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17 Best Bank Promotions of July 2021 (Get Up to $450 Cash) MAKING MONEY

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So, you’re looking for a new bank account.

You’ve got several factors to consider — ATM access, interest rates, monthly fees, minimum balances, mobile app reviews, and more.

Another factor to consider: bank promotions. These are cash bonuses you can earn when opening a new checking or savings account with a bank or credit union during the promotion window, meeting any specific criteria and keeping the account open at least long enough to earn the extra cash.

While a savings or checking bonus shouldn’t be your top reason to choose a bank, don’t rule it out entirely. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to fund your shiny new account with some extra cash?

Many banks offer such sign-up bonuses, but often, these bonuses aren’t advertised, meaning finding the best bank account bonuses can be tricky. That’s why we did some digging for you and found some hefty cash offers.

Best Bank Promotions of July 2021

We’ve researched the best cash bonuses available this month so you don’t have to. Below, you’ll find our favorite checking and savings account bonuses.

Keep an eye on what it takes to qualify, as well as any limitations. Direct deposit and minimum balances are commonly factors in securing these bonuses. Also pay attention to any monthly fees the account might carry; over time, these could weigh out the actual cash bonus. Otherwise, happy bank bonus shopping!

1. Aspiration Account: $150

Bonus amount: $150

How to get the bonus: To earn your $150, here’s all you need to do: Open your Aspiration account and deposit at least $10. Aspiration will send you a debit card associated with the account. Use the Aspiration debit card to make at least $1,000 of cumulative transactions within the first 60 days of opening your account. There’s no need to spend extra money — just use your card to buy groceries and pay your utilities.

Where to sign up: Enter your email address here, and link your bank account.

When you’ll get the bonus: Allow up to 120 calendar days from account opening to receive the bonus; you must have completed the requirements within the first 60 days.

The fine print: With Aspiration, your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. The account offers up to 1.00% APY on savings and allows fee-free withdrawals at more than 55,000 ATMs. There are no hidden fees with Aspiration (monthly fees are on a “Pay What is Fair” policy, and that can be zero every month!), and you’ll earn cash back when you spend at socially conscious businesses (up to 5%).

No offer expiration.

2. Aspiration Plus Account: $200

Bonus amount: $200

How to get the bonus: To earn your $200, here’s all you need to do: Open your Aspiration Plus account during signup or within the first 60 days of enrollment in the regular Aspiration Account. Deposit at least $10. Aspiration will send you a debit card associated with the account. Use the Aspiration debit card to make at least $1,000 of cumulative transactions within the first 60 days of opening your account. There’s no need to spend extra money — just use your card to buy groceries and pay your utilities.

Where to sign up: Enter your email address here, and link your bank account.

When you’ll get the bonus: Allow up to 120 calendar days from account opening to receive the bonus; you must have completed the requirements within the first 60 days.

The fine print: With Aspiration, your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. The account offers up to 1.00% APY on savings and allows fee-free withdrawals at more than 55,000 ATMs. Unlike the typical Aspiration Account, there is a $15/month fee (or $12.50/month if you pay annually). However, you’ll earn more cash back when you spend at socially conscious businesses (up to 10%), get monthly out-of-network ATM reimbursement and receive carbon offsets for all gas purchases.

No offer expiration.

3. TD Bank Beyond Checking Account: $300

Bonus amount: $300

How to get the bonus: Open a new TD Beyond Checking account. You must receive a total of $2,500 or more via direct deposit within 60 days of opening your new account.

Where to sign up: Visit this TD Checking page. Click the orange “open account” button, and follow the instructions to open a TD Beyond Checking account.

When you’ll get the bonus: The $300 bonus will be deposited into your account within 140 days of opening.

The fine print: While this bonus offer sounds too good to be true, it is definitely attainable. However, only open the account if you regularly get sizable monthly deposits or can maintain a healthy minimum balance. That’s because the account charges a monthly maintenance fee, but TD will waive the fee if you receive monthly direct deposits of $5,000, keep a minimum daily balance of $2,500 or maintain a combined balance across all your TD bank accounts of a whopping $25,000.

TD fees—and the bank’s capacity for waiving them—extend to ATMs. You won’t face fees for making withdrawals at TD’s own ATMs, and it’ll reimburse all fees for withdrawing at non-TD ATMs as long as you keep your daily balance at $2,500 or more.

No offer expiration.

4. TD Bank Convenience Checking Account: $150

Bonus amount: $150

How to get the bonus: Open a new TD Convenience Checking account. You must receive a total of $500 or more via direct deposit within 60 days of opening your new account.

Where to sign up: Visit this TD Checking page. Click the orange “open account” button, and follow the instructions to open a TD Beyond Checking account.

When you’ll get the bonus: The $150 bonus will be deposited into your account within 140 days of opening.

The fine print: While this bonus offer sounds too good to be true, it is definitely attainable. Unlike the TD Bank Beyond Checking account, this checking account option is easier for financial beginners to manage. You only need to maintain a minimum balance of $100 to have the monthly maintenance fee waived. And if you are between the age of 17 and 23, there are no minimum balance requirements and no monthly maintenance fee.

However, the Convenience Checking account does not earn interest; the Beyond Checking account does.

No offer expiration.

5. Chime Referral Bonus: $75 each ($150 between you and a friend)

Bonus amount: $75 per referral, plus $75 to the friend you refer

How to get the bonus: For this bonus, you must already be a Chime account holder as the bonus comes from a referral to a friend. You can also create an account now, then refer a friend to still get the bonus. If you refer a friend and they enroll and receive a direct deposit of $200 or more from their payroll provider in the first 45 days, you will each receive $75. Just make sure to use the referral link from your account.

When you’ll get the bonus: Each person will receive their $75 within two business days of the first $200 direct deposit to the referred account holder.

The fine print: Please be sure to use a unique referral link generated from within your account. (You may also receive promotional emails with such a link.) Otherwise, you and your friend will not receive the bonus.

No offer expiration.

6. Citizens Student Checking Account: Up to $400

Bonus amount: Up to $400

How to get the bonus: Open a new Citizens Student Checking account via the offer page and receive a direct deposit of $500 or more within the first 60 days to receive a $300 bonus. You can receive up to $100 more by using your debit card. For every debit card purchase you make, you will earn $2, up to $100, during the first 60 days.

Where to sign up: You can only sign up through this promotional page. Choose “Open Your Account” for the Student Checking account.

When you’ll get the bonus: The bonus ends this month. If you open the account during the small window this July, your bonus will be paid by November 30, 2021.

The fine print: You must be a new Citizens banking customer and under 25 years old. Direct deposits cannot be from apps like Venmo; rather, they must be regular monthly income, like a paycheck or pension. This account does not earn interest.

Offer expires July 8, 2021.

7. Citizens One Deposit Checking from Citizens Account: Up to $400

Bonus amount: Up to $400

How to get the bonus: Open a new Citizens One Deposit Checking from Citizens account via the offer page and receive a direct deposit of $500 or more within the first 60 days to receive a $300 bonus. You can receive up to $100 more by using your debit card. For every debit card purchase you make, you will earn $2, up to $100, during the first 60 days.

Where to sign up: You can only sign up through this promotional page. Choose “Open Your Account” for the One Deposit Checking from Citizens account.

When you’ll get the bonus: The bonus ends this month. If you open the account during the small window this July, your bonus will be paid by November 30, 2021.

The fine print: You must be a new Citizens banking customer. Direct deposits cannot be from apps like Venmo; rather, they must be regular monthly income, like a paycheck or pension. There is a $9.99 monthly maintenance fee, but you can have it waived by making at least one deposit each statement period. This account does not earn interest.

Offer expires July 8, 2021.

8. Citizens Quest Checking Account: Up to $400

Bonus amount: Up to $400

How to get the bonus: Open a new Citizens Quest Checking account via the offer page and receive a direct deposit of $500 or more within the first 60 days to receive a $300 bonus. You can receive up to $100 more by using your debit card. For every debit card purchase you make, you will earn $2, up to $100, during the first 60 days.

