What are you normally doing between 5 and 9 p.m.? If you’re anything like us, your typical evening might consist of unwinding on the couch with an episode of your favorite show, getting dinner ready and doing a bit of scrolling on your phone.
But if you’re normally home during those hours, you could make some serious extra money with that time — for almost no effort. A company called OhmConnect will send you a text when the electricity you’re using at home is “dirty,” and it will pay you just for cutting back for about an hour a week.
Seriously. We’ve seen people earn as much as $1,700 a year just for doing this.
If you have a utility account with PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison (which cover nearly every county in California), OhmConnect will pay you to cut back on your energy use. You’ll get a text when a lot of people in your area are using power (usually between 5 and 9 p.m.). Your job is to simply use less electricity. You could turn off your A/C, use the grill instead of the stove, or even turn off your breaker.
Here’s How to Get Cash from OhmConnect
Sign up for a free OhmConnect account here.
Sync it with your online utility account through PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison, or connect as a guest.
Wait for OhmConnect to text you during high-energy-consumption hours
Head outside, or at least turn the TV off until the hour is up. Heck, you can even play games on your phone during this hour — just resist plugging in any electronics.
Profit! OhmConnect rewards you with cash, prizes, gift cards and more.
This all works because the California electricity market (or California ISO) pays OhmConnect to help them avoid turning on an expensive, dirty power plant. The company then passes the savings on to you.
If you want to automate the process, you can even connect a smart thermostat or plug and let OhmConnect do this automatically. Even connecting some of your biggest energy-hogging devices to a smart plug can help you save $350 a year — effortlessly. Right now, OhmConnect is even offering a free smart thermostat to people in California who agree to try out its free service.
But you don’t need a smart device to save: The more you do, the more money you can make.
For example, we talked to one woman, Tanya Williams, who recently earned an extra $1,700 in one year with OhmConnect — more than $140 a month. A few evenings each week, the 45-year-old stay-at-home mom shut down her home’s electrical panel and took the kids to the pool, or just played board games. Talk about easy money.
Enter your ZIP code here to open a free OhmConnect account, then sync it with your utility account to start earning cash. Your whites can wait until tomorrow.
Air travel is expected to soar this summer and beyond as more people get vaccinated and receive the greenlight from the CDC to travel. It’s not likely there will be many deals as the airlines make up for lost revenue — so this is a good time to take advantage of frequent flyer programs.
Here’s everything you need to know about frequent flyer miles and loyalty programs.
Choosing a Frequent Flyer Program
Every major airline has one, and while you can join every single program (it’s usually free to join) — your best bet is to choose one and stick with it. That way, you’ll accrue all the points toward a single flight rather than getting a few points on every airline that may not amount to anything.
The smart move is to find an airline that stops at your hometown airport and has regular and convenient flights to the cities you travel to frequently. Do you plan on using your points toward upgrades? Check out the perks of that given airline (for example, Southwest doesn’t have a first class section).
Best Travel Credit Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: This has an annual fee of $95 and an introductory offer of 100,000 points. You earn unlimited 2X miles for every dollar you spend, and you can redeem those miles for any airline, hotel or rental car. When you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first year, you’ll earn up to 100,000 bonus miles. Or, if you spend $3,000 in the first three months, you’ll earn 50,000 miles. APR starts at 17.24% depending on your credit.
Best Frequent Flyer Program, U.S.
Delta Sky Miles: The miles don’t expire, and they can be used on more than 20 partner airlines. You receive five frequent flyer miles for every dollar you spend on a Delta, Delta Connection or Delta Shuttle flight. You also earn miles on Delta’s partner airlines (these vary by carrier). Earn additional points on hotels and credit cards and even Airbnbs. All points can be used for flights, upgrades and hotels. While this rewards program is fantastic, you do need to book ahead, as there are limited seats available on flights for award travel.
Best Frequent Flyer Program, Alaska or Western U.S.
Alaska Airlines: Earn miles based on the distance you travel on Alaska Airlines or its partner airlines. Additionally, earn points through hotel stays and credit cards, which can be used to book flights, upgrade flights and for hotel stays. You can also transfer up to 100,000 miles annually to other mileage plan accounts for $10 per 1,000 miles plus a $25 transaction fee. One con for this program: Points do expire after 2 years of inactivity.
Best program for Holiday Travel
Got kids and don’t want them to miss school to travel? Then Southwest Airlines is for you. That’s because their Rapid Reward program doesn’t have any blackout dates, and your rewards can be used for any available seat. Redeeming your points is super easy, and your points may also be used for hotels or car rentals. Plus, the points never expire.
How Frequent Flyer Programs Work
Each airline runs their loyalty programs a little different so make sure you read the big and small print. The following categories are what you want to pay the most attention to so that you can reap maximum benefits.
You can accrue points on frequent flyer programs by flying, shopping, staying in specific hotels or by using a frequent flyer credit card. Here’s a detailed look at how you can earn frequent flyer miles by doing everything you already do, like shopping online, taking surveys and dining out.
