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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Inspiration from Manoush Zomorodi, Linus Torvalds, ALA.NI, Ernest Hemingway, and More

Once a month (or so), I share a dozen things that have inspired me to greater personal, professional, and financial success in my life. I hope they bring similar success to your life.

1. Martin Luther King, Jr. on friendship

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

While King spoke these words on behalf of the civil rights movement, they have always struck me as being deeply true with regards to human friendships. We often don’t remember the true cruelty of the words of our enemies; what we remember instead is the betrayal of our friends. The people who we believed would always have our backs, who instead chose to stay silent and not be there when we needed them most.

When I read this quote, it calls me to be a better friend, to not let my friends down in their moments of need, whether intentionally and otherwise. It reminds me to keep in touch with them, to understand what they’re going through, and to be there when challenges face them.

That’s what I want out of my friends, and it is wholly unfair to expect that out of them if I am not willing to do the same.

What kind of friend are you? Are you there during the good times, but silent and withdrawn during the bad when your friends truly need help? If that is you, then you will be remembered, but not in the way you might hope.

2. Manoush Zomorodi on how boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas

From the description:

Do you sometimes have your most creative ideas while folding laundry, washing dishes or doing nothing in particular? It’s because when your body goes on autopilot, your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems. Learn to love being bored as Manoush Zomorodi explains the connection between spacing out and creativity.

My mind wanders a lot when I’m doing household tasks or taking a shower or brushing my teeth. I’ll jump from idea to idea like a jackrabbit in a carrot farm.

The thing is, I don’t view that time as “boring” or think of it as wasted time. I actually view it as being pretty valuable time, indeed. It’s in that time that I make a lot of unexpected connections between very different ideas.

Most of the time, when I’m focusing on something, I don’t make those connections. I’m bearing down on a single task.

I think that you need both to come up with worthwhile ideas. You need to bear down sometimes on learning and deep understanding in order to have the raw materials with which your mind can make those connections when you’re in the shower.

3. Linus Torvalds on good and bad programmers

“Bad programmers worry about code. Good programmers worry about data structures and their relationships.” – Linus Torvalds

One of my mentors once told me – and I’m paraphrasing here – that the best way to solve a problem is to keep asking questions about the problem until the answer is obvious (or at least much simpler). If you jump straight to trying to solve it, you’ll find it incredibly difficult and the person you’re solving it for probably won’t be happy, either.

That idea turns out to be true for a lot of things in life. Almost everything we do is better served if we ask questions and try to understand the problem a little better before jumping straight to the solution.

This quote just expresses that idea in terms of computer programming. When you’re writing code, you’re working on the solution. When you’re figuring out data structures and relationships, you’re still trying to understand the problem.

Spend more of your time understanding the problem and less of your time on the solution and you’ll be better off.

4. Hidden Brain

From the description:

The Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain’s host Shankar Vedantam reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.

Hidden Brain is a podcast from NPR that presents a mix of psychology and self-improvement and science in a wonderful mix of facts and storytelling. I found myself on a very long road trip in August with a driver who wanted to listen to archives of a podcast that I didn’t enjoy very much, so I got cozy in the back seat and devoured about fifteen hours of the archives of this podcast over the course of two days.

While the entire archives of the series is worth listening to, I highly recommend the six part “You 2.0” series that was recently aired. Here, have a listen to the first part of that series:

The episode centers on a wonderful interview with Cal Newport on the value of “deep work” – focused work without interruption where you can delve deeply into a particular task. It’s something that I’ve come to find incredibly valuable in my own life, and the interview with Newport covers the idea very well, with lots of little bits to leave you thinking.

That’s just the start. I highly recommend subscribing to Hidden Brain.

5. Carl Jung on loneliness

“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.” – Carl Jung

Lonely doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re alone, though being alone can certainly lead to loneliness. A person can be lonely in a crowded room.

Loneliness is simply being unable to communicate the things that are important to you. That can happen when you’re with other people, whether in a crowd or in a small group or even one on one, if you don’t think the others are ever receptive to what you have to say.

I often cure my own loneliness by finding outlets for expressing myself. I also find, strangely, that it helps to do things to ensure that others aren’t lonely, by actively soliciting conversation with people who seem lonely. I’ll ask questions of the quiet person and try to bring them into conversation… and, somehow, that makes me feel better, too.

6. Ingrid Betancourt on what six years in captivity taught me about fear and faith

(Be aware, Ingrid speaks in Spanish, but you can turn on English subtitles by clicking on the CC button.)

From the description:

In 2002, the Colombian guerrilla movement known as the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) kidnapped Ingrid Betancourt in the middle of her presidential campaign. For the next six years, Betancourt was held hostage in jungle prison camps where she was ravaged by malaria, fleas, hunger and human cruelty until her rescue by the Colombian government. In this deeply personal talk, the politician turned writer explains what it’s like to live in a perpetual state of fear — and how her faith sustained her.

What I found inspirational here is that, in her terrible journey, the idea of a light at the end of that tunnel sustained her. It kept her going through things that would have otherwise made her give up.

She found that sustenance through her religious faith. Others may find it in their family, or in a particular vision for the future.

I know this much: without something to guide you, it’s hard to achieve anything. Without a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s very hard to make it through a difficult journey.

Find your light.

7. Taekwondo

This past month, I joined a beginner taekwondo class, one within the same martial arts school that my children and wife have been members of for a while. I’ve begun by getting involved in beginner’s classes, which are meant to teach a bunch of basic techniques and really boost physical fitness.

Every single class I’ve attended has left me with a sweat-soaked shirt, so they’re not kidding about the fitness part.

Why join, aside from the family connection? Well, for starters, to add me in is pretty inexpensive since we already have a family plan, so there’s very little cost. I decommitted from a few things recently to give myself time and room for this, too. I want to get myself into better physical shape.

The main reason, though, is not so much physical, but mental. It’s an hour I can just set aside to be mindful of my body, of my physical motion, and of the moment itself. I focus wholly on the motions and basic forms that I’m doing while simultaneously wearing out my body.

It’s been great so far. I typically feel very exhausted after exercise, but taekwondo, even though I leave with my shirt soaked with sweat, doesn’t leave me exhausted. It leaves me feeling alive.

8. Ernest Hemingway on unappreciated work

“You must always be willing to work without applause.” – Ernest Hemingway

Most of the time, when I finish an article, I simply read through it, think that it’s pretty good (or, sometimes, that it’s mediocre), and submit it quietly for posting on The Simple Dollar or elsewhere. There’s no fanfare. There’s no celebration. There’s just completion… and then the realization that there’s another one to complete.

It is not the idea of applause or adulation that keeps me writing. It’s the sense that each article might reach one or two people and help them find a better path in their life, and that in all likelihood I’ll never hear from those one or two people.

I’m okay with that.

Sometimes, writing helps me dig through things I’m struggling with in my own life and, by the time I’m done drafting an article, I’ve figured out a solution, but there’s no applause for that, either.

I’m okay with that, too.

The only joy that matters is the one that comes from within. Applause always fades. Adulation always fades. Those are outside factors. What matters are the inside factors.

9. ALA.NI – Tiny Desk Concert

From the description:

The moment you get a look at ALA.NI behind the Tiny Desk, you’ll notice it in the foreground: The singer asked us to record her set using her vintage RCA Ribbon microphone, which she carries around in a small briefcase between shows. It’s a security blanket, a bit of visual branding, a statement of stylistic intent — and, not for nothing, a big reason ALA.NI’s voice carries with such warmth and intimacy.

The microphone isn’t the only element of ALA.NI’s sound that seems to have been transported from another era. The London-born, Paris-based singer draws inspiration from her uncle, a British ’20s and ’30s cabaret star by the name of Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson, and writes her own songs in the style of the standards he sang. You & I, her debut album, reverberates from the same spirit: It captures and conveys a reverent love of early-20th-century music, while injecting those sounds with charisma and charm well suited for any era. Here, she performs four songs from You & I, before closing her set with a heartwarming, crowd-aided “Happy Birthday” to her accompanist, Marvin Dolly.

The best way I can describe the music here is that it’s a mix of a 1930s nightclub act mixed with modern folk sensibilities in about a 60/40 split. What makes it work is her voice, which is simultaneously smooth and warm and yet haunting.

The first song leads you to expect something, the second song manages to turn that on its ear, and the third shows you how important the guitarist really is, something I didn’t pick up on at first.

I absolutely love the Tiny Desk Concert series; they constantly introduce me to new music that I want to shout from the rooftops.

10. George Matthew Adams on the “self-made man”

“There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.” – George Matthew Adams

I was born without much money. I went through college paying every dime of it myself, either through scholarships I earned or student loans. Today, I’m on the road to financial independence. I have a stable career and a great family and a nice house. Most of my income in my adult life was earned purely through small businesses and self-employment.

I was not self-made in any way, shape, or form.

I’m not in this position if it wasn’t for my second grade teacher, who believed in me and kept me focused when I felt like a social outcast and had no interest in going back to school. I wouldn’t be here without my high school English teacher, who never let me think that my writing was “perfect.” I’m not here if it weren’t for my grandma, who gave me a journal for Christmas when I was twelve along with a booklet of journal writing prompts, and told me to fill it up. I’m not here without the constant care and love and ideas and examples from my parents.

The idea that I made it all by myself? It’s utterly ridiculous.

11. Intelligence Squared

Intelligence Squared is a Youtube channel focused on actual debate of issues shaping the modern world. It’s heavily moderated discussion by people who aren’t allowed to interrupt or shout over each other, but are given the room to share their ideas in great detail, even when they often don’t agree with each other.

One of my favorites that they’ve posted is Is the Party Over for Economic Growth?, in which Stephanie Flanders (JP Morgan’s chief market strategist for Europe), Deirdre McCloskey (US economic historian), and Tim Jackson (professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey and author of Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet). The discussion is incredibly respectful and everyone involved gets a chance to spell out their ideas, but they clearly disagree and it is through those disagreements and contrasts that you can dig deeper into their key question, whether or not economic growth can continue as it has over the last century.

Most of their videos are these kinds of lengthy debates; some are short clips from other debates with key thoughtful exchanges. Regardless, whenever a new video shows up from them, I watch. They almost always make me think.

12. Sam Harris on moral progress

“We will embarrass our descendants just as our ancestors embarrass us. This is moral progress.” – Sam Harris

It’s easy to look back at earlier generations and judge them harshly by the morals of today.

Yet, a hundred years from now, I suspect that my generation will be judged harshly by the light of that world.

People grow over time. The idea of what’s right and wrong doesn’t stay absolute, particularly as technology changes and we learn new things about ourselves and about the earth. As we learn more, we begin to see that some of the patterns of the past were wrong, and the further we travel, the more errors we see.

The moral mistakes of the past are a strong lesson for us today. They’re proof that the journey to the whole truth is an incomplete one.

