Top 3 Tools to Ace the Job Interview and Get Hired

job interviewOne of the toughest parts of the job search process is the interview. You will sit down, face to face with someone who is evaluating you, and hope to stand out.

The interview is especially intimidating because you don’t know what you are up against. You won’t see how others perform; you only have your own experience to go on. Before you go in for an interview, it’s vital that you get ready.

You can boost your advantage in a job interview with the help of the following tools:

1. LinkedIn

Before you go in for an interview, you should do some research. You should know about the company, as well as about the interviewer. For many jobs, you might actually be given the name of the interviewer. This gives you the chance to do a little digging on LinkedIn.

First of all, stop off by the company’s LinkedIn page. You can get some solid information about the company from this page, and see what sorts of news items are shared, including what’s active on the company’s Twitter account, and what things the company seems to think are important.

Then, if you know the name of your interviewer, look him or her up on LinkedIn. Having an idea of what company he or she worked for last, as well as how he or she views the current role in the job, can give you an edge as you converse with the interviewer. It can also provide you with some good ideas for questions to ask when you are given the chance.

2. Newsle

What else is being said about the company and the interviewer? What quotes have been shared by higher-ups in the company, and how have they handled crises? While you don’t want to bring up unflattering episodes related to the company and its principal players, you can get a good idea of the corporate culture from seeing how a company handles itself when faced with problems.

Use Newsle to get more information and background on a company and individuals. This will help you think of more questions, as well as prepare you for tough “what if” questions. In some cases, interviewers use examples related to a real-life problem to gauge your own abilities. Understanding how things went with that issue, and thinking of how you could have handled it differently, can help you gain an edge during your interview.

3. Interviews App

Want help preparing for your interviews and keeping everything straight? This app from the popular job search site can help. This app comes with a number of tools and tips, as well as a coaching feature, that can help you prepare for any interview.

You can also keep up with what interviews you are going to. Receive reminders, and make notes about each interview. You can keep straight the interview, who you’re supposed to be interviewing with, and more. This app also includes helpful hints on how to properly follow up with your interviewer. One of the most important aspects of the interview is what happens after. You want to do it right so that you form a good impression in the mind of the interviewer.

Bottom Line

You need to be well-prepared for an interview if you want to stand out. You should know about the company and its principal players. You should also have a fairly decent understanding of the interviewer. Think of how you might answer certain questions, and what intelligent questions you can ask.

The reality of an interview is that you will be evaluated on your competence and knowledge. Proper preparation is key if you want to stand out in a positive way.

What are some other ways you prepare yourself for a job interview? Leave a comment!

How Will You Spend that Windfall? 5 Smart Moves

WindfallOne of the first instincts when you experience a windfall is to spend it – and spend it quickly.

This is because a windfall is considered “extra” money. It falls outside your regular financial plan, so you end up spending it in a way that doesn’t fall into your finances. This isn’t always the best approach, however.

Whenever you get windfall money, it’s a good idea to consider how it can help you improve your finances. Think about what you would do with a windfall ahead of time, and you can fold it into the rest of your financial plan.

Here are some smart ideas for spending your windfall:

1. Boost Your Emergency Fund

If you have been struggling lately, now can be a great time to boost your emergency fund. If you have been depleting your emergency fund, a windfall can replenish it. Even if you haven’t seen a reduction in the size of your emergency fund, it makes sense to give it a little boost. Use your windfall to better secure your situation.

2. Increase Your Retirement Account Contributions

Still have room to max out your retirement account? You can get an even better boost by contributing to your tax-advantaged account. Your money will work more efficiently on your behalf, providing you with better returns for your buck. Your future self will be glad that you put a portion of your windfall toward your retirement.

If you qualify for an HSA, consider making a contribution there. Not only will you get a tax deduction, but you will also see tax-free growth for your money – as long as you use it for medical expenses.

3. Help Someone Else

One way to feel great, and make a solid investment in your community, is to donate to charity. Take a portion of your windfall and donate it. You’ll get a tax deduction, and you can help those in need, creating an investment in a better world. You can even set up your own charitable foundation, if the windfall is big enough. Think of ways to help others with your windfall, and you’ll feel the benefits of good karma.

4. Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

In some cases, it makes sense to use your windfall money for purchases – as long as you planned to make them anyway. If you know that you expect to purchase a flat-screen TV, use your windfall to get one when it’s on sale. The same is true of a computer, or booking a vacation you have meant to take.

Hold your windfall in reserve while you shop around for the best price, or while you wait for a good sale. Don’t feel like you have to buy immediately; sometimes waiting for a better deal can help you get more for your money. That means your windfall will go even further.

5. Invest in Yourself

One of the greatest investments you can make is in yourself. Use your windfall to improve your own ability to make more money. You can take classes, get a certification, or even just buy some inspiring and helpful books. Figure out what you can do, on your own, to increase your earning power. Then, use your windfall to invest in yourself and your own abilities.

Do More with Your Windfall

You don’t have to do just one thing with your windfall. Depending on its size, you might be able to do more than one thing. Prioritize what you want to happen in your life, and make sure that you apply your windfall to the most important items first. You might be able to boost your emergency fund and take the necessary classes to earn a certification that will net you a pay raise.

Consider what you want to have happen with your life and your finances, and then commit to use any windfalls to achieve your goals faster.

What would you do with windfall money? Leave a comment!

How to Perform a Financial Checkup on Yourself

financial checkupI could hardly believe it when I looked at the calendar and realized that the year is halfway over. This time of year is a perfect time for performing a financial checkup on yourself.

A financial checkup can help you pinpoint problems with your finances, and recognize issues that need attention. As you perform a checkup on your financial situation, here are a few things to keep in mind . . . .

Where Do You Stand?

Your first step is to figure out where you stand. A good way to get a snapshot of where you are right now is to use your net worth as a gauge. Your net worth can provide you with a benchmark for measurement. Are you better off than you were six months ago? Better off than you were a year ago? Look at your net worth for a basic idea of where you’re at.

It’s not just about net worth, though. You also need to acknowledge where you stand in other areas as well:

  • Insurance: Review your insurance policies. Do you have adequate coverage? Are you getting the best deal? You might be able to save money if you are willing to shop around a little bit. You can even look at your health insurance policy. Even if you aren’t in open enrollment, you can evaluate your coverage now, and plan ahead for the possibility of making changes.
  • Investments: Look at your investment portfolio. Does your asset allocation still match your target? Or do you need to make adjustments? Are you contributing as much as you can to retirement accounts? Find out whether or not you need to make changes to your investments in order to improve the situation.
  • Bills: Go through your regular bills. Do you have recurring costs that are draining your finances? Figure out if you can shop around for a better deal, or if you can eliminate some bills altogether. This includes your mortgage. Perhaps you can better your financial situation if you are willing to refinance.
  • Debt: What debts do you have? Consider how much progress you have been making in paying down your debt obligations, and try to figure out how you can avoid racking up more debt. If you don’t have a debt pay down plan already, now is the time to create one.
  • Income: Don’t forget to review your income. Take a look at your income sources, and consider how stable they are. You can review the possibility of a raise, or of finding a way to diversify your income.

Once you have a handle on where you stand, you can figure out how to take the next steps toward improving your overall financial situation.

Upcoming Financial Issues

While you are performing your financial checkup, don’t forget to consider upcoming financial issues. What expenses will you have in the coming months? Will you owe money for a semi-annual insurance premium? Are you planning on going back to school? Do you want to buy a home in the next six months?

Think about what’s next, and how you will pay for it. Now is a good time to break down the actions you will need to take in order to reach your goals. Think about what needs to happen if you plan to improve your situation, and then create an action plan.

Your financial checkup offers you the perfect opportunity to learn about what you need to do next in order to succeed, and to let you know where you might be coming off track. Taking a little time to re-evaluate your situation, and tweak your finances a little bit, can be a great way to ensure that you are on the right path to a better financial future.

How did your financial checkup go? What improvements do you need to make? Leave a comment!

6 Apps to Save You Time, Stress, and Money While Traveling

appsDecades ago, our parents would spend hours flipping through those tourist guides or driving up and down the street looking for certain things on vacation like a place to eat or a bathroom. As technology has advanced, things have gotten so easy, that you have more information at the tip of your finger than you know what to do with it all.

