15 Things You Should Always Buy at Yard Sales

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15 Things You Should Always Buy at Yard Sales
Yard sales are the ultimate form of recycling. Whether your neighbor is hawking a souvenir spoon collection on her lawn or your church has gathered congregants’ donations for a fundraiser, you can dig up some hidden gems. Plus, pat yourself on the back: Giving these items new life will likely save trash from filling up a landfill. Here’s a look at things you’d be smart to snatch... [...]
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5 Reasons You Should Work for as Long as You Live

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5 Reasons You Should Work for as Long as You Live
dotshock / Shutterstock.com While countless workers dream of retirement, millions more have decided to work full time or part time after age 65: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2024, there will be more than 13 million working Americans ages 65 and older. A 2017 Gallup poll found that 74% of working Americans planned to work past retirement age. Working longer might be your best... [...]
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How Much Should You Spend on Essentials? Here’s What the Experts Say

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How Much Should You Spend on Essentials? Here’s What the Experts Say
Unless you treat budgeting like a book club and openly discuss your spending habits with your friends, you may not realize you’re overspending — or underspending — in certain categories. Budget recommendations can help you better assess how you manage your money. We turned to government sources and industry leaders for those recommendations in four major categories: housing, food, debt and retirement. These budget percentages — which you can tweak to fit your situation — can help you determine where your dollars should go. Don’t Spend More Than 30% on Housing It might be difficult if you’re in a city with a high cost of living and you don’t have roommates, but try to keep your housing expenses under 30%. Government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, consider households cost burdened if they spend more than that. If your annual income is around $30,000, you shouldn’t spend more than $750 a month on housing. If you make $50,000 a year, your monthly housing costs shouldn’t exceed $1,250. Individuals and families bringing in $75,000 annually can increase their housing spending threshold to $1,875 a month. Keeping this threshold in mind isn’t just good for your financial well-being; it can also affect your ability to find housing. Leasing agents and housing lenders compare housing costs to your income to determine whether to approve a rental or mortgage application. Keep Food Costs Between 10 and 15% Food spending can vary drastically from one household to the next based on family size, dietary needs, food preferences and other factors.  Still, one way to assess your spending is to turn to the United States Department of Agriculture’s monthly food-cost guide, which is based off government recommendations for a nutritious diet and food prices from the early 2000s that have been updated to reflect current dollars.  The guide focuses on costs for food prepared at home. (Don’t include your Uber Eats expenses when comparing your spending to the recommendations.) The USDA’s chart breaks down food costs in dollar amounts based on four spending levels — thrifty, low-cost, moderate and liberal. It’s further broken down in terms of age, gender and family make-up.  The recommended spending for a moderate-cost plan generally takes up between 10 and 15% of the budget for a middle-income individual or couple. According to the chart, a woman under 50 should spend $257.20 a month on a moderate-cost food plan. If she made $30,000, that would be about 10% of her monthly budget. A man under 50 on a moderate plan should spend about $302.20, which is 12% of a $30,000 annual salary. A couple in the same age bracket following the same food plan is recommended to spend $615.30 a month on groceries. If that couple earned a combined $50,000 a year, 15% on their budget would go to food expenses. If they earned $75,000, they’d be spending 10% of their monthly income on food. Certainly, having kids increases the cost of food. According to the USDA, a moderately-spending family of four should spend $892.40 monthly with children under age 6, or $1,065.20 a month if their kids are between ages 6 and 11. That means a family earning $75,000 a year would spend 14% of their budget on food if they had young kids or 17% if they had older kids. FROM THE BUDGETING FORUM How do you distribute your income? 