5 Great Rewards Apps To Get You Free Money

5 Great Rewards Apps To Get You Free Money

Have you heard about the OppLoans Personal Finance App Directory? It’s the hottest new tool all the hip kids are using to find the money apps that best meet their needs. Recently we gave you a breakdown of the Budget category and now we’re back to take you through another great series of apps. This time we’re talking Rewards!

What’s a “Reward app” you ask? It’s an app that lets you earn free gift cards, offers, or straight up cash.

Here are five Reward apps we’ve featured in the database that you should try out.

1. appKarma

Do you like playing phone games and trying new apps? Well, it’s your lucky day: When you open appKarma (@mobileappkarma), you’ll be given a choice of games you can download and play to earn points towards gift cards and other rewards. You can even earn “achievements” by accomplishing certain in-game goals to increase your points.

Andrew Lin is the co-founder of Darkfield Software, the publisher behind appKarma. Here’s what he told us when we asked him what feature he believes sets the app apart from other reward apps.

“Our Karma Play reward feature. A typical reward app like ours rewards users one time for installing the app. We are the only reward app that, in addition to rewarding users for installing an app, also rewards them for keeping the app and playing with it each day.

“This helps us by increasing our retention, helps our users by giving them an additional means to earn rewards, and also helps the advertisers by giving their apps additional opportunities to retain the users (reduce uninstall rate).”

Check out the rest of the interview and learn more about appKarma on its database page.

2. cashKarma

Like the idea behind appKarma but don’t love playing phone games? Then cashKarma, another Darkfield offering, may be for you. Instead of downloading and playing phone games, you earn points by taking surveys. You’ll only qualify for certain surveys based off your personal attributes, so you may not be able to haul in quite the same hoard of points, but there’s no reason you can’t use multiple Reward apps. In fact, you could try all of these at once to maximize your reward earning potential!

Check out cashKarma’s database page by clicking on the link riiiiiiiiiiiiiight here.

3. Sweatcoin

Exercise comes with all sorts of health benefits, so it’s really its own reward. But what if… it also came with a monetary reward? That’s the idea behind Sweatcoin (@SweatCoin), an app that tracks your steps and turns them into a virtual currency that you can spend on all manner of products, services, and even charitable donations. Sweatcoin uses proprietary software to keep you from cheating by putting your phone in the dryer, or whatever.

We got the chance to speak to the cofounder of Sweatcoin, Anton Derlyatka, and he told us about some of the philosophy that went into its creation:

“Oleg and I, friends for longer than we’d care to admit, are both successful entrepreneurs passionate about fitness, health and making the world a better place. I was thinking about a way to tackle the HUGE problem of lack of sustainable motivation to be more active and Oleg was recovering from 3 years of inactivity due to an incredibly stressful time driving his previous business forward. We decided to go for a run in Richmond Park, London, one of the most beautiful places on Earth and a fantastic place for running. I explained my ideas and Oleg supplemented it with a crypto-currency foundation. This is how Sweatcoin was born.”

Derlyatka also told us about their plans for the future: “We are working on a Peer-to-Peer Marketplace where our users, like you and me, will be able to create their own products and services and offer them for Sweatcoins.

“Also, we are in talks with a London Council to deliver a program that would motivate a disadvantaged social group to be more active. To do so, they would be allowed by the Council to pay part of their Council Tax (local tax) in Sweatcoins.”

“The long-term vision for Sweatcoin is to become an independent virtual currency that can pay taxes or buy health insurance.”

Don’t sweat! Read the rest of the interview and find out all the info on Sweatcoin on its database page.

4. AppBounty

Once again, there’s no reason you can’t have most of these apps at once to maximize your reward potential. AppBounty (@AppBounty) is another app you can use to try out games for points you can exchange for rewards. Unlike many of the other apps, however, you can exchange the points for in-game currency, which is great if you’re a mobile game addict. Better to spend imaginary points on imaginary currency than real currency on imaginary currency.

Find out more at—you guessed it—the AppBounty database page.

5. FreeMyApps

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: FreeMyApps (@FreeMyApps) is an app that lets you try out new apps to earn points that you can exchange for rewards. All of these apps are free, so there’s nothing for you to lose from trying one, two, or heck, all of them out.

Look up its page right over here.

There’s rewards in them hills, and now you know how to claim them!


Contributors
Anton Derlyatka is an entrepreneur and investor in behavior change, digital health, and people technologies — the industries ripe for innovation. He is the cofounder of Sweatcoin (@SweatCoin).
Andrew Lin is the co-founder of Darkfield Software, publisher of appKarma (@mobileappkarma) and cashKarma.

Affordable Phone Plans to Avoid Bad Credit

Affordable Phone Plans

Smartphones are more essential than ever these days. You might even be reading this article on one right now! Unfortunately, they can also get pretty expensive.

And if you don’t pay your phone bill on time, it can actually end up making your credit score worse. So how can you get the vital phone services you need without risking bad credit?

Thankfully, there are likely affordable phone plans within your budget, but you have to be careful! Some potential providers may attempt to take advantage of your situation. That’s why we spoke to the experts to make sure that your phone plan isn’t a PHONY plan (sorry) (just kidding, we’re not sorry).


Consider lesser known carriers.

You probably see a lot of ads from the major cell phone carriers. Your Verizons and Sprints and AT&Ts, if you will. But what about the carriers that might not be able to afford massive advertising budgets? The ones who never had the chance to ask if you could hear them now. When comparing pricing possibilities, it can be worth looking at the carriers less often considered. That’s what Gabe Lumby of Cash Cow Couple (@CashCowCouple) did.

We really like Republic Wireless as a cheap phone plan option and have written a detailed review on our site about the service,” Lumby told us. “I’ve personally used the service for over 3 years and outside of some occasionally spotty coverage, I have no complaints. We only pay $31 and change for both my wife and I’s cell phone plans. Here is a link to their pricing page.

“Regardless of which carrier is chosen, it is smart to look at some of the new players in the space when looking to save money. Some other options include Straight Talk and Virgin Mobile.

“There are other competitors as well, but my advice would be to look at some of these lesser known options instead of your large carriers.”

Cut down on data usage.

This is a pretty obvious tip, but it’s still important. Unless you have an unlimited data plan, which can be a huge expense in and of itself, you have to be very careful about not going over your data or you’ll face grim punishment (in the form of higher fees). But you don’t need to take our word for it. Here’s what Lumby said: “Also, try hard to curb your data usage. Many people have large data plans when they could be using free wifi at their work, restaurants, etc. Data is the huge money drain.”

Beware the “free phone”.

There’s no price better than free, which is why you should be immediately suspicious of anyone offering you a free phone. We aren’t experts, but we’re pretty sure there are all sorts of expensive electronics and tiny computers that go into the creation of a phone, so no one is going to be giving you one unless they’re expecting to get something out of it.

Brett Graff (@BrettGraff), The Home Economist and author of “Not Buying It,” offered this warning: “If the phone is for an elderly person, you can apply to the FCC for a credit towards a landline or a cell phone. Otherwise, don’t fall for the free phone. God it’s tempting, I know. But prices for cell phone and wireless services are dropping constantly and you’re in a better position to negotiate without a contract.

