10 At-Home Date Night Ideas, Whether You’re Together or Apart

The coronavirus pandemic put a halt on a whole lot of awesome things, including date night. If you’ve been with your sweetie for years, it can be tough to find something special to do when you’re spending most of your time at home together. And if you were just getting started dating, it’s hard to establish a connection when you’re apart.

But there are still free and low-cost ways to keep up the date night tradition.

Although they’ve been married for over a decade, Kenny and Celina Beaumont have always realized the importance of romance — especially after having kids.

“If we’re not happy and having fun,” Celina told us in an interview, “our household’s not going to be happy and having fun.”

So they’ve kept their long-standing date night tradition alive through the pandemic with some pretty adorable dates — one of which you may even have seen a glimpse of on John Krasinski’s “Some Good News.” (Look for the fine dining experience around 7:55!)

But dinner dates are just the beginning. Here are some of our favorite at-home date night ideas.

A couple hold hands as they enjoy dinner in their backyard.

Date Nights if You’re at Home Together

If you were already cohabitating, there are plenty of ways to set aside some special time for each other.

1. Fine Dining

You can definitely recreate the restaurant experience at home, complete with dressing up for the occasion and actually sitting down and being waited on. That’s exactly what the Beaumonts did. According to Celina, Kenny and the kids had been conspiring about the idea for several days before surprising her.

They printed real menus, got dressed up and dined al fresco on a three-course meal at “Jack & Olivia’s” — so named for their kids. Kenny cooked up the steaks, while the kids made the salad and dessert.

2. Ballroom (or Any Other Kind of) Dancing

You might not make it out to your local Arthur Murray studio, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to dance. Some couples’ counselors suggest that a tango or two can be as good for your relationship as it is fun.

Crank up a YouTube video, clear out a spot on the living room floor, and give it a whirl. After all, nobody except your SO — and maybe the cat — is watching.

3. Game Night

It might not sound like the peak of romance to some, but sitting down to a game of Scrabble or Chess together is a great way to spend some quality time while also giving your brain a workout. If you’re really geeky, you might even take on a match or four of Magic: The Gathering.

We recommend adding fancy duds to the equation to make it feel even more date-y.

4. Virtual Hometown Tours

If you didn’t grow up in the same place as your SO, and you’ve yet to show them around in person, Google Earth offers a great date night opportunity: a virtual tour of your hometown, complete with stops at all the most important places.

Even if you hail from the same place (or have already gone home to meet the parents), you could use Google Earth or Google Maps to show your sweetheart around your college campus — or explore a city you’re hoping to visit together someday.

5. At-Home Spa Services

Treat yourself — and your beau — to some DIY indulgence. Whether you give each other manicures, facials, or massages, it’s bound to be a whole lot more affordable (and considerably more fun) than it would be in a salon. Check out this list of spa treatments you can do at home.

Tips for Successful At-Home Date Nights

Even with the best of intentions and lots of planning, it’s easy for an at-home date night to feel like … well, just another night at home.

Here are some tips to keep it feeling romantic.

  • Put away your phone. Celina and Kenny say they make a point of putting their screens down during dates.
  • Wait until after bedtime. It’s fun to get the kids in on the action — but if they go to bed earlier than you do, those couple hours of quiet can be a great time to rekindle your connection.
  • Look for the silver linings. Although staying home is hard in a whole lot of ways, it also offers a lot of opportunity for closeness, especially in a world where we’re usually running all over the place.

“We never get to spend this much time with each other,” Celina said of her family. Try to look at your at-home dates as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy yourselves.

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Date Night Ideas if You’re Apart

Thanks to technology, there are some ways to recreate a date experience even if you’re miles apart.

6. Virtual Coffee (or Cocktails)

Video call applications like Zoom and FaceTime make it easy to recreate classic low-stakes, first-date ideas like grabbing a drink or a cup of coffee.

7. Reading to Each Other

This one’s super romantic whether you’re at home together or apart. If you’re not in the same place, you can read to each other over video chat or over the plain-old phone.

The options are endless: You could pick a book neither of you have read before or revisit an old favorite.

8. Live Streaming Concerts and Events

From superstars to local up-and-comers, lots of entertainers have transferred their live shows to streaming services. Many are free, though it’s nice to drop a tip for these struggling artists.

Re-create the concert experience at home with a cocktail and maybe a band T-shirt, and enjoy unlimited bathroom breaks without having to snake through a pushy crowd.

9. Virtual Movie Nights

There’s nothing quite as cozy as snuggling up with your sweetheart for a movie, whether at the theater or on the couch at home. But even if you’re stuck apart, you can spend time in front of the silver screen together.

