How Much Money Should You Save Before Moving Out?

Ideally, before you undertake the major milestone of moving out of your parental home, you would have six months’ worth of living expenses saved up. However, in today’s economy, that’s not always possible, and some young people will move out with just one or a couple months’ worth of living expenses in the bank.

Living on one’s own is expensive. It has recently been pricier than usual, thanks to inflation and a scarcity of housing. Add to that the fact that when we’re younger, we tend to have lower incomes, and it can be a tremendous financial challenge to afford living on your own.

That being said, with smart money management, it is indeed possible to afford moving out of your parents’ place. To help you get a good plan in place and make your dream a reality, keep reading.

Key Points

•   Before moving out, ideally save six months’ worth of living expenses, though some manage with less.

•   Calculate all potential upfront and ongoing costs to ensure affordability.

•   Consider sharing expenses with a roommate to make moving more feasible.

•   Research and compare housing options in different locations to maximize value.

•   Establish an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses after moving out.

How to Financially Prepare to Live on Your Own

Getting ready for independent life can take a bit of planning, financial know-how, and saving. When you’re wondering about how much money you need to move out, follow this advice for getting ready.

Upfront Costs and Regular Bills

Let’s say a friend clues you in on a great deal on an apartment rental and says to hurry and get an application in. Just a minute, please! Before you can move out, you need to make sure you can truly afford to do so.

Start your research by tallying up all upfront costs and regular bills you’ll need to pay such as rent, auto and renters insurance, utilities, cell phone service, health insurance, transportation, and groceries. After calculating all necessary expenses, see how much room is left in your budget for extras like dining out or traveling.

Also consider the one-time hits your finances will take when you head out on your own: There may be broker’s fees, moving expenses (more on that in a minute), and other charges, as well as the price of buying furniture and other items for your home.

By looking at your budget this way, you can get an idea of whether you can comfortably afford to move out or if you need to wait a little bit longer to make a move work financially. You want there to be some breathing room in your budget so you don’t wind up putting necessities on your credit card and racking up debt.

💡 Quick Tip: Don’t think too hard about your money. Automate your budgeting, saving, and spending with SoFi’s seamless and secure mobile banking app.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!

13 Steps to Afford Moving Out

Now that you have an overview of costs and expenses, it’s time to take the next step and drill down on understanding what you can afford, when you’re ready to move out, and how to navigate a move more easily.

These steps will help you get your own place without going broke.

1. Assess How Much Rent You Can Afford

As you plan this big step in adulting, you are likely most focused on how much rent you can pay. You’ll want to come up with a range of how much rent you can take on while still managing your other necessary bills, such as student loans, health insurance, and car payments.

Tally up all your expenses and subtract that from your monthly after-tax income to see how much room is left in your budget and if the amount you can afford to pay is doable in your area. If you’re feeling as if you can’t quite come up with the necessary rent, you may want to consider how to move to another state or a nearby city that’s more affordable.

2. Consider Getting a Roommate

If it’s too hard to afford rent all on your own, you can think about having a roommate to help share the expenses with. Not to mention, having a roommate can make moving out for the first time feel a lot less lonely.

3. Research Homes and Locations

Speaking of rent: Whether you plan to rent or buy when you move out, you need to do some research on different housing opportunities in different areas. That way, you can see where you can get the most bang for your buck while still meeting your personal goals.

For instance, if you really value having a short commute, you might search for a studio instead of a one-bedroom apartment in the neighborhood you are targeting, if one-bedroom units are pricey. Or, if you are a young single person hoping to rent a house, see what kind of prices you find in a neighborhood that’s adjacent to the one you are targeting or choose to go farther afield. You might find better deals due to more housing supply.

One option you might consider: A personal loan or relocation loan at a low interest rate could help make the transition more affordable, especially if you will be saving a good amount on your monthly costs.

Recommended: Tax Breaks for Young People

4. Research the Cost of Movers

If you have a fair amount of things to move, it’s important to budget for the cost of movers. Yes, a friend with a van may be able to help with some smaller items, but things like a queen-size bed typically require movers.

Depending on how much you have to move and how far the move is (25 miles? 250?), your costs could be a few hundred or thousands. Get a couple of estimates from companies that come and actually eyeball how much you have.

This will help keep these common moving expenses down in a “no surprises” way.

Also, be sure to find out whether moving materials are included as you create your moving checklist. You may well be charged for boxes, wardrobes, tape, and moving blankets. Inquire about “drive time” to and from your locations, which you may be billed for. Also remember that if you run out of steam and need help packing, it will cost you.

5. Don’t Make Any Excuses

It’s easy to think, “I can’t afford to move out” or “Rentals are hopelessly expensive” and give up (or at least procrastinate for a good long time). But if there’s a will, there’s usually a way. Finding your motivation and patience can be crucial to taking this step and getting your own place.

It’s common to get complacent when moving forward feels hard. If you do have to remain living with your parents or another family member while you save up to move out, keep your eye on the prize. Set up alerts for new home listings, put the word out that you are hunting for a home of your own, and keep saving and making career progress so you can attain your goal of moving out.

You might chat with friends or friends of friends to get their best advice on making your independent living dreams come true. They may have valuable hacks for you, too.

