A Penny Date Is a Cheap Way to Spend Time With Your Valentine

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, which means it’s almost time to blow an entire paycheck on a dozen long-stem roses, a six-foot-tall teddy bear and a rare, perfectly aged bottle of Champagne. 

And don’t forget to make a reservation for that fancy restaurant that has limited seating due to the pandemic and is only serving an overpriced “tasting menu” on that particular night!

Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to spring for a couple’s massage, too, right?

Wait, did someone mention a box of chocolates?

Well, the good news is you can forgo the romantic candles — at this point, your empty wallet is useless and you can just set fire to it and let the soft, warm glow of broke-ness wash over you and your date. 

Romance, amiright?

But it doesn’t have to be like that. 

A Valentine’s Day Date Idea That Only Costs a Penny

In fact, if you’re in it for the long haul, finances can be a pretty touchy subject, and the last thing you need is to add another pricy line-item to your couple’s budget this month. 

Luckily, there’s a way to take your sweetheart on a fun and interesting date — the likes of which they’ve probably never been on before — that won’t cost you more than, say, a penny. 

(Which just so happens to be our favorite coin!)

The Penny Date Rules

Here’s how it works:

  1. Find a penny. If you don’t have a penny handy, it’s just a matter of yanking the cushions off the couch, checking the cupholder of your car or sneaking one out of your kid’s piggy bank while they’re at school.
  2. Roll a 30-sided die. Alternatively, have your date pick a number (without telling them what it’s for) or use an online random number generator. This number is the number of turns you’ll take throughout your date.
  3. Hop in the car or, if you’re walking, pick a corner to start on.
  4. To start the adventure, have your date flip the penny. If it lands heads up, turn right. If it lands tails up, turn left.
  5. Start walking or driving in whichever direction the penny instructs. Stop and flip again each time you reach a stop sign, stop light or intersection.
  6. Continue flipping the penny, turning left or right at each juncture, until you’ve reached the number you set at the beginning of the night.
  7. Once you reach that number, stop the car (or, uh, your legs).
  8. Wherever you are, that’s where your date will take place.

If you look up to find a park with a lovely, lit gazebo, good for you! 

If all you happen to see before you is a gas station, I wish you the best of luck throwing a romantic spin on that one. Yikes. 

But it’s all part of the adventure, right? 

No, really. The fun of the penny date is in the mystery, the confusion and the downright ridiculousness of your time together. It’s a way to do something different, something that you wouldn’t have done ordinarily, and to have fun doing it. 

Either way, it’s sure to be a memorable date, right?

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A Few Notes to Help You Create the Perfect Penny Date

To keep costs low, pack a picnic meal to bring with you. That way, wherever you end up, you’ll have dinner ready to go. (This is especially important if you’re going on this date on Valentine’s Day, because most places will be booked solid. You won’t be able to randomly show up at a restaurant and expect to get a table — especially in this age of social distancing.)

You don’t have to be in a metropolitan area to make this date work, but you’ll want to adjust your number of turns based on your location. Thirty turns won’t take very long on city streets, but if you’re driving long back roads, 30 turns could take forever. 

Even if there’s a stop sign or traffic light, don’t turn into a parking lot or street with no outlet. Just move along to the next intersection and flip the penny there. 

Keep your adventurous spirit open to the experience. Chances are, you’re going to end up somewhere less than romantic (or maybe even downright weird), but it’s all part of the fun of a date night left totally up to chance. 

More often than not, a penny date offers up a little nonsense, a lot of laughter and a couple of really great stories. 

Besides, like any good relationship, a penny date is about the journey — not the destination. 

Right? (No, left.)

Grace Schweizer is the email content writer at 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.

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Here’s the Best Place to Play Bingo Online for Money

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A well-designed bingo app really hits the sweet spot. It’s a great way to pass the time and have some fun.

It’s even better when you can win real money.

An app called Blackout Bingo lets you do just that. This free app lets you play a game you already know and love, plus it matches you with players in your skill level, so you can go head-to-head in tournaments where you can win real money. Plus, the games are quick — about two minutes each, and you can play them on the go.

How to Win Real Money Just for Playing Bingo on Your Phone

You might be thinking this sounds too good to be true. But here’s the thing: It’s really not.