There are some apps out there that just have to be a part of your life when you travel. Whether it is a road trip in the family cruiser, or country hopping in Europe, your phone can be a life saver in numerous ways. Here are six that should be downloaded on every smartphone and tablet.

“The Road Warrior”

Gasbuddy (Free, iOS)

Gas Buddy

You’re in a city you don’t know, or driving in a desolate area and have no idea where the nearest gas station is. Gasbuddy will not only tell you what is close, it will tell you the price of gas and the hours and amenities at the establishment. The prices of all grades of gas are updated by users constantly. It is simple to do and every time you give an update, you are entered into a weekly free drawing for a $250 gas card.

“It’s A Family Affair”

Out To Eat With Kids (Free, Android)

Out To Eat With KidsFood can be the most expensive item in your vacation budget. With the little tykes, those numbers go up exponentially. For years, my wife has scoured coupon books, tourist ad fliers and billboards where ever we have traveled. Now she can enjoy the trip because with this great app – you can find every restaurant within a 20-mile radius of your location that has a kids’ deal of any kind.

“Stay Connected”

WiFi Finder (Free, iOS)

Wi-Fi FinderNeed to get a little work done or a Skype session in with grandma? WiFi Finder helps you locate any public WiFi networks (both free and paid) in your area. You can filter your search results by price (“Free Only”), location and provider type.

“Your Own Personal Travel Secretary”

TripCase (Free, iOS)


If you are traveling with multiple flights and itineraries, then this app is for you. Keep track of all flights, confirmation numbers and gates in one place. You can start monitoring your flights two days in advance and get notified of any delays, cancellations or gate changes with alerts sent right to your phone. Have someone picking you up? Add their email and they will get the alerts as well, instead of standing at baggage claim for three hours.

“The Jet Setter”

AirportAce ($0.99, iOS)

Airport AceThe one app that you have to pay for on this list, but essential for those who book frequent flier miles in huge chunks. This app will help you reserve parking, tell you where there is Wi-Fi, decent food, smoking areas, restrooms and anything else you need to know about an airport while you are stuck there. For less than a buck, you can save yourself some time and a headache with this directing you through one of those mini-cities that we call airports.

“Foreign Exchange Program”

Currency (Free, iOS)

CurrencyFor travelers who are going abroad for the first time to seasoned business professionals, currency exchange can be slightly intimidating, and a chance for you to get taken advantage of. With this app, you will have updated rates on the exchange for over 100 countries and currencies in the palm of your hand. This will help you keep a few dollars or Euros in your pocket when you realize that the place across the street is cheaper than the airport you are standing in.

This list is by no means all-encompassing. You may have similar or other apps that you use. If so, we would like to hear about them. Tell us in the comments so that we can try them when we travel.

What are some other travel apps you love? Leave a comment!

Are You Financially Ready for Moving?

movingI’ve been thinking a lot about moving lately. My sister’s family is preparing for a cross-country move, and I wonder if I’ll be moving sometime soon.

My husband is getting tired of being an adjunct professor, and he’s getting serious about applying for jobs at other universities. As a result of this new reality, I am aware that I could be moving in the next 12 to 24 months.

I’ve been thinking about what needs to be done if we’re to make the move successfully, and thinking about what we’ve done in past moves (two of which were across the country). Moving can get expensive, and it’s important to be ready for what’s coming.

The Cost of Moving Your Stuff

The most immediate concern that many of us have when we prepare for a move is the cost of moving stuff. Depending on whether you do it all yourself, hire movers, or use a service that allows you to pack your items but will do the driving for you, your costs will vary.

However, for most people, just moving stuff is likely to cost at least $1,500 to $2,000. It cost us about $2,000 total to move all of our things across the country eight years ago, and I assume the cost of moving has only gone up – and we’ve managed to acquire more things to boot.

Run simulations to see how much it will cost to move your things. There are calculators online that can help you compare the cost of driving your stuff on your own (including the cost of gas to fuel the rental truck) to hiring someone else to do at least some of the work.