“Many times, that ‘free’ phone isn’t free at all, it’s divided into monthly payments tacked on to your bill. What’s more, if you want to really save, you can buy an inexpensive phone that matches your plan almost anywhere. Then you must shop around to find the lowest prices but remember what those prices include and always—always—check your bill. Third party providers are excellent at slipping fees on, so look for anything unusual such as ringtones or horoscopes that you didn’t order. The most common cramming fee is for $10.99, so if you’re charged that amount for a service you don’t want, call and complain because you’ve likely been scammed.”

Curtis McCoy, CEO of BestCellular.com, (@BestCellular) had his own list of hidden dangers “free phone” providers can try and trick you into:

“In the United States, smartphone plans can range upwards of $100/mo. Many companies advertise a great price or ‘free phones’ but it has become almost an industry standard to charge hidden fees (on top of what the customer knowingly agreed to when signing the contract).

“Some of the common hidden fees can include:

  • Finance charges on ‘free’ devices.
  • ‘No contract’ cell phone plans that lock the customer into an ‘agreement’ when financing the new phone.
  • Many larger carriers charge up to $40/mo. in what they call a ‘line access fee.’ This is literally an additional fee to have a phone number (above and beyond the advertised price).
  • Many prepaid wireless stores are now charging a ‘Service Convenience Fee’ to pay your bill in-store with a live agent.
  • Other carriers and Mobile Virtual Network Operators offer, ‘Unlimited Data’ that is capped or throttled when you hit the LIMIT a.k.a. ‘Reasonable Usage Policy CAP.’”

McCoy also offered some additional tips for saving on your cell situation:

“Tips that can save you a LOT of money on your phone bill:

  • If at all possible, save up and pay cash for your phone instead of making payments. If you’re convinced that you must have a new phone but can’t afford it, even a high-interest credit card is cheaper than financing through a cellular retailer.
  • If you can make due with a used/refurbished phone, you can save a lot of money as well.
  • If you have a working phone from another carrier, some companies let you bring your own phone or activate online: https://BestCellular.com/Activate
  • Just connecting to WiFi when you’re at home, work, school or the local coffee shop can save you money!
  • Mobile Data is the most expensive part of your phone bill. Use these tips to Save Mobile Data and you can also save a lot of money: https://BestCellular.com/SaveData/”

You should also read about and see if you might qualify for the Lifeline Program, which offers subsidized phones based on need. Remember that getting some help is never wrong if you need it, especially if it keeps you from getting bad credit or turning to payday loans.

Take all of this advice together, and you’ll be talking on the phone, without losing your home!

Do you have some tips of your own for finding an affordable phone plan? We’d love to hear about it! You can shoot us an email by clicking here or you can find us on Twitter at @OppLoans.


Contributors
Brett Graff (@BrettGraff), has been seen writing and reporting on money and personal finance in The LA Times, Yahoo! Finance, Cosmopolitan, The New York Times and the Fiscal Policy Institute, to name a few. Brett also provides her insight in the column, The Home Economist, which is nationally syndicated and published in newspapers all over the country. Her book “NOT BUYING IT: Raising Happier, Healthier & More Successful Kids” is now available!
Gabe Lumby is the CMO at Cash Cow Couple (@CashCowCouple) where he helps get the word out on how readers can build their best financial life. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and crappie fishing the local waterways of Southwest Missouri.
Best Cellular (@BestCellular) is a Quad-Carrier Mobile Virtual Network Operator that uses Every Tower from Every Major Carrier in the USA. This allows us to offer the best possible prepaid wireless coverage to almost every customer in America. Extensive technical resources and cutting edge developments like these allow us to offer unmatched service to dealers and customers alike!

Six Personal Finance Podcasts You Should Listen To Right Now

Six Personal Finance Authors You Should Listen To

You’re busy. You’re always on the go. You want financial advice but you don’t have time to read (with the exception of this article). That’s where podcasts come in! We’ve gathered some of the best personal finance podcasts so you can gain money wisdom on the go.


Planet Money podcast

Planet Money

Planet Money (@planetmoney) is a twice-weekly podcast produced by NPR. If you have questions about money, and specifically how the economy works, then this is a great place to start. Here’s how they describe the podcast on their site: “Imagine you could call up a friend and say, ‘Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.’ Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening. That’s what we’re going for at Planet Money.”

Quick and Dirty Tips Podcast

Quick and Dirty Tips

Quick and Dirty Tips (@quickdirtytips) is a podcast network and website that offers just that: quick and dirty tips for financial success, time management, and other aspects of everyday life. Check it out for some great advice on becoming more successful in your career and in life.

Listen Money Matters PodcastListen Money Matters

Listen Money Matters (@MoneyMattersMan) is described as a podcast for all things money and for building better habits. The podcast, started by Andrew Fiebert, spends a majority of its time focused on the four big tenets of personal finance: budgeting, investing, paying off debt, and income growth.

Stacking Benjamins Podcast

Stacking Benjamins

Joe Saul-Sehy started the Stacking Benjamins Podcast (@SBenjaminsCast) after being a financial planner and giving money advice on the radio for 15 years. On the podcast, he interviews people who have conquered tremendous amounts of debt or have had success accumulating wealth. The personal stories make for great money advice! 

You Need a Budget Podcast

You Need A Budget

You Need A Budget (@ynab) is a budgeting app and podcast that zeroes in on the topic of budgeting. They’ll cover rules of budgeting, as well as interview people on a number of topics like student debt. If you need a little help understanding and planning your personal budget, then you’d be wise to subscribe to this podcast!

Consumerism Commentary Podcast

Consumerism Commentary

This is a podcast that covers many different aspects of personal finance, such as economics, living debt free, entrepreneurship, and living a minimalist life. You’ll hear interviews with personal finance experts, and hopefully learn how to save some money in the process! Give them a follow at @ConsumerismComm for updates on their latest episodes and for the great articles they publish on the Consumer Commentary website.

What’s your favorite personal finance podcast? Give us a ring over at @OppLoans on Twitter!

Style on a Budget: Get Trendy Clothes Without a Payday Loan

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They say you should dress for the job you want, but unless the job you’re looking for is “professional schlub” you won’t be able to get by with cheap sweatpants and t-shirts. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, trying to afford the clothes you need for the job you want that will allow you to afford the clothes you need for… well, you get it.

And if you have bad credit, there’s no reason to risk applying for a payday loan just to get a better wardrobe. No outfit is worth getting yourself trapped in a cycle of debt. Instead, use these tips from our experts to get the clothes you need on a budget that lets you feed (yourself).


Advice from sales experts…

You don’t need us to tell you about retail sales… but we’re going to anyway! Sure, you know sales exist, but are you a sales expert? Because we talked to some sales experts and they have advice for you.

PR executive Amanda Maxwell (@amkmaxwell) told us her approach: “I always try to wait for sales first of all. Depending on what store you are at, almost everything drops to sale after the first three initial weeks of the item being on the rack. I also wait for special promotion days when you can get extra percentages off. Another trick is signing up for an email for a specific store. Most companies offer a 15-30 percent off coupon when you sign up for their emails for the first time! So always look! Or have your friend sign up.”

Rachel D’Ruan a stylist with TRUE Model Management (@TrueModelMgt), offered her own sales advice: “I always advise clients to purchase what they may need when there’s a sale instead of waiting until they need it. My go-to is Chicmi.com because the platform has the most up-to-date list of sample sales as well as fashion events and online fashion sales. Each fashion trend lasts at least three seasons (16 months) and each also makes a come back every few years; thus, when quality products are purchased, they could last a lifetime!”

Know when to shop.

