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I Tried to Live on $3 of Food a Day — While Still Shopping at Whole Foods

When I first decided to do this little experiment, I’d agreed to try to feed my family for $5 per person per day, so I sat down and took a look at my grocery spending over the last few months, crunched some numbers, and … uh-oh…

Was it really possible we were already eating on roughly $5 per day? Yep, we were. My average grocery spend per week runs $80. For the two of us, that’s $5.71 per day per person. I needed a bigger challenge, or so I thought. Could I feed us for just $3 each per day? Seemed reasonable.

What I didn’t take into account as I was working my figures was that we typically eat out once or twice a week, so that $5.71 actually looked a bit more like $8. Still not a lot, but significantly more than the $3 goal I’d rather arrogantly set for myself.

I decided I was going to try it anyway, and, unsurprisingly, I didn’t come as close to that goal as I’d wanted. I also wasn’t willing to give up some things or shop somewhere cheaper. That, after all, was the challenging aspect of this. I mean, sure I could feed us 99-cent ramen noodles all week, but I wanted to be realistic. And eat some vegetables.

I did manage to cut my already frugal grocery spending by about half, though: $4.14 each, or right at $58 for a week’s worth of groceries.

Full Disclosure

Now, for the sake of full disclosure, we are mostly vegan – no dairy, no meat, no animal products in general – but we do include the occasional seafood and eggs in our diet. That said, I shop almost exclusively at Whole Foods, which I’ve heard some of my friends say they simply can’t afford. I suppose if I, too, were trying to feed a growing, teenage bottomless pit, I’d probably say that as well. But for just the two of us, it’s perfectly affordable and we eat really well-balanced meals and snacks without feeling deprived in the least. However – here’s two more disclosures – I cook. Every day.

But back to feeding us both for $58 for a week … Here’s how I did it.

First, I looked at what we were currently eating and how I could pare that back. I also considered that I’d be adding two dinner meals since we wouldn’t be eating out. Did we need the chocolate chip vegan cookies in the afternoon as a snack? What about lunch? Did I really need that amazing wheat-based, fake bacon I love on sandwiches? Or the bread I ate it on? Nope. We’d definitely have to say so long to our seafood protein options during this experiment. Yes, there were definitely some things we could do without in the short term.

I worked up my menu plan for the first week, keeping it super simple and rotating just three dishes for breakfast, three for lunch and three for dinner through the week (which also ensured I wouldn’t have any food waste) estimated the costs of the necessary ingredients and headed to the grocery store (also, I didn’t include staple pantry items like salt, pepper, olive oil, etc., or herbs from my garden in my costs). Here’s my menu:

Breakfast

  1. Bircher muesli with apple, cinnamon and almonds
  2. Oatmeal with dried apricots
  3. Tofu scramble taco

I’ve written about oatmeal before and how incredibly inexpensive it can be. It’s a staple in our diet, especially in winter when it’s warm and comforting. It’s also delicious in summer as a cold Bircher muesli. Since it was the end of summer when I did this experiment, I made both.

Lunch

  1. Pasta with kale, mushrooms and cannellini beans
  2. Green salad with baked tofu and roasted broccoli
  3. Chilled broccoli and potato soup (this uses up the stems, which cost less and taste great)

Dinner

  1. Beans, greens and cornbread
  2. Spinach enchiladas with rice and beans
  3. Gazpacho soup

Here’s my shopping list:

1 lb. bulk oats — $2

1 apple — $0.40

20 bulk raw almonds — $0.87

10 dried bulk apricots — $0.57

1 package firm organic tofu — $2.45

6 whole wheat tortillas — $2.69

1 quart almond milk — $4.25

1 package farfalloni pasta — $3.27

2 lbs. kale — $6

1 lb. bulk mushrooms — $5

2 cans cannellini beans — $2

2 heads lettuce — $4

2 heads broccoli, with stems — $3.75

1 large potato — $0.90

1 lb. bulk pinto beans — $3.58

2 cups bulk corn meal — $3.22

2 heads spinach — $2.87

1 lb. bulk rice — $2.25

1 lb. tomatoes — $3.25

1 cucumber — $1.83

1 red onion — $0.87

1 bell pepper — $2

Total: $58.02

Feeding two people for what would amount to a little over $200 a month is an interesting idea to me, and definitely a quick way to pay off any major debts you want to get rid of. But if I had the chance to do it again I probably wouldn’t. It’s actually amazing the flexibility and flavor that just an additional $20 a week spent on groceries affords. Still, it was interesting to see what I could manage to do without drastically changing our diets or going hungry.

