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5 Tips to Find a Cheap Flight

Saving money always feels good. But, for some reason, saving money on flights can feel especially gratifying.

Perhaps it’s the size of the savings, which can be up to $100 or more sometimes. Or the short-lived nature of fare deals, which makes it feel like you’ve won a prize when you nab one. Or maybe it’s simply the satisfaction of paying less to airlines that seemingly upcharge passengers at every turn, while making headlines for customer service gaffes.

Whatever the reason, try these money-saving tips before you book your next flight.

1. Get on Twitter

“I find that Twitter is the best way to learn about limited-time airfare deals,” says Patti Reddi, founder of the travel blog The Savvy Globetrotter.

The frequent flyer recommends the following Twitter handles:

“I frequently see U.S.-to-Europe round-trip flights for under $500 posted on these Twitter accounts,” Reddi says, noting that you can also find the deals on the websites associated with these handles.

>> MORE: The NerdWallet guide to saving money

2. Look at alternative airports

You could save hundreds of dollars when traveling overseas by selecting a different airport — even if that airport is in another country.

Flights from Chicago to Rome might run you $1,400, for example, while flights to Paris could cost less than $850. From Paris, roundtrip flights to Rome on a budget airline like Ryanair often cost less than $100.

This strategy can be applied to domestic flights, too.

Flying into or out of Washington, D.C.? Compare fares on flights through Dulles International Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. In the Bay Area, search for both San Francisco and Oakland airports.

Other cities may have a handful of airports within a few hours’ drive that may offer cheaper flights. Explore all viable options, factoring in the cost of parking, gas and potentially a rental car, to find the most affordable fare.

>> MORE: The cheapest way to rent a car

3. Compare round-trip vs. one-way flights

Booking two one-way tickets, rather than a return flight, might land you a better deal.

“I often search two one-way tickets just to make sure I am not missing a deal,” says Amanda Festa, an editor at Cheapflights.com. It also gives you more flexible route options. “Mixing and matching airlines (and booking sites and airports) sometimes pays off.”

4. Be flexible with dates

Moving the trip by a day or two on either end could save you $100 or more in some cases. A recent search for round-trip flights from Chicago to Houston, flying in on a Friday and out the following Friday, yielded a fare of $303. Departing and returning a day earlier dropped the price to $199.

When possible, delaying your trip by a month or two to avoid peak travel times can net greater savings, especially when venturing overseas. A flight from Chicago to Athens, Greece, for example, will run you at least $1,200 if you fly in July. But fly in September and you can score a round-trip ticket for less than $700.

>> MORE: 7 ways to find a cheap hotel room

5. Track fares and set alerts

You could manually monitor flight prices for weeks and still not be sure if you got the best price. Or you could let an algorithm do the work via apps.

Travel app Hopper continuously analyzes flight prices to recommend when you should book your flight. If you set your route and dates, the app will tell you whether to buy or wait and alert you when fares drop. Hopper is free to use, but you’ll be charged a $5 commission if you book a ticket through the app. Skyscanner, another travel app, also lets you set fare alerts for specific routes and shows you the cheapest flight options, along with a rating based on price, the number of stops and total travel time with layovers. Both apps are available on iOS and Android devices; Skycanner also has a desktop version.

You can also track fares for specific routes and flights using websites such as Yapta and Airfarewatchdog.com.

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

VA Loan Eligibility and Requirements for 2017

VA loan eligibility is more involved than, “You’ve been in the service, you’re all set.” Getting a VA home loan is a big deal — hey, buying a home always is — so you’ll have to clear some hurdles.

The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t issue the loans — banks, mortgage loan companies and brokers do. The VA insures a portion of the loan in case of default. Lenders like that, so they follow the requirements issued by the VA to grant the loans. But lenders can also add some stipulations of their own; that’s why it’s always a good idea to shop more than one.

The benefits of a VA home loan are substantial:

  • You’ll likely get a lower interest rate than with a conventional loan
  • You probably won’t have to make a down payment, unless you want to
  • There is no mortgage insurance requirement

Before you buy a home or condo, build a new house, or refinance or make improvements to an existing one, you’ll need to know about these VA loan eligibility and requirements.