You should always be on the lookout for sales. They can strike at any time—like lightning that saves you money. But there are also more consistent rules you can follow to save money when shopping for clothes. The tides of shopping, rather than the lightning.

“One way that I have found is to buy clothes out of season,” advised Alayna Pehrson, digital marketing strategist for BestCompany.com (@BestCompanyUSA). “Although this may mean that you can’t wear it right after you buy it, you’ll have it to wear for the appropriate season AND you will definitely save money. There is a month-by-month guide that I found to be pretty helpful when trying to figure out which items are cheapest during which month of the year: http://time.com/money/4190173/month-guide-best-time-buy-everything/

And know where to shop.

Every reporter knows the 5 “W”s: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. We’ve already answered the Who, What, When, and Why (you, affordable clothes, off-season, and so you don’t end up with bad credit) so now it’s time to talk about the “Where.”

Maxwell shared some of her favorite affordable options: “There is also the obvious [choice] of shopping at discount stores like Saks Off Fifth or Nordstrom Rack where they offer clothing from their main stores at a discounted price. There’s always a rack of damaged stuff (etc missing a button) that’s AMAZING and totally unnoticeable. You can find amazing deals there and they take an extra 40 percent off usually.

“Another perk I LOVE to use and has become even more amazing over the last few years, is to shop secondhand. There are so many avenues and websites to go now from eBay to Tradsey, to local clothing resale stores. Here in New York we have amazing secondhand shops with stuff that people have never even worn! Marked from $800 to $100! If you buy online from eBay it’s also tax free! Don’t forget this method also applies to you selling your old stuff! This allows you to make some money and save on getting new clothing. It’s a win win!”

You should also check out coupon sites. As Pehrson told us, “Another way to save money when buying clothes is to search for online coupons. Sites like coupons.com, retailmenot, and Groupon are some great places to find online clothing coupons.”

Personal finance expert Kayla Sloan (@kaylarsloan) also has a site she relies on for fashion deals: “My biggest secret for looking great for less is using online thrift stores, like ThredUp.com. I always wait until they offer a coupon code for 10 percent off (or more) or free shipping. I also re-sell my clothes there after I’m finished with them so I can use my store credit to refresh my wardrobe. ThredUp is my favorite way to get brand name clothes for less!”

Some more tips for style on a budget!

We’ve got even more tips for you to use! Need something for a one-time event? “For special occasions, I would recommend renting an outfit (dress, tux, etc),” Pehrson suggested. “This will keep your credit, closet, and conscience clear as you will most likely only use that outfit once.”

She also had another good tip for keeping your spending in check: “A great way to not build up bad credit while shopping for clothes is to only use cash. With cash, there is no temptation to break out the credit card and spend more. Make sure to limit the cash you carry depending on your clothing budget.”

Got a big social media following? D’Ruan says you might be able to use it to your advantage: “If you are an aspiring fashionista, stop by stores like Dreams on Air and Flying Solo. Designers from curated fashion incubators don’t have the budget for top PR services or advertisement so they are more than likely to lend clothes to social influencers (10K+ IG followers) in return for free publicity. I can share more on this approach but it is as simple as filling out a ‘pull’ form, which also asks for credit card info and duration of the pull. As long as the items are returned in their original condition, you can rock clothes off the runway from fashion week for free!”

Looking for affordable stockings? Vienne Cheung, founder of VienneMilano (@VienneMilano) filled us in on her wares: “In a nutshell, the best way to save money and look fashionable is to shop for affordable luxury brands. For example, for women, instead of spending $50-100 for a pair of stockings, hip and young professionals can shop at VienneMilano.com – all of our products are made in Italy. Since VienneMilano is a small business that does not carry extra overhead cost, we can afford to offer fabulous and luxurious products to our customers at an affordable price. Our made in Italy stockings only cost $19.95 for a pair of hosiery, which is significantly less than some of our competitors who sell at $50 for a pair of stockings.”

Finally, Okera Banks (@OkeraBanks), celebrity stylist and founder of OTG Essentials, told us how you can switch things up without having to get a whole new wardrobe: “You can have a hip wardrobe without driving yourself into bad credit or bad debt. I call that living within your means, as you maintain your needs.

“The most important thing to do is first look at your day to day lifestyle and plan out your week. Create a budget that is realistic and include future spending. The idea here is to save, which means you may have to take advantage of discounts, warehouse sales, or outlets stores like Nordstrom’s Rack, who offer great products below market value and even online shopping opportunities.

“I always tell people who are creating a hip wardrobe or who are transitioning into a new look to review your current wardrobe and add cool accent and statement pieces for extra flare without having to completely replace your closet. And purchase items that are interchangeable and transitional, that way they can be worn for business, travel, business casual, fun, or cocktails.

“The idea is being a conservative shopper while being stylish and having a sense of duality with each purchase to accommodate your lifestyle. An essential garment piece is one that can create more than 3 good looks.”

Take all of these tips, and before you know it you’ll have a whole new look and a whole new improved credit score.


Contributors
Okera Banks (@OkeraBanks) is a Los Angeles based designer and celebrity stylist to some of Hollywood’s elite. As a creative designer and owner of Okera Banks OTG Essentials, OTG is the acronym for “On The Go,” her collection caters to today’s swagged out and sophisticated entrepreneur, fashion conscious trend setters and travelers on the go who want comfort and ease with impeccable style.
Vienne Cheung (@VienneMilano) followed her passion for fashion and travel to… fine hosiery. For years, she traveled the world seeking the best fashion and accessories. In Milano, Italy she fell in love with premium hosiery, then unavailable in the US. The rest is history: she left her cushy corporate job, and plunged her soul (and legs!) into VienneMilano.
Rachel D’Ruan (@TrueModelMgt) After half a decade strategizing publicity campaigns for major film studios in Los Angeles, Rachel ventured into fashion and lifestyle PR in New York City. Representing some of the most well-known talents and entrepreneurs in the business has enabled Rachel to obtain a wealth of contacts and diverse experience in image consulting, publicity, marketing and branding. Rachel’s expertise, persistence and tactical approach to her work serves her clients well.
Amanda Maxwell (@amkmaxwell) is a 23 year old PR Senior Executive residing in New York City. She’s mostly known for her contributions in the fashion world, fashion focused social media, and press related contributions. She’s also currently a writer for BossBabe.co sharing tips and tricks on all things Fashion, Life, and Beauty.  With her extensive relationships and industry experience, Amanda has always remained in style.
Alayna Pehrson(@BestCompanyUSA) is a Digital Marketing Strategist and Credit Repair Specialist at BestCompany.com
Kayla Sloan (@kaylarsloan) is a personal finance and small business expert. She has been featured in The Huffington Post, Time, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Kayla is passionate about helping people improve their finances so they can pursue their dreams with her blog at KaylaSloan.com.

 

Budget Friendly Wedding Planning to Avoid Bad Credit

Budget Friendly Wedding

Your wedding is one of the most special days of your life. It could easily be one of the most expensive days of your life as well. You want to spend everything you have to make it feel like a dream you’ll never wake up from.

But you are going to wake up the next day and you don’t want to wake up with the kind of debt that comes from spending everything you have. That’s a recipe for the kind of bad credit that will haunt you for the rest of your new married life. Not a great way to start out.

Thankfully, you can have the most special day without burning through your entire future. We spoke to the matrimony masters to get you the tips you need to make sure the only tears at the reception are happy ones.


