The Best Way to Electronically File Taxes, Plus, Deductions You May Have Missed

Today is the day that all taxes are due. So how do you digitize your taxes and claim your deductions? For starters, use online services like TurboTax. It makes filing extremely seamless. Here is a list of deductions that you should look into and take full advantage of:

1. Home Office Tax Deduction

The eligibility rules for claiming a home office vary, but remote workers and self-employed filers make sure you claim this break. You are also eligible to write off expenses that are associated with the portion of your home where you exclusively conduct business. These expenses include rent, utilities, insurance, and housekeeping.

2. Business Expenses

If you drive for Uber on the weekends or rent out your house on Airbnb, you could qualify as a business owner and should be filing a Schedule C tax form. As a general rule, freelancers can write off business-related expenses but they have to be necessary.

3. Student Loan Interest Paid

You can deduct up to $ 2,500 of student loan interest per return, per year. You can claim the student loan interest tax deduction as an adjustment to income. You don’t need to itemize deductions to claim it. Go to your student loan provider to access the forms and upload them on TurboTax.

4. Moving Expenses

Don’t be fooled. The moving expense deduction is no longer available in tax years 2018 – 2025 due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) but there are some exceptions to the rule. If you moved to a new location because of work and are a member of the military, you may qualify to use IRS Form 3903 to claim the cost of your moving expenses as a deduction on your federal income tax return.

5. Claim your Dependents

New tax laws allow you to claim a dependent credit, either $ 500 or $ 2,000 depending on the status of the dependent.

Don’t be late and remember if you need to file an extension, you can do so here.

The post The Best Way to Electronically File Taxes, Plus, Deductions You May Have Missed appeared first on Black Enterprise.

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15 Websites to Help You Sell Stuff Online, Plus Tips on How to Do It

Selling your stuff online is a great way to make a quick $ 20 to tide you over until your next paycheck. It’s also a low-cost way to start a small business venture that brings in thousands of dollars in passive income.

And everything in between.

No matter your needs, we’ve got the right e-commerce websites for you. But first, you need to do some preparation to make sure your for-sale listing will be successful.

How to Sell Stuff Online

While you can find a website that will allow you to create a for-sale listing for just about anything, that doesn’t mean anyone will actually buy.

Think about it from the perspective of the buyers: What will they need to make the decision to purchase your item?

Here are a few easy steps to make your listing pop.

Take Good Photos

A man poses for a picture in a portable sauna

It doesn’t matter what you’re selling: People will want to see it. A well-lit photo (or five) is one of the easiest ways to set yourself apart. Good photos make your listing appear much more legitimate and trustworthy, too.

“It’s all about perception,” Etsy shop owner Lena Gosik-Wolf told The Penny Hoarder. “It’s about how people are seeing you because they can’t have that in-person experience.”

Include Useful Keywords

If you’re trying to sell a Samsung 32-inch flat screen LED TV, you will want to include those details. Don’t just say “TV for sale” and call it a day. Not only is a well written description going to help the buyer make a decision once they find your listing, but item descriptions also help them get to your listing in the first place.

Many e-commerce sites have algorithms that work like Google. So if someone is searching for a “Samsung LED,” your listing will have a much better choice of appearing in the results.

Study Successful Listings

A woman poses with a laptop while her husband prints t-shirts

See what top sellers are doing with their listings, especially ones in similar categories to what you plan to sell. And take note.

Each website works a little differently. A good listing on one site may not be a good listing on another, so be sure to tailor your listing to each site if you plan on selling your items in multiple places.  

When Coryn Enfinger co-founded her screenprinting business, Dark Cycle Clothing, she leaned on all of these tips to help ensure success. She researched for weeks on how to create the perfect listing to showcase their clothes, which her husband Adam designs and prints. She found that high-quality photos are essential for online sales.

When Dark Cycle Clothing’s online store launched, buyers came flooding in. And what started as a hobby flourished into a $ 350,000-a-year screen printing business. Since then, Dark Cycle Clothing has ranked as a top-five seller of handmade clothes on Etsy and sells in stores and markets around the country.

“People don’t realize how much work it takes,” Enfinger said. “They just see the product, and they see it selling.”

15 Websites to Sell Stuff Online

After you’ve practiced a bit with how to make a killer for-sale listing, it’s time to find your item a good home.

And depending on what you’re selling, you’ll want to choose the appropriate website. Some giant websites will accept listings for most products, and some niche websites accept only certain categories of items. In most cases, the more specific you get, the better.

Where to Sell Almost Everything Online

Depending on how you use the largest e-commerce websites, they can be a help or a hindrance.

A big website equals more users equals more profit, right? Not quite. In our guide to online marketplaces, Kaitlyn Blount writes that giant e-commerce sites might lead to a “small fish, monstrous pond scenario.”

If you’re a budding business, some sites will handle shipping for you. But if you’re a one-time seller, you may not think the associated fees and hassle of registering are worth just one listing. It’s likely that you’re somewhere in the middle.

Here are a few websites that need no introduction.

1. Amazon

Amazon is a far cry from its book-peddling past. According to an NPR study, 44% of online shoppers now start their search on Amazon.

To cash in on that action and make money as an Amazon seller, you must register for an Individual Seller Plan or a Professional Seller Plan.

  • Individual seller accounts are free. They have a selling limit of 40 items per month, and Amazon deducts a 99 cent fee per sale. That means no up-front costs to list your item.
  • Professional sellers must pay a $ 39.99 monthly subscription fee. Professional accounts have no selling limit and are exempt from the 99 cent fee.

Both types of accounts are subject to additional selling fees, which range from 3% to 45% of the sale price depending on the category of the item.

If you don’t feel like packaging, shipping or storing the items, Amazon also offers Fulfillment by Amazon, which handles all of that for you, plus customer service and returns — for additional costs, of course. Fees range by weight: $ 2.41 for items 10 ounces and lighter up to $ 137.32 for oversized items.

Schuyler Richardson took his online selling to the next level by creating an Amazon private label business, which includes buying generic products for cheap, rebranding and packaging them, then selling them on Amazon for a profit.

With this technique, Richardson is able to bring in between $ 1,000 and $ 2,000 of passive income each month.

“It’s important to understand this isn’t a get-rich-quick strategy,” Richardson writes in our step-by-step guide to creating a private label business. “It takes diligence, patience and a willingness to see an idea through from start to finish.”

2. EBay

Since 1995, eBay has earned a reputation as a one-stop shop for curated goods, collectibles, unique flea-market finds and more.

“You can seriously sell anything on eBay if you know the market,” Michelle Henry told The Penny Hoarder.

Henry is an eBay shopkeeper who flips items she finds at her local thrift shop and makes a few hundred dollars a week on the site. And she isn’t the only one.

