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Eat Out Without Biting Into Your Budget

If you’re on a budget, money-saving advice tends to prescribe bagged lunches and dinners at home. But you don’t have to resign to a world of soggy peanut butter and jelly just because you want to save money.

Here are some ways to eat out at your favorite restaurant for less.

Buy gift cards below face value

You’ll get more food for your buck when you buy restaurant gift cards at less than face value. Restaurant.com, for instance, is a website that sells certificates for a fraction of their worth. You may be able to score a $25 certificate to your favorite Chinese place for just $10 (minimum purchases could apply). Warehouse store Costco, too, sells bundles of gift cards for less than they’re worth.

Ask for a discount

You could be eligible for a cheaper meal simply based on who you are. Children, seniors, students and members of the military are some of the most common candidates for discounts. Research a restaurant’s discounts online or inquire before your server brings the bill. It doesn’t cost anything to ask.

Join the club

Pesky marketers aren’t the only ones who want your email address nowadays. Many restaurants have mailing lists that they use to distribute news and promotions to customers. Sign up to stay in-the-know. You’ll usually get a special offer just for making an account and another the month of your birthday. But if you find the emails are tempting you to eat out more, hit “unsubscribe.”

Make wise menu choices

When you eat at a sit-down joint, you’ll be expected to tip the server in addition to paying your tab, so keep that in mind when making menu selections and calculating your total payment. To offset the cost, look for more affordable dishes (try ones with fruits and veggies that are in season) or opt for a smaller portion size if it’s available.

As for drinks, water is usually free, whereas soft drinks and alcoholic beverages can quickly add up. If you prefer a glass of wine with your meal, call ahead and ask the restaurant about corkage fees. Even with this fee, it may be more affordable for you to bring your own bottle than to buy one there.

» MORE: 12 ways to save on groceries

Dine on national days

From National Ice Cream Day to National Chicken Wing Day, there’s a day of observance for just about any food you can name. Plan your meals around these offers to take advantage of free appetizers, entrees or desserts. Stay tuned to social media for promotional details.

Take a survey

Restaurants like to hear about your experience at their establishment, so if they ask you to complete a survey, take them up on the offer. You’ll sometimes be rewarded with freebies or coupons for doing so. Similarly, SurveyMini is a free app that unlocks discounts when you complete questionnaires about restaurants.

Leave room in your budget

If dinners out at your favorite diner are an important family tradition, you still might be able to make room for a handful of restaurant meals in your monthly budget — even if it isn’t a necessity, and even if you can’t get a deal. For easy ways to incorporate needs and wants into your spending plan, see our advice on how to budget for both.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @courtneynerd.

Five Ways to Give Your Business A Strategic Refresh

Do any one of these five simple refresh ideas and you’ll help yourself manage your business goals, growth, and execution. Do all five and you have a perfect lean business plan. 

Refocus...

Mortgage Rates Thursday, March 23: Slight Drop; Existing-Home Sales Slow

Mortgage rates today for 30- and 15-year fixed loans and 5/1 ARMs all fell by one basis point, according to a NerdWallet survey of current mortgage rates published by national lenders on Thursday morning.

MORTGAGE RATES TODAY, THURSDAY, MARCH 23:

(Change from 3/22) 30-year fixed: 4.33% APR (-0.01) 15-year fixed: 3.67% APR (-0.01) 5/1 ARM: 3.87% APR (-0.01)

Get personalized mortgage rates

 

NAR: Existing-home sales falter in February

Existing-home sales slowed in February, tapping the brakes on the brisk pace of sales seen at the beginning of the year, according to the National Association of Realtors.

While existing-home sales dipped 3.7%, to a rate of 5.48 million in February from 5.69 million in January, the pace of sales is still 5.4% higher than February 2016, NAR reported.

» MORE: How much home can you afford?

Tight inventory and fewer affordable home choices helped drive down sales, Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in a news release.

“Newly listed properties are being snatched up quickly so far this year and leaving behind minimal choices for buyers trying to reach the market,” Yun said. “A growing share of homeowners in NAR’s first-quarter HOME survey said now is a good time to sell, but until an increase in listings actually occurs, home prices will continue to move hastily.”

