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Dear Penny: My Fiance Was Laid Off. He’s Fine With Letting Me Pay the Bills Forever

Dear Squeaking By,

Try saying this: “I am stressed about our finances.”

Say it when you’re sober. Don’t say it after a hellish workday or in the middle of a fight over whose turn it is to scrub the toilet. Say it soon.

Then say: “I’d like for us to talk about our money plans and goals.” Schedule a time, day and place to have a talk.

You didn’t just wake up last week feeling the pressures of being the breadwinner. This has been building for nearly six months.

And it’s understandable why you’ve been avoiding the conversation. A job loss is often about so much more than the loss of income. We derive a huge part of our identities from our jobs. Think about how often we learn someone’s name and immediately follow up with, “What do you do?”

So it’s tempting after a significant other’s job loss to jump into the role of supportive partner and absorb as much of their burden as possible. But you’re not a sponge. You can only absorb so much stress.

It sounds like your anxieties are spilling out in the form of “You should get a job”-type statements. And any conversation with a partner that focuses on what they should or shouldn’t be doing is pretty likely to end in an argument.

But it’s much harder to argue with an “I” statement, e.g., “I’m feeling stressed about money, and I’d like to discuss that.”

Your goal in this conversation isn’t to assign blame; it’s to come up with a plan together. You’ll want to talk about what a realistic time frame might be for your fiance’s job search, how to adjust your budget while you’re living on a single paycheck, how to reprioritize your goals for now and his options for earning money while he’s unemployed.

Be prepared to listen as much as you talk. It’s not OK for your fiance to unilaterally decide to make you the sole paycheck earner, but understand that he may have serious anxiety surrounding the job hunt that he hasn’t communicated.

If you follow these steps and your fiance still refuses to talk or accuses you of nagging, I’d urge you to think carefully about whether this is a viable relationship.

You need to be comfortable talking about money in marriage. You’re not being selfish or unreasonable for wanting financial security and the ability to splurge on a vacation or a night out. You deserve someone who gives you space to communicate about your goals and what’s stressing you out, even when it’s a difficult conversation.

Sometimes silence is more powerful than words. If your fiance isn’t willing to have a dialog, what he’s communicating is a lack of respect for you. That, unfortunately, is a problem that will linger long after he’s found a job.

Robin Hartill is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder and the voice behind Dear Penny. Send your questions about having difficult money conversations to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Dear Penny: My Fiance Was Laid Off. He’s Fine With Letting Me Pay the Bills Forever

Dear Squeaking By,

Try saying this: “I am stressed about our finances.”

Say it when you’re sober. Don’t say it after a hellish workday or in the middle of a fight over whose turn it is to scrub the toilet. Say it soon.

Then say: “I’d like for us to talk about our money plans and goals.” Schedule a time, day and place to have a talk.

You didn’t just wake up last week feeling the pressures of being the breadwinner. This has been building for nearly six months.

And it’s understandable why you’ve been avoiding the conversation. A job loss is often about so much more than the loss of income. We derive a huge part of our identities from our jobs. Think about how often we learn someone’s name and immediately follow up with, “What do you do?”

So it’s tempting after a significant other’s job loss to jump into the role of supportive partner and absorb as much of their burden as possible. But you’re not a sponge. You can only absorb so much stress.

It sounds like your anxieties are spilling out in the form of “You should get a job”-type statements. And any conversation with a partner that focuses on what they should or shouldn’t be doing is pretty likely to end in an argument.

But it’s much harder to argue with an “I” statement, e.g., “I’m feeling stressed about money, and I’d like to discuss that.”

Your goal in this conversation isn’t to assign blame; it’s to come up with a plan together. You’ll want to talk about what a realistic time frame might be for your fiance’s job search, how to adjust your budget while you’re living on a single paycheck, how to reprioritize your goals for now and his options for earning money while he’s unemployed.

Be prepared to listen as much as you talk. It’s not OK for your fiance to unilaterally decide to make you the sole paycheck earner, but understand that he may have serious anxiety surrounding the job hunt that he hasn’t communicated.

If you follow these steps and your fiance still refuses to talk or accuses you of nagging, I’d urge you to think carefully about whether this is a viable relationship.

You need to be comfortable talking about money in marriage. You’re not being selfish or unreasonable for wanting financial security and the ability to splurge on a vacation or a night out. You deserve someone who gives you space to communicate about your goals and what’s stressing you out, even when it’s a difficult conversation.

Sometimes silence is more powerful than words. If your fiance isn’t willing to have a dialog, what he’s communicating is a lack of respect for you. That, unfortunately, is a problem that will linger long after he’s found a job.

Robin Hartill is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder and the voice behind Dear Penny. Send your questions about having difficult money conversations to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

What to Do When Your Financial Goals Become Impossible To Achieve

I am a huge proponent of setting financial goals. A well-considered financial goal not only gives you direction toward some of the biggest things you want to achieve in life, but is easily broken down into steps that you can achieve today – and I do mean literally today.

The big problem with this kind of big goal setting is that the bigger and longer-term the goal, the more likely it is that your life will change in some significant way before you reach that goal.

Sometimes those changes are good changes. Those kinds of changes can accelerate you toward your current goal quickly (like a windfall) or even cause you to consider an even stronger goal (like a major career advancement or change).

Others are simply life changes that make your current goal seem irrelevant, like getting married or having children or simply reconsidering your life priorities.

Then there are the changes that cause a downward shift in your income level or add major expenses to your life. Perhaps you get fired and fall out of your career path. Maybe a loved one gets very ill and you take on the burden of caring for that loved one. It could just be a long series of smaller unfortunate events.

Whatever the case, sometimes our big goals drift from audacious but possible into the “impossible without an outside miracle” territory. You’re just not going to make it to the goal, no matter how much you tweak the plan.

It can feel a lot like failure, and that sense of failure can easily make you want to give up on long term planning entirely. Your dream of retiring early now just looks like normal retirement (if you’re lucky). Your dream of paying for your daughter’s college education just went up in smoke. Why plan for anything if this is what happens?

The important thing to remember is that a worthwhile goal isn’t so much about the destination, but about the changes you make to yourself along the journey’s path and the improved financial stability that almost every goal provides all throughout the journey.

Let’s say your big goal was to save for your daughter’s college education. Suddenly, when she’s thirteen, things change. Not only are you unable to save much for that goal any more, you have to dip into it to keep a roof over her head.

It seems like a disaster, right? But consider these things.

First, what would your situation be like if you didn’t have that money to dip into at all? Wouldn’t the impact on your daughter’s life be far worse if that “college savings” hadn’t been there to begin with? Sure, you might not be using it for college, but you’re using it for something of value.

Second, how big would your lifestyle changes be if you weren’t already living below your means when you were putting aside money for college? In order to save $100 a month for college (or whatever it is you’re saving), you had to be living on $100 a month less than you could have been living on. This means that your lifestyle adjustment is actually easier than it would have been without your big financial goal.

Third, even with the changes, you likely have some progress toward your goal that you can either retain or redirect toward a new goal. Again, maybe you were able to save $10,000 for your daughter’s education but needed to tap $5,000 of it. You still have $5,000 put away toward your daughter’s education, which is a pretty nice head start for her.

Finally, you know that you can set a big goal and make progress towards it. You aimed for a goal and you were able to make lifestyle changes to reach toward that goal. You know that you have it within you to do those things, even if unexpected changes caused you to no longer be able to achieve the goal as you envisioned it.

This is not the end of the line for achieving big things in life. You know you can make progress toward big goals in life, and you know that progress toward big goals can be helpful even if the big goal is now out of reach. Rather than giving up, it’s just time for some reassessment.

You can start by sitting down and considering what things are really important to you going forward. The big goal you were aiming for is now out of reach, but that doesn’t mean that it was the only thing important to you in your life. There may be other things to aim for that are still within your grasp.

You had a dream of paying for your daughter’s education and now that seems out of reach, but perhaps you can at least pay for all of her textbooks and buy her a really good laptop when she goes to school. You can do that by simply aiming to not touch her college savings again and contributing a much smaller monthly amount (or nothing at all). What do you need to do in your life to enable a $10 a month contribution? What do you need to do to ensure you never have to touch it again? Maybe a big emergency fund might help you avoid that.

Maybe instead you had a dream of retiring early, but now that’s not going to happen. What can you do instead? Maybe you can simply aim for a normal retirement with some money in the bank that helps make your retirement richer than just what Social Security can provide. Maybe you can still retire a bit early, just not quite as early as before.

You might find that the changes in your life point you to an entirely different goal. Maybe now you want to ensure lifelong care for a loved one who suffered a devastating injury. Make that your central goal. Or, maybe you are now focused on providing care for your baby rather than retiring at age 43. Make that your central goal.

Another key thing to remember is that the skills and often the resources that you built up in pursuit of your previous goal will apply to your new goal as well.

Self-restraint? It was useful then and it’s useful now.

Smart shopping habits? It was useful then and it’s useful now.

Automating your savings for a big goal? It was useful then and it’s useful now.

Breaking down big goals into smaller and smaller pieces until they’re easily achievable in the next day or two? It was useful then and it’s useful now.

Money in retirement savings or emergency funds? They were useful then and they’re useful now.

You still have the tools, even if the old goal isn’t a great fit any more.

So define a new big, audacious goal for yourself. It might be similar to your old one but a bit smaller, or it might be something else new entirely.

Then, do as you did before. Break it down into smaller pieces until you’ve got things you can be doing in the next few days. Spend less. Automate your savings. Make good spending choices. In other words, do many of the things you were doing that helped you achieve your previous goal.

A final note: the biggest enemy when a goal falls apart is simply being disheartened. It’s easy to feel as though goals are pointless (and thus working toward them is pointless) when you watch a big goal fall apart due to things outside your control.

Here’s the truth: life always hands us bad events. We are always going to be hit with unexpected events, and many of them are going to be unfortunate ones. We can’t control those unfortunate events; all we can really do is control our response to them.

Having a goal or a “system” in place is simply a guidance tool to help you progress toward a better life than you would have if you chose to do nothing and follow the path of least resistance in life. The best response to an unfortunate event isn’t to knock down all of those goals and systems; rather, just accept that life sometimes hands you a less than desirable hand and play it with the tools that you have. You know how to set goals. You know how to break them down into actionable elements. You know how to exercise self-control and self-restraint. You can learn what specifics you need to know about the new goal you have in mind.

It’s progress toward a better life, same as it always was. Your situation might be a little worse, but you’re still working toward something better. To do otherwise merely ensures a worse outcome.

Good luck.

The post What to Do When Your Financial Goals Become Impossible To Achieve appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Betterment Vs. Vanguard Personal Advisor – Which One Is Right For You?

When it comes to Betterment vs. Vanguard Personal Advisor, most will be served best by Betterment. Forr those with multi-million dollar portfolios, Vanguard is the go to.When it comes to Betterment vs. Vanguard Personal Advisor, most will be served best by Betterment. Forr those with multi-million dollar portfolios, Vanguard is the go to.

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MetLife Renters Insurance Review

MetLife is one of the largest global providers of insurance, annuities and employee benefits. On the consumer side, they are well-known for offering health insurance, dental insurance and life insurance along with homeowners insurance.

What many people don’t know is that MetLife also offers renters insurance, a type of insurance many renters purchase in order to protect their personal possessions (but not the building they live in). With renters insurance, consumers can make sure their furniture, electronics, jewelry and other prized possessions would be covered and swiftly replaced in the event of fire, vandalism or another disaster beyond their control.

If you are considering buying a renters insurance policy, you may want to see what MetLife has to offer — and how it compares with other renters insurance policies available today. Keep reading to learn more.

Find the Best Renter Insurance

Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.

MetLife Renters Insurance: Key Takeaways

  • Customize your renters insurance to provide the exact amount of coverage you need.
  • Choose add-ons that can beef up coverage for musical instruments, electronics, sports equipment and luxury items that would be difficult — and expensive — to replace.
  • Identity Protection Services are included in each MetLife renters insurance policy.

MetLife Renters Insurance Review

Renters insurance should give you peace of mind if you have a lot of pricey personal possessions but don’t yet own a home. MetLife renters insurance protects against tornadoes, hail, fire, theft, vandalism and more. Premiums also tend to be extremely affordable for renters insurance — often less than $15 per month.

While MetLife policies can be tailored to meet your unique needs, each of their policies provides coverage for the following basics:

  • Personal property coverage: Guarantees that you can repair or replace your belongings in the event of a covered loss. If you need to file a claim, they’ll pay the cost to repair or replace covered items, up the actual cash value of your damaged or stolen property.
  • Replacement cost coverage: Kicks in to protect you if something happens and you need to repair or replace your property.
  • Personal liability protection: Provides $100,000 of coverage at minimum. Covers you if someone else is hurt when they’re in your rental apartment or home. This coverage also extends to cover property damage to others when you’re held responsible. Legal costs can also be covered with your policy.

In some states, you can also purchase specialty coverage that extends your basic renters insurance policy. This additional coverage offers higher limits for electronics, luxury items and other important items you may own regardless of how they are damaged or lost. This coverage can be good for $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 of add-on protection depending on the items you want to cover. You can also qualify for bonus coverage that can replace these items if they break or stop functioning the way they should. Add-on coverage comes with its own $100 deductible.

How to Get a Quote from MetLife Renters Insurance

One of the biggest downsides of buying renters insurance from MetLife is that they don’t offer free estimates online. You can fill out a form and ask to be contacted by an agent, but you can’t find out approximately how much you would pay for renters insurance coverage without speaking to a person.

This puts MetLife at a big disadvantage since many companies that offer renters insurance make it easy to get a quote without ever speaking to someone. Then again, requesting a call shouldn’t be that difficult. To request an agent contact you, all you need to do is head to the MetLife website and submit the following information:

  • Name.
  • Address of residence.
  • Phone number.
  • Email address.

MetLife Renters Insurance Discounts

If your goal is saving money on insurance — and it should be — you’ll be happy to know that MetLife offers several different discounts you can apply to your renters insurance policy. These include:

  • Claim-free discounts — Save money when you haven’t filed any claims
  • Multi-policy discount— Save money for bundling a new renters insurance policy with auto coverage
  • Protective devices discount — You can also qualify for discounts if you install qualified safety and security devices in your rental unit

How We Rate MetLife Renters Insurance

At The Simple Dollar, we aim to provide a general overview of each insurer’s products and services through a standard rating process. With that in mind, we considered policy offerings and overall customer satisfaction using J.D. Power’s 2018 U.S. Renters Insurance Study. We also measured financial solvency based on reports from A.M. Best, S&P, and Moody’s.

After a thorough research and discovery period, here’s how MetLife stacks up:

  • Claims Satisfaction: 3 out of 5
  • Coverage Options: 2 out of 5
  • Financial Solvency: 4 out of 5
  • Customer Satisfaction: 2 out of 4
  • Overall Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars

The Bottom Line

Renters insurance may seem unnecessary, but you never know what kind of emergencies you will face. No matter where you’re renting, no one is immune to the perils of fire, inclement weather, or theft. Without a renters insurance policy, you won’t have any way to replace any items that were damaged, ruined, or stolen — other than paying out of pocket to replace them yourself.

With a renters insurance policy, you will have protection against all these disasters and others you may have never thought of.

As you continue your search for the perfect policy, make sure to compare several renters insurance policies based on premiums, what they include, and the coverage limits you can qualify for. Also consider calling into MetLife to get a no-obligation quote from one of their agents. With enough research, you should wind up with a renters insurance policy that will help you sleep better at night.