Here’s how it works: Download the free app and create an account, then you can play some practice games to get the hang of it. If you don’t already know how to play, this is an easy way to learn. Then, when you’re ready, Blackout Bingo will pair you with one of thousands of other online players at your same skill level. Beginners play beginners; experts play other experts. You and your opponent will both get the same board, so winning is totally skills-based.

The app is free to download, but if you want to play for money, you’ll need to deposit at least $10. Then you can play head-to-head in large pools and live tournaments — some tournaments have even paid out prizes as big as $350,000. You can make deposits and get paid via PayPal, credit card or Apple Pay — cashing out is just a matter of seconds.

Blackout Bingo has a 4.5-out-of-5-star rating from more than 40,000 users in Apple’s App Store. As for Skillz, the platform that hosts the game, it operates hundreds of games and has paid out more than $2 billion in prizes so far. Take Shay, from Georgia, for example, who won $10,000 playing Skillz games. The company has invested years into its player-matching technology, ensuring you only compete with players of the same skill level.

Win or lose, you always receive “ticketz” that you can redeem in Skillz’ Ticketz store for cash or prizes, like Amazon gift cards, a 65-inch TV — even a BMW or a Porsche. Seriously. The higher stakes you play for, the more ticketz you receive.

For bingo players, here’s the most important part: The game is well designed, a classic bingo experience. To get started, just download the free app and start playing your first game immediately. What could you win in a two-minute bingo game?

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He is familiar with the lure of bingo.

Unfortunately, you can’t play for money in the following states: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota or Tennessee. However, in those states, you can still play for fun with the game’s virtual currency.

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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

22 Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Gifts for 2021

When your valentine wants a little extra love, all he or she has to do is take a strip out of the jar and read one of your messages.
If you can’t afford a bouquet of roses, see if your local flower shop is selling single roses. A single red rose often says more than a whole dozen.
Remember mixtapes? Bring that sentiment to the 21st century by making your special someone a Spotify playlist. You don’t even need Spotify Premium; just get the free version of Spotify for your desktop, build the perfect list and share it with your valentine.

22 Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas Under $5

Don’t want to give away your only copy of your favorite read? Find it in a used bookstore. You can often get used books for under , and they make excellent presents.

1. Playlist

If you read the Modern Love column in The New York Times, you might have seen the piece about The 36 Questions That Lead to Love.

2. Lloyd Dobler Serenade

Still scrambling for that perfect Valentine’s Day gift?
We’ve already got you covered with at-home date ideas — for whether you are together in-person or far apart. Here are 50 last-minute gifts that all cost less than .
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Even the most humble of grocery store bouquets can become beautiful with a little help. Take the flowers out of the plastic, trim them and put them into a vase. Or, if you don’t have a vase on hand, get a glass jar out of the recycling bin, rinse it out and put the flowers in.

3. Bulk Candy

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.
If you’re giving bulk candy, presentation matters. Put it in an attractive bag or box, tie it up with a ribbon and make your gift as special as the recipient.

4. Handmade Card

Write your valentine a love poem. It worked for Shakespeare, and it could work for you. Choose one of the classic poetry formats, such as the sonnet or the villanelle, or create your own.
Nothing says “I’m in this for the long term” like “This was my old stuffed bear, and I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.”

5. Art

Take the iconic image of Say Anything’s Lloyd Dobler holding a boombox over his head as you model and get ready to tell your valentine that “In your eyes… I am complete.”
Nicole Dieker is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

6. Poem

Keep this pattern going until the notebook is full. A shared journal is a lovely way to write about hopes, dreams and plans for the future.

An elderly couple show affection to one another as the husband serenades his wife.

7. Song

Take your poem one step further by setting it to music. How many people get a song written just for them? Perform it for your special someone on Valentine’s Day, and you’ll learn that the best gifts don’t have to cost a thing.

8. Band Performance

Take an old T-shirt and turn it into a pillow. This Instructables guide will help you get started. You’ll need to get something to stuff the pillow with, which you can generally get at a craft store or even Target or Walmart for under .

9. Request a Song

Your cost investment depends on how many art supplies you currently have around, but a hobby store often sells affordable individual sheets of art paper. Even an ink drawing on a piece of good paper can look beautiful.

10. Old Shirt Turned into a Pillow

Find an excuse for your special someone to be out of the house or apartment on Valentine’s Day morning and then scrub, wash, sweep and fold. Top it off with a few flowers in a vase or a plate of homemade cookies on the table.

11. Old Stuffed Animal

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Want a gift that your valentine will really love? Try a perfectly cleaned home.

