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Emergency Preparedness Guide and Checklist [Download]

Emergency preparedness can mean the difference between weathering a disaster and finding yourself vulnerable in a long-term crisis. From power failures to hurricanes, emergencies strike every day, often without warning. By the time they do, it’s too late to start planning.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do now to prepare yourself and your family for a future emergency. But it can be an involved process, and it’s easy to forget something. That’s why it’s a good idea to start with an emergency preparedness checklist.

These recommendations will help you create your own family emergency plan, including a checklist of steps to take and supplies to pack in a disaster supplies kit in the event of an emergency.

Download our printable emergency preparedness checklist

This printable emergency preparedness checklist can help you take the steps needed for creating an emergency plan to keep yourself and your family safe and secure.

emergency preparedness checklist download buttonemergency preparedness checklist download button

1. Understand the risks for your area

Start getting prepared for emergencies specific to your location by assessing the risks of your particular location. Though there are basic requirements for preparedness, each type of natural disaster also requires its own specialized preparations.

For example, an ice storm might cause an extended power outage, so you may want to install a portable generator. In an earthquake or tornado, you’ll need to know how to find the safest place to shelter. (In both cases, stay away from windows, near the center of an inside room.)

And different regions are prone to different disasters: Texas has been hit by freezing weather, hurricanes, floods, hail and fires. In California, earthquakes and fires are common threats. Oklahoma is in “tornado alley,” and is often hit by ice storms.

Consult relief agencies in your area to get information about emergency alerts for the community, evacuation routes from the area and special assistance options for elderly people and those with disabilities. Ask at your workplace and your children’s schools or daycare to learn about each facility’s emergency plan.

Monitor weather and fire reports via NOAA weather radio. Download a reliable weather app, and sign up for emergency alerts. Wireless Emergency Alerts sent to your smartphone will signal you with a unique tone and vibration, then brief text messages explaining the type of alert and recommended action.

2. Write down emergency contact numbers

Important phone numbers should be available in multiple locations and formats. It’s a good idea to post them on the fridge — along with your home number and address for reference — as well as near any landline telephones. Also, program these numbers into the cellphones of every household member.

Choose a primary emergency contact and at least one secondary contact to call if your family gets separated. One should live out of state, and one should live locally. Tell your family members and loved ones which to call during each possible type of emergency. Remember that sometimes during a crisis, it’s easier to get through to out-of-state numbers than local ones.

It’s also a good idea to know which emergency management and response organizations you may be dealing with following a disaster, such as FEMA or the American Red Cross. Post these numbers, as well, and store them in your contacts.

Program emergency services numbers into your phone and put them near the top of your list, so you can find them right away. Hint: Most phones list contacts alphabetically, so you might want to list emergency contacts with “AA” or the number 1. Then write them on a small card to place in your wallet, in case you’re away from the list you’ve posted, your phone isn’t charged or your WiFi is down.

Here are some numbers you should include:

  • Fire / paramedics
  • Police
  • Local relief agencies
  • Area utilities
  • Work
  • School
  • Child care
  • Relatives
  • Poison control

3. Identify escape routes

Draw out the floor plan of your house and determine which escape routes would be safest for a quick getaway in each type of emergency. Escape routes also should be practical for pets, if you have any.

Post escape route plans in a central location in your house, preferably alongside the important contact numbers, and in each bedroom. Consider loading these directions into your smartphone, too.

It’s important to know when to get out and when to take cover where you are. Fires can occur in any climate and are the most common type of emergency that require escape or evacuation routes; if you’re indoors during a tornado or earthquake, you’re better off staying put.

Strategically store any equipment that could help you escape more quickly, such as collapsible ladders in upstairs rooms or window breakers for shatterproof glass. If your windows or doors have security bars, be sure they’re equipped with emergency releases so you can get out quickly if you need to.

And if you have pets, make pet carriers easily accessible so you can load them up quickly. (Herding cats is even more difficult in a crisis.)

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4. Locate emergency meeting places

Designate two different locations where family members can gather to find each other after leaving your home. One should be directly outside the home in the event of a fire. Identify a location that’s a safe distance from the house, such as a neighbor’s home, mailbox or nearby stop sign.

The other designated meeting place should be outside the neighborhood in case of an evacuation. In the event of a major disaster that requires an evacuation, tune in to local media and be on the lookout for alerts about where to find help at emergency shelters.

You might also designate an out-of-state meeting spot if it’s common for your whole area to be evacuated, as in hurricane season. Make sure your family members have these addresses and phone numbers among their emergency contacts.

Include all locations in your escape route plan, clearly marked on a map. Post the meeting plan alongside the important contact numbers and escape routes.

5. Practice escaping, responding and meeting with family

Discuss with household members what to do during a fire, storm, earthquake, etc. At least two people in your home should know how to shut off utilities and respond to power outages. At least two should be familiar with first aid procedures to address personal injuries.

Make sure your household takes time to review the escape routes and practice using them so your whole family will be ready in the event of an emergency. Hold periodic drills the way schools, businesses and other public facilities do, to be sure everyone can get out of the building. If you can, have your family meet up at the designated local emergency meeting spots.

6. Pack an emergency supplies kit

Have a go-bag or preparedness kit ready that includes family records and other important documents (stored in a safe portable container), along with survival essentials that you may need during an emergency. Refer to the emergency preparedness checklist below for supplies to include in your emergency kit.