Find the Best Renter Insurance

Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.

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7 Easy Ways to Earn Amazon Gift Cards

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Looking for easy ways to earn Amazon gift cards for FREE? Check out this list of fun ideas!

Psst! Want to earn Amazon gift cards quickly for Amazon Prime Day 2019? Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see how!

How to Earn Free Amazon Gift Cards

7 Ways to Earn Amazon Gift Cards for FREE

When you’re on a really tight budget, sometimes even $5-$10 per month can help stretch your budget so much further. And that’s why Amazon can be a budgeter’s best friend.

There are SO many different ways to earn free Amazon gift cards and Amazon carries just about anything you can think of!

So that means you can use Amazon gift cards to stretch your grocery or household supplies budget, to afford diapers, to buy gifts for others on a really tight budget, or even to just buy something nice for yourself that you’ve really been wanting and can’t make room for in the budget!

These are my favorite ways to earn Amazon gift cards. And while you may not earn hundreds of dollars from each, you’ll find that you can easily earn at least $5-$10 per month from each of these — and that really adds up if you try to regularly use at least 2-3 of these methods!

1. Swagbucks

Swagbucks is my all-time favorite way to earn Amazon gift cads and I’ve been using it for years now.

It is a site that rewards you for completing tasks and doing certain actions online. When you complete a task, you’ll earn points called swagbucks that you can cash in for free gift cards.

Some of the more popular ways to earn are doing online searches, signing up for offers, printing coupons, completing special offers, and taking polls.

Go here to read our complete guide on how to earn swagbucks.

Earn Amazon Gift Cards with Shopkick

2. Shopkick

Shopkick is a mobile app that allows you to earn gift cards for walking into stores and scanning products.

The best part of Shopkick is that you don’t have to buy anything to earn the gift cards, and it can be done when you’re already out and about!

Shopkick is one of the easiest and quickest ways to earn Amazon gift cards — especially if you’re frequently out running errands or shopping.

You can go here to read an in-depth review about how it works.

Also, you get currently get a FREE $5 gift card just for signing up!

3. Ibotta

Ibotta is one of my favorite money-making apps, and it’s a great way to save money on groceries and more — without clipping coupons!

Simply look in the Ibotta app to find rebates for grocery items you’re buying and scan your receipts to get credit.

Earnings add up pretty fast and you can cash out at $20. It’s a super easy way to earn Amazon gift cards for your grocery purchases.

Go here to read more about how to get started with Ibotta.

Trade in coins for gift cards at Coinstar

4. Coinstar

Do you have any loose change lying around? Gather it up and take it to your nearest Coinstar kiosk!

You can trade in your coins for Amazon gift cards without any transaction fee. It’s super simple.

I did this last year right before Christmas and had $208 in coins! I traded them in for an Amazon gift card and used it to buy Christmas gifts!

Go here to find a Coinstar location near you.

5. InstaGC

InstaGC is a site that is similar in nature to Swagbucks. I’ve tried it out a little bit in the past and liked it, and several readers have commented with rave reviews about it!

You can earn points for simple activities like taking surveys, watching videos, searching the web, and shopping online.

They have tons of gift cards you can trade in points for — including Amazon gift cards!

Go here to get started with InstaGC.

PrizeRebel Survey

6. PrizeRebel

PrizeRebel is another site that seems very similar to Swagbucks. I’m actually testing this one out right now and plan to do a full review in the near future!

It’s mostly surveys and video based from what I can tell, but they also have opportunities to sign up for free offers and do special tasks to earn points.

I’d suggest focusing on watching videos and taking their longer surveys. I seem to be getting multiple opportunities per day to take surveys worth 77 points!

Go here to get started with PrizeRebel.

7. Survey Companies

While you won’t get rich or earn a full-time income from taking paid online surveys, it is a really nice way to earn gift cards on the side!

This was one of my favorite ways to stretch our financially lean budget when Jesse was in law school.

Go here to see my list of the top legitimate paid online surveys you can trust.

Bonus: Don’t forget you can currently get a FREE $10 credit when you download and use the Amazon mobile app for the first time and a $15 credit when you upload a photo to the Amazon photo app for the first time.

Amazon Gift Card

How to Earn $25 in Amazon Gift Cards for Prime Day

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is right around the corner! Want to try to earn some quick Amazon gift cards to use next Monday and Tuesday?

Here’s an easy scenario that allows you to earn $25 in Amazon gift cards before Monday:

1. Sign up for Shopkick through this link, use code MOM5 during the registration process, and then earn kicks for scanning one product in-store. A bonus 1250 kicks will instantly be added to your account which you can trade in for a $5 Amazon gift card!

2. Gather all your loose change and trade it in at a Coinstar machine. I’m willing to bet you have at least $10 in change that you can trade in for an Amazon gift card.

3. Make a $10 purchase at Whole Foods and a $10 Amazon credit will be added to your account to use on Prime Day.

You might also qualify to receive a $5 credit when you send a $50 gift card via text or a $10 credit when you reload your gift card balance with $100 or more. If you’re already planning on spending $50-$100 on Amazon Prime Day 2019, these might be some great ways to boost your budget a little more with $15 extra! But hurry — the credits add to your account within 3 days, so you’ll want to jump on this right away to have your credit in time!

Can you think of any other creative ways to earn Amazon gift cards? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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7 Tips to Achieve Financial Security

Northwestern Mutual recently reported what by many accounts appears to be good news on the financial front for average Americans.

The company’s 2019 Planning & Progress Study, which focuses on Americans’ attitudes about money and financial decision-making, as well as their opinions about the “attainability of the American dream,” found that 71% of Americans feel financially secure today versus 47% when the study was first conducted a decade ago.

Those figures represent a deep change in the attitudes and outlook of Americans since 2009 when the Great Recession ended, according to the study’s authors.

But what if you’re one of the people who still doesn’t feel financially secure and isn’t experiencing the current wave of optimism and prosperity?

What can be done to change that reality and help establish financial security — or at least set you on the path toward achieving that goal? We asked financial experts to share some of their top tips and suggestions.

Tip 1: Put a Practical Budget in Place

Your first step toward achieving financial security is to establish a monthly budget that you’ll be able to live with, said Brian Walsh, manager of financial planning at SoFi.

“By creating a plan that you can stick to, you’ll feel more confident and be better able to save for the future,” explained Walsh. “We recommend the 50/30/20 rule for budgeting. You should be spending 50% on essential expenses, 30% on discretionary expenses, and allocating 20% towards your (savings) goals.”

Tip 2: Create an Emergency Fund

Once you’ve developed a manageable budget, your next step should be establishing a savings account that can be used for emergencies, SoFi’s Walsh said.

“Having enough cash on hand to cover unexpected expenses is one of the quickest ways to reduce financial stress and feel more secure,” he explained. “Conventional financial wisdom suggests having about three to six months of your living expenses saved for an emergency. Sometimes that number scares people, so start with at least one-month worth of expenses. This money should be readily accessible should anything happen.”

Personal finance experts recommend putting about 10% of your monthly income into such an account, adds Katie Ross, education and development manager for American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC).

If money is tight and you aren’t in a position to put the recommended 10% of your net income into savings, then start small. Even $10 or $20 a month will add up after a while,” Ross said.

It’s also a good idea to look for a high-interest account for your emergency fund, which can help you accumulate money more quickly.

Online savings accounts often offer higher interest than brick-and-mortar banks, with rates ranging from 2.15% to as much as 2.52%. Some of the top high-yield choices, according to Bankrate, include Marcus by Goldman Sachs, State Farm Bank and TIAA Bank.

Tip 3: Consolidate Debt

If you’re working toward eliminating debt but have those debts spread out amongst a variety of high-interest loans or credit cards, consider debt consolidation.

Consolidating high-interest rate accounts via a single personal loan, which often allows you to lock in a lower fixed interest rate, can save you money over the course of the loan, said Walsh.

Want to further speed up debt reduction (or savings accumulation for that matter)? Take a look at your belongings and identify items you’re willing to get rid of and begin selling them to earn some extra cash, suggests Deacon Hayes, founder of WellKeptWallet.com.

“Several years ago, my wife and I came to the realization that our finances were a wreck and we definitely did not feel financially secure, said Hayes. “There are several steps we took to turn our finances around. We sold tons of our personal belongings and assets. From our brand-new car to lots of other household items, you name it, we sold it and used the money to pay off debt. You can do the same thing to reduce your debt and become more financially free.”

Tip 4: Eliminate Emotional Spending

Emotional spending is the money you fritter away on your wants and desires rather than your needs. In other words, it’s the type of spending that’s not typically budgeted and can get you into financial trouble.

“Whenever you spend money, ask yourself whether you want it or you need it and you will get a clear answer,” explained Rishit Shah, who runs the online financial education platform Tally School.

The main goal, said Shah, is to reduce spending on wants because they’re almost always liabilities that increase your bills over the long term.

To help with this effort, Chris Smith, founder of the personal finance site I Am Net Worthy, suggests allocating a specific amount of money each month for limited discretionary spending, and don’t go beyond that amount.

“After separating your bills, savings and other additional costs, make sure to have a specific amount of spending money that you allow yourself to use on things you’d like for your personal preference,” Smith said.

Tip 5: Find Ways to Increase Your Income

To speed up the financial overhaul in their household Hayes of WellKeptWallet.com, took a second job to bring in extra money and pay off debt.

“While delivering pizzas wasn’t the most glamorous job, it gave us the extra money we needed to reach our goal of becoming financially secure,” Hayes said.

Are you a good writer, photographer or graphic designer? Perhaps pick up some freelance gigs on the side to boost income. These are just a few examples. Identify your skills and use them to bring in extra cash through a side hustle.

“Focus on how you can increase your earnings and you’ll become financially secure faster,” said Shah.

Tip 6: Start Your Retirement Planning

If your employer offers a 401(k) match and you aren’t contributing to your retirement account, that’s free money you’re missing out on, ACCC’s Ross said.

“Many Americans do not feel prepared for retirement, but contributing to a 401(k) is an easy way to get started,” she explained. “If your employer doesn’t have a 401(k) plan, consider opening a Roth IRA and putting away a little money each month.”

Even if retirement is still decades away, now is the time to start contributing to a retirement savings account so that your money has time to grow. Creating such a fund will help establish long-term financial security, added Ross.

Tip 7: Stay on Track by Setting Goals

Finally, to keep yourself on the right path, identify annual financial goals, including savings targets, that will help you stay motivated. But make sure the goals you set are reasonable based on calculations you’ve made, said Walsh.

“Use your successes to fuel further successes,” Walsh added, but also recognize that, at times, unexpected expenses may pop up that are out of your control.

“When that happens, don’t beat yourself up,” he said. “Accept them as a normal part of life and be glad they’ve come up after you’ve created an emergency savings account to address them.

The post 7 Tips to Achieve Financial Security appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Buying Countertops: Plastic Laminates, Granite and Solid Surfaces

Three Key Factors: Price, Maintenance and Appearance

When a sample of a kitchen countertop made from 60 percent paper recently intersected my desk, I recognized pinnacles could be, and are, made out of anything and everything. Wood, plastic, granite, metal, concrete, tile, acrylic–they’re all applied. Seventy-five years ago, stone and wood were the primary countertop alternatives; 25 years ago, laminate was clearly king of the hill. But today’s kitchens and inexpensive countertops are used for more than really cooking. The kitchen is a living room, study, breakfast nook, entertainment area, craft center and showplace all reeled into one. The numerous functions of this room today call for a countertop skin-deep that suits our lifestyles and activities.

When people need a top that’s sturdy, simple to install, easy to maintain and inexpensive, most still head for the laminate flaunt. But there’s a bewildering assortment of other selects out there today. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. They’re all pretty durable; no real stinkers in the bunch. They all require some maintenance or help. A wine-coloured glass threw from two hoofs will crush on any of them. So selecting inexpensive countertops genuinely cooks down to how you answer these three questions 😛 TAGEND

How much can you waste? How much upkeep are you willing to do? What cloth do you most like to touch, verify, is shown by and work on?

Check out 10 kitchen directions we’ve been visit

Price: cheap countertops and expensive countertops

You can devote$ 2 to $250 per sq. ft. for countertops. Astonishingly, the authorities have few options that twilight between the basic $ 10 per sq. ft. laminates and the $80 stone and solid-surface surfaces. Wood and tile meridians fall in the middle, but of all the crowns we look back, these had “the worlds largest” pundits. The dearth of midpriced alternatives can be a blessing in guise; if you have a limited budget, look at the many design possibilities of laminate. Kitchen experts follow a few rules of thumb based on experience:

The longer you plan to stay in a house, the more sturdy and upscale the countertop you should select. The “cost per year” becomes a bargain as the years pass.

Tops and station typically compose ten to 15 percent of a kitchen remodel budget. Tops that fall outside this compas may not look like they accommodate.

Put your fund where your heart is–especially when you’re on a fund. If you adore high-tech gizmoes or practice grove cabinetry, deplete your fund there. Maintenance and use ingredients

Maintenance on most inexpensive countertops is minimal–but fail to do it and permanent, or at least difficult-to-reverse, shattering can occur. Here i am preventive upkeep( cleaning up sheds, abusing hot pads, working on cutting boards) and long-term maintenance( that are generally involves exercising some form of sealer or finish ). Ask yourself, how careful( truly) are you and their own families? What do you expect your surface to look like in five years old? Does it prepare more sense to stick with laminate until the kids are out of grade school? Aesthetic and tactile factors

If budget and maintenance aren’t crucial factor in your brain, how the top ogles and feels are the true deal creators. Both you and your countertop have a personality; select one that you can get along with. Texture, esthetics, glossiness, “warmth, ” how natural the material gazes and feels, and how it fits in with the design of your kitchen and dwelling are all part of the final equation.

One of the beautifuls of today’s trend toward variou countertop skin-deeps is, when rip between two transcends, you can install them both!

Wear and Maintenance

A chart comparing laminate, granite, solid face, wood and tile countertops is available in Additional Information below.

countertops plastic laminate Plastic Laminates: Pros and Cons

Plastic-laminate meridians may not grab countless headlines, but they still account for 75 percent of the market. They’re inexpensive, sturdy, come in lots of dyes and can be installed by do-it-yourselfers.

Plastic laminates are multiple strata of resin-soaked kraft paper, exceeded by a patterned membrane of melamine that’s subjected to heat and pres. The resultant 1/16 -in. laminate expanse can be made into cheap countertops in two ways.

It can be post modelled at a manufacturing bush to create exceeds with the rounded “unibody” backsplash and nosing. Post-formed tops can be purchased off-the-shelf at home midsts in limited emblazons or special succession. This mode crown is the least expensive, easiest to scavenge and quickest to install.

They can also be custom-built falsified into an extraordinary range of styles. Laminate expanses are glued to particle card, then margined with laminate, wood, even solid-surface deprives.

They resist grease and stains and clean with soap and spray. They’ll take a good hit, and changeable your color scheme won’t cost an arm and a leg.

On the downside, laminate meridians can be damaged by hot washes and sharp-witted bayonets, abrasive cleans can gloomy the finish, and if sea probes strata, the substrate can expand and the laminate projection. Surface damage is difficult to repair. All of these problems can be avoided through suitable station and use. Things to Know Before You Buy

Darker solid pigments and glossy finishes evidence scrapings and trim markers more readily than patterned or matte skin-deeps. Surpas where the laminate overlaps the margining, rather than buttocks to it are harder to damage. Brand-new technology in printing has improved the clarity and depth. Many wood specks and stone structures are amazingly crisp and reasonable.