Rob Stephenson, who calls himself the Flea Market Flipper, makes upwards of $ 80,000 a year selling his flea-market finds online, usually on eBay. And it only takes him around 15 to 20 hours a week.

To join their ranks, sign up for an eBay Stores account. These accounts are for more serious sellers who foresee making in excess of 50 sales a month.

There are several tiers available — starter, basic, premium, anchor and enterprise ― with subscription fees that range from as little as $ 4.95 a month all the way up to $ 2,999.95. Each tier comes with a slew of benefits and discounts, which are listed under eBay’s subscription and fees section.

If you would just like to pawn off items from your attic, you can create a free account and list up to 50 items a month.

What’s unique about eBay is the option to create an auction listing, where buyers bid on your item, or a fixed-price listing, where the seller specifies the exact price. Whenever the item sells, eBay charges the seller a final-value fee, which is a percentage of the selling price. This percentage varies between 2% and 12% depending on the category of the item.

Shipping is on you, though.

3. Etsy

An Etsy page showing t-shirts for sale are displayed

Etsy has carved out a niche for handmade and artistic goods. While the site accepts listings from a wide range of product categories, the items should cater to its craft-loving and thrifty user base.

For sellers, it’s not just about the listing, either. It takes a little love to cultivate an Etsy shop that will resonate with buyers.

“People pick up on that kind of thing,” Gosik-Wolfe told The Penny Hoarder. “They can tell if you don’t care about your shop.”

She said it’s all about your brand, backstory and making a connection with customers.

“If people are really interested in your story, they’ll be more likely to look at all your items.” Gosik-Wolfe said. “Even if they’re not a buyer right away, they’re going to look through things and say ‘I connect to this,’ and they might just [come back] later when they do need something.”

Creating an online Etsy shop may take five minutes, but you’ll want to spend much more time customizing your page. (Or, if you don’t want to do all the page designing yourself, Etsy offers a customization tool called Pattern. This tool is an additional $ 15 a month.)

Once your shop is set up, your sales are subject to several types of fees:

  • Listing fee: For each listing on Etsy’s website or the mobile app, you’ll be charged 20 cents. For multiple quantities of the same item, a 20 cent fee will be charged per sale.
  • Transaction fee: Etsy charges 5% of the listing price per sale, plus any additional costs for shipping or gift wrapping.

Where to Sell Your Stuff Online Locally

If you’d rather not ship your item across the nation, you can opt to sell it locally. There are several sites where you can create a listing to advertise your product and then conduct the sale in person once you’ve found a buyer.

It’s important to stay safe when selling in person. Trust your gut, always meet in a well-lit public place and never give strangers your address.

Other than your neighborhood Starbucks, several police departments have designated trading spaces that are always available and have 24/7 surveillance. Find the closest one to you on SafeTrade.

4. Craigslist

Want to feel old? Of course not. But here it is anyway: Craigslist has been around for more than 20 years.

The aptly named advertising website was founded by Craig Newmark in 1996, and it started as his email list of interesting events in the San Francisco area. Over the years, it has grown to be synonymous with classified ads (sorry, newspapers) and boasts more than a billion monthly online visitors.

You can list anything from a used toaster to a high-end job to a 10-bedroom mansion.

For job, retail and service listings, there’s a fee. But if you have items you want to sell, it’s free. So list away.

While the site operates in more than 70 countries, it’s best used locally. In fact, to avoid scams, the site recommends people list locally and meet face to face. To encourage this, the website actually reads your IP address and automatically funnels you to the local version of the site.

So let’s say you want to sell an antique armoire.

To create a listing, no registration is required. The site will prompt you to answer a few questions about what type of item you’re selling and will ask you to specify your county. After that, describe the armoire in detail (condition, price, dimensions, color, etc.), post a few photos and leave your contact information if you don’t want to correspond through anonymous emails.

Then the replies will start rolling in. Be prepared to haggle.

5. Facebook Marketplace

What doesn’t Facebook do these days?

In 2016, the social media giant launched an on-site feature called Marketplace. It works a lot like other local-listing websites, except there’s the added benefit of looking through the profile of the buyer or seller — a relief for online shoppers, surely.

Anyone can browse the marketplace anonymously, but to bid on or create a listing, you will need to sign in to your Facebook profile, which of course, is free. (You’re probably already logged in if you’re reading this.)

Sellers can create a free listing for homes, vehicles or items. The only stipulation is that all listings must comply with Facebook’s commerce policies and any local laws.

Facebook forbids creating listings about:

  • Animals.
  • Weapons or ammunition.
  • Irrelevant content, i.e. posting news, memes or humor that “has no intention to buy or sell products or services.”

The marketplace also aggregates relevant buying and selling groups in your area. Posting in these groups is a good way to advertise your item to a specific audience.

Pro tip: Big-town universities usually have very active marketplace groups due to the constant flux of students.

Facebook has a direct-payment system built into Messenger, which is also free to use. But payment does not have to be completed using this feature.

6. Nextdoor

Nextdoor is a relatively new, private social media platform with an interesting twist. It’s not for individuals, but neighborhoods.

To join Nextdoor, you’ll need to verify your street address and use your real, full name. This is one exception to the “never give strangers your address” rule. Because they shouldn’t be strangers. They’re your neighbors.

After your account is verified (either by phone call or postcard), you can join your neighbors on a private board not indexed by search engines and not available to people who have an address outside your area.

During registration, you’ll be prompted to join groups based on popular trending topics in your area, such as local sports teams, schools and much more.

Once your profile is complete, you can post free listings in the “For Sale & Free” section and filter items by more than a dozen categories.

All items that are shown on the website are by other Nextdoor users in your designated “neighborhood.”

The reason neighborhood is in quotation marks is because the areas are not geographically accurate neighborhoods per se. They are formed by founding members — people who first signed up in your community. Founding members define the limits of your online neighborhood and must recruit at least 10 addresses within that area to sign up on Nextdoor to establish the neighborhood.

Nextdoor staff can, at any time, change the neighborhood parameters, say, if someone combined two full cities into one neighborhood or intentionally left out certain areas based on income or race.

And while these members may indeed be your neighbors, it’s still a good idea to adhere to the safety best practices mentioned above when selling in person.

7. OfferUp

OfferUp is a mobile-based secondhand marketplace that launched in 2011. It’s focused on local sales, but there is a feature to search for items nationwide, too.

It’s one of the only online marketplaces that requires sellers to upload photos of the item via its mobile app. The app has built-in messaging and payment systems, though they aren’t mandatory for buyers. For sellers, the app is required because of the mandatory photo feature.

Creating an account is as fast as downloading the app or logging in with Facebook or Gmail if you don’t intend to sell.