» MORE: Best lenders for VA loans

Who is eligible for a VA home loan?

You are entitled to apply for a VA mortgage if you are active duty or separated from military service in a situation “other than dishonorable discharge,” the VA says.

Additionally:

  • Veterans must meet length-of-service requirements
  • Service members on active duty must serve for a minimum period
  • Reservists and National Guard members may be eligible
  • Surviving spouses of deceased veterans may qualify
How to obtain your Certificate of Eligibility

To tap your VA loan benefit, you will need to get a Certificate of Eligibility from the VA. Greg Nelms, VA chief of loan policy, says an applicant can get a COE in three ways:

The COE is most often obtained through a lender, Nelms says, by accessing a web-based system called WebLGY.

How to complete your Certificate of Eligibility

To complete the COE, and depending on your situation, you’ll need signed evidence of:

  • A statement of military service
  • The reason for your separation and record of service
  • Particular forms showing discharge information
  • Your surviving-spouse status
VA loan general requirements

While a VA mortgage’s qualifying requirements are more relaxed than those for a conventional loan, an applicant still needs to have decent credit and sufficient income to buy a home. And the home being financed must serve as the primary residence.

Down payment requirements

Under most circumstances, a down payment is not required. But if you decide to put some money down, it will likely reduce the VA funding fee. However, if the purchase price of the home is greater than its appraised value — or above the county loan limit (see below) — you may have to make up at least a portion of the difference.

If you’re buying in a competitive market where buyers outnumber home sellers, a down payment may be required just to get your foot in the door. A bidding situation will require a deposit for the seller, and as a portion of your down payment, it shows you are a serious buyer.

VA loan limits

The maximum VA loan guaranty limits the value of a home that can be purchased with no down payment. In 2017, a qualified borrower can generally purchase a home with a value up to $424,100 with no down payment, though the actual amount varies by county.

These guidelines mirror the single-family conforming loan limits established by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Areas with higher-value properties have higher limits — and there are even higher value ceilings for Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Property requirements

As with other government-insured home loans, the VA has stringent property requirements. Most involve a property’s safety, living conditions and compliance with building codes. Newly built homes must have certain warranties or protection plans, or be built by a veteran for his or her own occupancy, though there are additional exceptions.

Modular and manufactured homes must also meet specific requirements.

Required fees

While a VA-insured home loan carries no mortgage insurance requirement, you will be charged a funding fee. This helps the VA cover the costs of mortgage foreclosures. The amount of the fee ranges from 1.25% to 3.3% of the loan amount, depending on the down payment, how long you served and for which branch of the military and whether you’ve tapped your VA home loan benefit previously.

Many times this fee is added to the total loan amount, rather than being paid upfront. That will increase your monthly payment and the amount of interest you’ll pay during the loan term.

Veterans who receive VA disability compensation and qualified surviving spouses don’t have to pay the funding fee.

Credit score requirements

The VA doesn’t set a minimum credit score to qualify for a loan, instead requiring a lender “to review the entire loan profile to make a lending decision,” according to the VA. However, each lender you shop will have its own FICO score requirement.

VA loan debt-to-income ratio

A maximum debt-to-income ratio is also not specified by the VA. But if the total debt-to-income ratio is over 41%, lenders will need to provide proof of an applicant’s ability to repay the loan, according to Nelms. This is done by assessing your “residual income,” accounting for all your monthly living expenses, as well as what your mortgage payment will be.

Lender requirements

Lender “overlays” — or additional requirements — can be added to VA qualifications. They can range from the number of credit accounts that you have to the number of reported late payments within a specified time frame. Some lenders may require a higher credit score, or allow a lower one, too. That’s why it’s important to apply to more than one lender.

Eligibility for other VA housing programs

The U.S. Armed Forces is a diverse population, and the VA has a couple of programs to meet the housing needs of certain service members and veterans.

Special Housing Adaptation Grant

This program targets severely disabled veterans and service members. For qualified applicants with mobility issues, blindness, respiratory or other service-connected disabilities, Special Housing Adaptation grants help finance the purchase, construction or renovation of homes to meet their needs.

The program helps provide housing that can accommodate wheelchairs, as well as other accessibility improvements.

