9 Ideas for (Impressive!) Cheap Dates

Dating doesn’t have to be expensive. To impress your significant other, you must be thoughtful, not spendy. Get creative with these nine inspiring cheap dates that are sure to charm your partner without stressing the budget.

1. Explore your city.

Live like a tourist for a day, and join free walking tours, informational presentations, and welcome activities either in your city or take a road trip to a nearby town. While the programs are geared toward tourists, it’s the locals who can best appreciate regional quirks.

2. Take an art class.

Professional art classes cost a fortune, but if you find a free one online, then the only cost is art supplies.

3. Go glamping

Purposely overpack for a camping trip, and hit the road. Pitch a tent, but deck it out with battery-operated music, ambient solar-powered lights, rugs, and fluffy bedding. Hang a thrift store chandelier from a tree branch for extra charm.

4. Volunteer together

Choose a behind-the-scenes volunteer opportunity. Pack care boxes for soldiers, drive to deliver goods long-distance, or sort used clothing at a donation center. When you work shoulder-to-shoulder, you’ll enjoy more space for organic conversation than you will if you force topics over an expensive dinner table.

5. Movie marathon.

Take advantage of a free trial to stream an entire TV series (or two) together. Or, choose a theme and rent a few movies about that one subject. Pop popcorn and spend an entire evening on the couch together.

6. Float your nearby lazy river.

Join a guided excursion first, and once you get the hang of drop points and free parking spots, strike out on your own to float the same shallow stretch every time you and your significant other need a date. Just remember to read up on river safety from the National Park Service before heading out.

7. Dream about the future.

Get dressed up, stroll through a fancy real estate open house, or test drive your dream car. For the most memorable cheap dates, do all the above!

8. Fancy dinner.

Just because you don’t want to spend a fortune doesn’t mean you can’t still eat well. Practice a recipe you’d find at a fancy restaurant and tell your significant other you have “reservations” for a certain night. Then, recreate your masterpiece recipe and serve it at home with a tapered candle and a free French Cooking Music Playlist.

9. Bust boredom with board games.

You can learn a lot about someone—even if you’ve known them for years—by playing board games. Every yard sale has a stack of classics, so grab a few and enjoy a game night. Scattergories, Monopoly, and Clue are all great games to expose just how your partner’s mind works.

Try all these cheap dates—you’ll find you love a few of the ideas more than others. Choose your favorite, and enjoy it regularly. Once you’ve made it your own, invite another couple to join you for double-dates. This way, you’ll multiply the savings and motivate each other to stay on budget.

The Ultimate Summer Playlist for 2016

There’s no better feeling than cruising around in your car, or heading out on a road trip, and listening to a great summer playlist filled with the latest hits. There are certain songs that transcend time and have shaped your summers each year. A great tune can bring back vivid memories every time it comes over the radio. And the newest batch of summer hits are officially here!

Whether it’s hip hop and pop or bluegrass and country, so many great new songs have been released this year that are perfect soundtracks for a summer of hanging out with friends and enjoying some well deserved time off.

The Ultimate Summer Playlist for 2016

  1. Can’t Stop the Feeling – Justin Timberlake
  2. Just Like Fire – P!nk
  3. I Took a Pill in Ibiza – Mike Posner
  4. Duele El Corazón – Enrique Iglesias featuring Wisin
  5. My House – Flo Rida
  6. Vacation – Thomas Rhett
  7. NO – Meghan Trainor
  8. La Bicicleta – Carlos Vives & Shakira
  9. Love Yourself – Justin Bieber
  10. Ride – Twenty One Pilots
  11. Desiigner – Panda
  12. Send My Love (To Your New Lover) – Adele
  13. Shaky Shaky – Daddy Yankee
  14. H.O.L.Y – Florida Georgia Line
  15. Work – Rihanna featuring Drake
  16. Cheap Thrills – SIA featuring Sean Paul
  17. Lush Life – Zara Larsson
  18. Into You – Ariana Grande
  19. My PYT – Wale
  20. Light It Up – Major Lazer featuring Nyla & Fuse ODG
  21. Ophelia – The Lumineers
  22. My Church – Maren Morris
  23. I Can’t Give Everything Away – David Bowie
  24. Secret Love Song – Little Mix featuring Jason Derulo
  25. Florida – The Range

If you’re looking to create a new summer playlist or you just need a few new songs to add along the way, be sure to include these top hits from 2016.

Which Car Problems Should You Take to Your Mechanic?

Car problems can start with issues that look, feel, or smell like trouble, which may mean your car needs to be looked at by your mechanic as soon as possible. Even if you know little about your vehicle, there are ways to tell which part causing the problem.