6. Have an Emergency Fund Saved Up

One way to lessen the financial stress of moving out is to have an emergency fund ready and waiting. That way, when you do move out on your own and hit an unexpected (and major) expense, you will have a financial cushion available to help you out.

How much to have in an emergency fund? Experts advise having three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses stashed away (a high-yield savings account can work well). Figure out what that amount would be with the housing costs you expect to pay, and begin saving. Even $25 or $100 a month is a good start to get that layer of protection going.

7. Track Your Spending

When you are considering moving out for the first time, it’s wise to track your spending for a month or two. This will give you an idea of how much you tend to pay out each month, which can help you get a better idea of how much rent you can afford. For instance, how much do you typically spend on gas? On your WiFi provider? On eating out? As you look at these costs, you may be better prepared to know your budget once you are also paying housing costs.

Looking at your outflow of cash can also help you stop spending money. For instance, you might realize you are spending over $100 a month on those iced coffees to go.

8. Budget for Home Needs

Figuring out how to move out with low income can be tricky. One hidden expense that is easy to forget about when budgeting for a move is home needs. Cleaning supplies, laundry, furniture, and appliances are expenses mom or dad may have taken care of in the past. Soon, they will be your responsibility. Consider how much that will cost and budget for it.

Also, if you are planning to buy a home instead of rent, budget for property taxes, home maintenance, and repairs.

Recommended: Car Insurance Costs for Young People

9. Plan for Unknown or Surprise Expenses

Speaking of expenses that can be hard to plan for like home repairs, it’s important to leave some buffer room in a budget for surprise expenses such as car repairs or medical bills. This is where that emergency fund can really come in handy.

People renting for the first time often allocate a large percentage of their income to housing. This means your budget doesn’t have much wiggle room, and an unplanned expense could really send shock waves through your cash management. Being prepared is an excellent line of defense.

10. Look for Cheaper Options on Furniture

When you are first starting out, you don’t need to splurge on expensive furniture. Thrift stores, garage sales, and inexpensive retailers can all get the job done. Freecycle and other similar sites (or Facebook and Nextdoor groups) can yield free or low-cost furnishings, too.

Over time, it’s likely to become easier to swap those inexpensive finds out for higher=quality pieces of furniture.

11. Manage Your Finances

To make moving out possible financially, keep a close eye on the money coming in and out each month. Take some time to get all finances in order and to create a budget for this new chapter. Learning to manage money is a big step towards independence. It will have you that much more prepared for on-your-own living.

Your bank may well have an app that can help you track your incoming funds and your spending, which can help with this endeavor.

12. Set a Moving Timeline

Once it’s clear that a move is affordable, create a final timeline for finding a place to rent or buy and then moving in. Block out weekends for home hunting, and note how long before your move you want to get quotes from moving companies.

If you still need to save a bit more money, you can extend this timeline to include saving for a few months.

13. Be Realistic

It can take time to build the life you dream of, so don’t sweat it if your first home isn’t all that glamorous. Part of the fun of life is figuring things out and evolving over time. Many people have had first apartments that they still fondly look back on, despite how tiny, dark, or inconveniently located they may have been.

The best things in life often take time to fall into place, so be patient as you pursue your financial and lifestyle goals.

Prioritizing Financial Independence Over Savings

Many young people feel stuck at their parents’ because the finances of this situation make it possible to save on rent in most cases. They worry about moving out and not being able to save as much as they used to.

While there’s some truth to that point of view, understand that, yes, money is likely to be tight at first, but that is part of this rite of passage. Granted, you may not be able to save as you were before, but you can likely sock away a bit of money in savings (through your employer and/or into an emergency fund, perhaps) and begin to build your credit history, too.

It’s a big leap, but remember that your income will probably rise and help you save, and living away from the parents will help build your budgeting skills and financial savvy.

Banking With SoFi

Moving out can be expensive, but with a little bit of planning and budgeting (and maybe sharing the costs with a friendly roommate), it can be doable. Need help getting your finances in order in time for a big move? Find a banking partner that can help you manage and grow your money.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


How much money should you have saved before moving out?

Figuring out how much money you need to move out varies from person to person. The amount will depend on covering the housing expenses they will pay and other expenses without going into debt. There are also expenses involved such as moving itself and buying new furniture. It can be a good idea to create an emergency fund to cover at least a few months’ worth of expenses before moving out.

How do you move out when you can’t afford it?

It’s important for your financial health to not move out until you can afford it. Planning and budgeting will be part of the process. If you dive into those concepts but still feel you can’t afford to move out, look into sharing expenses with a roommate or perhaps taking on a side hustle to earn extra income.

How do I know if I’m ready to move out?

You can get an idea of whether or not you’re ready to leave your parents’ place by calculating how much it will cost to live on your own. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of accruing how much money you need to move out. If you can afford to pay rent and other necessities, spend money on some “wants” (such as the occasional movie or dinner out), and have some emergency fund savings, then you may be ready.

Photo credit: iStock/Hache

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As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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Buying a Multifamily Property With No Money Down

Buying a Multifamily Property With No Money Down: What You Should Know First

Real estate investments make money through appreciation and rental income. Real estate can diversify a portfolio and act as a hedge against inflation, since landlords can pass rising costs to tenants. But the down payment on multifamily investment properties? At least 20%, or 25% to get a better rate.