You can apply for a grant by submitting VA Form 26-4555 online, or to a regional loan center.

Native American Direct Loan

Helping Native Americans buy, build, improve or refinance homes on federally recognized trust land is the goal of the Native American Veteran Direct Loan Program. The program is available to Native American tribes, as well as Alaska Native corporations and residents of Pacific Island territories.

You will want to confirm that your native community participates in the NADL program, then ask a lender about potential benefits after you obtain your Certificate of Eligibility.

Is a VA loan right for you?

Borrowers used their VA home loan benefit to fund more than 705,000 loans in 2016. No doubt, little or no down payments, lenient credit qualifications and low mortgage rates were some of the reasons.

But no one mortgage product is right for every borrower in every situation. In addition to VA loans, other options are available to qualified borrowers, including loans with little or no down payment required.

FHA loans are one example. With down payments as low as 3.5% and the low interest rates that come with government-insured loans, FHA mortgages bear consideration. However, FHA loans require upfront and ongoing mortgage insurance premiums.

You can even get a slightly better deal than a non-veteran by using your VA Certificate of Eligibility when applying for an FHA loan.

And for borrowers with good credit, low down payment conventional mortgages are also available. Most likely, your interest rate may be a bit higher, but there’s no VA funding fee, and with enough of a down payment, you won’t have to pay mortgage insurance.

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

How to Detect Scams That Could Ruin Your Retirement

No one expects to fall victim to a financial scam, yet they happen with alarming frequency — and retirees are often in the crosshairs.  

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans over 65 have been victimized by financial rip-offs, according to a 2016 study from the Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit investor education organization. A 2015 study by True Link Financial, an investment advisory firm, indicates seniors lose $36 billion each year to elder financial abuse.

Investment swindles come in many forms, but no matter the methods, perpetrators have their eye on one thing: your retirement savings. Here are three signs of a swindle that could rob you of your nest egg.

» MORE: Keep savings on track with NerdWallet’s retirement calculator

1. Guaranteed returns

Investing is an inherently risky endeavor, even though many people would have you believe otherwise. Bernie Madoff’s firm sold clients on the investment dream: low risk and high returns. He didn’t mention he was running one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history.

Any investment that offers a sky-high guaranteed rate of return is likely trying to deceive you about the fees and risks you’ll encounter. While it’s always important for investors to be skeptical of new ventures, it’s especially vital when promises ring too good to be true.

Ponzi schemes are a criminal fraud, but some entirely legal investments also can be problematic. Take annuities, for example, which offer a series of fixed payments in exchange for money upfront from the purchaser. Many variable annuities have high expenses, implausible guarantees and don’t make sense for everyone — including low-income individuals and people who are very old or very rich. Yet annuities still are marketed to those groups.

Annuities also are very illiquid, meaning they can’t easily be converted to cash without incurring a big loss. Chris Schaefer, a certified financial planner and head of the retirement plan practice at MV Financial in Bethesda, Maryland, says annuities are one of the most problematic investments for his clients.

“Investors are promised high income with low risk, but we often have to correct someone’s expectations,” Schaefer says. “You have to do your due diligence to understand what the associated risk is.”

2. A sense of urgency

A calling card of suspicious investments is a sense of urgency — which often proves to be false. Perpetrators want to rush investors into a decision so there’s no time for due diligence. But any sound investment that’s here today will be here tomorrow, even if the price is slightly higher.

Such scams include “hot” stock tips and “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities, both of which usually promise exclusive information that simply doesn’t exist. Then there’s a recent example that used some real information to stir up fears about a fake problem.

A pitch making the rounds this year promised April 10 would bring a “retirement blackout” unless investors acted quickly to participate in a little-known tax haven with potentially big returns: the 26(f) program. The alleged doomsday was actually a deadline for the fiduciary rule to take effect, which was intended to benefit retirement savers. And as for that mysterious 26(f) program? It was apparently a loose reference to mutual funds.

This particular pitch was debunked by several people online, but it’s not always easy to identify a scam. Schaefer urges his clients to call him whenever they receive an opportunity that doesn’t quite add up. “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” he says.

