Financial Education

How to Turn Spring Cleaning Into Cash

The gentle breezes and longer daylight hours inspire a wave of deep cleaning and decluttering. This spring, don't just clean your home. Make money off your junk by selling your unwanted stuff via online selling sites and apps.

Sell old clothing on ThredUp

As you clean out your closets, make a pile of your clothing that's still in great condition to sell on ThredUp. The site is geared toward better secondhand clothing, and everything you try to sell will have to meet its standards. If you're ready to sell on ThredUp, let the site managers know, and they'll send you a "Closet Cleanout Bag" to pack it all up. If your clothing is worth less than $60, they will pay you for it as soon as it's processed in the site's warehouse. If you have some designer clothing worth more than $60, you'll be reimbursed when the item is sold through the company's site.

Sell unwanted jewelry on Worthy.com

Worthy.com will sell your old rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings made from gold or platinum, with or without diamonds. After you've mailed in your jewelry, Worthy will clean and photograph the piece, and set a fair price for it. If a bid you're happy with is reached, the site will sell the jewelry and transfer the funds to you. If the bidding stays low and/or fails to reach the price you were hoping for, you can change your mind and ask to have your item back.

Make good money off your unwanted furniture through Chairish

Your dated dinette set might be just what someone's looking for! Chairish.com is an online public marketplace that specializes in used and vintage furniture in excellent condition. There is no price to list your items, and you'll get to keep up to 80 percent of the selling price. You'll set your own "reserve price," or the minimum amount you're willing to accept, which buyers won't be privy to. Once a buyer makes an offer that matches this price or beats it, the offer will automatically be accepted.

Sell or swap your gift cards on Gift Card Granny

As you work your way through the clutter in your home, you might find one or more gift cards to shops you never frequent. Sell or exchange them on Giftcardgranny.com for up to 92 percent of their value.

Sell kids clothing and toys to Kid to Kid

Kids can outgrow their clothing and toys almost faster than you can buy them. Kid to Kid is a secondhand shop with locations all over the country that will give you cash or store credit for your child's old clothing, toys, shoes, books, movies, costumes and school uniforms. You can even sell your maternity clothing and baby gear you no longer use, like strollers, high chairs, bassinets and changing tables.

Sell kids and baby wear on Swap

If you can't find a brick-and-mortar consignment shop near you, sell your outgrown baby and kids wear on Swap.com. Let the company know you're interested in selling, and they will send you a pre-paid shipping label to stick onto a box that you fill with your unwanted stuff. According to the site, sellers earn an average of $150 per box.

Sell or trade unused sports equipment on Swap Me Sports

Sports equipment can cost a whole lot of money - especially when it's for a game your child loses interest in after just one season. Make some of that money back by selling or trading your child's unused sports gear at SwapMeSports.com. You'll have to pay $5 to join the site for 30 days, but if you have decent stuff to sell, you should earn that money back several times over before the month is up.

9 Ways to Fight Rising Prices on Groceries

Brought to you by KOFE, Knowledge of Financial Education

If you're like most Americans, you've probably noticed your grocery bills climb to crazy heights during the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past 12 months, all of the six major grocery store food group prices increased, according to the November 2021 Consumer Price Index (CPI) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Prices for meats, poultry, fish and eggs rose 12.8 percent in 2021, with beef prices jumping the most with a 20.9 percent increase. Dairy product prices rose 1.6 percent. Other prices rose too, ranging from a 4.0 percent increase on fruits and vegetables to 5.7 percent for other foods.

Here are nine ways to cut your grocery bill despite rising prices.

