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The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a new appreciation of backyards and other outdoor spaces. With many of us spending hours and hours at home, we’re all looking for places to relax other than the living room sofa and kitchen. If you have a yard with ample space for you and your family, consider yourself blessed.
But in 2021, outdoor space owners might want to consider taking it up a notch with one of the most sought-after features: an outdoor kitchen.
âI looked at this as an investment our family would enjoy for the next 20-plus years,â says lifestyle expert Evette Rios, who recently embarked on her own outdoor kitchen project.
For people who dream of spending even more time cooking outside and enjoying their backyard, an outdoor kitchen is a must. And now’s the time to get to work to ensure your kitchen is ready when the warm, sunny days arrive.
Take a look at the tips below from experts who have successfully completed outdoor kitchen projects of their own.
1. Set a budget
Outdoor kitchens are not a cheap investment, but the price range is really broad. The cost of an outdoor kitchen ranges from $5,406 to $21,699, according to HomeAdvisor.com. Therefore, there are many ways to tailor your kitchen to your budget.
That being said, you should always prioritize durable materials in an outdoor kitchen.
âInterior furnishings afford a bit more leeway on where you splurge and save,â says HGTV starÂ Laurie March. âBut for outdoor kitchens and living spaces, performance and durabilityâwhen it comes to cabinetry and appliancesâwill always be worth it.â
2. Seek out American-made products
Photo by Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens
March says COVID-19 has caused major global supply chain interruptions, which has made acquiring building materials and appliances difficult. But sourcing for your outdoor kitchen might be easier if you opt for American-made products.
âI selected Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, which are manufactured in Connecticut. It made the process so much easier,â says March.
She says it wasnât only about convenience, but also craftsmanship, quality, and the company’s established history.
3. Order appliances early in the planning process
Appliances are what will make your outdoor kitchen shine. But youâll want to order them sooner rather than later because some companies have long lead times or backordered items.
March advises finalizing appliance picks first and ordering as quickly as possible.
âItâs easier to store them until youâre ready to install rather than have to wait for them to arrive, which can add substantial time to your project,â she says.
4. Design with four seasons in mind
Photo by Chicago Green Design Inc.
Rios highly recommends designing your outdoor kitchen for year-round enjoyment. For example, in her outdoor kitchen, she knew she wanted durable, high-quality cabinets to keep contents dry even in rain or high humidity.
âHeating elements in different zones of the outdoor space are also crucial,â says Rios. âIn the kitchen, our pizza oven helps keep us warm during food prep, and the fire pit is a cozy spot for guests to gather.â
If you have a covered outdoor space, she recommends planning and budgeting for ceiling-mounted heat lamps, or invest in one or two free-standing, mobile heating units.
5. Find the right people for the job
March says homeowners should do their homework and hire the right professionals to guide them through their vision, flag any potential pitfalls, and elevate the overall aesthetic.
âFor me, bringing a landscape designer onboard brought the whole vision for our outdoor kitchen and yard together,â says March.
Rios says itâs also important to lock in a trusted contractor and installer to ensure the vision and layout for your outdoor kitchen is doable and within your budget.
6. Have fun with color
Photo by DeGoey Designs
Rios says an outdoor kitchen is the perfect space to have fun with color, whether taking cues from the surrounding landscape or going bright and bold.
âBlues and greens can so easily play off of surrounding elements outdoors. Iâm over the all-white kitchen, and I think outdoor kitchens are the perfect opportunity to embrace brighter hues,” says Rios, who used a beautiful juniper-green, powder-coat finish on her outdoor kitchen cabinetry.
7. Design based on how youâll use your space
âAsking yourself the right questions as you think through design options can provide a lot of helpful guidance,â says March. âHow do you want to live outdoors? Whatâs not working with your current or past space, and how could it rise up to meet you a bit better?â
She says itâs also important to consider whoâs going to use the outdoor kitchen space. Does it need to be wheelchair-accessible or suitable for pets and kids?
âThese details will dictate so much of your design,â says March.
For her space, she envisioned how it could pivot from a space to cook to a space to entertain. The big, open shelf she installed, for example, serves as additional landing space for items she brings out from the indoor kitchen.
The post How to Dine Al Fresco Year-Round: 7 Outdoor Kitchen Design Tips for 2021 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
If your coronavirus checks are long gone, you could have more stimulus money coming your way, even if Congress doesnât do another thing. And if you didnât qualify for a check based on your past tax return, you could get stimulus money if you file a tax return for 2020 that shows youâre eligible.