Spending Your Miles
So you’ve racked up some miles. What’s the best way to spend them? Airline miles/points are worth 1 cent. So a fair rate would be using 40,000 miles for a flight that would typically cost $400. A good rate would be booking that $400 flight for 25,000 (this would be 1.6 cents per mile). Before booking, understand how the airline calculates its miles/points. Some require more miles for desirable flights or times. Note that you can’t use your miles through online travel booking sites like Travelocity or Orbitz. You’re also required to pay for the taxes and fees, which could add up to a few hundred dollars for international flights.
Frequent Flyer Miles Expire
Most airlines’ frequent flyer miles do have expiration dates ranging from just a few months to two years. But some airlines, such as Delta and Southwest, have miles that don’t expire. There are also ways you can prevent your frequent flyer miles from expiring, ranging from staying at a hotel to shopping to using your airline credit card. Make sure you look at the fine print.
The Penny Hoarder contributor Danielle Braff is a Chicago writer who specializes in consumer goods and shopping on a budget. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Real Simple and more.
recent survey from College Ave Student Loans revealed that student borrowers continue to rely heavily on parents when it comes to paying for higher education. Out of 1,001 undergraduate students surveyed, 57% said they were relying partially on parent’s income or savings, and another 9% said their parents were using federal PLUS parent loans. Another 9% said they planned to get help from a parent’s credit card, and 1% said they would use funds from a parent’s retirement plan.
If that all sounds like a lot, you should know there are ways you can help your dependent cover the cost of tuition and fees, or even spend less to begin with. Parents can also help their kids minimize the amount of student loans they have to take out, which can make a huge difference once they graduate from college and begin their adult lives.
If you’re a parent who is hoping to get through the college years with your finances intact, consider these tips.
Create a Spending Plan for College
Also make sure to sit down with your college-bound kid to come up with a budget or spending plan for school. Not having any sort of plan is the best way to make sure you fail, yet having a budget and some sort of agreement on what college spending might look like can be a big help.
For example, you might have a talk with your dependent about how much “spending money” they’ll be able to have on a weekly or monthly basis. You can also sit down and write out all the regular expenses they’ll have that you’ll need to cover, including tuition, books, housing, a smartphone, technology expenses, transportation expenses and other bills.
It might also help to ask family and friends who have recently had a kid in college what some of their expenses were so you can plan accordingly.
Help in the Search for Financial Aid
Also make sure you’re helping your child qualify for all the financial aid they may be eligible for. This process always starts with filling out the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid, or FAFSA form. This form can help you determine whether your dependent is eligible for grants or work-study programs as well as other aid. Meanwhile, filling out the FAFSA is how you’ll find out your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which can help you figure out what your out-of-pocket costs for college will look like.
In the meantime, you can also help your child search for scholarships that may be available, including ones from local organizations or industries in their field of study.
Teach Kids How to Borrow Smart
Chances are good your child will have to borrow some money for college even if you provide financial assistance, but you can still help them make good decisions. Filling out the FAFSA form will help your family determine how much you can borrow with federal student loans, which you should use first. From there, you can also look at student loans from private lenders like College Ave Student Loans, which can help you fill in the gaps after federal loans are maxed out.
Ideally, you’ll help your child find a way to borrow as little as they can, and with the most favorable terms possible. You could also consider being a cosigner, which could help your kids qualify for better rates and terms on private student loans.
Either way, make sure your dependent is not taking on too much debt for their degree. A general rule of thumb says that, if your total student loan debt at graduation is less than your starting salary, you can afford to repay your student loan debt over the standard ten-year timeline.
Teach the Value of Payments During School
Parents can also help their children by teaching them how and why to make payments on their student loans while they’re still in college. The reality is, doing so can help them make a dent in their balances all along, or even keep ballooning interest at bay.
That all depends on the type of federal student loans your child has. While the government covers accruing interest on Direct Subsidized Loans, there is no such benefit on Direct Unsubsidized Loans. This means that not making any payments on Direct Unsubsidized Loans during college could mean you wind up owing a lot more than was borrowed due to capitalized interest.
If students want to keep interest on Direct Unsubsidized Loans from adding to their loan balances, making interest payments during college can help.
Choose the Right Repayment Plan
Finally, you should make sure your dependents are on the best repayment plan for their needs. This could be standard ten-year repayment on federal student loans if they can afford the monthly payment and want to get out of debt as soon as possible. However, you can also look at extended or graduated repayment plans for federal loans that let borrowers repay a smaller monthly amount over a longer period of time. Just keep in mind that extending your loan term may lead to paying more interest over the entire repayment timeline, even if the monthly payment is smaller.
Income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), Income Based Repayment (IBR), and Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) are also popular for borrowers since they let them repay federal loans over 20 to 25 years before ultimately forgiving remaining loan balances. You can also look into Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which lets borrowers repay loans on an income-driven plan for 10 years before remaining loan balances are forgiven. Just keep in mind that PSLF applicants are required to repay their loans while working in an eligible public service position.
If you can afford, encourage your student to pay down student loans while in school. Any amount, as little as $25 a month, can help your child save money on the total cost of their loan.