Click now to learn more about selecting laminate countertops .

countertops counter options Counter Opinions

“Laminate worked with our budget. We picked huge gadgets instead of a costly top.” — homeowner

“There’s nothing inaccurate with laminate, but the high-end kitchen magazines are showing all stone. As the 1950 s mode fluctuates back, laminate will be in vogue again.” — kitchen designer

countertops surface ring Jazzing Up Basic Laminate Tops

Three concoctions on the market can help extend the versatility of laminate. Most are installed by your fabricator when your top is compiled.

Counter-Seal is a relatively new product that allows you to undermount a sink in a laminate exceed. Using templates and special tools, showed fabricators trimmed the sink opening, then route this opening with a closely engineered reverberating of solid-surface material. The tight adapt of the ring and special adhesives protect the particleboard core from irrigate and sweat. Tolls start at about $250. The company also makes a product for do-it-yourselfers wishing to undermount a sink in a tile crest.

Gem Loc is a solid-surface edging integrated into a laminate pinnacle during fabrication. It comes in a wide range of pigments and vogues.

Kuehn Bevel Edge is a specially milled laminate edge that eliminates the dark edge arguments often be available on laminates. Kuehn also sees another kind of slinks.

countertops solid surface Solid Surface: Pros and Cons

DuPont introduced the first solid-surface countertop, Corian, to the world 35 years ago and the category continues to thrive. There are currently more than a dozen manufacturers offering countertop information in the thousands of colourings and designs.

Most, if not all, solid-surface pinnacles are dealing with civilized pros who have been attested to make and install that specific product.

Solid-surface crowns are normally 1/2 in. dense and made of acrylic, polyester( or mixtures of the two) together with fillers. Advantages are must be established with two or three beds of substance for a thicker appearing. One exclusion, Wilsonart’s Solid Surface Veneer( SSV ), consists of a 1/8 -in. stratum of solid-surface material, ligament to a particle-board core. Some initial problems linked to the make were resolved by bonding a moisture-resistant layer to the bottom of the particle-board core.

Some have labeled solid-surface tops the “near-perfect” product. They’re non-porous, inducing them model for meat cooking. They’re difficult to stain. They can be formed into nearly any size and contour. Because they’re of attire cloth through and through, light scratches can be buffed out, deep scratches and ignites are available to sanded out, and severely damaged regions can literally be cut out, superseded, then merged to be darn near invisible. Sinks can be undermounted and backsplashes can be integrated into the top, meeting them seamless.

Most possible problems with solid-surface transcends can be avoided by proper installation — and companies are increasingly select in whom they’ll show to do their construct. There are some negatives, however. It’s expensive. Cutting on them will leave scratches, and those that are solid color or have a high-gloss finish can be especially revealing. Some object to their homogenous seem and cold feel. Things to Know Before You Buy

The key to a trouble-free solid-surface top is an installer who are familiar with his or her nonsense. Seams should be offset 1-1/ 2 to 3 in. from within areas, inside corners should be radiused and joints should be reinforced. Know where your seams are and take precautions not to use crock pots, griddles and hot plates in that area. The swelling and reduction can cause fractures during the cool-down cycle. You can have a pro resand and repolish the top every five to seven years for a hard-to- tell-from-new look.

Counter Opinion

“Lots of parties like solid-surface surfaces because they’re predictable; they’ll seek the same five years from now as they do today.” — manufacturer

“Solid-surface crests was actually bragged as being indestructible and having invisible seams; now they’re touted as being renewable with inconspicuous seams.” — installer

countertops granite Granite: Pros and Cons

Although granite’s been around for millions of years, it’s still considered the new kid on the block. Ten years ago granite fell into the “exotic” or “extravagant” lists. Today it’s become more accessible and inexpensive. Shipping is easier( more than 90 percent comes from overseas ), and technologies and thinner blades allow it to be chipped with less garbage and costs. In the 2001 National Kitchen and Bath Designs Trend Survey, 37 percentage of the transcends installed by its members were granite.

In its natural state it defies most blots and when closed becomes tougher hitherto. Many rim vogues can be crafted: most commonly bevel, radius, half-radius, ogee and square. A natural information, it comes in a wide range of emblazons, patterns and depths. Each top is absolutely unique. Sinks can be undermounted( in the case of one fabricator, 95 percent of the cases .) And it can handle hot washes.

On the downside, neglected granite can be stained by red-hot grease. It’s hard and cold. It are available to scratched by extreme ill-treatment. Cutting on it will most likely dull your bayonets than mar your crest, but reproduced cutting in one area can eventually change the brightnes. Seams are more evident with granites that have a strong pattern or cereal. And since working with granite necessary special tools, it’s not a do-it-yourself material and on-site fixings is hard to do.

Granite is an amazing option, but not ever the right ones. Click now for 13 other options . Things to Know Before You Buy

Most slabs come in 9-x 5-ft. parts. The fabricator will often factor in a “waste charge” for the portion of the slab not used. Keep this in mind. For instance, don’t spec out a 10 -ft.-long island, when a nine-ft. one will work. If possible, tour the granite “boneyard” and select the actual slab your top will be made from. The gaze of a large slab can differ immensely from a small sample. Twilight and solid-colored granites prove dings and accidents more easily. Granite with a gloss finish will have more depth and liveliness than one with a matte finish, but it will likewise indicate scratches much more readily.

Counter Mind

“Some beings love a slab of granite because of a wild colouring or particle structure. Others dislike it for the same reason.” — fabricator

“Some customers feel tension that wasn’t there before granite. You do sort of tend to work around it.” — contractor

countertop engineered stone Engineered Stone: Pros and Cons

Blend the functional benefits of solid-surface material with the aesthetic attributes of natural stone and you get a brand-new class of countertop cloths announced engineered stone. They’re composed of more than 93 percentage humiliated natural stone, bound together by acrylic or polyester resins. While brand-new to the U.S. grocery, these meridians have been used successfully in Europe for more than a decade.

Like solid-surface materials, they’re nonporous and nearly impossible to stain. Most never need closing. They have excellent scratch fight and have more “give” than granite. Because they’re composed of stone they can have a natural watch. But because they also have resins and fillers they can also be tinted to create complexions not found in nature.

They’re expensive, with most falling between solid-surface and natural-stone rates. And while makes say they can stand up to hot washes better than solid skin-deep materials, they can crack, even change color, if subjected to extreme temperatures. And they share some of granite’s negative qualities: They’re slippery, cold to the touch and unforgiving with a tipped glass. Things to Know Before You Buy

Manufacturers of the quartz-based produces claim zero closing is required–ever. The composites made of marble( CompacMarble) and limestone( Terrestone) are best suited for showers. If you’re in a hurry, Cambria strives to manufacture and deliver your top in 14 periods.

Counter Belief

“If you’re looking for absolute zero maintenance on a kitchen countertop, this is as close as you’ll ever get. ” — creator

“A small sample piece of the stuff might look like natural stone, but an entire countertop doesn’t. ” — designer

countertops stainless steel Stainless Steel: Pros and Cons

If all the great restaurants of the world use stainless-steel crowns, why don’t you read more in residences? Well, they’re expensive and it’s difficult to find fabricators. Connoisseurs likewise point out that they prove fingerprints and sea places easily( peculiarly when new ), and that they’ll readily prove dents, dents and scrapings.

On the thumbs-up side, they’re completely anti-microbial, specify a good heat-proof surface and are easy to clean.

One creator, John Boos, offers mail order stainless-steel crowns in limited lengths. Things to Know Before You Buy

There are different points and thicknesses of stainless steel. Make sure you know what you’re paying for. Stir specific the stainless steel is wrap altogether around the edges of the substrate to protect it.

Counter Opinions

“It’s so hygienic, I sometimes feel like I’m preparing food on an operating table when I’m working on the stainless steel area of my top.” — homeowner

countertop top Wood: Pros and Cons

Wood is the original solid-surface countertop; it’s costume through and through and shattering can be restored by sanding and recoating.

Most wood crowns are created from 1-1/ 2-in. strips of maple edge-glued to each other. Oak and other woods are available, but constitute such a insignificant share of the market that most need to be special told. End-grain maple tops–the true “butcher block” with the cut culminates forming the cutting surface–are usually four or more cm thick and proportionately expensive.

For homeowners intending to use wood as their primary top, a infiltrate oil finish is recommended because cuts and dings can be touched up with a little oil and a swipe of a cloth. For those intending to use the surface as more of an feeing sphere, surfaces with a varnish finish can be ordered.

Moisture is the number-one enemy of lumber transcends. Seams and areas around drops are particularly vulnerable. And a grove transcend can, and will, expand and contract.

Counter Opinions

“Wood has a high fondle factor. People can’t march by( our kiosk) without touching it.” — producer at Kitchen and Bath Show

“It has too many defects to be used everywhere in a kitchen. But a small chopping part is fantastic .& rdquo — designer

“Real wood with a( crack) is still prettier than( laminate) without one! ” — make

countertops tile Tile: Pros and Cons

Tile has many honours. It’s inexpensive, do-it-yourself friendly, offered in an stupefying variety of materials and pigments, and it offers layout opennes. But it has similarly strong detriments: It’s exceptionally hard-handed, its piecemeal mood signifies some face unevenness and the grout directions are vulnerable to staining.

Not all tiles are created equal. Granite, porcelain and glazed tiles are the least porous and are quite sturdy. Marble, unglazed clay or limestone tiles are absorbent, soft and usually not recommended for kitchens.

Grout is another part of the equation. Epoxy grout is more durable but harder to install and may yellow. Standard cement grout must be sealed often and well.

The tile base or substrate the tile is laid over must be solid and watertight. Backerboard over plywood is the most do-it-yourself friendly base. Many pros will organize and build a “mortar bed” for laying their tile. Things to Know Before You Buy

High-gloss and solid-color tiles do show blemishes. Adopt flat tile vs. that with a slight pillow gist to it. Using large tiles leaves less chamber in between for grout, which will be required to be shut and retained.

Counter Belief

“It’s the eventual do-it-yourself top, but I never was just thinking about how difficult it would be to write on it or set down a wine-coloured glass.” — homeowner

“Well, let me settled it this path: I’ve never had a client with currently available tile top ask students to design a new kitchen with a tile top.” — designer

Tropical Skin-deeps: Pros and Cons

countertops marble Marble

Marble can be, and is, used only for kitchen countertops. But its porosity and insecurity make it best suited for lavatories, where it’s less likely to be damaged by knives, acidic foods and repercussion. But marble is undeniably splendid; it has more natural graining than most stones and is available in a wide range of hues.

countertops soapstone Soapstone

Soapstone has proven its durability through use in chemistry labs over the past 100 times. It has natural veining and a rocky natural gape. One fabricator stated, “If you miss a top that gazes 100 years old the day you framed it in, put in soapstone.” Although the material is relatively soft, its implementation of mineral lubricant will disguise most scratches. Heavier damage can be sanded out. Sinks are available to seamlessly integrated into the top and it can be worked with carbide tools. Most sections are limited in length to 6 ft. Most granite fabricators can hatch soapstone surpass.

countertops richlite Richlite

Richlite is composed of more than 60 percentage article, but it seems and behaves more like stone or timber. Squandered in commercial-grade kitchens and food-processing bushes for decades, the phenolic grove material( according to the manufacturer) resists heat, blots and scratches and “lasts a lifetime.” It can be installed by do-it-yourselfers and has a warm, soft glance and feel. Expenditures start at about $25 per square paw for information materials.

kitchen Concrete

Concrete countertops are expensive, easily discoloured( even with a lacquer finish ), can chip readily, and are as hard-boiled as, well, concrete. So why would anyone install one? “They’re merriment! ” clarified one fabricator. You can form them into any figure, embed stuff in them, color them. And they’re durable and heat resistant. But only those committed to a carnival tier of upkeep should consider them.

Counter Overheads

A chart comparing the cost of different countertop textiles is available in Additional Information below.

Additional Information

Wear and Maintenance Chart

Read more: familyhandyman.com

You’re Probably Storing These 13 Foods Wrong… and It’s Costing You Money

Americans waste a lot of food. 

In fact, 31% of retail and consumer food goes uneaten, according to the USDA. That’s almost a third.

It’s easy to understand why. 

We’ve all been there — you go grocery shopping with great intentions. Then you come home, only to be seduced by the convenience of pizza delivery or takeout Chinese. 

But if you store your groceries properly, they’ll last longer — and you’ll have a better opportunity to cook them.

Most of what you’re throwing away is probably fresh produce. 

Shelved items usually have a pretty decent, well, shelf life. And most of us know how to quickly freeze up the meat from the grocery. 

But produce is a fickle mistress. Different items need to be treated in surprisingly different ways for the best results. 

How to Store Fruits and Vegetables So They Stay Fresh

Through proper food storage you will not only contribute to ending food waste, you will also save a ton of money, too. So here’s how to store your fruits and veggies.

1. Apples

Apples a pears sit in a refrigerator crisper.

Although they look lovely in a basket, apples are actually a great fruit to put in the fridge! 

In fact, they only stay fresh a few days on the counter. They’ll do best in the crisping drawer. 

Make sure your fridge isn’t cold enough to freeze them! All of their cells will rupture, leaving you with mealy apples — yuck.

Also, because apples produce a gas called ethylene as they ripen, never store them with potatoes. The gas is harmless, but it can make your potatoes go soft and sprouty well before their time. 

(Your potatoes shouldn’t be in the fridge, anyway! But we’ll get to that.)

2. Avocados

This is a fun one, because you have so much control over the ripening process!

If your avocados are still hard and green, leave them at room temperature on the counter to ripen. 

If you need to speed up the ripening, stick them in a brown paper bag so they’re trapped with their ethylene gas — they’ll be ready for guacamole in no time.

But if you’re trying to keep a ripe avocado around longer, the solution is simple: Stick it in the fridge. 

The cool atmosphere slows the ripening process, so you can keep your avocado’s freshness level right where you want it for a few extra days.

3. Bananas

If you want to keep a whole bunch of bananas fresh for a longer period of time, here’s a secret: Wrap the stems in plastic wrap. 

You can either leave them in the bunch and wrap all the stems together, or separate the bananas and wrap them separately — which might make them last a little bit longer.

Why does this work? 

It’s ethylene gas again — and by wrapping the stems, you trap the gas and keep it from reaching the rest of the banana so you can take your time eating them.

You can also peel your bananas and freeze ‘em. I love using frozen bananas as a healthy base for my morning smoothie! 

4. Broccoli

A stack of broccoli florets.

No matter how many times you’ve seen broccoli tightly wrapped in plastic at your local grocery, it’s not the best way to store it — unless you’re eating it tonight.

Raw broccoli requires airflow and moisture to stay fresh. 

One ideal way to keep it is something you probably don’t do: Put it stem-side down in a vase with water in the fridge. 

By making a broccoli bouquet, you’re providing water and still letting the bushy tops get the oxygen they need. Your head of broccoli might last up to a week this way!

If that seems a little intense to you, you can also loosely wrap your broccoli in damp paper towels and refrigerate. It’ll keep this way for up to four days.