OfferUp has an extensive list of prohibited items, including alcohol, guns, animals and vitamins. The site also has in-depth guides on the best practices for posting and marketing your item, which include using multiple photos, categorizing your item correctly and writing a good product description.

Creating listings and selling items in person are free.

However, there are a few paid features on OfferUp.

  • National listings: Most items are automatically listed for sale in your local area. For a fee (9.9% of the selling price), you can have the item listed nationally and shipped to the buyer.
  • Promoted listings: a feature that keeps your post within the top 50 search results for a specific category. Promotion fees run between $ 3.99 and $ 19.99 for three days to 14 days of promotion, respectively.
  • Bumping: This feature refreshes your item as if it were a new post, listing it higher in search results. Bumps cost between $ 1.99 and $ 3.99 per item.
  • Paying through OfferUp: Transactions are typically cash-based, but for national sales or situations where you don’t want to use cash, the website offers transactions through Stripe, which charges separate processing fees.

All paid features are optional. So to keep costs down, keep it local and use cash.

8. Letgo

Capitalizing on the minimalist movement, Letgo wants you to find a home for your gently used tchotchkes or space-takers that don’t spark joy. A quick listing could turn your old wooden-trunk-turned-coffee-table into someone else’s new wooden-trunk-turned-coffee-table.

Now your living room looks larger and you have $ 30 you can invest on a little self-care. Or your third round of Uber Eats this week. Whichever.

Letgo is free to buy and sell, and the only fees are for sellers who want to promote their listings. (Promotions start at $ 1.99, and a “Super Boost” subscription is available to Android users for $ 29.99 a month.)

The app-based marketplace caters to both one-time sellers and veteran peddlers alike. It takes less than a minute to create a listing, which is possible on both the Letgo website and the app. Your selling radius is automatically picked up by your phone’s location information or your IP address.

Upload a few photos, write a good description, list your price and post it for people in your area to see.

After you’ve made a few sales, like several other marketplace sites, your profile will accrue ratings from buyers. High ratings are a good way to set yourself apart if you plan to use the app frequently.

While listings are aggregated based on your ZIP code, it is possible to tap into other areas by entering a different ZIP code. However, there is no option to filter items nationally.

Letgo is a locals-only club.

Where to Sell Games and Electronics Online

While every website or app above accepts listings for electronics, it’s a good idea to list them on marketplaces that specialize in these types of products.

For example, someone on Facebook may indeed want a laptop, but your gaming laptop has 16GB of RAM, a terabyte of disk space and you just upgraded the graphics card. The Facebook buyer may only be looking for a computer that can run word processing programs. And a (lowball) offer is probably going to reflect that.

To get what it’s worth, you’ll want to list it on a marketplace where buyers will appreciate the specs of your gaming rig.

9. Decluttr

You know that collection of DVDs that you try to push to the furthest corners of your mind (and the farthest crannies of your closet) but inevitably rears its head every time you have to move? Yeah, that one.

Well, there’s a way to get paid for all those dusty discs, fast. And the best part is that you don’t have to find individual buyers. Decluttr will buy them from you and do the reselling for you.

Decluttr accepts much more than those DVDs that you’d rather forget about, too. It also buys:

  • Video games, Blu-ray Discs and music.
  • Cell phones, tablets and consoles.
  • Smart watches and laptops.
  • Even textbooks and Legos.

At this point, you’ve probably written more product descriptions than you’ve bargained for. Thankfully, no photos or listings are required to sell on Decluttr.

To get a cash quote for tech such as phones, devices and consoles, enter the model of the item you want to sell into the website or app search field and select what condition it’s in (good, poor or faulty). A cash quote will appear immediately.

For CDs, Blu-rays or other discs, scan the barcode with your smartphone for an instant quote.

In The Penny Hoarder guide to selling on Decluttr, Matt Wiley scored more than 50 bucks for some old movies and a few PS3 games. He got paid the day after his order was accepted via direct deposit, meaning no dealing with cash or checks or multiple buyers who want only two DVDs in the bundle.

Compared to other marketplaces, Decluttr’s shipping policy also stands out. The company handles shipping costs and sends you the shipping labels via email. All you have to do is pack the items in a box, tack on the label and mail it off. (For free boxes, Wiley recommends asking your local supermarket. Cost-saving and environmentally friendly!)

10. Gameflip

Selling video games and related content is one of the best ways to make money as a gamer.

At Gameflip, you can sell video games, gift cards, rare in-game items and movies all in one place.

Lifelong gamer and video game content creator Frederick Aldeco, aka DaddyGamer Fred, used Gameflip to sell almost all of his games (except the handheld Switch and PS Vita) to help fund his move from the U.S. to Switzerland.

But Gameflip is not just a marketplace for items and products. Gamers and designers can also sell services on the website, such as tutoring sessions; or graphic designs, such as logos and artwork.

To become a Gameflip seller, you must either register a credit or debit card (no prepaid cards allowed) or submit your ID for verification. You can choose to sign up using an email address, Facebook or Gmail account.

For each item sold, Gameflip charges a processing fee of 8% of the sale price, plus an additional 2% digital-item fee (if applicable). Frequent sellers can join the Gameflip Club to reduce or eliminate selling fees. Memberships cost between $ 1 a month and $ 15 a month.

All income from your sales is stored on your Gameflip profile and can be withdrawn through PayPal.

But perhaps the biggest payment of all is being able to say, “See, Mom, it does pay to play video games.”

11. Gazelle

Are you one to buy the latest model iPhone or Samsung as soon as it hits the market? Then get paid for your old model by selling it to Gazelle. No sifting through bids or haggling with buyers.

Gazelle will buy your used tech, primarily smartphones but also:

  • Tablets.
  • MP3 players.
  • Laptops and desktops.
  • Various Apple products.

To see if your product is eligible, find the make and model on the website, then answer a couple of questions about the specs and condition to get a quote.

Make sure your exact model is listed, otherwise the company won’t purchase it.

After you accept a quote, Gazelle will send you packing and shipping labels for free (for orders over $ 30). Load up your tech and ship it back for confirmation. Gazelle will pay only after it has received your shipment and checked the item.

For example, if you listed an item in “flawless” condition and the company finds scratches or dings, it will adjust the offer. You’ll have five days to accept the new offer before Gazelle will return it to you.

You can choose one of several payment options. Gazelle pays via Amazon gift cards, Paypal transfers or checks.

If you need cash fast, you can also deposit your tech at the nearest EcoATM kiosk and get paid immediately. The website notes that kiosk payments are typically lower than quotes made on the website.

Where to Sell Your Clothes Online

Of all the things we have too much of, it’s probably clothes. And we probably don’t realize it. We’ll tuck a bag or two in the hallway closet, put our unused sweaters under the bed and line our doors with hanging shoe racks.