Budget and communicate.

The most important part of planning any wedding is communicating with your partner, and that’s all the more important when you’re working on a tight budget. You might not be able to get exactly everything you’d like in the dream wedding “infinite money” scenario, so it’s vital that you both figure out what the absolute essentials are.

Here’s what Natasha M. Campbell (@WealthStylist), financial educator, money coach, and realtor at www.wealthstylist.com, had to say on the matter:

“Determine who is paying for what and how much wedding you can afford. Communication is key! So, how should you approach the topic? Here are some guidelines to help you and your families determine an initial budget: Ask both parents to commit to a specific dollar amount or a particular aspect of the wedding such as the ceremony, decor, honeymoon or catering. Then add up all the contributions and determine the amount you and your fiancé will need to contribute to make up the difference.

“Create a detailed accountability spreadsheet that includes all your expected wedding expenses. Once you’ve pulled your wedding funds together, you’ll want to track your spending. Here’s a basic breakdown of what you can expect to pay: reception, ceremony, attire, floral arrangements, entertainment, photography/videography, stationary, transportation, gifts, wedding cake, honeymoon, and miscellaneous. It’s also a good idea to add a small cushion of about five percent to your budget to cover any unplanned expenses.”

WeddingWire (@WeddingWire) trend expert Anne Chertoff also shared her thoughts on budgeting:

“Put money towards what’s important to you. Each couple will have specific wedding elements that are more essential to them. Some couples want a delicious menu, while others are all about the band. Discuss what elements are important to you and put more money towards those vendors and details. WeddingWire’s Budget Tracker is a great tool and guideline to help you create the budget for your wedding in addition to helping you track your spending, set up payment schedules, and redistribute and organize funds.

“Keep a cushion in place. There are always last minute purchases that brides and grooms may not think of when allocating their budget initially, such as the cost of the bride’s mani and pedi or ribbons to tie the favors or white umbrellas if the forecast calls for rain the day of the wedding.  Make sure to leave at least $500 to $1,000 for last minute purchases so they don’t catch you off guard.

“Don’t forget incidentals. Some purchases and vendors come with a flat fee, but there may be “accessories” that are charged separately. For example, you may pay your stationer for the invitations but then you have to pay for postage at the post office. Or the baker may supply the wedding cake but not the topper. When working with each vendor, draft a list of all the related items that they will be able to supply, as well as what you’re expected to purchase separately.”

Chertoff was also able to offer some more specific wedding wisdom.

Make the special day a special weekday.

The most convenient time to do anything, at least in the America, tends to be on the weekend. That includes weddings, but with weekend weddings in such high demand, you might have to sell your soul or something of equal value to get one.

Chertoff strongly recommends saving yourself money with a less popular wedding time: “Saving a lot of money on your wedding day can be as simple as just picking the right day. Avoid the spring and fall, and if you can, pick a date in January or February which are typically the least expensive months. And if that’s not a possibility, avoid getting married on a Saturday night—having a Friday and Sunday wedding can save you a bundle.”

Max Robinson, a photographer for Scotland Shop (@ScotlandShop), agreed about the need for flexible planning: “Although it might make it easier for friends and family to attend your wedding if it’s held at the weekend, you’ll save huge amounts of money if you have the wedding mid-week. Venues will generally charge much more for weekend events because they’ve usually had to turn down other offers, whereas fewer people want to hire a venue during the week which reduces the cost significantly. Even holding the wedding on a Friday could save huge amounts, and people will still be able to drink and stay out late!”

Flower power.

Have you ever looked up how much wedding flowers cost? No? Well, take a guess… NOPE. It’s more than that. We don’t know what you guessed, but we know it’s more than that.

Thankfully, Chertoff offered some tips for saving on the blooms:

“Choose seasonal flowers. Flowers that are in season typically cost less. Your florist is the expert—talk to him or her about which flowers will be least expensive at the time of year when you’re getting married.

“Mix with non-floral elements. Use candles, greenery and other non-floral elements, like seashells or fruit to decorate your ceremony and reception. These elements can make a big décor statement with little added cost.

“Try ‘nontraditional’ blooms. Baby’s breath and carnations are just two examples of inexpensive flowers that can look unique and modern when grouped together in floral arrangements.

“Reuse and recycle. Use flowers from your ceremony to decorate your reception. Bouquets can decorate your cake table, altar arrangements can look lovely on the escort card or buffet table, and aisle markers can be repurposed into small centerpieces for reception tables. Another idea is to consider using vessels that you already own, rather than renting them from your florist.

“Choose a naturally beautiful venue. Venues like gardens and beaches are already stunningly beautiful and don’t need as much added decoration. When looking for a wedding venue, think about how much decoration it will need on your wedding day.”

Eat, drink, and be frugal.

You might be too nervous to eat or drink too much, but your guests will probably be expecting a decent spread. And you can provide them with one and avoid financial ruin.

“Never assume a buffet will be cheaper,” Chertoff warns. “Some people think it will be but that’s not always the case. Once you know what you want to serve ask your caterer the least expensive way to serve it: plated, family style or buffet. Sometimes a buffet can be the same or almost the same cost as a plated meal because you have to have enough for everyone to get at least one and possibly two servings, and you still need a staff to work the buffet and clear tables.”

As with the date of the wedding, Chertoff also suggests timing can help you save: “Skip dinner. A brunch, luncheon or even cocktail style menus will be more affordable than a traditional dinner menu. Since catering is the most expensive part of the wedding, consider a daytime or cocktail-style reception to cut down on catering costs.”

And when it comes to booze? “Don’t go overboard on alcohol,” Chertoff cautions. Instead of offering a full, top-shelf bar, serve wine, beer, and a signature cocktail. It’s a major cost-saving move and your guests likely won’t mind. And if you have a relative or friend who simply must have a certain type of liquor, then you can have a single bottle available for him or her—just don’t overdo it.”

But there’s one thing everyone looks out for at any wedding. Here’s what Chertoff suggests when it comes to the cake:

“Choose a simple Design. Consider a simple, clean and streamlined design—avoid crazy shapes and intricate designs. The less labor-intensive your cake design is, the better for your budget. Be upfront and honest with your cake baker about your budget, and let him or her create a design that will work for both your price point and your style.

“Go Small. Even if you’re having a lot of guests, your cake doesn’t have to be an eight-tier tower. Regardless of your guest count, keep your wedding cake small and ask your baker to create sheet cake to serve, rather than display.

“Decorate your wedding cake with fresh flowers rather than intricate sugar blossoms. Again, creating sugar flowers can be quite labor-intensive—and fresh flowers can be just as pretty.

“Ice your wedding cake with buttercream rather than fondant–buttercream is much easier to work with and is a good deal less expensive than fondant.

“Instead of asking your cake baker to create a custom flavor combination just for your wedding, go with more basic flavors.”

One for the road.

If you’re planning to give your guests something to take home, why not feed two birds with one crumb (our pacifist twist on a common phrase)?

Creative writer Shelley Grieshop told us about how you can use products from Totally Promotional (@TPromotional) to offer table settings your guests can keep as a souvenir:

“It’s a good budget strategy to provide guests with wedding favors that serve a dual function. That’s why we often suggest using personalized wedding cups as favors and party supplies. Plastic cups are likely already on the list as a necessity for the wedding reception. Why not purchase customized cups that can be used by guests at the party and taken home as favors? We make it very simple to place the bride and groom’s names, wedding date and/or clever saying on reusable cups that friends and relatives can keep as mementos.”