In fact, the median price for existing homes rose in February to $228,400, an increase of 7.7% from $212,100 in February 2016. It’s the fastest price increase since January 2016 (8.1%), NAR reported.

Homeowners looking to lower their mortgage rate can shop for refinance lenders here.

NerdWallet daily mortgage rates are an average of the published annual percentage rate with the lowest points for each loan term offered by a sampling of major national lenders. APR quotes reflect an interest rate plus points, fees and other expenses, providing the most accurate view of the costs a borrower might pay.

Deborah Kearns is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: dkearns@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @debbie_kearns.

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What's Worse, Debt Or Herpes?

MoneyTips

A significant debt or a sexually transmitted disease (STD): which one would be a bigger deal breaker in a potential dating partner? A recent survey conducted by SoFi found that, for a surprising number of millennials, the answer is debt. Nobody would be eager to disclose either one of those conditions to a potential mate, but the SoFi survey found that if given a choice between disclosing an STD or their level of debt, 39% of millennials would choose to reveal the STD. This age group was greatly affected by the Great Recession, and it appears that their aversion to debt is strong. Even if a millennial finds a partner that will accept debt, he or she must understand how the debt can affect the relationship. Certified Financial Planner® Leisa Peterson offers money management advice that is applicable to bringing debt to a relationship: "Take a moment to...really understand not just how they feel about it, but also how it's affecting the other person." Someone who loves you in spite of your debt may be reluctant to discuss it honestly with you. Debt has more tangible effects on a relationship, especially with respect to joint accounts. Excessive debt can harm your credit score. While the credit histories and scores of both participants in a relationship are separate, joint accounts are not by definition. "If you apply for joint credit," says Rod Griffin, Director of Public Education at Experian, "both of [your] credit histories are going to be considered, and as a result, your bad history could drag down your ability to qualify for joint accounts, mortgage loans, and other kinds of joint agreements." You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips. It's important to deal with debt as soon as possible, because the same compounding principles that make your investments grow will also make your debts grow if you don't take immediate steps to correct the situation. If you are a millennial dealing with deal-breaking debt, how do you go about correcting the situation to avoid scaring off potential mates? We can offer some advice on debt relief (but not STD relief). Start with a realization: if you didn't have enough discipline to avoid excessive debt in the first place, you probably will not be able to get out of that debt without some help and advice. Author and Financial Educator Tiffany "The Budgetnista" Aliche puts it bluntly: "Get a professional to help you...just like you wouldn't set your own leg if you broke it, don't fix your own money [problems] by yourself if you have not been educated in how to do so." A wide variety of financial experts could help you, but make sure you do research on any expert that you choose. Anyone can claim to be an expert. Ask for certifications and references as proof. Are you more of a DIY sort? Remember Aliche's advice, and educate yourself on basic budgeting. A realistic budget is the baseline for any debt reduction program. By setting a budget, you must analyze your income and expenses in detail over an extended period of time, and you will start to see where money can be saved. After tracking expenses for a short time, you will be amazed at how much the little expenses add up. Budgeting will also establish the habits of dedicating a certain amount of your income to reducing your debt and making that debt reduction a priority. Sticking to a budget will eventually become a habit itself. Your new skills will change your former debt liability into an attractive money management asset for any potential mate. We leave you with a final bit of advice about both debt and STDs — your best line of defense is prevention. Both situations are easy to acquire; both are difficult (and potentially painful) to eradicate. If you want to reduce your interest payments and lower your debt, try the free Debt Optimizer by MoneyTips. Photo ©iStockphoto.com/izusek

Originally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/whats-worse-debt-or-herpes/128

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What's Worse, Debt Or Herpes?

MoneyTips

A significant debt or a sexually transmitted disease (STD): which one would be a bigger deal breaker in a potential dating partner? A recent survey conducted by SoFi found that, for a surprising number of millennials, the answer is debt. Nobody would be eager to disclose either one of those conditions to a potential mate, but the SoFi survey found that if given a choice between disclosing an STD or their level of debt, 39% of millennials would choose to reveal the STD. This age group was greatly affected by the Great Recession, and it appears that their aversion to debt is strong. Even if a millennial finds a partner that will accept debt, he or she must understand how the debt can affect the relationship. Certified Financial Planner® Leisa Peterson offers money management advice that is applicable to b...
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