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6 Best Free Checking Accounts of 2021 MAKING MONEY

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Too many of us are settling for less-than-satisfactory checking accounts. (Just look at the folks complaining on Twitter!)

We’re still forking over so many bank fees. The average overdrafter hands over about $350 a year in overdraft fees alone, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That doesn’t even account for ATM network fees, monthly maintenance fees and minimum balance fees.

In reality, there are a ton of free checking account options out there; you just might not be looking in the right places (ahem, online banks!). No need to spend hours researching, though. We did that for you.

6 Best Free Checking Accounts

Account
Top Feature
ATM access

NBKC Everything Account

Checking, savings in one

37,000+

SEE DETAILS

Varo Money Banking Account

Excellent banking app

55,000+

SEE DETAILS

SoFi Banking Account

Loan interest discounts

55,000+

SEE DETAILS

Chime Money

Early direct deposit

60,000+

SEE DETAILS

Discover Cashback Debit

Zelle money transfer

60,000+

SEE DETAILS

Capital One 360 Checking Account

Overdraft options

70,000+

SEE DETAILS

NBKC Everything Account

Best for Ambitious Savers
Key Features

Up to $12/month in reimbursed ATM fees
0.15% APY on all balances
No fees

4.5 out of 5 Overall
Formerly National Bank of Kansas City, NBKC Bank is a full-fledged financial institution, member FDIC, offering loans, credit cards, savings, money market and free checking accounts. Its Everything Account is a personal checking and savings account in one, with spending, budgeting and savings goals built into one high-yield account.
NBKC Everything Account
Fees
None
Minimum opening deposit
None
APY
0.15% on checking and savings
ATM access
37,000+ MoneyPass ATM
Promotions
n/a

With NBKC’s Everything Account, you can set up savings buckets in the platform, and move money in and out of your savings easily without the penalties associated with traditional savings accounts. You’ll earn 0.15% annual percentage yield (APY) on all balances within your Everything Account. Anyone can open an account online; you don’t have to live near the bank’s Overland Park, Kansas, headquarters.

 

Varo Money Banking Account

Best for Tech-Forward Clients
Key Features

Dual account for checking and savings
Up to 3.00% APY for eligible accounts
Cash back on in-app purchases

4.5 out of 5 Overall
Varo is a double threat: a tech-forward banking platform with a bonafide FDIC bank charter. That means, unlike with most online banks, Varo holds your money itself, so there’s no complicated business happening under the hood.
Varo Money Banking Account
Fees
2.50 for out-of-network ATMs (plus ATM owner’s fee)
Minimum opening deposit
None
APY
0.05%, up to 3.00% for any month with at least $1,000 in direct deposits and daily balance is at least $5,000
ATM
55,000 Allpoint ATMs
Promotions
n/a

Varo’s origins as a technology company mean it offers an intuitive banking app with all the perks we’ve come to expect from challenger banks: higher-than-average APYs*, early payday, automatic savings features and cash back perks.

*https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/resources/rates/

 

SoFi Money

Best for Lots of Features
Key Features

0.25% APY on checking
$50 in free overdraft protection
Member discounts on other products

4 out of 5 Overall
Originally known for revolutionizing student loan refinancing, SoFi has become an all-around go-to for your financial needs. Its banking service, SoFi Money, offers a fee-free online checking and savings account with 0.25% APY, early direct deposit and up to $50 in free overdraft protection.
SoFi Money
Fees
Up to $4.95 for cash deposits at Green Dot retail locations
Minimum opening deposit:
None
APY
0.25% on all balances, with recurring monthly deposits of $500 or more. Otherwise, 0.01%
ATM access
55,000+ Allpoint ATMs
Promotions
$100 bonus when you receive $1,000 in direct deposits within 30 days

When you’re a SoFi member, you get access to its vast community and events, as well as interest rate discounts on its loan products, including mortgage, student loans and refinancing. Bonus security: Because SoFi works with up to six partner banks, your account is eligible for up to $1.5 million in FDIC insurance — compared with the typical $250,000 of any single bank.

 

Chime Bank Account

Best for Easy Access
Key Features

Up to 2 days early direct deposit
$20–$200 free overdraft protection
Access to Credit Builder credit card

4 out of 5 Overall
Chime is one of the top online bank accounts, loved for its simplicity and focus on just what a typical banking customer needs: easy access to your money. Through its Spending account, you’ll get a debit card and get paid up to two days early through direct deposit. When you open a Savings account, you can earn 0.50% APY and set up rounds up and automatic deposits from your Spending account.
Chime Bank Account
Fees
Out-of-network ATM fees
Minimum opening deposit:
None
APY
0.50% on Savings balance
ATM access
60,000+ ATMs from Allpoint, Visa Plus Alliance and MoneyPass ATMs at any 7-Eleven
Promotions
n/a

Chime also has a $75 referral bonus promotion that has no expiration date. After you open your account, if you refer a friend and they open a new account and receive a direct deposit of at least $200 in the first 45 days, you will each receive $75.

Make sure to use the referral link from your account to get the cash bonus. Chime is great for beginners, offering fee-free overdraft, automatic savings, early paycheck deposit and 60,000+ fee-free ATMs.

 

Discover Cashback Debit

Best for Traditionalists
Key Features

1% cash back on debit card purchases
No extraneous fees
Transfer money to anyone with Zelle

3 out of 5 Overall
Sometimes jumping ship and moving all your money to a company you’ve never heard of can be intimidating, so here’s an option for traditionalists: Discover’s Cashback Debit. The fee-free account offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 of debit card purchases each month. Beyond that, the account’s perks are slim (hello, traditional banking…).
Discover Cashback Debit
Fees
None
Minimum opening deposit:
None
APY
None
ATM access
60,000+ Allpoint and MoneyPass ATMs
Promotions
n/a

The Discover Cashback Debit account is a great fit for anyone who uses their checking account more for spending than storing a big balance of money. You won’t earn an impressive APY on this account, but you can open a Discover Online Savings account to earn 0.50% APY on your savings balance. You can manage all your Discover products — from loans to credit cards to bank accounts — through the Discover app.

 

Capital One 360 Checking Account

Best for Money Transfers
Key Features

Multiple options for free overdraft protection
Up to 2 days early direct deposit
Transfer money to anyone with Zelle

3 out of 5 Overall
Overdrafting is a cruel — and expensive — cycle. The accounts on this list won’t charge you overdraft fees, but none of them give you as many options as the fee-free Capital One 360 account. You can opt to auto-decline a transaction, transfer funds from savings, use a line of credit or get a one-day grace period to deposit more money (that last one comes with a fee).
Capital One 360 Checking Account
Fees
$35 per overdraft with one-day grace period, $7–$11 for paper checkbooks
Minimum opening deposit:
None
APY
0.10%
ATM access
70,000+ Capital One and Allpoint ATMs
Promotions
n/a

The account also comes with early direct deposit and peer-to-peer payments via Zelle.

Capital One 360 doesn’t have the most attractive APYs for either its online checking or savings (0.10% for checking and 0.40% for savings), but the online bank makes up for it with the industry’s second-highest-rated app according to J.D. Power, with users citing the app’s speed, easy-to-use interface and self-service options that are simple to use.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Banks Offer Free Checking Accounts?

Most banks offer a free checking account option now that challenger banks have shoved the market in that direction. In some cases, the account is only free if you maintain a minimum balance or deposit requirement, so read the fine print before opening an account.

In many cases, especially with online banking platforms like we listed above, you can get a checking account with no monthly fees, limited ATM fees, no overdraft fees and few miscellaneous fees without balance or deposit requirements — so compare your options before going all in with a traditional bank. The best free checking accounts cut nearly all fees.

Are Free Checking Accounts Really Free?

Most customers consider a checking account “free” as long as it doesn’t come with a monthly maintenance fee. That’s the baseline we applied to choose the checking accounts listed above.

But lots of banks, especially traditional institutions, charge for other things, like overdraft protection, ATM transactions, minimum balance requirements, paper statements and more. We sought checking accounts that minimize or eliminate these fees, so you can count on a fee-free banking service.

The only fees you typically can’t get away from are for less common services like card replacement, foreign transactions, stop payment and wire transfers.

Nearly all banks charge fees for these services, but if you know you’ll use them often, shop around and seek out an account that caters to your needs by eliminating or reducing fees for the types of services you use.