A browser extension called Teleparty easily syncs Netflix, Disney, Hulu and HBO videos for multiple parties while also providing a scrolling text chat along the right side of the screen.

If your movie or TV show is on another service — or if, quaintly and adorably enough, you’re going to watch the same DVD in separate houses at the same time — you can always hop on the phone and queue up the video. Don’t forget the popcorn!

10. Art Therapy

A seriously romantic idea for the bold: re-create each other’s likenesses while on a video chatting application like FaceTime.

If that’s a little too intimate, you could simply spend time together being creative, whether that means knitting, cross-stitching, painting or something else entirely. You could even make plans to gift each other the products of your art therapy session.

Tips for Successful Date Nights Spent Apart

A woman FaceTimes with her boyfriend.

Here are some tips to make it feel more like you’re actually together.

  • Get dressed. It’s all too easy to lie around the house in pajamas all day… and even attend your dates that way. Wearing real clothes can make you feel more like you’re on a real date.
  • Connect often. If you can’t be with each other in person, spending digital time together is extra important. Maybe try to move your date night tradition from one night a week to two or three.
  • Remember: It’s only temporary. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and although we don’t know when this pandemic is going to end, end it shall.

Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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8 Hidden Problems in the Bedroom You Might Not Spot in a Home Video Tour

bedroom virtual tourFeverpitched

Video tours have quickly become the norm in the COVID-19 era as a safe way to get a closer look at the house you want to see in person. And while no doubt the kitchen and living room are high on your list to check out, the bedroom deserves more than a passing glance.

After all, a bedroom isn’t just a place to catch some zzz’s; it’s also a place that can function as a retreat or a quiet workspace. For your kids, it’s a room to play, do homework, and host sleepovers. And sure, a bedroom’s size and closet space are important—but they’re not the only things you should ask to see during a video tour. In fact, glossing over the bedroom could mean huge peeves after you buy—or worse, real problems that cost you money.

Here are some potential issues you might find hiding in the boudoir.

1. It might not actually be a bedroom

“Many listings will call a bonus room a bedroom even if it does not have a closet and a window, which is technically not correct, ” says John Gluch, founder of the Gluch Group in Scottsdale, AZ.

The legal requirements for classifying a room as a bedroom vary by state. Still, while taking the video tour, you should verify that bedrooms have a door and a window as two means of escape in an emergency.

The ceiling should be tall enough for a person to comfortably stand, and the square footage sufficient to accommodate a bed.

Be sure to ask your agent if the room is legally considered a bedroom.

2. There’s no privacy

Photo by Creative Window Designs 

Have your agent scan the windows and sills to check their condition. Take note of features such as triple-pane or tilt-and-turn windows.

Finally, check the view.

“You’ll want to know if a large, beautiful window in the master bedroom lacks privacy and looks right into a neighbor’s yard,” says Jennifer Smith, a Realtor® with Southern Dream Homes in Wake Forest, NC.

3. The fixtures and outlets are dated or in bad shape

“Buyers’ eyes tend to naturally go toward the beautifully made bed with lots of accent pillows and the art hanging on the walls,” Smith says. “But it’s important to remember to look at the more permanent features of the room that you’ll have to live with day to day.”

Ask your agent to zoom in on things like the flooring, ceiling fan, light fixtures, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and heating and cooling vents. Is there a radiator hiding behind the headboard or an air conditioner in the window?

Be sure to find out how many outlets are in the room. Older houses often have fewer outlets, and they may be the outdated, two-prong variety, which isn’t grounded.

4. The early morning sun will wake you up

Photo by Gaetano Hardwood Floors, Inc.

Oodles of natural light is a coveted feature—unless the morning sunlight wakes you up hours before your alarm goes off.

“Many Realtors and home buyers who visit a property at varying times throughout the day unintentionally fail to consider what the exposure is like at 5:30 a.m. with the sunrise,” says Gluch.

Curtains and blinds are obvious solutions, but you may not want to cover windows that showcase a beautiful view or are placed high in a vaulted ceiling.

5. Your furniture won’t fit

Whether it’s a large master suite or a children’s bedroom, pay attention to how much furniture is in the room and how it’s arranged, Smith says.

“Staging declutters and depersonalizes a space as much as possible, so buyers should think about how their current belongings will fit or if they’d have to buy all-new furniture,” says Smith.

Ask the listing agent for the dimensions of the bed and/or dresser for comparison. But if the dresser is missing, it could mean the bedroom has a large closet with organizational options.

Ask to see inside all the closets, and make note of the size, shelves, and other organizational components.

6. The bedrooms are in an inconvenient location

It’s easy to get disoriented when you’re taking a live video tour, so “buyers shouldn’t forget to pay attention to where bedrooms are located in the house,” Smith advises.