This is a good thing. I hope my generation is a better steward of the world around them than previous generations, and I hope the next generation is better still, taking what they have learned from us and from new discoveries and applying them to the world to make it an even better place.

I am inspired by this idea to raise my children with a sense of curiosity and a sense of wonder, one where they will always ask whether things that they might take for granted are truly right.

The post Inspiration from Manoush Zomorodi, Linus Torvalds, ALA.NI, Ernest Hemingway, and More appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Friday, September 1, 2017

PayPal’s new credit card offers 2% cash back with no annual fee

Say hello to PayPal’s latest venture: the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®. It isn’t PayPal’s first credit card (remember the PayPal Extras Mastercard?), but it is the company’s first dip into the cash back pool. Consumers are extremely excited about cash back rewards right now, so this move makes a great deal of sense as PayPal tries to increase its presence with brick-and-mortar stores and compete with mobile payments rivals like Apple and Facebook.

The card offers 2% (unlimited) cash back on all purchases with no annual fee — that’s one of the highest unlimited cash back rebates on the market. (Most cash back cards offer either 3%-6% with an earning cap, or a flat rate of 1.5%.) Those stats put it head-to-head with the Citi Double Cash card and U.S. Bank Fidelity card, both of which also offer unlimited 2% cash back with no annual fee.

Cardholders can redeem cash back earnings at any time, for any amount, which is pretty flexible considering that some cash back cards require at least a $25 minimum for redemption. (Chase recently follued Rewards will live in PayPal users’ online wallets and can be spent immediately on PayPal purchases or transferred to a bank account.

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard

Annual fee None
Rewards details Earn 2% cash back at PayPal, Ebay, and all other purchases made anywhere that Mastercard is accepted.
Redemption options Cash Rewards can be redeemed directly into your PayPal balance at any time, for any amount.
Variable purchase APR 16.99%, 24.99% or 27.99%
Signup bonus None
Foreign transaction fee 3%

What’s not to love?

If you’re an avid PayPal shopper, the flexibility to redeem your rewards for any amount is incredibly attractive. But before you sign up, there are a few things you should consider.

2% cash back is great, but there are better reward rates.

If you aren’t a heavy spender, you should consider a card with higher rewards rates for certain categories. For example, the earns a whopping 6% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year. (It also earns 3% unlimited cash back at U.S gas stations and select U.S. department stores.)

If you max out the 6% category and spend $500 a month on groceries, you’ll earn $360 cash back. In comparison, you’d have to spend $1,500 a month — three times as much — with the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® to earn the same $360 reward. The bottom line is that unless you’re spending $2,000 or more on your card each month, you might be better off with a higher-rate cash back card — even it if has earning caps.

Note: the has a $95 annual fee that’s waived for year one, while the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® doesn’t have an annual fee at all.

There’s no signup bonus.

The the PayPal Cashback Mastercard doesn’t offer a signup bonus. If that disappoints you, the is a great alternative. If you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening your account (that’s around $330 a month), you’ll earn $200 cash back that you can redeem for gift cards, statement credits, or deposit directly into your bank account. On top of that, you’ll get a cash back redemption bonus of 5% every time you redeem.

If travel is more up your alley, the offers 50,000 bonus points worth $625 when you redeem toward travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®. The minimum spending requirement is a bit steeper ($4,000 in the first three months), but the bonus is one of the most generous on the market right now.

The post PayPal’s new credit card offers 2% cash back with no annual fee appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Stopping Online “Boredom” Shopping

I’ve done it myself a few times.

You’re sitting at your computer, or maybe tapping around on your phone. You don’t have much to do at the moment – maybe you’re waiting for someone to get home, or waiting for your name to be called while you sit in the waiting room.

Whatever it is, you’re just idly checking out websites and, somehow, you find yourself at an e-commerce site. Maybe you followed a link there, or maybe you typed in a URL.

You’re there. You see something that you want, perhaps for a good price, but perhaps not.

Without even really thinking about it, you click “Buy” and, almost immediately, that item is on its way to you. The money has come out of your credit card or your PayPal account.

Then, you move on. Your family comes home or you get called by the receptionist or you decide to go to bed. Half of the time, you completely forget about the “bored” order until it arrives on your doorstep.

I call this “boredom” shopping. You’re online without any real purpose because you don’t have anything else to do at that moment. You find your way to an online shopping or auction site and discover some product you “must” have. You click “buy.” The money goes away. Soon, you have something arriving in your mailbox that you barely even want.

You have less money. You have another thing to jam in your closet. And, over time, it all adds up to a bunch of unwanted stuff and a much smaller checking account.

It’s a nasty habit, but it’s one that’s familiar to most people who spend much time online. Almost all of us have bought something when we were bored and looking at websites, something that we really wondered about later.

Such “boredom” shopping is almost always a financial mistake. If it’s repeated very often, it can turn into a big one.

Yet, in a world where internet access is so convenient and pervasive, how does one keep themselves from falling into this simple trap? The internet is always available to entertain us in a moment of boredom and it is so easy to find something we want and take action instantaneously at the click of a button.

Here are six strategies I use to keep this type of online “boredom” shopping at bay.

Keep other “worthwhile” entertainment on your phone. I always have a book to read on my phone. Always. I often check out books from the library to read on my phone using the Overdrive app, and sometimes I download free books from Project Gutenberg.

Another avenue is to simply have a fun game that you consistently enjoy playing on your phone, preferably one that isn’t full of in-app purchases. I enjoy playing implementations of board games on my phone, such as Ascension and Ticket to Ride, so I often play those during a few down moments where I feel like reading. I also read articles in apps separate from my web browser, such as Instapaper, which make it much harder to just jump straight to an e-commerce site.

The goal with these tactics is to ensure that when I’m using my phone for a quick source of entertainment, I stay out of my web browser, which is where most e-commerce on my phone occurs. In fact, I generally avoid any apps that easily allow me to make purchases. There’s plenty of entertainment elsewhere.

If you’re tempted to buy, add it to your wish list instead. Let’s say I do wind up on Amazon, eyeing something that I really want to buy. My hand is hovering over that “Buy it Now” button and I want to take action on this desire.

Rather than clicking the “Buy” button, instead simply click on the “Add to List” button and toss it on your wishlist. You’re left with the feeling that you did take action on that desire, but you didn’t actually buy it. Instead, you postponed any sort of decision on that item.

At some point in the future, you’ll find yourself reviewing that list. One or two items will still seem interesting and relevant, and those might make for worthwhile planned purchases. Most of the stuff? It’s junk. Quietly delete it from your wish list. Wonder why you ever thought you should own it in the first place.

Separate the “money = buying” connection. Many people assume that if they have money left in their account, then it must be okay to buy things. After all, that’s excess money just sitting there. With that mindset, “boredom” shopping becomes unproblematic, because you merely spent money that was just sitting there.

One effective way to do that is to put money to use in smart ways when you see it sitting in your account. Use it to make an extra payment on a debt or make an extra contribution to your Roth IRA. If that money is put to positive use, it’s not just sitting there providing a psychological temptation.

If your problem is credit card use, put your credit card on lockdown for a while. Cut up the card. Delete the number from your online accounts. Simply don’t use it. If you simply must make an online purchase, stick to a debit card and avoid credit entirely.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with buying things for yourself, but buying should be connected to life goals, not to boredom. Focus on purchases not as a way to alleviate boredom, but as a way to further an ambition that you’re already exploring.

In other words, view boredom as a trigger to try something new, not just to spend money. Boredom isn’t a state to be alleviated by the next pleasure that you can throw money at. Boredom is a state where your mind is crying out for something to apply itself to, and you don’t have to spend money to find that something. If you find yourself regularly bored, try a new hobby. Go to a meetup that seems interesting. Check out a book from the library on a subject that’s completely new to you. Engage your mind and body in activity rather than channeling that boredom into buying stuff.

Another useful strategy is to set personal goals for yourself and save shopping for the successful completion of those goals. This ties into solving the “boredom” problem. Simply engage yourself in something else you’re passionate about, set a goal for yourself within that passion, and give yourself permission to further that passion with a purchase if you achieve that goal.

For example, my wife and I have a list of camping equipment that we’d love to upgrade (sleeping bags and lanterns are at the top of the list, as our lantern is difficult to light and the adult sleeping bags are becoming really stained and worn and threadbare) and, more than once, I’ve added some of those items to an Amazon shopping cart in a moment of boredom. However, rather than simply buying them on the spur of the moment, we tie those purchases into investment of time in camping. If we spend a lot of time camping, then it actually makes sense to upgrade those items.

I’ve adopted the same approach with board games. I have decided I won’t drop a game (via trade) from my collection unless I’ve played it ten times or ten hours (whichever comes first), and I won’t add a new game until I’ve dropped one (there are a few minor exceptions to this rule, but that’s good enough).

In the end, the problem of boredom shopping is a lack of self-control. These techniques help teach some degree of self-control and enforce some restrictions so that you’re not faced with battling your own self-control, but in the end, it still comes down to you and your own self-control journey. Correcting a pattern of buying stuff in the moment out of boredom is a self-control challenge, one that, if successfully beaten, will help you with other self-control challenges in your life such as eating a better diet or exercising.

My final tip for you, then, is this: remind yourself that this is about self-control and do so regularly, with the idea in mind that self-control is hugely beneficial in almost every area of your life. Mastering boredom shopping is all about self-control. It’s a fairly narrow challenge, too, one that you can teach yourself to overcome and, in that process, realize that you have far more control over your thoughts and impulses than you ever would have believed.

Good luck!

The post Stopping Online “Boredom” Shopping appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Southwest Cards Get Huge Signup Bonus Increase

Earlier this month, Chase announced an impressive signup bonus increase for the . New cardholders can now earn 60,000 points if they spend $2,000 within the first three months. That’s a 20,000 point increase, and it’s a great upgrade to a card we’ve already called our top airline card, with a great signup bonus!

Be sure to act quickly: Even though Southwest hasn’t set an end date yet, this is a limited-time offer. And if you’re looking to put those extra points towards something really special, it’s better to start saving sooner, rather than later.

Card highlights

There’s a lot of similarities between Chase’s Southwest cards: Each has a base rate of 2X points per dollar on Southwest and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other purchases. Additionally:

  • Points don’t expire as long as your card is open.
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions when you redeem points for flights.
  • First and second checked bags fly free.
  • No change fees. (Fare differences may apply.)

But when it comes to points and fees, there are some differences. Here’s a quick guide:

Southwest card comparison

Card Signup bonus Signup bonus requirements Anniversary points Annual fee Foreign transaction fees?
60,000 points $2,000 in first three months 3,000 points $69 Yes: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card 60,000 points $2,000 in first three months 6,000 points $99 No
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card 60,000 points $3,000 in first 3 months 6,000 points $99 No

Already applied?