How Can You Avoid Common Checking Account Fees?

The most common checking account fee is a monthly maintenance fee. Most financial institutions waive this fee is you keep a minimum monthly balance. Avoid the fee by paying attention to that minimum balance requirement when you sign up and keeping your account in the no-fee zone.

Many banks also charge for paper statements, so sign up for electronic statements right away. You’ll be able to see your bank statements, balance and transactions online no matter what; opting out of paper statements just saves a bunch of trees and saves you money.

Pro Tip

Check out our current list of bank promotions for a chance to gain a monetary bonus when signing up for a new bank account.

What Are Common Free Checking Account Benefits?

The best benefit of a free checking account is the elimination of a monthly service fee, and balance and direct deposit requirements.

To stay competitive, many free checking accounts also include perks like well-designed mobile apps (especially the online-only platforms), free ATMs, early direct deposit, budgeting features, automatic savings options, cash back, creative fee-free overdraft protection options and high APYs.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing for online audiences since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media. She is a former staffer at The Penny Hoarder. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, CNBC, The Motley Fool, Inc. and more. 

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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It’s Easier than You Think to Refinance Your Car Loan and Save Money MAKING MONEY

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If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never thought about refinancing your car loan.

Seriously, is that even a thing that people do? It’s not like it’s a mortgage. Wouldn’t that be a huge hassle? How much money could you actually save that way, anyway?

But this under-used strategy really can save some serious cash — and it’s not hard to do at all.

Lantern by SoFi is a loan-comparison site that makes it easy to compare refinancing options from a network of top lenders.

How much could you save? Just look and see. It won’t cost you anything to look.

Cut Your Auto Loan Down to Size

While we weren’t looking, auto loans have become a serious burden on our households. The size of the average auto loan has soared to more than $35,000, according to Experian. Americans are approaching an average payment of $600 a month for new cars and $400 a month for used cars.

Car loan debt is the second-biggest category of household debt, trailing only mortgages.

Some people have reported saving hundreds a month by refinancing their car loans through Lantern’s network lenders, although the amount that you could save would depend on a number of different factors — mainly, how much you’re paying on your current car loan.

Here’s how it works:

Prequalify in minutes: A brief form asks for some basic info about you, your vehicle and your auto loan.

Pay no fees to check your rate: There’s no charge for checking your auto refi rates, and it also won’t hurt your credit if you choose not to go forward after checking.

See how much you can save: Lantern will show you options from a network of lenders. See if you qualify for a lower interest rate and lower monthly payments.

Skip the trip to the DMV: The network lenders at Lantern will do the heavy lifting. They’ll handle paying off your old lender and retitling your vehicle, because who needs that headache?

Some caveats: If your credit score is below 600, you might have a harder time refinancing your loan. It’s also tougher if your vehicle is over a dozen years old.

That still leaves plenty of people who could benefit from a cheaper car loan.

Maybe you’d like a lower interest rate. Maybe you’d like to extend your payments and spread them out some more.

But you definitely want to be saving money, right?

It only takes a few minutes to answer some quick questions and see how much you could save.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He has made so many car loan payments.

* The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of Lantern by SoFi. This material is not intended to serve as a recommendation and is not meant to suggest that any of the products mentioned are suitable for all Members, as individual results, needs, and financial situation may vary.

** Please refer to Lanterncredit.com to review all product disclosures, terms and conditions, state restrictions, and fees where applicable.

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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Micro-Investing Defined & How to Get Started MAKING MONEY

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Myth: You need lots of money to start investing.

Micro-investing apps are giving everyday people access to the stock market for as little as $5.

Micro-investing allows you to start small — really small. Apps like Acorns and Stash work by transferring small sums of money from your bank account to a diversified investment portfolio.

Research shows that these tiny money moves can really add up.

According to a recent consumer study by Cornerstone Advisors, saving and investing apps like Acorns, Digit, and Qapital helped consumers save an average of $600 a year above their standard level of savings — and one in five users saved more than $1,000.

Is a micro-investing app right for you? The answer depends on your financial goals and income.

What is Micro-Investing?

Micro-investing allows you to automatically allocate small amounts of money into a portfolio of stocks and bonds — even if you know nothing about investing.

This fintech term applies to a handful of mobile-based platforms that make investing easy and painless.

Here are a few common features these apps share:

The ability to set up recurring transfers from your bank account to your investment account.
The option to round up purchases and sweep the spare change into your investment account.
Robo-advisors that select a portfolio of diversified investments tailored to your goals and risk tolerance.
Fractional shares of stocks, which allows you to start investing with $5 or less.
A flat monthly fee for services, or a fee equal to a percentage of your account balance.
Educational resources that teach you about personal finance.

Micro-investing can be a good option if you’re tight on extra cash or you’re new to investing and not sure where to start.

You can customize how much money you invest and how often — putting you in the driver’s seat. These apps also remove some of the barriers of traditional brokerage accounts, such as account minimums and trading fees.

“Micro-investing apps lower the cost of entry, which opens up investment opportunities to a wider audience,” said Summer Red, a financial advisor and education manager at the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education. “Investing is complex, and the best way to learn about it is to actually invest.”

You can use a micro-investing app like training wheels to support you as you begin your investing journey.

Or you can use it as a second emergency fund or as an auxiliary account to save for a mid-term goal, like buying a home.

Still, most financial advisors agree these apps should be just one small (some might even say micro) piece of your long-term financial picture. You’re going to need to do more than round-up your Uber Eats orders to save enough money for retirement.

How Micro-Investing Platforms Work

Here’s what to expect once you dive in.

Where Is My Money Invested?

After you download a micro-investing app and create an account, you’ll need to link a debit card or bank account.

You’ll also be prompted to complete a survey designed to determine your risk tolerance and financial goals.

From there, many apps select a pre-made portfolio where your money gets invested. You can usually choose a different portfolio if you disagree with the algorithm but you may not be able to select individual stocks or other assets.

In this way, micro-investing apps also work like robo-advisors, or online brokers that use advanced software to invest money and manage your investments.

Portfolios are most often comprised of exchange-traded funds, or ETFs. ETFs bundle many different investments into one fund, giving you exposure to hundreds of stocks (and/or bonds) with a single purchase.

Exchange traded funds provide instant diversification, and are considered less risky than investing in individual stocks.

From there, you can customize how much money you want to invest and how often.

How Do Round-Ups Work?

Several micro-investing apps work by rounding your purchases to the nearest dollar before tucking the difference into your investment account.

So, if you spend $10.35 on Amazon, you’ll actually get charged $11 and the app will set aside 65 cents.

Once your round-ups total a certain amount (usually $5 or more), the app transfers the spare change to your personal investment account.

Round-ups are an attractive option for new investors because they’re simple, easy and automatic.

According to Acorns, users invest about $30 a month, or $360 a year, with the app’s Round-Up feature. If you’re new to investing, $360 in the stock market is a step in the right direction. .

Recurring Transfers, Retirement Accounts and Other Features

Every app also lets you set up recurring transfers from your checking or savings account on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. You can enable this feature in addition to spare change round-ups so your money grows even faster.

For example, you can set your account to automatically withdraw $20 a week from your bank.

Investing a fixed amount of money each week or month plays into a key investing strategy known as dollar cost averaging.

By making regular, fixed-amount investments, you average out the roller coaster highs and lows of the stock market. You end up buying more when the price is low and less when the price is high.

Some investment apps also give users the option to put money into sustainable portfolios that align with your social or environmental views. You can make some green while supporting green companies, a nice plus for many Millennial and Gen Z investors.

Finally, these apps offer other services, such as access to a financial advisor or a tax-advantaged retirement account — but you’ll pay more for these features.

Most apps automatically invest you in a taxable brokerage account, but for a couple bucks more a month, you can opt for a Roth or traditional individual retirement account (IRA).

Retirement accounts come with special perks from the federal government, like a deduction on your yearly tax bill. But it’s important to learn about IRS early withdrawal penalties and other restrictions before opening an IRA.

Pros and Cons of Micro-Investing

If you’re not investing already, the first step is always the hardest. Micro-investing apps make the process less intimidating and stressful for beginners.

“They’ve changed the format and experience so it’s much easier to get started than it was with old-fashioned investment companies,” said Justin Chidester, a certified financial planner and owner of the fee-only firm Wealth Mode Financial Planning in Logan, Utah.