5. Berries

If you love fresh berries, but hate how quickly they go moldy in your fridge, here’s the secret: Give them a vinegar bath. 

Then store them on paper towels to help soak up moisture.

White vinegar kills the spores fresh berries accumulate before they arrive in your kitchen, giving you some extra time to snack on them before the fuzzies set in.

And if you rinse them well, they won’t taste a hint like vinegar, promises Allrecipes’ Vanessa Greaves.

One caveat: This treatment might be a bit much for raspberries, which are quite delicate. 

Just rinse before you eat them — and do so quickly (which shouldn’t be hard! Raspberries are so good…)

6. Carrots

Slice off the green tops, which draw moisture from the carrots, making them wither more quickly. 

Then place them, unpeeled, in a sealed plastic bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer for up to two weeks.

If you buy pre-trimmed carrots, like baby-cut, here’s a hint: They last longer if you submerge them in water in a tightly-covered container! 

Just be sure to change the water frequently.

7. Citrus Fruit

Today in “stuff this Florida girl should’ve known:” Citrus fruit should be refrigerated

Apparently, the vegetable drawer is the best spot — and don’t enclose oranges in airtight bags or containers.

8. Cucumbers

A woman slices cucumbers.

These guys shouldn’t be in the fridge, which is definitely news to this salad-eater! 

They’ll go soft days in advance if they’re stored below 50 degrees.

They’re sensitive to ethylene, so keep them away from other countertop dwellers like bananas and tomatoes.

9. Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs can be one of the biggest problem items when it comes to throwing groceries away.

Recipes always call for so little, and they’re sold in such big bunches!

Having trashed a phenomenal amount of cilantro and parsley in my time, I won’t even pretend to be an expert on this. 

Fortunately, J. Kenji López-Alt over at Serious Eats is

The short story? Rinse herbs and dry thoroughly in a salad spinner, then transfer to paper towel rolls or stand upright in mason jars of water depending on the herb. 

The long version? Click through for the full details.

10. Leafy Greens

If you’re trying to get more of these nutrient powerhouses into your diet, good for you!

But they can be a little intimidating to clean, prepare and store. 

To keep leafy greens like spinach, chard and collard greens fresh longer, wash and dry them well, then wrap them in paper towels. 

Keep the bunches whole, unless you plan on using them soon. Then place the paper towel roll into a perforated, unsealed plastic bag. 

If you’re dealing with salad greens, dumping washed leaves into a paper towel-lined plastic storage container is your best bet

11. Onions

A variety of onions sit in bins.

First things first: Don’t store onions in direct sunlight.

Keep your onions in a cool, dark, well-ventilated and dry place. 

Some people store them in tied-off pantyhose and hang them on the back of a pantry door. It allows them to breathe, while evaporating any moisture they come in contact with quickly. 

Properly stored onions can stay fresh up to six months!

12. Potatoes

Potatoes do best in a cool, dark, dry place — but not too cool. 

If potatoes are stored under 50 degrees, their starches can convert to sugar, which may sound good, but is actually (really) bad.

Potatoes exposed to too much light may sprout. They’re still safe to eat, but you should cut the sprouts off first.

P.S. You may notice that potatoes and onions like similar environments, but you’ll want to find two different cool, dark, dry spots in your house. If you store them together, they’ll both go bad more quickly.

13. Tomatoes

You’ve probably heard that putting tomatoes in the fridge ruins their flavor. 

But if you’ve come into an abundance of tomatoes you can’t quite keep up with, stick the overripe ones in the fridge to keep them from rotting for a few more days.

Just bring them back to room temperature before you consume them.

Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Free and Inexpensive Things to Do While Vacationing in Colorado

As I mentioned in other recent articles, my family and I recently spent almost two weeks vacationing in various parts of Colorado. We mostly spent the time camping, with a few days staying in a cabin owned by a family friend.

As is usual on our family vacations, we were able to explore a wide variety of free and low cost activities, some of them good and some of them not so good. Here are twelve things we did on our vacation that I would describe as either “free” or “low cost” that we all enjoyed. I chose four from each of the three general areas that we stayed in during the trip.

One great money-saving tip for a Colorado trip: get a Safeway card. Safeway is the predominant grocery store chain in Colorado and they have, at least as of this writing, a very good customer loyalty program that’s extremely easy to sign up for (they literally just handed me one without any need to sign up, as the cashier pointed out that I would save about $6 with the card) and results in quite a few additional discounts. As most of our meals were prepared at campsites or at the cabin, we were able to use the Safeway card for quite a few discounts on groceries and other items. Of course, now we have a Safeway card that we will likely not use again as there are no Safeways in our area, but it definitely saved us money throughout Colorado. So, if you’re camping and need supplies and stop at a Safeway, don’t be afraid to take advantage of any Safeway Club deals they have and simply ask for a card when checking out because you’re new to the area.

Northern Colorado – Steamboat Springs Area

The first portion of our vacation involved staying in a cabin owned by a family friend with several extended family members near Steamboat Springs in northern Colorado. As such, almost all of our meals were just prepared at the cabin and many of our excursions were to natural landmarks near the cabin and near Steamboat Springs. Here are the highlights.

Steamboat Lake State Park cost $8 for a daily pass and offered access to a bunch of gorgeous hiking trails, including a challenging one to the top of Hahn’s Peak (~12,000 feet, which most of our family ascended) and many more of all kinds of difficult levels, a nice beach area, some great birdwatching, a bunch of geocaches… it’s just a really nice park to explore.

Movies on the Mountain is something we just missed due to other activities, but we saw it ongoing and it’s a pretty nice free way to end a day with your family. In Gondola Square in Steamboat Springs on Saturday evenings, they project a family-friendly movie and feed the audio through the park’s sound system. Just bring a blanket, kick back, and wind down after an active day with your family.

Fish Creek Falls and Uranium Mine is a small handful of gorgeous trails near Steamboat Springs that require a $5/car day use pass. Our family did a very flat and easy quarter mile paved walk to a wonderful view of the Fish Creek Falls, a hilly gravel-covered quarter mile walk down to the base of the Falls for another wonderful view, and a more challenging (I’d describe it as easy except for the several hundred foot elevation change) trail to an abandoned uranium mine with an amazing overlook of the area. We were just getting used to the elevation change at the time (going from the roughly 1,000 feet above sea level where we live to the 8,000 feet above sea level that these trails are on) and the incline of the uranium mine trail was a challenge, but I think it would have been much easier later in our vacation when we were more acclimated.

Yampa River Botanic Park is a free six acre botanical garden in Steamboat Springs that part of our family visited. It’s separated into about fifty smaller gardens, each with their own theme and focus represented by different plants and flowers, different arrangements, sculptures, and decorations. It’s a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a leisurely stroll through beautiful gardens.

Central Colorado – Colorado Springs Area

The middle portion of our vacation involved camping in a campground near Colorado Springs with my wife’s sister and her family. We visited the top of Pike’s Peak, which was enjoyable but doesn’t really qualify as “free” or “inexpensive,” so I’m excluding that part. Instead, here are four free and low cost things we found to do in the Colorado Springs area that we enjoyed.

Garden of the Gods is a gorgeous park owned by the city of Colorado Springs and completely free to visit. The park consists of walking trails that wind through a wide variety of natural red sandstone formations as well as a truly well done visitors center with maps, exhibits, and other information.

We spent a large portion of a day simply wandering the paths at Garden of the Gods and were actually chased away early by an incoming storm or else we likely would have spent at least another hour on the site. The natural rock formations are wonderful to explore. If you do one thing in Colorado Springs, this is it.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space is an open space near the Garden of the Gods that offers incredible views of the distinctive red rocks and hillsides in the area and amazing rock formations. I didn’t get to do this myself, but other members of my family did it and thoroughly enjoyed it. The views on the easy Contemplative Trail are incredible.

Penrose Heritage Museum is another wonderful free offering in the Colorado Springs area, one that I only got to taste briefly because we were running very late and it was about to close.

The museum features an enormous collection of artifacts of all kinds from the Pikes Peak area collected by the Penrose family over the years and bequeathed to a free-to-the-public museum. This includes a bunch of vintage cars that once raced to the top of Pikes Peak, materials from the construction of the Pikes Peak Highway, and many other exhibits that I would have loved to wander through for hours.

US Olympic and Paralympic Training Center is the most expensive item on this list, as tours cost $10 per person. However, I did want to mention it here because the center is completely self-funded through tours (and sponsorships) and doesn’t rely on public money and it made an enormous impact on my oldest son, who ranked it as perhaps the best thing he did on our entire trip and kept bringing it up afterwards.

The tour takes you through a very impressive athletic facility designed to help national team members in various sports perform well at their individual sports at upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games. Our tour was led by two-time Paralympian Tyler Carter and we spotted several Olympian and Paralympian athletes training, including watching Brittany Reinbolt (bobsledder) lifting weights (she’s amazingly strong) and an unidentified male gymnast doing casual backflips and leaps as part of his warmup, which caused my son to have a great deal of appreciation for the athleticism of gymnasts that he didn’t really have from watching it on television (he didn’t disdain gymnastics; it’s just not something that ever crossed his mind up to that point).

Southwest Colorado – Mesa Verde National Park

During the final portion of our vacation, our immediate family camped in Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado. We largely stayed inside Mesa Verde during this portion of the trip, so what follows is focused entirely on what’s available inside of the park.

At Mesa Verde, much of the park is completely available with a park admission, which is $25 for a vehicle and is good for seven days, or with a National Parks pass, which normally costs $80 for an annual pass that is good at all national parks but there are various discounts available (including the wonderful Every Kid in a Park program, which gives a free year-long National Parks pass to the families of fourth graders, which we happened to miss out on this year because of age gaps between our children).

Mesa Verde is most well known for the cave dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people, constructed under amazing conditions between 800 and 1,200 years ago. You can see most of the dwellings in the park at a distance for free and some of the more worn-down ones up close for free; tours of some of the cave dwellings are available at a very reasonable price. I strongly encourage people to avoid the more expensive “package” tours sold outside of the park and instead sign up for the much less expensive individual tours of specific dwellings led by park rangers and sold within the park. These tours are kind of necessary because the better-preserved cliff dwellings are fragile and the rangers do a good job of keeping people from exploring the dwellings and doing things like chipping off bits of rock as a “souvenir” (which wouldn’t take too long to completely destroy the cliff dwellings).

What follows are our family’s four favorite things from the park, three of which were free upon entering the park and one of which is a low cost cave dwelling tour.

The Far View Sites are the ruins of several Ancestral Pueblo villages along a roughly 1.25 mile look trail that’s an easy walk. Our favorite part of this was the “Coyote Village” area, where you could actually walk through the ruins of an Ancestral Pueblo village at your own pace. The ruins here predate the cliff dwellings. This is a nice way to incorporate a nice walk through the terrain of the area with examination of Ancestral Pueblo ruins.

Sun Temple is perhaps the “mystery” of Mesa Verde and it generated a ton of conversation in our family. Sun Temple is a temple constructed sometime in the 1200s, late in the period of the Ancestral Pueblos, and it uses some very different architecture than the earlier villages and ceremonial structures. The building just looks different, even at a glance, as though people from other cultures may have come to the area and been involved in the design.

We spent a lot of time here, even though it was in the evening hours, and had a lot of conversations about what went on here. We had already learned why the Ancestral Pueblos left the area, likely as this was being constructed. Why? What role did this temple play? Why does it look so different than the other structures? There’s a lot to think about here beyond simply admiring the building.

Cliff Palace is an amazingly well-preserved cave dwelling that you can see pretty well from a distance, but you can tour directly with a park ranger at a cost of $5 per person. Our family of five did this tour and it was perhaps the highlight of our time at Mesa Verde.

The ranger led us down a series of stone steps and then up a ten foot sturdy ladder to the ruins. We spent an hour down there, with the ranger answering questions and explaining various features of the Palace. Afterwards, we exited the ruins by climbing three short ladders and going up another flight or two of stone stairs. The ruins are stunning and provide a wonderful example of the sophisticated architecture and planning of the Ancestral Pueblo people.

Knife’s Edge Trail and Prater Ridge Trail were two interconnected trails that my family and I hiked on the last day of our stay at Mesa Verde, near the Morefield Campground where we were camped. The Knife’s Edge Trail is an easy two mile one way hike that takes you out with some amazing views of the nearby Montezuma Valley. The Prater Ridge Trail is an easy-to-moderate hike with varying lengths (depending on which loops you take) that takes you up on top of a ridge and offers great views of various parts of the park.

Final Thoughts

Although this vacation was very long (thirteen days in all), it turned out to be a very inexpensive vacation, with a very low cost per day for our travels. There were several reasons for this.

First of all, our activities were loaded with low-cost and free options. We intentionally aimed for low-cost activities most of the time, aside from one or two specific things (Pike’s Peak was probably our only really expensive activity). The list above merely includes the low-cost activities that we really liked, but we did lots of things that were less memorable and enjoyable that were also low cost. For the most part, we went into the trip with the assumption that we could have a wonderful trip without opening our wallet for tourist activities constantly, and that was certainly borne out.

Second, we camped for most of the trip and stayed at a friend’s cabin for the rest. The cost of a campsite at a campground is low and it’s pretty easy to prepare your own food at a campground.

Third, most of our activities were very “picnic-able,” meaning that it made a lot of sense to just pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it in the area. Many of our lunches were picnic lunches, which meant that we ate a simple breakfast at the campsite or cabin, a picnic lunch, and dinner at the campsite or cabin most days. Our restaurant meals were very rare on the entire trip.

As I noted earlier, most of our food acquisition on this vacation was at Safeway, where we basically went in with a meal plan and a shopping list in hand.

The end result is that this was a thirteen day long summer vacation that really didn’t dent our wallets too badly.

If you’re considering a vacation in Colorado in the future, I hope you use some of these strategies and visit some of these locations for some low cost entertainment and a low cost overall trip. Good luck!

The post Free and Inexpensive Things to Do While Vacationing in Colorado appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Miley CyrusMiley Cyrus consistently speaks her mind.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that the”Mother’s Daughter” singer opened about personal life in a candid brand new interview. On Her Elle…

Identity economics: Who are you? And how does it affect your spending?

MTG card“Who are you?” my cousin Duane asked me on Saturday afternoon. We’d spent the day playing nerd games together and were taking a break for pizza.

“What?” I said. I wasn’t expecting a philosophical question over supper.

“I don’t think you know who you are,” Duane said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I don’t think you know who you are,” he repeated. “You write about money and frugality, yet you spend $200 on dinner.” Duane was referring to the fancy meal we’d had in May at a Michelin-star restaurant in France. I knew it had been bugging him, but he hadn’t said anything about it until now. (And that meal cost $267.41 for the two of us, not $200.)

“You paid $1900 for your used pickup, but you don’t wash it. It’s filthy. You buy new clothes that you don’t need, but you leave your old clothes on the floor so that your cats pee on them.” It’s true. Kim and I have a cat that will, from time to time, pee on my clothes.

“You say you don’t like attention, that you don’t want to be a celebrity, yet you’re always taking on new work that puts you in the spotlight. You’re thinking of doing a course for Audible, for instance, and you’re talking about doing more speaking gigs — even though you hate speaking gigs,” Duane said.

All of these things were true. I couldn’t argue.

“Who are you?” Duane asked. Well, that’s a mighty fine question, Duane. That’s a mighty fine question.

