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Sales tax holidays are a surprisingly great way to save money, especially during the back-to-school shopping season.

On specific dates, states do not require merchants to charge customers sales tax. Even if sales tax seems like a minor line item in your budget, it can make a big difference.

Sales tax holidays are an excellent time to purchase big ticket items that are on your list, or to get the kids’ clothes for the school year. Retailers often make this time even more enticing by offering additional sales and discounts during these tax holidays.

Not all states offer sales tax holidays. The ones that do set their own dates and rules. For instance, in some states, only certain school supplies count. In others, weather preparedness items, Energy Star products, and more are eligible.

Before you go purchase a new fridge or school uniform, check this list to see if your state has a sales tax holiday this year:

StateDatesEligible Items and Limits
AlabamaJuly 21-23

  • Clothing - $100/per item

  • Computers, Software, and School Computer Supplies - $750/purchase

  • Noncommercial School Supplies - $50/item

  • Noncommercial Books - $30/item
ArkansasAugust 5-6
  • Clothing and Shoes - $100/item

  • Clothing Accessories - $50/item

  • School Supplies and Instructional Materials
ConnecticutAugust 20-26Clothing and Shoes - $100/item
FloridaJune 2-4Disaster Preparedness Items, Including:
  • Reusable Ice - $10

  • Portable, Self-Powered Lights - $20

  • Gas or Diesel Fuel Containers - $25

  • Batteries, Coolers, Ice Chests - $30

  • Tarps, Sheeting, Anchor Systems, Tie-Down Kits, etc. - $50

  • Portable Generators - $750
FloridaAugust 4-6
  • Clothing, Footwear, Wallets, Bags - $60/item

  • School Supplies - $15/item

  • Computers - $750/item

IowaAugust 4-5Clothing and Shoes - $100/item
LouisianaMay 27-28Hurricane Preparedness Items, Including:
  • Portable Light Sources
  • Portable, Self-Powered Radios
  • Tarpaulins, etc.
  • Anchors and Tie-Down Systems
  • Gas or Diesel tanks
  • Batteries
  • Nonelectric Coolers
  • Portable Generators
  • Storm Shutters
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  • "Blue Ice" Products

Lowered state sales tax rate on the first $1,500 of the sales price of each item.
LouisianaAug 4-5Sales tax reduction on "most items of tangible personal property." Available for the first $2,500 of sales price of the item.
LouisianaSept 1-3Items Exempt from Local Tax and with Reduced State Tax Include:
  • Archery Items
  • Off-Road Vehicles Designed for Hunting
  • Airboats and Pirogues
  • Hunting Accessories
  • Animal Feed for Game
  • Hunting Apparel and Safety Gear
  • Other Hunting Supplies
MarylandFeb 18-20EnergyStar Items, Including:
  • Air Conditioners
  • Clothes Washers and Dryers
  • Furnaces and Heat Pumps
  • Boilers
  • Refrigerators
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Programmable Thermostats
  • CFL and LED Bulbs
MarylandAug 13-19Clothing and Footwear - $100/item
MississippiJuly 28-29Clothing and Footwear - $100/item
MississippiAug 25-27Firearms, Ammunition, and Hunting Supplies
MissouriAug 4-6
  • Clothes - $100/item
  • School Supplies - $50/item
  • Computer Software - $350/item
  • Computers and Accessories - $1,500
  • Graphing Calculators - $150/item
MissouriApril 19-25EnergyStar Certified Appliances, Including:
  • Clothes Washers
  • Clothes Dryers
  • Water Heaters
  • Dishwashers
  • Air Conditioners
  • Furnaces
  • Refrigerators
  • Heat Pumps
Up to $1,500 Per Appliance
New MexicoAug 4-6
  • Clothing and Shoes - $100/item
  • School Supplies - $30/item
  • Computers, Some e-Readers, Tablets - $1,000/item
  • Computer-Related Items - $500/item
  • Bookbags, Backpacks, Maps, and Globes - $100/item
  • Handheld Calculators - $200/item
Note: Not all retailers participate
OhioAug 4-6
  • Clothing - $100/item
  • School Supplies - $20/item
  • Instructional Materials - $20
OklahomaAug 4-6Clothing and Shoes - $100/item
South CarolinaAug 4-6
  • Clothing and Accessories
  • Footwear
  • School Supplies
  • Computers, Printers, and Printer Supplies
  • Computer Software
  • Certain Bed and Bath Items
TennesseeJuly 28-30
  • Clothes - $100/item
  • School Supplies - $100/item
  • Computers - $1,500
TexasApril 28-30, 2018Less than $3,000:
  • Portable Generators
Less than $300:
  • Emergency Ladders
  • Hurricane Shutters
Less than $75:
  • Axes
  • Batteries
  • Can Openers - Nonelectric
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  • Coolers and Ice Chests
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • First Aid Kits
  • Fuel Containers
  • Ground Anchor Systems
  • Hatchets
  • Ice Products
  • Portable, Self-Powered Light Sources
  • Mobile Phone Batteries
  • Portable, Self-Powered Radios
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Tarps
TexasMay 26-28, 2018EnergyStar Products:
  • Air Conditioners
  • Refrigerators
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Incandescent and Fluorescent Light Bulbs
  • Clothes Washers
  • Dishwashers
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Programmable Thermostats
TexasAug 11-13
  • Clothing and Shoes - $100/item
  • School Supplies - $100/item
VirginiaAug 4-6School Supplies, Clothing, and Shoes:
  • School Supplies - $20/item
  • Clothing and Footwear - $100/item
Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness Items:
  • Portable Generators - $1,000/item
  • Gas-Powered Chainsaws - $350/item
  • Chainsaw Accessories - $60/item
  • Other Items - $60/item
EnergyStar and WaterSense Products:
  • Qualifying Products for Home Use - $2,500/item