If you’ve already applied for a Rapid Rewards® Credit Card within 90 days of the offer, and you’ve missed out on the signup bonus, don’t worry: Chase will match the higher offer on both personal and business cards. (To be eligible for matching, the offer must be a public, as opposed to an offer targeting a specific individual.)

Bonus benefit: Southwest Companion Pass

The Companion Pass is a major incentive for making Southwest your airline of choice. This members-only perk lets you designate one person to fly with you for 100% free for the following full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which you earned it. Earn a companion pass early enough in the year, and that’s two years’ worth of free flights for your chosen companion.

Here’s what you’ll need to qualify:

  • 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
  • 100 qualifying one-way flights.

(Note: you don’t have to own a Southwest credit card to earn a Companion Pass; any Rapid Rewards member who meets the criteria above can earn one.)

If you’re ready to earn free travel, apply now with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card to earn your 60,000-point signup bonus — and start earning points on every purchase.

The post Southwest Cards Get Huge Signup Bonus Increase appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

4 Ways to Avoid Paying Interest on Credit Card Debt

It’s official – Americans owe a ton of money in credit card debt. Actually, it’s more than a ton: it’s $1 trillion, which is even more than the previous high set in April 2008 just before the Great Recession, according to Federal Reserve data.

On top of this debt, the average credit card interest rate is also at an all-time high at slightly more than 16%. That means if everyone carried their balances from month-to-month and paid interest, we’d be collectively paying $160,000,000,000 in interest, on average, on our credit card debt. Yes, $160 billion – more than the 2016 estimated GDP of Qatar!

Not everyone is a “revolver” (someone who carries a balance from month-to-month instead of paying their balance off in full). However, about 43% of us are revolvers, meaning we’re each paying, on average, an extra $855 a year in interest charges.

That adds up to a lot of money paid in interest.

Now, before you let these figures set in and crush your soul, know that it’s possible to avoid paying interest or to pay significantly less, even if you carry a balance from month to month.

Four ways to avoid or reduce interest

Option #1: Consider a balance transfer.

If you’re paying a high interest rate on a large balance or multiple balances, you might want to consider a balance transfer. Many balance transfer credit cards offer extended 0% intro APR on transferred balances, giving you time to pay off any outstanding debts interest-free!

We recommend

The includes 18 months of 0% intro APR on balance transfers! You’ll also enjoy no annual fee and a robust rewards program.

Option #2: Sign up for a card with introductory 0% APR.

Know that you’ll need to make several large purchases in the coming months? Sign up for a card with extended 0% introductory APR on all new purchases. Many cash back credit cards offer a year or more of 0% intro APR, allowing you to avoid paying interest while you pay off your purchases.

We recommend

The gives cardholders 15 months of 0% introductory APR on both purchases and balance transfers. The card also features no annual fee and unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase.

Option #3: Take advantage of your affiliations.

If you qualify to become a member of a credit union, you may be able to benefit from competitive rates and terms as well as reduced fees. Membership in a credit union is typically based on a common bond, such as your employer, geographic location, homeowners’ association, place of worship, and more. See if credit unions you qualify for promote attractive interest rates on credit cards or loans.

We recommend

If you’re a member of the military, the suite of USAA credit cards boast low APR starting at 7.90%. Need to build credit? The offers low APR rates starting at 10.90% with extra-low 4% APR during deployment or PCS.

Option #4: Explore student-specific cards.

If you’re a student, you probably haven’t had many opportunities to build credit yet, and therefore are probably facing higher-than-average interest rates. The best student credit cards offer APR as low as 13.99%, which can allow you to save a few bucks on interest while building credit.

We recommend

The offers 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first six months, then standard APR starting at 13.99% after that. Use those six months to establish good credit habits while avoiding interest!

Bonus option: Pay your balance off in full and on time each month!

You can always avoid paying interest by paying your balance off in full and on time each month, no matter what card you have in your wallet.

While 43% of us may pay interest each month due to revolving debt, it is possible to avoid paying interest altogether. Any one of the options listed above can help you build positive credit and establish good financial habits.

Other tips

  • Sign up for payment reminders, set a calendar alert, or use a financial monitoring software or app that notifies you when payments are due.
  • Break your payments up into smaller chunks. If you’re only paying once a month, you may fall into the habit of “out of sight, out of mind.” Instead, try making payments every paycheck or once a week.
  • Treat your credit card as a debit card, and only charge what you can afford to pay off. If you can only spend $200 in a given month, then only charge $200. This way, you won’t carry over debt you can’t afford.
  • It’s worth repeating once again: Pay your balance off in full and on time each month. Not only is this essential to avoiding interest payments, it’s also vital to building a healthy credit score.

The post 4 Ways to Avoid Paying Interest on Credit Card Debt appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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How to Get Over Feeling Envious of Other People’s Money and Success

It happens to most of us at some time or another.

A neighbor will buy something extravagant, like a gorgeous new car, and you look at your older car in the driveway and feel some envy.

A relative will get a great job and make more money in a year than you ever have. You’ll overhear talk of that person’s salary, think about your own salary, and feel some envy.

You’ll visit an old friend who has a huge, nice house with plenty of room for their family and some really beautiful decorations. You’ll go back to your own small home or apartment, look around, feel like it’s a dump, and feel some envy.

Envy. It’s an emotion that we all feel at some point.

It’s also a really dangerous emotion when we’re trying to build a strong financial life. After all, envy encourages us to make some pretty poor decisions.

Envy causes us to buy things to “keep up with the Joneses.”

Envy causes us to get in way over our head with a car loan or a mortgage or a furniture loan.

Envy causes us to start buying lots of luxury brands that we can’t really afford, draining money away from much more important things.

Envy is pure poison to a healthy financial life.

Like every other character flaw, however, envy can be overcome. You can directly reduce the envy itself, or you can at least reduce the bad choices you make as a result of envy.

Here are seven strategies I use to cut envy out of my own life.

Take time to focus on the good things you already have. Even if you don’t happen to have everything that other people have, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have an amazing life. Almost everyone’s life is full of a lot of amazing things if they take the time to consciously look for them.

Look for the “amazing” you already have in your life and feel grateful for it. Look at the people who love you. Look at the positive things you’ve achieved. Look even at the simple pleasures, like the warm feeling of a ray of sun on your skin. Your life is loaded with goodness, so make that the focus in your life.

ACTION: Take a few minutes each day to write down five things you’re grateful for. Do this in an ordinary notebook, and make it part of your daily routine.

Remember that no one has the “perfect” life and you’re often merely seeing a carefully prepared “public face.” It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that other people have a “perfect” life – or one that’s much closer to “perfect” than your own.

However, one needs to always remember that when we see people in public, they’ve often got their public face on. They’re trying to show themselves at their best, most of the time.

When we see people on social media, they’re almost always showing their best. They want to show the greatness of their life, not the flaws.

Don’t judge your own life by comparing your whole to only the positive facets of the lives of others. You’ll almost never win that comparison, and it’s a false comparison to boot, so just don’t bother with it.

If you must compare yourself, remain mindful of what’s not seen in their public appearances and their social media profiles. What’s just outside of the camera lens? What’s

ACTION: Reflect on the sacrifices that person had to make in order to have that thing you’re envious of. How many years of study did it take to get there, earning very little and suffering difficult situations? How much debt are they taking on to buy that thing? Is that really a tradeoff you want in your own life? Likely, when you step back and look at the sacrifices involved, it’s not just a big positive and it’s often not even a trade you’d want to make for yourself.

When someone else succeeds, celebrate it rather than be envious of it and remember that the world is an abundant place. Envy often is born from a view of the world in which every winner must be paired somehow with a “loser,” that for every person who gains, there must be a person who loses in return.

That’s a false view of the world. The world is an abundant place. Take love, for example; a loving relationship has no loser. Both people win. A productive professional relationship has no loser. A good friendship has no loser.

Thus, when a friend finds something good, you didn’t “lose” because of it. No one did. They merely had a good thing in their life, and that’s worth celebrating. It is good for everyone when a friend finds something good in their life.

When your friend sees success, be happy for them for their own merit. That success does not mean that you lost – it merely means that your friend won, and that’s something to truly be happy about!

ACTION: Whenever you notice a friend’s good fortune, don’t dwell on what you don’t have. Consciously choose to be joyous for what your friend has gained, and express that joy publicly in honest congratulations.

Cultivate relationships with people who publicly aspire to the values you aspire to. Look for people in your communities – online and off – that espouse the values that you aspire to and make it your goal to cultivate relationships with those people.

The reason is simple: the attributes of your friends rub off on you, and the closer the friend is, the more likely you are to pick up on those attributes in your own life. Thus, it makes a great deal of sense to surround yourself with people who are not envious of others, with people who instead are humble and genuinely happy for others.

ACTION: Identify an acquaintance that exhibits the virtues you desire, particularly virtues such as humility and reliability and trustworthiness. Cultivate a friendship with that person and try to emulate those good traits within that friendship. If you’re becoming friends with a humble, courteous person, be humble and courteous yourself.

Avoid people who publicly present values you don’t want in your life. The flip side of the above strategy is to slowly divest yourself of relationships with people who exhibit traits you don’t want in your life.

Avoid people who are envious and critical and negative in their attitudes toward others. Avoid those who try to show their value in terms of the things they own and have bought. Avoid those who brag of their personal and professional and financial successes.

ACTION: Look through your list of friends and identify those who often bring negative traits to the conversation and make a conscious effort to spend less time with them. Replace that time with more time spent with those who are more positive.

Recognize marketing at work. We are often made to feel envious by clever marketing. We’ll see ads of beautiful people enjoying products and, on some level, feel envious of that life and want it for ourselves – and lo and behold, here’s a product that will supposedly give it to us.

It’s even more insidious when it appears inside of the programs themselves, when “news” reporters fawn over how great the latest product is or a beautiful actor or actress uses a particular product in their beautiful home. You’re meant to feel envy. You’re meant to want that product.

Don’t.

ACTION: Be aware of how marketers use not just advertisements, but the programming itself, to make you want products. Watch for product placement in television comedies and dramas and reality shows and be aware of how blatant it can be at times. By deconstructing these kinds of things, you make them less powerful.

Choose to be generous with your own time and money. When you give your time and energy and money to others, you see how something that doesn’t have as much value for you is incredibly valuable for others, and you begin to realize how much value you have and how much you have to give.

For example, the simple act of carrying a couple bags of food to a person’s car when they can’t get around very well is an example of how just a little bit of your own effort and time saves that other person a ton of effort and time. Not only does it feel good to do this, it also reminds you of how much abundance you actually have in your life.

ACTION: Perform a random act of kindness each day for someone, even just a small one. Carry someone’s groceries to their car for them. Catch someone’s cat for them if it gets loose. Pick up someone’s dropped wallet and return it to them. You’ll feel great, and you’ll realize how much abundance you already have in your life, which cuts back on the amount of envy and jealousy you feel toward others.