It’s true that eligible borrowers may use a 0% down U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loan for a property with up to four units as long as they live there. But those loans serve a relative few and are considered residential financing. Properties with more than four units are considered commercial.

So how can a cash-poor but curiosity-rich person tap the potential of multifamily properties? By not footing the entire bill themselves.

Key Points

•   Real estate investments offer potential income through appreciation and rental income, providing a hedge against inflation.

•   Eligible borrowers can use a 0% down VA loan for properties with up to four units.

•   Various financing strategies enable purchasing multifamily properties with little to no personal money upfront.

•   Options like finding a co-borrower, securing hard money loans, or obtaining seller financing can facilitate the acquisition.

•   Indirect investment methods include crowdfunding and real estate investment trusts (REITs), allowing participation without direct landlord responsibilities.

Can You Buy a Multifamily Property With No Money?

When you buy real estate, you typically have two options: Buy with cash or finance your purchase with a mortgage loan.

There are various types of mortgages. If you take out a home loan, you’ll likely need to pay a portion of the purchase price in cash in the form of a down payment. The minimum down payment you make will depend on the type of mortgage you choose — the average down payment on a house is well under 20% — and it will help determine what terms and interest rates you’ll be offered by lenders.

This money needs to come from somewhere, but it doesn’t necessarily need to come from your own savings account. When investors buy multifamily properties with “no money down,” it just means they are using little to no personal money to cover the upfront costs.

If you don’t have much cash of your own, there are several ways that you can fund the purchase of a multifamily investment property.

💡 Quick Tip: Jumbo mortgage loans are the answer for borrowers who need to borrow more than the conforming loan limit values set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency ($766,550 in most places, or $1,149,825 in many high-cost areas). If you have your eye on a pricier property, a jumbo loan could be a good solution.

6 Ways to Pay for a Multifamily Property

Find a Co-Borrower

If you don’t have the money to front the costs of a property yourself, you may be able to partner with a family member, friend, or business partner. They may have the money to cover the down payment, and you might pull your weight by researching properties or managing them.

When you co-borrow with someone, you’ll each be responsible for the monthly mortgage payments. You’ll also share profits in the form of rents or capital gains if you sell the property.

Give an Equity Share

You may give an equity investor a share in the property to cover the down payment. Say a multifamily property costs $750,000, and you need a 20% down payment. An equity investor could give you $150,000 in exchange for 20% of the monthly rental income and 20% of the profit when the property is sold.

Borrow From a Hard Money Lender

Hard money loans are offered by private lenders or investors, not banks. The mortgage underwriting process tends to be less strict than that of traditional mortgages. Depending on the property you want to buy, no down payment may be required.

These loans (also called bridge loans) have high interest rates and short terms — one to three years is typical — with interest-only payments the norm. For this reason, they may be used by investors who may be looking to flip the property in short order, allowing them to make a profit and pay off the loan quickly.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

House Hack

House hacking refers to leveraging property you already own to generate income. For example, you might rent out an in-law suite or list your property on Airbnb.

Another option: You could rent out your primary residence and move into one of the units in a multifamily property you buy. This way, you’d probably generate more income than if you had rented out the unit to a tenant.

Finally, you could hop on the ADU bandwagon if you own a single-family home. Accessory dwelling units can take the form of a converted garage, an attached or detached unit, or an interior conversion. The rental income can be sizable. To fund a new ADU, homeowners may tap home equity, look into cash-out refinancing, or even use a personal loan.

Seek Seller Financing

If you don’t have the cash for a down payment on a property, you may be able to forgo financing from a lending institution and get help instead from the seller.

With owner financing, there are no minimum down payment requirements. Several types of seller financing arrangements exist:

•   All-inclusive mortgage: The seller extends credit for the entire purchase price of the home, less any down payment.

•   Junior mortgage: The buyer finances a portion of the sales price through a lending institution, while the seller finances the difference.

•   Land contracts: The buyer and seller share ownership until the buyer makes the final payment on the property and receives the deed.

•   Lease purchase: The buyer leases the property from the seller for a set period of time, after which the owner agrees to sell the property at previously agreed-upon terms. Lease payments may count toward the purchase price.

•   Assumable mortgage: A buyer may be able to take over a seller’s mortgage if the lender approves and the buyer qualifies. FHA, VA, and USDA loans are assumable mortgages.

Invest Indirectly

Not everyone wants to become a landlord in order to add real estate to their portfolio. Luckily, they can invest indirectly, including through crowdfunding sites and real estate investment trusts (REITs).

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2013 allows real estate investors to pool their money through online real estate crowdfunding platforms to buy multifamily and other types of properties. The platforms give average investors access to real estate options that were once only available to the very wealthy.

REITs are companies that own various types of real estate, including apartment buildings. Investors can buy shares on the open market, and the company passes along the profits generated by rent. To qualify as a REIT, the company must pass along at least 90% of its taxable income to shareholders each year.

As investment opportunities go, REITs can be a good choice for passive-income investors.

💡 Quick Tip: To see a house in person, particularly in a tight or expensive market, you may need to show the real estate agent proof that you’re preapproved for a mortgage. SoFi’s online application makes the process simple.