“Go bag” supplies

“Go bags” are emergency kits that contain the essentials for people to stay safe and secure in a crisis. Most items listed will apply across the board. However, you can decide whether you need to pack other essentials that address special needs — for instance, specialized medical supplies, prescription medications, spare eyeglasses, personal hygiene items or pet food.

For more information, check with the U.S. government’s official emergency preparedness website, ready.gov.

Essential survival supplies

  • First aid kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlight
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pocket knife
  • Sleeping bag/tent
  • Drinking water
  • Protein bars
  • Canned food
  • Manual can opener

Additional supplies

  • Cellphone
  • Cellphone charger
  • Credit cards
  • Birth certificates
  • Garbage bags
  • Insurance policies
  • Traveler’s checks
  • Contact information
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Sleeping bags
  • Face mask
  • Rain gear, if applicable

Tool kit supplies

  • Pliers
  • Pocket knife
  • First aid kit
  • Duct tape
  • Can opener
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries]

Personal hygiene and health supplies

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Prescription medications
  • Feminine supplies
  • Extra change of clothing
  • Washcloths
  • Household chlorine bleach
  • Clean wipes or towelettes

Food and drink supplies

Plan on having a 3-day supply of non-perishable food in a waterproof container, plus a supply of water. Keep a gallon of water per day for each person for several days, to be used for drinking and sanitation. Pack as lightly as possible without leaving out essentials. Foods like protein bars are great space- and weight-savers.

  • Drinking water
  • Peanut butter
  • Granola bars
  • Vacuum-packed meats
  • Canned foods
  • Crackers
  • Protein bars

Stay safe with our emergency preparedness checklist

It can be a complicated process to create an emergency plan and assemble a kit of supplies for your family. But it’s an endeavor that’s worth every moment of effort when your preparations keep your family safe and secure during a disaster.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

What to Do in a Power Outage at Your Apartment

Power outages do more than just put out all your lights. Losing power can lead to ruined food, loss of internet and the inability to live comfortably in your apartment.

On average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a typical power outage lasts around two hours. While this isn’t long enough to wreak major havoc in your home, it’s enough to highly inconvenience you.

What to do in a power outage

The most important thing to do in a power outage is not panic. These things happen, and as long as you’re able to think clearly and make good decisions, you’ll get through the darkness.

1. Check your circuit breaker box

Circuit breaker box during a power outage.

The first thing to establish when you lose power is whether it’s a single unit issue or something more widespread. Making sure a circuit breaker isn’t tripped in your own apartment is the best place to start.

You’ll usually find your breaker box in a bedroom closet or on the wall in a hallway. Look for a gray or black door, assuming it wasn’t painted over to match the wall. Make sure you have a flashlight with you to see everything clearly.

When you open the box, you’ll notice if a breaker has tripped because it won’t firmly be in the “on” position. You can check each breaker to see if it wiggles too. If a breaker is in the “off” position or looks like it’s sitting in the middle, you’ve got a tripped breaker. Just flip the breaker back on and you’re back in business. If the breaker is in the middle, switch it all the way off before turning it back on.

2. Report the problem

Man in the dark during a power outage.

If you check your breaker box, and everything looks in order, it’s time to take the DIY out of the process. Contact your property manager to report the problem and get more information. They’ll most likely be able to tell you whether or not it’s affecting the entire building and what steps are in place to remedy the situation.

You can also simply look around to other buildings in your area to see if they look like they don’t have power either. If all the windows in neighboring buildings look dark, you know this is a much larger problem and something the electric company is most likely already working on repairing.

It still doesn’t hurt to report your outage to your electric company though.

3. Avoid damage from power surges

Electrical cord.

When the power does come back on, there’s a risk a power surge will take place. This can scorch walls or even lead to small electrical fires.

To prevent this from happening, go through your home and unplug appliances and electronics. Even though you’re eager to get back to using everything as soon as you get electricity back, it’s best to play it safe until after the power returns.

4. Monitor alerts

person on phone

Even with the power out, as long as your phone is already charged, you should have the ability to monitor alerts regarding your electricity. Check in with your power company for regular updates and report your issues if they haven’t documented anything wrong in your area.

If your power outage is weather-related, keep an eye on local news updates and weather reports to stay on top of any evacuation announcements or other important information.

5. Keep a clean supply of water

Supply of water filling up in a bathroom during a power outage.

With prolonged or widespread power outages, there’s a chance drinking water could get contaminated. This happens when the loss of electricity extends to the water sanitation system in your area.

Even if this happens, the water you can immediately pull out of your faucets is still okay to drink. To provide yourself with a solid amount of clean water when the lights go out, fill up tubs and sinks right after you lose power.

What not to do during a power outage

The most important thing not to do during a power outage is panic. You need to think with a clear head to act safely. However, a few other no-no’s are worth noting when it comes to staying in your apartment while the power is out.