Hereâs why: Both the first stimulus check and the second stimulus check are an advance on a temporary 2020 tax credit. But because of the urgency of the situation, the IRS was directed to get us that money ASAP, using information from our 2018 or 2019 returns.
That means if your tax situation changed through the course of the year, you could get stimulus money if your 2020 return shows that youâre eligible.
8 Reasons You Could Get Stimulus Money With Your 2020 Refund
If one or more of these scenarios apply, you might get more coronavirus money in 2021 by submitting a tax return. And relax: You wonât owe more at tax time or get a smaller refund as the result of receiving a check.
1. Youâre No Longer Claimed as a Dependent
Attention, Class of 2020: If your parents or someone else claimed you as a dependent in 2019 but they donât in 2020, you could get an $1,800 credit â $1,200 from the first check and $600 from the second one â provided that you file a tax return.
Generally, you can be claimed as a dependent if youâre under 19, or youâre under 24 and a student, if your parents provide at least half of your support.
2. You Had a Child in 2020
The parents of any bundle of joy who arrives in 2020 will be eligible for an $1,100 child coronavirus credit: $500 from the first round and $600 from the second. Theyâll have to wait until they file their 2020 tax return, since the IRS doesnât have record of these new additions yet.
3. Your Child Was Born in 2019, but You Took Advantage of the Tax Extension
If you had a child in 2019 but got a late start on filing your 2019 return due to the coronavirus tax extension or you filed on paper, the IRS probably processed your first payment using your 2018 return. Youâll get the extra $500 child credit next year when your 2020 return is accepted. But provided that your 2019 return has been accepted, you may receive $600 for your child from the latest round with your second stimulus check.
4. You Get Social Security or SSI Benefits and Have a Dependent Child
The IRS automatically processed coronavirus checks for people who arenât required to file a tax return and receive Social Security, Railroad Retirement, SSDI, SSI or VA benefits.
But in many of these situations, the IRS only received the information needed to send the recipient the $1,200. They didnât get information about dependent children who qualified for $500 coronavirus child credits unless the recipient provided it using the non-filer tool on the IRS website within a pretty narrow timeframe.
If you got a $1,200 payment for yourself but didnât receive the extra payments for dependent children under 17, youâll need to file a 2020 tax return to get the extra $500, even if you donât normally need to file. The same applies if you donât get the $600 credit with your payment in the latest round.
5. Your Income Dropped in 2020
A lot of people will no doubt have a lot less income to report in 2020 than they did in 2018 or 2019. If you didnât qualify for the first check because your previous income was above the $99,000 threshold for singles or $198,000 for married couples, you could qualify based on your 2020 income. The second check has a lower phaseout because itâs smaller, so you wonât receive one if youâre single with an income above $87,000 or married with an income above $174,000.
Likewise, if your payment was reduced because your income was above $75,000 if youâre single or $150,000 if youâre married, youâd get the difference when you file your 2020 return.
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6. You and Your Childâs Other Parent Take Turns Claiming Them for Taxes
The Washington Postâs Michelle Singletary reported on this odd quirk of stimulus payments: It appears that in situations where divorced, separated and never-married parents take turns claiming their dependent children on taxes, each parent could wind up with a $500 payment.
Whoever claimed the child for 2019 probably received both the $500 and $600 payments with their stimulus check. But since the payments are technically a credit for 2020 taxes, there could be a loophole that allows the other parent to get the credit for the same child when they file next year.
7. You Increased Your Retirement Contributions in 2020
Suppose youâre a single filer who earned $80,000 in 2019 and your income stays the same in 2020. You would have gotten a $950 coronavirus check in the first round, because payments are reduced by 5 cents for every $1 of income over $75,000 if youâre single. In the second round, youâd get $350.
But if you reduced your 2020 taxable income to $75,000 by contributing an extra $5,000 to your 401(k) or traditional IRA (sorry, a Roth IRA wonât work), youâd get the additional $250 coronavirus payment from both rounds, so $500 total.
8. Youâre Married to Someone Without a Social Security Number
If you have a Social Security number but youâre married and file a joint tax return with someone who doesnât have one, neither of you initially qualified for a stimulus check under the CARES Act. But the latest relief bill changes the rules so that anyone in the household with a Social Security number will qualify for the second payment â and it also makes the change retroactive to the first round.