For retirees who’ve managed their finances all along, it can be unsettling to hand over the reins late in life. That’s why it’s important to find a reputable broker or advisor, ideally one who acts as a fiduciary. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck is a good place to start. This free tool lets users research the backgrounds of financial brokers, advisers and firms.

“Always make sure to verify the license and registration of anyone who is handling your investments,” says Amy Nofziger, director of regional operations with the AARP Foundation.

3. Unsolicited offers

More often than not, investment opportunities appear unsolicited in your mailbox, inbox, online or by phone. The internet is rife with pitches for stocks with little public information, such as microcap or penny stocks, which are prone to fraudulent activity. In April, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged 27 people and companies with fraudulently promoting stocks online.

Nofziger warns that even seemingly legitimate events — free lunch seminars to learn about retirement planning, for example — often have a catch: a high-pressure sales pitch.

All unsolicited investment opportunities should be considered with caution, but many have an air of credibility — a fancy-looking website or links to news articles, for example. FINRA’s four-question Scam Meter will help investors identify red flags of potential schemes.

The SEC maintains a resource page that lists investments commonly marketed to seniors, including variable securities, promissory notes and ultra-short bond funds. The page also has tips for dealing with unsolicited sales calls.

» MORE: Costly financial fees you might not know you’re paying

Learning from victims

The SEC also offers resources to help retirees report investment fraud. Many people are too ashamed to admit they’ve been victimized, but their experiences can help others avoid these pitfalls.

As you approach retirement, remember the lessons you’ve learned from previous investments: Tempting shortcuts aren’t worth it; the journey requires perseverance. After years of diligent saving, don’t let one bad decision put you on the road to retirement hell.

Anna-Louise Jackson is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ajackson@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @aljax7.

How to Cash In on Short-Term Rentals Like Airbnb, VRBO

You can make some serious money renting out your home if you don’t mind strangers singing in your shower. But the finances of hosting on Airbnb and VRBO can be tricky.

Before cashing in on your space, learn about the market, expenses and taxes you’ll encounter.

Think like a small-business owner

Hosts are entrepreneurs. They must rent their home legally, compete in a crowded marketplace and choose a smart listing price. Here’s how to pull that off:

Create an attractive listing

Research how to make your property stand out among local hotels and other rentals. The internet is full of guides to creating the perfect listing, and Airbnb offers a “toolkit” on the subject.

To summarize some of the most important advice: Post enticing photos. “Images are what sell properties,” says Scott Shatford, co-founder and CEO of Airdna, a service that provides rental data and analytics to hosts. “Whatever you’re writing about yourself, it doesn’t mean anything unless you have beautiful images.”

Shatford recommends landscape-oriented photos that show the space as clean, well-decorated and full of potential. “What you’re trying to sell is what you can do in an Airbnb rather than a hotel room,” he says. So make sure to include pictures of the well-stocked game room, for example, or the shops and restaurants around the corner.

Pick the most enticing shot for the primary image, the one people see when scanning local listings. “Having that one picture that makes someone click on it is really the most important thing you can do,” Shatford says.

Make sure the price is right

“A bunch of people are kind of guessing the value of their home,” says Michael Quinn, brand manager at Wheelhouse, which makes software that analyzes data and local demand to set nightly prices automatically for hosts’ rental properties. Many of the hosts he’s talked to set their prices too low in an attempt to undercut the competition. But, Quinn says, “you should be getting what your home is worth.” Plus, a cheap listing can turn off potential guests who wonder, “What’s the catch?”

Airbnb has a Smart Pricing tool, which, according to its website, “lets you set your prices to automatically go up or down based on changes in demand for listings like yours.” You can turn to tools such as Wheelhouse and Airdna to help determine the best price to list. Or, set your own prices with a few tips in mind, from Shatford’s blog, rentingyourplace.com:

  • Compare your property with similar rentals in the area to gauge about how much to charge each night
  • Charge a little less than the competition until you’ve racked up a few positive reviews
  • Anticipate local events that bring in out-of-towners, such as conferences, marathons and music festivals. Hike up the nightly rate during those events
Plan to spend money

“I wish I would have known of all the expenses associated with renting a home,” says Sally Kane, who rents her West Virginia home through VRBO, Craigslist and a local rental agency. With so many guests, you’ll have to shell out more for cleaning and property upkeep than you would for one family.