But if we were to gather that garb into one pile, it would be enormous. Seeing it all in one place puts things into perspective.

Donating is a great start to chipping away at that fabric mountain on your living room floor. But if you want a little cash for your clothes, you have plenty of sites to choose from.

12. Poshmark

Dubbing itself a “social marketplace for fashion,” Poshmark is a platform for stylish men, women and kids’ clothes that is a little more involved that most buy-and-sell websites.

It’s not a list-it-and-leave-it kind of place, but the extra work that goes into creating a pleasing profile really pays off.

When fashion blogger Alison Gary decided to rent out her house and travel the country in an RV with her husband, she realized her wardrobe was weighing her down.

So she took a bunch of high-quality photos of her outfits, made them into a collage and posted them on Poshmark. Within a few months, her excess clothes earned her more than $ 1,000.

Gary laid out her best practices in The Penny Hoarder’s guide to selling on Poshmark. To name a few:

  • List multiple pictures.
  • Haggle for the best price, but know when to say no.
  • Give fashion advice along with your clothing. (Hello, upsell!)

To become a seller, you first must download the Poshmark app. Then you can create your own listing using Gary’s advice. For each sale, Poshmark takes a commission.

For sales $ 15 and under, there’s a flat $ 2.95 fee. For everything over $ 15, the commission jumps to 20% of the sale price.

The good news is Poshmark handles shipping for free. It will send you a pre-labeled package for you to load your clothes into and send to the buyer.

13. Swap.com

Admit it. There’s a bag of clothes in the back of your car that you’ve been meaning to take to one of the many used clothes stores, but you never got around to it. If that’s the case, Swap.com was meant for you.

It works similarly to clothing-exchange stores, where your clothes are appraised and you’re given an offer based on in-vogue fashion or seasonal trends. Except with Swap.com, it’s all done online and through the mail.

To start selling to Swap.com, it will take a little work. First, you will need to register an account and complete a “premier seller application.” You’ll provide:

  • How much you want to charge for each item.
  • What brands you plan to sell.
  • How frequently you plan to sell to Swap.com this year.
  • Your phone number.

If your application is accepted, you’ll be prompted to send in a test box, which must meet certain acceptance criteria for men, women and children’s clothing. After your box passes, then you’ll be invited to sell to Swap.com whenever you like.

For items with a list price of $ 8 and under, you will earn 15% in cash, plus 20% in Swap.com credit. All items over $ 8 will earn you 70% of the list price, plus 20% in Swap.com credit.

If some of your items are rejected, Swap.com charges $ 11.90 to ship the items back to you. Oversized boxes incur extra fees.

So make sure to follow the acceptance criteria to a T. Don’t include dirty, damaged or faded clothes because you might end up with more fees than earnings.

14. ThredUP

For the clothes that might have gone in the donation pile, ThredUP may be just as good a home, partly because the company will take those donations off your hands. For free.

This women-and-children-centric secondhand retailer makes closet cleaning easy. Select a “clean out kit;” there’s one for donations and or one for items you want to sell. If you select standard shipping, the kits are free. Expedited shipping costs $ 16.

If you’re donating, stuff your kit full, mail it out and call it a day.

If you want your items to sell, you may need to be a little more choosy. Be sure to include brands that sell well, such as Athleta, Kate Spade, Lululemon and Patagonia.

Accepted clothes will earn you between 5% and 80% of the listing price.

Listing Price Percentage of Earnings
Less than $ 15 5%
$ 15 to $ 19.99 10%
$ 20 to $ 34.99 15%
$ 35 to $ 49.99 25%
$ 50 to $ 74.99 50%
$ 100 to $ 199.99 60%
$ 200 to $ 299.99 70%
$ 300+ 80%

When loading up your kit, make sure you’re ready to part ways with whatever you send in. You will get a modest payout for the items that ThredUP accepts. The rejected clothes will be recycled.

15. Tradesy

Tradesy runs like most other marketplaces on this list, except it’s tailored toward high-end women’s fashion from designer brands like Balmain, Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

Besides clothes, Tradesy also accepts accessories, purses, shoes and all things wedding-related (invitations, veils, decorations and more).

To create a listing, you know the drill: photos, description, price. If you need a little help setting it up, Tradesy will pitch in with automatic photo editing and pricing suggestions.

Where Tradesy distinguishes itself is in its shipping policy. Before you publish your listing on the site, you can choose from three shipping methods:

  • Tradesy-supplied shipping. Choose from an assortment of bags and packages that best fit your item. Prepaid labels included.
  • Printed, prepaid shipping label. A flat $ 10.50 shipping price, which the buyer pays at checkout.
  • Ship it yourself. The best option to keep your listing price down, but more work for you.

All shipping costs are added to your listing price. Your selection will increase the price for the buyer (and ultimately for you too, because seller fees are based on the total item cost, including shipping.)

Earnings accrue on your Tradesy account. For each sale, Tradesy takes a commision based on the listed price of the item. For all sales under $ 50, the fee is a flat $ 7.50. Listings above $ 50 incur a 19.8% fee.

Your earnings will be stored on your account for 21 days. You can use those funds to shop on Tradesy or withdraw them into a checking account, a debit card or a PayPal account.

Each withdrawal incurs a 2.9% cash transfer fee.

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He specializes in unique ways to make money and work-from-home jobs. Read his full bio here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

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.

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‘Avengers: Endgame’ Tickets Now On Sale, Plus: Our Exclusive Chat with Co-Director Anthony Russo

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Let's get right to it: Tickets are now officially on sale for Avengers: Endgame right here at Fandango. Go get 'em!

Never before in the history of superhero movies have we seen a single story play out over the course of 22 movies, but on April 26 Avengers: Endgame hits theaters and it will mark the culmination of a narrative journey that began all the way back with 2008's Iron Man. How will the remaining heroes find a way to save the day now that half the universe has…

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What happens when a bossy take-no-prisoners mogul is magically transformed into her 13-year-old self? That's the premise for Little (in theaters April 12 — tickets now on sale here at Fandango), a new comedy starring Marsai Martin, Issa Rae and Regina Hall that is also executive produced by Martin, who at 14 is now the youngest executive producer ever in Hollywood.

With tickets now on sale for the film, co-written and directed by Tina Gordon, Fandango sat down for a hilarious extended…

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Oprah Announces New Shows to Air on Apple TV Plus

This past week in Cupertino, California, at Apple’s news release, Oprah Winfrey unveiled the content she plans to roll out onto Apple’s new streaming content service, Apple TV Plus.
Although not many details were disclosed, we do know the talk show maven will be bringing her book club to the screen by interviewing renowned authors who will broadcast on all Apple devices.  Additionally, two documentary projects are in the works. The first, “Toxic Labor,” will document the impact of workplace harassment, in a multipart series.