Fluids

When you notice a leak, look carefully at the color of the fluid. If the liquid is orange, yellowish green, or pastel blue, it’s likely antifreeze. Your engine may have overheated or you may have a leaking hose, radiator, or water pump. Seals and gaskets don’t last forever, so if the puddle is dark brown or black, you likely have an engine oil leak. A small oil leak can be temporarily fixed by simply topping off the oil. Red fluid is likely due to a transmission or power steering issue. You should never drive too far without addressing these types of issues. However, if you see clear water under the vehicle it’s most likely just condensation from the air conditioning and a non-issue.

Smells

Pay attention to any odors your vehicle gives off. Burning insulation on wires is a light, sharp odor and smells like burnt toast. You may make the problem even worse if you start the vehicle so it is best to call a professional. If you smell rotten eggs or sulfur, you may have a problem with the catalytic converter or one of the other emission control devices, particularly the EGR valve or system. This smell should also have you at the mechanic as soon as possible.

Another scent that requires immediate transport by tow truck is the smell of gas vapors. Newer vehicles have fuel injection, so chances are you didn’t flood the vehicle trying to start it—that just doesn’t happen with fuel injection. Burning oil has a thick, acrid smell. It makes a mess of the engine and the oil could drip onto the exhaust manifold and catch fire. While you don’t have to rush to get it repaired, you should still plan to get it looked at. If you’ve overheated the brakes or the clutch you will small burning chemicals. Allow the brakes to cool off before trying them again. Make sure you have plenty of braking power before you start again. If not, have the vehicle towed.

If you notice a sweet smell coming from your car, you likely have a coolant leak. Even if the temperature gauge doesn’t come on, stop the vehicle immediately. Allow the engine to cool before removing the radiator cap to check the water level. The gauge or light won’t work if water isn’t passing by the coolant temperature sensor. If your vehicle is out of water, you may have already done some damage.

Sounds

Your vehicle makes many sounds while running, but some noises are signs that a problem has occurred. When you hear a loud, high-pitched noise as you press the brakes, it may indicate your brake pads need to be changed. If you ignore this over time, the sound will go away, but only after the metal of the brake shoe has begun to eat into your rotor. Any other loud sounds, like a squealing belt, the thud of a suspension component, or the clicking of an engine should be seen by your mechanic as soon as possible. These sounds don’t repair themselves and could potentially lead to major issues.

If you’re unsure of a smell, sound, or look of something on your car, it’s safer to have the vehicle towed to your local mechanic to inspect for car problems.

How to Recover From Bad Credit

Realizing you have bad credit can be a tough moment, especially if it might delay your plans to borrow money for a major purchase like a car or home. The good news is that you can rebuild your credit over time by taking a few simple steps.

Although it can take anywhere from a few months to over a year in order to see a dramatic change in your credit score, depending on how bad your credit standing is, even incremental improvements can help show potential lenders that you’re committed to responsible credit management, according to Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus.

Follow these guidelines, and watch your credit score begin to soar.

Pay Bills on Time

Payment history is the number one factor that influences your credit score, accounting for about 35 percent of it, notes myFICO. Even one late payment can send your score plummeting, while a solid record of consistent payments will help you maintain or grow your score. In short, be diligent about due dates.

Know Where You Stand

You might assume you have bad credit, but do you actually have an accurate picture? If you haven’t already, pull your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). You can do so for free once per year at AnnualCreditReport. These reports will show you what might be dragging down your score and even offer suggestions on how to get it back on track.

Fix Any Errors on Report

After requesting your reports, look them over carefully. There could be incorrect negative items that is hurting your overall status. If you see something that’s wrong, such as a late payment that you know was on time or an account you never opened (a sign of identity theft), get in touch with one of the bureaus immediately to investigate. The FTC website offers guidelines on how to dispute errors.

Pay Down Balances

If you are carrying a large balance on an account and you have the means to pay it off, go for it. Debt utilization, or the amount of credit you are using as compared to your available credit limit, is the second biggest factor comprising your credit score. So if you have a $5,000 credit limit and you owe $4,000, you have an 80 percent utilization. Experts say you should aim to keep that number below 30 percent, and as close to zero as possible to improve your credit standing.

Use Credit to Improve Credit

To prove that you’re credit-worthy, you’ll have to use credit responsibly. Charge a small amount each month on one or two credit cards, and pay it off in full as soon as the bill arrives. If you’re having trouble getting access to credit, you can look into applying for a secured card or asking someone with good credit to add you to their account as an authorized user.