8/5/19 @ 1:38 PM T Budgeting Apps? 3/18/19 @ 12:42 AM Is there a particular budgeting booklet 8/19/19 @ 2:14 PM A Have you tried the Zero Based budgeting method? 6/7/19 @ 1:58 PM See more in Budgeting or ask a money question Debt Payments Shouldn’t Make Up More Than 43% Ideally, you want none of your income going toward repaying loans. But if you’re like most American adults, you probably owe money in the form of credit card debt, a mortgage, a car note, student loans or medical bills. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says the 43% debt-to-income ratio is the standard most lenders will use to determine whether a borrower can be approved for a qualified mortgage. Borrowers whose monthly debt payments (including their mortgage) make up more than 43% of their monthly gross income would have a harder time qualifying for a loan. To think of this budget percentage in real dollars, an individual with an annual household income of $30,000 shouldn’t have over $1,075 in total monthly debt payments. Someone with an annual household income of $50,000 shouldn’t exceed $1,792 per month, and those who earn $75,000 a year shouldn’t put more than $2,688 a month toward paying off debt. If your minimum debt payments exceed 43% of your income, consider asking creditors for a lower interest rate, refinancing or consolidating your loans or opening a balance transfer credit card with a 0% introductory interest rate. Another option is increasing your income with a regular side gig or second job. Of course, if you have room in your budget to spend more than 43% of your income in order to make extra payments and get rid of your debt quicker — more power to you! Aim to Save 15% (or More) for Retirement Saving and investing in your working years allows you to have money to draw from when you no longer have a paycheck coming in. How much you ought to put aside will depend on a few factors, like age, income level and your estimated cost of living once you hit retirement.  A rule of thumb from investment firm Fidelity is to start saving 15% of your income (including employer contributions) at age 25. If you make $30,000 annually, you should save $4,500 per year or $375 a month. If you have an annual salary of $50,000, try saving $7,500 a year or $625 monthly. If you’re getting a later start saving for retirement, you’ll need to up that contribution. Fidelity recommends saving 18% if you start at age 30 or 23% if you start at 35. Our guide to retirement planning outlines what you need to know when it comes to saving for your golden years. And if you’re hoping to retire before the wrinkles set in, check out this article on how to retire early. Guidance For Your Other Spending Your monthly spending likely falls into other budget categories as well. To see what other Americans spend in categories like apparel, transportation, health care, entertainment, personal care, education, insurance and more, check out the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual consumer expenditures survey. Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey also shares popular budget percentage recommendations on his EveryDollar site. Know that what’s recommended for budgeting — whether it’s from government sources or a trusted personal finance personality — should be seen as a guideline, not as a mandate. A blanket percentage can’t account for everyone’s unique financial situation. So go ahead and customize your budget as it fits for your life. As long as your budget meets your needs (and allows you to save for the future), you’re doing something right.  Nicole Dow is a senior 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 Penn [...]
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Should You Consider Medi-Share for Health Insurance? Here’s Our Take