What friends are for.

If your friends are getting to come to a fancy (but affordable wedding) they should be willing to help out a bit if they’re able to.

“What we did when we got married was we used our networks,” said Charlie Meaden (@UproarCharlie), CEO and founder of Uproar (@Uproar). “We had a vicar friend that we knew and managed to get him to officiate the wedding for free in their church. We also spoke to a family friend who had a high-end restaurant and wedding venue. We saved around $20,000 just in venue cost because we worked with people who already had an existing relationship with us. We handmade all the invites, gifts, bunting etc etc. I had a friend who a bunch of nice cars, so I asked if he would let us use them. He actually drove me to the church and to the reception, and it only cost us inviting him to the wedding and reception. We literally listed out everyone we thought could help then called in favors. That will be the biggest savings you can make.”

It IS easy being green.

If you’re concerned about the environment as well as your budget, Kathryn Kellogg of Going Zero Waste (@goingzerowaste) wants to help. She told us how she had a very affordable, very special wedding with no waste:

“I got married in May of this year with a $2,000 budget. With any small budget, thinking outside of the box is really important. We split our reception and ceremony. We had a big backyard bbq to celebrate with friends and family. I rented games like corn hole and borrowed tables from friends. I bought white sheets from the thrift store and used my extensive collection of mason jars from the kitchen for vases.

“The morning of the reception/party I walked to the farmers market where I bought a whole bunch of flowers. I bought bread to slice up for sandwiches. I went to the butcher and got brisket to go in my crock pot and I made a whole bunch of sangria! Then I asked everyone to bring a side in a reusable dish. I supplied cloth napkins, real plates, and cups. We danced and partied the night away. Not only was it AMAZING, it produced no trash. The average wedding produces 500 lbs of waste and I wanted to have an eco-friendly wedding.

“The party was on Saturday and we got married at SF city hall on Monday morning with our immediate family. We celebrated by going to a restaurant after and my wonderful mother got our wedding cake to-go in my own container to avoid that plastic disposable one. We had a cake cutting at our hotel and they were nice enough to set us up with a little room with real plates and silverware.”

Take all of this advice and the first day of the rest of your life won’t be filled with financial worry.

Visit OppLoans on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN | Google+


Contributors
Natasha M. Campbell (@WealthStylist) is a financial empowerment educator, money coach, and realtor at wealthstylist.com
Anne Chertoff (@WeddingWire) is WeddingWire’s Trend Expert. She has more than fifteen years of experience in the wedding industry as a wedding editor for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings and BRIDES. Her wedding advice and expertise have been featured in The New York Times, FOX News, Good Morning America, InStyle, USA Today, and more.
Shelley Grieshop (@TPromotional) is a former newspaper reporter and copy editor who joined the team at Totally Promotional  as a creative writer in January 2016. She writes company blogs, product descriptions and other items for the company’s website and general correspondence.
Kathryn Kellogg (@goingzerowaste) All of my trash for the past two years fits in a 16 oz mason jar. I spend my time educating the public on the dangers of trash, plastic pollution, and fighting to end food waste. I’m a consultant and public speaker who blogs all about small, actionable tips we can all implement to make the world a little greener.
Charlie Meaden (@UproarCharlie) founded Uproar.gg (@Uproar) and launched their product into the market in October 2016. Uproar.gg is “Air Miles for Gaming”. Gamers come to Uproar.gg to win real life rewards for competing in quests and challenges related to the games they love. They have built major partnerships with some of the largest game publishers in the world and have thousands of new users signing up every day.
Max Robinson (@ScotlandShop) is a photographer and writer for Scotland Shop.

 

 

 

 

 

Try Out These 5 Great Budget Apps

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Have you heard the big news? We here at the OppLoans Financial Sense Blog recently released an app directory to help you find the financial tools that will be a perfect match for your specific needs.

The different app pages are split into categories. We’ll be adding more categories soon, but right now there are four: Budgeting, Money Transfer, Rewards, and Savings. We’ll be taking you through the categories one blog post at time. Today we’ll be giving you a whirlwind tour of the Budgeting apps.

Apps in the Budgeting category help you track how you’re spending your money. Some of these apps track the spending automatically, while others have you input your purchases manually. Which app you choose to try out just depends on your preferences, but given that most of them have at least a free option, you might as well try them all out so you can find your favorite.

Here’s some info on the current Budgeting category options.

Money Lover

Money Lover (@moneyloverapp) is a very popular budget app that allows you to manually but quickly input your transactions across multiple platforms. Then the app will create clean, pretty charts to show you where your money has been going.

The app uses ads, but you can pay a small fee to have them removed. We spoke to To Thanh Cong, head of business development, to find out how Money Lover got started:

“Huy, the founder, created the app by himself when he was in university and used it for his own personal needs. When Money Lover went live on the Google Play Store, he was shocked to find that a lot of people were downloading it and leaving positive feedback. In the next three years, he assembled a team of 15 people to work on Money Lover full-time.

“Now, Money Lover is offering native applications on Android, iOS, Windows and the Web, which helps users access it anytime and from any device.”

You can read more of his description, as well as other details about the app, on our app page for Money Lover.

You Need a Budget

Do you want to train yourself to be a better budgeter? Well You Need A Budget (@ynab) may be what you… need. It follows four rules to teach you how to manage your budget better.

The first rule is that every dollar should have a “job.” This means that as soon as you get paid, you pre-assign a certain portion of that money to saving, food, etc.

For the next rule, you have to “embrace your true expense.” That requires looking ahead at the big expenses you realize you might have in the coming months and putting money aside for those instead of spending it on things you don’t need right now.

Rule three is “rolling with the punches,” so you can be prepared to adjust whenever a surprise requires it.

The final step is to “let your money age” so you don’t spend it too quickly. If you wait two months to spend any specific dollar, you’ll always have money set aside.

You Need a Budget does cost $50 per year, but if it really helps you, you’ll be saving money in the end. Find out more here.

Goodbudget

Have you heard of the envelope budgeting system? It’s what Goodbudget (@goodbudget) is based on. You have different “envelopes” for your expenses, and you fill up each necessary envelope every time you get paid. That way you’ll make sure all your essentials (and some savings) are handled each month.

As far as cost, there are free options, but you can pay more if you’d like more “envelopes” to manage. Check it out.

Mint

Mint (@Mint) has been a budget app standard for a while now, and it’s understandable why. It connects directly to your bank account and automatically tracks your spending, then puts it all together in a nice chart so you can see exactly where all your money has been going.

We interviewed Kevin Kirn, head of product for Mint, to tell us some of the benefits Mint can offer:

“From sticky notes to spreadsheets, calendar reminders, and online banking, there’s no one way to manage finances. And while few people enjoy managing their money, it’s something everyone needs to do. So, whether people start by creating a budget or paying bills, Mint makes it easy to connect with more than 20,000 financial institutions across North America to see everything all in one place. No more toggling from the cable bill to your expense spreadsheet and back to your bank, it’s right there via the Web and mobile – whichever experience makes the most sense.

And when it comes time to save for life’s moments – big and small – Mint provides insights to make those goals a reality with customized alerts and reminders to keep your spending on track each month and throughout the year.”

See the rest of the interview here. 

