. Thanks to the interest accrued over time, most student loan debts are quite a financial burden – but there is no reason you cannot crush your debt.

To get you started, here are some practical strategies that you can use to tackle student loan debt:

Understand What Your Loan Terms Are
Federal and private student loans typically offer students a grace period of six months before they can start making official payments. It is critical that you understand the terms of your loan so that you can assess your options for repayment. Although it can be disheartening, learning exactly how much you owe can reduce your stress levels because it creates an opportunity to prepare. Information about federal loans can be acquired from the U.S. Department of Education National Student Loan Data System, while private loan information can be accessed directly from your lender.

Explore Your Repayment Options
If you do not yet make enough money, you may qualify for an Income Based Repayment or IBR. Unfortunately, IBR is only applicable to you if you have a federal loan.

Start with the Highest Rate Loans
Private loans tend to have higher interest rates compared to federal ones. As such, it makes sense to start paying private loans first. Ensure that you are as consistent as you can be with the additional amounts that you pay to offset the debt.

Sort Out Any Defaulted Loans
You may not know it, but your defaulted loans can make it a lot harder to clear your debt. You can sort out any defaulted federal loans by enrolling the loans in the federal loan rehabilitation program. The rules for every defaulted loan vary, but you are generally required to make at least 9 payments within 10 months to get back in good graces. Once you complete the 9 payments, you can then focus on increasing your income so that you can pay your debts more regularly and consistently.