That means if youâre in a mixed-status household, you could get a $1,200 credit for yourself, plus $500 for each dependent child 16 and younger who has a Social Security number.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Since weâre in the middle of a pandemic, weâre all trying to figure out the new normal. Whether youâre working from home, have a houseful of kids to keep busy or find yourself facing financial uncertainty, everyone has at least a little adjusting to do. While youâre taking stock of your life and what you need to adjust, itâs probably a good idea to take a look at your finances and credit card use, too.
Wondering how you should use your credit card? Weâve got some ideas for you on how you can use your credit card in the middle of a global emergency.
How to Use Your Credit Card During a Pandemic
But before we get started, remember to take a hard look at your personal finances before following any financial information. Everyoneâs situation is differentâso what might work for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa.
1. Keep Online Shopping to a Minimum
If youâre working from home, the temptation to online shop can be all too real. But when youâre in the middle of a pandemic, you might need to put your money towards unexpected expenses.
David Lord, General Manager of Credit.com, has some advice on preventing frivolous spending. âTry browsing, putting things in your cart and leaving them for the day,â Lord suggests. âIf you take a look at your cart the next day, youâll most likely find that 90% of the time you wonât remember the things you placed in your cart in the first place.â
If the temptation to online shop is too strong, Lord suggests buying something thatâll keep you occupied for a while, like a puzzle, a paint set or a yoga mat. That way, youâll be too distracted to buy something else.
2. Try to Keep Your Credit in Good Shape
During a global emergency, it feels like everythingâs up in the air. Because of that, itâs important to stay as on top of things as you can and prepare for the worst-case scenario. Having good credit is important in the best of times, but it can be even more so in the worst.
Letâs say you find yourself with a bill that you canât pay on your hands. If you need to take out a loan, youâd probably want a loan with the best interest rates possible. In order to qualify for those types of loans, youâll need a good credit score.
If youâre in a position to do so, try to keep your credit score healthy. Hereâs some quick things you can do today:
- Keep an eye on your credit score and credit report
- Pay your bills on timeâat least the minimum payment
- Keep your credit utilization ratio at 30%
But if you find yourself in a financial situation where you canât keep up with everything, you can prioritize. For example, going above 30% of your credit utilization ratio wonât impact your score as much as missing a payment. Thatâs because credit utilization makes up 30% of your credit score, while your payment history makes up 35% of your score.
3. Utilize Cashback Rewards
Do you have a greatÂ rewards credit card on your hands? Nowâs a great time to use them. While some credit cards might not be handy right now, like travel rewards cards, there are others that could be useful. If your card offers cashback on categories such as groceries, gas and everyday purchases, take advantage. You could use those rewards to help you cover essential purchases.Â
4. Use Your Balance Transfer Credit Cards
If you already have significant debt or if youâve recently taken on new debt, you might want to consider using a balance transfer credit card. A balance transfer credit card allows you to move your debt from one card to your balance transfer card, which typically has a lower promotional interest rate. These promotional interest rates can last from six to 18 months, and sometimes longer.
These are great options if youâre faced with new debt. If youâre struggling to pay the rent, groceries or medical bills, and your stimulus check canât cover it all, you can use your balance transfer credit card. Just make sure to be careful. You still have to pay off your debt, so make sure to do so before the promotional balance transfer offer ends. If you can, try to make regular payments on your card, so youâre not faced with an overwhelming amount of debt when the promotional offer ends.
Be Mindful of Your Situation
Above all else, be mindful of your situation. What urgent bills do you have to pay? Do you have a loved one in the hospital? Have you or your significant other lost their job? Make goals based off of your situation, and use your credit card accordingly.
Go to Guide
If youâre looking for more information on coronavirus and your finances, check out our COVID-19 Financial Resource Guide. We update it frequently, to make the most up-to-date and useful information available to you.
The post Using Credit Cards During COVID-19 appeared first on Credit.com.
If youâre serious about your credit score, you need to pay your bills on time. One late payment can have a devastating effect on your credit score. Hereâs what you need to know about late payments and your credit score, and what you can do to protect yourself.
How Late Payments Affect Credit Scores
Your payment history is the biggest factor in determining your credit score, so itâs imperative that you pay your bills on time whenever possible. If you do make a late payment, there are three factors that determine how much it will affect your credit score.
- Your credit score and credit history
- How long ago the late payment was
- How severe the late payment was
According to FICOâs credit damage data, one recent late payment can cause as much as a 180-point drop on a FICO score, depending on your credit history and the severity of the late payment.
Your Credit History and Late Payments
The impact of a missed payment on your credit score varies significantly depending on your circumstances. The better your credit, the more you may feel the sting of a late payment. In fact, that 180-point drop mentioned earlier is most likely to happen to an individual with excellent credit who is 90 days late on a payment. Because individuals with good and excellent credit donât have a history of risky behavior, one mistake sends up a red flag that can drop their score more dramatically.