A Digression

In 1862, French novelist Victor Hugo published Les Miserables, one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. Long and sprawling and full of digressions (just like Get Rich Slowly!), the book explores the many facets of human nature: the good and bad, the humorous and poignant, the ordinary and sublime.

Les Miserables wasn’t popular with critics when it was released, but everybody else loved it. It sold well when it was published and continues to sell well more than 150 years later. The book has inspired several several film and television adaptations. And, of course, it’s the source of one of the most successful stage musicals of all time.

Turns out PBS recently aired a new six-part Les Miserables miniseries written by the always-awesome Andrew Davies. It’s on my watch list.

Although Les Miserables contains a ginormous cast of characters, two stand at the heart of the story:

  • Jean Valjean is the novel’s protagonist. Arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s seven starving children, he spends nineteen years in prison (five for the original crime, fourteen more for various misdeeds). Upon parole, he assumes the identity of Monsieur Madeleine. As Madeleine, he builds two factories, becomes rich, and is appointed mayor of a small seaside town. Valjean is a good man who occasionally finds himself on the wrong side of the law.
  • Javert is the novel’s antagonist. (It’s not right to call him a villain. Nothing about him is villanous.) Born in prison to deplorable parents, he grows up to become a prison guard — then police inspector. Javert is obsessed with upholding the law, which includes pursuing and punishing Valjean for his past misdeeds. His worldview is shattered when he realizes that not all laws are moral, that sometimes the moral course is not the lawful one.

What’s fascinating — mind-blowing, actually — is that Victor Hugo based both Valjean and Javert on the exact same real-life person. They’re both loosely modelled on Eugène François Vidocq, a French criminal turned criminalist. (You should open that link in a separate tab for later reading. Vidocq’s life is fascinating. Among other things, he’s regarded as the first-ever private detective and the “father” of modern criminology.)

That’s right: Both the protagonist and the antagonist of Les Miserables were inspired by the same man. And, even more mind-blowing? Vidocq was also the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. (Go read that article!)

Who Am I?

The amazing thing (to me) is that Jean Valjean himself is two people! He is Jean Valjean, yes, but he spends years posing as Monsieur Madeleine. As the latter, he’s a wealthy factory owner, he’s mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. He is a force for good in his small world. He is, at once, both Valjean and Madeleine, just as Vidocq is at once both Valjean and Javert.

In a 2012 New Yorker piece praising “the persistent greatness” of Les Miserables, Adam Gopnik wrote, “Hugo believed in, relished, luxuriated in, contradiction — he thought that we show ourselves most truly when we are seemingly most opposed to our double natures.”

When I posted about this on Facebook in April, John from ESI Money observed that this adds a whole new meaning to the song “Who Am I?” from the musical.

“Who am I?” Valjean sings as he’s forced to reveal his identity in order to save an innocent man. “Who am I? I’m Jean Valjean!”

Yes, that’s true — but Jean Valjean is also police inspector Javert.

True story: I’m a devoted fan of musical theater, and “Who Am I?” is one of my favorite songs from any show. It induces frisson — it gives me goosebumps — every time I hear it. Every time.

What I like about this clever bit of character creation from Victor Hugo is how it highlights our inherent dual natures. We, as humans, are inconsistent. We are complex creatures. At the same time, we can be both good and bad. I truly believe that most of us do what is right most of the time — but each of us also sometimes makes poor choices. We do things that seem to go against who we say we are and what we believe.

In Valjean and Javert, we get to see human nature dramatized in two men forever at odds, just as we are each forever at odds with ourselves.

Me, Myself, and I

As I was walking the dog this morning, I found myself meditating on my own personal duality. I am at once the hardest working person I know…and the laziest. I am the smartest person I know…and the stupidest. I am the kindest person I know…and the meanest.

Recently, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with my seeming inability to “do the right thing”. I know that there are certain actions I could take (and should take) to improve my health, to build this website, to maintain relationships with my friends. Yet I do not do these things. I actively avoid them.

Why is this?

Here’s an example. I could solve a whole host of problems if I were to get regular aerobic exercise. Over the past year, I’ve done a fine job of strength training, but for some reason I’ve become allergic to sweat. I do whatever I can to avoid running or biking or otherwise increasing my heart rate.

It’s not that I can’t do these things. I know I can. And I like them. I’ve run half marathons (and walked a full marathon). I’ve completed a century ride — one-hundred miserable miles on a hot and windy summer day. I did Crossfit for five years. I’m capable of strenuous exercise, and I know it.

But I’m not doing that exercise right now. I’m avoiding it.

Three months ago, as the sun started to show its face here in Portland, I wheeled my bicycle from the bottom of the hill to the back office. I wanted to make it easy to hop in the saddle and go. But you know what? I’ve ridden the thing exactly once this year. The bike is just sitting there, pleading with me to ride it.

My Bicycle, Resting Unused

The same goes with the website. You all know that I can crank out an article a day. I did it for three years between 2006 and 2009. I did it for the first three months of 2018. When I put my mind to it, I can write well without sacrificing quality.

Yet, for some reason, it’s tough for me to publish even once a week lately. My mind is elsewhere. I have no inspiration. This wouldn’t be so bad if I were at least handling other site maintenance chores, but I’m not. The site redesign is nearly finished, but it isn’t live because there are still things I need to do. I’m not processing guest articles. I’m not posting to social media.

I’ve no doubt that some of this malaise stems from my chronic depression. But I also know the best way to shake the self-loathing is to actually do something, you know?

Which leads me to fundamental question I find myself facing: If I know what is right, why don’t I do it?

I have no answer.

Impossible Expectations

This year, as every year, my depression and anxiety became especially strong during the spring. What’s different about this year is that I sought out a therapist.

A few weeks ago, she asked me about my writing. We hadn’t talked about it before. “What does success look like for you when it comes to your work?” she asked.

“Success means publishing three articles per week,” I said.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because then I’m giving my readers lots of material. I’m helping them. When I give them a lot of material, they want to come back more often. When I publish more material, more people find the site by search. When I publish more material, I make more money.”

“So, you want to publish three times per week?”

“I guess so,” I said. I thought about it a little. “But I hate the pressure that pace puts on me.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Because I don’t enjoy it. I don’t do great work under time pressure like that. I want to take my time. If I decide to write an article on, say, the history of retirement, then I want to read a book on the subject. Maybe two or three. I want to think deeply about it. Then, I want to take the time to write the best article out there about the history of retirement.”

“You realize you’ve just told me two very different things, right?” my therapist said. “You’ve set up contradictory goals for yourself. Plus, you’re asking yourself to be the best. That’s a tall order. No wonder you’re stressed. You have impossible expectations for yourself.”

When I think about it, my therapist is right. I do have impossible expectations for myself — on a lot of things. I have contradictory goals. It’s as if there’s a Jean Valjean inside of me and an Inspector Javert. And they want different things. Neither is wrong — but they can’t both have their way.

But to which do I yield? Am I Valjean or Javert?

At the end of the session, I lamented my dual nature. “I tell other people to be proactive,” I said, “to take charge of their own lives, but I have a hard time doing that myself.”

“Do you think that makes you a hypocrite?” my therapist asked.

“No,” I said without hesitation.

“Good,” she said.

“I think it makes me human,” I said. “I write about the things I struggle with personally. When I started writing about money and getting out of debt, that’s because I needed to get out of debt. Now, when I write about tracking spending or having a sense of purpose, that’s because I need these things.”

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. - Walt Whitman

Mindful Spending

So, this is all very interesting on a philosophical level, but what does it have to do with personal finance? Lots, actually.

We make our purchasing decisions based on who we are and who we want to be. If we’re not clear on who we are and who we want to be, our choices tend to be arbitrary. They’re spontaneous and not based on anything other than immediate desire.

When you’re clear on who you are and what you want, it’s much easier to practice mindful spending, to be deliberate about the things you buy and own. If you identify as fitness-conscious, for instance, you’ll be much less likely to be tempted by cookies and snacks in the grocery store. If, like me at the moment, you identify as a “lapsed” fitness junkie, well then it’s much easier to succumb to temptation.

Who we want to be also affects how we spend. In fact, I suspect that much wasted spending — not just for me, but for everybody — is what I’d call “aspirational”. It’s not based on our actual habits and actions but on what we wish we did.

Take my bike, for example. I bought it last year but have ridden it only three times in fifteen months. Like I mentioned earlier, it simply sits there, pleading with me to ride it.

I have a good friend who once decided he’d like to learn woodworking. His father had always built and repaired things around the house, and my friend aspired to do the same — even though he had never done so in 35 years of life. He bought a stack of woodworking books, then acquired several expensive tools. He never used them. These were aspirational purchases, based on somebody he wanted to be, not the person he was.

From what I’ve seen, a lot of folks do this sort of thing with cookbooks. They want to try new recipes and new cuisines, so they gradually fill a shelf with cooking manuals — cooking manuals that they seldom use.

It’s because of this relationship between money and identity that I’m so insistent that GRS readers write a personal mission statement. When you’re clear on your purpose, it’s much easier to make sure your spending is aligned with your values, that your financial decisions are based on who you are instead of some idealized version of who you want to be.

Identity Economics

Identity Economics

In their fascinating (if dry and academic) book Identity Economics, George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton explore how our identities shape our work, wages, and well-being.

“In every social context,” the authors write, “people have a notion of who they are, which is associated with beliefs about how they and others are supposed to behave. These notions…play important roles in how economies work.” Our identities determine how we earn a living and how we spend our money.

Akerloff and Kranton say that large portions of our identities are shaped by the environment:

Identity, norms, and social categories may appear to be abstract concepts, but their reality is both powerful and easy to see. Norms are particularly clear when people hold an ideal of who they should be and how they should act.

Here’s an example: Many folks who discover the early retirement movement do so through the awesome work of Mr. Money Mustache. He has a strong voice and a popular website. Over the past few years, he’s accumulated a passionate army of followers who call themselves Mustachians.

When a person identifies himself as Mustachian, he subscribes to a certain set of values, to particular ways of working with money. Driving is frowned upon. A high saving rate is encouraged. Thrift is a prized virtue. This is identity economics in action.

Akerloff and Kranton are careful to note that our personal identities are not static. They change. Our larger identities change slowly over time, but we can also shift roles rapidly in daily life.

The latter is easiest to see. “Over the course of a day,” they write, “a woman may see herself as a mother at home and a professional at work.” I’d add that she might see herself as an athlete in her running group, a civic leader as a member of the city council, and a Mustachian when she’s hanging with her financial friends online.

Each of these is a different identity — or perhaps a different facet of her overall identity. And each affects how she works, saves, and spends.

People change over their lifetimes too. From the book:

People often make decisions that come back to haunt them. We overeat, we smoke, we spend too much, and we regret it. [This is due to] time inconsistency. People have different selves at different points in their lives. The new self could regret the decisions made by the old self…

Sometimes these transitions are anticipated, and people plan accordingly. But often, people only imperfectly anticipate who they will later become.

Look at my own life over the past decade. Who I am today is drastically different than who I was ten years ago. And twenty years ago. Sure, the core J.D. remains the same — once a nerd, always a nerd! — but my values, which are constantly evolving, have morphed and my day-to-day life is sometimes unrecognizable.

During the past ten years, much about my personal identity (and my resulting financial choices) has changed:

  • I deliberately chose to purchase a small home in “the country”.
  • I drink beer. I drink coffee. I ride a motorcycle. All of these actions are new.
  • I lost fifty pounds through years of exercise and healthy eating. Then I gained back forty of those pounds through years of neglect.
  • I sold Get Rich Slowly — then I bought it back.

These changes, large and small, all affect how I manage my money and how I spend my time. As my identity changes, so do my financial habits.

Related reading: In a strange coincidence, The Guardian published an article on a similar subject last Saturday: “Are you really the ‘real’ you?” This piece, which is terrific and well worth reading, looks at how some people change their lives entirely — and why.

Order and Light

At the end of the Les Miserables, after Jean Valjean frees Javert instead of killing him, the police inspector faces an existential crisis. Victor Hugo writes:

He saw before him two roads, both equally straight; but he saw two; and that terrified him — him, who who had never in his life known but one straight line. And, bitter anguish, these two roads were contradictory. One of these two straight lines excluded the other. Which of the two was the true one? His condition was inexpressible.

Inspector Javert’s moral certitude proves to be his undoing. Like many folks who are certain they know what is real and what is right, Javert spends years ignoring evidence that controverts his beliefs. He thinks he knows the truth but in reality is blind to it.

When, at last, Javert recognizes that he’s been in error all this time, that things are not as black and white as he believed them to be, it’s too much for him to bear. Rather than face a world filled with ambiguity and uncertainty, he takes his own life. He jumps in the river and drowns.

Before he kills himself, though, Javert has a sort of revelation. He realizes that Jean Valjean and his alter-ego, Monsieur Madeleine, may have seemed like two different people, but they were one all along. They were two sides of the same person. Valjean was both criminal and hero.

It’s all well and good to want to be a fixed, constant person, to have an identity that never changes. But that’s not how healthy people work. Healthy people learn and adapt and grow. Who you are today is not the same as who you’ll be tomorrow — or who you were yesterday.

As you change, your values will change too. Your goals will change. Your spending will change. What you want to do for work will change. And, yes, there will be many times when you are internally conflicted, when like Javert you are faced with two parallel roads, both of which are “true”.

Summing Up

Who am I? That’s a great question.

I’m a guy who writes about money and frugality, but I’m also a man who is willing to — once in a lifetime — spend $267.41 to experience a Michelin-star restaurant in rural France. That’s a clear example of mindful spending: I planned the meal weeks in advance and looked forward to it with great anticipation.

I’m a guy who can’t bring himself to purchase a new car, so I buy a 25-year-old pickup for $1900. And I don’t wash it. I value the vehicle but see no sense in spending the time, money, and energy to clean something that will never look pretty.

I’m a guy who buys new clothes from time to time — don’t we all? — but who, yes, is careless enough to leave them on the bedroom floor even though I know my cat likes to pee on them. (Stupid cat!)

I’m a guy who hates public speaking and who doesn’t want to be the center of attention, yet who has a deep desire to teach people about personal finance. (Especially the personal side of it all.) This leads me to do things that seem incongruent with what I say I want. I take on months-long projects that stress me out. I agree to fly across the world to talk to people. (Just yesterday, Paula Pant and I had a conversation about how the hassle of attending events is worth it for the friends we make.)

Who am I? I’m J.D. Roth.

The post Identity economics: Who are you? And how does it affect your spending? appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

When That $10 Coffee Also Gives You Space to Work

As I write this article, I’m sitting in the passenger seat of our family’s minivan. We’re driving back home from more than a week of camping in various sites in Colorado and my wife is taking a turn driving while I write the first draft of this article and edit another one.

In a lot of ways, I’m a “digital nomad.” I can essentially do my work anywhere that I can take my laptop and something that provides an internet connection. I can usually work at home, but I don’t have to; I can work pretty much anywhere I go, and we could easily move to a new location if we need to.

Sometimes, though, working at home isn’t the perfect solution. For a variety of reasons, I have to work out and about.

One of the easiest options for work is a coffee shop. Most coffee shops have wi-fi and, unless they’re incredibly busy, they don’t care in the least if you camp out at a table, plug in your laptop, and get some work done. They obviously want you to buy something if you take advantage of this, but a $5 coffee every few hours usually does the trick.

Coffee shops are cheaper work environments than a shared office space, plus you get a coffee to sip while you’re working. It’s actually a pretty reasonable solution for most digital nomads.