12. Book 

All you’ll need for this one is a jar and a few pieces of paper. Tear or cut the paper into strips and write something special on each strip. Then, fold the strips in half and put them into the jar.
Sometimes the simplest gifts are the best. If your local radio station takes requests, request your special song. Text your valentine when it’s time for your song to play, or listen to it together.
Get an inexpensive notebook, write a journal entry and give it to your Valentine with the instructions to read what’s inside, write a new journal entry and give the notebook back.

A woman decorates heart shaped cookies for Valentine's Day.

13. Homemade Cookies

While everyone else is getting expensive bouquets delivered to their valentines, why not give your date a plate of delicious homemade cookies? You can also take these cookies with you for a picnicking or stargazing adventure.

14. Love Thoughts in a Jar

Get some massage oil, put some towels over freshly washed sheets and give your special someone the massage he or she has always wanted. Look for resources online, like these massage tips from Canyon Ranch resort, that will show you how to give a safe, proper massage.
Spend an evening asking your valentine those questions — and answering them yourself — and it becomes an evening you’re unlikely to forget.

15. Book of Memories

Use an actual boombox if you can get your hands on one, or pull out your iPhone and crank up the volume.

16. Coupon Book

Wondering how you’re going to get your special someone something truly special — without spending a lot of money in the process?
If your special someone owns a Kindle, a Nook or another e-reader, there are gobs of books available for under . Look for the 99-cent listings so you can give multiple books and make your gift look extra-special. You can also look for deals from Bookbub.

17. Massage Night

Giving the gift of an old stuffed animal shows your special someone that you love and trust them enough to share one of your most treasured possessions.

18. Shared Journal

Why not make this Valentine’s Day the start of a Wednesday letter tradition of your own? Give the gift of a love letter, and tell your valentine that it is the first of many to come.
These questions, which include “What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?” and “When did you last cry in front of another person?” are designed to build intimacy and bring people closer together.

19. Love Letters

Does your valentine like picking the movie you watch together? Does your valentine like not having to do the dishes? Choosing the right coupons is what makes this gift special.
Have you read the book “The Wednesday Letters”? It’s the story of a man who writes his wife a new love letter each Wednesday.

20. Clean All The Things

Anyone can go to the grocery store and get a 99-cent card with a pre-printed message. Only you can make a one-of-a-kind card with your own heartfelt statement of love.
Even if you’ve only got in your pocket, you can still make this Valentine’s Day memorable.

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21. The 36 Questions

The coupon book is another classic gift that has almost become cliché. The secret to making it work is to put together coupons that your valentine actually wants.
Have a favorite book that you think your valentine will also love? Take it off your bookshelf, write an inscription and turn it into a gift. It’s just as intimate as giving a stuffed animal, and you can talk about the book together afterwards.
A handmade card can often be one of the best and most treasured Valentine’s Day presents.

22. One Rose or Grocery Store Flowers

Maybe your special someone likes jelly beans or chocolate-covered almonds. The bulk candy aisle offers plenty of choices for putting together a gift that tastes better — and is much more personalized — than a cheap box of waxy Valentine’s candy.
Do you have painting or sketching skills? Make your special someone a piece of original art. It’s hard to go wrong with a flattering portrait or a sketch of the place where the two of you shared your first kiss.
This one works best if your Valentine is a fan of classic ’80s movies.
Buy an inexpensive sketchbook or notebook. Then, fill each page with a memory — the place you first met, the first time you held hands, the concert the two of you attended last spring. Draw, write, glue in ticket stubs — do whatever you want to make this book a true book of memories. Chances are it will be an unforgettable gift.
Got a friend who can play bass and a buddy who knows the drums? Teach them the song you just wrote, or ask if they’ll be willing to help you cover a song that has a special meaning for you and your valentine. Then give your valentine a never-to-be-forgotten concert.

7 Things to Know Before Taking a Work From Home Tax Deduction

If you’re one of the millions of workers whose home is now doubling as office space due to COVID-19, you may be wondering whether that means a sweet deduction at tax time. Hold up, though: The IRS has strict rules about taking the home office deduction — and they changed drastically under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed in late 2017.

7 Essential Rules for Claiming a Work From Home Tax Deduction

Thinking about claiming a home office deduction on your tax return? Follow these tips to avoid raising any eyebrows at the IRS.