Finally, you could even consider helping your dependent refinance their student loans (federal or private) to get a better deal. Just remember that refinancing federal loans with a private lender means giving up benefits like income-driven plans and deferment or forbearance.
You should also make sure refinancing makes financial sense before you move forward. A student loan calculator can show you how much you could save if you refinance your loans at today’s low rates.
The Bottom Line
Parents may not be able to cover the entire cost of higher education, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help in other ways. For example, parents can make sure their kids are considering all potential forms of aid they may be eligible for, including ones they may not have thought about. Plus, any advice that helps kids borrow less for college can go a long way toward helping them have more choices once they graduate.
No matter what, your best bet is planning ahead and thinking about college before it gets here. If you wait to plan or decide you’re going to figure it out as you go, you could live to regret it.
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Table of Contents
About the Author
Jeff Rose, CFP® is a Certified Financial Planner™, founder of Good Financial Cents, and author of the personal finance book Soldier of Finance. Jeff is an Iraqi combat veteran and served 9 years in the Army National Guard. His work is regularly featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Inc.com and Entrepreneur.
Your teens want the latest version of PlayStation or maybe a Nintendo Switch. Maybe he covets a pair of Adidas Yeezys and she is hot for Kendra Scott’s newest earrings. It’s time they make like Warren Buffett and start to make — and save — some money. And there are plenty of business ideas for teens to get them started.
The billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway — now in his 90s — bought his first stock at age 11. By the time he was 14, Buffett used $1,200 that he earned from paper routes to purchase 40 acres of land, which he leased to farmers. (Maybe don’t tell your young entrepreneurs that Buffett never spends more than about $3 for breakfast and still lives in the Omaha, Nebraska, house he bought for $31,500 in 1958, according to CNBC.)
12 Money-Making Business Ideas for Teens
Today’s business ideas for teens may not involve paper routes, but there are still plenty of old-school, low-tech money-making ideas that require zero startup capital.
Those include pet sitting, baby sitting, gift wrapping and washing cars. But these days, high school students can go beyond family and family friends to make a living off their special skills, among them mad tech skills, to earn real money.
Bonus: Many of these jobs don’t involve leaving the house which has been helpful during the pandemic.
These 12 ideas can set them on the path of transforming from teen entrepreneurs to the next Warren Buffett.
1. Zoom Tutoring
Teens are hitting the tutoring scene hard because it pays well and it’s easy to get started. Companies like Varsity Tutors, Kaplan and Tutor.com offer around $20 per hour for teens to tutor in subjects ranging from the SATs to math or writing (basically, you’d tutor in your specialty subject).
They can also find tutoring clients via local Facebook groups or via word-of-mouth from teachers, coaches or family members. They will need a strong, dependable Internet connection, solid organization skills and an expertise in an academic subject and the report card to prove it.
2. Tiktok and Video Trainer
My 12-year-old finally put her TikTok skills to good use. She asked me to post on Facebook asking if any local kids wanted to learn the latest TikTok dances. Ten third graders signed up for her class, paying $3 weekly for my daughter to teach them how to TikTok. We cleared out the living room so they’d all have space to dance, and she was good to go.
TikTok is the hottest new social media platform. Users share short videos — no more than 60 seconds — that are mostly entertaining but have recently become educational and inspirational. There are dozens of videos showing how to make what’s now called the TikTok feta pasta dish. Can your resident TikTok expert teach food bloggers how to make food videos to broaden the content on their sites? Maybe some local business folks need help reaching a younger audience.
3. Dog Walking and Pet Sitting
A job as old as time, this one is still legit and thriving. Expect to make $5 to $10 per day for dog walking, depending on location. Teen entrepreneurs specializing in pet care can book their business by creating a Web site and adding additional services (washing the pet or playing/tiring him out in the park) for extra fees.
4. Streaming Entertainment Coach
Imagine the horror of not being able to binge the latest Netflix craze or being flummoxed by the signup directions for Hulu (or Disney + or Amazon Prime or …). And for some people, the remote for the new smart TV seems more like an instrument created for a NASA astronaut than a way for an earth-bound mortal to change the channel.
Teenagers who know of such things can offer their services to neighbors or even the grandparents (or parents) of friends. It’s a sure bet that if if they do a good job, they will be asked to help set up new computers and printers, give quick laptop lessons and even show clients how to use the portrait mode on smartphone cameras.
How to set the price? That takes some trial-and-error to decide whether it’s by the job or the hour.
5. Vintage Clothes Seller
This one is easy for teens to do, as there’s no age minimum. There are also plenty of places to sell and as vintage/used clothing is majorly trending, they could make a lot of money this way. Poshmark is a great place to sell used clothing, as it’s essentially a social media marketplace. Instagram is another. Get advice from others who’ve perfected this side hustle on various sites.
On Poshmark, the more people you follow, the more business you’ll likely receive. Set your own price, receive a prepaid shipping label from Poshmark. It’s free to sell, and Poshmark receives $2.95 for items less than $15; and 20% for anything above $15. Depop is Poshmark’s competitor and another option. Which one is better? Depends.