Realistically, these apps can help you set aside a few hundred dollars a year — no small feat if you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck.

But over time, Chidester and other experts say you should adopt a more robust investing strategy by stepping up your 401(k) contributions at work and speaking with a financial advisor about retirement planning.

Pros of Micro-Investing

Easy to Use: You do everything else on your phone — why not start investing? Micro-investing apps feature easy-to-use interfaces that make it super simple to create and manage your account.

Safe: Apps like Acorns use multiple security features, including encryption, secure servers and alerts about unusual activity to keep your money safe. Stick with well-known apps from companies registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Diversification: Buying individual stocks as a newbie can be risky. Diversification and asset allocation are the easiest ways to mitigate risk, and micro-investors do a great job at this by spreading your money across broad-based ETFs.

Low Minimum Deposits: ETFs can cost hundreds of dollars per share. But these apps get you started with an initial investment of $5 or less. How? By purchasing fractional shares of ETFs, which isn’t possible at many traditional brokerage firms. This gets you invested quickly — even if you can’t afford to purchase an entire share at first.

Educational Tools: These apps provide lots of educational resources and financial advice for beginning investors, from definitions of financial lingo to daily market commentary. They hammer home the importance of investing for the long haul. If you’re trying to boost your financial literacy know-how, definitely read up and take advantage of these free resources.

Micro-investing apps are a great place to start, but most financial experts agree that you shouldn’t stop there.

“Something that invests a few dollars a month for you isn’t going to make you rich,” Chidester told The Penny Hoarder. “You’re never going to be able to save for retirement unless you intentionally invest a higher and consistent amount of money.”

Cons of Micro-Investing Apps

Miss Out on Retirement Plan Tax Perks — Or Pay More: Since most micro-investing apps offer taxable investment accounts, you won’t get the sweet tax perks of retirement savings plans like 401(k)s. While apps like Acorns and Stash offer the choice to open an IRA, you’ll pay more, usually $3 a month. Paying $36 a year to access an IRA is a pretty lousy deal. More robust robo-advisors like Betterment offer IRA access for a yearly charge of 0.25%, or just $2.50 per every $1,000 invested.

Fees: Fees for these apps vary widely. Some charge a flat amount for basic service, like $1 a month, while others charge a small percentage of your portfolio balance. Some may feature free trades until your account reaches a certain amount, such as $5,000. Most will offer additional services, like access to a checking account, for a higher monthly fee of $3 or $5. This may not seem like much, but it adds up. For example, a monthly $1 charge equals 12 percent in fees each year if you only have $100 in your account.

Limited Investment Choices: As you learn more about investing, you might want to DIY your portfolio or add specific assets. Unfortunately, micro-apps don’t provide much wiggle room as your investment strategy evolves. You can’t invest in cryptocurrency, and you may not be able to pick individual stocks. Many apps also lack access to professional investment advisory services.

Not Enough to Reach Retirement Goals: Micro-investing often means micro results. Meanwhile, retirement is really expensive: According to Fidelity Investments, you should aim to retire with about 10 times your current income banked. So, if you make $50,000 a year, you’ll need at least $500,000 by the time you stop working. You can round up your Starbucks purchases for 30 years — and still fall miserably short of your retirement nest egg goal.

How to Start Micro-Investing

Thanks to technology, entering the investing world is as easy as doing some research and downloading an app.

4 Popular Micro-Investing Apps

Acorns

Acorns lets you invest your spare change through a linked debit card and/or make recurring deposits to your account. It works as a robo-advisor by creating a portfolio tailored to your goals and risk tolerance. Accounts cost $1 to $5 a month.

Stash

Stash offers many of the same perks as Acorns, including round-ups, recurring deposits and the option to open an IRA. However, Stash also allows users to tweak their portfolios, with more than 3,000 ETFs and individual stocks available. Monthly fees range from $1 to $9.

Rize

Rize is a combination savings and investing app that lets you earn an interest rate that’s about 1.43% higher than most major banks. You can create and track different goals and set up automatic transfers to your account. It’s free to use the savings feature but the automated investment portfolio costs $2 a month.

Public 

Public lets you buy fractional shares of companies, and offers “themes” of stocks, such as health care and tech companies. It also incorporates a social media-like feed, letting users keep track of other users’ stock portfolios. Public is a free app with no membership or commission fees.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Micro-Investing?

Micro-investing works by saving small amounts of money and consistently investing it into a portfolio of ETFs or fractional shares of individual stocks.

Is Micro-Investing a Good Idea?

It depends. Micro-investing can be a fit for new investors who want an easy, relatively hands-off approach to growing their cash. It’s not a great option for more experienced investors seeking customization or crafting a long-term retirement strategy.

What is a Micro-Investing Platform?

Micro-investing platforms are apps that let users contribute small sums of money — as little as a few dollars — to a brokerage account. By connecting a debit card, a micro-investing platform can round up your purchases or make automatic transfers on your behalf.

Rachel Christian is a senior writer for 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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6 (Totally Wrong) Ways We’ve Had Money Mansplained to Us MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:9 Minute, 14 Second
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On a scale of one to 10, how much do you loathe mansplaining?

Personally, it’s an 11, taking the top spot over manspreading and bropropriating but barely squeaking past manterrupting.

Just thinking about the unsolicited — or downright wrong — advice us women sometimes have to listen to sends chills down my spine. It’s especially bad when it comes to financial advice. Studies show women are increasingly becoming the major financial decision-makers in their homes. So thanks, but we’ve heard enough “oh, sweetie” and “let the men handle it” for a lifetime.

Here are some of the most nonsensical financial mansplanations we’ve heard in person and online — yes, they’re real — and what us financially savvy women know to do instead.

1. ‘Cash is King, So Don’t Pay Your Credit Card in Full.’

Sounds like this guy is just attempting to regurgitate (incorrectly) what his leader Dave Ramsey drilled into his brain. Yes, having cash on hand is great in case of an emergency (that’s why you have an emergency fund), but you know what’s a really fast way to drain it all?

Paying an insane amount of interest on your credit card balances.

Some credit card companies these days are charging a whopping 36% APR, which could wipe out all that cash this Ramseyite worships.

One way to actually preserve your cash long-term is to get rid of your debt as fast and as cheaply as possible. (If Mr. Know-It-All had actually paid attention to his idol, he’d know this). Then you can stop wasting your money on interest. 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 2.49% 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.

2. ‘Don’t Try to Negotiate — If You Really Wanted It, You Would Pay the Full Price.’

Even millionaires and billionaires don’t pay full price if they don’t have to — what kind of bro thinks he looks cool by showing off his sticker-price items?

Not one we’d want to take financial advice from, that’s for sure. In fact, we would prefer to have someone tell us when we’re about to overpay for something, then show us where we could get it cheaper.

That’s exactly what this free service does.

Just add it to your browser for free, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop up letting you know if that exact TV is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.

In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.

You can get started in just a few clicks to see if you’re overpaying online.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the extension using the links provided.

3. ‘Let the Men Handle the Negotiating, Sweetie. We Get Better Deals.’

Oh, come on. Not only is this wrong — it’s down right rude. Not to mention it totally contradicts the last guy’s advice. Sometimes all it takes is knowledge, confidence and holding your ground to get a killer deal.

But other times, you only need to know the best places to go. Like when you want to get the sweetest deal on car insurance, use a website called Insure.com.

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 $489 a year. That’s a darn good deal, sweetie.

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

4. ‘Open Up a New Credit Card, and Don’t Pay it Off Entirely to Bring Your Credit Score up.’

Why do all these mansplainers think an unpaid credit card balance is going to help them reach their goals? Ugh. Holding too much balance on your credit card will likely have the opposite effect.

Instead, we know to trust the experts when it comes to keeping tabs on our credit score. After all, it’ll play an essential role in any big purchase you want to make — whether that’s a home, a car or even opening a business.

So if you’re looking to get your credit score back on track — or even if it is on track and you want to bump it up — try using a free website called Credit Sesame.

Within 90 seconds, you’ll get access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).

James Cooper, of Atlanta, used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.* “They showed me the ins and outs — how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he said.

Want to check for yourself? It’s free and only takes about 90 seconds to sign up.

5. ‘Invest Your Income; Don’t Put it Into a 401(k). It’ll All Equal Out in the End.’

Investing on your own is great, don’t get us wrong. But does this dude not understand how incredible an employer’s 401(k) match can be? If you took full advantage of it, that could be hundreds of thousands dollars extra in your retirement account.

