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A Home Equity Loan Is a Smart Choice as Rates Rise

In recent years, home equity loans have gone the way of boy bands. So last-century. In an era of low interest rates, home equity lines of credit and cash-out refinances have been the equity-tapping products of choice.

Home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, have been popular because they usually are built with low introductory rates, which have been scraping the bottom. Cash-out refis have been sought because with mortgage rates at a historical floor, millions of homeowners have been refinancing to lower their rates and tap the equity in their homes.

Plain-and-simple home equity loans, with the security of a locked-in interest rate that never changes, have been yesterday’s news. But as the economy improves and interest rates rebound, you may have to go throwback if you want to access some of your home value.

Regulation stalled home equity loans

At least some of the blame for the missing home equity loans can be placed on regulation. Dodd-Frank, the wide-ranging financial reform act instituted in 2010, mandated that lenders revise statements and disclosures for home equity loans, but not for HELOCs.

It required lenders to implement extensive system changes, and as a result, some companies decided to eliminate home equity loan products. Besides, low interest rates and rising home values kept lenders busy with refinance demand and HELOCs. Banks and borrowers had no interest in the additional paperwork required on home equity loans.

Rising interest rates may change demand

Mortgage rates were under 4% for all but two months for 2015 and 2016, according to Freddie Mac. But the sun appears to be setting on the sub-4% mortgage rate.

Logan Pichel, head of consumer lending for Regions Bank, believes that as rates rise, more people may back down from a move-up mentality. He says homeowners in 2017 and beyond may consider remodeling their existing house — with its already low mortgage rate — instead of buying a bigger home at a higher interest rate.

In that scenario, a home equity loan may be the right solution.

Pichel predicts many homeowners will say, “I am not going to move up into the next bigger house because I’m sitting here today on a 3 1/2% mortgage rate, and if I were to sell my home and go buy another one, I now have a 4 1/2% mortgage rate.” A home equity loan would allow those homeowners to upgrade a kitchen, add a bedroom or build an outdoor living area, for example.

And with rates expected to climb in the months ahead, the relative advantage of a HELOC with a low introductory rate is not as clear because it’s likely to increase when periodic rate resets kick in.

“Our opinion is, we’re going to see fewer move-up buyers and we’re going to see more home equity business as a result of the increase in interest rates,” Pichel says.

Johnna Camarillo, manager of equity lending at Navy Federal Credit Union, agrees.

“I think we’re going to see a shift back to fixed equity loans,” Camarillo says. “Our members tend to be more fiscally conservative, and so they like the security of knowing that ‘my payment is always going to be X number of dollars.’ Especially if they already know that they’ve got a specific purpose for their loan.”

» MORE: Check mortgage rates now.

Fix it and forget it

After that decision, Pichel says, the next move is to choose between a home equity loan and a home equity line of credit. HELOCs usually begin with a slightly lower rate than fixed-rate home equity loans.

But HELOC rates are commonly adjustable and subject to the ups and downs of short-term interest rates, at least at the beginning. Many lenders allow borrowers to carve out a portion of their balance owed and put it into a fixed-rate loan.

“As you see an increase in interest rates, you’ll have a set of individuals that will say, ‘You know what, I’m going to lock in at a fixed rate,’ ” he says.

And some customers, Pichel says, appreciate the discipline of a fixed-rate loan for reasons including:

  • They know exactly what their monthly payment will be, which helps with budgeting.
  • Tapping home equity with a lump sum rather than through a line of credit removes the temptation to pay down and then draw money from the line again.
  • With a set number of payments, borrowers knows their payoff date.

Some customers like knowing the exact numbers. Navy Federal’s Camarillo says there’s a comfort level with knowing the specific amount you’ll owe, how long it will take to pay the loan off and what your payment will be each month.

Hal Bundrick is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: hal@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @halmbundrick.

It’s OK to Spend Money on Yourself — Really

 

People who spend too much outnumber, by far, those who spend too little. But the methods that therapists and financial planners use to help “underspenders” can guide the rest of us about when it’s OK to splurge and when we should resist.

Chronic underspenders can be so terrified about running out of money that they put off health care, ignore needed home repairs or descend into hoarding, says financial planner Rick Kahler of Rapid City, South Dakota. Framing certain expenditures as an investment and creating a plan that helps them see how much money they can spend without causing financial ruin can ease their distress, he says.