Where to sign up: You can only sign up through this promotional page. Choose “Open Your Account” for the Quest Checking account.

When you’ll get the bonus: The bonus ends this month. If you open the account during the small window this July, your bonus will be paid by November 30, 2021.

The fine print: You must be a new Citizens banking customer. Direct deposits cannot be from apps like Venmo; rather, they must be regular monthly income, like a paycheck or pension. There is a $25.00 monthly maintenance fee, but you can have it waived by making at least $5,000 in deposits each statement period or by maintaining a balance of at least $25,000 across all Citizens accounts.

9. Huntington Asterisk-Free Checking Account: $150

Bonus amount: $150

How to get the bonus: Open a new Huntington Asterisk-Free Checking account online or in a branch. Make cumulative new money deposits totaling at least $1,000 within the first 60 days of opening the account and keep the account open for at least 90 days.

Where to sign up: Visit this promotional page for Huntington and choose “Apply Online” for the Huntington Asterisk-Free Checking account.

When you’ll get the bonus: After meeting the bonus criteria (i.e., after 90 days), you will receive the bonus within just 14 days. This is the fastest turnaround of any banking bonus included on this list.

The fine print: Not everyone can get in on this deal. You can only take advantage of the offer if you live in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania or West Virginia. “New money” deposits means any money that is not currently in an existing Huntington account. This account does not earn interest.

Offer expires July 7, 2021.

10. Huntington 5 Checking Account: $200

Bonus amount: $200

How to get the bonus: Open a new Huntington 5 Checking account online or in a branch. Make cumulative new money deposits totaling at least $1,000 within the first 60 days of opening the account and keep the account open for at least 90 days.

Where to sign up: Visit this promotional page for Huntington and choose “Apply Online” for the Huntington 5 Checking account.

When you’ll get the bonus: After meeting the bonus criteria (i.e., after 90 days), you will receive the bonus within just 14 days. This is the fastest turnaround of any banking bonus included on this list.

The fine print: Not everyone can get in on this deal. You can only take advantage of the offer if you live in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania or West Virginia. “New money” deposits means any money that is not currently in an existing Huntington account. This account earns interest (currently a 0.02% APY, which is quite low). It also has a monthly maintenance fee of $5, which is waived if you have at least $5,000 across all Huntington accounts.

Offer expires July 7, 2021.

11. Chase Total Checking Account: $225

Bonus amount: $225

How to get the bonus: Open a new Chase Total Checking account as a new Chase customer. Within 90 days of opening the account, have a qualifying direct deposit made into the account from your employer or the government.

Where to sign up: Visit this page on Chase’s website to sign up for the account and receive the $225 bonus. You can also open the account at a Chase location near you.

When you’ll get the bonus: Chase will deposit the $225 bonus into your account within 15 business days after you meet the criteria.

The fine print: Direct deposits from person-to-person payments do not qualify for the sake of this bonus. The Total Checking account carries a $12 monthly service fee, but you can have it waived if you receive direct deposits each month totaling $500 or more, keep a minimum balance in the account at the start of each day of at least $1,500, or keep a minimum balance across all your Chase accounts at the start of each day of at least $5,000.

If you close the account within six months of opening, Chase will deduct the bonus amount at closing. You can only receive one signup bonus from Chase for a checking account every two years.

Offer expires July 14, 2021.

12. Capital One 360 Checking Account: $150

Bonus amount: $225

How to get the bonus: Open a new Capital One 360 Checking account using promo code BONUS150. Within 75 days of opening the account, receive at least two qualifying direct deposits, each of at least $250.

Where to sign up: Visit this page on Capital One’s website to sign up for the account and receive the $150 bonus. Don’t forget to use the promo code BONUS150.

When you’ll get the bonus: If you open the account in July and meet the criteria on time, you will be paid by December 31, 2021. If you open the account in August and meet the criteria on time, you will be paid by January 31, 2022.

The fine print: Direct deposits from person-to-person payments do not qualify for the sake of this bonus. If you have opened an account between January 1, 2018, and now with Capital One, you will not qualify for the bonus.

Offer expires August 17, 2021.

13. Bank of America Advantage Banking Account: $100

Bonus amount: $100

How to get the bonus: Open a new Bank of American Advantage Banking account online using the offer code DDX100CIS. You must then set up and receive qualifying direct deposits, totaling $1,000 or more, within 90 days of opening the new account. This offer is only available to new Bank of America personal checking account customers.

Where to sign up: Visit the offer page and use the offer code DDX100CIS when opening the account.

When you’ll get the bonus: Bank of America promises to “attempt” to deposit the bonus into the account within 60 days of satisfying all requirements. Though the “attempt” disclosure seems a little suspect, we could not find traces of reviews citing unpaid bonuses.

The fine print: A qualifying direct deposit means the direct deposit must be regular monthly income, whether through salary, pension or Social Security benefits. Deposits through wire transfer, apps like Venmo or ATM transfers will not qualify.

Advantage Banking accounts come in three varieties: SafeBalance, Plus and Relationship. All three carry monthly maintenance fees that can be waived:

To waive the SafeBalance monthly maintenance fee of $4.95, enroll in Preferred Rewards.
To waive the Plus monthly maintenance fee of $12, receive a qualifying minimum direct deposit, maintain minimum daily balance requirements or enroll in Preferred Rewards.
To waive the Relationship monthly maintenance fee of $25, maintain the minimum combined balance in all linked accounts or enroll in Preferred Rewards.

Offer expires December 31, 2021.

14. PNC Virtual Wallet Account: $50

Bonus amount: $50

How to get the bonus: Open a new PNC Virtual Wallet account online or in a branch. Receive qualifying direct deposits of $500 within the first 60 days. 

Where to sign up: Visit this promotional page for PNC and choose “Apply Now” for the Virtual Wallet account (either with Spend, Reserve and Growth or just Spend).

When you’ll get the bonus: After meeting the bonus criteria, you will receive the bonus (labeled “Cash Trans Promo Reward” on your monthly statement) within 60 to 90 days.

The fine print: Cannot have a current PNC account or have closed an account within the previous 90 days. Qualifying direct deposits include paychecks, Social Security, pension or other recurring monthly income that is electronically deposited by your employer or an outside agency into your account. The account carries a monthly service charge that can be waived if 1) you have $500 or more in monthly direct deposits in the associated Spend account, 2) you maintain $500 or more between associated Spend and Reserve accounts, or 3) are 62 or older. This account does not earn interest.

Offer expires September 30, 2021.

15. PNC Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend Account: $200

Bonus amount: $200

How to get the bonus: Open a new PNC Virtual Wallet with a Performance Spend account online or in a branch. Receive qualifying direct deposits of $2,000 within the first 60 days. 

Where to sign up: Visit this promotional page for PNC and choose “Apply Now” for the Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend account (either with Spend, Reserve and Growth or just Spend).

When you’ll get the bonus: After meeting the bonus criteria, you will receive the bonus (labeled “Cash Trans Promo Reward” on your monthly statement) within 60 to 90 days.

The fine print: Cannot have a current PNC account or have closed an account within the previous 90 days. Qualifying direct deposits include paychecks, Social Security, pension or other recurring monthly income that is electronically deposited by your employer or an outside agency into your account. The account carries a monthly service charge that can be waived if 1) you have $2,000 or more in monthly direct deposits in the associated Spend account, 2) you maintain $2,000 or more between associated Spend and Reserve accounts, or 3) have at least $10,000 across all consumer PNC accounts.

Offer expires September 30, 2021.

16. PNC Virtual Wallet with Performance Select Account: $300

Bonus amount: $300

How to get the bonus: Open a new PNC Virtual Wallet with Performance Select account online or in a branch. Make qualifying direct deposits of $5,000 within the first 60 days. 

Where to sign up: Visit this promotional page for PNC and choose “Apply Now” for the Virtual Wallet with Performance Select account (either with Spend, Reserve and Growth or just Spend).