Setting aside money from your paycheck to put into your 401(k) is literally one of the smartest things you can do for your future. And if your employer matches each contribution, it’s free money!

But if you can’t take advantage of this employer benefit because you need all of your paycheck every month, a company called Lendtable will give you the cash.

We know it sounds too good to be true. But if your employer has a 401(k) match program, this is money they already have earmarked for you. By using Lendtable, you’ll be able to unlock that free cash.

Let’s say you make $50k a year and your employer matches your 401(k) contribution up to 4%. If you put $0 in your retirement account this year, you get $0 from your boss. If Lendtable lends you the 4% of your salary your employer is willing to match, you get $2,000 from your boss, minus Lendtable’s fee. (This comes from the extra money you’ve earned, so there’s no sacrifice on your part.)

It takes three minutes to answer a few questions about your eligibility and sign up for an account.

Once you’ve gotten your full match amount from your employer, LendTable will take the money they lent you back, plus a small share of your profit. If there’s a penalty from your retirement account provider for taking money out, Lendtable will cover that, too.

The risk for you is basically nonexistent, so listening to that mansplainer and not taking advantage of your employer match with Lendtable’s offer would make Future Millionaire You bow your head in shame. Get started here.

6. ‘You Only Need to Invest in Tesla.’

Tesla has shown to be a profitable stock to own, there’s no doubting that. And if you listened to this mansplainer and only invested in Tesla in 2010 (with a starting price of $3.84), you would have made a massive profit by now.

But back here in 2021, not everyone can afford a $650+ stock — and not everyone should put all their money into it, anyway. Diversifying your investments, even small ones, is a smart way to grow your wealth in the stock market. So don’t put all your electric eggs into one Model 3 basket.

If you feel like you don’t have enough money to start investing, though, you’re not alone. But guess what? You really don’t need that much — and you can even get free stocks (worth $2.50 to $200!) if you know where to look.

Whether you’ve got $5, $100 or $800 to spare, you can start investing with Robinhood.

Yeah, you’ve probably heard of Robinhood. Both investing beginners and pros love it because it doesn’t charge commission fees, and you can buy and sell stocks for free — no limits. Plus, it’s super easy to use.

What’s best? When you download the app and fund your account (it takes no more than a few minutes), Robinhood drops a share of free stock into your account. It’s random, though, so that stock could be worth anywhere from $2.50 to $200 — a nice boost to help you build your investments.

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her husband knows better than to mansplain her finances to her. 

*Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

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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Dear Penny: Am I Entitled to Part of My Ex-Husband’s Inheritance? MAKING MONEY

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Dear Penny,

I was married to a “user” for 25 years. He had used others before me. I was the breadwinner through its entirety. He rarely held any type of job and went through all my assets even though his parents were powerful and wealthy. 

I was afraid to leave him due to their power and was always told by his parents that everything would also be mine at their deaths. I tried to get something legally in writing, but their attorney advised them against it.

I stuck it out. They passed away. I was left nearly penniless while he inherited over half a million dollars, if not more. I was told I’m not entitled to anything he was bequeathed. He was an only child. 

I was told that he could take half of my pension for life and that I could have to pay him alimony. I worked so hard for many years to be left with nothing. He’s even able to receive my Social Security.

We got divorced 10 years ago and it still stings. Do I have any recourse? 

-Empty-Handed Ex

Dear Empty-Handed,

There’s no scenario I can imagine where you’re able to get a piece of your ex’s inheritance. I wish I had better news to offer you. But perhaps accepting this will help you find closure for a painful chapter of your life.

Even when one spouse is the breadwinner, most money earned during a marriage is considered marital property, meaning it gets split between both spouses (though not necessarily 50/50). But inheritances and gifts are usually treated as separate property, which only belong to one spouse and aren’t divided up during divorce.


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financial planner and the voice of Dear Penny.

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If your late in-laws had intended for both of you to inherit their money, they should have listed you as a beneficiary of their will or trust. I’m guessing they knew that and lied to you when they promised you half of everything. I’m so sorry you were manipulated in this way.

If it’s any consolation, perhaps it’s that you never have to deal with your ex-husband again. (You’re probably correct in that he can use your work record to get Social Security, but that doesn’t affect you in any way.) Even if there was a possibility of getting this money, I’d imagine you’d be in for a long and protracted court fight. And after 10 years, who knows if there’s even any money left to fight over?

It’s understandable why you’re still hurting, even 10 years later. You were used and lied to, yet you don’t have any recourse. But sometimes accepting an unpleasant reality can actually be empowering.

You know that you’re not getting a piece of your ex-husband’s inheritance, so you can make plans accordingly. Maybe that will mean working longer than you’d hoped or downsizing in retirement. Those probably aren’t the solutions you want to hear. But moving forward, at least you can make decisions based on reality, rather than some distant hope of getting part of an inheritance.

Ending this marriage obviously came at a high cost to you. That may still sting, but I hope you realize it was worth every penny to have this guy out of your life.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer 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.

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How to Prepare When Leaving an Abusive Relationship With No Money MAKING MONEY

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Note: This article doesn’t contain any depiction of physical or sexual violence, but does detail financial and emotional abuse in relationships.

Lisa Orban was married to her abuser for three years. In 1990, she left after he threatened to kill her and their two young children.

She was 20 years old.

Her financial situation in the marriage? “Bad, in a nutshell,” she recalled.

Her husband was the main breadwinner, and he managed the family’s finances.

“Whenever there was a chance that I might make enough money or make more money than him or do anything to upset his financial apple cart, so to speak, he would come in and sabotage it,” she said.

She lost multiple jobs because of his meddling.

Orban moved with him from her hometown in Illinois to Arizona for college, where she’d won a four-year scholarship to study psychology. Before she could start, he contacted the university and told them she’d decided to drop out.

“Imagine my surprise when I go to registration day and find out that my scholarship is gone,” she said.

He even had control of the mailbox. He took her key, though she thought she’d just lost it, and put off replacing it. That had major, unexpected financial ramifications.

“It wasn’t until after we were divorced that I found out that I had not paid off my student loan,” she said. The $4,000 loan ultimately cost her $38,000 to repay.

The checks Orban thought were going into the mail were not, and the missed payment notices from her loan providers weren’t getting to her.

He kept control of the checking account.

He wouldn’t let her use the car alone.

He knew how much money she earned, and he would accompany her to the bank to deposit her paychecks.

He signed up for credit cards in her name.

By the time Orban left and filed for divorce, she was $80,000 in debt and didn’t even know it.

What Is Financial Abuse?

About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men will experience severe intimate partner violence in their lifetime, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Domestic violence and abuse comes in many forms, whether it’s physical, emotional, psychological or sexual — but it can also be financial. Likely, it’s some mix of these, but not always all of them.

Of those who experience violence, 94-99% also experience financial abuse, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“Like all abuse, financial abuse takes a lot of forms, but it’s all controlling behavior — power and control,” said Casey Harden, General Secretary of World YWCA. “Imagine tightening the reins on the financial condition of the home, so that there’s limited options.”

Abusers may leave their partner out of major decisions and purchase a home that’s well out of the family’s budget, for example. They may run up credit card debt without their partner’s knowledge or input, lie about paying bills or damage valuable property.

Victims of domestic violence often stay in an abusive relationship because of a lack of financial resources.

“More often than not, the abuser has made the victim feel as if they are dependent upon the abuser — that without the help of the abuser, the victim could not survive financially in the world, and it is only by the grace of the abuser that the victim has a roof over their head and food on the table,” said Michelle Kuehner, a survivor of domestic violence who is now a financial adviser and author of The Money Diet blog.

If you’re in a bad situation, consider this advice from financial, legal and domestic violence experts on how to leave an abusive relationship when you don’t have any money.

6 Steps to Prepare Your Finances Before Leaving

“The largest hurdle you face in an abusive relationship is getting back your independence,” Kuehner said.

That’s easier said than done.

In addition to the financial hurdles, the most dangerous time for an abused partner is the moment he or she decides to leave.

That’s why before you do anything, we recommend this step:

1. Connect With a Victim Advocate

These people are trained and experienced, so they know how to help you plan to leave safely and quietly. They can point out potential pitfalls and let you know what major financial hurdles to expect.