A few things to keep in mind if you want to see how little you can spend at the grocery store.

1. Fresh Vegetables Are Your Friends

Variety is the spice of life, and there’s no better way to add variety to your diet than to buy seasonal produce, which is typically cheaper than out-of-season items shipped in from other parts of the world. It’s also a great way to experiment with new recipes and ingredients. Plus, all that roughage can help fill you up, as can the big shot of nutrients fresh veggies provide.

2. Protein & The Basics

If you want to save a ton of money, you’re going to need to rely on basics like legumes and rice that will give you the most nutritional bang for your buck, especially when it comes to protein. Animal proteins are just significantly more expensive.

3. Take Advantage of Coupons & Discounts

I wasn’t able to use coupons for my experiment because they were all for prepared or packaged foods the week I did this. That said, some planning ahead and stocking up on staples with a good shelf life can save you a bundle.

4. Buy in Bulk

Not only are you able to get the exact amount you need, thus cutting down on possible waste, you’re also not paying for the packaging and marketing of that product, so the per unit cost is always less.

If you’re serious about saving money, having a good credit score can help immensely. Your credit can affect your ability to get the best terms and conditions on a mortgage, auto loan or even student loans and credit cards. You can see how your credit scores are faring by checking your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

 

 

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

The Number of Parents Saving for College Is at a 4-Year High

Putting money aside for any type of financial goal — whether it’s a new car, house or even that pair of shoes you’ve been dreaming of — is a great accomplishment. Sometimes all you need is a few months to save, while other times it can take decades. Such is the case with paying for college, something many parents start saving for when their first child is born. But how many are really thinking this far ahead?

Quite a few, apparently. At least that’s what a new survey from Sallie Mae, a private student loan servicer, discovered. In fact, the report shows that the number of parents saving for their child’s college education is at a four-year high — 57% of parents report they’re doing so this year, compared to the 48% last year.

And it’s not just the volume of parents who are doing this that has increased. The survey reports that they’re saving more now too, with an average of $16,380, up more than $6,000 from last year. Millennial parents are leading the charge on how much they’re saving for their child’s college education, with $20,155, followed by $18,323 saved by the Baby Boomer generation.

Methodology

Sallie Mae paired with Ipsos, a market research company, to conduct this survey. Ipsos ran an online survey from May 26 to June 6, 2016, which gathered interviews with 1,959 adult parents with children younger than 18. The survey was conducted in both English and Spanish and reflected a “cross-section of key demographic variables in the United States,” according to the report.

The results were weighted by gender, age, race, religion, education and household income crossed by race, with all demographic profiles coming from the November 2012 U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS). The survey has a margin of error of approximately plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, with a confidence level of 95%.

Saving for College 

If you’re a parent who is putting aside money for your child’s education, it’s a good idea to start as early as possible to give yourself time to save as much as you can before the college acceptance letters start pouring in. This is even more true for parents who have more than one child, as they’ll want more funds. But it’s also important for parents to talk with their kids about their financial situation and think about all options when it comes to paying for college, including scholarships and student loans.

It’s also essential to consider the effect student loans have on your credit. Having these loans can certainly help diversify your credit profile, but that will only be so beneficial. If you default on one, your scores can be extremely damaged. And this can impact your future in all sorts of ways, like when it comes time to take out a mortgage or car loan. Some employers even look at a version of your credit report as part of the application process. To keep an eye on how your financial habits are affecting your credit, you can view your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Payday Alternative LendUp Owes $6.3 Million for Misleading Borrowers

LendUp, an online lender that promised friendlier alternatives to high-cost payday loans, will pay $6.33 million in refunds and fines for violating consumer finance laws.

LendUp, which operates in 24 states, will refund $1.83 million to more than 50,000 borrowers as part of the federal settlement, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced Tuesday. In addition, LendUp will refund California customers $1.62 million as part of a separate settlement with the California Department of Business Oversight.

The company will also pay $1.8 million and $1.06 million to the federal bureau and California department, respectively, to cover penalties and other costs.

What LendUp promised

The San Francisco-based lender is part of a wave of tech companies that promote a less toxic form of payday loans.