Now is the time to start saving up to pay your moving costs.

The Cost of Living in Your New Location

When we moved across town, we didn’t have to worry about a change in the cost of living beyond our mortgage payments – which amounted to more than we were paying in rent.

But you might run into different costs if you move farther than across town. You might have a higher cost of living that negates your higher salary. Indeed, it’s important to understand the impact that a higher cost of living will have on your disposable income. If your new job provides you with a 5% pay increase, but the cost of living is 7% more in your new location, you are actually losing out.

Take into account such factors as whether or not you have a longer commute (and its attendant costs), as well as how much it costs for food, clothing, and housing. If you are going to have to spend more time to get anything done, don’t forget to include that. Sometimes, time can be more valuable than money.

Before you move, understand the realities of the situation. Can you really afford your new home and your new lifestyle?

Do the Research

Moving is a big decision – especially if you have a family in tow. You want to be careful about what you decide to do, and when you decide to do it. Research your new community, as well as the costs involved in getting there. You want to know that you are financially prepared for this next phase of your life, and that you will have sufficient funds to continue living within your means. And, make sure to keep a moving checklist for your money so you don’t forget to do anything!

Are you moving soon? Have you calculated the costs? Leave a comment!

BankAmericard Cash Rewards vs. American Express Blue Cash Everyday

Some people prefer credit cards that offer travel rewards, but others still prefer to receive cash back from their spending. And while some credit cards compete with each other to offer the highest rates of cash back on all purchases, others feature bonus categories of spending that allow cardholders to earn more than the nominal 1% cash back. Although the highest rates of cash back are reserved for cards that have an annual fee, there are still plenty of great products that are free to use.

American Express offers its Blue Cash Everyday card that features extra cash back on purchases from gas stations and supermarkets. At the same time, Bank of America issues its BankAmericard Cash Rewards with a very similar cash back program.

I don’t know which of these two cards was offered first, but it is clear that they were meant to compete against each other. Let’s take a look at both of these cards, and see which one comes out on top.

BankAmericard Cash Rewards

BankAmericard Cash RewardsBank of America offers new cardholders $100 cash back after spending $500 on this card within the first 90 days of opening an account. Cardholders also earn 3% cash back on gas, 2% cash back on groceries, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The bonus levels of cash back only apply to the first $1,500 spent by cardholders each quarter. And cardholders who have checking or savings accounts with Bank of America will receive an extra 10% bonus when they choose to have their rewards deposited in a qualifying account.

Cardholders also receive some useful benefits. When traveling customers receive automatic car rental insurance and an emergency assistance service. In addition, lost, damaged, or stolen items are covered under a purchase replacement program.

New cardholders receive 0% APR promotional financing for 12 months on both new purchases and balance transfers. Qualifying balance transfers must be completed within 60 days of opening an account, and there is a 3% balance transfer fee. After the promotional financing expires, the standard interest rate is 12.99-22.99%, depending on the applicant’s credit worthiness. There is no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee imposed on all charges processed outside the United States.

Insider tip: One way to maximize the value of the bonus categories of spending is to purchase gift cards from grocery stores or even gas stations. This is definitely worth the effort if you are going to make a large purchase. For example, you might find buy a gift card to a home improvement store that is sold at your grocery store, and then use the gift card to buy a new appliance.

American Express Blue Cash Everyday

Blue Cash EverydayHolders of the American Express Blue Cash Everyday card receive 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 in purchases. 2% cash back is received at U.S gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% cash back is received for all other purchases.

Cardholders also receive car rental insurance, a purchase protection policy, and extended warranty coverage. In addition, cardmembers are also covered by a return protection policy that covers merchants who will not take an item back.

New applicants receive a 0% APR introductory rate for six months that is valid on new purchases. After that, cardholders receive a standard interest rate of between 12.99% to 21.99%, based on their creditworthiness when they applied. There is no annual fee for this card, but American Express has a 2.7% foreign transaction fee that is added to all charges processed outside the United States.

Insider tip: American Express uses exact guidelines to determine which purchases are eligible for bonus levels of cash back. You can read those here.