Everydollar

Everydollar (@EveryDollar) has both free and premium plans. It makes the process of starting up your budget quick and easy, so if you want to start budgeting as soon as possible and don’t need that many extra features, find out more and try it right here.

That’s just a taste of the useful financial tools you’ll find in the app directory. Keep an eye out as we continue adding all the apps you could ever ask for!


Contributors
To Tanh Cong (@moneyloverapp) is the Chief Operating Officer at Money Lover.
Kevin Kirn (@Mint) is the Head of Product for Mint, the leading personal finance app from Intuit Inc. Kevin is responsible for product management for Mint including web, mobile, platform and bill pay. Kevin’s passion for helping consumers and small businesses improve their financial lives brought him to intuit six years ago. Kevin joined Mint in early 2016 after five years leading the reinvention of QuickBooks Online, Intuit’s flagship small business product. Prior to Intuit, Kevin held several product leadership roles at Microsoft, financed startups with a venture capital firm and advised business leaders with McKinsey.

Six Personal Finance Authors You Should Follow Right Now

Six Personal Finance Authors You Should Follow on Twitter

Why settle for reading just any author when you could read an author who will help you with you improve your finances? These writers all have books you can check out to get a better handle on your money and credit situation. Don’t have time for a book right now? Well you should follow their Twitter accounts so you can get their wisdom in bite-size chunks on the go!

Beth Kobliner – @BethKobliner

Beth Kobliner is a journalist and best-selling personal finance author. In her most recent book, Make Your Kid a Money Genius, she offers parents a step-by-step guide to teaching their children about money and personal finance concepts. Follow her today for great personal finance tweets!

Ric Edelman – @ricedelman

Ric Edelman is a best-selling author and Executive Chairman of Edelman Financial Services, LLC. In his book, The Truth About Your Future. The Money Guide You Need Now, Later and Much Later, he explores how technology will affect the way we save, invest, and plan for the future.

Jeanne Kelly – @creditscoop

Jeanne Kelly is a credit coach, speaker, and personal finance author. Her two books (The 90 Day Credit Challenge, and The Credit Makeover) seek to inform and assist readers with credit, credit scores, and credit reports. Follow her today for great credit advice!

Thomas J. Stanley, Ph. D. – @thomasjstanley

Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. was an advisor, researcher, and author of many books on the wealthy population in America. Follow his Twitter page, and check out his books, The Millionaire Next Door, and The Millionaire Mind.

Teresa Ghilarducci – @tghilarducci

Teresa Ghilarducci’s book, How to Retire with Enough Money, and How to Know What Enough Is, explores the ins and outs of saving enough for retirement. She explains how much you generally need in order to retire, and ways to stretch your money further and save faster.

Jonathan DeYoe – @DeYoeWealth

Jonathan DeYoe is a financial planner and author of Mindful Money. In his book he attempts to offer readers a guide to creating a specific financial plan that caters to their beliefs. Jonathan’s belief is that money is simply a tool that can be used to create the lifestyle that you want and deserve.

Bad Credit Helper: Does Moving Back Home Make Sense.

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There’s a definite stigma against moving back home once you’ve left the house. It’s seen as setback or even total failure if an adult child moves back in with their parents, which is unfortunate, given that whether or not society approves of it, more and more college grads are moving back home.

But what if the alternative is getting behind on your payments? That would leave you with bad credit, and bad credit is not a great place to start your financial journey.

We talked to the experts to find out if a “failure to launch” might just be a chance to refuel. After all, getting more money in the bank and getting ahead of your payments so you aren’t haunted by bad credit for the rest of your life doesn’t sound so bad.

Ignore the haters.

We don’t have to tell you that there’s a stigma attached to moving back home, although we did anyway in the first line of this article. Other people’s opinions about the decision should be the last thing on your mind. The only important question is if it’s the right thing for you.

That’s what we think, and certified financial educator Maggie Germano (@MaggieGermano) agrees: “Sometimes when you fall on hard times financially, the only option is to move home. (Not everyone has this option, so it’s important to keep in mind the privilege of this opportunity.) I definitely think there is no shame in moving home if you need to. It’s a great opportunity to save money in rent and get back on your feet. If your parents don’t charge you any rent, you can end up saving thousands of dollars. You should take advantage of this time to pay off debt, build up savings, and work towards other financial goals. Once you feel more financially stable, it may be time to go back out on your own. There’s no right or wrong amount of time to stay home; whatever works for you and your parents is the right thing.”

Moving back home (if you have the privilege to do so, as Germano clarified) can indeed be a smart financial choice. And we even have the experts with the first-hand experiences to prove it!

Homeward bound.

Phil Risher is the founder of the Young Adult Survival Guide (@yasurvivalguide). He was kind enough to share his personal experience with us:

“I paid off 30k in student loans in 12 months making 48k. After, I saved up and bought my place with cash at the age of 25.

“Without moving back home after college I would not have been able to do these things.

“I always recommend for young adults to live somewhere inexpensive while they are building good financial foundations. If it isn’t at home, it could be a basement or a 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment.

“I never lived with my Dad until I asked him if I could move home after college. I sweetened the pot by telling him I would cut the grass, clean the gutters, and be an on call baby sitter for my younger siblings. (What a deal!)

“Some steps you can take to get back on your feet are to start budgeting and creating goals. A goal could be when you want to move out again. And a budget is imperative to control your money and reach your goal.”

Kelan Kline of The Savvy Couple (@TheSavvyCouple) wrote about his experience moving back home at Millennial Money Man (@GenYMoneyMan): “We all know moving back home with your parents is not the most glamorous thing in the world. Reverting back to following their rules and having a chore list to complete was not an easy transition.

“The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to remember it is temporary. Most things in life take time and sacrifice to reap the rewards. Be patient. The financial gain you can make while living at home is second to none, trust me!

“I was not only able pay off my student loans ($8,000), but save enough money for a down payment on our first house. My expenses were next to none living at home, and I have always been extremely frugal. You can’t beat free room and board! Almost all my income went straight towards my loans to get debt free as quick as possible. Then I focused on stacking the Benjamins in the bank. My net worth went from -$8,000 to +$12,000, a $20,000 swing!”

But what about the “landlord’s” perspective?

Meet the parent.

So we’ve got the “kids”’ perspectives, but what about a parent’s take on it? Financial coach and fiscally conscious father Brad Kingsley (@maximize_money) gave us the dad’s directive:

“When I’ve tackled this topic in the past it has always been an “it depends” situation.

“The first thing that comes to mind is a recent college graduate coming back home. Sometimes it takes a little longer than expected to land a job that aligns with their education. But working part-time somewhere just to bring in money can hurt them in the job search. In that case moving back in with their parents for a short transition period might be the best short term option.

“The second thing is an older child who wants to come back home. If there has been an unforeseen emergency or life situation outside of anyone’s control, then I’d certainly want to be sympathetic and support that child through the specific challenge.

“In either case there should be a plan though. Having a child move back home should never be an open-ended stay-as-long-as-you-want-for-free type of situation. It can be a bridge from one point to another, but it should not be the destination. And without a plan in place, it can quickly turn into the destination by default.

“I recommend the parents and child agree on timing, responsibilities, expectations, and ‘the plan.’ Yes, the child should share the plan because it impacts the parents and they have a right to know and agree – or disagree and encourage other options.”

In conclusion, moving back home for a while has helped other people and it could help you too. Some people might give you a side-eye, but as long as your parent(s) and or guardian(s) are on board, the side-eyers will be feeling silly when you’re in a better financial situation down the line.