  • Do not open your refrigerator or freezer if you can help it. This will keep the food inside cooler for longer and prevent spoilage.
  • Do not try to use a gas stove to heat your home. You should also avoid bringing in an outdoor grill for indoor heat. Doing so can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have a fireplace, go ahead and light that, but otherwise, bundle up with blankets or get to a warmer location.
  • Do not leave lit candles unattended for light. It’s OK to use them while you’re in the room with them, but make sure you blow them out before you leave. Flashlights are always a safer bet when moving from room to room and make a great first choice in light sources when you lose power.
  • Do not assume you can get out of your apartment complex. If you live in a gated community, chances are the gate runs on electricity. If you’re opting to leave your apartment while the power is out, make sure you either know how to manually open your community gate or that your management office has taken care of the issue.
  • Do not go near pooling water or power lines. If you’re outside at all during a widespread power outage, stay clear of fallen power lines and large puddles of water. You have no way of knowing when the electricity will come back on and charge up a wire or a pool of water where a line is hiding.
  • Do not waste hot water. Losing power doesn’t mean you can’t flush toilets or even take a shower, but the amount of hot water you have when the power goes out is not much. To avoid cold showers, on top of everything else, use the hot water you have sparingly.

Prepare in advance

Since the odds are good you’ll experience a power outage at least once, why not prepare in advance? You can make a lights-out kit to ensure everything you’ll need in an emergency is in one place.

Put together a few flashlights, extra batteries and an emergency radio if you have one. Consider adding a remote charger for your cell phone and even a few bottles of water.

Store your lights-out kit somewhere that’s easy to get to even in the dark.

Stay safe when the lights go out

We all pay an electric bill and come to rely on the utility’s availability whenever we need it. This is what makes it so stressful when the lights do go out. Knowing what to do in a power outage, and preparing in advance, are the best steps you can take to handle the issue until the light returns.

The post What to Do in a Power Outage at Your Apartment appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

NYC Noise Complaints Increase 279% in Just 4 Months

Even Americans who haven’t visited know that New York City never sleeps. Endless streams of people on the street and taxi cabs clogging the roadways are just part of the ceaseless movement in the city. With a population nearing nine million people, New York City always has something going on within its five boroughs.

With all the commotion, it’s safe to say that New York City could be one of the loudest cities on earth. However, it seems that New Yorkers are getting tired of the noise more than usual this year. From COVID-19 lockdowns to widespread protests, New York City has become quite chaotic lately — is this the cause of the increase in noise complaints?

Methodology

We analyzed data from NYC OpenData, which includes a database of 311 calls placed within the city. We looked at noise complaint calls placed from February 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020, and from February 1, 2019, to June 30, 2019.

We also used available population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau to weigh noise complaint call data in relation to the population of each New York borough: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

Noise complaints rise 106% in one year

a line graph showing an increase in new york city noise complaints from 2019 to 2020

It’s no secret that New York City is a noisy place –– the bustling streets and never-ending traffic jams create quite the cacophony of sound. However, it seems like residents are complaining about noise more than ever, especially since last year. Total complaints more than doubled from this time last year, increasing by 106 percent. 

Here’s a breakdown of the data between 2019 and 2020: 

Month 2019 2020 % Change
February 26,839 27,781 3.51%
March 33,567 37,396 11.41%
April 39,059 39,373 0.80%
May 40,339 77,628 92.44%
June 58,845 105,240 78.84%

Noise complaints increased by over 106 percent from 2019 to 2020 (within the measured time period). The city also saw a 97 percent increase in complaints from the beginning of April to the end of May 2020, marking the largest jump in noise complaints so far this year. These increases paint a striking picture of the considerable changes in city life over the last several months.

COVID-19, lockdowns and protests in NYC

an illustration showing a 279% increase in total noise complaints in New York City from February to June 2020

The beginning of March marked the start of quarantines, lockdowns and panic over the COVID-19 pandemic. With such a huge population density (27,000 people per square mile), New York City quickly fell into chaos as the virus spread through the city –– as of June 30, there were over 212,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York City alone.

Quarantines and lockdowns within the city meant millions of people began working from home. With so many now at home from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., it’s no surprise that New Yorkers had more to complain about when it comes to noisy neighbors and the sounds of city traffic. The data reflects this timeline perfectly, showing a difference of nearly 10,000 additional complaints logged in March (compared to February).

The end of May 2020 came with a new noise in New York City: protests. This unrest was widespread across New York City, with protests in all five boroughs. The sheer volume of these protests can be seen clearly in the data we analyzed. From the beginning of May to the end of June, noise complaints increased by 79 percent. Additionally, complaints of “loud talking” more than doubled from the beginning of April to the end of May, about the time when the protests began.

Battle of the boroughs: Who complains the most in NYC?

Despite having a smaller population than other boroughs, The Bronx has logged the most noise complaints in 2020 so far –– a total of 81,869 complaints logged from February to June.

Because populations differ across the five boroughs, we divided each borough’s total complaints by its respective total population to find comparable percentages.

Borough-specific data is below:

  • The Bronx: 81,869 total complaints (6 percent of the population)
  • Manhattan: 74,661 total complaints (5 percent of the population)
  • Brooklyn: 73,899 total complaints (3 percent of the population)
  • Queens: 49,469 total complaints (2 percent of the population)
  • Staten Island: 6,635 total complaints (1 percent of the population)

A borough rich in local culture, The Bronx has been called the birthplace of hip-hop and salsa, is home to Yankee Stadium and boasts one of the most diverse populations in the city. This diversity could be related to a higher volume of noise complaints, especially since a 2017 study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal determined that neighborhoods with higher poverty rates and larger minority populations experience more noise pollution than other neighborhoods.

New York City explodes with fireworks

From the beginning of April to the end of June this year, complaints about illegal fireworks increased by a staggering 283,595 percent –– only 19 complaints were logged in April, while complaints in June totaled 53,902. Brooklyn is seeing the majority of complaints about fireworks, with approximately one in three complaints originating from the largest of the boroughs.