Ask yourself how the locations of the bedroom will suit your lifestyle. Will you be more comfortable with the kids’ bedrooms on the same floor? Is the master suite adjacent to a busy living room or kitchen? Where are the bathrooms in reference to the bedrooms?

7. The master bathroom doesn’t offer separation

Photo by Elad Gonen 

A spacious master suite isn’t just a place to rest your weary head at night. It’s your future dream retreat, where you can sink into a soothing bath or luxuriate in a rainfall shower. But if you want a bit of privacy, be mindful of how the master suite is laid out.

“Many people overlook the fact that there is not a door between the bedroom and the bathroom,” says Gluch. “Likewise, many floor plans now have a water closet—a small toilet room with a door—but do not have a door separating the bedroom from the rest of the bath.”

8. There might be potential safety hazards

If you’re looking at a multilevel home or a house with a bedroom in the basement, verify fire escape routes.

“Consider potential safety hazards such as how difficult it might be to drop a fire escape ladder out of an upstairs bedroom window or a ladder up from a basement bedroom,” says Gluch.

Basement bedrooms should have an egress window, and upper-floor windows should be clear of obstructions like trees or sections of the house that would make an emergency exit difficult.

The post 8 Hidden Problems in the Bedroom You Might Not Spot in a Home Video Tour appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

7 Tax Benefits of Owning a Home: A Complete Guide for Filing This Year

tax benefits of owning a homeTijana Simic / Getty Images

What are the tax benefits of owning a home? Plenty of homeowners are asking themselves this right around now as they prepare to file their taxes.

You may recall the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—the most substantial overhaul to the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years—went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. The result was likely a big change to your taxes, especially the tax perks of homeownership.

While this revised tax code is still in effect today, the coronavirus has thrown a few curveballs. For one, the Internal Revenue Service has delayed filing season by about two weeks, which means it won’t start accepting or processing any 2020 tax year returns until Feb. 12, 2021. (So far at least, the filing deadline stands firm at the usual date, April 15.)

In addition to this delay, many might be wondering whether the new realities of COVID-19 life (like their work-from-home setup) might qualify for a tax deduction, or how other variables from unemployment to stimulus checks might affect their tax return this year.

Whatever questions you have, look no further than this complete guide to all the tax benefits of owning a home, where we run down all the tax breaks homeowners should be aware of when they file their 2020 taxes in 2021. Read on to make sure you aren’t missing anything that could save you money!

Tax break 1: Mortgage interest

Homeowners with a mortgage that went into effect before Dec. 15, 2017, can deduct interest on loans up to $1 million.

“However, for acquisition debt incurred after Dec. 15, 2017, homeowners can only deduct the interest on the first $750,000,” says Lee Reams Sr., chief content officer of TaxBuzz.

Why it’s important: The ability to deduct the interest on a mortgage continues to be a big benefit of owning a home. And the more recent your mortgage, the greater your tax savings.

“The way mortgage payments are amortized, the first payments are almost all interest,” says Wendy Connick, owner of Connick Financial Solutions. (See how your loan amortizes and how much you’re paying in interest with this online mortgage calculator.)

Note that the mortgage interest deduction is an itemized deduction. This means that for it to work in your favor, all of your itemized deductions (there are more below) need to be greater than the new standard deduction, which the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled.

And note that those amounts just increased for the 2020 tax year. For individuals, the deduction is now $12,400 ($12,200 in 2019), and it’s $24,800 for married couples filing jointly ($24,400 in 2019), plus $1,300 for each spouse aged 65 or older. The deduction also went up to $18,650 for head of household ($18,350 in 2019), plus an additional $1,650 for those 65 or older.

As a result, only about 5% of taxpayers will itemize deductions this filing season, says Connick.

For some homeowners, itemizing simply may not be worth it. So when would itemizing work in your favor? As one example, if you’re a married couple under 65 who paid $20,000 in mortgage interest and $6,000 in state and local taxes, you would exceed the standard deduction and be able to reduce your taxable income by an additional $1,200 by itemizing.

__________

Watch: Ready To Refinance? Ask These 5 Questions First

__________

Tax break 2: Property taxes

This deduction is capped at $10,000 for those married filing jointly no matter how high the taxes are. (Here’s more info on how to calculate property taxes.)

Why it’s important: Taxpayers can take one $10,000 deduction, says Brian Ashcraft, director of compliance at Liberty Tax Service.

Just note that property taxes are on that itemized list of all of your deductions that must add up to more than your particular standard deduction to be worth your while.

And remember that if you have a mortgage, your property taxes are built into your monthly payment.