Follow a Budget

Creating a financial plan that encourages you to live within your means will help you prevent future slip-ups. Find ways to limit your spending and set aside money in an emergency fund so you don’t have to rely on plastic to cover unexpected bills.

Bad credit doesn’t have to stay with you forever. Improving your credit is hard work and will take time, but once your score starts to climb, you will reap the rewards and have access to the best financial products and perks available.

Buying a Previously Owned Car: 5 Questions to Ask

When you’re thinking about buying a previously owned car, there are many factors that should be considered. Whether buying a particular vehicle is a sound use of your money depends on the details of the car’s condition and history. Ask these five questions to get the essential information to make your decision.

1. Is the Car in Good Condition?

A car that’s in poor condition will cost you more in repairs and upkeep. Plus, you’ll have a harder time selling it to someone else if you decide to get a different car in the future. Don’t just take the previous owner’s word for it. Get the car inspected by a mechanic to make sure there are no hidden problems.

2. What Is the Car’s History?

Be sure to find out the number of miles the car has been driven, whether it’s been in any accidents, and if it’s ever been recalled for safety reasons. Heavy wear, a serious crash, or a history of safety issues could hint at potential problems.

3. Are There Any Red Flags?

Watch out for discrepancies between the car’s condition and the seller’s answers. For example, if the mechanic finds signs of heavy wear but the previous owner shows you an odometer with only a couple of thousand miles on it, the odometer might have been tampered with. Another warning sign is if the name on the title doesn’t match the owner’s name, or if the seller refuses to show you the title. You might be looking at a stolen car. Even if you don’t spot any discrepancies, you should still get a vehicle history report to check if a previously owned car has been reported stolen, if there are any liens placed on it, and if there are any other red flags.

4. What Will It Cost to Own the Car?

Find out the gas mileage for the car, and calculate how much you’ll have to spend on fuel to cover the number of miles you typically drive in a month. Ask an auto insurance agent for a quote on the specific car you’re considering so you have a good idea of insurance costs.

5. What Do Comparable Cars Sell For?

Check pricing guides and online databases for estimates of the car’s worth. Make sure you take into account factors like mileage, condition, and age of the car. Also, read local ads to see what other sellers are asking. You want to agree to a price that is close to the estimates you find in your research and to the prices of similar cars for sale in your city.

Researching the answers to these five questions will ensure you make an informed decision when buying a previously owned car.

Money-Saving Tips for Millennials Just Starting Out

When it comes to saving money, you may have conflicting feelings. Sometimes, you’re on top of the world, while other times you feel overwhelmed and in need of some lifestyle changes. Your future is bright, but success doesn’t come without a few sacrifices.

Luckily, there are ways to stay on track, and some of the best money-saving tips are easy, quick, and even fun. Here are seven simple ways to save cash without the hurt.

1. Ditch the salon.

Men and women alike spend a lot of money at professional beauty spots, and at the end of the month, wonder where that hard-earned paycheck went. Break the cycle by hitting a local beauty school and have a student sculpt your coif. If you’re nervous about mistakes, don’t be—a licensed instructor oversees the work, and will step in to fix anything you might not like about your locks. The hottest cut will run you less than $10 at most learning clinics.

2. Flex your culinary muscles.

Take a free online class series (or two or three) for a few basic cooking pointers that can turn your restaurant addiction into a money-saving skill.

3. Coupon code everything.

Before placing an order on an online transaction, do a quick internet search for an online coupon or discount code. Whether you’re in the market for new shoes, personal finance books, or a gym membership, you never know what might be out there to help cut costs.

4. Preempt your triggers.

Know your pitfalls, and circumvent them by controlling your environment. Just like a person who cuts junk food from their diet doesn’t keep processed snacks in the house, you can manipulate your surroundings to make them more conducive to saving money. Opt out of the email marketing from your favorite shoe company, for example, and rehearse a concise, graceful demure for when your friends ask you to hit the bar after work.

5. Switch subscriptions.

When it comes to money-saving tips, this one’s huge. Nix the subscriptions you wouldn’t miss, like the fashion mag you signed up for as a gesture of support for your niece’s fundraiser six years ago. Instead, add smart blogs to your RSS feed so every time a new post is up, you’re alerted of valuable new content instead of tempting ads.

6. Sign up for a free trial.

Those first-two-weeks-free deals seem so tempting, but you know there’s a catch. Companies bet you’ll forget to unsubscribe at the end of that free trial, and hope to hook you for life. Thankfully though, there are calendar apps and mobile alerts. Set up a reminder to opt out at the end of each trial period, so you can still receive your free product or service without accidentally signing up past the time limit.