Fireworks are the second most complained-about noise in New York City from February to June, with loud music and parties taking the first place prize for the most complained-about noise (157,823 total complaints during this time period). With this in mind, it’s important to note that 311 OpenData categorizes these complaints in their own section, rather than grouping them with other noise complaints.

Here is a breakdown of the noises New Yorkers complained about the most in June 2020: 

  • Loud music and parties: 73,238 complaints
  • Fireworks: 53,902 complaints
  • Traffic: 10,795 complaints
  • Loud talking: 7,213 complaints
  • Construction: 2,014 complaints

While summer fireworks in New York City have always been present, this year is definitely unique. The unusual volume of fireworks has raised many conspiracy theories among New Yorkers, with some claiming the government is using the fireworks to desensitize the public to “war-like sounds.” Others claim the police are using the fireworks as a punishment for the recent protests, while some say New Yorkers are simply bored in quarantine.

Whatever the cause of the fireworks, they are wreaking havoc across the city. Countless residents have been hospitalized with firework-related injuries and the city government has created a police taskforce to curb illegal firework activity, with police donning riot gear and arresting anyone believed to be involved.

New York City has always been loud, but 2020 seems to have turned up the volume in the city. Noise complaints are at an all-time high with no end in sight. If you’re living in New York City this summer, there are easy ways to soundproof your home.

Sources

U.S. Census Bureau | New York City OpenData: 1, 2 | Gothamist | The Atlantic

The post NYC Noise Complaints Increase 279% in Just 4 Months appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

Due to financial consequences of COVID-19 — and the broader impact on our economy — now is an excellent time to consider refinancing most loans you have. This can include mortgage debt you have that may be converted to a new loan with a lower interest rate, as well as auto loans, personal loans, and more.

Refinancing student loans can also make sense if you’re willing to transition student loans you currently have into a new loan with a private lender. Make sure to take time to compare rates to see how you could save money on interest, potentially pay down student loans faster, or even both if you took the steps to refinance.

Get Started and Compare Rates Now

Still, it’s important to keep a close eye on policies and changes from the federal government that have already taken place, as well as changes that might come to fruition in the next weeks or months. Currently, all federal student loans are locked in at a 0% APR and payments are suspended during that time. This change started on March 13, 2020 and lasts for 60 days, so borrowers with federal loans can skip payments and avoid interest charges until the middle of May 2020.

It’s hard to say what will happen after that, but it’s smart to start figuring out your next steps and determining if student loan refinancing makes sense for your situation. Note that, in addition to lower interest rates than you can get with federal student loans, many private student lenders offer signup bonuses as well. With the help of a lower rate and an initial bonus, you could end up far “ahead” by refinancing in a financial sense.

Still, there are definitely some negatives to consider when it comes to refinancing your student loans, and we’ll go over those disadvantages below.

Should You Refinance Now?

Do you have student loan debt at a higher APR than you want to pay?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes: Go to next question.

Do you have good credit or a cosigner? 

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes:  Go to next question.

Do you have federal student loans?

  • If no: You can consider refinancing
  • If yes: Go to next question

Are you willing to give up federal protections like deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance
  • If yes: Consider refinancing your loans.

Reasons to Refinance

There are many reasons student borrowers ultimately refinance their student loans, although they can vary from person to person. Here are the main situations where it can make sense to refinance along with the benefits you can expect to receive:

  • Secure a lower monthly payment on your student loans.
    You may want to consider refinancing your student loans if your ultimate goal is reducing your monthly payment so it fits in better with your budget and your goals. A lower interest rate could help you lower your payment each month, but so could extending your repayment timeline.
  • Save money on interest over the long haul.
    If you plan to refinance your loans into a similar repayment timeline with a lower APR, you will definitely save money on interest over the life of your loan.
  • Change up your repayment timeline.
    Most private lenders let you refinance your student loans into a new loan product that lasts 5 to 20 years. If you want to expedite your loan repayment or extend your repayment timeline, private lenders offer that option.
  • Pay down debt faster.
    Also, keep in mind that reducing your interest rate or repayment timeline can help you get out of student loan debt considerably faster. If you’re someone who wants to get out of debt as soon as you can, this is one of the best reasons to refinance with a private lender.

Why You Might Not Want to Refinance Right Now

While the reasons to refinance above are good ones, there are plenty of reasons you may want to pause on your refinancing plans. Here are the most common:

  • You want to wait and see if the federal government will offer 0% APR or forbearance beyond May 2020 due to COVID-19.
    The federal government has only extended forbearance through the middle of May right now, but they might lengthen the timeline of this benefit if you wait it out. Since this perk only applies to federal student loans, you would likely want to keep those loans at 0% APR for as long as the federal government allows.
  • You may want to take advantage of income-driven repayment plans.
    Income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income-Based Repayment let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income each month then have your loans forgiven after 20 to 25 years. These plans only apply to federal student loans, so you shouldn’t refinance with a private lender if you are hoping to sign up.
  • You’re worried you won’t be able to keep up with your student loan payments due to your job or economic conditions.
    Federal student loans come with deferment and forbearance that can buy you time if you’re struggling to make the payments on your student loans. With that in mind, you may not want to give up these protections if you’re unsure about your future and how your finances might be.
  • Your credit score is low and you don’t have a cosigner.
    Finally, you should probably stick with federal student loans if your credit score is poor and you don’t have a cosigner. Federal student loans come with fairly low rates and most don’t require a credit check, so they’re a great deal if your credit is imperfect.