Contributors
Maggie Germano (@MaggieGermano) is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and financial coach for women. Her mission is to give women the support and tools that they need to take control of their money, break the taboo of discussing debt and income, and achieve their goals and dreams. She does this through one-on-one financial coaching, monthly Money Circle gatherings, her weekly Money Monday newsletter, and speaking engagements. To learn more, or to schedule a free discovery call, visit MaggieGermano.com.
Brad Kingsley (@maximize_money) is a certified financial coach helping people create a plan for their finances to achieve big goals like becoming debt free, paying for college, and preparing for a comfortable retirement. Visit his site at MaximizeYourMoney.com.
Kelan and Brittany Kline aka The Savvy Couple (@TheSavvyCouple) are two thriving millennials that are daring to live differently. They started their personal finance blog September 2016 to help others get money $avvy so they can live a frugal and free lifestyle. Brittany is a full-time 4th-grade teacher and Kelan runs The Savvy Couple full-time and works as a digital marketer. You can follow them here: FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.
Phil Risher is the founder of YoungAdultSurvivalGuide.com. Phil paid off $30,000 in student loans in 12 months making 48k. After, he saved up and bought his first place with cash at the age of 25. Phil now speaks with college students and young adults around the country about his 5-Step Guide to help them on their financial journey.

We Made an App Directory Just for You!

Opploans App directory


Here at the OppLoans Financial Sense Blog, we want to give you all the tools to improve your financial life. Sometimes that means telling you whether your credit score can affect your job prospects. Or how you can properly discuss your money situation with your significant other. Now and then, we even give you tips to stay affordably healthy, so you’re less likely to run into costly medical bills. And let’s not forget our fun and free personal finace curriculum at OppU. But we’ve never given you a directory of financial apps to turn your phone into a money management machine.

Until now.

screenshots for the opploans app directory

Today, we are happy to present the Official Organic Locally Grown OppLoans App Directory. Go ahead and click the link, and look around the different app categories and pages. Each app page has a description of the price, a short sentence explaining what the app does, a list of features, and a longer description of whether or not you should try the app out for yourself, as well as links to download it. Some pages have interviews with the developers, founders, and other people behind the apps, like Kevin Kirn of Mint (@Mint), Nikki Pierce of Qapital (@Qapital), and Anton Derlyatka of Sweatcoin (@Sweatcoin).

Now we’ll take some time to address questions that are… well they’re not frequently asked, since the App Directory is only launching now, so here’s our App Directory NFAQ:

Is this a review site?

Not exactly, although there will be reviews on it, like on the Venmo page. The directory is more about providing you with as many resources as possible, with descriptions that should help you decide whether your specific financial needs make the app worth trying out. After all, each app, even ones in the same category, tend to be designed with a different approach in mind, so you should know which approach makes the most sense for your financial life.

What do the different categories mean?

You’ll notice that right now, there are four different categories of financial apps on the main directory page. We’re going to keep adding categories as we continually add new apps, but let’s go over what the current four mean:

Screenshots of Opploans Directory for Rewards

  • Budgeting: These are apps to help you track your spending habits. Some of them automatically categorize your spending, while others require manual input. By using one or more of these apps, you’ll be able to see how you’re spending your money so you can spend it more wisely. Many of the apps will even create cool charts to visualize where your money goes month to month.
  • Money Transfer: These are apps that allow you to send and receive money efficiently. Paper money is so last century. Now you pay for everything, from rent to tickets for the Broadway revival of Rent, on your phone.
  • Rewards: Want to earn some money on the side without going too far out of your way? That’s what this category is for. By answering surveys, playing games, or even just walking around, apps in this category will allow you to earn points towards gift cards, special offers, and cold hard cash.
  • Savings: Spending money can be fun. So if you want to spend less, you should find a way to make not spending money kind of fun too. That’s where this category comes in. Using apps that make saving easy, or even automate the process based off of your spending habits and rules you set up, you can put aside more money that you can use to pay off your debts, fix your credit score, or just get yourself something nice.

screenshot of the Sweatcoin app

Can you give me some previews of those interviews you mentioned?

You could just click through the directory… but we’ll give you a taste! Much like the OppLoans Financial Sense blog, the developers behind these apps clearly care about the financial lives of their customers.

Nikki Pierce, social media manager at Qapital, also showed a concern for their users’ holistic financial being: “Aside from the obvious benefits of adding some automation to your savings, I’ve found the most beneficial reason to use Qapital is gaining control and confidence over your financial life. Feeling out of control can be very debilitating. Qapital…well…capitalizes on your already existing spending and behavioral habits, which truly puts you at the helm of your own savings ship.”

And Anton Derlyatka, co-founder of Sweatcoin, decided to help people financially as a means to improve their physical health: “Sweatcoin delivers a sustainable behavior change: +14 percent uplift in activity levels after 6 months(!) from install. This is due to a unique incentive platform using instant gratification techniques to tackle present bias, a behavioral bug preventing us from focusing on long-term benefits”

Read the rest of these interviews and others in the directory!

So what’s next?

We’ll be regularly adding new app pages, as well as more developer interviews and OppLoans Reviews. There will also be new categories added and videos where we face different apps against each other. We definitely want to hear what kind of apps or content you’re looking to see more of, so e-mail us at appdirectory@opploans.com. Also, reach out if you’re a developer who wants to have their app featured in the directory. We’d love to have you!

So without further ado, start grabbing these apps and bringing your financial game to the next level!

Visit OppLoans on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN | Google+


Contributors
Anton Derlyatka (@Sweatcoin) is an entrepreneur and investor in behavior change, digital health and people technologies — the industries ripe for innovation.  His latest undertaking is Sweatcoin, a digital currency backed by physical movement.  Sweatcoin utilizes insights from behavioral economics to drive sustainable behaviour change, making people more physically active. With more than 100,000 users as of Feb 2017, Sweatcoin makes people move 15% more even 6 months after initial download.
Kevin Kirn (@Mint) is the Head of Product for Mint, the leading personal finance app from Intuit Inc. Kevin is responsible for product management for Mint including web, mobile, platform and bill pay. Kevin’s passion for helping consumers and small businesses improve their financial lives brought him to intuit six years ago. Kevin joined Mint in early 2016 after five years leading the reinvention of QuickBooks Online, Intuit’s flagship small business product. Prior to Intuit, Kevin held several product leadership roles at Microsoft, financed startups with a venture capital firm and advised business leaders with McKinsey.
Nikki Taguilas-Pierce (@qapitalapp) is a Social Media Manager at Qapital, writer, and sketch/improv comedian. Her work has been featured on the Second City Network, Huffington Post, Chicago RedEye, and most recently, the CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase. A feature-length film she co-wrote and starred in, ‘This Afternoon’, was listed as the Chicago Tribune’s “Top 10 Films to See” at the Chicago International Film Festival. When not writing or engulfed in a social platform, you can find her performing throughout the Los Angeles and Chicago storytelling and comedy community.

How to Avoid a Costly Breakdown On Your Summer Road Trip.

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Summer in America is the season of apple pie, baseball, pool parties, and the open road. Driving is cheaper than flying in most cases. Unless, of course, you have a breakdown.

There’s nothing better than driving with the windows down past beautiful, remote scenery, and there’s nothing worse than feeling the car slow down in the middle of nowhere, puffs of smoke seeping out from beneath the hood as your engine gives up its last dying breaths.