1. You can’t claim it if you’re a regular employee, even if your company is requiring you to work from home due to COVID-19.

If you’re employed by a company and you work from home, you can’t deduct home office space from your taxes. This applies whether you’re a permanent remote worker or if your office is temporarily closed because of the pandemic. The rule of thumb is that if you’re a W-2 employee, you’re not eligible.

This wasn’t always the case, though. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspended the deduction for miscellaneous unreimbursed employee business expenses, which allowed you to claim a home office if you worked from home for the convenience of your employer, provided that you itemized your tax deductions. The law nearly doubled the standard deduction. As a result, many people who once saved money by itemizing now have a lower tax bill when they take the standard deduction.

2. If you have a regular job but you also have self-employment income, you can qualify.

If you’re self-employed — whether you own a business or you’re a freelancer, gig worker or independent contractor — you probably can take the deduction, even if you’re also a full-time employee of a company you don’t own. It doesn’t matter if you work from home at that full-time job or work from an office, as long as you meet the other criteria that we’ll discuss shortly.

You’re only allowed to deduct the gross income you earn from self-employment, though. That means if you earned $1,000 from your side hustle plus a $50,000 salary from your regular job that you do remotely, $1,000 is the most you can deduct.

3. It needs to be a separate space that you use exclusively for business.

The IRS requires that you have a space that you use “exclusively and regularly” for business purposes. If you have an extra bedroom and you use it solely as your office space, you’re allowed to deduct the space — and that space alone. So if your house is 1,000 square feet and the home office is 200 square feet, you’re allowed to deduct 20% of your home expenses.

But if that home office also doubles as a guest bedroom, it wouldn’t qualify. Same goes for if you’re using that space to do your day job. The IRS takes the word “exclusively” pretty seriously here when it says you need to use the space exclusively for your business purposes.

To avoid running afoul of the rules, be cautious about what you keep in your home office. Photos, posters and other decorations are fine. But if you move your gaming console, exercise equipment or a TV into your office, that’s probably not. Even mixing professional books with personal books could technically cross the line.

4. You don’t need a separate room.

There needs to be a clear division between your home office space and your personal space. That doesn’t mean you have to have an entire room that you use as an office to take the deduction, though. Suppose you have a desk area in that extra bedroom. You can still claim a portion of the room as long as there’s a marker between your office space and the rest of the room.

Pro Tip

An easy way to separate your home office from your personal space, courtesy of TurboTax Intuit: Mark it with duct tape.

5. The space needs to be your principal place of business.

To deduct your home office, it needs to be your principal place of business. But that doesn’t mean you have to conduct all your business activities in the space. If you’re a handyman and you get paid to fix things at other people’s houses, but you handle the bulk of your paperwork, billing and phone calls in your home office, that’s allowed.

There are some exceptions if you operate a day care center or you store inventory. If either of these scenarios apply, check out the IRS rules.

6. Mortgage and rent aren’t the only expenses you can deduct. 

If you use 20% of your home as an office, you can deduct 20% of your mortgage or rent. But that’s not all you can deduct. You’re also allowed to deduct expenses like real estate taxes, homeowner insurance and utilities, though in this example, you’d only be allowed to deduct 20% of any of these expenses.

Be careful here, though. You can only deduct expenses for the part of the home you use for business purposes. So using the example above, if you pay someone to mow your lawn or you’re painting your kitchen, you don’t get to deduct 20% of the expenses.

You’ll also need to account for depreciation if you own the home. That can get complicated. Consider consulting with a tax professional in this situation. If you sell your home for a profit, you’ll owe capital gains taxes on the depreciation. Whenever you’re claiming deductions, it’s essential to keep good records so you can provide them to the IRS if necessary.

If you don’t want to deal with extensive record-keeping or deducting depreciation, the IRS offers a simplified option: You can take a deduction of $5 per square foot, up to a maximum of 300 square feet. This method will probably result in a smaller deduction, but it’s less complicated than the regular method.

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7. Relax. You probably won’t get audited if you follow the rules.

The home office deduction has a notorious reputation as an audit trigger, but it’s mostly undeserved. Deducting your home office expenses is perfectly legal, provided that you follow the IRS guidelines. A more likely audit trigger: You deduct a huge amount of expenses relative to the income you report, regardless of whether they’re related to a home office.