“‘Spend’ is not a good word to a frugal person,” says Kahler, author of “Conscious Finance: Uncover Your Hidden Money Beliefs and Transform the Role of Money in Your Life.” “It connotes waste.”

Planning also helps those who are trying to handle money better by paying off debt, building savings and investing for retirement. High-quality experiences or purchases that give lasting pleasure can stave off burnout and “frugal fatigue” that might otherwise cause people to abandon their money goals.

Here’s how to walk the line:

Have a budget

You don’t want to splurge one month and wind up short on rent the next. A budget helps you find out where your money is going now and what upcoming bills you need to cover. Your just-for-fun spending will come out of the income that’s not already spoken for.

Decide how to invest in yourself

Experiences tend to give us more lasting pleasure than things, but the right purchases also can be an investment in happiness. If you’re learning to play music, for example, upgrading your instrument can contribute to your well-being every time you lay hands on it. If you feel guilty spending on pleasurable things, you may need some practice.

Psychologist and financial planner Brad Klontz of Lihue, Hawaii, tells his workaholic clients to get massages so they can be exposed to what it feels like to indulge.

Don’t wait until you’ve ‘arrived’

Paying off credit card debt and building emergency savings can take years. Investing enough for retirement will take decades. And you only live once. As long as you’re on track with your goals, you should be able to afford the occasional splurge.

What does it mean to be on track? Generally, it means that you’re saving enough to replace roughly 70 percent of your income in retirement and that you’re scheduled to pay off all your toxic debt, such as credit cards and payday loans, within the next five years, while making all required payments on any mortgages, auto loans and student loans.

If you’re not on track, your splurges should be on the smaller side until you’ve got a better handle on your money. Not sure? Consider a consultation with a fee-only financial planner who can give you an objective assessment, says Klontz, co-author of “Mind over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health.”

Save the full amount before you spend on fun

This one habit can stave off a world of regret. If it helps, you can set up a dedicated savings account. Online banks and some credit unions let you set up multiple savings sub-accounts that you can name, so you can have ones for “vacations,” “guitar,” “new wardrobe” or whatever else you desire.

Use financing carefully

Even if you know better than to finance the fun stuff, you can find yourself overspending when borrowing for big purchases such as cars or homes. Borrowed money feels less real than cash in your wallet, so you may be more tempted to spend on luxury add-ons. You wouldn’t pay $2,000 cash for a DVD player, for example, yet people often shell out that much for “rear-seat entertainment systems.”

One way to make sure you can really afford what you’re buying is to first stick to conservative loans, which means a fixed-rate mortgage that lasts 30 years or less, or an auto loan that lasts four years or less. Then add the expected payment to all your current “must have” expenses: shelter, food, utilities, transportation, insurance, child care and other minimum loan payments. If the expected total is 50 percent or less of your after-tax income, you can probably afford the new payment.

If you continue to struggle with a fear of spending, both Klontz and Kahler recommend taking those anxieties to a therapist.

“It’s always emotional and rooted in some past wounding or unfinished business,” Kahler says. “We need to examine the baggage that keeps us stuck in those feelings.”

Liz Weston is a certified financial planner and columnist at NerdWallet, a personal finance website, and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lweston@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lizweston.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

 

4 Credit Card Trends for 2017 and What They Mean for You

In 2016, high-end credit cards attracted a lot of attention with generous rewards and perks. But this year, issuers are going back to basics — and perhaps charging you more in the process. Here are four credit card industry trends taking shape for 2017.

1. More bread-and-butter rewards

Instead of aspirational rewards, such as free hotel stays and airline flights, issuers will focus more on “bread-and-butter rewards” this year, such as cash back, says David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report, an industry newsletter.

“In 2017, we’ll see much more offers aimed at people in the middle class,” Robertson says. “All the big issuers have already committed themselves to their upscale programs. They have nowhere to go but down.”

The upshot: Keep an eye out for improved cash-back offers from issuers. More competition on this front is great news, especially if you spend more at the grocery store than on first-class flights.

2. Higher interest rates

If you missed the news about the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in December, don’t worry — we’ll relive that moment soon enough.