“The Apple platform has allowed me to do what I do in a whole new way,” said Winfrey, “connecting people and taking it to a whole new level because they have a billion pockets, y’all.”

Other prominent figures at the event included Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and J.J. Abrams.

The deal was announced in June of last year; but up until this point, the details have been pretty hush, hush. From a previous announcement, we do know Apple is investing $ 1 billion into original programming and planned on bringing on big-name producers in order to execute the tall order. “Ms. Winfrey will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world,” stated Apple in the release.

This fall, Apple will release its new TV streaming service, Apple TV Plus, in an effort to support the new content. The service will launch through the Apple Store and will include live streams across all Apple devices. In a statement, Apple says Apple TV Plus will be “the new home for the world’s most creative storytellers featuring exclusive original shows, movies, and documentaries.”

Apple is clearly positioning itself to be a Netflix competitor. It will be interesting to see how all of this pans out.

The post Oprah Announces New Shows to Air on Apple TV Plus appeared first on Black Enterprise.

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The Ultimate Guide to Babysitting (Plus How to Command a Higher Rate)

Years ago, I worked as a live-in babysitter for a couple of months. I didn’t have to dress up like Mrs. Doubtfire, and the kids were OK, but the experience still might be part of why I chose to never have children.

However, if you like being around kids more than I do, you could make decent money as a baby sitter. By the end of 2018, Care.com found that the national average hourly rate for a baby sitter was $ 15.83, which was more than a 30% increase from $ 12.07 rate in 2013.

And that’s just the base rate. But more on that later.

All this is to say that babysitting is no longer just a business for teenagers; as an adult, you may be more likely to find work.

Thinking of adding a babysitting side hustle to your income? Here’s what you need to know.

How to Become a Babysitter

What makes a good babysitter? Yes, you should like children. But it’s not all fun and games, according to Connie Fong, vice president of brand, Care.com, who notes that newbies to babysitting should brush up on those invaluable soft skills.

“Taking introductory courses can help aspiring sitters learn the key skills to babysitting, like responsibility, problem-solving, decision-making and leadership,” Fong said in an email. “Places like the American Red Cross offer classes in child care that cover the basics of caring for kids and even better, many classes can be found online.”

When you’re just getting started, word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to boost your babysitting business and to find new customers. Provide great service to friends, family and neighbors, then ask them to refer you to their network of parents.

Depending on your location, you may find opportunities posted on Monster.com and Indeed.com. You can advertise your services for free on Craigslist.

If you don’t want to go it alone, there are several online platforms specifically set up for connecting parents and baby sitters, including Care.com and Sittercity. Both offer free membership options as well as paid versions that include background checks and improved placement.

When setting up your profile on babysitting sites, include more than the basic facts to attract parents who are looking for specific work history and personality traits that are a good match for their family, according to Fong.

“Share information beyond, ‘I like caring for kids,’” Fong wrote in her email. “[Babysitters should] include more specific details such as their years of experience, the types of responsibilities they have had, and special skills or passions that may help with the job.”

So maybe all those arts & crafts classes could finally pay off.

How Much Can Babysitters Make?

Your pay rate will depend on a variety of factors, including the following:

  • Location. You can charge more in cities with a higher cost of living. The Care.com calculator suggests the rate for babysitting one child in San Francisco, California, is $ 21 per hour, while in Toledo, Ohio, the going rate is $ 13.50 an hour.
  • Number of kids. You can typically charge $ 1 or $ 2 more per hour, per kid.
  • Age of sitter. Adults earn more.
  • Time. Late night and on-demand schedules typically result in higher pay. You can also charge a premium for high-demand nights like New Year’s Eve.
  • Additional qualifications.According to a 2017 Care.com Babysitter Survey, 66% of parents say they would pay more for a sitter with CPR and safety training,” Fong wrote.
  • Additional responsibilities. You can charge a higher rate for going above and beyond regular babysitting duties, such as picking the kids up from school or helping with homework.

Which Should You Be: Babysitter, Nanny or Daycare?

The line between being a baby sitter and a nanny can be a tough one to determine, but the more important question is whether you’re an independent contractor or a household employee.

First, if you don’t get paid more than $ 2,100 by any one client in a year, you’ll normally be considered an independent contractor, which means you’ll need to pay the self-employment tax along with your income tax.

If you earn more than $ 2,100 per year from one client, then the IRS considers in-home caregivers to be household employees, which means your employer has tax-compliance responsibilities like payroll taxes.

However, the IRS says, “A worker who performs child care services for you in his or her home generally is not your employee.” So babysitting in your own home makes it clearer that you’re an independent contractor and that the parents won’t need to deal with payroll taxes.

If you do decide to babysit kids in your home, you might be classified as a daycare operator, in which case you may need a license and have other legal complications. Each state has its own laws covering daycare, and you’ll want to make sure you’re on the right side of them.

For example, child care law in Illinois specifies that you need a license from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) if you care for more than three children (your own are included if they’re under 12 years old). So if you live in Illinois and want to avoid the need for a daycare license, simply limit your service to watching three or fewer kids.

Consult a tax specialist if you’re in doubt about your status.

Whatever path you choose — babysitter, nanny, daycare provider — there’s plenty of responsibility involved when it comes to caring for other people’s children, so it shouldn’t be a job you enter into half-heartedly.

You may not be able to retire early on a baby sitter’s income, but expect your bonuses to come in the form of hugs and cookies — not a bad deal.

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Tiffany Wendeln Connors, a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder, contributed to this post.

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.

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US-Guatemala cooperation plus border wall needed to cut illegal immigration

The U.S. should work more closely with Guatemala and Mexico to reduce the flow of migrants into Mexico because many wind up in America.
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Here Are the 13 Best Second Jobs — Plus What You Need to Land One

Are you thinking about taking on a second job?

Sometimes called “side hustles” or “side gigs,” they can be a great way to supplement your income to pay off bills, grow savings and have some extra cash in your wallet. Also, these gigs might lead to opportunities to develop new skills or explore your passions.

But before you sign up for part-time work or dive head first into an independent-contractor gig, you have to think about which side jobs are best for you. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to find the right second job — plus 13 gigs to consider.

How to Find the Right Second Job

Here are some specific questions to ask yourself about a gig and your situation when hunting for a second job.

Will This Gig Interfere With My Day Job?

When searching for the best second job for yourself, make sure it will not cause conflicts with your regular job. The last thing you want to do is get fired from your day job in pursuit of a second job.