How to get in touch with local advocates:

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY: 1-800-787-3224. The national hotline can get you in touch with an organization in your area.
Statewide advocacy groups can also connect you with local advocates.
Your local YWCA has resources to fight domestic violence, including shelters and services around the country.

You’re the best at assessing your own safety, so listen to your own instincts, work with an advocate and only consider these steps when you feel it’s safe.

2. Save Money

“Be sure you have liquid funds held in an account in your name only,” said Allison Alexander, a financial adviser at Savant Capital Management. She also recommends having credit cards in your name alone.

Allstate’s financial empowerment curriculum includes advice on how to build a solid financial foundation, including places where you could find loans.

If you can’t get a loan, see if there are other ways to secure money for yourself that your partner doesn’t have access to.

Here are some creative ways to make extra money:

50 Side Jobs to Help You Make an Extra $500 or More This Month
10 Ways to Earn an Extra $100
How to Make Money Fast: 35 Best Ways
Skip the Payday Loan! 15 Smart Ways to Make Money in the Next 24 Hours

Keep an eye out for influxes of cash your partner doesn’t know about or have access to.

“A lot of survivors… wait until that tax return comes, and that’s a nice little chunk to get started on,” said Kim Pentico, director of the Economic Justice Program at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

A bonus at work may be a similar lifeline.

You may be able to work with the human resources department at work to automatically deposit part of your paycheck into a separate bank account.

Catherine Scrivano, a Phoenix–based financial planner, says HR may also be able to help you make an adjustment to your tax withholding to help you receive more money with each paycheck that you can save or invest throughout the year.

3. Make Copies of Important Documents

This includes tax returns, bank statements, investment statements, mortgage or loan information, car titles and pay stubs.

You can simply snap a picture of these documents with your phone and email it to a friend. Or store them in a cloud drive that you — and only you — can access from anywhere, like Google Drive.

4. Cut Ties and Open a New Bank Account

Before opening your own account, Harden recommends obtaining a new mailing address, such as a post office box, and an email address your partner doesn’t know about.

Harden also suggests you contact your bank to update your account’s security questions if your partner has access to an account in your name.

“Your husband of 10, 15 years probably knows the answers to most of your security questions,” she said, “especially if he’s been actively working to know them.”

You can tell your bank the question you want to use. You don’t have to stick with a default question your partner might know the answer to.

If you can, set up separate accounts your partner doesn’t know about, or at least can’t access.

Also, “remove your personal items from a safe deposit box if it is held jointly,” Alexander said. “Establish your own safe deposit box at another bank and place your financial documents and sentimental items, including jewelry, pictures (or) valuables there.”

5. Find a Financial Adviser

If you have the resources to hire a professional financial adviser — who works for you alone, not you and your partner together — great.

If you can’t afford to work with a professional, utilize your local library or domestic abuse support organization. It may have financial literacy classes, support groups and literature to help you.

Even financially savvy friends and family can offer advice.

Pentico often tells survivors, “There’s somebody in your life, more than likely, that seems to know what’s going on when it comes to money and finances, whether it’s a coworker or a family member. Reach out to them.”

6. Find an Attorney

If you are planning to file for divorce, or if you think your partner is planning to file, seek out the help of a lawyer as soon as possible.

If you don’t have money to hire a lawyer or don’t feel safe, a victim advocate can help you find resources.

6 Steps to Rebuild Your Finances After Leaving

Orban didn’t make a plan to leave her abuser. She did what many survivors do: run blindly for their lives.

“They look for a moment — a credit card left unattended, a check that unexpectedly arrives that you somehow got access to, a Christmas bonus from your work that your spouse doesn’t know about,” she says. “These are things you look at, and you go, ‘This is it. This is my chance.’”

And then what?

Once you’ve left and you’re safe, your greatest financial hurdle may be not knowing what you’re working with.

Start by figuring that out.

1. Get a Copy of Your Credit Report

If you haven’t had control of your finances for years, you may have no idea what state they’re in. To create a rebuilding plan, you have to first know what you’re dealing with by reviewing your credit report.

Do you have credit card debt?

Is an unpaid mortgage in your name?

Are you behind on medical bills?

Your credit report will give you this information.

Here’s how to get a free copy of your credit report:

Contact the three major credit reporting bureaus to get a free copy from each. They’re legally required to give you a free credit report once every 12 months, but since the pandemic, all three are offering free weekly credit reports.

To check out your free reports, start at annualcreditreport.com. A banner, front and center, tells you about the new policy with a “request your free credit reports” button.

Your credit history can affect a lot of what you do from now on.

Someone will likely pull it when you apply for an apartment, mortgage, vehicle loan or credit cards, before hiring you for a job or opening a new bank account. It will affect how much you pay to rent a car or get a new cell phone. It could even affect your car insurance rates.

Once you know what’s in your credit history, you can figure out how to fix it.

2. Identify and Work to Pay Off on Lingering Debts

Your credit report will show you all the creditors you owe. Reach out to them directly and ask what you need to do to eliminate those debts.

Scrivano pointed out that a divorce agreement isn’t enough to get you out of debts you shared with your partner. For example, even if the agreement says credit card debt is your ex’s responsibility, the creditor doesn’t know — or care.

Contact your creditors to determine exactly what needs to be done — and what, in the end, is your responsibility.

To prevent your ex from building new debt in your name, you can place a 90-day fraud alert with the major credit bureaus. That way, businesses must verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.

Here’s how to initiate a fraud alert with one of the bureaus:

Experian fraud alert center
TransUnion fraud alerts
Equifax alerts online

Pro Tip

You only have to place an initial fraud alert with one bureau. It will contact the others, according to the FTC. You can renew the alert after 90 days, as often as you need.

3. Create a New Budget

Next, Harden said, spend time “learning to budget in the new reality, whatever that new reality is.”

You can set up new savings and investing plans to “become proactive about having full ownership over (your) finances,” not just reactive to your situation.

Orban learned to manage her budget through trial and error. She always kept a detailed budget.

“I ended up itemizing my life on a day-to-day basis and seeing how much I had coming in and how much, realistically, I had to pay out to function in a normal way,” she said.

Read our tips on how to budget if you’ve never done it before:

Learn all about budgeting.
Learn how to start a budget.
Learn how to create a simple budget in Excel.
Try one of these budgeting apps.

4. Rebuild Your Credit

Even if you have damaged credit, you’re not doomed.

“Since my credit had been damaged a bit, I wanted to rebuild that as well,” Kuehner says.  “Taking out share secured loans… was the easiest way I knew. Within a year-and- a-half my credit had been repaired.”

Start by taking out a secured loan or opening a secured credit card.

It’s similar to a debit card: You put down a cash deposit and can use that amount in credit.

Unlike a debit card, secured cards report your payments and balance to credit bureaus. So it’s a way to establish a credit history if yours is shot or nonexistent.

Read more tips for rebuilding your credit:

Understand the nuts and bolts of credit scores.
Identity Theft Wrecked My Credit Score. Here’s How I Got It Back Above 700
7 Things You Must Do When You’re the Victim of Identity Theft
How This Guy Raised His “Very Poor” Credit Score Nearly 300 Points in 6 Months
I Used These Tricks to Repair My Credit After Destroying My FICO score

5. If You Need to, Find a New Job and Housing

If your abuser didn’t allow you to keep a job, the effect can ripple beyond your lack of control in the relationship.

“It could interrupt a work history,” Harden said.

If you’ve lost your job or you’ve been out of work for a while, you have options.

Find a bridge job or seasonal job, or pick up a side gig. These may not become your long-term career, but they’ll get some money coming in.

“Your local domestic-violence program has relationships with community resources, so while they may not provide (job placement) themselves, they certainly have built partnerships and relationships with those who do, so reach out to them,” Pentico said.

Community colleges can also be a great resource for job placement.

If you’re able to live with friends or family to cut expenses and save for a while, go for it.

Once you’re ready to find your own place, here are some tips for getting the best deal out of your next rental.

6. Prepare for Financial Success

The final step is refocusing on financial vitality, Harden said.

What does a thriving, successful life look like for you? Is there a business you need to reclaim, a career you need to start over or education you need to finish?

If you’re relying on financial support from loved ones, these 13 steps could help you cut the cord.

Focusing on financial independence will take you from reacting to a bad situation to being proactive about your own success.

And remember, you don’t have to go through it again.

“Being in a relationship, regardless if married or not, does not mean you have to commingle all funds,” Kuehner said.