Tax break 3: Private mortgage insurance

If you put less than 20% down on your home, odds are you’re paying private mortgage insurance, or PMI, which costs from 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan.

But here’s some good news for PMI users: You can deduct the interest on this insurance thanks to the Mortgage Insurance Tax Deduction Act of 2019—aka the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act—which reinstated certain deductions and credits for homeowners.

“These include the deduction for PMI,” says Laura Fogel, certified public accountant at Gonzalez and Associates in Massachusetts. (This credit is retroactive, so talk to your accountant to see if it makes sense to amend your 2018 or 2019 tax return in case you missed it in past years.)

Also note that this tax deduction is set to expire again after 2020 unless Congress decides to extend it in 2021.

Why it’s important: The PMI interest deduction is also an itemized deduction. But if you can take it, it might help push you over the $24,800 standard deduction for married couples under 65. And here’s how much you’ll save: If you make $100,000 and put down 5% on a $200,000 house, you’ll pay about $1,500 in annual PMI premiums and thus cut your taxable income by $1,500. Nice!

Tax break 4: Energy efficiency upgrades

The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit was a tax incentive for installing alternative energy upgrades in a home. Most of these tax credits expired after December 2016; however, two credits are still around (but not for long). The credits for solar electric and solar water-heating equipment are available through Dec. 31, 2021, says Josh Zimmelman, owner of Westwood Tax & Consulting, a New York–based accounting firm.

The SECURE Act also retroactively reinstated a $500 deduction for certain qualified energy-efficient upgrades “such as exterior windows, doors, and insulation,” says Fogel.

Why it’s important: You can still save a tidy sum on your solar energy. And—bonus!—this is a credit, so no worrying about itemizing here. However, the percentage of the credit varies based on the date of installation. For equipment installed between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, 26% of the expenditure is eligible for the credit (down from 30% in 2019). That figure drops to 22% for installation between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021. As of now, the credit ends entirely after 2021.

Tax break 5: A home office

Good news for all self-employed people whose home office is the main place where they work: You can deduct $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet, of office space, which amounts to a maximum deduction of $1,500.

For those who can take the deduction, understand that there are very strict rules on what constitutes a dedicated, fully deductible home office space. Here’s more on the much-misunderstood home office tax deduction.

The fine print: The bad news for everyone forced to work at home due to COVID-19? Unfortunately, if you are a W-2 employee, you’re not eligible for the home office deduction under the CARES Act even if you spent most of 2020 in your home office.

Tax break 6: Home improvements to age in place

To get this break, these home improvements will need to exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. So if you make $60,000, this deduction kicks in only on money spent over $4,500.

The cost of these improvements can result in a nice tax break for many older homeowners who plan to age in place and add renovations such as wheelchair ramps or grab bars in bathrooms. Deductible improvements might also include widening doorways, lowering cabinets or electrical fixtures, and adding stair lifts.

The fine print: You’ll need a letter from your doctor to prove these changes were medically necessary.

Tax break 7: Interest on a home equity line of credit

If you have a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, the interest you pay on that loan is deductible only if that loan is used specifically to “buy, build, or improve a property,” according to the IRS. So you’ll save cash if your home’s crying out for a kitchen overhaul or half-bath. But you can’t use your home as a piggy bank to pay for college or throw a wedding.

The fine print: You can deduct only up to the $750,000 cap, and this is for the amount you pay in interest on your HELOC and mortgage combined. (And if you took out a HELOC before the new 2018 tax plan for anything besides improvements to your home, you cannot legally deduct the interest.)

The post 7 Tax Benefits of Owning a Home: A Complete Guide for Filing This Year appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

How to Exercise Outside While Social Distancing

exercising-outside-while-social-distancing

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How to Exercise Outside While Social Distancing

Yoga studios and gyms, even fitness centers found in the average apartment complex, have been closed as a response to the spread of COVID-19. As a result, people are left needing to find alternative ways to stay active in order to meet their fitness goals. For people who prefer exercising with a group, navigating through this might be a bit tough as you are looking for ways to stay in shape while social distancing. 

Social distancing while living in an apartment can be tricky. Especially when you are looking for ways to get outside and exercise. It is important to understand that at this time, social distancing is one of the best ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, this does not mean that you need to stay inside your apartment binge watching Netflix. Maintaining good health habits is important, especially right now. If you are at a loss of things that you can do to stay in shape, here are a few fun ideas that you can practice while still maintaining social distance. 

Local Trails

Most areas have local trails nearby. If you have a car, driving to one of these areas can be a great way to get out of the house and enjoy some nature. You can hike the trails at a national or state park. In fact, many neighborhoods offer trails that you can run, bike, or walk on. 