Important Things to Note

Before you move forward with student loan refinancing, there are some details you should know and understand. Here are our top tips and some important factors to keep in mind.

Compare Rates and Loan Terms

Because student loan refinancing is such a competitive industry, shopping around for loans based on their rates and terms can help you find out which lenders are offering the most lucrative refinancing options for someone with your credit profile and income.

We suggest using Credible to shop for student loan refinancing since this loan platform lets you compare offers from multiple lenders in one place. You can even get prequalified for student loan refinancing and “check your rate” without a hard inquiry on your credit score.

Check for Signup Bonuses

Some student loan refinancing companies let you score a bonus of $100 to $750 just for clicking through a specific link to start the process. This money is free money if you’re able to take advantage, and you can still qualify for low rates and fair loan terms that can help you get ahead.

We definitely suggest checking with lenders that offer bonuses provided you can also score the most competitive rates and terms.

Consider Your Personal Eligibility

Also keep your personal eligibility in mind, including factors beyond your credit score. Most applicants who are turned down for student loan refinancing are turned away based on their debt-to-income ratio and not their credit score. Generally speaking, this means they owe too much money on all their debts when you compare their liabilities to their income.

Credible also notes that adding a creditworthy cosigner can improve your chances of prequalifying for a loan. They also state that “many lenders offer cosigner release once borrowers have made a minimum number of on-time payments and can demonstrate they are ready to assume full responsibility for repayment of the loan on their own.”

It’s Not “All or Nothing”

Also, remember that you don’t have to refinance all of your student loans. You can just refinance the loans at the highest interest rates, or any particular loans you believe could benefit from a different repayment term.

4 Steps to Refinance Your Student Loans

Once you’re ready to pull the trigger, there are four simple steps involved in refinancing your student loans.

Step 1: Gather all your loan information.

Before you start the refinancing process, it helps to have all your loan information, including your student loan pay stubs, in one place. This can help you determine the total amount you want to refinance as well as the interest rates and payments you currently have on your loans.

Step 2: Compare lenders and the rates they offer.

From there, take the time to compare lenders in terms of the rates they can offer. You can use this tool to get the process started.

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Step 3: Choose the best loan offer you can qualify for.

Once you’ve filled out basic information, you can choose among multiple loan offers. Make sure to check for signup bonus offers as well as interest rates, loan repayment terms, and interest rates you can qualify for.

Step 4: Complete your loan application.

Once you decide on a lender that offers the best rates and terms, you can move forward with your full student loan refinancing application. Your student loan company will ask for more personal information and details on your existing student loans, which they will combine into your new loan with a new repayment term and monthly payment.

The Bottom Line

Whether it makes sense to refinance your student loans is a huge question that only you can answer after careful thought and consideration. Make sure you weigh all the pros and cons, including what you may be giving up if you’re refinancing federal loans with a private lender.

Refinancing your student loans can make sense if you have a plan to pay them off, but this strategy works best if you create a debt repayment plan you can stick with for the long-term.

The post Should You Refinance Your Student Loans? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

How To Balance Working And Going To College

5 Tips For Working Students In CollegeMore and more are choosing to attend college and work at the same time.

Whether you are working a part-time or a full-time job, it can be tough to balance both. There are many working students in college who are able to manage both, but there are also many who aren’t able to.

If you don’t balance them both correctly, it may lead to stress, lower grades, low-quality work being produced, and more.

No one wants that and I’m sure you don’t either.

Related: 21 Ways You Can Learn How To Save Money In College

This is supposed to be the time of your life where you are growing and changing, not feeling like you are drowning in everything that is going on around you.

There are ways to get around it and manage both successfully at the same time, though.

I took a full course load each and every semester, worked full-time, and took part in extracurricular activities. It was definitely hard and I won’t lie about that. However, sometimes a person doesn’t have a choice and has to do everything at once or maybe you are choosing to multi-task and you are wanting to better manage your time.

Related post: How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500

Whatever your reason may be, below are my tips for working college students. The tips below are what helped save me!

 

Carefully plan your class and work schedule.

My first tip for working college students is to carefully plan your class and work schedule.

Some students just choose whatever classes are offered. However, it is much wiser to carefully craft your school and work schedule so that everything flows together efficiently with minimal time wasted.

You can do this by researching into what classes are offered when and trying to eliminate any gap that may be in-between each class. Having an hour or two break between each class can quickly add up. Also, if you happen to have time off between classes, then using this time to do your homework and/or study can be a great use of time as well.

Related post: How I’m a Work-Life Balancing Master

 

Eliminate any time that may be wasted.

There are many time sucks that you may encounter each day. A minute here and a minute there may add up to a few hours wasted each day.

The time you save could be used towards earning more money at your job, studying, socializing, or whatever else it is that you need or want to do. For working college students, every minute is important.

There are many ways to eliminate any time wasters including:

  • Cut down on your commute time. If you can find a job near your college campus then you can eliminate a lot of traveling time.
  • Prep your meals ahead of time. If you can bulk make your meals instead of individually making each one, you will be able to save a lot of time.
  • Be aware of how much time you spend on social media and TV. The average person wastes many, many hours on social media and watching TV. Cutting back on this may save you hours each day without you even realizing it.