Traditional payday loans don’t require credit checks, but do carry triple-digit interest rates and are due in a lump sum on the borrower’s next payday. Borrowers can renew them at the same high rate by paying the interest. Payday lenders don’t report on-time payments to credit bureaus, but delinquent payments can be a black mark on borrowers’ credit reports.

LendUp promised its customers they could build credit or improve their credit scores using its small-dollar loans, which carry annual percentage rates of more than 100%. Borrowers who finished education courses and improved their scores could move on to less expensive loans, climbing what LendUp called the “LendUp Ladder.”

But LendUp didn’t properly report payments to credit bureaus for at least two years after it began issuing loans, preventing borrowers from improving credit, according to the bureau.

Though widely advertised, the company’s cheaper loan products weren’t available to all borrowers, and LendUp didn’t clearly disclose some fees in its APR, the bureau said.

In a statement, LendUp said the bureau’s review “addresses legacy issues that mostly date back to 2012 and 2013, when we were a seed-stage startup with limited resources and as few as five employees. In those days we didn’t have a fully built-out compliance department. We should have.”

What customers can expect

LendUp will contact customers about their refunds in the coming months, according to the bureau. The lender’s website was inoperable at least part of Tuesday, but it offered contact information for affected customers. Borrowers with questions about the settlement can call 1-855-2LENDUP or email questions@lendup.com.

California residents have already received $1.08 million of the $1.62 million LendUp owes, the California Department of Business Oversight said. Those who haven’t gotten refunds yet will receive an email and must respond with bank account information or a home address within 20 days to receive their money.

In California, the company is required to maintain evidence that customers were notified about and received their refunds.

Nationally, LendUp will make changes to its fee and rate disclosures and discontinue some products and advertisements.

Alternatives to payday loans

Payday loans are useful when you have poor credit and need cash quickly, but they come at a heavy price. Seventy percent of borrowers take out a second loan and more than a third of borrowers end up defaulting, according to CFPB data.

Even lenders with good intentions, including LendUp, charge high APRs. Fig Loans, Oportun and other payday alternative lenders all charge rates of more than 100%.

Consumer advocates warn customers to be cautious about new lenders and avoid loans that carry rates of more than 36%, widely considered the upper limit of affordability.

“The LendUp case makes clear why a 36% rate cap is the only solid protection against high-cost lending,” says Lauren Saunders, associate director at the National Consumer Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

If you’re considering any kind of payday loan, look into other alternatives first:

Longer term, start building your emergency fund. Even $500 is enough to deal with most financial surprises, says NerdWallet personal finance columnist Liz Weston.

Amrita Jayakumar is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ajayakumar@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ajbombay.

Sean Talks Credit: Is 20 Cards Too Many? Here’s How to Streamline Your Wallet

I have a lot of credit cards. Between my wife and me, we have 20, to be exact. We’ve each had cards in our names since we started college and have added to the collection nearly every year since.

But we don’t actively use many of those cards, so I decided to streamline our wallets. My goal? Decrease the number of cards without jeopardizing our credit scores. My target was to keep three to five of the accounts.

My first step was to identify all the cards we use regularly. The next steps were designed to protect our credit scores: Set aside our oldest cards to preserve our longest-lived accounts. Then, out of what was left, save the cards with significant credit lines, with the goal of protecting our overall credit line and utilization ratios.

After all that, I realized my target was wildly off. Turns out we’re keeping 14. Here’s why.

Keeping the cards you use

I generally recommend consumers carry about three cards in their wallet, including:

  • One that optimizes for your top spending categories, like travel, dining or groceries.
  • One that optimizes for your favorite merchants, like stores, airlines or hotels.
  • One that earns a good flat rate on everything else.

To apply that logic to our 20 cards, we have two for our top spending categories: the Discover it® - Cashback Match™, my favorite rotating category cash-back card, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, for travel and dining. For favorite merchants, we have three store cards and one airline card: the Amazon Prime Store Card, the Gap credit card, Target RedCard and the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card. Finally, we have the Citi®Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, my favorite flat-rate card, for everything else. That’s seven cards for our core wallet.

One more to add: I bought a Mac computer on a deferred-interest store credit card deal last February. It’s not a great card, and the credit limit is low, so I’ll close the card as soon as the balance is paid off. (Side note: Take care with deferred-interest credit card deals. If any balance remains when the introductory period closes, the entire interest balance is due. Always pay the balance off in full before the deferral period ends.)