The Verdict

It is not a coincidence that these two cards are very closely matched, so it is important to note the key differences. BankAmericard Cash Rewards offers 2% bank on groceries, and 3% back on gas, while American Express Blue Cash Everyday offers the opposite.  The Amex card also throws in 2% cash back at some department stores.

Bank of America is the clear leader when it comes to promotional financing, with 12 months interest-free for balance transfers and new purchases vs. Amex with 6 months for new purchases only. And finally, Bank of America offers $100 cash back as a sign up bonus, whereas Amex has none.

So the Bank of America card is the clear winner for those who need longer promotional financing terms and crave that $100 bonus. Nevertheless, I could make a case for the Amex card for those who appreciate the broader selection of benefits, and who prefer to earn higher rewards from grocery and department stores.

No one ever said that finding the best reward credit card would be easy, and this comparison of such similar cards shows how hard the banks are competing each other. But for the majority of credit card users, it seems like Bank of America’s BankAmericard Cash Rewards wins by a nose.

Which credit card do you feel is right for you? Leave a comment!

Capital One Cash vs Barclaycard Rewards

Despite all the credit cards that offer award flights and hotel stays, many credit card users still prefer cash. These cardholders may not spend enough money to earn a free ticket very often, they may be tired of airline credit cards, or they may not be interested in traveling at all.

Fortunately, there are many excellent cash back credit cards, including several that have no annual fee. Capital One offers its Capital One Cash Credit Card while Barclays Bank features its Barclaycard Rewards. Each card allows customers to earn cash back from spending with no annual fee.

Let’s see how these two products compare against each other:

Capital One Cash Visa

Capital One CashThis Capital One card offers 1% cash back from all purchases made each month, plus another .5% back that is distributed once a year, for a total of 1.5%. New cardholders receive a sign up bonus of $100 once they spend $500 on their card within the first three months of opening their account.

New applicants also receive 12 months of 0% APR financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, but there is a 3% balance transfer fee. The standard interest rate is 12.9% to 20.9% depending on the applicant’s credit worthiness at the time of the application.

Benefits include travel accident insurance, an extended warranty program, and auto rental insurance. And as a Visa Signature card, customers receive access to a 24-hour personal assistance service that can help in making travel, dining, and shopping arrangements.

There is no annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

Insider tip: The .5% bonus is earned each year on the anniversary of the day you opened the account (don’t worry, you don’t have to send them flowers). The account must be open and in good standing. So if you get this card, and are thinking about closing it, wait until after you reached that anniversary in order to receive the annual cash back bonus.

Barclaycard Rewards

Barclaycard RewardsThis card offers one point for every dollar spent on all purchases, and double points for each dollar spent on gas, groceries and utilities. Points are worth one cent each toward statement credits, and new applicants receive a sign up bonus of 5,000 points after their first purchase.

New cardholders also receive 15 months of interest-free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, with a 3% balance transfer fee. The standard APR will be 14.99%, 17.99%, or 24.99% based on your credit worthiness when you applied. There is no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee added to all charges processed outside of the United States.

Insider tip: One way to earn double points on more purchases is to buy gift cards at grocery stores or gas stations. These retailers often sell cards that are valid for restaurant chains, home improvement stores, and clothing stores.

The Verdict

Simply put, if you spend 50% of your spending on gas, groceries, and utilities (that you can charge), you will earn more rewards from the Barclaycard. But who knows exactly how much they spend these things? On the other hand, the Capital One card does offer excellent rewards, but it requires patience to earn the third of them that are only paid out once a year. Either way, it kind of works out the same.

So if you call the rewards a draw, what else are you left with? Capital One has superior benefits and I always love a card with no foreign transaction fees. Nevertheless, those without a passport probably don’t care. But still, Capital One’s sign up bonus is $50 richer and perks like extended warranty coverage are nice to have.

The one area where Barclaycard Rewards is clearly superior is in its promotional financing offer. Barclaycard offers 15 months of interest-free financing compared to just 12 months for Capital One. Nevertheless, those who have credit card debt should be looking for the lowest interest rates and the best financing offer, not a credit card that will reward them for getting further into debt.