The thing is, I’m often out and about and I extremely rarely work in a coffee shop. I do enjoy drinking coffee while I write, however, but the idea of paying $5 or $10 just to have a table every time I want to or need to work outside of the home feels a bit excessive to me.

So, what exactly do I do?

Preparing to Work

Like most people who might regularly work in a coffee shop, I have a “go bag” that I refer to as my portable office. It’s just a backpack that contains everything I might need to work – my laptop, a variety of charging cables, a notebook, a bunch of pens, a few toiletry items, an empty water bottle, a few snacks, and so on. The goal is to have an item in my bag for the vast majority of needs I might have if I’m working outside the house so that I’m not distracted or interrupted.

One of the big reasons people often work in a coffee shop is, well, the easy availability of coffee. Of course, the problem is that coffee can be expensive. I solve this by preparing a large bottle of coffee before I go out and about to work. I usually prepare cold brew coffee.

At home, the procedure is simple. I prepare 32 ounces of cold brew coffee the day before by putting about a third of a cup of ground coffee into a filter and putting that filter into a quart of cold water. I sit it in the fridge overnight, then remove the filter and grounds and put that coffee into a water bottle with perhaps a splash of milk in it.

If I’m at a hotel, I do more or less the same thing. I take a coffee filter, put a third of a cup of coffee in it, then tie it closed with a rubber band or a piece of string, making a little tea bag. I then put it in a wide-mouth quart water bottle and sit it in the fridge or in an ice bath. Then, in the morning, I just remove the filter and coffee grounds.

I usually try to start a new batch in the morning so that it’s ready for the next morning – a 24 hour brew – but if I have to do it in the evening, it’s usually still just fine. If I’m at a hotel, I usually have two water bottles so I can have one going in the fridge at the hotel while I’m out and about with the other bottle.

This solves my coffee dilemma quite well. Obviously, if you prefer hot coffee or various other methods, there are good ways of doing it. My wife enjoyed hot French press coffee in a national park with no electricity available, so you can have good coffee under almost any conditions with surprisingly little effort. Don’t let a cup of coffee be your excuse to spend $10 just to have a table to work at, especially if you’re doing it regularly.

A quick note on distraction: I find coffee shops fairly distracting and other places (like a library or a church basement) to be much better places to work. Still, distraction can be a major issue in any public place or business where you work.

I tend to solve this by putting on noise cancelling headphones and listening to some form of ambient music or white noise, something without human voices (which consistently distract me).

Where to Work

I have a wide variety of places where I work when I’m out and about. None of these places have any direct cost associated with them.

A park shelter house Many city parks these days have wi-fi available and they virtually always have a strong cell phone signal. A shelter house is usually fairly quiet, keeps the weather at bay, and allows the sounds of nature to provide a perfect complement to your work. I have a shelter house that I often work at near my home simply for a change in environment. The only drawback here is that there is rarely a place to plug in your devices.

A church Many churches will happily allow digital nomads to use their common areas for work if you simply ask. Again, they’re often pretty quiet environments; you’ll usually hear the sounds of a church secretary or a pastor in another room and someone might wander through occasionally. My favorite part? I’ll often hear really pleasant live music when I’m there, as pianists and organists, both church and secular, often practice there, as do occasional vocalists and choirs.

A library This is probably my favorite choice. I’ve worked at libraries in many towns across the country during various travels and I’ve almost always been happy with the experience. Libraries offer free wi-fi, tons and tons of research materials at your disposal, a quiet environment in which to work, and you can often check out study rooms if you need to spread out a lot of materials. Surprisingly often, I’ll find that the library has some program of interest going on and I’ll stop in to listen; it’s because of this feature that I’ve met several US Representatives and Senators and a bunch of different authors and artists, just by pure serendipity.

A university or college campus Using a university campus as a digital nomad offers many of the same strengths as the library, but the exact situation tends to vary a lot more. For starters, many of the areas where it is most convenient to work tend to be loaded with students and often quite noisy, which can be good for some but I like a quieter environment. Many universities offer open wi-fi for guests, though some do not.

A city gym More than once, I’ve found that the lobby area of a city gymnasium is a good place to get work done for a few hours. There are often a few tables and chairs and solid wi-fi available in such settings, and the only distraction is people walking through the room on occasion. Plus, there’s almost always a place to plug in.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a digital nomad – someone whose work responsibilities enable you to work wherever you want and submit your work electronically – then there are a lot of options available to you in terms of where exactly you might work. Obviously, staying at home is pretty much the cheapest choice, but sometimes people need a change of environment in order to be productive or sometimes people need to work when they’re away from home. Co-work and shared office space locations can be extremely expensive.

In those situations, a coffee shop can be a tempting choice, but that’s also subtly expensive. If you camp out at a table, there’s an expectation of buying a coffee and often buying refills in order to keep your table, and that cost can add up surprisingly fast.

With a bit of forethought, a smart digital nomad can find a lot of free alternatives to the coffee shop with inexpensive coffee on hand to boot.

Good luck.

The post When That $10 Coffee Also Gives You Space to Work appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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The best travel credit cards of 2019

I’m not a travel points hacker.

Some people love that stuff. I am not one of those people.

I want to get a few cards, have a few simple rules on when to use each, maximize my points with minimum effort, and get back to living my Rich Life. I have zero interest in trying to maximize every cent from any given point I earn.

So I’m not going to teach you how to point hack your way to 300 nights/year worth of free hotel rooms by using 38 different cards.

What I can promise you is that by the end of this post, you’ll have a simple rewards machine that racks up points for you while giving you a ton of perks. All without having to think about it.

It all comes down to picking the right 2-3 cards for you. You should pick one solid card in each of these categories:

  1. General travel credit card
  2. Airline credit card
  3. Hotel credit card (optional)

Before we go any further, I assume you travel at least once per year or aspire to.

If you hate traveling, don’t get a travel credit card. All the points and perks are designed around folks that travel regularly. If you don’t travel, you’re better off getting a cash back credit card.

I’m also going to assume that you’ve already made the commitment to choose a travel rewards card over a cash back card. We go into detail on the difference between the two in our review of the best rewards credit card. Basically, get a travel rewards card if you want to maximize the value of your rewards program. And if you want to maximize simplicity, get a cash back card.

Travel credit cards do take a bit more effort, and in return you’ll get a ton of amazing perks while traveling.

Let’s start with the best travel cards and how we selected them.

The best travel cards

These are the best travel credit cards:

When selecting cards, we used these factors:

Bonus value

Just about every card offers a bonus of some kind. Some point hackers will cycle through cards quickly to rack up bonuses. If that’s how they want to spend their time, all the power to them.

It is NOT how I want to spend my time. I have more important things to do than chase credit card bonuses. For the cards that you sign up for, make sure to get the bonus. Then move on to more important things.

In the long term, the exact bonus is a minor benefit. I never choose a card based on the bonus. Also keep in mind that the values of each “point” are slightly different depending on the card. That means a card offering a 60,000-point sign-up bonus isn’t necessarily better than a card offering a 50,000 bonus. Don’t let it worry you that much.

Points system

Depending on the travel card, the points system either matters a lot or it’s a minor consideration.

For your general travel card that serves as the hub of your points machine, the majority of the value comes from the card’s point system. So pay very close attention. You want a points system that aligns with your spending so you get as many bonus points as possible.

For airline and hotel cards that are more about the perks, the point system is a smaller consideration.

Fees

To get a decent travel credit card, you’ll need to accept a $95 annual fee at least. You’ll easily make this up with value of the points.

The really nice perks don’t open up until the annual fee hits $450. All the “high roller” cards with amazing perks are in this range.

For travel cards, annual fees are standard. It’s the price we pay to get more points and sweet perks.

Make sure to get travel cards that don’t have foreign transaction fees. These fees will add 1-3% to the total cost of any traveling that you do. That’s ridiculous, since there are plenty of amazing travel cards that don’t have any foreign transaction fees. Don’t accept this fee on any card.

Perks

Perks are where the travel credit cards really shine. Especially at the higher tiers, the primary selling point is the extra perks you get.

Lounge access, free hotel nights, companion fares, Uber credits, the list goes on.

Perks are the main reason to consider multiple travel credit cards. And the perks are awesome enough that it’s worth getting 2-3 cards in order to stack a bunch of perks.

Convenience factors

For travel credit cards, there are two convenience factors to watch for:

  1. Keep credit cards within the same bank as your other accounts when possible. Having several dozen bank logins gets to be a real pain. So if you’re trying to decide between two cards, choosing the card at the bank you already use keeps things simple.
  2. Try to avoid getting only American Express cards. Some places don’t accept them, especially internationally. You want at least one solid Visa or Mastercard as a backup.

Each of these will depend on your specific circumstances.

Bank reputation

It’s no secret that we hate big banks at I Will Teach You to Be Rich, especially Bank of America and Wells Fargo. For decades, they have aggressively charged their customers ridiculous fees and have been involved in multiple scandals.

Their reputation is so bad that I didn’t even consider their cards.

Chase tends to be the exception. While it’s a big bank, it has a much better reputation than its peers. Some of our favorite cards are from Chase.

General travel credit cards

My main recommendation: start with one general travel credit card.

This will be your primary spending card that you rack up the most points on. Consider it the “hub” of your points systems. Most of your points will sit on this card until you’re ready to spend them.

I prioritize my “general” card for most of my spending so that I have as much flexibility as possible with my points. Maybe I want to blow hundreds of thousands of points on a stay at the St. Regis. Or maybe I want a specific first-class seat on a Cathay Pacific flight. I could also string together a few flights for an “around-the-world” trip.

Whatever the goal, I strongly prefer having a points program “hub” that allows me to transfer points into other programs so I have complete flexibility.

Before considering specific cards for airlines or hotels, get one all-purpose card.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The best overall travel credit card

  • “Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named “”Best Premium Travel Credit Card”” for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

Go get this card. Seriously, it’s amazing.

If you’re looking for the single “best” travel credit card and don’t want to put any more thought into it, get this card and be done with it.

It has great points categories with 3X on all travel and restaurants, a travel statement credit, another credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, no foreign transaction fees, and one of the most flexible point transfer programs out there.

The major downside is the $450 annual fee. If you make over $100,000 per year, get the card. With the $300 travel credit, the annual fee is really just $150.

Also, keep an eye on the airline partners that are part of the Chase points program. They include British Airways, Flying Blue, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, United, Virgin Atlantic, Aer Lingus, and Iberia. The Chase travel portal lets you book flights on any airline, but those are the only miles programs that you can transfer your Chase points into. If you primarily fly Delta, it’s worth considering the American Express Platinum to make your point redemption on flights easier.

If the annual fee is a stretch for you, consider our next recommendation instead.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The best travel card with an annual fee that’s less than $100

  • “Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel”

The Sapphire Preferred is very similar to the Sapphire Reserve, with two main differences:

  1. You’ll collect fewer points and won’t have as many perks
  2. The annual fee is $95 instead of $450

2X points on all travel and restaurants is still amazing. Plus there’s no foreign transaction fees. And you still get access to the same flexible points program.

American Express Platinum

The best travel card for going all-out on perks

  • “Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.”

If you want to be the VIP and maximize your perks, get the Amex Platinum.

You get Uber statement credits, airline statement credits, and 5X points on flights and hotels booked through American Express Travel. It also has access to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which I use for room upgrades, late checkouts, and free spa treatments.

The standout perk is getting access to the Centurion and American Express airport lounges. They’re super nice. The downside is that they’re only in 18 airports. So if you happen to fly through one of these airports regularly, this alone makes the card worth it. It also gets you access to Delta lounges. While there is Lufthansa lounge access, it’s only from Munich and Frankfurt.

If I flew Delta as my primary airline, I’d get the American Express Platinum so I could easily transfer my American Express points to Delta miles and redeem them as international flights.

Airline travel cards

After you’ve gotten comfortable with your general travel credit card, it’s time to add a level to your points system.

A dedicated airline card gets you a bunch of perks not available on any other cards. A few of them are easily worth the cost of having an extra credit card.

I resisted this for years. I liked the simplicity of only having to manage a single card. After I finally got an airline card, I wish I had done it years earlier.

Every airline has a slightly different set of perks. Hopefully your primary airline gives you the perks that you care most about. For me, I love priority boarding and lounge access. The perks tend to include:

  • Free checked bags
  • Priority boarding
  • Companion fares (a second ticket on the same flight for a crazy low price)
  • Lounge access or discounts on lounge passes
  • Extra points when booking directly through the airline
  • Miles boosts or extra qualifying miles for program tiers

We won’t be using the airline card to maximize miles. Sure, we’ll get a few extra miles but that’s not our primary goal. Our goal is to get extra perks when we do fly.

How to pick the right airline credit card

Before we pick a card, we first need to pick our primary airline. I recommend committing to one of these three airlines as your primary airline:

  1. United
  2. Delta
  3. American Airlines

Why only these three?

When managing airline miles, you also want an airline that’s part of one of the three major airline networks:

  • Star Alliance (United)
  • Oneworld (American Airlines)
  • SkyTeam (Delta)

Each network has a dozen or so different airline members. For networks within the same airline, it’s easy to book flights across the network and use your airline miles. Flights on partner airlines also usually accrue miles that end up on your main miles program.

Why does any of this matter?

When you want to redeem your miles, you’ll want to use them on international flights. Unless you absolutely need to, avoid spending miles on domestic flights. You’ll get more value from your points on international flights. Plus you get a sweet international trip out of the deal.

And if you’re flying internationally, your options will be confined to the airlines in the same network as your primary miles program. For example, I can’t easily use my United miles to book a ticket on a British Airways flight, since they’re part of different networks.

This is why I never considered the JetBlue or Southwest Airlines miles programs or their credit cards. I know folks who absolutely love both airlines, but not having international flight partners is a deal breaker for me.

Alaska Airlines is the major main exception to all this.

While they’re not part of any of the airline networks, they do have a lot of airlines that they’ve partnered with, like British Airways, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and more. So if there’s a specific airline you really want, check their partner list. It is possible they’ve put together a network themselves.

So how do we pick between United, Delta, and American Airlines?

Honestly, you won’t have much choice in the matter unless you happen to live next to a major airport with a ton of airlines. 

Most airports have 1-2 dominant airlines.

I happen to live in Seattle, so United is my best choice out of the three.

Why should you prioritize the largest airline at your airport? I do it in order to get the most direct flights possible. I’ll do anything for a direct flight. To me, every extra layover is another chance for something to go horribly wrong.

Years ago, I was traveling between Denver, CO, and Richmond, VA, regularly on Delta. All my flights went through Cincinnati, one of the major hubs for Delta.

On two trips back-to-back, I got delayed overnight. The first was a massive blizzard that hit Denver, the second was a plane malfunction on the last flight of the night. I almost got stranded for the third time in a row when my first flight was delayed and I missed my connection. I sprinted through several terminals and outran several other passengers for the same flight, managing to grab the last seat on the last flight.

Since then, I only consider flights with the fewest connections possible.

That’s why I pick the airline with the most flights out of my home airport. If you want to use another, go for it. Just pick one airline to prioritize over all the others.

Once you pick your primary airline, then it’s time to pick your card. Each airline tends to have 2-3 credit card options. The higher the annual fee you accept, the more perks you’ll get.

Remember that we’re not using our airline credit card to optimize points. We’ll get a few extra points when booking our flights with that card, but that’ll pale in comparison to all the points our general travel card generates. We want the card that’ll give us the best perks.