If you’re keeping score, that’s eight cards retained so far.

Keeping cards for their old age

An important input to your credit score is the average age of your accounts, which basically helps the credit bureaus know how long you’ve been able to stay on top of your financial obligations. The higher this average is, the better, so retaining your older cards can help keep that average high, even as you open new cards.

Three of my cards are staying in my wallet — or, more accurately, my safe — only because I’ve had them forever. My wife and I each have a Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Credit Card, mine with 11.3 years to my name and my wife’s with 8.1, making it the oldest card for each of us. I also have a Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever with 11 years of service, so I’ll keep that one, too.

An important note for keeping old cards on your credit report: You still need to use them periodically for them to help your score, for two reasons. First, if you ignore the card for too long, your bank can close it without notice. To avoid that, I recommend using each of your cards at least annually. Second, cards that have been inactive for even a couple of months are often not factored into credit scoring algorithms, even if they still appear on your credit report.

To avoid both of these problems, I make sure to spread all of my recurring bills like internet, Netflix, utilities, etc. across my otherwise inactive cards. This ensures regular, monthly charges, with virtually no thought on my part. It also has the added benefit that in case one of my regular-use cards is compromised, I don’t need to go through bill-pay setup all over again.

So that’s three more cards retained thus far, for a total of 11.

Keeping cards for their credit limit

Two important metrics in your credit score are overall credit line and credit utilization ratios. The second of those, especially, is a mouthful, but both are fairly straightforward.

Overall credit line is the total of all of your credit lines and essentially measures how much money banks trust you with. The higher, the better.

Credit utilization measures the amount of that total limit you actually use, essentially how much of it you need. This is measured both on a per-card basis and as the sum of all of your cards. The lower you can get this ratio, the better, but a rough rule of thumb is to try to keep both your per-card balances and the sum of all card balances below 30% of their limits.

A quick aside to illustrate: A few weeks ago I put a hotel stay on a card with a low credit limit, immediately bringing the balance to over 50% of the card’s limit. That mistake cost my credit score 15 points immediately.

Any cards I close at this point will hurt my credit by decreasing my overall credit limit and drive my credit utilization ratio up. So I want to make sure that none of the cards I cut is contributing significantly to these metrics.

After running my 20 cards through the two passes above, I was left with nine cards, three of which have significant credit lines. My Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card makes up 16% of my overall credit limit; US Bank’s REI MasterCard® Credit Card makes up 12%; and my Chase Sapphire makes up 10%. So I’ll keep those around as well.

An important caveat on keeping cards just to protect your credit limit: If a card has an annual fee, it’s not worth it. Out of these three, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card does have an annual fee, but I plan to try to get the fee waived or downgrade to a card that doesn’t charge that fee. If that approach doesn’t work, I’ll close the card and accept the credit ding.

So add three more cards, and the final tally comes out to 14.

Bottom line: Should you close spare cards?

There are a number of fair objections to closing cards; in most cases it’s best to keep them open. But for me, the only negative factor in my credit score is my low average history of accounts — meaning I’ve opened too many cards in recent years — so I want to boost that average. By cutting the six cards that didn’t make it through the three passes above, I’m increasing my average card history from 4.7 years to 5.4, which, according to NerdWallet’s credit dashboard, moves me from the “poor” to “average” range.

On the downside, cutting those six cards decreases my overall credit line by 17%. That’s a real loss, but since my overall credit utilization ratio will remain in the “excellent” range and I’ll boost my average history of accounts, I view this as a worthwhile trade with minimal negative impact to my credit score.

I can feel one nagging question remaining: Isn’t 14 cards still excessive? Yes, it is. But at this point I can’t backtrack without sacrificing my credit score, and I have little, if anything, to gain by that loss.

Fourteen accounts means a lot to keep track of, but it’s doable, by listing important account details in a spreadsheet and tracking each card’s transactions in a budgeting app. If you don’t think you can balance so many cards, or simply don’t want to, stick with a few cards you know you’ll stay on top of.

Ultimately, the right number of cards for you is, like all of personal finance, a personal decision. Pick cards that give you the most back for your purchases and keep less-favored cards in the lineup if only to boost your credit score. More rewards and a higher credit score are key ingredients to our common goal: financial freedom. Good luck.

