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4 Financial New Year’s Resolutions Your Future Self Will Thank You For

You can usually guess someone’s New Year’s resolution because it often involves losing weight, getting into better shape, or cooking more nutritious meals.

Look, we’re not trying to throw shade. If those are your goals, they’re impressive. Drop those pounds, build that muscle, try kelp—we’re with you.

But beyond getting healthier, what about getting wealthier? Every January, many people focus on their bodies but tend to overlook their financial fitness.

Financial fitness is a thing, and guess what? Having extra cash will make you feel just as sexy and confident as whittling your waistline. Get after these four New Year’s resolutions to start off 2021 with money on your mind.

1. Track Your Spending

Even if the days of panicking about overdrawing on your cash management account are behind you, it’s worth paying attention to exactly how much you spend. Why? “Understanding exactly how much you’re spending helps you appreciate how much you’re able to save. Your savings rate is the most important component for determining your ability to accomplish financial goals like homeownership, starting your own business, or being able to retire,” says Lauren Anastasio a financial planner at SoFi.

“Reviewing your transactions can be one of the easiest ways to find opportunities to save money,” she adds.

Tracking your spending may sound hard, but there are free online tools that make it easy, including SoFi Relay®. In fact, SoFi’s tool allows you to connect all your financial accounts on one mobile dashboard so you have a bird’s eye view of your balances. “It gives you an up-to-date, real-time snapshot of your finances,” Song adds.

2. Create a Budget

Budgeting takes a little time and effort, and it’s not always fun to face reality (like the fact that those Bruno Mars floor tickets uptown funked-up your credit card bill). But over time, it can help you feel calmer and more in control. The key is analyzing your “fixed” expenses (think: rent/mortgage, car payment, utilities, childcare) versus your “discretionary” expenses (think: restaurants, clothing, entertainment).

“The general vibe I get is: When people have more than 50% fixed expenses and less than 50% discretionary expenses, they feel like they’re just working to pay bills. They feel that pressure,” Song says. “When it’s the opposite, 30% to 40% fixed and 60% to 70% discretionary, those people have room to proactively reduce discretionary spending so they can save more toward their goals.”

So how do you get there?

First, see if you have any weaknesses in discretionary areas. Did you go way overboard on new outfits out last month? Consider giving yourself a spending limit in that category for next month.

Then look at your fixed expenses. “If you see a personal trainer and you don’t have a lot of time, he or she will have you focus on the major muscle groups. The same is true with your finances,” Song says. In other words, cutting out a $4 latte now and then won’t make a major dent, so look at the big-picture items.

Can you live somewhere else to lower your rent or mortgage? Can you cut back from two cars to one car, buy a cheaper car, or combine car insurance with your partner? Can you walk or bike to work instead of taking a bus, subway, or train?

3. Evaluate Your Debt

Let’s bust a common money myth right now. Is all debt bad? Nope!

Just like there are heroes and villains in Wonder Woman, there’s good debt and bad debt. A mortgage, for example, is often good because the interest rate is generally low (in today’s rate environment) and a home is an investment that may, hopefully, earn you money over time. Similar principles apply to student loans. Credit card debt, on the other hand, is often bad. It typically carries a higher interest rate and can sink your credit score, which can make it harder to do things like buy a home.

So channel your inner superhero, grab your magic lasso, and make a plan to deal with that bad debt, whether it’s paying it off ASAP or refinancing it. If you’re aggressively trying to pay off your “good” debt, think about whether that’s really the best use of your funds, or if you might be better off saving or investing for some of your other financial goals, like buying a home someday.

Learn more about how to invest when you have student loan debt, or set up a complimentary appointment with a SoFi financial planner to talk through a personalized plan.

4. Set Yourself Up for Success

If you know that you should save more but you’re like, “I’m up to my eyeballs in student loans, I’m trying to buy a house, and my retirement portfolio is sadder than the latest album by The National,” we hear you.

Even if you’re not ready to save more right now, consider opening some savings or investment accounts anyway. “It’s about having the infrastructure in place. If you build it, they will come,” says Song.