Recent projections by the Fed suggest that interest rates could rise by three-quarters of a percentage point this year. That means credit card debt could soon become more expensive, potentially costing you hundreds of dollars in additional interest over the next five years.

The upshot: When you pay your balance in full each month, you never have to pay interest. But if you do have credit card debt, move it to a card with a 0% balance transfer annual percentage rate, if you can qualify for one, and pay it down interest-free.

3. A growing subprime market

In 2016, the percentage of credit card accounts held by consumers with subprime credit reached its highest level since 2010, according to credit bureau TransUnion. But this doesn’t suggest a return to the days of easy credit, when it seemed even house cats could prequalify for cards with $20,000 limits.

“The credit card issuers are really very diligent about managing their risk and how much credit they’re providing on an account basis,” says Paul Siegfried, senior vice president of financial services at TransUnion. Delinquencies are staying relatively low.

The upshot: If you have bad credit, now’s a good time to get a secured credit card and start rebuilding your score. It might be easier to get started than it was in the past.

4. Smoother transactions

About three-quarters of people who owned a smartphone and had a checking account or debit card said they had used a mobile device to make at least one purchase or other type of payment in the past 12 months, according to a 2016 study by First Annapolis Consulting. On top of that, issuers are offering cardholders more ways to make purchases and redeem rewards directly with merchants online and through apps.

“We’ll be making new payments we wouldn’t have made before,” Robertson says of these frictionless payments.

The upshot: If you’re taking advantage of these faster payments, guard against overspending by sticking to a weekly spending limit. Don’t let convenience come between you and your budget.

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: claire@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ideclaire7.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.

Mortgage Rates Friday, Feb. 17: Steep Drop; Building Permits Up

Thirty-year fixed mortgage rates plunged 11 basis points today, while 15-year fixed loans and 5/1 ARMs dropped by four and three basis points, respectively, according to a NerdWallet survey of mortgage interest rates published by national lenders Friday morning.

The sharp drop in mortgage rates is a sign that investors are losing some confidence about economic growth in 2017, says Michael Fratantoni, chief economist and senior vice president of research and industry technology with the Mortgage Bankers Association.

MORTGAGE RATES TODAY, Friday, FEB. 17

(Change from 2/16) 30-year fixed: 4.34% APR (–0.11) 15-year fixed: 3.71% APR (–0.04) 5/1 ARM: 3.80% APR (–0.03)

Get personalized mortgage rates

 

After the election, mortgage rates rose by 75 basis points on expectations of faster economic growth and somewhat higher inflation, Fratantoni tells NerdWallet. Those expectations drove increases in both the Treasury and mortgage rates, he said.  Since then, rates have stayed in a narrow range between 4% and 4.3% for 30-year fixed loans, he adds.

“Within the last week, we’re hearing more commentary from investors that they’re less confident in items like tax reform and infrastructure moving as quickly as they thought, so they’re pulling back a little bit,” Fratantoni says. “Overall, we’ll see a pullback in the stock market and the trends in mortgage rates.”

It’s unlikely the drop in rates will spur much refinance activity among homeowners, he adds, because many of them refinanced when rates were below 4%. On the purchase side, rates have less of an impact on the decision to buy, which is more dependent on consumers’ confidence in their own economic reality, housing conditions, and signs in the job market, than rate fluctuations, Fratantoni says.

Housing starts dip; building permits up in January Housing starts began the year with little change; however, building permits increased, which is good news for markets with tight inventories, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Privately owned housing starts dipped 2.6% to 1.25 million in January, from 1.28 million in December, according to a joint press release from the Census Bureau and HUD. In comparison with a year ago, housing starts were up 10.5% from the January 2016 rate of 1.13 million.  Furthermore, building permits also rose month-over-month by 4.6% in January and 8.2% year-over-year, signaling that homebuilders are “[hitting] the ground running in 2017,” wrote Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist with Trulia, in a blog post Thursday. “The big uptick in permits should be good news for inventory-constrained home buyers, as permits eventually become starts, which in turn become new homes for sale,” McLaughlin wrote. “As a result, we shouldn’t be surprised to see a strong increase in starts in mid-2017.” » MORE: Calculate your monthly mortgage payment Homeowners looking to lower their mortgage rate can shop for refinance lenders here. NerdWallet daily mortgage rates are an average of the published annual percentage rate with the lowest points for each loan term offered by a sampling of major national lenders. APR quotes reflect an interest rate plus points, fees and other expenses, providing the most accurate view of the costs a borrower might pay. Deborah Kearns is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: dkearns@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @debbie_kearns. Mortgage Rate Newsletter Get daily mortgage rate updates delivered straight to your inbox! * Sign me up Should be Empty:

Ask Brianna: How Can I Stay on Budget and Still Hang Out?