Sean McQuay is a credit cards expert at NerdWallet. A former strategist with Visa, McQuay now helps consumers use their credit cards more effectively. If you have a question about credit, shoot him an email at asksean@nerdwallet.com. The answer might show up in a future column.

LendUp to Refund $1.83 Million to Customers for Allegedly Falling Short of Payday Loan Promises

If you’ve gotten a loan from LendUp, you might be entitled to a refund. Today, the San Francisco-based online lender Flurish, Inc., doing business as LendUp, was ordered to pay $3.6 million in refunds and civil penalties by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for failing to deliver the promised benefits of its products.

The CFPB said LendUp did not give consumers the opportunity to build credit and provide access to cheaper loans, as it claimed it would. The bureau has ordered the company to provide more than 50,000 consumers with approximately $1.83 million in refunds and pay a civil penalty of $1.8 million.

LendUp’s 50,000 consumers don’t need to take action to collect their $1.83 in refunds. LendUp is required to contact them individually in the coming months.

“LendUp pitched itself as a consumer-friendly, tech-savvy alternative to traditional payday loans, but it did not pay enough attention to the consumer financial laws,” said CFPB director Richard Cordray in a written statement.

According to the CFPB, despite billing itself as an opportunity to build credit, LendUp did not always report payments to credit bureaus. (That type of reporting is essential for people who want to build their credit —you can see where your credit stands by pulling your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com).

LendUp also allegedly misled consumers by advertising across the country that they’d eventually have the ability move up the lending ladder to loans with more favorable terms, such as lower rates and longer repayment periods, though the more favorable loans were not available outside of California for most of the company’s existence. It also didn’t disclose the annual percentage rate of the loans, as required by law, thereby hiding the true cost of the loan, according to the CFPB, which attests LendUp also reversed consumer pricing without knowledge and inaccurately understated finance charges.

In addition to the fines and refunds, the company must stop misrepresenting the benefits of the loans, review all of its marketing materials so it doesn’t mislead consumers and must regularly test the annual percentage rate in its disclosures to verify that it is correct. The $1.8 million in fines will go to CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.

Through a statement issued on its website, LendUp said the problems mostly stemmed from its earlier startup stages. “These regulatory actions address legacy issues that mostly date back to our early days as a company, when we were a seed-stage startup with limited resources and as few as five employees. In those days we didn’t have a fully built-out compliance department. We should have,” according to the LendUp statement.

LendUp went on to say it has been working to provide refunds to all affected customers, and graduated more than 20,000 customers to more favorable loans. Its current compliance team (of 10) and separate in-house legal team (of six) now routinely weigh in when each new product is introduced, said the company’s statement.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

See How Much House $300,000 Can Buy Across the U.S.

Have you ever asked yourself, “How much house can I afford?” in different cities across the country? Well, in conjunction with Realtor.com, we’ve crunched the numbers for you to find out what $300,000 buys in the 20 largest metro markets in the United States.

What’s more, we’ve figured out how much you’d need to earn in those cities to afford a $300,000 home, assuming you can find one. You can thank us later.

In the gallery below, you can see actual listings from Realtor.com, as of Aug. 30, 2016, with an asking price of roughly $300,000. Click on the first image to open the gallery view and see the listing data for each property.

As you can see, your money goes a lot further in states like Texas and Georgia, with more than 3,000 square feet of legroom in some stately suburban McMansions. But in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, you’d be feeling a bit cramped; you’d be lucky to find anything over 800 square feet in those cities at this price point. Ouch.

To take the nerdy number crunching a step further, we asked Realtor.com to find out the minimum annual income needed to buy a $300,000 home in these markets. The income estimates are not a one-size-fits-all solution for each situation; the figures depend heavily on the size of your down payment, and they don’t take into account other debts a homebuyer might have. Keep in mind that the more money you put down, the less your loan amount will be — and that eases the pressure on how much you’d need to earn to afford a $300,000 in the nation’s 20 largest metros.

It’s clear that you’ll get more for your money buying in the South and the Midwest than on the East or West coasts, but the latter options have cities with booming economies and job markets that make them more attractive than some of their Southern neighbors, especially to millennials.

Keep in mind, though, that price isn’t the only consideration of where you choose to live. Think about job opportunities, crime, the local economy, schools, distance from family and friends, and home styles — all factors that might influence your happiness in a new home. Choose wisely, friends!