The RealReal is another possibility if your teen is selling designer or trendy clothing (brands like Lululemon and GoldenGoose are hot). This site takes 15% of sales, and they accept everything from clothing to jewelry. Of course, old standbys like Craig’s List, EBay and Facebook Marketplace are always great selling options.
6. Artist for Hire
Good at art? Love to make friendship bracelets? These talents can be turned into profit by selling goods on Etsy. Etsy users pay 20 cents to list each product, and Etsy takes 3.5% of all sales. Teens ages 13 and up can sell via Etsy as long as their shop is managed by a parent or a legal guardian.
7. Language Teacher
Teaching English online is a popular side gig that teenagers can get in on. While some online companies require a degree from their teachers, there are many that don’t. You can also take a TEFL certification course (3 months, about $1,000) to bump up qualifications. Sounds too pricey? These can often be found on Groupon for less than $100.
If you plan on teaching online in China (this is the largest market), you’ll be required to take the online TEFL certification course. Once you snag an online English tutoring job, you’ll typically make your own hours — but these hours will often be requested in the early morning, due to the time change overseas. You will make around $10 per hour. Legit English teaching platforms include Cambly, PalFish and SkimaTalk.
8. Camp Counselor
According to ZipRecruiter, the average summer camp counselor makes $10 per hour but some pay more. Choose a local day camp or spend the summer at a sleepaway camp. Most sleepaway camps have counselor-in-training programs for kids who are between the ages of 12 to 16, though these typically don’t pay or they pay just a small stipend. Anyone older can be a counselor.
9. Refreshment Entrepreneur
Think your teen is too old to have a lemonade stand? How about they sell a different product, like Shirley Temples, mocktails or kombucha? The other teens won’t judge them for this one — especially if the drinks come in plastic martini glasses. Make sure to check your city ordinances before setting up the pop up. Some cities may require registration or a license.
Also, consider elevating the mocktail stand: Encourage them to hire themselves out as a mocktail bartender for a friend’s birthday party. Or even for a neighborhood kids’ party.
10. Paid Computer Player
This one should be an easy sell. Go onto Swagbucks to answer surveys, shop online and watch videos and you’ll be rewarded with everything from money to store gift cards. Swagbucks is available for anyone 13 and older. They won’t make your fortune doing this — most people make about $1 per day but if they’re already sitting in front of your computer watching videos, they might as well make some cash doing it.
11. Golf Caddy
Most golf courses in the United States will hire teens 14 and up to caddy. They’ll be outside all day, making between $20-$30 per hour. They don’t need to be a golf pro, but should know the basics of the game. Apply at a local golf course or country club.
12. Mobile Device Teacher
Your teen’s a tech pro. Or perhaps she simply understands how to capture a screenshot, copy & paste and check a book out of the library directly to an e-reader. This is a talent! There are plenty of adults that wish they were as tech savvy — and would pay good money to get there. Advertise on a local Facebook page or give them a hand by spreading the word to your friends. Perhaps a class all about navigating an e-reader, or one about how to use social media to your best advantage? And it may seem like everyone can take a Zoom call, but they can’t. Show the grandparents down the street how to video conference call with the grandkids across the country. They may pay handsomely.
The Penny Hoarder contributor Danielle Braff is a Chicago writer who specializes in consumer goods and shopping on a budget. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Real Simple and more.
Ken Lyons had a sneaking suspicion he was paying too much for his weekly lawn service.
At first, Lyons, who is The Penny Hoarder’s visuals director, was more than pleased with the lawn work. The person he hired was just starting his lawn business and had a few good reviews on Nextdoor, the hyperlocal social networking site that connects users with goods and services. So Lyons thought the $200 a month price was more than fair for better service.
For the first couple of weeks, the service was better. But after that, the quality fell off and wasn’t any better than what he had before. It was easier to accept a lower level of service when he had only been paying $125 a month.
Instead of chatting with a neighbor at the end of the driveway, the way one might in a more analog era, Lyons decided to turn to Nextdoor for advice. He wanted to poll his neighbors and learn what they paid. Sure, lawn sizes differed, but most lots are similarly sized.
“What do you pay for lawn service each month? This would include shrub trimming and some weed control in beds,” he wrote on Nextdoor. The poll offered four levels: between $100 and $125, $125 and $150, $150 and $175 and more than $175.
Lyons thought he had paid more than most, but the results surprised him. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they paid the lowest tier, 23 percent paid between $125 and $150 and 8 percent paid between $150 and $175. But no one paid as much as Lyons — 0 percent paid over $175.
Armed with those results, Lyons texted his lawn person.
“My budget just can’t keep paying $200 a month, and it really is higher than my neighbors are paying,” he wrote in a text. “Can we come down on that?”
The lawn service owner agreed to lower his price to $140. The Nextdoor poll saved Lyons $60 a month.
He’s continued to use the site for advice on other home repairs. He recently learned through Nextdoor that a number of his neighbors were able to get insurance coverage to replace their roofs after a windstorm in his neighborhood that was strong enough to pull up shingles.