This way, if you get a surprise gift, bonus, or class-action settlement, you can throw it into one of these buckets instead of your checking account. Consider automating a monthly payment—even if it’s just $10—to each account because you probably won’t notice a difference, it’ll get you into the habit, and you may feel motivated to increase the amounts once you see the money grow.

Is “start investing” one of your 2021 resolutions? Give us a shout and we can talk about different options available. Plus, get financial planning support from our advisors at no extra charge.

SoFi Invest® is all about empowering you and your financial future, and we’re here to help. Schedule a free personal consultation with one of our licensed financial advisors who can help you plot your best path forward.

SoFi Relay is offered through SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor. For more information, please see our Form ADV Part 2A, a copy of which is available upon request and at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov . For additional information on SoFi Wealth LLC, SoFi Relay, and products and services of affiliates, see SoFi.com/legal.
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The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
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Using Your Credit Card During a Crisis—Pros & Cons

Even under so-called “normal” circumstances, some people may have an ambivalent-at-best relationship with credit card use. A person’s first card likely represents freedom and independence—as an adult, those cards might instead symbolize great stress.

Credit-reporting company Experian® says credit card debt is the second-fastest-growing debt behind personal loans, and that the average credit card debt for Americans is $6,194 (with an additional $1,155 on retail credit cards). And 43.9% of credit card holders are referred to as “revolvers” by the American Bankers Association, meaning they carry at least some debt from month to month.

Unfortunately, with the global coronavirus pandemic, there’s no doubt economic circumstances are not normal right now. Should the approach to using credit cards change during a crisis? Here are some ins and outs of using—and rethinking how to use— credit cards:

Is It Smart To Use Credit Cards Now?

Just as in pre-coronavirus times, credit cards aren’t magical “buy anything and worry about it much, much later” tickets. Many of the basics for using a credit card are still in effect: Don’t make purchases just to get reward points, report missing or stolen cards immediately, be in the habit of checking your statements every month, etc.

That said, many banks and lenders are offering relief in the form of rolling out new policies to ease the burden for card holders who are struggling with their payments. Some are waiving fees, offering payment deferral or forbearance, or increasing credit lines—some banks are even offering these three forms of support, and more.

Of course, it’s unwise to assume a bank or credit card company is focused on looking out for you during this time—the better option might be to contact your card issuer for information and any fine print that might go along with these possible perks. And while the ability to increase your credit line might sound good, it could also cause more headaches down the road.

Making minimum payments on credit cards can lead to four times the price of purchases paid back over decades. The interest—especially compounding interest, which is essentially interest on interest already due—can often be the big killer with credit cards. But there are ways to potentially avoid interest on credit cards, such as paying off a balance in full each month.

Even if your income seems stable, if there’s one thing we’ve all been learning through COVID-19 it’s that one can never really predict what is about to happen a week or two later. Now, more than ever, it might be a good idea to use your credit cards responsibly. Part of that responsibility now means knowing what responsibility means for you and your situation—while being one of the revolvers the American Bankers Association tracks isn’t necessarily something to be thrilled about, the costs might be worth enduring if it means you have the necessities you need for survival now. It obviously isn’t irresponsible to charge things you truly need to survive—after all, priorities shift during a crisis. But only you will know what you need.

Planning for the Future—Starting Now

Conversations about using credit cards, global pandemic or not, are really about responsible saving and spending. There is no blanket yes or no answer to whether it’s a good idea to use credit cards right now—although it’s certainly possible to be a little wiser about using a credit card.

FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, reported in 2018 that nearly a third of households would struggle to cover an unexpected $2,000 expense—and while credit cards might be a source of uncertainty or stress, it’s also true that they are not necessarily bad. After all, credit cards might be a key component of establishing and maintaining a credit history, and they of course come in handy for unexpected (and some expected) expenses.

If you’re looking to be spread less thin in the here and now, however, it might be worthwhile to hunt for credit cards that might offer more reasonable rates than your current cards. A good place to start might be with your current card issuers and see if they can lower the interest rate. These calls usually take just a few minutes, so it might be worth a shot. Even if a credit card company can’t do it now, they might be able to do it later—and if you do get a rate decrease, it’s possible to use that when negotiating on another card for a rate to at least match it.