In the end, envy comes from a sense of not having enough and a sense that others have, somehow unfairly, found more than you. The truth is that most people have an abundance of good things in their life, once they see them, and that others may possess wonderful things but often have to pay a price for them.

Just because someone has something great in one area doesn’t mean life is unfair. It means that they made a choice and made sacrifices to have that success, that the success is something they wanted and were willing to sacrifice for, and that it’s worth celebrating openly and honestly. It doesn’t mean that you must have that thing in your life. You already have an abundance.

Good luck!

The post How to Get Over Feeling Envious of Other People’s Money and Success appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Eight Cheap and Tasty Taco Recipes

No matter your ethnic background or where you live, it’s fairly safe to say that almost everyone you know likes tacos. They’re easy to make, can be assembled with all kinds of ingredients, can be altered to fit nearly any diet (vegetarian, gluten-free, picky five-year-old) — and are often downright cheap.

When you can make tacos out of pretty much anything and your family will actually eat them, it’s hard to complain. Depending on the type of tacos you make, you may also score easy clean-up and simple-to-reheat leftovers to boot.

Still, it’s possible to expand your taco horizons by trying new fillings and flavors that are both delicious and cheap. Believe it or not, some taco recipes are even best when made with leftovers from other meals.

If you’re trying to save money on meals, it’s important to know all the different ingredients that can go into a taco while still tasting amazingly good. Here are some of the best cheap taco recipes from my own kitchen and around the web.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

This recipe is a meal I’ve started making since I experimented with meal delivery service, Hello Fresh. Hello Fresh sent a similar dish and I altered the recipe so I could make it myself. Not only do the adults in our house love it, but the kids will eat it, too.

Ingredients:

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • Can of black beans
  • Small onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Honey
  • Cumin
  • Olive oil
  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream

Directions: Start by turning your oven up to 400 degrees. Wash and cut your sweet potatoes into one-inch cubes, then coat them in olive oil. Bake them in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until mostly cooked.

Once your sweet potatoes are almost cooked, heat up a skillet on the stove. Saute diced onion and black beans together on low.

In another skillet set on medium, take your baked sweet potatoes and add a few tablespoons of honey and some olive oil. Sprinkle with cumin as your potatoes are browning up.

Once you’re done, you can assemble your tacos however you want. Add black beans and sweet potatoes to your tortillas, then garnish with sour cream and cheese as desired.

Leftover Hamburger Tacos

Since my family is vegetarian, we always use soy crumbles in recipes that call for hamburger. But, this simple recipe is perfect with regular ground beef, and even leftover hamburger meat or patties from another meal.

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound to 1 pound of hamburger or soy crumbles
  • Small onion, diced
  • 2 cups lettuce, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced small
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Taco seasoning
  • Flour or corn tortillas

Directions: If your hamburger is browned already, you can easily just throw it into a skillet to heat it up and add taco seasoning and a cup of water until it’s ready to serve. If your hamburger isn’t cooked yet, you’ll need to brown it first before adding a packet of taco seasoning and a cup of water (possibly more, if required).

Once your meat is done cooking, start assembling tacos as desired. Add a layer of meat on the bottom, top with diced veggies, then add sour cream or cheese as desired. It’s as simple as that.

Shrimp Tacos with Slaw

While I really like this Real Simple recipe for shrimp tacos, I alter it to make a cheaper, easier version for my family.

Ingredients:

  • Bag of frozen shrimp
  • Avocado
  • Small onion, diced
  • Small tomato, diced
  • Bag of shredded cabbage
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sour cream
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar
  • Celery salt
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dry mustard
  • Taco seasoning
  • Flour or corn tortillas

Directions: The first step to getting started is making the slaw for your tacos. Whisk together ¾ cup of mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of sour cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons diced onion, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 1 tablespoon dry mustard, 2 teaspoons celery salt, and dash of salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour the mixture over your shredded cabbage in a bowl, mix, and set aside.

Heat a skillet on your stovetop and set the temperature on medium. From there, you can add frozen cooked shrimp and any kind of seasoning you want. Taco seasoning is a good choice, of course, but so is cumin or simple salt and pepper. You can also use Cajun or blackening seasoning.

Once your shrimp is prepared, cut your avocado into taco-sized slivers and begin assembling your tacos. Add a layer of shrimp and slaw, vegetables on top, and a slice or two of avocado to each taco.

Mushroom and Corn Tacos

One night, I was trying to find a way to use ingredients I already had when I stumbled onto this recipe for mushroom and corn tacos. Since I didn’t have the exact ingredients and wanted to make it cheaper, I altered it some. Here’s what I came up with:

Ingredients:

  • Canned or fresh corn
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Canned or fresh mushrooms, one pound
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 corn or flour tortillas
  • White onion, diced
  • Salsa
  • Fresh cilantro

Directions: Saute canned corn (or an equal amount of fresh corn) in a skillet on medium heat for at least five minutes. Remove corn from skillet and set aside.

Add oil to the skillet, then add mushrooms, oregano, chili powder, and cumin. Cook 2-3 minutes until mushrooms seem properly cooked, then add garlic and salt. Cook another 5 minutes until mushrooms are firm and add corn to the mix.

Saute for a few more minutes, then add a scoop of the mixture to your tortillas and garnish with fresh cilantro and salsa as desired.

Fajita Tacos

Fajita tacos offer a smart way to use up expiring bell peppers and red peppers. I’ve made this dish plenty of times, usually relying on whatever vegetables I have on hand — you can of course add strips of chicken if you want.

Ingredients:

  • Sliced peppers, at least two cups
  • Olive oil
  • Small onion, diced
  • Small tomato, diced
  • Taco seasoning
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Taco shells or tortillas

Directions: Start by heating up a skillet on medium heat. Add sliced peppers and onions, then cook for 3-5 minutes. Once the peppers and onions have cooked down, add taco seasoning and water. Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes.

Once the mixture is ready, add it to your taco shells or tortillas, then top with diced veggies, sour cream, and cheese as desired.

Garden Vegetable Taco Wraps

Garden vegetable tacos can be served warm (as described above) or cold as more of a “wrap.” Personally, I love to make the latter type of taco when summer hits and my garden is in full bloom. Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients:

  • Shredded lettuce
  • Cucumber, sliced thin
  • Tomato, diced
  • Zucchini, sliced thin
  • Onion, diced
  • Avocado, cut into slices
  • Ranch or garden flavored cream cheese
  • Flour tortillas

Directions: Start by dicing and slicing all of your vegetables. From there, you can spread a thin layer of cream cheese on your tortillas and begin assembling your wraps based on personal preference. While the vegetables above work great, you could consider adding other vegetables that taste good fresh, including mushrooms or peppers.

Easy Taco Salad

Taco salad is easy to make and hard not to love. We make it with soy crumbles at our house, but you can use ground beef, found turkey, chicken, or any other meat you wanted as well.

Ingredients:

  • Shredded lettuce
  • Tomato, diced
  • Onion, diced
  • Avocado, cut in slices
  • Bag of tortilla chips
  • Can of black beans
  • Ground beef or soy crumbles
  • Packet of taco seasoning
  • French dressing (we love Ken’s)
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded cheese

Directions: Start by cooking your ground beef or soy crumbles in a skillet on medium heat. Once the mixture is fully cooked, you can add a packet of taco seasoning and a cup of water. Continue cooking the mixture until the taco seasoning becomes sauce-like, adding more water as required. In another pan, heat a can of black beans until piping hot.

Assemble your taco salad starting with a bed of shredded lettuce. Add diced tomato and onion, sliced avocado, and black beans, then top with a few handfuls of crumbled tortilla chips. Add sour cream, French dressing, and shredded cheese on top as desired.

Rotisserie Chicken Tacos

We’ve written about the many ways to use leftover rotisserie chicken before, and rotisserie chicken tacos definitely fit the bill. With this recipe, you’ll start with leftover rotisserie chicken and end up with a taco dinner your family will love. This recipe is also extremely hard to mess up.

Ingredients:

  • Rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Tomato, diced
  • Onion, diced
  • Avocado, cut in slices
  • Packet of taco seasoning
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded cheese
  • Flour or corn tortillas

Directions: Heat a skillet on medium before adding your leftover rotisserie chicken, a packet of taco seasoning, and a cup of water. Cook on medium heat until chicken is fully heated and the taco seasoning takes on a sauce-like texture. Continue adding water as required.

Once your chicken is fully cooked, you can start assembling your tacos. Start with a layer of chicken, then add diced veggies, avocado, shredded cheese, and sour cream if you desire.

Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.

Related Articles:

What is your favorite cheap taco recipe? Please share in the comments!

The post Eight Cheap and Tasty Taco Recipes appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cash Back Cards Lead Surge in Satisfaction

Most customers are highly satisfied with their credit cards, according to a new study, but they reserve their highest levels of satisfaction for cards that offer cash back rewards programs. American Express scored the highest customer satisfaction among card issuers, with Discover and two other competitors also ranking above the industry average.

The J.D. Power 2017 Credit Card Satisfaction Study, released Aug. 17, finds that an increasingly competitive marketplace has motivated credit card issuers to offer their customers more — specifically, more lucrative signup bonuses, more generous cash back rewards, and more benefits.

The study’s highlights include:

  • Customers’ overall satisfaction with their credit card issuers (802 on a 1,000-point scale) has never ranked higher in the study’s 11-year history.
  • Among different categories of credit cards, the ones offering cash back rewards programs earned the highest scores for satisfaction. Earning the lowest scores? Airline cards and store-branded Visa/MasterCard rewards cards.
  • Customers who interact with their card issuers using a combination of online and mobile platforms are more satisfied (834) than customers who don’t use digital channels at all (780).
  • Customers over age 40 are becoming more satisfied with their credit cards while those under 40 are becoming less satisfied.
  • Among customers over 40, 44% cite better rewards as the primary reason they may consider switching cards. For 38% of customers under 40, getting better benefits is the primary reason to switch cards.

Customer satisfaction scores by issuer

In addition to ranking credit card issuers, the study also finds that customers are most satisfied with cash back rewards cards. What are some of the study’s top-ranked credit card issuers that offer cash back cards? Here’s a snapshot:

Customer satisfaction scores

Issuer Customer satisfaction score* Cash back cards include
American Express 835
Discover 827
Capital One 808
Barclay 806

*(1,000-point scale — industry average is 802). Source: J.D. Power.

About the study

The responses

The study includes responses from 22,896 credit card customers.