“Ask Brianna” is a Q&A column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to askbrianna@nerdwallet.com.

This week’s question:

I don’t have a lot of spare money, but I still want to socialize and travel. How can I live within my means without becoming the annoying broke friend?

First, take a breath. You will not lose friends — real friends, at least — because you can’t swing a girls’ trip to New Orleans this year. You also might want to remember that appearances can be deceiving. Your buddies may go to happy hour three times a week, but that doesn’t mean they can afford to.

Take one measure, student loan debt, for example: About 7 in 10 graduates of public and nonprofit colleges left school with debt in 2015, according to The Institute for College Access & Success, at an average of $30,100 per student. You may feel alone and broke, but in reality, you’re in good company.

“The people that you think are having these great lives on Facebook and Instagram, they’ve probably got student loan debt,” says Ben Graney, an actor and writer who co-founded the Artists Financial Support Group in New York. “They’re probably feeling the same anxiety and the same fears,” he says — they’re just not showing it.

Instead of hiding away in shame or constantly complaining about your rock-bottom bank balance, use these strategies to budget — and socialize — with confidence and control.

First, make a basic budget

Whether you’re in grad school, stuck with massive student loans or living on an artist’s erratic income, the first step is to own where you stand financially. But to do so, you need insight. A budget helps you determine where your money is going and where you want it to go. Without one, you may have only a vague sense that you should limit your spending, using scary clues like a maxed-out credit card or late rent payments.

To create a basic budget, you don’t need to catalog all of your expenses or commit to using an expense-tracking app — unless you want to, of course.

“Budgeting is not about perfection. It’s about creating awareness,” says Matt Cosgriff, a certified financial planner at financial advisory firm Lifewise in Minneapolis.

Look at your bank account and write down your take-home pay from last month. Subtract your fixed monthly costs: rent, utilities, insurance, groceries, debt payments (including credit cards) and transportation. Aim to save 10% to 20% of any remaining amount for emergencies and retirement. The rest is for fun or other long-term goals.

If your fixed costs take up all, or nearly all, of your income, look for ways to free up cash. You can lower federal student loan payments with an income-driven repayment plan, hunt for cheaper car insurance or cancel subscriptions you don’t need.

Transparency is the best policy

Deciding to stick to a budget might put you in a different financial position from that of your friends or family. Tell them.

You don’t have to craft a sob story to win their sympathy; instead, clearly and honestly share your current priorities. Let them know whether your strict spending plans are short- or long-term so they’ll know whether to keep inviting you to those pricey concerts.

And instead of turning down invitations, turn them around. You could say, “Theater tickets are beyond my budget right now. But I’d love to get together. Let’s go to free-admission day at the museum and pack a lunch to eat in the park.”

Plan (very far) ahead

These changes may feel small at first, but in time you’ll see a difference in your checking account — especially when you sock away manageable amounts for expenses or events on the horizon.

Even though Graney earns an irregular income as an actor, last year he saved an attainable $20 a month for holiday gifts. By December, he had $240 to spend on friends and family, and he didn’t have to take on credit card debt.

You can do the same for that trip to New Orleans. Pre-empt your most organized friend by suggesting a date far in advance and scouring flight deals. Living frugally doesn’t mean avoiding your social circle; it means taking on a more proactive and creative role.

Brianna McGurran is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: bmcgurran@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @briannamcscribe.

This column was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

Small-Business Grants: Where to Find Free Money

They say there’s no such thing as a free ride. In the world of small-business grants, you’ll pay your dues by searching websites, clicking out-of-date links, or struggling with government databases before finding a grant that suits your business goals.