It’s essential to be ready in case you are audited, though. Make sure you can provide a copy of your mortgage or lease, insurance policies, tax records, utility bills, etc., so you can prove your deductions were warranted. You’ll also want to take pictures and be prepared to provide a diagram of your setup to the IRS if necessary.

As always, consult with a tax adviser if you’re not sure whether the expense you’re deducting is allowable. It’s best to shell out a little extra money now to avoid the headache of an audit later.

The Penny Hoarder Shop is always stocked with great deals, including technology, subscriptions, courses, kitchenware and more. Check it out today!

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Get Car Insurance Starting At $22/Month With Smart Financial

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If you haven’t checked car insurance rates in a few months, you could be overspending and not even know it.

And while it’s probably not something on the top of your to-do list, you should set a reminder to get a few quotes every six months. And if you do it through a website called SmartFinancial, you could be getting insider-level rates as low as $22 a month.

SmartFinancial is a digital marketplace for insurance. It has unique relationships with many of the top auto insurance providers, making it super easy for you to enter your information once and see all your quotes in front of you — making sure you get the best rate possible, without all the work.

See If You Can Save Up To $715 A Year On Car Insurance

When you fill out a one-minute form on Smart Financial’s website, you’ll be able to get quotes from multiple insurers, so you know you’ll get the best rate. If you want, you can speak to an agent to secure a low rate and finish the process in 10 minutes.

And don’t worry, your info is totally safe. Smart Financial has bank-level security and guarantees you won’t be spammed when you trust them with your phone number and email.

Rates start as low as $22 a month and can save you up to $715 a year — that’s some major cash back in your pocket. And if you bundle it with home insurance, you can save even more.

So if you haven’t checked car insurance rates in a while, you are doing yourself a disservice. Get started here to see how much money you can save today with a new policy.

Kari Faber is a staff writer at 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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Here Are 6 Easy, Healthy and Cheap Breakfast Ideas

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the Most Important Meal. But when it’s 7 a.m., you’ve got hungry kids who need to be fed and out the door and your brain simply can’t deal with constructing another meal — you might easily resort to the usual: cereal & milk or frozen waffles. And by “you,” I mean, “I.”

So I turned to nutritionists who offered healthy, cheap breakfast ideas for everyone who is too frazzled to create their own (me!).

Cheap Breakfast Ideas and Advice, from Nutritionists

Here’s what the experts told us.

Why is breakfast important? 

“You’re literally breaking a fast and restoring your body with all the nutrients and energy it needs to take on the day,” says Rachel Naar, a registered dietician in New York.

What should you always include in your morning meal?

Aim to get whole foods and whole grains, Naar says. Plus, you should get a carbohydrate and a protein: You are the most insulin-resistant in the morning, so protein helps with blood sugar stabilization/ glycemic control, she says.

What ingredients should you always have at home for a budget-friendly breakfast?

Old fashioned rolled oats, eggs, milk, plain yogurt, frozen fruit, frozen spinach, nut butter and toast, says Rebecca Clyde, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Salt Lake City.

“I love these ingredients because I can make yogurt bowls, overnight oats, smoothies and eggs, all of which are quick and portable.”

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Six Simple Breakfast Recipes

Some of these can be made ahead.

Overnight oats

By Rebecca Clyde

½ cup of dry Old Fashioned Oats oats

½ cup milk (any type)

½ cup of Greek yogurt

Optional: ½ sliced banana, 1 tsp peanut butter powder and chia seeds, ½ cup frozen berries

Directions: The night before (or a few days before), put the fruit and oats into a mason jar. Pour the milk over it. Seal. Put it into the refrigerator. Make this up to four days before eating. Eat cold, or warm it up in the microwave.

Whole grain toast with nut butter, topped with fruit or honey and cinnamon

By Rachel Naar

Whole grain toast

Nut butter

Any fruit

Honey or cinnamon

Directions Self-explanatory

Smoothie

By Monica Ruiz-Noriega, of Vigeo Nutrition

1 cup of frozen berries

Handful of fresh or frozen spinach

¼ of a banana

½ avocado

Scoop of protein powder

1 cup plain yogurt or liquid of choice

Directions Blend everything together. Make the night before if desired.

Oatmeal muffins

By Melissa Schuster, registered dietitian nutritionist based in New York

3 ripe bananas

2 cups oats

1 egg

¼ cup milk of choice

½ tbsp baking powder

½ tbsp cinnamon

1 cup blueberries

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Directions Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Line muffin tins with liners or oil spray. Bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy with melted peanut butter or tahini, or top with Greek yogurt.