Every company is different, and some may have strict guidelines on what you can and can’t do regarding side hustles. Take some time to look through your company’s employee handbook or schedule a meeting with your human resources manager to find out for sure. Once you figure out that you can do a second job, look for ones that can be done during your off hours.

How Flexible Is Your Schedule?

Although you may be able to find a second job that has some schedule flexibility, you also need to be willing to make changes to your personal schedule. This means being willing to do your side gig before or after work or eliminating nonessential activities.

McKinzie Bean, who runs the website Moms Make Cents, recommends recording your schedule for one week to find which events, like bingeing on Netflix on a Tuesday night, you can cut.

“Just see which pieces you’re willing to give up because it is going to take some sacrifice to get to that point where your business is growing,” she says.

Will You Need Additional Training?

When narrowing down your list of potential second jobs, keep in mind that not all gigs will be available right away. Some jobs may require a specific skill certification. Some industries have official certifying bodies that conduct competency tests that allow people to work within a field for a period of time.

If you don’t have a certification needed in your field, factor in some extra schooling or studying before opening up shop.

“They’re looking for reasons to hire candidates,” says Tim Gates, senior regional vice president at Adecco Staffing. “So if they see anything that’s relevant to their industry, to their company, to the specific position, it’s definitely going to help to make that candidate more attractive.”

One way to learn additional skills is by signing up for massive open online courses. These 100% online courses can be completed at your own pace, offering online certifications in personal branding and social media literacy.

Having these certifications shows employers that you have ambition, says Robin Colner, director of Fordham University’s certificate program in digital and social media.

“It shows a desire and an understanding of the marketplace, which every employer wants,” she says.

Where Do You Want to Work?

So, where do you want to conduct your second job? Are you interested in being an assistant in an office, a sales associate in a store, a server in a restaurant or a ride-share driver in your car?

If going to another business after work to do your second job doesn’t sound appealing, then consider looking for a work-from-home job. Check out The Penny Hoarder’s Work-From-Home Jobs Portal for jobs such as customer service associates, part-time English tutors, transcriptionists and much more.

What Are You Looking for in This Job?  

Ask yourself what you’re trying to get out of your side gig. Are you trying to find a second job that pays a lot of money, expands your skills or explores a passion? What if you don’t know what job is best for you?

If you don’t know where to begin, write down your strengths on a piece of paper and what you’re looking for in a second job. This piece of paper can be a reference point to help with in your search to find your marketable skill.

In addition, consult your friends and coworkers to find out what skills they think you excel at. Their observations may help you figure out which job is best for you.

“Until someone else sees that [skill] in you, you don’t realize it’s a unique skill or a skill [other] people are having trouble with,” says Sol Rosenbaum, who runs The Engineering Mentor, a website that helps engineers develop interpersonal skills such as communicating and collaborating.

The Best Second Jobs

If you don’t already have a specific side gig in mind, here are some second-job ideas to consider. These jobs are broken down into categories, including service industry, smartphone apps and work-from-home.

App-Based Gig Jobs

Two english bulldogs on leashes

Thanks to smartphones, app-based gig jobs have risen in popularity in recent years. Companies such as Uber and Lyft, Rover and GrubHub make it easier for people to accept jobs on the fly and work a flexible schedule. Here is a breakdown of some of the more popular gig jobs involving smartphone apps.

1. Ride-share Driver

Turn your car into a taxi on your terms. Try driving with Lyft!

Demand for ride-sharing has been growing like crazy, and it shows no signs of slowing down. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later.

We talked to Paul Pruce, who had been driving full-time with Lyft for over a year and earning $ 750 a week as a driver.

Best of all, he could do it on his own time. You can work days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!

Because it’s easy to switch between apps, Lyft drivers often also sign up to drive with Uber.

2. Grocery Shopper

Not comfortable with driving strangers around? How about picking up groceries instead? Shipt and Instacart are two services that deliver supermarket essentials to a customer’s door. Drivers for the services receive an order, go to the store, pick out the items and drop them off.

Destiny Frith of Nashville, Tennessee, told The Penny Hoarder she earns about $ 600 in a 35-hour workweek as a Shipt shopper.

3. Meal Delivery

Luckily, there are other food-delivery options for people who don’t want to wait in the deli line for someone else’s cold cuts. With meal-delivery services like Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash, drivers will pick up customers’ take-out orders from restaurants and deliver the items to them.

According to Uber Eats, the amount of money drivers earn depends on several factors, such as when they work, demand for deliveries and tips. Drivers earn pickup, drop-off and trip mileage fees. Uber takes a cut of the overall payout, but drivers keep 100% of their tips.

Like traditional Uber, surge pricing can boost your pay during popular times, and Uber’s Instant Pay feature lets you access your pay from trips immediately after they conclude — for a 50 cent fee each time — up to five times per day.

4. Dog Walking  

If you’re looking for a flexible, independent way to earn money — and you love hanging out with dogs — Rover might be your perfect gig.

The online network connects dog walkers and sitters to local dog owners through its 4.9-star-rated app, so you don’t have to staple flyers on every utility pole across town.

Rover says sitters can earn as much as $ 1,000 a month.

Rover dog-sitter requirements vary by location. In general, you must:

  • Be 18 years or older.
  • Pass a background check.
  • Have access to the Rover app (iOS or Android).

Here’s how it works: You’ll create an online sitter profile where you’ll answer questions about your experience with puppers and your schedule availability.

You can choose to offer a variety of services, including dog walking, overnight boarding at your home or theirs, and daycare. Boarding is the app’s most popular service, so offering it can get you more gigs. You set your own rates. (Rover keeps a small percentage as a service fee.)

Dog owners will reach out to you. Accept which gigs you want, then start snugglin’ pups. As soon as you complete a service, you’ll be paid within two days.

5. Odd Jobs

For those who are a little more handy around the house and don’t want to be stuck in a car all day, think about putting your odd-job skills to good use.

TaskRabbit, a service that connects workers with people who need help at home, lists a variety of tasks that people can accept, including assembling furniture, mounting TVs, cleaning and more.

According to Brittany Benson, a TaskRabbit spokeswoman, “Taskers” in the United States earn an average of $ 35 per hour. Check out our overview of how to make money on TaskRabbit.

Service Industry

The service industry depends on people looking for extra work as servers and bartenders. The hours and pay can vary depending on the type of establishment, so make sure these shifts will not interfere with your day job.

6. Restaurant Server

Since most servers rely on tips, do your best to find busy restaurants that have expensive food and drink. That way, you have a better chance to get a more lucrative tip at the bottom of the receipt. Restaurant servers earn $ 8.33 per hour, including tips, according to a The Penny Hoarder analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.  