The Takeaway

Buying a multifamily property with no money down is possible if you take the roads less traveled, including leveraging other people’s money. And if you have the means to make a down payment on a property, your first step is to research possible home mortgage loans.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


Can I buy a multifamily home with an FHA loan?

It is possible to buy a property with up to four units with a standard mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) if the buyer plans to live in one of the units for at least a year. The FHA considers homes with up to four units single-family housing. The down payment could be as low as 3.5%. There are loan limits.

A rarer product, an FHA multifamily loan, may be used to buy a property with five or more units. The down payment is higher. You’ll pay mortgage insurance premiums upfront and annually for any FHA loan.

Is a multifamily property considered a commercial property?

Properties with five or more units are generally considered commercial real estate. Commercial real estate loans usually have shorter terms, and higher interest rates and down payment requirements than residential loans. They almost always include a prepayment penalty.

Photo credit: iStock/jsmith

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See for more information.

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.


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Visiting National Parks on a Budget

Traveling the National Parks on a Budget

America’s national parks are legendary: You can probably conjure up images of Old Faithful at Yellowstone, El Capitan at Yosemite, and the Great Smoky Mountains without too much trouble. But what you may not realize is that our country’s network of over 400 national parks can also be a terrific, budget-friendly vacation destination.

Planning a road trip to a national park with the family or your BFFs can be an amazing way to see the natural beauty of the U.S. And it’s a popular idea: In 2022, the parks welcomed 312 million visitors, up 5% from the previous year.

By doing some prep work, you can be among those travelers who revel in the iconic landscapes of the parks while having an environmentally friendly, low-cost adventure. Here, you’ll learn the ropes, from advice on destinations to ideas for keeping expenses down.

Cheap National Parks to Visit

Unlike other standard vacation destinations (theme parks, etc.), most national parks don’t charge an entrance fee. Over two-thirds of these sites, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, are free to enter. So the vast majority of these destinations are indeed cheap national parks to visit!

Even if you choose one that does charge, you’ll most likely pay by the carload, like the 7-day pass for your group at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado for $35. The ever-popular Yosemite and Acadia National Parks charge the same fee.

If you want to see which parks charge a fee, check out the National Park Service’s website .

Here’s an important warning, however: During peak times, you may need a reservation simply to drive into a park. You may gain admission if you have another kind of reservation (hotel room, say, or campsite), but double-check. Keep this top of mind if you are thinking you can just cruise on over and take selfies at, say, Half Dome for a day in August. Probably not going to happen without advance planning.

You can also take advantage of fee-free days. The National Park Service selects certain holidays and special occasions each year to offer admission-free entrance to everyone. So, you can visit over 400 sites at no cost in 2023, like on Great American Outdoors Day on August 4.

To find parks conveniently located near you, use the National Park Service’s “Find a Park ” tool online. Then you can compare options and see what type of landscape you’d most like to visit.

Setting a Budget for Visiting National Parks

If you have a vacation in mind, you might have already started budgeting for it. Saving money for a trip is an important step and allows you to explore the world guilt-free. But to make the most out of your visit to a national park, you need to know exactly what type of costs to expect. That way, you never have to worry about not having enough money on hand to enjoy yourself.

Here are some expenses you should account for in your national parks budget.

Food & Drink

Saving money on a road trip is often challenging since you don’t have all your basic necessities ready at your disposal. That includes food and drink, whether your style is more drive-through or sit-down dining or “I’m happy to cook for myself.” You’ll need to factor the cost of meals into your travel budget.

One budget-smart option is to rent a cabin with a kitchen. With that, you can pick up groceries once you arrive and cook your meals instead of ordering out. That’s a big savings right there!

You may not be the type to cook on vacation, though. If not, you can look for affordable options near you for meals. But keep in mind: You’ll need to budget for your three meals a day, plus you’ll probably want some water and a snack here and there, lots of liquids to fuel you on hikes, and perhaps to go out for a beer or two one evening. There will likely be taxes and possibly tips involved. See how it all adds up and what you can afford.

One very dollar-smart move to stay well-fed and not blow your budget: Use a backpack cooler. If you want to spend your days hiking and walking, you’re going to get thirsty and hungry pretty quickly. You can load a cooler up with protein bars, nuts, apples, and granola, preventing you from buying potentially pricey food throughout the day.

Gas & Travel

When it comes to the expense of traveling to national parks, the nice news is that a destination might be closer than you think. Many of us hear the phrase “national park” and think of large, sweeping spots in the West, like the Grand Canyon. But that’s just one iconic site. There are actually hundreds of places in the U.S. under the National Park Service’s care, from historic sites to scenic trails. So you may not have to plan out a cross-country trip to enjoy what this country has to offer.

However, if you have to travel a significant distance, why not whittle your transportation costs? For example, if you need to fly, it can pay to be flexible with your dates and look for the lowest possible fare. Sites like Expedia and Kayak can notify you when prices drop on flights you are interested in. Another smart move is to pack light so you won’t pay those ouch-inducing baggage fees.