Egg vegetable quiche cups

By Melissa Schuster

1 bag of frozen pepper

1 bag of frozen spinach

12 eggs

Directions Defrost the spinach and peppers. Whisk the eggs, and mix them with the vegetables. Ladle everything into muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through. These can be cooked ahead of time.

Yogurt with mix-ins

By Len Lopez, nutritionist and chiropractic sports physician

12 oz whole plain yogurt

Optional: hemp seeds, pecans, dark chocolate chips, cinnamon, raw honey and milk.

Directions Mix yogurt with your choice of toppings. Prepare ahead if desired.

Danielle Braff 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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Copy Warren Buffet’s Biggest Investment of 2020

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Warren Buffett is notoriously a good investor. Sure, he’s made some mistakes along the way (who hasn’t?), but whatever move he makes, you can bet he’s thought it through, and it will pay off — big time.

Which is why when Mr. Buffett made his biggest stock purchase of the year into Apple, we thought, “Isn’t it too late to do that?” Apple is already trading at the highest price it ever has. It feels out of reach for us non-billionaires.

But it turns out, that’s not the case. While we don’t have the ability to own $111 billion (yes, billion with a B) in AAPL shares, we can still get our hands on some — and reap the rewards as the market goes up.

One of our favorite ways to get into the stock market and be a part of infamous big-tech returns, without risking billions is through a free app called Stash.

It lets you be a part of something that’s normally exclusive to the richest of the rich — on Stash you can buy pieces of other companies — including Buffett’s choices — for as little as $1.

That’s right — you can invest in pieces of well-known companies, such as Amazon, Google, Apple and more for as little as $1. The best part? If these companies profit, so can you. Some companies even send you a check every quarter for your share of the profits, called dividends.1

It takes two minutes to sign up, and it’s totally secure. With Stash, all your investments are protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) — that’s industry talk for, “Your money’s safe.”2

Plus, when you use the link above, Stash will give you a $5 sign-up bonus once you deposit $5 into your account.*

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

1Not all stocks pay out dividends, and there is no guarantee that dividends will be paid each year.

2To note, SIPC coverage does not insure against the potential loss of market value.

For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.

*Offer is subject to Promotion Terms and Conditions. To be eligible to participate in this Promotion and receive the bonus, you must successfully open an individual brokerage account in good standing, link a funding account to your Invest account AND deposit $5.00 into your Invest account.

The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of Stash. 

Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk. 

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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Dear Penny: How Do I Save for Retirement on a Teacher’s Salary?

Dear Penny,

I’m 51 years old and don’t have a large nest egg. I’m a single parent with three kids. I’m a second career middle school teacher, so there is not a lot of money left over each month. 

How much money should I be saving to be able to retire in my 70s? Where should I invest that money?

-B.

Dear B.,

You still have 20 years to build your nest egg if all goes as planned. Sure, you’ve missed out on the extra years of compounding you’d have gotten had you accumulated substantial savings in your 20s and 30s. But that’s not uncommon. I’ve gotten plenty of letters from people in their 50s or 60s with nothing saved who are asking how they can retire next year.

I like that you’re already planning to work longer to make up for a late start. But here’s my nagging concern: What if you can’t work into your 70s?

The unfortunate reality is that a lot of workers are forced to retire early for a host of reasons. They lose their jobs, or they have to stop for health reasons or to care for a family member. So it’s essential to have a Plan B should you need to leave the workforce earlier than you’d hoped.

Retirement planning naturally comes with a ton of uncertainty. But since I don’t know what you earn, whether you have debt or how much you have saved, I’m going to have to respond to your question about how much to save with the vague and unsatisfying answer of: “As much as you can.”

Perhaps I can be more helpful if we work backward here. Instead of talking about how much you need to save, let’s talk about how much you need to retire. You can set savings goals from there.

The standard advice is that you need to replace about 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income. Of course, if you can retire without a mortgage or any other debt, you could err on the lower side — perhaps even less.

For the average worker, Social Security benefits will replace about 40% of income. If you’re able to work for another two decades and get your maximum benefit at age 70, you can probably count on your benefit replacing substantially more. Your benefit will be up to 76% higher if you can delay until you’re 70 instead of claiming as early as possible at 62. That can make an enormous difference when you’re lacking in savings.