Early on, negotiate a split of resources and financial responsibilities that satisfies and respects both of your needs.

Starting Over

Orban is now retired and has written about her experiences.

Her book,“It’ll Feel Better When It Quits Hurting,” is a memoir of her life before leaving her ex-husband.

Healing emotionally and financially took a lot of time and work. But a small epiphany late one night made her realize she could do it.

“(I realized) I didn’t have to wait for time to heal all wounds. I could make steps and go forward and go, ‘I am in control of my life now — me — and I can make these changes.’”

If you or anyone you know needs help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to speak with an advocate or be connected with someone in your area: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) / TTY: 1-800-787-3224.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a former editor 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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Where to Find Free Baby Stuff for Infants, Toddlers & Moms MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:9 Minute, 56 Second
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We provide you with accurate, reliable information. Learn more about how we make money and select our advertising partners.

Parenthood is tough enough even before you bring finances into the mix. When you tally it up, you’ll likely spend thousands of dollars a year on Baby’s stuff.

And that doesn’t even account for the crazy-high costs of child care.

To help soften the blow a little, we combed the internet to find the best free baby stuff for moms and moms to be — from formula to bonnets to diapers with fox tails on the bottom.

Where Can You Find Free Baby Stuff?

Whether you’re expecting, caring for infants, surviving the terrible twos or preparing for a friend’s baby shower, start with these places to get legit free baby items from well-known companies and boutique brands.

For this post, we rounded up 41 baby freebies and other ways to reduce the price of caring for a wee one, including:

Free Baby Formula
Free Diapers
Free Stuff for Moms
More Free Baby Stuff
Join Baby Registries for Free Gifts
Coupons for Baby Stuff
Baby Subscription Boxes
Local Free & Cheap Baby Stuff

Free Baby Formula

Want to try a new formula but don’t want to waste money on something your little one won’t like? Get free formula samples from top baby formula brands:

1. Enfamil: Join Enfamil Family Beginnings for a free welcome kit of up to $400 in free gifts and a chance to win free formula for a year.

2. Nature’s One: Get a free sample of Baby’s Only Toddler formula or PediaSmart beverage mix.

3. Similac: Sign up for Similac’s StrongMoms program for up to $400 in free goodies, plus ongoing coupons and discounts.

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Free Diapers

Check out these brands offering coupons, samples and free baby diapers:

4. National Diaper Bank Network: The National Diaper Bank Network provides free diapers to families in need. Find a partner in your area that provides free baby diapers.

5. Seventh Generation: Join the Generation Good program to join a community of parents, get access to coupons and try out new environmentally friendly baby products for free.

6. Huggies Rewards: Download the Huggies Rewards app, and earn points when you take surveys, share products, read articles and buy Huggies products. Exchange points for discounts on Huggies diapers and wipes, free gift cards or diaper donations.

7. Pampers Rewards: Join the Pampers Club rewards program, and scan codes when you buy Pampers to earn points you can exchange for cash back, gift cards, free baby gear and more.

8. Abby&Finn: Receive a trial pack that includes eight diapers and a travel pack of 20 wipes — just pay for shipping.

9. Cuties: Sign up to get a free sample of Cuties Complete Care baby diapers, designed to be extra soft and snug with cute, Instagrammable designs.

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Free Stuff for Moms

Baby’s stuff isn’t the only added expense to plan for when you’re expecting. Moms need care, too! Check out these freebies you can nab for yourself:

10. Free Breast Pump: Under the Affordable Care Act, your health care plan is required to cover the cost of a breast pump rental or purchase, whether you signed up through the health insurance marketplace or not. Insurers determine whether pumps are manual or electric and how long rentals last.

11. Free Breast Pads: Get up to 10 pairs of nursing pads from Breast Pads with either of these discount codes: ATHRIFTYMOM1 or 1FRUGALBABY. Just pay shipping. The codes give you $35 off any order.

12. The Belly Button: This company’s slick products help you wear pre-pregnancy pants throughout your pregnancy — comfortably. Get a free Maternity Band or two Body Bands with the code NAME1. The code gives you up to $40 off any order, and you just pay shipping.

13. The Noobie Box: The Noobie Box is a pregnancy gift box that’s filled with samples for mom and Baby: nursing pads, milk storage bags, stretch mark cream, vitamins, diapers, WaterWipes baby wipes, diaper rash cream and a pacifier. You’ll pay $12.95 for shipping the baby box in the contiguous U.S.

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More Free Baby Stuff

Go beyond the obvious. Check out these other free baby samples and other freebies:

14. Birth Announcements: Order birth announcement cards or magnets with Baby’s photo, name, birthdate, weight and height from MagnetStreet, and get $20 in free samples with the code LIFE20SAMPLES. Pro tip: Visit the site in Incognito or Private mode to get the new-customer price of just $0.60 to $0.90 per card or magnet — that gives you more than 20 free announcements!

15. Shutterfly: Download the Shutterfly app to get a free photo book every month to document your family’s growth. Books are 6×6 and softcover, between 20 and 40 pages, and you can include up to 40 photos from your smartphone or social media accounts. You’ll pay $7.99 shipping.

16. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library: Dolly Parton started Imagination Library in 1995 to provide free kids books to preschool-aged children. To join the book club, check for availability in your area, and follow the instructions to register.

17. Car Seat Canopy: Grab a cute car seat cover from Canopy Couture for free with the code NAME1. The code gives you up to $50 off your order (basic canopies cost $49.95), and you’ll just pay shipping.

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Join Baby Registries for Free Gifts

Signing up for a baby registry with many retail or online stores will get you a free bundle of product samples like baby bottles, formula, blankets, diapers, coupons and other supplies.

18. Amazon: Qualifying Prime customers can snag a $35-value free box as a welcome when they create an Amazon baby registry. Krazy Koupon Lady reports the welcome kit includes a muslin swaddle blanket, bottle, breast pads, diapers, wipes, a protein bar and Seventh Generation samples.

19. Target: When you set up a Target baby registry for your baby item needs, you can pick up a welcome kit from guest services at your local store. In it, you’ll find more than $150 worth of coupons and baby samples.

2o. Walmart: When you join Walmart’s baby registry, you’ll get a Baby Welcome Box shipped to your door for free. It includes samples of name-brand products from Huggies, Enfamil and Mam, though it’ll vary based on available items.

21. BuyBuy Baby: Start your baby registry online, and you can pick up a free goody bag at your local BuyBuy Baby store. Goody bags include baby samples and coupons for discounts on baby items.

22. Babylist: Get a free Hello Baby Box delivered to your door when you start a baby registry online through Babylist and make a minimum $10 purchase. The free baby box includes samples and offers from brands like Pampers, Lansinoh, Huggies, EvenFlo and WaterWipes. You’ll pay $5.99 shipping.

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Coupons for Baby Stuff

Every penny counts when you’re budgeting around the needs of a child (or a few). Sign up with your favorite brands to receive exclusive offers and coupons to save on the stuff you need. Just make sure you don’t let them entice you to spend on stuff you don’t need!

23. Mommy’s Bliss: Sign up for an immediate $3 savings on probiotics for moms, kids and babies; and tummy relief like gripe water for colic symptoms.

24. Gerber Baby: Sign up for MyGerber to get expert advice, coupons and offers, a customizable menu planner and tailored content.

25. IKEA Family: Join IKEA Family to receive exclusive member coupons, discounts and freebies.

26. Goodnites: Peruse Goodnites manufacturer coupons to save money on bedwetting products, or sign up with your email address to receive additional coupons and offers.

27. Baby Cubby: Find Baby Cubby coupon codes through RetailMeNot to save on baby clothes, gear, toys and other items.

28. Pottery Barn Kids: Shop for furniture and accessories for kids’ rooms through Pottery Barn, and browse its coupons, special offers and clearance items to get as much as 70% off.

29. The Children’s Place: Subscribe to email or text alerts from The Children’s Place to get exclusive offers on clothing, shoes and accessories for babies, toddlers and older kids.

3o. Carter’s or OshKosh: Join the Rewarding Moments loyalty program to earn points when you buy clothes for kids, toddlers and babies through Carter’s or OshKosh B’gosh. Earn one point for every $1 you spend, and 150 points is equal to $10 free.

31. Nestle Canada: If you live in Canada, register for Nestle Baby & Me to receive a Ready for Baby welcome bundle, free samples, and emails with coupons and special offers.