Take a few minutes to do a bit of research and chances are you will be surprised at how many public trails there are around your apartment complex for you to enjoy. The official website of your town is likely to offer information about different city trails that you can enjoy. You can also search your county and state websites for more information about what trails are currently open for you to enjoy. 

Remember, when you are running on a trail, you should maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and others who might be out enjoying the trail. If necessary, slow your pace or go around the other person at a safe distance while you are out. 

Run Through Neighborhoods

Taking a walk or a jog along the side of the road is a great way to get outside and exercise. With fewer cars on the roads these days, running along the side of the road is fairly safe. You should maintain distance and be careful, but there are plenty of neighborhoods around your apartment that you can take a run through. Your apartment complex likely has areas that you can run in as well. If necessary, you could just walk around the different buildings throughout your apartment complex. Choose different paths and learn more about the area that you live in, all while maintaining social distance. 

Yoga in the Park

Yoga is a great form of exercise that can relieve stress. All you really need for this type of exercise is a yoga mat or a soft surface such as a grassy field. Of course, you can practice yoga from the comfort of your home, but if you are looking for a way to exercise outside, pack up your mat and head to an open area. There is a good chance that you will not have to go very far from your apartment to find an open area where you can practice yoga. There are parks that have open areas where you can spread out, enjoy the great outdoors, and strike some yoga poses.  

Go Fly a Kite

If you are looking for something fun to do, that is also a form of exercise, why not build a kite and take it out to fly? Flying kites may seem like something that will not give you much exercise, but when you are sprinting to get it up in the air, you are definitely going to be winded afterwards. Kite flying is a great social distancing activity because you will be in an open field, away from others. Plus, who doesn’t love the idea of getting a kite up in the air and watching it soar?

If you are used to group exercise, join a virtual accountability group. Create a step challenge among your friends. Social media provides a great way to stay connected and motivated. You could even put up flyers in your apartment complex for an exercise competition group. You can use a social media app to track goals and possibly even come up with prizes for the winners. 

Read How to Exercise Outside While Social Distancing on Apartminty.

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6 Places to Get a Cheap or Free Flu Shot This Year

If there was ever a time to get the flu shot, it’s probably amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having two potentially deadly viruses that share some of the same symptoms makes getting the flu vaccine important for both protecting yourself from the flu and reducing the strain on healthcare facilities responding to the coronavirus.

The good news: Flu activity in the U.S. is unusually low at this time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It attributes the drop to precautions taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, including a record high number of Americans receiving doses of the flu vaccine.

But getting vaccinated doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s where to get a flu shot for cheap or free — plus where you could actually snag a little extra spending money by taking your shot.

Where to Get a Free or Low-Cost Flu Shot

The annual flu vaccine can help protect you from getting the flu and reduce the severity if you do contract it.

The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.

Although September and October are the ideal times to get vaccinated, the CDC notes that you can get a vaccine so long as the flu virus is circulating — flu season doesn’t officially end until around April or May.

If you have health insurance, you’ll likely be able to get a free flu shot. But even if you don’t have insurance, you can still find affordable — and sometimes free — options.

Pro Tip

Under the Affordable Care Act, all marketplace insurance plans must cover the cost of the vaccine. However, check your plan for details, as some set limitations on where you can get the shot for free.

Ready to protect yourself from the influenza virus? Here’s where to go for your shot.

1. Local Retailers, Grocery Stores and Pharmacies

Just by showing your insurance card, you can get a free flu shot at many places you’re already visiting, which makes this a convenient option for most people.

Pro Tip

Some providers may have limited supplies of the flu vaccine remaining — check with your location before you go.

If you don’t have insurance, you can typically get the shot for less than $50 at the following businesses:

  • Costco. You don’t need to be a member of the warehouse club to use a Costco pharmacy. And even if you don’t have insurance, you can get a flu vaccine starting at $19.99. Walk-ins are welcome, or you can click here to book an appointment online.
  • CVS. Get your flu shot at CVS pharmacy or its Minute Clinic. Click here for the details and to schedule an appointment.
  • Kroger. You can make an appointment to get a flu shot at Kroger Health’s pharmacies. Click here to book online.
  • Publix. The grocery chain typically welcomes walk-up flu shot appointments, but this year it is also offering an online service that allows customers to schedule an appointment and sign consent forms ahead of time, which you can do by clicking here.
  • Rite Aid. Flu shots at the pharmacy chain are available without insurance for $39.99. No appointment is necessary, but click here for the consent form you should bring with you.
  • Safeway. Although no appointment is necessary, the grocery chain recommends filling out this consent form before you visit. It could really be worth your trouble — you get 10% off your next grocery trip with an immunization.
  • Target. Stop by a CVS pharmacy at Target — walk in or schedule an appointment.
  • Walgreens. You can either walk in or schedule an appointment at the pharmacy chain.
  • Walmart. In response to the pandemic, the retailer launched a digital scheduler via the Walmart mobile app. And all Walmart employees will be able to get flu shots at the retailer’s pharmacies for free — regardless of their insurance status. It’s also offering a special pharmacy hour from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Tuesdays for seniors and those at-risk.