Perhaps you’re driving to your destination, though. If you want to improve gas mileage and get the most out of your trip, try to choose a park that isn’t isolated. For example, there are multiple national parks near Las Vegas, such as Death Valley National Park and Zion National Park, which are about two and a quarter hours apart. Once you’re at Zion, you might decide to hop over to Bryce Canyon National Park, barely an hour and a half away, and see the incredible rock formations known as hoodoos.

You’ll be able to visit multiple parks without too much drive time, save money on gas, and see all the more spectacular sights. It may be the best way to travel around America on a budget.

Recommended: Guide to Renting a Car


You know the law of supply and demand: When demand is high, supply gets scarce — and potentially pricey. With that in mind, note that the peak season for visiting national parks is summer. Kids are off from school, temperatures are warmer, and international travelers may visit our lovely landscapes. So that means bigger crowds, which impacts local lodging. It will be harder to find accommodations, and their prices will be higher, too.

Because of this, it’s best to book your lodging in advance so you don’t get shut out of affordable rooms. National Parks have a wide range of accommodations; during spring 2023 at Yosemite, for instance, rooms ranged from $101 to $500+ a night. A location farther out from the park will be cheaper as well. Those who accumulate points on a travel credit card or cash back rewards credit card may find lodging nearby at a discount.

Of course, that’s not your only option. You can also rent an RV or stay at a campground. If you choose to camp, check to see if you need a reservation. At national parks, the average price is around $20 per night, though prices can range from $5 to $30 or so. These sites usually offer electricity hookups, water, camp stores, and fire rings. Research what your campground offers to help plan out your packing needs. If you snag one of these spots at a free-admission park and already have tents and other gear on hand, congrats! You may have scored one of the cheapest national park visits to be found.

Activities and Entertainment

If you have never visited a national park before, you might not know what they offer. While part of their appeal is just being in the great outdoors and soaking in the views, you also have activities available to you. There may be anything from guided walks and museums to talks and films, and they all typically come at no extra cost. It can be a great way to learn about local wildlife, fossils, history, and more.

In addition to that, you might seek other activities. For instance, if you are visiting Florida’s Everglades National Park, perhaps you want to go on a kayak adventure with a guide. It can be a terrific way to see the mangroves and sawgrass marshes the area is famous for. That will be an additional cost to keep in mind.

There’s also every chance that you may pass all kinds of mini-golf, waterparks, multiplexes, and other attractions as you explore the area near a national park. If a vacation isn’t a vacation without indulging in these offerings, factor that into your budget, too.

Permits & Passes

Again, most parks are available to the public for free. But if you want to visit multiple national parks, consider opting for a National Park Annual Pass. It typically costs $80 ($20 for seniors) and gives you unlimited entrance to over 2,000 federal recreation areas, such as national parks.

Recommended: How Credit Card Travel Insurance Works

Saving for Your Travel

Saving up for your trip can be pretty straightforward. One way is to set up a dedicated travel fund. Separating your vacation money from your regular savings account will make your progress that much easier to track. You can also maximize your savings by setting up automatic contributions to your travel fund. That way, you never forget to put in a few dollars on payday.

If that sounds appealing, you need to pick the correct type of account. Some options, like a high yield bank account, promise higher interest rates than your standard version. However, your choice will depend on your timeline. For example, someone taking a trip in a year has more time to accrue interest than someone taking a trip within a few months.

Let’s say you don’t have much time, though. Even if you can’t build much in the way of interest, you can still find extra cash in your life. You might need to budget a bit differently. For example, if you have a streaming service membership, you can cancel that for a while. Or perhaps you can pick up a side hustle on the weekends, whether that means driving for a rideshare service or walking dogs.

The Takeaway

Vacations are a time to relax, enjoy yourself, and make memories with your loved ones. The last thing you need is for that time away to leave you deeply in debt and saddled with stress. That’s why a trip to a national park can be such a terrific destination: You’ll explore the great outdoors but can do so without breaking the bank, thanks to low fees, free activities, and the smart saving advice you learned here.

SoFi Travel has teamed up with Expedia to bring even more to your one-stop finance app, helping you book reservations — for flights, hotels, car rentals, and more — all in one place. SoFi Members also have exclusive access to premium savings, with 10% or more off on select hotels. Plus, earn unlimited 3%** cash back rewards when you book with your SoFi Unlimited 2% Credit Card through SoFi Travel.

SoFi, your one-stop shop for travel.


Is it expensive to visit national parks?

In many cases, it’s a more affordable vacation than other options. Over two-thirds of national parks offer free admission year-round. Plus, there are many throughout the country, meaning you can pick one that’s close and may not have to spend much on travel costs. The main expenses will come from your lodging, food, and additional activities.

How many days should you spend at a national park?

The length of your stay should depend on the type of itinerary you want to build and the size of the park you are visiting. There are many itineraries for Yosemite online that involve staying three to five days, but you could certainly spend much longer or shorter periods of time. Worth noting: Some smaller parks and historic sites may not be open every day. Larger parks may close due to weather events. Always check in with a park (either online or by calling) beforehand.

How much does it cost on average to visit a national park?

Most national parks are free. The National Park Service allows you to see the entrance rates for each fee-charging national park. Use their listings to see if the park you want to visit charges an entrance fee. The per-vehicle prices are often between $20 to $35 for seven days.