Related post: 75 Ways To Make Extra Money

 

Separate yourself from distractions.

Working college students experience a lot of distractions.

Noise in the background, such as with a TV that is on or a party your roommate may be throwing, can distract you from what you need to be doing. If you are trying to study or do homework then you should try to find a quiet place to get work done.

You may want to close your bedroom door, hide the remote from yourself (trust me, this works!), go to the library, or something else.

Related: 16 Best Online Jobs For College Students

 

Have a to-do list and a set schedule.

Having a to-do list is extremely helpful for working students in college because you will know exactly what has to be done and by when. You will then have your responsibilities sitting there right in your face so that you will have to face reality.

Plus, I know that when I am stressed it can be easy to forget things, so having a to-do list eliminates any valuable minutes I may waste debating about whether I forgot to do something.

 

Working students in college need to be realistic.

While one person may be able to work like crazy and attend college at the same time, not everyone can do that.

If your grades are dropping, then you may want to analyze whether you should drop your hours at work or school. What is more important to you at this time and for your future?

With the tips above for working students in college, you’ll be able to rock both your job and your college classes at the same time. Don’t forget to fit in time for fun as well. Good luck!

Are you one of the many working college students out there? Why or why not?

 

The post How To Balance Working And Going To College appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

A Millennial’s Guide to Getting Your First Car Loan

auto-loan-down-payment

Buying a car is almost a rite of passage. Making that first car purchase, negotiating with the seller, and arranging financing (if you need an auto loan) all require a certain amount of savvy.

And, once you successfully achieve the car-buying milestone, another signpost looms in the distance: Refinancing.

Whether you’re getting an auto loan for the first time, or you want to refinance your existing car debt, it’s important to be an informed consumer. Here’s what you need to know.

Get your finances in order

Before beginning your car search, you need your finances in order, according to Joe Pendergast, the vice president of consumer lending for Navy Federal Credit Union.

“Know your budget, check your credit score, and review your existing credit accounts to ensure they are reported accurately,” Pendergast said. Your credit situation can directly impact the interest you pay on your auto loan.

Emily Shutt, a certified financial coach who works closely with millennial women to help them manage a variety of money issues, suggested calling around to different dealers and banks or credit unions to see what credit bureau they use to check your score. Then you can check your report for errors and have them fixed before you talk to someone about financing your car purchase.

“Having errors on a credit report can negatively impact score, which can put you at a huge disadvantage when you’re negotiating for an auto loan interest rate,” Shutt said.

You should also know ahead of time where you stand with your budget. Use an online loan calculator to determine what you can afford in terms of a monthly payment. For example, if you think you can handle a $305 monthly payment, and you have the credit to get an interest rate of 2.9% for a five-year loan, you might feel you can afford to borrow up to $17,000 for a car.

Save up for a down payment

Just because you might be able to borrow so much for a car doesn’t mean you necessarily should. In fact, saving for a down payment makes a lot of sense, Shutt said. Not only does having a down payment help you to better negotiate your loan rate, but it also can allow you a shorter loan term and save you money in the long run.

Play around with the numbers a little with an online calculator. If you can put $7,000 down, so that you borrow only $10,000 of that $17,000 car, you could maybe get an interest rate of 2.5% and a loan term of three years. Even better, your monthly payment would only be $289 — and you’d save $1,494 in interest.

The less you borrow, the more money you have in the end. And that’s money you can put toward investing in your future, rather than paying interest to someone else.

Know what you want — and what it costs

Once your finances are in order and maybe you have a down payment saved up, it’s time to figure out what you can actually buy. Avoid over-borrowing by knowing what you want in a car and having an idea of what it costs, Shutt suggested.

“Everything should already be online so you can get a sense of what all the options are,” said Shutt. A little research can go a long way toward helping you get a sense for which cars will fit into your budget.

Shutt pointed out that the job of salespeople is to get you to spend as much money as possible. The more you spend, the more you have to borrow — and the more you’ll pay in interest. “Confidently stand your ground when a salesperson tries to upsell you or steer you in another direction,” she said.

Pendergast agreed on the need to research your car choices ahead of time. “Know the price other dealerships in the area are offering so you can make an informed purchase,” he said.

It’s even okay to play one seller’s price off another’s to get the best deal. Don’t be afraid to let the other dealerships know you’re shopping around. They’ll be more inclined to negotiate with you, potentially resulting in a better deal.

Get an auto loan quote from a bank or credit union

Before you ask for dealer financing, suggested Pendergast, talk to a bank or credit union.

“You should see what type of loans your financial institution has to offer,” said Pendergast. “This will give you guidance for your budget, but will also increase your purchasing power to help you in negotiations, regardless of the dealer’s proposition being on par with the lender’s.”

Donald E. Peterson, a consumer lawyer with almost 30 years of experience, warned that dealer financing still often requires the involvement of a bank or credit union. Dealers submit your information to lenders and get interest rates quotes back.

“Sometimes dealers mark up the interest rate above the rate banks would buy the loan at,” Peterson said. “The bank and the car dealer split the excess interest, usually 50-50.”

This practice isn’t just limited to banks, either. “Some credit unions have entered into interest-rate kickback agreements with car dealerships,” Peterson said. “You must apply to the credit union yourself to get the best rate.”