2. Your Doctor and Urgent Care Clinics

If you have health insurance, you can get a free flu shot at a variety of places, including your doctor and urgent care clinics.

While the shot may be free, the office visit may not be — check before you make an appointment or show up at a clinic.

3. Your Workplace

If your office closed due to the pandemic, your employer might not be offering free flu shots this year. However, if you’re still showing up to work, it doesn’t hurt to ask your human resources department if your company would sponsor an on-site flu vaccination.

4. Your College Campus

If campus is open, there’s a good chance your college is still offering free flu shots to college students. Most times, all you’ll need is your student ID.

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5. Community Health Centers

Community-based health centers are available in areas with limited access to affordable health care services. They provide services regardless of a patients’ ability to pay and charge for services on a sliding scale.

Depending on where you live, your local health center may offer free flu shots, regardless of your insurance status. Locate a center near you by clicking here.

6. VA Health Centers

If you’re a veteran enrolled in the VA health care system, you can get a flu shot for free at a VA health care facility or an in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location near you. Just present a valid, government-issued identification and this flyer.

And if none of these places work for you, check with VaccineFinder.org for vaccination locations near you. Regardless of where you choose to , get your shot as soon as possible.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Mortgage Rates vs. Fed Announcements

File this one under “no correlation,” despite a flood of news articles claiming the Fed’s rate cut directly impacts mortgage rates. Today, the Fed cut the federal funds rate by half a percentage point to a range of 1-1.25% due to the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, this despite a strong U.S. economy. That sent mortgage [&hellip

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How To Tour a House Today: Tips To Make the Most of Virtual or In-Person Showings

schedule a home tourd3sign / Getty Images

Touring a house is like going on a first date: It’s your chance to get a sense of whether this home is the one. Can you envision baking cookies in that kitchen, or cracking a beer on that back deck?

But in this day and age, with so many houses to see and so little time before they get snapped up, the prospect of finding this dream home in the real estate haystack can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. Add in the coronavirus pandemic, and the idea of checking out houses all around town might feel unsafe, too.

But here’s the good news: The rules on how to tour a house have changed in ways that can save time, lower your exposure to COVID-19, and curb your workload and stress levels, too. Here’s what you need to know to ace your house-hunting game for the modern day.

How to schedule a home tour

Most home buyers start their house hunt online—that’s a given. But once you spot a home you love, what’s next?

In the olden days of real estate, a home tour would kick off with several rounds of phone/email tag. You’d call your real estate agent, who would then contact the home’s listing agent, and once they’d talked you’d get looped in to when you can finally see the house. Talk about complicated! And that’s for just one house; most home buyers are juggling multiple home tours.

But today, the process is much simpler. For one, many real estate listings have a button you can click on to learn more about a property, sans the annoying phone games. On some listings, you can schedule a tour simply by clicking on your preferred day and time to visit. (See the Schedule a Tour option on the right side of the sample listing below.)

In short, the process of scheduling a tour can now happen in a few seconds, no harder than ordering lunch on Seamless. After you submit your information, you’ll be assigned a local real estate agent, who will reach out to you directly to confirm your tour time and format. (More on your options there next.)

Select the date, time, and format of your next home tour.

Realtor.com

Should I schedule a virtual tour or visit in person?

It wasn’t long ago when the only way to tour a house would be to visit in person. But today, you also have the option to take a virtual tour. You just schedule a tour as you usually would, but request a virtual home showing where a real estate agent shows you around the house via a live video stream on Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Zoom, or other app.

So should you opt for a virtual tour, or go for the real thing? According to many real estate experts, a virtual tour is the faster, easier, and safest place to start. While buying a home “sight unseen” as they say is a risky move few are willing to take (although it is done now more than ever), virtual tours are still a great way to whittle down your options and spend less time running around town.

“Virtual tours can act as a clearinghouse for buyers to narrow down their search,” says Jack Smith, a real estate agent with Shorewest Realtors in Milwaukee. From there, if you like what you see, you can proceed to an in-person tour to get a closer look.

What to look for on a home tour

Whether you’re conducting a virtual or in-person tour, it’s important to get to know every nook and cranny of the property. Breezing from room to room is not enough—particularly if you’re doing a remote tour where small details might be out of view.