But since a Plan B is essential here, let’s only assume that your Social Security benefits will provide 40%. So you need at least enough savings to cover 30%.

If you have a retirement plan through your job with an employer match, getting that full contribution is your No. 1 goal. Once you’ve done that, try to max out your Roth IRA contribution. Since you’re over 50, you can contribute $7,000 in 2021, but for people younger than 50, the limit is $6,000.

If you maxed out your contributions under the current limits by investing $583 a month and earn 7% returns, you’d have $185,000 after 15 years. Do that for 20 years and you’d have a little more than $300,000. The benefit to saving in a Roth IRA is that the money will be tax-free when you retire.

The traditional rule of thumb is that you want to limit your retirement withdrawals to 4% each year to avoid outliving your savings. But that rule assumes you’ll be retired for 30 years. Of course, the longer you work and avoid tapping into your savings, the more you can withdraw later on.

Choosing what to invest in doesn’t need to be complicated. If you open an IRA through a major brokerage, they can use algorithms to automatically invest your money based on your age and when you want to retire.

By now you’re probably asking: How am I supposed to do all that as a single mom with a teacher’s salary? It pains me to say this, but yours may be a situation where even the most extreme budgeting isn’t enough to make your paycheck stretch as far as it needs to go. You may need to look at ways to earn additional income. Could you use the summertime or at least one weekend day each week to make extra money? Some teachers earn extra money by doing online tutoring or teaching English as a second language virtually, for example.

I hate even suggesting that. Anyone who teaches middle school truly deserves their time off. But unfortunately, I can’t change the fact that we underpay teachers. I want a solution for you that doesn’t involve working forever. That may mean you have to work more now.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions 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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

9 Surprising Windex Uses (Aside From Cleaning Glass)

Vinegar isn’t the only super performer in your kitchen.

Windex — that simple $3 spray you keep under your sink — can be used to clean the interior of your car, to detail jewelry and even to unstick zippers.

Your store shelves probably carry several varieties of Windex, so if you’re cleaning fabric, stick with the clear version, and if you’re using it for a car, use the Windex Ammonia-free Glass Cleaner.

Aside from those suggestions, any of the Windex variations will do the job.

Here are 9 surprisingly effective uses for that familiar blue (or sometimes clear) bottle.

1. Moving Large Pieces of Furniture

Los Angeles-based interior designer John Linden uses Windex to slide large items that are stuck or too heavy to move.

“All we need to do is to spritz some in front of the objects we want to move before pushing the item,” Linden says. He’s then able to easily move that piece of furniture to its place.

As long as you use the ammonia-free version of Windex, you can use it on any type of flooring, including hardwood.

2. Cleaning Carpets and Upholstered Furniture

You thought Windex only worked on glass? Linden says he’ll often spray Windex onto small stains, leaving it for 20 minutes to soak. Then he wipes right off the furniture.

Make sure to use the clear formula for this, as the blue formula may leave its own stains.

3. Insect Repellant

The smell of ammonia is strongly disliked by many insects, says Andrew Barker, founder of Homeowner Costs. As a result, Barker suggests spraying Windex by open windows and doors to keep bugs at bay.

4. Clean Your Car

Windex is also a great cleanser for cars, says Deidre Fisher, owner of Simply Bliss Cleaning in Salt Lake City, Utah. Use it on window and mirror smudges, on dashboards, the steering wheel and any plastic and leather surface.

It’s also great for cleaning the screens and dials. “I just recommend spraying the cloth first and not the electronics directly,” Fisher says.

5. Washing Makeup Brushes

Makeup artist and lifestyle blogger Kerrin Jackson has been using Windex to clean her brushes and airbrush parts for more than a decade.

“They make light work of breaking down the alcohol-based makeups and heavy-duty body makeup products that can sometimes be stubborn and difficult to clean from the inner workings of the airbrush parts,” Jackson says.

6. De-greasing Your Kitchen

Use Windex on your exhaust fans and range hoods in your kitchen, suggests Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, a cleaning company in Chicago.

Rodriguez-Zaba suggests spraying Windex on the surfaces and letting it stand for 5-10 minutes, then wiping it clean and rinsing with water to remove any remaining chemical residue.

7. Cleaning Your TV Screen

Got a dusty TV? Dust is usually very prevalent on televisions because everyone is scared to clean them. But spray some Windex on a soft cloth and you’re good to go, says Abe Navas, general manager of Emily’s Maids, a house cleaning service in Dallas.