Another alternative might be to consider a cash-back credit card, one that offers cash rewards in a small percentage back on each transaction. Depending on the issuer, the card might offer higher rates for certain categories of purchases, so it might be worth doing some research and strategizing if there is a big purchase you want to make. But, of course, it is not recommended to spend on purchases just to earn a little bit more. The idea with these cards is knowing that cash reward is there versus, say, points that can be redeemed from a catalog of items that might not be essential for survival right now.

There are also balance-transfer credit cards, or a card you would transfer existing card debt to, usually at a lower (or maybe even 0%) annual percentage rate (APR). The rationale and incentive for these cards is to lock your credit card debt in at a lower rate than it would be currently, to therefore make it less burdensome to work on paying it down.

There are wrinkles to employing this strategy, however, so you might want to consider reading the fine print. The idea is you can pay off that balance with no interest on a more compressed timeline than you might otherwise. That lower rate might change after the introductory period, which must be at least six months according to the Credit Card Act of 2009, but can last longer. If you are unable to pay your debt off before the introductory period is over, you may be saddled with an APR that could be even higher than the one you had to begin with. Also, you might want to watch out for any balance transfer fees. Usually, these cards have to be issued by a different company than one you already bank with.

Just be forewarned that while signing up for new cards can make things slightly easier right now by increasing purchasing power, it might only be worthwhile if it helps pay required monthly expenses. Extraordinary times can call for extraordinary measures.

Putting the Cards Down—For Now

If the idea of getting more plastic feels more like a problem than a solution, another route might be to consider a loan to consolidate your current credit card debt. Similar to balance-transfer credit cards, one common use for unsecured personal loans is to consolidate revolving and/or high-interest debt into one loan, ideally with lower interest rates and fees.

Personal loans might make it easier to manage debt all in one monthly bill, with a set end date when your debt will be repaid, and it could end up helping you save money in the long run. SoFi has fixed rate, unsecured personal loans with no fees that can be used to help cover expenses and keep moving forward. And if you’re looking to find ways to tame those credit card bills, SoFi also offers credit card consolidation loans, with no application or origination fees and no pre-payment penalties.

Ready to start vanquishing your credit card debt? Learn more about personal loans and consolidating credit card debt with SoFi.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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The Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist

If spending big money on home repairs isn’t your thing, creating and keeping a solid house maintenance routine probably should be.

Regularly monitoring, cleaning, and caring for your roof, windows, plumbing, and appliances could help avoid costly leaks and breakdowns, make your home more energy efficient, and protect its value.

If you aren’t exactly sure what needs to be done—or when to do it—you may want to follow the suggestions on this Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist, which you can keep on your phone or fridge.

The Ultimate House Maintenance Checklist

Many of the tasks on this list should be pretty easy for DIYing. Others might require phoning a friend with the proper tools and know-how. And there’s nothing wrong with calling in a pro if the job is too time-consuming or beyond your capabilities.

Monthly Home Maintenance Tasks

If the only time you remove the gunk from your gutters, garbage disposal and dryer vent is when you notice they’re no longer working properly, you could be facing a hefty bill to fix the problem and repair any damage to your home.

Doing a little upkeep every month, instead of once or twice a year, can help keep small tasks from becoming major projects. Here are some things that can benefit from monthly maintenance:

•  Check the shower, tub, and sink drains for clogs. (If hair is your main headache, you may want to do this every week or more. Or you might want to consider purchasing a hair catcher for problematic drains.)
•  Clean showerheads and faucet aerators (that little mesh screen the water pours through) to keep sediment from slowing the flow. While you’re at it, check to see if any faucets are dripping when they shouldn’t and replace washers if necessary.
•  De-gunk the garbage disposal. Here’s home-improvement guru Bob Vila’s tips for getting it done.
•  And give the dishwasher a deep cleaning. Good Housekeeping recommends using cleaning tablets or placing a measuring cup filled with 2 cups of distilled vinegar on the top rack of an empty dishwasher and running it through the normal cycle.
•  Check and clean air conditioner and furnace filters, and kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans.
•  Make sure the dryer vent is free of debris. Doing so can help keep it running efficiently. And if there’s a bird’s nest or lint blocking hot air from escaping, it could become a fire hazard. You also may want to have your dryer duct inspected and cleaned once a year. (Most manufacturers recommend cleaning your lint screen, the piece near the door that’s easy to remove, after every dryer load.)
•  Vacuum HVAC registers and vents. Regular maintenance can keep some dust from building up, but you may want to call in a pro for a more thorough duct inspection if you suspect mold or if you have pets.
•  Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Test safety equipment every month and replace the batteries twice a year. (Many people use the change to and from daylight saving time as a reminder.) According to statistics from the National Fire Prevention Association , nearly three out of every five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
•  Check electrical cords and outlets for damage. Replace or repair cords that are showing wear. And if an outlet cover is cracked, the prongs on an electrical cord won’t sit firmly in the outlet, or if the outlet is loose, don’t use it until you have a chance to repair it.