When you’ll get the bonus: After meeting the bonus criteria, you will receive the bonus (labeled “Cash Trans Promo Reward” on your monthly statement) within 60 to 90 days.

The fine print: Cannot have a current PNC account or have closed an account within the previous 90 days. Qualifying direct deposits include paychecks, Social Security, pension or other recurring monthly income that is electronically deposited by your employer or an outside agency into your account. The account carries a monthly service charge that can be waived if 1) you have $5,000 or more in monthly direct deposits in the associated Spend account, 2) you maintain $5,000 or more between associated Spend and Reserve accounts, or 3) have at least $25,000 across all consumer PNC accounts.

Offer expires September 30, 2021.

17. HSBC Premier Checking Account: $450

Bonus amount: $450

How to get the bonus: Open a new HSBC Premier checking account as a new HSBC customer. Receive at least $5,000 in direct deposits from a third party for three consecutive months, starting in the second full calendar month after opening.

Where to sign up: Visit this page on HSBC’s website and click “Apply now” to sign up for the account. 

When you’ll get the bonus: HSBC will deposit the $450 bonus into your account within eight weeks after meeting the criteria.

The fine print: This offer is only open to applicants who are 18 or older, who are citizens of the United States, and who did not have an HSBC deposit account between March 31, 2018 and March 31, 2021.

Offer expires August 31, 2021.

How to Search for Bank Bonuses on Your Own

In the spirit of not listing approximately 193 bank promotions, we kept this list short and sweet — only highlighting the best bank promotions for checking and savings accounts.

But maybe you’re interested in banking with your local credit union, opening up a small business checking account or finding the perfect investment account? There are often bonus offers attached to these account openings, too.

The banks don’t always make finding these promotions easy, so here are a few tips to help you get your hands on that cash bonus.

Check the bank’s website first. Sometimes it’ll advertise its promotions right there. This is rare, but it’s worth a quick check — it could save you a ton of time.
If you don’t have any luck, reach out to the bank’s customer service team through phone, email or chat. Let them know you’re shopping for a new account, and you’d like to know if it’s running any promotions. More often than not, the nice representative will send you a special link.
If this doesn’t work, turn to your trusty friend Google. Look for the best bank account bonuses. Because you’ll likely dig up some offers from third-party sites, you’ll want to take a few minutes to make sure the offer:
Hasn’t expired.
Is legitimate. Make sure the bank is FDIC-insured and has a positive Better Business Bureau rating. You can even read some online reviews.
Doesn’t require outrageous qualifying activities. For example, it might not be realistic for you to maintain an average daily balance of $50,000 and carry out 60 qualifying debit card purchases or receive five direct deposits before the end of your first 30-day statement cycle.

You can also reach out to your family, friends and social network to crowdsource bank recommendations. Sometimes banks have impressive referral programs, so both you and your friend could benefit from you signing up.

Overall, be smart. Don’t let that promise of an account bonus blind you. Also, read the fine print so you don’t get stuck paying high monthly fees, interest rates or closing penalties.

Will Opening a Bank Account Hurt Your Credit Score?

If you’re worried that opening a new bank account or closing an old one will hurt your credit score, don’t be. Your bank accounts are not included in your credit report and therefore have no effect on your credit score, unless you have an outstanding negative balance that the bank turns over to a collection agency.

Sometimes when you go to open a new bank account, banks will do a soft credit check. However, that won’t affect your credit score.

Now, go enjoy your fresh new bank account and that nice cash bonus you’re about to pocket. Add it to your savings account, put it toward student loan payments or, heck, treat yourself!

Editorial Disclosure: This content is not provided by the bank advertiser. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertiser. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Program.

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.

MAKING MONEY

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Americans Are Finally Paying Off Credit Card Debt — How to Join Them MAKING MONEY

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If you’ve got credit card debt, you know how painful it is. It’s the most expensive kind of debt you can have, and your credit card companies are just getting rich and fat while they gouge you with high interest rates.

Wouldn’t it be great to turn the tables on them? Well, now a lot of people are. More and more Americans are simply paying off their credit card balances, and that’s making credit card companies like Capital One, Citibank and Chase really, really nervous. That’s because their whole business model is based on gouging you.

“Americans are paying down their credit card debt at levels not seen in years. That is good news for everyone but credit card issuers,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Many card issuers rely on growing card usage and balances for their revenue, and they are wondering if the pandemic trends will turn into a long-term shift.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to get a little revenge and make your credit card companies sweat for a change? Now you can, and it’s easier than you think.

Credit cards charge you harsh interest rates that routinely rise north of 20% APR. But if you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, a website called AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off all your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have significantly lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster.

Plus: No credit card payments for you this month!

They’re Getting Awfully Nervous

These days, credit card companies are sweating bullets because Americans’ credit card balances are falling. They shrunk by a whopping $49 billion in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the previous quarter, according to data released last week by the New York Fed,

Overall, credit card balances are down nearly 15% compared to a year before, according to the credit reporting firm Equifax.

For big credit card issuers like Capital One, Discover and Synchrony (the largest issuer of store credit cards), balances are down by 17%, 9% and 7% compared to a year ago, those companies reported.

Why is this happening?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, banks expected delinquencies to surge, forcing borrowers to rely on their credit cards to make ends meet, The Wall Street Journal reported. But then the government stepped in with stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits. It allowed borrowers to pause payments on mortgages and student loans. So that surge of delinquencies never happened.

Now, “it appears that many households are working to reduce their revolving debt balances, and this is happening across the board,” the Fed wrote.

How to Beat Your Credit Card Company

If you’re interested in getting a personal loan to wipe out your credit card balances, it helps to have a good credit score.

A free website called Credit Sesame makes it easy to put your credit score on track to reach your goals. Within two minutes, it’ll give you 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).

Now, with AmOne, you don’t need a perfect credit score to get a loan — and comparing your options won’t affect your score at all.  Plus, 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 less than a minute and just 11 questions to see what loans you qualify for — you don’t even need to enter your Social Security number. 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.

Stop shoveling money into high-interest credit card payments. Cackle along with the rest of us as credit card companies express deep concern in earnings calls, sweating over their plummeting profits.

Revenge is sweet.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He paid off all his credit cards, and wow did it feel good.

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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15 Ideas for What to Do With Stale Bread MAKING MONEY

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You grabbed a loaf of bread the last time you were at the grocery store, but now it’s rock hard. So, what to do with stale bread?

Plenty, from making fresh breadcrumbs to binding meatballs to adding to a salad there are ways to breath new life into an old loaf.

This common scenario is annoying when you’re hungry and craving a sandwich, but it’s also a huge waste of food and money if you throw it away. The USDA estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the country’s food supply is wasted, with food waste occurring at every step along the food chain.

Much of the waste, though, happens in the home. We can all do better but don’t be that person who tosses out stale bread, turn it into a family dinner instead.

15 Ideas to Use Up Leftover Bread

If you find yourself with stale bread, you don’t have to toss it to the birds. These 15 recipes and ideas will transform that leftover bread into a delicious, cheap meal.

1. Egg in the Hole

There are a lot of names for recipes for this clever egg dish: Toad in the Hole, Egg in the Nest and Hole in One. Eater claims there are 66!

Whatever you call it, Egg in the Hole is basically fried bread with an egg in the middle. Poke a hole in the middle of your slightly stale bread, place it in a frying pan with melted butter and then crack the egg into the middle. Flip and remove when you like the way the yolk has cooked — runny, hard or somewhere in between.

Don’t forget to toast the piece that you tore out along with the main event.

2. Homemade Bagel Chips 

Once you learn how to make your own bagel chips, you’ll never look back.

Cut a bagel in half down the middle, then slice the segments into 1/8-inch thick half moons and toast. Serve with your favorite dip, like hummus or guacamole.

3. Breadcrumbs 

Why buy breadcrumbs when you can easily make fresh breadcrumbs using something you were going to throw away?

Any kind of leftover bread works for DIY breadcrumbs. Grind the stale bread to a crumb in the food processor, then toast in the oven until lightly crispy. Store in an airtight container or even freeze.