“Rental properties suffer a lot of wear and tear,” Kane says. “I must frequently replace towels, linens, comforters, dishware, pots and pans, deck furniture and other items that become worn with heavy use.” She adds higher utility bills, as well as frequent cleaning and lawn services to the list of renter expenses.

Plan to pay Airbnb and VRBO, too. Airbnb charges hosts a service fee of about 3% for each reservation subtotal. The majority of hosts using VRBO choose to pay a flat rate of $399 per year, but they also have the option of paying an 8% commission per booking instead.

Document rental expenses, income for taxes

If you rent out a home for 14 days or fewer throughout the year and live there the rest of the time, the IRS doesn’t require you to pay tax on that income. Rent for more than 14 days, and it does.

You can likely deduct expenses such as those towel replacements and cleaning services. But organization is key. Alexis Sitka, who rents part of her family’s house in Fort Myers, Florida, tracks her expenses in a spreadsheet and keeps receipts in an envelope. She even has a separate bank account for Airbnb transactions.

The websites of Airbnb and VRBO suggest hiring a tax expert. The following resources may be helpful as well:

Once you’ve sorted out the money matters, you’re ready to rent and make that extra income.

You may even enjoy meeting those strangers who used all your shampoo. Sitka and her husband enjoy exchanging travel tips with their guests. “Some of the people we’ve met have become friends on social media,” she says. “It’s fun to stay in touch.”

Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: lmcmullen@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauraemcmullen.

How to Shop at Whole Foods on a Budget

Whole Foods has an array of natural, organic foods that suit a variety of dietary needs and preferences, but the prices aren’t always as accommodating. However, you can have your vegan-chocolate cake and eat it, too, if you follow a few simple strategies.

Try out these money-saving tips on your next Whole Foods visit.

Budget before you buy

Plan your shopping trip before you leave home to reduce impulse purchases. Set a reasonable monthly budget for groceries and shop strategically. Take stock of the items you already have, create a list of the ones you need and stick to items priced within your budget.

Find out what’s on sale — and when

Time shopping trips around your store’s sale schedule to maximize savings. New weekly sales typically begin on Wednesdays. Each month, some stores also celebrate one-day food holidays like Pi Day and National Cookie Day with special discounts.

Check the newsroom page on the Whole Foods website for event announcements, and the flyer section for current coupons and sale information by specific location. Call your local store and ask if there are any promotions or markdowns not featured in the ads.

Stay in the loop

Some sales will pop up unexpectedly. Subscribe to the Whole Foods email newsletter and follow the company’s social media accounts to receive timely updates. Scroll to the bottom of the page to access the social media links.

» MORE: 12 ways to save on groceries

Compare competitor prices

Before heading to Whole Foods, make sure the items on your shopping list don’t cost less elsewhere. Check out Trader Joe’s, Target, or your local supermarket chain for better deals. Use a third-party app or browser extension to make quick price comparisons. Flipp gathers nearby retailers’ weekly ads and lets you search deals by item or store to help you track down the best offers.

Download the app

We recommend downloading the Whole Foods app to improve your shopping experience. It’s free to download on Apple and Android devices. With it, you’ll have coupons and sale details at your fingertips. Use it to create a shopping list and browse exclusive digital coupons. Scan the barcode on your phone at checkout and you’ll be given any applicable discounts.

Bring your own bags

Reusable grocery bags don’t just cut down on waste  — they can cut down your grocery bill, too. Some Whole Foods locations offer between a 5- and 10-cent discount on your transaction for each bag you bring. This might not seem significant upfront, but the savings add up over time. Ask if your local store participates and what its discount rate is.

Buy in bulk

If you go through products quickly or want to stock up for a future dinner party, purchase items like beverages or nuts in large quantities to keep costs down. Bulk shoppers get a 10% discount when they buy wine and other eligible items by the case. Get goods like beans and pasta from the store’s bulk containers to choose the exact amount you want without having to pay for packaging or name-brand labels.