He decided to go through the process himself and see if his insurance would cover his roof. At the same time, he found a roofing contractor that had good reviews online sprinkled in with some bad reviews. He chalked up the bad ones to being in construction — there will always be someone unhappy with the work. But in the two to three months it took for the insurance claim to get approved, Lyons learned that the business had garnered about 50 complaints on the Better Business Bureau.
It turns out that the company had recently expanded into his neighborhood and were searching for work door-to-door. They hired subcontractors to do the roofing work, and more than one of his neighbors had a new roof that was already leaking. Worse yet, the company wouldn’t come to fix it.
Lyons learned all of this online. It meant that he was able to get his roof covered in the first place and then find a better company to do the replacement.
He advises people to use Nextdoor for other services, not just those around the house. He sees posts recommending doctors and car repair shops. He even sees advice for fixing things yourself and saving the consumer a couple hundred dollars.
And now Lyons is a true believer in the power of Nextdoor because of his personal experiences.
“It told me, ‘Hey this is effective. I can actually do this,’ ” Lyons said. “It’s giving me some power as a consumer to do my own research and not even rely on something like Angie’s List. I can actually just go and get data from my neighbors on what they’re paying.”
Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor at The Penny Hoarder.
The sting of winter’s cold is finally giving way to the warmer, sunnier days of spring. As the seasons change, so too does our wardrobe. Goodbye parka, hello light sweater. It’s a welcome change for many of us to store our winter clothes and not give them a second thought for many months.
But knowing how to store winter clothes is key to making garments last beyond one season. Down parkas can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000. No matter what you spend, you don’t want to flush that money away. Taking care to store winter clothes with an eye for longevity can help turn your one-season parka purchase into a multi-decade investment, saving you hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars over the years.
5 Ways to Get More Life Out Cold Weather Clothes
You may be tempted to stuff that down parka in a box and store it in the attic. After all, you want that closet space for summer clothes. But don’t. Down needs to breathe. Follow the tips below but let the coat hang loose in the closet. When you’re ready to wear it again, and doesn’t that come too soon, toss it in the dryer on low for about 10 minutes.
Wool coats, however, can be stored in bug-proof garment bags and stored in the attic or basement. Read on for more tips.
1. Repair Before You Pack
Winter is a harsh season. For many of us, it entails snow, wind, mud and sidewalk salt. All of these can impact the integrity of your favorite winter clothes.
Storing winter clothes is a process that should be done with some thought and should not be a haphazard process of tossing things into plastic bags, shoving them under the bed, and calling it good.
Instead, make your first stop in storing winter clothes the repair shop. And thanks to nationally available programs, fixing a rip or tear doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.
Patagonia offers a free repair for all of its branded clothing, for example. All you need to do is submit a repair assessment form and Patagonia will pay for the shipping and repair of your item.
REI also makes it easy to extend the life of your winter gear before storing it into a closet. Whether you have a backpack, jacket, shirt, or winter shoes that could use some love, REI has you covered and will provide you with a free estimate for any repairs.
Depending on how big the tear is, a tailor might charge $30 to $50. If you have a good relationship with a cleaners, their tailor might make the fix for less. On a less expensive coat, the repair might not be worth it but if you’ve paid $200 or more and only worn the coat for one season, consider the repair.
2. Prepare for the Next Snowstorm … a Year in Advance
One unique trait of winter clothing is that much of it is waterproof or water-resistant. This comes in handy during snowstorms, sleet and slush that are trademarks of the year’s most frigid months.
Nothing lasts forever, including the waterproof coating that protects much of the winter gear you’re getting ready to put into a storage bin.
Instead of chucking those winter boots into a closet and hoping for the best, be proactive by restoring waterproof abilities prior to tossing in a storage container.
There are tons of waterproofing products on the market to protect your winter gear. Many exist in the form of sprays or paint-on coatings that dry quickly and do not impact the look or feel of the clothing. Most cost under $20 and will help your winter clothes last for numerous snowstorms to come.
Whether you’re hoping to make your winter wardrobe more resistant to the elements or protect a particularly cozy sweater from the cold, making the investment in waterproofing before storing winter clothes will help you save time and money next year and beyond.
3. Bring the Heat to the Cold
Even the most durable of winter gear can rip, snag or tear. While programs like those of Patagonia and REI will assist in repairing everything from damaged clothing to worn winter boots, sometimes it can be easier and more efficient to fix a small hole yourself.
Sewing is not something everyone is fluent in, and let’s face it — it is a time-consuming and often frustrating activity. Fortunately, with the right resources, you can easily repair your winter items before storing them with iron-on patches. (Here’s a side gig opportunity for you sewers out there. Offer to make these repairs for friends or the winter sports community for cash, of course.)
Iron-on patches are extremely cheap — often less than $5 —and only require a hot iron in order to be effective.
There are a variety of iron-on patches to choose from, with some made specific for nylon gear, some for jeans, and others for standard cotton clothing.
Most department stores stock iron-on patches, making it as simple as heading to your local Walmart or Joann Fabrics to quickly and economically get your winter clothes ready for long-term storage.
4. Ward Off the Vermin
Being proactive is rarely a bad thing. In this case, taking steps to prevent winter clothes-loving critters like moths and mice will pay dividends in keeping your winter gear creature-free.