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You’ve probably seen at least a few of your friends brag about their coupon-clipping triumphs and bargain-hunting victories all over social media throughout the years. However, it suddenly seems like everybody has moved past sales and coupons into the world of cash back websites. What’s the hype?

These websites offer a very tempting service by essentially combining the act of spending money with the promise of earning money. Users sign up to get a percentage of what they spend back in their pockets, if they shop using a specific member portal.

So, are these rewards websites worth the hassle? Discover what it really takes to get a few bucks back.

What Are Cash-Back Websites?

Unlike couponing, cash back shopping doesn’t require you to spend hours tracking down discount codes. That doesn’t mean you won’t still need to take a few extra steps, though.

By signing up, you willingly forgo the freedom of simply visiting the websites of the retailers you like and filling your cart… well, at least if you want to get cash back for your purchases. You will need to remember to sign into the account on your preferred cash back website, clink on a link that will take you to a participating retailer, and then complete the checkout process.

This added step may or may not be worth your time, depending on the cash you’ll earn.

The Pros of Using Cash-Back Websites

Most cash back websites promise a refund rate of between 1% and 15% on purchases. This is a great way to put some tax-free money back in your pocket.

Some of these sites offer you a straight cash refund, deposited directly into your bank account. Others offer you retail gift cards, which you can use on future online shopping buys.

Learn More: 10 Easy Ways to Save Money Without Much Effort

The good thing about the well-known cash back websites is that they are connected with many popular brands and retailers. This means that you are more likely to find what you’re looking for, no matter the type of shopping that you’re doing. You can typically make purchases from the major retailers — like Amazon and department stores such as Sears — when using a cash back portal to get deals.

The Drawbacks of Cash-Back Websites

You may have to jump through some hoops to get juicy rewards using cash back websites.

While most popular rewards websites do work with major retailers, they often only offer deals in limited categories. That means you may only be able to get cash back when you purchase beauty supplies on Amazon.com, even if what you really need is a new laptop.

In addition, cash back categories and percentages are constantly revolving. This can make you feel like you are changing your shopping habits or settling for less than what you really want just for the sake of making your purchases qualify for rewards.

Resource: 11 Ways to Start Preparing for the Holiday Shopping Pinch (Yes, Already)

As mentioned above, not every cash back company offers cash. Some only reward you with gift cards. This may be fine if they offer gift cards for a company you regularly buy from, but it does limit your options.

Another big drawback is that you don’t typically receive your earned rewards right away. Many cash back websites only offer quarterly payment periods or require a minimum account balance for earned dollars before you can get paid.

One way to get around the time-consuming nature of trying to earn qualifying cash back is to download an app. These apps work with many of the major cash back websites to automatically apply rebates when you shop. However, a tool like this still has its limitations.

How Much Can You Expect to Get Back?

You’re not likely to be disappointed by cash back websites, unless you’re expecting to make a fortune in rewards.