Buy part of an item

If you’re shopping for one person or a single meal, the size of certain groceries as they come may be too large. With certain goods, you can pay for the portion you want instead of buying the whole thing. For example, if you’re making a vegetable soup and the recipe calls for half a head of cabbage, ask an employee to split a head. You don’t have to waste money buying more than you need.

» MORE: How to use coupons effectively

Do a taste test

You risk throwing money away by purchasing a new product out of curiosity, because you might not like it. Whole Foods has a generous “try before you buy” policy that lets you taste items like cheese or cookies even if you grabbed them off the shelf rather than a sample table. Ask for assistance if something in the aisle piques your interest.

Look for store-brand items

Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value brand items are comparable in quality and often lower in price than competitor brands. Keep your eyes peeled for packages with the 365 Everyday Value label and compare price tags to surrounding items on the shelf.

Join the rewards program

Whole Foods is testing out a pilot rewards program that gives customers digital coupons to redeem in store. At the time of this writing, it’s available in just two metro areas: Dallas and Philadelphia. If your neighborhood store is on the list, take advantage. New members automatically get 10% off their next purchase after signing up with an email address or social media account. Don’t live in either of these areas? Give it time. If the program is a success, it could expand to more stores.

Lauren Schwahn is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: lschwahn@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauren_schwahn.

Ask Brianna: How Do We Budget With a Surprise Pregnancy?

“Ask Brianna” is 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.

Finding out you’re unexpectedly expecting a baby means your life — and your budget — are about to change dramatically. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 27 percent of U.S. pregnancies happen sooner — even years sooner — than the mother had planned, so you’re not the only one suddenly trying to figure out how to feed and house a tiny human.

There’s still time to prepare financially before the baby arrives, even if you have only a few months to go. Re-evaluate your money goals, get a handle on hospital expenses and trim costs. Follow this crash course in pre-baby money management so you’ll be (slightly more) ready for the brave new world of parenthood.

Reprioritize financial goals

Money is about to become an even more precious resource. If you got by with $500 or $1,000 in emergency savings before, now is the time to crank it up, aiming for three to six months’ worth of expenses. You’ll need a cash cushion if your baby requires unforeseen medical care or if one parent becomes unemployed.

In the short term, having available cash is more important than saving for your child’s college education, says Matt Becker, a certified financial planner and founder of Mom and Dad Money. You have time to save as your child gets older, and grants, scholarships and low-interest federal student loans can make up for a shortfall later on. The same goes for buying a house: Don’t feel rushed to put your savings toward a down payment if you’re renting. Saving now will help prevent credit card debt later, and you can work toward other goals once your budget has stabilized.

Plan for hospital costs

If you have health insurance, confirm which hospitals, doctors and tests are covered, and how many days in the hospital your insurer will pay for.

Hospitals charged a median amount of $17,184 for childbirth stays in 2014, according to a NerdWallet analysis of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data. If all doctors and hospitals are in your insurance network, you can expect a bill for 10 to 40 percent of that cost. Using the 2014 data as an example, that would come to $1,718 to $6,874, depending on your plan’s deductible.

Uninsured expectant mothers below certain income thresholds may qualify for Medicaid, which covers childbirth and maternity care. Or you may be able to join your parents’ health insurance plan if you’re under 26.

Start living on less

Your income will likely decrease during the baby’s first few months. Just 12 percent of U.S. employees work at private companies that offer paid family leave, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Only three states offer paid family leave: California, New Jersey and Rhode Island (and, starting in 2018, New York). Outside those options, if you work at a company with 50 or more workers, you can count on 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Estimate how much more money you’ll spend once the baby arrives and how much less you’ll earn. Start saving as close to the amount of those new expenses as possible. For expectant parents, the time is now to ruthlessly triage your budget.

“They’re in a crucial needs versus wants situation,” says Roslyn Lash, a financial educator and coach at Youth Smart Financial Education Services in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Some new costs are nonnegotiable, such as life insurance. It will replace your income if you die, which is vital now that another person will rely on you completely. Even if you receive life insurance as an employee benefit, each parent should get an individual policy. You’ll be covered if your employer decides to end its program, Becker says.

Trim discretionary costs that aren’t high on your list of values, he says. Getting used to a tight budget isn’t easy, but at least money is something you can stockpile in advance. If only you could bank sleep the same way.

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

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

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