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Baby Subscription Boxes

If you want organic or sustainable baby products, a subscription service could help you save money and skip the trips to the store.

32. The Honest Company: You can buy Honest Co. products individually, but you’ll save 17% by subscribing to receive an order every month. You’ll get a month’s supply of diapers and wipes, and can add on extras any month at 15% off.

33. Dyper: Subscribe to receive a monthly supply of eco-friendly diapers or training briefs at a discounted price. Plus you’ll get a free diaper bag when you sign up!

34. The Baby Box Co.: Register for free online parenting classes, and get exclusive promotions.

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Local Free and Cheap Baby Stuff

Look no further than your local community to borrow, buy and receive baby hand-me-downs to save money and reduce your carbon footprint.

35. Local Facebook Groups: Keep an eye on your city or neighborhood’s Facebook group for parents offering free baby items. Or find a local Buy Nothing Project group to connect with neighbors giving stuff away. Then you can pay it forward once your baby is grown by passing along essentials to new parents.

36. Facebook Marketplace: While you’re on Facebook, browse the local Marketplace for parents offering baby stuff for free or trades.

37. NextDoor App: NextDoor is a neighborhood forum where neighbors can chatter amongst themselves. You’ll find crime updates, lost-dog posters and — yup! — freebies. Check the “Baby & Kids” category for free baby stuff.

38. Your Pediatrician: Like other medical professionals, pediatricians get samples from companies all the time. If you have a specific need — or just want to try some sample products — it never hurts to ask.

39. Garage Sales: Garage sales are rife with affordable baby toys and clothes. Pop in toward the end of a sale to see if the owners are willing to give away any remaining baby stuff for free, a trade or a significantly reduced price.

40. Freecycle: With a mission to keep good stuff out of landfills, Freecycle is made up of more than 5,000 local groups of people giving stuff away for free. Search your location to find a group near you and see its listings.

41. Craigslist: Browse Craigslist freebies for baby stuff on offer in your area.

Ohio-based Catherine Hiles is a British writer and editor living and working in the U.S. She has a degree in communications from the University of Chester in the U.K. and writes about finance, cars, pet ownership and parenting. 

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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6 Ways for Parents to Save on Child Care MAKING MONEY

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In case you didn’t know, child care isn’t cheap.

If you’ve never had kids, or if you have your first little one on the way, you might not be thinking much about those expenses yet. But many parents will tell you they wish they had started preparing for child care costs much earlier.

In a recent survey by The Penny Hoarder of 2,000 parents nationwide, nearly 55% said child care was more expensive than they expected. And 63% said the cost of child care factored into their decision whether to have more than one child.

So what do you do? Where do you start? Is it even possible to find affordable child care?

If you have a young one on the way, or are planning to soon, here are some ways to save money on child care.

6 Tips for Managing Child Care Costs

1. Start Your Research Now

Obviously, your working schedule as parents will factor heavily into your child care costs. Stay-at-home parents will spend significantly less.

However, for single parents working full-time and in two-parent homes where both work, you’ll need to begin researching costs as soon as possible. And be aware of waiting lists. It’s not uncommon for popular daycare providers in urban areas to have waitlists of anywhere from 12 to 24 months. Most places have fewer spots available for infants, so those waits can be even longer.

Once you get in, be ready for the sticker shock. Almost 44% of respondents in our survey spent at least $1,000 per month on child care, with only 17% spending under $500 per month.

Traditionally, a daycare provider is less expensive than a nanny. But that gap is closing, according to a 2021 survey by Care.com. There’s now only a $14 a week difference between the cost of having two kids in daycare versus hiring a nanny, that survey found.

A nanny share is also a newer trend in which multiple families use one nanny who watches all the kids at once or splits time between the two. This helps save money on the hourly costs by dividing the expenses.

So whether you’re looking at a daycare facility or a nanny, now is the time to start researching your options.

2. Check with Your HR Department

If this is your first child, you might be unaware of the benefits your employer offers related to child care.

With more and more companies going remote during 2020, the next new benefit to dangle in front of potential employees may very well be child care.

Some companies are ahead of the game. Bright Horizons Family Solutions manages employer-based child care services and benefits, with clients that include Amazon, Apple, Facebook and General Motors. More than 100 of their clients chose a backup care option last year, a service that allows someone to bring their child to Bright Horizons when they’re in a last-minute bind.

According to our survey, 66% of parents would consider switching jobs to a company that offered child care-related assistance. With 70% saying they “feel stressed” over what child care will look like in 2022, it’s easy to understand why a workplace benefit would help ease their mind.

3. Look into FSAs

While stipends and on-site child care are growing as benefits, a flexible spending account (FSA) is still a more common option.

Many workplaces now offer both a healthcare and dependent care flexible spending account. With dependent care FSAs, you withhold a certain amount from your paycheck while also paying out of pocket. After you’ve paid for child care, you file a claim, with receipts, and you’re reimbursed later.

What makes this type of FSA so attractive is that it’s funded with pre-tax dollars, which reduces your taxable income.

Single filers and couples filing jointly can currently contribute up to $10,500 per year to a dependent care FSA, while married couples filing separately can contribute up to $5,250.

Note that educational costs like school tuition and tutoring are not eligible. Overnight camps and extracurricular activities like sports or music lessons are also not covered expenses in a dependent care FSA.

The downside to FSAs is, usually, they are “use it or lose it.” If you haven’t used all of the money in your account by the end of the year, you’ll forfeit it. However, because of the pandemic and resulting unused FSA money, the IRS relaxed its restrictions and allowed rollovers for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022.

Remember, your FSA contributions will need to appear on your federal tax return, and you’ll need to re-enroll each year.

4. Start a Sinking Fund

Forty percent of our survey respondents said they have gone into debt because of the cost of child care. That’s a tough situation to be in.

One potential way to avoid debt is by creating a sinking fund, which is a relatively easy way to pay for a large expense over time. For example, you know your HVAC unit has a few years left on it. So you put aside $300 per month in savings to pay for it.

After two years – 24 months worth of saving $300 – you’ll have more than $7,000 to put toward a nice new HVAC. If you want to reduce the amount you put in the fund per month, plan further ahead and start saving sooner.

So, for child care, let’s say you expect to pay $700 per month in expenses. That comes to $8,400 over the course of a year. How much can you set aside now, before your little one arrives and/or it’s time to enroll, to ease those expenses later?

Even if it’s not the full monthly amount, you’ll reduce your financial burden (and related stress) with that monetary boost when the time comes. The key is planning ahead and, to the best of your ability, know what to expect when it comes to your eventual child care costs.

5. Consider the Opportunity Cost — and Adjust Accordingly

In our survey, parents reported having to make sometimes difficult sacrifices because of child care costs:

26% said they’ve had to move homes.
25% reported they’ve had to find a new home for their pet.
38% had taken a side hustle.
29% had cut back hours at work.
15% had taken on a second mortgage.
28% had borrowed money from a friend or family member.

Some of those are extreme measures. Hopefully, your choices are a little less difficult. That’s where your “opportunity cost” comes into play.

With opportunity cost, you’re basically asking yourself, “What else could I be doing with this money?”

If child care is about to be a huge priority in your life, it might be time to look around and determine if you’re spending your money in areas that aren’t as important. For example:

Could you drop the gym membership and start working out from home?
What other monthly memberships (e.g. streaming services, box subscriptions) could you give up?
Could you cut back on eating out from four times a month to two?
What other extracurriculars, like golf, spa visits, or shopping trips can you reduce or eliminate?
Is it time for a trade-in to possibly “downsize” a car payment?

These might be temporary sacrifices until you get other permanent options in place, like an FSA. The idea is, though, to prioritize spending in your life (a budget will help with that, too).

Take a look at your expenses, list out what’s most important – obviously starting with bills like shelter and food, then moving on to transportation, child care, and so on.

After looking at that list as a whole, determine what isn’t as much of a priority as child care and how much of that spending you can put toward child care expenses.

6. Look for Tax Credits

If you’re a new or soon-to-be parent, make sure you stay in tune with the available tax credits.

In 2021, many parents saw a nice bump in income from the expanded child tax credit, which provided a total credit of $3,600  to parents with children younger than 6 and $3,000 to parents of children ages 6-17. Half of those payments are being made in monthly installments from July to December of 2021, while the remaining half will be paid as a credit on tax returns in 2022.