To ward off moths and other bugs, spend less than $25 on a bag of cedar chips. Place the chips in the storage bin, plastic bag, or closet where you are storing winter clothes and let the refreshing cedar scent not only soothe your nose, but naturally ward off undesirable insects. Cedar will not damage clothes or alter them, either, making it a cheap way to keep winter clothes fresh.
Although bugs are typically the main culprit in clothing destruction, mice are not uncommon predators to winter clothing in long term storage or hastily-packed storage bins.
Outside of mouse traps, ultrasonic mice repellent sensors are a natural and slightly less grisly way to defend against these four-legged foe.
For just about $20, you can purchase these ultrasonic sensors to put in your closet, small space, or attic and know that your winter gear will be safe for another season.
5. Keep it Clean
It may seem obvious, but giving winter gear a once-over with detergent or other cleaning supplies will help winter coats, winter shoes, and other cold-weather items to maintain their textile integrity and bonus — it will help keep clothes smelling fresh for the next time you pull them out and over your head.
To wash a down jacket, aim to use a front-loading washer (top-loading washer drums can sometimes agitate or distort down items). Place the down jacket in the washer with like items (ahem, your other winter clothes), set the wash and rinse setting to cold water, and use a down-specific detergent.
For synthetic and water-resistant products like Gore-Tex, a damp towel with some gentle soap should be enough to wipe away a winter’s worth of grime. The same goes for many winterized shoes and winter boots.
Ensuring that down-filled products — and all winter gear — are entirely dry before storing them in a closet for months is critical. Down products can go in a low-heat dryer. For other products such as shoes and boots, using a low-heat setting on a hairdryer or good ole’ air drying should suffice.
Winter clothing is rarely cheap and is often a budget-altering expense. From boots costing over $200 to specialized pants and accessories starting in the $50-range, it is to your benefit to know how to store winter clothes. When done correctly, you’ll have gear that lasts for years —if not decades — and will save you enough money to perhaps take that ski trip you’ve always dreamed about.
Colorado-based writer Kristin Jenny focuses on lifestyle and wellness. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
A student picks up food in Fayette, Miss. With the school year ending soon, there are federal programs to help keep kids fed through the summer. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo
Millions of families struggle with food insecurity every summer when school is out. Income loss due to the pandemic has only exasperated the situation.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) up to 12 million children are currently living in households where they may not have enough to eat.
If you’re worried about how to put food on your family’s table, help is out there.
How to Get Free Meals for Kids This Summer: 3 Federal Programs
The American Rescue Plan — the coronavirus relief package President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021 — provided funding to expand several USDA programs aimed to reduce child hunger.
1. Pandemic EBT
Families with children eligible for free or reduced lunch and those who qualify for SNAP benefits can receive extra money for food via the Pandemic EBT program, which is being extended through the summer to make up for missed school meals.
The USDA standard benefit amount is $375 per eligible child over the course of the summer. Those living in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands have a higher standard benefit.
You’ll need to enroll in the Pandemic EBT program through your individual state, as funds are disbursed at the state level. Currently, 40 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been approved to operate Pandemic EBT programs.
Money is generally distributed in two or three disbursements throughout the summer.
2. USDA Summer Meals
All families with children 18 and under can participate in the USDA’s summer meal programs, which partners with local agencies including libraries, community centers, parks, churches and schools to distribute meals.
Program rules have been loosened so that meals can be distributed in bulk packages to cover multiple days and so parents can pick up the food without having their children present.
This interactive map helps you find local meal distribution sites. You can also locate a nearby site by texting “Summer Meals” to 97779 or calling 1-866-348-6479.
3. USDA National Hunger Hotline
The USDA National Hunger Hotline can help families seeking food assistance. Call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. E.T. to reach the hotline. If you need assistance in Spanish, call 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273).
Free Meals Next School Year
Even after summer comes to an end, families will still be able to get a financial break when it comes to feeding their kids.The USDA is extending its National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option so that students can receive universal free lunch throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Waivers will also be given to provide free meals for kids in daycare and preschool programs.
If students are still learning virtually, you’ll be able to pick up meals for children to eat at home. Check with your child’s school or child care provider to see if they are participating in this program.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
You’ve spent decades in the workforce earning a living, your schedule dictated by the demands of the job. All the while, you’ve been steadily adding to your savings so that one day you could get to this point. Retirement.
Now, there’s no alarm to wake you up in the mornings and no boss to answer to. You can finally get around to crossing items off your bucket list — or simply have the opportunity to catch a midweek matinee movie.
The world is your oyster.
Life may feel more relaxed and carefree, but that doesn’t mean you no longer have financial responsibilities. In fact, now’s the time you might need to be even more diligent about budgeting your money.
Living on What You Have Saved
When you say goodbye to your 9-to-5, you also say goodbye to your regular paycheck. You’ll rely on Social Security benefits, the money in your retirement accounts and any additional income, like a pension, to cover your expenses.
Sticking to a budget is vital so your retirement savings last. That money you’ve squirreled away in your working years has to stretch for decades. Remember, life on a fixed income means there are no bonuses, overtime or promotions to increase your cash flow.