If the annual fee is worth the perks for you, get the card.

Here are your options.

United Explorer Card

  • 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® Fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

A solid entry-level perks card for United flyers.

You’ll get your first bag checked free, priority boarding, and 2 lounge passes per year. There’s also a Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit if your primary card doesn’t already have it.

I find that the 2 lounge passes per year is more than enough for most folks. While it’s nice to have lounge access at your home airport, it’s not a game changer since we control when we get to the airport for our first flight. We really need lounge access when getting stuck with 3+ hour layovers on bigger international trips. I did have to wait in Montreal for 8 hours when coming back to the U.S. from Brussels. I sure wish I had lounge access then.

Two passes to the United lounge is enough to cover most traveling for a year. 

United MileagePlus Club Card

  • United Club℠ membership – up to a $550 value per year
  • Free first and second checked bags – a savings of up to $280 per roundtrip when you use your United MileagePlus® Club Card to purchase your ticket.
  • Enjoy Premier Access® travel services to ease your way through the airport with priority check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling privileges.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United.
  • Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees

This is the “VIP” United card at a $450 annual fee. Overall, it’s very similar to its $95/year Explorer Card counterpart, with one major upgrade: full access to United lounges.

If you travel a lot and want a reliable lounge as a United traveler, get this card.

You’ll also get 2 free checked bags. If you regularly check luggage, you’ll quickly cover the cost of the card.

If the United lounge access and second bag check are worth $450/year to you, upgrade to this card. If not, stick with the Explorer Card.

Gold Delta SkyMiles

  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Earn one mile for every eligible dollar you spend on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that’s a savings of up to $240 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms Apply.

A good entry-level Delta card at $95/year. You’ll get three main perks:

  • First checked bag free
  • Priority boarding
  • Delta Sky Club access for $29/person for you and up to 2 guests. While this isn’t as nice as the 2 free passes per year on the United card, it’s a great rate in a pinch. If you and your family get stranded, you’ll be able to hide out in the Delta lounge without handing over your first-born in payment

The perks aren’t epic but they include all the standard stuff at this tier. The card is definitely a great deal at $95/year.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles

This is the “in-betweener” card for Delta travelers at $195/year.

  • Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases. Miles don’t expire.
  • Check your first bag for free and save up to $60 on a round trip Delta flight.
  • Find room for your carry-on and settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding. 
  • Enjoy 20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit with the American Express Delta Card.
  • $195 Annual Fee. Terms Apply.

It’s almost identical to the Gold Delta SkyMiles with the addition of an annual companion fare. In other words, someone can travel with you basically for free. You’ll have to pay taxes, the flight must be domestic, and you get your first companion fare after your first card renewal.

The vast majority of domestic flights exceed $100, so as long as you do one domestic trip per year with someone else, you’ll easily come out ahead on this card.

If you’re a Delta flyer and you’re planning on signing up with the Gold Delta SkyMiles card, you should get the Platinum Delta SkyMiles instead. It’s a better deal.

Delta Reserve Credit Card

  • Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Enjoy a Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+® or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card.
  • Enter Delta Sky Club® at no cost and bring up to two guests for an exclusive rate of $29 per person per visit.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights; board early, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights -that’s a savings of up to $240 per round trip for a family of four.
  • $450 Annual Fee. Terms Apply.

The “VIP” Delta card at $450/year.

This includes everything from the Platinum Delta SkyMiles, with a few extras:

  • Full Delta Sky Club access for you, $29/person for up to 2 guests
  • A miles boost when you spend $30,000 within any given calendar year. You’ll receive 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles
  • Upgrade priority

Like the other airline cards, the major advantage is full access to the airline’s lounge. If that’s worth the $450/year fee to you, get the card. If not, get the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card instead.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at restaurants
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • Receive 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights

Pretty standard offering for American Airlines flyers. For a $95 annual fee, you’ll get the first checked bag for free, “preferred” boarding, 2X miles at gas stations and restaurants, and a flight discount.

The flight discount is pretty nice. As long as you average $1,700 per month in credit card spending, you’ll hit the $20,000 milestone each year. Then you’ll get a discount that more than covers your annual fee.

The 2X miles on restaurants and gas stations is nice too in case your general travel card doesn’t give 2X points or more on these spending categories.

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Similar set of VIP perks as the other airlines for an annual fee of $450:

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you
  • Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation

Unfortunately, the Executive World Elite does lose a few perks that the Platinum Select World Elite has. The 2X miles at gas stations and restaurants along with the $125 flight discount aren’t available on this card. That’s lame. But that’s the cost of getting American Airlines lounge access.

Like the other airline cards, only get this card if lounge access is worth the $450 annual fee to you. Otherwise get the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard if American Airlines is your primary airline.

How to use your airline card

Since this is the second credit card that we have, we’ll want to follow a few simple rules to get the most out of it.

  1. Set up a few monthly subscriptions on the card so there’s always active charges on the account. This will keep the bank from marking your account as inactive in case you go a long time without using it. A Netflix subscription is perfect.
  2. Set up automatic payments. Since you won’t be using the card heavily, it’ll be easy to forget about it. The last thing we ever want is to miss a credit card payment. We’ll get screwed on fees and it’ll ruin our credit score for years. Automatic payments ensure that this won’t happen.
  3. When booking a flight on your primary airline, use the card to book the flight. All the airline cards give more points when booking directly through them.

That’s it, you’ll now get great perks while flying.

Hotel travel cards

In general, I’m not a huge fan of hotel travel cards for one reason.

I almost never stay in the same hotel twice.

Even when I return to a city, I almost always try a different hotel. Or I grab an Airbnb that I’ve never used before.

When I travel, even for work, I love trying new things. New neighborhoods, new food, new everything. One of my favorite things is discovering something amazing that I never knew existed.

One of the ways that I get my “new” fix is by trying new hotels. Occasionally, I’ll find a hotel that completely blows my mind, like The Peninsula Beijing or 1 Hotel Central Park. In those cases, I love going back. But it doesn’t happen often.

Where airlines only have a few options and you don’t lose that much flexibility by prioritizing a single airline, you’ll lose a ton of flexibility by only staying in one hotel chain. And the hotels I tend to love are unique, small chains. I have no personal interest in staying at dozens of Marriotts across the world.

But maybe you’re in a different situation. Maybe you travel for business all the time and stay at the same hotels. Or maybe you prefer the consistency from staying at the same hotel chain.

In that case, you should have a hotel credit card.

The choice will be pretty simple too: get the card for the hotel chain that you want to use.

If you’re not sure or have flexibility, go with one of the Marriott Bonvoy cards. You get access to W, St. Regis, and The Ritz-Carlton hotels, which are all super nice. And it includes tons of perks. If I was going to get a hotel card myself, I’d get this one.

Marriott Bonvoy does have several different cards. There are two that you should focus on.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase

For a $95 annual fee, you’ll get:

  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • An additional Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
  • Earn 6X Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 6,900 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
  • 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year
  • Path to Gold Status when you spend $35,000 on purchases each account year.
  • 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Earn unlimited Marriott Bonvoy points and get Free Night Stays faster.

The free night award is the most straightforward benefit on this card, and easily covers the $95 annual fee.

Otherwise, think of this card as a booster to climbing up the rewards tiers at Marriott. Here’s how many nights you need to spend in Marriott hotels per year to qualify for the different tiers:

  • Member = 0 nights
  • Silver Elite = 10 nights
  • Gold Elite = 25 nights
  • Platinum Elite = 50 nights
  • Titanium Elite = 75 nights
  • Ambassador Elite = 100 nights and $20,000 in annual spending

The higher you go up the tiers, the more perks you get. Everything from bonus points during your stay, faster internet, late checkout, welcome gifts, and room upgrades. The higher your tier, the more perks you get.

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card starts you at Silver Elite status, which includes 10% bonus on points during your stay along with priority late checkout. And with the 15 Elite Night credits, you have a headstart on hitting the higher tiers that have increasingly better perks.

That makes it a lot easier to hit whichever status tier that you’re going for.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express

For a $450 annual fee, you get these perks:

  • Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
  • Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in Priority Pass™ Select membership.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $450 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

With the statement credits, the annual fee comes down to $150.

To be honest, the whole point of hotel cards is to rack up perks. And you’ll already have a general travel card at this point anyway. So if you’re going to take the step to get a hotel card too, you should grab the premium cards with higher annual fees. As long as you use your statement credits and annual free nights, you’ll easily get your money back on this card.

Plus you get free Gold Elite Status, which unlocks a ton of perks.

If I was staying at Marriott hotels frequently, I’d get this card just for the Gold Status. That includes 25% bonus points during stays, room upgrades, and 2pm late checkout.

Getting Marriott Gold Elite Status for free is huge. If I stayed at Marriott hotels even a few times a year, I’d get this card.

Other hotel credit cards

If you want to use other hotel chains, these are the major options to consider.

Hilton Honors Aspire Card

  • Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.
  • Earn 14X Hilton Bonus Points when you make eligible purchases on your Card at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 7X Bonus Points for eligible purchases: on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies & at U.S. restaurants.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Enjoy up to $250 in Hilton Resort Credits on your Card each anniversary year, when you stay at participating resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Enjoy complimentary Diamond status with your Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
  • $450 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

This is the primo Hilton credit card.

It’s a fantastic deal for two reasons.

First, the $250 resort credit knocks the annual cost of this card down to $200. Then the free night per year easily takes care of the rest. As long as you stay at a Hilton hotel once per year, you basically get the card for free. 

Second, you also get Diamond status, which is Hilton’s highest rewards tier. It’s the only card that gives status at the highest tier for any hotel membership program. You’ll get:

  • Free room upgrades
  • 5th night free on reservations
  • Late checkout
  • Welcome gifts
  • Complimentary breakfast

In other words, getting the Hilton Honors Credit Card gets you all the perks that come with Diamond Status, and it’s basically free once you factor in the statement credit and free night.

If you enjoy Hilton hotels and want to load up on as many perks as possible without the least amount of effort, this is a fantastic way to do it. There’s no hotel status tier to manage. Just book your hotel and walk in like a baller. Then rack up points to splurge on Hilton properties around the world.

This card’s good enough that even I’m considering staying at more Hilton hotels.

The World of Hyatt Credit Card

  • Earn 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 total within 6 months of account opening.
  • Free nights start at 5,000 points
  • Receive 1 free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort after your Cardmember anniversary
  • Earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel if you spend $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year
  • Get automatic World of Hyatt Elite status and 5 qualifying night credits every year as long as your account is open
  • Earn 2 qualifying night credits towards tier status everytime you spend $5,000 on your card
  • Earn 9 points total for Hyatt stays – 4 Bonus Points per $1 spent at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 you can earn as a World of Hyatt member
  • Earn 2 Bonus Points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airlines tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships

Comparable hotel card to the other options. You’ll get a free night each year, free status in the middle of the hotel membership tiers, night credits to get higher tiers, and tons of bonus points when staying at Hyatt hotels.

There’s nothing that makes this card superior to the other hotel credit cards. But it’s a great option if you prefer Hyatt hotels.

The best travel credit cards of 2019 is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

Does SmileDirectClub work? (My 90-Day Update)

Does SmileDirectClub really work? In this post, I share my honest thoughts on my first 90 days of wearing my aligners and how it has worked for me.

Note: This post is sponsored by SmileDirectClub and contains affiliate links. All opinions are 100% my own. Read our disclosure policy here.

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Does SmileDirectClub really work?

I’ve gotten this question again and again in the last few months. And I wanted to give you an update on my honest thoughts and experiences with SmileDirectClub after 90 days of wearing my aligners.

Back in December, I posted an in-depth post about my honest experience with SmileDirectClub. In that post, I shared about how it works to get your teeth scanned, what the process is like, and what you can expect if you sign up with SmileDirectClub.close

In May, I started wearing the aligners and I shared an honest review of SmileDirectClub with my initial thoughts on my treatment plan and what it was like to start wearing the aligners.

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How to Get Started With SmileDirectClub

If you missed my earlier posts, here’s a basic recap of how SmileDirectClub works:

  1. You go to a SmileShop to get a 3D scan of your smile (it’s FREE!) OR you use an at-home impression kit (use coupon code MSMDEAL to get 50% off the price) to make an impression so they can build a 3D impression of your smile. (You can see what the at-home impression kit is below.)
  2. Your 3D smile is reviewed by a duly licensed dentist or orthodontist, who will guide your new smile from beginning to end.
  3. They send you a preview of your new smile showing how your smile will transform and begin production of your invisible aligners, as unique to you as a fingerprint.
  4. They send you aligners in the mail that you wear 24/7 (except for when you eat) during a 6-month process. You change these out every week or every other week during the process. (They send you texts to remind you when you need to change the aligners). (Be sure use coupon code MSMDEAL to save an additional $100 off the cost of your aligners!)
  5. You work with a licensed dentist or orthodontist the entire time and they ask you to send periodic photos to help them make sure you are on track.
  6. At the end of 6 months, you can purchase a set of retainers for $99 to help maintain your smile. You just wear them at night to keep your new smile in place.

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What the First 90 Days Have Been Like

Honestly, wearing the aligners has been a lot less of a hassle and a lot less pain than I expected. Yes, I still feel them in my mouth. It isn’t as comfortable to talk.

My smile with them in looks a little weird to me (other people say it looks amazing; I think it looks like my lips are puffed out!). And yes, I don’t love having to take them out every time I eat or drink anything besides water.

But I have been so pleased with the results (more on that below!)

Do the Aligners Hurt?

I’ve gotten some questions as to whether the aligners hurt or not. I think it’s probably a little different for each person.

For me, I follow the suggestion to always switch to a new pair at night instead of in the morning. This gives you all night in your sleep to adjust to the new aligners. Usually within 24 hours of switching to a new pair, there is almost zero pain and only a little discomfort.

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Does SmileDirectClub Really Work?

This is the most important question, right? I can’t speak for others, but I can tell you that I am seeing a noticeable difference in how my teeth look since wearing the aligners!

Also, it’s not just me who is noticing. I keep having people tell me how much of a difference they can see. In fact, just the other day someone who follows on Instagram wrote in and ask what kind of dental work I had had done because she works at a dentist’s office and could tell a marked difference in how my teeth looked!

I truly do feel more confident when smile and speaking and recording live videos. I was never embarrassed of my crooked teeth; but I was conscious of them. It’s so nice to see them look so much straighter — and I’m not done with my treatment plan yet!

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What I Love About SmileDirectClub

  • I love that the price is less expensive than getting braces. While it depends upon your doctor and insurance, you’re typically going to pay at least $3500 for traditional braces. The SmileDirectClub treatment plan only costs $1895 to $2290 for the entire process! And they do work with some insurance companies, too.
  • I love that I don’t have to go to appointments. Seriously, I know it’s silly, but it’s true. This was one big factor holding me back from moving forward with getting braces was the time involved going to so many orthodontist appointments.
  • I love that they are so thorough in explaining the process and setting you up for success. They send you emails with lots of details, they provide links to in-depth articles, and there is a booklet in your kit that answers all the questions you could have.
  • I love that you can take them out. Okay, call me weird, but the thought of having something semi-permanently stuck in my mouth that only an orthodontist can take out just makes me feel uncomfortable. I love that I can take these out a few times per day to eat and drink.