Another lesser-known but still useful tax option is the child and dependent care tax credit. If you’re paying someone to take care of your kids while you work, you might be eligible, depending on factors like the age of your children and your income.

For 2021, the amount of qualifying expenses for this credit increases to $8,000 for one child/dependent and $16,000 for two children/dependents. The percentage of expenses that qualify for the credit also increased from 35% to 50%. To see if you qualify for the child and dependent care credit, visit the IRS website.

Tax laws may change from year to year, so make sure you are up to speed on any benefits that might help you make childcare more affordable.

Next Steps Forward

As a new or soon-to-be parent, you might get stressed and panic over what to do with your little one when the time comes for child care. That’s understandable. And almost every parent has been there.

Take the time to research your options, talk to your employer about benefits such as stipends and FSAs, and get creative with sinking funds and other sacrifices in your budget. You want to do what’s best for your kid, and you will.

The reality is that child care is expensive, but you can make it more affordable.

Methodology: The Penny Hoarder used Pollfish to conduct a national survey about the cost of child care with 2,000 people completing the survey Sept. 8-10, 2021. Survey responses are weighted so that each response is representative of the U.S. population.

Robert Bruce is a senior writer for 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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Dear Penny: Are We Stuck With My Stepdaughter’s Illegal Student Loan? MAKING MONEY

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Dear Penny,

My husband’s daughter from his previous marriage took out a student loan in his name without his consent. We’ve been paying on the loan. Our relationship with her is non-existent.

He recently became disabled, so our monthly income has decreased significantly. Is there any way out of repaying the loan? We have tried repeatedly to reach out to his daughter with no response. We hesitate to renegotiate the repayment, as we aren’t in agreement that it’s truly ours to repay. 

We’ve asked both our servicer and the Department of Education for additional information and voicing our concerns, but there’s been no response. What options do we have outside of paying the loan?

-Stuck

Dear Stuck,

When your stepdaughter took out this loan without your husband’s permission, she probably had to use his Social Security number and sign his name. That’s identity theft.

 

Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes for this terrible situation your stepdaughter has forced upon the two of you. If she did steal your husband’s identity to obtain this loan, he could file a police report and then submit a copy to the servicer. 

 


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Of course, most parents are understandably hesitant to take actions that could result in criminal charges against a child, even one who’s estranged. If your husband isn’t willing to report the incident, he’ll have no choice other than to make these payments to keep his credit intact.

 

Your stepdaughter has shown zero interest in accepting responsibility for her actions, so I think pursuing criminal charges deserves serious consideration. Or if he’s unsure, your husband could send his daughter a message letting her know that he’s filing a police report if he doesn’t hear back from her by a certain deadline. Perhaps knowing that authorities could come knocking will provide her the motivation she needs to start righting this wrong. 

 

But as long as you two are paying the loan without reporting the matter, this debt is yours. You need to do whatever you can to keep the payments as manageable as possible.

 

With private loans, you’re at the mercy of the lender as far as repayment options. If your stepdaughter took federal loans, like Parent PLUS loans, in your husband’s name, there’s far greater flexibility. 

 

Your husband could get some breathing room by taking advantage of the federal student loan moratorium that’s in effect through Jan. 31, 2022. Not only can you skip payments without accruing interest or late fees, you can also request a refund of any payments you’ve made since March 2020. Obviously that’s only a temporary fix, but this break coupled with refunds for up to a year and a half’s worth of payments could provide some relief.

 

If there’s still no resolution in sight, an income-contingent repayment plan could be an option. Payments are capped at 20% of discretionary income. Any balance that remains at the end of 25 years gets forgiven, though the forgiven amount typically gets treated as taxable income.

 

You didn’t say whether your husband’s disability is permanent. If so and this is a federal student loan, he may be one of about 485,000 people who recently became eligible for automatic student loan forgiveness. The Department of Education is notifying those who qualify for an automatic discharge through the end of the year, though some people will have to apply to get the debt forgiven.

 

As the two of you determine your action plan, I’d suggest that your husband be vigilant about monitoring his credit reports. His daughter clearly has the information needed to obtain financing in his name. He should consider a credit freeze, which essentially locks access to your credit report. That makes it so someone else can’t apply for credit in your name.

 

The ideal solution here would be for your stepdaughter to take responsibility so that you don’t have to involve law enforcement or pay this debt. She’s the one who’s making that impossible. 

 

This is a situation where your husband may have to choose the least terrible option. And even though you’re impacted, this is ultimately his decision to make. It’s infuriating that I just spent the paragraphs above suggesting ways for your husband to repay a loan that he never signed up for. But unless he’s willing to treat this as a crime, I’m afraid the only solution is to mitigate the pain.

 

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer 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.

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The Penny Hoarder’s 2021 Survey on Child Care Costs MAKING MONEY

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When you have a baby, you understand your life is going to change significantly.

You’re responsible for another human being. You’ll lose tons of sleep. And, of course, you’ll have a bunch of new expenses.

Diapers. Formula. Clothing. Toys. But one of the biggest expenses that hit parents is child care.

The Penny Hoarder surveyed 2,000 parents in September 2021 asking about how child care costs affected their lives. Despite extra financial support in the form of pandemic stimulus checks and child tax credits this year, a large majority of families feel overwhelmed.

The Financial Toll of Child Care

For working parents, child care is a necessity. Yet, it’s often challenging to secure and afford quality care.

“Working families across the country pay a significant percentage of their annual earnings to cover the price of child care,” said Mario Cardona, Chief of Policy and Practice for Child Care Aware of America, a national child care advocacy organization.

For many parents, it costs more to send their kids to day care than to put a roof over their heads.

“In the Midwest, Northeast and South, the price of full-time, center-based care for two children is the highest category of household expenses, including housing, transportation, food and health care,” Cardona said. “In the West, the price of child care for two children is surpassed only by the high price of housing.”

Half the parents we surveyed reported spending at least 25% of their income on child care. That’s a significant increase from when The Penny Hoarder surveyed parents about the cost of child care in 2018. Back then, the median percentage of income parents said they spent on child care was 15%.

Child Care Aware of America uses an affordability benchmark from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which states that families who are receiving child care subsidies should not pay more than 7% of their income toward co-payments.

“We’ve used this benchmark to say that no family should pay more than 7% of income towards child care, whether they receive child care subsidies or not,” he said.

Following these guidelines, a family earning $5,000 a month should be paying no more than $350 a month for child care.

The Sacrifices Parents Make

The expense of child care forces parents to make hard choices.

Four out of 10 parents say they’ve gone into debt due to the cost of child care. Over a quarter of parents have had to move to a different home to afford child care. Almost 38% of parents have had to take on a second job or side hustle.

Having to pay a child care provider makes it tough to meet other financial responsibilities. Almost 28% of parents say they’ve had to choose between paying for child care or paying their rent or mortgage on time.

About 35% say they’ve had to choose between paying for child care or paying a credit card bill on time.

Not paying a bill on time often results in late fees, but for some families, an extra fee is better than losing a coveted spot at a child care center and facing the challenge of finding other arrangements.

Other parents figure that it makes more sense to leave the workforce than to spend so much of their income paying for child care. Nearly 1 out of 5 parents say they’ve had to quit a job due to the costs of child care.

Leaving the workforce has ripple effects beyond a loss of income. Many stay-at-home parents find it difficult to return to work due to gaps in their employment history. They lose out on opportunities for career advancement. Not having access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan means stay-at-home parents miss out on the ability to grow their retirement savings.

Help Needed

The Penny Hoarder’s survey on child care costs survey found that financial support during the pandemic has helped parents pay for child care.

Seventy percent of parents said stimulus check money helped with the cost of child care during the pandemic. Over 83% of those receiving monthly child tax credit payments said that money has helped with child care expenses this year.

This financial assistance, however, is temporary. About 1 in 5 parents receiving child tax credits reported that once the monthly payments end in December, they don’t believe they’ll be able to continue paying for care.

Looking for more help? Read how FSAs, employer programs and tax benefits can help you manage the cost of child care.

Methodology: The Penny Hoarder used Pollfish to conduct a national survey about the cost of child care with 2,000 people completing the survey Sept. 8-10, 2021. Survey responses are weighted so that each response is representative of the U.S. population.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Chris Zuppa, The Penny Hoarder’s multimedia content creator, contributed to this report.

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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