8. Removing Stains From Clothing

It works well for red wine, tomato sauce, ketchup and more, says Jen Stark, founder of Happy DIY Home, a gardening and home improvement blog.

“You can lightly spray the stain with Windex and let it sit for 15 minutes, as long as the clothing item isn’t a delicate silk,” Stark said. “Get a clean cloth and blot at the stain before rinsing it in cold water.”

Follow this by washing the clothing as recommended. Make sure you use clear Windex for this task.

9. Cleaning Patio Furniture and Outdoor Surfaces

Benjamin Nguyen, owner of Full Color Cleaners, says he uses Windex to clean his patio furniture, making it look as good as new. It will clean everything from the furniture to outdoor surfaces, including brick.

For this task, go the extra mile and snag the Windex Outdoor Concentrated Cleaner, which is a 32 oz. spray bottle that attaches onto a hose ($27.66). Spray onto your aluminum siding, your brick, your windows — and with this tool, you won’t even need a ladder to do it.

Danielle Braff 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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Things Break. How to Make Sure Your Emergency Fund Can Cover Them

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Your washing machine. Your car. Your front tooth.

If any of those broke right now, would you be able to get it fixed immediately? Or would you have to walk around with a gap in your smile for months until you could get the money together?

If you can’t afford to pay to fix it today, you’re not alone. Most people don’t have $400 saved in case of an emergency either. So before your car breaks down on the side of the road on your way to an interview, make sure you have a solid emergency fund of at least $500.

Don’t know how to get there? Having a budget (that you actually stick to) can help you get there. Here’s one budgeting strategy we recommend, and four other tips that can help you keep your expenses in line.

1. The 50/30/20 Budgeting Rule

The 50/30/20 rule is one of the simplest budgeting methods out there, which is why you’ve probably heard us talk about it before if you’re a regular TPH reader. There are no fancy spreadsheets or pricy apps to download (unless you want to), and it’s very straightforward.

Here’s how it shakes out: 50% of your monthly take home income goes to your essentials — your rent, your groceries, your minimum debt payments, and other necessities. 30% of your cash goes to the fun stuff, and 20% is dedicated to your financial goals. That could be paying more than the minimum on your debts or adding to your investments. And it definitely includes building up your emergency fund!

If you take a look at your budget and realized you don’t have enough leftover to contribute to your emergency fund, here are a few ways to help balance your budget:

2. Cut More Than $500 From One Of Your Must-Have Bills

You’re probably overpaying the bills you have to pay each month. But you can cut those expenses down, without sacrificing anything. Maybe even enough to cover that window your kid just smashed with a ball. Definitely enough to grow your emergency fund a meaningful amount.

So, when’s the last time you checked car insurance prices?

You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. Let’s be real, though. It’s probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesn’t have to be.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $540 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

3. Earn Up to $225 in Easy, Extra Cash

If we told you you could get free money just for watching videos on your computer, you’d probably laugh. It’s too good to be true, right? But we’re serious. You can really add up to a few hundred bucks to your emergency savings with some mindless entertainment.

A website called InboxDollars will pay you to watch short video clips online. One minute you might watch someone bake brownies and the next you might get the latest updates on Kardashian drama.

All you have to do is choose which videos you want to watch and answer a few quick questions about them afterward. Brands pay InboxDollars to get these videos in front of viewers, and it passes a cut onto you.

InboxDollars won’t make you rich, but it’s possible to get up to $225 per month watching these videos. It’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and you’ll immediately earn a $5 bonus to get you started.

4. Ask This Website to Pay Your Credit Card Bill This Month

Just by paying the minimum amount on your credit cards, you are extending the life of your debt exponentially — not to mention the hundreds (or thousands) of dollars you’re wasting on interest payments. You could be using that money to beef up your emergency savings, instead.

The truth is, your credit card company is happy to let you pay just the minimum every month. It’s getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates — some up to nearly 30%. But a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

5. Get a Side Gig And Make More Money

Let’s face it — if your monthly income is less than what your monthly expenses are (and you’ve run out of things to cut), you need more money.

Well, we all could use more money. And by earning a little bit extra each month, we could make sure we’re never taken by surprise when an ER visit tries to drain our savings.

Luckily, earning money has never been easier with the rise of the “Gig Economy”. Here are 31 simple ways to make money online. Which one could you do to pad your emergency savings?

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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com