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Should You Consider Medi-Share for Health Insurance? Here’s Our Take
If you’ve heard ads for Medi-Share, you might be intrigued by its promises to cover your health care costs. Curious? We looked into the details to find out how Medi-Share works — and whether it’s a good option for you. Here’s our honest, unbiased review of the program. What is Medi-Share? Medi-Share is a health-care sharing ministry made up of members united by their faith. This program and similar medical-sharing ministries rely on their members to take care of one another through financial contributions, as well as prayer.  The details work much like typical health insurance. Like having a deductible, members choose an amount they’ll contribute as a household before they can submit bills to the community for payment assistance.  A monthly share payment works like a premium, ensuring your eligibility for assistance, should you need it. There’s no guarantee your medical expenses will be covered through Medi-Share, and there are plenty of exemptions to consider before you apply.  But if you’re particularly religious — and healthy — you may want to consider this alternative to traditional health insurance. How Much Does Medi-Share Cost? First, the up-front costs: It costs $50 to apply, and you’ll pay a $120 one-time member fee with your first monthly payment. You’ll pay another one-time fee of $2 to set up your “sharing account.”  As for your monthly payment options, Medi-Share’s system is sort of like choosing a health insurance deductible and monthly premium.  As an example, we calculated costs for a 30-year-old woman seeking membership for herself only. Share amounts change annually, based on the oldest member of the household. If she chose a $1,750 annual household portion — the amount of medical bills you have to pay completely before you’re eligible for sharing — her standard monthly share would be $311.  If she met certain health and fitness requirements, she could qualify for a Healthy Monthly Share, which would lower her cost to $277 per month.   When you need medical care and visit a Medi-Share provider, you pay $35 for doctor visits and hospitalizations, and $200 for emergency room visits.  You submit the rest of your bills to Private Healthcare Systems (PHCS) for payment consideration.  “We do not collect premiums, make promise of payment, or guarantee that your medical bills will be paid,” the Medi-Share website explains. “Sharing of medical bills is completely voluntary.”  Christian Care Ministry, which operates Medi-Share, is a 501(c)3, but your payments aren’t tax-deductible.  Do You Need to Be Religious to Use Medi-Share? Just as Medi-Share embraces the idea of a community of members supporting one another, it also believes in having a membership that embraces Christian lifestyles. The organization may even interview a church leader to verify your involvement before granting you membership. In addition to eschewing tobacco and illegal drug use, applicants “must only engage in sexual relations within a Biblical Christian Marriage.”  And as you might suspect, Medi-Share doesn’t cover abortions or treatment for sexually transmitted infections.  Medi-Share also assumes that if you’re willing to take care of your Christian community by sharing the burden of medical bills, you’ll do your best to take pretty good care of yourself. Some health conditions, like obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes, put applicants in the mandatory Health Partnership Program, which pairs you with a health coach and costs an extra $99 per month.  What If You Have an Ongoing Health Condition? While this might be an appealing option if you’re healthy, anyone who suffers from a chronic health issue is probably better off turning to an ACA health insurance program for coverage.  “The primary purpose of Medi-Share is to help share members’ burdens,” the program explains. “Burdens are those unexpected medical bills you are unable to plan for (ie. broken bones, cancer, etc). Low monthly share amounts enable you to budget for your family’s routine care, which can be planned.”  Prescription drugs can be eligible for cost-sharing, but only for up to six months for the lifetime of the member. Behavioral and mental health care are also ineligible for coverage. This includes psychiatric or psychological care, as well as “counseling or care for learning deficiencies or behavioral problems,” such as ADD or autism. But here’s the big catch: Routine health screenings aren’t eligible for cost-sharing either.  Well-patient care like annual physicals, pap smears and well-child checkups aren’t included. Dental and vision care aren’t eligible, either.  For instance, if your doctor recommends getting a colonoscopy because you’ve reached a certain age, you can’t submit the test for Medi-Share payment. If you have symptoms warranting the same test, the program might grant payment.  FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM do it yourself 7/19/19 @ 1:16 AM Summer Is Here: Is Your Electric Bill Affected by Running the AC? 7/17/19 @ 12:08 PM Do You Ever Pick up A Stray Penny? 2/7/19 @ 12:27 PM Do drive-in movie theaters save you money? 7/1/19 @ 3:38 PM See more in Save Money or ask a money question So, Is Medi-Share Legit? Here’s our conclusion: Medi-Share isn’t a scam.  It’s totally legal and there’s a strong membership base to support it and similar programs. But it’s likely not the most affordable health care option for most people. The ideal candidate for Medi-Share is in excellent health and also has a robust savings account to pay out of pocket for routine medical care. One risk: Medi-Share and other cost-sharing programs aren’t subject to regulation like typical ACA programs.  So while a typical health insurance benefits booklet might clearly explain what’s covered and guarantee coverage up to a certain amount or percentage, Medi-Share participants might not be able to figure out ahead of time which medical bills will be paid by the program. While Medi-Share probably isn’t the best financial choice for most people, it does at least serve as an option for anyone who doesn’t have access to a job-sponsored health insurance plan or who finds individual ACA coverage options prohibitively expensive. 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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5 Signs That You Should Fire Your Financial Adviser