4. Homemade Croutons 

Homemade croutons work on the same logic as breadcrumbs: Cube the stale bread, spread it on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toast in the oven until the croutons get crispy.

Homemade croutons are much cheaper than store-bought ones, and you can store your homemade croutons indefinitely in an airtight container. Toss croutons on salad or put them in soup.

5. Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese is an ideal use for slightly stale bread, since you want the exterior to be crispy anyway.

This collection of 50 grilled cheese recipes can help you clean out the fridge, save money and reduce food waste.

6. French Toast 

Stale bread that is rich and eggy, such as challah, pain de mie or brioche, makes yummy French toast.

Cut the bread in thick slices, then allow it to soak in a custard made from egg and milk before sautéing to light golden in a pan. Basic French toast is one of those recipes you can experiment with by adding fruits, nuts, and spices, so you never get bored!

7. French Toast Casserole 

This casserole version of French toast is perfect for a brunch when you’ve got to feed a crowd. Better yet, you can make everything the night before then bake it off in the morning.

8. Bread Pudding 

A baked bread pudding is about the most comforting way imaginable to use stale bread. There are many recipes out there but we like this one for the good instructions.

For the richest bread pudding, use an eggy bread like challah or brioche or something naturally sweet, like cinnamon raisin bread.

Mix up your bread and butter pudding recipe with ads-in, from dried fruit and nuts to chocolate chips, or be extra and serve with ice cream or homemade caramel sauce.

9. Savory Bread Pudding

Strata, or savory bread pudding, is an ideal clean-your-fridge-out dish. And another good candidate for company brunch.

Riff of this recipe by mixing and matching veggies, sausage, cheese, herbs, and more with cubed bread, pour an egg and dairy custard on top, let it soak for at least an hour, then bake for a savory bread pudding. If you’re partial to breakfast for dinner, this is a good candidate.

10. Panzanella (Bread Salad)

This is a resourceful Italian dish that can be made when your bread is really past its prime. The olive oil drizzle is masterful at bringing it back to life.

Made with cubed stale bread (or even those homemade croutons) plus tomatoes, shallots, garlic, basil and olive oil, Italian panzanella salad is like a deconstructed bruschetta.

To prep the bread part, toss cubes of stale bread with olive oil and cook at 350 degrees until crispy, but not browned. This will help it from going mushy as it soaks up the sauce.

FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

11. Pan con Tomate 

For a Spanish twist on bread and tomatoes, make the classic tapas dish pan con tomate.

In this dish, bread slices are toasted and spread with a thin sauce made from grated tomatoes mixed with garlic and oil.

Pro Tip

Watch your knuckles when you work tomato or any other ingredients through the box grater.

12. Stuffing 

Some home cook sand chefs claim that stale bread makes the best stuffing or dressing. Dried-out, old bread works well for this classic Thanksgiving side because it’s able to absorb the liquid  in the dish without getting soggy.

Stuffing is a super flexible recipe that can be made from any old bread you have on hand: baguettes, bagels, sandwich bread, or even cornbread. With a waffle maker, you can then turn your leftover stuffing into stuffing waffles for breakfast!

13. Meatballs

Meatballs are a protein-rich way to save old bread when made with your homemade breadcrumbs. The bread serves as a binder, and you can even consider it for crab cakes but just use a little to hold these delicate cakes together.

14. Bruschetta

Bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEH-tuh) is the ideal summer dinner for when it’s so hot you can’t bear to cook but the tomatoes are at their peak.

This basil, garlic and diced tomato mixture is served atop crostini, or small rounds of toasted baguette that you’ve slathered with olive oil and baked. Use your old bread for the crostini part of the dish and stop by the farmer’s market for the freshest summer tomatoes.

15. Ribollita 

Ribollita is a hearty Italian soup recipe made with white beans, kale, Parmesan cheese, potatoes, tomatoes, and leftover bread.  The bread serves to thicken the soup as it does in gazpacho.

Stick with the classic recipe or make yours a fridge clean out version and use up those old greens, carrots, and other items.

Pro Tip

Get more cheesy depth from soup by tossing in a Parmesan cheese rind as the soup simmers.

Tips on Storing Bread

It’s an understatement to say that fresh bread does not last long. That loaf of artisan loaf from the local baker or farmers market will lose its allure in a day, for sure in two.

And if you slice a baguette to accompany your cheese plate, the part you don’t use will be stale by morning. Supermarket bread stays soft and pliable for weeks because it’s loaded with preservatives.

In the summertime, bread sitting on the counter can go moldy before you get the chance to use it. While moldy bread is just fine for the compost pile, do yourself a favor and freeze bread slices before they go bad.

If you plan ahead, you’ll be able to freeze any old bread before it gets rock hard. Bread stored in the freezer tastes freshest within three months, but you can store it for far longer and still enjoy the end product. Bagels, English muffins and other bread products freeze the same way.

For best results, slice bread (or bagels) before freezing, then wrap slices individually in plastic wrap. Store wrapped slices in a freezer bag, then pull them out as you need them. Alternatively, if you’re planning ahead for a panzanella or strata, cube the bread so it’s recipe ready.

The Penny Hoarder contributor Lindsey Danis is a Hudson Valley, New York, writer who specializes in food, freelancing advice, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, NextAdvisor, Greatist, 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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Dear Penny: Am I Cheap for Not Giving $500 for My Aunt’s Funeral? MAKING MONEY

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Dear Penny,

My aunt passed away. Her only daughter, Beth, could not afford the full cost of the funeral. She is 61 and working two jobs and sometimes three jobs to make ends meet. She has children who are in their 30s, but they struggle to make ends meet as well. 

My cousin, Mary, and her siblings were thinking about helping her with the cost of the funeral. They are close to Beth and have had contact with her throughout the years. My brother, Tom, sent a message to me and my other two brothers saying Beth might not be able to pay for the funeral. Both of my brothers chimed in that they would be happy to help in any way they can. 

This whole conversation made me feel uncomfortable since I had not had contact with Beth or my aunt in over 30 years. However, my aunt was my dad’s sister, so I understood why my brothers wanted to help. I remained silent and didn’t reply until I had a chance to think about it. 

Three days later I had not heard from my brother regarding the funeral arrangements so I went online and found out the details of the funeral. I decided to send Beth a Mass card, knowing she and my aunt were very religious. I felt the gift was appropriate for my relationship with her. 

The following day, I heard from Tom saying that Mary and her siblings decided to chip in $500 apiece to help out with the cost of the funeral. The full cost of the funeral was now covered. 

My brother went on to say that Beth would no longer have my aunt’s Social Security checks. (My aunt was living with Beth at the time of her death.) Tom was wondering if we would all like to contribute and send something. He said he was willing to match the $500 that my cousins were giving to Beth and asked if we would like to contribute $500 each. All my brothers agreed to do so. 

I told him I already sent something to Beth. I haven’t heard from my brothers since that email. I have always been frugal and it bothers Tom. It’s not a question of being able to afford it. To me, $500 is a lot to give to Beth considering we are not close and have had no contact in decades. 

This situation has kept me up for nights on end. I’m not sure if I did the right thing by not contributing the $500. Do you have any advice?

-H.

Dear H.,

It was a nice gesture of your brothers to send $500 to Beth, but you certainly did nothing wrong by not contributing. Most of us have finite resources. If you hadn’t seen Beth or your aunt in 30 years, it’s understandable that sending $500 wasn’t a high priority for you.

You don’t say how long it’s been since your email exchange with your brothers. If it’s only been a couple of weeks or you aren’t particularly close, I wouldn’t automatically jump to the conclusion that they’re angry.

Try calling, emailing or texting whichever brother you’re closest to just to say hi. There’s no need to bring up your aunt’s death or Beth’s hardship. But if the brother you reach out to calls you out for not contributing, don’t apologize. Just reiterate what you’ve already said, which is that you hadn’t seen either of them in 30 years and you’d already sent something on your own. Then, try to change the subject to what’s going on in your own lives.