The timeframe

September 2016 to June 2017

The criteria

The survey examined the following six factors to measure customer satisfaction, listed from most important to least important:

  1. Interaction
  2. Credit card terms
  3. Billing and payment
  4. Rewards
  5. Benefits and services
  6. Problem resolution

About J.D. Power

Established in 1968, J.D. Power specializes in marketing, consumer intelligence, and data and analytics. The company is also known for its reviews and ratings of cars, insurance, electronics, and other products.

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The Battle Between Stress and Frugality

As I often do when I write an article, I start by making a list of all of the major points I want to cover, then making a few sub-points under each point. This is usually the outline of the whole article, from which I start writing paragraphs and adding relevant details and, often, anecdotes from my own life that illustrate the point (and, usually, served as the reason the post existed in the first place).

As I was outlining this particular article, I found myself exchanging a long series of text messages with my wife as we figured out the logistics of our week during a break at her workplace.

So, let’s review what’s going on.

My wife and I both work full time. I have a somewhat more flexible work schedule, but I do have to devote a lot of hours during the week to work; my wife’s schedule is more set in stone. Our children are in school full time.

Three members of our family are preparing to test for their black belts in tae kwon do later on in the fall. This means a lot of preparation, as the amount of material covered during black belt testing is extensive and covers four or so years of slow progression toward that level. This means a lot of evening practices.

My two oldest children are also in fall soccer leagues, which practice twice a week after school and have classes on weekends.

During the course of the next two months, we have two children celebrating birthdays, as well as two weddings to attend that will involve travel.

All of these things have logistics and scheduling challenges. Who’s going to get people from point A to point B? Does everyone have all of their gear? Is everything clean and ready to go?

This is in addition to the constant ongoing elements of family life – meal preparation, laundry, dishes, keeping the house in some semblance of shape, maintaining some semblance of friendships, and so on.

(There are a few additional issues I’m not even mentioning, to protect privacy of family members and friends.)

How do we logistically pull off all of these things? What meals will be prepared in the slow cooker (which means I’m probably stopping early in my work day to do the prep)? Who will drive people to the next town over for tae kwon do forms practice? Who will take care of the laundry? Who will take care of the dishes?

Juggling all of this stuff is really stressful. I’m worried about making sure we make it to everything. I’m worried abut forgetting something important. I’m worried about who gets priority when schedules overlap, and whether someone will be locked out of an activity they care about. I’m worried that our house is going to turn into a complete disaster pit of disorganization and uncleanliness.

Here’s the catch: I could make a healthy dose of this stress go away by throwing money at the problem.

There’s a laundry service in our town that will pick up a pile of laundry at your home, do it all, fold it all, and deliver it a day or two later.

There are many restaurants in the area that offer takeout or convenient dining or delivery.

There are many housecleaning services.

There are many lawn care services.

There are at least three people on my block that offer child care services and would happily take children to required practices if needed.

The temptation to simply whip out the checkbook or the credit card and use one or more of these services, solely for a respite from the stress, is incredibly tempting.

Rather than preparing a meal at home each night, I could simply grab food from the local Mexican restaurant one night, pick up sandwiches another night, order pizza another night…

… but that’s another $30 or $40 in expense compared to making the meals at home.

Rather than trying to juggle laundry, I could simply call up the laundry service and leave several baskets on my front step, then open my front door a day or two later to find freshly folded clothes ready to be quickly put into drawers…

… but that costs a lot of money. It’s somewhere around $10 per load, by my estimation.

Rather than trying to juggle the logistical challenge of taking three kids to three different places for three different events in a particular sequence, I could simply hire someone to handle it (or ask a friend to help, if they weren’t similarly overwhelmed)…

… but the fee of child care is at least $10 per hour around here, especially if you’re expecting a child to be taken somewhere and picked up.

Rather than trying to clean up the house each day so that it’s at least semi-presentable for guests in the areas where guests might go (and keep a door or two firmly closed because, frankly, there’s no time to deal with it), I could simply hire a housecleaner to come in and get things in great shape…

… but the housecleaning services around here, again, cost at least $10 an hour for bare-bones service, and that adds up fast.

To summarize all of this, I can easily throw some cash at our temporary problems to reduce short term stress. If I took, say, $200 and used it to cut out some of the stressful elements of our life in the next few weeks, it would definitely make things easier in many ways.

However, over the longer haul, that $200 contributes to stress. That money has to come from somewhere, and it comes from our long-term plans. While it might seem like a drop in the bucket, the reality is that it means that our savings for our future is actually lower in a real way.

This is the core problem with foregoing frugality in the short term to alleviate stress: if you can afford it right now, it becomes hard to directly see the cost of doing it.

We can afford that $200 right now and, yes, it would cut back on a bit of stress in the moment. That $200 expense really wouldn’t change anything in our daily life and, before long, that credit card would just be paid off.

Here’s the truth, though: that $200 came from somewhere and, very likely, it came from some kind of savings goal. It came from retirement, or from saving for a new vehicle, or from saving for a down payment.

I might not see this loss directly – in fact, I probably won’t.

Instead, what I’ll see indirectly is that I have to work a little more than I did before. I’ll have to spend just a little longer being uncertain about future plans. I have to deal with a particular flavor of background stress just a little longer.

So, what actually happens when I forego frugality to overcome a short term stress is that I end up paying back that stress over the long term, over a longer period of time.

Throwing that $200 at a stressor right now helps me deal with something over the next week or two, then it’s all over with. Life moves on. My family members do their tae kwon do belt tests. Soccer season winds down. That $200 disappears into the ether with no lasting impact.

However, putting that $200 aside for the future doesn’t really have much impact at all right now, but at some point down the road, it helps. That $200 reduces long term stress, but it does it just a little bit, though that reduction is stretched out over a very long period. It builds some return on that investment and helps me feel ready to retire just a little sooner, and helps me feel just a little less stressed out for retirement over the course of many, many years.

So, here are some takeaway practical lessons from all of this.

It makes a ton of financial sense to prepare for busy times when things aren’t so busy. During the lazy months of late summer, we knew that this busy period was coming, so we actually did the smart thing and prepared a little bit.

We cleaned out our pantry and organized it, so that meal prep is a lot easier than before.

We made some meals in advance and stored them in the freezer. We particularly worked on slow cooker meals that we could put in a single container, then just deposit into a slow cooker and turn it on low to cook for several hours with minimal effort (think stews). We also made some casseroles, like lasagnas and so on.

We got fully caught up on laundry so we could afford to get behind a little bit in the next few weeks.

So, if you see a really stressful time coming up, prepare for it. Get things done at home so that you can continue being frugal even when things get really stressful.

Clearly think about your priorities before you’re stuck in the heat of the moment, because “heat of the moment” decisions are almost always really stressful. Know what things take priority over other things so that when you’re stuck and having to make a difficult choice, that decision is already practically made for you.

You can figure this out in advance when stress isn’t bearing down on you. I often think about things like this when I’m in the shower or when I’m unloading the dishwasher or when I’m walking the dog. I think through future situations and try to figure out what the best way to resolve them would be.

I find that by thinking through these situations when I’m not stressed out, I tend to come to really sensible, rational conclusions about what to do. Better yet, I find that if I’ve thought these things through and have smart conclusions ready to go, they immediately pop into my head when things go bad and I’m able to just handle the situation well. I don’t have to freak out when deciding who to take to what first or what to do about a dinner gone bad. I have a plan, I know that plan, and I can just move forward on that plan.

A final tip: make those priorities clear as can be to everyone. I even go so far as to recite my priorities for a particular afternoon to the family so that they know what the priorities are. I’ll say, for example, that my primary goal this evening is to get everyone to black belt practice, and the next priority is to get everyone home for a family dinner together, and the next priority after that is to get people to soccer practices. If I’m in a situation where I have to choose, I just follow those priorities.

Learn some helpful “de-stressing” “power ups” and use them. One of the best strategies I’ve found recently for dealing with personal challenges comes from Jane McGonigal’s wonderful book SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully. It’s an incredible read, one that I recommend for anyone who struggles with overcoming any kind of personal challenges, whether self-imposed or imposed by things outside your control.

One of the most powerful ideas I’ve peeled from that book is the idea of “power ups.” A “power up” is something you can quickly do in your life to create a positive feeling, one that makes you feel better and leaves you more in control of whatever kind of challenge you’re trying to overcome.

McGonigal recommends having a repertoire of power-ups you can tap so that there’s variety available and so that you don’t “wear out” one particular power up through repetition.

Based on McGonigal’s advice, I have a number of “power ups” that I rely on that helps a lot with stress and feeling overwhelmed. This is a huge step, because that sense of stress and feeling overwhelmed often convinces me to abandon frugal principles and throw money at a problem when that runs directly counter to my long-term life goals.

Here are a few of my favorite “power ups.”

+ I meditate for ten minutes by sitting in a chair or in my car and simply focusing on nothing but my breath, going in, going out, going in, going out, and bringing my focus back to it if my attention goes elsewhere.

+ I eat an orange. Oranges are my favorite fruits. I absolutely love the taste and texture. (You might want to just have your own favorite fruit on hand.)

+ I vigorously exercise for a few minutes. My favorite thing to do is to plank until I can’t do it any more, paired with some deep stretching. If I have ten or fifteen minutes, I like to hop on my bike and ride a few miles really quickly.

+ I watch the music video of one of my favorite uptempo songs. I’ll watch Ain’t No Man by The Avett Brothers, My Girls by Animal Collective, or 6 AM Jullandar Shere by Cornershop, or the theme from The Natural. I want something that wakes me up and makes me feel good and alive.

+ I drink a big glass of really cold water. It wakes me up and makes me feel good for a while.

+ I take a longer shower than usual and just enjoy the water running over me. Sometimes, I’ll sing a song.

I have lots of these kinds of “power ups,” but many of the others are really tailored to personal interests. I strongly encourage you to figure out some of your own “power ups” and use them to help you deal with stressful slices of life.

Postpone major financial decisions until the end of a stressful period. If you’re going through a period where stress is high in your life, you’re likely to not make good financial decisions, and big financial decisions add more stress, making everything even more challenging.

For example, if you’re forced to move unexpectedly, don’t immediately buy an expensive house. Move into an apartment, settle into the other life changes, let the stress subside a little, and then shop for a house.

We may be due to change vehicles soon, but our automobiles are in good enough shape to get through the next few months, so we’re simply avoiding that decision for now. We don’t need to add more stress to the equation and we also know that we don’t make good decisions when we’re stressed.

If a stressful period feels unending, find something to de-commit from because the reality is that you’re letting down all of your commitments when you’re overstressed. Over and over again, I have found that during periods of heavy stress, I simply don’t perform as well at my life commitments. I usually do “well enough,” meaning that I get through the situations without disaster, but I don’t perform well by any stretch of the imagination.

That period of subpar performance is usually buoyed by the fact that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so the decline doesn’t last all that long and is counterbalanced by better efforts later on.

What if there is no light at the end of the tunnel, though? What if the period of heightened stress is set to continue for as long as you can see?

