Understanding Cryptocurrency

I have a couple of friends who are really into cryptocurrencies. They’ve been swapping crypto for a while, and some of them have made a lot of money! They’ve encouraged me to get into crypto, too, and I’m honestly pretty intrigued. But I’m also very wary of investing in anything that I don’t fully understand myself — and I have to admit that I don’t understand cryptocurrency at all!
I’ve heard of the big cryptocurrencies, of course: my friends trade ones like XRP, for instance. But I don’t understand how cryptocurrencies actually work, or what they’re used for, and that makes me nervous. My friends seem to be bad at explaining all of this, so I’m hoping the experts can help!

How Does Bitcoin Work?

Okay, I have a really basic question: what is Bitcoin, and how does it actually work?

I understand that Bitcoin is supposed to be a currency, and that a lot of people are investing in it and making (and losing) lots of money. But I don’t really understand what it is that they’re actually buying, or how something can work as a currency when its value is going up and down so much. Can you explain this to me? What’s going on with Bitcoin?

Contractor Costs

My parents recently renovated our home (my old high school bedroom is now an office – thanks, Dad). When they happened to mention how much it cost, I couldn’t believe it. They have been pretty generous with me, but I’m paying for a lot of college myself, and I was stunned to find out that they’d take on such a pricey project in our house. On top of that, I’m worried they got ripped off by their contractor. I’ve been upset about this for a while now, and I’m not sure how or if I should broach the subject with them again. Any advice?