  • 1. Have a grocery budget
    When you have a set amount you can spend on weekly groceries, that can stop you from making impulse purchases or overspending. Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend and then make sure you stay within the budget. If you're worried you'll go over, use your phone's calculator to keep track of the grocery tab while shopping.
  • 2. Sign up for rewards
    If you haven't signed for grocery store loyalty card programs, you're missing out on savings. When you enroll, you'll generally receive significant discounts on eligible items. Many grocery store loyalty programs may also offer discounts per gallon on gas.
  • 3. Give store brands a chance
    You don't have to stock your cupboards with all generic or store brands, but don't dismiss all those brands simply out of grocery snobbery. Most grocery stores offer their own quality brands of milk, eggs, pasta, toilet paper, health and beauty products and many other items for much lower prices than brand name products.
  • 4. Watch for sales
    Do you toss grocery circulars in the mail into the recycle bin without even a glance? Take a few minutes to flip through those sale ads to look for items you would typically buy that are on sale. You might find fruits or vegetables discounted for the week, meat on sale, boxes of pasta for $1 each and other items you can stock up on to use later.
  • 5. Make a grocery list
    One of the best ways to save on groceries is to enter the store with a grocery list in hand. Take time to look in the fridge, freezer and cabinets so you know what you need before you go and don't duplicate items you already have. Then sit down and write a list of grocery items, vowing to stick to your list (for the most part) so you don't overspend on impulse buys.
  • 6. Plan meals before shopping
    Instead of going into the grocery store with only a vague idea of what you might cook that week, plan a few meals around items that you can use in more than one dish. For example, you might prepare baked chicken and then use leftover chicken in another dish like soup, salad or sandwiches. Buy a vegetable that you can serve on the side with more than one entree.
  • 7. Don't limit yourself to eye-level foods
    Did you know that higher-priced items are typically placed on shelves at eye level? That's because many customers never lower their gaze to the bottom shelves, which often contain store brand, generic or low-priced items. Always check out the lower shelves, too. You may find a lower-priced brand you like just as much as that pricey pasta sauce you've been eyeing.
  • 8. Pay with cash
    It's easy to spend too much when you pay with a credit card. But nothing keeps the grocery bill down like watching hard-earned cash leave your hands. Next time you head to the grocery store, stop by the ATM to withdraw cash first. Better yet, withdraw enough for the entire month and
  • 9. Put an end to sporadic grocery runs
    Running to the store for coffee, some chips, a jar of spaghetti sauce and a block of cheese may not seem like a big deal. But if you're making three or four trips to the grocery store a week in addition to your weekly grocery run, you're probably spending too much

That's where having a grocery list helps. Give some thought to your weekly grocery list to avoid making extra trips to the store, which can include impulse purchases that raise the bill.

How to Help Children Become Financially Independent Grown-Ups

Teaching your children how to be financially independent will help smooth the transition into adulthood. It will also give them what they need to stay financially stable throughout life.

Here are some tips for raising kids to be financially independent adults.

  • Start with basic budgeting
    Introduce your children to the concept of earning money and spending mindfully when they're young, and build upon that as they grow up. Preteens can watch you work on an actual budget, and teens can even assist you in creating a budget for a large expense, like a family vacation. You can also help kids create a budget for how they plan to spend their own money.
  • Split the costs of "must-have" items
    If your children are like most kids, they're asking you for trending items they claim they must have; from a pair of designer jeans to the latest fad toy they insist everyone else already has.
    A great compromise is to have your child pay half the cost of expensive trending items. They'll likely quickly see that a "must-have" really isn't when you're footing half the bill.
  • Teach them about credit cards
    If your child sees you using a credit or debit card often, teach them what's behind that card. Show them your credit card bill when it arrives and talk about how you need to pay for all those expenses during the month, plus the possible interest. Teach them about debit cards, too, explaining how money is withdrawn from your checking account each time you swipe the card. You can also give older kids a quick rundown on credit scores, how they work and why they're so important.
  • Talk openly about what they can expect in terms of support for the future
    When your child is mature enough to talk about the future, discuss how much financial support you plan to offer while they attend college, immediately after graduation and into their adult years. Ask about their plans as well, paying attention to when they anticipate being financially independent.
    You can bring up the topic of career paths, too. Help your child determine a basic budget for the lifestyle they plan to lead and assist them in narrowing down their career choices until they have just a few that will support their future life. Talk about student loans, too, and explain how crippling debt can be.

Don't Get Caught in an Auto Warranty Scam

Another phone call, another scam.

It can sometimes feel like scammers have some kind of competition going to see who can hit you with the most robocalls in a day. In fact, according to Truecaller, scams and robocalls account for 67% of all phone calls in the U.S. Each American will receive an average of 28 of these calls a month. More than just an annoyance, scam calls cost 56 million Americans a financial loss in 2020.

One of the most common scams pulled off over the phone is the auto warranty scam. Here's all you need to know about this scam and how to protect yourself from falling victim:

How the scam plays out

In this ruse, scammers posing as representatives of a car dealer or manufacturer will call to tell you that your auto warranty is about to expire. The scammer will then segue into a pitch for renewing your warranty. During the call, you may be prompted to press a number to stay on the line, and then are asked to provide personal information to continue the process of renewing your warranty. If you follow instructions, you will be playing right into a scam.