Seasonal Maintenance: Fall Tasks

Spring gets all the love when it comes to going all-in on sprucing up a house, but fall can also be a good time to take care of tasks both inside and out.

•  Do a top-to-bottom tour of the home’s exterior. If it’s a cool, sunny, and dry day, head outside and check out the roof for damaged or missing shingles or tiles. Inspect the exterior of the house (siding or stucco) and the foundation for any problems.
•  Check the chimney for exterior damage and clean the fireplace flue.
•  Give windows a once-over. Seal gaps, and if the windows are old and drafty, it might be time to replace them with a more energy-efficient model. (Keep in mind that you may need to get a building permit to install new windows that are bigger than what you had.)
•  Make sure exterior doors aren’t letting any cold air inside. You can get DIY weatherstripping materials at your local hardware store.
•  Wash windows and siding. If you notice any cracks or gaps during your walking tour, it may help to fix those first—especially if you’re pulling out the power washer. And if you see mildew or a buildup of dirt, check to see if it’s a symptom of a more serious problem.
•  Clean those gutters. If you’re ladder-phobic, there are pros out there who will be happy to clean your gutters and windows.
•  Winterize exterior plumbing. Drain hoses and sprinkler systems if you live in a colder climate. And drain, clean and cover your swimming pool.
•  Remove and store or insulate window air-conditioning units.
•  Give carpets and floors a thorough cleaning and get your home ready for the holidays. If you haven’t cleaned your garbage disposal or dishwasher lately, this might be a good time to give them some love. And if you’re hosting Thanksgiving, maybe do a quick check to be sure all appliances are ready for the challenge.
•  Winterize your garden and lawn equipment. Depending on your climate and the type of grass you have, fall (not spring) may be the right time to fertilize your lawn . Bring in any delicate plants you hope to save from the cold. (Make sure no insects come along for the ride.) Clean garden tools. Empty gas-powered equipment before storing.
•  How’s your curb appeal? Raking leaves, aerating the lawn, patching the driveway or walkway, and touching up the exterior paint are fairly simple tasks that can make you house proud, improve your property, deter pests, and keep your family and visitors safe.
•  Flush the water heater and check for leaks. According to Angie’s List , most manufacturers recommend flushing your water heater at least once per year to avoid sediment buildup.
•  Reverse ceiling fans to a clockwise rotation. This can help move the cooler air off the floor of your home and push warmer air down. Look for the switch on the fan’s housing, or you may be able to make the change with a remote or by giving the correct command to a smart device.
•  Remember to change the smoke detector batteries.

Seasonal Maintenance: Winter Tasks

If winter weather is a factor in your neck of the woods, prepare to hunker down.

•  Cover the barbecue or store it in the shed or garage.
•  Cover your outdoor AC unit.
•  Store patio furniture and cushions in the garage or shed. If you prefer to leave heavy pieces in place, try to keep them covered.
•  Inspect the roof, gutters, and downspouts for damage after a heavy snow.
•  Check the basement for dampness or leaks when there’s a thaw.
•  Clear the driveway and walkways of snow so passersby can get by safely.
•  Focus on indoor tasks when you’re trapped by the weather. Clean the attic, caulk the tub, paint a room, and/or clean the fridge (inside and out, including the drip pans and coils).

Seasonal Maintenance: Spring Tasks

Shake off the winter blues, stow the alpaca throws, and get ready to enjoy warmer weather. Spring is for cleaning up, inside and out.