Photo credit: iStock/MargaretW
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When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.

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SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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To Tip or Not to Tip — And How Much?

Travel is an amazing way to see the world, make new discoveries, and immerse yourself in the local culture. And planning your trip can be a thrill too, as you suss out a boutique hotel with a rooftop bar, the best sunset sail experience, plus must-see restaurants and stores.

As you plan, you are likely sticking to a budget, but don’t overlook one area: tipping. When you travel, especially abroad, it’s helpful to know the local customs. In some countries, tipping is a must. In others, it’s optional, and in a few, it’s considered downright rude.

Are you ready to learn the ropes? Here’s your cheat sheet on:

•   Who should you tip when traveling?

•   How much should you tip when you travel?

•   In which countries don’t you tip?

Recommended: Apply for an Unlimited Cash Back Credit Card

Who Should You Tip While on Vacation?

As you travel, there are many people you could tip: the ones who help you into the airport, out of the airport, into your hotel, out again, into a taxi…the list goes on and on. Most people want to be polite and tip appropriately but don’t want to burn through more money than they have to.

To help you manage this aspect of travel, here are some of the people you probably do want to tip, plus some insight into how much to tip.

Luggage attendants can help get your luggage from the curb at the airport to the check-in counter. You can definitely manage the process on your own, but if you’re wrangling young kids, traveling with pets, or simply packed extra-jumbo bags so you’d have loads of outfits to choose among, it’s nice to get help.

Traditionally, it’s polite to tip $2 for your first bag and $1 for any additional luggage. If your bags are legitimately humongous, consider tipping the full $2 for each one. This expense can’t go on your airline credit card or any other kind of plastic, so be sure to keep cash on you.

Note: Airline employees stationed outside the airport may not be able to accept tips, so be prepared for your bills to be rebuffed if one of these workers assists you.

Car valets park and return your car directly from the curb of hotels and restaurants. It’s a major convenience and generally deserves a monetary thank-you. How much to tip? In the $1 to $5 range when your car is returned to you. Tipping when your wheels are first whisked away is generous, though not necessary.

Housekeepers should be tipped each day during your stay, whether you splurged on luxe accommodations or figured out how to save on hotels and booked a rock-bottom rate. Housekeepers freshen your room, replace those damp towels, and otherwise make it a pleasure to return after a long day of visiting museums, lolling on the beach, or whatever else you’ve been up to.

The best method is to leave the cash in a marked envelope (some hotels provide them for just this purpose) or folded in some hotel stationery that is clearly marked “For Housekeeping.” Best practice suggests $3 to $5 each day of your stay.

Room service is a luxurious treat during vacation. Some hotels automatically include a gratuity on your bill. If you don’t see it on your receipt, however, the answer to the “to tip or not to tip” quandary is that it’s likely a good idea to add 15% to 20%, just as you would in a restaurant.

Drivers help in a few different travel scenarios. If you’re taking a taxi or rideshare, consider tipping either $4 to $5 for short rides and 10% to 20% for long rides. Add an extra tip if the driver helps with your luggage. It’s also customary to tip shuttle drivers, typically from $1 to $5 depending on the size of your party.

Tour guides share their expertise and passion with you, as they lead you around the best snorkeling spots in Tulum or show you the hidden treasures of Paris. Their services can be a memorable highlight of your summer travel plans, so it’s nice to tip them, especially when you have a great experience. An easy rule of thumb is to tip 10% to 20% of the tour’s cost for your group.

Why Tipping Is Important

Tipping is by no means a requirement, but in many economies throughout the world (including the U.S.), it’s a way to help workers make ends meet. Many service industry employees are not guaranteed minimum wage.

In fact, in most states in America, there is a much lower minimum wage for tipped employees; hourly rates can dip below $3. While economic policies are a larger discussion, the fact of low wages can help put things in perspective and show the very real value of rewarding workers for a job done well.

For this reason, when budgeting for an upcoming trip, it’s wise to think about your plans, estimate a tip budget, and include that as part of where you keep your travel fund. It’s one of those incidentals that can add up and throw your financial planning out of whack if not accounted for.

Also, since tips are often given in cash rather than plastic (sorry, you can’t reap those credit card rewards this way), you may want to plan ahead to get some foreign currency for this purpose.

Recommended: How Families Can Afford to Travel

Tipping Guidelines by Destination

You likely do a good amount of research before traveling, scoping out cool hotels, amazing restaurants, and an affordable car rental. So why not, before your next trip, familiarize yourself with tipping customs in different parts of the world? It’ll help you prepare for the costs coming your way and make you feel more comfortable and in control while traveling. Here’s some useful intel:


Across the U.S., it’s customary to tip up to 20% for restaurant servers, bartenders, and drivers. In some cities, like New York, the answer to “How much to tip?” is nudging up to 22% or even 25%.


If you’re planning an epic trip to France, Spain, Italy, or other European countries, service tips may already be included in your restaurant bill in Europe. Look on the menu; it will probably say so. If it’s not, a maximum 10% tip is recommended. When it comes to your hotel stay, you might tip one euro per bag if a staffer helps you, and leave one euro per day for housekeeping.