As such, you’ll want to check out some less obvious features to make sure the house is in good shape. Here are some areas to home in on that many buyers might miss:

  • The HVAC and hot water systems: The age and quality of these big-ticket systems can make or break your budget, so while they’re not quite as fun as that gigantic kitchen island or the bonus room above the garage, they should be top priorities during your tour, even if you plan to hire an experienced home inspector.
  • The exterior: Don’t limit your tour to the house itself. Be sure to check out the garage, front and back yards, and any structures on the property such as swimming pools or gardening sheds.
  • The neighborhood at large: You’re not just buying a home, but the neighborhood. Try to see the homes surrounding the one for sale to get a sense of what your life there would be like. Tons of traffic whizzing by might be a deterrent if you have kids or a dog; nearby restaurants and bars might be nice but will add to ambient noise. To get to know this area better, check out local neighborhood apps like Nextdoor.com.

What role does a real estate agent play in a home tour?

A real estate agent can serve as an excellent sounding board when touring a house. Plus, if you’re conducting a virtual tour, your agent may be able to visit the property on your behalf and answer any lingering questions you have, says Tony Mariotti, a real estate agent with RubyHome in Los Angeles.

“Buyers have asked us to check the number of electrical outlets and data ports in a room they intend to use as an office,” Mariotti says. “We’ve also measured and ‘reality checked’ rooms that looked big in listing photos due to wide-angle lenses.”

What to ask when touring houses

During a home tour, you’ll want to delve deeper by asking your real estate agent questions about the house. Here are some topics to hit.

  • How old is the home? How old are the various systems and structural elements, like the roof and the water heater?
  • Has any renovation work been done? If so, were the proper permits pulled and can I see them? Was the work performed by a licensed contractor, electrician, plumber, etc.?
  • Are there any previous insurance claims that could affect insurability? Are there any special insurance policies required for the home?
  • What were the average costs of utilities (water, electric, gas, sewer, and trash) over the past 12 months?
  • What is the home’s listing history, including any price reductions or contracts that fell through? Why did the seller drop the price? Why did the home fall out of contract?
  • Are there homeowners association fees? If so, what do they cover? How are the fees billed?

How home buyers can make the most out of touring homes

When touring bunches of homes, it can be hard to remember which house had that spa bathroom or sunroom you adored. To keep one home tour from blurring with the next, keep a notebook where you can make notes and reminders to help keep all the homes straight. Give each house a name if that helps you, and be sure to highlight any important concerns that jumped out during the tour.

And lest you get swept up swooning over home features that won’t really matter that much in the long run (e.g., that outdoor hot tub is nice but not all that necessary), it may help to write down a list of your top house-hunting priorities.

“Buyers should have a list of their ‘must haves,’ their ‘like to haves,’ and things they are willing to compromise on in a property,” says Cara Ameer, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in California and Florida.

Similar to dating, you should probably just accept that you can’t have it all, and that some flexibility will be needed if you want your house hunt to end anytime soon.

The post How To Tour a House Today: Tips To Make the Most of Virtual or In-Person Showings appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Employment Resources: Five Steps for Finding a New Job

A woman reads various employment resources and books at a large white desk in front of a window.

The Congressional Budget Office believes the unemployment rate will hit 16% during the summer of 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus. With so many people on the hunt for a new job, landing an interview and getting hired is going to prove difficult for many. But the truth is that getting a new job isn’t always easy even in the best of times, which is why using all possible employment resources is important.

Follow these five steps to leverage employment resources to help make your job hunt success more likely.

1. Set Yourself Apart with New Skills

If you find yourself unemployed for any reason—especially during an economic downturn such as the one related to the COVID-19 pandemic—you might not be able to find a job right away. It’s a good idea to turn to unemployment benefits if you qualify to help you cover expenses while you hunt for a new job.

Then, consider finding ways to make yourself
more attractive to potential employers. During times when the unemployment
numbers are particularly high, you can bet that your resume is going to be
competing with many others. If you’re able to demonstrate a skill that others
don’t have, you can set yourself apart during the application process.

Consider using your time during unemployment to learn skills that complement your existing ones—especially if other people with similar education and experience backgrounds might not have those skills. One way you can do this is to sign up for online courses through a service like Coursera. You can add skills such as data analytics, coding languages, spreadsheet use, or business analytics to your resume.

Learn New Skills with Coursera

2. Add Your Skills to a Well-Rounded, Engaging Resume

Once you have those new skills, you need to find the best way to work them into your resume. If you’re looking for a job at the same time everyone else is, your resume must be high-quality and engaging to capture the attention of hiring managers. But it also has to have all the right words and phrases to get past applicant screening software. That’s technology many employers use to filters out resumes that don’t meet the job qualifications.