More from NerdWallet How to sell your houseCompare mortgage rates Find a mortgage broker

Deborah Kearns is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: dkearns@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @debbie_kearnsNerdWallet writer Caren Weiner Campbell contributed to this report.

4 Ways to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill

Have you ever opened your cell phone bill and thought, “Wow, that was cheap?” Yeah, didn’t think so.

But take heart: It’s possible to lower your charges before your next billing cycle.

Simple tweaks, such as updating your service address and changing or removing your insurance package can make small dents in your bill — and those savings add up over time. Changing your plan or even adding a line requires a little more legwork but can decrease your bill even more.

1. Change your plan

Goldilocks could relate to most cell phone users, who often struggle to find data plans that are just right. Often you pay for data you don’t need, or you don’t have enough data and you’re hit with overage charges.

Finding a plan that hits the sweet spot can save you hundreds of dollars each year. But before switching, figure out how much data you use. Take stock of your data use for the past three months, then research plans that fit that amount through your current carrier and its competitors.

Make this a habit to ensure you’re always getting the best deal. Keep in mind that wireless carriers change their plans regularly. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile have all overhauled theirs in 2016. So the best cell phone plan for you a year ago might not be the best now.

Verizon added rollover data to its new plans and eliminated overage charges on some data packages. AT&T rolled out new plans in August that include more data for less money. AT&T also eliminated overage charges and added data options.

2. Add lines

This seems counterintuitive, because adding one or more lines will increase your bill. But splitting the cost with other people can lower the amount you pay overall.

Consider this: One line with 4 gigabytes from Verizon costs $70. Add a second line to that plan and your total cost is $90, or just $45 per person, before taxes and fees. That’s a savings of $300 per year per line.

Even if you bumped up to Verizon’s 8GB plan to accommodate the second line, you’d still pay just $55 per person per month before taxes. That’s a savings of $15 per month.

 Cost for one lineCost for two linesTotal savings (family plan vs. individual plan) AT&T$60 per month (3GB)$100 per month (6GB), $50 per line$10 per month, per line Sprint$50 per month (3GB)$85 per month (6GB), $42.50 per line$7.50 per month, per line T-Mobile$50 per month (2GB)$80 per month (2GB per line), $40 per line$10 per month, per line Verizon$70 per month (4GB)$110 per month (8GB), $55 per line$15 per month, per line

» MORE: How to share your cell phone bill with your roommates

That’s because Verizon charges a set fee for your data plan and $20 for each line on the account. The same is true for most AT&T and Sprint plans. And larger plans typically give you more data for your money.

3. Change or remove your cell phone insurance

Most cell phone carriers offer a variety of protection plans. Your options can include extended warranties, insurance and full-blown 24/7 tech support for any Bluetooth-enabled device in your home. If the latter sounds excessive, that’s because it is.

In most cases, standard insurance provides more than enough coverage. It protects you if your phone is lost, stolen or damaged. It’s also the least expensive option available through your wireless carrier.

Switching from a premium protection plan to basic insurance coverage will save you a few dollars each month. That might not seem like a lot, but it can add up, especially if you have multiple lines on your plan.

AT&T customers can save $36 a year by switching from the carrier’s Mobile Protection Pack, which costs $10.99 per month, to its Mobile Insurance, which costs $7.99 per month. That’s $144 in savings per year for a family of four.

» MORE: How to make money off your old cell phone

Remove the Mobile Protection Pack without switching, and the savings for a single AT&T line climbs to more than $130 per year. This could be risky if you have a brand-new phone, but it can make sense for older devices. That’s because insurance providers for major cell phone carriers typically charge deductibles ranging from $100 to $300.

After about a year, the deductible and the accumulated monthly premiums add up to more than the phone is worth. At that point, you can typically save money by opting out of insurance and buying a used phone if yours is lost or stolen.

If forgoing a policy makes you feel vulnerable, consider an alternative, such as AppleCare+ or SquareTrade. Either option can save you more than $180 over two years on a premium protection package and even more if you make a claim. The drawback: Neither covers lost or stolen phones.

4. Update your service address

The taxes and fees added to your bill each month are based on where you live. If you’ve moved to a new state, or someone on your family plan has, you could save big just by updating your service address.

A person who moves from Washington state to Oregon would save an average of $170 per year in wireless taxes and fees, according to a June 2016 NerdWallet study. Migrating from Illinois to Wisconsin? You’d pocket $103.72 in savings on average. Those figures are based on an individual cell phone bill; the savings would be greater on a family plan.