These sites are not designed to help you earn thousands of dollars per year. In fact, the average person probably won’t earn more than $100 during an entire year of shopping. However, how much you do earn back will depend on the types of purchases you make and the retailers you shop with.

Plus, free money is free money, whether it’s $5 or $500. Even getting back just $100 in a year could pay for 12 months of your Netflix subscription or a night at a nice bed-and-breakfast.

Related: The Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2017

Things to Remember

It’s okay to be skeptical about situations that seem too good to be true, especially when hunting for deals online. Here are some tips to avoid being scammed or simply wasting your time while diving into the cash-back world:

  • Membership for a cash-back website should never come with a fee.
  • You should never have to recruit a certain amount of new members in order to qualify for deals.
  • A reputable website will have reasonable payout periods and conditions.

Try to stick with popular cash back sites like Ebates or Swagbucks if you want a safe bet. Companies that have been in business for several years and have relationships with major retailers will help you to get deals without worrying about scams.

Are Rewards Sites a Good Choice for You?

You really have to decide how much you value saving a few bucks here and there, versus saving a few minutes whenever you shop online.

A reputable cash back website certainly offers an honest way to walk away with some extra money in your pocket. You could easily save as much as $20 or $30 when buying a big-ticket item like a television or a kitchen appliance.That may very well be worth the additional minute or two that logging into a rewards portal would require.

The bottom line is that you have to decide whether the time and mental energy that you have to put into planning purchases to get rebates is really worth the effort. For those people who do most of their shopping online, and don’t mind putting a little bit of time into getting a deal, it’s a no-brainer.

Do you use cash back websites or apps? How much have you earned, and do you feel that the effort has been worth the return?

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard whisperings of the Federal Reserve’s rate hike last month. This is only the third time since the Great Recession that the Fed has increased rates… and, well, it’s both a good thing and a bad thing.

A Fed rate increase means that the economy is on the upswing. The Fed will only raise the benchmark rate when the economy no longer needs stimulus. Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Fed, said that her organization plans to go slowly with such rate increases. So, it’s best to assume that the Federal Reserve is cautiously optimistic about the economy and where we stand today.

The most recent benchmark increase was only a bump from .75 to 1 percent. It doesn’t seem like much, but even a tiny change in the benchmark rate can spell major changes for your personal financial situation. Let’s take a look at what the latest increase may mean for you.

How the Fed changes interest rates

The Federal Reserve doesn’t directly affect interest rates. Instead, its benchmark rate affects the federal funds rate — the rate that banks charge each other. The banks then pass those costs (or savings) on to consumers by changing the rates of short-term loans. Then, when short-term rates increase, long-term rates increase, as well.

In short, when the Fed increases its benchmark rate, you’ll first feel the pinch with your credit cards and other adjustable-rate or new shorter-term loans. But you’ll eventually feel the pinch if also you try to take out a longer-term loan, like a mortgage.

Here’s how the current rate increase is most likely going to impact your wallet:

If you have adjustable-rate debt

Variable- or adjustable-rate debts — like credit cards, HELOCs, and variable-rate mortgages — will likely be the first place to feel the difference, post-rate hike. A quarter-percentage interest hike doesn’t seem like much, but it can really add up over time. This is especially true if you’re carrying around a lot of credit card debt.

Let’s assume that you’re holding the average American family’s $16,000 worth of credit card debt. Depending on your terms, the rate increase could potentially cost you several hundred dollars per year.

Learn More: How Is the Nation REALLY Doing With Credit Card Debt?

Just how much more can you expect to pay on your variable rate loan? Dig into your statements to ensure you always know your rates, even as they change. Then, use an online calculator to see how much you’re going to pay in interest when your rate increases.

The best way to deal with this particular issue? Just pay off that debt as soon as you can. Right now, you may only be looking at a difference of $100 a year or less. But if the Fed continues to increase their benchmark rates, the interest rates on your already higher-interest debts are only going to increase.

Need a boost to get you started? Consider transferring some of your debt to a card with a 0% APR introductory period. Paying no interest for even 12 or 15 months can make it much easier to get that principal paid down before you end up paying through the nose because of rate increases.

If you have, or are in the market for, a mortgage

Fixed-rate mortgages, which remain the most popular option, may not skyrocket immediately. But the pinch will come.

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage in January charged 4.15% interest. In March, that increased to 4.2%. That’s a fairly large increase from this time last year, when rates were more like 3.69%. But from February to March, that much of an increase would probably only make a few dollars’ worth of difference in your monthly payments.