What that means is that you’re performing suboptimally in all areas of your life, without an end in sight. Rather than actually excelling at being a marital partner, at being a parent, at being a professional, at being a friend, you’re merely holding things together at best, and that’s not going to change.

If this describes you, you simply must step back from some commitments. You owe the key parts of your life more than the bare minimum. Whatever it is that you truly care about most deserves more of you than whatever scraps you can spare after everything else.

Look through your life, find some things that you can step back from, and start stepping back from them. This will lower your stress and it will improve your results in virtually every other aspect of your life. It’ll also make it far easier to make good spending choices in the moment.

In the war between stress and frugality, stress will eventually win out. It will erode through every good thing in your life, leaving you an empty and worn shell. It will take away your physical and mental health. It’ll take away your relationships. It’ll take away your reputation.

Don’t throw away the things you’ve worked for into the momentary pressures of stress. Instead, prepare for periods of stress in advance, recognize when those periods are ongoing and postpone key decisions, and if stress seems to be ongoing, look at making meaningful changes to your life.

Don’t simply throw money at the problem, because money won’t really solve the problem. It just postpones it.

Good luck.

The post The Battle Between Stress and Frugality appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Did You Hit the Credit Score Jackpot This Summer?

This past spring, the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA), the trade association representing the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs), announced some big credit reporting changes that, as of July, would impact the credit reporting of millions of tax liens and civil judgments.

Per the CDIA, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian would be removing the vast majority of civil judgment data and approximately half of the tax lien data which was, at the time, appearing on consumer credit reports. Based on an analysis completed by credit scoring giant FICO, the CDIA’s announcement meant that around 6% to 7% of consumers with a credit score, or approximately 12 million consumers, could be impacted by the data removal. VantageScore performed a similar analysis with similar results.

Credit Scoring Impact

Despite the excitement the CDIA’s announcement generated among consumers, the credit scoring impact of the removal of this derogatory public record data was downplayed by pretty much everyone on the industry side of the equation. “Analyses conducted by the credit reporting agencies and credit score developers FICO and VantageScore show only modest credit scoring impacts … as a result of the changes to public record standards,” said Eric Ellman, CDIA interim president and CEO.

That’s partly because consumers with a lien or judgment on their credit report are likely to have other credit problems dragging down their scores as well, according to FICO. “Therefore, impacted files tend to score relatively low, even after these public records are removed, and more than 75% of FICO Score increases are less than 20 points,” FICO said in a statement.

How to Tell If You Got Lucky

Regardless of the tepid impact, even a 20-point credit score increase could be significant for many consumers, particularly if it helps you cross the threshold from fair to good credit.

Discovering whether you were one of the lucky consumers who had a derogatory public record removed from your credit reports this summer is, thankfully, very easy. You simply need to obtain a copy of each of your three credit reports — from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian– and give them a quick review.

If you haven’t already used your annual allotment, you can claim a completely free credit report from each of the three CRAs via the website AnnualCreditReport.com. Even if you’ve already claimed your free reports, there are still a number of websites where you can access your credit reports online for free or a fee.

Most of the credit reports that are disclosed to consumers are cosmetically designed to separate your data into different categories, thus making them easy to read. Simply find the public records section of your report and scan it to see if your tax lien or judgment is still present. If the entry is gone, you were probably one of the lucky consumers who benefited from this new policy change.

Keep in mind, of course, that there is still nothing illegal about an accurate judgment or tax lien appearing on your credit reports. The CRAs have agreed to enhanced public record data standards in an effort to comply with their 2015 settlement with 32 state attorneys general (and likely in an effort to appease regulators such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well).

However, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) still absolutely allows for accurate judgments and tax liens to be included on a credit report. In short, if you were not lucky enough to see a public record removed from your credit reports, then, unless it is inaccurate, there’s really nothing you can do to legally force it to be removed from your reports earlier than is required by the FCRA.

Finally, keep in mind that just because a judgment or tax lien has been removed from your credit reports does not mean it cannot still cause you problems. Many lenders, especially mortgage lenders, will perform a public records search of their own in an attempt to uncover items that might not appear on your credit reports. Furthermore, the IRS still has the ability to make life painful for you in a variety of ways if your tax liens remain unpaid.

Related Articles:

John Ulzheimer is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, and identity theft. He has written four books on the topic and has been interviewed and quoted thousands of times over the past 10 years. With time spent at Equifax and FICO, Ulzheimer is the only credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. He has been an expert witness in over 230 credit related lawsuits and has been qualified to testify in both federal and state courts on the topic of consumer credit.

The post Did You Hit the Credit Score Jackpot This Summer? appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

The Ultimate Military Discount Travel Guide (2017)

Millions of men, women, and their families have made daily sacrifices to ensure the freedoms we enjoy in the United States. There’s no denying that the members of our armed forces have given a lot to keep our country safe and protected. Currently, there are about 1.3 million active duty military members with an additional 865,000 in reserve, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Furthermore, as of 2015, the United States Census Bureau reported there were another 18.8 million military veterans.

While there are many opportunities to honor these heroes, such as Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and a simple “Thank you for your service,” some companies have decided to take their gratitude to another level by providing military members and their families the opportunity to save some money, as well.

Travel expenses – whether due to moving for duty or taking a vacation to spend time with your family – can be a huge strain for military members. In honor of those who are serving or have served our country, many companies are proud to offer special savings for active military, U.S. National Guard, reservists, and veterans as a way to say, “thank you” and to show their appreciation.

Download the guide


Note: The information provided within this guide is correct as of the time of publication. Please note that some of these deals and discounts may have changed after the date of publication, impacting the accuracy of this information.

What to know about military discounts

When it comes to taking advantage of a military discount, one of the biggest things you need to know is that you should simply ask! Many companies may not advertise these special offers online but are pleased to offer one when you ask and present identification.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning a move or trip and looking for military specific discounts or deals:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask!
    As mentioned above, just because you don’t see a military specific discount or offer listed, don’t assume that one doesn’t exist. Ask, and you just might receive.
  • Double check who qualifies.
    Generally, any military specific discount is open to all active duty military members, which typically includes National Guard and Reservist members as well. However, they might not include veterans. Be sure to ask and make sure in advance.
  • Verify how to receive the discount.
    Some companies let you show ID when you show up while others want you to provide proof of service at the time of booking. Make sure to check the details to ensure you receive the discount.
  • Make sure you have ID.
    Nine times out of 10, you’ll need to show ID and/or proof of military service in order to receive the specific offer. Not sure which ID to bring? Check out our checklist below.
  • Discounts may vary.
    Discounts may vary for a number of reasons. For instance, some hotels offer a standard percentage off, while others offer a special rate based on supply and demand. Additionally, some franchises leave special offers to the owner’s discretion.
  • Shop around – just in case!
    Just because you qualify for a military specific discount, doesn’t mean it’s the best offer at the moment. Shop around to see if there’s another special – such as an end of summer deal – that might be worth more.

What ID do I need?

  • Active Duty ID card
  • Department of Defense Common Access Card
  • Guard/Reserve Military ID card
  • Retiree Military ID card
  • Military Dependent ID card
  • Veteran ID card

Other forms of ID that may be acceptable:

  • DD Form 214
  • Discharge paperwork
  • VA Health Care card
  • VA issued ID card
  • State driver’s license with veteran designation
  • Veterans organization card (DAV, American Legion, VFW, etc.)

Need proof of service?

Whether you’re moving for duty or want to spend a week away from home with the family on vacation, we want to help you enjoy your travels while saving some money. This Ultimate Military Discount Travel Guide will help you plan your trip with savings and offers exclusive to military members and their families. You’ll find information about hotels and lodging, flights, rental cars, and recreational activities. We’ve also included some tips for planning your trip as well as additional resources for military families that may be of assistance when traveling for duty or leisure.

Start saving today with our Ultimate Military Discount Travel Guide!

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Airlines, flights & baggage

One of the largest expenses when it comes to moving or traveling is the cost of getting there. Depending on where you’re going, you may need to fly, which can range from a couple of hundred dollars each to a thousand dollars or more per person. On top of that, baggage costs and other fees can drive the price up. All of the airlines on our list offer special baggage rates (such as three free bags), and some even offer discounts on flights.

Keep in mind: In some cases, you’ll need to call in to the specific airline to make your reservation and receive the discount.

These are some of the airlines offering special discounts to military members, their families, and veterans:

Military airline discounts

Airline Discount Details
Allegiant Air Baggage discounts
  • Up to three (3) pieces of checked baggage free. Each bag must weigh under 100 lbs.
  • No charge for oversized checked baggage
  • One (1) carry-on bag within Allegiant size limits, free
  • Free boarding pass printing at the airport
  • Free seat assignments, pending availability
  • Up to one (1) pet in cabin free
  • Active military may board with priority boarding at no charge
  • Active military will not be charged a change or cancellation fee due to a change in orders
Offer available to U.S. active duty military, military veterans, members of the National Guard, military reserve, and their dependents with valid identification.
Alaska Air Baggage discounts
  • Free carryon bag
  • Up to five (5) bags checked for free (then $75)
  • $25 gate check fee
  • Overweight bags free up to 70 lbs. (then $75)
  • $75 oversize bag fee
Offer available to active duty U.S. military and U.S. military dependents on travel orders.
American Airlines Baggage discounts
  • Up to five (5) bags free for active U.S. military and/or dependents with ID traveling on orders
  • Up to three (3) bags free for active U.S. military with ID on personal travel
Offer available to U.S. active duty military and their dependents with valid identification.
Delta Flight & baggage discounts
  • Military discounted flights for active U.S. service members
  • Exclusive military discounts with Delta Vacations
  • Up to five (5) 100 lb. bags free when on military orders
  • Up to two (2) 50 lbs. bags free when on personal travel in basic economy, main cabin, or Delta Comfort
  • Up to three (3) 70 lbs. bags free when on person travel in first class, Delta Premium Select, or Delta One
Call the Delta Military and Government Desk at 800-325-1771 M-F 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST to assist with booking.
JetBlue Flight & baggage discounts
  • Active duty military personnel traveling on orders can receive special military fare class that removes any advanced-purchase requirements
  • Veterans enrolled in Veterans Advantage receive a 5% discount
  • Up to two (2) bags each for you and dependents traveling with you when on active duty traveling for leisure
  • Up to five (5) bags each for you and dependents traveling with you when on active duty traveling for duty
Active duty traveling for leisure will be required to show DoD Common Access Card. Active duty traveling on duty will be required to show travel orders and DoD Common Access Card.
Southwest Discount varies
Southwest has special offers for Military and Government officials who contact them directly. Offers are not available online.
Contact Southwest 2/47 at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA to inquire about special military offers.
United Flight & baggage discounts
  • Up to 5% discount on tickets for United and United Express operated flights for U.S. military veterans, active duty military, National Guard and Reserve members, and their families
  • Up to three (3) bags (70 lbs. & 62 in.) free for you and dependents on same reservation when on active duty traveling for leisure
  • Up to five (5) bags (100 lbs. & 115 in.) free for you and dependents (even if not on same reservation) when on active duty traveling for duty
Must be a Veterans Advantage member to receive discounted ticket price.