7. Bartender

You may need some previous experience behind a bar before getting a gig serving cocktails. Bartenders earn $ 11.54 per hour, including tips, according to a The Penny Hoarder analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. If you have the necessary know-how to become a bartender, try out these 16 tricks to maximize your tip income.

8. Fast-Food Worker

Working in a fast-food restaurant is a common first job for high schoolers, but now may be the time to give it another shot.

Some of the biggest fast-food chains have added more benefits for their employees. McDonald’s announced in early 2018 that it was planning to expand its college tuition assistance program. A few months later, KFC started offering employees access to personal finance education and budgeting software. Fast-food workers earn $ 6.41 per hour, according to a The Penny Hoarder analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Work From Home

Young woman working at home

Work-from-home jobs are a great option if leaving your day job and going straight to another gig doesn’t sound appealing. These jobs offer the flexibility to do your duties from the comfort of your home office.

9. Customer Service Associate

These gigs come in many forms, requiring reps to resolve issues for customers on the phone and by chat and email. Fields include technology, health care and finance. Customer service jobs require patience, a desire to help people and a proper computer setup. Check out the customer service jobs available on The Penny Hoarder Work-From-Home Jobs Portal for more information.

10. Freelance and Creative Writing

So you have a way with words. Why not get paid to use them? You can find opportunities to get paid to write copy and original creative writing pieces. One of the ways to make your writing more in-demand is to focus on a specific niche or topic, such as finance or technology.

Also, stay away from writing for sites and services that pay little per article. Those articles usually need to be written in a hurry and are not worthy to be clips in your professional portfolio.

If you’re interested in getting paid for your original creative writing pieces, then sign up for a submission-management website, such as Submittable or Duotrope, says Jerrod Schwarz, a creative writing professor at the University of Tampa and a managing editor of Driftwood Press Literary Magazine.

Here’s a breakdown on how to make more money as a freelance writer and a list of magazines that pay for creative writing submissions.

11. Teaching English as a Second Language

If you’re a former teacher looking to make some money from home, you should check out VIPKid, Qkids or Italki. These companies connect U.S. instructors with students who want to learn English.

According to the Qkids website, most online teachers work 10 to 20 hours per week and earn between $ 16 and $ 20, including loyalty bonuses.

Jennifer Ross, a former schoolteacher who now works for VIPKid, told The Penny Hoarder in 2018 she makes more than $ 520 working 24 hours a week.

12. Online Tutoring

Another teaching opportunity available outside the classroom is online tutoring. Several companies give educators a chance to help students while working from the comfort of home.

Tutors with Chegg, for example, earn $ 20 or more per hour teaching grades 6-12, college and working professionals in topics such as calculus, computer science, zoology — and more.

Most companies require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree or be working toward one. But not all companies, like Tutor.com or Yup, require previous teaching experience. Here’s a roundup of work-from-home online tutoring companies.

13. E-Commerce Seller

Maybe you’re not interested in working in a service-industry gig and want to explore your crafty side. Thanks to the popularity of platforms like Etsy, eBay and Facebook Marketplace, craft merchants and small business owners have an outlet to sell their goods.

Etsy seller Lena Gosik-Wolfe encourages new sellers to do their due diligence in the beginning by obtaining the necessary tax documents, business licenses and web domain for their companies before making a first sale.

“It’s better to take it seriously and get that stuff in order from the start rather than having to go back and fix it later on,” she says. If you’re considering selling on Etsy, here are five more tips to help boost your sales.

In addition to Etsy, craft sellers can open up online stores using Amazon and Shopify. One of the benefits of selling on Amazon is the sheer number of people who use the site every day.

The downside is that there’s increased competition from people selling similar products. An upside is that sellers have access to features such as Prime and Fulfillment by Amazon.

Shopify is another option for sellers who prefer control over their online store to merely listing their goods on a large aggregate like Etsy. Shopify is user-friendly for sellers who aren’t especially tech-savvy, offering more than 100 free, customizable online store templates. Find out more about different e-commerce services here.

Matt Reinstetle is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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.

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How Much Do You Keep Track of Your Health Stats? (Plus, Kat’s Weird Health Chart!)

how much do you keep track of your health stats

My brother emailed me recently to tell me about a high triglyceride reading (because, he explained, “we share genetics and all,”) and I quickly reviewed all of my triglyceride levels since 2000, based on a chart I started keeping several years ago, as I mentioned in my post on how much I’m kind of obsessed with lists. Then I realized I’d never really shared my health chart and thought, hey, maybe the readers would like to have their own health chart… or maybe they have a better way of tracking health stats — so let’s discuss. Here are the Qs: How much do you keep track of health stats, like all those numbers you get from doctor’s visits (cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, etc)? What level of trust do you have in your doctors to tell you when things are wrong? If you’ve got a big role in someone’s medical care where they have Issues (whether it be yourself, an aging parent or a kiddo) how do you keep track of everything?

I should note that my trust in the medical establishment is severely eroded after I had a pretty horrible patient/customer experience with my first son’s birth — we both came out of it ok but a) I didn’t see my carefully-vetted OB/GYN for the entire time I was in the hospital (despite the fact that her office was across the street and she was even in the hospital for rounds during at least one of the days), b) not being “attached” to a doctor meant that we kind of got totally forgotten about at the hospital, which stunk for reasons I went into more when telling J’s birth story. (I’m really grateful that medically we were both OK, but the whole experience left me really angry with my former doctor, who I haven’t spoken to since the phone call where she told me to head to the hospital.) But my jaded lesson after all that is that I want to be able to assess my own medical issues without expecting/hoping a doctor to go above and beyond and catch something that isn’t obvious. (Ditto for my kids and our aging parents when the time comes for my husband, brother or myself to be more involved in their care.) It isn’t that I don’t trust that they’re competent professionals — but I tend to believe that they’re not your buddy, they’re not “looking out for you” and if you don’t ask them about something or push to be taken seriously the issue might not be found. (Of course there’s a ton of additional reading to be done out there about how doctors don’t listen to women and downplay their health concerns — see these articles in The New York Times and The Atlantic to get you started.) (Just to be tooootally clear here, I am not suggesting that this health chart is any kind of substitute for medical care — I’m just saying I use this chart to track the data I get from the doctor and raise questions if I see disturbing trends over time.) 

Kat's weird health chart to track health stats

Anyway: this is my weird little Excel health chart (you can click the screencapture above to see the chart bigger, or download the Excel doc here if you’d like it for yourself; obviously I’ve removed my own medical data).  The rows are the years, the columns are the various stats I’m tracking; there are comments in each column header for what the stats “should be,” again based on that Real Simple article.  I basically add one line each year and put whatever numbers I get into that row on the chart. The columns are health stats I’m tracking based on an old Real Simple article — I don’t get all of the numbers every year but it is interesting to see how things have changed as I’ve gotten older. I tend to be pretty healthy so personally I just jot a few things down in the Notes column, like if I took any prescription drugs for a limited time (like antiobiotics after strep), if I had any major issues (like tearing my ACL/reconstructing it a few years ago) or if I see something as “the beginning of an issue” (like seeing an orthopedic surgeon last year for what I worried was carpal tunnel and finding out NOPE, it’s just arthritis in my thumb, and getting my first cortisone shot… yay…). 