To make things easier, we’ve started compiling a list of resources to help direct you toward free financing on a federal, state and private level.

NerdWallet is a free tool to find you the best credit cards, cd rates, savings, checking accounts, scholarships, healthcare and airlines. Start here to maximize your rewards or minimize your interest rates. Jackie Zimmermann Get Your Free Personal Credit Score Every Week from NerdWallet Open more doors for financing your business.Set your goals and track your progress.Signing up won't affect your score. Get your free credit score Federal small-business grants

Government agencies are some of the biggest distributors of grants. They will likely be highly specific and offer support for a range of enterprises from environmental conservation to child care services. The application process can be intimidating and requires a lot of hard work, but the grants offer a great opportunity for small-business owners looking to grow.

Grants.gov: Though daunting, Grants.gov is a comprehensive database of grants administered by various government agencies. You can search for financing opportunities for products or services your small business offers. To make sure you find the most relevant grants, click the “Browse Eligibilities” tab in the middle of the home page, then select “small business.” Next, select “Grant” under “Funding Instrument Type” on the left-hand side.

BusinessUSA: Slightly more user friendly than Grants.gov, BusinessUSA uses a questionnaire to help you find relevant grants for your business. It’s important to note, however, that the options it provides aren’t always grants — some are loans that have annual percentage rates. Click “Starting a Business?” to complete the questionnaire.

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs: The SBIR and the STTR are grant programs focused on research and development, particularly for technology innovation and scientific research. The programs help connect small businesses, universities and research centers with federal grants and contracts from 12 government agencies.

State and regional small-business grants

Economic Development Agencies: Each state’s agency helps new and established businesses find financing, secure a location and recruit employees. They also can help point you to state or regional grant opportunities.

Small Business Development Centers: You can turn to your local SBDC, which provides support to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. They’re often associated with local universities or the state’s economic development agency, and many can help connect business owners with mentors and networking opportunities, as well as training on basic business skills. Your SBDC can also help you find financing opportunities.

Corporate small-business grants

Many corporations or large companies have a philanthropic component, offering their own small-business grants. While some provide grants only to nonprofits servicing specific industries, some do give directly to for-profit companies. With these types of grants, it’s important to be aware of submission deadlines because they often come around only once a year.

OrganizationDescription FedEx's Small Business GrantDuring its annual grant competition, FedEx awards 10 small businesses with grants up to $25,000 and FedEx office supplies up to $7,500. Miller Lite Tap the FutureTap the Future is a live-pitch competition. Twenty-five businesses pitch in front of judges in five major US cities for a chance to win $20,000. The winner from each location will go to the national competition for a chance to win a $100,000 grand prize. National Association of the Self-EmployedNASE offers monthly $4,000 grants to small businesses. Must be a NASE member to apply. LendingTreeLendingTree offers a $50,000 grant to help small businesses that are having trouble scaling. One award per year. Specialty small-business grants

To help spread entrepreneurial success across demographics, many organizations focus their funding efforts on specific communities.

We’ve put together lists of:

» MORE: Sign up for our monthly small-business newsletter

Need small-business financing?

NerdWallet has come up with a list of the best small-business loans to meet your needs and goals. We gauged lender trustworthiness, market scope and user experience, among other factors, and arranged them by categories that include your revenue and how long you’ve been in business.

Compare business loans

Jackie Zimmermann is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: jzimmermann@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @jackie_zm

Consumers Have Powerful Tool in Credit Card Chargebacks

Credit card users who feel helpless when dealing with merchants that provide shoddy goods and services should know they have a powerful tool available to them: chargebacks.

A chargeback occurs when a credit card holder disputes a charge and the transaction is reversed. People tend to think of chargebacks as remedies for billing errors or fraudulent purchases. But consumers can also dispute a charge if they’re dissatisfied with the quality of merchandise, service or delivery and the merchant refuses to make things right, according to the federal Fair Credit Billing Act.

Experts say that although the law hasn’t changed, the power of chargebacks has surged, to the point that banks and credit card processors typically side with consumers. When Consumers’ Checkbook, a nonprofit rater of local service vendors, asked its members to share stories about chargebacks in 2016, more than 100 replied, and 90 percent said they were successful, according to Executive Director Kevin Brasler.