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5 Signs That You Should Fire Your Financial Adviser
Financial advisers are supposed to take your cash and use it to generate more wealth for you, but sometimes they fall well short of the mark. Even worse, you may not realize that an adviser has failed you until it’s too late to recoup lost money or missed opportunities. So, if you hope to retire comfortably, it’s crucial that you choose your financial adviser carefully and then keep... [...]
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5 Hidden Features of 401(k) Plans That You Should Know About

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5 Hidden Features of 401(k) Plans That You Should Know About
When it comes to 401(k) plans, you may be missing out on benefits that you don’t know about. Your 401(k) plan doesn’t have to offer all the tax-savings provisions that the IRS allows for 401(k) plans. So, not all plans have every possible 401(k) feature, which means there are features you might not realize exist. The only way to find out what options your 401(k) offers is to ask your... [...]
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10 Purchases You Should Not Put on a Credit Card

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10 Purchases You Should Not Put on a Credit Card
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com Many credit cards offer a slew of incentives to consumers who use them — from cash back and other rewards to zero liability in case of fraud. But credit cards are not always your best form of payment, especially if you aren’t great with debt. In many cases, you are better off keeping the plastic tucked away. For some readers, this advice comes too late. [...]
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5 Things You Should NOT Buy at Dollar Tree

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5 Things You Should NOT Buy at Dollar Tree
Since you all loved my list of what NOT to buy at Aldi, I thought it’d be fun to put together a list of what NOT to buy at Dollar Tree! What You Shouldn’t Buy at Dollar Tree Wondering what you shouldn’t buy at Dollar? Well, I’ve got you covered in this post! Now, before you think I’m here to disparage Dollar Tree, let me be clear: Dollar Tree is one of my favorite places to shop at. And I’m thrilled that I passed that love on to my daughter! I mean, what’s not to love about Dollar Tree? Everything in the store is a dollar or less. If you’re wondering what I think you should buy at Dollar Tree, be sure to check out my HUGE list of the best things to buy at Dollar Tree. I go to the Dollar Tree for Valentine’s Day gifts. We have a family Christmas tradition where we all go to Dollar Tree and buy each other stocking stuffers! I even think it’s a great place to save money on groceries! But just like any other store, there are definitely some things I think you should not purchase at Dollar Tree because they aren’t great deals. I put together a list of my top five things below: (Psst! Did you see my list of 5 Things You Should Not Buy at Aldi?) 1. Cheap Plastic Toys Okay, so if you want to buy the cheap plastic toys, you totally can — especially if they will give your kids a lot of enjoyment. (Hey, if a cheap plastic toy for $1 will buy you 30 minutes of peace and quiet, I’m all for that!) And full disclosure, we have totally have bought the games, puzzles, activity books many times over the years (especially for road trips), but we try to be careful that we’re not buying cheap toys that won’t work and are just going to break in a few minutes. 2. Boxes of Cereal While they do have name brand cereals, they are small boxes and the price per ounce isn’t a great deal — especially compared to what you’d pay for cereal at Aldi. 3. Mac & Cheese I’ve told you that my kids are big fans of the boxed Mac & Cheese at Aldi — and it’s less than $0.50 per box! Also, there are often deals on Annie’s Mac & Cheese where you can get it for $1 per box or less! Looking for a really delicious homemade mac & cheese recipe. I highly recommend this one. 4. Chips/Pretzels If you don’t have a Kroger or Aldi, the prices on tortilla chips and pretzels could be a good deal for you. The packages are smaller than a typical bag of chips or pretzels at the grocery store. Aldi has the larger bags for $1.19 and Kroger often has larger bags on sale for $1. 5. Hand towels and wash cloths I had to include these because of all the things you can buy at Dollar Tree these are one of the few things I think you should never buy. Why? Because they are basically scratchy, non-absorbent rags. I mean, if you want to buy them for rags, be my guest. But I think you’d be better off using leaves off your backyard trees to clean up a mess than these “towels”. 🙂 Okay, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but still, just don’t buy these! Wait until Kohl’s has a deal and a coupon code, and then spend $1-2 per hand towel and wash cloth to buy something that actually works! Do you agree with my list? Is there anything you would add to it? I’d love to hear! Related Links: My 25 Favorite Things to Buy at Dollar Tree 21 Valentine’s Day Deals at Dollar Tree 23 Stocking Stuffer Ideas from Dollar Tree My 25 Favorite Things to Buy at Aldi 5 Things You Should NOT Buy at Aldi [...]
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21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