7. Swap and shop.

Buying used stuff might not seem like a fun outing, but you can score some serious swag if you give it a shot. You can also host parties with your friends to make trading clothes and other items fun.

When you successfully pass up a night on the town for a night of board games, or try out a DIY pedicure, Tweet your achievement, however small. The likes and encouragement you’ll get from friends may spur you to keep saving in every area.

The Guide to Georgia Tailgates

Just mention the word “tailgate” and you can practically smell the grilled brats. Images of beer splashing into plastic cups may be dancing in your head. To help assist in creating a solid Georgia-based tailgates playbook, here are some suggestions of how to make the most out of the experience in several pigskin-loving towns.

Atlanta

Before even setting up in the parking lot, consider visiting the College Football Hall of Fame downtown. Interactive exhibits, like kicking a field goal or acting like a sportscaster, drop guests in the middle of the action. If you forget to wear appropriate game-day gear, comb through the gift shop before action starts.

No matter if you’re amping up for a professional game or a collegiate match-up, the iconic Varsity remains an obvious and endearing choice for tailgating take out, if you can stomach the crowds at the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, snag to-go boxes of chili dogs, onion rings, fries, and cheese steaks. If not, visit Antico Pizza Napoletana, one of the most acclaimed pie purveyors on the planet. The communal tables are perfect for groups and the BYOB policy fits right in on game day.

Athens

Tailgating in Athens gets serious. If the crowds are too big, head outside of downtown for a visit to Terrapin Beer Company. The brewers of Terrapin Rye Pale Ale and more offer tours of its facility Wednesdays through Sundays. On Saturdays, even when a big game drops, tours take place from 1:00–7:30 p.m. Visitors not only sample the wares in the indoor tasting room, but are treated to live music and more.

Favorite spots for to-go tailgating edibles include Amici with its pizza and chicken wings. Some grab a pie or a slice at Little Italy Pizzeria to take to their preferred tailgate destination. The town also plays host to its own Varsity. Although it’s much smaller than the original downtown Atlanta locale, you can find the same grease-laden fast food.

Statesboro

When filling your trunk with tailgate food in Statesboro, think about swinging by Vandy’s Bar-B-Q. Slip inside the cinder-block joint to grab a sackful of barbecue pork, chicken, fried dill pickles, or its popular Brunswick stew.

Making a tailgate pizza run might find you stopping into Holiday Pizza. If you have carnivores in the crew, opt for the Achilles (think: bacon, pepperoni, ground beef, and sausage).

Tailgates can involve enough pageantry and preparation to rival the football game itself. Long before the snapping of the first ball of the season, you can have your team-color wardrobe ready and begin mapping out the menu.

Affordable Cars: Not Named Camry or Accord

When it comes to affordable cars, such as a compact or midsize sedan, it seems that certain ones typically leap to the forefront of most buyers’ minds. Thanks to reputations of reliability and other attributes, shoppers have gravitated towards vehicles like the Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord, and Honda Civic. But in today’s hotly competitive market, there are other options to consider.

From styling and fuel economy to performance and the availability of a diesel engine the following three vehicles deserve a place on your shopping list:

Ford Fusion

Ford’s stylish midsize sedan is a strong choice for those looking for something slightly different from what you usually see on the road. Used Fusions offer four-cylinder power along with available all-wheel drive. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid models are available as well, which is a boon to the customer who wants to save on fuel. No matter the model year or generation, the Fusion offers a good-looking—and in some cases high-performing—alternative to the Camry or Accord. Depending on year and trim level, a used Fusion will cost about the same as a base new Corolla and several thousand less than a new Camry.

Nissan Altima

Nissan’s Altima offers two engine choices: A 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V-6. Fuel economy is the selling point here, as Nissan has promised maximum highway fuel economy from both the standard engine and the larger V6. The Altima is positioned to compete with the Accord and Camry, and a used one will save you anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000.

Chevy Cruze

The Cruze has been on the market for some time now, and it’s a worthy alternative to the Civic and Corolla. The Cruze is even available with a diesel engine, depending on the model year. Other available engines include two four-cylinders, one of which is turbocharged, and depending on the trim and model year, you can choose either an automatic or manual transmission. Look for a used Cruze to be $3,000–$6,000 less than a base new Corolla or Civic.

When it comes to shopping for affordable cars, there are lots of choices out there and plenty of reasons to look beyond the usual suspects.

Consider This: Interest Rates and Payments

People usually look at monthly payments when they’re thinking about taking out a loan. And while payments are important, they don’t give you a complete picture of what a loan really costs. To figure out if a loan is affordable, you must consider interest rates.