Individuals with a shorter credit history will likely see a dramatic decrease in their score after a late payment as well. Because there is less information available on your financial behavior, a late payment is a bad sign. On the other hand, individuals with lower credit scores already have a history of risky behavior, so one more late payment wonât drop their score as much.
How Time Affects Credit
The more recent a late payment is, the more severely it will affect your credit score. A missed payment remains on your credit report for up to seven years from the date it occurred. The overall impact of the late payment diminishes over time and goes away completely when the missed payment ages off your report.
Your score won’t necessarily jump 100 points simply because a late payment ages off or is removed. Even though a late payment might have originally dropped your score by a good number, the impact of that late payment changes over time. How much your score goes up when a late payment is removed depends on a variety of factors, so youâll want to continue practicing smart financial habits like making payments on time and keeping your credit utilization low.
How Severity Affects Credit
If you missed your credit card payment by one day, you probably don’t need to sweat it. In most cases, lenders and creditors have grace periods that can range from a few days to up to 10 days. Grace periods are meant to account for minor mistakes and lag in mailing or posting payments. If your payment arrives within that time period, the lender may not count it as late.
Most lenders donât report missed payments until your account is 30 days past due. After 90 days, the effect on your credit score will be even more drastic.
Make sure to read the fine print on your account agreement, though, to know if you have a grace period. And avoid falling into the habit of relying on the grace period. If you’re used to paying your bill five days after the actual due date, you could miss the grace period if you experience a personal emergency. Also keep in mind that interest and fees may still apply during the grace period, even if your payment isnât reported as late to the credit bureaus.
How to Protect Your Credit History Against Late Payment Impact
Payment history is a huge part of your credit score. It accounts for around 35% of your scoreâover a third. Take action to ensure late payments aren’t impacting your score when they don’t need to. Here are three tips for doing so.
1. Check Your Credit Score and Report Regularly
Check your credit reports frequently to ensure late payments aren’t being reported inaccurately. A simple clerical error is enough to cause your score to go down. If you see inaccurate information on your credit reports, you can and should challenge it and ask for verification.
You can get a free credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, you can get your free credit report once a week through April 2021. When you request your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or the individual credit bureaus, you wonât also see your credit score. If you want to see both at the same time, consider signing up for ExtraCredit. Youâll see 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit bureaus, plus your credit reports from each.
2. Use Tools to Help You Make Timely Payments
Avoid late payments by using resources that ensure you make payments on time each month.
- Sign up for auto payments. Your lender may offer this option, letting you enter a credit or debit card or checking account and taking payments out of that account each month. The benefit is that you can set and forget your payments, never worrying that they’re late. The disadvantage is that you have less flexibility in when you pay each month, and you have to ensure you keep a balance in your account to cover the charges.
- Use apps or phone alarms. Remind yourself to make payments with app notifications that let you know the payment date is arriving soon. Many credit card companies and other lenders offer options for receiving such notifications directly from them.
- Make smaller, more frequent payments. If you’re struggling to save enough to cover a large bill each month, pay a portion of what’s owed every week. This can help simplify your budget, though you do need to ensure you’re not being charged convenience fees or other amounts every time you make a payment.
3. Ask for One-Time Late Payments to Be Forgiven
Life happens, and creditors are aware of this. So if you do find yourself making a one-off late payment, contact your creditor.
Apologize for the late payment, let them know it’s not a normal occurrence for you and point to your previously pristine payment history. Ask the creditor to waive late fees and interest charges as a courtesy and not report the late payment to the credit bureaus. It’s a tool you must use sparingly, but creditors may to oblige if you really do normally pay on time.
Your Credit Score Will Thank You
Making all your bill payments on time is one of the best ways to keep your credit score happy and healthy. Keep track of how youâre doing by signing up for ExtraCredit.
The post How Much Does One Late Payment Affect Credit Scores? appeared first on Credit.com.
Yuttachai Saechan/Getty Images; realtor.com
Those who are fortunate enough to still be collecting a paycheck while quarantined or sheltering in place might expect to build up some serious savings. While you work from home, you’re avoiding your usual commuting expenses, and you’re probably saving money by not going to bars, restaurants, and movies, or skipping that vacation to Fiji.
But as spending decreases in some areas during self-isolation, it can creep up in others. To brace yourself and your budget, keep an eye on these expenses while youâre self-isolating at home.
