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How to Deal With Funeral Costs – Planning Guide & Checklist

By Amy Livingston

headstoneWhen a loved one has just passed, it seems heartless to think about money. Unfortunately, with the average cost of a funeral at $7,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), it’s something everyone should consider. In fact, that figure doesn’t include burial costs paid directly to the cemetery, which generally range from $2,000 to $4,000 for the plot and grave marker. Additional charges such as flowers, music, obituaries, and the celebrant’s fee tack on another $950, bringing the total cost to $11,000.

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Toy Lending Libraries & Exchanges – Benefits and How They Work

By Amy Livingston

toy libraryAs any parent knows, kids’ toys are pricey – and children outgrow them quickly. It can drive you nuts dropping a big wad of cash on this year’s hottest item during the holidays, only to see it sitting neglected in a corner of your kid’s room by the time spring rolls around.

And worse, all those abandoned toys don’t just vanish when your child loses interest – they pile up on the shelves, on the bed, under the bed, and in every corner of your child’s room, until you can hardly open the door without triggering an avalanche.

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Stay at Home Mom vs. Working Mom – What’s Right for You?

By Maurie Backman

workingI went back to work full-time just three months after having my first child. Though I knew I’d be losing a significant chunk of my salary to daycare costs, plus a bit more to commuting expenses, the numbers painted a pretty clear picture: Going back to work was the right move financially.

However, the decision was much trickier from a logistical perspective. Since my husband and I each had a fairly long commute, we knew we’d have to tweak our schedules to allow for timely daycare pickups and drop-offs. We simply weren’t comfortable hiring a nanny, and the cost would’ve been prohibitive. Plus, from an emotional standpoint, the idea of leaving my baby behind for the day wreaked havoc on my brain, so much so that I often found myself tearing up the moment I boarded that bus to the city.

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How to Maximize Social Security Spousal Benefits – Rules & Eligibility

By Michael Lewis

coupleAmericans who pay Social Security taxes for at least 40 quarters of employment are entitled to retirement benefits. The amount you receive depends on the taxes you paid and your number of years of enrollment. In addition, spouses are entitled to Social Security payments, which are equal to one-half the benefit earned by a working spouse.

Many people are entitled to a benefit based upon their own earnings, as well as a spousal benefit based upon their partner’s earnings. However, only one benefit at a time can be claimed.

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Buying a New Construction Home – Process, Upgrades & Unexpected Costs

By Maurie Backman

new home constructionWhen my husband and I set out to buy a house, we searched high and low for the perfect home. Unfortunately, the more we looked, the more we came to realize that most of the houses in our target neighborhood just weren’t meeting our needs. Several were too small, many had extremely outdated kitchens and bathrooms, and most lacked closets and storage space. So when the opportunity arose to purchase a new construction home in a small development, we jumped at the chance to design our own home.

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6 Ways to Protect Yourself From the Effects of Inflation & Loss of Purchasing Power

By Michelle Smith

inflationIf you knew someone was coming to rob you, what would you do? Shrug off the threat, or take precautions to protect your interests?

Unfortunately, inflation robs us all. It’s a silent thief that whittles away the value of our money, making each dollar worth less and less over time. However, it’s also part of a healthy economy. It’s important to unravel the mystery of inflation and understand how it affects you so you can use it to your advantage and protect yourself against its potentially negative impact.

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8 Wedding-Related Expenses to Save On as a Bridesmaid

By Patricia Poladian

bridesmaidsWhen a friend or family member asks you to be a bridesmaid, it’s certainly flattering and exciting. However, it can also be torture on your wallet. Bridesmaids are often required to purchase a dress and accessories, front all travel costs, buy gifts for multiple events, and pay for a bachelorette party.

Elite Daily estimates that bridesmaids can expect to spend between $1,500 and $1,800 for the privilege of being part of the wedding. However, with some strategic planning, you can lower that amount significantly.

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Is Graduate School Worth It? – Determining Whether to Get a Master’s Degree

By Ellen Gans

graduateWhether you’re coming to the end of college or you’re a mid-career professional dreaming of a new path, you may be considering attending graduate school. Before gathering your letters of recommendation and sending in your application, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Students should expect to spend significant amounts of time, mental energy, and money before a degree graces the wall.