Disputing a charge allows consumers to at least temporarily avoid paying without risking damage to their credit. They can also dispute paid charges from previous billing cycles. And the process has become as simple as making a few clicks from an online bank statement or taps in a bank smartphone app.

“It’s really easy to do,” Brasler says. Consumers’ Checkbook has called the chargeback “a consumer superweapon.”

A tool to be used judiciously

But with the great power of a chargeback comes great responsibility.

Chargebacks are costly to retailers. Not only do they lose money from disputed sales, but they also incur chargeback fees and potentially higher processing rates. Credit card processors may even drop retailers that have too many chargebacks.

A January 2016 study by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City found that the overwhelming majority of successful chargebacks — 80% to 90% — from 2013 to 2014 were resolved as a “merchant liability.”

Merchants would prefer consumers dispute charges as a last resort, as the law intended. But because the process has become so easy, retailers say some customers use a chargeback instead of returning an unwanted item for a refund or getting in touch to work out a solution. Consumers might even dispute charges in an attempt to get their money back and keep the merchandise, a behavior sometimes dubbed “friendly fraud.”

“One of the rules is, you have to try to work it out with the merchant first,” Brasler says. “That’s only fair.”

And as merchants incur the costs of chargebacks, they pass them along to consumers in the form of higher prices, says Craig Shearman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation.

“Most retailers are very glad to work with their customers. They want to resolve the dispute and have a happy customer come back,” Shearman says.

Why chargebacks are increasing

Retailers report a surge in chargebacks following a behind-the-scenes change related to the new security chips in credit cards. On Oct. 1, 2015, liability for in-person fraudulent purchases switched from banks to retailers if the disputed charge came from a credit card equipped with an anti-fraud microchip, but the retailer’s card reader didn’t accept chip cards.

Some retailers who usually saw a few hundred dollars’ worth of chargebacks per year were suddenly seeing thousands’ worth, Shearman says. Much of that was due to fraud, but consumer disputes were also being automatically charged to retailers who didn’t yet have chip-card readers, he adds.

“There’s been a surge in malicious chargeback activity in the past year and half or so … and a certain number of consumers are taking advantage, too,” Shearman says. The retail federation wasn’t able to quantify the problem, he adds.

Brasler says merchants’ fear of chargebacks has given consumers new power that they should use sparingly. “Don’t be shy about saying, ‘I have this option, and I’ll use it if I have to,’” he says.

Gregory Karp is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: gkarp@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @spendingsmart.

This article was first published by The Associated Press

 

What to Buy (and Skip) on Presidents Day and Where to Find It

Presidents Day pops up on our calendar just after we’ve taken down our heart-shaped Valentine’s Day decorations and just before we plan our spring break vacations, but the often overlooked holiday brings worthwhile savings on some of life’s necessities.

If you’ve been putting off purchasing a mattress, furniture or major appliance, here’s what you should know about shopping over Presidents Day weekend.

What to buy (and skip)

Presidents Day is Feb. 20, but sales will start before the holiday and last for at least a few days after. Plan your shopping accordingly, especially if the item you want is in high demand.

Furniture tops our list of worthwhile purchases. Historically, department stores discount their home departments during the holiday weekend. Last Presidents Day, J.C. Penney took 40% to 60% off furniture and mattresses, Wayfair discounted home furniture by up to 70% and Target took 25% off rugs and bedding online.

This year, Joss & Main shoppers can use code EXTRA20 until Feb. 23 to take an additional 20% off home categories, including rugs, outdoor furniture, bedding and wall art.

Appliances will also be a bargain. If you spring for a major purchase, check for free shipping and  delivery offers, which could save you a considerable amount.

At home improvement store Lowe’s, select appliances will be up to 30% off through Feb. 28.

The weekend will be a prime opportunity for savings on mattresses and winter clothing, says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, professor emeritus at Golden Gate University and author of “Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy.” She calls Presidents Day an undervalued shopping holiday.

Presidents Day sale events offer a chance to nab a discount on something you really need, but think twice before you start spending your Benjamins. For instance, deals on spring items won’t be so hot. They’re less likely to be discounted than winter products because they’ve just been released.

“My advice to shoppers is to think carefully about the item, not just the price,” Yarrow said in an email. “It’s all too common to get overly excited about a discount and buy more than you need or something that’s not quite right.”