Starting with a financial institution allows you to get an idea of what’s available to you. Then, you’re in a position where a dealer who wants to finance you has to match the rate you’ve already been offered, rather than steer you toward an alternative arrangement.

Consider a cosigner

With my own first auto loan experience, I had to deal with the fact that I had a thin credit file. I didn’t have enough credit established to get a car loan without an unacceptably high interest rate.

I went through the steps of creating a budget and deciding how much I could afford, including factoring in my car insurance costs. However, after checking my credit report, I realized that having a credit card for six months wasn’t enough for me to establish much of a credit history.

After compiling research about the types of used cars I could afford, and how my earnings from my job were enough to cover an auto loan payment, I approached my parents. My dad was willing to cosign on a modest car loan through his credit union.

My interest rate — and my monthly payment — were lower because I had cosigner with good credit. I made all my payments on time, helping build my credit history so that the next time I bought a car, I was able to get a good interest rate without the need for a cosigner.

As you research your options, don’t forget about the possibility of using a cosigner. If you don’t have the credit history to get a good auto loan rate on your own, borrowing someone else’s good name can help you save money — while at the same time allowing you a way to establish your own credit for the future.

Don’t fall for the monthly payment scheme

While you do want to figure out what monthly payment you’re comfortable with, you don’t want to get caught up in it at the dealership, cautioned Shutt.

“Focus on the all-in price of the car,” said Shutt. “If the salesperson can get you to verbalize a monthly payment target, they’ll just manipulate other factors like the duration of the loan.”

When that happens, Shutt pointed out, you might end up hitting your targeted monthly payment, but long-term interest charges and other factors could mean that your car ends up being a lot more expensive. She said you should figure out about how much you’ll pay each month over a loan term you’re comfortable with, and then buy a car with a final price that fits those parameters.

“Take your time, and don’t be manipulated,” Shutt said. “If you’re not comfortable negotiating, bring a friend or family member who can support you in sticking to your budget.”

What about refinancing?

In some cases, you might discover that you qualify for a lower auto loan interest rate than you currently pay.

“Maybe you’ve been making timely payments for a year or two and your credit score has gone up,” said Shutt. “Now you can consider refinancing the loan.”

However, it’s important to be careful moving forward. Just as you shop around for the best auto loan rates on a new loan, it makes sense to shop for refinancing rates. Check with a few banks and credit unions to see if you can get a few quotes for refinancing.

When you refinance, watch out for lengthening the loan term. If you only have three years on your term, it might not make sense to refinance to a five year loan. Instead, only refinance what you have left. You could save on interest charges and still get rid of your car debt in the original time frame.

Shutt also recommended looking online for car loans. Compare the rates you find with online auto loan refinancing platforms to what your local financial institutions offer. By playing different lenders off each other, you could strike a better bargain — especially if you have good credit.

Know your finances and be ready to negotiate

Auto loans are a massive industry, with more than $1 trillion owed to U.S. lenders. Rather than being just another statistic, consider how you can come out on top.

Know your finances and understand what you can expect, Pendergast said. When you know where you stand, and when you research ahead of time, you can call dealers and lenders out. Shop around for the best auto loan rates and terms, and let dealers know you’ve done your homework, so that negotiations will go much better, saving you time and, importantly, money.

 

If you want to be sure your credit is good enough to purchase a car, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated every 14 days.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

Image: iStock

The post A Millennial’s Guide to Getting Your First Car Loan appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Disaster Safety for the Apartment Renter

Home can feel like one of the safest places in the world, but dangerous and even deadly disasters such as earthquakes, floods and storms can threaten that safety.

When disaster strikes, being prepared is crucial to your survival. For apartment-dwellers, it’s critical that they understand how their apartment could be at risk during common disasters and what they or the community’s management should do to prepare.

Floods

Apartment living doesn’t make one safe from the threat of floods and the damage that they do. Often, flooding is caused by leaks, such as those from malfunctioning appliances or faulty pipes, but it can also be caused by natural causes, such as hurricanes and prolonged rain.

Water from flooding can damage both personal belongings, such as furniture and electronics, and the apartment itself. Mold and structural damage to flooring and walls are some of the common problems that come from flooding.

To protect your valuables, get flood insurance in addition to renters insurance. This type of insurance will cover damage caused by flooding, where renters insurance alone may not.

Another important step in protecting your valuables is to place items that can be destroyed by water in a location that’s high enough to be out of the way of rising water in the event of a flood. These types of items should be moved off the ground and away from areas, such as bathrooms that may flood accidentally.

Residents living in flood zones should ask apartment management about sandbags during heavy rainfall, which can prevent outside water from reaching ground-level apartments. Unplug electrical items if the apartment begins to flood during a storm, and if possible, vacate the premises.

flooding

Hurricanes

In a hurricane, people living in an apartment face damage from heavy rain and winds that can be as strong as 155 mph. This may result in windows breaking and damage to the apartment’s roof. Flooding from rain creates another concern during hurricanes.

To protect the apartment, bring in any patio/balcony furniture that high winds may toss against windows. Board up windows and sliding doors, and ask the apartment management if they’ll provide the necessary materials.

People who live on upper floors should shelter in apartments at lower levels when possible. Regardless of where the unit is located, stay toward the center in a room with no windows. Closets and bathrooms are good spots within an apartment to seek shelter. Keep a battery-operated radio on, and evacuate if instructed to do so.