Mexico and the Caribbean

Whether you’re heading to Cancun, Mexico City, or the Bahamas, be prepared to tip. Restaurant gratuities usually average between 10% and 20% in Mexico and the Caribbean.

If you’re staying at a resort, remember to keep cash on hand for bellhops, housekeeping, and other employees. Typically, a dollar or two per day/interaction is appropriate.

Central and South America

Heading to Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, or beyond? Here’s the scoop: The standard tip rate for Latin America is 10% in restaurants. Some countries (like Brazil) may include the gratuity in your bill, so look carefully at the check before paying for your feijoada. Not sure? There’s no harm asking your server; you’re likely not the first person to do so.

When it comes to hotel staff and drivers, you’ll need a dollar or two (or the equivalent), so it’s wise to have some cash stashed in advance.

Recommended: Where to Find Book Now, Pay Later Travel

Places You Probably Don’t Have to Tip

Here’s a travel budget bonus: There are a number of countries you might visit that do not have a tipping custom. In fact, it may even be considered rude or insulting to leave a tip. So before you add a tip when paying with your travel credit card or plunking down cash, double-check local etiquette. Here, some pointers:


Tipping is not vital when Down Under. Compared to the U.S. and many other countries, Australia has a high minimum wage. That’s one of the reasons why tipping in the service industry is seen as optional.


If you are going to be exploring China, know that tipping is actually taboo there. And in some places like airports, it’s illegal because it can be seen as a bribe. Stay polite and safe by skipping the tip.


Heading to Tokyo, Kyoto, or other locations in Japan? Heads up: Tipping is not customary in Japan and is actually considered rude. Although it may feel odd, when wondering whether to tip or not to tip, just don’t do it. Save your money for more shopping or sushi.


Iceland and Scandinavia typically don’t expect you to tip. You might round up a restaurant tab if there isn’t already a service charge added, but these aren’t countries where a 20% gratuity is routine. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips either.

The Takeaway

Preparing for a trip often involves budgeting, and a key way to wind up on or under your budget is to anticipate what costs are coming your way. Tips are one of those incidentals it’s easy to forget about and can throw your financial planning for a loop. By understanding local tipping customs, you can have a smooth, on-budget trip wherever you may go. What’s more, you’ll know exactly what to expect so you can travel with confidence.

SoFi Travel is a new service exclusively for SoFi members. Through a partnership with Expedia, we make it easy to find the lowest rates and book your reservations — for flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, and more — all in one place. Earn 2x rewards when booking with your SoFi Mastercard or debit card. And when you redeem your SoFi rewards for travel, you get a 25% bonus: $100 of reward points are worth $125.

Wherever you’re going, get there with SoFi Travel.


Are tourists always expected to leave a tip?

It depends on where you’re staying. Countries in North and South America, Europe, and Africa typically have tipping customs, particularly at restaurants and resorts. But Asian and Pacific countries like Australia, Japan, and China often do not incorporate tipping into their cultures — and it can even seem impolite.

Who are you supposed to tip at the airport?

In many countries (with China being an exception), it’s polite to tip a baggage handler who carries your luggage to the check-in counter.

How much do you tip internationally?

Research each country individually to understand tipping customs. While it’s traditional in many foreign countries, it’s also rude (and sometimes illegal) to tip in others.

Photo credit: iStock/DragonImages

1See Rewards Details at

**Terms, and conditions apply: The SoFi Travel Portal is operated by Expedia. To learn more about Expedia, click

When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.

Eligibility: You must be a SoFi registered user.
You must agree to SoFi’s privacy consent agreement.
You must book the travel on SoFi’s Travel Portal reached directly through a link on the SoFi website or mobile application. Travel booked directly on Expedia's website or app, or any other site operated or powered by Expedia is not eligible.
You must pay using your SoFi Credit Card.

SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.

Additional Terms: Changes to your bookings will affect the Rewards balance for the purchase. Any canceled bookings or fraud will cause Rewards to be rescinded. Rewards can be delayed by up to 7 business days after a transaction posts on Members’ SoFi Credit Card ledger. SoFi reserves the right to withhold Rewards points for suspected fraud, misuse, or suspicious activities.
©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (

SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


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Does Auto Insurance Roadside Assistance Cover Keys Locked in a Car?

Does Auto Insurance Roadside Assistance Cover Keys Locked in a Car?

Roadside assistance coverage is designed to help motorists in trouble get back on the road. That usually includes helping drivers who have locked their keys in their car. Keep in mind that some plans place an annual limit on the number of calls for service or the amount they’ll reimburse you for specific services — including lockout assistance.

Read on for more information about what to expect when you sign up for auto insurance roadside assistance.

How Much Does It Cost to Unlock a Car?

If you don’t have roadside assistance and lock your keys in the car, expect to pay as much as $300 to have a locksmith come to your aid. The price varies depending on several factors, including the time of day, age and model of your car, and how far the locksmith has to drive. If you’re close to where the locksmith is working and your call comes in during normal business hours, the cost could be closer to $75 to $150.

There may be additional fees, however, if you’ve lost your key completely (rather than locking it in the car) and the locksmith has to cut a new one for you.

But if you do have roadside assistance coverage, all or some of the cost could be covered. Some plans cover getting you back into the car, for example, but not the cost of a replacement key, key fob, or repair of a damaged keypad.