How about you guys — do you keep track of any of your own health data like blood pressure, triglycerides, etc? (Anyone have any fun apps?) What other little things do you do to educate and empower yourself as a patient? 

Further Reading:

  • Numbers to Live By [Real Simple]
  • 13 Health Stats Every 20-Something Should Know [Greatist]
  • How to Track Everything In Your Life Without Going Crazy [Lifehacker]
  • 9 Health Statistics That Actually Matter – And When You Should Check Them [Men’s Journal]

The post How Much Do You Keep Track of Your Health Stats? (Plus, Kat’s Weird Health Chart!) appeared first on Corporette.com.

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Nike’s Air Max Plus SE Gets a Vibrant Mix of White and Yellow

Nike’s Air Max Plus receives another colorway to its growing list of choices. This time, the SE iteration gets ready for the warm weather a bit early with a spring-like colorway. Its underlay is done in white while the webbed overlay is treated in bright yellow. Its midsole continues the crisp theme with a white base and yellow shank plate between the heel and forefoot while housing visible Air Max units. Lastly, its Nike branding and eyelets contrast its body and details in black.

The Nike Air Max Plus SE “White/Yellow” is set to arrive in the coming weeks for $ 160 USD at select Nike Sportswear stockists and Nike.com.

In other footwear news, you can take a closer look at the Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG.

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4 Secrets Debt Relief Programs Don’t Want You to Know (Plus 3 Alternatives)

You’re 30, 60 or maybe even 180 days late on your credit card payments.

Creditors are calling, interest is building and your stress is through the roof.

Then, you see an ad for a company that can seemingly make it all go away — a company that’ll finally get you some much-needed relief from your credit card debt.

What Is a Credit Card Debt Relief Program?

Credit card debt relief isn’t an official term used in the finance industry. It’s a marketing term that debt settlement companies use to play to indebted people’s desire for relief.

The term can be interchangeable with debt forgiveness, debt settlement or debt negotiation. What differentiates debt relief programs is that they’re set up by a company that does the hard work for you.

You may have seen their ads in the mail, on TV or in sidebars while searching the internet. They promise to lower your debt burden, help you avoid bankruptcy and hold your hand every step of the way. The offer sounds really enticing.

But as with anything that sounds too good to be true, there are some strings attached. Here are four things you should know about credit card debt relief programs before you join one.

1. A Debt Relief Program Will Hurt Your Credit

The program works in four steps:

  1. You make payments to the debt settlement company that go into an FDIC-insured savings account.
  2. Once that account is at a certain amount, they will start negotiating your debt.
  3. They contact you for your approval of the negotiated settlement.
  4. They pay that settlement and move on to the next debt.

In the first three steps, your debt relief company will not be making payments on your debts. The primary goal of debt relief programs is to negotiate lower settlements. Continuing to not make payments helps them achieve that goal. But depending on how large your debts are, those steps can take years — and during that time, your credit score continues to drop.

You’ll even keep receiving calls from creditors.

2. They Can’t Guarantee Success in Negotiating Your Debt Down

If you see the word ”guarantee” anywhere in a company’s marketing materials, run for the hills. No one can guarantee any level of forgiveness when it comes to debt.

In general, debt settlement companies do have a good track record in negotiating down debt, because they have insight into a lot of different creditors and previous settlements. But every case is different, and you can’t assume someone else’s success will assure your own.

3. You’ll Have to Pay Taxes on the Forgiven Amount

Contrary to what some believe, the government has no debt relief program. In fact, if you do receive debt relief, they’d like to be compensated for it. You’ll pay taxes on your forgiven debt.

Here’s how to figure out what taxes you might owe:

Let’s say you owe $ 20,000 in credit card debt. First, someone will asses the fair market value of the assets accumulated through that debt. Due to depreciation, that value is likely to be less than $ 20,000. Let’s say it’s $ 17,000. They won’t take your stuff, but hypothetically, if the creditors came and took those assets as repayment, you’d still be $ 3,000 short.

The debt relief program then negotiates $ 5,000 off your bill. You now owe $ 15,000. Woohoo! You’ll be responsible for paying income tax — between 10% and 37%, based on your income — on the difference between the forgiveness amount and what you owed after the value assessment. In this case, $ 2,000.

And that’s just a simple example. It can be unreasonably complicated to figure out what you’ll actually owe in taxes after debt forgiveness, so it’s advisable to hire an accountant to help you with it. (Another expense you’ll have to eat.)

4. They Don’t Work for Free

While debt settlement companies that market their services are now banned from collecting fees from consumers before settling or reducing the consumers’ debt, they still don’t work for free.

Debt settlement companies will charge you on a percentage basis — usually, a portion of your total debt or of the amount forgiven.

Debt Relief Program Alternatives

If you’re ready to pay off your debt, there are alternatives to debt relief programs that can lower interest rates, eliminate fees and improve your financial picture as a whole.

1. Debt Management Plan

A debt management plan, usually offered from a credit union or nonprofit financial organization, is a voluntary program that allows you to pay funds to your credit counseling agency each month. They send those funds directly to your creditors — no savings account involved.

While debt relief programs hurt your credit score, a debt management plan can actually improve your score throughout the 30-60 month program.

You can find accredited credit counselors from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America.

2. Debt Consolidation

Most debt relief programs won’t accept clients with less than $ 10,000 in debt. If you fall below this figure, a personal loan or balance transfer credit card might be good options for you.

Many types of credit card debt consolidation can lower your interest rate — sometimes down to 0% for up to 18 months — and help you avoid fees. But you have to be ready to commit to paying off your debt within the terms of the loan or card.

3. Do It Yourself

You don’t need a third party to negotiate and settle your debt for you. In fact, many people do it themselves.

It’s not a walk in the park, though. You have to save up money to make lump-sum payments, and it will also do bad things to your credit while you’re in negotiations.

Whatever way you choose to pay off your credit card debt, it pays to be informed on the risks and rewards associated with the different methods.

Do your due diligence and you’ll avoid being scammed on the path to freedom from debt.

Jen Smith is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She and her husband paid off $ 78,000 of debt in less than two years on two less-than-average salaries. She gives money-saving and debt-payoff tips on Instagram at @modernfrugality.

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.

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.

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