Balancing all of that within a short document that must also convey your education, experience and passion for the job can be daunting. Many people turn to online templates to help them create a resume. But that tactic can leave your document looking exactly like everyone else’s. Instead, you might consider using a resume service such as Monster.com to ensure your resume is as powerful as possible.

Improve Your Resume with Monster

3. Upload Your Resume to a Job Site

Armed with new skills and a killer resume, you next need to put yourself out into the job market in effective ways. Consider uploading your resume to a site such as ZipRecruiter. ZipRecruiter lets you search for job openings by region, niche or keyword. You can apply directly for open positions, but you can also upload your professionally written resume so recruiters and headhunters can find you.

Find a New Job on ZipRecruiter

4. Use Networking Resources

Letting people know that you’re looking for a job is a critical step in finding out about as many options as possible. Uploading your resume on ZipRecruiter is a great step, but don’t forget to let friends and family know you’re looking. Sign up for LinkedIn and post on your other social networks that you’re on the job hunt. You never know when someone in your circle will know about a job that hasn’t been posted yet.

5. Don’t Give Up

Getting a new job can be hard, especially if you really want to hold out for something that you’re passionate about or works with your lifestyle. If you’re looking for a job during the COVID-19 pandemic, consider some ways to make money while you’re waiting for the right position to open up. And even in good economic times, don’t expect a job to fall into your lap the second you put your resume out there. Modern hiring processes are complex, and it can take time even if a company is interested in your resume.

Find Your Next Job

Whether you’re a new grad just entering the job market, a seasoned vet looking to make a change, or someone who has lost their job due to economic issues, hunting for work can be stressful. Make sure that you’re using all the employment resources available to you as you work to find a new job.

And if you’re dealing with financial struggles related to COVID-19, check out our coronavirus resources to learn more about assistance options that might be available to you while you’re looking for employment.

The post Employment Resources: Five Steps for Finding a New Job appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How to Qualify for the Coronavirus Economic Relief Package

The coronavirus economic relief package for workers and small businesses can be confusing. Who qualifies for what programs? How do you apply successfully?

If you’ve been laid off or had your work hours cut due to the pandemic, you're eligible for both state and federal unemployment compensation. That’s a pretty straightforward situation.

If you run a business that’s been hurt by the economic downturn and you have employees, you qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It’s a loan backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that offers relief if you want to continue paying your employees, even if they can’t do their jobs during the health crisis. If you use PPP funds for approved business expenses, such as payroll, rent, and utilities, you don’t have to repay the loan.

Additionally, there are other types of loans you can get through the SBA, such as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). It comes with potentially higher loan amounts than the PPP but must be repaid. You may also qualify for an Economic Injury Disaster Grant (EIDG), which pays businesses $1,000 per employee, up to a $10,000 maximum, and doesn’t have to be repaid.

Whether you call yourself a full or part-time freelancer, gig worker, or an independent contractor, you’re still a small business. If you’ve suffered financially due to the pandemic, you have several options to get relief.

But what’s been unclear are the options for the self-employed who have no employees except themselves. Whether you call yourself a full or part-time freelancer, gig worker, or an independent contractor, you’re still a small business. If you’ve suffered financially due to the pandemic, you have several options to get relief.

I interviewed Gerri Detweiler, a nationally recognized financing and credit expert with more than 20 years of experience. She’s the Education Director for Nav, a trusted financing partner for more than 1.2 million businesses. Gerri gives Nav’s customers certainty in an uncertain world through expertise and actionable advice. 

On the Money Girl podcast, Gerri and I cut through the confusion to help businesses of any size, including solopreneurs, understand how to get economic relief during the coronavirus crisis. We cover a variety of topics, including:

  • Understanding the coronavirus relief options for businesses, the self-employed, and the unemployed
  • Whether a solopreneur should file for unemployment or the PPP
  • Documents you need to prepare before applying for an SBA-backed loan
  • How business credit is different from consumer credit
  • Common mistakes that keep businesses and the self-employed from qualifying for economic relief
  • Tips to make sure a PPP loan you receive will be forgiven
  • How consumers who are struggling to pay bills can protect themselves from debt collectors

Listen to the interview using the embedded audio player or on Apple PodcastsSoundCloudStitcher, and Spotify.

If you’re a struggling entrepreneur, check out these resources to understand your options:

11 Options If Your Small Business Can’t Pay Its Bills Due to Coronavirus

Applying for a Business Loan Is Changing Due to COVID-19: Here’s What It Means

How to Apply for a Payroll Protection Program (PPP) Loan

Source: quickanddirtytips.com