How Much Should You Have Saved?
If you’re already retired or nearing retirement age, hopefully you’ve done the math to determine whether you’ll have enough money to keep you afloat.
One popular rule of thumb is to have 25 times your average annual expenses saved up. But how much money you need in retirement depends on many factors, like your age, where you live and the type of retirement you want to enjoy.
If you want to retire at 60, rent a highrise in New York City and travel every couple of months, you’ll need considerably more money than a retiree who leaves the workforce at 70, lives in a paid-off home in rural North Dakota and just stays home and knits.
There are also a lot of unknowns in retirement — like what medical conditions you could develop and exactly how many years you’ll need your money to stretch.
That’s why it’s important to have robust retirement savings and be cognizant of your spending in your golden years.
How to Make the Most of Your Nest Egg
To make your savings last, you’ve got to be prudent about how much you withdraw each year.
“The gold standard has always been 4%, but new research has revealed a different number,” said Chuck Czajka, a certified estate planner and owner of Macro Money Concepts in Stuart, Florida.
He said withdrawing 3% a year instead gives you a 90% success rate to last through a 25-year retirement.
Keep in mind, once you’ve determined how much you can withdraw per year, you’ll want to divide that amount by 12 to come up with how much to withdraw each month. Czajka recommends withdrawing money from your retirement accounts on a monthly basis rather than taking out all you’d need for a whole year.
Meeting with a financial adviser can help you come up with a personalized plan to fit your individual situation.
“As people approach retirement, they should work with a retirement professional to determine their expected retirement income,” said Lisa Bamburg, a registered investment adviser and owner of Insurance Advantage in Jacksonville, Arkansas.
Factoring in Income Beyond Your Savings
In addition to the money you’ve saved in your 401(k), individual retirement account (IRA) or other investment accounts, a portion of your retirement income will come from Social Security benefits.
You can start collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but you’ll receive less money per month than if you waited until full retirement age — 66 or 67, depending on when you were born.
If you delay claiming Social Security benefits past your full retirement age, you’ll receive even more each month. However, there’s no additional increase once you’ve reached age 70.
This calculator from the Social Security Administration gives you a rough idea of your retirement benefits. This retirement estimator is more accurate but requires plugging in your personal info.
In addition to Social Security, you might have other sources of retirement income, like money from a pension plan or an annuity.
A report from the National Institute on Retirement Security found that many retirees don’t have a great diversity in their retirement income, though more income sources provide for a more secure retirement.
The report found less than 7% of older Americans have retirement income that’s made up of a combination of Social Security, a pension plan and a retirement contribution plan like a 401(k). About 40% rely on Social Security alone.
“Social Security benefits typically are not the equivalent of what it takes for most people to maintain their standard of living,” Bamburg said.
The Social Security Administration states its retirement benefits only replace about 40% of earnings for people with average wages — more for low-income workers and less for those in higher income brackets.
How to Create a Retirement Budget
Once you determine what your retirement income will be, it’s time to make your retirement budget.
If you’ve already been budgeting, you’re off to a great start, though your new budget will likely differ from that of your working days.
Take Stock of Your Essential Expenses
First you’ve got to get an overall look at your current spending. If you don’t already have a budget or track your spending, pull out the past several months of bank or credit card statements. Dig up old receipts if you tend to pay in cash.
Reviewing the past three months will help you find what you spend on average, but an even deeper dive — looking at the last six to 12 months — will give you a more accurate picture and will reveal things like your annual car insurance bill and holiday spending.
Group your spending into categories to get a good picture of where your money’s going. You’ll have fixed expenses, like your mortgage, where the cost stays the same each month. Other expenses, like groceries or utilities, will vary. For those, you should calculate your average monthly spend.
Account for Changes
After leaving the workforce, you’ll probably notice some differences in your spending. You’ll no longer have to pay for downtown parking near the office, dry cleaning your suits or pricey lunches with coworkers. Your monthly retirement contributions will be a thing of the past.
However, not everything will be budget cuts. You’ll have to account for new retirement expenses, like health care premiums your employer previously covered. If you’re 65, you can get health insurance through Medicare, but it’s likely you’ll have increased out-of-pocket medical costs as you age.
And of course, now that you have an influx in free time, you can pursue the things you’ve always wanted to do — which means more new expenses.
Make Room for Fun in Your Retirement Budget
A big part of retirement planning is determining what type of lifestyle you want to have when you’re no longer at work 40 hours a week.
Do you want to travel? Spend more time with your grandkids? Explore a new hobby? After you’ve covered your essential expenses, how you spend what’s left in your budget is totally up to you.
Don’t forget to include run-of-the-mill discretionary expenses, like cable, magazine subscriptions and dining out. It won’t all be cruise ships and Broadway plays.
If you’re married, be sure to share your vision for retirement with your partner, so you’re both on the same page about how you’ll spend your time and money.
Adjusting Expectations to Reality
As you create your monthly budget, you may discover you don’t have nearly as much money as you thought you’d have in retirement. That doesn’t mean you have to live out the rest of your life kicking yourself for not saving more. You have a few options to get by.