Repairing a busted car on the roadside is never fun and never cheap! You’re better off taking the proper steps so you won’t have a breakdown in the first place. That’s why we spoke to our favorite auto masters to find out how you can prepare your car for the journey, as well as the destination.


Beat the heat.

Much like an ice cream cone or a human being, cars can only handle so much heat. But whereas you might be able to get by with sunscreen, water, and an ice cream cone, your car has other needs.

“The summer months are hard on the engines of cars,” Jill Trotta (@RepairPal_Jill), director of the automotive group at RepairPal (@RepairPal), told us. “The extreme heat of summer causes wear on mechanical components of cars. Weather can also cause problems with tires, brakes and the engine. If you want your family to be safe on the summer road trips, it is important to do summer car maintenance.”

One heat-based issue your car can run into is oil breakdown. Trotta gave us the… breakdown:

“Viscosity breakdown is a common problem with engines during the summer months. The heat of an engine begins to cause the oil to breakdown, and it no longer lubricates the engine. As the friction causes wear on parts, eventually your car will breakdown. To avoid viscosity breakdown, it is important that the engine stays cool. The cooling maintenance and checks needed before a road trip includes:

If the radiator has a leak or any hoses are dry and cracked, have them replaced before traveling.”

If you know you’ll be driving under the hot, hot sun, you owe it to yourself and to your ride to make sure it’s prepared for the journey.

Feeling a little tired.

Unless you have a hover car (and if you do, please give us a ride) you’re going to need tires for any road trip.

“Having good tires is one of the most important safety checks that need to be done before summer travels,” Trotta warned us. “Check the air pressure of your tire and make sure it is at the recommended pressure rating. The pressure rating is printed on the sidewall of the tire and will be measured in PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch).  It is also important to check the tire treads using the coin test, which tells you if it is time for new tires. Here are some of the items needed for tire maintenance on the road:

  • Tire Gauge
  • 12-Volt Portable Compressor

Problems with tires often start with a small puncture due to a nail, screw or road debris and here’s what to do about it. Always check the tire pressure and keep an eye out for punctures that need to be repaired.”

Accredited financial counselor Roslyn Lash (@RosLash) echoed the tire concern: “Be sure that your tires are good i.e. proper amount of tread, air/tire pressure”

If your tires aren’t in order, you’ll risk having to “Flintstone” the entire distance of your trip, which is murder on the feet.

Manage the essential fluids.

Just as blood carries life throughout the body, your car has fluids that are also important. What are those fluids? Don’t ask us, we’re not a car doctor! But Trotta is:

“There are many fluids that need to be checked and changed before a road trip. Change the oil and check the levels of the transmission and brake fluid before you go on a road trip. It is also a good idea to pack extra fluids with the repair kit and tools. Here are the fluids that you want to have with the spare tire in case of an emergency:

  • Oil
  • Transmission Fluid
  • Brake Fluid
  • Power Steering Fluid
  • Coolant

The spare tire compartment in most cars will have room for packing extra fluids. The only fluid that will take up room is the coolant that comes in a larger container. In addition to these fluids, keep an extra bottle of water with the other fluids for emergencies.”

Even though we aren’t a car doctor or a human doctor, we’ll back up Trotta’s water bottle suggestion. You want to keep at least as hydrated as your car is on these long trips.

Pump the brakes.

You could argue the brakes are the most important part of the car. The worst thing that’ll happen if you’re missing the wheels or engine is that you won’t go anywhere. The worst thing that’ll happen if you’re missing your brakes is…. well, let’s not get into it.

But we will let Trotta get into how you can make sure your brakes are ready for a road trip: “The brakes give you stopping power and aid in handling. Before traveling, the brakes of your car need to be inspected. Check the pads, change the fluid and bleed the lines. If the pads do not have much material left, they often begin to make noise due to a metal indicator built into them, which means they need to be changed. Here are the essential brake components that need to be checked before traveling:

  • Pads
  • Lines
  • Fluid

First, check the pads and have them changed if needed. A brake inspection is usually free at a RepairPal Certified shop near you. In addition to the brake pads, check all the lines for signs of wear or damage and bleed the brakes. Lastly, the fluid in the master cylinder needs to be checked and more brake fluid added if the level is low.”

So make sure you don’t pump the brakes… on proper brake maintenance.

Keeping cool.

Summer gets hot. The inside of your car shouldn’t be. That’s why you want to make sure your air conditioner is working properly.

“The maintenance for AC, wipers, and air filter are also important tasks to do before leaving on a road trip,” Trotta told us. Check the AC compressor and have an auto mechanic charge it if necessary. Change the air filters in your car too, which many modern cars have the air filter for the engine, as well as a cabin air filter. While you are checking the AC and changing air filters, check the wiper blades and make sure there is cleaning fluid in the deposit. Check these last few areas of your car before leaving on a road trip:

  • AC and Belts
  • Wiper Blades and Fluid
  • Air Filters

The AC compressor is connected to belts and pulleys on the engine. Turn on the engine and the AC to see if the belts make noise and visually inspect them for damage. It is a good idea to check the wiper blades as well as the wiper fluid. Wipers and wiper fluid aren’t just for rainy days – make sure you can clean off the bug graveyard your windshield turns into on long stretches of highway.

“To avoid car trouble and stay safe this summer, make sure you make a checklist. Before you pack the luggage, take care of any repairs before your next road trip. It is also important to protect against the summer heat. Make sure you have shades to prevent burns from hot car seats, steering wheels and other interior components that get hot in direct sun.”

Non-maintenance stuff too!

Of course, not all of your preparations will be car maintenance. There’s always a chance of a random incident, from an eagle dive bombing your car to some other animal attacking your car.

Karen E. (@Wanderlustingk), a travel blogger at Wanderlustingk.com, advises bringing tools, as well as financial protection: “My number one tip (after many disastrous) road trips is to have the highest level of triple AAA insurance. You have NO idea when you’ll be stranded and need be towed almost 200 miles just to find a mechanic that has the right parts. Similarly, have the right tools in your car, including a tow rope, so those driving by with pick-up trucks can help you if needed.”

Lash also suggests to: “be sure that you have a roadside assistance plan”

Take all of these precautions before your trip, and you’ll lessen the risk a breakdown that will ruin your vacation, as well as your financial life, especially if the repair costs leave you considering a payday loan or racking up credit card fees that could lead to bad credit. That’s one trip you don’t want to take.

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Contributors
Karen E. (@Wanderlustingk) is an American travel blogger and road trip addict who has taken road trips in 11 different countries.
Roslyn Lash (@RosLash) is an Accredited Financial Counselor. She specializes in financial education, adult coaching, and works virtually with adults helping them to navigate through their personal finances i.e. budgeting, debt, and credit repair. She is also the founder of Youth Smart Financial Education Services. Her advice has been featured in national publications such as USA Today, TIME, Huffington Post, NASDAQ, Los Angeles Times, and a host of other media outlets.
Jill Trotta (@RepairPal_Jill) is an automotive professional with over 25 years of professional experience. ASE Certified technician and consultant. She is currently working on the Automotive Professional Team at RepairPal. They do the hard work of identifying technically qualified, customer friendly auto shops and presenting them to consumers. They are working to develop transparency in the Automotive Industry. They also have a very accurate automotive repair price estimator that is available to shops and consumers.