How to spot a scam

It is possible for legitimate auto warranty companies to call you about purchasing or renewing a warranty. Look out for these red flags to help you pick out the authentic calls from the scams:

  • Hello, it's Mr. Robot calling. When it's a robocall on the line, you're almost certainly talking to a scammer. A legitimate company will hire a live salesperson to promote their services.
  • Feel the pressure? Scammers notoriously lead victims to act without thinking by claiming their offer is available for a limited time. If a caller pressures you to act now, you're likely talking to a scammer.
  • Just a small fee ... Is the caller demanding a small processing fee, or a down payment on the plan before supplying you with real details and information on it? If yes, you're being scammed.
  • You've got mail! Scammers aren't content with playing games over the phone; they'll often send bogus documents in the mail, too. These can be disguised to look like genuine alerts from the DMV or auto manufacturer, prompting you to act now because your auto warranty is expiring. Of course, when you call the number on the letter, you won't be connected to the DMV or auto manufacturer, but to a full-blown scamming operation.

Protect yourself

Follow these tips to keep yourself safe from auto warranty scams and similar ruses:

  • Never share your personal information, such as your Social Security number, credit card information or checking account details, with an unverified caller.
  • It's also a good idea to screen all incoming calls by checking the Caller ID before answering the phone. Legitimate telemarketers are required to display their phone number and the name/or phone number of the company they represent. If this information is missing, it's likely a scam.
  • It's important to note that scammers often spoof authentic phone numbers to make it appear as if they are calling from a legitimate company. If you suspect spoofing, you can always ignore a call, and then call the number of the company that allegedly reached out to you, to ask about the contents of the call. If the call was indeed spoofed, the company will not be aware that the call was made.
  • If those robocalls are not letting up, consider blocking the number on your phone. You may have to do this several times, as scammers often use more than one phone number to carry out a scam.

Alert the authorities

If you are targeted by a suspected scammer, you can alert the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the FCC Complaint Center. These calls likely violate telemarketing and robocall regulations, and by alerting the FCC, you can help them identify the scammers.

If the call you received involved fraud, you can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.

Robocalls are incredibly annoying, but getting scammed is more than just an irritating experience. Follow our tips to protect yourself from auto warranty scams and similar ruses.

Why Good Credit Matters

You probably already know how important your credit score is to lenders. When you apply for credit, your credit score helps lenders determine whether or not you are able to repay the loan based on your past financial performance. With a higher score, you qualify for better interest rates, lower payments, higher credit limits, and more types of credit than you would with a lower score.

Did you also know that your credit score can make it easier to rent an apartment, qualify for a good cell phone plan, and pay less for insurance? A higher score can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every year, which can add up to significant savings.

Not only can it hurt you financially, but many employers now check a potential employee's credit as part of the hiring decision. A low credit score could cost you a chance at your dream job.

How to Manage Credit to Improve Your Score

There are no tricks or quick fixes to getting a good score. However, you can raise your score over time by demonstrating that you consistently manage your credit responsibly. Here are 10 things you can do to improve your credit score:

  1. Pay your bills on time. Building a history of paying your bills on time will improve your score. Even if you've had serious delinquencies in the past, a recent history (24 months) of on-time payments carries weight in credit decisions.
  2. Keep credit card balances low. High outstanding debt can pull your score down.
  3. Check your credit report for accuracy. Inaccurate information on your credit report can be cleared up easily. Always contact the original creditor and the credit bureaus whenever you clear up an error so that the inaccurate information won't reappear later
  4. Pay down debt. Consolidating your credit card debt or spreading it over multiple cards will not improve your score in the long run. The most effective way to improve your credit is by slowly paying down the amount you owe.
  5. Use credit cards - but manage them responsibly. In general, having credit cards and installment loans that you pay on time will raise your score. Someone who has no credit card tends to have a lower score than someone who has already proven that he/she can manage credit cards responsibly.
  6. Don't open multiple accounts too quickly, especially if you have a short credit history. This can look risky because you are taking on a lot of possible debt. New accounts will also lower the average age of your existing accounts which is something that also impacts your credit score.
  7. Don't close an account to remove it from your record. A closed account will still show up on your credit report. In fact, closing accounts can sometimes hurt your score unless you also pay down your debt at the same time.
  8. Shop for a loan within a focused period of time. Credit bureaus distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new credit lines, based in part on the length of time over which the credit inquiries were made.
  9. Don't open new credit card accounts you don't need. This approach could backfire and actually lower your score.
  10. Contact your creditors or see a legitimate credit counselor if you're having financial difficulties. This won't raise your score immediately, but the sooner you begin managing your credit well and making timely payments, the sooner your score will improve.