Updating your service address is easy. In most cases, you simply log in to your account and change it under your user profile, just as you would for your billing address.

Each of these options on its own can can give you quick relief on your cell phone bill, and you can combine them for larger savings. If you’re open to a bigger change for bigger savings, consider a prepaid cell phone plan.

Kelsey Sheehy is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ksheehy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @KelseyLSheehy.

4 Times Trump & Clinton Talked Money in the Presidential Debate

The first debate of the election season lived up to its hype Monday, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump offering drastically different visions for America’s future. Though personal finance topics took a backseat to larger issues of jobs, race, trade and temperament, there were a few moments when the candidates touched on them specifically. Here, we’ve outlined what each candidate had to say last night about the issues that could affect your wallet.

1. Equal Pay

Though incomes have been increasing at a record rate after years of stagnation, NBC moderator Lester Holt said as he opened the debate, income inequality still remains, with nearly half of Americans living paycheck to paycheck. How would each candidate address the issue?

Clinton, who responded first, was pointed: “I want us to invest in you,” she said. Beyond ushering in jobs for those in infrastructure, innovation, technology and small businesses, she stressed the importance of making “the economy fairer,” particularly for women, who suffer a 20% wage gap with men, according to the American Association of University Women. Equal pay would certainly play into her program, as would “paid family leave, earned sick days, affordable child care and debt-free college,” she said. In the past, Clinton has said her goal is for workers to receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave.

Trump agreed something must be done to narrow the gender gap, though he did not offer concrete solutions. “As far as child care is concerned, and so many other things,” he said, “I think Hillary and I agree on that. We probably disagree a little bit as to numbers and amounts and what we’re going to do, but perhaps we’ll be talking about that later.”

2. Jobs

“How do you bring back jobs, American manufacturers,” Holt asked mid-way through the event.

“Well, the first thing you do is don’t let the jobs leave,” Trump said. He added, “But if you think you’re going to make your air conditioners or your cars or your cookies or whatever you make and bring them into our country without a tax, you’re wrong.”

Clinton suggested adding jobs where the country needs them most: clean energy, especially for dealing with the issue of climate change. “We can have enough clean energy to power every home,” she said. “We can build a new modern electric grid. That’s a lot of jobs; that’s a lot of new economic activity.”

3. National Debt

When it came to America’s national debt, the debate grew increasingly heated. At one point, Clinton asserted that Trump “would try to negotiate down the national debt of the United States.” Trump denied this, saying, “we build roads, and they cost two and three and four times what they’re supposed to cost. We buy products for our military, and they come in at costs that are so far above what they are supposed to be, because we don’t have people that know what they’re doing.”

In a report released over the summer by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, researchers estimated Trump would have what Credit.com reporter Christine DiGiangi called “a Miracle Gro-like effect on the debt, increasing it by $11.5 trillion within 10 years.” Researchers estimated Clinton would tack $250 billion onto the national debt over the next decade.

4. Taxes

As he’s done in the past, Trump assured the public he would cut taxes substantially for businesses. “And by the way, my tax cut is the biggest since Ronald Reagan,” he said. “I’m very proud of it. It will create tremendous numbers of new jobs.”

Clinton wasn’t convinced. “Independent experts have looked at what I’ve proposed and looked at what Donald’s proposed, and basically they’ve said this, that if his tax plan, which would blow up the debt by over $5 trillion and would in some instances disadvantage middle-class families compared to the wealthy, were to go in effect, we would lose 3.5 million jobs and maybe have another recession.” For her part, Clinton would cap itemized deductions and hit taxpayers with incomes over $5 million with a 4% surcharge. Beyond that, she would enact a number of policies intended to raise taxes on individual and business income.

Previously, Trump proposed eliminating the estate tax and restructuring tax brackets entirely. As part of the latter plan, single people earning less than $25,000 annually and married people filing jointly with an annual income below $50,000 would not pay income tax. He would achieve this by eliminating tax loopholes for the wealthy and businesses. A one-time repatriation of corporate cash held overseas at a 10% tax rate while ending tax deferrals for corporate income earned abroad would also contribute.

[Editor’s Note: No matter who wins in November, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your finances. You can monitor your financial goals, like maintaining good credit scores, on Credit.com.]

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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