So while these cards are closely matched, I have to give the edge to Capital One. By offering an effective 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and some excellent benefits, Capital One Cash is the the card to have for those who want a simple way to earn cash rewards.

Which card is right for you? Leave a comment!

PenFed Promise vs. Barclaycard Ring

There is no getting around the unfortunate fact that the majority of American credit card users have debt. All the studies I have found indicate that between one half and two thirds of all credit card users carry a balance each month, and pay interest on their charges. And as unsecured loans with interest that is never tax-deductible, credit card interest is more costly that interest paid on a home mortgage or a student loan.

So when these cardholders are looking for the best product for their needs, they should always be looking for a card with the lowest interest rate and the fewest fees. The Pentagon Federal Credit Union offers its Promise Visa card with a low interest rate and no fees. Meanwhile, Barclaycard features its Ring MasterCard that has low rates and fees, as well as some other innovative features.

Let’s take a look at how these two cards match up against each other:

PenFed Promise

PenFed PromiseThis little known product is among the simplest and most fee-free cards in existence. It features no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, no balance transfer fee, no cash advance fee, no late fee, no over credit limit fee, and even no penalty APR. New cardholders enjoy a 7.49% APR for three years before the standard rate of 9.99% applies. Furthermore, existing balances can be transferred to this card and will have a rate of 4.99% for the life of the balance transfer, but with no fee.

But if there is one catch, it is that this card is only open to members of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. And although PenFed was created to offer financial services to members of our armed forces, it is now open to anyone. Eligibility is available to family members and household members of active or retired members of the military as well as several other defense-related organizations. Otherwise, you can join by making a small one time donation to a military support group.

Barclaycard Ring

Barclaycard RingThis card offers an 8% APR interest rate on purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances (not 7.99%!). There is no annual fee and no balance transfer fee. Cash advances cost a modest $1 fee and the foreign transaction fee is a more reasonable 1% than the standard 3%. There is no over-the-limit fee, and the late payment and returned payment fees are $25 instead of the customary $35.

Where PenFed holds the extreme “no fee” ground, the Barclaycard Ring takes a different, but unique stance. It claims to be the world’s first “crowdsourced, community powered credit card.” Cardholders collaborate online to propose new ideas and even vote on them. Customers that save the program money by opting for paper statements or paying on time can enjoy the fruits of their efforts in the form cash back rewards, charitable donations, or a combination of the two. And to be clear that the money is going where promised, Barclaycard takes the unprecedented step of opening its books to its cardholders.

How do these two cards compare?

This is an interesting match-up as these two cards are both unique. The PenFed Promise card is offered by a credit union that is clearly focused on offering value to its members. The Promise card has a slightly lower interest rate for the first three years, and unlike the Barclaycard Ring, it has a promotional balance transfer offer as well. The Promise also wins by having no foreign transaction fee, cash advance fee, or late payment fee.

But Barclaycard should still be commended for thinking outside the box with this innovative product. This kind of social media focused program will probably appeal to the Facebook generation in ways that other banks, and credit unions, cannot.

But for the vast majority of credit card users who struggle with debt, the fee-free PenFed Promise will remain the best deal. Nevertheless, those who are looking for something different and only occasionally incur credit debt, might want to give Barclaycard Ring a chance. Both of these cards are for people who think differently, and it is up to applicants to choose the one that best meets their needs.

Which credit card is right for you? Leave a comment!

Chase Slate Vs. Citi Simplicity

Choosing the right credit card can be a tricky game. Banks seem to enjoy highlighting their cards’ best features, and burying terms that penalize cardholders. But as consumers and regulators have caught on to this game, the banks have started to compete for new customers by offering simpler cards with fewer fees. The Chase Slate and Citi Simplicity are two of the most simple products on the market. But in addition, both cards feature leading promotional financing offers for new applicants.

Lets take a look at how these two cards compare:

Chase Slate

Chase SlateIn an industry that loves to copy each others’ products, the Slate card stands alone as the only 0% APR balance transfer offer with no balance transfer fee. And since most other cards with similar offers charge a 3% balance transfer fee, this is a great way eliminate interest costs while paying down debt. With the Slate offer, new applicants receive interest-free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. Qualifying balance transfers must be made within 60 days of opening an account.