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Hotels & lodging

Aside from the actual cost of getting to your destination, lodging is one of the biggest expenses when it comes to moving and/or vacationing. During vacations, you’ll obviously want a safe, comfortable, and affordable place to rest your head after a busy day. In the case of a move, you may need to stay at an extended stay lodge until you can establish your new residence. Check out the hotel list to find a variety of options at varying prices points and discounts.

Keep in mind: Many of the hotel and lodging discounts are calculated following the per diem rate in the Government & Military Per Diem Rate Qualification Guidelines.

These are some of the hotels and lodges offering special discounts to military members, their families, and veterans:

Military hotel discounts

Hotel Discount Details
Affinia Hotel Collection Up to 25%
Military families can save up to 25% on rooms and suites during the summer.
Book now for stays through September 4, 2017 using code SALUTE.
Atlantis Casino Resort & Spa Up to 15%
Active and retired military members can save up to 15% on room rates.
Present your valid Military ID upon check-in.
Baymont Inn & Suites Discount varies
The government/military discount program at participating Wyndham Hotel Group hotels offers rates within the allowable per diem.
Be prepared to present valid identification at check-in.
Best Western 10% discount
Military personnel, civilian military personnel, veterans, and American Legion members can save 10% or more on room rates.
Present an official identification card or work orders at time of check-in.
Cambria Hotels & Suites Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
Hotel front desk personnel may require proof of eligibility at the time of check-in.
Caesars Entertainment Las Vegas Additional 10%
Active and retired military members and their families can save an additional 10% at participating Caesars Entertainment properties.
To confirm eligibility, click the button labeled Troop ID located under the search widget on reservations pages.
Circus Circus Las Vegas Additional 10%
Active or retired military members can save an additional 10% on room rates.
Book now for stays through June 30, 2018 using code NMILX37.
Clarion Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
Hotel front desk personnel may require proof of eligibility at the time of check-in.
Comfort Inn Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
Hotel front desk personnel may require proof of eligibility at the time of check-in.
Comfort Suites Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
Hotel front desk personnel may require proof of eligibility at the time of check-in.
Country Inns & Suites Discount varies
Active military, veterans, and their spouses can receive special military rates when booking.
You must select or request the “Military rate” at the time the reservation is made to be eligible for this offer.
Courtyard by Marriott Discount varies
Military personnel can receive discounted rates following the Government and Military Per Diem Rate Qualification Guidelines.
To qualify for government per diem rates, guests must present a valid form of identification at check-in.
Days Inn Discount varies
The government/military discount program at participating Wyndham Hotel Group hotels offers rates within the allowable per diem.
Be prepared to present valid identification at check-in.
DoubleTree by Hilton Discount varies
Military members can check the “Government/Military rates” box to receive special rates when booking.
You will be required to show your valid government identification upon check-in.
Disneyland Resorts Discount varies
Active and retired military guests can receive special rates until December 19, 2017.
Travel must be completed by December 20, 2017. Valid military ID will be required upon check-in and military member (or spouse) must stay in the room.
EconoLodge Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
Hotel front desk personnel may require proof of eligibility at the time of check-in.
Embassy Suites by Hilton Discount varies
Military members can check the “Government/Military rates” box to receive special rates when booking.
You will be required to show your valid government identification upon check-in.
Extended Stay America Up to 75%
Receive rates at or below 75% of Per Diem.
Must stay consecutively for 31 nights or more on official travel.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
Hotel front desk personnel may require proof of eligibility at the time of check-in.
Great Wolf Lodge Up to 30%
Active and retired military guests can save up to 30% on room rates.
Must present valid ID at check in for promotion to apply.
Hampton by Hilton Discount varies
Military members can check the “Government/Military rates” box to receive special rates when booking.
You will be required to show your valid government identification upon check-in.
Hawaiian Inn Up to 25%
Active and retired military guests can save up to 25% on room rates.
Please present your military ID at check-in.
Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Discount varies
The government/military discount program at participating Wyndham Hotel Group hotels offers rates within the allowable per diem.
Be prepared to present valid identification at check-in.
Hilton Garden Inn Discount varies
Military members can check the “Government/Military rates” box to receive special rates when booking.
You will be required to show your valid government identification upon check-in.
Holiday Inn Discount varies
Military personnel can receive discounted rates when booking.
To receive your discounted rate, present official ID or work orders when you check in.
Home2 Suites by Hilton Discount varies
Military members can check the “Government/Military rates” box to receive special rates when booking.
You will be required to show your valid government identification upon check-in.
Homewood Suites by Hilton Discount varies
Military members can check the “Government/Military rates” box to receive special rates when booking.
You will be required to show your valid government identification upon check-in.
Howard Johnson Discount varies
The government/military discount program at participating Wyndham Hotel Group hotels offers rates within the allowable per diem.
Be prepared to present valid identification at check-in.
La Quinta Inns & Suites 12% discount
Military personnel can save 12% on room rates when signing up for the La Quinta Returns Military Rewards program.
As a La Quinta Returns Military Rewards member, you’ll enjoy extra savings with your military discount and special recognition for your stays at La Quinta.
MainStay Suites Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
Hotel front desk personnel may require proof of eligibility at the time of check-in.
Marriott Discount varies
Military personnel can receive discounted rates following the Government and Military Per Diem Rate Qualification Guidelines.
To qualify for government per diem rates, guests must present a valid form of identification at check-in.
Motel 6 Up to 10%
Active and retired military guests can save up to 10% on room rates.
On the reservation page, select “Military” in the drop-down menu to receive your discount.
Quality Inn Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
Hotel front desk personnel may require proof of eligibility at the time of check-in.
Radisson Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
You must book the Government Rate at the time of reservation and provide your Government ID card or Military Orders upon check-in.
Ramada Worldwide Discount varies
The government/military discount program at participating Wyndham Hotel Group hotels offers rates within the allowable per diem.
Be prepared to present valid identification at check-in.
Red Lion Up to 30%
Active and retired military guests can save up to 30% on room rates at participating hotels.
Check for the exclusive military hotel rate when making reservations and present a valid military ID upon check-in.
Red Roof Inn 10% discount
Active duty guests can save 10% on room rates during military official travel.
Use VP#606730 when booking to receive your 10% discount.
Rodeway Inn Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
Hotel front desk personnel may require proof of eligibility at the time of check-in.
Sleep Inn Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
Hotel front desk personnel may require proof of eligibility at the time of check-in.
Suburban Discount varies
Military personnel and their families can receive competitive government/military rates based on availability.
Hotel front desk personnel may require proof of eligibility at the time of check-in.
Super 8 15% discount
Active and retired military members and their spouses can save 15% on room rates.
A valid military identification will be required at check-in.
Travelodge Discount varies
The government/military discount program at participating Wyndham Hotel Group hotels offers rates within the allowable per diem.
Be prepared to present valid identification at check-in.
Walt Disney World Resorts Discount varies
Active and retired military guests can receive special rates until December 19, 2017.
Valid military ID will be required upon check-in and military member (or spouse) must stay in the room.
Wingate by Wyndham Discount varies
The government/military discount program at participating Wyndham Hotel Group hotels offers rates within the allowable per diem.
Be prepared to present valid identification at check-in.

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Rental cars & trucks

If you’re flying instead of driving, you’ll need some wheels to get around once you land. When it comes to renting a car or truck, your military ID can get you discounted rates, fee waivers, and more. Your specific offer may depend on the nature of your trip – official business and/or tour-of-duty orders, or leisure travel.

Keep in mind: If you’re under 25 years old, you may still be able to rent a car, but might have to pay a higher rate.

These are some of the rental car companies offering special discounts to military members, their families, and veterans:

Military rental car discounts

Company Discount Details
Alamo Discount varies
Military personnel, veterans, and family members will receive discounted rates when traveling for leisure. When traveling on duty, military personnel benefits include no additional driver fees, no underage driver fees, and collision damage waiver.
A government-issued credit card or official travel orders will be required for on-duty reservations. A military or government-issued ID may be required at time of pick up for all reservations.
Avis Up to 25%
U.S. military veterans, active duty military, National Guard, Reservists, and family can enroll in Veterans Advantage and receive up to 25% off.
Use discount code T765700 to save.
Budget Up to 20%
Military personnel traveling with orders can save 20% on truck rentals.
Use discount code USMIO to save.
Dollar Rent A Car 5% discount
Active duty military, National Guard & Reserve, and their families who are Veterans Advantage members can receive a 5% discount, plus fee waivers for additional driver or underage driver.
To receive this discount, enroll in the Veterans Advantage program.
Hertz Discount varies
Military personnel will receive discounted rates, space available upgrades, and complimentary membership in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards.
You may be asked to show valid military photo ID.
Penske Up to 20%
Military personnel who book online will save 10% and then can show their military or veteran ID at pick-up to save another 10%.
Show your military or veteran ID when you pick up your truck to receive the additional savings.
Sixt Rent A Car 5% discount
Military personnel can save 5% on all car rentals within the U.S.
Visit https://www.sixt.com/specials/discount-military to book with discount.

Related:

Sightseeing & recreation

Now, it’s time for the fun part. Once you have the logistics squared away, it’s time to have fun – while saving some money. Whether you just want a thrill ride at a theme park, or to take in some culture in a museum, there’s something for everyone all across the country. Discounts on our list range from a dollar amount off to a percentage off.

Keep in mind: Some companies only offer a military discount to the military member themselves, while others are happy to extend a discount to the whole family.