If your brothers choose to stew about what you do with your money, they’re the ones with the problem, not you. Your brothers may not approve of your frugality. But they really don’t have to. You’re siblings, not spouses.

I suspect that you’re overthinking things a bit. It happens. You refused to do what everyone else was doing, which can cause you to second-guess yourself. Even if your brothers are annoyed with you, I’m guessing it will pass with a little time.

Should you ever face a similar situation, my question for you is: Would you rather be frugal? Or would you rather not be awake for nights on end worrying that everyone is mad at you?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. If your frugality is important to you, hold your ground in the future. But if such requests are relatively rare in your family, it might be worth it to go with the herd just to avoid those sleepless nights.

It isn’t about what’s wrong or right. It’s about what’s most comfortable for you. But that’s up to you, not your brothers, to decide.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial plBether 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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7 Questions to Help Answer How Much Car Can I Afford? MAKING MONEY

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“How much car can I afford?” is question No. 1 before visiting a showroom or browsing the internet.

But easy to answer? Not so much — especially with the average price of a car at $38,000 according to Kelley Blue Book. Gulp.

Rule-of-thumb advice on how much car you can afford is everywhere. It’s typical to hear that:

You should spend no more than 20% of your take-home pay on all car expenses.
Your down payment should be 20% of the car’s value.

A car affordability calculator will help you calculate scenarios based on down payment, trade-in value, and loan amount.

Advice from Financial Experts

Financial advisors caution not to rely on these tools alone, which don’t take into account things like car insurance, your credit score, and what funds you have access to.

“I generally think those rules of thumb will often lead to more spending in the long run,” says H. Jude Boudreaux, a certified financial planner from New Orleans, who learned a thing or two from a dad who ran a car dealership.

Patricia D. Hausknost, a certified financial planner in Long Beach, California, agrees that the commonly-used guidelines go only so far. She jokes about saying “it depends” after each car-buying question she fields — but it’s an answer she sticks by.

“It depends on what your personal financial situation is like. You really have to look at your own situation and figure out, ‘What can I do and what’s best for me?’”

7 Questions to Ask When Wondering What to Spend on a Car

With apologies to anyone who wants to test-drive now and ask questions later, here are seven questions financial advisors suggest you ask yourself before deciding how much car you can afford

1. What’s Driving My Car Decision?

Is it time to replace your “beater” with another car you can drive into the ground? Do you need something more reliable for the cold-weather climate you’ve just moved to? Or do you want to buy something more fuel-efficient?

Knowing why you’re shopping for a new car will put other decisions into focus, such as new or used, lease or loan.

And don’t forget to consider the future, says Hausknost.

“How has your life changed and is it expected to stay that way in the foreseeable future?” The pandemic’s shift to work-from-home might shift your car-payment priorities, for instance. A growing family or looming retirement are typical considerations.

But enough with the boring practicalities. What if you just love that new-car smell and want a change? That’s OK, just make sure you move on to the next questions. If the math works out, go for it!

2. Do I Have a Handle on My Cash Flow?

Crunch the numbers. Know what you’ve got coming in (earnings) and what’s going out (spending). Hopefully you’ll have money left over for a new car. This information will guide you through the next questions as you think about your monthly payment, your loan term, and other factors.

3. What Can I Bring to the Negotiation Table?

If you have cash on hand, know how much you’re ready to part with. Do you have enough to pay cash up front for a decent used car? Would you rather make a sizable down payment on a new vehicle? Remember that cash up front can help you negotiate a discount, says Boudreaux.

If you have a trade-in, use an online value estimator like the one from Kelley Blue Book to find its value before you negotiate.

4. How Much Debt Can I Handle?

Those rules of thumb we mentioned? If you’re thinking of a car loan, they’re a place to start. Bob DiDonato, an advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services in Brookfield, Wisconsin, uses these two:

A car’s value should be no more than a third of your annual gross income.
Car loan payments should be no more than 10% of your monthly take home pay.

“It’s a gut check,” DiDonato says. “At the end of the day everyone’s situation is different.”

Are those guidelines a stretch for you, or can you stretch the guidelines? To find out, here’s what DiDonato and others ask their car-buying clients to consider:

Any other debt you have.
Your cash flow (see Question No. 2).
Anticipated expenses looming.
How much cash you have in an emergency fund.
Your credit score, which determines the interest rate on your loan.

The better your credit score, the better your terms of your car loan — which will save you money. If you have no credit or a low score, it might be worth a higher interest rate to establish credit or improve your score.

Boudreaux picked up this tip watching his father sell cars: Don’t think only about your monthly car payment.

“That’s a very deceptive number, because there are all kinds of ways for dealerships to structure a transaction that will lead you to that number.” His advice is to negotiate price first and negotiate the terms second.

DiDonato adds one last question: “The really big one is what level of debt are you emotionally comfortable with?” If your car debt is keeping you up at night, it’s probably time to recalculate.

5. What are the “Hidden” Car Costs?

What new or increased expenses will come with your new car? That’s on DiDonato’s hit parade of car-purchase questions. And don’t get surprised by add-ons at purchase time. Here’s what to get a handle on:

Car insurance rates. Whether new, used or leased, the premiums for your new car could be higher than what you’re paying now. Call your agent or visit an auto insurance website to find out.
Maintenance costs. Do some Googling to learn about typical maintenance costs for the car you’re considering (Kelley Blue Book has an estimator). Some cars require pricier grades of oil and fuel. The EPA has a website that lets you research fuel costs for specific vehicles by make, model and year.
Sales tax and fees. These vary by state. You can do research through your state motor vehicle website or add 10% to the car price for a ballpark idea.
State fees associated with titles, licensing, and registration. These will vary by state and type of transaction.

 6. Have I Considered Alternatives to a Brand New Car?

The more flexible you are about your car choices, the more likely you’ll hit your spending target. “The hardest thing is not to become emotionally attached to one car,” says Boudreaux. You’ll save money if you’re willing to consider options such as used and leased vehicles. Along with your answers to Question #1, advisors offer these considerations.

If shopping for a leased car:

You can get more car for your money with a lease because the lease payment “is going to be relatively low relative to the value of the car,” Hausknost says.
What’s the maintenance plan? Some leases include service agreements that can save you money and hassles.
Most car leases are based on 12,000 miles per year, with extra fees assessed if you surpass the limit.
This might not be for you if you like to drive one car for many years or don’t want a monthly payment forever.
Remember: When the car lease is up you will have the option to buy at a price stipulated in your contract. If you’re considering this, do your research to make sure the price is a fair one.

If shopping for a used car:

A used car will depreciate more quickly, meaning less value when you decide to sell or trade in.
You will likely have more maintenance costs. Consider an extended warranty if you want to avoid surprises.
Previously leased cars can be a good bargain, especially if you shop around.
If financing, a used car will tend to mean a higher interest rate. But the lower cost means your down-payment can be lower, too.

FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

7. Final Check: Am I Being Realistic?

It’s a common mistake for car shoppers to be unrealistic about the impact of monthly car payments or a cash outlay, says DiDonato.

“Some analysis needs to be done in most scenarios,” he says. How much car you can afford “can’t just be a fly-by-night decision.”

Talking things over with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor can be helpful. Keep in mind other goals you have, such as saving for a house, vacation, retirement, or a child’s education.

Will these goals be hindered by your monthly car payment? And make sure you have a clear picture of your job security and your spending habits.

“A new car is a very emotional decision,” says Hausknost. “Let your head and not your heart guide you!”

 Diane M. Bacha is a Wisconsin writer, editor, and communications professional with experience in newspapers, magazines, books, websites and nonprofits. She is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. 

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

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11 Free Road Trip Apps for Kids That Will Keep Them Entertained MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:3 Minute, 50 Second

Nothing ruins a car trip more than being asked “Are we there yet?” a half dozen times before even reaching your halfway mark.

Keeping the kiddos entertained during a family road trip is a top priority, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy a bunch of new toys or invest in a portable DVD player before hitting the road. Here are 11 free apps that’ll help make your next long car ride go a little smoother.