Renters, particularly those who live in hurricane zones, should also verify that they’re covered with hurricane insurance.

hurricane

Tornado

Tornadoes are highly destructive, with winds that reach as high as 300 m.p.h. This can lift objects like trees from the ground and the roof off of a building. Damage to an apartment may include harm to walls and windows from outside projectiles and roof damage that ranges from mild to ripped off entirely.

The first step of protecting your apartment and yourself is to purchase an insurance policy that covers tornado damage. This is crucial for individuals living in areas that are at high risk for tornadoes.

To reduce the risk of projectiles, remove furniture from the patio or balcony. Speak with management about securing or removing items that can be lifted by high winds. The management should also trim branches in the complex that may break and fly through the air. Individuals living in high-risk areas should also talk with the management about the installation of storm shutters.

During a tornado, apartment residents generally don’t have a basement to shelter in. Instead, they should avoid windows and go to an apartment or room on the lowest floor, if possible. The room you choose to take shelter in should be near the center of the apartment. If staying in a bathroom, get into the bathtub. Wherever you go, covering your head and neck or wearing a helmet can help to prevent injury.

tornado

Earthquakes

When the violent shaking of an earthquake hits, it can cause more than just serious injury — it may also damage the structural integrity of an apartment. This could include cracks in walls, the ceiling or the foundation itself, should it shift during the quake. Earthquakes may also shatter or crack windows in the apartment.

Steps that you can take beforehand include anchoring heavy or breakable items that may fall or be flung around, such as mirrors, TVs and heavy and tall furniture like bookshelves. These items should be anchored to the floor or the wall.

Breakable or heavy items that can’t be anchored should be kept on lower shelves and never stacked. You should also check your renters insurance policy to ensure you’re covered for earthquake damage.

During an earthquake, renters should move away from mirrors or windows that may shatter and cut them. Ideally, they should find a sturdy desk or table to seek shelter under. Once under shelter, covering the back of the head and neck with one’s arms can help prevent serious injury.

If there are no objects to duck under, crouch against a wall inside of the apartment, protecting the head and neck. Stay indoors and under shelter until the shaking stops completely. Avoid going down apartment stairs during the quake and avoid elevators.

earthquake

Emergency preparedness

Before a crisis strikes, create an evacuation plan for when leaving the home is advised. Everyone living in the home should know what the plan is and have practiced it.

When creating an evacuation plan, families should have locations in mind where they can stay. Often, evacuated people will stay in a public shelter, or one can make plans to stay at the home of a friend or family member if the need arises.

Hotels and motels are options, but if evacuating with a pet, be sure to find out where pet-friendly hotels are located. Because families must also have a way to contact each other, every family member should have a list of phone numbers that are kept in a wallet or purse, including the number of an out-of-town friend.

Putting together an emergency supply kit is another universal and necessary step when preparing for potential disasters. An effective supply kit contains items that are crucial to a person or family’s survival following a disaster like a first aid kit, batteries, a flashlight and a battery-powered radio.

The emergency kit should also include enough nonperishable food for at least three days and a gallon of water per person per day. Also, pack important documents and an extra supply of medications in a waterproof bag.

Additional resources

  • Tornado Safety Tips for Apartments
  • Hurricane Preparedness for Apartment Dwellers
  • Tornado Safety Checklist (PDF)
  • Tornado Safety
  • What to Do During a Tornado Event
  • Where Is the Safest Place in a High-Rise Apartment During a Tornado?
  • Get Ready for a Major Earthquake. What to Do Before and During a Big One
  • Tips for Tenants
  • Here’s What to Keep at Home in an Emergency Supply Kit
  • Emergency Preparedness: Make a Plan
  • Family, Health, and Safety Preparation
  • Putting Together Your Emergency Supply Kit
  • Disaster Preparedness Guide for Seniors and Caregivers
  • Emergency Preparedness Checklist (PDF)
  • Build Your Own Pet Emergency Kit
  • Disaster Preparedness: A Checklist (PDF)
  • These Are the Best Foods to Stockpile for an Emergency
  • Checklist for Disaster Preparedness (PDF)
  • Preparedness Guide for Disasters and Emergencies: Personal Preparedness (PDF)
  • Floods and Flash Floods
  • How to Prepare for Hurricane Season
  • Seven Tips for Hurricane Preparedness
  • Hurricane Preparedness Tip

The post Disaster Safety for the Apartment Renter appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

Pros and Cons of Renting a House

When searching for your perfect home, there are plenty of big decisions to make – and one of those is deciding the kind of space you want. Renting a house isn’t the same as renting an apartment! Leasing a home does have its benefits, but it also has several drawbacks you should consider. Get the […]

The post Pros and Cons of Renting a House appeared first on Apartment Life.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

Which Student Loan Should You Pay First?

The financial camps are divided between paying off your smallest first vs. your highest interest student loan. So who’s right? Finance people can agree on a few things. Some debts like payday loans and IRS back taxes are worse than…

The post Which Student Loan Should You Pay First? appeared first on Modern Frugality.

Source: modernfrugality.com

Best Debt Consolidation Loans of 2021

Life can feel overwhelming when you’re saddled with loads of debt from different creditors. Maybe you carry multiple credit card balances on top of having a high-interest personal loan. Or maybe you have a loan…

The post Best Debt Consolidation Loans of 2021 appeared first on Crediful.

Source: crediful.com