Recommended: Ways to Save Money on Car Maintenance

Should You Call Roadside Assistance to Unlock Your Car?

When deciding whether to call roadside assistance to unlock your car, think safety first. If you’ve had an accident, you’ve locked a pet or child in the car, or you feel in danger in some way, make your first call 911.

But if you feel safe, roadside assistance is probably your best bet. You’ll get help quickly and with the least amount of risk to you, any passengers, and your vehicle. (Just remember to program the number into your phone.)

Recommended: How Does Car Insurance Work

Common Roadside Assistance Service Benefits

Roadside assistance can be useful when you’re stranded on the side of the road and need a repair or some other type of service. This can be especially important for seniors, first-time drivers, people with a physical disability, and parents of young children.

Here are some of the most common circumstances for which a motorist might use roadside assistance:


If your car can’t be quickly or safely repaired or restarted where it is, roadside assistance can have it towed to a nearby qualified repair shop.

Battery Jump-start

Roadside assistance can jump-start a dead battery. In some cases, they may be able to install a new battery on site.

Flat Tire Change

Sometimes it just isn’t possible to get out and change your own tire on the roadway. Roadside assistance providers are trained to take care of flats on scene — if you have a spare available — or have your car towed to a location where the tire can be changed.

Emergency Fuel or Electric Car Battery Charge

If you run out of gas, roadside assistance may offer free fuel delivery to your location. And if the battery on your electric vehicle needs a charge, you may be able to have your car towed to the nearest charging station at no cost. (However, expect to pay for the fuel or the battery charge.)

Recommended: What Does Car Insurance Cover

How to Choose the Right Roadside Service Provider

Before you go shopping for coverage, check to see if it’s already provided by your auto insurance, vehicle manufacturer, credit card company, or an organization with which you’re associated. Customer reviews can indicate how reliable a provider is.

Be aware that some plans that come with a new car cover you for only a limited period of time, from a few months (as with a free trial) to a few years (such as the length of your limited warranty).

Roadside assistance is typically offered for an annual fee. Some plans provide only the basics (which usually includes lockout service), while others offer several tiers of benefits. When choosing your level of coverage, know that cheaper plans often have lower limits on the numbers of calls you can place, or cover only a portion of towing and other services. Read the fine print to make sure you understand what you’re getting.

Has your insurance gone up after an accident? If you’re doing some personal insurance planning, see how a new SoFi auto policy might fit in your overall strategy. You may be able to lower your car insurance premiums by bundling it with other types of insurance coverage.

Recommended: Car Insurance Terms, Explained

Ways To Get Your Car Open If You’re Locked Out

Locking your keys in your car is a maddening experience, especially when you’re running late or alone in a dark parking lot. If you’re stressed out, you may want to call for help right away. But if you’re up for trying a DIY break-in, here are a few tips.

Use a Wire Hanger

If your car has a manual lock, you can try threading a hanger or similar tool through the rubber gasket around the driver’s side window and into the door frame to pull up the lock-pin. Keep in mind that this method can damage your car, which could cost more than waiting for a pro.

Go Through the Trunk

If your trunk is open, you might be able to access the backseat. Check to see if there’s a panel you can push that allows you to crawl through to the car’s main interior.

Turn Your Phone Into a Digital Key

If you’ve already added a digital car key to your smartphone, now is the time to try it out!

Get the Key Code to Make a New Key

After the roadside assistance service person verifies that the car you want to get into is yours, he or she may be able to get the key code from the manufacturer or dealer (or by using decoding tools) and cut you a new metal key.

Recommended: What’s the Cheapest Way to Rent a Car?

The Takeaway

Roadside assistance programs typically cover a wide range of problems that befall motorists for an annual fee. The most common service calls are lockouts, flat tires, battery jump-starts, and emergency fuel delivery when you’ve run out of gas. Most plans consider lockouts a basic service, but you should check the fine print on your plan to verify what’s included.

Did you know that SoFi can help you find the best auto insurance policy for your needs? SoFi offers a true comparison shopping experience, and provides an apples-to-apples comparison against your existing policy to find you a great deal. SoFi can walk you through the whole research process, from explaining about different types of insurance deductibles to offering tips on how to save on car maintenance costs.

SoFi Auto Insurance: Real rates, with no bait and switch.


How does roadside assistance open a locked car?

A roadside assistance service provider will likely have several different tools available to pop or pick a car lock, or they may be able to cut a new key for you. If all else fails, your car can be towed to a location where the car can be worked on.

What should you do if your car is locked and the keys are inside?

If you’ve locked in a child or pet, or you feel in danger, call 911 right away. But if you feel safe and you’re looking to get help quickly and with the least amount of risk to you and your vehicle, a call to roadside assistance can be a good choice.

Can 911 help with locked keys in a car?

911 was created to deal with emergencies, and it will be up to the dispatcher to decide how to prioritize your call. If an officer is dispatched, or if one sees you stranded and pulls over to help, you still may have to wait for a locksmith with the proper tools or a tow truck.

Photo credit: iStock/ronstik

Insurance not available in all states.
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SoFi is compensated by Gabi for each customer who completes an application through the SoFi-Gabi partnership.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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