•  Throw those fall tasks into reverse. As soon as the last of the cold weather is past, uncover the outside air-conditioning unit and have it serviced. If you have window air-conditioning units, clean and return them to their rightful rooms. Bring the barbecue out from hibernation and make sure it’s in good working order. Prep the pool and outdoor sprinkler system for warm weather use. Return ceiling fans to a counter-clockwise rotation to bring cool air down. (And while you’re up there, maybe give those fans a good dusting).
•  Set up a termite inspection. There’s no wrong time of year to have your house inspected for termites, but since spring is when they tend to swarm, it may be a good way to tell if there’s a problem. It’s also an opportune time to check for carpenter ants, which can damage a home.
•  Clean and refinish the deck. Here’s a quick how-to from HGTV .
•  Look into any necessary lawn care. If you live in a warmer climate and have Bermuda, St. Augustine or some other warm-season grass, it may be time to fertilize your turf.
•  Clean up fallen branches or leaves you missed in the fall. And clean out gutters and downspouts.
•  Inspect the roof, chimney and siding for any winter damage.
•  Inspect indoor plumbing.
•  Check the attic for uninvited guests. Critters can invade your space almost any time of year, but squirrels, raccoons, bats, and rats are most likely to show up in the spring.
•  Wash windows and screens.
•  Clean patio furniture and cushions.
•  Call a professional about inspecting and pumping the septic tank. Some pros recommend emptying the tank every three to five years, but larger households may need more frequent pumpings.
•  Clear the clutter and do a traditional spring cleaning. Dust everything. Polish furniture. Clean out closets and donate or sell anything you no longer need. Clean the refrigerator, pantry, and cabinets. Scrub the floors or have the carpets cleaned to get rid of late-winter’s muddy mess. Scrub the bathrooms and laundry room. As you go, you can check to see if anything is damaged and needs to be repaired or replaced.
•  Inspect and maintain the garage door opener. Listen for grating noises and look for a jerky motion when the door goes up and down. Make sure the tracks are clear of debris. Some maintenance may be simple for DIYers (including spraying moving parts with lubricant, or repairing damaged weatherstripping). But if you suspect there’s an operational problem, you might want to bring in a pro.
•  Clear the garage of clutter and possible food sources. The garage may be another home for critters. Clean out the clutter and look for damage from pests, including rodents and ants.
•  Time to change the smoke detector batteries. (Yes, we listed it three times. It’s that important.)

Seasonal Maintenance: Summer Tasks

Because summer is so hot in many parts of the country, it can be a good season for inside repairs and outside jobs that might involve getting wet. For example, you could:

•  Pressure clean the house, driveway, and walkways.
•  Inspect the pool and pool equipment to be sure everything is clean and running well. Here are some pool maintenance steps from the home pros at This Old House.
•  Check the sprinkler system to minimize water waste and maximize the benefits to the landscape.
•  Plant trees or shrubs to provide shade for your home, deck, and patio. Or consider installing a canopy or some other type of shade structure.
•  Install curtains, shades, or window film to minimize sun damage to indoor furnishings.
•  Inside, check for leaks around kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, and toilets.
•  Keep your air conditioner clean, and consider upgrading for better energy efficiency. Change the filter. Clean air ducts. Make sure nothing is blocking the outside unit. And when it’s time for a new unit, check out the benefits of those with the Energy Star label .

You’ll Probably Need Some Tools

Even if you plan to hire pros to take care of most of your home maintenance tasks, it can be a good idea to keep a few basic tools around for DIY jobs. Here are some items that could come in handy:

Basic Tools for Home Maintenance

•  Step ladder or fold-up work platform. Why risk falling off a wobbly chair when a step ladder can give you extra height and stability?
•  Extension ladder. If you’re planning to clean your gutters or get up on the roof, you’ll likely need to borrow or purchase an extension ladder to safely get the height you need.
•  Tape measure.
•  Hammer and assorted nails.
•  Screwdrivers and assorted screws. Both flat-head and Phillips-head screwdrivers (in a few different sizes) will likely get plenty of use; or you can pick up one screwdriver with interchangeable heads.
•  Drill and assorted drill bits. A light-duty, battery-operated drill and a set of bits should be able to handle most beginner-level repair jobs.
•  Indoor and outdoor extension cords.
•  Hacksaw or reciprocating saw. For quick cuts on wood, metal, PVC pipes, tree limbs, and more.
•  Putty knife. You can use it for patching holes, applying drywall mud, and for scraping away paint or dirt.
•  Pliers. Great for holding, bending, or reaching in to grab something.
•  Sandpaper. The grit or coarseness of the paper will vary depending on the job and the results you’re looking for. It may save time to have a few different types on hand.
•  Safety goggles and gloves. These basic pieces of safety equipment could protect you from a DIY disaster.