11 Free Road Trip Apps for Kids

Download some of these apps to your phone or your kid’s tablet to squash the backseat boredom. You don’t even have to feel guilty about the extra screen time. All 11 of these apps are also educational.

1. Hoopla

If your local library uses the Hoopla app, you can check out audiobooks at no cost. There are hundreds of titles for kids and teens. There are even children’s audiobooks in Spanish. Hoopla also offers access to music, TV shows and movies — but you don’t have to tell the kids that.

2. OverDrive

OverDrive is another app that public libraries offer to patrons for free. It’s similar to Hoopla (and also provides access to streaming videos). Contact your local library to see if it partners with this app.

3. PBS Kids Games

If your little ones are into shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Wild Kratts or Peg + Cat, PBS Kids Games is the perfect app to keep them busy. Kids can choose from a variety of games featuring their favorite PBS Kids characters. Without even realizing it, they’ll also be gaining math, science and creativity skills too.

4. Khan Academy Kids

The Khan Academy Kids app is designed to make learning fun for children ages 2 to 8. Kids can read stories, play games, watch videos and complete activities all while increasing their literacy and math skills.

5. Duolingo

The Duolingo app uses games to teach children (and adults) how to speak over 25 different languages. It even has a course in Klingon for “Star Trek” fans. Make this a learning opportunity for the whole family, because even with headphones on, your kids will be repeating words and phrases aloud.

6. Stories by Gus on the Go

This language learning app uses classic children’s stories to help kids learn Spanish, French, Greek or Hebrew. Though this free app was built as a sequel to the original Gus on the Go app (which costs $3.99 to download), it can be used by kids who already understand some words in another language. It’s only available via Apple’s App store.

FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

7. Mad Libs

Adjective? Adverb? Your kids can practice using the right word choices with the tech version of the classic Mad Libs game. The goofy stories they create will elicit lots of back-seat giggles.

8. Money Pieces

This app from The Math Learning Center will help your future Penny Hoarders understand the value of different pieces of currency while reinforcing basic math skills, like counting and addition. The Math Learning Center also has a variety of other free apps to teach more advanced math skills, like fractions and geometry.

9. Geo Touch

Going on a road trip is the perfect opportunity to teach kids a little geography. Young travelers can learn about U.S. states, state capitals, state flags and other countries around the world with the GeoTouch: Learn Geography app. This app is available to download only via Apple’s App store.

10. Toontastic 3D

Kids can tap into their inner storytellers with this free app from Google. Using Toontastic 3D, they can draw and animate characters, come up with a plot and narrate the dialog.

11. ScratchJr

ScratchJr allows kids to create their own stories and games using coding — with no coding experience necessary. Rather than following along with a video game, they’re in control of the action.

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 Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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How to Sell Vintage Toys and Turn Your Childhood Gems into Cash MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:10 Minute, 42 Second

Know this if you are trying to sell old toys: Vintage toy stores may pay up to $700 for Hasbro’s rare 1967 GI Joe female nurse. They would love to buy a retired Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer LEGO set for $600 or more. The Fisher Price blue A-frame house might fetch $50.

But they aren’t interested in your bag of stuffed animals.

“People come in all the time with plush toys. I don’t want to risk getting bed bugs. I always pass on that unless it’s a Care Bear from someone I know,” said Jason Williams, who owns Big Fun Vintage toy store in Columbus, Ohio.

The market for old toys has grown during the pandemic because of pent-up demand from collectors and young parents who are nostalgic for a simpler time. Many vintage toy stores are open in person again and eager to buy and sell.

“I think the pandemic has brought out a lot of recreational collectors,” Williams said. “A lot of these toy lines that may not have sold as well before like Polly Pockets or Mighty Max now sell pretty well.”

Here’s what you need to know to get top dollar for your vintage toys, whether you’re selling to specialty toy stores or in online auctions.

How to Determine the Value of Collectible Toys

Williams reels off values of vintage toys as easily as Wall Street traders quote stock prices. But values vary widely based on supply, demand, the number manufactured originally and the condition of the toys.

eBay Research

If you are thinking of selling vintage toys, research the most recent selling prices online and pay close attention to what’s sold, not the asking prices of unsold vintage items.

“I look at sold listings on eBay and try to find a median price,” Williams said. “If something sells for $100 once, and a dozen times it sold for $50 and it also sold for $10, I’ll price it at $40 or $50.”

Williams then pays a seller 50 percent to 70 percent of the price he will put on the toy, depending on the rarity.

Professional Appraisals and Grading

If you have a toy, especially an action figure, that’s in its original packaging and seems to be selling for $200 or more on eBay, it may be worth having it graded professionally. If it has an outside appraisal, you might get more for it and you’ll know if someone is trying to make a lowball offer.

Many companies grade collectibles, and prices range based on the size and how long you are willing to wait. The Action Figure Authority, for example, charges $32 to grade a standard sized figure within 60 to 80 days, or $55 to grade it within a week. Usually you have to mail the item to the grader and they return it.

If you can find a grader or appraiser at a toy convention or local auction house, that’s a faster and less expensive route.

Toys from the 1960s and earlier can also be highly valued even if they aren’t in their original boxes and could also be worth getting professionally graded.

Pro Tip

Have more cool old stuff to sell? Here’s what you can get for some favorite ‘90s collectibles.

Supply Matters

The supply a dealer has at any given time, which is purely situational, also impacts an offer to a seller.

“If I have 30 of one figure, I’m going to price it lower and I’m going to pay less,” Williams said.

Quality Counts

A toy in the original box is worth more, of course. If that original packaging is still wrapped in clear plastic, it will bring top dollar.

It’s usually the professional collectors who keep toys in mint condition. But if you are trying to sell your vintage toys that kids played with for years, there are still plenty of potential buyers.

Consider the vintage Fisher Price Little People sets that were manufactured in the 1960s and 1970s.

The blue A-frame is one of the harder-to-find sets. Williams would sell it for around $100 and pay a seller $50. If it’s missing a few pieces, he’d pay closer to a third of his asking price. If it’s missing more than just a few pieces he’d pay around $25.

Just as vintage record stores may buy a scratched album because the cover is in good condition and they know the same album will come along unscratched, vintage toy stores buy incomplete or even broken toys to complete previously purchased sets.

“We buy things all the time to cannibalize the pieces to go with other sets,” Williams said.

So How Much Can You Get For Old Toys?

Here’s a sampling of what some old favorites sell for.

My Little Pony

Big Fun has a glass case full of My Little Ponies in every shade of plastic selling for $10 to $75. Expect to sell yours for about half. The male ponies are worth the most.

“They did males that came with shoes and hats. There was a construction worker pony,” Williams said. Male ponies didn’t sell as well as the female ponies so fewer were manufactured, thus making them more rare.

A first generation, used Mountain Boy pony just sold for $549 on eBay.  First generation females Stardazzle recently sold for $27 on eBay while Bangles went for $20 and Flutterbye went bye-bye for $12.50.

GI Joe Figures

Williams recently paid $20 for a 1993 GI Joe. “He didn’t have any of the weapons,” Williams said. “If he’d had those (the owner) would have gotten an extra $10 or $15 out of me.”

On eBay, a used 2008 GI Joe recently sold for $15 and a 1964 GI Joe with uniform and boots went for $165.

Marvel Legends

Hasbro began manufacturing the Marvel Legends figures based on Marvel Comics in the early 2000s.

“The demand for those is healthy. People bring them in all the time,” Williams said. “A figure may sell for $8 if nobody cares about it anymore or they can go for a couple hundred dollars.”

A new She Hulk action figure from the Fin Fang Foom series recently sold for $170 on eBay. A used 6-inch Epic Heroes Iron Man went for $18.

LEGOS

Retired LEGO sets are worth the most, and anything related to Star Wars or Harry Potter is in demand, Williams said.

A Diagon Alley set that was opened with a worn box just sold for $70 on eBay, but the same set in a sealed box went for $510.