Once the promotional financing offer expires, cardholders with any remaining balance will be subject to a standard interest rate of 11.99%, 16.99%, or 21.99%, depending on the applicant’s credit worthiness when they originally applied for the card. The penalty interest rate is 23.99%, which isn’t as bad as some other cards that go up to 30% or higher when cardholders miss payments.

Chase also offers Slate cardholders the opportunity to enroll in its innovative Blueprint program. This no-cost feature allows cardholders to save money on interest by paying some charges in full while carrying a balance on others. It also includes powerful budgeting and goal setting features that makes it easy for customers to pay off debt on their schedule.

But beyond the outstanding promotional financing terms and the novel Blueprint program, this card is about as simple as it gets. There are no rewards, and this card doesn’t even include common benefits such as rental car insurance. There is no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee added to all charges processed outside of the United States.

Insider tip: There is nothing wrong with using this card for its outstanding balance transfer offer, but still using another card when you need purchase protection or rental car insurance. Also, be aware that no balance transfer offer will allow you to pay off another card from the same bank. This is especially important to know with this card, as Chase is such a major player in the credit card world.

Citi Simplicity

Simplicity can’t match Slate’s no-fee balance transfer offer, but it does feature longer promotional financing terms. New cardholders receive industry leading interest-free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, but there is a balance transfer fee. New cardholders also have four months to transfer a balance and still receive the 0% APR rate. After the promotional financing period is over, a standard interest rate will apply, based on your creditworthiness when you applied.

Simplicity still has a lot to offer customers beyond its promotional financing terms. For those who have trouble making on time payments, this card has no late fees and no penalty interest rate. It also features a comprehensive array of ancillary benefits. For example, purchases are automatically protected by extended warranty and retail purchases protection policies. Cardholders can also utilize Citi’s Price Rewind service that automatically issues refunds if a purchased product becomes available for at least $25 less.

Like Chase Slate, there is no annual fee for this card, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee added to all charges processed outside of the United States.

Insider tip: Cardholders should not interpret Citi’s policy of no late fees and no penalty interest rates as a reason not to make timely payments. Those who pay late will still incur interest and may even damage their credit.

The Verdict

I’d love to pick a winner here, but it really isn’t that simple. Those with credit card debt (with a bank other than Chase), can’t do any better than getting the Slate card and performing a no-fee balance transfer. And with Blueprint, Slate is a great product to help control debt over the long haul.

But at the same time, those with less debt will probably be happier with the full range of features offered by the Simplicity card, including 18 months of interest-free financing.

Therefore, I am going to have to call this one a draw as the beauty of these offers will be in the eyes of the beholder. Those looking to get out of crushing debt need the Chase Slate card, while others looking for a simple card will find themselves attracted to the Citi Simplicity.

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How to Budget When Having a Baby

baby budgetBecoming a parent for the first time is thrilling and terrifying on several fronts, not the least of which is budgeting. You know having a baby is going to cost you dearly in the wallet, but how much? Should you set aside $50 per month for diapers and other regular expenses? Should you anticipate dropping $10,000 on setting up the nursery for the new addition? The answer for most people will fall somewhere in the middle. Exactly how much you need to spend on having a baby depends on your needs, wants, and how much wiggle room you have in your budget.

How to Budget for a Baby

Budgeting for a baby can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to differentiate what is a need versus what is a want.

Determine Baby Needs

As much money as you could spend on all the cute, cuddly items at every baby store in the world a majority of those things are not necessities. Just like you need a core set of things to live – food, water, shelter, and so on – your baby has a set of core needs as well. Addressing those needs is your primary concern first. If you have a limited budget you shouldn’t be splurging on all the cuteness available without taking care of needs first.