According to education company Peterson’s, graduate tuition and fees at public institutions average $30,000 per year, and graduate tuition and fees at private institutions average $40,000 per year. If you plan to pick up a degree from an elite institution such as Harvard, expect to spend closer to $120,000 for the full course, according to estimates from TIME.

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How to Start a Seed Savers Exchange for Gardeners in Your Community

By Amy Livingston

seeds photo by Arena Photo UKMy husband and I are avid gardeners. Our yard isn’t huge, but it’s big enough for a 100-square-foot vegetable garden that provides us with fresh produce and helps us eat organic on a budget.

As much as we love our garden, we’re often frustrated that many gardening products are tailored to people with much larger plots. For instance, even when we buy the smallest packet of seeds available, it’s often more than our small-scale garden can use. Although you can always save the extra seeds for next year, sometimes one packet is enough to last several years, and not all types of seeds can be stored that long.

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Should You Sell Your House or Rent It Out? – Things to Consider

By Patricia Poladian

rental houseChances are, your current home won’t suit your needs indefinitely. If you’re living in a small starter home or a condominium, you may want to upgrade to a larger house as your family grows. If you’re already in a large residence, you may want to downsize your home when your children move out. Also, there’s always a chance you or a family member may need to relocate for work, in which case it’s time to say goodbye to your current address.

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How to Get Free Stuff at Free Stores & Swap Shops (or Start Your Own)

By Amy Livingston

RRFM photo by Steven DepoloEverybody loves a bargain. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of walking out of a store with a jacket that was originally priced at $300, knowing you paid only $30. But just imagine for a minute how it would feel if you could walk out of the store with that same jacket for free.

It’s absolutely possible – if you shop at free stores. These are like an offline version of the Freecycle Network: You can just go in and drop off all those unwanted, but still perfectly usable items that have been cluttering up your house, and in turn, you can help yourself to anything that anyone else has left. No money ever changes hands.

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How to Shop at Reuse Centers & Architectural Salvage Stores to Save on Home Improvement

By Amy Livingston

salvageA national spending study by American Express shows that about 75% of all homeowners do home improvement projects each year, spending more than $4,000 each. Materials account for a big chunk of this spending. For instance, floor tile for a bathroom can cost as much as $20 per square foot, which would add up to $2,400 for a 10-by-12-foot bathroom.

One way to cut down this cost is to shop for secondhand materials. Reuse centers and architectural salvage stores, such as the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, sell salvaged and surplus home construction materials at a fraction of their retail cost.

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9 Things New Parents Should Wait to Buy for a Newborn Baby

By Ellen Gans

infantRegistering for or purchasing baby supplies may be one of the most intimidating jobs for a parent-to-be. There’s a seemingly endless array of brands and styles, and a quick search on Pinterest or Etsy can leave anyone feeling overwhelmed.

When shopping online and reading reviews, you may find strong opinions among parents and caregivers who are convinced that a certain brand or product is the only acceptable one. Of course, as soon as you’ve read one review, the next one may sway you in the complete opposite direction. However, once you do decide what to buy, you’ve got to decide when to buy.

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7 Ways a Bad Credit Score Can Negatively Affect You – How to Track Your Credit Score

By Brian Martucci

bad creditWhen you swipe a credit card or take out a loan to make a purchase, you probably don’t think of the experience as a test of your personal integrity or reliability. You’re more interested in how you’ll feel behind the wheel of your new car, walking through your new home’s kitchen, or sitting in front of your new flat-screen TV.

But your creditors don’t care about how your purchasing habits improve your personal happiness or quality of life. They just want to recover the money they lent you – with interest.

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Ready for Kids? – 12 Financial Moves to Make to Prepare Beforehand

By Maurie Backman

young familyMy husband and I were married for several years before we were ready to even talk about having kids. We wanted time to travel, build our careers, and simply be together without having to worry about diaper changes and pediatrician appointments.

Once we were ready to consider a family, we came up with a checklist of financial criteria we needed to meet before taking the plunge. It was a daunting task, but we wanted to make sure we were financially stable before bringing children into the mix.

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