Paying for Home Improvements

One great reason to keep up with regular home maintenance is to avoid the high cost of major repairs or replacements. But from time to time, you may find you have to—or want to—take on a bigger project.

According to Home Advisor’s 2019 State of Home Spending report, homeowners spent an average of $1,105 on home maintenance projects and completed an average of 6.7 home maintenance projects per year. But the survey found that for every $1 homeowners put toward maintenance, they spent an average of $5 on home improvements, such as buying new appliances, or installing a new roof or new siding.

If your budget can’t handle that kind of big-ticket item right now, or the cost came up unexpectedly, you might want to look into a home improvement loan—especially if you don’t have a lot of equity built up in your home.

A home improvement loan is an unsecured personal loan that can be used to cover the costs of renovations, upgrades or repairs. It’s different from a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC), because you don’t have to use your home as collateral. Instead, the interest rate and amount you qualify for are based largely on the applicant’s credit history, income, and employment.

A personal loan can be especially appealing if you need to move quickly, as the application process is a little less involved than for a home equity loan or HELOC. And with a home improvement loan from SoFi, for example, you won’t pay any fees, you can apply online, and you’ll have access to customer service any time you need help figuring out what amount or terms best suit your needs.

Need some cash for a home repair or improvement? Check out how a SoFi home improvement loan can help get the job done.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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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What Is a Good APR?

Sifting through credit card offers can be daunting. There are so many numbers and lengthy explanations that it can be easy to miss the most important details.

Though it’s always a good idea to read over every contract you sign, when it comes to picking a new credit card, there is one detail consumers should try not to miss: the card’s annual percentage rate, or APR.

Taking the time to find out what an APR is and how it might affect the monthly payment is a wise step before comparing credit card offers.

What Is an Annual Percentage Rate?

Is it the same as an interest rate? Not quite. An APR is the total cost of the loan expressed in annual terms—a small, but important, distinction. A credit card’s APR might include the interest rate as well as fees for late payments, foreign transactions, or returned payments.

The APR for a loan might include fees such as an origination fee, late fees, or other administrative fees. Taking these fees into account when applying for credit helps to provide a fuller picture of what the loan may actually cost over its lifetime.

Meanwhile, an interest rate is simply the additional cost of borrowing money. It is typically expressed as a percentage of the principal.

For example, if a consumer takes out a $1,000 loan with a 10% simple interest rate and a one-year term, the person will pay $1,100 over the lifetime of the loan—the principal $1,000 plus interest of $100.

While this example is extremely simplified, it’s helpful in demonstrating the difference between a simple interest rate and a not-so-simple APR calculation. If the consumer calculates the cost of the same $1,000 loan, considering the various fees that go into the APR, the number will likely be higher than the stated interest rate.

When It Matters to Look at APR

If a consumer is comparing two similar loan or credit card offers, they may want to also look at the offer’s APR. For example, the person has two loan offers. Each is a $1,000 loan with an interest rate of 10%. With just that information to compare the two, they seem equal to each other.

A little more digging, though, will uncover that Offer A has a $100 origination fee while Offer B only has a $50 origination fee, both of which could be calculated and accounted for in the offer’s APR. With credit cards it could be that two cards have the same interest rate, but Card A has no late payment fees, while Card B carries a 20% late payment fee, making its APR potentially higher. With APR, the devil really is in the details.

How to Evaluate and Compare APRs

To get a sense of an offer’s APR, try looking at the entire terms of the contract and compare those terms to other credit offers. For a fair comparison, make sure to look at the same type of credit card or loan offer. (For example, only compare travel rewards cards, or only compare personal loans, to ensure a balanced assessment.)