These are some of the sightseeing and recreation companies offering special discounts to military members, their families, and veterans:

Military sightseeing & recreation discounts

Company Location Discount Details
9/11 Memorial & Museum New York City, NY Free
Active and retired U.S. military members get free admission with valid ID
Active and retired U.S. military members get free admission with valid ID. Valid military ID is required.
Beaches Resort Negril, Jamaica; Providenciales, Turks & Caicos; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica Additional 10%
Active and retired military members and spouses can save an additional 10% on rates.
To book this offer, call 1-888-BEACHES. Proof of military identification or discharge certificate required upon check-in at the resort.
Big Surf Waterpark Phoenix, AZ Free
Active military personnel get free and unlimited admission to the park. Immediate family members can save 20% on ticket prices.
Current military ID required to qualify and dependents must present ID as well.
Bronx Zoo Bronx, NY Free
Free Total Experience Ticket or General Admission ticket and 50% off discount for up to three family members included on the same admissions transaction.
Discounted tickets are available with valid military ID at the admissions booths only, not through online ticket store.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg, VA & Tampa, FL Free
One complimentary admission per year for military personnel and as many as three direct dependents through the Waves of Honor program.
The offer is valid for one SeaWorld Entertainment park (SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, or Sesame Place) and one visit only. Visit https://wavesofhonor.com to claim your tickets.
Canaan Valley Resort Davis, WV Up to 20%
Active and retired military members can receive 15% off accommodation rentals. Other discounts on recreational activities include 20% midweek discount, 10% weekend discount, and 10% off golf course and sporting clays.
Accommodation discounts offered on rooms, cabins, and cottages during non-holiday time periods. Military ID is required at time of payment for all discounts.
Carnegie Hall New York City, NY 30% discount
Active military personnel and veterans can save 30% on tickets to Carnegie Hall presentations (excluding galas and Weill Music Institute events).
Tickets can only be purchased in person at the box office.
Cedar Point Sandusky, OH Discount tickets & parking
Active, retired, and honorably-discharged military members can get single day admission tickets for $43, plus $5 in parking discounts.
Proper ID required to validate. Up to six tickets may be purchased at discounted rate.
Charlotte Motor Speedway Charlotte, NC Up to 25%
Military personnel can purchase tickets online with verification and save 15-25%.
To purchase tickets, visit http://www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/tickets/military_firstresponders.
Colonial Williamsburg Williamsburg, VA Free
Active military members receive one complimentary admission (self and up to three dependents) per year. Retired military and veterans qualify for 50% discount on single day tickets or annual passes.
Offer is valid for one visit only
Crayola Experience Easton, PA; Minneapolis, MN; Orlando, FL; and Plano, TX $3 discount
Military members with a valid ID can get $3 off admission.
Show valid ID at the admissions desk to receive discount.
Disneyland Anaheim, CA Up to 40%
Active and retired U.S. military members can get 4-day admission for $181 or 3-day admission for $156.
Valid military identification will be required for purchase and use. Tickets must be purchased by December 16, 2017. Tickets are valid until December 19, 2017.
Dollywood Pigeon Forge, TN 30% discount
U.S. active or retired military, disabled veterans, military reservists, spouses, and dependents can save 40% on 1-day tickets.
Valid military personnel IDs and dependent IDs must be presented.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Mount Vernon, VA $3 discount
Members of the military, veterans, and dependents are eligible for $3 off general admission prices.
Purchase tickets online via TroopID to verify military affiliation
Harley-Davidson Museum Milwaukee, WI $6 discount
U.S. military members can purchase tickets for $14 with ID.
Valid military ID is required.
Hersheypark Hershey, PA $20 discount
Save $20 on regular 1-day admission or save $4 on junior/senior admission with valid ID and printed coupon.
Valid military ID required. Coupon must be presented at time of purchase. One discount coupon may be used to purchase up to eight admissions.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex New York City, NY Free
U.S. military members and veterans receive free admission.
Valid ID is required. Tickets may be reserved online but must be held at the box office and picked up at will call.
International Spy Museum Washington, DC $6 discount
Active duty military members and veterans can purchase general admission tickets for $15.95.
You may be asked to present a valid military ID.
The Kennedy Center Washington, DC 50% discount
The Kennedy Center and other participating presenters offer a limited number of tickets at 50% off box office price for enlisted military personnel.
Specially priced tickets are offered and sold on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to availability, to eligible patrons.
Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay Louisville, KY $20 discount
Military members can get tickets for $29.95 plus tax.
Valid for one entry during the 2017 season. Can purchase up to 4 tickets per ID.
King’s Dominion Doswell, VA Ticket discount
Active and retired military members can purchase discounted single day general admission tickets.
Up to six tickets can be purchased at the gate with valid military ID.
Knott’s Berry Farm Buena Park, CA $27 discount
Purchase regular admission tickets for $48 at the gate with valid military ID.
Valid military ID required.
Purchase tickets online through partner ID.me to save an additional $5.
Legoland California Resort Carlsbad, CA Up to 50%
Active duty, Reserve, National Guard, retired service members, veterans, and families can receive special discounted prices on 1-, 2-, and 3-day tickets.
Verify your military service by entering your details into the Military Discount Verification Form at www.LEGOLAND.com/military.
Legoland Florida Resort Winter Haven, FL Free
U.S. service members receive free admission at the ticket window. Non-active duty, family members, and veterans can get deeply discounted tickets at ITT offices or save 10% at the gate.
To redeem the active duty offer, bring a valid military ID to any LEGOLAND Florida Resort ticket window.
National Aquarium Baltimore, MD $5 discount
Active military members and family can get tickets on site for $34.95. Discounted tickets can also be purchased through the local MWR/ITT office.
To get the best rate, check with your local MWR/ITT office. Present appropriate military ID to receive discount onsite.
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Cooperstown, NY Free
Active and career retired military members receive free admission.
You may be asked to present a valid military ID
National Parks Multiple locations Free
Current U.S. military members and dependents can receive a free annual pass from the National Park Service.
Obtain your pass in person at a federal recreation site by showing a Common Access Card or Military ID.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Canton, OH Up to $5 discount
U.S. active duty, including National Guard, Reservists, and retired military members get $5 off admission with valid ID. Spouses and dependents under 18 get $3 off.
Show a valid military ID at ticket office.
San Diego Zoo San Diego, CA Free
Active duty military members receive complimentary 1-day pass with valid ID. Military spouses and dependents can save 10% on 1-day pass.
Valid military ID is required as well as ID for all dependents.
Sandals Resorts Multiple locations throughout the Caribbean Additional 10%
Active and retired military members and spouses can save an additional 10% on rates.
To book this offer, call 1-888-SANDALS. Proof of military identification or discharge certificate required upon check-in at the resort.
SeaWorld Orlando, FL; San Antonio, TX; and San Diego, CA Free
One complimentary admission per year for military personnel and as many as three direct dependents through the Waves of Honor program.
The offer is valid for one SeaWorld Entertainment park (SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, or Sesame Place) and one visit only. Visit https://wavesofhonor.com to claim your tickets.
Sesame Place Langhorne, PA Free
One complimentary admission per year for military personnel and as many as three direct dependents through the Waves of Honor program.
The offer is valid for one SeaWorld Entertainment park (SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, or Sesame Place) and one visit only. Visit https://wavesofhonor.com to claim your tickets.
Six Flags Multiple locations 20% discount
Save 20% on 1-day general admission ticket at the Guest Services Center.
A military ID is required to receive the discount.
Universal Orlando Resort Orlando, FL Discount varies
Specially priced tickets can be purchased through local Leisure Travel offices at military bases, or active duty military members with valid ID can get a discount on multi-day tickets at the front gate.
You must present your current military or Department of Defense identification at any participating ITT or LTS office on base.
Universal Studios Hollywood Universal City, CA Ticket discount
Specially priced tickets are available for advance purchase through participating MWR/ITT offices in the U.S.
These special military rates are not available at the Universal Studios Hollywood box office. A military or U.S. Government I.D. is required for purchase.
Vail Resorts Multiple locations in California, Colorado, and Utah Ticket discount
Several Vail resorts offer military discounts, including discounted military lift tickets.
Present your active military ID at the time of redemption or time of purchase.
Walt Disney World Orlando, FL Up to 40%
Active and retired U.S. military members can get 5-day admission for $224 plus tax, or 4-day admission for $209 plus tax.
Valid military identification will be required for purchase and use. Tickets must be purchased by December 15, 2017. Tickets are valid until December 19, 2017.
Wild River Country North Little Rock, AR $5 discount
Military members with valid ID can save $5 on regular and junior ticket prices.
Valid military ID is required
World of Coca-Cola Atlanta, GA Free
Active duty and reserve members receive complimentary admission with valid military ID.
Valid military ID is required. Regular admission rates apply to family members and other guests.
Worlds of Fun & Oceans of Fun Kansas City, MO Ticket discount
A discount off the front gate admission price is offered to military members and their families.
For additional military ticket options, call your ITR office to inquire about discount programs.

Related:

Tips for planning your travel

As you can see, there are a lot of options when it comes to travel and military discounts. It’s easy to get overwhelmed while planning your trip. With a little research, patience, and some planning, you can make your next trip memorable and affordable!

Here are some tips for planning your travel.

Create a budget.

Before you start planning, determine what your budget is and how much you’re willing to spend. Knowing what you’re working with helps you better prepare and decrease temptation – just because tickets to something is discounted doesn’t mean it’s an event your family will enjoy.

  • Pro tip: You can use the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card or a travel rewards credit card to earn points ahead of your trip and save even more money by redeeming them!

Dig into the details.

A company may offer a deep discount for the military member and then a much smaller discount for all dependents. Make sure you know this in advance by digging into all the details and fine print so you aren’t blindsided.

Compare your options.

As mentioned above, you may need to shop around to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible, whether it’s a military discount or not. Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s another option that’s better or if a company will price match.

  • Pro tip: Websites like Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, and more can help you compare costs across hundreds of travel sites.

Take care of business before leaving.

It’s a good idea to leave a copy of your itinerary and lodging details with a loved one, let your credit card companies know you’re traveling, plan for someone to house sit or pet sit, and buy travel insurance.

Consider traveling during the “off-season.”

Many companies won’t offer discounts during the holidays because those are opportunities for high markup; however, each destination has an “on” and “off” season. If you travel during the “off-season,” you’ll get a discount on top of already low rates.

It may not seem fun to check on details and create an itinerary, but by putting in a little legwork upfront before you travel, you can sit back and relax during your trip knowing that everything is taken care of and you saved some money!

Resources

Aside from the companies listed in this guide, there are a number of resources you can consult when planning military travel for duty or leisure:

  • The American Legion – As the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, The American Legion provides members information and discounts for auto rental, finances, insurance, medical, moving and relocation, retail, travel, lodging, and more.
  • Blue Star Families – Through a variety of partnerships, the organization provides free resources, services, education and more to military families regarding family life, careers, moves, deployments, and communities.
  • Information, Tickets, and Travel (ITT) Offices – Your local military ITT office can alert you to discounts for hotels, car rentals, sporting events, movie tickets, theme parks, vacation packages, and more.
  • Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Services – Each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has an MWR program that provides free or discounted recreation activities and tickets to military members and their families.
  • National Military Family Association – This private, nonprofit association carries out a number of programs to educate the public, including members of Congress, about the rights and benefits of military families.
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – This department works to serve and honor America’s veterans through a variety of resources, patient care, and federal benefits for veterans and their families.
  • USAA – Military members and their families can become USAA members to receive competitive rates on banking, credit cards, insurance, and investment services.
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) – As a member of the VFW, you’ll have access to travel and recreation discounts as well as insurance programs, financial services, retail discounts, medical services, and more.

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The post The Ultimate Military Discount Travel Guide (2017) appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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