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What I Don’t Like About SmileDirectClub

  • I don’t like that you have to take them out to eat or drink. You can only drink clear cool water with the aligners in. It can be a bit of a hassle to have to take them out every time to you eat or drink.
  • I don’t like that they seem to attract lipstick. I haven’t changed anything with my lipstick routine, but ever since I got the aligners, I have to be so careful about what lipstick I wear and how I put it on. Multiple times, I’ve discovered that
  • I don’t like that they feel unsanitary sometimes. It feels kind of gross to be taking things in and out of your mouth multiple times per day — especially when I’m out and about or am eating with friends. I’ve gotten better at being able to quickly take them out and stick them in the case, but it feels a little gross to do it in front of people. (Hey, I’m just being honest!)
  • I don’t like that my speech sounds and feels a little garbled. While it doesn’t sound too bad, I can’t talk as clearly as usual with the aligners in. Because of this, I’ve taken them out when I’ve recorded podcasts or spoken at a conference.

(Please note: The aligners are only going on your teeth. They aren’t doing anything with your jaw so they will not correct overbites or other really misaligned teeth issues. You can take a 30-second quiz on their site to see if you are a candidate for their services based upon how your teeth are. I’d recommend getting a second opinion from a local orthodontist if you aren’t sure. I also would highly, highly recommend going into a local shop. This way you can get a scan and make sure you feel comfortable with going through this process.)

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Want to try SmileDirectClub?

If you can’t go into a local SmileShop to get a 3D Scan done, you can order an at-home Impression Kit (shown above). Again, I would personally recommend going into a SmileShop. It’s completely FREE to do so and they do such a great job of giving you such a high-quality scan.

But you if you do end up ordering an at-home Impression Kit, use coupon code MSMDEAL to get 50% off the price.

And if you decide to sign up with SmileDirectClub, you can also use coupon code MSMDEAL at checkout to get $100 off the price of your Invisible Aligners.

Have you used SmileDirectClub before? If so, I’d love to hear your honest opinions and experience with it. Has SmileDirectClub worked for you?

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What You Need to Know About Michelle Carter and I Love You, Now Die: The Glee Connection, the Texts and More

I Love You, Now DieThe headlines you couldn’t believe about text messages and a suicide are now the subject of an HBO documentary.
I Love You, Now Die tells the story of Michelle Carter and what…

Beyond eBay and Etsy: 5 Online Flea Markets You’ve Never Heard of

Where can you find antique Pez dispensers, hot vintage heels and (finally!) the perfect lamp to match your weirdly patterned bedspread — all on sale for just a few bucks?

I’ll give you a hint: It’s not Walmart. At least, not my Walmart. (And if yours fits the bill… would you let me know where you live?)

No, it’s your favorite online flea market.

A New Way to Browse: Online Flea Markets

Not only are regular flea markets wacky and wonderful, but their goods are usually pre-owned, pre-loved and dirt cheap. In short, they’re a Penny Hoarder’s dream.

But it’s 2019. You turn to your laptop (or, let’s be real, your smartphone) for everything from takeout to taxi rides to a date for Friday night. 

So it’s no surprise there’s a whole world of online flea market shopping out there. And it’s just as quirky and addictive as the real thing — especially since you can see it all with just a few clicks. 

Of course, a few of these flea market sites are industry giants you almost certainly already know about. 

There’s eBay, which is nearly 25 years old. (I know!) Although it bills itself primarily as an online auction site, many of its listings are available for immediate sale — and it seems you can find just about anything you might desire.

And there’s Etsy, which is sort of like eBay’s quiet, artsy little sister who wears a lot of black eyeliner while weaving flower crowns. You probably already know that Etsy specializes in homemade, handmade goodies, but it’s also a treasure trove for lovers of all things vintage. 

In fact, Etsy has a whole category devoted to vintage items from games and toys to clothing — and it’s well-organized enough that you can specifically browse bolo ties, fedoras or marbles.

Sites like Amazon and Craigslist also play a part in the game, connecting buyers to individual sellers in their area or abroad.

But if you really want to get your hands dirty and score some killer (read: very weird) online flea market finds, you’ll have to look beyond the big guys.

5 Online Flea Markets You Might Not Have Heard of Yet

We checked out a variety of smaller online flea markets and compared inventory, prices and user experience to help you find the best deals at the digital folding table. 

Here’s what we found out.

1. Fleabay

A bit like a cross between Craigslist and eBay, Fleabay (a .net domain!) lists items from all over the world — and includes categories as diverse as rental properties and ride shares. There’s even a free stuff section. 

The list of prohibited items includes wine, credit cards and “human parts and remains.” Used airbags are merely “questionable,” though.

Fleabay’s listings feature little more than an item description, location, the seller’s information and an expiration date. Shipping or local pickup is arranged on a per-listing basis, and you reach out to the poster directly. 

The most frustrating thing? A number of the categories were empty of listings — but there’s no way to tell that without clicking through. There’s also no baked-in way to make an offer on an item; if you’re interested, you’ll have to fill in an online contact form.

2. vFlea 

Compared to other online flea markets, vFlea feels the closest to actually thumbing through junk until you find a treasure — before leaning across the table to make a bid. The interface is also a touch more polished.

Each listing’s thumbnail specifies whether items are shippable or for local pickup only and also includes an asking price. The platform has built-in “buy now” and “haggle” options, and even an opportunity to “barter” with goods of your own. 

Items are organized by tags as well as categories, creating better searchability and organization. The site populates the number of listings currently available in each category in parentheses, so no mysteries there.

Finally, vFlea still has some weird stuff available, although it draws the line at community events. For instance, you could make an offer on this hilltop timeshare in Indiana, which apparently can be shipped or picked up locally. The asking price is $21,000.  

3. Bonanza

Although Bonanza has a very similar interface to eBay, it doesn’t offer bidding or bartering options. 

It does, however, list categories for everything from home goods to collectibles, including coins and paper money. 

And there’s also a wonderful category called “Everything Else,” with subsections like “Metaphysical” (which features a $330 haunted bracelet) and “Weird Stuff” (hey, this is perfect for Halloween!) 

There’s even a “Vintage” section under fashion so you can easily shop for those precious duds from another era.

4. Srchie

Love the hunt for bargains but not so much the web surfing? Srchie does the work for you, scanning — or searching, get it? — online flea markets across the web, including eBay, Amazon and Goodwill

Narrow your search by categories like Vintage, Furniture and Books — including first editions — and the site will display externally linked images to the sellers’ sites. You can identify who’s selling by the logo in the top left corner and find the price and the posting date at the bottom of the image before clicking through to the seller’s site. 

It’s a convenient way to browse the marketplace and compare prices without opening 4,287 tabs.

5. Poshmark 

Although it’s not exactly an online flea market, per se, Poshmark allows you to make the seller a custom offer — just like at a flea market table! It offers a wide variety of fashion and home accessories, as well as themed parties for buying and selling your stuff.

Like most online consignment shops, Poshmark require you to log in to browse their goods, but they’re free to browse and generally feature low shipping costs. 

Digital secondhand shops like ThredUp have a lot to offer if you’re looking for fashionable items on the cheap. You can buy (and sell!) gently used, high-quality, brand-name clothes and accessories for a fraction of the price you’d find in stores or online.

Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a freelance writer. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors contributed to this post.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Raising Kids Who Want to Talk to Us

How do you get your kids to want to talk to you? How do you foster open communication and trust? In this episode, Jesse and I share some lessons we’ve learned the hard way when it comes to building trust with our kids.

Missed previous episodes of The Crystal Paine show? You can listen to them here.

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Building Trust With Our Kids

“Do you feel like you can come to us and share your struggles honestly?”

We sat the girls down last week and asked them this question. I told them that someone had requested we do a podcast episode on building trust and open communication with your kids and we wanted to get their truthful opinion on whether they felt it was a topic we could tackle.

Four years ago, I was deep in the trenches of parenting for my own reputation. When a child was struggling or had made a bad choice, I approached it — unknowingly — from the perspective of, “What will make me look good as a parent?”

It’s hard to admit that out loud, but it’s true. I cared way more what people thought of ME than I cared about my kids’ hearts.

As a result of this, I wasn’t close with my kids. I didn’t truly know their hearts.

There wasn’t a trust relationship built up and they didn’t feel like they could honestly share how they felt — because I would probably snap at them if I felt like they weren’t approaching something maturely enough. (They’ve since told me this was how they felt.)

The Guilt I Carried as a Mom

There was very little grace in my parenting and I carried around a heavy backpack full of guilt… for how I was failing, for the ways my kids weren’t living up to my expectations of them. All of this was rooted in my unhealthy prioritization of what others thought of me.

In turn, I became my kids’ critic, nit-picker, and Holy Spirit. I struggled to see the good because I was constantly frustrated by how they were falling short.

And every day, I was driving a bigger wedge between my kids and me.

This week on the podcast — with the girls’ blessing and lots of their input and suggestions (!) — we share what has changed in the way we approach parenting. We talk about practical ways we’ve fostered trust and good communication with our kids (most of the ideas we share are suggestions the girls gave — and they did not hold back in their thoughts and opinions on this!)

In This Episode: 

[00:57] – Jesse and I recap our travel adventures in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho — including our thoughts on Grand Teton National ParkYellowstone National Park, and Old Faithful.

[19:49] – Believe it or not, Jesse read more than me this past week! He shares the two books he recently finished.

[22:00] – Want your kids to keep reading over the summer? Check out this printable we created!

[23:41] – On this episode, we answer another one of our listener’s questions about establishing a trusting and open relationship with our kids. We talk about the importance of making time for one-on-one conversations, but not trying to force them. Kathrynne’s advice!

[29:19] – We also discuss how being willing to apologize and admit when we’re wrong can make such a difference. One thing that has made a big difference is us acknowledging with our kids that feelings are not wrong, but it’s how we act on those feelings.

[31:57] – Ask questions to open the doors of communication and listen rather than preach sermons! Step into your kid’s world and invite them to share in yours. Spend time doing things that your kids like to do!

[40:13] – We share ways we’ve let the kids make their own decisions in their lives, allowing us to build our trust.

Links and Resources:

Have feedback on the show or suggestions for future episodes or topics? Send me an email: crystal@moneysavingmom.com

How to Listen to The Crystal Paine Show

The podcast is available on iTunesAndroidStitcher, and Spotify. You can listen online through the direct player we’ll include in the show notes of each episode. OR, a much easier way to listen is by subscribing to the podcast through a free podcast app on your phone. (Find instructions for how to subscribe to a podcast here.)

Ready to dive in and listen? Hit the player above or search for “The Crystal Paine Show” on your favorite podcast app.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission — at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

Building Trust With Our Kids

Auto-Owners Insurance Auto Insurance Review

Auto-Owners Insurance offers a wide range of insurance policies including homeowners insurance, business insurance, life insurance, farm insurance and more. Of course, they also offer auto insurance policies with a variety of add-ons you can use to customize your policy to your lifestyle or budget.

If you’re in the market for car insurance and don’t know where to turn, it’s smart to get a quote from Auto-Owners Insurance and a handful of other companies. Keep reading to learn all about the policies Auto-Owners Insurance offers, what they include and how to get a free quote.

Auto-Owners Insurance: Key Takeaways

  • Auto-Owners Insurance works with independent agents who are experts on the policies they offer.
  • You can tailor your policy to include more coverage for collision or rental cars.
  • Save money with a variety of insurance discounts for having multiple policies, paying in full, choosing a higher deductible and more.

Find the Best Car Insurance

Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.

Auto-Owners Insurance Review

Auto-Owners Insurance offers broad coverage consumers can rely on when it comes to protecting themselves financially from accidents, personal liability and more. Their main coverage is collision, which can repair or replace your vehicle if you’re in a wreck. However, you can also pay for comprehensive coverage that pays for damage to your car based on a variety of factors such as fire, vandalism, theft and inclement weather.

Other Auto-Owners Insurance coverages include:

  • Bodily injury liability and property damage liability: This coverage kicks in to pay for damage due to injury or personal property damage, including legal expenses if you’re involved in a lawsuit.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: This coverage helps to pay for damage when someone is injured or killed by an underinsured or uninsured motorist.
  • Medical payments and personal injury protection: These coverages will kick in to take care of medical expenses, rehabilitation, hospitalization and more when someone is injured in your vehicle.
  • Road trouble service:: If you lock your keys in your car, run out of gas or have a flat tire, you can call a special hotline 24 hours a day and 365 days per year to set up assistance.
  • Additional expense coverage: This type of plan will pay for additional expenses you incur when you can’t use your vehicle for a covered reason.
  • Loan gap and lease gap coverage: Rely on this coverage to pay the difference between the value of your car and what you owe on your lease or loan in the event you’re involved in an accident.
  • Diminished value coverage: Your car will be worth less if it’s involved in an accident, and this coverage protects your investment.

You’ll also receive Collision Coverage Advantage coverage, which waives your deductible if you’re in an accident with another Auto-Owners Insurance customer. Common loss deductible coverage also means you won’t have to pay two different deductibles if you need to file a claim on your homeowners and auto insurance policies at the same time.

How to Get a Quote from Auto-Owners Insurance

One downside of Auto-Owners Insurance is that it doesn’t let you get a free quote online without speaking to an insurance agent. The insurer makes you call in for a quote, which is inconvenient when you’re simply trying to compare pricing.

Auto-Owners Insurance doesn’t offer a form you can fill out for an agent to contact you. Instead, you have to search for independent agents in your area using your ZIP code. From there, you can select from available agents in your area and call in to walk through the coverage you want and get a free quote.

Auto-Owners Insurance Discount

Auto-Owners Insurance offers a handful of discounts you can qualify for if your goal is saving money on auto insurance premiums. Discounts you should know about include:

  • Student discounts: Discounts are available for students who have good grades or agree to have a monitoring device installed in their vehicle.
  • Multi-policy discount: Receive premium savings when you bundle different types of insurance policies and purchase them all from Auto-Owners Insurance.
  • Payment history discount: Receive more savings when you pay your premiums early or on time for at least 36 months.
  • Paid in full discount: Get a discount for paying your annual premiums in at one time instead of monthly.
  • Paperless discount: Receive a discount for enrolling in paperless billing.
  • Multi-car discount: Save more when you insure two or more cars with Auto-Owners Insurance.
  • Safety feature discount: Qualify for this discount if you have certain safety devices installed on your vehicle such as anti-lock brakes, airbags or an anti-theft device.

How We Rate Auto-Owners Insurance Auto Coverage

At The Simple Dollar, we aim to provide a general overview of each insurer’s products and services through a standard rating process. We reviewed the most recent claims satisfaction and overall customer satisfaction studies from J.D. Power, customer reviews from Consumer Affairs and other sources, and financial solvency reports from A.M. Best. After a thorough research and discovery period, here’s how Auto-Owners stacks up:

  • Claims Satisfaction: 4 out of 5
  • Coverage Options: 4 out of 5
  • Financial Solvency: 5 out of 5
  • Customer Satisfaction: 5 out of 5
  • Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The post Auto-Owners Insurance Auto Insurance Review appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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4 Steps To Cover The Gap In Your Health Insurance

Keeping health insurance coverage is super important even though it may be expensive. Here are a handful of ways to cover a gap in your health insurance.Keeping health insurance coverage is super important even though it may be expensive. Here are a handful of ways to cover a gap in your health insurance.

The post 4 Steps To Cover The Gap In Your Health Insurance appeared first on Money Under 30.

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