If youâve gone from office life to Zoom life, youâre spending more time at home than usual, which could ramp up your household expenses.
âYour utility spending might be considerably higher if you’re spending more time at home cooking, charging devices, using lights and appliances,â says Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com.
To keep your utility bills down, turn off lights when you leave the room, open windows during the day to let in cool air, unplug devices that youâre not using, and consider turning down your water heater by a few degrees.
Even if youâre not hoarding (and you shouldnât be), you might find yourself spending more on groceries while you shelter in place.
For some people, an uptick in grocery spending will be offset by the money saved from not dining at restaurants. But if your local store is picked overâor if you pay fees for grocery deliveryâyou could spend more on groceries than usual.
âIâve been to a local grocery store, and the only thing that was available was organic, so I couldnât buy the generic. I actually had to spend more money,â says Steve Repak, author of the â6 Week Money Challenge for Your Personal Finances.â
If your grocery spending feels out of hand, be flexible and creative with your menu. Cook the food you already have at home before you head back to the store. Sites such as Eater have compiled resources for home cooks, including Pantry Cooking 101 and How to Stock a Pantry.
If youâre using a delivery service, place infrequent, larger orders instead of several small orders. Or consider curbside service; many stores are allowing free pickups where they bring your groceries right to your car, so you can save on delivery fees and tips.
3. Meal delivery and takeout
You may not be able to enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant, but you can order takeout and deliveryâand those indulgences can add up quickly. After all, itâs not just the meal youâre paying for.
âThereâs probably still a service fee, and on top of that you have to leave a gratuity,â Repak says. (It’s also a good idea to generously tip the workers who are delivering your food in these times.)
If youâre on a budget, reserve takeout and delivery for special occasions or those days when you just canât muster the motivation to cook.
4. Alcohol and other sources of comfort
If you find yourself decompressing with a glass or two (or three) of wine every night, your drinking habit could do a number on your budget. And you wouldn’t be aloneâalcohol consumption has shot up nationwide, and in states where recreational marijuana is legal, dispensaries are reporting booming business.
âSocial isolation is really strongly linked to physical and mental health problems, and the way we cope with a lot of them is by drinking more,â Repak says. âPeople are going to smoke more and drink more … and we need to find other healthier coping mechanisms to offset that additional spending.â
You may not want to totally forfeit your evening glass of pinot, but you can make your supply last longer by sipping a mug of (far more affordable) chamomile tea on occasion, or opting for a calming yoga video or breathing exercise.
Watch: Our Chief Economist’s View on the Pandemic, Mortgage Rates, and What’s Ahead
Youâve rewatched all your favorite shows on Netflix and Huluâso, now’s the time to add a Disney+ subscription, right?
Not so fast, Repak says.
âSave a little bit of money by just picking one of the streaming services,â he suggests, or at least donât pile on new subscriptions to the ones you already have.
To free up your budget, take inventory of your other monthly subscriptions, services, and other recurring expenses, and see if there’s anything that can be eliminated.
âTen dollars a month may not sound like a lot, but if you have five of those, that’s $600 annually,â Rossman adds.
6. Online shopping
If you turn to retail therapy to soothe your soul, your budget could take a hit. True, many retailers are offering deep discounts in order to move merchandise, but even discount purchases add up.
âImpulse buying is a potential trap,â Rossman says. âSome people fall victim to it more than others.â
Instead of clicking âadd to cartâ as a coping mechanism, Repak suggests cleaning out your closet instead.
âThis is a great time that we can offset our budget by decluttering our house or apartment,â he says.
Use sites like Poshmark to sell your clothes, or Mercari for your household items. Many donation centers such as Goodwill are still accepting donations, tooâjust call ahead to make sure your local store or donation drop-off location will take your items.
7. New hobbies you’re trying in quarantine
Our spending habits are highly personal, and you might find yourself throwing money at a new habit or hobby to fight cabin fever.
âItâs a worthwhile exercise to track your spending, especially now that so much is different,â Rossman says. âLook through your credit card and bank statements from the past month. Do you see anything surprising? Are there areas where you spent extra but didn’t feel it was worth it? These could be good ways to cut back.â
And remember: Even if quarantine has eliminated some of your old day-to-day expenses, itâs easy to overestimate how much youâre saving.
âMost people don’t have a great handle on their budget and spending habits anyway, and so much has changed of late,â Rossman says. âIt’s easy to overlook things.â
The post Watch Your Wallet: 7 Hidden Costs of Self-Isolating at Home During Coronavirus appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.