Interest and Payments

The monthly payment on a loan includes the principal, which is the amount you borrow. If you take out a loan for $2,000, that $2,000 is your principal, and you pay part of it back every month. Your monthly payment, however, also includes interest, and how much interest you pay depends on the interest rate. Interest rates can apply to different periods of time, but every lender should tell you the interest rate for a year, which is called the annual percentage rate or APR. If your $2,000 loan has an APR of 12 percent, you’ll pay $240 in interest on that amount over a year because $2,000 times 0.12 is $240. If the loan has an APR of 20 percent, you’ll owe $400 in interest over a year. A loan with an APR of 20 percent is a lot more expensive than a loan with an APR of 12 percent, even though you borrow the same amount of money in both cases.

How Interest Rates Affect Your Payments

Interest rates can affect your payments in two ways. First, a loan with a higher rate may have higher monthly payments than a loan with a lower rate while taking the same amount of time to pay off. Second, a loan with a higher rate may have similar monthly payments to a cheaper loan, but it could take longer to pay off. In the second case, you’re paying less of the principal each month, so a larger portion of each payment goes to interest. Since a cheaper loan and an expensive loan may have the same monthly payment amount, the monthly payment by itself is not a good indicator of how much a loan costs.

Comparing Loans

To compare two loans, look at their APRs. You generally want to choose the loan with the lower APR. However, some lenders charge fees that are not included in the APR, so you should also learn about any extra charges that relate to the loan. Choose the loan that is cheaper when you consider both the interest rate and fees.

The amount of your monthly payment matters because you must make sure there is room in your budget to pay it each month. But by itself, the payment amount doesn’t tell you how much a loan costs. Interest rates are what matter when you shop for a loan.

Declaring Bankruptcy: How to Bounce Back

Declaring bankruptcy is usually a last-resort measure to deal with debt problems. Cornell Law School explains that declaring bankruptcy allows you to reduce or eliminate certain debts, and provides you a more accessible timeline to repay any non-dischargeable debts over time. But there’s a lot more to filing for bankruptcy that you need to know.

Big Picture

Bankruptcy is a legal process, and not everyone is automatically a candidate. For starters, there are certain conditions that must be met, such as undergoing six months of credit counseling prior to filing. And, as explained in detail by US Courts, for some types of bankruptcy, you may have to sell off your assets. Keep in mind that filing bankruptcy does come with a monetary cost, usually a few hundred dollars in court and attorney fees.

Non-Dischargeable Debt

The non-dischargeable part of the definition of bankruptcy is important since it breaks down a misconception that you get a clean financial slate after bankruptcy; however, not all debts are treated the same. For instance, if you owe money on certain student loans, aren’t up to date on child support payments or alimony, or have an outstanding tax bill, those debts cannot be canceled out by bankruptcy, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

When to Declare

People sometimes consider this route when they truly cannot afford the minimum payments on their accounts or when they’ve fallen so behind on their monthly bills that they can’t catch up. In order to avoid foreclosure or the deactivation of utilities, some consumers also turn to bankruptcy.

Other signs that bankruptcy might be a route to consider are relying on credit cards to pay for household necessities, getting numerous calls from collection agencies, or ultimately losing track of how much you owe because it’s become so overwhelming.

Potential Consequences

The positive side of declaring bankruptcy is that it gives you a clear action plan for removing and/or repaying your existing debt, but a bankruptcy won’t just disappear right away. In fact, it stays on your credit report for seven to ten years, depending on which type you choose, so there could be a long road to recovery for your financial status. The good news is that gradual improvements will happen over time if you stay committed to responsibly managing any new lines of credit. Many consumers are able to overcome past challenges by filing bankruptcy and starting over, but it takes diligence.

Additionally, it can be challenging to qualify for a credit card or small loan immediately following a bankruptcy. Until your credit improves and the bankruptcy is removed from your credit report, you won’t qualify for the best interest rates if you decide to take out an auto loan or other lending product.

Bouncing Back

A great way to bounce back is by opening a secured credit card. A secured card works like a regular credit card, except you put down a deposit up front that the lender will hold onto as long as the account is open, notes Forbes. Eventually as your score improves, you can move into using unsecured products again.

There are different types of bankruptcy and they each have their own set of rules and limitations, so it’s important to understand the consequences and speak with a financial adviser or attorney before moving forward. Still, declaring bankruptcy often ends up being the best solution for some people. If you’re considering it, don’t think of it as a failure, but as the chance to rebuild toward a better financial future.