Then, get into the nitty-gritty of an offer and look at the APR for different types of transactions. Even one credit card can have different APRs on different transactions. For example, one card may have a different APR on late payment penalties than it does for balance transfers or cash advances.

Evaluate each APR and compare to any other offer you may have in front of you to ensure you pick the best option for your financial needs.

APR and Credit Cards

According to the Federal Reserve, the US national average credit card APR was 15.09% in February 2020. It’s reasonable to assume that an APR at or below the national average is considered “good.” That said, qualifying for a “good” APR may hinge on a consumer’s credit score.

APR and interest rates also change alongside federal interest rates changes, so it’s important for consumers to not only rely on an average that may be out of date, but rather, look at the offer presented to them at the time.

It’s a good idea for consumers to attempt to seek out the lowest rate possible for their financial situation.

Low vs. High APR Cards

Some credit cards tend to have higher APRs than others. For example, rewards credit cards tend to have higher APRs, but provide value via perks, discounts, points, or other benefits.

On the other hand, many low-interest cards come with fewer perks, but again, can save someone money in the long run if they need to carry a balance.

Low-interest cards also tend to be reserved for those with higher than average credit scores, so they may be harder to qualify for with lower credit.

How to Avoid Paying APR

There is one way to avoid paying an APR altogether, at least with credit cards, and that is by paying off the balance each and every month. By paying off the balance a consumer will never have to pay interest or any APR-related fees.

However, it’s still a good idea to seek out a good APR offer just in case a large purchase means carrying a balance for some time.

Tips for Qualifying for a Better APR

The APR a person qualifies for typically depends on his or her individual credit score. This means, those with credit scores on the higher end of the scale might qualify for lower APRs. If a consumer has a lower credit score, that doesn’t mean they are totally out of luck, but might be offered the same card at a higher APR.

There are a few ways a person can improve their chances of qualifying for a lower APR and that starts by doing the work to improve their credit score.

One step is to check their credit report regularly for accuracy. US federal law allows consumers to get one free credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies.

Consumers can also improve their personal credit scores by making debt payments on time and trying to use only 30% of their available credit at any given time. Payment history accounts for 35% of the total credit score, and credit utilization—how much of a person’s total credit is being used at a given time—accounts for 30% of the total credit score.

Reparing a poor credit score can take some time, but it’s worth the work.

Personal Loans and Credit Card Debt

If you’re currently carrying credit card debt on multiple cards and feel as though you may be paying too much in interest and APR-related fees, it may be time to look into consolidating that debt with a personal loan.

Consolidating credit card debt essentially allows a person to pay off their existing debt with a personal loan. Only one monthly payment instead of several could mean less to worry about.

Consolidating debt may mean qualifying for more favorable terms, such as a lower APR, which could help you pay less over the life of the debt. When considering consolidating debt, it’s a good idea to look at the fine print on any loan application to find out what fees a lender might be charging.

SoFi personal loans come with no hidden fees, such as those pesky origination fees, making it clearer to understand just what you’re paying for with a loan.

Learn more about consolidating credit card debt with a SoFi personal loan.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
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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How Much Does a Shower Remodel Cost?

When you moved into your home, you loved mostly everything about it. One sore spot, however, was the shower.

Maybe it’s too small, outdated, or doesn’t match the décor of the rest of the bathroom or house. Perhaps there’s always mold and mildew in your shower because there isn’t proper ventilation, or you want to connect your shower to a bath.

Whichever project you wish to take on, there are so many bathroom remodel ideas to choose from, and prices vary. When looking to answer the question “How much should a shower remodel cost?” you’ll find different answers depending on your needs.

The Process to Remodel a Shower

You’ll first want to decide if you’re going to hire a professional or do the remodel yourself. If you’re an experienced DIYer and have experience with remodeling, then you could potentially save a lot of money by taking on the job. However, if this is your first remodel, you could end up spending a lot more fixing your mistakes.

Typically, if you hire a professional, it’ll cost between $50-$75 per hour in labor . You’ll likely need to hire a plumber as well as a general contractor. The costs could be higher or lower depending on the cost of living in your town.