Take another look at your living expenses. Are there any ways you can cut costs? Slash your food spending with these tips to save money on groceries. Consider downsizing to a smaller home.
When it comes to your discretionary spending, look for ways to enjoy a more frugal retirement. Take advantage of senior discounts. Check out free activities at your local community center. Find ways to save money on traveling.
Although retirement means leaving your working days behind, you may find it necessary to pick up a side gig or part-time job to supplement your income. Seek out opportunities that match your interests so it doesn’t feel like work.
Don’t forget to enjoy this new stage of life. You worked hard — you deserve it.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
You’ve probably tossed more than a few avocados into the trash after missing that (very slim) window between being perfectly ripe and turning brown, mushy and gross. And avocados are expensive, so that’s good money you’re throwing away.
Here’s a little secret, though: As long as there’s vibrant green meat somewhere inside (just scrape away the brown spots), that brown avocado can still be seriously yummy.
Never again will I toss an avocado just because it’s past prime guacamole-making texture. In my never-ending quest to save money on groceries and reduce food waste, I’ve discovered a few overripe avocado recipes, and lemme tell ya’, they’re delicious.
What to Do With Overripe Avocados: 11 Recipes to Try
Sauces, dressings, desserts and even drinks, we’ve got your overripe avocado needs covered.
Sauces and Dressings
The easiest way to fancy up any meal (and use up those avocados) is by making a simple sauce or dressing. Five minutes, a food processor and voila!
1. Magic Green Sauce
This sauce from Lindsay over at Pinch of Yum is made with all green foods — right down to the pistachios. It’s a delicious velvety sauce you can use as a veggie dip, salad dressing or marinade (think creamy chimichurri), or spread it on a sandwich for an extra-fresh kick. Magic, I tell you.
2. Creamy Avocado Vinaigrette
I knew about yogurt-based avocado dressings, but they’re always a little overwhelming with nothing to cut the rich, yogurty, buttery taste. This recipe from Chef Emeril himself is my new thing. It’s light and refreshing, and it has worked on every salad I’ve put it on so far.
Appetizers and Snacks
Arguably the best types of foods.
3. Avocado Nut Bread
In the same way you would turn your brown bananas into delicious banana bread, try making this avocado nut bread from Food with your overripe avocados. I love any version of veggie bread, but the added bonus here is that the bread turns out green. (I think maybe I never outgrew the whole funny-colored foods fascination — purple ketchup, where you at?)
4. Corn and Avocado Fritters
If you’re one of those people wrapped up in a sordid love affair with avocado, try dipping these corn and avocado fritters from Give Recipe into the magic green sauce for a seriously avocado-y snack. Snacks on snacks on snacks.
Lunch and Dinner
Even in a main dish, the diva avocado manages to take center stage.
5. Avocado Egg Salad
For this one from All Recipes, you want to let the avocado go an extra day or two past peak ripeness anyway because it will be softer and creamier. So it’s perfect for those of us who aren’t able to time an avocado intentionally.
6. Avocado Pasta
Pasta is such a heavy meal — so it’s strictly a comfort food in my eyes. But this stuff? This glorious, light, refreshing dish from Damn Delicious puts pasta back in my regular dinner rotation.
7. Blackened Chicken With Avocado Cream Sauce
This one from Popculture is a winner winner chicken dinner (um, yeah, I did have to say that). Again, that avocado cream sauce is the perfect place for a mushy avocado because it all gets smoothed out in the food processor anyway.
I know, I know… healthy foods and desserts shouldn’t mix. But just hear me out: I promise only good things lie ahead with these dessert avocado recipes.
8. Chocolate Caramel Avocado Brownies
Do I even need to say anything about this recipe from Mike over at The Iron You?
Chocolate? Yes please. Caramel? Keep it coming. A healthier spin on my favorite food group? Done and done. (Wait — brownies are a food group, right?)
9. Chocolate Avocado Pudding
Since chocolate by the spoonful is never not a good idea, I commend to your attention to this offering from All Recipes. It has just six ingredients — five if you hold the cinnamon — and is ready in 30 minutes.
What’s next, an avocado cocktail?! Um, yes, actually.
10. Avocado Margarita
The thing is, I’ve never met a margarita I didn’t get along with — for the evening, anyway. But I think this light and creamy margarita from Bon Appetit is about to set the bar (pun intended) pretty high.
Smoothies might just be the easiest way to disguise the texture of a mushy brown avocado. And while there’s no wrong way to make a smoothie, this recipe from Real Simple has the added bonus of using up your not-so-perfect apples, too. But really, avocados go well with just about any smoothie ingredients given their buttery, almost nutty flavor.
Bonus Round: Avocado Face Mask
If you still can’t handle the thought of eating an avocado that’s past its prime, you could try a do-it-yourself avocado face mask. Over at Natural Beauty Tips, you’ll find a few different versions that all call for basic pantry ingredients, so you won’t have to make an extra trip to the store.
Consider this the beginning of the rest of your avocado-filled life — no more throwing your grocery budget in the trash.
Grace Schweizer is the email content writer at The Penny Hoarder.
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