Here are some common needs:

  • Furniture:
    • Crib and mattress – a place to sleep.
    • Changing table – a place to change diapers.
  • Food:
    • Breast feeding supplies (breast pump, bottles, and so on) or formula supplies.
    • Bibs.
  • Diapering:
    • Diapers (disposable or cloth).
    • Wipes.
    • Diaper rash cream.
  • Clothing:
    • Onesies.
    • Shirts.
    • Leggings/pants.
    • Pajamas/sleepers.
    • Socks.
    • Hats (for blocking sun in summer or keeping head warm in winter).
  • Transportation:
    • Car seats that have been installed and checked by a professional (fire department, police officer, etc.).
    • Stroller.
    • Baby carrier.
  • Safety:
    • Outlet covers.
    • Locks for doors with household chemicals and other risky products.
    • Baby gate for homes with stairs or to block access to certain rooms.

This covers a big chunk of what you need as a parent. From there you determine how expensive you want each item to be. Know that there are affordable options for every single item on this list. The clothing doesn’t have to be cute to be effective; plain white clothing gets spit up on just as easily as cute puppy dog clothing. Likewise you don’t need 600 of every single item. Sure, having an extra pack of onesies would be great to help reduce on constantly doing laundry, but the world won’t end if you don’t have it.

Determine Baby Wants

Once you have covered all of the absolute needs of your child, you can consider wants. There are two types of wants when shopping for your baby:

  • Things that are not necessities on the list above, but you want to have them.
  • Things that are necessities on the list above, but you want the better/cuter/more expensive version.

For example, under furniture you could list a rocking chair or glider as a need. Technically it isn’t a need, but I’m sure nursing mothers everywhere would disagree. Even if it were on the need list the amount of money you can spend on this simple piece of furniture is astounding.

You can go to one of the big box baby stores and spend $600, $700, or $800 on a glider. (I know because my wife and I are expecting and just went through looking for one!) I was stunned. You can get a really nice leather recliner for that much money not to mention a pretty basic piece of wood furniture with some padding.

On the other hand you can go to a big box retailer like Wal-Mart and get a similar glider for $120. Is the Wal-Mart glider not as effective as the $750 baby retailer glider? Maybe, I don’t know. It is hard to quantify. If it is, is it $600 (or more) less effective? Doubtful.

Therein lies the problem with baby shopping. You can get the basic item, but then you see everyone else running around with the better, cuter, and more expensive version. You can get a 5-pack of plain white onesies for $10 at the big box retailer. That’s $2 per onesie. Or you can go on Etsy and get something custom made for $15 or $30 per onesie. The former is a need; the latter is a want.

As long as you have covered all of the needs and are comfortable spending more money on the want side of things, feel free. But don’t confuse wants for needs. The basic items will do if they have to.

Talk to Friends with Babies

The best sources of information as to what to expect, what to buy, and how much it is all going to cost you are your friends that have had babies recently. They’ll tell you whether or not a specific item (or “better” version of an item) is worth the premium or not. They can give you estimates as to what they spent, and how much they spend each month on regular items like diapers.

Just keep in mind: Your friends may not raise children the way you want to. They may be the big spenders that wanted the best name brand of every single item. On the other hand they may have been scrimping by just trying to make it.

Nonetheless getting some firsthand experience on what they spent can help you budget for your baby. Talking to real people that have been through what you are about to experience is a lot more beneficial than the baby registry place handing you a conveniently jam-packed reminder list. (They want you to register for everything on the list to make more money, not to necessarily make your life easier.)

Err on the Side of Caution

When budgeting for anything – a home down payment, a vacation, buying your next vehicle, etc. – having more money set aside than you need is a lot better than coming up short. The same is true when budgeting for your baby.

Come up with a list of one-time purchases (like furniture) and a separate list of monthly needs (like diapers). Estimate what you think these items are going to cost you. If you want you can come up with different levels of spending: the basic item that is just fine, or the nicer version that if you have extra money you would splurge on.

The key is to cover the one time purchases either on your own, through your registry and family help, or some combination of the two. The ongoing costs are what can surprise you. Make sure you do the math on exactly how many diapers a child goes through as they age, and figure out what that is going to cost you every month.

Make sure to build in a buffer on top of your budgeted cost to account for things you didn’t think of. Adding 10% or 20% should cover you. If you end up spending less you can just save the money for the future . . . or pay for a babysitter to go on that rare date as a couple.

Are you a parent? How did you budget for your baby? Leave a comment!

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