Where to go

Once you’ve narrowed down your shopping list, decide where to go. Here are additional deals available over the weekend:

Ashley HomeStore: Through Feb. 20, get 25% off online purchases of $3,000 or more, among other savings. Some exclusions apply.

Best Buy: Save $300 on select gaming PCs and $200 on select MacBook Air 13-inch models.

Cabela’s: Shop discounts on sofas, recliners, TV stands and more in the Presidents Day Furniture Sale.

Converse: Feb. 17 through 20, take an additional 40% off clearance sneakers in store at Converse Factory locations. Valid on select clearance styles. See store associate for complete details.

La-Z-Boy: Find sale prices on recliners, sectionals and more both online and in store.

Mattress Firm: Through Feb. 26, or while supplies last, save up to $500 storewide. Selection may vary by store.

National Park Service: On Feb. 20, get free admission at National Park Service sites that normally charge an entrance fee.

Overstock: Feb. 17 through 23, get an extra 20% off area rugs and mattresses and an extra 10% off bedding and bath, among other sale categories.

Sears: Through Feb. 26, save up to 40% on appliances and up to 30% on vacuums.

Sleep Train: Save up to $400 on Beautyrest mattress sets through Feb. 26.

Visit your local store or check online for full redemption details, including possible exclusions.

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

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.

7 Ways to Lower Your Cable Bill

Cable bills never seem to get less expensive. Instead, they might jump $5, $10 or $20 without warning or a clear reason.

Those small increases can really hurt, especially considering the average cable bill already tops $100 per month, according to an annual survey by Leichtman Research Group.

But you can take control of your budget and your cable bill. Here are seven ways to lower it right now.

1. Get rid of extras

It’s hard to say goodbye to HBO, but doing so can shave as much as $20 off your monthly bill with some providers. Let go of Showtime and you could save another $5 to $15 per month.

Farewell doesn’t have to be forever, though. If you can’t live without “Game of Thrones” or “Homeland,” remove the channel when the season wraps.

Premium channels aren’t the only extras you can trim. Additional receivers often cost $3 to $12 per month. Maybe the receiver in your bedroom isn’t necessary after all.

2. Nix the DVR

Miss your favorite show? There’s a good chance you can watch it on-demand the next day. Even local news segments live on via the stations’ websites. Trading in your DVR for a standard digital receiver could trim $10 or more off your monthly bill.

3. Question your fees

Call your provider’s customer service line and question each fee on your bill. Some will be unavoidable, but you can sidestep others, such as those for HD technology, by tweaking your plan.

4. Downsize your plan

Trimming your cable package to include just your must-haves can save you as much as $40 per month with some providers — and you probably won’t even miss the extra channels.

A September 2016 report by Nielsen revealed that, on average, American adults watch only about 20 channels, though they get around 205.

5. Bundle up

Pairing your cable and internet service with some providers will save you more than $1,000 over two years.

Just don’t get talked into bundling services you don’t need, such as a premium cable package when you only want local networks or blazing-fast internet service that you only use to watch Netflix. These may indeed be great deals for some users, but that doesn’t make them great for you.

6. Negotiate a lower rate

Don’t be afraid to haggle with your cable provider.

“Knocking down the price is as simple as taking the time to call and ask — politely,” says personal finance writer Andrea Woroch.

Woroch practices what she preaches. She recently called her cable company to ask about new promotions. The result? “A $50-per-month savings by bundling my services and switching to autopay.”

Negotiating requires persistence. If at first you don’t succeed, call back and talk to someone else. Woroch suggests asking for a supervisor or manager if necessary.

7. Cut the cord

Still not satisfied with your cable bill? Eliminate it altogether. You can still watch broadcast TV with the help of a digital antenna and binge on your favorite series with Netflix or Hulu. Subscriptions for both streaming services start at $7.99.

Those looking for a less drastic option can try SlingTV or DirecTV Now. Packages start at $20 with SlingTV and $35 with DirecTV Now. Both offer access to live and on-demand TV without all the extra fees of cable.

Whether you go bold or make small cuts, the savings on your cable bill will add up over time — giving your budget more breathing room so you can treat yourself in other areas.

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

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