Once you determine if you’re going to hire a professional or not, then come up with shower remodel ideas regarding the color scheme, the shape, shower type (full or shower-tub combo), fixtures you’re going to get, lights, fans or radios you’ll install, and any doors you’ll replace.

If you aren’t sure how to design your new shower, you can ask your contractor to help you, but that’ll add to the costs.

Your contractor will come up with a plan for your shower remodel and give you an estimate for materials and labor. You can work with them to see if there are cheaper alternatives, like shopping for materials online or choosing less expensive fixtures and finishes.

If you’re going the DIY route, you’ll have to shop around for the materials and pick them up. You’ll also need tools like a safety mask and goggles, tape measure, spackle knife, power drill, extension cord, hammer, and stud finder, just to name a few.

An easy way to DIY a shower remodel is to shop for a complete shower system that includes coordinating fixtures—inexpensive ones can be purchased for under $200.

After removing the existing shower walls, flooring, and fixtures, the new materials can be installed. You might choose an all-in-one shower surround, or a shower pan (the base) with tiled walls.

How Much Does a Shower Remodel Cost?

Typically, it can cost from $1,100 to $5,500 to remodel a shower depending on how large the shower is, what kinds of fixtures you’re installing, and the finishes you’re using.

A shower and tub combo should cost around $1,400 to $1,600, which includes fixtures and modifications.

If you’re remodeling your standalone shower with new tile, you will pay about $2 to $5 per square foot of tile. New fixtures can be complete shower systems or more expensive items, like a rain shower faucet that you mount to the ceiling.

You’ll also need a new shower pan, which will run you about $100; prefabricated shower pans range from $500 to $600. If you have a mold or mildew problem in your shower, the damaged areas will need to be removed or repaired, and a new exhaust fan will prevent new mold or mildew.

A bathroom exhaust fan could cost less than $100, but professional installation could cost about $200. Additionally, sliding-glass doors will cost around $100 to $300.

All these costs can add up quickly, and can put a substantial dent in your finances. Financing your remodel with a personal loan may be a good way to help cover the costs.

How to Save Money on Your Shower Remodel

If you don’t have a few thousand dollars to spend on remodeling your bathroom, but you still want to upgrade, you can do it piecemeal instead.

For instance, one of the quickest shower remodel ideas is to install a new showerhead. You can get a luxury one that has multiple settings and can make your shower a relaxing experience.

You could also install new lighting if you feel like your shower is too dark. A new light for your ceiling could cost less than $30. If you’re not experienced with electrical work, you may need to hire an electrician to install it.

If you want to really upgrade your shower, a Bluetooth radio mounted on the wall can be used to listen to your favorite music and podcasts.

To avoid the cost of new sliding glass doors, you might want to consider a modern shower curtain that will coordinate with your bathroom design.

Shower-tub combos can be refinished for $200 to $950, for a fresh new look. Instead of buying tile for your walls, you can use shower wall panels instead to cut down on costs.

The least expensive shower wall panels are made of acrylic and fiberglass; just be aware that they may look like plastic. Wall panels made of laminate, PVC, or solid surface materials are a little more expensive but will likely look nicer.

In terms of costs for shower wall panels, you might pay $200 to $300 for fiberglass-reinforced plastic, $600 to $800 for acrylic, $1,000 to $1,800 for PVC, $1,100 to $1,900 for cultured stone and solid surface, and $1,300 to $1,700 for laminate.

When looking into shower remodel ideas, you should not consider moving around plumbing fixtures. Keeping them where they are will save you a lot of money , because moving them can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a remodel.

Other simple touch ups you can make include adding plants like peace lilies, spider plants, orchids, and bamboo to your bathroom or shower, since they can survive in high-humidity environments . You could also replace that rusty old shower storage with a rustproof and modern shower caddy for less than $50.

When all is said and done, delicious-smelling bath bombs and shower gels can make your shower feel like a luxury spa. Those little touches are really going to tie your shower remodel together.

Make Your Shower Remodel a Possibility With SoFi

If your shower is not the pleasant experience you’d like it to be, but you don’t have the funds right now to redo the space, you might want to consider a home improvement loan from SoFi. You can make your shower remodel dreams come true and end up with the best bathroom you could imagine.

Check home improvement loan rates at SoFi.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.


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