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21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com Dollar stores lure us in with rock-bottom prices. Sometimes you get what you pay for, but often the things they sell are good products at a tremendous discount — a real bargain. Here’s what bargain-shopping experts say are among the best buys at dollar stores. [...]
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5 Things You Should NOT Buy at ALDI

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5 Things You Should NOT Buy at ALDI
Because so many of you loved my list of 25 best things to buy at ALDI, I decided it was time for me to put together a list of what NOT to buy at ALDI! {Psst! Wondering why I love ALDI so much? Read this post on why I think everyone should shop at ALDI to save money!} 5 Things You Should Never Buy at Aldi As you well know, I think you can save a lot of money by shopping at Aldi. However, that doesn’t mean that everything at Aldi is a good deal. One of the most popular posts on my site is my post on 25 of the best things to buy at Aldi. Today, I thought it would be fun to tell you what I think you shouldn’t buy at Aldi. Here’s my list of what I think you should avoid buying… 1. Name Brand Items Don’t buy brand name items! Why? Because not only are these usually over-priced, you can’t use coupons on them to save more money. What to buy instead: The Aldi brand/off brand counterparts for these name brand items. In most cases, you’ll save 40-60% off of what the name brand item is priced! And we’ve found that it usually works or tastes just as good! (See above photos for side by side comparisons.) 2. Aldi Finds When you walk in the store and near the end of the store as you’re going to checkout, Aldi typically has what they call Aldi Finds. These are often name brand items and are typically unique or weird flavor combinations. I don’t know exactly where they get these from, but my theory is that they were some kind of overstock or trial run at mainstream grocery stores that didn’t do well. (Anyone know?) Not only are they usually not a great deal, but they are also probably a sort of risky purchase since they are likely a flavor or item you haven’t tried before. What to buy instead: Stick to the Aldi brand regular deals and pass up the Aldi Finds. 3. Seasonal Items Aldi has a big section of the store (well, big percentage-wise when you compare it to the size of the store!) devoted to Seasonal type deals. Right now, there will be a lot of summer toys and other things that would be geared toward the summer months. While they often do have some good prices, unless you were looking for that specific item and/or saving up for it and you know this price is less than what you’d pay elsewhere, skip this section of the store. Why? Because you’ll just end up spending money on “good deals” that you don’t need and weren’t planning to purchase in the first place. This, in turn, will negate all of the savings you are getting on groceries! What to buy instead: Focus on purchasing the items are already on your grocery list instead of impulse buying. 4. Pre-Packaged Food If you normally buy pre-packaged snacks and frozen foods, then you will save some money by buying them at Aldi. However, please don’t start buying pre-packaged foods just because you think they are “so inexpensive” at Aldi. What to buy instead: Ingredients to make your own homemade snacks and items! 5. Things You Can Get Cheaper at Dollar Tree If you have a Dollar Tree in your area, be sure to peruse the food and household product aisles to price-check the Dollar Tree prices and sizes against the Aldi prices and sizes. While some Aldi prices are the same or less, some items are significantly cheaper at Dollar Tree. For instance, see the lemon juice shown above? It’s regularly $2.49 at Kroger, $2.39 at Aldi, and just one dollar at Dollar Tree! What to buy instead: Nothing! If you can get it cheaper at Dollar Tree, don’t buy it at Aldi! 🙂 Do you agree with my list? What do you think you shouldn’t purchase at Aldi? I’d love to hear! Related Links: My 25 Favorite Things to Purchase at ALDI Kroger vs. ALDI: Which is Cheaper? An Open Letter to ALDI 52 Different Ways to Save $100 per Year: Shop at ALDI [...]
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5 Reasons You Should Not Delay Retirement

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5 Reasons You Should Not Delay Retirement
Some people view retirement as something to that should be delayed as long as possible. They say that, for many older workers, waiting as long as possible to collect Social Security benefits is the prudent choice. Important as this advice is for many of us, it may not apply to you. If you are financially prepared, there are good reasons to consider retiring at the traditional age of 65... [...]
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