With that said, even a point’s difference on a 30-year mortgage can have a big impact on your finances over time. That’s because you’re paying interest on this loan for so long. Even a few bucks a month will add up over the course of 30 years!

Read More: Can This Simple App Get You Out of Debt?

So, what should you do with all of this in mind? Well, if you’re in the market for a mortgage, you might try to buy sooner rather than later. But only if you have a sufficient down payment and good credit. It doesn’t make sense to pay more for a mortgage, simply because you’ve rushed in before you’re financially ready.

With the Fed’s cautious outlook, it doesn’t seem that interest rates are going to skyrocket any time soon. So, it doesn’t make sense to lock in a lower rate if you’re not financially prepared to buy yet.

What about those who already own a home? If you’re still paying pre-Great Recession interest rates of 5% or more, you might want to consider refinancing while the rates are still low. This is especially true if you’re also in a better credit and all-around financial situation now than you were last time you bought or refinanced your mortgage. If nothing else, it’s worth looking into your refinance options now, before rates increase any more.

In the Know: Can You Refinance Your Mortgage With Bad Credit?

If you have savings and investments

Just as interest rates on consumer debt are rising slowly, so will rates on savings products. Chances are you’ll see a slight increase on the rate on your interest-bearing accounts, including savings accounts. Other interest rates — like those on CDs — will also rise, albeit slowly.

Bottom line: now could be a good time to shop around, Make sure that you’re getting the best interest rate on your high-yield savings accounts and, if you’re not, think about switching.

What about your longer-term investments, including those in your retirement account? It’s much harder to predict a rate hike’s impact on savings vehicles like these. When it comes to long-term investing, just stay the course and keep paying attention to the basics, like asset allocation.

Related: The Perfect Asset Allocation Plan

So, what exact impact will the Fed’s rate increase have on you? It really depends on your current financial situation, especially your debt and savings account mix. Just be sure to pay attention to interest rates on both debt products and savings products, so you can take advantage of the best deals around.

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Update – This promotion is now EXPIRED

Banks continue to pay bonuses to attract new customers. The latest offer comes in the form of a CIT Bank bonus of up to $400. If you’re looking for a safe place to tuck away your emergency fund or vacation savings,

Everybody needs a safe place to tuck away their emergency fund or vacation savings. A high yield savings account is a great option. Considering that the average savings accounts earn a measly 0.06%, however, you’ll want to make sure to find the absolute highest rate that you can.

This is where CiT Bank comes in. You may not have even heard of them before. The small bank was founded in 2009 and has only 71 branch locations (all clustered in California). However, they are hanging with the likes of GS Bank and Ally by offering an excellent online savings account rate: 1.15%. While one percent doesn’t sound like a whole lot, this is the top of the line right now, folks. But that’s not all.

There’s also a bonus of up to $400.

Why CiT?

CiT Bank’s high-yield online savings accounts offer competitive perks, including the obvious – a great APY – as well as $0 maintenance fees on your account. There aren’t any fees to open the account, either, and there’s only a small $100 opening deposit minimum.

Other banks offering the same impressive rate of 1.15% include GS Bank and Barclays Bank. However, if you’re looking to park your money somewhere with a great rate that will also put a little extra cash in your pocket, CiT Bank’s bonus promotion is an excellent opportunity.

How to Get Your Bonus, Up to $400

All you have to do is open and fully fund an account by June 30, 2017. This need to be new funds, not simply moving those that are already on deposit through CiT or OneWest banks. The bonus itself is tiered, based on the amount you deposit and your average monthly balance for the first three months.

The bonus amounts are $100 (for a monthly average between $15,000 and $99,999), $250 (average balance of $100,000 to $299,999), and an impressive $400 (for balances of $300,000 or more). Again, you have to hold this average monthly balance for three full months after you open the account, or the bonus is forfeited.

cit bank bonus

Is It Right For You?

If you have some savings that you’d like to tuck away in a high yield, online savings account – such as your emergency fund – CiT Bank is worth a look. This is particularly true if your savings is greater than $15,000 and you can take advantage of the bonus being offered through June 30, 2017.

No promo code is needed, simply visit their website (or, if you’re located in central CA, find one of their 75 branches) and sign up.

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Humana: Yet Another Player Pulling Out of Obamacare

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