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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.

3 Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Credit Score!

If you have ever had a loan application declined, it is easy to assume that you are not good enough to access credit, or that you need to wait for times to get better. But you can do better than assume such a fatalistic attitude. You can take steps to improve your credit score. Your scores are based on measurable data, and there is a lot you can do to change this measurable data.

Review Your Credit Report
Your credit card debt is only part of what goes on your credit report. There is other information that is included in the report, for example, auto loan payments, mortgage payments, student loan repayments, and even electricity and gas bills. It is important to know what information is going on your credit report. Ask for a report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus and scrutinize what you are being scored on.

Follow up on All Payments
Paying a portion of your bills is better than not paying at all. A good example is your credit card payments. You are allowed to carry part of your monthly balance on to the next month, but there are penalties for doing so. As long as you keep making the minimum monthly payments, you are in good books with the creditors. But skipping monthly payments is what gets you into the bad books.

If you have several monthly payments to make but are cash-poor, it is important to note when the different payments are due. You can then prioritize these payments, allocating the minimum necessary. If you have near maxed out cards it is important to prioritize their payments. This is even more important if they are of higher limits. It would be better if you maintained a borrowing balance of $2,000 on a $10,000 card than having $1,000 on a $5,000 card. This is called credit utilization. Look at the cards that give you better credit utilization and prioritize.

Paying your bills on time is a big factor in your credit ratings. Paying your bills before or on time impacts positively on your ratings. You can ensure that this happens by setting up automatic payments. Your payments due will trigger on or before the payment. It is easy to do this – almost all credit facilities and subscriptions offer this feature. Keeping your credit ratings positive is very important as it enables quicker borrowing and access to higher amounts of funds when you need them.

Best Places in Vermont for Cocoa or Coffee

Vermont has endless attractions for everyone. From award-winning ski resorts to a sizzling expanse of alpine fields and forests, Vermont is your dream all-season destination. But when it comes to enjoying hot cocoa or coffee, Vermont is dead right on the spot.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the best places in the Green Mountain State for cocoa or coffee. Prepare your taste buds for a ride of a lifetime.

1. Enjoy a Coffee Date at Maglianero in Burlington
Whether you fancy a cup of hot cocoa or a mug of coffee that’ll simply knock your socks off, Maglianero in downtown Burlington is the place to be. It’s an ideal place to catch up with friends or just get lost in a good read. And there’s a tiny library for that.

2. Capitol Grounds in Montpelier
Winter months can be brutal in Montpelier. A cup of hot cocoa or coffee at Capitol Grounds is all you need to have a blast in this quaint town. Don’t forget to munch into one of the sweet treats on display.

3. Carol’s Hungry Mind in Middlebury
Looking to skip all the hustles and bustles of downtown Burlington? Head over to Middlebury for a cup of sizzling cocoa or coffee at Carol’s Hungry Mind. Don’t forget to strike up a conversation with a stranger; folks here are quite friendly.

4. Village Wine and Coffee in Shelburne
If you are looking for an intimate spot to enjoy coffee or cocoa, Village Wine and Coffee in Shelburne might be your best shot. Its calm and serene atmosphere, coupled with several coffee blends, make this snazzy place to die for.

5. Mocha Joe’s in Brattleboro
This place makes absolutely the best mocha in Vermont. The shop roasts its fabulous coffee in-house. Artisans use only the finest coffee beans sourced from Farmers Direct Trade. Whether you love dark roast or decaf, you’ll get top-notch coffee at Mocha Joe’s.

6. Uncommon Grounds, Burlington
Another sweet spot in Burlington, Uncommon Grounds is the place to enjoy cocoa or coffee in Vermont if you like to watch people pass by. Their comprehensive menu is also spot-on.

7. The Works Bakery Cafe
If you are in Manchester Center area, The Works Bakery Café will not disappoint. Its fusion of artisan sandwiches, smoothies, and coffee will tickle your fancy.

8. Tuckerbox
This industrial coffeehouse serves the best Mediterranean bites alongside Turkish dishes and specialty artisanal coffees.

These are just but a few places for cocoa or coffee in Vermont. Speeder & Earl’s Coffee, Muddy Waters, and New Moon Café in Burlington will also not disappoint.

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Checking Accounts!

Most people think that choosing the right checking account is the most important thing when opening a checking account, but what they don’t know is that what matters most is knowing how to manage it once it becomes operational. Neglecting it or making mistakes can be very costly. The differences can be easily spotted between a checking account and a savings account. While a savings account earns you interest and has minimal fees, a checking account has minimal or no interest but has high fees. With a few tricks, you can manage your checking account diligently so that you can keep fees down and protect your account. Besides that, it will also help you manage your finances more smoothly.

Here are 5 tricks to managing your checking accounts:

1. Monitor the Schedule of Automatic Transactions
The first secret to efficiently managing your checking account is to keep accurate tabs and understand automatic billing on your checking account. Besides that, knowing the billing cycle will ensure that you don’t make withdrawals just before bills come in.

2. Balance Your Account Regularly
It’s important to check your checking account records against the bank’s records at least once per month. It’s the best way to spot any unauthorized transactions or unexpected fees that you haven’t authorized on your account. Additionally, always ensure that all transactions to and from your account are correctly entered in your account.

3. Monitor Interest Rates
Although most checking accounts have minimal or no interest rates, some checking accounts have interest rates. If you choose to open an interest-bearing checking account, always check to see if you are getting the interest rates expected from the account. If the rates keep decreasing, then you need to find a better alternative.

4. Look Before You Swipe
Most people prefer debit cards over credit cards since they only allow you to spend what you have in your account; however, they can quickly get you in trouble. If you make several purchases in one day, you need to be sure that the balance in your account can cover your next purchase. Therefore, before you swipe your card, always ensure you double-check your balance to see if it’s running low.

5. Check Out Overdraft Protection
Overdraft protection can be well worth your while if you are worried about being overdrawn. Just be sure to review the fees involved.