As for Star Wars LEGOS, a used Rogue Shadow retired Force Unleashed set sold for $149 while a used Resistance Bomber went for $110.

 

Polly Pocket

“Polly Pocket has gone up in popularity quite a bit over the last year and a half,” Williams said, again nodding to parents becoming more nostalgic during the pandemic.

A used 1993 Polly Pocket Fairy Light Wonderland just went for $58 on eBay while a 1992 Sky Princess Ring Doll sold for $24 and a Glitter Wedding Locket with all the pieces went for $85.

Transformers

Hasbro’s and Takara’s Transformers made between 1984 and 1990 are known as Generation One. Those are the ones that interest toy buyers are the most. Black Zarak, Fortress Maximus, and some Diaclones pieces are the most popular, Williams said.

A used Cybertron Dark Scorponok from the Black Zarak series recently sold for $60 on eBay while a used Fortress Maximus Headmaster from 1987 went for $288.

 

Beanie Babies

Rumors have circulated for years that the rarest Beanie Babies sell for tens of thousands of dollars. But seller beware: More than 1,000 of the purple Princess Diana bears are listed on eBay for $3.95 to more than $10,000. Some are knockoffs for sure, while other prices are based more on wishful thinking than comparable sales.

The Internet is full of lists of the most valued Beanie Babies, and they vary greatly as well. Some consistent comments say the bears with emblems embroidered on them or a wording error on their white tag will get the best price. They are supposedly worth half as much without the heart-shaped Ty tag.

If you want to find a value and perhaps a potential buyer, it’s a good idea to join one of the many Beanie Baby groups on Facebook.

Fisher Price Little People Sets

There’s a Fisher Price schoolhouse from 1971 in Big Fun’s store window is a hook for bringing potential buyers into the shop.

“Fisher Price is one of those iconic things that grabs people’s attention,” Williams said. It’s not in as much demand as action figures or retired LEGO sets, but so many people connect with those sets that were fixtures in playrooms for generations.

They are also gender neutral, so they appeal to a wider audience.

A Fisher Price A-frame play set with all the pieces recently sold for $114 on eBay. Twelve little wooden people and five plastic chairs from the early 1970s went for $16.50 while the pink dragon from the castle sold for $50.

The Sesame Street sets appeal to a specific but wide audience: Those who are nostalgic for Fisher Price and are fans of Kermit, Oscar and Big Bird. The Fisher Price Sesame Street town with characters and furniture recently sold for $250 on eBay while a single lamppost with the Sesame Street sign went for $12.50.

Selling Vintage Toys to a Toy Store

Vintage toy stores are a great go-to for both professional and recreational collectors.

Toy store owners pay on the spot, which is an advantage over waiting for items to sell in an online auction. Also, if you can drive to the store, there are no shipping costs involved when you sell.

Williams’ calendar is filled with “clean outs,” which means he’s going to a house with a lot of old toys hidden in the attic or basement. Some homeowners bring in an estate sale manager or auction house, but Williams goes in to appraise and buy the old toys first.

There are vintage toy stores in every state. If you look on their websites, most say they are always ready to buy and sell. Call ahead, of course, to confirm they are buying what you have to sell. Some vintage toy stores mainly buy comics, while some comic stores also buy toys.

Selling Through an Auction House

If you have just one or two items, eBay or a toy store are a good bet, advises Blake Kennedy, auctioneer, appraiser and co-owner of Kennedy Brothers Auctions in St. Petersburg, Florida. But if you have a collection, an online or in-person auction run by an auction company may bring in more money, he said.

Nationwide, auction companies generally take a 10% to 35% commission, though they may charge a flat fee or negotiate a smaller commission on a very expensive item.

6 Tips for Selling Vintage Toys Online

Many people will automatically head to eBay to unload their childhood toys. Here’s how to create an effective listing.

1. Be Transparent.

Describe any defects or missing pieces. This saves a lot of time and trouble if the purchase is disputed later.

2. Post Good Photos.

Have at least five well-lit photos of the item from every angle and include any tags or manufacturer markings to get the best price.

3. Be Detailed.

Include as many details, which are also keywords, in your product description such as the manufacturer and year it came out.

4. Be Clear.

Look at the product descriptions for other sold products in similar categories online to get their keywords.

5. Be Responsive.

Pay attention to direct emails or messages on the online platform so you can quickly answer any questions from potential buyers.

6. Be Prompt.

When the item sells, mail it promptly and carefully so you will get a good online review.

Katherine Snow Smith 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: Was Using 100% of Savings to Pay Off Debt a Mistake? MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:4 Minute, 51 Second
Dear Penny,

I’m 28, and I just paid off all my debt. But after reading your column I realized I had done something foolish. 

I used all my savings to pay the full balance. Now all my accounts — liquid savings, emergency, long term — are at zero. I have no debt, but no assets whatsoever. I’m planning to save 20% of every paycheck per my budget. Am I in serious trouble or just a momentary bubble that I can work my way out of with some self-discipline? 

-J.

Dear J.,

I can’t guarantee you that tomorrow won’t spell disaster. Perhaps it’s the day your car dies and your cat needs an emergency trip to the vet and you lose your job all on the same day. So yes, if the world implodes tomorrow, you’ll be in serious trouble. But if you can stick with your plan and get through the next year or so with no major disasters, I think you’ll be fine.


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Before you beat yourself up too badly, I don’t think what you did rises to the level of foolishness. My definition of foolishness would be spending all your savings to take a vacation or buy some toy you couldn’t afford. You spent your life’s savings to pay off debt. You’ll be in a better position long term for having done so. But you’ve put yourself in a dicey situation for the next few months.

Here’s your action plan: If you’ve paid off any credit cards, keep the accounts open even if you’ve sworn off debt. You want to have that credit open for any worst-case scenarios you encounter while you’re rebuilding your savings. Plus, keeping old credit accounts open and using them occasionally helps you keep a good credit score.

If your employer matches contributions to a 401(k) or another retirement account, contribute just enough to get the match. Beyond that, every extra cent goes into your savings account until you’ve built three months of emergency savings. If you’re budgeting your take-home paycheck, your 401(k) contribution won’t even factor into that 20% since the money is taken out before you see it.

Once you’ve built your three-month emergency fund, give yourself a pat on the back. But wait! You’re not done yet. Your ultimate goal is to build six months’ savings. But once you have three months’ worth, you have a bit more wiggle room as far as how you use that 20%. For example, you could put 10% toward your savings each month, plus 10% in a Roth IRA.

If you raided any retirement accounts to pay off your debt, you’ll need to budget for the tax consequences. The IRS charges you a 10% penalty and treats early retirement distributions as taxable income, though you can access Roth contributions any time without penalty. If you did make an early withdrawal, I’d actually recommend focusing on your three-month emergency fund before you budget for taxes. It’s extremely easy to set up an IRS payment plan when you owe taxes.

There are no easy answers for how to deal should you encounter an emergency before you’ve rebuilt your savings. But if you’d need to use a credit card for an unexpected expense, I’d recommend only paying the minimum until you’ve built three months’ savings.

You say you’re planning to save 20%. Is it possible to squeeze just a little more out of that paycheck? The benefit is twofold: By forcing yourself to save more money, you make yourself live on less, thereby lowering the minimum you need to have in savings.

Let’s say you make $3,000 a month after taxes. You live on 80%, or $2,400, and you save the remaining 20%. You need a $7,200 emergency fund. If you’re saving $600 a month, it will take you 12 months to build one.

But suppose you can live on 75% and save the other 25%. You’d only need to trim $150 a month from your budget. You’d lower your minimum emergency fund needs to $6,750. Saving $750 a month, it would take you just nine months to get there. It may be more doable than you think since you’re no longer making debt payments.

If saving more than 20% of your current salary isn’t possible, consider taking on a side hustle. It doesn’t need to be long term. Just pocketing some extra cash for a few months can help you rebuild your savings quickly. Anything you can do to shorten the amount of time you’re without an emergency fund is a big win.

There are few scenarios where your finances are truly doomed at 28. If you can make lifelong habits of living debt-free (aside from perhaps a mortgage someday), sticking to a budget and saving at least 20%, you’ll be in shipshape.

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 Lili Account Keeps Track of Freelancer Expenses For You MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:3 Minute, 39 Second

We know all about the challenges of freelancer life, believe us. We know it’s not always easy making a go of it as an independent contractor, a side hustler, a gig worker, whatever you want to call it.

For one thing, you have to do all this extra financial stuff, and it’s tricky stuff. When you work for yourself, it’s on you to set aside money for taxes. And ideally, you’re supposed to keep track of your work-related expenses so you can pay less in taxes. But c’mon, how many of us are really all that great about doing that consistently?

Good news: We’ve found a cool online checking account that helps you do all that stuff. Lili is a mobile banking service that’s built exclusively for freelancers like you. The app, available for iOS or Android, is laser-focused on your specific needs.

Lili is totally free, and its digital tools help you save for taxes, take payments from clients and keep track of your expenses — all in the same account.

Swipe Left or Right to Sort Your Expenses

The account comes with its own Visa debit card. Whenever you spend any money out of the account, you’ll get a push notification asking you to swipe left or right to instantly categorize the expense as either “personal” or “business.”

At tax time, this will allow you to totally maximize your expenses and reduce your taxable income, lowering your tax bill.

Seriously, it’s so much easier this way!

Speaking of taxes, Lili will help you tally up your earnings and gauge what income taxes you’ll have to pay. And every time you get paid, you can have Lili automatically set aside a certain percentage for taxes.

Basically, Lili makes it easy to automate everything so you never have to worry about it again.

More Tools in Lili’s Toolbox

We freelancers need all the help we can get, you know? Luckily, Lili has more tools in its toolbox for us.

ATMs: You can get cash with your debit card at nearly 40,000 MoneyPass ATMs across the country. You have fee-free access to those. For out-of-network ATMs, there’s a $2.50 fee in the U.S. or $5 if you’re out of the country.

No overdraft fees: Unlike virtually all the brick-and-mortar banks, Lili doesn’t charge overdraft fees.

Get paid fast: When clients and customers pay you via direct deposit, you get access to those funds within two business days — which is faster than most banks.

Mobile check deposit: It’s easy to deposit a check via the app. Just sign the check, then write “for Lili mobile deposit only” on the back of it, snap a photo of the front and back, then enter the amount into the app. Done.

Cash deposit: If you need to make a cash deposit, you can do it at any of 90,000 Green Dot locations like Walmart, Walgreens or 7-Eleven.

Expense reports: Lili automatically generates these every quarter to help you pay your taxes and add up your deductibles.

Insights: Lili lays out insights into in a visual format to help keep track of your personal and business finances.

Emergency fund: This past year has taught us the hard way that everyone should have one of these. You never know when you might lose a good freelance gig or suffer some other catastrophe. With Lili, you can automatically set aside a little each month to build your emergency fund.

Three final thoughts:

Money in your Lili account is FDIC insured for up to $250,000.
There’s no minimum account balance, so don’t worry about that.
It only takes a few minutes to sign up via iOS or Android and make your freelance life so much easier — and save big on taxes.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s also a freelance writer on the side, and he knows what a pain freelance taxes are.

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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Watch for Red Flags When Working with a Financial Advisor MAKING MONEY

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Read Time:6 Minute, 16 Second

Everybody has heard the stories about big-name entertainers (Sting, Rihanna) or athletes (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Floyd Mayweather) being taken advantage of by their financial advisors.

Sting’s financial advisor went to jail for six years for stealing $1.6 million from him and Abdul-Jabbar lost millions when his advisor used his money for shady real estate deals. Rihanna settled a lawsuit against former accountants who cost her millions and Mayweather’s money woes are nearly a TKO.

It happens to the biggest stars, and it happens to the little ones, too.

And it can happen to you.

Because of the poor reputation of some financial advisors, people are usually careful about who they choose to assist them with their personal financial management. But, if extremely wealthy people can make mistakes, so can those for whom every dollar counts.

You took precautions when you selected your own financial advisor, maybe you even used our five-question guide in the process, and hopefully you are perfectly happy with the way your finances are being handled.

Watch for These 6 Red Flags

If you have any questions about the way your financial advisor operates, here are 6 signs to determine if you are receiving the proper form of financial advice.

1. The Payment Plan is Fishy or Unclear

Obviously, financial advisors charge for their services. They are allowed to make a living, right?

But, if you are uncertain how much you are paying him (if your payments are coming from your account with your advisor), or if you do not understand all the fees that appear on your statement, you need to ask questions.

If we assume most financial advisors are working on the up and up, they will explain their fees in full. If you tell them you feel you are paying too much, good advisors will discuss with you ways to lower your fees while still receiving the services you require.

You need to do some research if your advisor cannot fully explain his fees, or if he is earning commissions on the products or services you are invested in.

Any attempt to avoid explanations on fees and services is a red flag. (Many commission-based investments disappeared after the Great Recession, and it is likely most of your payments to your advisor are fee-based).

2. Negotiating Fees is a No-No (Says the Advisor)

There are generally two fee-based platforms advisors charge: fees based on hours or fees based on a percentage of assets managed.

The fees based on hours can be tricky to understand, but you should encourage your advisor to explain them. Fees based on assets managed are often more expensive, at least on the surface, but you can ask your advisor if there is a way to lower the cost to you.

If your advisor balks at any of these conversations, you may need to consider finding a more responsive financial advisor.

3. It’s Difficult to Get Straight Answers

Does your financial advisor respond to your attempts to communicate with him or her? When you do reach your advisor, do you get the sense that he or she is really listening to you? Has your advisor ever avoided communication with you?

Trust your instincts when you have concerns over the communication habits of your advisor. Keep in mind, you are the boss in this scenario.

You can certainly assess the listening habits of your advisor by looking at how your accounts are being managed. Is there any fee you are paying or service you are receiving you do not understand?

It is in this situation that it is wise to maintain all of your account records from your financial advisor or provider and check them against each other from time to time. Are you paying for too many transactions, or too few? Is your account as active as you want it to be, or as passive as you want it to be?

You certainly told your advisor how you want your finances to be handled. If he or she is not following your wishes, even in a slight manner, you need to have a conversation.

4. The Word on the Street (or Internet) Isn’t Good

Hopefully, before you began working with your financial advisor, you investigated his legal history. It’s easy enough to do.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s investment Advisor Public Disclosure or the Finra BrokerCheck allow you to insert your advisor’s name into a search engine and it will let you know if any complaints have been filed against your advisor, either from consumers or providers working with that person.

Let’s assume you checked those accounts when you first signed up. It is wise to occasionally check again from time to time. Something could have come up in the last couple of years you need to know about.

This is not disloyalty: remember, again, that you are keeping an eye on the person whom you entrusted with the safety and growth of your personal finances. It is wise to know that your advisor is not carrying any new regulatory baggage.

5. You Feel Pushed Around

Depending on your risk tolerance, you want an advisor to be looking for new and better ways to invest or protect your funds.

But, if in your normal monthly or quarterly conversations with your advisor, he or she begins to push you toward an investment you are unsure of, consider that a red flag. It is possible you’re being encouraged to invest in a product that is better for the advisor than it may be for you.

6. He Hates to be Checked On

Having an active account with a financial advisor is not like having a checking or savings account. The account you have with your financial advisor is more like a living, breathing reflection of your financial standing.

While you may not look at your 401(k) on a regular basis, and you do not know the exact amount in your standard savings account, you need to know what is going on with the assets being managed by your financial advisor.

The people who get ripped off by financial advisors are those who do not pay attention. While you hire an advisor so you don’t have to worry about the growth potential of your assets on a daily basis, you do need to worry about whether your assets are being handled properly on a fairly regular basis.

Advisors doing their jobs properly, will not mind you checking up on them. After all, they know the reputation their profession has, just as well as you do.

Kent McDill is a veteran journalist who has specialized in personal finance topics since 2013. He is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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

MAKING MONEY

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